Wellesley College Statue Story Shouldn’t Be So Big

The Wellesley College statue story is making news in New Zealand, and I just saw it on Al Jazeera, too!  It’s clearly blown way out of proportion, so much that I now regret doing my insignificant part to give it legs in my social media presences.

Let’s be clear, only 713 people have signed the petition to move the statue as of this writing.  Wellesley has approximately 2500 students.   The petition is open to the public so anyone can sign.   I can’t see the signatures, but I suspect that many of the signatories are not from the campus community at all.  Still, even if  we assume that everyone who signed is a Wellesley student, the vast majority of students have no problem with the statue being where it is.  That is consistent with what I am hearing.

I have spent my entire adult life in higher education environments of various sorts: public and private, large and small, technical and liberal arts, foreign and domestic.  Student protests are frequent and healthy.  They seldom get much traction in the media, even when they are much larger and even when they work for it.  What is it about this one that has caused such buzz?  Would this story have gotten so much attention if it had happened at a coed liberal arts college?  Or is it the fact that Wellesley is such an highly rated college, so there’s delight in knocking it down?   Or is it that people delight in seeing a students at a liberal arts college behaving so narrow-mindedly?  Whatever it is, the story has been carried way beyond whatever legs it should have had.

Happy Holidays

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGrudzi%C4%85dz_Polyptych_04.jpg

Master of the Trebon Altarpiece [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Once again conservative media is outraged over people who say “Happy Holidays, and once again I am disturbed by the vitriolic reaction against what is, to my mind, a magnanimous, generous, all encompassing gesture.  Wishing someone Happy Holidays seems rather Jesus-like to me.  I’m not sure if that makes it Christian, though.  An awful lot of Christians today seem to have a real chip on their shoulder, and don’t behave at all like the Jesus whose story is told in the gospels.

Continue reading

Open Letter to the Editors of Richmond Magazine

Dear Editor,

richmond-magazine-august-2013-coverI am writing to express my disappointment in the August 2013, “Best and Worst ’13” issue of Richmond Magazine, particularly the “Culture” section.  Earlier this week, on August 14, Paste Magazine released it’s list of “12 Virginia Bands You Should Listen to Now,” part of The Paste 50 States Project.  11 of the 12  acts on that list are from Richmond, and yet the “Best Local Band” is a cover band that does hits from the 70s and 80s?  I do not mean to denigrate Three Sheets to the Wind at all.  I am sure they are fantastic, and I also recognize the issue reflects the results of a readers poll.  But should you not have guided that poll a bit more?  Most polls of this kind would ask readers to choose in categories, at the minimum between best cover band and best band that plays original material, but perhaps also best live band, best country act, best rock act, etc.

Why is the Culture section so small, anyway?  Are there not enough performances or people who have seen them to have listed Best Concert, Theatrical Production, Movie Theater, Library, Movie About or Filmed in Richmond, Album by an artist originally from the Richmond area…   I could go on!  This issue is certainly not reflective of the diverse cultural life in Richmond.  In fact, a couple of the categories, “Best Enjoyable Night Out” and “Best Impressive Night Out” seem to deal only with food and beverages.  I do believe that these are important parts constituents of culture, but in the categorization schema of this issue, “Food & Drink” are a separate and much larger section.

Your magazine should play a role in advancing the cultural life of the city, and in making people from here proud of the role our citizens have played on the  national stage.  This issue fails miserably.  It seems clear the real goal is to promote potential advertisers.  That’s fine, but it shouldn’t be your only goal.

Reasonable Gun Laws Do Not Threaten 2nd Amendment Rights

NRA-graphic

Emotional testimony v. Cold hard facts!

I believe in the importance of the Constitution with it’s Bill of Rights to the proper functioning of our democracy. I also believe Second Amendment. Without a new amendment directly annulling it being being ratified, the government cannot take away the guns of law abiding citizens.

On the other hand, I do not believe that reasonable legislation intended to keep criminals from getting and using guns to commit crimes or to keep innocent civilians, particularly children, from being killed by guns necessarily infringes on 2nd Amendment rights.

Most of all, I believe facts are facts, and that looking beyond the biased, skewed rhetoric of entrenched sides to the actual facts, we may stand a much better chance of coming up with good policy on the matter. That is clearly illustrated in the graphic at the top of this post that appeared on a friend’s Facebook page today.  There was an emotional assertion made as a hearing that is contradictory to the facts.  The emotional assertion was repeated a lot in the media.  I didn’t hear it challenged until at least the next day. Continue reading

Vote Based on Facts!

If you are trying to decide how to vote in an election, political advertising is more or less worthless, and it seems whatever laws are passed to improve the situation only make it worse.  Remember back in the day when we used to study logic and logical fallacies in schools?  I don’t know if anyone does that anymore, but political advertising is full of logical fallacies that, if you just think about it, more often than not invalidate the points it makes.

The creators of these ads have mastered the visual and auditory cues that manipulate our emotions, that they often get away with it.  We are often tricked into voting against our interests.

Continue reading

SAR Academic Freedom Media Review – July 21-27, 2012

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available online.

——————————————————-

Keep research away from prying FoIs, say MPs
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 7/27

Sudan: Sudanese student’s life at risk: Siddig Salah Siddig al-Bashir
Amnesty International, 7/26

Controversial Gay-Parenting Study Is Severely Flawed, Journal’s Audit Finds /
Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 7/26

Beijing’s Soft Power Strategy on Tibet
Joshua Lipes, Radio Free Asia, 7/25

Continue reading

Academic Freedom Media Review – April 28-May 4, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

——————————————————-

Chinese Activist Says He Will Study at NYU
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/4

CERN Scientist Sentenced to 5 Years in French Terrorism Case
Scott Sayare, The New York Times, 5/4

Movement to Protest Israel’s Policies Triggers Bitter Fights Over U.S. Scholars’ Speech
Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/4

Independent UN experts urge Iran to ensure protection for rights defenders
UN News Centre, 5/4 Continue reading

SAR Academic Freedom Media Review-April 7-13, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available at here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

——————————————————-

Jadavpur University professor arrested over anti-Mamata cartoons
The Times of India, 4/13

Finally on solid ground (in Norwegian – Google translation)
Aksel Kjaer Vidnes, Forskerforum, 4/13

Colombia all ears after students vote with their feet
Graham Jarvis, Times Higher Education, 4/12

Tenuous Tenure
Kaustuv Basu, Inside Higher Ed, 4/12

Continue reading

SAR Academic Freedom Media Review, March 24 – 30, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

——————————————————-

Civil society demands inquest into student’s death, more academic freedom
University World News, 3/30

Academics, journalists vow to work for freedom
Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation, Thailand, 3/29

Mixing politics and science doesn’t help students learn
R. Matthew Poteat, Newsleader, 3/29

Indian Police Round Up Tibetan Exiles Before Hu Visit
Voice of America, 3/28

Saudi Arabia: Stop Arbitrary Arrests, Travel Bans on Opposition
Human Rights Watch, 3/28

Continue reading

Academic Freedom Media Review – March 11 – 16, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

——————————————————-

AAUP Will Investigate U. of Northern Iowa Over Faculty Cuts
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16

Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of imprisoned Iranian scholars
Scholars at Risk, 3/16

Chicago State U. Is Ordered to Reinstate Adviser to Student Newspaper
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/15

Cambridge student protester suspended from University until 2014
Emily Loud, The Cambridge Student, 3/15

Continue reading