CLIR Report on NITLE

Logo designed by Khaled Al-Saai

I finally read through this report on NITLE (the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), and I must say I agree with most of it’s findings.  It is a thorough survey of what was accomplished and what is needed. Thanks are due to Jason Brodeur, Morgan Daniels, Annie Johnson, Natsuko Nicholls, Sarah Pickle, and Elizabeth A. WaraksaI, as well as all who participated in the surveys they conducted, for this job well done.

I was very proud of my involvement in NITLE, which started our as a visionary organization, assisting member institutions to be forward looking and to think big about what they could accomplish. I was Program Director of NITLE’s Al-Musharaka Initiative, which is mentioned early in the report. I am immensely proud of my involvement with that project. Our focus really was on building community, facilitating collaboration, and fostering intellectual exchange, not just across institutions, but also across sectors within the academic community.  Much of what has been published about the initiative focusing on the Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource (the ACC site), one of our first projects, but it was really the collaborative projects that were the most interesting and produced the most exciting results.  Continue reading

One Reason Why I Enjoy My Job.

bannerBelow is a something that originally appeared in the MIT Libraries Libguide to Islamic Architecture that is maintained by the Aga Khan Documentation Center @ MIT.  The archive it describes is fascinating.  I’ve just replaced it with something new, but I couldn’t bear to just throw this out completely, so I’m recycling it here.  To find out what I archive I’m featuring now, you’ll just have to check out the Archnet portion of the Libguide.  It’s got a lot of interesting resources, most of it compiled by our Program Head and our Visual Resources Librarian, though I try to hold up my end. Check it out and let us know what you think. 

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Spotify Playlist: Architecture, Music, and Metaphor

timelinealmoravidTo celebrate the launch of the new Archnet, I’m presenting a Spotify playlist on the theme of architecture and the built environment. It explores various themes, ranging from an appreciation of great cities and monuments, to architecture as a spiritual metaphor.  Check it out and let me know what you think?

I’m missing are.  This is just what happened to come to mind at the moment, so I’m missing a lot, I’m sure.  What would you add?  Leave a comment and let me know.  

Damascus in the 19th Century-Images


Bayt Shama’ya Afandi, Damascus, Syria

I work on some fascinating projects at the AKDC@MIT.  One that we’ve just started on, and will be uploading in small increments over an extended period is a a new Special Collection in Archnet, the Michel Ecochard Archive.  A  collection of images of 19th-century Damascus is the first installment to be made available.  I’m so intrigued by the images, I wanted to tell you about them here, and about the larger collection you will eventually see more of.

French architect and urban planner Michel Ecochard, 1905-1985, spent much of his career working in the Muslim world, starting in Damascus following his graduation from École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1929, then Beirut from 1931 to 1944, Rabat from 1946 to 1952 and finally Paris from 1953 to 1983.  Continue reading

What Makes a Family?

I was researching something I was writing today when I came across a compelling article by Pearl S. Buck  “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” published in the September 1955 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.  1955 was after World War II and the Korean War.  During both those conflicts there had been many American troops stationed in Asia who, as the euphemism put it, “had needs.”  The needs of the Asian women who satisfied them mattered less, and many were left behind with child.

At that time adoptions were handled largely by sectarian religious institutions and the children were placed into families that “matched” them in terms of race, religion, and other characteristics.  This meant a lot of children, especially those of mixed race parents, were simply not adoptable.  They spent their lives in institutions until they could fend for themselves.

Buck saw the injustice of this.  Moreover, having adopted several children herself, she new that not all potential parents shopped for children as if they were furniture or shoes.

Two babies came [to me] from adoption agencies, where they were considered unadoptable because it was difficult to find adoptive parents to “match” them. I was sure that there must be good families, matching or not, who could love these babies and indeed there were. . . .

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Tell Congress Not To Double Interest on Student Loans

Prepare yourself: on July 1, as many as 8 million college students will see their interest rates on federally subsidized student loans double, from 3.4% to 6.8%. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, that increase amounts to the average Stafford loan borrower’s paying $2,800 more over a standard 10-year repayment term for loans made after June 30.

It’s worse for those students who take out the most money. Those who borrow the maximum $23,000 in subsidized student loans will see their debt load upped by $5,000 over a 10-year repayment plan and $11,000 over a 20-year repayment plan.  – Kayla Webley, TIME Magazine.

Fortunately this doesn’t affect those of us already carrying such loans and in repayment, though I never stop waiting for that shoe to drop.  I still remember far too well the interest on my supplemental loans being raised to 8% when Republicans controlled Congress under the Reagan administration.  It’s part of the reason my burden is so high now.  Fortunately I no longer have that kind of loan, thanks to consolidation.

The issue with the rate is, of course, budgetary.  Well, budgetary and political, as the article goes on to explain.

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The Internet Blacklist Bill and International Studies

Today, Congress held hearings on the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). There’s probably not too many reading this that would argue with the goals laid out in the titles of those two bills, but don’t be deceived. It’s not the objective of the bills we object to, but rather the means. As the Vimeo blog today notes, both bills

would give the power to the government and content owners to censor and block websites that host even just one piece of content that allegedly infringes a copyright…a much more severe House bill was just introduced and is set up to pass soon if we don’t take action NOW. These bills threaten the very essence of the web and the communities that have risen from it.

As an area studies scholar and someone who believes that in general open and free communications between cultures around the world is a good thing, I’d like to point out another objection to this law. It has the potential to greatly complicate my research and the free flow of knowledge by throwing up barriers to information that the internet only recently opened. My research delves into constructions of identity through literature, popular culture and the performing arts, and it always a great relief when I find useful research materials online. The internet has made music videos, movies, the popular press, and so much more available to me online from my living room or wherever my computer is.
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An Exciting Three Weeks So Far!

I could leave here tomorrow and this will already have been an extraordinary experience.  I’m not planning on it, mind you.  I’ve only been here three weeks and have barely gotten started on the project that is my main reason for being here, and I’m really just getting settled in.

Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting three weeks.  I’ve heard some amazing bluegrass music played live, nearly run over a black bear, spent some time riding along one the best bike trails on the East Coast, seen a stunning display of fall foliage, been visited on my front lawn by a family of deer in the wee hours of the morning,  learned that Pearl Buck was a much more fascinating person than I ever gave her credit for, met some really interesting people, and hopefully made a friend or two.  That’s just some of the highlights of these three weeks.

I’m no stranger to the countryside.  Between the Boy Scouts and family trips, we did a lot of camping when I was growing up.  Yet I’ve been astonished by the wildlife I’ve seen in just a few weeks, ranging from the wide variety of birds, to small mammals and arachnids.
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Quick Thoughts on Academic Turnover and Institutional Development

From “Attrition Among Chief Academic Officers Threatens Strategic Plans” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, June 27, 2010:

The high turnover rate of chief academic officers is a disturbing but little-known fact in higher education today.
Frequent turnover can hurt institutional planning and a college’s capacity to achieve its strategic goals, especially during these times of economic strain and calls for change within the academy. The role of the CAO, or provost, varies based on a college’s identity and how the president defines the job. But the chief academic officer almost always plays a vital role in shaping and executing the strategic plan, leading the design and refinement of academic programs, and recruiting and retaining faculty members. It takes several years to carry out major planning initiatives associated with institutional strategy, curriculum design, and the faculty. Without stable and effective CAO leadership, making progress toward institutional goals is extremely challenging, if not impossible.”

It’s a very interesting article about the challenges of retaining people in that position and the reasons why they leave, based largely on a national study of 323 chief academic officers, conducted by Eduventures Academic Leadership Learning Collaborative. It’s an interesting read, investigating the reasons for this rapid turnover and proposing some solutions.
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Assessing the Role of Twitter in Iran Protests

Iranian Blogosphere Mapped

Here’s an interesting item from MIS Financial Review.

The head of new media for Middle East broadcaster and news service Al Jazeera, Moeed Ahmad, has poured cold water on the much-hyped role of Twitter as the technology that started a grass-roots revolution in Iran.

It seems a torrent of on-the-ground Tweets simply doesn’t add up.

Speaking at the Media 2010 conference in Sydney on Friday, Mr Ahmad said that fact checking by his news agency over the period of disturbances in Tehran could verify just 60 Twitter accounts actually in the city – a number that fell to just six after communications were cut.

The role of Twitter in the protests has certainly been overstated. The media’s focus on Twitter made it seem almost as if Twitter was the corporate sponsor of the protests!
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