Category Archive 'University of California at Berkeley'

12 Aug 2016

New Escape Hatch for Berkeley Chancellor

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UCProtest

Daily Californian:

Last weekend, an emergency exit was built near Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ office as a security measure against potential protesters. The door, which cost $9,000, is located outside a short hallway between his conference room and his office in California Hall. Campus spokesperson Claire Holmes said in an email that the exit in California Hall was installed as a security measure to “provide egress to leave the building.” Construction of the door was requested about a year ago in response to a protest in April 2015 when protesters stormed the chancellor’s suite.”

Last weekend, an emergency exit was built near Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ office as a security measure against potential protesters.

The door, which cost $9,000, is located outside a short hallway between his conference room and his office in California Hall.

Campus spokesperson Claire Holmes said in an email that the exit in California Hall was installed as a security measure to “provide egress to leave the building.”

Construction of the door was requested about a year ago in response to a protest in April 2015 when protesters stormed the chancellor’s suite.

I’d have installed an oubliette.

Via Boing Boing.

08 Feb 2015

“Queering Agriculture”

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BeekmanBoys

Heather MacDonald reports on the latest academic breaktrough in gender equity. Naturally, it occurred in California.

Another day in academia, another twist in the bizarre world of identity studies. The Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, is presenting a talk next week on “Queering Agriculture,” dedicated to the proposition that “it is absolutely crucial queer and transgender studies begin to deal more seriously with the subject of agriculture.”

Queer theory has taken over student life on many campuses. Now that gay identity has been thoroughly institutionalized, declaring oneself “trans*,” “genderqueer,” “pangender,” or any of the other rapidly multiplying alternative sexes has become the last frontier of self-engrossed agitation available to students. But apart from the odoriferous leavings of female ginko trees, the “problem” of gender and plants did not seem to be a pressing one, making the application of queer theory to agriculture an innovation that even the most dogged observers of identity studies might not have seen coming. The talk’s presenter, a Ph.D. candidate in American studies at the University of Maryland, will allegedly show that “the growing popularity of sustainable food is laden with anthroheterocentric assumptions of the ‘good life’ coupled with idealized images and ideas of the American farm, and gender, radicalized and normative standards of health, family, and nation.”

25 Jan 2015

Students at Berkeley Angry: No Trannies Made Raphael’s School of Athens!

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RaphaelSchoolOfAthensA
Plato and Aristotle, Detail from Raphael’s The School of Athens

Rodrigo Kazuo and Meg Perret found their classroom environment at Berkeley hostile, even when their professor was lecturing on Karl Marx (!), because the Western canon is exclusively composed of works by dead, white, European males, not a single person of color or transgendered individual makes the cut.

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned. These courses pretend that a minuscule fraction of humanity — economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States) — are the only people to produce valid knowledge about the world. This is absurd. The white male syllabus excludes all knowledge produced outside this standardized canon, silencing the perspectives of the other 99 percent of humanity.

The white male canon is not sufficient for theorizing the lives of marginalized people. None of the thinkers we studied in this course had a robust analysis of gender or racial oppression. They did not even engage with the enduring legacies of European colonial expansion, the enslavement of black people and the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. Mentions of race and gender in the white male canon are at best incomplete and at worst racist and sexist. We were required to read Hegel on the “Oriental realm” and Marx on the “Asiatic mode of production,” but not a single author from Asia. We were required to read Weber on the patriarchy, but not a single feminist author. The standardized canon is obsolete: Any introduction to social theory that aims to be relevant to today’s problems must, at the very least, address gender and racial oppression.

The exclusions on the syllabus were mirrored in the classroom. Although the professor said he wanted to make the theory relevant to present issues, the class was out of touch with the majority of students’ lives. The lectures often incorporated current events, yet none of the examples engaged critically with gender or race. The professor even failed to mention the Ferguson events, even though he lectured about prisons, normalizing discourse and the carceral archipelago in Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” the day after the grand jury decision on the murder of Michael Brown.

Furthermore, the classroom environment felt so hostile to women, people of color, queer folks and other marginalized subjects that it was difficult for us to focus on the course material. Sometimes, we were so uncomfortable that we had to leave the classroom in the middle of lecture. For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable.

Read the whole thing.

Myself, I’d argue that Plato may very possibly have swung both ways, and that Michel Foucault was a commie pervert who doesn’t belong in any serious version of the Western canon, but who should qualify perfectly as an excellent (and eminently repulsive) representative of all of the “marginalized” groups there are.

I’d suggest, additionally, that if you think “Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault” came from “England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States,” you probably need to acquire greater personal familiarity with the lives and ideas (and countries of origin) of the philosophers conventionally included in the Western canon, before you will be qualified to dispute over exactly who does, and who does not, deserve to be included.

Hat tip to Campus Reform.

05 Dec 2012

Public Sex at Berkeley

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The Berkeley Daily Californian (surprise! surprise!) has a regular sex columnist named Nadia Cho, whose most recent contribution, an account of celebrating Thanksgiving with romantic liaisons in on-campus locations other than her own room has attracted greater than usual attention.

I actually smiled indulgently as I clicked on the link to the young lady’s column, not having failed to remember with affection certain on-campus meetings with young ladies of my own back during the consulate of Plancus; but, alas! I found myself, upon reading the piece, involuntarily conscripted into the ranks of the censorious and disapproving.

Nadia Cho’s literary approach to the sensitive subject of love-making includes large servings of crude colloquial expressions embedded in a conspicuously unreflective rah-rah, just-let’s-do-it ideological perspective which inevitably strikes the reader as Philistine and coarse.

Berkeley is the best place to explore your sexuality. Our school is a predominantly safe and accepting space with many places, people and resources to help you discover your sexual self. It is the place where I learned what it means to be queer, to recognize the presence of patriarchy, to attempt polyamory and to become more confident in my sexuality so I could go ahead with new experiences — attending naked parties and orgies and writing a sex column, just to name a few.

Learn to appreciate your sexy side and experience a few frisky things during your time here. Take the Female Sexuality DeCal, have sex in Morrison, do the naked run and talk to people who are willing to share their personal experiences. The wide acceptance and freedom of open sexual expression are among the greatest legacies we have the opportunity to uphold at this university.

On the other hand, maybe Berkeley really isn’t the best place to explore your sexuality. You’ll probably get a dose, and it seems to turn some people into empty-headed, communist skanks, who think that Lawrencian latitudinarianism constitutes an intellectual legacy.

15 Sep 2009

Academia & Conservatism

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Former conservative Mark Lilla, in Chronicle of Higher Education, welcomes the University of California at Berkeley’s opening of a “Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements” (which is obviously destined to link Edmund Burke, William F Buckley, Jr., and Adolph Hitler in a common pattern of pathological aversion to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful), expressing guarded optimism over the possibility of its getting “professors and students to discuss ideas and read books that until now have been relegated to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.”

The unfortunate fact is that American academics have until recently shown little curiosity about conservative ideas, even though those ideas have utterly transformed American (and British) politics over the past 30 years. A look at the online catalogs of our major universities confirms this: plenty of courses on identity politics and postcolonialism, nary a one on conservative political thought. Professors are expected to understand the subtle differences among gay, lesbian, and transgender studies, but I would wager that few can distinguish between the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, three think tanks that have a greater impact on Washington politics than the entire Ivy League.

Why is that? The former left-wing firebrand David Horowitz, whom the professors do know, has a simple answer: There is a concerted effort to keep conservative Ph.D.’s out of jobs, to deny tenure to those who get through, and to ignore conservative books and ideas. It is an old answer, dating back to the 1970s, when neoconservatives began writing about the “adversary culture” of intellectuals. Horo witz is an annoying man, and what’s most annoying about him is that … he has a point. Though we are no longer in the politically correct sauna of the 1980s and 1990s, and experiences vary from college to college, the picture he paints of the faculty and curriculum in American universities remains embarrassingly accurate, and it is foolish to deny what we all see before us.

Over the past decade, our universities have made serious efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity on the campus (economic diversity worries them less, for some reason). Well-paid deans work exclusively on the problem. But universities show not the slightest interest in intellectual diversity among faculty members. That wouldn’t matter if teachers could be counted on to introduce students to their adversaries’ books and views, but we know how rarely that happens. That’s why political diversity on the faculty does matter. As it stands, there is a far greater proportion of conservatives in the student body of typical colleges than on the faculty. A few leading thinkers on the right do teach at our top universities—but at some, like Columbia University, where I teach, not a single prominent conservative is to be found.

Contra Horowitz, the blackballing of conservatives and conservative ideas is by now instinctive and habitual rather than self-conscious, reflecting intellectual provincialism more than ideological fervor. I recall being at a dinner in Paris in the late 1980s with a distinguished American historian of France who had gathered her graduate students for the evening. The conversation turned to book printing in the early modern era, which she was studying, and the practice of esoteric writing, which was more widespread than she had imagined. I mentioned that there was a classic book on this subject by Leo Strauss. She searched her mind for a moment—this was before the Iraq war made Strauss a household name—and then said, “But isn’t he a conservative?” In a certain way he was, I said. Silence at the table. She smiled that smile meant to end discussion, and the conversation turned to more-pleasant topics.

——————————-

Nonetheless, Lilla quarreled with David Horowitz’s “anti-intellectual” “dumbing down” indictment of exactly the same liberal dogmatism and intolerance he himself recognizes in an obviously more becoming and appropriate rueful tone which differs from Horowitz by its passive acceptance of the situation.

But even Lilla’s comparatively timid public recognition of the left’s tyrannical regime within most American universities provoked liberal pooh-pooh-ing in a follow-up exchange.

Bruce L.R. Smith, nearly inadvertently, finds real world practical considerations making denial just a bit awkward.

Lilla states that there is not a single conservative at Columbia University. I can assure him that this is not so. In 2000, I returned to Columbia after a 20-year hiatus as a fellow at the Heyman Center for the Humanities. Over the next five years I renewed friendships and acquaintanceships with many colleagues (and met new ones), some of whom can fairly be called conservatives. Perhaps I will prove Lilla’s point by forbearing to mention them by name, other than myself.


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