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August 2014

Let’s Put the Children in Charge

Or, “What do we want? Diversity! When do we want to pay for it? Er…”

Heather Mac Donald discusses academia’s ‘diversity’ bureaucracy, its disregard for evidence and its multiple redundancies:  

I was recently at Ohio University and their ratio of administrators to faculty tipped over in 2000. So for the last decade they have had more bureaucrats than faculty. Faculty lines are going unfilled because they claim not to have sufficient funding, and physical maintenance is cut, and yet, in 2009, they too created a new Diversity, Access and Equity Office, with a new provost to run it. Of course it was redundant, with the Office of Institutional Equity and their various ‘diversity’ ombudsmen throughout the university.

University administrators were telling state legislature that they were absolutely cut to the bone when it came to funding for essential functions and activities. UC San Diego was a typical supplicant. They had recently cut an MA programme in electrical engineering, had cut classes in French, German and Spanish, and they’d recently lost three cancer researchers… So this looked grim. And yet - that year - the university had announced the creation of an entirely new bureaucratic sinecure – a Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. And as is the case with all such new posts, it was incredibly redundant, with an already massive ‘diversity’ infrastructure that extended through the chancellor’s office, into provosts, committees, you name it. The list of names of their ‘diversity’ functions takes up an entire paragraph. […]

This ‘diversity’ infrastructure, and the larger bureaucracy, has made the recent wave of student protests look particularly foolish… There they are protesting against tuition hikes, and my view is, who are you guys protesting against? Take it to the administration, guys. Ask them why they have been bulking up on the ‘diversity’ chancellors instead of creating more introductory chemistry classes. But with their usual perfection of getting things wrong, the students completely missed the boat.

Gibor Basri, the Vice Chancellor of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at Berkeley, participated in some of these tuition protests and said rising tuition gives him heartburn. Well, if he’s got so much heartburn, how about he starts divesting the seventeen staff in his ‘diversity’ office? He could even give up his own salary [of $200,000] or cut it by half. But instead he’s going to egg the students on to demand what he says “we” believe – that a college education is not a private right but a public good. Basri [with NYU’s “professor of social and cultural analysis,” Andrew Ross, of Sokal Hoax infamy] is spearheading an Occupy movement to demand the forgiveness of federal college loans and ‘free’ college tuition. Which would of course merely fuel the bureaucratic bloat by giving it an endless source of funds [i.e., taxpayers’ money].

Transcribed from this 90-minute video

If the dysfunction of academia is your thing, you’ll find much to entertain you. From delusions of persecution to protest as a way to get out of class. 

Friday Ephemera

The word, I think, is incongruous. // Incredibox, version 3. // The abbreviated Jaws. // The bedside barista. // Life in Banff, Canada, 1950s. (h/t, Coudal) // Your wife wants you to have these state-of-the-art jumping stilts. // What a plane crash feels like. // Watch the horizon. // Service with a snout. // Saturn. // AirType. // At last, an ice-cream that changes colour as you eat it. // A museum of endangered sounds. // Eighteen minutes of Brown. // Gay men draw vaginas. // Vax, a game about contagion. // Shinjuku. // “The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate.” // Dioramas of note. // What the devil does. // What Bear McCreary does. // Captain Kirk versus the doomsday machine, 1967. Will that damn transporter work in time?

Well, Soil is Sort of Brown

Worthy of the Guardian, but found in the Telegraph

It is the softly spoken radio show that provides good-natured help and advice to thousands of gardeners every week. So regular listeners to Gardeners’ Question Time may be horrified to discover it has been accused of peddling racial stereotypes. According to an academic, the sedate Radio 4 panel show is riddled with “racial meanings” disguised as horticultural advice.

Dr Ben Pitcher, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Westminster…  

That’s this chap.

…claimed the programme’s regular discussions on soil purity and non-native species promoted nationalist and fascist beliefs. Speaking on another Radio 4 programme, Thinking Allowed, the academic said: “Gardeners’ Question Time is not the most controversial show on Radio 4, and yet it is layered with, saturated with, racial meanings.” 

“The context here is the rise of nationalism. The rise of racist and fascist parties across Europe. Nationalism is about shoring up a fantasy of national integrity. My question is, what feeds nationalism? What makes nationalism powerful?” Dr Pitcher said the “crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain” meant people felt unable to express their views for fear of being called racist, so expressed their racial identity in other ways, such as talking about gardening.

Remember, folks. For academics in the Clown Quarter, it pays to be unobvious

When not hearing racism in discussions of soil acidity - and seeing it in Scandinavian furniture, which is “all about race” - Dr Pitcher writes about “how the meanings of race are made and remade in acts of creative consumption.” And, obviously, “the relationship between race and neoliberal capitalism.” He is, in fact, “setting out a framework for thinking about race in the twenty-first century.” Our senior lecturer in sociology also ruminates deeply on “Top Gear and postfeminist media culture.” Yes, a giant walks among us. Let’s all follow him. 


Here’s the Gardeners’ Question Time website, in case any of you want to comb through the content for those hidden racial messages with which it’s apparently “saturated.” The episodes on the National Botanic Garden of Wales and the Chelsea Flower Show look particularly suspicious.

Update 2

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She’s Raising Your Consciousness with Her Rack

In the late ‘80s, I took part in a lot of performance art that included nudity, so I was familiar with baring my breasts in public.

So boasts Texan resident Phyllis Masters, with yet another classic sentence from the pages of the Guardian.

After all those gun-rights advocates brandished their weapons at Chipotle and Target this spring, everyone knows it’s legal to openly carry around your firearms in Texas. Not many folks know that it’s also legal for women to go topless in the state’s capital city… Since these ammo-sexuals feel it necessary to exercise their right to take a gun out for a date, [my friend] Lola and I decided to exercise our own. 

There is, I fear, video of this terribly bold breast-wielding activism. And so those with an appetite for shouting, bad signage and the breasts of two rather fleshy middle-aged women – women exercising their legal right to express disdain for other people exercising their legal rights – can indulge themselves here. I think it’s fair to say that a mutual understanding wasn’t reached on this particular outing, and the intended consciousness-raising concludes with the following exchange:

“Can I talk?”


Ms Masters “settled in Austin, Texas in 1981 and loves it despite gentrification.” Via Julia

Friday Ephemera

Nixon shares his knowledge of panda sex, 1972. // Opal of note. // YolkPig is for separating egg yolks. // A plan to nuke the Moon. // Six-year-old limbo skater. // Supermarket excursions of yore. (h/t, Ace) // An archive of field recordings, from a dawn chorus in London to grasshoppers in Moscow. // Why dogs sniff each other’s rears. // A sudden interest in the toilet. // Tasty cheeseburger meets hydrochloric acid. // Thirsty bird would like some of your water. // Taiwanese scooter traffic during rush hour. // 12 hours of hair dryer noise. // Oversized Spirograph. // The babes of chess. // Teamwork. // Insect jewellers. (h/t, Julia) // Communist ingenuity. // And because you demanded it, some goldfish bubble wrap