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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Top Blog on Campus

Posted by Bill Benzon on 11/22/06 at 07:42 AM

The New York Times today is running a story entitled Erasing Divide, College Leaders Take to Blogging. It opens with an account of Dr. Patrician A. McGuire, president of Trinity University in DC, replying to one ‘trinity gurl’ snitching on a fellow student. The article is not about McQuire, but about college and university presidents who blog:

While some colleges and their presidents have seen their reputations shredded on student blogs, and others have tried to limit what students and faculty members may say online, about a dozen or so presidents, like Dr. McGuire, are vaulting the digital and generational divide and starting their own blogs.

Veterans of campus public relations disasters warn that presidents blog at their peril; “an insane thing to do” is how Raymond Cotton, a lawyer who advises universities and their presidents in contract negotiations, describes it. But these presidents say blogs make their campuses seem cool and open a direct line, more or less, to students, alumni and the public.

“When I first started learning about blogs, I said, ‘Well, here I like to discourse on issues of the day, connect with the campus community,’ ” recalled Dr. McGuire, who said she wrote all her own entries. “Here’s a way I can talk a couple of times a week to everybody.”

What, if anything, does this portend for the academic blogosphere? Is academia poised to make a great leap forward into the 21st century?


There’s one part of the linked article that really stood out, since we’re discussing What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?:

“But the group that planned the event, Young Americans for Freedom, said that the blog inhibited free speech, and that no professor or administrator should express an opinion publicly about anything.

“We’re here to be educated, to get our degrees,” said Kyle Bristow, chairman of the group, which dropped its plans in favor of a forum on immigration later this semester. “They’re here to provide an atmosphere where we can be educated. We should be able to think for ourselves and not have people like Lou Anna Simon thinking for us.””

I always find it amazing, how little conservatives understand about free speech.  These conservatives think that free speech means that no one can disagree with them.  It’s a trope I’ve often seen in conservative writing.

But the “thinking for us” part really completes the picture.  A lot of conservative complaint seems to be taking the kind of thing that Jodi Dean wrote about in her review of WLAtLA even more seriously than she does.  It’s as if the conservatives are complaining that liberal thought is so rational that conservatives literally can not think for themselves if it is present.  The professor or administrator *must* be silent because otherwise their power/knowledge formation literally overwhelms any thoughts the conservative might have.  “Education” then becomes the provision of a silent atmosphere in which conservatives can think.

I’d say it’s only about 10 years before conservatives start reading Foucault so that they can upgrade their rhetoric in that direction.

By on 11/22/06 at 10:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You mean they’ll be checking in to the local Theory Clinic for a Full-Cult immunization series?

By Bill Benzon on 11/22/06 at 11:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, I suppose the idea is that they’re impressionable, isn’t it.  They’re the soft wax that will take the press of the (bad, wicked) left wing signet ring, unless they are provided with a ring-free environment.  University students are children in this scheme of thought; not yet mature enough to be able to fight off seductive leftwing ideology.  They must be protected.  Which is ironic, because it might be thought that university is precisely the place where people are children no longer.

It’s a significant fault line running through conservative thought, I’d say: ‘officially’ (I mean: this is how many conservatives like to think of themselves), ‘officially’ conservative ideological discourse stresses individuality, opposes ‘the state’ and most especially the nanny state.  But actually conservativism very often manifests, as here, a latent certainty that people are infants, and need to be shaped by the Strong, Good Authority modelled fundamentally on the patriachal head-of-family.  But perhaps here I’m only stating the obvious.

By Adam Roberts on 11/22/06 at 11:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

>Dr. Simon also condemned a conservative group’s plan to stage “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” on campus. The event would have involved finding a student to play the role of an illegal immigrant and turning the “immigrant” in. Dr. Simon derided the game as “a way to mock and demean, not to educate; a way to exclude, not include, voices.”


Dr. Simon was hinting before the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” event that the event was going to be “demeaning” and thus presumably subject to punishment by the university.

By on 11/22/06 at 05:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

joeo, if you insist on interpreting the linked statement as a veiled threat of punishment (which it really does not appear to be), then it is such a toothless one that anyone scared off by it is a coward.  As a liberal, I firmly approve of this kind of free speech.  If only all conservatives were so cowardly.

By on 11/22/06 at 06:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I guess you you are right that it was a toothless threat, if it was a threat:


By on 11/22/06 at 07:42 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yep, that’s right.  The proposed “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” would seem to fall clearly under the description of dissent, not disruption, whether it was characterized as demeaning or not.

But let’s get real for a moment.  As a liberal college student / grad student, I remember occupying offices, people getting arrested, bailing people out of jail.  No one was going to be scared off by a little bit of tut-tutting.  Anyone who would be scared by that, well, that’s their choice—but it is flatly impossible to run a liberal polity in which people get a “concern veto” over speech that they interpret as being too scary for them, even though it makes no improper threat.

What do I mean by an improper threat?  Let’s, for the sake of argument, imagine that the statement was indeed an oblique threat, even though it appears to be nothing of the kind.  Well, it’s still not an improper one; it would consist of the university president threatening to enforce university policies with regard to disruption of student life.  Threats within the system are a proper part of politics.  The people who bring up the Foucauldian power/knowledge thing as if it’s new, or the conservatives who say that liberals aren’t tolerant of conservatism, always seem to be surprised that liberals do indeed use power.  Well, yes; gaining and using power is what politics is about.

By on 11/22/06 at 09:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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