Monday, February 21, 2005

One example of the stasis-seeking-and-achieving ISA

The headline "Flap may hurt CU recruiting" summarizes the lead story for the Post's "Denver & The West" section. The Post categorizes the article under "Academic-Freedom Debate."

1. The spectacle of the academic-freedom debate transforms lives. Careers are at stake. In addition, conservative ideologues purposefully construct this kind of public discourse to radically reshape the academic community without the need for its proponents to actaully get involved in any form of scholarship.

What else, then, is there to say? What does bother me about this article?

2. Summary of the problem: The community and administration at the University of Colorado completely mishandled the recent football team fiasco. They bury it and continue to bury it with this spectacle. The Buffs were recruiting (topical, since the scholars are now worried about talent recruitment) players with sexual favors via local prostitutes. An employee claimed responsibility and took the fall, but we all know how this works. Sexual misconduct was (is?) a problem at the school, and the charges of rape and sexual misconduct are ongoing to this day. At the very least, we know CU and its football team cultivated the environment that permitted a violent attitude towards women, and several cases of sexual misconduct were the end result. We even have the coach, on record during a press conference, ridiculing a female teammate because "she's a girl." His cheap apology was accepted by the school.

Nevermind that such contempt, conscious or not, directed towards women in public statements only encourages further violence against women. Take it from an ex-jock, these knuckleheads worship their coach. If he laughs, they laugh. Now, we have a guy who compared dead Americans to little Eichmanns. Living individuals who are expected deal with a constant threat of violence because they're girls (thanks, coach) take priority over those who have died.

If you're taking offense via my priority: I am strongly opposed to forming a memorial to our culture's righteousness as a just response to the deaths of thousands in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US.

3. To return to the issue at hand, The press should explore our policies and values. What purpose does ignoring gender-based hazing and sexual discrimination and misconduct serve? What is it about allegations of rape and abuse that CU recruitment goes unharmed? What is it about the years-old crass utterance of a scholar that is more timely? Many smart students skip CU because it is considered a party school, don't they?

Who says which issue is more important? Because you all know that the school is going to delay reviewing Churchill until the media circus moves on to another town and then they'll drop the whole thing. He simply has the right to make such statements.

4. Locals argue about freedom; The Post pushes the Academic-Freedom angle. How come this angle wasn't pushed when several women came forward with charges of rape? Instead of questioning practices at CU, the press questioned the credibility of the women.

5. Students who live with the threat of sexual harrassment are limited in their Academic Freedom. We're going to argue about Churchill? You want to call folks "little Eichmanns," you should live with the response. You come down the mountain and share your bits of wisdom, you need to handle the laughter and mocking. His colleagues will take care of him when his work is reviewed. If his rights are violated, then he will need to seek punitive and retributive damages in court.

6. How does a person live with sexual violation? What retribution is there?--especially when the community apparently cares less for an individual's rights than it does its popularity ratings.

7. So, people won't want to go to CU because the school fosters an environment where drinking, drugs, football, fucking, and censorship are priorities. Blaming Ward Churchill for the state of affairs at CU is like blaming George W Bush for the state of affairs in the US. You might not like the guys but they aren't the problem; they are only figments of its manifestation.

8. Here's what has to happen: 1) Fire CU's president; 2) Fire the football coach; 3) Apologize to the community for a general failure to promote civil discourse on and off campus; 4) Demand students accept responsibility for their illegal actions rather than offering them 2 strikes; 5) Encourage the local community to accept a share of the responsibility for the state of affairs at their school. Oh, and get Coors off campus. Why we allow alcohol companies to use our univeristy campuses to find their future loyal consumers is beyond me.

No4 is important. CU is our school; it is a state school. It belong to us. It does not exist for football; it does not exist for a few scholars; it exists to educate and promote democratic scholarship for everybody. Ward Churchill certainly has a place in such a community, whether or not we appreciate his POV. But we need to protect the rights of each citizen on campus. Academic-Freedom--who is it for, really? Hint: look who argues over IT...a specific kind of lay citizen and a specific kind of scholar.

9. All the talk about freedoms is banal. We treat university administrations like Businesses and campus communities like micro-markets. The public needs to figure out what interest universities serve--state schools do it differently than private schools, of course. In any case, those of us on the inside only stand to lose our jobs. It's tough.

10. I was extremely pissed off to see all of the students willing to put their bodies on the line for Ward Churchill. Did any of you see the emotional footage of students being physically dragged away in handcuffs? Heartbreaking: good for them. But: Where were they when the university simply dropped the ball on the investigation of the football team? Where were they when the press hung their fellow classmates out to dry (students, who felt isolated and abused, who complained of harrassment and assault)? [Oh, these weren't the right kind of girls. This is a whole 'nother issue, of course. For, if they were members of the indie-set, if they were "outsiders," then there would be more outrage.]

Where were the sit-ins, the boycotts of games, the protests outside of games.
Where were the flyer campaigns demanding action? Etc etc

11. Simply put: this Churchill thing is much more sexy for kids and scholars, pundits and administrators than the issue of "violence against women on American campuses." In fact, such violence is far too common and accepted/acceptable for the mainstream. Since a guy like Churchill pops up only once every decade or so, people want to get on board. They want to do the right thing when the cameras are on.

12. This is the dumping paragraph. You may choose to skip it and move right on to the following one. But I have to unload; I'm half-cocked as it is. Fuck him & Fuck CU.I really want to say say it,'s only because I'm not feeling sympathetic today...not at all. I have nothing good to say about a place that Ward-worships. Go to Boulder tonight and step inside any of the local bars or hang out on the Pearl St Mall; the pseudo-radical kids binge-ing on cheap pot and cheaper coors light talking smack about the school, the man, oppression, & the right to free speech. This is old news. Give me a break. I am sure the poetry shams--slams, I mean--are overloaded right now with the pah-pum, uppity rhythmic bullshit of complaint and cute one-liners. Ok, I dumped...good to get that off my chest. End of dumping.

13. How about we seek a little justice in society. What would happen if we stepped behind that "veil of ignorance" John Rawls writes about and made our minds up in a joint session. Ward Churchill would be a has been and a nobody knew and these women and the thousands of others in similar situations each semester would be cared for appropriately. That is what would happen.

14. In this month of all months, we should be considering how we have a horrible habit of turning diverse cultures into monolithic races, powerful individuals into mock ideals for diverse communities. Churchill has had his opportunity and blown it--he could have led his colleagues and students in a radical charge against a growing fascist State, I would have gladly followed, but he chose to insult specific individuals in order to promote an emotional response. He went for the thrill; he joined the orgy. He is no leader.

Ward Churchill and David Horowitz actually make good bed-fellows. They are lames.

15. To recap, it's a gender issue: What makes it easier for folks to defend Churchill than to defend (and remain at the) defense of CU women bringing charges against the football team? Both may have been (and are still) demonized by the press; however, Churchill is offered a primary dignity the women in question are not. Where does (t)his dignity come from? Some might say the issue is a rights issue. Don't kid yourselves; it's a gender issue.

16. To conclude: on the ISA at work:The Post's Dave Curtin writes, "Many scholars say the investigation of Ward Churchill could have a chilling effect on attracting talent."

Gender and Politics aside, this is about folks looking out for their own. Allow me to generalize, to take a step back, and to posit: The ideological state apparatus (ISA) involved in this debate tends to turn the issue towards folks protecting their own.

(We do call it a political-lynching.)

Doesn't the ISA single out the radical elements in society and purposefully refine bad subjects to such an extent that their numbers appear too small to offer any real, potent, and consistent challenge to a status quo? We might call this a stasis-seeking-and-achieving ideological apparatus.

17. postscript:
I am not going to participate in it. I am going to oppose it. I can oppose it by showing it working. And I am not going to align myself with Churchill in order to further individuate myself from others in society, as if I am able to be refined in that manner.

I am common. Dirt.
I accumulate. Mash-up.
I do not distinguish.
I run from no one.
I call you only by the name you call yourself.

We have to rewrite everything each time.


Anonymous said...

From JSR . . .

Academic freedom and freedom of speech has always been not quite the case. For any professor to spout very offensive views and use very offensive terms, well, he will be silenced. Do you think a student could even graduate college if he regularly used N-words etc. in his papers? I am not saying it is good to do so or supporting those words' use, I am just saying this society will silence those if they spout views offensive enough. No, a professor cannot get up there and say anything he likes; they never have been able to, tenure or not. Most of the very offensive folk are weeded out long before they get tenure anyway. There is no freedom of speech in this country when it comes to views that are unpopular enough. No, no one is going to stop you from publishing some Nazi book, but no one is going to publish it either, nor will any bookstores carry it. I am not saying it should not be this way; I am just saying it is nothing new for someone to be silenced for saying offensive things. Maybe that's not even such a bad thing. I say boot the fucker.

totalvo said...

This issue is not about churchill it is about every american. Churchill is a true patriot. We are all the "little Eichmanns," that churchill refers to guilty of apathy, wallowing in our wealth feeding off the poorer nations. Infact i think Hitler would have done something more extreme such as kill Churchill but that would be a complete outrage in america to kill someone, but it is OK to kill their Job and their freedom to say ehatever they want. I read churchills essay and i did not find it offensive in the least. Infact i agreed with it 100%. lets get back to the issue that really matters at CU the rapist on the football team.

Anonymous said...

From JSR . . .

Yeah, I had a friend who was offered a job for a bank in the WTC in 2000 or around then; he's just some guy who goes to work every day like any old fella (he's still doing financial analysis, only here in CO). He declined the job but let me assure you had he taken it he would still have had as little to do with the Iraq sanctions as some dishwasher in Kansas City. Saying the victims of these murders deserved it ranks right up there with saying rape victims wanted it. It is disguising gross offensiveness to very real people who were burned to death as political opinion. I guess it's okay for terrorists to kill you too then, right? Churchill is just one among many masochistic Noam Chomsky-esque "kill us all we deserve it" idiots. Name ONE COUNTRY that doesn't gear it's foreign policy toward it's own self-interest before you condemn America for doing so. Maybe had the Left not taken that tack regarding the WTC we could have avoided alienating the center and got Bush out of DC and back snorting coke in Texas by now.

Gary Norris said...


harsh overgeneralization with the "kill us we deserve it" bit.

Churchill's essay is quite tame, actually.

What Churchill suffers from is the logical fallacy: "The chickens come home to roost." Completely mishandles the issue, and oversimplifies many factors.

But he should have the right to say what he wants and work. And he should have that right protected. Just like Johnson had the right to burn the flag in Texas. Unfortunately Texas v. Johnson ended up in the Supreme Court. And it was the Court's Chief Justice who wrote in his dissenting opinion, that speech should be defined. We do not define "free speech"--any idea why?

We don't define it, so that those who we disagree with, when they find themselves singled out for the quality of their speech acts aren't denied a basic right simply because we have the power to rid ourselves of their acts.

I didn't post about Churchill because I find him disagreeable. In fact, I think most Americans go along with their government because they are lazy and tend to only look out for their material wants. I find his statement to lack taste and the character I look for in a leader.

I posted this to make the point that in Colorado (and across the US), there are more important issues concerning academic freedom (like the continued violence against women on campus) that deserve more attention.

When I say "fuck Churchill" that's what I mean. "Churchill" is an issue. I support the man; even though I wish he'd shut up for awhile.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I appreciate your concerns here, Gary, but shouldn't we be careful about treating sexual harrassment and violence against women as issues of "academic freedom"? I mean, do we need other standards than those that would condemn such acts whether on or off campus to condemn them when they happen to happen on campus? The Churchill case, on the other hand, seems to be a paradigm case of the erosion of a particular, hard-fought enclave of expressive freedom (coupled with material conditions conducive to thought). It seems more sensible, at least to me, to suggest that someone like Churchill should be especially free from the reprisals he is experiencing "on campus", than to suggest that female university students have a right to feel safer from rape there--that right, it seems to me, is already absolutely secured elsewhere.

Gary Norris said...

Thomas, the issue of "academic freedom" is a ruse. The term itself doesn't define the politico-social mechanism it signifies.

Academic Freedom supposedly means that a student, teacher, individual will not be singled out bodily--ie, as an individual--AND that an issue will not be singled out ideologically--ie, as an idea--in the classrooms and campuses.

It is a meaningless idea: all individuals are singled out in the public sphere, though they are part of the whole.

Academic Freedom supporters claim that BOTH (as in two) sides of an issue should be promoted in any classroom or campus situation. It's the fair and balanced crap. There's no such thing--there are simply possibilities. A system of institutionalized education based upon teaching binary opposites is a joke.

If a campus is a less safe place for a woman than a man, and that difference is based on the potential violence she faces, then I think it is an issue; and a more significant issue than whether or not a binary opposition is being imposed on any scholarly topic in order to level the discourse, make it simple, less abstract.

I disagree. I am not saying women should feel SAFER; I am saying we should all feel safe. And we blame women for their rape; we blame the academic system for Churchill. He is offered a dignity as a man that the women students were purposefully kept from. It's sexist. Simple. And wrong.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I don't think I follow you here, and can't really trace the line of argument well enough to decide how to respond. Surely rape isn't first and foremost a gender issue (it's a violent crime and the whole problem is to prevent it, perhaps punish it); still more surely, disciplinary cases in universities are not first and foremost gender issues (they're issues of personal conduct and the institutional support that is offered it). But I'm obviously not close enough to the action to sort out the particulars. My comment was intended to suggest that academic freedom (in some sense, though perhaps not the one that is being talked about in Colorado as you hear it) is worth defending, even if there are other things going on that are worth opposing . . . those other things need not (ironically?) be called "academic freedom" issues, or otherwise conflated with such issues, in order to be taken seriously. Violence is violence. It is not censorship, and not sexism. Simple, yes. And wrong.

Gary Norris said...

Thomas, man, come on. Try to allow me're taking my post out of its local context.

Academic Freedom is a political topic. In **Colorado** (I am not addressing this issue as it pertains to Europe or Texas, etc) right wing ideologues are pushing for what they call an "Academic Bill of Rights."

The Ward Churchill issue--a free speech issue--is being twisted to fit that debate. The "debate" is really an attempt to control dialogue and scholarship on campus through state intervention that will demand, if passed, that all issues on campuses in our state be represented through binaries--the pros and cons--and that the students and government, through controlled evaluation shall determine not only the proper binaries but which is the pro and which is the con.

This is an attempt to manipulate, guide, and regulate individual's acts on campus. Minds and bodies are at stake. This is simply NOT an intellectual issue.

In my post, RAPE is not the issue, though it is involved in the form of an accusation. You have made it the issue.

Violence against women on United States' campuses **is** a problem--not violence against men. You are simply wrong or misinformed. Women are targeted by community members (stalkers) and fellow students as primary victims for sexual misconduct simply because they must walk from one building to another. They are singled out as victims of date rape. The football team at CU--not simply a CU issue--has a habit of coercing sexual favors. Whether those favors are granted or not, the coersion is wrong.

Administrations are hard-pressed to address the issues. how come? if male students were being date raped, drugged and rape, beaten and assaulted, robbed and stalked, at anywhere near the rate female students are, something would be done to address the issue.

If a particular population on a campus is singled out because of a specific trait, that mechanism limits freedom. It doesn't matter who, what, or how. A limit imposed by any oppressive force is a limit. On campus, our freedoms are tied to our study. If a student must worry about physical safety regarding her person and study, her academic freedom is in fact at stake because her mobility is limited. This can be a practical matter of walking from building to building, it can be a complicated matter of a professor singling her out for special attention.

The university will go to bat for Ward Churchill regardless of his comments and regardless of the local community's reaction to his comments. The support might be warped, lax, or simply grotesque (for the wrong reasons); nevertheless, support is present and generally supported.

Support for women who have been attacked on campus is present through specialized organizations but is not generally supported.

Women more often than men must justify their rights. As your insistence requries; you simply don't see an issue.

At the University of Denver it happens every year: women are attacked by locals or fellow students. In order to protect themselves, they have to curtail their public presence on campus. This curtails their freedom to study. My body is not on the line in this way. Ever. When I am attacked, I am expected to do something about it. When I woman is attacked, more often than not and regardless of what she does, she is questioned about what happen to invite the attack.

Sure men are raped. But that has nothing to do with the issue. This is the bullshit attitude that leads to a woman being singled out for scorn after she claims a sexual assault on her person occurred. At CU a woman wants to play on the football team; the men sexually harrass (and allegedly assault) her. She complains; she is required to be one of the boys; what did she expect? Because men taunt, tease, haze, beat, insult, and generally treat one another like shit, she is supposed to take it like a man. The coach says in so many words, publicly, what did she expect?

She is singled out for her speech AND her gender. Her public claim is also a claim on hers and other women's bodies. Her stand is an actual stance. Her "academic freedom" (if we take the word to mean what the right wing ideologues define it to mean) is jeopardized when her person is violated.

Does this follow for men; absolutely. But Ward Churchill is not embodied by his speech act. He is allowed to simply dignify it. Only after the public is outraged does he receive violent threats; however, he receives excellent protection.

See, we know the problem. Women (and men for that matter) are expected to bear the burdens of common gender oppression. We are numbed to the attacks. Churchill is a special case.

Now, I hope you see the connection. At CU there is a problem with the football team and allegations of sexual misconduct. And at CU there is this Ward Churchill debate. The gender issue in context is palpable. The women were criticized, scorned, left to defend themselves as far as credibility and dignity are concerned. Churchill already has the dignity and is arguing to show how his acts should be acceptable. I see an freedom issue here; I see it as part of a larger gender problem.

Gary Norris said...

Thomas, sorry for my pissy tone in my last response. I respect your points.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks for the elaboration, Gary, pissyness accepted. I'm still not convinced. I think you are comparing how women are treated with how men are treated, when you should be comparing how victims of violence are treated with how dissident intellectuals are treated. Here, too, you may have a stronger case than you think. But it doesn't surprise me that a university administration would concentrate its efforts on managing its intellectual environment for minded bodies, protecting its intellectuals from wrongful censure, and leave the question of brute violence, i.e., the problem of how safe the campus is for embodied minds, to the local police (and campus security, which I take it you have).

Another place where you have a stronger case than the man/woman binary (i.e., the "gender issue") would be in regard to the difference between how students are treated by university administrations and how professors are treated. After all, if a female professor were assualted by the football team, things would look different.

I do see this issue: "Women more often than men must justify their rights." But this is a lamentable fact about society in general, not university campuses specifically. It is not just harder to mind your studies on American campuses if you're a woman, it is harder to mind your job anywhere if you're a woman.

"Violence against women on United States' campuses **is** a problem," you say, "not violence against men." But until we see the statistic that makes a university campus an especially dangerous place for women, so that if they want to avoid violence they are well served to avoid going to school and remain in their own homes (it more dangerous for a woman to get married, I should think, than to enroll in university) and their own neighbourhoods, I don't think you can so easily compare these two issues.

I get the sense, however, that what I don't understand, and where you may be right, is that the Churchill issue is being emphasised in order to draw attention away from something else. I have not tried to be the judge of that. I've only said that we are dealing with two separate issues that cannot be compared on their "gender" aspect alone.