Friday, March 06, 2015

Usual disclaimer about varying levels of seriousness

-You should read Helen Rosner's essay on cookbooks even if this isn't your usual go-to topic. I'll never think of "lifestyle" in the same way again.

-Noreen Malone has the Canada Goose explainer we've all been waiting for.

-Yes, the UCLA story's disturbing - about as disturbing as it gets, short of the student ending up on Devil's Island. As is the extent to which some people (in the comments, on social media) are bending over backwards to excuse what happened. The argument seems to be that because Hillel is pro-Israel, a student's membership in what is generally the Jewish club should be viewed not as a Jewish cultural-religious thing, but as a political act. Which... yes, it's less bad, but barely, if someone's discriminated against for membership in specific Jewish groups than for having a Jewish name, Jewish ancestry, a New York-inflected accent, an innate ability to turn pantry ingredients into bagels - Jewishness, that is, that someone really is just born with.* Racial or cultural anti-Semitism is more unsettling than the hatred only of Jews who are active in particular organizations. So fine, allow them to win this incredibly limited point: it wasn't just that this student's Jewish - it's that she wasn't silently Jewish. But! That doesn't make it somehow not anti-Semitism if membership in the Jewish club (which indicates... Jewishness, and doesn't necessarily imply a political stance) is held against someone in this way.

Side note: Should the question arise, I wouldn't be pleased to see UCLA professors or instructors (particularly those who teach these students) writing blog posts, articles, etc., shaming the students in question. That said, I don't agree with the commenters who think that the people involved are children and therefore people whose activities can't be discussed in the media. (As if parents don't regularly write about their kids, but now I really digress.) I don't see anything unethical about a newspaper reporting on what happened. Journalists can and should investigate this. Not UCLA professors.

*I think I'm still on the UChicago Hillel and Chabad mailing lists, despite not having ever been a member of either.


Jacob T. Levy said...

"I wouldn't be pleased to see UCLA professors or instructors (particularly those who teach these students) writing blog posts, articles, etc., shaming the students in question."

Agreed, though there are salient differences here from the McAdams case. UCLA faculty shouldn't name-and-shame the particular students, vilify them, denounce them... but this is a public story about the student government at their university. (McAdams was doing Sneaky Undercover Journalism! to try to *create* a story about a student.)

I think it's usually good practice to avoid public commentary on one's own university's student politics-- but when they do something sufficiently egregious as to give the whole university a bad name, I don't think faculty should feel completely constrained from speaking up. Preferably don't single particular students out-- but maybe *do* speak up about the overall event.

Phoebe said...

Yes, agreed that there are differences. When it comes to cases that aren't straightforward violations (FERPA, as I understand it), there's going to be a spectrum. A variety of factors enter into it - is the person currently teaching or advising *that student* (or, as in the McAdams case, that student's student)? Are they a prof in a related field or in one with no plausible overlap (dental school vs. fine arts, say)? It's a stretch to say that someone who was a professor at UCLA's veterinary school (if they indeed have one) couldn't comment on that story, particularly once it's in the news already. But ideally a) none of the relevant students' own professors/advisors are weighing in publicly, and b) none of the professors who might be weighing in would do so in an ad hominem way.

Jacob T. Levy said...

agreed and agreed.