Friday, January 18, 2013

Is There Religious Discrimination at UC?

By Pamela Urfer

To some one of my generation and experience with universities (Berkeley and Santa Cruz) such a question is answered with a resounding YES! Of course there’s discrimination, and it persists today.
But, surprisingly, the UC system is asking that very question.

UCSC sent out an on-line survey last fall that included that very question, among questions regarding discrimination in other areas of student life, and we should soon have the results. The Office of the President was intrigued by the concept and decided we needed a system-wide survey to really get at the heart of the matter. That new survey will begin January 16, 2013. (Survey fatigue, anyone?) Still, it’s a good idea, and they believe that crunching the numbers will provide proof, one way or the other, if religious discrimination exists.

Of course, we don’t need the numbers. We have had plenty of personal experience along that line ourselves and have heard stories of others who have also suffered. But, in spite of the gradual replacement of the post-Enlightenment worldview, with its emphasis on the empirical method, by the post-modern one, stories still are not considered ‘hard evidence,’ nor allowed to set policy.

Yet, completing a survey is still a way, truncated though it may be, of ‘telling our story,’ and letting others have a peek at what we go though daily. And, of course, it is anonymous, so no one need feel that they are putting themselves in danger by being truthful.

But, obviously, we will only be able to speak to the administration, add our numbers to those being crunched, and tell our stories, if we fill out the survey form. This is an area where reticence is not a virtue, where non-involvement will have a negative effect, where laziness will incur a penalty. If we want people to know the facts, how will they know unless someone tells them? Otherwise, if the numbers come back indicating an overall contentment with what’s happening on campus and in our classes, we will never again be able to claim that things are not right at UCSC. We will lose our credibility.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Extreme Views of Islamists Unfair, Inaccurate

No sooner than the slaughter of innocents in Oslo, Norway was dismissed as was the accused assailant than on of the Sentinel’s contributing columnists slipped right back into a litany of anti-Islamic generalizations I’ve read before. Aug. 6: “We need perspective on Norway’s terror attack.”

The noun/adjective, Islamist, has any number of usages, not all related to some form of “fundamentalism.” One can use the term to denote “a scholar who is knowledgeable in Islamic studies; a learned person especially in the humanities; someone who by long study has gained mastery in one or more disciplines.” Or, it can mean ” … an orthodox Muslim.”

The Sentinel columnist said that “Many Norwegians resent immigration of so many Muslims,” as well as multiculturalism, increased crime rates, rapes of girls as young as 12 throughout Scandinavia and the cost of providing welfare to these newcomers. There is resentment and outrage that citizens “know that the criminals will be protected by multicultural laws from being identified,” They denounce multiculturalism, as if Europe was some homogeneous entity. These are old canards often used against “others.”

The culprit responsible for the slaughter of people in a mass shooting spree and a bombing was shrugged off, and all Islamists could once more be the whipping dogs.

A contributor to Religion Dispatches notes that the assassin’s “atrocious acts, in fact, were a veritable 21st century media strategy.” Cold War-era communist terrorist groups too, “produced extensive texts to communicate their revolutionary theories; their authors wanted to be — and indeed were — intelligible to a wider public that either was not or was not yet radicalized …” The Norway assassin, Anders Behring Breivik, appeals not only to a slim network of extremists, but to those who claim that the “Islamization of Europe” is a matter of life and death for European and Western civilization.

Breivik admiringly and extensively quotes another writer: “In more and more cities across the continent, non-Muslims are being harassed, robbed, mugged, raped, stabbed and even killed by Muslims. Native Europeans are slowly becoming second-rate citizens in their own countries.” Screeds like this are repeated over and over again in different forums, he points out.

He claimed to be acting on behalf of Christendom, but his claims could just as easily be used as a strategy that can adhere to nationalism, to race, to anything that makes people identifiably “different.” He believed that Europe is homogeneous — religiously, ethnically, and culturally, though it is fraught with a history of centuries of migrations, cultural, ethnic and racial mingling.

There are among the Islamists many thinkers who do embrace representative government, accept equal rights for women and non-Muslims. The ideas of justice and development are embraced as part of a strategy of moderation.

Raymond William Baker in “Islam without Fear: Egypt and the New Islamists” points out that “Often there are two extreme views represented by the secularists and the fundamentalists.” The New Islamists, he says, “belong to neither.” Their emphasis is on “constructive social action with an emphasis on educational reforms.” Theirs is a “preference for culture to politics.”

Ad hominems that treat Islamists as if they are all the same without distinction are unfair because they’re inaccurate. There is, in the West, the Islamist too often, and too quickly associated with radicalism and violence. But there is too, the scholar, the learned persons, who by long study have gained mastery in one or more disciplines — and they exist right in our own community of Santa Cruz. Perhaps not in great numbers, but certainly up in the university on the hill. And I’ve listened, and noted how these young people are feeling the brunt of anti-Islamic rhetoric, and they are stressed about it.

Humanity, like this world we occupy, is developing and evolving, constantly. The only real issue is whether we can learn to develop or evolve cooperatively, or are we destined always to compete in any violent manner we think will get us “on top?”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Puns for Educated Minds

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur’s Round Table was Sir Cumfrence. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math destruction.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’

15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. . A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

20. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

21. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’

22. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says ‘Dam!’

23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

24. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says, ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

25. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.