Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hampshire Students and "Occupation": You say tomato, and I say tomahto

Hampshire College, Johnson Library: flyer, February 12, 2009

Hampshire students protest Israeli occupation of Palestine

Hampshire College, Johnson Library: spraypainted slogan, February 19, 2009

Hampshire students protesting Israeli occupation of Palestine
as a protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine

(dénouement: turned out to be not exactly the Paris Commune)

[updated link]

19 February: Japanese American Day of Remembrance

A "Guest Writer" for The National Trust for Historic Preservation notes the occasion of Japanese American Day of Remembrance:
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawai`i. They were unconstitutionally imprisoned during World War II in 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) Camps and in numerous Justice Department prisons throughout the United States.

Today, February 19, is annually commemorated as “Day of Remembrance” by Japanese American communities. A grassroots movement to petition the government for an official apology and reparations began in the 1970s and events like Day of Remembrance, organized in Japanese American communities throughout the country, sparked the successful grassroots redress campaign that culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act resulted in an official apology by the United States government and token reparations to any living Japanese American incarcerated during the war. (read more)
In "Telling the Stories of Internment--Reflections From the Western Office," Brian Turner describes key sites at which the National Trust has been active in recent years.

One of the sad things to remember is the number of distinguished figures who either cynically or mistakenly supported this betrayal of American democratic principles and the rule of law.

To cite an example from the local terrain: Amherst College alumnus, and later, trustee, John McCloy played a shameful role in that process, though the precise mix of malice, error, and remorse in his policies remains the subject of some debate. Even the most sympathetic interpretation cannot, however, ignore the fact that the "wise man" who advised so many presidents was more eager to lock up innocent American citizens during the War than to lock up Nazi war criminals after the War. (Working to grant asylum to the Shah of Iran in the US was another telling, if slightly less egregious case of misplaced sympathy and political miscalculation.)

Darwin: Very Gradual Change We Can Believe In

Illinois computer science grad student Mike Rosulek has designed a great new Darwin 200 poster, "that," as he says, "parodies the famous Shepard Fairey Obama poster." More power to him. Top five (okay, I'm too lazy to think of ten) reasons to like it:
  • It effectively conveys an essential scientific truth in a concise and humorous way.
  • It looks good, aesthetically: Somehow, the annoying pastel colors of the quasi-philistine and disturbingly hagiographic original are more tolerable as parody.
  • It looks better in a technical sense: He designed it as a vector graphic.
  • The profits go for a good cause: the National Center for Science Education, "defending the teaching of evolution in public schools."
  • He speaks some Czech.
And besides that, by using a picture of a man long dead, he reduces the chance of getting his ass sued for copyright infringement (though beware: If an old picture, as in the case of the famous--and only authenticated--photo of Emily Dickinson, is the property of a specific party--in this case, Amherst College--you can still get in trouble for infringing on the owner's rights if you do not obtain proper permission).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Amherst's 250th vs. Hadley's 350th: Battle of the Tchotchkes

Calendar, calendar on the wall: who's the fairest of them all??

Although public reaction to the town's anniversary celebrations thus far seems overwhelmingly positive, I have begun to hear some murmuring to the effect that the much-touted anniversary calendar is not an object of overwhelming beauty.

Personally, I don't worry about the criticisms that the historic photos are not dramatic enough or cannot always be easily identified with the current sites; the first is a matter of subjective choice, and the second may therefore be in the nature of the beast.

That said, I do the see the point to the criticism of aesthetics and production quality: Design and materials are less appealing than they could be.  I've heard them compared unfavorably with those of Hadley's (see below).  Above all, some of the photographs show the telltale halftone patterns of old newspaper or other gravure printing.  Anyone with a copy of Photoshop, a few free hours, and an ounce of artistic sense could have avoided that ghastly problem.

The calendar conundrum prompted me to ponder the deeper crisis in which we find ourselves.

It is a particularly grave matter that we seem to be losing the merchandising competition (oh, the eternal oedipal rivalry) to Hadley and its 350th anniversary marketing program: Our parent town and neighbor has simply produced more and better souvenir crap.  Their calendar is in color and cheaper. Sure, our t-shirt--with the sassy slogan, "Amherst, MA Where only the 'h' is silent"--stacks up well against Hadley's bland blanket, but they've got us beat hands down with the wine glass, Polish music CD, soy wax candles, and other tchotchkes (originally from the Polish and other Slavic words for toys, appropriately enough for Hadley). Haven't we been planning this thing for five years? Hasn't the Chamber of Commerce been urging us to buy local?

On the other hand:
  1. The Amherst calendar costs only twelve dollars.  That's a buck a month. Come on.  
  2. You get what you pay for.
  3. It's ugly, but so are many of your relatives, and you love them, don't you?
  4. It's for a good cause.  (Don't you buy a lot of hideous or just unnecessary crap--Girl Scout cookies, bushels of fruit for that school band fundraiser, etc. etc.--to help out your kids and the neighbors' kids?)
  5. Be glad it came out at all.  If production had followed the normal Amherst habits, we probably would have debated the issue to death and then had to appoint a committee to study the recommendations of the committee, so that we might still be waiting for this calendar on the occasion of our 300th anniversary in 2059.

Monday, February 16, 2009

To Alan Dershowitz: Thanks, but No Thanks (Chill, Man!)

The controversy over Students for Justice in Palestine here has prompted Alan Dershowitz, writing in the Jerusalem Post, to call for a moratorium on contributions to Hampshire College. I answered there within the 600-character limit. Here is the full response:

To Professor Dershowitz:

I respect your expression of concern over the possible motives and consequences of divestment policies, and as a member of the Hampshire College faculty, I of course understand your particular interest in the situation of what I wholeheartedly agree is the “fine school” that educated your son (though I did not have occasion to know him).

Many of us here have taken issue, publicly and privately, with the positions and tactics of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). It is likewise your right to do so. There is much in your posting that I could address, but let me confine myself to two points.

First, I must take issue with your assertion that our institution “promotes discrimination and is complicit in evil” (ironically, this is the same charge the SJP makes, though for different reasons; that may give you pause for thought).

Second, I have always opposed attempts to boycott or divest from Israel as intrinsically unjust, wrongheaded, and counterproductive. For that reason, I must now also oppose your call to boycott Hampshire. One does not correct one error by committing another.

Although I can in principle understand your skepticism regarding the administration’s explanation of the recent incident, I also know that you are a lawyer. As you well know, the law is not about instituting “justice” in the abstract; it is about doing what the law demands. So, too, in all institutional politics: The Investment Committee and Trustees followed the rules under which they are obligated to work. Neither SJP nor you is satisfied with the result. To me, that is a sign that the College behaved appropriately. It would have been far easier to pander to one party or another.

As soon as word of the controversy spread, I contacted representatives of the Administration and Board of Trustees for an explanation. They are, all of them, I can assure you, deeply concerned about the state of campus discourse around the issue of the Middle East. I can find no reason to question their word of honor. Lacking explicit evidence to the contrary, neither should you.

I am certain that (in your phrase) “all decent people - supporters and critics of Israel alike” here will join me in saying that a boycott of Hampshire College will help no one and hurt many. The German-Jewish author Kurt Tucholsky, who committed suicide in exile from the Nazi regime, once famously said that, in the case of satire, which is based on exaggeration, the innocent inevitably suffer along with the guilty. That was literature. That was figurative. We in the real world do not have that luxury. Withholding financial contributions to Hampshire punishes all of us—supporters and opponents of SJP alike—in concrete and unfair ways. It moreover allows SJP to play the role of persecuted martyr. I don’t think that’s what you want.

So, once again, I thank you for your expressions of concern. You no doubt believe that you have the best interests of all at heart. However, in response to your volunteering to launch a boycott of Hampshire, I must (to cite a recently popular political phrase), say: “thanks, but no thanks.” We’ll handle this on our own. Observe our activities, and exercise your right to comment, if you will, but please do not attack the lifeblood of the institution.

If you disagree with the Students for Justice in Palestine, come here—I’ll arrange it—debate them, and help to create the honest dialogue that you feel is lacking. Opening mouths and minds is a far more effective way to make your point than urging parents and others to shut their purses.


Jim Wald
Professor, History

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salman Hameed Interview and Op-Ed

Congrats to my good friend and colleague Salman Hameed--who was also involved in organizing the Darwin celebrations at Hampshire--on an interview on evolution and Islamic creationism with Religion News Service, and just yesterday, an op-ed piece on that topic in the Providence Journal.

It would be funny if it were not sad:

Salman's work is of fundamental importance for both science and the general state of civilization. I would be delighted if it were instantly and prominently featured in the Boston Globe and Jerusalem Post and spread to the far corners of the world in the space of a day. One day, I am sure it will be. In the meantime, sadly, that honor goes to the antics of our campus activists. But in ten years, let's see which one the world is still talking about.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amherst's 250th Birthday Party (II): Founders Night Celebration

Following on the heels of this afternoon's 250th birthday celebration, the Amherst Historical Society and Museum held its Founders Night ceremony at the Jones Library in the evening. It was the occasion for the presentation of the third annual Conch Shell Award.  Named after "the conch shell or 'ye kunk' that was used in he 1700s to call Amherst residents to town meeting and worship," the award serves "to recognize individuals who have made valuable contributions to the preservation and appreciation of Amherst history."

Amherst Historical Society President Elizabeth Sharpe opened the event with some anecdotes and observations on the peculiar early history of Amherst and its government, drawn from the Colonial records.

Ruth Owen Jones introduced Conch Shell Award Recipient James Avery Smith.  Smith, who for many years held the post of Town Engineer, is a man of seemingly boundless energies and interests: a sometime minister, Town Meeting member, and accomplished genealogist. He is known in particular for his research into the history of Amherst's cemeteries (his maps of the plots in historic West Cemetery are an indispensable resource) and his books on Families of Amherst (1984) and History of the Black Population of Amherst, Massachusetts, 1728-1870 (1999).

Smith took the opportunity to announce that, by means of careful calculations based on historical records, he had at last identified the location of the famed but mysterious "Hartling Stake," a marker from which distances were measured in the Colonial era.  Thus, for example, the first Town Meeting of the Third Precinct in 1735 decreed that the meeting house was to be located near the Hartling Stake.  Hadley highway No. 6 in 1754 is described as at one point running "thence S. 11 o W 20 rods to the 'Hartling Stake' on S. side of road," and so forth.  A pin with plastic flag now marks the location in the pavement near the Amherst Cinema.

History Museum Director Pat Lutz introduced the presenter of the Mabel Loomis Todd lecture, Amherst College historian Kevin Sweeney.   Kevin spoke on the topic of "Jeffery Amherst:  the Very Model of a [Modern] Major General," elaborating on the analysis that he presented in Amherst Magazine last December.  The impetus for the research, he explained, derived from a talk that he was asked to deliver on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Williamstown.  The early history of the French and Indian War drew him, via that of soldier and college founder Ephraim Williams, to that of Jeffery Amherst.

Here, as in the article, he focused on the apparent enigma of the man who seemed personally inept or awkward ("really a very boring person") yet excelled in employing the most modern European military techniques in the Colonial theater of war.  The lecture provided Sweeney with an opportunity to explain in greater detail the history of both Amherst's campaigns and his tactics in the Seven Years' War, arguments illustrated with contemporaneous art and photographs of the modern sites.  Part of his point was that Amherst's methodical approach and command of logistics paved the way for the modern American way of war:  careful planning, ample supplies, and massive force.

Logistical expertise, he acknowledged in the question-and-answer session, had its limits.  If, on the one hand, the calm and unglamorous Eisenhower could claim much of the credit for the success of D-Day, William Westmoreland's expert application of logistics, mobility, and superior firepower did not bring about triumph in Vietnam. The most dramatic point in the Q & A came when someone asked the inevitable question about Amherst's plan to kill Indians with smallpox-infected blankets.  In this case, however the question was more about the future than the past:  How could the town continue to bear the name of such a man?  Kevin, an acknowledged expert on Native American history, stated simply that, by retaining historic names, we remind ourselves of the need to recall our entire history rather than sift it selectively. The name of Amherst reminds us, for example, that it was British troops and modern European military methods, rather than the young George Washington, et al., and some mythical frontier fighting tactics, that won the war.  And the name Amherst reminds us of moral issues and obligations, as well.  He forcefully and appropriately dismissed the shallow and self-congratulatory tendency "to do nice things for 'dead Indians'--but neglect Native Americans alive today."

New Festschrift Honors Ruth Wisse

Yet another case in which the intellectual achievements of Hampshire College faculty make news but are crowded out by political grandstanding of other members of the community.

Congratulations to my Hampshire colleague and co-teacher Rachel Rubinstein and her husband, Smith College professor Justin Cammy, on the publication of a Festschrift in honor of their provocative teacher, critic Ruth Wisse.

The Forward writes:
Even scholars who share Wisse’s general approach to modern Jewish literature have often disagreed with Wisse’s “Canon” on one point or another. Brilliantly, then, the new festschrift presents not a series of bland tributes or an eccentric scattering of unconnected essays, but a gathering of 35 arguments for, against and with Wisse’s insights and claims. . . . Wisse welcomes such responses to her scholarship, regardless of whether she agrees with them: She herself “lobbied” for argument as the motif of the festschrift, the book’s editors report, and from the start she saw her canon-making project as “open-ended,” and “as a way of inviting others to continue the discussion” of modern Jewish literature.
. . . . . . . . . .
Indeed, it seems that Wisse, more than anyone else, is the contemporary literary authority whom graduate students and younger scholars of Jewish literature feel the need to challenge, in the hopes of earning a place alongside her in the field. To her credit, Wisse encourages such dissension and debate as contributions to the conversation that constitutes modern Jewish culture; I have never heard any of Wisse’s students complain that she has imposed her political ideology or literary approach on them, or that she has been disrespectful of views that contradict her own.
Some good lessons there for many, in many fields.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine: News Spreads

Word of the claims of Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine--and the counterclaims of the administration--is spreading and provoking increasing comment--more of which is appended to the original articles themselves.

Herewith, a few sites:

(note the awkward attempt to achieve some sort of precision, within the limits of conciseness imposed by titles)

• Jewish Telegraphic Agency: "Mass college divests from firms"
(though note the slight disjuncture between the neutral wording of the article title--which manages to be both accurate and vague at the same time--and the way the title shows up in the URL)

Jerusalem Post: Haviv Rettig Gur, "College denies divesting over IDF ties"
(emphasis here shifts to the administration's narrative)

Evolving and Thinking: Hampshire College Launches Darwin Anniversary Celebration

Darwin Day Arrives:

It’s a shame in more ways than one that today's publicity stunt by the Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine will dominate any press coverage of my college this week. What we—and the wider world—should be talking about is the genuinely exciting scholarly and pedagogical work that takes place here day in and day out: highlighted at the moment by the launching of a meticulously planned year-long series of events celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin: “Darwin Across the Disciplines.”

Today’s kick-off event took the form of a birthday party (with coffee and cake) built around “Darwin and Me” (I? me? proof that usage or at least attitudes have “evolved” since the controversies over Winston cigarettes and good grammar vs. good taste, back in the day when one could still advertise cigarettes on tv?). Herewith, a synopsis:

Philosopher and organizer Laura Sizer introduced the event with some remarks on Darwin’s place in intellectual history and his legacy. In her own work, he was of signal importance as a pioneer of rigorous research into the emotions who demonstrated that humans and animals in fact shared similar practices: a welcome reminder in several regards, for most people know Darwin—if at all (which seems increasingly doubtful in the US)—as the theorist of evolution alone.

Evolutionary biologist Charles Ross then explained his clever participatory Darwinian social-intellectual exercise, “Evolving Hampshire”:
[an] attempt to model the principles of descent with modification (evolution) and natural selection. Throughout the spring the campus community will watch an idea evolve as it moves from class to class. Participating classes in a variety of disciplines will answer the question: “What is Hampshire?” The question will start in one class, then move through a series of classes over time, with selected answers moving forward with modification.
Each student in a class will select the best answer from those produced by an earlier group (generation). Then, individuals will modify the answer from the perspective of their course’s focus or discipline,
* * *

Faculty from a wide variety of disciplines spoke (generally, with one PowerPoint slide per person) for five minutes each about the ways that evolution (writ broadly) played a role in their thinking and work.

• Psychologist Rachel Conrad spoke on Darwin as an originator of developmental psychology. Referring to one of her long-standing personal and research interests, she called attention to the subtle relational thinking in his unpublished writings, such as the observations that he made of his son, and the memorial that he wrote upon the death of his daughter. The conclusion: The conventions of academic discourse can sometimes obscure the richer lessons that a writer sees but often does not write about in formal work. (A nice point for Rachel, in particular, as she is a psychologist during the work day and a poet in her leisure hours.)

• Professor of Visual Art Robert Seydel took the Chinese ideogram, “hsin,” or new—beloved of Ezra Pound—as the point of departure for a series of observations on the rise of new open rather than closed literary forms, in particular, the American long poem, from Whitman to Pound, to Willialms, to the present. All these authors defined poetry, he said, as “works of the field, works of evolution.”

• Geologist Steve Roof, with the aid of a large graph, spoke of Darwin’s contributions to geology: specifically the evolving notion of the age of the earth, from the Renaissance to the present. It was really like punctuated evolution—marked by alternating periods of stability and rapid change—rather than a smooth curve, he said. Darwin, he explained, was “a key player in all this,” as could be seen from his work on the evolution of coral atolls. The debates over the age of the earth, Steve argued, displayed a sort of “evolutionary” logic of their own, for one can see how ideas rose and fell, and how the judgment of fitness of a given idea very much depended on the cultural environment of the moment. Scientific ideas, he said, go extinct when proven wrong. Ideas, like genes and evolutionary innovations, outlast the individuals who bore them.

• Professor of Dance Rebecca Nordstrom gave the most unusual presentation in that it took the form of a kinetic performance. She taught the audience an eight-count gestural phrase and then led us through a series of variations: slow, then quick and energetic, and finally, heroic and demonstrative. Her larger point was that “movement is learned.” Showing a slide of dancers cavorting across a stage, she reminded us: “we’ve evolved to be bipeds—but we’ve also evolved to be what you see in the picture—to dance upside down and on our hands.” She also reminded us that frequent back pain is a legacy of the combination of large head and bipedal posture. Her engaging parting advice was to use that head to help the back: occasionally, imagine that your head is a helium balloon, light and buoyant, floating upward.

Christoph Cox spoke about his work as a Professor of Philosophy and also as a curator of avant-garde art installations. In philosophy, he said, Darwin was most valuable for having helped to eliminate the ontological notion of essentialism, or fixed types in nature. He proceeded to draw a parallel between what he called the fixed linear forms of classical music and the corresponding physics of the time. He contrasted this model with the experimental music of the modern era, in which a composer produces not a completely dictated work, but instead a set of parameters that, in the course of performance, acquire a sort of existence of their own: not unlike the children whom we educate and then send into the world.

• Professor of Evolution and Cognition Sarah Partan chose to emphasize Darwin’s role as an animal behaviorist. As she noted, and as we saw today, many fields can claim him. Like both Rachel Conrad and Laura Sizer, she cited the influence of his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His finding of the continuity of expression helped to break down the earlier artificial distinction between so-called higher and lower species. Noting that Darwin was one of the greatest and most meticulous observers of nature, Sarah used as an example his analysis of the expressions of hostility and submissiveness on the part of the dog (in which the opposite emotion is represented by an opposite body posture).

I chose to speak on historical genetics, proceeding from the observation that, whereas the Nazi legacy had driven us to deny the existence of race, modern science seemed to be pushing us in the opposite direction and thereby provoking consternation. In the words of one influential anthropological blogger: “Ethnicity Strikes Back.” After outlining some of the principal findings of Jewish genetics, I focused on three cases in which genetic evidence has largely borne out oral tradition of descent: (1) Many descendants of the priestly caste of Cohanim possess a common Middle Eastern marker dating back 3000 years. (2) The same marker also appears among the priestly caste of the black Lemba of South Africa, who display Jewish practices and claim to have arrived centuries ago by boat from a place that sounded like Yemen. (3) Members of the priestly tribe of Levi, unlike Cohanim, display a divergence between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. The Ashkenazi Levite Modal Haplotype is of Central Asian rather than Middle Eastern origin and appears to represent the legacy of the Turkic Khazars who converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages.

• Professor of Computer Science Lee Spector won the prize for most complex slide, for it contained an array of digital animations, which he proceeded to explain in detail. One of the most exciting developments in the sciences has been the field of evolutionary computation, in which he is a leader. As he put it, "Darwin showed how organisms evolved for success in the random environment of the natural.” "Maybe we can steal that algorithm that we received from Darwin and use it for solving problems—use it to design things that we can’t design for ourselves.” He explained a variety of examples that we were watching on-screen, from simple experiments to technological applications, such as an antenna that could be programmed to reconfigure itself for changing tasks. A brave new world, indeed.

It was a fitting conclusion to a stimulating series of talks. Professor of Biology (and Resident Curmudgeon, as he prefers to be known) Lynn Miller set the tone for the question-and-answer session when he provocatively challenged the underlying assumption of the whole event by declaring that Darwin’s ideas of evolution rested on a hypothesis (lacking a mechanism) that only gained relevance and true credibility following Mendel’s discovery of genetics. As one could imagine, the ensuing discussion was a lively one—as the year’s series of events promises to be.

Breaking News: "The (Hampshire College) Climax": Premature Ejaculation(s of Delight Over Divestment From Israel)

Breaking News

Supporters and reporters could barely contain their excitement.

By mid-morning today, the news was being sprayed across campus, in crude flyers, congratulatory proclamations from "activist" faculty, and the semester's first issue of the biweekly student newspaper, the exquisitely named "Climax."

The flyers invited community members to "come celebrate our historic victory" tomorrow at noon on the Library Lawn.

Managing editor of The Climax Henry Parr reported:
On Saturday February 7, 2009 the Board of Trustees approved the proposal to divest from companies affiliated with Israel’s military actions in Palestine. The motion was set forth by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine. Hampshire is the first college in the United States to cut its financial ties to Israel’s armed forces and activities in Gaza, making the divestment a significant event in the history of the school. The decision was made at the recommendation of the Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility (CHOIR), and after the continuous pressure from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Minute notes from the meeting state “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that had brought the issue to the attention of the committee.” . . . . The motion for divestment pulls Hampshire finances from six corporations: Caterpillar, General Electric, International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Terex, Motorola, and United Technologies, all of which supply the Israeli armed forces.
. . . . . . . .
Brian Van Slyke, a spokesperson for SJP noted “We, the Students for Justice in Palestine, have proven that student activists 
can organize and put pressure on their college to divest from Israel’s illegal
 occupation. By becoming the first college in the United States to divest,
 Hampshire continues its legacy of standing up for social justice and against apartheid.
(full story)
As is so often the case, however, the unthinking pleasure of irrational exuberance gives way to frustration. "Was that it?" hundreds of disappointed virginal student activists must be asking.

For, just about an hour ago--and barely an hour after the original news hit the wires--the College was moved to issue the following "clarification":
Statement of Clarification from Sigmund Roos (73F), chair of the board of trustees, Ralph Hexter, president, and Aaron Berman, vice president and dean of faculty, regarding trustees' actions on college investments

We write to correct numerous reports circulating about actions taken by the Hampshire College board of trustees on February 7, 2009. The facts are as follows:

- On February 7, 2009, the Hampshire College board of trustees accepted the report of its investment committee, which earlier had voted, without reference to any country or political movement, to transfer assets held in a State Street fund to another fund.
- Based on a comprehensive review of the fund by the trustee investment committee, administrators and an outside consultant, the college found that this fund held stocks in well over 200 companies engaged in business practices that violate the college's policy on socially responsible investments. These violations include: unfair labor practices, environmental abuse, military weapons manufacturing, and unsafe workplace settings.
- The review also led the board of trustees to vote to revise its 1994 socially responsible investment policy to bring it up-to-date with current standards and practices, and, pending revision, to suspend that policy.
- The review of the State Street fund was undertaken at the request of a sub-committee of the investment committee, to address a petition from a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine. The investment committee's decision, however, was based on the consultant's finding that the State Street fund included 200-plus companies engaged in multiple violations of the college's investment policy; the decision expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country.
- No other report or interpretation of the actions of February 7, 2009 by the Hampshire College board of trustees is accurate.
By this time, of course, the news had, through press releases, made its way to a host of external outlets, including the Indypendent, Pulsemedia, Global BDS Movement, and the European Tribune.

There is a fine Arab proverb that is appropriate here in more ways than one:
Do not act as if you have already delivered the head of the Khazar kagan.
One note of consolation: SJP can take solace in the fact that inaccurate claims and reporting have never proven an obstacle to discussion of Israel's policies.

• update: the text of the article has now been moved from the Climax home page. The entire issue of the paper is available as a pdf.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some (Belated) Good News About Peace

The rush of events as well as quotidian duties often prevent one from posting or commenting on all relevant news stories.  I am therefore pleased (better late than never) to note that IPCRI, The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information--a consistent voice for compromise and coexistence--has been singled out as one of the world's best NGOs.

When the tragic recent conflict in Gaza began, IPCRI reminded and warned that it was never too early to start thinking about what to do for peace on the day that the fighting ended.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chronicling the History of the Book as Object

From my first posting on the Public Humanist blog:

Commentators, friend and foe, have made much of Barack Obama’s calculated appropriation of the legacy of Lincoln. What most struck me, as a book historian, was his decision to take the inaugural oath on the bible that Lincoln used in 1861.

In the Senate Chamber, Jill Biden struggled with a massive family bible (in Maureen Dowd’s catty phrase, “the size of a Buick”). The small “Lincoln” Bible, by contrast, was not Lincoln’s (still in his luggage) or even American (it was published in Oxford), . . .