Thursday, February 09, 2017
Ceding to demands, Pepperdine will remove Christopher Columbus statue
Pepperdine University will remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from its main campus after students at the Southern California Christian school made multiple demands to take it down.
Currently located above the university’s amphitheater, the statue will be relocated to Pepperdine’s campus in Florence, Italy, President Andrew Benton told the university’s liberal arts undergraduates in a Monday email.
Relocation will take time but the process has already started, Benton wrote. In an email to The College Fix, the university confirmed the relocation but didn’t provide further comment.
The statue, donated to the university in 1992 by a group representing the Columbus 500 Congress, has drawn pushback recently from Pepperdine students. Benton has previously described the group that funded the statue as “Italian-American friends” of the university.
Pepperdine’s student newspaper, The Graphic, reported that around two dozen students took to the statue’s location on Columbus Day last semester and chanted “take it down.” A written statement from the protest group, “Waves Against Columbus,” claimed the statue is “a celebration of genocide and racial oppression.”
The document also claimed the statue of the Italian explorer constitutes “a prioritization of nominally esteemed university donors above the cultural acceptance and personal experience of marginalized students.”
The statue also drew the ire of protesters at a demonstration in “solidarity” with University of Missouri black students in November 2015. In a list of demands, protesters called for the sculpture of Columbus to be removed “from any University location open to any students and/or general public.”
It’s the second art-related victory in the past year for the school’s racial activists over the administration.
Last summer, The Graphic reported, Benton removed a wooden mural that was targeted by the November 2015 protesters. Hung in the campus cafe, it depicted “Father [Junipero] Serra next to a mission, wildlife and conquistadors and a Spanish colonel prominent in the center of the piece alongside a group of Native Americans in the lower right corner.”
In his Monday email, Benton told students that “stories of conquest and the art associated therewith are painful reminders of loss and human tragedy” for many, including those at the university, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ tradition.
Columbus’s exploration was taught for many years in American schools as “heroic and exciting,” he wrote: “Later, as the impact of the arrival of explorers was assessed more fully, especially as those impacts related to indigenous people, a different view formed.”
Those who donated the sculpture “meant to honor the good attributes of [Columbus’s] life” and “they did not mean to offend,” Benton wrote, saying the removal decision came after reflection and consultation with university stakeholders.
Benton said a campus forum will be scheduled this month to discuss the decision and “consider other national issues” relevant to campus diversity.
In a statement to The College Fix, the university’s Black Student Association extolled the president’s decision.
“We are happy to finally see this come to fruition. We thank everyone involved in this movement for their hard work and dedication towards fighting for this cause,” the organization said. “We are humbled to contribute to this work of justice.”
In response to the news, one student tweeted “Pepperdine is getting rid of our Christopher Columbus statue! Progress!” Another student replied back “I am so excited about this!”
Budget Solution of the Week: School Choice
Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Dave Reed challenged his colleagues to change the way Harrisburg operates: “Now is the time to reimagine and redesign government, our state and our future.” A change in Harrisburg’s culture is surely needed. Decades of high taxes, wasteful spending, and poorly designed policies have sunk the commonwealth’s finances and stymied economic progress.
What's most devastating is when poor policies impact the future of our children—which is why reimagining our education system is so critical. Too often, Pennsylvania’s education model prioritizes systems over students. School officials—rather than parents—are given precedent to make consequential decisions affecting the education of more than 1.7 million students. This top-down management style has produced subpar outcomes in too many schools, forcing parents to seek alternatives to traditional public schools.
Unfortunately, not every family is lucky enough to send their son or daughter to a high-performing school. The education establishment will place the blame on funding shortages, but as my colleague James has noted, education spending is at its highest level ever. School districts spend, on average, $15,800 per student. This figure could always grow higher, but inflating school budgets will only add to Pennsylvania’s high tax burden, without guaranteeing any improvement in academic achievement.
The solution to the state’s educational woes doesn’t require more political control. It requires more parental control. To a limited extent, Pennsylvania encourages parental control with programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC). But more needs to be done.
Every student deserves a quality education. And every family deserves to determine what a quality education looks like. Expanding school choice programs can help make these goals a reality. Putting parents firmly in control of educational decisions has led to improved student outcomes and savings for taxpayers. The latter is especially relevant in the context of the state’s fiscal outlook.
Pennsylvania is staring down a $600 million shortfall for the year, and will need to deal with a projected $1.7 billion projected shortfall in 2017-18. To address these challenges, CF released Embracing Innovation in State Government, detailing how policymakers can reduce state government’s cost to avoid another round of tax increases.
School choice is one of the cost-saving measures included in the report. The costs of the EITC and OSTC represent just a fraction of student funding in a traditional public school. For example, in 2013-2014, the average EITC scholarship was $1,587 per student, whereas funding in a traditional public school exceeded $15,000 per student. Moving students to the less expensive, more effective alternative nets taxpayers significant savings.
Taking a hard look at how Pennsylvania funds education will play a critical role in controlling spending and truly reimaging government.
Support for Jihad in Western universities
Since the rise of ISIS as an Islamic extremist group, and certainly since its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the official creation of the caliphate, researchers and intelligence groups worldwide have noted its popularity with Muslim women, even in the West. Unlike other terrorist groups, ISIS has pointedly recruited women. And many women have, on their own, found the promise of life in the Islamic State particularly appealing.
Along the way, researchers and intelligence agencies have argued that the Muslim women who join ISIS, especially those who travel to Syria from the West, take active roles in ISIS's jihad. While they are largely barred from fighting on the battlefield, women have enrolled in the al-Khansaa brigade, the women's moral police force which enforces strict codes of dress and public behavior. Al-Khansaa officers regularly arrest and beat women who violate sharia-based modesty laws or who appear in public without a male companion. Other women raise their sons to be jihadists, or bring their children with them from the West in the hopes that they, too, will grow up to support the Islamic State and its jihad.
Now a young Dutch researcher, Aysha Navest, has come out with a different theory based on interviews she held with over 22 women now living in the caliphate. Navest, who is affiliated with the University of Amsterdam (UvA), says she knows several of those women. They reveal a very different portrait of the so-called "ISIS brides:" girls who are not recruited for jihad, but who willingly and eagerly make the perilous trip to Syria, where they live peaceful, happy lives as homemakers, mothers, and wives. Her findings appeared last April in the journal Anthropology Today, a peer-reviewed publication of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
There is just one problem: Aysha Navest allegedly also recruits women for the Islamic State.
This is the conclusion of journalists at the Dutch national daily NRC Handelsblad, who matched Navest's birthdate, hometown, children's first names and other identifying details with those of "Ought-Aisha," a woman posting messages on the Dutch-Muslim website Marokko.nl. And according to "Ought-Aisha" (or "Sister Aisha"), life in the Islamic State is simply grand. In various posts, she has praised suicide bombers, honored Osama bin Laden, and insisted that jihadists will find rewards in Paradise. Additionally, the NRC reports, in Facebook posts she has referred to Shiites and apostates as "people who rape our women, torture our men, and kill our children."
Unsurprisingly, the NRC's findings put renewed focus on Navest's reports and the nature of her research, which was performed under the tutelage of two well-known UvA professors - anthropologist Martijn de Koning and Modern Islamic Culture professor Annelies Moors. Both De Koning and Moors now admit that Navest's subjects were interviewed anonymously, largely via WhatsApp, and that she did not share the women's names even with them - a departure from standard research practices that call for transparency. Even so, according to Elsevier, they stand behind her research.
Others, however, voice considerable skepticism. The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD dismissed Navest's report from the outset, noting that her conclusions stood in stark conflict not only with their own, but with other studies by UvA scholars. The UvA has now called for an independent investigation into Navest's background and the reliability of her work.
Even fellow academics have been scathingly critical. In his column for Elsevier, Leiden University Professor of Jurisprudence Afshin Ellian observed that as a result of Navest's online postings, "in normal situations, she would end up in prison for incitement to violence and hate with terrorist intentions." Instead, the conclusions of her "research" showing that women do not join directly in jihad but simply enjoy idyllic lives as wives and mothers in the Caliphate, represent "the manner in which she pursues her own jihad: by pulling a smokescreen before the eyes of the unbelievers."
But the situation also exposes a larger problem within academia internationally. In many institutions, subjectivity clouds social research, while students' minds are too-frequently shaped by anti-democratic, anti-Western, and - worse - truth-challenged ideologues. For example, at UvA, De Koning has long been accused of sympathizing with Islamic extremists. Among other things, he co-authored a book describing Salafism as a "utopian idealism."
Likewise, at Kent State University, the FBI is reportedly investigating history professor Julio Pino for ties to the Islamic State. A Muslim convert, Pino has made provocative comments on campus and in university-based newspapers, including shouting "Death to Israel" during a lecture by a former Israeli diplomat. In a letter to a campus publication, he declared "jihad until victory!" On Facebook, Pino once described Osama bin Laden as "the greatest." He also posted a photograph of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol Building, adding the caption "I come to bury D.C., not to praise it," Fox News reports.
Kent State officials say they "distanced" themselves from Professor Pino, whose tenured position poses legal challenges to dismissing him from the faculty.
In contrast, at nearby Oberlin, Assistant Professor Joy Karega's Facebook posts calling ISIS an arm of American and Israeli intelligence agencies and blaming Israel for the attacks of 9/11 were enough to get her fired from her job teaching Rhetoric and Composition. As the industry newspaper Inside Higher Ed reported, despite initially defending her right to academic freedom, Oberlin officials ultimately determined that, "Beyond concerns about anti-Semitism, which fit into larger complaints about escalating anti-Jewish rhetoric on campus, Karega's case has raised questions about whether academic freedom covers statements that have no basis in fact."
Then there is John Esposito, Georgetown University's professor of Religion and International Affairs and Islamic Studies. An extensive Investigative Project on Terrorism investigation into Esposito's activities found that he has used his position to "defend radical Islam and promote its ideology- including defending terrorist organizations and those who support them, advocating for Islamist regimes, praising radical Islamists and their apologists, and downplaying the threat of Islamist violence." He refuses to condemn Hamas and, according to the report, "remains a close friend and defender of Palestinian Islamic Jihad board member Sami Al-Arian."
Al-Arian ran the PIJ's "active arm" in America while working as a University of South Florida professor.
Like Navesh, Esposito seems to want to aim his work beyond the ivory towers. He has spoken on Islam to the State Department, the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security and other government offices. Similarly, Navesh hoped that her "research" would help shape policy in the Netherlands, encouraging courts to issue lighter sentences on women who returned home from the Islamic State. After all, they hadn't engaged in terrorism. They'd only lived in domestic bliss abroad. Where's the crime in that?
None, of course, if it were true. But it is not.
There is nothing new, of course, in respected journals publishing flawed research by people who aim to shape public policy or opinion - the infamous and now-debunked Andrew Wakefield study that claimed to link autism to vaccines is a prime example. But such examples only underscore the challenges, and the need to investigate better the accuracy of scholarly reports as well as the integrity of those who write them. Islamic jihad, after all, is not just about destroying our lives, but about destroying our culture. In the face of the "smokescreens" of that jihad, intellectual vigilance will be our strongest shield.
Posted by jonjayray at 3:59 AM