Jennifer Kabbany - Fix Editor

It was only a matter of time.

The University of Virginia offered a “Game of Thrones” English course this summer, a four-week seminar that divided its focus between the novels and popular HBO television series.

“One of the greatest lessons of ‘Game of Thrones,’ the class argues, is how life goes on after death,” according to a university press release describing the 24-student class.

Thankfully students have Game of Thrones to teach them such concepts!

“One of the goals behind this class was to teach students how the skills that we use to study literature are very useful skills for reading literature and TV in conjunction,” stated Lisa Woolfork, the associate professor of English who taught the class. “ ‘Game of Thrones’ is popular, it’s interesting, but it’s also very serious. There are a lot of things in the series that are very weighty, and very meaningful, and can be illuminated through the skills of literary analysis.”

For those who have not read the books, they are filled with sex, violence, death, murder, witchcraft, necromancy, depression, evil, manipulation, incest, betrayal, deep sadness, and much more. Good story lines, great writing. But very dark. Very disturbing.

As for the TV series, has there ever been a movie that’s better than the book? Yet the professor argues the popular series enhanced the books “in a world where the major sources of storytelling are increasingly visual.” Sigh.

Let’s add this GOT class to the growing pile of pop culture-worship glamorized as serious academic scholarly pursuit.

Similar university classes in the recent past include ones on: 50 Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, Mad Men, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Jay Z.

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h/t: Huffington Post

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Here’s an early nomination for PolitiFact’s 2014 Lie of the Year:

“IRS emails could not be recovered – they’re (insert excuse of the moment) missing … lost … recycled … crashed … scratched … destroyed.”

Nobody buys that. Not for a second. In fact, this week the IRS started backpedaling on the claim because it is so ludicrous.

Earlier this week, The College Fix added to that discourse with a story citing a computer science professor who discounted the IRS claim.

“Frankly, the official IRS reply to the investigators is similar to that of the student whose excuse for a missing assignment is that ‘my dog ate it,’” Furman University computer science professor Thomas Allen said.

Allen said that – in general – for emails to go missing, it would take something far beyond a simple “computer crash.”

“A hard drive crash … may damage directory information so that the [operating system] cannot find the data, but most of the data would still be there,” Allen told The Fix.

Only when new data completely override the old data will information disappear, unless the hard drive itself is physically damaged – say, using a sledgehammer.

He made the comments for a larger piece that quoted several IT professionals who made similar arguments.

College Fix contributor Courtney Such also interviewed Peter Eckersley, Electronic Frontier Foundation technology project director, who said he sees how a large organization could lose data – but that’s not the end of the story.

“In general, emails tend to be stored in at least 2-4 places: the sender’s mail server, the recipient’s mail server, sometimes the sender’s individual computer and the recipient’s individual computer,” and “there should usually be backups taken from some or all of those places,” Eckersley said.

In fact, the story culled comments from technologists, IT professionals and cyber experts who said they are not only unaware of documented instances of schools citing crashed servers or systems in responding to litigation or records’ requests, it’s becoming increasingly hard to credibly make such an excuse.

The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, which said last month the IRS’s lost-email explanation “does not seem plausible,” told the Justice Department and Congress on Monday what questions they should be asking as the Lerner probe drags on.

If an IT expert performed the “wiping” or destruction of the hard drive, then there should be documentation of the work, the association said Monday: “Until that documentation is provided, the hard drives should be considered lost, not destroyed.” 

I, for one, am eager to see this email lie exposed. Those emails are somewhere in the bowels of the beltway. Either that, or they were destroyed in an attempt to obstruct justice.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( @JenniferKabbany )

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Spending $300,000 to pay Hillary Clinton to speak on campus last spring was a waste of money, according to the results of a recent UCLA Daily Bruin online poll.

The poll’s question noted that: “Hillary Clinton’s recent $300,000 paycheck for speaking at the Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership has captured the attention of news outlets around the country. What do these large fees for notable speakers say about UCLA and the Luskin lecture series?”

Her 90-minute March 5 appearance – the itinerary of which was a half-hour photo line followed by a 60-minute speech and moderated Q&A – amounts to roughly $3,300 per minute that the former Secretary of State and possible 2016 Democratic presidential contender earned for her time.

Of the 271 people who participated in the multiple-choice poll on the student newspaper’s website, the top pick – 48 percent or 131 voters – agreed that “large sums are inappropriate and demonstrate poor prioritizing on the part of the university and the Luskin lecture series.”

Another large chunk of respondents – 27 percent or 73 votes – called the large sums “unfortunate, but without them UCLA might not obtain the same level of notable speakers for the lecture.”

A smaller margin – 21 percent or 58 votes – agreed it was worth the money, calling it an “inspiring and rare opportunity.” The final nine voters were undecided.

The Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership was launched in 2011 and is funded through the aid of wealthy businessman and UCLA donor Meyer Luskin, who is also a supporter of President Barack Obama, giving money to his campaigns in the past, according to online Federal Election Commission records.

UCLA’s Luskin lecture has paid for exactly three speeches to date: one from former President Bill Clinton in 2012, which cost $250,000; another by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2013, which the Daily Bruin reports earned the diplomat $180,000; and most recently by Hillary Clinton in March, who was given $300,000 for her time.

“Hillary Clinton has inspired a lot of students, but when you talk about funding, $300,000 could have gone somewhere else to create concrete changes,” Conrad Contreras, the Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president, told the Daily Bruin in a July 7 article. “It’s difficult to see that UCLA is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone who is already wealthy when I have friends and families working countless hours to stay in higher education.”

In that same article, the Daily Bruin noted that Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright have given speeches at UCLA in the past and charged no fee when they came to speak through the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.

After the Bruin’s article was published, Joseph Rudnick, senior dean of UCLA College of Letters and Science, defended the Luskin series in a letter to the editor, saying “thanks to their gift, the UCLA College has built a signature lecture on campus without the need to use public funds. To date, three world leaders have come to campus to share their thoughts on the important issues shaping our world, and each time, students have attended these lectures free of charge.”

Except there was a near riot when those free tickets to Hillary Clinton’s appearance were doled out to students, the Bruin reported at the time. In fact, many students were shut out of the event due to a lack of space, prompting officials to agree to live-stream it to the overflow crowd.

The venue choice had even prompted students to petition to have the speech relocated.

“Live-streams are just like (glorified) videos, which we can watch on YouTube anytime,” one student who launched the petition told the Bruin. “The experience of witnessing someone speak in person is something that I can’t even put into words, and that is what I’m advocating for. … Students have the most to gain and usually most interest in such lectures, but it looks almost like a campaign event for Hillary where the only people who can afford to attend are those already donating to the campaign.”

The speech was a campus fundraiser that raised money for UCLA scholarships through the sale of tickets, which cost $100 to $500 dollars apiece. The Clintons have said that they transferred their campus speaking fees to their family’s nonprofit.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( @JenniferKabbany )

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IMAGE: U.S. Department of State

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Former Yale University Professor William Deresiewicz, who taught there from 1998 to 2008, has some advice for the nation’s elite college students: transfer to a public university.

“Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university,” writes Deresiewicz in a lengthy New Republic piece published Monday. It has garnered 33,000 social media shares so far.

“Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it,” he wrote.

Deresiewicz’s column, titled “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” is clearly sympathetic to progressive causes – prone to bemoaning alleged white privilege, the rich, and other perceived social inequalities.

He blames elite institutions for causing income inequality, criticizes their increasingly demanding college entrance requirements, and accuses them of largely just serving the upper class.

He argued affirmative action should be based on class instead of race, and suggests competition and fear of failure is stunting Ivy League students’ growth.

“So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them,” he wrote. “The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.”

Read the full article.

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Widespread reports that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has plans to dole out grades based on skin color in some sort of racial equality quest were denied Monday by Patrick Sims, the school’s chief diversity officer and interim vice provost for diversity and climate. (Yes, apparently that’s his real title.)

“Regrettably, (emeritus UW-Madison Professor Lee) Hansen’s assertion that the campus’ most recent strategic diversity framework embraces a quota system for apportioning grades by race, is a gross misrepresentation of our current efforts,” Sims starts out in a fairly straightforward manner.

But then Sims delves into muddy academic-ese as he writes further about this “diversity framework”:

The concept of Inclusive Excellence allows institutions to engage diversity from a vantage point of alignment with campus quality efforts, underscoring the educational benefits of diversity for all students, while emphasizing it as a central value of the institution. These laudable goals serve as the backbone for how institutions like UW-Madison, which have a long and rich tradition of academic rigor and excellence, can make excellence more inclusive, hence the term Inclusive Excellence. …

This proportional and equitable distribution of grades arises (without intervention at the time of grading) by fostering living and learning spaces that are inclusive of historically marginalized students so that they can do their best learning and earn better grades; not through the “redistribution” of artificially-enhanced grades.

Only at a modern university could a feel-good oxymoron such as “Inclusive Excellence” make its way into policy decisions.

Writing on the controversy, University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse rightly notes Sims’ “bureaucratese is unlikely to stanch the rumors unless it convinces you that the whole plan is nothing but an incantation that sounds good to the people who like the sound of bureaucratese.”

“I suspect that those who jumped to assume that there would be grade discrimination will say that they don’t believe that inclusive ‘living and learning spaces’ will achieve the goals,” she adds. “But that doesn’t mean those who wrote and adopted the plan will resort to cheating.”

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College Fix student contributors from across the nation converged in Washington D.C. recently to enjoy a night of networking and camaraderie, as well as hear some sage advice on how best to advance their journalism careers.

For starters, the annual College Fix journalism dinner, held July 10 on Capitol Hill, brought together the organization’s six current fellows serving internships at Washington D.C. news outlets:

Aaron Bandler, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Internship location: The Daily Callerdinner6

Michael Cipriano, American University; Internship location: Real Clear Politics

Alexandra DeSanctis, University of Notre Dame; Internship location: USA Today

Vivian Hughbanks, Hillsdale College; Internship location: The Hill

Blake Seitz, University of Georgia; Internship location: Washington Examiner

Ben Smith, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Internship location: American Spectator

Additional student contributors in attendance included Andrew Desiderio of The George Washington University and Julianne Stanford of the University of Arizona. Recent college graduates Crystal Hill of Indiana University and Claire Healey of Grove City College were also on hand.

Several journalism mentors also took park in the event, including editors from Washington D.C. publications, who shared words of wisdom with the students.

The keynote address came from Real Clear Politics’ Adam O’Neal, the 2013 fall College Fix fellow who was hired fulltime by the news organization after his internship concluded. He encouraged the students to work hard, make sure every sentence includes a fact, and to come to editors brimming with story ideas, among other tidbits.

Fix editor Jennifer Kabbany told the students to arrive to work before their editors to make a lasting impression, and to remember things they do as interns may not always be glamorous, but everything is a learning experience and the connections they make today will last a lifetime.

Click here to see a montage of photos from the event on Facebook. 

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