Jennifer Kabbany - Fix Editor

The theme of an upcoming American Studies Association conference pretty much sums up so much that is wrong with modern humanities studies in higher education.

Ready for it? “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century.”

“The call for proposals for the 2014 ASA convention in Los Angeles invited fun and fury, critiques of the good life, alternative realities, queer utopias and nothing short of a ‘new dialectics of pain and pleasure,’ ” the association website’s gushes, adding:

Covering enormous ground (“From Furious Orientals to Funny Arabs,” for example), engaging the serious (“Matters of Life and Death”) and the flippant (“Eat Me: Consuming Urban Cultures”), not to mention the filthy (“The Filth and the Fury: The Cultural Politics of Waste in America”), the program represents this newly disorganized dialectic of pleasure and pain and spends considerable time outlining how and when and where a definition of pleasure for some might open out onto an experience of pain for others. Some papers clearly address the class politics of pleasure and others attend to the vexed issues of racial pain and the voyeuristic pleasures it provokes. A special roundtable on Steve McQueen’s controversial film, 12 Years A Slave (2013), investigates the ways in which slavery has been transformed into visual (dis)pleasure and considers the function of spectacle within the film.

The esteemed Professor Steven Hayward, referencing the conference’s agenda, summed up the claptrap as follows:

American Studies is intended to be a cross-discipline combining literature, history, political science, and one or two other fields (anthropology and philosophy perhaps), and that’s what it did when I emphasized the field through the History and Government departments at Claremont more than 30 years ago. It was a wonderful way of having truly interdisciplinary discussion on key issues past and present.

But today, like so many other areas in the humanities, American Studies has become a field for mediocrity, triviality, and politically correct orthodoxy—and often all three.

Professors wonder why the humanities are withering on the vine? It’s because students and parents have had enough of this. They want their money’s worth, and not scholars’ esoteric fetishes.

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The maniac who used an ax against New York City cops in the name of jihad last week had roughly six years of college under his belt.

The college-educated American terrorist not only had a bachelor’s degree but spent at least a year at Columbia University as a grad student.

It remains to be seen what, if any, effect his education had on his world views. But one thing is clear: somehow Zale Thompson – a U.S. Navy veteran – turned against his country.

Four years before radical Muslim convert Thompson ran at four New York City cops with a hatchet – injuring two police officers before being shot dead – he was a grad student attending Columbia University, The College Fix confirmed Monday.

Thompson also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts in 2008 from the College of New Rochelle, a spokesperson confirmed to The Telegraph.

It has been widely reported by numerous news outlets recently that the 32-year-old man who attacked the police officers in what has been dubbed by authorities as an act of terror had likely attended the prestigious Teachers College, a Columbia University graduate school; Thompson’s public Facebook profile indicated as much.

But it was unclear when he had attended, and for how long. It’s also unclear if anyone thought it was relevant.

A lengthy New York Times profile on Thompson published Oct. 25 under the headline “Attacker With Hatchet Is Said to Have Grown Radical on His Own,” a double-bylined article with three additional contributing reporters that pieced together the last decade of Thompson’s life, did not mention Columbia University at all, let alone interview professors or students who might have remembered him.

Yet in an emailed statement Monday to The College Fix, James Gardner, associate vice president of development and external affairs at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said that Thompson attended the New York City graduate school from 2009 to 2010, seeking to earn a master’s degree.

“Zale Thompson enrolled at Teachers College in the Fall of 2009 as a Master’s degree candidate, and left in 2010 without earning a degree. He had no other subsequent affiliation with Teachers College,” Gardner tells The College Fix.

At least the New York Post interviewed a former classmate of Thompson’s at the College of New Rochelle, who described Thompson as a “very educated” proponent of “black power.”

But the New York Times profile described Thompson’s history by saying: “Mr. Thompson, for at least the last decade, appears to have been adrift.”

Adrift? Earning your bachelor’s degree and attending grad school is being “adrift?”

Recent reports about Thompson say he had an extremist ideology. It’s unclear how his six years of college might have helped shape that philosophy.

The New York Post reported Oct. 25 that he “wanted ‘white people to pay’ for slavery.” The Post also interviewed his father:

“I didn’t know it would get that serious,” the father said wearily of his son, a Navy veteran described by former friends as “bright” but radically pro-“black power” in his youth and a Muslim convert in recent years.

The Post also reported Thompson was pro-ISIS and supported jihad. He had been involuntarily discharged from the Navy in 2003, possibly for drug use, the New York Times reported.

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

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Apparently America is afraid of Michelle Obama’s toned arms, according to the logic of feminists professors.

Breitbart reports:

NYU Associate Professor Thuy Linh Tu argued that media coverage First Lady Michelle Obama’s arms shows “we’re always a little bit uncomfortable with a strong woman,” during a discussion on the late fashion designer Oscar de la Renta on MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry.”

“The thing about Michelle Obama’s arms is, everybody talks about it. And, they’re fantastic, right? They’re actually her husband’s secret weapon, right? But, they also say something about her femininity that people are not that comfortable with, right? In the way that Hillary Rodham Clinton wears the pantsuit, right, Michelle Obama has got her arms and we’re always a little bit uncomfortable with a strong woman, that’s why her arms are so, so widely commented upon” she stated.

Harris-Perry, who is a professor at Wake Forest University, agreed and took it one step further, talking about how reactions to the First Lady’s arms are racist, too.

I don’t care how many degrees these women have, they are wrong. Michelle Obama’s arms are celebrated and cherished in articles published across this country because she is the First Lady and she looks amazing in a sleeveless shirt, period.

Google it. The top results show page after page of reports on how glorious her arms are, and how to do exercises to get arms like hers. The vast majority of coverage is focused on how good she looks – how is that an indication of a fear of strong women?

Obama knows she looks good – and she does look good – and she flaunts those arms, and I don’t blame her.

These professors are either clueless or politicizing the First Lady’s arms.

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Ohio State University used a $387,000 National Institutes of Health grant to study the benefits of Swedish massages on bunny rabbits.

No, this is not a joke.

This absurdly stupid waste of taxpayer dollars was brought to light by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s most recent “Wastebook” edition, where he and his staff every year chronicle the unethical and asinine ways in which our government blows taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.

No. 2 on the list is titled “Swedish Massages for Rascally Rabbits.”

“In this I will not compromise,” notes Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. “There is nothing more stupid in the history of wasteful federal spending than giving my money — and yours — so rabbits can get a Swedish foot massage.”

Coburn, in an interview with Kass, agrees.

“Look, I understand what the science is behind that,” Coburn said. “We all know that if you massage a muscle, you get rid of the lactic acid out of it. It’s stuff we already know.”

The two-year study, which concluded in April of this year, sought to “learn how to identify the most optimal application of massage therapy to treat human muscle aches and injuries,” the Wastebook reported.

Why they didn’t rub HUMANS then is beyond anyone’s comprehension, as Watchdog.org rightly points out, adding:

The funding came from the National Institutes of Health through its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Yes, the same organization that blamed budget cuts for a lack of an Ebola vaccine, spent $387,000 to give rabbits Swedish massages.

By the way, Rabbitgate is only one in a long list of gut-wrenching, eye-rolling examples, as Coburn points out in the report:

Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up with some of the zany projects the government paid for this year,  like laughing classes for college students (no joke!) or a play about brain eating zombies for children. The National Science Foundation  (NSF) taught monkeys how to play video games and gamble. USDA got into the business of butterfly farming. The Department of Interior even paid people to watch grass to see how quickly it grows. The State Department spent money to dispel the perception abroad that Americans are fat and rude. But the real shock and awe may have been the $1 billion price tag the Pentagon paid to destroy $16 billion worth of ammunition, enough to pay a full years’ salary for over 54,000 Army privates. …

The problem is not just what Washington isn’t doing, but what it is doing.

Read the Wastebook.

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A campus lecture by embattled conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza slated for Tuesday night at the University of California – Santa Barbara was abruptly cancelled after the judge overseeing D’Souza’s probation for his campaign finance law violation rescinded permission for the pundit to speak.

“The judge was receiving pressure from liberals for his decision to allow the event to go on and as a result decided to reverse it just days before the scheduled event,” according to a statement Tuesday by Young America’s Foundation, which was co-hosting the event along with the UCSB College Republicans. “Young America’s Foundation believes that the judge’s ruling is restrictive of Dinesh’s free speech rights and another example of liberal suppression of conservatives.”

D’Souza, an outspoken critic of liberal policies and President Barack Obama who produced the docu-dramas “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine a World Without Her,” had originally been granted permission to give the campus speech by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who in late September sentenced D’Souza to five years probation, a $30,000 fine, and eight months in a so-called community confinement center in San Diego.

“The judge had ruled that Dinesh’s events in Santa Barbara could go on since it would be a day’s travel and he would be able to return to the Community Confinement Center by the end of the night,” the foundation stated. “However, we were alerted yesterday that the judge reversed this ruling … forcing Dinesh to cancel the event.”

UCSB College Republicans Vice President Austin Yack said he and his peers are upset. They worked hard to personally fund raise $5,000 to help pay for D’Souza’s guest lecture, and had to hurriedly contact the 60-plus guests and donors who had RSVP’d for the event over the last few days to tell them it was cancelled, he said.

“It stinks,” Yack said in a telephone interview with The College Fix. “It’s a huge hassle. … And the community was really looking forward to hearing him speak.”

A recent appearance by D’Souza on Fox News may have helped prompt the turn of events. D’Souza obtained a day pass to New York City last week and told Megyn Kelly in a guest appearance that he does not have to wear a prison uniform and that he only spends nights at the confinement center.

Some liberals were enraged by this information.

“Dinesh D’Souza Even Gets A Day Pass To Visit Megyn Kelly. Some Prison, Huh?” declared a headline on CrooksandLiars.com, calling the set-up “summer camp on the taxpayers’ dime.”

“As arrogant as ever, D’Souza touts his conviction and sentence as ‘a political win,’” the website stated. “Only two weeks in the pokey and already Dinesh is out prowling on a day pass. Oh justice, where is your sting?”

Of course, others saw the interview in a different light.

“Dinesh D’Souza is allowed to do ‘government-approved’ media interviews during the day while he is locked up with murderers and drug dealers at night,”reported the conservative BizPacReview.com.

After the sentencing, D’Souza called it a “fair judgment.” It remains to be seen what he thinks of this latest development. His Twitter and Facebook accounts did not mention the UCSB incident as of Tuesday night.

Yack called the judge “wishy washy.”

“The judge backed off because of liberal pressure,” he said.

D’Souza had originally been scheduled to speak at UCSB in May, but the appearance had been postponed because of the mass-murder spree at the Southern California campus.

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

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DISCLAIMER: Correlation is not causation, I’m just sayin’ …

A Hillary Clinton campus stump speech for Democrats at Oakland University in Michigan on Thursday apparently brought out the crazies.

First off, a liberal loon went nuts on a bunch of conservative college students protesting Clinton’s afternoon speech, telling them “I just came from Texas, I have Ebola, and now I’m going to give it to you,” and licking his hand and trying to wipe saliva on them.

Then, a few hours after the speech, a female student was seriously injured in a knockout game-style attack on the peaceful and rural campus, shocking the campus community, according to a news report, which interviewed several students.

Police described the area as a very safe community and called the incident “highly unusual.”

“The freshman was walking by herself Thursday night around 10 p.m. when a stranger hit her from behind, knocking her to the ground,” ABC Detroit news reports. “When the student looked up, she noticed the man running away wearing a dark colored hoodie. The student sustained injuries that included a concussion and internal bleeding, according to her relatives. Nothing was stolen from the student.”