Wednesday, November 15, 2006

US studies give[n] the nod

Higher education in Australia reached a new low point over the last 18 months, with the spectacle of our leading universities jostling among themselves for the dubious privilege of hosting an endowed US Studies Centre (or should that be "Center"?).

Basic ethics should have prevented all but nothing-left-to-lose cowboy institutions (you know who you are) from putting up their hands in the first place. The funding comes with onerous ties/strings, but what’s particularly disgraceful about these is that it’s the government’s pony that’s the most whim-driven.

So congratulations, University of Sydney, for deliberately procuring the equivalent of a creationist school chaplain to dwell in your midst. I suggest that your geography department now start teaching flat-earth theory, to better fit in with their new colleagues.

As usual in these things, the clearest indictment comes from the mouths of the boosters themselves. According to Michael Baume, a lead (freelance) progenitor of the Centre, the new US Studies Centre is a mere catch-up gesture, given that Asian region/country Centres already proliferate in Oz universities:

The centre extends to our main ally (and investment partner) the principle of establishing studies centres that cover many of Australia's neighbours in the region.

Most every pissweak university in the land has several titular XYZ Centres, of course, all desperate attempts to project some intellectual substance or specialty into the ether. Baume’s positioning of the new US Studies Centre as yet another such grandiosely-titled delusion, all on a crowded bottom-shelf, is choice. Welcome to Pissweak “America” World.

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