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The university I attend boasts of being a prestigious institution of higher education (yada yada), receiving whoppy sums delivered by hand by our beloved resident U.S ambassador, Jeffrey Feltman... The library had different tables and chairs last year, which were not shabby to be honest. But last semester, they did a complete makeover and replaced the wooden chairs and tables with IKEA-style fancy tables, revolving chairs, and couches. Now, you can see USAID stickers on all the furniture in the library, from shelves to desks to tables, not to forget computers...

Moving on to the library collection; the stacks are finally open to the students (no one stops you with a "hey you, where do you think you're going?!" when you are about to take the stairs or elevator). I mean, finally they had some sort of revelation it seems, and decided that this was the right way to go; that if I want to take a book out, I would not just do so based on the title and waste my time asking for it only to go through it and discover that it is not relevant to my research. I would instead take my list of shelfmarks and look through the books by myself. I think it would be logical to assume that students are adults and can return the books they don't need, immediately after looking through them, to their correct location. Or even if not, at least place it on an empty shelf on each row specifically reserved for books that people check out but decide not to take out and at the same time do not remember where they took it from in the row... But this doesn't exist. At any rate, the stacks are now open to all. But here again, there is another complication (for which this prestigious center of research and higher education cannot figure out a solution) -- since the stacks were never meant to be opened, there never was a marking of which letters are on which floor. And despite the fact that the stacks are now open, there still isn't such an identification. Instead, you have to hand the person at the circulation desk all your book shelfmarks and he or she will tell you which floor each book is on. Good luck writing that down...!

So after inquiring at the circulation desk, up we go. By the way, by the time the elevator heeds your call, you would have abandoned the idea of sparing your calories and would have taken the stairs instead. So you labor through the floors (good luck climbing 4 floors). And then finally you arrive at your destination. There is a person sitting on a desk on each floor, who, upon your entry, often hurries to you, and makes the (if you are a graduate student) offensive offer, "let me get that for you", trying to pull the paper out of your hand. But you resist, pull the paper from his hand, saying "no thank you very much, I can get it by myself. It's not rocket science, you know."

If you have something to find in the reference section, you go down to the basement, you look around you and are afraid to touch the books because you've had the traumatic experience of someone rushing at you before, in front of everyone, and telling you that he will give you whatever book you want "just don't touch a thing". But then you see there is no one there, and you still don't want to touch the books lest it trigger God's wrath, and so you go to the electronic resources people nearby, and you are 10 meters away from the guy sitting there, he looks at you and says, "sorry we are electronic resources people here, can't help you." Wait a minute, I wasn't holding a sign that read "I need help on a reference book", was I? But what can you do, so you walk away, and for the first time since that doomed traumatic day, you dare to touch the reference books. You find it, and then realize that you need a photocopying card because you can't take the books in the reference section out of the library. You go upstairs to the card vending machine, it says you need a 5,000 Lira note (the old big print not the tiny Monopoly-style version). Fabulous. You have a 10,000 note, and you gather your hopes and go to the circulation desk, ask the circulation people if they have change. No they don't. So what can I do? I need to photocopy this (not for me, for a professor -- w shu hal professor wlo). The girl says, "you get a 5,000 and get a photocopy card". Ha ha. Very funny. But then it's your lucky day, and the guy asks you who the professor is, and you tell him, and he says, fine, take the book out for 10 minutes, but you have to give me your ID. Thank God for wasta.

So you go home that day, all happy and satisfied. After having something to eat and taking a nap, you decide it's time to do some research on the e-journals databases. Let us say, on Syrian foreign policy. You start with one database, works fine, and if you are a multitasker like me, you simultaneously search on a second one, and then a third one. The third one returns some interesting hits, and you say, let me get that article. You click on "view as PDF", it takes you to a log in page. Ahh. You try and try and try, but it is of no use. You think, maybe it's my internet, and decide to try it the next day at work. You go to work the next day, you try it, but to no avail. You need username and password. You curse the electronic resources people. You get on the library website, and find an "ask a librarian" link, you write a note explaining that the database is not working. You click submit, and it gives you an error. You try again and again, but again to no avail. So you go back to the library page and look up the names of library staff, and find the one in charge of electronic databases. You write a very angry letter (in the spirit of Angry Anarchist), and send it. A week later, you get an e-mail. A confirmation e-mail from your contact person: "There seems to be a problem with the database." Oh... I didn't know...

Of all the thousands of students and faculty, no one had noticed that there is a problem with the database? What do these people do, daydream all day long? Or is attending the so-called "prestigious" university nothing more than an investment for these people?? May I inform you about Solidere??!

While I am at it, let me have this out of my system once and for all -- I meant to post a rant I wrote a while back, but didn't because it was very nasty. I've cut out the nastiness, and will make do with posting a conversation I had with someone:

X: You have to work with me.
Me: No, I do not have to.
X: Yes, according to the rules and procedures, we decide what you will work on, and with whom.
Me: What rules and procedures? I would like to see those rules and procedures in written form.
X: Um, there is none in written form, but it's nevertheless a policy.
Me: A policy, eh?
X: Yup.
Me: I was not aware of the existence of such a policy. You have to let people know what your policies are if you haven't given them a written notice, before they sign the contract.
X: So why did you sign the contract without asking?
Me: Excuse me? I signed the contract, I did not sign a set of non-existent policies which are only figments of your imagination.
X: But you signed the contract without asking.

After another 30 minutes of back-and-forth:
Me: Look, bottom line, you cannot force me to work with you.
X: You are interfering in my business, that is not up to you!
Me: Oh yes, very much up to me, what will you do, force me? Drag me from home?
X: You are being selfish and undemocratic.
Me: First, what does democracy have to do with this? Second, who said I believe in democracy?
X: What do you believe in, then, dictatorship?
Me: Ha ha ha ... no, I do not believe in anything. Anyway if you are a university functioning under institutions, then these institutions have rules, or are expected to have rules, and you apply those rules. You don't apply non-existent rules.

And didn't you know? Just because Honorable Jeffrey Feltman has handed the president of this very prestigious university a big fat cheque, apparently means, for one American professor, that those who oppose U.S policies are ungrateful. Apparently it's a take-all or leave-all world. Ahh those Americans.

Another funny occurrence involving me and a professor:

X: I'm working on a research paper on Hezb Allah. That's another project that you might be able to help me on.
Me: Ohhh, you are...
X: Yes, but I understand if you don't want to work on it.
Me: Why wouldn't I?
X: Because you know, I mean, Hezb Allah.......
Me: Uh... so? I don't have a problem with Hezb Allah. Besides, what does that have to do with research?
X: Ahh, I should've known. Leftists support Hezb Allah because they (leftists) are anti-American.
Me: What? ...

I love prestige. Don't you?

Labels: ,

posted by Angry Anarchist @ 4/10/2007 07:12:00 PM,


At April 11, 2007 at 6:11 PM, Blogger Golaniya said...

Excellent post!
Off the topic, (I think some of the professors in Balamand are spies on Lebanon) what do you think of the syllabus that they are offering? The professors are selectively teaching? The canon? What and which canon are they teaching?
I realize it is another topic, but I am both dependent and paranoid of the Americans universities.
I have experience in Balamand only; I made interviews last year with undergrad students asking them which literature do they prefer, Arabic or English, and for what reasons?
Most of them feel that they "identified" with the English authors as they are speaking of American and Britain nations. When I asked them about Lebanese authors, Hanan El Sheikh, Paul Shaoul or Elias Khouri, they were like: "enough war!"..
I think as students get to learn their elective courses they are also absorbing the consciousness of the authors of those texts; they worry for their worries, for example.
There is a difference between affiliating with a country and identifying with a humane characteristic of that country.
Fanon wrote about his experience in one of the British school and how he is learning English in a British way, in a colonial way.
Also John Guillory, one of my favorite critics, critiques the English literature canon as it is a white masculine anglo-saxon canon.
Balamand does not teach English texts, Balamand teach English authors, you see what I mean?
This is a favorite topic of mine. Sorry I got over wrote:P

At April 11, 2007 at 10:12 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

I do not know the syllabi in Balamand. I do know that certain "American" universities in Lebanon are very much into the indoctrination thing, and a great many professors try to guide their (undergrad) students into a certain mindset and channel their critical skills in a certain direction (if critical skills are actually taught and developed, which more often than not is not the case). In graduate level, students are by now expected to have been "formed" to accept a certain mindset, and for many, many professors, a challenge is taken as offensive. The student-professor relationship is more a patron/client relationship in those universities, than a scholar/would-be-scholar one... Which means that the academic circle does not stand much chance of natural development and orientation towards research and once again, CRITICAL reading and debates. Is it any wonder that when conferences are held, there is no encouragement on the part of professors for students to attend and to participate, or that there are no talks organized by student groups (in some universities, there are no student groups except at face value, going through the so-called administration). It is really miserable. Universities in Lebanon do not offer students with a rich experience, especially in critical thinking and debating. That is, I guess, a manifestation of a much bigger problem that plagues this country, starting from the fact that there is no real debate on Lebanese history, and especially the Lebanese civil war...

There is also a very obvious American hegemony in discourse and lectures/seminars, be it in the field of social sciences or the humanities (I know more about the social sciences, as I am involved in it personally). There are currently "overhauls" of programs to accommodate even more elements of American "democracy", American history, American civil war, and so on... all this as part of such things as "political science" majors...

I personally have received my humanities degree from a university that boasts of (and rightly so) a very non-colonial/post-colonial and even anti-colonial approach in the study and critique of literature, and in the case of Honours degrees, requires that students satisfy course requirements in more than 6 areas (among them post-colonial and African literature, as well as gender studies, the latter even including a course on gay literature!). Alas I could not take that gay lit course, though it was interesting, very interesting indeed. I must say, some of my favourite authors are actually gay/lesbian, and most of the material I have read in the gender studies course, also was (Stone Butch Blues and Rubyfruit Jungle being my favourites). I think also that Sa'id's influence has been humungous on the humanities and not just the social sciences. I took a course in the humanities as an elective, the course was titled "concepts of male and female in the west", and much of it was a critique of not only the male-dominated literature and perspective, but also of the orientalist attitudes, which are critiqued through literary texts, such as the play M Butterfly (another of my favourites!).

The problem is that "English literature" is often taken at face value, and taught as just that: ENGLISH literature, rather than the more inclusive "literature in English". My degree is certainly in the LATTER (although granted that I have also had to sit through the classical, boring lectures and discussions on 16th c. English verse)...

Unfortunately, 90% of my books are stuck somewhere in the east coast of USA... I probably won't be able to retrieve them any time soon, or else I would have lent you some of the very fascinating material I have spent a fortune on (more than $1,000 worth of books).

By the way, have you read Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God? Amazing book.

Ahhh now you got me all excited and nostalgic for the good old days in the Humanities.... social scientists are much more boring and much less creative, you know... My passion is in literature... now I am rediscovering this (after discovering it once and then ignoring it!), but I guess it is too late.

Haha, I remember my gender studies prof, he resembles the angry arab a bit, his hair was long and curly, and he was so strange, in a funny way. And every time, at the beginning of the class, he used to bring a tape and play a song to us, and make us guess what song it was.

Another great course I took was Contemporary American Gothic. Contrary to what it sounds, it was actually an IMPRESSIVE course by a MOST IMPRESSIVE American professor (Art Redding) on the gothic elements and haunted pasts (due to indigenous experiences) of ethnic, immigrant and indigenous literature. It was FABULOUS, I tell you. I wish I had made a list of the reading lists for all the courses I've taken, but I never thought of it at the time. Now they are available online, but they have been updated, although some of the content is still the same.

In Lebanon, people TAKE NOTES. I never took notes when I was an undergraduate (except for all the silly Calculus and Physics courses I took -- miss those days too!). There is too much emphasis here on "studying" rather than "learning". People study here, but they do not necessarily LEARN. They might have straight A's but they might also come out with zero learning experience let alone research skills.

Oh well, I have gone on an even longer rant than you. :P But it's amazing that someone else is also interested in this stuff!

At April 12, 2007 at 9:28 AM, Anonymous jad said...

hey wait.. do u go to LAU or is it the same everywhere now??

At April 12, 2007 at 4:54 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

No it's the same everywhere...

At April 14, 2007 at 7:56 PM, Blogger Manar said...

a.a., the stacks have finally been opened??? hehe, it's about time!

and yes, prestige is great. too bad they don't realize that the prestige they have is localized only within 10452km^2 ...

At April 19, 2007 at 7:50 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Manar, yes, finally (!!) the stacks are open!! Can you believe it!!!

Do you attend the same uni? :P

At April 20, 2007 at 8:13 PM, Anonymous shax said...

Have you heard of this recent incident at aub?
AUB seems to be swarming with right-wing professors, culled either from the US or from the ranks of "civilized" Lebanese. Not really surprising, given the people who actually run it.

At April 20, 2007 at 9:27 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Shax, no, this is the first time I read it, although I do have a link to her blog on mine. But if I may add, that is not surprising at all. A bit peculiar and funny that someone calls her an anti-Semite, but it's nothing that hasn't happened before, and oh believe me, a good many Jews have been accused of this. Sometimes the people throwing the accusations were unaware that the individual they were accusing of anti-Semitism was in fact JEWISH!!! At other times, they were very much aware, and still did not find anything odd with the accusation... The right-wingers (and zionists) keep lists with names of Jewish scholars and activists who "dare" to oppose Israel and the right-wing agenda more generally. Another one is Daniel Pipes with his "campus watch". I guess this guy is one of the soldiers of Daniel Pipes' campaign?

It also reminds me of the Joseph Massad "scandal"...

It's amazing though that these people are SO indoctrinated and brainwashed that even at a PhD level, and even as tenured faculty, their arguments make less sense (logically speaking) than those of an undergraduate student. I love the way he says the cliche "half of the Lebanese I talked to" sentence. Half of the Lebanese he talked to might have been all LFers or pro-SLA... I guess AUB should start making it mandatory for professors to attend Logic 101.

At April 20, 2007 at 9:42 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Btw I guess the dude is Dr. Patrick Ireland?

At April 20, 2007 at 10:53 PM, Anonymous shax said...

yup, that is the dude. i started having disturbing fantasies of painful retribution after i read that exchange. Not even logic 101 will work here, he's of that segment of humanity on which logic and rationality can never register.

At April 21, 2007 at 12:42 AM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Oh, trust me, he's not so bad compared to others I've met. The PSPA and CAMES at AUB are infested with them.

I had a 'bout' with one of them back in the days, it wasn't fun, and involved the prez, as well as other university administrators. In my case, which was of course totally different than that of Dr. Newman's, it was met by unresponsiveness and the administration covered the back of the person I had an issue with. If you apply for graduate programs at AUB do NOT send in your proposal with your application, especially if it challenges the right-wing/zionist discourse. I and others have learned it the hard way.

At April 22, 2007 at 5:04 PM, Blogger Golaniya said...

Anarchist, I thought AUB is one of the leading universities in Lebanon against Israel and Zionism, I heard of course about Dr. Newman and posted about it on my blog. But I thought it is rather an incident and not on wide scale, I was going to transfer from Balamand to AUB for my anti- Zionism thesis project, I guess am staying in Balamand…
Damn, am disappointed..

At April 22, 2007 at 7:27 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Sham, you could always try, but my experience as well as those of others, has not been positive. Compared to other universities, AUB is less yielding on the zionist discourse, in my opinion, but again, do not take only my word for it, it's worth asking around, though I think this professor's case is more telling than many make it to be, given the absence of condemnation on the part of the concerned departmental or faculty administration for the manner in which this professor addressed another professor, and badmouthed her to the student as well. It is shameful, I think, and it would probably be worthwhile to embark on a campaign of protests against this professor, this is not something that would go unnoticed elsewhere, such defamatory acts would even elicit lawsuits on the part of those defamed. I guess there's fat chance of that in Lebanon (though I am not sure if one can sue in the U.S, given that it has a board of trustees or whatever it is, in the U.S) but I think something must be done, and people must not turn a blind eye to this.

At April 25, 2007 at 11:23 AM, Blogger MarxistFromLebanon said...

I have ditched X for 2 weeks in a raw :P

At April 25, 2007 at 2:16 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

You mean the 1st X, cos the second X is not the same X , I guess I should have called him X' (X prime) :D

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