Saturday, January 31, 2015

UCLA Center For Medieval Studies Launches Inquisition: Everyone Attending Lectures To Be Photographed For Police Investigation



UCLA's Center For Medieval Studies has begun to implement its new policy of photographing, for the sake of future police investigation, all who attend lectures, their department secretary confirmed today. She was unwilling to disclose whether the Center plans on instituting other traditional practices of the Inquisition such as torture and burning at the stake.

For further information, contact:

Massimo Ciavolella
Director of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies


- What was that about?
- Money. We're supposed to have a democracy because we have elections even though the people we elect work only for those who pay the highest bribes. Similarly the University advertises free open lectures but "free and open" is not what you'll find if you take them up on their invitation.
- You're saying the open lectures are window dressing? Mere show?
- At the last lecture I attended...
- What was it on?
- The study of the hundreds of thousands of surviving business letters from the 11th century Jewish community in Egypt who wrote Arabic with Hebrew characters. Because Jewish law forbid anything with the name of god written on it being destroyed, and because Arabic forms of politeness often included the naming of god, all these letters were stored, and many have survived to this day. So after the lecture a man working for the department took out a camera and started taking pictures of the 10 or 12 audience members individually. A woman who often attends these lectures, astonished by this, asked him what he was doing.
- What did he say?
- That he could lie and answer it was for a brochure, but he was going to honor her with the truth, which was that he was gathering evidence to turn over to the police for investigation.
- Did she ask if he was accusing her personally?
- Yes. He said he was. I knew her a little, had spoken to her a couple of times at other lectures. She's an intelligent and educated woman. When I met her again, and I pressed her, she explained to me what really was happening. She'd been at another lecture and had had a conversation with an older woman from England. Because she did not make the usual small talk and left open the possibility of friendship between the two, who were both European, the old woman got scared and complained to the department she was being harassed. And since, as the departmental assistant with the camera explained, the older European woman was a big donor to the department, they were taking action. I asked him why he thought the university had the right to photograph lecture audiences. He answered, "they eat our cookies".
- "They eat our cookies." You think things are bad, but no. They're worse. Did you take any action?
- Not at first. Then I thought about the attack on this woman whose native language wasn't English and couldn't easily defend herself, retraced my steps down the maze like passages of Royce Hall and found the room for the Center For Medieval Studies. Both the assistant and department secretary were in. I told them what I thought. That first, and unimportantly, what they were doing was illegal. Here the assistant broke in, said he didn't like the tone of my voice and he was going to call the police. I said, I see, when someone dares to say what he thinks the university responds with a threat of violence.
- What did he say?
- The secretary told him he should leave.
- Did he?
- No. He'd lost control of himself, was shaking with rage that one of the insects his investigation had under observation landed on his face. I went on to the secretary: the department had to post legal notice if they were going to do any photography. She said the university had a general warning if you set foot on any campus of the University of California you sign away your life and give your permission to be photographed. At least, the last part is what she said. I said that was legal garbage, the common standard for giving notice is that notice had to be placed somewhere where the people being notified were likely to read it. Usually that meant at the door or on the page of the internet announcing the event. Leave that aside, I said. The important thing is that what you are doing is intolerably brutal and stupid. What is the most famous event this department studies? I'll answer: the inquisition. See any connection? Of course not. For you, it's all about money. You people are a disgrace to the Renaissance art put into designing this building, you people are a disgrace to this university and to any university.
- And at that dramatic moment...
- I turned my back on them and left.