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Kyle Bishop figured it was risky when he applied to a University of Arizona Ph.D. program in English eight years ago by proposing a dissertation on zombie movies.
He was dead wrong.
The program approved Mr. Bishop’s proposal, and he is now chairman of Southern Utah University’s English department. The 40-year-old has been invited to give zombie lectures in Hawaii, Canada and Spain.
“It’s clearly now acceptable to study zombies seriously,” he says.
Just as zombies – those mythical revived corpses hungry for living human flesh and gray matter – have infiltrated pop culture, they have also gotten their hands on our brainiest reserves: the academy.
Mr. Bishop is among an advancing horde of scholars who, compelled by the cultural history and metaphor of the undead, are teaching and conducting research in disciplines from economics to religion to medicine.
The last five years have seen 20 new scholarly books with “zombie” in the title or topic category, according to Baker & Taylor, a distributor of academic and other books; in the 10 prior years, there were 10. JSTOR, an online archive of about 2,000 academic journals, says the journals have run 39 articles invoking the undead since 2005, versus seven in the preceding 10 years.
Mr. Bishop’s timing was impeccable. His dissertation coincided with a zombie onslaught that infected television, literature and other media. AMC’s TV series “The Walking Dead” is a top-rated cable show, and the 2013 zombie movie “World War Z” grossed $540 million globally.
Mr. Bishop turned his dissertation into a book, “American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture,” which surprised everyone when over 1,000 copies sold. Back when he proposed his dissertation, he says, “nobody would touch the zombie.”
Now, zombies thrive on campuses like California State University, East Bay, in Hayward. Christopher Moreman, a philosophy professor there, co-edited a two-volume collection of essays on “the Humanity of the Walking Dead” and “Cross-Cultural Appropriations” of the monsters. The initial plan was for one volume, he says, but over 100 proposals arrived.
When Mr. Moreman worked the theme into a course – “Philosophy 3432: Religion, Monsters and Horror” – he says he drew 55 students vying for 35 spots.
In one class, students read his work examining Buddhist imagery in zombie movies, which echo the religion’s meditation on mortality, he says, because “you recognize that everything’s temporary and zombies keep going on and on.”
Some find the trend ominous. There is a “danger” when scholars probe subjects like zombies, says Mark Bauerlein, an English professor and author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.”
“They end up invariably turning their attention away from the tradition,” he says, “the classics, the works that have survived the test of time.”
Michael Poliakoff, who directs policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, says the proliferation of undergraduate courses in topics like zombies and vampires is helping ruin American students’ brains. Citing various studies, Mr. Poliakoff says many U.S. college graduates still lack proficiency in basic verbal literacy.
“What have we given up in order to dabble in the undead?” he says. “We’ve given up survival skills.”
Last year, some parents objected to an optional reading class at Armand Larive Middle School in Hermiston, Ore., using materials describing a “zombie apocalypse.” The district eliminated the material, says Superintendent Dr. Fred Maiocco, and “we extend our regrets to anyone offended.”
Zombie scholars say their subject is worthy of study because the living deads’ history and ubiquity in modern literature and culture present metaphors ripe for analysis.
Self-described “zombie scholar” Sarah Juliet Lauro, a Clemson University assistant English professor, acknowledges that some think it is silly or inappropriate to study the ghouls.
She counters that “it’s a deeply important mythology that is specifically about slavery.” She is finishing a book tracing zombie folklore to its 18th-century roots in the Haitian Revolution. Zombis were field laborers raised from the dead who led a slave rebellion.
Her book, “The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion and Living Death,” examines how zombies came to represent the struggles of slavery and colonialism.
A former student of Ms. Lauro’s, 34-year-old Christopher Schuster, says studying zombies analytically in her class “struck a chord.” An Iraq War veteran, he saw parallels to post-traumatic stress disorder. “A single bite changes you from my best friend to someone who’s trying to kill me,” he says, adding that war “can take a child and turn him into a tormented man.”
Zombies are staggering into many fields. Last year, English professor Sherryl Vint at the University of California, Riverside, and a grad student called for submissions to “an edited volume on zombies in comics and graphic novels through the lens of medical discourse.”
The editors “seek to move beyond merely identifying the similarities between the etiology of infectious disease and zombie plagues to question how medical discourse constructs and is constructed by popular iconography of the boundaries of life, illness and health.”
Other collections due this year include “Economics of the Undead,” which co-editor Glen Whitman, a Cal State Northridge economics professor, says “raises issues of the use of resources” in an apocalyptic event. The work is academic, he says, but might draw readers “with a casual interest in economics.”
A media-studies anthology edited by Steve Jones, a senior lecturer at England’s Northumbria University, “seeks to investigate zombie sexuality in all its forms and manifestations.”
Max Brooks, author of hit pop-culture books like “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z” – often cited in academic works – is skeptical about exploring the undead theoretically. “It just becomes academics writing papers for other academics,” he says.
Instead, he says, “I would want a professor who would dig into the very real questions” that his own books seek to answer – such as, what steps would one take should a zombie apocalypse arrive—and “take that knowledge and apply it to the real world.”
Las Vegas BowlSaturday – December 21st – 3:30 p.m. ET
Fresno State Bulldogs vs. USC Trojans
Russell Athletic BowlSaturday – December 28th – 6:45 p.m. ET
Miami Hurricanes vs. Louisville Cardinals
Chick-fil-A BowlTuesday – December 31st – 8:00 p.m. ET
Duke Blue Devils vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Capital One BowlWednesday – January 1st – 1:00 p.m. ET
Wisconsin Badgers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Rose BowlWednesday – January 1st – 4:30 p.m. ET
Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans
Fiesta BowlWednesday – January 1st – 8:30 p.m. ET
UCF Knights vs. Baylor Bears
Sugar BowlThursday – January 2nd – 8:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Cotton BowlFriday – January 3rd – 7:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Missouri Tigers
Orange BowlFriday – January 3rd – 8:30 p.m. ET
Clemson Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
BCS National ChampionshipMonday – January 6th – 8:30 p.m. ET
Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers
Reports of bias incidents at Vassar College that involved hateful messages left on students’ doors were actually elaborate hoaxes – and the perpetrator is none other than the student member of the Bias Incident Response Team, The Daily Caller has learned.
This fall semester at the liberal arts college in New York saw a curiously high number of bias incident reports. On Nov. 14, the college sent a mass email to students advising them that Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) had received at least six reports in the last few months of hateful and insensitive messages being scrawled and spray painted on student residences. Messages included “Avoid Being Bitches,” “Fuck Niggers,” and most prominently, “Hey Tranny. Know Your Place.”
“This is unacceptable and members of our community should be able to learn and work in environments that are free of hurtful expressions and behaviors,” wrote Edward Pittman, BIRT coordinator and dean of the College for Campus Life and Diversity, in an email to students.
The email also outlined BIRT’s purpose and role in bias incident response. The task force receives the reports of bias incidents, meets with victims, and provides support for campus efforts to foster diversity and inclusion.
The task force had one student member: Genesis Hernandez, who is transgendered and was also a vice president of the Vassar Student Association (VSA), the student government.
Five days after the email was sent, Vassar President Catharine Hill sent a follow-up email announcing that the bias incidents were hoaxes perpetrated by two students. The students wrote the vile messages and then filed the reports themselves, claiming to be the victims of unknown haters.
“It is our unfortunate duty to report that two Vassar students have admitted responsibility for creating a number of recent bias and hate-speech messages in public spaces on campus,” wrote Hill in an email. “They also falsely reported these as anonymous messages. Sadly, our community has been deeply hurt by these actions.”
The email noted that the two students had admitted responsibility and withdrawn from the college voluntarily. Their names were not reported.
However, The DC has learned that one of the perpetrators was none other than Genesis Hernandez.
Informed sources within Vassar told The DC that administrators pinpointed Hernandez as a responsible party, forcing him to give up his position in student government and leave the college. Leaked conversations between student government members also paint Hernandez as the culprit.
On the same day that Hill’s email went out, VSA President Deborah Steinberg sent an email of her own announcing an election to fill Hernandez’s now-vacant VP position.
Hernandez has withdrawn from the college. His vassar.edu address no longer works, and as such, he did not respond to a request for comment.
A representative for the college declined to comment. Vassar’s only statement on the matter remains Hill’s email, in which she acknowledged that the campus might now be skeptical of BIRT’s efforts, but stressed the need to continue them.
“The outcome of this most recent investigation in no way diminishes our commitment to working toward a more just, diverse, egalitarian and inclusive campus community,” she wrote.
The DC could not determine the other perpetrator’s identity, nor was it clear which student wrote and falsely reported which messages.
Kieran Crump-Raiswell was looking for work when he was attacked.
CCTV images show Kieran’s killer hid in bushes before stabbing the ‘oblivious’ teenager in the chest.
UK Muslim Imran Hussain knifed gap-year student Kieran Crump-Raiswell to death in the street. Then he ran to his car laughing and drove off.
Kieran, 18, was heading to look for a job when Imran Hussain, 27, walked up to him and “without warning” stabbed him four times in the chest, Manchester Crown Court was told.
A teenage gap-year student was knifed to death in the street in broad daylight by a “laughing” stranger in Manchester, a jury has heard.
Kieran Crump-Raiswell, 18, was heading to look for a job when Imran Hussain, 27, walked up to him and “without warning” stabbed him four times in the chest, Manchester Crown Court was told.
Witnesses to the shocking scene in Whalley Range said Hussain appeared to be “sniggering” as he ran to his car and drove off, jurors heard.
The killing was the second of two street assaults committed on total strangers within 12 days in January.
Mature student Hussain, from Bracknell, Berkshire, drove from his student flat in Coventry on January 4 and punched a man in the face in Nottingham and ran off.
It’s commencement season. College seniors across the country are donning mortarboards, getting misty-eyed and preparing to face the realities of President Barack Obama’s sparkling economic recovery.
The Daily Caller is a little misty-eyed, too, because college students will soon disperse from campuses for a long summer, which likely means far fewer stories about stupid and otherwise outrageous occurrences on campus.
The time is right, then, to celebrate the academic year that was. Here are the 20 stupidest, most outrageous and most cringe-worthy campus moments of 2012-13.
Florida Atlantic University: Worst university in America
What an embarrassing year for Florida Atlantic. The administration tried to punish a student who expressed discomfort with a professor’s assignment to stomp on a piece of paper bearing the word “Jesus.” Also, wackadoodle communications professor James Tracy took to his personal blog to suggest that the Boston Marathon bombing was a “mass casualty drill.” As if those incidents weren’t enough, the southeast Florida school bowed to student pressure and scrapped a $6 million agreement to name its football stadium after a for-profit prison company. During a protest over the stadium fracas, FAU’s president hit a student protester with the side mirror of her Lexus.
Dartmouth College: Most likely to let the terrorists win
Dartmouth also had a ridiculous year. The administration coordinated a manhunt to locate some guy who possibly spoke mock Chinese. Also, a campus atheist group organized an event aimed at skewering “lying, thieving Albanian dwarf” Mother Teresa. However, the prizewinner occurred when Dartmouth leftists crashed a recruiting event and loudly demanded that they get a day off from classes in order to bemoan the death of civility on campus. Craven school officials capitulated, of course, prompting one student to comment that administrators “let the terrorists win.”
George Washington University: Most prone to commit crimes against soda, Catholics, U.S. News and World Report, and Mount Rushmore
Speaking of bad years, consider The George Washington University. A law professor at George Washington forced students to undertake legal campaigns against soda companies in order to pass his class. Meanwhile, 30 percent of professors asked in a very limited survey endorsed the eventual addition of President Barack Obama’s face to Mount Rushmore. The D.C. school also admitted that it has been misreporting statistics to inflate its rankings for at least a decade. In still another incident, students tried to force a priest to leave campus. (At least GW is better than Gonzaga, though, where Catholic students can’t even form a Catholic student group.)
Columbia University: Most demented, homicidal faculty
Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work (and a scholar in residence at New York University). The inept getaway-car driver participated in a brazen $1.6 million Brinks truck heist along with members of the Black Liberation Army that resulted in the murder of three people. Meanwhile, it turns that out that Uma Thurman’s dad, Robert Thurman, is an Indo-Tibetan studies professor at Columbia. He made a crazy video calling Republicans “seditious” and “treasonous” for refusing to raise taxes.
Northwestern University: Most delicious multicultural blowback, con queso
A Hispanic student group at Northwestern University instructed members of the campus community to forgo eating tacos and drinking tequila on Cinco de Mayo, so as not to offend Mexican culture. But Mexican students, who indeed wanted to spend their holiday eating tacos and drinking tequila, took offense at the assumed offense. The Hispanic student group ended up with huevo on its face.
Mission College: Most valuable athlete to play college basketball both with and without a penis
Gabrielle Ludwig is a 6-foot-6-inch, 220-pound center on the women’s basketball team at Mission College, a community college in Santa Clara, California. She played this year at the age of 51. She was also a man until July. Incidentally, Ludwig played basketball more than three decades ago at another community college on Long Island in New York. Her name then was Robert John Ludwig.
Oberlin College: Best faked or imaginary Ku Klux Klan sighting
A month-long spat of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages at simperingly progressive Oberlin College turned out to have been the handiwork of two students. The series of incidents culminated in “a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit” near the school’s “Afrikan [sic] Heritage House.” Police at the Ohio school scoured the area but were only able to find a student draped by a blanket. Nevertheless, Oberlin’s apoplectic administration cancelled classes for a whole day.
Harvard University: Most likely to confirm everything non-leftists believe about Harvard
Deciding at long last to make things official, the student newspaper at Harvard wrote an editorial begging conservatives to please stop applying to Harvard. The editors had grown tired of conservative Harvard alums going on to criticize the university.
University of California, Berkeley: Best witch hunt against a charity organization
UC Berkeley liberals may love giving away money (especially tax dollars), but they love to hate Christian groups even more. No surprise, then, that the student government attempted to kick the Salvation Army off campus.
University of Chicago: Most successful dildo giveaway that was also marketed as fun for the whole family, even the kiddies
The University of Chicago pulled out all the stops for its sex-week festivities. There were pornographic movies, interviews with people in the porn business, condom and sex-toy giveaways galore, anal sex instructions, and even a workshop titled “Sex for Kids.”
Swarthmore College: Most baffling attempt to make a university’s revenue stream go extinct
A leftist student group at Swarthmore College wants the university to divest from fossil fuels, a move that would cost millions of dollars and force administrators to jack up tuition. In pursuit of this goal, a leader of the group, Mountain Justice, wrote that free speech would naturally need to be diminished. Students at the swanky suburban Philadelphia school also persuaded the scheduled commencement speaker to withdraw because he was once connected to the Bush administration. And, of course, a guest lecturer dropped by campus to proclaim that Jesus was bisexual.
University of Wyoming: Best alleged Facebook hoax perpetrated by an obese feminist
University of Wyoming student Meg Lanker-Simons was charged with interference with a police investigation after she allegedly posted on an anonymous social media page called UW Crushes that she wanted to “hatefuck” someone named – wait for it – “Meg Lanker Simons.” The 28-year-old undergrad had previously been convicted of aggravated assault after she brandished a gun at an employer who fired her.
Brevard Community College: Best unabashed voter intimidation
The president at Brevard Community College in Florida recommended the sacking of a tenured math professor who forced her students to sign pledges that they would vote for President Barack Obama last November. A three-month investigation found the professor, Sharon Sweet, guilty of electioneering, harassment and incompetence.
Brown University: Most confusingly offensive sex-related event
Are you a gay minority student struggling with an attraction to white people? Well, you missed out if you didn’t attend Brown’s “Protect Me From What I Desire” workshop on sexuality and attraction, where participants were segregated by race to enhance the dialogue, somehow. The Ivy League school also made headlines by covering students who decide they want to change genders under an already-generous student health insurance plan.
DePaul University: Most flagrant vandalism of a memorial for dead babies
On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, 13 student vandals destroyed an anti-abortion display on the main campus of the nation’s largest Catholic university. The makeshift monument was erected by the DePaul chapter of Young Americans for Freedom with school permission. Later, an anonymous student wrote a letter to the student newspaper insisting that students have a right to walk across the Chicago campus without having their pro-abortion sensibilities offended.
Lehigh University: Most outrageous lawsuit
Lehigh University graduate Megan Thode sued Lehigh for $1.3 million because she was unhappy that she got a C+ in a class in 2009. Thode, 27, said the grade ruined her dream of becoming a licensed professional counselor. Her civil suit alleged breach of contract, sexual discrimination and a broader attempt to force her to abandon the graduate degree she had been pursuing. The Pennsylvania judge in the case ruled in favor of Lehigh.
University of Cincinnati: Best helicopter parents
A judge granted 21-year-old Aubrey Ireland a stalking order against her own parents after she claimed that the parents installed tracking software on her phone to monitor her around the clock. David and Julie Ireland must stay 500 feet away from the theater student for a year.
San Jose State University: Least self-awareness
Sky-is-falling environmentalism professors at San Jose State University did the very thing conservatives often accuse them of doing: They burned a book that was skeptical of climate change. (RELATED: Climate change profs burns skeptical book)
University of North Carolina Wilmington: Best filthy poetry by a professor at a taxpayer-subsidized institution
The faculty of publicly-funded UNC-Wilmington is the professional home of Alessandro Porco, a randy professor who exuberantly peddles decadent smut. “Who would say No to a gang-bang?” asks one of his poems. “Who would say No to my scholarly toungin? Thank you fathers for your daughters.” Other gutter poems are entitled “Did I Shave My Nuts For This?” and “Ménage à Bush twins.”
Johns Hopkins University: Worst use of a simile for political purposes
Some members of the student government at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore were determined to prevent pro-life students from forming an official campus group, because, see, pro-lifers are just like the Klu Klux Klan.