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Smart Talk Jan. 20

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Will we ever escape December ’69? In the January issue of The American Prospect magazine, Michael Tomasky writes that football has become a Republican sport. In his essay, he recalls a moment with which Razorback fans are all too familiar. “Southern college football was sometimes dominant, but as the 1960s progressed, far less so, as the northern and West Coast teams began recruiting black players while southern squads stayed lily-white until the early 1970s. It was not for nothing that Richard Nixon, the man who invented racial politics in its modern form, intentionally created a tremendous controversy in December 1969 when he announced that the winner of the upcoming game between undefeateds Texas and Arkansas (all-white teams from states where the Republicans were building their nascent majority) should be crowned the national champion, and not biracial Penn State, also undefeated at the time.” We all know who the winner of that game was. Nixon notwithstanding, Tomasky says that the real Republicanization of football began during the Clinton era, “when the right set about the task of dividing our one nation into two armed camps, associating liberals with Hollywood, the coasts and enthusiasm for the perverse and the epicene while cornering the testosterone market for itself. Did I previously invoke Penn State as a liberal symbol on the strength of its racially mixed roster? That was then. By 1995, Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno — a literature major at Brown, of all places — was openly attending a celebration party thrown by Newt Gingrich. … At the professional level, the dominance of owner Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys — a ‘conservative team,’ Fred Barnes correctly dubbed them in The Weekly Standard in 1996 — completed the exacta.” To be PC or not to be We were struck by a news release from the University of Arkansas announcing that Carmen Coustaut had been named an associate vice chancellor for institutional diversity and education. Coustaut, with degrees from UCLA, Harvard and USC, is a filmmaker and has taught for 15 years at the University of Maryland. Coustaut will provide guidance on diversity issues, something of a hot topic at UA since the infamous Nolan Richardson dustup. Our advice on diversity: Err on the side of respect, at least in the introductory news release for a new female African-American official. “Carmen proved to be the ideal candidate …” a news release quoted Provost Bob Smith. “Prior to joining the university, Carmen professor Coustaut [sic] served on the faculty ….,” said the news release. (In this case it appeared the writer had caught the familiar first-name reference and didn’t finish changing it before the release went out.) Johnetta Cross Brazzell, vice chancellor for student affairs, also said, “I am so excited to know that Carmen will be joining the university …” A more recent news release, announcing that Xiaogang Peng had been appointed to an endowed professorship, referred throughout to “Dr. Peng” or “Peng.” Welcome aboard, Associate Vice Chancellor Coustaut. Your work is cut out for you.

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