[lit-ideas] Re: Research Down Under

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2007 09:22:14 -0700

I would like to know more about how such a committee works. We don't have one. Neither do we have a code that spells out what the consequences might be if you choose to challenge the college's social contract, or simply lose your temper repeatedly and in public.

How do you think the committee might have avoided some of the problems in this mess. Here's how I'm imagining the conversation.

"Professor X your thesis student wants to make a movie that puts mentally disabled people in situations that a reasonable person would call demeaning. Why should we allow this?" "The project explores tensions in the area that lies on the border between what is taboo and what is funny. Like all good art, it takes risks but the intent is to imitate Borat's strategy, embracing prejudice in order to illuminate prejudice, to show what people really think when their guard is down. I can't guarantee that the student will succeed or that the result will not be offensive to some or even many people. But in my judgment there is in this project value which outweighs the potential for harm. " "I understand that some of Borat's subjects are suing the makers of the movie, claiming they were duped." "Whether or not the university wants to take on the risk of being sued is surely a matter for a different committee."

On what grounds would the committee object to the project? That the intent of the movie was not fully explained? That mentally disabled subjects can't give an informed consent?

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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