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A Swanky New Assemblywoman?

Heidi “Frank” Swank is a taxpayer-funded government worker. She is an assistant professor at UNLV’s Department of Anthropology. As such, she gets to call herself a “doctor” even though she’s increasing, not decreasing my blood pressure.

You see, despite the ongoing and growing brouhaha over government workers serving in the Legislature, Swank has filed to run as a Democrat for the Nevada state Assembly. Double-dipping and serving two masters. A Dina Titus mini-me. Strike one.

But there’s also this whole business about Nevada’s citizens allegedly not paying enough in taxes to fund higher ed. In fact, it seems to me a certain Republican governor and a certain Republican state senator recently broke their pledges to Nevada’s taxpayers over extending some “temporary” taxes in order to avoid any “further cuts” at the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Now, call me an anthropological troglodyte, but I just don’t see the value-for-the-dollar to Nevada’s taxpayers for “Dr.” Swank’s research we’re funding. Here, take a look at the following (written in Ivory Tower-ese, so you might need a translator) taken directly from her UNLV webpage:

“Recent shifts in literacy practices among Tibetan youth in the diaspora mark the emergence of linguistic valuations of Tibetan and English that make their practices distinct from older Tibetans and the Tibetan exile government. Because Tibetans tend to use spoken Tibetan equally across generations, these linguistic valuations can only be understood through an examination of written language.

“In my research, I study a wide variety of written forms such as emails, letters, lists and text messages written by Tibetan youth. In these writings young Tibetans outline and retrace their social space within diasporic social hierarchies. Yet while a specifically local written linguistic marketplace is emerging among Tibetan exile youth, this marketplace is also a space in which internationalized identities are negotiated and performed.

“Young Tibetan exiles, influenced by Indian and international popular cultures such as beauty pageants and movies, enact internationalized identities in their everyday literacy practices. My work has significant implications for the study of writing as an independent medium of identity negotiation and challenges the importance placed on social institutions, like education and the family, in the valuation of linguistic and social practices.”

“Significant implications”? Gimme a diasporic break.

Anyway, to back up Swank’s “significant” research and instruction at taxpayer-subsidized UNLV. It seems we’ve apparently also funded “a state of the art research facility, established in 2006, to provide a research environment and equipment for examining the nexus of language, culture, and society.”

Lovely.

Indeed, “the Anthropology Department at UNLV, under the direction of Dr. Heidi Swank, has created a laboratory that allows faculty, researchers, and students to record, analyze, and edit audio, video, and photographic recordings of naturally occurring interactions.”

Wonderful.

And from that taxpayer-subsidized state-of-the art laboratory, Dr. Swank has incorporated video into her research on language choice and youth identity in the Miss Tibet pageant, which is held annually in the Tibetan exile community of McLeod Ganj, India.”

Are you kidding me? Is this a joke?

Look, I’m thrilled to the bone that Ms. Swank has such a keen interest in videotaping Tibetan beauty pageants in India and enjoys reading emails and text messages written by Tibetan youth. Whatever floats your boat.

But I sure as heck don’t want my taxes raised to pay for the good doctor’s hobby, even at the risk of being accused of “not valuing education.” Sorry, strike two.

Not only do we need a law or court decision banning government employees from simultaneously serving in the Legislature, we should probably shut down “Dr.” Swank’s laboratory, sell off the equipment on eBay, and invite the assistant professor to offer her services and expertise in the private sector rather than at taxpayer expense.

Maybe apply for a job as a judge on “Tibetan Idol”?

As Jack Nicholson said in As Good as It Gets, “Go sell crazy someplace else; we’re all stocked up here.”