Thursday, January 11, 2007

Basqueing in Stanford

Well, this comes to us via The Stanford Daily:

New Basque Studies class elicits strong support

January 11, 2007
By James Hohmann

Senior Casey Nevitt’s dream of starting a Basque Studies class on the Quad was realized Wednesday when almost 30 people crammed into a classroom for the first session of her student initiated course.

“It’s been a work in progress since last school year,” she said. “There’s been so much support.”

Of course, it helps when the University’s chief academic officer and its top donor both trace their roots to the relatively small region in northern Spain, one of 17 autonomous states in the European country.

“It’s about time,” said Provost John Etchemendy, who could not recall a Basque Studies course since he first came to Stanford in 1976.

Billionaire construction magnate John Arrillaga is one of the “students” taking the course. He said his father was conceived in Spain and remembered playing basketball in Bilbao in 1960.

“We have nine sessions in which we are going to try and cover thousands of years of history, culture and identity,” said course instructor Gloria Totoricaguena. “Basque culture is not monolithic. It is very heterogeneous.”

Totoricaguena is the director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. The preeminent Basque scholar will fly in Wednesday afternoons to lecture.

Students said they enrolled in the course for a variety of reasons. Some visited Spain and fell in love with the culture. One student said she was taking the course because her boyfriend is from the Basque region. A Human Biology major said she dreamed of one day living in Spain.

“I wanted to learn about Basque culture beyond what’s on Wikipedia,” said senior Ash Siddiqui, who is studying math and computational studies.

Through the hour-and-a-half meeting, Totoricaguena offered an executive summary of her survey class. Using vivid, high-resolution photos in a PowerPoint, she previewed what will be covered each week.

She noted that women traditionally dominate the Basque family unit and cited recent archaeological discoveries of entire towns in the region, which she described as “absolutely incredible.”

The class will learn three traditional Basque folk dances one week and will make a field trip to a high-end restaurant another. Totoricaguena also plans to delve into what motivates the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), a terrorist group that strives for an autonomous, socialist Basque state.

After class, in a corner of the room, Nevitt sold the books that will be referenced through the quarter. With a Basque flag hanging behind her, she assured her peers that the books were the best deal she could find. She bought them used on Amazon, she said, and was selling them at cost.

Arrillaga was the first in line to buy the texts, with cash in hand.

One can only hope that by the end of the class the references to Spain and the Spaniards will cease.

And does Arrillaga really needs to buy discount books?

I mean, after donating millions of dollars to a sport that NO ONE practices in the Basque Country, he should be ashamed.

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