Tax dollars to study Miss Tibet pageant? |

Tax dollars to study Miss Tibet pageant?

Chuck Muth

Heidi Swank is a government worker. She’s an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, department of anthropology. And despite the ongoing brouhaha over public employees serving in the Legislature, Swank also has filed to run for the Nevada state Assembly.

Double-dipping and serving two masters. Strike one.

But there’s also this whole business about Nevada’s citizens allegedly not paying enough in taxes to fund higher education. Now, call me an anthropological troglodyte, but I just don’t see the value-for-the-dollar to Nevada’s taxpayers for Swank’s services. Here, take a look at the following (written in Ivory Tower-ese, so you might need a translator) from her taxpayer-funded UNLV webpage:

“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?” For Nevada taxpayers and small businesses? Gimme a diasporic break.

Adding internationalized insult to linguistic injury, taxpayers have apparently also funded “a state of the art” laboratory in which 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, doctor … Strike two.

Not only do we need a law or court decision banning government employees from simultaneously serving in the Legislature, but we should probably shut down Dr. Swank’s laboratory, sell off the equipment on eBay and invite the assistant professor to offer her services with “significant implications” 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.”

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, founder of and blogs at He can be reached at