Wednesday, December 10, 2014

“Symposium on Official & Scientific Investigations of UAP (UFOs)"

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“Symposium on Official & Scientific Investigations of UAP (UFOs)"

Too good to be forgotten

By Billy Cox
De Void

    Legendary reputation as the Dr. Funkenstein of holiday party monsters notwithstanding, De Void spent a decent portion of the Thanksgiving weekend in sedentary repose, reviewing DVD-archived presentations at last year’s “Symposium on Official & Scientific Investigations of UAP (UFOs)." De Void initially monitored this two-day conference with its stellar cast in lame remote abbreviated fashion when it happened in late June 2013. But after actually (finally) listening to the speakers, De Void easily recommends this package as a conversation-starter for academics fearless enough to contemplate the merits of The Great Taboo as potential brain-food curricula.

De Void’s belated look at a year-and-a-half-old UFO hearing was triggered by the apparent enthusiasm from American University faculty and administrators last month over the success of a smaller but no less compelling forum in Washington, D.C. AU's key speakers — author Leslie Kean, NARCAP founder Richard Haines, and retired USAF colonel Charles Halt — were also featured at the 2013 gathering, and honors course instructor John Weiskopf expressed a desire to offer the class again. It’ll take a lot of John Weiskopfs to build institutional support for UFOs as a scholarly concern, but De Void's betting this provocative and underpublicized DVD set is strong enough to nudge forward-thinking administrators off the fence.

Pseudo-skeptic: How big is De Void’s kickback? A: Zero. But De Void was sent a comp after wondering whatever happened to the guy who scraped together a small fortune to create the ad hoc Center for UFO Research, which financed that 2013 symposium in Greensboro, N.C.

Tar Heel Kent Senter, whose cancer diagnosis spurred him into action, is still alive and struggling with multiple myeloma, which is no longer in remission. He has no regrets about the range and depth of his lineup, which included a university political scientist, a textbook-writing astronomer, and a university sociologist. But audience turnout was dispiriting. Senter says the venue could’ve accommodated 2,000 people; maybe 200 showed up. Maybe he shouldn’t have scheduled it so close to Independence Day. Maybe he spent too much on cable advertising and not enough on online marketing. Maybe he could've drawn a bigger crowd if he'd booked more Little Green Men bauble vendors in the lobby.

“I wanted this to be as scientific as possible, not talking about space aliens or that kind of malarkey,” says Senter. “We can’t even get past things flying around in the sky, much less whatever may be inside these vehicles, if that’s what they are. Other countries like France and Chile are acknowledging this without it being a taboo, but we live in a culture where people still make jokes and laugh about it — and it’s got to stop.”

Senter, whose own repeated UFO encounters began when he was a kid and could fill a weird and lengthy book, had hoped his conference might create some sustaining momentum. In fact, high level representatives from two official foreign UFO research agencies — Xavier Passot of France and Jose Lay of Chile — bumped fists for the first time in North Carolina and resumed their data-sharing discussions last month in France. But the needle barely flickered on the home front.

“Oh, people still keep pointing to my conference and talking about it,” Senter concedes. “And our state director came up to me at a conference in Winston-Salem and said she’d gotten an invitation to speak about it at a community college, and that was nice to hear.”

That was Lakita Adams, director of North Carolina’s MUFON chapter, English teacher, and one-time environmental educator with the North Carolina Zoo. Adams takes the “militant agnostic” approach to The Great Taboo, i.e., pushing no particular theory, but being persistent and public in pursuit of answers. She's been a longtime advocate for college-level engagement. But that was futile until, at the Greensboro conference, she met a Guilford Technical Community College instructor who urged her to approach GTCC admin about staging a lecture.

“It took him about 18 months to get the speaker committee to agree to it,” says Adams, who finally landed a 45-minute GTCC speaking gig in November. Maybe 100 people showed up at the auditorium, and the event was live-streamed to its other campuses. She also got an invite to speak at UNC-Wilmington next April.

“I know Kent was disappointed with the turnout in Greensboro, but I think it probably went much farther than he knows,” Adams says. “It’s difficult, especially when you know most people won’t bother to get acquainted with the good material that’s out there. But you just keep chipping away at it a little bit at a time.”

Sure enough. So here's a rare De Void commercial plug: Go to and order a $69 DVD set. Nope, no Little Green Men here or riveting CGI of Chick-File-A cows getting levitated into beamships, but hey, it's not like you'll be doing any heavy lifting, like having to -- ugh! -- read a book. And when you're done, pass it along to someone of high character at your local oasis of higher learning. If they bite, get back with me and I'll pack my bags.

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