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Archive for July, 2011

The Official Oregon Daily Emerald Drinking Game

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Here are the rules:
Take a shot every time you find a copy error on the front page.

You’re shitfaced at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning? Oh sorry. I guess I’ll have to think of new rules.

Emerald, too easy. Like always.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Dear Oregon Daily Emerald i.e. Ol’ dirty,

You guys are seriously making this too easy. You could at least hide the egregious errorz. This is like handing out the Easter eggs two minutes into the hunt. Or maybe the West University/South Hills thieves got your copy editors (in which case I am very sorry for your loss–because that would not be a laughing matter at all. Not even a little bit.)?

Love always,

Theee Commentator

Bambi

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I would like to take this time to point out that the all time number two search term referring to the Commentator blog is “bambi.” WTF.

Peter Quint Suing University of Oregon

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Fox News is reporting that Peter Quint, the ASL professor who was fired over a comment he made to one of his students, is suing the University of Oregon. Since being suspended, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has stepped in, writing a letter to President Richard Lariviere demanding that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year. (Read their investigation and letter here.)

There are two things going on in this case: the violation of Quint’s right to due process in being hastily suspended and the violation of Quint’s right to academic freedom in being fired for a comment that could have been interpreted widely. In regards to due process, the UO and the Oregon University system seem to believe they’ve got everything under control.

FoxNews.com contacted university officials, who would not comment on the pending litigation. However, the university did release a statement.

“The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint’s classroom prior to taking action,” the statement reads. The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint’s.

“The charges or a notice accompanying the charges shall inform the academic staff member of the right to a formal hearing on the charges and of the academic staff member’s duty to notify the president within 10 days after the charges have been delivered or sent whether such hearing is desired,” read the procedures.

Quint’s lawyer disagrees, and is coming at the free speech debate from another angle: the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Quint declined FoxNews.com requests for comment after consulting with his lawyer, Kevin Tillson. Tillson did tell FoxNews.com that the university terminated Quint mid-term without due process and violated Quint’s free speech and his rights under the Americans With Disability Act for failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

As an adjunct professor, Quint is not rewarded the same rights as associate or full tenured professors, which will greatly influence the outcome of the court case. Regardless, it is fantastic that Quint is standing up to UO administrators and fighting for his job. In every instance of a professor, adjunct or otherwise, not being granted the rights he or she deserves, a precedent is set for the next time the UO deals with a professor. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the UO administration already has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment. The time to act is now.

In the words of UO Matters, “Soon professors will need a concealed carry permit just to make a presentation with bullet points.”

Eugene Man to Run for President in 2012

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Eugene, Ore. — On June 16 a Eugene man announced his intent to run for U.S. President in the 2012 Elections.

The announcement of Mark Callahan’s candidacy came via Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, as well as through news sources.

On my way to the RightOnline Conference in Minneapolis, to be a panel speaker discussing Effective Grassroots Activism on a Local Level.
MarkCallahan32
June 16, 2011

Callahan, 34, has previously run for several positions including the state legislature and school board, according to KEZI. Callahan received just over 3 percent of votes when he ran for state representative in 2010 and about 2 percent of the vote when he ran for position two in the Springfield Commissioner 2010 election.

On his election website, www.markcallahan.net, Callahan says that his age won’t be an issue: “I have consulted with the Federal Elections Commission, and they have confirmed that I am eligible, as long as I turn 35 by the time inauguration day comes.”

Callahan will be running in the Republican primary, though according to his website, he believes that the country was founded on “‘We The People’, not ‘We the (Insert Your Party Affiliation Here).'”

MyEugene.org reported that Callahan is the co-founder of co-founder of Lane County Citizens for Responsible Government and his professional experience is in computer technology. The same article stated that if elected, Callahan’s first act would be to “repeal ObamaCare.”

In 2010, the Eugene Weekly spotted Callahan at karaoke — “[…]Eugene native Mark Callahan, who sang Billy Idol”s “White Wedding” the same night I butchered Tom Petty. […]instead of making karaoke a social outing, Callahan chooses to go to the baralone, stay sober as a jaybird and sing as many songs as he can get in.”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpS-xfS-MpY&feature=player_embedded

FIRE Intermediates In Termination of UO ASL Professor

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has launched an investigation into the termination of University of Oregon American Sign Language professor Peter Quint after he made what was perceived to be an off-color comment to a student in his ASL 203 class. A letter was sent from FIRE to University President Richard Lariviere on June 27 insisting that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year.

In his 200-level ASL classes, as is the case with most 200-level language classes, Quint expected his students to not speak aloud — similar to a Spanish professor expecting students to not speak in English. He was having trouble with students not following this policy, so in order to attempt compliance, he relayed a personal story about being taken hostage in Pakistan, and how his ability to communicate via sign language saved his life. That was May 4th of this year. Then this happened:

Being deaf himself, Quint had made it clear to his students, both during lectures and in his syllabus, that respectful communication in class required that all communication be visible. Yet, later during that very class, some students again violated this policy. In frustration he expressed, “Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?”

Those ASL 203 students did not see Peter Quint again. Nor did anyone else at the university, as on the same day, Michael Bullis, the dean of the College of Education, sent Quint an email suspending him from teaching for the next day. The next day, Bullis sent Quint another email, suspending him indefinitely and promising to meet with him to discuss his future employment.

According to FIRE’s investigation, that meeting never happened, and on May 11 Quint received his final email from Bullis, dictating his termination.

The problems here are twofold — not only was Quint denied the due process that should have been afforded to him as an employee of the University of Oregon, his free speech was infringed upon, as FIRE mentioned in its June 27 letter to President Lariviere:

The principles of academic freedom and free expression in the university setting mandate far more tolerance than UO has afforded Quint. As the Supreme Court stated in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989), “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” The Court handed down such a robust defense of potentially offensive speech precisely because deeming certain speech to be offensive is an entirely subjective exercise. In a milieu as diverse as the modern academy, speech is bound to be misinterpreted, and offense is virtually unavoidable. Free speech needs breathing room in order to thrive.

Finally, UO’s punishment of Quint raises grave due process concerns. Bullis completely failed to provide any protections or follow any part of the process spelled out in the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) for the punishment of non-tenured faculty members. The utter lack of notice, charges, a hearing, or an opportunity to appeal constitutes a severe violation of Quint’s due process rights under the rules and a betrayal of fundamental fairness. Moreover, Bullis’ requirement that Quint not “contact faculty, staff, or students” before the end of his appointment was a further violation of Quint’s free speech rights which also made it effectively impossible for Quint to defend himself and his reputation.

FIRE is demanding that President Lariviere apologize for Bullis’ actions, reinstate Quint for the 2011-12 academic year and remove all records of this from Quint’s employment files. They are also expecting a response from the university by July 18.

The most alarming part of this situation is the complete lack of due process that Quint was granted throughout this situation. The University of Oregon has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment on campus, which was seen clearly through the Pacifica Forum debacle, but also through an interview with Dean of Students Paul Shang in the January 26 issue of the Oregon Commentator. Dr. Shang was asked, “The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has listed the UO as a Red Light school for its speech code policy. How do you juggle the responsibility of providing free expression and student safety?” His response [emphasis added]:

That’s kind of a conversation that evolves. Depending on what the issue is and how something is stated, you can get different kinds of perspectives on what sorts of infringements are occurring. FIRE looks at things from just the free speech perspective. There are, in my opinion, a lot of issues having to do with free speech that people need to be thoughtful about. The fact that we are the only democratic society in the world that has these notions of unbridled speech is something that we need to think about. Canada has limitations of speech. England, Israel, all kinds of democratic countries have different perspectives on unbridled speech. That is something that may become more of an issue as our country evolves.

What we do here at the university is we want to promote freedom of speech. The free expression of ideas is fundamental to higher education. The other piece that is fundamental to higher education is that ideas will be expressed in such a way that they don’t undermine the civility that’s necessary for people to participate in a higher educational experience. You can’t be intimidated, you can’t feel threatened, you can’t feel in any way that you’ll be humiliated and it’s in that context that you can have a true free expression of ideas. On the one hand we want to have freedom of speech, on the other hand we want everyone to participate and have equal access to the higher educational opportunity.

So we’re trying to balance some things, things that you’d agree are fundamental rights. FIRE is looking at things from one perspective: the freedom of speech perspective. And certainly we, as you know, will do everything we can to promote and defend freedom of speech, to abide by the law and the notion and right of freedom of speech. On the other hand we want to make sure that everybody on campus has an equal opportunity to the whole educational experience.

Let go for a minute of the fact that Dr. Shang didn’t really answer the question that was asked. What he did there was create a dichotomy: freedom of speech vs. access to education and student safety. Not only does this show a lack of understanding of the First Amendment and its scope, it has potential parallels to this situation with Peter Quint: did the UO terminate Quint’s employment because they were worried about the safety of his students? We can take the skepticism a step further: was the UO protecting itself from the potential backlash and bad press of having students “feel threatened” by a comment made by a professor?

Legally, neither of these concerns holds any weight. FIRE is no stranger to communication with the University of Oregon, and has been at least somewhat successful in its endeavors. Heck, the Oregon Commentator is still around. Let’s hope that this case is no different, and Professor Quint receives the process he is due.

(Note: FIRE has a “take action” link at the end of its blog post about this issue where readers can click a button to send President Lariviere a letter urging him to reinstate Quint. The key sentence in the form letter: “The rights of UO faculty are very fragile indeed if the university believes it can dismiss its instructors for their classroom comments without even presenting any formal charges against them, much less allowing them the opportunity to address and rebut such charges.”)

Eugene Receives National Press Over Pledge of Allegiance Decision

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

On June 6th, Eugene City Councilor Mike Clark proposed a relatively simple idea to the Council: schoolchildren are required to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day in class, so the Eugene City Council should be required to say it at the start of its meetings, too.

What ensued was a month of debate, controversy and notoriety, the likes of which most Eugenians were not prepared for.

Clark’s initial mention of the proposal, which was brought to the council officially on June 20, was met with minor support, but mostly skepticism from his fellow Councilors. The proposal would allow for the recitation of the Pledge at the Council’s regular meetings, where the eight councilmen could recite if they chose, and the audience would have an option to join in if they were so inclined. But those in attendance accused Clark of political posturing.

Clark, who represents north-central Eugene on the council, may run for the North Eugene seat on the Lane County Board of Commissioners next year, [Lane Community College Political Science Professor Steve] Candee said.

“That’s the beauty of what Mike is proposing,” Candee said. “Nobody wants to be against the American flag and apple pie.”

“My suspicion is that (Clark’s pledge idea) is more political than legislative or deliberative,” he said.

The next week, when the idea again came before the council, there were worries about the implications of a mandatory pledge — worries that were stated by Mayor Kitty Piercy. She believed that the pledge would be a divisive measure, making those who chose not to recite seem as though they were not patriotic. So she proposed a compromise.

[Piercy], along with Zelenka, suggested the council recite the pledge at the five meetings each year.

Piercy said she recalled a Lane County Board of Commissioners meeting last year where “an angry crowd” of residents upset with proposed land use regulations along the McKenzie River “took over the meeting and forced the (saying of the) Pledge of Allegiance.”

At last week’s council meeting, Piercy said, a resident “demanded that every patriotic person stand up and take the pledge. And the implication was clear that not saying it was supposed to mean one did not honor our country and our troops.

“We do not have a history of saying the pledge on our City Council,” Piercy said. “But we have all given our oath of office and, in doing so, our allegiance to this nation, state and city.”

And even at the next meeting, most Councilors seemed skeptical. Councilor George Brown even suggested to Clark that he should say the Pledge in ceremony in the privacy of his own home. Clark seemed disappointed.

“In my heart, I would like to pass my originally intended motion,” he said. “But I recognize that a majority of the council doesn’t agree with me. I also recognize that compromising will likely bring a majority of councilors to agreement.

“I think it’s a good first step toward us being willing to value those in our community who would like to celebrate more traditional things.”

The compromise that Mayor Piercy proposed at the June 13th meeting eventually made its way into law last week, passing by a vote of 6-2. The Pledge will be said at the four meetings closest to “patriotic holidays of Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July.”

But that’s not even the interesting part.

In hearing about the story, Fox News sent a crew down from Seattle to cover the story. And in their coverage, the meeting was characterized completely differently. From the Register-Guard:

By midafternoon, more than 200 e-mails and 140 phone calls had been received at City Hall. Such a response to a City Council decision in such a short period of time is unusual.

City spokeswoman Jan Bohman said 90 percent of the e-mails and 99 percent of the phone calls were from residents outside Oregon.

Bohman said many of the comments were generated by the Fox News reports, which she called misleading.

“We are hearing from people who think we are banning the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Bohman said. “That’s not accurate or even close to the truth.”

To be fair, Fox’s coverage leaves much to be desired.

Jordan Sekulow, director of policy and international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, sees the Eugene case as political correctness trumping American values.

“It vindicates all of us who say our Judeo-Christian heritage is under attack,” Sekulow says, “sometimes it’s in the courts, sometimes it’s elected officials and sometimes it’s the media.”

In Eugene, the opposition was less about religion than anti-establishment.

Resident Anita Sullivan summed up a common viewpoint: “So you say I pledge allegiance and right there I don’t care for that language,” Sullivan says. “It sort of means loyalty to your country; well, I feel loyalty to the entire world.”

What did the vote accomplish, really? And what would the harm have been in allowing those who wish to pledge allegiance to the United States of America that right at the beginning of a public, government meeting? One of the main oppositions to saying the Pledge was that Councilors already swore an oath to uphold the Constitution when they took office, as the Register Guard notes:

In the oath of office outlined in the city charter, elected officials “solemnly swear” to support the U.S. and state constitutions and to faithfully perform the duties of their office to the best of their ability. They have the option to conclude the oath with the words “so help me God” or to affirm their intentions “under the pains and penalties of perjury.”

Another is that saying the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings could be a divisive force — potentially, those who choose not to recite it could be deemed anti-American or some other such nonsense. This was Mayor Piercy’s main opposition, and a sentiment that seemed to echo throughout both the Council and the community.

By allowing Councilors and those attending City Council meetings the option to say the Pledge of Allegiance at a public meeting in which government employees are conducting official business would serve to both remind those in attendance and decision-makers why the processes in which we make community decisions are in place (hey, thanks for democracy, America) as well as — and this is arguably a more important point — allow legislators the choice to express their freedom of speech in a forum that is supposed to protect that right for the rest of the community (among doing other things, of course).

In any community with one predominant viewpoint, regardless of attempts from individuals, a pervading idea is generally more highly respected than the ideas of the minority. The best decisions come from discussion of differing viewpoints, from individuals feeling empowered and inspired to express their opinions — even if that opinion is love of flag and love of country.

For example, for the first time since 1911, Oregon actually passed a redistricting bill that was signed by Governor Kitzhaber without major revisions or the need for the task to be handed to the Secretary of State. The bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly in both the Oregon House and Senate — comprised of 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans, and 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans, respectively.

The conversations that occurred in the creation of what had the potential to be a highly political action actually helped to create a solution that has the ability to benefit all Oregonians. Being able to express opinions and share different beliefs can be beneficial to a society. Cities are birthplaces of innovation precisely for that reason — having your viewpoints challenged is inspiring.

The City of Eugene would do well to keep this in mind when deciding how to organize their meeting proceedings. A city that claims to be so tolerant and accepting of new ideas should probably start being tolerant and accepting of the old ones, too.