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Archive for the 'Education' Category

Neat Infographic, Education Stats

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Alex Campbell, a researcher in Seattle, WA, has asked me to share her infographic titled Unprepared For College. Although most of the stats below don’t surprise me, I have to admit some are pretty incredible. It’s too true that our education system is in dire need of reform.

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The Fight for Transparency Continues

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

“Oregon’s public records law is internally contradictory and ambiguous,” Senior Assistant to the President, Dave Hubin says.

Did you know that the UO has a faculty Senate? They meet once a month and even have committees devoted to certain aspects of governance. All meetings, including those of Senate and its committees, are open to students. I attended one yesterday– it was all very new and scary to me. Wondering how their efficacy compares to the ASUO Senate?

At a Senate Transparency Committee (STC) meeting, Economics Professor Bill Harbaugh (head of the committee, who’da thunk it?), lined out some important questions for Dave Hubin at an STC meeting. Some of them were addressed.

The first: Why is Public Records Officer Lisa Thornton no longer attending the STC meetings?
Members urged that Thornton’s position necessitates her participation in matters of transparency.

Hubin explained that the Public Records Office is of least authority since Richard Lariviere charged him with overseeing the Office, having it report directly to the Senior Assistant.

“Because it reports directly to me, it makes sense for me to represent the Public Records Office in this venue,” Hubin said.

“I think it’s great you come to these meetings, but if you are representing the Public Records Officer, you need to be prepared to answer detailed questions,” Harbaugh said.

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Senate Jan. 30th

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Goin  live at 7pm!

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Newtown, CT Shooting

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Our hearts go out to the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut, in the aftermath of an elementary school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. Shooter Adam Lanza killed himself soon after police were called.

This atrocity is unignorable. The Commentator is working on an article that addresses the gun control debate from all possible angles and from all possible perspectives. For now, our love and condolences are with Newtown.

The Address for donations is: SandyHook School Support Fund c/o Newtown Savings Bank 39 Main St Newtown, CT 06470

The address for the school is where cards, letters, teddy bears anything for the siblings can be sent for the families: Sandy Hook Elementary School 12 Dickinson Drive, Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Thanks to Swamp Fox Green for the donation information (the full post can be read here).

“Perceived” Rights and Smoker Ethics

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

After getting off of work in the dungeon that is the Knight Library basement, I stepped into the afternoon rain. I pulled a pre-rolled cigarette from my pocket (Bugler brand – mangy, disgusting Bugler) and lit it. Standing off to the side so as not to spread smoke, an elderly woman shot me the evil eye before stopping in front of me: “There’s no smoking on campus. Go smoke across the street.”

I stared at her until she left.

This kind of situation has become all-too-common since the Healthy Campus Initiative, in partnership with the UO Health Center and the administration (with a special guest funding appearance from the ASUO), implemented a campus-wide smoking ban at the beginning of the Fall. The idea of a smoking ban isn’t anything new; the Smoke Free Campus Task Force (SFTF) issued a report in 2008 that sought to

tak[e] up the matter of campus smoking policy with the understanding that the issue is fueled by strong personal convictions for perceived personal rights, both the right to be free from the effects of secondhand smoke and the right to choose to smoke cigarettes (STFT Report, emphasis mine)

The rest of the report either references student support from polls drawn from other universities, or flat-out neglects student responses in order to reference various studies, policies, and polls from other universities. Under “Synthesis of Survey Findings of UO Faculty, Staff, and Students,” the report states that

Many survey respondents are ready to support the move to a smoke free campus… [and] also were confident that this could be accomplished with designated smoking areas… (Ibid.)

Oh, hey, there’s a reasonable point. But no! The STFT simply cannot concede, because “enforcement becomes very difficult and compliance suffers as a result.” You don’t say.

No matter what the administration does, what programs it implements, what funding it pulls or pushes, students will push against it. Lord knows the Commentator will. The Healthy Campus Initiative tried to remedy this student disconnect with the “STFU” posters, a internet-conscious campaign that seemed to confuse people more than encourage quitting (check out this post about the issue from our very own Editor Emeritus Sophia Lawhead).

Another argument is that it unfairly targets lower-income UO workers. Even those filthy hipsters at the OV agree with us on this point. Making workers go off campus for a 15 minute smoke break is not only inconsiderate, but damaging to already-strained labor relationships.

“All I wanted was a non-fat, cream-jizzed latte with peasant tears in it!”

So why bring up this almost-5-year-old report, you may ask? Because Frances Dyke and company never really cared about what students thought. The UO has become a brand, and it needs to sell itself in order to keep flagging state funding and private donor contributions steady. The publicity surrounding the ban has relentlessly focused on the “progressive” aspects of the program without attending to the opinions of students or faculty – and if so, only through narrow data samples used to prop up their point.

But the effects of secondhand smoke are serious. I completely understand the goal behind the smoking ban. Cigarette butt litter continues to be a problem, and has only been exacerbated by the ban — take a look at the 13th and Kincaid entrance to campus if you don’t believe me. Families with young children and people with respiratory problems are also rightfully concerned.

The only way to fight this ban, then, is to implement a personal smoker code of ethics to demonstrate smoker commitment to a healthy campus and personal freedoms. Here’s mine:

  1. Always smoke away from buildings and large groups of people, and/or areas of great traffic.
  2. Stop inhaling and pull the cigarette as far away from passing families with children.
  3. If someone asks you to smoke off campus, politely decline or simply don’t say anything at all. You’ll be finished if and when they call DPS.
  4. Put butts out and make sure they’re extinguished before throwing them away.
  5. Throw butts in the trash.
  6. If an officer asks you to put your cigarette out, assess the situation. Fines suck, but so do the deprivation of “perceived personal rights.”
  7. Overall, recognize that your activity is looked down upon. Take pride in this.

It’s not perfect, but it works for me. The Commentator will continue to fight this arbitrary ban with articles, letters, appeals, and upcoming events like Tobacco Appreciation Day. But the ball is in smokers’ courts. We at the Commentator will do our best to point out the massive cavalcades of bullshit directed at students who make the choice to smoke. This smoking ban is just another attempt at nannying the student populace; the administration never does anything without direct benefit to them, and they’ve fucked smokers to bolster their public image under the pretense of “knowing what’s best.”

The whole campaign feels like yet another pat on the head, another assumption about our intelligence, actions, and responsibilities. But we’re not kids anymore. We’re adults, students, workers, and yes, smokers. So smoke ’em if ya got ’em. It’s going to be a long, long battle.

“Win” acheived by EMU Task Force

Monday, November 26th, 2012

 

 

With 4,006 total votes in the last EMU referendum, the decision to renovate won by 1,811 votes.

Outlined in red above is the advice of RBI strategies to the EMU Task Force. It was also included in the public records released a week ago. UO Matters has the scoop. This surly Commentator will belatedly  summarize the sickening disregard for public records law. It was only after the elections that the redacted “public” documents were released, here.

The emails of Holmes, Gottfredson and Lariviere are heavily redacted per ORS 192.502 (1, 2, 8, 9). The names of the members of the EMU Task Force are redacted as well as about four page-sized chunk.

What’s more, they illustrate “the opponent” as narrow-minded, yet politically active and engaged with opinions born out of misconception.

The heavy elision of this material must be protested. Surely they can’t be hiding behind FERPA for this?

I aim to find out. In the meantime, file a complaint with the Board of Education. A modest example of a complaint:

The Office of Public Records at the University of Oregon redacted a slew of information from emails sent via a public account regarding public affairs. It is very possible that FERPA was used to justify redacting these documents when they were indeed not educational documents at all.

In the end, I am glad I won’t be here to pay for a shiny new EMU that I won’t be using.

College Red vs. College Blue

Monday, October 29th, 2012

This Thursday November 1st, the College Republicans and the College Democrats will be holding a debate. A number of topics will be discussed, including energy policy, economic recovery, health care, marriage equality and women’s economic rights.

ASUO Academic Affairs Director Harlan Mechling has told me that the event has been picking up steam. What’s more, the presidents of either group both hold positions in the ASUO, so things may get a little spicy.

Again the debate will take place this Thursday at 6:30 pm in McKenzie 129.

Public Records [2.0]: A fairytale come true

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Once upon a time, in a land very near and dear, the University of Oregon:

On January 1st, 2011, former Editor-in-Chief CJ Ciaramella emailed a request for ASUO Senators’ email correspondence (i.e., those emails sent to and from senate@uoregon.edu or asuosenate@lists.uoregon.edu) to Public Records Officer Liz Denecke. As reading this previous post will inform you, Denecke responded via email to CJ’s request saying that in order to fulfill such a request, it would cost him a whopping $428.36– “about half” being used to cover the costs “producing the documents”  and “the other half [...] for redaction, and that cost is estimated conservatively and will likely cost more than the estimate.” Denecke’s explanation continues, stating that such emails “will be student records, subject to the protection of student privacy laws. That will require a great deal of redaction and you may end up with documents that do not tell you what you want to know.” Denecke would later tell Ciaramella over the phone that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the students in this case, calling for intensive redaction of student names (i.e., the ASUO Senators’ names) and anything unrelated to ASUO business. Hence such expensive estimated compensation for the production of this Public Records Request. Because of this, Ciaramella abandoned the pursuit, deeming it stonewalled.

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$1.5 million spent on MACademics

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

According to this juicy UO Matters post , McArthur Court was built in 1926 and paid for yearly by students until 1932. However, through some shifty Frohnmayer paperwork, Academics is helping Athletics pay 1/4 of the 30-year cost of the land under the Matthew Knight Arena, $467,538 per year (3 payments so far), “for the right to try and use an old basketball arena [...] for academic purposes.”

UO Matters in a comment below the original post: “The issue is that we are paying exorbitant rates to the athletic department for a piece of land that we are not using for academic purposes…”

Well, “Das Frohn” for you.

8 cent prints up for review

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Library Systems Department took control of the three campus labs on September 1st, leading to the inclusion of these labs on Pharos, the pay-to-print system. This means that printing now costs 8 cents everywhere on campus instead of just Knight Library. I asked Nancy Slight-Gibney about the cost of printing and the process of determining the price that students pay. She responded in an email:

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STFU for smoking.

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Well,  it’s that time of year. The STFU time of year. Summer is ending, the leaves are changing and students will be shut the fuck up. No, not us respectable students. Only those lower than us who beleaguer our campus with the dangerous, abhorent drug tobacco will be put in their place by this policy change. The Smoke and Tobacco Free University policy  will take effect tomorrow September 1st. Put away your bics and Zippos and take out your evil eye and pointer fingers. However, DPS will not be able to take out their ticket books.

The implementation of this policy calls for the use of an $800,000 grant from PacificSource. As aptly explained in an old post of Lyzi Diamond’s:

The $800,000 grant that was received from PacificSource was actually received by Paula Staight, the Health Promotion Director at the UO Health Center, and is to be spent over five years. The grant will allow the Health Center to hire one full-time and two part-time employees to work on three aspects of a healthy lifestyle: Food, Movement, and Tobacco (specifically the eradication of). There will be no campus-wide policy attached to the smoking ban (see: you can’t get fined or face disciplinary action for smoking on campus).

As I understand it, ciggy recepticals, like the one in the photo above, will be removed within a two-year period as part of the policy change. Though I only care enough to wait and see, I am curious as to why that would really be advisable, why they would actually even consider this. Sure, let’s marginalize those lower than us, but if we are not going enforce the policy with legal repercussions, what’s to stop these dirty people from dropping cigarette butts all over the place? Shan’t we keep Oregon green?

Lyzi linked the Smoke Free Task Force report, but here’s the link for convenience. I just want to say that I see this policy change as one that intends to construct an environment that condemns certain people (who are making personal decisions that only effect them). Tobacco is legal (as other drugs should be, because the government has no business dictating what goes into any individual’s body)(you’d think that this goes without saying, right?). And being a mostly college-admitted community, can we not assume that most UO students are aware that tobacco is harmful to their health? If this policy aims to educate students about the dangers of tobacco, what does this say about our students? This is more of a look-down-our-noses thing than it is an educational thing.

It seems like a slippery slope. Perhaps such discrimination stops with these trouble-makers, but can we be sure? I for one will be organizing another Smoke-In with my cohorts at the Commentator. Join us on the dark side. Of the lung.

Prevalence of On-Campus Sexual Assault Highlights University Failures

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

As anyone with a working University email address already knows, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently sent out an email detailing two separates rapes that occurred near Autzen Stadium and Chase Village. The tentatively-worded email states that

“Police have learned from second and third hand sources that there may have been three separate rapes within a five-day period near Chase Village and Autzen Stadium, beginning Thursday, June 28. No female victims have come forward or wish to file a report, so the information is unverified…

In one incident on June 29, a woman was walking alone around 10 p.m. on the bike path near Autzen Stadium when she was raped by a man with a knife. The suspect is described as a black male, 6′ tall, 200 pounds, with muscular build, and shaved head.

A second-hand report EPD has received is that two additional female victims have been raped on unknown dates, but within the same week, also in the same general area. One of these two incidents involved a similar suspect: black male, 6′ tall, 200 pounds, with muscular build, and shaved head.”

Besides being a horrifying and disturbing event, the incidents described in the email also point out the relative ineffectiveness of DPS and the overbearing presence of a “rape culture” around the UO. These are big claims to make, but stick with me here.

Based on the amount of “Campus Crime Alerts” I receive in my inbox on a weekly basis, it’s fairly clear that DPS is unable to “provid[e] a safe, secure, and welcoming environment.” While the emergency call boxes that litter campus are a great idea, it’s DPS’ inability to do anything other than dole out prevention tips and “Campus Crime Alerts” that really calls their authority into question. Not to mention the subtle fostering of a rape culture, where women are seen as “victims” rather than “survivors” and are perceived as “asking for it” because of their clothing or body language.

Just look at the passive voice in the first description: “A woman was walking alone around 10 p.m. on the bike path near Autzen Stadium when she was raped by a man with a knife.” Not “a man raped her” or “a man assaulted her”: she was raped. While this may seem like a minor syntactical kvetch, this kind of passive voice fails to accurately highlight the criminal nature of the act. You wouldn’t say “A store was robbed by an escaped convict.” You would say “An escaped convict robbed a store.” Instead, the attacker is placed in the background, and thus escapes scrutiny.

But it’s not all bad. The groups listed at the bottom of the email — Womenspace, SASS, the White Bird Clinic, the Counseling Center, SafeRide, and SWAT — are all excellent resources for survivors. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough to change the prevalence of the University’s rape culture. There are many places that foster this kind of misogyny, undercutting the excellent work done by the aforementioned groups. Greek Life is an especially obvious target for such criticism, but you can find signs of rape culture anywhere. From the shouted “bitches” and “whores” within Taylor’s to the intense consumption of pornography, this mindset is everywhere around Eugene.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love porn. But all these factors have combined together to create a strangely patriarchal cocktail, one that views women as objects to be seized or sold. Women don’t deserve to be treated that way. And before the snarky comments come pouring in, remember that this isn’t about some bullshit in Washington D.C. or a genocide in some faraway country. This happens to people you know and love every day: your friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and even your family.

Rape is wrong no matter what your political beliefs. The failures of the University and DPS only stand as a testament to the kind of incompetence our school is slowly (and sadly) becoming known for.

OSU’s “Open Minds” My Ass.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Is it getting hot in here? Or is it global warming? If you’re asking Nicholas Drapela, it’s probably just Nicholas Drapela. This total hottie, according to RateMyProfessor, was fired from his teaching (professing?) position in the Department of Chemistry at Oregon State University. And not for the fact that “rape” is literally in the middle of his name, but because he spoke out against the University on a controversial issue.

Drapela challenged global warning, and claimed there was a conflict of interest among the University and science community to perpetuate the theory. The administration refused to give a reason for firing him but the motives were clear to those familiar with Drapela and the University’s stance. “I was probably the most visibly-outspoken critic of the Global Warming doctrine at OSU,” he said in an email to WattsUpWithThat.com. “I gave several public talks on the topic and did research in the area which I regularly posted on the web. I was also on a few talk radio shows in the area. I think they finally just said, we can’t have this.” Apparently Drapela’s spicy good looks couldn’t save him from termination, and he now has to look for other work in the godforsaken city of Corvallis.

Let’s keep in mind that the validity of global warming is not at all the issue here. What is important is the ability to show a dissenting opinion without fear of persecution. Both sides to a controversial issue should be respected in higher learning centers, and at OSU (zing!). We may poke fun, but ousting a well-liked and qualified person for having a differing opinion or agenda isn’t unique to OSU, lest we forget the Hat. I recommend that OSU students follow our example and don’t let this kind of action from their administration go unchecked. It may not bring their professor back, but it would show that if a respectable staff member gets fired for questionable reasons, the administration should prepare for a shirt-wearing shitstorm of moderate proportions.

A photo of free speech for professors.

EDIT: Thank you, “The Old Man,” for the correction.

A Big Commentator Congratulations to Bill Harbaugh !

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

UO economics professor William T. Harbaugh, the immortal being behind the beloved, anonymous, whistleblower blog UO MATTERS, was awarded the First Freedom Award  by the Society of Professional Journalists of Oregon and Southwest Washington this past Saturday.

The Ol’ Dirty covered this on Monday, but its Commentator policy to be a day late, a dollar short, okay?

The SPJ’s First Freedom award is given annually to an individual who has upheld the principles of the First Amendment. Harbaugh has long been a beacon of the First Amendment, most notably when he illegally published the Oregon Public Records Manual on his official uoregon website. The upheaval this precipitated compelled the attorney general’s office to make the manual available on the internet for the first time ever.

Harbaugh’s recognition is long overdue and largely understated. Y’all should know that the UO Matters blog is updated several times a day, and his posts are usually these quick, fuck-you-exposés about UO athletics and administration that require a kind of efficiency  and genuine concern that we will never (maybe a few years ago we came close) have. Knowing he’s out teaching economics and doing this in his spare time both worries and impresses us. UO Matters is invaluable to the entire, “engaged” university community, but is especially invaluable to drunk, disoriented student journalists like ourselves. We’re the ones constantly referring to UO Matters for direction and content, so finding the Commentator website listed under UO Matters’ “Resources” is an honor and probably some sort of mistake.

Bill, you are the resource. As renowned sultans of hate speech, there aren’t too many people we love to love. And let’s just say that you might be one of those people.

So here’s to you, Harbaugh. And for the record, UO Matters will forever be bookmarked on my Firefox browser.

 

Interview with Salem Flagpole Climber

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Perry Graham

Last Tuesday, or perhaps it was Wednesday, I was riding my bicycle home down Alder St. While passing The Lorax, I noticed a man strapped to a light post, climbing up. He was perhaps 25 feet high. He seemed intent on his task, sliding the straps and pulling himself up.

I rode past, not thinking much about it. Then, Thursday afternoon, I saw a press release with his picture in front of the capitol building. He is part way up a flagpole with a banner hanging under him that reads, “Schools or trees? We want both.” According to OregonLive.com, Perry Graham, who climbed the flagpole in Salem, is a member of the Cascadia Forest Defenders. On their website, the group expresses their desire for Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Land Board to “decouple public school funding from state forest management.”

The land board approved a plan for the Elliott State Forest last October which notably increases logging and clear-cutting with the revenue contributing to the Common School Fund.

By chance, I met Perry at a friend’s house about two hours ago. He, our mutual friend, and other friends were hanging out, discussing our midterm woes and other things when he brought up a photograph one of his fellow protesters took using his phone.

Myself: ”That was you? I saw you practicing the other day!”

Graham: “On Alder?”

Myself: “Yeah! How high were you in the picture?”

Graham: “Probably about 60-70 feet.”

Myself: “How was that?”

Graham: “It was really surreal. I strapped myself to the pole and I was like, ‘Oh fuck, I’m on the pole. Oh fuck, I’m climbing up. Oh fuck, there’s a cop right there.’ ”

Myself: “What were their reactions?”

Graham: “I didn’t talk to them. I had a liaison communicating information.”

Myself: “Oh, I see. Was that because you were so high up that they couldn’t, like hear you without yelling? Or because you didn’t want to talk to the cops?”

Graham: “I mean, kind of both”

Myself: “Right. So, how long did you train for this?”

Graham: “I practiced for about 5 weeks before and pretty intensely the last week.”

OregonLive.com’s post:

Perry Thompson Graham, 23, climbed about 80-feet up the pole at 7:45 a.m. He stayed aloft for about 90 minutes before he came down voluntarily.[...] After his arrest, Graham was taken to the Marion County Jail. He will be charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, according to a police press release.ell, Wednesday morning, climbs flag pole in front of the capital building in Salem.

The flag was still hanging when Graham descended the flag pole. Apparently, rented equipment was needed to remove Graham’s protest banner from the flagpole.