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Archive for December, 2010

At Iowa, smoking ban not terribly effective

December 19th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

From The Daily Iowan:

University of Iowa freshman Will Tapella said he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day — and he usually lights up outside Burge Residence Hall.

While smoking is banned on the University of Iowa campus, the 19-year-old said he has never received a citation. Generally, he said, there is only one police officer who has said anything to him outside Burge.

Smoking on the UI campus has been illegal for more than two years, but people lighting up on campus is still a common sight. The Smokefree Air Act went into effect July 1, 2008, and smoking on the UI campus became an offense carrying a $50 citation.

But the number of citations for smoking in a prohibited area has decreased since the ban was enacted. According to UI police, officers wrote 25 citations in 2009 for smoking in a prohibited area. Since the beginning of this year, they have written eight.

Public safety officers at UI say this is because more people are aware of the policy, but students are not so sure.

“I have never seen the police handle a situation,” said sophomore Nolan Petersen, 19. “It’s like a myth. I always hear of kids getting smoking tickets, but I’ve never seen it.”

Other students — both smokers and nonsmokers — agreed.

“This is a non smoking campus, and I see a lot of people smoking,” said freshman Kayla Beck, 19. “I’m concerned about their health and those around them.”

Since the ban, signs have gone up around campus including all building entrances and exits, in parking structures, and at other key points around campus. The signs list the fee for smoking on campus and a number to report someone.

Some Iowa students think that increased enforcement is the answer.

Some Oregon students (this one in particular) think spending a large chunk of a million dollars on a smoking ban that may or may not even be enforced at all is a waste of money and an infringement on student rights.

But maybe that’s just me.

Studying and drinking — an unlikely pair.

December 19th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

Science totally wins:

Students and alcohol are never far apart, but most manage to hold off the booze when they’ve got an important test the next morning. Now it seems they needn’t worry, as researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health have found that combining last-minute revision with a couple of beers isn’t a problem. Heavy drinking the night before an exam had little effect on a student’s academic performance, but they did have worse moods and slower reflexes.

Unsurprisingly, 70% of students assigned to the alcoholic beer complained of a hangover the next morning. This didn’t seem to affect their exam performance however, as regardless of beverage all students scored relatively high on a mock exam and a quiz on a lecture from the previous day. Despite this, students rated their own test performance as worse if they were hungover.

These findings contradict previous research showing links between alcohol consumption and academic problems. The researchers suggest that a third factor such as personality could be the cause of both – perhaps some failing students are driven to drink. They also warn the research shouldn’t be used as an excuse for excessive drinking.

That’s right, kids. Drinking the night before a test does not have the detrimental effects we once thought it did. (Editor’s note: The Commentator accepts no responsibility for test grades. That F is all on you, buddy.)

Hat tip to the Desert Lamp for the story. They are serious champions.

“We just want a ticket to the game.”

December 19th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

UO students are upset with the way the University of Oregon (Athletic Department?) has handled student tickets for the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ on January 10th. From the R-G:

Of the 17,000 tickets allotted to the university, 1,000 are set aside for students. But the UO isn’t selling any of those as individual tickets for the face value cost of $200.

Instead, all 1,000 are being offered through a local travel agency as part of packages that include extras ranging from post-game parties to airfare and hotels. The minimum price for the most pared-down package is $450, and that’s sold out. So is the next cheapest, at $1,135.

According to UO professional baller (dean of students) Paul Shang, the decision was made in order to avoid the complications individual tickets created at last year’s Rose Bowl, where students with tickets were unable to find places to stay and had to deal with counterfeit tickets. (Editorial: I’m unsure how selling travel packages helps with the latter concern. Indeed, wouldn’t more people be inclined to find face-value tickets instead of paying for a travel package? But I digress.) Additionally, the travel packages have flights back on January 11th to make sure students can get to class on the 12th.

Students are also frustrated with how face value tickets were distributed. An email went out to students with ticket information immediately following the Civil War game on December 4th at OSU’s Reser Stadium in Corvallis. If students had attended the game, as die-hard football fans are wont to do, they did not reach a computer in time to gain access to the ticket-only packages.

Shang acknowledged that a portion of the package price goes to cover the university’s cost for providing transportation around Phoenix, pep rallies and an after-game party. He said he didn’t know how much it will cost to provide those services or what the per-ticket mark-up is.

The least expensive package, which is sold out, is the $450 game-day-only package. That’s $250 above the ticket cost, and covers a ticket lanyard, transportation from the hotel where tickets are picked up to the stadium, and a pre-game party.

But even that is more than what some students want.

I am unsure of the real goal of this new system. What is the UO hoping to gain out of this? Additional money for the university and providing these services, obviously, but why distribute tickets directly after the game, knowing full well that many football fans would be in Corvallis? What are its intentions? What is it planning?

Paper or . . . no, nevermind, just paper.

December 17th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

From Sarah Ross over at Oregon Capitol News:

Introduced in February’s special session, a bill sponsored by Beaverton Democratic Senator Mark Hass to ban plastic bags in most retail stores will again make an appearance in the next legislative session.

According to Hass, the previous session did not allow enough time to vote for the legislation, thus causing it to show up on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee agenda in 2011.

In an interim committee hearing Wednesday morning, Hass said the proposed bill would ban plastic bags for “most retail stores,” replacing them with recycled paper bags at a cost of five cents each.

Recycled paper bags, Hass said, are mostly made in Oregon while plastic bags are all made outside the state.


December 16th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

The Register-Guard is reporting that LTD is trying to avoid major cuts in the new fiscal year. Matt Cooper reports:

After the second-largest cut to service in its history this year, Lane Transit District plans to tap federal money and delay major projects to avoid another big cut in 2012, officials said.

Buffeted by stagnant payroll-tax revenue and rising personnel costs, the district in April cut $3 million from the current fiscal year, which ends next June, in part by eliminating six public bus routes and four school routes. The district said then that it planned to cut $3.5 million more — about 8.5 percent of this year’s $41 million general fund — in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

But the district’s financial outlook has improved considerably thanks to federal grants that have been awarded at higher levels than expected, spokesman Andy Vobora said.

This is good news, really. Whether the good fortune will last or not remains to be seen, but at least someone is looking out for the multitudes of UO students who use the bus to get to school.

The ASUO certainly isn’t.

The ASUO Senate passed an (illegal) 4.31% benchmark for the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee at its November 17 meeting, reflecting full funding for the currently-defunded Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group and zero percent growth for the LTD contract, which allows students to ride the bus by flashing their student IDs.

First of all, zero percent growth for the LTD contract is a pipe dream. The ASUO negotiates its contract with the bus service based on projected enrollment numbers and a group rate — currently set around $15.69 per person. The contract was recently changed, however, to account for existing enrollment instead of projected enrollment. (Editorial: by projecting our own enrollment, we could get a better deal by low-balling the number. No longer, said LTD.) The 2011-12 numbers will be based on student enrollment in the 2010-11 school year. Every year the group rate goes up a little reflecting a huge increase when that number is multiplied by the number of enrolled students (currently over 23,300).

With this benchmark, the ASUO professed that it doesn’t care if students can get to school, so long as their “greater needs” (?) are being met by paying a statewide lobbying organization for lobbyists time — specifically while they’re NOT lobbying, as per OSPIRG’s 501(c)(3) tax designation.

But really, benchmarks are non-binding. And that’s the beauty of all this. When the LTD contract is done and negotiated — well over the zero percent the Senate assumed — there won’t even be room for OSPIRG in the budget while still growing by less than the legal cap of seven percent. Last year, the ASUO Senate gave the ACFC a zero percent total benchmark, and they hit seven percent anyway.

Why, you ask? LTD.

LTD is going to keep needing more money from students. The ASUO’s is the largest contract LTD works with, and without that money, they would be in real trouble and students and Eugene residents would have a significantly more difficult time getting around.

Additionally, LTD is one of the most visible and highly used services that the incidental fee funds. The only other service that is more visible is the contract with the Athletic Department.

The ASUO is divided on how these types of services should be handled. Last year’s ACFC chair Alex McCafferty saw the demand for student football tickets and created a shared responsibility model where some season tickets would be up for sale at the beginning of football season while a smaller amount would be up for grabs before each game.

Some senators think that LTD should be handled the same way. Obviously, none of these students use the bus. The ASUO’s contract with LTD helps students gain access to the university. When there are big pushes to take away what little student parking remains on campus, the bus is invaluable to students who live too far to bike (or who, indeed, cannot afford a bike).

The most unfortunate thing about this benchmark business is how many people voted for a zero percent LTD increase in order to “send a message that we need to take LTD off the incidental fee.” I think sending messages is fine, but not with your vote, playing with student money. If LTD is voted off the ACFC’s budget but doesn’t get picked up by the administration, as some senators are hoping, there will be many students who can’t get to school. Literally.

Granted, I could be totally wrong. The UO administration could pick up the contract during the year and the burden could be taken off the incidental fee. According to some, UO VP for Student Affairs Robin Holmes has expressed interest, but without a definite yes or no, it’s hard to say.

The only thing that is certain is that students need the bus. The ACFC would do well to remember that during the budget process.

Trains, 12-year-olds and spell check

December 15th, 2010 by Melissa Haskin

More evidence that trains silently creep on unsuspecting victims.

These parents are winners.

& Oregon students can finally stop their endless worrying about spelling on state tests.

University of Hawai’i releases tens of thousands of Social Security numbers accidentally, nobody seems to care.

December 13th, 2010 by Alex Tomchak Scott

What if the UO accidentally posted the names, grades, addresses and — for God’s sake — Social Security numbers of 40,000 alumni online for all to see? That would be a disaster, no? Well, I’ve returned to Hawai’i, where I grew up, for the break, to find the local university system did just that.

Evidently, a faculty member at the University of Hawai’i’s West O’ahu campus left the information online for about a year, having amassed it in the process of performing some sort of research. The faculty member said he believed the server he was accessing was secure, but, unsurprisingly, he no longer works for UH.

There are precious few specifics — for instance, aside from its being a “database,” I’ve not seen anything that says to what kind of site the data found its way — but at least one person is claiming the mistake cost him about $740 after three people apparently stole his identity. A national nonprofit charges that “UH has a pattern of breaches and unfulfilled promises,” according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. That article goes on to say that more than half of the Hawai’i government records whose security has been breached in the last five years, about a quarter of a million of them, have come from UH.

So there’s obviously an incredibly serious institutional problem going on here, but what surprises me is the complete lack of apoplexy over this. One state senator says she will “schedule a hearing to discuss improvements.” UH says it’s trying to figure out how not to do this in the future. Nobody seems too angry, although it also happened a couple of months ago, so maybe I just missed that.

Can you imagine how brutally the UO would be savaged if it did this, or had this kind of track record? I grew up here and I’ve lived in Oregon for the last four-and-a-half years, and I have, as yet, no insights into this.

Goddamn fucking swine flu

December 13th, 2010 by Melissa Haskin

It’s back. Someone might want to tell the World Health Organization, since they officially claimed the pandemic was over in August.

Students riot when NYC principal cuts bathroom access

December 13th, 2010 by Melissa Haskin

In an act of complete and utter idiocy, the principal of a Manhattan school severely restricted students’ access to bathrooms, purportedly because of two fights in the lavatories during class (WINS New York). It backfired a little bit — hundreds of the school’s 2,400 students responded by rioting, a the local CBS affiliate reported.

School surveillance cameras captured the scene. The typical chaos ensued as they swarmed the halls screaming and protesting. Some students identified in the footage are facing disciplinary action.

While bathrooms are merely a privilege afforded to students, this event leads me to wonder whether American schools becoming too authoritarian. What do you think?

US Senate Beer Pong Tournament: Second and Third Rounds

December 13th, 2010 by Rockne Andrew Roll

Second and Third Round highlights from the Ted Kennedy Memorial United States Senate Beer Pong Tournament. For First Round Action, see below. For full Tournament rules, bracket, and results, see “The Holiday Issue” of the Oregon Commentator, available online to your right. (more…)

US Senate Beer Pong Tournament: First Round

December 13th, 2010 by Rockne Andrew Roll

Editor’s note: For those of you who haven’t perused the Holiday Issue yet, you should do so now. The link is to your right. It includes a bracket and predicted results from The Ted Kennedy Memorial United States Senate Beer Pong Tournament. Some better explanation of those predicted results might be helpful so here it is, in the form of ESPN style recaps. Actual results were based on the perceived badass levels of the senators and their states.   Where it says “coin flip,” the winner was literally decided by the toss of a dime. Today includes results from the first round, second and third rounds will be later today, with the championship rounds either late today or early tomorrow. (more…)

Christmas Fun!

December 12th, 2010 by Melissa Haskin

‘Tis the season for Christmas movies. Nothing says “family fun” like a holiday film, and the more obliterated you are, the more fun they’ll be!

So, in the Holiday spirit, here is a drinking game applicable to any Christmas film. Enjoy-

Take a drink when the following words are said:

  • Santa Claus
  • Christmas
  • Rudolph, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donner, Prancer, Vixen
  • Mistletoe
  • Naughty
  • Nice
  • Angel


  • Any time bells ring
  • Any time the main characters break out in song
  • When there is a hot girl in an elf outfit
  • Any time there is a Christmas tree
  • When the main character cries
  • When Santa says “And what would you like for Christmas?”

Take a shot:

  • Every time Santa goes down a Chimney
  • If it snows
  • When anyone switches bodies
  • When Blitzen is mentioned by name

Break out your last can of Four Loko if:

  • You forget to do any of the above

If you are still conscious at the end of the movie, then you have won the game and deserve to be commended for your obvious alcoholism! Hooray!

Dispatch from warmer climes. Media digest, Dec. 10, 2010

December 10th, 2010 by Alex Tomchak Scott

I’m currently sitting in a cafe where sales taxes and the cost of shipping things halfway across the Pacific Ocean have conspired in the making of a 16-ounce cup of coffee that tastes like an ashtray and costs $2.20, but whose purchase is essential to my accessing the internet. This is not, as you may have guessed, Eugene. I’m spending the next 20-ish days in Hawai’i, where I grew up and my parents still live. Given the alternative of warm beaches and hiking trails, I wouldn’t be here, but since it is raining and thundering, I’m in here instead to avail myself of the internet. However, expect these to be irregular until I return.


Holiday Issue Online!

December 8th, 2010 by Lyzi Diamond

The Holiday Issue is online! Lots of fun filled fun for all you fun filled kids.


Primate feeding and nutrition. Media digest, Dec. 8, 2010

December 8th, 2010 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Fools I pity today: the one whose exuberance on the Reser turf might make him a felon; Oregon University System cheese George Pernsteiner, what with his spending the next couple months as Damocles; Alabama taxpayers, what with the implications of the whole thunderbolt-slinging, zephyr-heeled fraud god Cam Newton thing; myself for being condemned to reading about T.S.Z.H.F.G. Newton every day for the next month; the UO if it doesn’t hire the man pictured below for its new primate-feeding position; those who don’t understand proper primate nutrition if he does; anyone who expects a bunch of UO news during finals week, what with the Emerald going dormant; anyone who tells Mr. T he can have any number of Snickers bars other than exactly as many as he wants.