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Archive for January, 2011

An open letter to President Lariviere

January 19th, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond

Dear President Lariviere,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Oregon Commentator, the twenty-eight year old student fee-funded journal of campus and local opinion. Throughout its existence, the Commentator has provided an alternative viewpoint on campus, providing news and editorial content that differs from other publications — student and otherwise — in the campus and Eugene communities.

The Oregon Commentator strives to be an educational organization, teaching interested students about journalistic writing and reporting regardless of degree program. Since becoming editor-in-chief of the Commentator, I have instituted a draft process for writers, allowing them the opportunity to turn in their pieces a week ahead of deadline in order to receive feedback from our managing editor, a master’s student in the magazine journalism program in the SOJC. Additionally, we have students who do work for us ranging from ad sales to art to operations management to layout to copy editing, providing the unique experience of working in every part of a news room.

The Oregon Commentator provides a relaxed environment where students can learn and work on longer-form reported pieces. While the Oregon Daily Emerald does an excellent job reporting campus news and opinions, students participating in that program are operating under much more stringent guidelines. With a news article due every day and a paper to produce every night, long-form opinion and reported pieces often end up going by the wayside in favor of more informative news briefs and condensed opinion columns.

Current students from the Oregon Commentator have had their work featured on the Student Free Press Association (a national news organization focused on independent campus journalism) and as such, have been linked to by such prestigious news organizations as the National Review, Fox News and The Atlantic. Indeed, a piece written by an OC staffer received the most traffic on the SFPA website in 2010. The Commentator is also a proud member of the Collegiate Network, an organization bringing together conservative student journalists from around the country. Alumni from our magazine have gone on to successful careers in journalism. 2006-07 editor-in-chief Ted Niedermeyer, is the editor-in-chief of a well-read automotive industry blog called The Truth About Cars, and 2007-08 editor-in-chief Philip Ossie Bladine is the editor-in-chief of an alternative weekly in Vancouver, WA called the Vancouver Voice.

I understand you have denied our request to conduct an interview with your office, citing our “lack of serious content” as a concern and worrying about appearing not suitably “presidential” within our pages. The issue in which your interview would have appeared, The Interview Issue, will include printed interviews with Dean of Students Paul Shang, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Oregon University System Vice-Chancellor Sona Andrews, University Health Center Gynecologist Colleen Jones, and various other notable members of the campus and Eugene communities. If you don’t feel that appearing next to these individuals in the magazine is presidentially suitable , I would appreciate a list of individuals we should be interviewing instead.

You know just as well as I do how integral student programs are to student success in university communities. Students who are engaged in extracurricular activities tend to do better both in school and beyond graduation insofar as grades, job prospects and career development. But students are busy. We take classes, we have personal lives and many of us have jobs in order to cover the rent (and consistently rising tuition). It is much more likely for a student to join an extracurricular activity that will assist in career development with such limited time, and we at the Commentator believe we provide that career development for aspiring journalists. As part of the OC, students receive access to internships and fellowships across the country (by virtue of our relationships with the Collegiate Network and the Student Free Press Association) that they would not have access to simply by being a student in the journalism school. While we as a student program are eligible for stipends, we choose not to receive them. Students work for the Oregon Commentator because they care about what we stand for and are interested in learning about what it means to work for a publication.

Your comment regarding our editorial content insulted a publication that is written, produced and read by many students. Students appreciate the Commentator because it provides alternative viewpoints to the pervading culture on campus, and we feel those alternative viewpoints should be respected and given space to exist. Based on our (almost) consistent funding from the ASUO, student government representatives agree.

At this point, you have returned to us with a counter-offer: we send you questions ahead of time, and you(r public relations staff) answer(s) them for us. This is not a legitimate counter-offer (ask anyone in the SOJC about this and they will agree); if we wanted to read a press release, we would read a press release. Mr. President: when you entered your office a year and a half ago, you stated that transparency was going to be a priority for your administration. What could be more transparent than sitting down with the students you are charged with serving to answer our questions?

We are forced to wonder whether your reluctance to be interviewed has more to do with a desire not to be questioned by the very people whose futures you hold in your hands than with the editorial content of our magazine. Since you came into office, we at the Commentator are not the only ones who have been impressed with your forthrightness and honesty. It is my opinion that if you continue to refuse our interview requests we will likewise not be the only ones whose faith in that honesty is diminished.


Lyzi Diamond
Oregon Commentator

Media digest, Jan. 19, 2011; Now featuring a classic Orson Welles feature

January 19th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

It feels like it’s been a slow news day for whatever reason. That reason is probably that, for the first time in what feels like ages, coverage of UO sports is pretty thin on the ground and, as someone with little interest in American sports, I always have the least fun with that part of the digest. What there was was either good or painless. I’d recommend the Malee column in the Emerald. I don’t care one way or the other about what it says, but it flows better than anything I’ve read in the Emerald in a while.

Also, my weekly bete noir, the Matt Tellam Emerald column, is pretty reasonable today. Usually, Tellam’s columns work me into a frenzy of rage, but not this week.

Ummm … … … Yeah, I’ve got nothing else to add. The rest of the media digest is below the fold. Here’s a classic film noir that has entered into the public domain!


Another Reason You Shouldn’t Forget Your Cellphone (as if I need to remind you)

January 18th, 2011 by Melissa Haskin

I swear, lately the slew of Starbucks headlines in the NYT have been akin to a 13-year old girls twitter posts- logo changes, protests and bigger cups. Now, in a pinnacle of (superfluous) modernity, Starbucks will be accepting payment via select cell phones.

At more than 7,500 U.S. locations, customers will be able to pay by using their Blackberrys, iPhones and iPods. Customers will be able to scan their phones after they download an app and add money to their Starbucks account.

According to the vice president for the Starbucks card and brand loyalty, the goal of this new service is to allow customers to pay in the fastest way possible. In order for this to benefit the stores as well, they will have to install expensive scanners.

I love Starbucks, I really do, but I question the practicality of using ones cell phone as a method of payment. It seems to me that since I don’t own a Mary Poppins style purse (and I would, if they were made!), fetching my credit/debit card is just as quick as digging my phone out. Further, adding money to my Starbucks card requires that I must either think ahead or waste time at the register. Both options seem inconvenient and time consuming. So, if the goal of this initiative is to save me time, how much time am I really saving?

Moreover, I worry that this will cause unnecessary problems in the event that a cell phone is stolen. Not only will the owner be losing a phone, they will be losing money as well. And, in the case that someone leaves their phone at work, at home, in the car, at a party or anywhere else, then that individual will be forced to use money they hadn’t already allocated for coffee, or go without.

The technological advances that have occurred in my lifetime amaze me, but there comes a point where improvements heed small benefits and efficiency flatlines.

Thanks to the Emerald

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

The Emerald offered its support to our quest to get an interview in today’s paper. I didn’t put it in the media digest because these things don’t get uploaded to the Internet, but here it is:

Commentator denied interview with University president

After pereparing thorough research and insisting on professionalism, Alex Tomchak Scott of the Oregon Commentator was denied an interview by University President Richard Lariviere.

Although the Commentator often produces controversial material, Tomchak has continually produced quality material. We at the Emerald believe in a free exchange of information and ideas, and Lariviere should be a staple of transparency.

Thanks guys.

Lariviere only to consent to an interview with pre-screened questions and responses.

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

Here’s an e-mail I got from the UO’s spokesperson Julie Brown this morning.

Hi Alex,

I hope you’re well.  I’m following up about your request to interview President Lariviere.  It’s disappointing that you chose to write about your conversation with Staci, but I want to help you get the information you’re requesting. You can always contact me with requests for leaders on campus in the same way you did when working for the ODE.

The president wants students to be informed about how the legislative action this winter and spring may change the short-term and long-term access and affordability of education. As I understand your request, this will be the topic of your Q&A. Please send your questions to me and I will facilitate getting the president’s answers for you. Deadline information would be helpful too.



Let me say this about Julie Brown: I worked for the Emerald for two years and dealt with her on a regular basis, so I have ample experience working with her. Spokespeople get a lot of criticism from journalists, but I never found her to be anything other than helpful and honest to the greatest degree possible, professional even when, as in my wayward early days, I was not. If I lived in a circle of hell where I could only conduct interviews through questions relayed by a public relations professional, I’d want Julie Brown to be that professional.

However, that’s not where I live. If given the choice between questioning someone in a position of power through a public relations professional and not questioning him or her at all, when the object is a question-and-answer transcript, I think any journalist who truly values the difficult, precise questions and spontaneous, unrehearsed responses that such a situation requires would choose the latter option.

Over-Realized Committee to rename Over-Realized Fund

January 18th, 2011 by Rockne Andrew Roll

Let’s start with a quick history lesson. Every term you pay the Incidental Fee. This fee goes to pay for all the insane programs, contracts, and other things your student government does. The amount of fee you pay is the amount of money the ASUO spends on its various ideas and projects divided by the number of students expected to attend UO. Since enrollment  seems to have a way of increasing fairly regularly, by the time enough I-fee has been collected Spring term to cover all of the budget, there’s some leftover. This is known as the Over-Realized Fund.

It is the responsibility of the Senate to allocate the Over-Realized Fund however they wish. This year, a committee has been formed to recommend different ways to allocate the funds back to the full Senate. This committee was appointed last week, based on a careful selection process consisting of asking for volunteers. The committee’s first meeting is today and one of the pressing items on its agenda is, in the words of Sen. Evan Thomas, “Discuss Over-Realized Project name/slogan.” Thomas elaborates:

“We looking for a slogan or means of advertising this extra student money to the student body without calling it ‘Over-Realized Funds.’ We’re looking for an exciting and intriguing project name, so input about this is fantastic.”

Will someone explain to me why we need to call it something else? Why do we need to advertise this to the student body at large, when the constellation of money pits that we kindly refer to as programs will come up with a myriad of ways to dispense with this cash? I understand the need for public relations in general, but sanitizing everything to sound pretty or hip is particularly annoying, especially when we’re dealing with a group of people (college students) who are supposed to be smarter than the general public? I know I’m probably wrong, but I’d like to hope that the populace could figure it out. Even if they can’t, they probably won’t be able to get whatever silly name the committee comes up with.

I will be unable to attend this stupid meeting, but I would implore someone, anyone to attend and say loudly and proudly, “Why don’t we call it the Over-Realized Fund?” Please, do it for me.

“Preoccupied with Pokemon.” Media digest Jan. 18, 2011

January 18th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

You want amusing? Is that what you want? Yeah? Well maybe a Pokemon card of blathering Fat Joe tribute act Phil Knight made by Emerald opinion bone saw Tyree Harris will satisfy you. If you’ll ever be satisfied.

You can also see other celebrity Pokemon cards at his blog, although sadly none of the others are directly relevant to the UO. Tyree’s recently launched site seems a little bit preoccupied with Pokemon, not that I’m complaining. I love Pokemon as much as the next American whose childhood took place in the late 90s. I definitely daydream of stalking as-yet undiscovered species through the jungles of Thailand and steppes of Nepal occasionally with only my trusty Geodude for company. What of it?


Lies, judges with DUI’s, and other fun news

January 17th, 2011 by Melissa Haskin

The effectiveness of this judge won’t be influenced by his recent lapse in judgment.

Starbucks is introducing 31 ounce drinks- I’d discuss this further but I’m otherwise engaged writing an enthused letter to Starbucks outlining my disappointment in the lack of 64 oz cups.

Doin’ it right: If you’re going to do something wrong, you might as well do it thoroughly wrong, right? Disney seems to think so- their reusable shopping bags aren’t just over the federal limit for lead, but 15 times the federal limit! YAY (props also go to Safeway for distribution and Advanced Publisher for manufacturing), congratulations seem to be in order for their epic failure.

And, just because I want to ruin your day and leave you in an identity crisis- everything you know about astrology is a lie! Now that we’ve all come to that realization, we can use cool words like “Ophiuchus.”

A great beacon-light of hope? Media digest, Jan. 17, 2011

January 17th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

I don’t really have it in me to write anything over or under that, but the media digest is below the fold, back for the foreseeable future.


The more things change . . .

January 16th, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond

The smart, wonderful, capable kids over at the Desert Lamp (University of Arizona) are reporting on Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposed 20 percent cuts to higher education:

It’s clear that pressure to increase tuition will be high this semester. Pressure to increase fees, which are easier, sneakier, and murkier, will be even higher. Adding extra variables to the tuition tussle in the form of incidental fees makes it much harder to come up with a clear and coherent proposal, and multiplies the number of options available to propose. That taxes the time of student leaders and ends up requiring, in effect, a separate proposal for each fee, plus tuition. Suddenly, a little referendum doesn’t look so bad after all.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A UO History Lesson: Project Saferide

January 16th, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond
Project Saferide

Photo courtesy Oregon Daily Emerald

[Author’s note: I have been employed by both the Assault Prevention Shuttle and the Designated Driver Shuttle during my tenure at the University of Oregon, but I am no longer employed by either organization (or the incidental fee at all).]

From Friday’s Ol’ Dirty:

Students and faculty members who have used the Assault Prevention Shuttle lately probably noted a recent change to the program: It’s [sic] name.

According to a press release from the program, students and faculty members will soon begin to see the name Safe Ride replace its former one on its e-mail address and Web site. The name change has already begun to take the form of new signs that are visibly marked on the program’s vans.

Rachel Graham, Safe Ride’s co-director, said the program decided to change its name from the Assault Prevention Shuttle to Safe Ride amidst confused responses from students who did not know what the program’s purpose was.

“The name Safe Ride better exemplifies the mission of the program — to provide members of the University of Oregon community with a safe ride home,” Graham said in a prepared statement.

According to its Web site, Safe Ride currently uses four minivans and a 97-person staff base to provide an average of 70 people per night with a free ride to a destination near the University.

As I’m sure the APS co-directors know, the Assault Prevention Shuttle started as Project Saferide, a volunteer-based organization committed to preventing assault by employing female volunteers and staff members to give women free rides home. Indeed, Project Saferide stickers (which you can still see plastered in McKenzie Hall and EMU bathrooms) bear the motto, “Women Helping Women.”


Lariviere denies Commentator an interview

January 15th, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

UO President Richard Lariviere’s assistant told me Friday that the president will not allow the Commentator to interview him.

“We didn’t think it was very presidential,” Lariviere’s executive assistant Staci Knabe said of the content in the most recent issue.

I had been trying to sit down with Lariviere for the interview issue we have coming out, which will contain transcripts of interviews with several notable figures in Eugene and the UO community. I talked to Knabe first on Wednesday, which was when Lariviere returned from watching the National Championship football game.

When I had asked on Wednesday to schedule an interview, I specifically promised that the interview would be taken seriously and that I am well-informed. Knabe said she had told Lariviere as much, but said, “We would have to be conscious of what was around it.”

“We looked at the last issue and there was not a lot of news in it,” she said, though she added that it was “probably entertaining.”

I can sympathize to an extent with Lariviere’s and Knabe’s nervousness about a publication that recently published an entire issue about the testicles of the UO’s highest-paid and highest-performing employee. I believe some of what I’ve written for the Commentator is incontrovertibly, rather than “probably,” entertaining, so I’m a little resentful of that.

But I’m not going to hold it against anyone. It’s not about me. It’s about the purpose for which journalism exists in the first place: Empowering the reader through knowledge to face the world around him or her, as well as holding up a mirror to his or her humanity.

Mark my words: I’ll interview this president for the Commentator before the year is over. For now, though, I’ve got a request in to interview Lariviere for the Voice, a publication with which he has already done a Q-and-A. I put that request in Friday afternoon. I will know where it stands by Wednesday.

Hold on while I barf, k thanks.

January 14th, 2011 by Melissa Haskin

Most of us know that it’s not a good idea to refurbish food- mainly because food is not a computer, phone, or iPod. The folks at One Great Burger in New Jersey seem to be missing this insight.

During an investigation fueled by consumer complaints, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found that “the establishment repackaged and recoded returned products and sent them out for further distribution to institutional customers.” Whereas the 20 lbs packages of “ONEGREAT HAMBURGERS” were produced between January and May of 2010, their “packed on” dates are labeled with dates between July and November of 2010. There have been no reported illnesses linked to the meat, which was distributed to institutions in Oregon and California. Nonetheless, FSIS recalled the meat as of January 10th, labeling it as a Class II recall. The USDA defines a Class II recall as a “health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.” (more…)

Irony Much?

January 14th, 2011 by Melissa Haskin

From the Oregonian:

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced today that he will draft legislation that will make it illegal under state law to look at child pornography on the Internet.

Kroger plans to propose his draft to state lawmakers some time after their latest session starts in February. Kroger’s announcement comes one day after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that state law doesn’t make it a crime to look at child pornography while surfing the Internet if the viewer doesn’t purposefully download the images, print them out or pay for them.

Most obviously, the explanation for this is that one of Attorney General Kroger’s interns/assistants “misplaced” all forms of current news for amusement purposes- you sir, I applaud.

Oregon legislature proposes incredibly silly bike law

January 13th, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond

From the Oregonian:

House Bill 2228 introduced by Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), would amend an Oregon statute that bans unlawful passengers on a bike by making it illegal to carry a child younger than 6 either on the bike or in a trailer. The bill includes a fine of $90. […]

A former director of public health at Oregon Health & Science University, Greenlick said the bill was prompted by an OHSU study on injuries among serious bikers.

“It indicated that about 30 percent on average had a traumatic injury each year and about 8 percent had one serious enough to get medical attention,” Greenlick said, “so it really got me thinking about what happens if there’s a 4-year-old on the back of that bike when a biker goes down.”

He knows of no studies about the risks of carrying children in cargo trailers or on the back of a bike. But he said he wants to fire up a conversation in the Legislature.

“This is how the process starts,” he said. “We have hearings. People start testifying. You start getting the information to find out whether there is a problem or not.”

But, of course, Portland loves its bicycles and bike-friendly residents. Naturally, people are pissed, including the good folks at

“The bill itself is just ridiculous,” said Jonathan Maus, editor of the popular blog,

Other avid bikers got more personal, calling Greenlick “an idiot” in angry emails.

“I’ve got about 100 emails this morning,” Greenlick said. […]

Maus said the bill is misguided.

“We have massive transportation safety problems,” Maus said. “Transporting a child on a bicycle is no where near the top of anyone’s priority.

“I think it is a terrible miscalculation to start a debate with something so one-sided that prohibits the use of a transportation option by a large segment of the population,” Maus said.

He and his wife have raised their two daughters — now 8 and 5 years old — on bikes, carting them around the city in baby slings when they were tiny and then putting them in a cargo trailer at 3 months.

“We never had a problem,” Maus said.

In fact, he says drivers take more care when they see a kid on a bike or trailer, giving the bicyclist extra room.

“Everybody’s really careful,” Maus said.

He worries that the bill could curtail family biking — a popular activity in Portland and elsewhere — and hurt businesses in the state.

Here’s the thing: every activity is associated with risks. Literally every single activity. It is the job of the general public to identify those risks and make decisions about how to proceed. If bicyclists feel uncomfortable biking with children knowing the risks of doing so, they shouldn’t. If they feel comfortable knowing the risks, it is up to them to decide if it’s something they want to do.

It’s that simple.

Extra credit: Mia Birk’s letter to Greenlick asking him to withdraw the bill, saying he misinterpreted the study.