Bias Crimes, Politics, Commencement Speakers and Sex: Student Press Outlook

Glenn Ricketts

1. On the political beat, everything from state initiatives to the presidential races got some copy recently.  In the pages of the Brown Daily Herald, a debate erupted between campus Democrats and a disappointed critic who’s tired of business-as-usual.  At the Miami Student, a political commentator offers some suggestions to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney about his pick for a running mate: it should be someone who isn’t as boring as he is.  But speaking of the two national parties, the editors of the UC/Irvine New University think that they’re probably in better shape than the dysfunctional political mess that prevails right on their own campus.  Meanwhile, a staffer for the University Daily Kansan finds a proposed anti-abortion bill now before the state legislature so bad that even pro-lifers can’t support it.  In Louisiana, an education bill now making its way through the statehouse worries a columnist for the LSU Reveille: it doesn’t have any language banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.  But back to the Brown Daily Herald, where the editors are skeptical of a proposed reform of the electoral college, which they believe actually has some merits.  The proposed change, they conclude, would lead to significantly more expensive presidential campaigns focused mainly on larger states.  Yes, it’s true that US citizens do indeed enjoy “inalienable rights,” but a guest columnist for the UK Kernal wishes that more of them felt the obligation to participate as an obligation of citizenship.   A staffer for the Denver University Clarion explains why he finds contemporary conservatism really unpalatable.  In the meantime, an editorialist for the Independent Florida Alligator finds some real absurdity in the anti-bullying policies of many public schools, and a colleague at the USC Gamecock thinks that NYC’s proposed ban on large sodas is a terrible way to address the problem of national obesity. 

2. Bias crimes and race relations were in the cross hairs of a number of writers, including this one at the Minnesota Daily, who believes that hate crimes constitute a different order of offense that requires a more severe prosecution.  At the same paper, the editors weigh in against Arizona’s new law allowing police officers to search suspected illegal immigrants; the issue also engages a columnist for the U of Alabama’s Crimson and White.  Elsewhere down South, a professed “Yankee” columnist for the Auburn Plainsman is surprised at how much lingering racism she’s found locally: contrary to her expectations, the region has not yet broken free from its past.  And in the opinion of the editors of the Oklahoma Daily, it’s absolutely necessary to protect LGQT people in the workplace, contrary to what one particular congressman seems to think.  On the west coast, a staffer for the USC Daily Trojan tries to parse some heated controversy of race and crime in connection with the murder of two students on campus in February, and the comments thread indicates just how hot that subject is.  Another writer at the same paper concurs with the verdict in the New Jersey case arising from the suicide of a Rutgers freshman last fall:  the judge, he concludes,  was correct in declining to classify the charge as a “hate crime.”  That was also the view of a colleague writing for the DePaulia in Chicago: a tragedy, to be sure, but not a hate crime.   On the equally charged instance of the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, five writers for the UTexas/Austin Daily Texan use the uproar over the paper’s recent publication of a related political cartoon to analyze media coverage of the case.  A colleague individually adds her own perspective, and argues that the paper must broaden its staff and adjust its editorial policies to reflect its increasingly diverse readership.  On a different note, the opinions editor for the Eastern Illinois University Daily Eastern News laments how the present cultural climate often gives instant credence to some really silly charges of racism.

3. Same-sex marriage continues to get lots of traction, sometimes in surprising ways.  At the U of Alabama’s Crimson and White, a self-identified “conservative” makes the case for it, which he claims is wholly consistent with his long-held principles.  With reference to North Carolina’s recent ballot initiative which approved a ban on SSM, a writer for the Duke Chronicle complains that the issue is one of fundamental civil rights, and should not have been put to a vote at all.  At the USC Daily Trojan, meanwhile, another writer is pleased by President Obama’s endorsement of the right of same-sex couples to marry, but fears that the president was motivated largely by political calculation in an election year. 

4. There seems to be no end of commentary and advice in sexual matters, and many undergraduate newspapers provide a designated “sex columnist.”   One such at the U of P’s Daily Pennsylvanian offers readers tips as the summer hook-up season approaches.   On the West coast, her counterpart at UC Berkeley continues a four-part series examining the local hook-up culture: in part two, she discusses the stigmas of college-age virginity, while the third installment addresses double standards.  By contrast, a features columnist for the PSU Collegian finds the hook-up scene repellant, and hearkens after the “true love” marriages of her parents and other family members.  There’s really no comparison, she thinks.  On the other hand, “sex weeks” are becoming commonplace on many college campuses, and the editors of the Wellesley News, assess their role in facilitating more open discussion about issues of sex, health and gender.  That might be helpful to a columnist at the Duke Chronicle, who wonders exactly how to talk about sex when one is talking about sex.  Finally, a regular for the De Paulia thinks it’s time to face reality and follow the example of Canada and other countries by legalizing the sex industry – that way, it can be regulated and some useful standards implemented.  Continuing to act as if it isn’t there just isn’t realistic. 

5. Some contrasting takes on approaching commencement festivities:  at the University of Georgia, a member of the senior class is really incensed about the selection of the state’s governor to address her class, and she explains why to readers of the Red and Black.  But a soon-to-graduate columnist for The Dartmouth actually hopes the commencement speaker will use the occasion to take his class down a peg or two.  It would be a much-needed antidote to the relentless ego inflation they’ve been getting since they arrived on campus as freshmen. 

6. Some writers, as usual, took on international issues, and this one at the Johns Hopkins Newsletter thinks it’s past time that the US seriously re-examined its policy toward  China.  In MIT’s Tech, a staffer concludes a series on Russian president Vladimir Putin by noting that he’s a man very much in control: wholesale reform, if it comes, will have to wait until after he’s gone.  A more urgent note comes from an analyst for the Duke Chronicle: he enters a plea for international intervention in Syria to save its people from the oppressive dictatorship under which they will continue to suffer otherwise.  At the Iowa State Daily, a guest columnist asserts that her university is an active participant in a neo-imperialist, colonial investment scheme. Meanwhile, a writer for the University Daily Kansan has some major differences with the LA Times journalistic philosophy in its photo coverage of some recent events in Afghanistan

7. The significance of Memorial Day and related themes continued to generate reactions from a number of commentators.  This one at the UT/Knoxville Beacon took the occasion to expound his particular approach to the idea of patriotism, while another for the Duke Chronicle argues that, while it’s fine to remember the sacrifices of our armed forces on a particular day, we ought to consider doing it year-round.  A colleague for the U of Maryland Diamondback finds the whole Memorial day observance rather shallow, in light of the unacknowledged terrible lives that many veterans lead after leaving the service.  A unique perspective on military service and actual combat is provided by a Stanford senior and former Marine sergeant in the pages of the Stanford Daily, where his graphic depiction elicits some muted admiration from several readers. And in the opinion of a graduating senior at Princeton, it’s about time that his university reinstated the singing of the national anthem at commencement ceremonies.


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