Collegiate Press Corps Cover Middle East Cauldron

Glenn Ricketts

1. Recent violence and protests in the Middle East, including the murder of the US ambassador to Libya, were the focal points of a number of stories by undergraduate correspondents. An overview of the regional issues and instability was provided in this piece in the NYU Washington Square News, while two colleagues at the USC Daily Trojan offer contrasting policy recommendations for the region here and here.  Two correspondents stationed on site provided contrasting impressions: a recent Duke alumna serving as coordinator at the US cultural center in Tunis, Tunisia describes the violence and rioting there in this interview for the Chronicle; by contrast, the Middle East reporter for the Johns Hopkins Newsletter tries to convey a sense of the peace and tranquility currently prevailing in Qatar

The upheavals in Libya generated wide commentary, and this columnist for the Denver University Clarion thought that there was much more than a single obnoxious video pushing the wave of anger and riots; a colleague at the Cornell Sun expressed similar views and provoked a heated comments thread in response. A Muslim staffer for the Duke Chronicle also offers some analysis on the grim events occurring in his homeland. But whatever you might believe about the causes of the violence, President Obama was wrong to apologize to the radicals for the video: a staffer for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebel Yell argues that we are a free society which embraces freedom of speech, and there’s nothing to regret about that.  Back at the NYU Washington Square News, a political analyst agrees, and is dismayed by suggestions from some quarters that speech of any variety should be curbed in response to external events.  At the same paper, the editors are concerned that President Obama’s Iran policy is too idealistic, and seems disconnected from the grim realities of that country’s drive to develop nuclear weapons. 

Finally, several articles appearing recently in the Daily Californian focused on Israel and the Palestinian question.  In this one, a Jewish supporter of Palestinian rights stirred up a vehemently heated comments thread.  In a follow-up, the paper’s regular Devil’s Advocate writer claims that he felt propagandized after visiting Israel last summer with the Birthright program.  Too much right-wing nationalism to suit him he says.  But if we’re talking about propaganda, another participant in the program thinks you’ll find plenty of it in his colleague’s account.. 

2. As the anniversary of the beginning of last year’s much-publicized Occupy Wall Street movement arrived, a number of undergraduate pundits offered reflections, often on the theme of why it failed to live up to expectations.  The date apparently carried no special significance at the University of Delaware, as a news item in The Review described the ho-hum apathy of students on campus there. At the Syracuse Daily Orange, a self-described “conservative” writer concludes that OWS was a flop from the outset, and explains why that was totally predictable. An op ed staffer for the USC Daily Trojan agrees that the movement was a failure, but wonders if its proponents could learn from that experience.  What if they broadened their vision and changed their tactics?  How about moving from encampments to organizing voter drives?  This writer for the Denver University Clarion agrees: no matter how noble their goals, any revival of OWS and its many local imitators will go exactly nowhere if they don’t come down out of the clouds. Believe it or not, they just might learn from the tactics of the far more successful Tea Party movement, which they all love to hate. Along similar lines, a faculty guest columnist ponders the likelihood and possible approaches of a second round of OWS.  It won’t be quite the same, if there is.  But once again in the USC Daily Trojan, a regular reporter notes that while student loan debt was a major theme among last year’s protestors, their loans aren’t rights or entitlements, and must be repaid. Some commenters applaud his forthrightness, and agree that it’s necessary to deflate unrealistic expectations about many of today’s college majors. Finally, a recent Stanford graduate arouses a rarified intellectual exchange in the comments thread of the Daily by suggesting that the flawed concepts currently imparted in most academic economics departments ought to be a prime target of the next round. 

3. Can’t get away from national politics, of course, and the college press corps continued to size up trends and candidates. With all of the hoopla generated by the presidential race, one observer for the NYU Washington Square News thinks it’s important to remember that Congress is up for grabs as well. And at the USC Daily Trojan, another reporter really wishes that the media would stop pouncing on gaffes – they’re bound to happen – and focus on substantive issues. In any case, both candidates will be haunted to an extent by past positions and statements, says a regular contributor to the OSU Lantern. It comes with the territory. But speaking of gaffes, a staffer for the Minnesota Daily notes that while the GOP’s Mitt Romney seems especially prone to them, it’s not clear that they’ll make any lasting impression on the public’s perception of the issues.  That’s not quite how another writer for the UW Madison Badger Herald sees it though - he thinks that Romney’s “47%” slipup was an accurate indication of his real attitudes, which he wouldn’t otherwise have wanted you know about, although a writer at The Dartmouth places the same words in a much different context.. Similarly, a guest columnist at the Daily Princetonian suggests that the egregious statements on rape by GOP Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin reflect not only his own beliefs, but those of his party as well.  That’s not only pure hogwash, it’s dishonest hogwash, says the president of Princeton’s College Republicans in reply. Just take time to read what the GOP actually has to say, and see if you can find anything that even remotely supports such preposterous allegations.  Meanwhile, as the presidential debates approach, a political analyst for the Independent Florida Alligator isn’t expecting them to have much of an impact, since voters nowadays are affected by so many other media outlets.  In any case, a colleague at the USC Daily Gamecock asks both candidates to please, please tone it down.

4. Potpourri: At the Auburn Plainsman, a smoker complains that he’s really getting burned up by intrusive, increasingly ubiquitous smoking bans, whether on campus, in restaurants, stadiums – just about everywhere.  Lay off: he knows what he’s doing, and wishes micro-regulating busybodies would leave him alone.  The editors of the Michigan Daily weigh in similarly: no way do they endorse cigarette smoking, but nevertheless believe that it’s a private decision that should be left to individuals, rather than mandated by intrusive bans such as the one on the U of M campus.  In the wake of last year’s seismic football scandal, the editors of the PSU Daily Collegian commend the decision by the school’s board of directors to accept the damning Freeh report without further review. A lengthy and very heated comments thread indicates that they’ve really hit a nerve among some readers.  Not nearly as hot, but still controversial is the endorsement by the Daily Californian’s editors of the new UC Berkeley director of student programs – he’s a self-identified illegal immigrant.  The editors of the BU Daily Free Press also engage some potentially hot controversy by declaring their qualified endorsement of the NYC school system’s decision to provide contraceptives for teenagers.  Finally, a “cultural Catholic” attempts to describe her sort-of faith for readers of the Daily Pennsylvanian.

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