Collegiate Press Corps Covers Politics, Civics, Civil Liberties

Glenn Ricketts

1.  As the presidential campaigns moved into high gear, undergraduate press coverage kept pace.  Not everyone is blown away, needless to say, and a staff writer for the  KSU Collegian finds both candidates outstandingly mediocre and unimpressive.  He can’t see where either of them has anything resembling a platform.  And at the Daily Iowan, another writer finds the VP candidates pretty dismal stuff as well. Possibly that’s why a colleague at the OSU Lantern is happy to endorse the Libertarian Party’s candidate.  She realizes that he won’t win, but still feels that she'll have peace of mind after voting for him. President Obama, on the other hand had lots of support from many other collegiate editors, including those at the UC Berkeley Daily Californian, who believe that he offers the best hope for higher education.  Their counterparts at the Emory Wheel also endorse the president enthusiastically, and venture that his opponent’s chances of election are slim to none.   At the UNM Daily Lobo, a political commentator ringingly supports the president and blames the GOP for narrow partisanship and obstructionism.   Apparently he hit a nerve, because his column really gets ‘em going in the comments thread.  But not everyone is on the bandwagon, and a regular columnist for the DePaulia argues that Mitt Romney is for real, and she’s impressed.  And at the Maine Campus, a political commentator complains that Romney and the GOP are at an extra disadvantage because the national media are so heavily stacked against them.  On a different note, a staffer for the UI Daily Illini tries to understand the GOP candidate’s Mormon faith.  She won’t be converting, but nevertheless found much to admire. 

2.  Apart from the candidates, other reporters focused on the responsibilities of citizenship and the electoral process itself.  The editors of the Iowa State Daily, for instance, urged all Iowa Staters to vote, in view of the special significance of this particular election.  At the same time, they also noted the dismal turnout among younger voters – especially college students – and explained why voting is actually the duty of an informed, enlightened citizenry.  Similarly, a writer for the University of Missouri, Kansas City University News sees a deciding role for this generation of young voters to determine the country’s future, and making the American Dream possible for everyone.  But a staffer for The Dartmouth is a bit less optimistic, and warns his peers not to pin much hope on politicians from either party. If they want a better future, they’ll have to make it for themselves.  A decidedly different perspective, though, came from a writer at the Michigan Daily.  After spending the summer in China, he can appreciate the true choice and freedom he’ll have this autumn, something his Chinese hosts could probably not imagine. 

3.  Other themes beside electoral politics were on the radar screen as well, such as freedom of speech and expression on college campuses.  At the Indiana Daily Student, one writer finds a gradual and ominous encroachment on students’ First Amendment rights, and can’t see any justification for a university policy that restricts “spontaneous speech” to a small, fenced-in part of the huge campus.  Similarly, a colleague at the UCLA Daily Bruin finds major threats to free speech in the recommendations of a recently released report on the “campus climate.” Well, free expression is alright with a reporter for the Tulane Hullabaloo but, like everything else, has its proper time and place, as a recent local incident involving some arrests illustrates.  By contrast, a writer for the Oklahoma Daily is more than a little troubled by what he asserts is a marked weakening of the Democrats’ traditional commitment to civil liberties. Meanwhile, a news analyst for the Cornell Daily Sun, after spending some time viewing TV programming in Europe, deplores the censorship that he finds in the US.  It‘s simply amazing what you can’t watch on this side of the Atlantic.  Finally, the regular Devil’s Advocate columnist for the Daily Californian is alarmed by the Obama administration’s suggestion that YouTube should remove the video which generated so much violence in the Middle East last week.  If you don’t like the content, don’t watch it. 

4.  Coverage of gender issues is a staple of collegiate newspapers, and this reporter for the Duke Chronicle explains why she wants – and needs – power.  Anticipating a certain reader response, she considers in her next column whether that means that she’s a man-hater.  A colleague at the same site describes the very significant role that women voters will play in the 2012 elections. But at the Daily Utah Chronicle, a recent graduate about to enter the job market is convinced that she’ll receive lower wages simply because she’s a woman. But for a colleague at the UW/Madison Badger Herald, it’s simply a done deal that women can’t “have it all,”no matter what, so let’s face it.  On a different theme, a columnist for the U of Maryland Diamondback takes issue with the popular notion of women’s bodies, which reflect arbitrary and commercialized criteria unattainable for most ladies.  Along similar lines, the student life columnist for the U of Tennessee Knoxville Daily Beacon laments the obsession many college women seem to have with appearance, which inevitably leads to objectification by men.  The editors of the Indiana Daily Student, however, note with approval that “slut shaming” seems to be on the wane, and isn’t nearly as potent as it used to be. And at the PSU Daily Collegian, a features writer explains why the availability of contraceptives ought to matter to men just as it does to women – they have a stake in the issue that many of them aren’t aware of, she concludes. Finally, while a columnist for the Daily Pennsylvanian finds Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks on rape simply beyond belief –although probably not too far from what the GOP actually thinks – another writer at the U of M Diamondback who won’t be voting Republican also finds the War on Women a rather simplistic idea that misses the mark. 

5. Miscellany: One year to the day after the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s encampment in Zuccotti Park, a columnist for the Minnesota Daily looks back and tries to understand why it fizzled, after generating so much initial hope and support.  All of the issues – income inequality, student debt and unemployment are still with us, so why didn’t OWS go much further?  And on the occasion of another September anniversary, a self-proclaimed “outsider” describes his own thoughts about the 9/11 terrorist attacks for readers of the Yale Daily News.  At the Purdue University Exponent, a faculty guest columnist thinks that there’s a connection between the Chicago school strike and the recent appointment of former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels as the school’s new president.  And on the subject of public schools, the editors of the Brown Daily Herald think that while Teach for America is an inspiring idea, it doesn’t really do much to improve the woeful state of K-12 education.  Finally, the editors of the Indiana Daily Student take pointed exception to a proposed boycott of a local pizzeria.

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