Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Did UVa Cancel Classes Only This Time?

On Jan. 20, 2005, George Bush was sworn in as president of the United States. On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. The University of Virginia decided to suspend classes on only one of these important days. Can you guess which one?

Arthur Garson Jr., the executive vice president and provost of UVa, announced by e-mail that classes will be suspended on Jan. 20, 2009 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in honor of the inauguration of Barack Obama. In 2005, while I was an undergraduate at UVa, classes carried on as usual for George Bush's Inauguration Day.

UVa also will be opening the doors of the basketball arena for live coverage of the swearing-in ceremony. In his e-mail to the UVa community, Garson explains, "The coming together of a nation at the same time every four years for presidential inaugurations -- as dictated by the Constitution for noon on Jan. 20 -- is an educational moment that binds us as a nation and a people." His e-mail continues: "In order to allow our students, as well as other members of our community, to participate in this exercise in democracy, the University will suspend classes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009."

Based on the actions of the UVa administration, George Bush's Inauguration Day was somehow not "an educational moment" or an "exercise in democracy." This explanation is suspect. Furthermore, neither Garson's e-mail nor the official press release announcement that the suspension of class on Inauguration Day is a new policy that will be implemented well into the future regardless of whether a Republican or Democrat is elected.

Explaining the liberal bias on college campuses can be challenging because it is often a combination of overt and covert action and inaction. The suspension of classes for the inauguration of Barack Obama -- but not for George Bush -- gives a clear example of this bias.

One might try to dismiss this suspension of classes as the deci sion of one administrator. However, this was not the decision of one man and he is not the only one defending it.

In response to further student inquiries, Carol Wood, the assistant vice president for public affairs at UVa, wrote: "As you know, the interest among young people across the nation -- regardless of their party -- was unprecedented during the recent presidential campaign. Our own students here at the University were equally as engaged and they have expressed a desire to participate in some way in Inauguration Day. Given the number of important issues facing our country and the world, students told us they wanted to hear live -- with their friends -- what President-elect Obama would have to say in his Inaugural address."

Wood celebrates the 2008 election and the youth participation in it although youth voter turnout was not as high as anticipated. Oddly, she highlights the "unprecedented" participation of young people in this election, while ignoring the fact that the main way students participated was through technology -- the same technology which will make Barack Obama's Inauguration Day speech available to students 24 hours a day.

From my experience of four years of college and almost three years of law school at UVa, I do not recall classes ever being suspended for a planned political event. For example, despite student petitions, classes carried on as normal during Election Day last year.

On Jan. 20, I plan to attend the classes for which I am paying, regardless of how college administrators weigh my interest in classes against my interest in hearing Barack Obama's speech live. I also plan to watch some of the Inauguration Day activities, but I will do so on my own time.


British kids wearing stab-proof vests to school

BRITISH children are wearing stab-proof vests to protect themselves from becoming victims of violence, according to a report on the impact of gangs on schools. The report, given to London's The Independent newspaper, said teachers at one school where pupils are said to be "seriously involved in gangs" were "aware of young people wearing bullet-proof/stab-proof vests in school".

It cites one estimate that the number of pupils under 16 involved in gangs had doubled in the past five years.

The report, commissioned by the NASUWT teachers' union and prepared by consultancy firm Perpetuity, is the first in-depth look at how youth gang culture is influencing schools, The Independent reports. It comes to the conclusion that children as young as nine at primary school are becoming involved with gangs used as "runners" and "couriers" to ferry messages by older members.

"Some of the case study schools felt the problem had increased over the last few years with gangs becoming more dangerous involving children at a younger age," the research says. "Some schools have problems with pupils carrying weapons in school. This can include young people who carry weapons and/or those who hide weapons in and around school grounds." The most common weapons teachers reported seeing were BB air pistols and batons. In one incident a teacher saw a meat cleaver.

One pupil told researchers he was wearing body armour because of "needing to", although attacks were more likely to take place on the way to and from school. The report suggests several measures to lessen the impact of gang involvement, such as sending children on prison visits to see the effect of loss of liberty



Casey said...

I am commenting on the article about suspending of class for Obama's inaguration, and not Bush's. Look, no matter what your political affiliation is (I am staunchly republican), surely you can see why? This is not an inaguration like any represents something very significant historically in this country. Obama is the first African American President to take the oath of office. This is a day that will be marked in history for that reason, in a way that Bush's inaguration wouldn't be. It is pretty self explanatory why they cancelled classes for Obama, and not for Bush. To be clear though...what is the insinuation being made by this post? Why do YOU think they cancelled for Obama and not for Bush? What is theory?

Robert said...

The University of Virginia suspended classes for the Leftist president with whom the university administration and faculty are very likely sympathetic ideologically, while deliberately snubbing the more rightist George W. Bush 4 years before. Once you see example after example after example after example stacking up, you see the pattern. There may well be a way to test U of VA's motivations in 4 or 8 years. Suppose Sarah Palin wins the presidency in 2012. If the motivation of UVa is to make room for observing a first-time-ever event in the inauguration of the first dark-skinned president this time around, then we could expect to see UVa give similar treatment to another first-time-ever event with Sarah Palin as the first female president. If ideological bias is the motivation, we can expect UVa to make no special accommodation for students to watch her inauguration should she win.

Casey said...

Well I would be more prone to jump to bias, if like you say, if there is a female President, and they don't adopt the same policy. However, simply based on cancelled classes for Obama's and not Bush' me, is jumping the gun. Like I say, regardless of polical affiliations or motivations, Obama's inaguration represented something that Bush's did not. My guess is that even if Obama was an EXTREME conservative, you would still see the same interest, because it represents something that is historically important. It is momentous really, regardless of anything else. So I understand wanting college students to be able to participate if they choose. Just my 2 cents.