Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Emotions are what matter at universities now

(See also today's postings on  TONGUE-TIED)

Columbia Law School is permitting students claiming to be impaired due to the emotional impact of recent non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner matters to postpone taking their final exams. Here is the text of a message from interim dean Robert Scott to the law school community:

The grand juries’ determinations to return non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally. For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.

For these reasons, after consultation with students in the law school and with colleagues on the law faculty and in the administration, I am taking the following steps to assure our responsiveness and involvement in this particular moment:

- In recognition of the traumatic effects these events have had on some of the members of our community, Dean Greenberg-Kobrin and Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Director, Academic Counseling, have arranged to have Dr. Shirley Matthews, a trauma specialist, hold sessions next Monday and Wednesday for anyone interested in participating to discuss the trauma that recent events may have caused .

- Several members of the faculty have agreed to schedule special office hours next week to be available for students who would like support and/or would like to talk about the implications of the Brown and Garner non-indictments. These office hours will include:

Conrad Johnson – Monday, 12:00 – 2:00, Room 833
Olati Johnson – Monday, 12:00 – 4:00, Room 630
Susan Sturm – Wednesday, 2:15 – 3:15, Room 617
Katherine Franke – Monday, 1:00 – 3:00, Thursday, 9:00 – 11:00, Room 637

- I support the idea of an open community dialogue to discuss the concerns of students in the wake of recent events, and to share diverse and collective notions of injustice that these cases raise. I will encourage all members of our community to attend.

- The law school has a policy and set of procedures for students who experience trauma during exam period. In accordance with these procedures and policy, students who feel that their performance on examinations will be sufficiently impaired due to the effects of these recent events may petition Dean Alice Rigas to have an examination rescheduled.

- Several members of the faculty have agreed to work with students to develop a reading group, speaker series, and/or longitudinal teach-in next semester in which the group would explore a series of sessions where we educate ourselves and formulate a response to the implications, including racial meanings, of these non-indictments. In an effort to include the larger community in which we live and study, this work may include a collaboration with Columbia’s Center for Justice and with the Schomberg Center.

In closing let me just add my hope that through these and other efforts all members of the Columbia Law School community can can come to have a greater sense of mutual support and trust.

The key passage, bolded in the original, is the rescheduling of exams for the “sufficiently impaired.” This, I’m told, is the essence of what the black students association asked for. The stuff about counseling, dialogue, re-education, etc. looks like window dressing.

The video of Garner is certainly disturbing. But anyone so unstable as to be incapable of preparing for and taking exams due to grand jury proceedings not involving themselves or their families should be given an indefinite leave of absence in which to get better.

What is really behind the request for postponement of exams? I suspect it’s the fact that the students in question would rather protest with their friends and perhaps disrupt New York City than read cases, review lecture notes, or whatever it is that students do these days to prepare for exams. In addition, the students in question presumably want the law school to take their side on what they take to be a political question. In other words, this is, in part, a power play.

In 1970, many colleges closed up shop early following the shooting of students by the National Guard at Kent State University. The shootings disturbed many students, but we weren’t too distressed to attend class and study for exams. We just didn’t feel like it.

Instead, we were intent on causing trouble. College administrators figured that, under the circumstances, it would be better to send everyone home.

College administrators come and go, but for the past 45 years they can usually be counted on to take the path of least resistance when the left agitates. Even when doing so results in behavior and conduct that seem like self-parody.


Food Fascism at work

The following is an academic journal article that says school lunches made by parents are no good. You would only take it seriously if you thought that official guidelines were wise.  But since official guidelines and food "wisdom" generally change a lot from time to time the results could reasonably be ignored     

Quality and Cost of Student Lunches Brought From Home

By Michelle L. Caruso et al.


The nutritional quality and cost of lunches brought from home are overlooked and understudied aspects of the school food environment.

To examine the quality and cost of lunches brought from home by elementary and intermediate school students.

Design, Setting, and Participants
An observational study was conducted in 12 schools (8 elementary and 4 intermediate) in one Houston, Texas, area school district from October 6, 2011, to December 5, 2011. Participants included 242 elementary and 95 intermediate school students who brought lunches from home.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Foods brought and amounts eaten were recorded along with student grade level and sex. Nutrient and food group content were calculated and compared with current National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines. Per-serving prices for each item were collected from 3 grocery stores in the study area and averaged.

Compared with the NSLP guidelines, lunches brought from home contained more sodium (1110 vs ?640 mg for elementary and 1003 vs ?710 mg for intermediate students) and fewer servings of fruits (0.33 cup for elementary and 0.29 cup for intermediate students vs 0.50 cup per the NSLP guidelines), vegetables (0.07 cup for elementary and 0.11 cup for intermediate students vs 0.75 cup per the NSLP guidelines), whole grains (0.22-oz equivalent for elementary and 0.31-oz equivalent for intermediate students vs 0.50-oz minimum per the NLSP guidelines), and fluid milk (0.08 cup for elementary and 0.02 cup for intermediate students vs 1 cup per the NSLP guidelines). About 90% of lunches from home contained desserts, snack chips, and sweetened beverages, which are not permitted in reimbursable school meals. The cost of lunches from home averaged $1.93 for elementary and $1.76 for intermediate students. Students from lower-income intermediate schools brought significantly higher-priced ($1.94) lunches than did students from middle-income schools ($1.63).

Conclusions and Relevance
Lunches brought from home compared unfavorably with current NSLP guidelines. Strategies are needed to improve the nutritional quality of lunches brought from home.


The Left did NOT introduce free university education to Australia

The Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme introduced by the conservative Menzies government in 1951 gave free education to the top third of High School graduates  -- more than 20 years before the Whitlam government

Former prime minister John Howard has reportedly taken a swipe at actress Cate Blanchett, declaring her speech at Gough Whitam's memorial service "outrageous".

During her address at the Sydney Town Hall in November, Ms Blanchett said news of Mr Whitlam's death filled her with an "inordinate sadness".  "The loss I felt came down to something very deep and very simple. I am the beneficiary of free, tertiary education," the actress told the state memorial service.

The Whitlam government abolished university fees in 1974. The policy would remain in place for 14 years.

However, News Corp publications report Mr Howard believed Ms Blanchett's praise was misdirected.

"That speech of Cate Blanchett's was outrageous," Mr Howard said. "Cate Blanchett is a talented actor, I admire her talent, but to suggest that Whitlam introduced free university education is wrong.

"The last three years of my university education were completely free and that was 11 years before Whitlam came to power. "This idea that it just arrived (with Whitlam) is complete nonsense and it ought to be called out more frequently."

In 1989, Labor education minister John Dawkins established HECS, meaning students would pay tuition fees but only when earning a decent wage.

The architect of the HECS system, Bruce Chapman, has said Whitlam's impact on higher eduction should not be underestimated.

"Whitlam's higher education agenda and Dawkins' had one thing in common: to take away any need for people to find money to enrol in university," Chapman said in November. "Gough Whitlam left a legacy of a system without upfront fees that has lasted for 40 years."


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