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57 posts categorized "Academia"

May 11, 2007

Brits convicted for exposing Bush's plot to bomb Al-Jazeera

Larisa on how the assassination of journalists was protected by state secrets--two British men were convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for leaking a memo that recounted a conversation in which George W. Bush proposes bombing Al Jazeera in Qatar.

You can read Larisa's story about the contents of the leaked memo here:

According to sources familiar with the case, the classified government memo, consisting of minutes of an April, 2004 meeting between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush, described a disagreement between the two leaders over plans to silence anti-US sentiments in the middle-east.

The memo alleges that President Bush expressed his frustration with al-Jazeera, which is the equivalent of a large broadcast news company such as CNN and has a viewership of 50 million, and wanted to bomb their headquarters using US bombers stationed nearby.

Blair, according to the memo, dissuaded the President from this action because Qatar is an ally of the US and such an action would result in severe backlash. [Raw Story]

Now, the civil servant and the legislator's aide who leaked the memo have been found guilty of violating the Official Secrets Act--following a largely secret trial.

April 29, 2007

UNC brands anorexic as campus threat

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, the University of Northern Colorado published the photographs of 24 students who had been barred from campus for "honor code" infractions ranging from alleged violent crime to anorexia

One of the students whose picture was splashed on the UNC police department website was Brittany Bethel, who was been banned from UNC after collapsing on campus from anorexia nervosa:

Bethel is on UNC's banned student list. The list of names and pictures were posted on the site this week. The school says it is a response to the shootings at Virginia Tech University, but it admits not everyone on the list is a potential danger.

"It is associated with the shooting at Virginia Tech, so it's being implied that the people on it are somehow a danger to someone else and I am in no way a threat to anyone else," she said. [9News]

There are so many civil liberties issues here, it's hard to know where to start.

The university should not be publicly identifying people as threats without overwhelming evidence that they are a danger to the community. It might make sense to publish photographs of students who had, say, outstanding warrants for their arrests, or restraining orders barring them from campus. Short of that, the university has no business pinning scarlet letters on its students.

Imagine how that mugshot page would look to a prospective employer. Branding someone with the stigma of school shootings is no joke, especially the state where the Columbine shootings happened. People on the UNC list might even become the targets of harassment themselves.

It's doubly shocking that the university knowingly published the photographs of students who weren't deemed threats to anyone but themselves.

How dare the University of Northern Colorado stigmatize an woman suffering from a serious medical condition? How was it even legal to bar her from campus for being sick in the first place?

To publicly brand her as a threat heaps insult on injury.

UNC should immediately reinstate Ms. Bethel and compensate her for the ordeal she has endured.

[HT: Body Impolitic]

April 16, 2007

Gunman kills 33 at VA Tech

MSNBC is reporting that a gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dormitory and at least one other building on campus, killing at least 33 people and wounding 30 others. (Cf. update.)

Via Cliff Schecter.

Check from updates VA Tech student journalists. The Collegiate Times website is down is down, but their reports are being posted on the main College Media site is posting their dispatches from the ground, including photographs.

March 29, 2007

Back from Gettysburg

Yesterday, I gave the Richardson Lecture at Gettysburg College. My talk was about the merits and limitations of the norms and attitudes that journalists call "objectivity." Journalistic objectivity turns out to have almost nothing in common with any philosophical concept of objectivity.

Gotta go take my computer to the shop--the power supply is broken and I've got about 15 minutes of battery life left!

I'm going to write up the talk as a paper/essay and post it on the blog. Sorry, no audiovisuals. There was a videographer there for Gettysburg closed circuit TV, so I might be able to get some clips from them.

Thanks again to the staff and students of Gettysburg for inviting me. It was a great pleasure to meet SteveG , Aspazia, and their colleagues and students. I was a little nervous, but they made me feel right at home.

March 20, 2007

Lindsay Beyerstein to give Richardson lecture at Gettysburg College

I will be giving one of the Norman E. Richardson lectures at Gettysburg College on March 28:

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - Lindsay Beyerstein, blogger and photojournalist, will speak on "Objectivity, Professionalism, and Reporting - Methodological Reflections from an Accidental Journalist" March 28 as part of the Norman E. Richardson Lecture series. The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Weidensall Hall, Room 302, and is free and open to the public.

I'm honored that Steve Gimbel and his colleagues have invited me to speak at their university. I hope some of our Pennsylvania readers can join us for the event.

The talk is about how my philosophical training and my blog-based reporting influence my approach to journalism. Most reporters don't think about their professional norms as applied epistemology, but that's by and large what they are. Likewise most of the familiar critiques of journalists by bloggers, and bloggers by journalists are based on assumptions about epistemology.

Like many bloggers, I think that the dispassion and disengagement that mainstream journalists call "objectivity" is neither especially objective nor especially conducive to accurate or informative news. However, when I started doing actual reporting, I noticed that it can be very useful to slip into the socially accepted role of the objective journalist, but not for the reasons they say in the textbooks.

I'm still writing the paper. Maybe I'll be able to post a draft online later this week.

March 18, 2007

Delta Zeta reprise

DePauw University president Robert G. Bottoms severed ties with the Delta Zeta sorority after a 98-year association. Turnabout is fair play. DZ tarnished DePauw's reputation by casting off members who didn't fit the sorority girl stereotype. Now, DePauw has wisely decided that DZ was making the school look bad.

On March 12, Dr. Bottoms sent a letter to Delta Zeta president Deborah Raziano explaining his decision. "I have spent significant time gathering facts and information over the past two months. As a result, it has become clear that the values of DePauw University and those of the Delta Zeta National Sorority are incompatible," Bottoms  wrote.

Delta Zeta made headlines when the national organization evicted 23 sisters in the DePauw chapter, ostensibly for their "lack of commitment" to recruiting. The New York Times exposed the Delta Zeta purge on February 25th, and the story sparked national outrage.

The evictions were recruiting-related, but they had nothing to do with the willingness of individual members to recruit. The women were kicked out because they didn't fit the "cool" sorority girl stereotype. All the overweight women were asked to leave, as were the chapter's only Vietnamese and black members.

The national organization surmised that the darker, pudgier, geekier members of the sorority were scaring off the cool people. They were probably right, too. The rich, attractive, socially connected members they were seeking didn't want anything to do with an organization that was known on campus as "the doghouse." Delta Zeta's reputation for attracting smart women was recruiting poison.

DZ alumnae Terri Richardson laid out the facts in an op/ed in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

I am a Delta Zeta alumna. I was president of my Delta Zeta chapter. It was a chapter not unlike the DePauw group.

We were viewed as one of the less popular sororities on campus. We had a high academic average and took an active philanthropic role in the community, but when it came to social invitations from fraternities, there weren’t a lot.

Some readers are screaming at this point, who cares? Isn’t that a good thing? Well, yes, I suppose it is if you didn’t have to compete with four other sororities for members. After all, image is everything.

Sororities and fraternities are ultimately clubs. You pay dues to be a member.

Yes, the groups fall under the college system, but in order to remain a sorority or fraternity you must meet many goals and guidelines of your national chapter.

Membership is one of those goals. If you do not have a certain number of members, the chapter ceases to exist. And as a club, you depend on your members to help you achieve those goals.

The official line is that sororities are about, well, sisterhood. The national organization decided that sisterhood was less important than branding and image. Delta Zeta at DePauw represented everything that's potentially good about sororities.

By admitting that sororities are all about image and dues, national Delta Zeta undercut its own rationale for existing.

Delta Zeta had been at DePauw for 98 years. The sorority has had a reputation for offbeat members with good grades for years. Evidently, DZ managed to maintain a steady stream of dues-paying members until recently. For whatever reason, there are fewer geeks going Greek these days. Maybe it's a sign of progress.  I'd like to think that there are more niches for smart, independent women on college campuses than there were in previous decades. Maybe these days, high-achieving women don't feel the same need to band together for mutual support. 

In the wake of the Delta Zeta controversy, DePauw University has pledged to supervise the entire Greek system more closely from now on. I hope that other universities will heed the example of DePauw and realize that the excesses of the Greek system reflect badly on their own organizations.

March 14, 2007

DePauw University boots Delta Zeta

Kudos to DePauw University for severing ties to the Delta Zeta sorority over allegations that the sorority purged its non-white, science-oriented, and/or non-conventionally attractive members in a drive to recruit a larger and more lucrative membership on campus. [NYT]

February 25, 2007

Delta Zeta "sorority": No fat chicks

The Delta Zeta sorority chapter at DePauw University has a reputation for recruiting smart women from diverse backgrounds, especially students who excel in math and science.

When the national chapter heard that some psych students at the university were stereotyping the sisters as "socially awkward," the swung into action, evicting all but the skinny pretty white girls:

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit. [NYT]

You really have to read the whole article to get a sense of how egregiously and unambiguously Delta Zeta culled the "undesirables" from the sorority house.

The NYT article gives the impression that the DePauw chapter was a vibrant and supportive community that wasn't prepared to kiss the asses of the national reps:

Robin Lamkin, a junior who is an editor at The DePauw and was one of the 23 women evicted, said many of her sisters bought new outfits and modeled them for each other before the interviews. Many women declared their willingness to recruit diligently, Ms. Lamkin said.

A few days after the interviews, national representatives took over the house to hold a recruiting event. They asked most members to stay upstairs in their rooms. To welcome freshmen downstairs, they assembled a team that included several of the women eventually asked to stay in the sorority, along with some slender women invited from the sorority’s chapter at Indiana University, Ms. Holloway said.

“They had these unassuming freshman girls downstairs with these plastic women from Indiana University, and 25 of my sisters hiding upstairs,” she said. “It was so fake, so completely dehumanized. I said, ‘This calls for a little joke.’ ”

Ms. Holloway put on a wig and some John Lennon rose-colored glasses, burst through the front door and skipped around singing, “Ooooh! Delta Zeta!” and other chants.

The face of one of the national representatives, she recalled, “was like I’d run over her puppy with my car.”

The national representatives announced their decisions in the form letters, delivered on Dec. 2, which said that Delta Zeta intended to increase membership to 95 by the 2009 anniversary, and that it would recruit using a “core group of women.” [NYT]

Good for these young women for standing up for themselves. Delta Zeta didn't deserve them.

February 19, 2007

If you know her, you're not a real rapist

As goes Harvard, so goes the University of Tampa...

The Univerity of Tampa is now admitting that it erred in failing to alert the campus community regarding a rape suspect at large:

TAMPA - University of Tampa officials say they should have informed the student newspaper earlier of a rape on campus after the Gasparilla parade, but the assault didn't merit extreme precautions or alerting all students.

"The question at first was: Is it date rape? We don't go into a security alert for a date rape," UT spokesman Grant Donaldson said Saturday. "That's not called for."

Though some students expressed outrage that school officials didn't notify them immediately, others suggested that the victim brought trouble on herself by drinking too much, leaving her friends and allowing a stranger into her room.

Still, Donaldson said, the university failed to alert the newspaper in a timely manner and officials will review policies related to releasing information about similar events.

The rape occurred Jan. 26, when a man escorted a drunken student to her UT dorm room. The man, whose blurred image was captured by security cameras, fled the room when another student showed up. The young woman reported the assault to police soon after. [SPT]

Because as we all know, alleged stranger rapists are suspects who should be considered dangerous, whereas, it's gauche to treat other alleged rapists as dangerous suspects when they're only suspected of raping women they know.

February 03, 2007

Interference, Inc. made video of Mooninite invasion

Why did Turner Broadcasting's Mooninite LEDs spark mass panic in Boston but pass unremarked in nine other cities?

We know that approximately 400 devices had been installed in 10 cities around the U.S. including New York, Seattle, and Boston. The illuminated circuit boards had already been up for two to three weeks in Boston and elsewhere before a transit worker spotted a device attached to a girder on Interstate 93.

According to the opening credits, Interference made this video with help from the Boston-based VJ group Glitch Crew:

The video purports to show a street team putting up Mooninite LEDs at various sites around Boston. There are multiple copies of the video on YouTube. I haven't been able to determine who originally uploaded it, or when the movie first went up.

The Anti-Advertising Agency reported on January 31 that the original poster had removed the video from YouTube. The Graffiti Research Lab archived the photo and reposted it on the GRL website.

Interference has taken down its entire website since the incident except for a lame note of apology.

It would be interesting to know exactly when the video hit YouTube and who put it up. Thoughts, hivemind?