The Arizona Desert Lamp

Monsoon season hits ASU football

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 29 August 2008

Tucson got some hard rain last night, but it’s nothing compared to what happened to our neighbors in the North. Via Deadspin and Pitchfork Nation, an ominous start to the Sun Devils’ football season:

The dome opened at a cost of $8.4 million in July. Tonight’s storm wasted it in the span of about 45 minutes. I was parked by Four Peaks Brewing Company around 9:45 tonight and a gust of wind nearly picked up one side of my car. Power went out from about 8th Street and north at about the same time and in some places has not been restored. The following are my eyewitness pictures from the northeast corners of Arizona State University at around 1:00 AM.

Pictures can be seen here. Damage is estimated to cost “between $900,000 and $1 million.” Ouch.

But hey, look at the bright side: at least this provides some new stimulus to the construction industry during these tough economic times! (In case the sarcasm doesn’t appear obvious, read this, substituting ‘practice facility’ for ‘window’.)

Blackboard v. D2L

Posted in 10451739, Campus by Evan Lisull on 28 August 2008

Interesting developments in the war between the two biggest course-webpage companies, Blackboard and Desire2Learn (D2L):

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a request by Blackboard Inc. for a temporary halt in the office’s review of a software patent the company holds concerning course-management systems.

This year Blackboard won a lawsuit in federal court against a rival software company, Desire2Learn, for violating the patent, though Desire2Learn has appealed the decision. Meanwhile, Desire2Learn had formally challenged the validity of the patent with the patent office, arguing that it is overly broad and covers technology that other companies had developed before Blackboard filed its patent. The patent office issued an initial verdict in March that rejected all 44 of the claims that make up Blackboard’s patent. But that review is “nonfinal,” meaning that the review is still underway.

It looks like there ultimately won’t be much impact on campus. When it looked as though Blackboard’s suit would carry the day, D2L seemed on its way out. However, even though Blackboard will lose their patents, it probably won’t be enough to put them out of business; instead, they will have simply missed a chance to knock out their chief competitor. From a purely aesthetic level, it would be nice for SBS and the other departments to move over the Blackboard, but the costs are probably prohibitive, especially with the budget situation being what it is.

Another option worth considering is Moodle, an open-source software that, while not entirely free, is far more cost-effective than either option on campus currently.

Drinking Age, Cont.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 August 2008

Shocking news from UT-Austin:

College students today celebrate 21st birthdays with an average of 12 drinks for men and nine for women, finds the most in-depth picture yet of the consequences of extreme partying.

The University of Texas at Austin research found 78 percent of students cited ill effects, including hangovers (54 percent). Of 44 percent who had blackouts, 22 percent found out later that they had sex; 22 percent got in a fight or argument. And 39 percent didn’t know how they got home.

Next you’ll be telling me that public sex acts are illegal! Oh, wait. I’m a bit surprised at how low these numbers are: only 54 percent with hangovers? Although this is probably the most amusing study these researchers have done in their careers, the results also yielded a pertinent insight:

Texas’ larger study of 2,200 also looked at drinking in the two weeks before and after the 21st birthday and found frequency of drinking increases after 21, but quantity decreases.

Psychology professor Kim Fromme, who directs the Texas study, says turning 21 decreases the risk associated with heavy episodic drinking. Overall, the research found most students drank twice a week or less; 19-year-olds drank the most.

So much for that argument. An aspect of the drinking age debate that sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that if the drinking age were 18, many drinking-age birthdays would occur while the new adults were still living at home. While there certainly would still be a good deal of shenanigans, the home environment could do a lot to stymie some of the more outrageous and dangerous behavior that occurs when that kid heads off to college.

As Tyler Cowen has pointed out, if the current policy were so effective, why not make the drinking age 25? 50? Hell, why not ban the substance outright? Oh, right: we did, and it was a miserable failure. Yet some people never learn:

Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of the Irving, Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, isn’t convinced.

“Increasing access is not going to reduce binge drinking. Access would be increased,” she says.

Because that worked in the 1920s. And it really works now, since freshmen who finally get their hands on some liquor are in no way inclined to overdo it. Right? Right?

ASUA Meeting Wrap-up

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 August 2008

Sorry for the delays in getting this up; the Internet is still unsteady at the new house. The Wildcat‘s summary can be viewed here. Of course, nothing important was passed; instead, it was mostly a discussion of the big programs coming up, the most important of which is the UA Votes 2008 program, intended to increase student turnout at the polls this year.

This UA Votes 2008 program should cause a bit of unease, and not just because of my reactionary, anti-democratic tendencies. For one, the person hired full-time to be the ASA Campus Organizer is none other than Erin Hertzog, former ASUA President and former boss of current President Tommy Bruce (he was her chief of staff). Bruce spelled it out as much: Hertzog was hired with the funds gained with the ASA student fee increase. I’m sure Ms. Hertzog is more than qualified, but the connections are incestuous enough to make me cringe.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the fact that ASUA is just one member in a broader coalition, a coalition that is lead in part by the Arizona PIRG, a very “progressive” organization. Of course, when asked about funds, Bruce emphasized that because of the university’s status, no funds will go to political groups. Yet any coalition with PIRG as a major pillar clearly has a purpose; and I can’t imagine that, say, Jim Manzi’s arguments about global warming will be presented in any voter education program. 

Other notes:

-The only debate for CD-8, between standing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), and challenger Tim Bee (R), will take place on September 16, in the Grand Ballroom. 

-In order to combat crime on campus (such as this outrageous story, which wasn’t even picked up by the Wildcat), we have the debut of a new cabinet position of Safety Director, whose main task will be the implementation of a “Safety Commission.” What exactly this will do to make for a safer campus, other than the classic exhortations for “public awareness,” is unclear. It sounds all-too-much like a Congressional solution: when a serious issue arises, call a commission and take a four-day weekend.

-There is still one open Senate seat. The application packets will be due September 4, and the election will be held on September 17. Here’s hoping that we get a completely odd-ball candidate in there.

ASUA Senate preview

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 27 August 2008

In a few hours, the ASUA Senate will begin the 08-09 year. Before we enter the second year of the Bruce Presidency, let’s take a look at the new senators, and the platforms that they ran on during the election:

Bryan Baker

Baker’s major proposal in his Senate run was “Project Crime Stop,” which would place security cameras at the entrances and exits of all dorms on campus. Costing around $2 million, Sen. Baker does not address concerns of student privacy rights in his policy. He has also proposed “Project Powerhouse”, which would attempt to garner ZonaZoo national attention in an attempt to recruit students to the UA. Presumably, Sen. Baker is not referring to the national attention ZonaZoo received after the bottle throwing incident last season.

Matthew Ellis

Ellis emphasized in his campaign that, “the responsibility of checks and balances has been neglected in the past.” He repeatedly brought up the threat of impeachment, and during his interview with the Wildcat he stated that he would consider impeaching some of his running mates. He also was part of the ASUA PULSE coalition, advocating for the use of surveys as a way to determine what policies the Senate should implement.

Emily Fritze

Where other candidates proposed sweeping measures, Sen. Fritze instead focused on marginal changes that, while small, seemed fairly feasible. One of these was the proposal to join USA TODAY’s Collegiate Readership Program, which would provide national publications on campus at a minimal cost to students. Fritze also put forth the idea of using the old rec center parking lot as a tailgating area; she stated, however, that this is a long term goal.

Nick Macchiaroli

Macchiaroli ran on three main proposals. The first was the implementation of a weekly shuttle service, running from campus to Fry’s, Target, and the Tucson Mall, at a total cost of $27,428. He has also pushed for a ZonaZoo system that would create a points system for attendance, encouraging attendance at less popular sports by granting those fans priority seating for the more popular sports such as football and basketball. Finally, he has advocated for a sweeping overhaul of WebReg, arguing for an “automatic waiting list” for all classes.

Jimmy Mackenzie

MacKenzie was another member of the ASUA PULSE group. His other main issue was interaction with the city of Tucson, which would include increased access on the city council, and having a greater role for student input into city affairs.

Jason Mighdoll

During his campaign run, Jason Mighdoll focused on three platform planks. The first of these is “improved student awareness of professors and courses,” which would create a Teacher Course Evaluations Review Committee within ASUA, and mandate the release of past professors’ syllabi to students considering whether or not to take the class. Mighdoll has also planned to expand awareness of clubs in ASUA, as well as increasing the availability of free flu shots at Campus Health.

Kayla Patrick

Patrick’s campaign focused on an issue that is not exactly conventional election material: the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Although it is the top-ranked center of its kind in the nation, Patrick seeks to “strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the DRC”, as well as to expand awareness to other students. Patrick has also advocated for increased student awareness of rape on campus, through the Women’s Resource Center.

Stephen Wallace

While no official platforms were offered online, Wallace presented several platforms during his media interview with the Wildcat. These included a proposal to expand the broadcasting of classes online; the implementation of a human anatomy course; and increasing student awareness of the campus legal counsel.

Gabby Ziccarelli

The top vote-getter in the election with nearly 9 percent of the electorate, Ziccarelli promoted several new policies in her campaign. The first of these was the development of a Student Nutrition Council (SNC), which would be in charge of lobbying for new food-related programs on campus. Ziccarelli also pushed for the creation of an off-campus housing director, as well as the creation of an “Alliance Committee” between the various organizations involving student affairs (ASUA, RHA, and CSIL). Finally, Ziccarelli supported hiring a paid director for the Women’s Resource Center.

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Sex-change rates

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 27 August 2008

As the dollar continues to wallow somewhere between the Canadian loonie and the Swiss franc, many have been forced to cut back on dinners out, carpool with coworkers, and generally cut out unnecessary expenditures. Of course, college students have their own way of surviving during times of economic woe:

A recent study of 475 University of Michigan undergraduates ages 17 to 26 found that 27 percent of the men and 14 percent of the women who weren’t in a committed relationship had offered someone favors or gifts — help prepping for a test, laundry washing, tickets to a college football game — in exchange for sex. On the flip side, 5 percent of the men surveyed and 9 percent of the women said they’d attempted to trade sex for such freebies.

As a native of Ann Arbor, I can completely understand such a barter for football tickets; those things cost a lot more than an arm and a leg. Yet the funniest part about this study is the wide disparity between the higher number of people giving gifts for sex, and the people giving sex for gifts. Either there’s some serious misunderstanding going on in these transactions (“You mean, our love was only for the washer/dryer unit?”), or a cadre of professionals are making bank on their. . . unique skill-set.

Predictions for the future: some economics professor will try to demonstrate this principle in an in-class experiment, and will be sued for sexual harassment. Popular demand will put an end to glass-walled study rooms. An aspiring politician will fall from favor after jokingly proposing sex-onomics as way to improve the well-being of the middle class.

The CNN story also contains a bizarre section entitled, “The handyman hookup,” describing America’s modern-day Lothario, Ben Corbett, age 39:

Ben Corbett, a 39-year-old contractor from Boulder, Colorado, credits his tool belt with prompting the barrage of come-ons he fields from female clients — most of them married — on a regular basis.

“It starts with the flirting, and it just progresses,” says Corbett, who has run a construction and remodeling business for 20 years. “They’ll touch my hand, and there’s all this physical contact. Or they’ll run around in their pajamas.”

“Once,” he says, “I was painting the hallway right outside a client’s bedroom, and she was lying on her bed like a girl at a slumber party with her legs up and her arms crossed and her head resting on them, asking me if I had a girlfriend.

“It’s all about the fantasy of being taken by the rough-hewn construction guy,” muses Corbett, who, despite the temptation, has avoided getting sexually involved with his clientele for fear of jeopardizing his business.

Of course, everybody knows that “Ben Corbett” is a pseudonym for this guy.

Image courtesy of flickr user Del Far.

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UA students on the internets

Posted in Media, Politics by Evan Lisull on 26 August 2008

Over at the Arizona Daily Star’s StarNet Politics blog, the UA has two guest writers: Chris Campas, a 20 year old political activist who will be among Arizona’s youngest delegates at the Democratic National Convention; and Ry Ellison, president of the College Republicans and co-chair of the Youth for McCain coalition in Arizona. Ellison’s first post can be read here, but as far as I can tell Campas has not written yet.

Even though it’s local media, and the editor is a former Wildcat, this is still a pretty impressive showing by the UA.

Shelton on the Amethyst Initiative

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 26 August 2008

A few days ago, the Amethyst Initiative made news by releasing a list of over 100 college presidents and other high-ranking officials who had signed onto their program. As the website states, “These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.”

President Shelton, however, did not sign on. Below is the text of the email he sent in response:

Some thoughts on the Amethyst Initiative.

Underage drinking in general and binge drinking specifically are serious
concerns for our society and certainly at universities where so many young
people in the 18-20 age group are present.  It is wise to think about, plan
and execute programs that address these problems.  From my perspective, I do
not believe the issue is sufficiently simple to be solved by lowering the
drinking age.  I have not signed the petition.  The studies with which I am
familiar indicate that starting to drink earlier can lead to more
problematic behavior in later life.  At the UA, we address these issues
through education and programs to inform and assist students.  I offer a
list of some of our interventions below as provided by the VP for Student
Affairs.

-e-CHUG online, educational intervention for incoming UA freshmen,
completed by over 5,500 students in Fall 2007

-U.S. Dept. of Education Model Program status for reducing alcohol
use among UA Greeks

-SAMHSA funded Project CHAT, that screens students for high-risk
drinking and employs motivational interviewing in a one-on-one setting

-SHADE Alcohol Diversion Program for students with alcohol
infractions

-A coordinated social norms marketing campaign that aims to
correct misperceptions about student alcohol use.

-UA staff also serve on the following community groups/coalitions
to address underage alcohol use:

-UA Campus and Community Coalition for Alcohol and Other Drug
Prevention

-Arizona Underage Drinking Prevention Committee

-Pima County – Tucson Commission on Addiction, Prevention and
Treatment

-Pima County – Tucson Task Force to Reduce Underage Drinking

-Arizona Institutions of Higher Education (AZIHE) Network, a
statewide consortium that proactively addresses alcohol and other drug (AOD)
use issues among youth attending colleges and universities in Arizona

-Southern Arizona DUI Task Force

-Community Prevention Coalition – partially funded by the State of
Arizona Office of Health and Human Services

If I am thinking of the same study that President Shelton is, then it should be made clear that when the issue of “drinking earlier” is brought up, it refers to, “early initiation of alcohol use (before the age of 14) as one risk factor for problems with alcohol later in life.” Once in college, it’s already passed. Meanwhile, the Marines have already lowered the drinking age for their service members overseas.

Also notice the absence of the following words and/or phrases: civil liberties; adulthood; consent; Amendments XVIII or XXI; or highway funding.

Until Shelton changes his mind, however, we can continue to enjoy the wonderful results of these many, educational programs.

(The email also mentioned that it was sent to a Wildcat reporter, so expect this to pop up in the paper in the next few days.)

Dump the Catcher?

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 26 August 2008

GOOD Magazine (because, you know, it’s good) makes the case against teaching Catcher in the Rye:

Sure, J.D. Salinger’s novel was edgy and controversial when teachers first put it on their syllabi. But that was 50 years ago. Today, Salinger’s novel lacks the currency or shock value it once had, and has lost some of its critical cachet. But it is still ubiquitously taught even though many newer novels of adolescence are available.

Furthermore, Catcher in the Rye is not a book that lends itself towards an English class. During those years when J.D. Salinger still loomed over my limited literature horizon, there was a clear distinction between those who loved the book, and those who hated it with a passion. These two camps correlated almost perfectly with another dichotomy: those who read the book on their own, and those who were forced to read it for class.

But the broader question is why “books about adolescence” are taught in the first place. There is something preciously ironic about requiring students to read a book about teenage rebellion and adolescent angst. When this book is discovered on one’s own, it resonates: “Yes! This book is so old, and yet it completely resonates with my own life!” If it’s mandated by grumpy old Mr. Jenkins, though, the reaction is instead, “This is so stupid. This doesn’t have anything in common with how I feel,” a reaction perhaps more of a defensive measure against a story that hits too close to home. Ultimately, it accomplishes very little; 1984 elicits a far greater response.

No, the book shouldn’t be taught in classes; but neither should the many other works that are taught to “engage” students, including the ones recommended by Ms. Trubek. Return to the classics, instill a sense of seriousness in the classroom, and hope to God that the kids are engaged enough to continue reading outside of their studies.

(Besides, Salinger’s short stories are much better.)

Caution: ASU Graduate at Work

Posted in Random by Evan Lisull on 26 August 2008

And it’s only the first day of the school year:

A man who climbed nearly 100 feet up a high-tension electrical tower during a thunderstorm Monday night was persuaded to climbed safely back to the ground by Mesa police.

. . .

The man was returned without injury to the ground shortly after 8 p.m. with no explanation for why he had climbed the tower in the first place. After confirming that he was not injured, the man was released to the custody of the Mesa Police Department.

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