Archive for March, 2008

Along with homework, sleeping and enjoying their finals years of adolescence, some university students are devoting their time to bigger issues. Students are becoming members of anti war groups, getting involved in political campaigns, fighting for human rights and much more.  Many students who are involved in groups listed above are doing some unimaginable things.

  •  Ben Joyce, a 22- year-old student at Borough Manhattan Community College may become the youngest member the New York state congress. He is the Socialist Workers Party pick for the 7th Congressional district in New York. His hopes are that the working class will get better representation and support by the SWP and that Americans will see that the two party system is not sufficient enough for them to get this support. 
  • Racing against the clock, Josh Sommers has been working to save his own life. In 2005 Sommers was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare case of cancer that effects the skull or the spine. Sommers, an engineering major, found out that the one research facility for chordoma was at Duke University Medical Center. In the past two years he and his mother have founded the Chordoma Foundation and has helped researchers speed up the research process for a cure. 
  • The Cherry Blossom Project, a project by MIT’s graduate student Alyssa Wright, is an anti-war mobile art piece. A backpack filled with confetti is strapped on Wright’s back in order to bring awareness of the Iraqi casualties to the public. The confetti has names of Iraqis who have been killed by the war. In order for the confetti to be released the backpack must be worn in a certain spot in Boston that correlates with a bombing point in Baghdad. 

Even though, these students are doing things that are getting media attention, it doesn’t mean that other groups are not making a difference or doing something big on their own campus. At MU students in groups are working to make a difference in their own backyard.

  • Volunteer programs through the University YMCA 
  • Volunteering at a local after school program such as Granny’s House
  • Joining an organization on campus or starting your own through ORG



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    Takin’<p> a break

    Hello, faithful U.Town readers!

    Even bloggers need vacations, so we will be taking the week off from blogging this week.

    We may post occasionally, but look for us to return full-force next week!

    In the meantime, check out the Columbia Missourian for more updates on what’s going on in Columbia’s higher education world, such as the MSA Senate re-elections that are being held at MU after technical problems skewed the results.

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    The Project for Excellence in Journalism, just released its report, the State of The News Media 2008. The findings aren’t to surprising but they are a little disappointing.

    The three main cable news channels, CNN, Fox and MSNBC, focused primarily on the same topics. The top 5 topics in the cable news media were U.S. foreign affairs, elections/politics, crime, government and disasters/accidents. Although, each outlet handled coverage differently. CNN, dedicated time across more topics than the other two but leaned toward U.S. foreign affairs. Fox, on the other hand, was oriented more towards crime. MSNBC, focused most of its coverage on Washington devoting large chunks of airtime to the 2008 election and politics in general.

    Because of this narrow focus there are a variety of domestic issues passed over or virtually ignored by the cable news media. According to the report, the broad range of domestic issues including environment, education, health, science and technology, religion and transportation only made up 13 percent of airtime on cable. However on nightly network news these same issues made up about 24 percent of airtime.

    It was disappointing to see the percentages of coverage of the newswhole on economics/business, the environment, health/medicine and science/technology. Economics recevied 3 percent. the environment received 1 percent, health received 2 percent and science received less than 1 percent. The percentages for these issues were higher on network news but none broke 10 percent.

    The report put it into perspective like this:

    If one were to have watched five hours of cable news, one would have seen about:

    • 35 minutes about campaigns and elections
    • 36 minutes about the debate over U.S. foreign policy
    • 26 minutes or more of crime
    • 12 minutes of accidents and disasters
    • 10 minutes of celebrity and entertainment

    On the other hand, one would have seen:

    • 1 minute and 25 seconds about the environment
    • 1 minute and 22 seconds about education
    • 1 minute about science and technology
    • 3 minutes and 34 seconds about the economy
    • 3 minutes and 46 seconds about health and health care

    The top 10 cable news stories of 2007 were as follows: 2008 campaign, Iraq policy debate, immigration, events in Iraq, Iran, domestic terrorism, VATech shooting, Anna Nicole Smith, fired U.S. attorneys and Valerie Plame. It’s hard to believe that Anna Nicole Smith’s death received the same amount of media coverage that the VATech shooting received and more than the U.S. attorneys.

    It’s no wonder why many people see the news as depressing. Viewers are constantly being saturated with news about crime, death, scandal and bad news from Iraq.

    Some people see the media as trying to cash in on others misfortune. I don’t think that’s necessarily true but news outlets are trying to get viewers. For some reason, in this country people have a morbid fascination with death and unfortunately that’s what will get ratings.

    And, it seems in between all the disasters and death airtime is filled with trivial celebrity coverage. It only adds to the perception that Americans are obsessed with pop-culture and tragedy. This is happening while important topics such as science, health and economics are virtually ignored.

    So next time you’re watching the CNN, Fox or MSNBC or network news, notice what stories are getting top billing and what’s getting passed over.

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    The first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament has grown into somewhat of a nationwide phenomenon. Starting Thursday and continuing through the weekend, time seems to stop — or at least slow considerably — when the first ball is tipped. By now many people have become accustomed to the tournament’s routine and popularity — even John McCain’s presidential campaign Web site is running a bracket contest — which consists of bracket pools both among friends and in the workplace (where many are illegal) and perhaps stealing a glance (or two or ten) at one of the 64 games online. The count for CBS’ “Mega March Madness” online game viewing service will serve well over a million users for this year’s tournament, if last year’s numbers gathered by Paidcontent.org are any indication.

    The tournament is not (and likely never will nor should be) a national holiday, but those in the workplace seemed to have missed that particular memo. Data from the placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which is predicting a $1.7 billion loss in work productivity during the tournament, according to an article in the Detroit Free-Press. According to the article, every 10 minutes spent on tournament talk watching games results in a $109 million loss overall. On the plus side, however, this annual prediction is significantly less than the $3.8 billion estimated productivity loss by the firm in 2006 that various media outlets reported.

    The money train reaches to schools and athletic departments as well. A blog report on WRAL-TV’s Web site in Raleigh, N.C., gives a perspective on how some of the NCAA tournament revenue is doled out. David Glenn, editor of The Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Journal, said the number of games the teams in any given conference play over a six-year period affect the percentage of tournament revenues the conference receives from the NCAA. So, for example, each game the Big 12 Conference’s teams play in 2008 will count towards the revenue distribution tally through 2013. As Glenn puts it, each of these games counts as a “money unit” added up over the six-year period. The units have recently been worth up to $175,000, he said. 

    So the powers that be at individual athletic departments and at conferences are doing more than holding their breath during a buzzer-beating finish. They’re also likely seeing the dollar signs. Put MU’s NCAA tournament drought of five years into perspective, and the dent in the Big 12 pocketbook begins to add up.

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    According to archival information, the tower of Memorial Union on MU’s campus was officially dedicated in 1926 as a memorial to MU Alumni and students who lost their lives in World War I. The Latin phrase “In Sapientia Ambulate, Tempus Rediments”, translated, “Walk in wisdom, redeeming the time” was engraved on the tower. The tower now stands as a memorial to all MU Alumni and students who have lost their lives in U.S. conflicts since then.

    This afternoon at 1:30 p.m. the city of Columbia held “1,000 Strong for Peace- End THIS War!”. Hundreds of people gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. People gathered to listen to speakers, march through downtown, and end at Peace Park for a small concert.

    While marching is an honorable way to raise awareness to various issues and to allow for a mass public opinion, how are people really supporting the troops serving this country overseas? A person can walk through any public parking lot and spot a (insert chosen color here) “Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbon, but is that their only method of support?

    There are currently thousands of students and friends, men and women, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers; serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas overseas. While many people stop their support at a magnet, others choose to go a step further. There are so many ways to help the men and women serving this country, and those that organize them are always happy to gain another volunteer. No matter what branch of military, there is a way to help.

    Below one site (as there are so many) is listed for each branch of the military. Most existing sites were created by military families and provide a place for those with family members overseas to talk and share memories and photos with. Many of them establish their own support projects within these groups and are always happy to gain another volunteer.

    If you know of a great cause to support the U.S. military please leave a comment below and I will gladly add it to the list.

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    Green Jesse Hall

    Friday night – MU engineering students and faculty braved the cold weather to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Jesse Hall green dome-lighting ceremony which, for the first time, marked the beginning of engineering week celebrations.

    Instead of the traditional off-campus concert, engineering student leaders decided to this year launch E-week with the March 7 dome-lighting ceremony in an effort to attract more alumni and campus colleagues to the weeklong celebrations.

    “I think it’s a grand and dramatic way of kicking off the week—and it’s on campus,” E–Week organizer Emily Gogel told CoE. Ever since engineering students inaugurated the stunt in 1988, the lighting of the dome has become one of the most widely recognised E-week traditions. 

    However, engineering week, which runs from March 7 through to March 15, is host to many other fun and often mysterious demonstrations and event intended to honour St. Patrick (the patron saint of engineering) and to celebrate the profession and history of engineering. Some of these events include: 

    • The egg catapult – where groups get together and build an egg catapult and compete for distance and accuracy as they launch the eggs across the Francis Quadrangle aiming for a frying pan 60 feet away. Fun Fact – 750/sec – the fastest recorded speed by an ambitious group in 2001.
    • Hot dog Banquet
    • Professor for a day – gives a company the chance to teach a class for a day and tell students what they “could be doing” if they were in the ‘real world’.
    • Stretch eating contest – held at the Broadway Diner, this event is not for the faint hearted. Chili and onions served on top of eggs that rest on a bed of delicious shoe string hash browns…YUM!
    • Knighting Ceremony – the tradition of bestowing this honour to MU engineering students started over 100 years ago. It has continued every year since and it remains one of the oldest traditions at the University of Missouri. In the age-old tradition, St Patrick appears and dubs seniors a Knight of St Patrick as they kneel and kiss the original sacred Blamey Stone of 1906. To be dubbed a Knight of St Patrick is a great honour.
    • St. Pat’s formal ball and casino night.

    For a full list of events visit http://eweek.missouri.edu/index.cgi/events?r=1

    Engineering week also strives to benefit the community by holding food collection drives at each of its events.

    This year, for the first time, students will be able to donate cans of food to the Central Missouri Food Bank in Northern Columbia

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    Straddling the line between sending a message and stepping on others’ sensitivity has recently been a difficult balancing act.

    With the on-campus shootings in the past year at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and the University of North Carolina, the mental attitude and of students and grieving process for students closely connected to these events come to the forefront. How long do we wait before things are “back to normal”? In these terms, how soon is too soon?

    This question was first addressed shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings when the release of Dark Matter, a movie starring Meryl Streep, loosely based on a shooting at the University of Iowa in 1991, was delayed. The movie tells the story an Asian science graduate student who reacts to the politics of fictional Valley State University and of a patron of the university (Streep) who befriends him. This plot was thought to relate too closely to the events surrounding the Virginia Tech shootings, in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

    After the shootings at Northern Illinois last month, the movie’s production company announced the film will be released in April as scheduled after the initial push-back, according to the Associated Press. Gary Rubin, president of First Independent Pictures, said the movie is a good film and stands well on its own merits. He also believes enough time has passed and that his company is not focusing on the shootings anymore. Dark Matter was last year’s Alfred P. Sloan prize winner for science movies at the Sundance Film Festival.

    What are your thoughts on this issue? Should the production company have waited longer to release the film? To what extent should movie developers worry about the potential sensitive nature of the subject and others’ feelings about the subject? If the film is produced in good taste, how would that sway the discussion?

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