Andy Nash's Profile > Messages Posted

Subject: More Global or Local?

Forum: More Global or Local?
With the increase of economic & political globalism in the past couple decades, combined with the evolution of online technology, the world seems to have gotten smaller, though crowded with more info. The focus & mindshare of consumers of news has been increasingly national & even international, or global. Even the local paper seems to be a thing of the past, where small town papers are bought up by larger media conglomerates supplanting wire stories & nationally syndicated columnists. As we’ve become seemingly more ideologically polarized over nationally issues, and as people move around and travel with greater ease and regularity for work or school than in the past, there seems less connectedness that younger people especially may feel to where they’re from or where they move away to, such as they’re college town.

Protestors were always out in force over everything from foreign wars (since Vietnam) to the death penalty, international sweatshop labor, to more recently this past year, speech they simply disagree with (Middlebury, Berkely, etc.). Strangely, the politically conscious rarely seemed to be involved in the local issues that effected them directly, from landlord tenant issues to particular zoning ordinances and discriminatory housing regulations that targeted them directly. If it wasn’t along the lines of race or gender, the story wasn’t sexy enough. But yet, they missed the memo from Civics 101, that the local municipal and school administration buildings aren’t the place to protest national & international policies. “All politics is local” is the famous phrase, but many can’t imagine why.

Interestingly, Google & Facebook, are apparently shifting attention back to local news. FB may now put more local news in your News Feed with their algorithm. Google is experimenting with crowdsourced news, things people see & record themselves aggregated for the people in the locality. Many advertisers are skeptical. I’m skeptical too, because almost everyone is from elsewhere. Is your “local” where you are, or where you’re from?

How can we foster greater civic engagement & community involvement in reality among people where they are? Isn’t that supposed to be the good-habit forming exercise as you mature through adulthood and seek to plant roots somewhere forming communities of your own someday? Or are we too far gone living in our digital bubbles that take us everywhere but leave us nowhere?

Subject: Should You be Allowed to Record Your Professors?

Forum: Should You be Allowed to Record Your Professors?
Recording your professors’ lectures is nothing new. However technology in the past 10, if not 15 years has made it far too easy and discrete as virtually everyone can do so with their phones.
One’s own academic reference when studying was always the benign reason for recording. But what if you believed your professor’s occasional or consistent commentary or behavior was inappropriate, or presentations lop-sided, or unprofessional in some way. Combine that with the school being public, the prof’s salary paid at least in part with public funds. You’d think there’d be a duty to present a balance of the facts in a fair-minded way, juxtaposing free speech and academic freedom with academic responsibility. There has been much politicization of academia and what some profs teach and how, in terms of what is shown as well as in terms of people’s reaction to it.

Recently the famed James O’Keefe, a political activist on the Right, with his Project Veritas has been recruiting students to “go undercover” to record any number of lectures in various schools, to expose what certain so many profs are teaching & saying in class.

Professors’ objections in the past to being recorded have typically rested on the notion that their lecture is THEIR intellectual property (an ironic claim for the ones who paraphrase straight from a text). Many have stipulated on their syllabus they require permission, or that they forbid it outright, while many others don’t care, especially with the ever-present technology today. One legit concern is that footage of them playing devil’s advocate with one side of an argument may be cherry-picked, while doing so with the other side may be omitted, all to suit a political axe to grind. But the fact many don’t is what appears to be motivating many to capture footage in the first place. Maybe the best defense for a prof is to put up the lecture in it’s entirety, making it viewable only to paying students enrolled in the class.

Should you be able to record your professors? How about without asking permission, since it’s not a private conversation? Or should they be able to deny based on intellectual property? Isn’t sunlight the best disinfectant to show if a prof in a public university is really biased or just incorrect in his/her lectures? Look at it from both the students’ and profs’ perspectives, and for the many different motivations one may do so or would not want someone to do so.

Subject: What To Be Thankful For

Forum: What To Be Thankful For
With thanksgiving upon us, what are you thankful for? Are you thankful for all of the blessings and things going right in your life (whether few or many), that some take for granted? Or is your life fraught with grief, distress, adversity and struggle? Of course, everyone’s life is a mix of both; and there is always someone out there somewhere who has it better than you, and someone who has it worse off than you, no matter how good or bad you have it. The bigger question is, should you be thankful for the adversity and struggle in your life? Do you view it as a challenge that sharpens your skills and makes you better (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger)? Or are you just thankful that no matter how bad you have it, you don’t have it any worse than you do? How we approach that question says a lot about our attitude towards others and life in general.

I don’t know too many people who thank God for all of their problems and pains (whether physical or emotional). I sure don’t. But I sure do thank God it’s not worse than it is, and for the ability to have dealt with what I’ve been able to thus far, despite being unsure of the uncertainties of the future.

And I also thank CollegeNET for the opportunity to post forum challenges that hopefully inspire and elicit careful & critical thought, contemplation, and ideally reflection from all of you. I thank you all for crafting and writing your worthwhile responses, as I’ve enjoyed reading them.

Despite real and immense problems in today’s world, it seems people have more outrage and indignation over smaller things that would have been dismissed out of hand in past generations. Are we failing to pass down a sense of gratitude for what we have, no matter how little it may be, or are we just more thin-skinned? I probably wouldn’t thank those who transgress against me, for strengthening me so as to overcome and forgive. I also don’t think I’d thank them for not doing worse. But maybe some proactive gratitude for things that people take for granted might help diffuse future conflicts, and garner some good faith.

Do you think we could use more graciousness and humility today? I’ll invite you to be as specific as you want with personal experiences or observations, to put a human face on it. Or keep it vague or philosophical if you prefer, but try to incorporate the above questions. What are you thankful for?

Subject: Is your College Spending flowing down a LazyRiver?

Forum: Is your College Spending flowing down a LazyRiver?
Drawing inspiration from U of Houston’s ‘zero-depth-beach-entry’ pools & waterfalls; U Texas at Austin’s leisure pools with 20-seat outdoor hot tub & lounging deck, and several other schools with similar luxury amenities with climbing walls, and state-of-the-art rec facilities (not always just for athletes), LSU has dropped $85M on a new rec center, $1.3M of which went for a new 536-ft-lounging pool dubbed as their LazyRiver .

Complete with dance clubs, fitness facilities, ping-pong tables, etc., who needs Sandals or Atlantis Bahamas when you can just enroll at LSU? Amidst state budget cuts, tax dollars and an endowment from Dow Chemical helped to revamp their engineering building; but their musty 60-year old library with wads of gum older than our parents remains in disrepair. That disconnect is lost on no one, except administrators, who are in a perpetual arms race to keep up with the Jones’. Club Med U looks better on brochures than a Library.

They’ll say fees, not tuition or tax dollars pay for it all. Students via survey results & via their elected student leaders (suggesting shared governance is somehow still alive) have voiced strong support for such projects. Admin will use any ‘survey’ (without a full explanation of costs) to justify any pet project they want. Of thousands of students, you’ll find anyone to embrace any cause or support any project, especially among lackey student gov types getting recommendations to grad school or networked into industry via trustees.

Funny how when it’s something the admin wants, “the students have spoken”, and “we must give the customers what they want”. After all, they come here to party first, get a degree second, and if they learn a thing or two - meh. You can always grow up AFTER you graduate. Any other time, who are you to demand anything? Get back in that dorm, lights out, follow the rules! Stop drinking, you make us look bad. You need more in loco parentis. LSU’s pres said it’s better all students “stay safe” on campus with “everything they need”, rather than off campus at bars. So much for preparing for the ‘real world’.

Have we taken the ‘you’re a customer’ model in college too far? Or just inconsistently applying it? Do administrators want to have it both ways - public when asking for state support, private when spending it? And how is a university a ‘public good’ in need of public support, given these priorities, such as at LSU?

Subject: Are smartphones depressing and destroying teens?

Forum: Are smartphones depressing and destroying teens?
Apple just recently announced the October release of the iPhone X. At the same time, a San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge, reveals her findings in The Atlantic arguing that smartphones may be destroying what she calls the “igen” generation (born 1995-2012) of teens both mentally and emotionally. Crunching a lot of data, she shows strong correlations between increased phone usage and stark drops in dating, interest in driving, and going out with friends as per prior generations. She summarizes that the overall onset of adulthood is starting on average 2-3 or more years later than prior generations. She also points out that kids are more disengaged from their families and parents despite spending more time at home, in one’s room on the phone. The combination of more time on social media (more prevalent for girls than boys), more screen time, and overall time spent on the phone/pad/tablet correlate with increased reports of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

For many, these findings only confirm what many have believed all along from everyday observation. But now there are sets of data that are studied. Still there are skeptics as with anything who will argue that the trends aren’t necessarily different from past generations who didn’t grow up with smartphones. You’ll hear: “That’s what they said about TV, and then video games, then the internet, now social media and smartphones”. In fact, one Article shows that most time spent on the phone for many is to just listen to music, play games or watch TV or videos.
But is it all real this time, more so than ever before?

Should parents take their kids’ phones away? Many would say that’s not the right answer, and that it’d probably be impossible anyway given how everything from education to all communication is done through it. Do you agree with Tenge’s argument? And if so, what would you do to solve the problem? What would you do to diversify your kids’ social, physical and emotional environment to ensure they try to get a healthy balance of life, rather than obsessing over every single post, tweet, like, comment, etc. on their phones 24/7?

Subject: Should Speech Ever be Considered Violence?

Forum: Should Speech Ever be Considered Violence?
Lisa Feldman Barrett’s July 14 NYT column argues that certain speech, that causes chronic stress, is the same as violence, because it has harmful effects on the body. Citing scientific studies, stress shortens your telomeres & may cause inflammation, and certain types of speech may cause that stress, leading to that result. However, to properly identify it, she’s careful to distinguish such speech from mere challenging ideas that some may find offensive & uncomfortable. Thus, her litmus test is “abusive vs. offensive”. In the abusive category would be hate speech, bullying, tormenting, anything designed to provoke & hurt; whereas anything else that might offend could include legitimate scholarly debate. So she puts a Milo Yiannopoulos in the abusive column, and Charles Murray in the latter.

But if the protests at Middlebury College and others are any recent indication, a great many of the people who’d agree with her about Yiannopoulos, would disagree about Murray, putting him also in the same “abusive” category. In a recent interview Barrett gave the Reasonable Person standard from law as the basis of who should decide. It’s what the “average” person thinks about what is abusive vs. offensive.

But a court has to define the judgement of an average reasonable person based on the “compelling consensus of public opinion”. What’s tricky, is there isn’t always a consensus, let alone a compelling one. If colleges are the standard, one may think a reasonable person is anyone incensed by anything they find offensive, and thereby claim abusive. Also, courts can’t adjudicate after the fact the reasonable person standard when deciding speech policy or what speakers be barred from campus. So should the village mob that runs the court of public opinion set the standard ahead of time instead?

There is a host of vile speech offering no value, only tearing people down, that should be shunned. The problem is, identifying such speech was never up to the subjective whim of what any generation thinks is the taste of their average person. Do you think it’s wise to link speech with violence if doesn’t openly call for it? Do you believe speech is ever violence? If so, is it not a slippery slope when the average person who finds something barely offensive today may find it abusive tomorrow? What would be your standard of measure constituting speech as violence, and why?

Subject: Paid Time Off to protest?

Forum: Paid Time Off to protest?
In the past we’ve done forums on college students getting excused absences from exams and assignments so they can go protest. The trend seems to be extending to Paid Time off for employees. Companies like Comcast gave workers a day off to protest (“or support”) Trump in February. Facebook gave May Day (May 1st) off, and Google and a number of Silicon Valley and Bay Area tech companies are considering the same , usually with the caveat that the protest not devolve into violence. While some companies have given PTO to vote, or perform community service, this new trend arose out of specific reactions certain ones had to the Travel Ban, immigration, or other particular issues that may have effected them directly. Companies like SF start-up Fauna, may now grant unlimited PTO for people to protest, attend rallies, etc., in the name of civic engagement.

While it’s the right of any private company to grant PTO beyond what may be legally required, does this further blur the boundary lines of professional vs personal/social life? Will this enhance social consciousness or contribute to the further polarization of society? What do you think of this growing trend? Will this become the new normal? Do you think employees should be devoting company time and resources to affect social change, or should they just protest on their own time & dime?

This may be a reflection of certain societal attitudes held by some, but there are different cultural values and political views held by varying demographics of people throughout different parts of the country. Do you think many of these companies, as they grow or move, would truly continue to support PTO if employees began protesting against what their corporate heads believed, or if it were for going to church or to attend religious services? Should they still support it, why or why not? What about public employees?

Subject: Are you Socially Isolated on Social Media?

Forum: Are you Socially Isolated on Social Media?
Did you know that excessive use of Social Media *may* cause perceived social isolation? Who knew? According to a recently published study , 1,787 19-32-year-olds were sampled & questioned about their use of 11 different SM sites since 2014. Among the findings : those using SM more than 2 hours daily were twice as likely to report perceived social isolation than peers spending under a half hour; and those using sites 58 x / week were 3 times more likely to have felt such isolation than those under 9 x / week.

The study shows correlation between higher use and higher perceived isolation, but not causation. This could also mean those already feeling isolated flock more to social media, but becoming immersed in it certainly does not decrease the perceived isolation. The well-known reasons given for this are that people hide behind their digital bubbles in place of real physical interaction, as well as feel exclusion and even envy when seeing the happy, eventful lives others are supposedly enjoying.

The positives of how technology affects or changes our lives, or us, are usually obvious, because we can see what we can do that we could not do before, or how much faster we can do them. But when exploring the more hidden, critical aspects of its impacts, I usually hear the conversation-derailing line: “It’s not the technology, it’s just how you use it”. But isn’t that the very point? It’s PRECISELY about how we use it. How we often do so in the aggregate leads to consequences unforeseen by most, while those who do forewarn it are dismissed as technophobes or luddites. It seems a lot harder today to meet a stranger and be social at a bus stop, train station or a bar as everyone is glued to a phone and is mentally everywhere but where they are physically. In fact, people’s time-wasting narcissism on their phones has even led to longer wait times in restaurants.

Is SM making you or more young people feel socially isolated because of how & how much you/they use it? And is that effect inescapable? Or are we just too dumb as a society or as a species, especially when we’re younger, to know what’s good for us and what’s not, what’s a healthy balance, and to pursue mature meaningful human relationships and social interactions? Or, is your utopia in fact in cyberspace? Share your anecdotes, but size up against the big picture.

Subject: Biased? Let's ask the Speech Police

Forum: Biased? Let's ask the Speech Police
Consisting of administrators, faculty, student conduct and even PR staff, Bias Response Teams (BRTs) typically invite, or solicit students to come forward and report speech or expression that might be offensive to other students. The mere accusation initiates investigations, which, depending on the school and circumstances, could beget any range of sanctions against the transgressing student(s). The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education published a report chronicling the 232 schools that had BRTs last year, and they found 42% of them containing campus police or law enforcement personnel. FIRE’s senior programming officer concluded that when offended, the schools are sending the message “that the way for students to handle speech they don’t like is not by challenging it in the marketplace of ideas, but by reporting it to authorities.” In a hypersensitive age of microagressions & safe places, with less tolerance for discomfort than ever before, a whole range of constitutionally protected speech falls subject to investigations, interrogations, tribunals without due process, and reprimand.

Schools claimed the need to maintain inclusive & welcoming environments for students, free of harassment & intimidation. Critics argued the age-old practice of overly broad speech codes & conduct policies have led to chilling effects and self-censorship, prompting lawsuits. So schools could err on the side of upholding the 1st Amendment, or face infantile outbursts, riots, protests, sit-ins, and indignant demands. The recent court challenge over the anticipated Ann Coulter speech at Berkeley this week is another example of how administrators may rather quietly litigate and settle in court than deal with the physical & security chaos on campus and PR fallout.

I’ve done forums on campus speech before . Forget the politics. Distant past generations of students learned by necessity how to work things out among themselves, and not run to administrators holding all the money & power, with their programs, budgets and committees to adjudicate disagreements. With kids’ upbringing & schooling today, is that even possible anymore? How can society not be dysfunctional when the college educated only know to run to centers of power to rebuke their peers, proactively or reactively? With speech police today, what kind of brave new university will your kids attend in a generation?

Subject: Cheating in College

Forum: Cheating in College
According to the CHE academic cheating in college has risen in a lengthy, but MUT-READ piece . The academically overwhelmed, lazy undergrads, struggling ESL internationals, or the too-busy professional workers seeking an advanced degree—there are plenty who “don’t have time” for all those courses making you “well-rounded”, nor even for the work in your own major. It cites studies saying 2 thirds of students cheated and half would be willing to buy term papers from writers. Students are increasingly outsourcing their assignments, including taking quizzes & exams online, and homework, major papers, theses & even dissertations.
Schools are erecting integrity committees, but often they can’t know someone cheated by buying the material, paying a ghost writer, b/c the work done was legit, not plagiarized. Companies popped up all over coordinating students with a contract writer, just like Uber connects you with drivers. This seals it for me: “To them [students], higher education is just another transaction, less about learning than about obtaining a credential.”

Is anyone surprised? Some in higher ed, while right to assert the need for face-to-face small-class learning, want to still blame capitalism . But long before the for-profit college, for decades a government subsidized mass industrial education complex profited from the “college for all movement”, taking hordes of intellectually uncurious & increasingly ill-prepared high school grads, telling them college is a must to “make it”; and then indebting them with enormous loans to pay off the artificially inflated price tags of tuition & fees swollen b/c of government subsidy. We’ve taught generations the credential alone matters. We’ve sold education a la carte: “take so many credits of this & of that”, without regard to whether you’ve learned. Despite grade inflation & watered down classes, it’s worse. Some fear employer-based credentialing outside of academia will be the result. But schools don’t have skin in the game if you learn, and you employers do.

I don’t excuse cheating, but with cost up, quality down, where is the integrity in the system now? My doctor should know what he’s doing, should I care if you wrote your term paper on Shakespeare? If you’re a good writer buried in loan debt trying to feed your family, would you consider such a gig making $1800/week?

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