Boo On You, MSU

For the winter commencement at Michigan State University, where I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, they have selected Michael Moore–which makes sense since he’s from Michigan and has focused on issues affecting Michigan during his career–and George Will, the Washington Post columnist, to speak.

Normally, I might ignore the selection of the second commencement speaker. I avoid Will’s columns because life is too short to regularly read rage-inducing columns, but the school he is speaking at is what is causing me to comment.

MSU is currently under federal investigation for Title IX violations because they have allegedly mishandled sexual assaults on campus.

Will notably said this in a column on sexual assault on campuses:

[Colleges and universities] are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.

Translation: People want to be sexual assault victims because it gives them privilege. Because that privilege is totally why a lot of sexual assault victims don’t report incidents out of fear of retaliation, stigmatization and people flat out not believing them.

A school under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases has a commencement speaker who said that victimhood “confers privileges” and the Obama administration’s efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses “vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.”

(Side-Bar: Can we create a bingo card for columns? I feel like something needs to be marked off every time Millennials are called “privileged.”)

Either this is the perfect choice of a speaker because it shows just how MSU truly feels about sexual assault cases or it is the most tone-deaf selection of a commencement speaker in…a really long time.

MSU’s selection of Will as a speaker is for his contributions to journalism and opinion writing, according to a statement given to Media Matters. Which makes sense since, as I said earlier, the other commencement speaker has made notable contributions to film, among those contributions, highlighting problems in Michigan. Since Michigan State has the image of wanting its students to go out and solve the problems affecting Michigan and the rest of the world, Moore makes perfect sense as a speaker.

Similarly, Will is a columnist who is well known and works at a prominent newspaper. But he wrote that column. He made those remarks. It feels like no one looked at George Will’s Wikipedia article before selecting him to be the commencement speaker to find out what could potentially cause a controversy with selecting him.

I understand that MSU is not trying to make a political statement, they are just picking someone notable and giving him an honorary degree. But this is a slap to sexual assault victims who attend and have attended the school. By selecting someone who has trivialized rape to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree it in turn trivializes the very real and painful experiences of students who have walked those halls in East Lansing.

I commend the Council of Graduate Students for condemning the selection of Will as the speaker and wanting the resources used to giving Will an honorary doctorate to be used for hiring more sexual assault counselors at the MSU Counseling Center. I can speak from experience that in general the MSU Counseling Center was in a state that could not even adequately meet the needs of a school of the size of MSU. I have seen on Facebook that representatives with the Associated Students of Michigan State University are working quickly so they can have a meeting to denounce Will being a commencement speaker, which is also commendable and I hope the efforts succeed.

Unfortunately MSU has no intentions of dropping Will as a commencement speaker. I hope they change their minds. If they do not, I will never donate a penny to the university and will leave its alumni association because going forward with Will tells me how they feel about sexual assault and how they treat a pretty vocal amount of people criticizing their decision for a good reason. It tells me the voice of students, faculty, staff and alumni united around an issue does not matter.

I encourage you to raise your voice and sign a petition Ultraviolet has calling for Will to be dropped as the speaker. Tweet, write on Facebook, spread the word. If you’re an undergraduate student at MSU, email your ASMSU representative(s) and tell them how you feel. If MSU keeps him as the speaker, go to the protest that will be held.

Regardless of what happens, it is shameful MSU selected him in the first place.

Update: ASMSU passed a resolution on Dec. 9 condemning Will as a commencement speaker.

Will Rahm Really Be a One Term Mayor?

For a while there’s been talk on the internet of making Rahm Emanuel a mayor who only serves one term because people are displeased with what he’s done while mayor, most recently serving as mayor while 50 public schools are approved for closure.

A good question is if he’ll really be a one term mayor. Unless someone really good runs against him, I have a hard time seeing he’ll be a one term mayor. The main reason of this is that a lot of things activists are upset at Emanuel over are things a good chunk of voters might not care about because they didn’t affect them, such as the school and mental health clinic closures. Those who live in communities affected by these things and are aware of the affects from these decisions might be more likely to vote for anyone who isn’t Emanuel.

But for Emanuel to really be defeated, a good candidate has to run against him. And by “good candidate,” I mean “Someone better than Gary Chico, Miguel del Valle and Carol Mosley Braun.” The names that were floated by the Chicago Reader for potential challengers that seem like the people who could likely beat Emanuel are current Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle, Ald. Robert Fioretti of Chicago’s Second Ward and Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Let’s examine the situation of “what would happen if any of these people ran.” If she would run, Preckwinkle seems like the most likely person to beat Rahm. She’s a known politician with a track record people are familiar with. (Sorry, Fioretti and Lewis.) Preckwinkle was outspoken against the school closures and has wanted to reduce how many people are in the Cook County Jail. At a time when liberals are worried about Democrats who label themselves as “liberals” focusing on privatization and helping big corporations out, Preckwinkle has a track record I think has shown people she is a true reformer rather than using a nice buzzword to get votes.

Fioretti could also do well because he’s usually among the small handful of people willing to vote against Emanuel. He was also very outspoken during the school closing hearing process and even participated in a march to save the schools. However, Fioretti might stay on the city council and the thing I think could would hurt him is that he’s not as well-known as the other people I’m mentioning in this post.

Finally, there’s Lewis who could make the election very interesting. She’s someone who’s definitely known in Chicago for taking a stand against Emanuel. However, there were people in Chicago who were displeased by the CTU strike and she might be viewed as too fiery. And if a woman is passionate and fiery in politics and the labor sector that’s a negative to some people. Plus, Lewis might want to be a force for change through fighting for the teachers and the schools rather than being the mayor. Although it would be interesting if Chicago had a former chemistry teacher as a mayor.

Those are the only candidates I could see making Emanuel’s service as mayor of Chicago only last for one term. Maybe someone else will emerge and end up being a good candidate. Maybe Miguel del Valle will run for mayor again and this time get public speaking lessons from nine-year-old Asean Johnson. February 2015 is still quite a ways off. Unfortunately it will take a really strong candidate to defeat an incumbent who can raise lots of money.

The CTA’s Ventra-Sized Problem

Over the past two weeks the Chicago Transit Authority has been dealing with a backlash and revelations regarding their new fare system, Ventra. At first glance, Ventra seems like a great idea since it would cover both CTA and Pace, potentially making the use of the suburban buses more appealing to Chicago residents who want to visit the suburbs. Ventra also allows for use of debit and credit cards to pay for fares.

Tracy Swartz of RedEye revealed single rail rides using Ventra would cost $3. On the CTA’s page for misconceptions about Ventra, they address this with the following sentence:

CTA vending machines currently do not provide change, so those without exact change are already paying $3 for a single ride.

The CTA later says that only the card costs $3, but apparently people already pay $3 for a single ride so it’s no big deal.

Swartz also reported fees which would be tacked on for people who would use a reloadable Ventra card. To get the Ventra card, one must first pay $5, which will be refunded as transit funds after the card is registered. If a user of the Ventra card does not use their card for 18 months, $5 is deducted for every month it is not in use.

The more troubling news about Ventra came from Jon Hilkevitch at the Chicago Tribune. Hilkevitch reported on numerous fees added on if users of the Ventra card also use it as a prepaid debit card, a feature the CTA has been touting on their website.

The clear option CTA users have is to try to reject the debit card option, use a 30-day pass or use their own debit card or credit card to pay for fares. Although a 30-day pass recently went up to $100, it’s still a cheaper option for people who regularly use the CTA for more than commuting to work.

The CTA meanwhile has to roll out a campaign for damage control after the recent articles. For the people who still read the Tribune and RedEye, they’re aware of this and it might make them wary of using Ventra. The potentially bigger problem with this situation is the Ventra system is no longer looking like a great situation. The fare system already had numerous options that were confusing to some users. I was recently talking to a friend and we discussed how confusing Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus can be. This was a system rolled out in the mid-2000s and it’s confusing for people from the Chicago area. Imagine how confusing Ventra will be if the CTA doesn’t properly educate the public about the program.

Time will tell if the CTA and RTA regret using this program–both systems are using the fare system, but I imagine this will affect the CTA more. There’s no turning back, but the CTA has to think fast to not have this turn into an even bigger disaster for them.

I’m mostly annoyed because I just replaced my Chicago Card.

Michigan and Proposal 2

This is a quick post to answer a question I keep getting in recent days. That question is if Michigan will pass Proposal 2, which would make collective bargaining constitutionally protected in Michigan.

The honest answer is “I don’t know.”

The only poll I’ve seen is from the Detroit Free Press and it’s showing that it’s likely Proposal 2 won’t be approved by the voters in Michigan. But some people might say that polls can lie and it could pass. After all, one of the most famous union leaders in history is from this state. How could it not pass?

The simple answer I can give is the money being poured into the campaign to defeat it.

A majority of the political ads I’ve seen on TV seem to be anti-Proposal 2, with ads in favor of Proposal 6 as a close second. Those ads seem to run more frequently than ads regarding the presidential election. Now, attack ads might not always be effective, but the ads against Proposal 2 have taken interesting strategies. There’s the one with the unionized police officer who is opposed to Proposal 2, which can give the message of “If union members are opposed to this, why should we support it?” But overall, the message of the ads has been the classic “Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children.”

The ads argue that if Proposal 2 is passed, it will be easier for drug addicts, alcoholics and pedophiles to be teachers and that union leaders don’t care about children. When you use children as the target of ads and their safety as the key issue in the fight, that changes the conversation completely. Additionally, it could create a panic among parents who fear for their children’s safety.

But even though there’s a pro-Proposal 2 billboard that I pass everyday on I-496 on my way to MSU, the amount of mailings opposing the proposal are numerous. On Saturday I checked the mail and found three anti-Proposal 2 mailings. The only pro-Proposal 2 mailings I’ve received have been from Teamsters Joint Council 43.

Yes, if Proposal 2 is rejected, it will probably be the result of thousands, maybe millions of dollars poured into the opposition campaign. Then again, if Proposal 6 is approved, it will also probably be the result of millions of dollars poured into that campaign. (Gov. Rick Snyder explains in a video on YouTube that the proposal is really just the result of a special interest, which it is.) It would probably be premature to assume that Michigan has suddenly become hostile to unions, because it just seems like people were persuaded through what they heard on the radio and on TV, saw in their mail and read in the papers.


If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that President Obama is still a terrific public speaker.

It was a great speech and it was no wonder that congress seemed to be leaping to their feet every five minutes. They were more standing ovation crazy than Iowans, but with a good reason. The speech did manage to inspire in the midst of the difficult times. I was even optimistic as I watched and listened to it. And if a speech can make me optimistic it has to be good.

The remark about the Democrats not needing to run to the hills after losing Massachusetts did need to be said. I was disappointed by the results of that election, but the Democrats still have the majority. The speech felt like he was trying to say, “I’m trying as hard as I can, give me a break.” Although the mention of him working with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell did make me stand up and cheer. (Please deliver on this. Thanks.)

He did address student loans at one point in the speech and discussed a plan for student loan debts to be forgiven if a person decides to enter public service. Which makes me wonder this: Is becoming a theater critic public service? (I’m kidding.)

And I was watching the State of the Union address on MSNBC, which means that I got to hear Chris Matthews say, “I forgot he was black tonight for an hourlive. And, yes, it did make me want to bang my head into a wall.

(Also, Whet Moser of the Chicago Reader has other stupid things said after the State of the Union address.)

Any other thoughts?


I was walking through my neighborhood today when I came across a simple, black and white newspaper called the Lincoln Park Statesman. I was intrigued by the paper because of a headline declaring “A Socialist DePaul” due to GPA Redistribution, which gives me an “Okay, what sensationalism journalism is going on here” thought. (It was also free, but the header states that subsequent copies are $3.00.)

The article that prompted me to pick up a copy is difficult to read because of how poorly written it is. Mind you, I’ve read some poorly written articles for newspapers, but this is confusing. I don’t know if the GPA distribution is being implemented by DePaul or by the DePaul College Republicans? Is this hypothetical? Is there a reason why the writer didn’t cite any sources or quote anyone?

But anyway, the Statesman is apparently “a conservative newspaper dedicated to truth in journalism.” (I’ll show you truth in journalism with my friend the AP Stylebook and Guide to Media Law.) Naturally, I’m probably not going to agree with the views expressed in this publication, which is connected to the DePaul Conservative Alliance. But reading this, I can’t even chew on the content for a bit and try to digest the opinions, like I can with a Charles Krauthammer column. I really can’t even take these people seriously, partly because having “the” before “der” is repetitive. But there’s also a guide to how to milk free healthcare for what it’s worth, that includes “get pregnant,” “save money on a gym membership by getting routine liposuction,” and “take up the art of sword swallowing…with no formal or informal training.”

I’m aware that it’s probably satire, but instead of throwing hands up in the air and saying, “Oh, hey, we’re getting Obamacare, let’s abuse the system,” couldn’t they have said, “Write, call, fax your representatives and tell them to not give us health care reform.”? Because having a way to abuse the system, which I would assume would not cover unnecessary procedures, doesn’t help conservatives at all. It just makes them look crazier.

Was Losing the Olympic Host City Bid Really Obama’s Loss?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t want Chicago to host the Olympics. This was simply because of the fact that I don’t think that the Chicago Transit Authority or the roads could have supported the people that would have been in Chicago for the Olympics and the Olympics could have gentrified the South Side to the point that people would have been priced out of their homes. And I don’t think that there would have been affordable housing built so people would have a place to live; developers are probably more interested in building expensive high-rise condos rather than building affordable apartments for people. (And for those of you ready to point out public housing, don’t get me started on the Chicago Housing Authority.) Sure, America hosting the Olympics would have been neat and some jobs, albeit temporary, would have been created. But I saw more harm than good.

However, I was very shocked when I found out that Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting. (The office I was in Friday morning became filled with the sound of people typing on their keyboards when someone said that we were eliminated. However, the conversation quickly changed from Chicago’s loss to “What will happen to Michael Reese Hospital?” which was going to be torn down for a site for the Olympics. I still don’t know what will happen to that building.) As much as I didn’t want the Olympics to be here, the elimination that early was a bit insulting.

And yet there were people that were cheering because of the early elimination. Americans, notable conservative talking heads too. Why? Because it meant that Obama lost.

Wait, Obama lost? I thought Richard M. Daley was the mayor of Chicago. At least, last time I looked at something that said City of Chicago, Richard M. Daley was the mayor of the Chicago.

It should be noted that the heads of state for the other countries with bids went to Copenhagen. Oprah might be famous, but she’s not a head of state. And although Michelle Obama is the first lady, Obama is our president and therefore the head of state. It’s certainly helpful that our president is from Chicago and therefore could have a personal viewpoint. Although, I strongly disagree with a statement that President Obama made about Chicago being ready to host the Olympics. But, still, Obama went to Copenhagen like all of the other heads of state did. This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation; if he didn’t go, people would be upset. He went and people are still upset.

But the loss of the Olympics is not “Obama’s loss.” It’s not going to ruin him, I don’t think that this will stop health care reform or repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The fact that there were people cheering for the loss of the Olympics because it was “Obama’s loss,” is very infuriating to me. I’m sure that the same people that were cheering because Chicago wasn’t going to host the Olympics are upset because people are blaming George Bush. As Paul Krugman points out in his column today, it’s childish behavior. It’s just outrageous partisan behavior. (And those same people should be glad that they weren’t near the DePaul University campus in Chicago on Friday, because I was called un-American for my reasoning as for why I don’t want the Olympics here.)

And, in my opinion, if this is any politician’s loss, it’s Mayor Daley’s loss. It’s the city of Chicago’s loss, even though half of the city didn’t want the city to host. But on the upside, Chicagoans get free coffee today as a toast to our efforts.

I Might Keep My Landline to Be Able to Keep Doing This

This morning, I was sitting in my living room when the phone rang.

Me: Hello?
Person on the other end: (Identifies himself with a group that has Freedom or Patriot in it’s name) May we please have a moment of time for you to answer some questions?
Me: Sure.
Person on the other end: Which of the following problems are you most concerned about: President Obama wanting to mandate abortions, President Obama wanting to have panels decide when your loved ones will die, President Obama mandating how your loved ones will die or President Obama mandating sex-change operations?
Me: Actually, all of those problems are either grossly misinterpreted parts of the health care reform bills or they’re made up problems meant to scare people.
Person on the other end: Uh, good day. (hangs up)

No, I did not make that up.

Guest Column

In this month’s issue of ACCESSline, which is the LGBT newspaper for Iowa, I have a guest column about the possibility of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage being reversed like in California with Prop. 8.

For those of you that live in Iowa, I recommend you go out and get a copy. I’m not sure where you can get a copy in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area (or anywhere else in the state, for that matter), but you can read a copy in the Cedar Falls Public Library, which is where I read it and had to refrain from jumping up and down shouting, “I’m a published writer! Woo hoo!”

For those of you that live outside of Iowa, you can go to ACCESSline‘s website and click on the link for the August 2009 issue under “Read ACCESSline Online.”

What Some Parents Will Do For Their Child’s Education

Believe it or not, this post is not related to the Chicago Public Schools launching an investigation into the possible ways some children got in to the very selective magnet schools.

This is related to a story that involves a school that is in the area I live in.

The University of Northern Iowa was, at one point, the Iowa State Teacher’s College. The university maintains a well known and well regarded College of Education to this day. The university also happens to operate the only laboratory school in the state. This school, Malcom Price Laboratory School/Northern University High, is run in conjunction with the College of Education and, as a result, several students in the College of Education do some form of training at Price Lab.

The school is also noted for having a different curriculum than the Cedar Falls Community School District, smaller classes than the Cedar Falls Community School District, a better basketball team than Cedar Falls High School and an incredible ability to make decisions that are somewhat logical. Price Lab is one of three private schools in the city of Cedar Falls, the other two are St. Patrick’s Catholic School, which is K-8, and Valley Lutheran, which is 6-12. In the overall Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, there are eight private schools, the other five are Immanuel Lutheran, Columbus Catholic High School, Sacred Heart School, St. Edward’s School and Blessed Sacrament School. What tends to set Price Lab apart from the other private schools is that it is not affiliated with a Christian denomination and the teachers there tend to have completed more of a college education than the average John Teacher at a Cedar Falls Community School. In fact, of the 33 teachers, 23 have their masters degrees and three hold doctorates. The rest hold bachelors degrees. My mother also knows for a fact that two of the science teachers at that school hold doctorates. Also, according to Price Lab’s website, 25.8% of their students come from cultural and ethnic minority backgrounds. As stated in the Progress Report from the Cedar Falls Community School District, “Other than white, the only reportable ethnic subgroup for grades 7th, 8th, and 11th grades was African American students.” This is in reference to proficiency, but that sentence kills me every time. (If you read the progress report, you’ll see that there are less than 50 students from ethnic minority groups in each of the grades that were tested.)

But, anyway, Price Lab is a school that parents probably want to send their kids to.

Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that about a dozen parents falsified their addresses in order to receive a lower tuition rate for their children. Price Lab’s tuition system works in such a manner that if you live inside the attendance zone, you pay $566 for tuition. If you live outside the attendance zone, you pay $5768 in tuition.

Among the individuals listed in this audit is Representative Kerry Burt of Waterloo, who was also arrested for drunken driving in February.

Rep. Kerry Burt has been connected to this investigation and has been asked to resign by Republicans. Although I don’t blame him for lying about his address because NU seems to be a very good school. Even though several people do this in Cedar Falls to get their kids into certain schools, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. This is a very corrupt thing that Rep. Burt committed and I think he will probably be removed from office.

Audit: Officials, other parents shortened school on tuition” [Des Moines Register]
BHC GOP asks local Dems to demand Burt’s resignation” [Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier]