It's called governing

Get yours today.

Get yours today.

Hey Guys,

President Obama signed the Health Care Reconciliation package on Tuesday. Finally, Health Care Reform is official. The Reconciliation package included MAJOR student aid reform measures as well. The legislation projects a $425 increase to the maximum Pell Grant alongside an allotment of 800,000 additional awards. Basically, pell grants’ funding will be increased by the federal government by up to $40 billion. The bill also includes lots of provisions and support for community colleges and historically black colleges. For people struggling to pay their loans, repayments for graduates will be capped at 10% instead of 15%. And, those who perform public service will see their debts forgiven after 10 years.

On top of that, president Obama has also staunchly advocated for financial regulatory reform. Debate on that legislation could start very soon in the Senate; meaning we could see more impactful legislation signed into law in the upcoming months.  If that were not enough, three Senators–a Democrat, Republican, and Independent– are writing a comprehensive “energy bill.”

Think about it this way: in less than two years President Obama’s resume could include a series of monumental initiatives. The Recovery Act, health care reform, student loan reform ,financial regulatory reform, and the Clean Energy Bill. This administration has identified America’s most serious problems and set out to do something about them. That’s called governing. After 8 years of simply ignoring problems–only letting them fester into a series national crises–a bit of problem solving is pretty refreshing.

More later,


p.s. Off shore drilling is politically necessary. Sad, but true

HCR: signed


The House approved the Senate bill, and of course, it was signed into law today by the President. Expect some modifications to come in the Senate’s reconciliation process, but other than this is pretty much a done deal. Republicans threaten to repeal it or challenge it’s constitutionality, but there is little chance either of those approaches will work. Repealing it wouldn’t succeed–Obama would simply veto it if a repeal did pass. And just about all objective sources don’t consider this legislation to be unconstitutional.

So now, the “message war” begins. Republicans have a difficult challenge ahead of them; primarily because history shows us that the American people generally don’t like to give up reforms once they start receiving the benefits. Take a look at medicare and social security: once those reforms were enacted, they were incredibly popular with the American people. And, just like this legislation, those programs were once called “socialist.” Now they’re considered sacred and virtually untouchable (well, maybe not welfare).Thus, Republicans have to hit hard early. The Republicans are going to have a tough message to sell to the American people anyway–give up your new rights and benefits…they don’t want to be a step behind in the message wars before that argument begins.

It’s still early, obviously, but it looks like the Dems are already gaining a little ground from the passage. 49% of the American people (acc. to a Gallup/USA Today poll) believe that passing health insurance reform “was a good idea.” Only 40% thought it was a bad idea. That’s a huge gain for the Democrats–just a couple of weeks ago the numbers were in complete reverse (if not worse). I guess American’s love a winner. And the winners right now are Barack Obama, the Democrats, and the American public.

In other news, 1 out of every 4 Republicans thinks Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. 38% of Republicans think he is comparable to Adolf Hitler.  Want to know more about how the Republican party is being taken over by total crazies? Just google “Harris Poll on Barack Obama.” I observed a tea party rally this weekend and had to endure shouts of “throw that n***** out of office” while looking at giant pictures of dead fetuses. Rahm Emmanuel (Obama’s Chief of Staff) asserted that the Republican party has been “taken over by a fringe group.” I’m beginning to believe him. Barney Frank, a gay Congressman from Mass., was called a “f*****” by a “tea partier”. The tea-baggers aren’t just homophobic; they’re racist too. Jim Clyburn, an African American Congressman from S.C. was called a “n*****” and then spat on. I shouldn’t be surprised about that though, especially after walking around the tea-party protest. The only person of color in the whole protest was selling American flags and t-shirts.

In short, I’m glad health reform passed so these wing-nuts can go back to the perverted, backward corners from whence they came.



Argentina: More Culture, Less Shock

1957Argentina's_flagSenior year, it’s come at last  and I decide to spend my last semester of my 4 years of my college experience abroad in the southern hemisphere. I went “abroad” my second semester of my sophomore year to New York City for the GLCA Arts program through Southwestern University, and now decided it was time again to be off on another adventure, to Mendoza Argentina. My christmas break turned into a chilly 3-month summer break; everyone was back at school before I knew it and I was spending 3 months of free time at home. February 23 came around the corner in a flash though and before I knew it, it was the night before and I had two empty suitcases to pack for the next 6 plus months. Finally I packed my bright big blue suitcase, and a smaller black one and a backpack and I was off. Called a taxi, who was definitely interested in reminding me that American Airlines would be charging me extra for how heavy my suitcases were. I actually was just one pound over with no penalty, so take that Randall. Flew to Dallas for the group flight to Buenos Aires. About 25 college students soon took over gate D25, we didn’t even know what was to come.

Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires, Argentina!
We finally arrive to Buenos Aires and are told to find a bright yellow IFSA Butler sign as we reach baggage claim when we meet Jaime, one of our program directors. We arrive to the Hotel de las Americas and wait until the rest of

The Mothers of la Plaza de Mayo march for their abducted children

The Mothers of la Plaza de Mayo march for their abducted children

the students who were not on the group flight meet up with us there. In the mean time, we decide to try to connect with friends and family back home using the hotel’s WiFi. Before you know it, there are close to 15 girls in one corner of the hotel sitting on the sofas, speaking english, crowding the room with 30+ bags, each with our laptops out. Way to give in to the typical American stereotype – can’t live without our technology. For the next day and a half we toured the city and took a large bus, which frequently made contact with each curb in sight. We had a fantastic tour of the city, but I thank our tour guide Alejandro for that. I think he won the heart of every girl in our group within the first 5 minutes of his welcome speech to us on the bus, and not to mention there were 34 girls on that bus, but don’t worry he survived. On our tour, we saw many things like La Casa Rosada, and La Plaza de Mayo. What is interesting about this plaza is that every thursday at 3pm, there is an organization of Argentine women who are human rights activists who march together for their abducted sons or grandsons from the Dirty War (1976–1983) and so for over three decades this has taken place and this group of women meet every thursday at the same time to march around the plaza together to reunite with their abducted children.

Our first orientation session was focused on clearing any questions or concerns we had, basically addressing the culture shock that in some cases, were inevitable. Here were a few of the major topics we covered:
1. Personal Space: Unlike the U.S., Argentines do not pay much attention to personal space, or rather they just don’t have any. In the U.S. we are very distant with one another; we shake hands when meeting someone new and even when seeing a friend we greet them with nothing more than a simple hug at times. Here in Argentina, whether they are your mother or a new classmate, you will eventually find yourself in a conversation that is not more than a foot away from you. How they greet one another in Argentina is with one kiss on the cheek, and this goes for whether you are greeting anyone new, or even if it’s your mother coming over for lunch. Both women and men greet one another with a kiss, yep guys greet each other with a kiss as well. However they sometimes don’t touch cheeks, and often just make the sound of a kiss. The 8 boys in our study abroad group had a little trouble during their first practice round they performed when they were told to practice in front of our group. They added an extra kiss on the other cheek, or sometimes kissed the wrong cheek first, but I think they have the hang of it by now.

2. The Staring: Yep, it’s normal to stare at people here for however long you want. Anything more than a glance in the states and you could start trouble. But here in Argentina, you walk down the street and it feels like they are all checking you out for a good full 3 minutes, both the men AND women. Of course it doesn’t help that we have been traveling in groups of like 15 girls walking to class speaking english and lacking the dark argentine glow.

3. The Cat Calls: They’re inevitable girls, so just ignore them. Men, young or old, will say anything and make any noise just to get your attention. Sorry boys, whistling, making the ‘Ssss’ sound, saying “I Love You”, asking to hold our hands, asking to marry us, telling us we are beautiful gringos etc… will not win our hearts. (Not even kidding, every one of those examples has happened in the last two weeks while we’ve been here.)

4. The Bidet: Many of us saw the bidet in the hotel rooms and immediately thought it was a urinal. Nope, they definitely use these things and are found in every household. We even had a lesson on how to use one, thanks José for demonstrating with his chair. To be honest, I still don’t think any one of us have actually used it since we’ve been here.

Lost, a boliche in Buenos Aires packed at 4am.

Lost, a boliche in Buenos Aires packed at 4am.

5. The Argentine Lifestyle: Get used to: eating dinner around 10-11pm, eating steak for almost every meal, coming across people who think of vegetarians as people who just don’t eat steak, and then Thursday through Saturday, get your party pants on and head to a bar until 2am and then start the night off at a boliche (what they call the discotecas down here). Then be prepared to stay there partying until 5 or 6am. When they party, they party hard . The nightlife is insane here, as you can see in this picture from one of the boliches in Buenos Aires.

6. National Beverages: Argentina has a few signature drinks they are known for. One is Mate, an herb drink that they sip out of a small gourd with a special metal straw that filters out the tea. This type of tea is by far the most popular past time to drink in the afternoons, and has become a ritual in households. The first time I tried mate, I thought I was drinking earth through a straw, it is definitely an acquired taste. It has a very organic, unsweetened natural tea-flavor and is very relaxing. Their beers are very good too, they have Quilmes, and then a beer that is home to Mendoza is the Andes beer. I prefer the Andes to the Quilmes, it is just a bit darker and stronger but both very refreshing. Their most famous drink though, is their Fernet and Coke. Fernet is this medicinal-smelling italian liquor that is most commonly paired with its side kick, Coca Cola. Before the two beverages were paired together as a signature drink though, fernet was not popular at all, they used to give it to children for an upset stomach. But its popularity grew once the duo were paired, and by a storm took over the late nights of Argentina. One big plus to this drink is that it doesn’t cause a hangover the next morning, I bet you’re asking for your Fernet and Coke right now. The first time I tried it, I thought I was drinking a pine tree through a straw, and yes funny how there’s a trend going on here with forestry drinks. You’re probably thinking all they do is strain their trees and plants and make them into drinks and somehow enjoy them, but I promise, once you acquire a taste for the two, you will wonder why we don’t have such drinks in the States.

7. Mullets: Yea, I had to save this one for last. I kid you not, there was a slide in our power point orientation session dedicated solely to mullets warning us about getting haircuts here. As long as we were confident enough to communicate to our barber that we did NOT want a mullet, then we would in good hands. It is very common here in Argentina to have a mullet, and the styles vary; there is the traditional mullet with the slightly longer hair in the back, then there is the normal haircut with that one braided long rat tail in the back. Not gonna lie, but mullets scare me. They are just not supposed to happen.

And this was just the first week and a half. We haven’t really experienced much culture shock, but rather just this new different lifestyle that is actually starting to grow on us rapidly. We also haven’t even started school yet and I feel like our entire Argentine lifestyle transformation won’t even start until we are fully immersed with the school routine and mixing and mingling with other Argentine students. Hopefully our study abroad group won’t be too attached to each other by the time school starts because I think the city of Mendoza could use a break from being bombarded by 40 gringos all at once asking for a Quilmes beer or Fernet and Coke.

Hello, Again

Holy Shit,

It’s been a long time, blog world. A lot has happened, obviously. I guess that whole health care thing is about to happen. I can’t say I’ve been following the Megaphone postings a lot, nor do I have a subscription for the weekly paper. But I hope you all know that it’s about to be voted on in the House. Some rumor of just how they are going to vote on the legislation; particularly if they will vote on the whole senate bill or just parts of it (the parts that don’t include stuff like abortion language). Honestly, it’s a pretty complex process. The rules of Congress can be kind of confusing for members of congress, let alone students of it. What everyone has been freaking out about is the Reconciliation process, which will take place in the senate if the house votes yes on the bill. Basically, Reconciliation is an up or down, simple majority vote, which generally takes place on party lines. Those in the majority call democracy; those in the minority call it the “nuclear option.” Either way, we’ll be having some kind of a vote in the House most likely on or by Saturday. If it passes through the House, you can pretty much guarantee it will be signed into law before easter.

Here are the reforms that will begin taking place immediately:

Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions will be outlawed.

  • young adults will be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans till they are 27 (yes, that applies to me and probably you)
  • Small Businesses will be given a tax cut/credit to provide employees with health care
  • insurance plans will not be able to drop coverage if you get sick
  • new independent appeals process for anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by insurance companies
  • no longer lifetime or annual limits for amount of health care

All those reforms will be enacted in the next year if HC is passed. More in the next few years–altogether 30 million people will have insurance that currently lack it.

I walked by a tea party today. There were supposed to be 3000 people there–only about 300 showed up. Life is good.

Have a great Saint Patty’s day, guys and gals! I will write more soon, as soon as midterms come and pass.


tim clark

Peace Conference a success for SPA

Students from across the country traveled to SU for the 2010 National Peace Conference.

Students from across the country traveled to SU for the 2010 National Peace Conference.

From Friday Feb. 26 to Sunday Feb. 28, Southwestern University was the host of the Student Peace Alliance National Conference. The Conference, entitled “Extreme Make Over: Peace in the 21st Century” entailed a series of lectures  covering the subjects of international and internal violence and injustices along with activities designed to train the participants in the conferences to implement peaceful agendas into Government policy-making (called “advanced lobbying”) and the processes needing to bring peace to their communities.

Each of the three days of the conference covered different categories of focus for peace. Friday saw the focus of international conflict resolution with lectures on Afghanistan, violence in Uganda and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Saturday gave close attention to violence within the United States, focusing on the sources of gang violence and the consequences of juvenile incarceration. Sunday provided lessons on how to organize and train peaceful movements and agendas. All three days provided a plethora of speakers to bring insight and thought to their subjects in order to make these broad phenomena and processes relatable to the student participants.

“I heard a good quote, ‘it’s better to seem interested than interesting’,” said Dania Elghazali, 19, from Monterey Beach California when describing what she learned at the conference.

These participants came from all over the country. From Colorado, California, Idaho and nearly every other state, students flocked to Southwestern in order to learn how to change their world.

“There are still people interested in making peace happen…it’s electrifying,” Fabio Fina, the former SPA coordinator of Colorado and Florida said during the closing ceremony of the conference.

At the end of the weekend, the participants gathered in a circle in the Robertson Center, holding hands and singing songs of peace. After the songs, students were encouraged to hug each other in order to better remember what they had learned and felt during the conference. Lastly, in the most peaceful manner possible, students were asked to dance as they left to catch their planes home.

Non-partisan Corruption

The past week has been a bad one of congressional Democrats.  Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY)

Charles Rangel enjoying his Dominican Villa.

Charles Rangel enjoying his Dominican Villa.

 have been hit by ethical scandals.  Rangel was the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee (an extremely powerful position) until coming under investigation for several ethics violations.  Of the list of violations, my favorite has to be the $10,800 he owed in back-taxes for his Dominican Villa.  And if that wasn’t enough, we have pictures. 

Rangel would be everywhere if it wasn’t for Eric Massa.  When Massa resigned earlier this week, he said it was because of his cancer and believed that the calls for his resignation were because of his vote against the health-care bill and not the investigation into claims that he harassed aides.  As it turns out, Massa has a history of harassment that began with his military service.  His resignation has empowered other victims to step-forward and tell their tale.  While I firmly believe that the push for his resignation was primarily based on his ethic concerns, I don’t doubt that the upcoming vote on the health-care bill played a role in pushing for his resignation.  Nancy Pelosi has lost votes in favor of the bill due to death and resignation, having Massa gone makes things easier for her as she negotiates for votes.

One blogger applauded Massa’s scandal and chastised the net-roots campaign that helped him to get elected back in 2006.  This anonymous blogger proudly proclaimed that liberals were getting what they deserved, and was clearly enjoying the situation.  Watching an opponent going-down in flames over ethical issues sure is fun to watch, but it isn’t exactly something new.  Scandals are non-partisan.

This past summer was not a good one for Republicans.  They had to watch as both Senator John Ensign (R-NV) and Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) became embroiled in sex-scandals.  Both Ensign and Sanford had campaigned on a social conservative platform and campaigned on “family values.”  To make matters even worse the two were seen as potential Republican nominees for President in 2012.  That stings.  To make matters worse, new e-mails have emerged that might spell trouble for Ensign.  These e-mails show that Ensign might have tried to send contracts to his mistress’ husband.  If these claims are confirmed then you can bet that Rangel and Massa will have some bipartisan company on the news.

When it comes right down to it, the ethical problems plaguing Democrats shouldn’t be blamed on liberals or internet activists but on the politician in question.  Liberals didn’t make Eric Massa molest male staffers no more than conservatives made Mark Sanford cheat on his wife.  For every John Edwards there is a Larry Craig.  Corruption and sleazebaggery didn’t emerge when the Democrats won in 2006, it has always been there.  Ethical violations don’t see party lines.

Edit: Now it looks like Scott Brown might have some problems to deal with:

Sustainability: Not just a fad

I find it fascinating when new words appear on the horizon of human culture. Through some perceived need, a novel concept emerges in the peripheries of language and begins to reshape dialogue. I imagine that the word “sustainability” first sailed into human consciousness in the 1960s, but was shared only in small groups of like-minded individuals. In the first years of the new millennium, however, the word has been branded on cereal boxes, t-shirts, campaign ads, canvas bags and energy companies, but as this word has become increasingly visible, its meaning has remained ambiguous. In ecology, sustainability refers to a biological community’s ability to diversify and survive over time. I think that this is a good place to start.

As we move into the 21st century, we face unprecedented challenges. The environment is being destroyed, much of the world is at war, and our nation has a tremendous healthcare problem. These statements are grounded in fact, and though various sources may stir up uncertainty, there is not enough evidence to the contrary. With these issues in mind, I believe it is clear that our culture is sick. We are perpetuating inequity, we are demolishing the earth, and we have lost touch with our own bodies. In short, we are eliminating our ability to sustain.

Let me clarify before I go any further. By culture, I am not referring to our American culture, for the values and aspirations that our country was founded on are truly remarkable achievements of the human imagination, which continue through to this day.  However, by and large, the citizens of westernized nations have accepted their role as consumers, silently assenting to the means of production and establishments of power.

Don’t agree? Then ask yourself who manufactures your food or produces your energy, and why so many Americans are diagnosed with obesity, asthma, and cancer. It is unsettling to find that there are bugs in our cultural operating system, and it takes an open mind to look past the media and find the truth. It takes an open mind to believe in sustainability.

Members of SEAK speak on the issue of sustainability. Courtesy of Eric Gonzales.

Members of SEAK speak on the issue of sustainability. Courtesy of Eric Gonzales.

If ecological sustainability refers to a biological community’s ability to diversify and survive, what does sustainability mean to a human community? Though clearly anthropocentric, I believe that it is necessary to recognize why this task is different for humans than for other species. We, humans, are wrapped up in a Gordian knot of religions, ethnicities, politics and sexualities, which prevent reconciliation and prohibit progress. Though non-human biological communities thrive with diversity, humans have historically done a wretched job of embracing it, and it is killing us. Our ability to incorporate multiple worldviews in an effort to create culture has been trumped by our desire to proselytize a consumer culture that dictates a constructed view of normalism. To be clear, I do not believe that Western culture is bad, but heavy doses of any cultural assumptions are bound to create destruction.

Fortunately, the world is waking up. Novel words and concepts are beginning to enter our communities and alter our culture, providing us with creative solutions to problems on separate planes of consciousness.

So what does sustainability mean?

Avoiding a strict definition, I believe that it is intended to give us pause, among our many activities, and offer us the opportunity to question our assumptions.  The evolutionary unfolding of human consciousness has been a remarkable process, and now we stand at a tipping point. The techniques of survival, which have proved so successful, are now antiquated, and it is time to rethink our strategies. We now have the opportunity to intentionally diversify our communities and to dedicate ourselves to the health of the future. In order to do so, however, we must make sure to pause, question our immediate assumptions, and act from a desire to sustain life and to create culture.

Sustainability: The admission that we are the most powerful agents of our collective destiny.

Career Services begins to prepare students for alternative careers

Courtesy of Google Image SearchThe current economic turmoil has taken a major toll on SU graduates who are looking for jobs once they earn their degree. The state of economic affairs is so bad that when asked what liberal arts degrees would be desired in the current job market, Career Services said, “none.”

This has led them to revise their system of internships to include the world’s first ever “Ghetto Connections.” According to that lady that works at the front desk,  “we are now offering internships with whorehouses, drug dealers, smut peddlers, pornographers, hustlers and gangsters.”

While students will have a hard time with the learning curve initially, they will do well in time.  In order to assist the transition, Career Services is offering a new Strengths Quest assessment. Students will be tested on how well they handle firearms and speak slang. They will also have to learn how to use a social networking system that they are most likely not familiar with. According to Career Services, “it’s called the ways of the street and it’s actually very similar to Facebook. In fact most of the features are pretty similar. For example, instead of Facebook stalking someone, you actually stalk them. Your wall is literally a wall, most likely behind some building where people spray graffiti. Farmville is replaced by marijuana growing. Instead of having a Facebook status you just yell really loudly so everyone can hear you. And instead of defriending someone you just murder them.”

In addition, all that literary and sociological theory comes in handy. “Roland Barthes’ essay on the Death of the Author is particularly useful during graffiti operations because most of the time rival gangs are wanting to bring about the death of the author of the graffiti. Foucault is also useful. You can quote Archaeology of Knowledge during a shootout to confuse rival gangsters.”

Almost every degree is useful as well. According to them, “your degree is probably applicable with these occupations. Art majors can do graffiti for gangs. Business majors can keep track of a pimp’s income. Chemistry majors can help supervise in meth labs. Religion majors can help pray for a gang’s victory during a shootout. Environmental Studies majors can find the best places to grow weed. Anthropology majors can study the other gangs as if they were cultures and give kingpins their reports while maintaining that no gang is superior to another. Pre-med majors can treat bullet wounds. Theatre majors can learn how to act cool during a gang war. And International Studies can students can assist in smuggling operations.” The one degree that has no relevance is Philosophy, according to Career Services.
“Philosophy will make you think life is so pointless you shouldn’t go into any career.”

Athlete Spotlight: Robbie Hanley

Robbie HanleyJunior Robby Hanley has been on fire as of late and played akey role in the success of the men’s basketball team. Hanley did not always plan to pursue basketball in college, but his plans changed when he arrived here in Texas.

I actually grew up wanting to play professional soccer internationally,” Hanley said. “This continued until I moved to Texas my sophomore year in high school, when I decided I would focus on basketball instead of soccer.”

It looks like his decision has paid off. His performance on and off the court has helped the Pirates maintain a good season this year.

Everyone has a common goal,” Hanley said. “Individual players cannot worry about their own game, but rather what helps the team as a whole.”

Looking back into the season, Hanley comments that one of the highlights of the season has been the home win against Oglethorpe by one point, a win that pumped up the Pirates halfway through conference.

Just as the team has had its highlights, it has had its downtimes. The past weekend in Colorado was a bit of a disappointment.

We needed to win both games to solidify first place going into the tournament, but we lost both,” Hanley said. “Not that great of a weekend by any means.”

Despite the tough weekend, Hanley says the team remains positive.

We will smash Trinity at home on Friday, and then go into the tournament and do what we have done all year,” Hanley said. “We want to reach the conference tournament and win a conference championship! But individually, I want to dunk on someone.”

Hanley is a sociology major and a Spanish minor. His favorite foods are applesauce and chicken wings and his favorite music artist is none other than Nas. Like many students here at SU, plans for post-graduation are still up in the air.

Field Trips

by Ellen BurtnerRemember those field trips you used to take to the zoo in elementary school? Yeah. Like everything else, the college version is so much cooler.

Feel like taking an overnight trip on your own private beach, looking at endangered species and going kayaking? I thought so. Meet: the awesome professors of Southwestern’s Environmental Studies Program.

“I’m an ecologist, and ecology happens in all environments,” said Dr. Romi Burks of various field trips. “In ecology, part of it is common sense when you’re looking at the text, but the text is not the same as observing it in real life.”
It’s this real life experiential work where many feel the students benefit the most.

The most recent adventure was one taken by Dr. Jinelle Sperry and Dr. Gavin Van Horn to Port Aransas, which boasts itself as one of the most popular vacation spots in Texas. Interested in studying the endangered Whooping Crane, a troop of nearly 30 students traveled for an overnight stay to the Port Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

“We can go and see the strengths and weaknesses of the conservation efforts that are happening,” said junior and Animal Behavior major Morgan Mingle. “We saw probably at least six whooping cranes, and there’s only about 300 left in the world, so we saw like…2% of the whooping cranes left in the world. It was awesome.”

It’s these opportunities that make the field trip such a unique opportunity.

“The only wild reproducing self-viable population is here in Texas,” Dr. Sperry said of the cranes. “We drove down there, immediately got on a boat, and went on a three hour tour of the bay. We saw over 35 species of birds, and we saw a Peregrine Falcon fighting with a White Tailed Hawk over a dead duck. We saw bottle nosed dolphins right beside our boat, and we camped at the Wildlife Refuge there. It’s supposed to be a boy scouts camp, but they let us stay there. We had our own little private beach at the same time we were camping in the woods.”

What makes the field trips worth the cost and effort for both faculty and students?

“There’s a contextual element that you simply can’t replace in content,” said Dr. Burks.

The field trips beat the hell out of sitting in a classroom all day.

“It’s really worth it because particularly when you’re trying to grasp and idea and you don’t actually see the reality of it. You can get an awful lot out of the reading, but I think it just adds another component that makes the reading and discussions have more meaning,” said Dr. Hobgood-Oster.

“For my course, you could actually see the species that we’re talking about, which makes a big difference,” said Dr. Sperry.

“There’s a big difference between showing a picture up on a PowerPoint and actually being out on a boat. I think that’s a big part of it. And I think it’s also nice to get other people’s perspectives. The boat captain talked a lot about wildlife conservation, and about the species we were seeing. The Port Aransas employee talked a lot about conservation. So, these are totally different perspectives. You get it from a boat captain, you get it from a federal employee. They undoubtedly have a different perspective than I do, so it’s nice to have students here it from every angle,” said Dr. Sperry.

It takes extensive collaborative effort among administration, staff and students to pull together some of the larger-scale overnight trips that frequently occur.

“We just had a wonderful time,” said Dr. Sperry.

“What’s nice about Southwestern is that for these overnight trips, we got all of the equipment from SIRA. They are incredible in terms of the amount of equipment that they have. They had enough to outfit our entire group of 26 people. It’s really nice that we have that resource here on campus and that they’re willing to loan in out for field trips like that. The gear would be way too expensive for people to purchase on their own, so it’s really the only way that we could have done it.”

“I think that the type of trip we actually did is perfect for conservation type things, no matter what the degree is, because you really get to see what’s happening and talk to people that are involved from the different perspectives,” said Mingle. “So you can’t just be like, ‘We need to get rid of dams because dams kill wildlife habitat when there’s people starving and need the energy from the dams.’ You can’t fully read about all that in a text book.”

Governor David in (non)scandel

On the night of Tuesday, Feb. 16, a story came out that negated the news cycle about said story that had preceded its release, but by that point no one cared. News of the story had first come into wide circulation a week and a half prior. It was a bombshell about New York Governor David Paterson, the rumors went. Was it a sex scandal? A corruption investigation? Maybe it was gambling, maybe the illegal selling of state contracts. Maybe both! No one knew except The New York Times, which was working on the story, but they wouldn’t tell.Courtesy of Google Image Search

The first media mentions talked of rampant rumors in the state capital, the existence of which were blogged and tweeted with no detail whatsoever. The existence of a forthcoming “bombshell story” was reblogged and retweeted and linked with added details most of which were made up entirely, it seems. Mainstream news organizations got into the rumor frenzy. The Associated Press even wrote an article. The rumors got so bad Paterson was forced to hold a press conference to deny that he would resign. This for a story that hadn’t even come out yet.

By this time, the story had become more about the reporting of itself – reporting being a loose term. Paterson complained about the refusal of The New York Times to just come out with a story already, or at least deny false rumors. He argued that discussion of the story-in-waiting that relied on false information was damaging his reputation, something The New York Times was enabling through their silence, and when the actual story came out it would not undo the damage of the run-up to the story.

The New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt basically said it wasn’t his fault, and blamed new media (the internet) for the rumors. He began his article with a quoted tweet that supposedly started it all – although really, NYT reporting started it – and claimed revealing the information in the upcoming Paterson article would undermine competition. Gawker, one of the new media sites called out by Hoyt, pointed out that all the hype was only helping The New York Times; keeping quiet fueled anticipation for the article.
Gawker also defended its own role: It had done some actual reporting of its own, getting a denial of some of the rumors.

Other coverage of the not-yet-released story included a round-up of all the coverage of the story by the New York Observer’s John Koblin, author of the instigating tweet in Hoyt’s article. Rumored dates for the anticipated New York Times article kept being pushed back until eventually people just got tired of the story. The David Paterson scandal ran its course before the story was even released.

Google trends show searches for “David Paterson” peaking a full week before the story came out. The story, like the story about the story, ended up not even being about David Paterson. It was a strange combination of profile and complaint against a Paterson aide, who had apparently made some enemies in his current position. That, plus old drug-related charges and newer but thinly backed up domestic abuse accusations against the aide made up the story. The theories of giving out state contracts to pay off gambling debts were much more interesting, really.

Reputation matters more than the facts. The story took off because of the NYT reputation, as a national newspaper, of breaking scandals. (Gawker, only a website, had less credibility even though their contribution actually involved calling up the governor’s office and not withholding the results for weeks.)

The real impact of the article that ended up about Paterson’s aide is not in the article, but the impact of rumors of the article on Paterson’s reputation. After all, there were more headlines about Paterson scandals than about Paterson’s aide, and quantity always beats quality.