18 March 2008

University College London, BYU, Obama, &c.

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If the New York Times doesn't think a story is newsworthy, did it really happen?

You may recall that a few weeks ago the NYT ran a story about John McCain. None of their anonymous sources (who, mind you, didn't even meet their own rules on sourcing) said that McCain actually did anything, rather, it was a supposed to be a story about McCain's judgment and associations.

Along comes a story that is largely about Barack Obama's association and judgment. Where is the New York Times coverage? Buried. Journalistic double standard anyone?

Again, we don't think Obama personally espouses any of Reverend Wright's crazy ideas, but his 20 year relationship with Wright does raise questions (like the recent revelations about a deeper relationship with Rezko than previously thought) about his associations and judgment. Juan Williams, a liberal former Washington Post writer and current NPR and Fox News contributor, for whom we hold great respect, also agreed that this raises questions about Obama's judgment.

Barack Obama's Speech Transcript
Analysis: Obama Grabs Race Issue
Obama Rebukes Preacher, Urges Race Healing
Obama Confronts Racial Division In US

*UPDATE 6:15pm MST: Friend of Lybberty and Lost Boy writer, Morgan Habedank, weighs in on Reverend Wright's comments. We noted in the comments section of his post and repeat here: it is important for the less politically inclined, but no less intelligent among us, to sometimes hold forth on issues like this.

We believe that political pundits sometimes suffer from a myopia that afflicts all disciplines (this includes us). Thoughtful opinion from someone outside the political echo chamber can help us gain a greater understanding of issues and put them in proper perspective. Bravo, Mr. Habedank.

***

We want to call attention and give credit to the fledgling BYU Ski Team. We have a couple of friends on the team who give us irregular reports about the team's performance. This article from the Daily Universe is the first we've seen on the team. They race and train without any official recognition from BYU and, all things considered, have done quite well. This year they narrowly missed qualifying for the National Championships. Good job, BYU ski team.

***

From an otherwise unremarkable article about Provo development, the Daily Universe reported on a few interesting comments regarding Provo's student population:
Exclusiveness in Provo was an area of concern. Residents voiced their opinion that the city needs to market more to the student population as well as the non-LDS members of the community.

According to numbers from the city records for 2007, university students make up approximately 45 percent of Provo's population. Also, according to the city's Web site, more than 20 different religious groups are present in Provo.

"Students offer a very unique population that can really be capitalized upon," Simonson said. "Students don't usually have a large discretionary income, but they're always looking for something to do."

Melanie McCoard, an active member of the community who ran for city council three times, said some recent decisions made by the city council have caused some students to think Provo is anti-student.

"Opening up the downtown to students could help dissolve that perception," McCoard said.
As far as contentious relationships between longtime city residents and student populations go, BYU vs. Provo isn't breaking any records. That said, the Provo City Council and some residents resentful attitude towards students is irritating. Students don't vote here and supposedly pay little in taxes.

However, this superficial look at the benefit of BYU students in the Utah Valley does not tell the whole tale.

BYU employs thousands of people and provides innumerable (and, often, unknown) services to the greater Provo community. Students alone give hundreds of thousands of hours of services each year. They are helping out in schools, providing daycare for special needs kids so their parents can have a few hours to shop or whatever, they are cleaning up parks and neighborhoods and on and on. BYU students aren't simply entering to learn and going forth to serve once graduated, they are serving the entire time they are at BYU.

In exchange, they are ignored and patronized and sometimes demonized by Provo residents. The Provo City Council refuses to make student concerns a top priority when making parking policy.

Of course, they can get away with it because BYU students don't vote in local elections. But that doesn't make it or them, right.

***

Finally, a bit o news from my grad school, UCL. Student politics are interesting in London. In a post last year, we wrote about our experience with the UCL Student Union--essentially, their debate club (click here for the link).

Undergraduate and graduate involvement in UCL student government is an interesting thing. In one sense, they have more say over more things, but in another sense, their interest in the University beyond their emphasis is less than BYU students.

Be that as it may, we were struck by a recent email we received from one of our sources at UCL regarding the latest tempest in a teapot at the UCL Union:
On Wednesday the 5th of March, UCL Union held an [sic] "Reconvened Annual General Meeting". Since then, the sabbaticals and Chief Executive have received a substantial number of complaints regarding the democratic procedure of the meeting and subsequently questioning its legitimacy.

After investigating these complaints, the sabbatical team took the decision on the 10th of March to initiate disciplinary proceedings examining the chair of the meeting, UCL Union's General Secretary. The General Secretary has therefore been suspended from office pending the results of this disciplinary, which will hopefully be taking place in the first week of the third term. The disciplinary panel will be composed of senior members of College and sabbatical officers from other London students' unions.

Following this decision, a March 12th meeting of UCL Union Governance Committee resolved to temporarily suspend the decisions made at the "Reconvened Annual General Meeting" pending the outcome of the disciplinary panel, and will report back to the Union's Executive by the 6th of May.
In one sense, we're relieved to see that BYU isn't the only university that blows procedural things out of proportion, in another sense we're dismayed at the suspension of democracy and lack of transparency. This is all the information we could get about the actions of the General Secretary.

But stay tuned, if we can find it, we'll give you the rest of the story.


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1 comment:

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