Archive for November, 2012

NextGen Journal, the only national news outlet created for and by students that is currently live online, will be ceasing operations at the end of the month.

As NextGen’s founder and editor-in-chief Connor Toohill wrote to readers earlier this week, “[F]or the last several years, the 2012 Election was our big ‘thing on the horizon,’ towards which we were consistently building.  Now on the other side, and with most of our projects and goals behind us, our Core team is growing older and busier. We’re nearing graduation, and some interests are changing.  This Core team has always driven NextGen, and right now, it’s becoming a bit harder for us to keep up.”

According to Toohill, “The site will remain live, and all content published, but we’ll suspend daily publishing for the foreseeable future.”

As I’ve previously posted, NextGen has been a unique journalistic tour de force over the past two years, providing news scoops and candid commentaries from student contributors at roughly 100 colleges and universities.  From it start, the issues tackled by the site have been diverse, voluminous, and almost always of high relevance to students.  Even more valuable, when major news broke, the site often served as the platform for the student perspective to be inserted into the larger narratives and debates.

For example, amid the conversations– and celebrations– that erupted in spring 2011 in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s killing, NextGen published more stories on more angles than any other student media outlet.  Toohill and his team also did a terrific job during the most recent presidential campaign.  As Toohill notes in his wrap-up post, “We ran articles on topics ranging from climate conferences to hip-hop classes, and e-readers to Election 2012. We interviewed GovernorsCongressmen, and Presidential candidates; talked about our generation on a number of mainstream outlets, including MSNBC; and built up to a series of exciting projects during the 2012 election.”

Best of luck to those who have been involved with NGJ, and congrats on an uber-successful online venture.

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They stole the Torch to save face– and help enrollment.  On two separate weeks late last month, Valparaiso University officials removed copies of The Torch student newspaper from a prominent campus building out of fear “the headlines would give prospective students a negative impression of the university.”

The front-page stories that spurred their concern– and admitted thievery– involved an academic adviser’s sudden controversial resignation and a freshman’s sudden death from a heroin overdose.  (Partial page screenshots below.)

As the Torch itself reported, the school only fessed up when confronted by the paper. While making his weekly delivery, the Torch news editor noticed there were no back copies still sitting in the building’s newsstands– an apparent oddity.  In a public statement, the school confirmed, “We regret the removal of several issues of the Torch from Kretzmann Hall and commit to displaying all future issues.”

The most recent issue displayed sports a front-page story that details officials’ theft-and-hide antics.  No word yet on the negative impression this might be giving prospective students.

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A shockingly racist video featuring two young women— one a recent alumna and the other a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth– prompted UMD officials to send a school-wide email alert expressing their horror at its creation, posting, and spread.

In the roughly five-minute video, the women wear blackface and talk over each other– making derogatory comments and playing off the worst stereotypes connected to minorities.  They repeatedly refer to themselves as n-ggers, “claiming to be from the ‘black hood,’ needing some ‘fried (expletive deleted) chicken’, and likening themselves to looking ‘like apes right now.'”

The school’s initial response: “We have seen the video; we abhor it.  This is unacceptable behavior for anyone, and we at UMD are extremely unhappy to be associated with it in any way.”

The Statesman, UMD’s student newspaper, identified the women and obtained apologetic statements from them about the circumstances surrounding its creation.

As one of them wrote to the paper, “We were doing facials and it happened to have been a brown facial mask.  We had to leave it on for 12 minutes.  During that 12 minutes, we horribly decided to make a video that we regret and are not happy about.  This was made over a year ago.  I am saddened and sick to my stomach and sorry for anybody it offends. It was not mine or hers intention at all and we are embarrassed about it. We understand we cannot do anything about it now but apologize and inform people we did not paint our faces or put that on to purposely make a video.”

The video was recently posted anonymously on YouTube under the account UMDHate.  YouTube subsequently removed it for violating the site’s hate speech policy.  The video embedded here contains the original, wrapped with commentary at the start and close by an individual who is angered by it.

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Controversy recently ensnarled The Miami Hurricane at the University of Miami for its publication of a “special Adderall report” that included a column and staff editorial seen by some as promoting the popular “study drug” and others like it.

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The column at the heart of the mini-blow-up, headlined “Stressed-Out Students Should Take Advantage of Pills,” implores readers, “Medicate, Miami. You’ve earned it.”  The paper’s editor-in-chief calls it satirical, although it reads as straightforwardly snarky.

As the student writer contends, “You can’t really blame college students for ‘abusing’ study drugs. . . . A UCLA study shows that college students face more work and stress than ever before.  And with prescription study drugs being handed out like PEZ candies on campus, why wouldn’t students take advantage of them? . . . It’s hard to abuse a drug whose main side effects are productivity and finding linear algebra interesting. I can’t list the number of all-nighters I’ve pulled with the help of Concerta [a study drug] in order to cram a semester’s worth of writing into one night.”

A separate staff editorial on Adderall’s widespread illegal use confirms “college students will find a way to get the drug even if it isn’t prescribed to them. Whether they buy it from someone who has ADHD, buy it from someone who obtains it illegally or steal it from a friend, where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

As the editorial, headlined “Magic Pill Can Enhance Focus, Drive,” concludes, “You can blame the system. You can blame college professors. You can even blame society for not making exceptions to the rule that some students must ‘do it all.’  Whichever way you look at it, students have been forced to search for ways to boost their drive, and Adderall is indeed a solution.  Adderall won’t make you smarter or invincible, it just heightens your drive to finish study guides, research papers, and projects. Others shouldn’t look down on those who need– and welcome– the extra push.”

Upon publication earlier this month, the pieces– particularly the column– apparently spurred an outsized helping of “criticism and discontent” among Hurricane devotees.

As the pub’s EIC Allison Goodman confirms in an editorial, “People have shared their opinions over email, Facebook, Twitter, and through comments on our website. Most have scrutinized the editors’ decision to publish the satirical commentary, which was by a writer who has turned to Concerta– legally prescribed– to enhance his academic performance. Many have questioned the credibility of the Hurricane for publishing such a piece.”

The question seemingly at the heart of the credibility issue: Are the pieces irresponsibly supporting, and even encouraging, illegal drug use/abuse or simply pointing out the drugs’ accepted benefits and obvious popularity among students?

One student critic, speaking to the “Medicate, Miami” columnist: “[I]t is highly unethical and irresponsible for a person in [your] position to . . . advocate prescription drug abuse.  This is not a brave civil rights stance.  It is an attempt to convince readers that his own abuse should not be condemned, but instead supported by the community.  Prescription drug abuse is a major problem in our country, and South Florida ranks highly among the most affected regions. . . . While the First Amendment gives us the right to freedom of speech, and with that right you can advocate all the drug abuse you want, to use the Miami Hurricane to do so is a severe violation.”

In response, Goodman defended both pieces and rejected calls by some to retract them.  As she writes, “I’d like to make it clear that the opinion columns published in the Hurricane . . . represent the views of the individual columnists, and not the Hurricane or its editorial board.  Choosing not to publish a column because we disagree with it would be inherently biased.  It’s also worth noting that nowhere did the staff editorial endorse illegal Adderall abuse– that was never our position, and we would never intentionally encourage students to turn to an activity that could harm themselves or the university.  The editorial, the product of organized staff-wide discussion, merely recognized the pressure students face that sometimes lead them to do things like take Adderall to boost their focus. . . . There is obviously a fine line between choosing not to chastise our peers for illegal drug use and encouraging this illegal drug use– but we treaded it carefully.”

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Yesterday afternoon, the University of Georgia football squad tore apart in-state rival Georgia Tech University to earn a shot at the SEC title and a berth in the BCS national championship game.  In a column published the day before the shellacking, Red & Black opinion editor Blake Seitz at UGA unleashed a similarly harsh editorial smackdown of sorts aimed at the Technique, Georgia’s Tech’s student newspaper.

The focus of Seitz’s ire: To Hell With Georgia, a special satirical issue published annually by the Technique prior to the UGA-GT game.  Over the years, within the issue, the Technique staff has not-so-subtly poked fun at general UGA stereotypes including “alcohol, rednecks, farm animals, and lots of dawgs.”

Among the headlines topping faux stories in the current issue focused on UGA: “Sesame Street Too Hard for UGA Students, Romney Right All Along”; “Red Solo Cups Deemed Reusable”; “Honey Boo Boo to Talk at Graduation”; “Tater Tot Addiction No. 3 Biggest Craze After Drinking, Incest”; and “Cars in Athens Pimped Out with Tape.”

A separate editorial cartoon depicts a beer can, wine bottle, needle filled with meth, and a DVD containing pornography as “UGA Study Guides.”  Also in the issue, a two-page spread sporting nothing more than the huge, blood-red words “To Hell with Georgia!”  As a tiny strip of text underneath the words notes, “This space provided as a public service by the Technique.”

Apparently, it’s all about tradition.  As an editorial on page two explains, “Some 101 years ago, the first edition of the Technique . . . was a four-page paper that focused primarily on the upcoming football contest with Georgia.  It predicted, arrogantly and incorrectly, that the Jackets would triumph over the Bulldogs.  From these ‘modest’ roots, the present day Technique came into being.  It is these roots that we as a staff honor when we produce ‘To Hell With Georgia.’ . . . While the jokes [in the current issue] may tend to be the same [as those in previous issues], lame or just plain crude, we stay dedicated to the fact of honoring our humble beginnings.”

Nearby, at UGA, Seitz isn’t buying it.  The Red & Black opinion editor views the issue’s stories as the antics of an editorially deficient enterprise and a student body fueled by “undying hatred.”  In his response column, he compares the Technique– and by extension all of Georgia Tech– to “that annoying younger brother you never wanted, who you tried to asphyxiate with a pillow that one time before your mother caught you.”

His take on “To Hell With Georgia” specifically, provided prior to the UGA-GT game: “When, on Saturday, Coach Richt and the boys lay an almighty stomping on the Jackets, and Tech fans are left to yell, ‘Why, why do we continue to field a team in this sport?’ in the smoldering wreckage of their defeat, it will fuel the vicious circle of Georgia Tech’s existence: hate will beget hate, which will beget more silly editions of the Technique for us all to read.  So I guess that’s a lose-lose for everyone.”

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A new online craze is quickly gathering oodles of fat-free, skim, 1 percent, and unpasteurized buzz throughout Britain.  A small posse of UK college students and young graduates recently premiered an activity– dubbed milking– with a video round-up “destined to become an Internet sensation.”  It is spurring press coverage and plans for copycat vids produced by students across Britain and Scotland.

As The Tab at Britain’s Leeds University explains, “Similar in difficulty to its viral cousin planking, milking simply requires the participant to purchase some milk and then pour it over their head. The result is a thing of beauty.”  A comment beneath the video confirms, “This is legen…dairy.”  Although, as one hater contends, “For the amount of milk used, this is nowhere near as a funny as it needs to be.”

What do you think?  Will it spread stateside?  Check out the video below.

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Madeline Huerta recently celebrated her 1,000th college problem.  As I’ve previously posted, the Boston University student is the creator and overseer of College Problems, an uber-successful Tumblr site that offers undergraduates a spot to vent about everything related to higher ed. that irks or annoys them.

The user-submitted entries typically run only a sentence or two, almost always with a set-up and a punchline and sometimes without proper capitalization and grammar.

Four sample problems: “Running out of ways to make Ramen exciting”; “Trying to make new friends because everyone you know is abroad”; “That two-week mark when you stop caring about classes”; and “Tuition increase for a building you’ll never use. Meanwhile your dorm is collapsing.”

A screenshot sampling of four more:

In a brief break from the problems posting after her 1,000th entry, Huerta wrote to readers, “I just wanted to send out a mass THANK YOU to everyone who’s made submissions, liked, reblogged, followed, and sent in positive messages today. It honestly means so much that you read the blog (not too seriously, I hope) and let it brighten up your day a little.”

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In the Spotlight: Madeline Huerta, Founder & Overseer, College Problems

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