Posts tagged College Campuses

If it moves, regulate it.

This is from the OA News from a few days ago.

. . . On another issue, AU is requiring all students, staff and faculty bringing a bicycle to campus to register it with AU’s Parking Services, Smith said.

Although people have previously been asked to register, the requirement will be more strictly enforced now, something Smith said is necessary as the campus has become more pedestrian.

We’re seeing many, many more bikes on campus and because of that we’ve got to get a handle on how many we have …

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(No, you don’t.)

. . . and registering them is a good way to do that, Smith said.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(No, it isn’t.)

You register your car on campus and the same is true for bicycles.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(This is a completely specious comparison.)

Registration is free.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

(Don’t count on that lasting forever.)

Smith said the number of bicycles registered with the university will help ensure that an adequate number of bicycle racks are available on campus.

— Donathan Prater, Opelika-Auburn News, August 15, 2012

The reason the University requires you to register cars is specifically to limit and control access: parking space near campus is extremely limited, it’s expensive to build more, and the parking tags regulate who can park in which zones. None of these rationales apply to bicycles on campus, no matter how many there may be. The idea that you just have to know the exact number of bicycles might be brought in at any given time is inane. If you’re seeing many, many more bikes on campus, then evidently you have some idea of the order of magnitude you’re dealing with, and if you want to tell whether you need to install more bike racks, you can do this pretty easily by looking at the bike racks and seeing whether or not they’re full up all the time, or by watching for bikes chained up to lightpoles when the racks are all full. If you see these problems, you need more bike racks. If you don’t, you don’t. The cynic in me would point out that one reason to enforce this policy is that it’s a way of making up for the declining revenues from on-campus cars, by extracting a little more revenue from the bicycles they are going to seize and impound. But really this, and a lot of other policies controlling bicycling that are justified by the same kind of specious comparisons to motor-cars, seems to be driven, more than anything, by a reflexive belief if there’s ever a lot of any damn thing at all, it’s a Problem that has to be counted out and controlled; that any and every important part of civic life, or campus life, must be registered with, and legible to, the controlling authorities. There is no reason at all to enforce this policy, other than an irrational compulsion to control anything that moves in your field of vision. In practice, the effect of the policy will be to waste students’ time, to cost students money, to punish bicyclists, to impound bikes, and to make campus less accessible to the rest of the community. (A lot of us have bikes. But we’re not eligible to register them.)

Also.

Plains-spoken philosophy

(Via Roderick and my dad.)

Back when I was an undergraduate, I had the unexpected privilege of spending about two and a half years in one of the best Philosophy programs I could possibly have found—the Philosophy department at Auburn University. Those of you who know me probably know, and those of you who just know the blog may have guessed, that part of the reason for that was meeting and spending a lot of time studying with Roderick Long. Another important reason was the time that I spent studying and talking with Kelly Jolley, the current Chair of the department. It would be impossible to list all the philosophical, intellectual, and personal debts that I owe to Kelly, Roderick, and the rest of the faculty at Auburn (James Shelley, Mike Watkins, Eric Marcus, Jody Graham, …). So I’m really pleased to see the New York Times Magazine’s article about Auburn’s philosophy program, and Kelly in particular, which gives you a glimpse into a really quite remarkable story — the role that Kelly’s personality, teaching style, and indefatigable efforts played in transforming the Auburn philosophy department into the best department in the University, and a paradigm of liberal education at its very best — demanding, challenging, collegial, invigorating, and life-changing. And all this in the midst of a big state school that used to be dismissed as that cow college on the other side of the state.

It’s certainly a story that’s much deeper, more compelling, and ultimately much more useful than anything you’ll find in the firehose spray of little squibs and blurbs on lipstick or politicians’ summer homes or the sanctimoniously-executed power-plays and poll results for the Hopesters and Changelings of the world. Philosophers are constantly heckled — mainly by those who confuse busy-ness with importance and operational success with a life well lived — that philosophy, and the broader projects of the humanities and liberal education, are silly projects — useless really — because they don’t matter to what’s called real life. But if the sort of kitsch and trash that our practical journalists spread all over the front pages of our practical newspapers is what matters to your life, and philosophy is not, then the question you need to ask yourself is why is that the sort of life that I lead? And it’s as good a reason as you could ask for to change your life and to change the things that matter to it. And what I love about the Auburn Philosophy department, and one of the (many) things that I’m personally indebted to Kelly Jolley for, is the fact that that department really provides a place — one of the best examples of such a place that’s left in this modern world — where students are challenged to do that, expected to do that, encouraged to do that, and given access to the tools and the space and the teachers that they need for it.

Tolle, lege.

See also:

Melissa Bruen, campus safety, and fighting back

Trigger warning: This post quotes extensively from a story by Melissa Bruen in the University of Connecticut Daily Campus, in which she gives a first-hand account of her sexual assault, and briefly from a number of disgusting victim-blaming comments made in response to her story.

Here’s a story that both inspires and infuriates me. It inspires me because of Melissa Bruen’s courage. It infuriates me because of what happened to her. And what happened to her again after she fought back. And what happened to her again after she wrote about what had happened to her and how she fought back. This is what happened to Melissa Bruen as she tried to get home on the Hunting Lodge Road Trail.

Students are always told not to walk alone, especially at night, and that it is safer to travel in groups. This is a lesson I will not forget. I have always felt safe walking alone around UConn at night. Having worked for The Daily Campus for four years made this a necessity. So Friday with so many people, and police, around, I didn’t think twice about heading back to campus alone from Celeron.

I called a friend at around 1 a.m. and asked her to pick me up at the end of the path by Northwest. I had three beers and two screwdrivers. It was while I was on the phone, sitting on the ground with my back against a telephone pole in order to hear her, that I was picked up by my shoulders, pinned up against the pole and dry humped by a stranger. At first I thought it was one of my friends’ attempt at humor, until I heard the man moaning.

I hung up the phone, and shoved the man off me. I am 5’5”. He was around 5’11”.

My, aren’t we feisty tonight, he said.

I was assaulted when I was very young - I wasn’t about to let it happen again. When he came toward me, I grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him down to the ground. I held onto his shoulders and climbed on top to straddle him. He started thrashing side to side, but I was able to hit him with a closed fist, full force, in the face.

A small crowd had gathered, mostly men. Now they seemed shocked. I was supposed to have been a victim, and I was breaking out of the mold. I hit him in the stomach, while clenching my legs around him to prevent another man from pushing me off. In all, it took three men to pull me off my assailant.

He got up and ran off, yelling at me, as if I were the would-be rapist.

You just assaulted me, I yelled in my own defense — first to him and then, to anyone who would listen, He just assaulted me.

Since the police were shutting down the parties at Celeron, there were thousands of people on the path.

Another man, around 6’1”, approached me and said, You think that was assault? and he pulled down my tube top, and grabbed my breasts. More men started to cheer. It didn’t matter to the drunken mob that my breasts were being shown or fondled against my will. They were happy to see a topless girl all the same. I punched him in the face, and someone shoved me into a throng of others. I was surrounded, but I kept swinging and hitting until I was able to break free of the circle they had formed.

I started running barefoot toward Celeron, but ended up throwing myself on the ground, crying and screaming hysterically. I saw a friend in the crowd, and all I could do was scream his name over and over. I could see the ambulance and police checkpoint in the distance.

. . .

When I went to UConn Police Saturday, I learned that at least one other woman was jumped by two men on the Celeron Path that night. I can’t help asking myself what would have happened if I hadn’t fought back.

I was raised to fight back, so I made sure to get a few good swings in. My bruises will fade, and I will move on. But if you ever see someone being assaulted, do the right thing.

— Melissa Bruen, The Daily Campus (2008-05-02): My Spring Weekend Nightmare

Here is what happened when she published this story in her campus newspaper.

At this writing, Melissa Bruen’s article on the sexual assault she suffered during the U Conn Spring Weekend has received close to fifty comments on the Daily Campus website. (Free registration required.)

Of those comments, more than a dozen are flames. Some are critical of Bruen’s journalistic integrity. Others suggest that she invented the story of the assault. Several commenters insult Bruen’s appearance, or the clothes she wore in the photograph that accompanied the article.

It should be stressed that Bruen is characterized in third-party reporting as having been bruised in the attack. She describes the attack as having taken place in front of a large number of witnesses, and herself as having run from her attackers barefoot and screaming. She reported the assault to campus police while she was still on the scene.

And yet she is accused by commenters of having made up the incident as a cry for fame. Her account is described as having troubling loose ends. One commenter who appears to believe her story refers to the assaults as minor shenanigans.

And then there are the insults. One commenter calls her a fat ho, another a stupid BITCH. The shirt she wears in the photograph is described as being in very poor taste, and her facial expression as rediculous (sic).

Most of the comments to the article are supportive, and many challenge the critics with cogent arguments. But the fact that Bruen was attacked so harshly serves as a reminder of the abuse that women who speak publicly about sexual violence face, and underscores Bruen’s courage in coming forward.

— studentactivism.net (2008-05-05): U Conn Editor Attacked for Writing Assault Story

Melissa Bruen was assaulted by a man and she fought the hell back. For daring to fighting back she was assaulted again while she was surrounded by a cheering mob of men. She fought back again and escaped and wrote about it. For writing about it she was smeared, slandered and insulted, over her actions, her dress, her honesty, and her physical appearance. I doubt that any one person involved in any of these events had any particular plans for, or cared about, or had ever thought about, supporting or reinforcing or expressing some big social order in the relationships between men and women. But those of you who have any questions about the Myrmidon theory — the view that men who commit random violence against women unintentionally serve as shock troops for the undesigned, but very real and powerful and coercive, social order of patriarchy — ought to think about it in light of an event like this. What this kind of male physical attack, and this kind of victim-blaming response to her report on the attack, does to a woman’s perceived freedom of action when it is done to her, or when she sees it happening to another woman. What kind of function the mold Melissa Bruen broke out of when she fought back serves. And how countless acts like this, repeated over and over on every campus, in every town, shape the social and personal space within which women and men move, at a time when they are first settling on what kind of adults they will be and what kind of lives they will lead.

(Via Oh, You’re a FEMINIST?! 2008-05-07, via feministe 2008-05-11.)

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When you reach the bottom of the barrel, start digging.

From the Opelika-Auburn News (2008-03-07):

Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for protesting and picketing funerals and memorials of fallen soldiers, is planning to picket at the Sunday afternoon funeral of 18-year-old Auburn freshman Lauren Burk, according to the group’s Web site. Burk was killed Tuesday night. Police are investigating her death as a murder.

Westboro Baptist Church, established in 1955, is an Kansas-based organization lead by Pastor Fred Phelps.

The group is also planning to picket the funeral of Eve Carson, UNC student body president who was killed Wednesday morning.

Both funerals are listed on the WBC site’s online picket schedule for Sunday.

First the Phelpses came to picket the funerals of men murdered by gay-bashers.

Then they came to picket the funerals of AIDS patients.

Then they came to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.

And now, having given up any pretense of having a particular target other than humanity and simple decency, they’re just showing up to any old random funeral, so long as they know that the news media will be in the area.

What they are doing now is no more, and no less, evil than what they did to Matthew Shepard’s family. I would say that the cruelty here is more bizarre, but it’s not, really, when you understand some basic facts about the Phelpses. They have shown repeatedly, by their words and their deeds, that they thrive on being hated and provoking reaction. There is literally nothing at all that is beneath them, as long as it gets their names and their websites in the news yet again. And it will.

How Jason Smathers learned to stop worrying and trust the State

From Jason Smathers’s report on Wendy McElroy’s recent anti-voting lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

You put your trust in the state because it filters out complexities of life you either cannot manage on your own or see no need to. Why do people obey unjust laws? Because — for the majority, in most cases — it’d be a whole lot more problematic and chaotic without the system there. I may recognize that a war we’re involved in is unjust, but I don’t attempt to overthrow the government because the state simplifies my life in ways that more directly affect me.

Well. I, for one, know that if I were an Iraqi child, I would be happy to die so that Jason Smathers can live a simpler life.