One Woman Academy

December 1, 2009

Higher Education as a Universal Right

      Canada is pretty excellent. The Land of the Maple Leaf has Arcade Fire, Kate Beaton, universal healthcare, the world’s largest mall, and many other treasures. But while reading through Inside Higher Ed yesterday, I ran across this gem:

 

“The student union of the University of British Columbia has filed a complaint with the United Nations, seeking to have it declare that tuition increases in Canada violate the country’s commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The complaint states that Canada and British Columbia are not attempting to comply with the covenant, a United Nations treaty. Among its provisions is the following statement about higher education: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.” While the complaint has attracted considerable press attention in Canada, Maclean’s reported that some students are upset about the effort and are pushing for its reconsideration. It is unlikely that American students could try to file a similar complaint: While President Carter signed the covenant, the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty.”

 

      Really University of British Columbia Student Union? Really? Your reaction to tuition increase is to MAKE A COMPLAINT TO THE UNITED NATIONS? Not to see if you can cut down on costs or try to fundraise or open up a lemonade stand? Aren’t they kind of busy with, I don’t know, DARFUR? HUMAN TRAFFICKING? I will be the first person to say that higher education should be made “equally accessible to all,” but seriously, this is some student union-caused drama unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve seen some petty stuff in my time as a college student, but this is taking the cake. We’re all coming out of a recession! What do you expect, you crazy Canucks?! Isn’t this a rash course of action? At least some student opinion is pushing for reconsideration of the measure, otherwise I’d probably call this whole business a crazy Internet rumor.

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November 30, 2009

True Story: Williamsburg Inhabitants

      I love NYC. It used to terrify me, but since living in the East Village and Brooklyn this summer, I am very comfortable in the center of the Empire State. But sometimes even I have to poke some serious fun at my hipster homies in good ole’ Williamsburg (Beacon’s Closet is an amazing destination). This is guest art from the webcomic Alien Loves Predator

       I can’t even begin to express how accurate this is and how much I love observing hipsters in their natural habitat. Watching them in college among the rest of the undergrad crowd is simply nowhere near as rewarding. They just cluster together in circles of trend-dependent judgement.

      Keep in mind that I say this as the girl who wears red, green, purple, and white jeans with a serious collection of scarves and downloads NPR podcasts (not to mention dreams of the day that she  can take off a week of work to go to Bonnaroo or SXSW). This is as much reflection on myself than a specific minority. Also, PBR is really popular amongst hipsters because it is the liberal Natty Ice and sponsors NPR. When Ira Glass is sponsored by cheap beer, you know some skinny jeans will be lining up.

November 29, 2009

Crunch Time; or, Destroying Procrastination

     So you’re got a 20 page finals paper and less than a week to do it in because your buddy turned 21, your cat got  an operation and your mom texted you during the procedure, and you broke your favorite new sunglasses. And now you’re freaking out.

      I am normally the blunt person who offers options of improving your game plan, and then gives up on you when you keep flailing like a loser in the kiddie pool. But I’ll be diplomatic this time around. Here’s some simple tips to treat your finals project more like a champ and less like you’re going to lose your sanity before the next semester even rolls around.

 1. Assess what needs to be done and what time you have

     The first thing a lot of people do when a finals project deadline approaches is freak out. Is that helping you? No, it just wastes time, which you simply do not have. If you’ve started your work, figure out how much that has contributed to the overall completion of your project. Found some articles? Start finding your block quotations and key details. Started your outline? Finish it.  Got your introductory paragraph? Clean it up and use it as a focus for your outline. Don’t get scared, step up and be efficient with your time.

2. Read the general summaries of what you’re writing about.

      The scholarly articles that you’ll employ will flesh out the key details, but don’t screw yourself over by forgetting key facts and figures. 

3. Find at least 3 main scholarly articles to draw on.

     These articles can provide on the money details, block quotations, and can easily be attributed to those little facts you remember from lectures that your professor won’t let you cite. Wikipedia is actually a surprisingly good starting point for this step, since the cited articles are often from legitimate sources. (Seriously though, NEVER cite Wikipedia. Your professor will lose all respect for you.)

4.  Outline Outline OUTLINE!!!

     Can your organs function efficiently without a skeleton to support them? Not really. Your outline will give you the necessary logical progress your professor will be seeking while reading your paper. They also make it easy for organizing where you will use those page-eating block quotations. Noting your key details with each point will make it easy to embellish (with all the necessary and pertinent facts) later.

5. Sit down, shut up.

     Professors don’t really care about 90% of your excuses. Humanizing yourself to your professor comes from earlier conversations in the semester, not your pansy excuses. Quarantine yourself, don’t turn on the Internet, and shut out your plans for the weekend. No Thirsty Thursday for you!

      This article by Peg Boyle Single for Inside Higher Ed is more helpful for grad and doctoral students, but offers some valuable insight for undergrads as well. Take a look, hope it helps as finals approach!

November 21, 2009

Entitlement: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — onewomanacademy @ 4:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

     So in a previous post I wrote about how I felt many students at my university felt entitled to certain privileges, specifically the academic resource of printing. I was probably a little more harsh than necessary in my analysis, and received some understandable criticism for my opinion in this blog post by a student government colleague of mine. I still sensed a certain amount of entitlement among my peers, but I now think that it was more of a truly disappointed reaction to being uninformed entirely of the changes. I’ve actually heard several students make the comment that if they had received an apologetic email explaining the print quota adjustment and the administration’s rationale behind it, student opinion wouldn’t have been so utterly negative.

 

      As much as having a reduced print quota is troublesome, other schools are facing much harsher situations. The students of the University of California of Santa Cruz have been protesting against the 32% tuition increase approved by the University of California regent panel. Like  I said earlier, my college has reacted to budget cuts by drastically cutting down resources and services provided to students, by removing residential computer labs last semester to cutting down our print quota this semester. Student opinion of and trust in the administration fell drastically in all the conversations I had with students on campus. But I think every single one of my peers would choose a removal of computer labs and a reduced print quota over such a drastic tuition increase. USC students are facing very real financial threats to their ability to stay students at USC. The state school kids have a right to an affordable education provided by the state of California, which is probably why they didn’t go to other universities outside their state.

 

     While the system’s president Mark G. Yudof said that “three out of four students would be shielded from the effects of the tuition increase by additional financial aid,” I remain dubious to the realities of that situation. That’s a lot of financial aid for a large school system. If the system is raising tuition so much, what does that mean for the quality of the financial aid given? The other steps the university is taking into effect to cut down on their spending? 

 

     I’ll be curious to see how this event unfolds. Considering all the media coverage the protesters received, this story shouldn’t die too soon.

 

 

November 19, 2009

Entitlement

      My university cut down the overall print quota of the student and faculty bodies in the name of sustainability, and more believably, budget cuts. They did this over summer without alerting the faculty as well as removing our residential computer lab spaces. The average undergraduate was left with 100 pages of free printing and every page after that for 12 cents. Our previous quota? 500 pages with another extension of 500 pages if necessary. Clearly a drastic adjustment.
Students were outraged. Over 200 comments were posted on the university newspaper’s article announcing the changes. A student government task force I was a member of worked with the administration to create a realistic proposal that has yet to be signed off on. A YouTube video was created utilizing an Internet joke, commonly known as a “meme”, of Hitler yelling about the print quota reduction.
      While I myself was party to the rollercoaster of disappointment with my school’s administration, I detected among my peers a sense of entitlement akin to a spoiled high school girl who expects car for her Sweet Sixteen. Students were outraged because of their resources being taken from them in such massive quantities, which I certainly understand. However, I feel many students were so blinded by that sense of entitlement that it clouded their perception a little.
While we were completely uninformed of the changes to our print quota and only found out about the removal of residential lab due to rumors, we were facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit. Our tuition couldn’t be raised at proportionally without an even larger (and legitimate) uproar. So we had some of our critical academic resources cut and students screamed when they returned to campus with limited computers and printing. Even if they had been told the previous semester, I seriously doubt the uproar would have been avoided.
      Entitlement is what happens when people become too comfortable with what they have. While I will not say specifically that my fellow students are spoiled rotten, we certainly have become too comfortable with what we have. When I was in my sophomore year of high school, my school was tasked to raise $600,000 when $6 million had been distributed to other arts programs in my state. My high school was an arts magnet high school with a high academic standing in the nation, so you can imagine our outrage. But we protested, raised money, and kept our arts teachers. I’ll admit we were extremely bitter towards our school board for the rest of our high school experience, but I’d say we were justified.
      People should never take what they have for granted. Students should never expect to keep all of their privileges intact during crisis, economic or otherwise. I’m not saying we should always be suspicious of everything around us, but we should be cognizant of what are rights and what are privileges. Protect your rights first. Privileges can be regained.

Online Lectures

      One of the great things about going to a private university is that I can develop close bonds with my professors. Many of my favorite professors have given me great advice about classes, internships, and some of the best advice I’ve ever received on life. A recent conversation I had with a close friend with professor involved the evolution of coyotes in Northeastern North America versus their Southwestern counterparts, our differing views on great presidents, the trend of student opinion, and when you know you’ve found the one. Along the way we spoke about my interest in working for government agencies and where I eventually see myself ending up, but I enjoy a friendship not as a readily available than at a large public university. Humanizing yourself to your professor isn’t just about making yourself more curve-friendly come grading period, but the friendships you make that can grow and last a lifetime.
      But even my most favorite professors get tied up in their own lives and I find myself resisting stupid Facebook application games (my roommates are obsessed with the phenomena known as “Farmville”). Boredom is a consistent predator hunting for the ever elusive “free time”. My eBay addiction is bad enough, let alone Twitter and Facebook. 
      But there is a shining a light! A hope beyond the tunnel of useless Facebook applications and humor sites employing the crudest of charms! The Chronicle for Higher Education reports that PBS and NPR are posting taped interviews and lectures on a site called Forum Network, similar to the pretty excellent YouTube EDU. From the sampling so far, I am most interested in Northeastern professor Nicholas Daniloff’s discussion on the difficulties of reporting in Russia, entitled “Of Spies and Spokesman: The Challenge of Russia”. Turn it in a book and we have the next Jason Bourne series. Except, you know, legitimate.
      As someone who regularly speaks to professors unencumbered by the typical social awkwardness that students develop towards their instructors, these free lectures are like candy. However, I seriously doubt that the average student is going to look at these lectures very much at all. If we want these free lecture services to succeed, professors should use them as study/lecture aides. One of my political science professors loves using videos in his lectures, to the great delight of the densely packed lecture hall. Students could cite them in papers, presentations, and discussion sections. If other professors are the only people looking at this veritable treasure trove, I say that’s a shame. Teachers have just as much to offer students as they do their peers, who in turn should promote the work of their colleagues to their pupils. Just a bit of student opinion there.
      Aren’t you tired of reading dull term papers citing at least 5 of the same textbooks?

November 18, 2009

Auditing

Filed under: Uncategorized — onewomanacademy @ 3:03 pm
Tags: ,

     Astronomy is awesome. Understanding the stars, realizing how small you are, avoiding your friends to watch meteor showers, all of these things are incredibly interesting.

 

     However, I am the world’s worst student of math and science. Numbers make me nervous. I had difficulty with an introductory earth science course my freshman year. 

 

     But I really do think that astronomy is interesting and engaging. Just because I’m almost completely useless at math and science doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate astronomy. I recently stepped into a Introductory to Astronomy class to make an announcement and found myself transfixed by the material as I waited for the professor to remember why I was there. He put up a simple picture up of the sun and I? I was transfixed.

 

     Most of my articles have cited some heavyweight Chronicle of Higher Education article, but occasionally I find issues in my university that aren’t analyzed by highly respected journalists. My main point is that I wish that auditing classes was more widely discussed as an intellectual option for students. My university has a program that lets much older adult students come to classes and engage professors without having to do the work. I love that idea. We should be able to engage our interests without constantly stressing out about our GPA. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me how they passed on interesting classes because they saw the syllabus and were concerned about the grade they received. I myself dropped a communications computer science class because the syllabus was flat-out terrifying. If that concern hadn’t been in the picture, I would finally know how to create websites and use Excel (please don’t judge my computer illiteracy). While I understand that it is a little unreasonable to promote auditing in such a resource-limited classroom environment, keeping the numbers of classes available for anyone to see could help people hem themselves in auditing selections.

 

    Simply put, I just want to be able to learn about black holes in an academic environment without ruining my academic future.

November 13, 2009

Students: Untapped Political Resource

Filed under: Uncategorized — onewomanacademy @ 2:04 pm

The other night, an event I helped organize came to fruition. We held a City Councilor at-Large Forum with four of city council candidates attending. Every single candidate told us that if we as a student body registered to vote, we could take over our city. However, we received very few attendants at the event despite much advertising and an excellent “Chalk About the Issues” event outside the Forum’s location. The recent presidential received enormous momentum from students. So why don’t students actively participate in local politics?

 

1. Apathy 

Many students just don’t care, as many student activity organizers can tell you.

 

2. They’re leaving anyways

Students don’t really see the point in getting involved in local politics if they aren’t going to stick around. Do many Duke University students get involved in the Durham City Council? Does the average University of Florida student WANT to stay in Gainesville? Of  course not. These places serve colleges and students, not recent graduate looking for jobs.

 

3. Hometown bias

Whether from their potential political competition or the student’s own love for their birthplace, a hometown bias comes into play. Does the average student in Boston understand the tax policies that residents complain about? Can they look at the No More Than 4 law and report solid reasons why it doesn’t benefit residents as well as disenfranchised students? Some students can, but they are few and far between. 

 

This letter to editor of Penn State’s The Collegian reflect this call to action.

 

This article from the Smith College Sophian reflects the hometown bias of a local politician’s slim defeat by the hands of a Dartmouth College student.
This Inside Higher Ed article reports the somewhat hostile attitude of Montgomery Country, VA towards Virginia Tech student voters.

 

Suffice to say, there are no easy answers.

November 11, 2009

So Excited!

      Since I write about a subject that my fellow undergraduates don’t really care about, I get really pumped when I find new sources of information about higher education besides the Bible (i.e. The Chronicle of Higher Education). I also get excited when I can debate administrators and professors about my findings and opinions on higher education. Student opinion is a million times more credible when well-informed. Seriously, I dork out on this stuff. So! Behold!

http://www.insidehighered.com/

Think of it as the more e-savvy version of The Chronicle. I love you Chronicle, but my roommates have deemed it as a “Miley Cyrus Dance Party Night.” While I may prefer my classic rock,  Cyrus certainly puts out danceable tunes.

November 6, 2009

Story Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — onewomanacademy @ 2:47 pm
Tags: , ,

      A friend of mine is pursuing his doctorate in Early Modern English in England. I being the sole undergrad in our social circle at the time, he always made sure not to complain too much around me about the petty undergrad dramas that interrupt his doctoral life. But he was a consistent complainer, so I finally asked him what exactly it was that made undergrads so irritating. He told me that “undergrads are like bricks. They’re the financial foundation of this university, they’re like a brick wall during lectures, and they’re pretty much as dumb as bricks.”

 

      While I will certainly be the first to admit that not every undergrad is a genius, we do present more opportunities than at first glance. If the typical perception of undergrads, specifically underclassmen, is that we’re loud, unfocussed, and hard to connect with, then all I can ask is what exactly do you expect? The American education system is in an utter mess. I myself came from a top tier public high school and even I am occasionally set aback by my peers. We’re untrained, concerned about the job market, and are desperate to change those circumstances.
      

      My little sister went to an information technology magnet magnet high school and learned all the proper forms for business. My arts high school provided nothing similar. Colleges expect us to have the basic tools for marketing ourselves and high schools expect us to learn these skills in college. Some people, like my sister, are lucky enough to get that professional training early on so that they can present themselves as a whole package. However, I would say that the average student doesn’t know how to write a business letter, a professional-looking resume, or what not to say in an interview.
      

      So where do we go from here? One of the colleges within my university is a great business that teaches basic business etiquette in freshman year. They learn how to write a proper business email, what to wear to an interview, and every other important tip that packages you perfectly. Why should only business schools do that? Why can’t every department and college do that? Why can’t liberal arts departments have monthly seminars on what opportunities are available? Why aren’t career services business tutorials applicable for credit? These basic changes can focus students on their goals, prepare them for life after graduation, and whittle away at their fear.
     This blog is about finding out what’s going on in the academic world. Most of this post is about job training done on the part of the of our colleges, but we have to be responsible for ourselves as well. I’ll be reading The Chronicle of Higher education and other academic news sources in an effort to to understand the academic environment that my peers and I are ensconced in. I hope that you, dear readers, can glean some knowledge on the gaps we’re facing and what we can do to become more effective students and teachers.

     So learn. Knowledge is power.

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