Sunday, February 28, 2010

"March 4 Schools" Rallies This Week

Are Americans getting ready to protest budget cuts to education?  Maybe not in New Jersey, where we have not yet seen the worst cuts (despite one of the worst state deficits) and the legislature cheered as the governor gave a speech cutting over $500 million to education in order to keep from sinking deeper into debt.  But in other states, we are likely to see a lot of marching now that Spring is here.  In anticipation of a multi-state March 4th rally to protest budget cuts to education, there have been a number of public gatherings at Berkeley, including a large dance party Friday that turned violent when some students began vandalizing a nearby building (see "Two Arrested after Berkeley Violence" in the San Francisco Examiner of February 26th).  The "March 4 Schools" rallies, which began in Arizona last year, have been heavily promoted in California by Stand up for Schools, which has more information on their website organizing not just parents and students but unions as well.  The situation in California is mirrored in a number of other states, including Arizona, where The Education Coalition of the Arizona Education Association produced a fascinating documentary (see above).  What will it take for more folks in New Jersey to join the movement?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The topic of fraternity and sorority hazing seems to interest several students, and it might be a timely topic due to the extensive news coverage that a recent incident of alleged hazing at the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority has attracted (see, for instance, "Rutgers University sorority members deny hazing, paddling pledges" or "Sorority Hazing: Increasingly Violent, Disturbing").  With extensive news coverage comes lots of useful information, which can turn this local incident (which is likely to play out in the courts throughout the term) into a case for use in your papers.  The Targum has run a number of stories on the incident and continues to shine light on hazing with a recent front page story devoted to the 1988 death of James Callahan at Rutgers -- see "Hazing scandal lingers in campus atmosphere" by Greg Flynn.  The Callahan case was widely covered at the time and would also make for a very interesting historical investigation (using resources of Special Collections).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"State of Emergency"

As reported in Claire Heininger's "Chris Christie declares fiscal 'state of emergency,' paving way for N.J. spending cuts," the Governor's speech today should be a wake-up call for anyone who thought that the report on Education by his transition team suggested that New Jersey colleges and universities might be spared the axe.  As the story sums up, Governor Chris Christie has declared a "fiscal crisis" and "state of emergency," giving him broad powers to impose spending cuts, including to education.  According to the story, "Christie is cutting $475 million in aid to school districts" and "$62 million in aid to colleges."  How this will directly affect Rutgers is difficult to predict, but it will certainly mean even more cuts in services and greater privatization (including continued tuition increases for students).  

I recommend watching the entire speech, which is quite compelling and certainly presents the governor's situation in a sympathetic light.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Questions for the Librarian

The following are taken from student blogs where students posted questions for the librarian.  I will try to answer these after today's session.

1.      How do you check out books from the library? Do you use your Rutgers ID card or do we have to get a separate library card? (I have never needed to check out a book so far so I honestly do not know how the system works.)
You do need a Rutgers ID card to use the library.  And you need to register that card with the library so it can function as your library card.  You can do this online (see "Registering with the Rutgers Libraries") or at any RU library circulation desk.

2.      What is the return policy on books? Can we keep them out for the whole semester to work on this paper or do we have to keep renewing the books if we want to keep them for the entire semester?
You can learn everything you need to know on the "Borrowing Privileges" page.   Undergraduates can borrow materials for 28 days and can then renew them (online using My Account), so long as the materials have not been recalled.  You generally only have to pay fines if materials are recalled and not returned on time.

3.      How many people go to the library each day? Do you ever think they go there for a "social" aspect? How many people check books out each day?
The American Library Association has a good fact sheet on "Public Library Use."  It lists a survey of library use conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which indicates that the main reason people go to the library is to check out materials, typically for children.  But library use varies considerably by State and location.  The most interesting (and common sense) finding was that library use mapped closely onto proximity to the library: if you live near a library you are more likely to use it.   The statistics are from 2002, but more recent surveys suggest that, in this recent economic downturn, a lot of unemployed people are using public libraries to help them find a job and to improve their skills.

4.      What is the maximum number of books one can check out?
I could not find information regarding any limits for undergraduates.  I do not think there are limits, and if there are I am sure you would not exceed them.  My own recommendation is that you try to keep checkouts to a minimum to make it easier to keep track of books and to return books on time without accruing fines.

5.      I have never been to the library here other than to just print things out from the computers so I am not sure of all that the library has to offer. How would I go about checking out a book? Is there a standard fee I need to pay or do I just use my Rutgers ID card? How long can I have a book out for? How would I search to find the specific books, articles, etc. that I need to further my research?
The best way to learn more about the libraries is to use them.  As a student, you have already paid through student fees and tuition for the right to use the library, so usage is basically free to students.  Once you graduate, you can continue to use the library as alumni.   Other questions are answered elsewhere in this list.

6.      What kinds of help can we get from the librarians in researching our topics?
The easiest way to get assistance is online at the main page where you will see an IM window open whenever reference librarians are available to assist you.  You can see other options under "Ask a Librarian."  The librarians are there to help.  If you are in the library and need help, simply stop by the Reference desk and request assistance.  Reference librarians can sometimes be in demand, so timing is everything.  But all of them enjoy helping students find resources and no question is "too dumb" for them.  Our reference librarian, Peggy, has agreed to help you individually if you are willing to visit her at Kilmer Library on Livingston campus and to write her ahead of time with specific questions she can help you with.

Searching for and Physically Locating Materials
7.      How do we look up and find books throughout the library system?
Use the IRIS system to find books at any Rutgers Library.  If the book is not at the library closest to you, you can always use "Book Delivery / Recall" to have it delivered to the library of your choice.

8.      How do you order books from other libraries if they are not at Douglass?

9.      How do you find full articles either from a magazine, book, or encyclopedia and not just excerpts or abstracts?

10.     Can I have articles delivered to me?  What are the rules for that? Is there a fee?

11.     Can I request and take out other media, such as videos?  How do I find and access them?

12.     Do you know of any books that deal with the topic of sports and schools? Is there a section that would have a lot of these types of books?

Topics and Selection
13.     How exactly do you narrow down your searches for articles to find just what you need?

14.     Where could I find any information on academics vs. college life? Do you know of any articles or anything that argues how academics play a much larger role than does college/student life in terms of what people wind up doing with the rest of their lives?

15.     How do I know which articles would be best?

16.     How do I find out if an article is scholarly (peer reviewed or fact based) or not scholarly (opinion, subjective or invalid information)?

Finding Specific Historical Facts and Local Statistics
17.     What is the best way to find specific statistics. For example, "How successful are students transferring to Rutgers?"

18.     Is there a statistic that could show the average G.P.A's of college students on scholarship and who are not on scholarship?

19.     Is there anyway I can find records of college tuition prices and how they have increased in the past few years?

20.     Is there any way I could find out how much college cost way back in the beginning of higher education?

21.     Where could I find information and statistics on the cost of higher education?

22.     Where can I find stats linked to how much a school earns from sporting events held at that school? Also is there any way to find out how many contributions to a school are related to their athletics programs?

23.     Where can I find stats related to the number of student athletes who receive athletic scholarships each year? And which schools give the most scholarships?

Primary Research and Special Collections
24.     Is there a specific section in the library about Rutgers history (specifically sports)? I want to find some information about the history of sports at Rutgers and was wondering if information would be available on that.

25.     Where would I be able to find accounts of different student protests from the past 40 years?  What would be a good way to go about finding information on this research topic? Where would I be able to find the most information?  What if no one has written a book or article on the history of Rutgers student protests?  What do I do? Where could I find different accounts of student activism, aside from protests, in state schools from the past 40 years?

MLA Citation
26.     How do you cite a quote from an audio video like YouTube?

27.     How do you write a citation (for the works cited) for a primary resource, like an interview?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Protesting and the Culture War

Someone just sent me the speech "Winning the Culture War" by Charlton Heston.  It's a fascinating document and one that definitely makes me rethink my feelings about that great American actor and former chief spokesperson for the NRA.  It's worth a read, especially by anyone on the right who questions why students should be protesting at Berkeley or anywhere else.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obama's Higher Education Budget

A story in today's Targum ("Obama lends support to ease college debt" -- not available online) made me recognize that the debate over the President's higher education initiative might help clarify for some students the political dimension of the issues you are addressing in the Analytic Essay assignment.  For more details on the President's proposal (which still has to make its way through the Senate), you might read Paul Basken's "Obama's Budget Makes Education a Major Exception to Austerity" in The Chronicle of Higher Education (which is a useful site for getting project ideas, by the way).  

Basically, the President is arguing that higher education is a national and state priority because of its benefit to society and the economy, and therefore society should bear more of the burden of paying for college (by raising the value of Pell grants, rather than simply under-writing loans that have to be paid back, and making Pell grants an "entitlement program," meaning a permanent part of the budget like Social Security).  

The increase in Pell grants he is proposing is rather small (about $500 each) and he has a method of paying for it (by changing the rules in the way Government under-writes student loans) that will not directly affect taxpayers, so for many on the left this is not really a strong statement that the government should do more to pay for college costs and to keep college affordable.  For example, Senator Claiborne Pell's grandson (see "A Personal Perspective on Obama's Pell Grant Infusion"), Clay Pell, said his grandfather would have been pleased by the President's call to make the grants that bear his name an entitlement that automatically increases every year, but he would also be disappointed by how little of the average college tuition these grants now cover.  

On the other side of the debate, there are those who worry about the effect on the banking industry (not a popular view by any means given the recent scandals over banking practices) or who argue that making Pell grants an entitlement may actually help to speed the increase in college costs (see also here) by making it more possible for colleges to raise tuition.  Interestingly, you will not find any politicians calling Pell grants "a government handout" these days -- at least not in public -- but you can certainly find opinions like that in the right wing blogosphere (see "We should not help the poor go to college" or "Meet the compulsive service Orwellian GIVE act") and in comments in forums (see the thread accompanying one CNN article where one comment shouts: "HOW MUCH MORE MONEY ARE WE GOING TO WASTE ON MINORITY EDUCATION BEFORE WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE ALL FREE TO BECOME AS SUCCESSFUL AS WE WANT TO BE! IT IS POLICIES LIKE THESE THAT KEEP US MINORITIES DOWN! STAND UP FOR YOURSELF, SHOW SOME PRIDE IN YOURSELF, GET AN EDUCATION NOT A GOVERNMENT HANDOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!")

So the Analytic Essay does ask students to take a stand on these issues, and likely the stand you take will be informed by your politics as by the material in front of us.  But it is important that you try to take a stand.  Make an argument.  Develop your thesis.

Confessions of a Spoilsport

A number of students are thinking of writing on the topic of "college sports," which is a perennial topic worthy of discussion and debate.  Of course, it's a broad topic that needs a bit of focus -- what question do you have about college sports, exactly?  But I think you can turn up some interesting questions and scholarship fairly quickly.  

The best place to start on the topic of "college sports" is by reading William Dowling's Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University (Penn State UP 2007), which represents the most current and well-considered argument against the current college sports paradigm.  It also has the great advantage, for our class, of being written by a Rutgers faculty member about his experiences here at Rutgers University.  You may choose to disagree with Dowling, but it is essential that you engage him.  If nothing else, he will teach you just how cynical we have all become in accepting the "marketing power" of sports and the potential "revenue streams" they generate in this time of increasing privatization.  Is that really what college is about?  And do sports always give "good publicity" to a school -- and do they help attract the most academically gifted students?  Do they ever actually generate revenue or do they actually cost so much that they damage other areas of the University, especially academics? 

What about the pro-sports position?  Who represents that?  I will keep my eyes out for a good one and hope those of you interested in this topic will assist.  One thing that Dowling reveals is that the defenders of the current college sports paradigm do not typically represent their position in any transparent or honest language, and, if anything, often try to shut down debate or discussion on the topic.  One story he tells in the book, for example, is of Fraidy Reiss, whose investigation of special courses for student athletes was refused for publication by the Targum, possibly under pressure from the athletics program.  The way they have treated his own writings -- which they completely ignore or attack ad hominem -- is still another example.  So it may be hard going to find a written account of the logical (as opposed to irrational) reasons to be a sports booster.  But let's try.