Friday, November 30, 2007

Blog wrap-up

When I learned on the first day of class that we were to keep a blog for the majority of the semester, I felt somewhat uneasy about it. My first fear was that I had no idea what to write about. As of yet, I’m not really an expert on anything that I would have been able to keep a blog on. (A Red Sox or Seinfeld blog would have been difficult to sustain, especially when having to do some original reporting or taking photos). After settling on a blog on higher education, I was still fearful that I would not be able to either come up with enough material on my own, or find enough information on the web to post four or five times a week.

Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, and sites like EdNews.org and The Boston Globe and The New York Times education sections, finding the material was simple. As the weeks went on, I grew to enjoy posting. At first I thought it was going to be a pain to post so many times a week, but I really got into after a while. Doing this assignment has opened me up to a new world of digital media that I hadn’t participated in much before. I knew what a blog was, of course, but never really read any on a consistent basis. The Chronicle of Higher Education news blog has become one of my favorite websites to visit, as the posters are varied and the stories come from all corners of the country and world. I really enjoy having my own little piece of the web where my opinion can be heard, even if no one really reads it yet.

There wasn’t much I disliked about this project except that sometimes I wouldn’t feel like posting on a given day, but knew I had to in order to maintain an average of four posts per week. One thing I might have done differently was try to include even more sources of information in the blog, but since the Chronicle news blog usually had so many interesting stories to pick from, I liked to pull information from there the best. Another thing I could have done differently was try to include some more original reporting. The only time I really did this was for Assignment #5, but I found the experience of interviewing my dad on a pertinent higher education issue interesting, and would enjoy interviewing other college professors and lecturers on higher education issues as well.

I’d say the only surprise that came out of this project for me was that I enjoyed it. At the beginning of the semester, I kind of dreaded the thought of having to post so much, but found posting on a regular basis enjoyable once I got the hang of it. The only person I shared my blog with was my dad and he thought it was great. I also put a link on my Facebook page to the blog, but haven’t received any comments about it from friends or family. Perhaps if I keep it up longer and try to promote it more, it will grow a little in readership.

I think I will continue my blog, though I know I won’t post as many as four to five times a week. Instead I'll probably post once or twice every week or two, or when an issues really catches my eye. I really got a lot out of this experience because I learned a lot about media on the web, about blogs and blogging, and how to set up a podcast. Even though I want to be an elementary school teacher, if I ever switch back to journalism or do it as a side job, having these tools will be valuable, as digital media seems to be the way the news business is moving. Even as a teacher, I could set up a blog on my classroom experiences that may help other teachers, or it could be used as a way for me to receive advice from more experienced teachers on certain issues.

In general, I’d never had much interest in blogs before this assignment, but now enjoy reading education news blogs and even some general news blog as well. I don’t think they should be a replacement for professional, objective journalism, but they’re an interesting supplement to whatever is going on and can also help people understand the current issues as they’re happening.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

College sports are all about the dollar signs

Why do college football coaches make more than college professors, or doctors, or lawyers, or even teachers? I know the answer, but it doesn’t seem right to me. According to this article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog, the salary of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno has finally been revealed after a five-year legal battle. He makes $512,644 a year. Yes, he is in his 42nd year as a coach there, which is pretty remarkable, but paying him an annual salary of over half million? Come on.

I realize a lot of the money comes from private donations to the football program and such, but the inflated salaries of college coaches, and all coaches and athletes, professional or not, is just ridiculous. (Iowa State head football coach Kirk Ferentz makes $2.84 million a year). These guys make more than doctors, lawyers and other highly paid professionals in our society. Don’t even get me started on the contrast between professional athletic salaries and those of teachers, human services workers and others who truly make a difference in society and do it because they love it, not for the pay.

I was walking to the library on campus today and saw two signs displayed in front of a building advertising the men’s hockey and men’s basketball games this weekend. This is fine, but I saw no accompanying sign advertising the women’s hockey game, which is also at home this weekend, nor have I ever seen signs advertising the female versions of these two sports on campus. Women’s sports don’t draw as large a crowd as men’s sports, but perhaps part of the reason for this is that NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE WOMEN’S GAMES ARE! Would it really set the athletic department back so much to buy two more sandwich boards to advertise the two other winter sports? Or perhaps urging students to go see the swimming & diving team (all women), as it is a perfect 6-0?

College sports are supposed to be a thing of opportunity and growth for athletes and are now nothing but a business. Take for example the Northeastern football team, which is a full scholarship team (80 scholarships). An average of 25-30 guys play per game (mostly the same ones). Don’t those other 40-50 scholarships seem like kind of a waste? It might be different if the football team actually made money for the school, but at 3-8 (2-6 Colonial Athletic Association) the future doesn’t look too promising. Yes, those men are getting the chance to go to a great school such as Northeastern for free. Many of them may not be able to afford it otherwise, but what about the other high school athletes who have dreamed of attending Northeastern, but need a scholarship to come here? Their hopes may be dashed because their athletic team (men’s or women’s) may not have enough scholarships to go around.

I hate how college sports have become a business, and that the learning and growth that a student can take away from participating in a college sport is now more about the dollar signs than anything else.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NC Community Colleges must admit all illegal immigrants who meet admission standards

Here’s an interesting post from the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog that deals with a particularly controversial issue, and also ties into the Republican debate which aired tonight in which many of the questions centered around illegal immigration. (At least the part I saw, that is. I turned it off after about 15 minutes because I couldn’t stand listening to them any longer).

A new law now requires all 58 campuses of North Carolina Community College to admit illegal immigrants who meet the requirements for admission for regular applicants (being at least 18 years old or having graduated from high school). The post states that more than 20 of the NC Community College campuses currently have written or unwritten policies excluding illegal immigrants from admission.

I really have no problem with this new policy. Though I don’t know a ton about it, illegal immigration doesn’t really bother me if the illegal immigrants are here to try and better their lives, and eventually take steps to becoming legal citizens. Both parents of a person I know entered the country illegally to find a better life, and have lived here for over 20 years. His father is now a legal resident, and his mother gained U.S. citizenship last year. They're aren't criminals, they pay their taxes, and they don't suck up free healthcare or welfare. They were simply in search of a better life, and knew American could give that to them.

Illegal immigrants who apply to any college should be accepted if they meet the admission criteria. I know I’m being really idealistic, but I just wish we could live in a world where borders and nationalities weren’t so important. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to find a better life and if that means taking an “American” job of scrubbing toilets at the nearest McDonalds, or taking classes at a local community college, then so be it.

When it comes down to it, we are all human beings looking for a good life and happiness. Why does it matter so much if someone entered the country legally or not? All U.S. citizens are descendents of immigrants, or are immigrants who have been granted citizenship. Why does it matter so much that our ancestors got here first so long ago?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NY Medical College will stop using live dogs in labs

I’m a dog-lover, so this article that I found on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog made me happy. Officials from New York Medical College, the only medical college in the state to still use live animals for instruction in labs, have said that they will stop using dogs for study. Previously, students used the dogs to study the heart and the college’s president, Karl Adler, explained why:

“The reason why the dogs were used in the past is that the students could actually see a beating heart, and understand the physiology of how the heart works. It’s the only internal organ where there’s actually movement that you can understand the physiology of.”


High-tech advancements have been made that allows students to study the heart without cutting open dogs. One method that will be used is that the students will be able to attach electrodes to each other’s chests and watch video of how their hearts work. Another method is the use of simulators to imitate cardiac arrest or the effects of certain drugs. Protest from students, animal-rights groups and politicans also factored into the college's decision to stop using dogs. The article doesn't mention whether dogs were the only live animals used in the labs, or if other live animals will continued to be used as well.

I had no idea that some colleges still used live animals in teaching labs, especially dogs. I love the furry creatures, so it saddened me to read this and think about all those who had been used before this college made its decision. It also upsets me to think about those creatures, dogs or otherwise, that will still be killed in the 11 medical colleges in the U.S. that still use live animals. I know animal testing has been a big part of the advancements made in medicine, and that without it I probably wouldn't be here today, but I feel using live animals in teaching labs is wrong.

I’ve never been much for dissection and such things like that, but at least those animals I had to poke and prod in high school were already dead. I’m sure the dogs must be anesthetized when they cut them open, but still. I can’t imagine having to cut open a live dog to watch its heart beat. Yuck.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Transgender student almost denied homecoming king title

A transgender student at Pasadena City College, who was recently elected homecoming king, was nearly denied his title because of his pierced ears, or at least that’s what the homecoming committee wanted students to believe. The student, 24-year-old Andrew Gomez, is transitioning from a female to a male, and ran to set an example for other gay, lesbian and transgender students. After winning, he was denied the title because he has pierced ears, the homecoming committee said. After students protested, Gomez was given back his title as king.

The fact that the homecoming committee used blatant discrimination against Gomez and then tried to disguise it under some bogus ruling is sickening. If you’re going to be narrow-minded and prejudiced enough to discriminate, then do it, but don’t try to hide it under some made-up rule. I’d bet anything that at least one of their past homecoming kings has had one or both ears pierced, as it’s fashionable for men to do so nowadays. Look at how many professional athletes and music stars, especially rappers, have their ears pierced.

The truth of the matter is that the homecoming committee did not want a transgender student as their king because of bias toward straight, “normal” people. I commend Gomez for running when he could have faced much ridicule, and also commend the other students who protested the homecoming committee’s ruling and got it overturned.

The fact that Gomez even got elected shows a growing tolerance for people with different lifestyles in this country. Someone commented on the story that he/she thought the only reason Gomez got elected was so people could make fun of him, but I don't think this is the case. The students who lobbied against the homecoming committee's decision on Gomez's behelf shows how the country's young people are becoming more open-minded than ever before.

Check out the story on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog here.

College class sizes are growing. What's being done about it?

I found this article on The Boston Globe’s website yesterday and thought it interesting. It’s a well-written article and it’s too long to summarize all the components of it, but it’s basically about the growing class sizes of institutions of higher education, and what is being done to continuously foster meaningful learning even with enormous classes.

The University of Colorado is used as examples of growing class sizes in this article. I thought some of my classes here at Northeastern were large, but I was blown away by the class sizes of Colorado. At Colorado, one of the chemistry classes is so huge, that the only place where all the students can take the final at once is at Colorado’s basketball arena, the Coors Event Center. There are 33 classes with 400 or more students, and three of the courses offered have over 1,200 students.

The article mentions that there are currently over 18 million college students in America, and the numbers are projected to grow as time goes on, which I think is fantastic. The only drawback is larger classes, but new technology is being invented to help combat students getting lost in the crowd.

One interesting piece of technology is a device called a “clicker,” which is a handheld voting device now being used on more than 700 campuses across the nation. With the use of the device, professors can stop a class mid-lecture and pose multiple choice questions to the students. If the class does well, the professor moves on. If the class doesn’t do well, he or she can stop and review the material the students are struggling with.

I don’t agree with large classes sizes in general, but at some colleges it's inevitable because colleges have to schedule large classes in order for all students to be able to complete their coursework, especially for the introductory courses. If some classes have to be large, then it is good to see that something is being done to help professors stay a little bit more connected with their students, and to help those who may get lost in the crowd.

Should public relations be part of a college's journalism curriculum?

Last week I held a Q&A with my dad, Paul Della Valle, on whether public relations should be a part of a college's journalism program. Paul Della Valle is an award-winning journalist who currently owns and operates Central Mass Magazine, and also occasionally teaches a Journalism 1 course at Northeastern University.

Check out the Q&A here.

This post is to fulfill Assignment #5.