September, 2017

An Interview with Alex Watters

As the Q&A session started, Alex Watters began pacing back and forth across the front of the classroom in his motorized wheelchair. A few questions in to the interview he noted the humor in the situation, “I always find it ironic that I’m paralyzed but I can’t sit still.”

Watters is a first year advisor at Morningside College, a position that he takes some amount of pride in. “I’m living the dream,” he said, “just not the dream I ever envisioned.”

He sought the position at Morningside in part because of how the school accommodated him after a diving accident that left him paralyzed during his Freshman year. He noted that, while many buildings were not accessible by wheelchair, when he returned the school relocated all his classes to the buildings that were.

Although he appreciates the position he currently has at the college, particularly the fact that it allows him to help students adjust to college and watch them overcome obstacles that he knows they struggle with, he doesn’t intend to be an advisor forever. He explained that he feels one of the best ways to be useful in an organization is to constantly evolve, and joked that before long he’ll be president of the college.

While perhaps not something he plans in the immediate future, Watters explained that he could see himself occupying the position someday. He believes that Morningside has a lot of improvements to make when it comes to accessibility. While he understands that budget can get in the way of many of these projects, he noted the example of an automatic door that leads to the Mustang Grill, which is only accessible by traversing two sets of stairs. He contrasted this with the fact that there is no automatic door at the Lincoln Center, which is frequently used for public events, and explained that it would surely save money and help the community a great deal to simply relocate the equipment to a more sensible location.

Weekly News Comment #5

A recent Vice article highlighted the upcoming expiration on Uber’s transport license in London.

Transport for London (TfL), the organization responsible for managing the licensing of all taxi corporations in the city of London, has found Uber unfit to have their license renewed, citing a “lack of corporate responsibility” that might lead to potential safety and security concerns for passengers.

The article also goes into some detail on Greyball, a tool developed by Uber to identify and deny rides to potential law enforcers in an attempt to avoid official scrutiny.

Though this does not impact Americans directly, and Uber has announced that it intends to appeal this decision, this is an important development for people to be aware of. Uber is a large company that has a presence in most major cities in America, and anyone who uses their services should be aware of potential threats to their personal security or questionable practices by the corporation itself.

The Vice article is short but very clear in its message. It outlines the criticisms that Uber faces and the practical concerns for readers in London who might be affected by this issue.

Scavenger Hunt 1

As I stepped out of the library and into the windy campus mall I realized what it meant to be the last person to leave the classroom on the scavenger hunt assignment. I saw a horde of journalism students spreading out in front of me, the lucky ones already interviewing their marks.

I followed the trail of students with papers and pens in hand, barely managing to keep my own paper from flying off with the wind, as I desperately searched for someone to interview. Realizing that I would find no interviewees by following the other students, I turned around and walked to the Plex, hoping that someone would be waiting in the common room watching TV.

No such luck.

I returned to the campus mall, where I saw yet more journalism students walking around with sheets of paper at the ready. I noticed a student leave the library with a backpack slung over her shoulders and approached her, asking if she had time for a quick interview for my journalism class, which she agreed to.

Just as I began the interview, the wind picked up and I had to fight to straighten the paper enough to write down her name: Angela. I then moved on to the first and only question: a movie recommendation. I asked her to recommend me a movie, possibly her favorite one.

“A movie?” Angela asked, thinking it over for a moment before deciding on Forrest Gump.

I wrote her answer down and, having only one other task, asked if I could take a selfie with her.

She seemed somewhat surprised by this request. “A selfie?” She asked, again seeking confirmation that she had heard me correctly, and asked if I had a phone I could use for it.

I took my phone from my pocket, and after a moment of aligning it properly to get us both in the frame, took the photo. After making sure it had saved properly, I thanked her for her time and concluded the interview, returning to the classroom.

Weekly News Comment #4

The United States is suffering from a major opioid epidemic, and as pointed out by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, the “Lock ’em up and throw away the key” strategy that has been used in the past is not a viable solution.

A recent Vox article highlighted the Governor’s stance, that he voiced in February, and points out recent legislation he has signed that increases the punishment on opioid related crimes. The bill, HB 333, “increased penalties for trafficking heroin below 2 grams to five to 10 years in prison, up from one to five years.

The article then goes on to point out that this is not uncommon for American politicians. Despite the cliché response to the crisis, that the problem can’t be solved simply through mass arrests, lawmakers have reverted back to the old strategies of increasing punishments for those involved in the drug trade, both users and sellers.

At least 16 states have recently passed “tough on crime” laws, imposing new or tougher penalties on opioid use and trafficking, and lengthening prison sentences for those who sold or shared drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose.

Though this approach is made with the intention of decreasing opioid use and subsequently decreasing the number of deaths associated with overdoses, is that research shows this approach to the problem doesn’t work.

The most simple and obvious reason for this is that these drug war policies have been in place for decades, and the current opioid epidemic has occurred despite their enforcement. In addition, since the 80s the price of heroin per gram has dropped by more than 85%, while the number of drug dealers behind bars has increased by a factor of 30, according to drug policy expert Mark Kleiman.

Despite the best efforts of police departments and lawmakers to combat the drug epidemic, their strategy is wrong. As the statistics and expert opinions in the Vox article show, arresting more users and dealers does little to stop the epidemic itself, and only serves to ruin the lives of its victims with excessive sentences and criminal records.

Plane to Omaha Crashes Near Chicago

A United Airlines jet carrying 61 people crashed near Chicago’s Second City Airport on Friday Afternoon, resulting in at least 42 fatalities at the time of reporting.

One of the victims of the crash was identified by the Cook County Coroner as Rep. George W. Collins, D-Ill., who was on a return trip from Washington.

Holy Cross Hospital has admitted 16 people from the crash, including the plane’s three flight attendants.

One of the survivors of the crash, Marvin Anderson, from Omaha, reported that “The last words the pilot said… were, ‘We are at 4,000 feet and everything is going well’ I knew something was wrong a few seconds later because he began to rev the engines.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the crash. The Board already had several officials in Chicago, conducting hearings into a recent commuter train crash that claimed 45 lives last month.

Boat Capsizes Near Ormond Beach

A 16-foot catamaran capsized yesterday, leading to one death and the hospitalization of another student from Armstrong Aeronautical University.

The boat capsized around 5 pm according to Randy Cohen, one of the students who went sailing. The students were left stranded at sea with no life jackets, hanging on to the boat’s pontoons through the night.

At dawn they decided to swim back to shore at Ormond Beach, a four mile journey through rough waters.

Cohen, who was swimming in front of Christy Wapniarski, reported hearing Wapniarski call for help on their way back to shore. She claimed she was being attacked by a shark.

By the time Cohen reached Wapniarski, she was unconscious. Cohen reported seeing no sign of a shark. He put his arms around her shoulders and began helping her to shore.

Daniel Perrin, another student, checked Wapniarski’s pulse and reported that she had died, but Cohen refused to let her go until he became exhausted and had no other choice.

By the time they reached the shore Cohen had been bitten by dozens of Portuguese men-of-war, and is now hospitalized at Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach. The other two students were examined at the hospital and released.

Income Inequality in Higher Education (Final)

For many college is seen as a stepping stone to a better life, however it is increasingly becoming an advantage only affordable by those who are already privileged.

In New York, for example, a scholarship intended for 23,000 people received 75,000 applicants. While some were turned away because they did not meet the criteria, such as being in a higher income bracket than the one targeted, others were turned away because of gaps in their schooling caused by illnesses or accidents.

It is only fair that, in the case of a scholarship that receives more than three times as many applicants as it can provide for, applicants are turned away for any minor deviation from the terms and conditions of the scholarship. Regardless, this shows that scholarships are clearly insufficient to deal with the demands of students who need them, and shows that they are sometimes arbitrarily enforced in order to sort through tide of applicants they receive.

It should also be noted that colleges often have subtle but pervasive biases throughout their organization that contributes to an atmosphere of favoritism towards continuing generation students – those with more educated, and generally more wealthy, parents.

Students from lower income backgrounds are not only less likely to enroll in college, they’re also less likely to graduate: according to Vox “only about one in 10 low-income first generation students graduate on time.”

While this bias is understandable, as the administrators of any college are likely to be well educated themselves, and thus use language and rhetoric that targets their own demographics, it unfairly disadvantages those who often need the most help, further contributing to a cycle of nepotism and elitism. Low income students, who likely attended less than prestigious high schools and are often the first in their families to seek a higher education, are much less equipped to deal with the rigors of college than their upper class peers.

According to the New York Times, “more than a quarter of student loan debtors are delinquent or in default”, and student loan debt is the second fastest rising category of debt in the United States.

These statistics show that, even after finishing college, many students are incapable of recovering financially. Whether they graduated and failed to find a job or had to drop out because of an unwelcoming atmosphere, lower class students are disproportionately affected by the financial rigors of college.

For some education is invaluable, while for others it is an excruciatingly valuable commodity which they must spend decades paying for. The main difference is that lower class students, who rely the most on the advantages that education provides, are the ones most often – and most severely – effected negatively by their college experience.

Article 1 Draft

The economy – a large invisible force that few can claim to understand and even fewer can agree on – is one of the most important factors in modern life. It has countless contributing factors, some of which are beyond our control, while others are not.

One factor we can control is education. Education is the key to a competitive economy, and the state of the economy has an effect on who goes to college.

In New York, for example, a scholarship intended for 23,000 people received 75,000 applicants. While some were turned away because they did not meet the criteria, such as being in a higher income bracket than the one targeted, others were turned away because of gaps in their schooling caused by illnesses or accidents.

It should also be noted that colleges often have subtle but pervasive biases throughout their organization that contributes to an atmosphere of favoritism towards continuing generation students – those with more educated, and generally more wealthy, parents.

Weekly News Comment #3

A Nobel Peace Prize winner once hailed as her country’s Nelson Mandela has stood by as ethnically motivated violence and mass atrocities tear apart her country,” Aung San Suu Kyi, an advocate for democracy and internationally recognized humanitarian protestor, has remained quiet in response to Myanmar’s military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in the country. She faces controversy and criticism for taking no apparent action despite reports of crimes being committed by the Burmese military as Rohingya refugees flee the country.

The opening line to this story is succinct and powerful, drawing a historical parallel that almost all readers can relate to and briefly explaining the severity of the situation in Myanmar. It gives readers the basic information they need to know – that there’s a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar and not much is being done about it – while appealing them to read further if they’re interested.

The article later explains that Suu Kyi has blamed the atrocities on “misinformation… with the aim of promoting the interests of terrorists,” and although some images that have been circulating on social media about the situation have been falsely attributed, there is a great deal more evidence that suggests the military is responsible for this violence.

Lede Exercise 1

Fire Fighter Saves Cat Stuck in Tree, Breaks Leg After Fall

Fire fighter Bob Harwood is doing “just fine” after a 15 foot fall from an oak tree and a broken leg suffered during a cat rescue mission.

Harwood is recovering at St. Lukes Hospital after the fall, caused by a dead limb breaking and sending him and the cat tumbling to the ground. The cat suffered no injuries, having landed safely on top of the firefighter.

The calico cat, belonging to twins Suzanne and Samantha Decker, climbed the 50 foot oak tree at 102 11th Ave., prompting the recovery effort.