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Campus Voice: Living in resistance

February 28, 2013 Campus Voice, Opinion

I felt shock, sadness and a strong sense of helplessness when I tuned into WPSD Local 6 on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and heard the news about the racist parody Twitter accounts that have been operating for a while now and targeting Murray State students. As the coordinator of gender and diversity studies for the university, I take the issues of equality and fairness for all seriously – those ideals are, in fact, my guiding principles in life – and it distresses me to recognize that we still have so far to go to achieve their realization.

After hearing the story and being especially moved by the interview with a young Asian woman who communicated her feelings of alienation and fear that came as a result of being targeted, I spent the evening contemplating how best to address this brazen display of disregard and disrespect in a way that would prove productive and avoids dwelling upon its inherent negativity. Finding such a solution is never simple, but we owe it to ourselves as members of this University community – a community dedicated to ensuring the appreciation and promotion of diversity and its richness – to commit to such work. Bigotry of any stripe degrades us all and our obligation is to address it, always hoping that eventually it will no longer plague us.

When I entered my classrooms throughout the day on Wednesday, I made it a priority to discuss these events with my students and to discuss how we might respond. Their initial response, in general, was shock and sadness. Some students had even been targets of this cruel pastime. A few students, even while expressing concern and dismay, felt powerless to respond, citing the ubiquity of such behavior in our culture at large. It didn’t take long, though, before ideas began to percolate among the groups – suggestions of organizing Residential College programs, disabling Twitter feeds, and writing to The News, among others – and the mood in each respective class altered in favor of empowerment, resistance. Suddenly students who had never thought of themselves as agents of change realized they might be able to work together to do something worthwhile, meaningful. Some ideas were grand and will take time and a great deal of energy to implement, while others were as simple (though no less impactful, I’d argue) as participating in campus events designed to celebrate diversity in its myriad forms. Sometimes the beginning of real change transpires simply by acknowledging that each of us possesses the power to resist hatred and cruelty and demand a different kind of world where the reverberations of such intolerance are metaphorically drowned out by collective good will. Hyperbolic as that may sound, those impressive, energized students in my classroom last week make it clear that such aspirations are not nearly as overblown as they may sound.

On Friday morning, my GDS 201 students guided me in creating three simple, powerful suggestions for responding to intolerance and bigotry. They’re suggestions that, taken seriously and implemented with care, behoove us all:

1      Use your voice: speaking out, firmly and respectfully, inspires others to question their own assumptions and to do the same. This can be done informally, among family and friends, or more formally using the resources (social media, print media) available to you.

2      Educate yourself: Murray State offers a wealth of opportunities for all students to learn about diversity – take a glance at Racernet any day and you’re likely to find an event that will expand your horizons and enhance your appreciation of cultures and peoples. Explore our course offerings: the whole purpose of a university education is to learn about and experience the unfamiliar.

3      Take action: this can take many forms and there are numerous avenues for such participation on campus. With a little investigation – and I’m happy to point anyone to these resources – you’ll learn that we have a number of offices and organizations whose sole purpose, through education, advocacy, and community-building, is to ensure that the University remains an institution dedicated to fairness and equality for all people.

Though I wish the parody Twitter accounts had never existed and that no one had been hurt by them, I hope we can seize this moment, resist such ugliness and commit to living the ideals for which this institution stands.

Commentary by Joshua Adair, coordinator of gender and diversity studies.

Campus Voice: No room for intolerance at Murray State

February 14, 2013 Campus Voice, Opinion

Recent incidents have caused us to reflect on how to handle issues of race and intolerance on campus. The recent use of Twitter to promote bigotry and intolerance has many wondering how far the Murray State community has really come. Murray State is a culturally diverse campus and we have seen the benefits of that diversity. However, with that said, rights are given by the United States Constitution for others to have opposing views.

We can look to the characteristics of an MSU Graduate to help us dictate how we express any divergent views and values within our community.

“The sixth characteristic of the MSU graduate is an understanding of the dynamics of cultural diversity, of competing economic and political systems and of complex moral and ethnical issues.”

“The seventh characteristic of the MSU graduate is the understanding of the importance of and engagement in ethical behavior and responsible citizenship.”

Students should not wait until they have graduated and then seek to espouse these characteristics. Faculty and staff should not only assume students should exhibit these characteristics. We should begin now by speaking out against injustice and intolerance in our community. Many may say this is not their issue or concern; however, it is everyone’s issue and concern if we are to consider this a true intellectual community. A few misguided persons should not set the agenda, control the climate or dictate the direction of the campus community.

Remember, “Silence is Acceptance,” so speak loudly against all forms of hate.

Commentary by Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs and S.G. Carthell, director of the office of multicultural affairs.

Campus Voice: Women need to be taken seriously

November 15, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion

Everyone knows that women can’t drive …

… When they aren’t in a car. Otherwise, they are provided that same opportunity to earn their license. To say that they are equal in all aspects of life is untrue though. One need only look at our current politics to see this.

Think about what politicians have said. Paul Ryan does not believe a woman should be able to have an abortion even if she is raped or her life is threatened.

Republican Todd Akin announced that pregnancy from legitimate rape doesn’t happen. As though if you get pregnant from rape, you wanted to be raped.

Or let’s think about the arguments in response to rape such as “she shouldn’t be wearing those clothes.”

Fair enough on the argument that if a woman doesn’t want to be ogled she probably shouldn’t reveal so much of the areas that makes the male loins tingle with happiness. That is about as far as that argument goes. Honestly, who really thinks that the clothes make people sexually assault each other?

Last time I checked, there isn’t a rape orgy occurring in the quad because some guy saw another girl in revealing clothing. Although, I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories of certain parties.

Apparently, men have the right to put the red tape on your uterus. Also, to force you to have this huge tool shoved in your vagina that’s bigger than most men, admit it guys. Transvaginal Ultrasound!

Perhaps we should step back to what the propagandist Rush Limbaugh has to say about women who want birth control. When he was asked about birth control and a young female college student taking it he proceeded to call her a “slut” because she needed to take birth control every day. Well, that’s how birth control works. You have to take it on a regular basis in order for it to be effective. Plus, birth control is also used by some women in order to help balance hormones as prescribed by their doctor.

Speaking of vagina, did you know if you have one that you probably won’t be making as much as a man?

You need not look further than where you’re standing really.

I have no idea what it is about vagina that makes it worth less than a sausage fest but there’s apparently something. There must be because women on the same level as men and who have even been there longer still get paid less.

While some may say the woman’s place is in the house and not the workplace, I disagree. A woman’s place is where ever she wishes to be. True that I believe that all should live up to their potential and make a difference in society but if a woman wants to be a housewife, then she can be that just as they should be an executive if they wish – doesn’t mean she can’t make a difference in the community.

They have the right to choose where they want to be and while I may hear that their place is the kitchen I don’t believe it. My own mother showed me that a woman can do the work and raise a family.

If women couldn’t work then when we went to war we would have crumbled. While men were in the war, women were in the factories. They created everything we needed to survive the war. They kept the country going when no one else was here to do so. Then they took care of the ones who came back from war. If it weren’t for them, America wouldn’t exist.

Women have shown they can carry the load of the country through the toughest times so why are we treating them like they can’t? Why do we make them have to prove themselves more than males? Why do we try to take away their maternity leave?

I’m not sure if my male parts make this ironic or not.

Somewhere along the line something has gone wrong and we still refuse to do anything about it.

Perhaps now is the time to start changing it. Otherwise, when the lightning strikes the clock at precisely 10:04 p.m. we’re sending you back … to the kitchen!

Commentary by Kyle Shupe, senior from Farmington, Ky.

Campus Voice: On science, secularism, chuckling

November 8, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion

One occasionally comes across a deposit of such misunderstanding and bad logic, coupled with sweeping hauteur and spin-doctoring, that it merits not a “token response,” but an outright decrying. Such is the case with Mr. Colton Givens’ and Steve Herr’s recent columns.

Givens would like to imagine that he could just sweep Dr. Zingrone’s arguments under the rug for their supposed belittlement and incomprehensibleness. But notice that Givens never attempts to demonstrate the nature of his own claims. With what reason(s) are these arguments worthy of such claims? Maybe it is Mr. Givens’ inability to comprehend them that is the problem as opposed to their claimed incomprehensibility.

Mr. Givens comments on the question, should “only those views which are scientifically verifiable, the only views which he believes are legitimate,” be allowed in the spectrum of modern discourse? Well, quite frankly, yes! There are good reasons why we have abandoned and will no longer consider unscientific views. For instance, there are good reasons why we no longer consider faith healing a valid medical practice for our hospitals – precisely because it does not work. We no longer perform human sacrifice as a method of agriculture to acquire rain and a good crop. Modern science has left creationism in the dustbin of mythology because it is a blatant lie. So, unless Mr. Givens wishes to return to the Dark Ages or worse, it is precisely scientific views that matter in this world.

This is what it is to have a modern technological society. And it should be pointed out that scientific views are not believed as Mr. Givens claims. They are accepted. When the facts and data support the hypothesis, it is no longer a question of belief, but of acceptance.

However, the most glaring example of bad logic rests in Mr. Givens’ assessment of Jefferson’s “wall of separation between Church and State.” Mr. Givens claims that this is not a call for a secular government, but that “the government cannot favor any one belief system over another,” (supposedly including secularism).

Oh, really? Well, what about that very system of belief? That is, that system of belief that states that the government cannot favor one belief system over another?

If the government favors that system, then Mr. Givens’ argument has contradicted itself over the very thing that it set out to argue against! With this view, not even the beliefs embedded in the system of democracy can be favored!

Mr. Givens’ view would lead to the government not being able to favor the very view with which it established its foundation on. Myriads of other contradictions follow from this phantasmagoria that Mr. Givens has constructed and we can thus dismiss it simply as a failure. Mr. Givens might argue that this is not the same sort of belief system as he spoke of, or that he meant only religious beliefs. But notice that he continues on to speak of the “beliefs of … atheists.” But just what beliefs do atheists hold?

Certainly not religious ones, since atheism is the lack of belief in theistic ideas. So, this is not an escape from the contradictions. The problem rests in Mr. Givens’ definition of secular.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, secular denotes “attitudes, activities or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.” A secular government is not one that is anti-religious, but one that is neutral on matters of religion.

This is why religious claims are not welcome from Rep. Braun or anyone in political power, precisely because the government cannot use religious ideas to run this nation. We can therefore conclude that Mr. Givens’ idea that the government is not secular is nothing more than a shallow, pseudo-intellectual, spin-doctored sham.

As for Dr. Herr’s seeming affinity for chuckling, if he wishes for secularists to be strictly scientific in every last facet of their lives, perhaps then instead of spitting out his juvenile, high-handed egotism, he can challenge secularist’s views at one of many secular meetings held on campus each year.

Or, perhaps instead of the conversation not being scientific enough, it would be too scientific for him to handle.

Commentary by Benjamin Shelby, post-baccalaureate from Boaz, Ky.

Campus Voice: Faith, religion have important role to play

October 25, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, writing for the majority in the 1962 case Engel v. Vitale, said “the history of man is inseparable with the history of religion.”

America is no exception in this regard. Since the time of the Puritans, who left England to escape religious persecution, the people of this nation have recognized a need for the protection of differing beliefs.

In his letter which appeared in the Oct. 19 edition of The News, Mr. William Zingrone tackles a wide variety of topics involving religion, from education to the debate over abortion. Many of his arguments do not merit even a token response, as they are both extremely belittling to people of faith and disjointed to the point of incomprehension.

However, drawing his heaviest criticism is Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who has denied scientific theories such as evolution and the Big Bang. Zingrone argues Rep. Broun’s views, which are influenced by his personal faith, have no place in Congressional debate; it is this argument which I take issue with.

Mr. Zingrone seems to suggest only those views which are scientifically verifiable, the only views which he believes are legitimate, should be allowed in the marketplace of ideas.

However, this position runs counter to the conception of religious freedom which the framers of the Constitution envisioned. In his letter to the Danbury Baptist Convention, Jefferson called for a “wall of separation between Church and State.”

This is not a call for a completely secular U.S. government or society, even though Mr. Zingrone might wish that to be the case; rather, it simply means the government cannot favor any one belief system over another.

This includes the beliefs of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and athiests. To quash religious sentiment and allow only secular viewpoints is as much a violation of religious freedom as is the establishment of an official church.

While the framers made it clear that Congress should take no part in the determination of an official religion or favor one belief system over another, it is fallacious to believe individual legislators were forbidden to take their own views into account.

I would argue the representative mechanism designed by the framers in fact encourages this type of debate in Congress. They designed a system in which voters from each district were to elect the man or woman who would best represent their interests in Washington.

By electing Rep. Broun, the voters of Georgia’s tenth congressional district have effectively said they prefer his beliefs over those of his opponent.

They, and the framers, expect his decisions in Congress to reflect the wishes of his constituency.

If a majority of Rep. Broun’s constituents deny the validity of the Big Bang theory and evolution, then Rep. Broun is in fact doing his job. And if at a later date, the people of Georgia feel Rep. Broun is no longer representing their interests, the Constitution provides a remedy: elections.

The framers also realized for every legislator such as Rep. Broun, there is likely to be one similar to Rep. Pete Stark of California, an atheist.

In this way, opposing viewpoints counteract one another so no one position becomes dominant; as Madison said in the 51st Federalist, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

A final link in this chain of protections is the First Amendment, which ensures that even if one belief system gains a strong foothold, it cannot banish all others.

I understand Mr. Zingrone denies any system of faith is legitimate, and I further understand he believes the facts he puts forth are evidence of his position’s superiority.

However, to deny individuals have a right to take into account their own personal convictions in decision-making processes, in government or elsewhere, is to deny the more than two century tradition of religious freedom in this nation.

While I agree Rep. Broun’s comments are fairly ludicrous, in the eyes of the government they should be treated exactly the same as Mr. Zingrone’s own views.

Column by Colton Givens, senior from Welchs Creek, Ky.

Campus voice: Facts, not faith should dominate decisions made in D.C.

October 18, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion

P.Z. Myers, a prominent and outspoken speaker and blogger in the rapidly growing secular non-belief movement gave a rousing and informative lecture on the conflict of religion and science Monday night.

Many of you saw the posters out on the Quad or at the Curris Center before some charmingly intolerant and probably religious person(s) took most of them down Homecoming weekend. The MSU Freethinkers and Students for Reason and Science really appreciate their ignorance: WWJD?

Well, we don’t take anyone’s religious posters down.

Anyway, P.Z. exposed the appalling situation in grade and high school education where teachers and administrators are afraid to teach evolution because it offends the religious beliefs of some parents.

Unfortunately we are seeing that situation worsen. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), being a good Southern Baptist has extended the idiocy to proclaiming that not only evolution but the Big Bang and embryology (embryology?!) are “lies from the pit of hell.” Denying evolution or cosmology as mere “theories” i.e. “secular world view interpretations of science” as they are wrongly characterized by the Biblical literalists is one thing, but attacking embryology? WTF? It’s a purely descriptive discipline. Anyone can pop a slide under a microscope and see the unquestionable facts of development for him or herself.

How in the hell does that have anything to do with hell? And then it hit me: They’re screwed.

They are stuck now; the Biblical literalists, the science disparagers. They have to come fully out of the closet now as the absurd and extremist deniers that they are of not just science in general or fully accepted theories like evolution … they gotta hate the facts now, they gotta deny reality itself.

Dissing theories alone won’t do it, it hasn’t worked. Evolution and cosmology and a host of other scientific theories grow stronger every day as the data that supports them continues to pile up exponentially.

The data themselves now must be denied. Reality has to be thrown out completely to uphold the ridiculous claims of creationism, homophobia, and the like that the conservative Christians tout as truth.

Broun is an intelligent man, smart enough to earn a medical degree and he may be a competent physician, but he also characterizes himself as a scientist and he absolutely ain’t one.

Scientists just don’t think data are the product of the devil or emanate from the fiery pit.

Embryology is defined as a descriptive branch of biology dealing with the early growth and development of living organisms. Braun’s medical training certainly would have exposed him to a lot of embryological data.

Embryology is not a theory that he can try to pick holes in based on his faith in an absurd creation myth: it is comprised of data, information, facts, unbiased and un-interpreted results of empirical study.

Guess he didn’t like what he saw in the microscope. He may not like the fact that human embryos develop a tail and full coat of hair like other mammals and primates which are promptly reabsorbed and disappear through the action of developmental genes.

Maybe he takes exception to the fact that early on we have the genes for and briefly develop a yolk sac just like reptiles and birds. Maybe he doesn’t wanna fess up to the knowledge, the data, not theory or hypothesis, but the fact that at least 50 percent or more of human embryos die in the first two weeks of incredibly delicate cellular replication and genetic unfolding which according to his faith constitutes the killing of a human person, making his god the biggest abortionist of them all.

So what’s next? Irate parents prompted by their ministers to stop school children from peering into microscopes lest they catch a glimpse of the “pit of hell?”

Will Broun, a member of the Congressional Committee on Science and Technology committee recommend that educators stop their students from looking at evil embryos?

Many believing scientists don’t agree with P.Z. Myers that there is an inescapable conflict between religion and science and they resolve the conflict by leaving their religion at the laboratory door.

Good move.

Rep. Broun needs to leave his religion at the door of the House of Congress before he steps inside.

 

Column by William Zingrone, assistant professor of psychology.

Campus voice: As times change, so do challenges

October 11, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion

When I was asked by The News to write a column regarding the current presidential campaign, my first thought was the line “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” from Alexander Pope. But I have been blessed with long life and can remember every presidential campaign back to 1952, so perhaps I should risk being thought a fool by some to explain to those who read this that changes I have observed over the past 60 years cause me to believe their country is on an unsustainable and declining course.

The clearest indication of this unsustainable course is the exploding national debt which recently reached $16 trillion. It is growing between $3 and $4 billion per day and about $1 million every 50 seconds (see www.usdebtclock.org), and the interest on it costs about $1 billion per day.

Our balance of trade deficit runs between $30 and $40 billion every month and we are no closer to energy independence today than we were 40 years ago. National and state pension programs have trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities. We don’t want to admit that a day of reckoning must come but dithering and denial cannot continue for the next 10, 20, 30 or 50 years.

This brings me to one of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the past several years: the unwillingness to face reality. During the 1930s Churchill warned the world about the Nazi menace but the world didn’t want to listen and called him a warmonger. We know how that turned out. Later, during the Cold War, even though some on the left favored unilateral disarmament, we did face reality because World War II had shown what defeat by ruthless totalitarian despotism would bring. That’s why we are free today. In political science the “golden rule of politics” says “He who has the gold makes the rules.” We continue to borrow money from China, Saudi Arabia and other foreign countries at great risk to our sovereignty and independence.

The same goes for foreign policy. Samuel Huntington was right: the story of the 21st century will be the story of the clash of civilizations. The threat we face is just as real and as dangerous as that of World War II and the Cold War. Totalitarianism based on religion is just as antithetical to liberty as that based on economics or nationalism and we need to recognize that and act accordingly. Rhetoric and appeasement have never worked, and weakness invites challenge and humiliation, as recent events have shown.

A second change is the degradation of political discourse in our country. Politics has become a blood sport whose motto is Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. For some there is no lie too big to tell, no ditch too low to lie down in. The object is to win at whatever cost, regardless of integrity lost or pain and suffering inflicted.

The Golden Rule went out the window a long time ago. The time was when members of the other party in Congress really were “our friends on the other side of the aisle” with whom we had honest disagreements but with whom we socialized after work. Now they are enemies who not only must be defeated but also destroyed. They are buffoons or likely criminals who deserve no mercy, who conspire behind closed doors to push old ladies off cliffs in wheelchairs, and who are actually so backward and unenlightened to think those who wish to use contraceptives should buy them themselves. (Can you believe it?) This is the politics of extremism, division and polarization, not charity, magnanimity, and unity. It brings out the worst in us, not the best, and it is shameful.

A third major development is the abdication by the mass media of their role as objective watchdog over our political system. Facilitated by the advent of cable TV and the internet, the media have, instead, become cheerleaders and in some cases pimps for the left, and make no pretense of objectivity. This has led to the emergence of alternative media such as talk radio and the Fox News Channel as counterweights, the politics of extremism, division and polarization have climbed to ever new heights, ignorant drivel passes for informed analysis and more and more people tune out. We emphasize what divides us rather than what unites us. This is not good.

Four years ago I supported John McCain because I thought we needed a one-term president who would make necessary but sometimes painful and unpopular decisions and then step aside.

Instead, we chose an ignorant, immature and pathological narcissist whose favorite activities are incessant talking and blaming his problems on others, an ideologue who does not know that politics is the art of compromise, an amateur who views an invasion of our Consulate and the first assassination of an American ambassador since 1979 by terrorists as a “bump in the road” and who lied and required others to lie about it to conceal his administration’s incompetence, a divider who has polarized this country more than it has been since 1860 and who is too busy to meet with foreign leaders at the UN but has time to enjoy adulation on Letterman and The View.

Is this the best we can do? If it is, we are in sad shape.

We hear a lot today about polls. I’d like to go beyond the fawning media and celebrities and see a poll about what foreign leaders think of him, and of us. It would be interesting.

 

Column by Winfield Rose, professor of political science.

Murray politics matter

October 11, 2012 Campus Voice, Opinion
Last semester, the city of Murray moved forward with a decision requiring Murray State students to purchase city stickers for their vehicles. The cost associated with buying a city sticker came as a surprise to many students who now had to pay for another “parking permit” on top of what they already pay to be able to park on campus – and with a hefty fine for non-compliance.
  Enforcement has officially started and lacking a city sticker will now earn students a fine double the price of the sticker itself. Unfortunately, most students are unaware of this change and of the new requirement to purchase city stickers, something that isn’t exactly surprising, given the lack of communication to students on the part of both Murray State and the city of Murray.
  A lack of communication is putting it lightly. University officials have done next to nothing to inform students that they will be required to purchase city stickers, nor has the city.  In the case of the latter, it’s almost as if the city is betting on students not buying city stickers. This would allow them to cash in on the fines that come with students not having a city sticker and then subsequently having to purchase one.
  The immense amount of cynicism, if that is the case on the part of city officials, is disheartening. It’s as if the student body is little more than a sponge from which to extract cash from already cash-strapped students to solve the city’s budget problems.
  We as students have to take some of the responsibility for this even being an issue. Murray State students were made aware of this by The News repeatedly  last semester.
   In spite of warnings that we would have to pay more to park in Murray, students did nothing, absolutely nothing, to protest.  Students didn’t demonstrate. Students didn’t write angry editorials, contact their city councilors – they simply sat back and watched as all this happened.
   This is why politics matter. If you aren’t engaged, ultimately you end up getting run over by the people who are. If students want to be heard, they need to act like it.
   The old adage goes “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain” – students don’t have a right to complain about what’s going on in city hall if they won’t even take the time to register to vote in Murray and cast their ballots in November.
   That’s what we want to encourage here on campus. Students should get registered to vote here and vote for and support candidates who stand up for their interests. Don’t see a candidate that you like on the ballot? Run yourself. Democracy is not a spectator sport – it’s a game of tag, and we’re tagging you “it.”
The staff editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial board of The Murray State News.
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