Wellesley College Statue Story Shouldn’t Be So Big

The Wellesley College statue story is making news in New Zealand, and I just saw it on Al Jazeera, too!  It’s clearly blown way out of proportion, so much that I now regret doing my insignificant part to give it legs in my social media presences.

Let’s be clear, only 713 people have signed the petition to move the statue as of this writing.  Wellesley has approximately 2500 students.   The petition is open to the public so anyone can sign.   I can’t see the signatures, but I suspect that many of the signatories are not from the campus community at all.  Still, even if  we assume that everyone who signed is a Wellesley student, the vast majority of students have no problem with the statue being where it is.  That is consistent with what I am hearing.

I have spent my entire adult life in higher education environments of various sorts: public and private, large and small, technical and liberal arts, foreign and domestic.  Student protests are frequent and healthy.  They seldom get much traction in the media, even when they are much larger and even when they work for it.  What is it about this one that has caused such buzz?  Would this story have gotten so much attention if it had happened at a coed liberal arts college?  Or is it the fact that Wellesley is such an highly rated college, so there’s delight in knocking it down?   Or is it that people delight in seeing a students at a liberal arts college behaving so narrow-mindedly?  Whatever it is, the story has been carried way beyond whatever legs it should have had.

SAR Academic Freedom Media Review, March 31-April 6, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

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Faculty union launches bid to shield Attaran
Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen, 4/6

A Call to Respect Rights
Mitch Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 4/6

Don’t Touch My Textbook
Mitch Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 4/6

Amnesty International Urges Sudan to Release Student Activist
Salma El Wardany, Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/6

Ai Weiwei Ordered to Stop Self-Surveillance
Josh Chi, The Wall Street Journal, 4/5
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The Diva and the Army Private

To the author of the following Facebook post:

Whitney Houston had a drug problem, went to rehab, died in her bathtub and got recognized on the news and internet. NJ governor ordered the flags half mast on Saturday as a tribute to Whitney. 24 year old Army Pfc. Cesar Cortez, assigned to 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Fort Bliss, Texas, died the exact same day serving during Operation Enduring Freedom and I, personally, haven’t heard his name until now. If you believe that the people who are dying daily for your and my freedom are the true American heroes and deserve more respect than any celebrity, then copy and post.

I am declining to repost this on my Facebook page.  It is a mean and faulty argument that unnecessarily brings two very different issues into competition.  But before I explain that, let me point out that it makes an absolute and prejudicial statement that you cannot possibly know is true, and that I wouldn’t repost without changing that anyway.  It’s the concluding statement that’s the problem.  As a teacher of writing I tell my students to try and avoid absolute statements unless they are sure they are true.

An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Cesar Cortez Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Cortez, 24, of Oceanside, Calif. , died Feb. 11, 2012 in Bahrain.

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Amnesty International’s 50th, 80+ Acts, 76 Dylan Songs, $20, 5+ hours… No Matter How You Count, It Equals Awesome


Amnesty International is one of the most important human rights organizations operating in the world today, and it celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Started in 1961 with a worldwide “Appeal for Amnesty” on behalf of individuals imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs written by British lawyer Peter Benenson, the movement now counts more than 3 million people worldwide.

What better way to celebrate this milestone anniversary than with an album of songs by a man whose songs include the anthems “I Shall Be Released” and “Chimes of Freedom”?  Bob Dylan has long been a supporter of Amnesty International, and Chimes of Freedom was also the unofficial anthem for the amazing Human Rights Now Tour, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1988.

The collection is available now directly from Amnesty International, on iTunes, or at Amazon.  I downloaded the digital tracks, 76 of them, for $19.99 and it’s the best $20 I’ve spent in recent memory.  I’m not exaggerating.  By and large it’s great music, but more on that in a minute.  Let’s get some math out of the way first, if you’re budget conscious like me.  I don’t buy much music these days.  For the most part, I rely on a subscription service, Rhapsody, for my music.  I only purchase music when there’s are really good reason to.  This is worth buying, a bargain by any standards.

It is a 76 song digital download for $19.99, or 4 CDs for $24.99.  Moreover, all profits go to help Amnesty International in its work.  That’s well over 5 hours of music and the satisfaction of helping out one of my favorite causes, for the price of two album downloads on iTunes.  Your average digital LP on iTunes or most other legal sites is usually $9.99 (increasingly $11.99) and it usually includes 10-12 songs.  This is 76 songs.  If that were sold at 12 songs per record , it would be 6 1/3 records.  Nobody like fractions, so let’s just say this collection equals 6 iTunes LPs + 4 free bonus tracks.   If Amnesty International were a record label and not a human rights nonprofit, they’d have known to more slickly market this collection typical price of $59.94, but tell us it’s on sale now for $19.99,  $24.99 for the 4 CDs.  Then we’d know we’re getting a bargain!

Of course it’s only a bargain if the music is good.  It could contain twice as many tracks, but if you only like 9 of them, then you still don’t want to pay $20.

So then, is it any good?

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Do the Mashable Awards Matter?

Mashable.com is an outstanding source of news about social media, and I read it daily.  The Mashable Awards, on the other hand, are considerably less useful.  They used to be more so, but perhaps the pace of major new developments in social media and mobile computing has slowed quite a bit and competition is less stiff, but the winners this year, for the most part, inspire a big yawn.  I’d argue they’ve become the People’s Choice Awards of Social Media, awards that go to predictable recipients.  They’ve even got their own MashBash gala in Vegas.  (It’s sure to be a blast and I wish I could go, but it’s hard not to poke fun at it, since I’m using this metaphor.)

At the risk of sounding like an elitist, the People’s Choice Awards are really nothing more than a reiteration of what we already know from other sources.  They tell us that the public really liked certain artists, movies, records, tv shows, etc., last year and that they spent money because of it.  They are a popularity contest. Someone receives an award for “Best” Whatever, but it is really an award for Best Selling  or Most Popular Whatever.

Has it become the same with the Mashable Awards?  Is Facebook really the “Best Social Network” or is it merely far too many times larger than it’s nearest competitors for any other network to gather nearly enough votes?  When voting for a winner is open to the general public, how can anything but the the most popular apps and sites win?  Check out the winners in all the categories and decide for yourself.  Let me know what you think.  Do you agree with them?  Where do you go for the most reliable evaluations of Social Media or mobile apps?

I’m Sorry Facebook, I Just Don’t Love You Anymore…

In an article previewing the changes Facebook recently made public, Mashable’s Ben Parr indicated that Facebook was making the changes because it wanted to rekindle an emotional connection with users.

After years of dating, the magic between Facebook and its users has dissipated. It’s a natural evolution in any relationship, but now there is another suitor vying for Facebook’s users. And a lot of people think this suitor is easy on the eyes.
That’s why Facebook launched three recent changes: revamped Friend Lists, a real-time news ticker, and the subscribe button… But these changes are just the beginning. The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this strategy isn’t working for me! My relationship with Facebook has never gotten old because like an insecure lover, it’s never stopped demanding my attention, to the point of provoking annoyance. I’ve given it a lot of attention, integrating it into my professional and personal lives, but it’s proven unpredictable, unsure of the terms under which it wants to participate. It’s time to cool things off. Since Facebook has so few concerns about private affairs going public, how would you like to read my Dear John Letter to Facebook?
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Egypt Decides! Let’s Stand Back for a While

Saturday, 12 February 2011, Day 1 Freedom - Victory Tahrir Square, Photo by Darla Hueske, Creative Commons license, Some rights reserved

These are exciting times! The citizens revolution in Tunisia started a tidal wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak form the Presidency in Egypt proves there is no stopping it.

Fortunately, this wave has not caused the death and destruction tidal waves usually do, because it is the people themselves who are the wave, and it is the elite who are being swept away, not in a bloody coup, but through real people power. Final costs have yet to be assessed. People were jailed and others killed, but violence and destruction to property have been minimal. The police were brutal and ruthless and far too many were killed, but protests continued and the police disappeared quickly. After that, the one significant effort of Mubarak loyalist to crack heads, backfired terribly.

Most Americans are excited by this wave of democracy and have an innate tendency to support it. Others got very nervous when the wave hit Egypt. What happens if the Muslim brotherhood takes over? There are even voices who get far to much airplay in the media and too much ink in the press who say that people in the region are incapable of self governance and need strong arm leadership. The most looney voice has to be Glenn Beck who fears Mubarak’s fall will open the door to a Islamist Caliphate that will spread until it meets and joins forces with a Chinese-led “red” wave on a quest for world domination.
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TV News and Reporting from Egypt

Dear Media,

Please stop marveling at how anything is happening in Egypt even though the internet is shut down and people can’t get on Twitter or Facebook.  You do realize that there were popular revolts before social media, don’t you?  In the latter half of the 20th century we had the Prague Spring in 1968, the Soweto uprising in 1976, the Paris riots in 1968, and even Tiananmen Square in 89. How do you think people coordinated the labor demonstrations of the 30s, the anti-colonial revolts of the developing world in the decades following World War II.  What about the French Revolution in 1789?  OMG?  How did they get anything done.  They didn’t even have land lines!

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Beautiful Game Sets Records on Twitter, Growing Interest in the US

”]Apparently the World Cup final represented the largest period of sustained activity for an event in Twitter’s history. According to Twitter Blog, during the final, people from 172 countries tweeted in 27 different languages. I really don’t have anything to add to the post, as it speaks for itself. Clearly Twitter is now a global phenomenon.
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Help Support the Life is Good Foundation

I’m in the midst of fundraising for the Life is Good Kids Foundation. I must admit that my reasons for embarking on this venture were selfish. I’m going to the Life is Good Festival down the road a bit in Canton, and you get some special privileges if you raise a certain amounts. But having started on the project, I did some research into the foundation, and I’ve realized what a good cause it is. My enthusiasm is great, independent of the concert.

The Life is good Kids Foundation is an action-oriented nonprofit, committed to helping young children overcome life-threatening challenges such as extreme poverty, violence, illness and natural disasters. Our Playmakers Initiative provides training, resources and support to the adults dedicated to caring for these children so that all involved lead healthier, more joyful lives.

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