National Teach-in Comes to UMass

If taxes remained the same for 99 out of 100 people, but increased for the top 1 percent of the population to what taxes were in the 1990s, the revenue output would be more than enough to pay tuition, fees, and books for students at all colleges and universities across the nation. This is one of the major points that Dan Clawson, a professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, made during his speech on public education as a public right at Tuesday’s “Where’s The Funding?” sit-in at the Student Union Ballroom.

Chants like “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard throughout the afternoon as a serious of 20 speakers, from Director Eve Weinbaum of the Labor Center to Melissa Urban from the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, spoke to inform students, faculty, and each other about budget cuts and government spending. Questions like, ‘why are we in this mess in the first place’, ‘who is being affected’ and ‘what can we do about it’ were addressed at the event, which was UMass’ part in a national teach-in that over 176 campuses participated in on April 5.

Madeline Burrows, a Wisconsin Protestor and ISO member, addresses the crowd in the Student Union Ballroom at the Teach-in on Tuesday. Photo By: Rachel Roberts

“Let’s fight for a society that puts human need before corporate greed”, said Madeline Burrows, a Wisconsin Protestor and member of the International Socialist Organization.

Burrows speech on ‘The Country’s Not Poor, So Why Are We?’ was an introduction to Sociology Professor Jo Comerford’s revelation that if corporations paid the 30% tax they are supposed to, the fiscal year of 2010 would have seen a revenue of $150 billion more. Last year General Motors paid zero taxes on their $14.2 billion profits and received $3.2 billion in tax credits. Falling corporate taxes, falling taxes for the wealthy, and rising payroll taxes are all changes that have created a larger gap between the rich and the poor.

But wondering where the money is coming from is only one part of the picture. A discretionary pie chart detailing the United State’s $1.24 trillion budget for fiscal year 2012 reveals that 57% will go to military funding. A mere 4% of that will go to education. UMass Sociology Prof. Dan Clawson said, “public universities are being privatized by cuts in funding”, before adding that in the 1980s a student could work 10 hours a week at a minimum wage job and earn enough for their tuition and fees. Today, the same student would have to work 29 hours a week, which would not cover additional costs like food and rent.

Students from political science, STPEC, journalism, sociology, animal science, communications, linguistics and more overflow to the floor for Tuesday's sit-in. Photo By: Rachel Roberts

The UMass system faces $60 million in funding cuts, while UMass Amherst in particular will see $30 million in cuts. Sarah Donovan, a junior sociology major, specifically attended the teach-in for her human rights class, where they have been discussing a recent article from the Boston Globe that revealed incoming President Robert Caret’s salary to be $550,000 including retirement payments and a housing allowance. Outgoing President Jack Wilson saw a salary increase of 6.5% in 2009 to 2010 compared with the previous fiscal year, according to university figures and a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The teach-in ended with a two hour live stream from New York entitled Fightback USA: A National Teach-in On Austerity, Debt & Corporate Greed. Speakers included Frances Fox Piven, Cornell West, Jeffrey Sachs, Heather McGhee and Richard Trumka. For more information, visit the Fight Back Teach-in website.

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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


Multimedia Packages

In the piece Coming Home a Different Person, the Washington Post tells the story of Army Spec. Robert Warren, a soldier who had nearly the entire left side of his skull removed by doctors to prevent further brain damage after a rocket propelled grenade exploded near his truck in Afghanistan. The multimedia package includes video, audio, and images to tell Warren’s struggle from the time of his injury to the removal of his head staples after surgery and therapy.

The video clips provide the foundation for this piece, which are interwoven with still photographs to tell the complete story. The photographs introduce the extent of his injury by showing Warren’s head injuries, x-rays and physical therapy sessions, leaving the audio and video pieces to fill in the gaps. The video clips help introduce the victim to the viewer by showing him with his family at home and in the hospital speaking with doctors. You can really get a feel for the personal extent of the injury in terms of how it has disrupted life with his wife and daughter, to the physical extent of his injury in terms of expert advice and surgical procedures.

After introducing Warren in the first 15-second clip, the piece moves on to an audio clip over diagrams and x-rays to help piece together both the technical and the emotional sides of the story. Warren explains that it was 2-3 weeks after his injury before he could completely remember anything, including his daughter. His ability to listen and comprehend speech were also affected. Here, it is important to note that Post workers focused on explaining Warren’s injuries in a way that audiences would understand; they focused on everyday activities that Warren couldn’t do, instead of specific medical details that may be too confusing for the average viewer to understand.

The overall structure of the piece is appropriate: a compelling, complete story told in under five minutes with expert advice as well as personal narration. Technical details such as appropriate names and titles are also present. Most importantly, the ending is perfectly chosen. After all of his obvious trauma, Warren finishes with, “it’s my job, and I have no problems with my job. Whether it costs me my life, or a very bad injury it doesn’t bother me at all”. Not many people can go through the same experience without bitter feelings, which is why his response is so unique. By placing this response at the end his words, actions, and emotions are highlighted one final time.

There is also an image slideshow that nicely compliments the video. Even though there are still images in the video, the gallery of 37 pictures supplements the piece by going more in depth with Warren’s story. Pictures of his home, his family, and his hobbies help build a character for the viewer to empathize with. One to two-sentence captions for each photograph help place it appropriately in Warren’s story. The photographs help show more of his daily life outside of his injury, showing the full scope of activity in his life post-injury.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


Style on the Slopes: From Aspen to West Dover

Talk of Shaun White at the Winter X Games this year may have included as much about his outfit as his snowboarding skills. White hit the SuperPipe clad in a fitted leather jacket and skin-tight jeans; a piece from his women’s clothing line for Burton. Once the tweets started flying, White said he was just showing off some of his gear that mimicked everyday streetwear.

Shaun White at Winter X Games 2011 Photo from Google Images

His newly adapted style may be the start of a revolution as Ride Snowboards, a higher-end snowboard and clothing line, modeled tight pants at this years SIA Snow Show. The fashion show displays clothing from manufacturers for next season’s retail outlets.

In the past snowboarder styles have leaned towards boxier, baggy clothing with an emphasis on self-expression through bright colors and funky designs. According to Jeanine Pesce, an editor of the fashion and design industry’s premier trend forecasting service Stylesight, the tight-fitted clothing that reveals a slimmer silhouette is showing up “a ton” among snowboarders following the 2011 Winter X Games.

But style doesn’t start with a jacket and end with snowpants; its found on gloves, boots, board designs, even hats and goggles. And it’s not just for boarders, skiers know how to rock the slopes as well.

Skier at Corinthia Park: Photo by

Corinthia, located at Mount Snow in West Dover, VT, is the East’s only all-park mountain face. Skiers can often be found doing a freestyle run on the main lift’s half pipe trail; not uncommon is the neon-colored and often baggy clothing hanging from their frames. More often than not, they’re male skiers who would rather hit jumps, rails and pipes than run through all natural terrain. However, skiers are a little bit outnumbered at Corinthia, with a ratio of about five snowboarders to one skier. Could there be substantial evidence that terrain park users are more likely to be snowboarders? Maybe, but that thought is based on two Sunday outings to West Dover in March, which can’t speak for terrain parks across the country.

The "onesie": Photo from Google Images

The evolution of ski wear has been interesting to watch, as one-piece bright colored suits made their way to glittery belts and rediculous faux-fur headbands in the 80s, a style that seems to be creeping back within the older population of both male and female skiers. Snowboarding was rare during this period of time, which makes it difficult to conclude whether or not snowboarders would have rocked the same outfit. However, there has been plenty of time in the past five years to see if the onesie comeback finds its way to snowboarders. Speaking only from personal observation, boarders have never embraced the onesie fasion.

Skier at Corinthia Park: Photo by

The past 10-15 years has seen a new era building momentum; one that has been dominant in groups under the age of 30. It would be difficult to separate skiers and snowboarders in this group, if only because styles and high-fashion can be worn and embraced by all on the mountain. According to this year’s SIA Snow Show, last year’s plaids and in-your-face blues, limes and purples are being left behind for more subdued colors like red-wine, creme, banana yellow and mauve. Cooler colors can be found in turquoise, cobalt and navy blue.

Check out the video below to see what one skier and snowboarder have to say about self-expression through clothing at Mount Snow in West Dover, VT.

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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Are Oil Prices Reaching a State of Emergency?

Political instability and unrest in the Middle East has and will continue to play a major role in rising gasoline prices. Pump prices have risen by an average of 33 cents across the United States in the past two weeks, and future uprisings in Arab nations could mean serious trouble for a society dependent on oil.

Since protests and chaos began in Libya, the world’s 12th largest oil-exporter, the country’s normal oil production of 1.6 million barrels a day has dropped by almost two-thirds. Oil companies and even a Wall Street Bank have stopped trading crude with Libya in response to sanctions against the country.

But if Libya is the 12th-largest exporter, what will happen if turmoil reaches Saudi Arabia? Peter Beutel of energy risk management firm Cameron Hanover says of Saudi Arabia, “If anything happens there, we’re talking about prices going to some number that’s unthinkable.”

There have been a number of small uprisings in the Eastern Province where the majority of the country’s crude is located. A ‘Day of Rage’ is planned for March 11 amidst threats from authorities that any protests, no matter how peaceful, are banned throughout the nation.

At $105 per barrel, oil prices are up 29% from a year ago, and Democratic lawmakers have begun to urge President Obama to tap into our nation’s 727 million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to fight short-term spikes in oil prices. The reserve translates into 60 days of total U.S. oil imports, however some argue whether the current situation constitues a “severe energy supply interruption”, which is what the reserve was established for under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a “severe energy supply interruption is defined as one which 1) “is, or is likely to be, of significant scope and duration, and of an emergency nature”; 2) “may cause major adverse impact on national safety or the national economy” (including a spike in oil prices); and 3) “results, or is likely to result, from an interruption in the supply of imported petroleum products, or from sabotage or an act of God.”

On Monday, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said of the Obama administration, “the issue of the reserve is one we’re considering.” He went on to add that while everyone acknowledges the uncertainty in the Middle East, tapping into the reserve is something that has only been done in very rare occasions.

Watch the following PBS News Hour video to hear what experts have to say on tapping into the SPR. 

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized


UMass Speaks for Change

If you had the power to change anything at UMass Amherst, what would it be? This is the question Jackie Chambers and I posed to several students found in the Campus Center and the W.E.B. Dubois Library last Tuesday, just in time for next week’s elections.

Chantel James is a junior biology major who believes that our university should focus on diversifying on-campus housing to in an attempt to bring students together in a tighter knit community. A move such as this would promote cross-cultural interactions for students entering college, which is a critical learning point in their academic careers.

Junior presidential candidate Yevin Roh is campaigning for a student-centric approach that focuses on embracing, not just accepting, cultural diversity across campus. An election article in yesterday’s Daily Collegian quoted Roh saying “I hope to bring about awareness to underrepresented students, and work on student issues to make UMass more affordable, accessible, and accountable to every single student”.

Alex Hindmarsh, a senior majoring in management, wishes the university would provide a more adequate busing system to and from the Mullins Center for athletic events. Southwest is the only residential living area within a ten-minute walk of games while Sylvan, Northeast, Central and Orchard Hill are about a 20-25 minute walk.

Jordyn Schneweiss, a junior majoring in environmental science, feels that the UMass meal plan system should be restructured. Current meal plans do not allow swipes to carry over from one semester to another and each swipe costs $9-$15 depending on whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Schneweiss is happy to hear that junior presidential candidate David Robertson has made it his priority to change the meal plan system if he wins the student vote. The self-proclaimed “Meal Plan Guy” hopes to work with Dining Services to introduce a dining dollars-based system or a roll-over swipe plan.

Students and candidates alike won’t have to wait long to see if their calls for change will be answered. From March 8-10 the Student Government Association will be holding a general election for next year’s President, Student Trustee, and Area Government Officers; presenting ample opportunities for students to get out and vote to see the changes they demand.

Votes can be casted in person at the Campus Center or online through the UMass Campus Pulse SGA page. Don’t know enough about the candidates to place an educated vote? Go to the “SGA President and Student Trustee Debate”, which will be held March 1 from 7-9:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


Websites: Junk or Gem?

You should always analyze the contents of a site before accepting its information as factual. The internet allows virtually any user to share whatever information they please whether fact or fiction. With such easy entry to publishing it is important to decipher an authoritative website from a mess of junk. The following is an analysis of five websites that focus on the era of the 60s.

The Lone Star College website American Cultural History from 1960-1969 appears to be an authoritative site. The second paragraph begins with “The purpose of this web and library guide is to help the user gain a broad understanding and appreciation for the culture and history of the 1960s”, leaving no confusion as to what the site is all about. At the bottom of the page, Susan Goodwin and Becky Bradley are identified as the web page writers who last updated the site in July of 2010. Their names are also linked to their e-mail accounts, which allows the reader to contact them if necessary. The site begins with a brief write up for the decade and statistical information regarding population size, unemployment rate, national debt, average salary, etc. The body of the website includes a general discussion of categories such as art, literature, education, fashion, historic events, technology, music, film, and sports is included with many links to other websites as well as book suggestions for more information.

The website A Trip Through the Sixties does not appear to be a very authoritative voice, especially because there is no identified author. You have to search through the home page to read that is an anti-war free speech site that allows any registered member to submit articles, videos, pictures, etc. From the articles I found the writers do not include links to support their information or provide alternative sources. It appears to be more of a recreational, interactive site for members than an informational website on the 60s era.

While The Almost Great Society was better than, it is not as authoritative as it should be. Stanley Schultz is identified as the author of the website, which includes lecture notes from his history class at the University of Wisconsin. The text itself is grammatically correct and appears to be intellectually written but there is no linking out within the body of the site. Two of the four links at the end of the lecture notes are broken, while the fourth does not appear to be an authoritative site in itself (no author identified, no evidence or record of using outside sources, etc). Also, the page copyright is 2006 and recent updates are not identified.

The Psychedelic ‘60s website is an older page design, but it does not render itself to be a bad website because of its age. I say this because the body text found within each category (foreward, introduction, 19thC Precursors) does not include links to other sites or sources. However, the Special Collections Department at the University of Virginia Library is identified as the primary source for the website which was last updated in December of 2009. The foreward link gives an introduction to the website and goes on to identify two literary collections as the sources of information for the creation of the website. Each category has pictures identifying the sources of information.

The Sixties Project is an authoritative website that allows the reader to dive into the history of the 60s as a ‘sixties survivor’, a ‘casual surfer’, or a ‘scholar’. While the site isn’t eye-catching and the design looks outdated the Sixties Project link clearly identifies the sites purpose: “The Sixties Project began as a collective of humanities scholars working together on the Internet to use electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the Sixties.” Kali Tal is identified as the author from the University of Arizona and her contact information is provided. While the site does not contain in-text links the resources section of the website provides additional sources such as scholarly articles, filmographies, and primary documents.

When deciding whether or not a website contains credible information it is important to consider a few things. Remember to look for someone who is responsible for the content on the site, regardless of whether this is identified as an individual, an institution, or a company. Figure out if the site is trying to inform or persuade you and look for simple clues such as grammar and spelling. Also, check for works cited and be aware of how the links (if any) work.

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


A March for Solidarity

Today the Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine and several co-sponsoring organizations held a rally and March in Solidarity with the Egyptian People from the Haigis Mall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to the Frost Library at Amherst College. I was assigned to cover the event for my Multimedia Journalism class.

I must admit that at first I was a little wary. I arrived at the Haigis Mall around 12:45 p.m. and I saw that about half of an estimated 40 people present were participating; the other half were reporting. It was an overcast day and it had just started to drizzle. I walked by a young man passing out signs in Arabic, and when a Smith student asked what they said he replied, “I don’t know my friend made them and I can’t read Palestinian”.

Iman Almaqousi holding her sign in support of Egypt at the March for Solidarity on Feb. 5 (Photo By Rachel Roberts)

I walked around a bit and stopped to chat with several people. There were men and women, about a third were over the age of 40 and the rest were in their 20s.  I spoke to five Smith girls, three who studied at American University in Alexandria and two who studied at American University in Cairo. They all knew people back in Egypt, some who are content to wait out the last 8 months of Mubarak’s presidency and others who are in the heart of the protest for him to step down immediately.

By 1 p.m. the crowd had doubled and lots of people had signs, flags, and even a few megaphones. As the group began to walk towards Massachusetts Avenue they went through nine pre-written chants, the most popular of which was “No justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East”.

I recognized a girl from my Press and the Third World class last semester. Her name is Rahmah Pauzi and she is a junior journalism major on government scholarship from Malaysia. She asked me if I had ever been to a protest before and I said I hadn’t really, aside from taking a few pictures and a video of Egyptian-American Protestors in front of the White House last weekend. She described to me a few of the protests she had been to in her lifetime. Malaysia went through reformation in 1999, so she was seeing large protests by the time she was ten.

We walked down Mass. Ave and continued along North Pleasant St. into the center of Amherst. As Rahmah and I began talking about Egypt’s struggle for democracy she said, “For me as an outsider, I know how someone superior dictates to you what is right and what is wrong”. I just can’t imagine living in a country without freedom.

Junior UMass Journalist Rahmah Pauzi holds up her "Solidarity with the people of Egypt" sign at Saturdays March (Photo By Michelle Williams)

She continued by explaining to me that as much as the United States may want to make things right, this is a fight for the Eygptian people. It’s their revolution–not ours–to fight.

Others at the event were angry with the annual $1.3 billion in military aid that is given to Egypt from the United States and believed that general awareness of oppression crimes in Egypt were clouded because Egypt is considered a strong ally for the U.S. in the Middle East.

The crowd marching along North Pleasant St. towards Frost Library at Amherst College (Photo By Rachel Roberts)

Once we arrived at the steps of the Frost Library the rally was in full swing. The group had chanted nearly the entire way and the energy was apparent as people packed in elbow-to-elbow. Though I could be awful at approximating crowd sizes, I would guess there were at least 200 people waiting to hear the seven speakers.

The second speaker was Dooler Campbell, a member of Solidarity Bridge who went abroad to study Arabic at American University in Cairo. When she was there, anyone who asked about Mubarak would respond, “we can’t talk about that here, there are people around”. She spoke of the legitimate fear Egyptians had under Mubarak’s Emergency Law, which allows the police to arrest people for any reason at any time and hold them indefinitely. Freedom of expression and assembly was limited at best.

In the end, the cold-to-the-bone rain didn’t put a damper on the rally; it charged the atmosphere. By the end of her speech Dooler Campbell declared “…the fact that Egyptians now are not afraid, are not afraid to speak out against the government…that’s their victory. They’ve already won because they’re no longer afraid.”

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Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Uncategorized