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Amidst the ongoing debate about political correctness on college campuses, there has been a parallel debate about the use of trigger warnings. Trigger warnings arose in the last decade on feminist websites as a way to warn sexual assault survivors of material which could potentially cause them undue stress because of to their own experiences. Recently, its use has spread to universities, where proponents believe it should be utilized to ensure that potentially harmful material or imagery is foreshadowed by notes of caution. In some courses, it has been taken further, with the proposed elimination of literature which contain triggers from syllabi. The ideological underpinnings of both sides of the issue, be it the importance of free speech or a student’s right to a safe educational environment, can be debated endlessly. However, an important question behind the use of trigger warnings should be whether or not they work — and they don’t.
Scientific research is important as both an element of the educational process at American universities and an engine for innovation and economic growth. Despite the key role scientific research plays in our country, its federal funding has been slightly slipping for decades, falling from 10 percent at the height of the space race to only three percent in 2015. As federal financing dries up, our country will have to find alternative funding sources to sustain essential research. One option which should be explored is the formation of partnerships between corporations and universities, as each party stands to gain from the resources and expertise of the other.
When a degree costs as much as it does now, it’s important to make sure students are getting their money’s worth. Yet, recent evidence suggests U.S. universities are not preparing their students for life in the workforce. In today’s economy, a college degree is no longer sufficient for success. In fact, a recent study found a disturbing discrepancy between the skills valued by employers and a student’s assessments of their own workforce readiness. This study demonstrated that while students graduate feeling confident in their own readiness, employers sense weakness in “soft skills,” such as leadership and organization. This problem demands institutions of higher education to adapt and meet a changing economic environment.
Opinion viewpoint writer Charlotte Lawson recently penned an article arguing against granting Echols scholars exemptions from the area requirements in the College. She makes the case that relieving Echols scholars of the responsibility for area requirements betrays the intent of a liberal arts education. While well intended, this argument misses the mark on the purpose of the Echols program and the benefits it delivers to students. Instead of constraining students, it gives them freedom to explore their intellectual interests from the start of their college experience.
President Donald Trump has never been shy about his views on the legitimacy of climate change, labeling it a fraud and an invention by the Chinese. Now that he’s firmly planted in the White House, it’s clear not only have his views remained unchanged, but he is intent on applying them toward budgetary decisions. His budget planning has revealed his intent to cut huge sums from agencies at the forefront of climate change research, a move which will have dangerous consequences. To help soften the blow, the University community and colleges nationwide must be prepared to take the burden of climate research.
The ongoing scandal concerning the content of Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy’s twitter account has entered a new phase. Earlier this week Jason Kessler, the man who uncovered the tweets that precipitated the scandal, announced he is heading a movement to petition the courts to eject Bellamy from office. A cursory glance at Bellamy’s tweets shows why Kessler may be justified in making such a move. The collection includes virulently racist and homophobic material, as well as tweets which appear to endorse rape. However, any move to dismiss our Vice Mayor based on just these remarks is premature and ignores his evolving worldview. Since the petition has to be signed by only 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in Bellamy’s last election, this move could allow a vocal minority to usurp a decision that rightfully belongs to the citizens of Charlottesville.
President Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S. has generated widespread blowback from protesters around the globe. As part of this resistance, thousands of professors and academics recently signed on to a petition for an academic boycott of conferences held in the United States, supposedly in solidarity with individuals affected by Trump’s executive decision. The justification for such a drastic move is not unreasonable. The ban has driven a hard barrier through what were open borders, leaving some unable to enter the country and other’s unwilling to leave for fear that they will not be able to return. However, I feel that the possible benefits to be accrued from the boycott are both limited in scope and highly doubtful in their likelihood of fruition.
James Berg, the editor-in-chief of Science, recently voiced concern about what he sees as a “crisis in public trust in science,” the rejection of scientific findings by large parts of the public. This view is supported by public opinion data that reveals a widening divide between the views of scientists and the general public — most drastically on issues like global warming, vaccination, and the safety of genetically modified foods. Survey data dating from 1974 through 2010 also revealed public trust in scientists has been decreasing despite rising education levels.
It’s widely known that mental health is a serious problem on campuses, the scale of which is astounding. This issue also extends beyond colleges, as the American Counseling Association demonstrated when it found that 40 million Americans aged 18 and above suffer from an anxiety disorder. The prevalence of this issue makes it important we find effective tools to fix it. One approach is to strengthen and publicize resources available for students dealing with mental health problems, but this is just part of the problem. A more difficult problem is how to ensure that people receive treatment.
This September the state of Rhode Island made an important step toward decreasing the financial weight of a college education when it announced the Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative, a program that encourages professors and students to make use of open textbooks. These texts are written by faculty members from across the country and made freely available through online platforms. For the seven Rhode Island colleges that signed up, the program is expected to save students $5 million or more in the next five years.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently came under fire for his unilateral move to cut funding to the state’s universities. While he was ultimately unsuccessful in this attempt, he’s not the only politician to see potential for cutbacks in higher education budgets. Increasingly, state governments have scaled back their financial commitments to public universities as a way to balance rising costs in other areas. The Lincoln Project recently found that from 2008 to 2013, top public research universities saw their financial support from states reduced by almost 30 percent.
This past week, the House Ways and Means Committee began an investigation into the surprising size of university endowments. These funds have reached a collective $500 billion, raising the question of how institutions in possession of such incredible assets still find it necessary to charge so much for the education they provide. Indeed, some congressmen have promoted legislation stating that Universities with particularly large endowments should devote a fixed share of said endowments to offset student costs. Of particular concern to lawmakers is the possibility that this wealth accumulated in part through tax exemption is not being used to better the education of students.
For the prospective doctors who make up a significant portion of the University population, one of the most formidable obstacles on the road to medical school is the Medical College Admissions Test, or the MCAT. This grueling seven-and-a-half hour long exam, split into four sections of 95 minutes each, is one of the key factors in determining whether a student will move one step closer to being a doctor or if they will see their dreams, and future career, wither away.
A little over a week ago The Cavalier Daily’s editorial board wrote an article decrying the University of California’s policy of admitting out-of-state students less qualified than in-state students. Even if this were done to make up for budget woes resulting from cuts in funding, they write, the motives for the change should have been made clear to state residents. They are largely correct in this assessment; state universities have a commitment to the state, and in California it appears that commitment may not have been upheld. However, while the universities themselves may take the majority of the blame for this action, a large portion of the guilt should also be assigned to state governments, as cuts to funding in higher education have forced universities to make up the shortfalls with other revenue streams.
In academia, “publish or perish” is a maxim to live by. As new PhD students spill into the workplace every year, the job hunt becomes a desperate rush for work where your name on a research paper is one of the best weapons you can have. Academic research has long been one of the primary goals of universities and has been the source of incredible scientific and social breakthroughs that have altered the course of the world and changed the lives of billions.
Last week Viewpoint writer Brandon Brooks published an article calling for the removal of a local statue of George Rogers Clark, a resident of Charlottesville and soldier in the American Revolutionary War. Brooks argues the role Clark played in the expansion of America into lands previously held by Native Americans amounts to a celebration of this genocide and a slap in the face to any minority who sees it. As Brooks notes, this statue is not the first to come under scrutiny for its portrayal of Native Americans, and it will likely not be the last. However, Clark’s contributions to the Revolutionary War make him worthy of recognition despite the violence in his legacy.
One of the foremost concerns of University students is a lack of access to academic and career advising. Though it’s not the most noticeable aspect of University life, advising plays an important role in shaping a student’s experience at the University, as advisors guide students towards their areas of interest and ensure students understand the requirements and prerequisites involved in their fields. With thousands of classes in hundreds of departments available, the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. To help guide these students, the University should expand and publicize its online resources and peer advising programs, which would give students access to a wealth of information and advice to guide them through their time here.
Mental health is a growing issue nationwide and in our University community. In fact, a 2013 survey found that almost a third of college students had experienced depression so severe it interfered with their ability to function. Looking at these statistics, the conclusion can be drawn that as a nation and particularly as a community we should seriously consider whether we are doing our best to inform and treat our peers with mental disorders. At the University, given the tragic suicides we’ve seen in the last few semesters, we need to step back and reorient the ways University counseling services and our student body think about and diagnose mental illness.
As Americans, we take pride in our freedoms. But the patriotic moniker “Land of the Free” rings hollow when we find America has the second highest per capita rate of imprisonment in the world and holds a quarter of the world’s prison population. Prisons still only house a small portion of the population, but the disproportionate representation of African-Americans and other minorities behind bars is a major cause of the social and racial tension we are currently seeing.
The issue of climate change, now omnipresent on the national political stage, made a surprising appearance at the Lighting of the Lawn in the form of a brightly-lit sign reading “DIVEST UVA.” Divestment, a political and financial tool most widely known for its usage against the South African apartheid regime, has recently been adopted as a weapon in the fight against climate change. A consortium of businesses, individuals and universities worth a combined $2.6 trillion have pledged to withdraw their assets from fossil fuel companies. Stanford University recently decided to withdraw its investments in fossil fuels, and at Harvard members of the student body conducted a well-publicized but ultimately unsuccessful battle for Harvard’s endowment to do the same.