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PEOPLE OFTEN like to see moral issues in high contrast. A simple question takes less time to answer, and often can incite a response through sheer emotion, without much need for reasoning. In this realm, few people get what they want. The most critical questions, however, rarely offer a ready answer in black and white. The recent spate of violence in Zimbabwe offers an example of a situation without heroes. Villains, however, abound in this situation.
THE UNIVERSITY'S new ranking in Yahoo! Internet Life Magazine is bound to please administrators here. After receiving a dismal 34th-place ranking last year, the University moved up to eighth place among universities and research schools in the magazine's annual survey of the most wired schools in the nation. A top-10 ranking makes a nice number to put on glossy pamphlets with generic pictures of smiling students walking on emerald-green lawns. Top-10 lists, however, should always incite suspicion, and in this case the ranking offers little information about the true quality of technology on the campus.
RECENTLY, the Pentagon published the disturbing, if not unexpected, results of a survey on the climate towards homosexuals in the military. The study, which covered 39 bases and 11 vessels, revealed not only widespread hostility towards gays but also a troubling tolerance of that attitude by officers. A problem of this kind clearly requires a response. Unfortunately, the political nature of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy will hamstring the Pentagon's response.
THOSE WHO write gun control laws hope to respond to a range of problems, not just the existence of guns. Contrary to the paranoid claims of the NRA, most people introducing gun control laws do not want to eliminate guns from society. Guns should not be taken from the hands of the people, but rather regulated so that the presence of guns does not cause so much harm.
CONTROL OVER the safety and distribution of firearms has long been one of the most central and divisive issues in American politics. Few issues combine intense rhetoric, powerful lobbying and deep constitutional implications in the way that the gun control debate has. As with many topics in political discourse, however, the debate has gotten muddled because several issues have been drawn into one intellectual battle. In reality, the question of gun control comes down to two different concerns. The first problem, a philosophical one, centers on justifying the availability of guns. The second, a practical matter which I will leave to be discussed another time, hinges on the control of the guns that we do allow.
HUNDREDS of people in the United States die from gun wounds every year. An indisputable fact such as this should by itself be enough to create strong emotions against the availability of handguns. After all, with deaths from murder and accident piling up all the time, it would be natural to expect a backlash. Yet we do not see this response. Only when a smaller tragedy occurs, such as the recent killing of a first-grade girl by her classmate, does the outcry swell. This pattern, however, is not limited to the gun debate. In all aspects of discourse, a large number of deaths do not have as much impact on public opinion as a small number.
AS PART OF THE process of applying to graduate schools, I'll have to make several visits to other universities over the next few weekends. Schools always want their prospective students to come and interview with the faculty. It gives them an opportunity to check out the applicants personally, and also allows them to show themselves off. The benefit for me is that I get to take a closer look at the schools I might be attending. The downside to these interviews, though, is that I have to actually get to the schools, and that means using puddle jumpers.
RECENT NUMBERS from polling stations have offered some hope that the trend of decreasing voter turnout will reverse itself. About 600,000 people turned out for the South Carolina primary Saturday, more than double the number who voted in 1996. Some have taken it as a sign of better things to come in terms of Americans' political activism. This response, however, is too hopeful. America's political apathy will not likely be ended in the near future.
The Messages on the Bryan Hall walkway this week have displayed some anger over Honor Committee Education School representative Jim Haley's proposal to eliminate the seriousness standard when an honor violation includes academic cheating. The mock recruitment flyers for "SSHAM" (Students Supporting Honor AdMinistration) implied that removal of the clause either reflected or would create a lynch mob mentality in honor trials. But the posters overstate the case.
THE BOUNDARY between church and state has always been subjected to constant probing and stretching. Advocates have attempted to include mandatory prayer in school curricula, place the Ten Commandments on courtroom walls, and specifically allow or ban various clubs based on religious principles.
THERE'S almost no way to avoid it. A presence pervades the dial, lingering over every channel like the odor of dirty gym socks. It's testosterone -- lots of it. That's right, the newest trend in television is also the oldest. Men are back in charge of the airwaves -- if we ever lost our grip.
WHEN THE Supreme Court of the State of Vermont ruled that the state had to grant domestic partnership or marriage rights to homosexuals, they set a flash point for a firestorm of controversy. Politicians on both sides of the line almost immediately came out with impassioned rhetoric expressing their condemnation or congratulations.
GET READY for the column of the millennium! That's right: Sparky Clarkson, longtime columnist for The Cavalier Daily, has assembled one last masterpiece to send out this dusty old millennium with a bang!
IT SEEMS that mankind consistently thinks things were better in the past. Whether arising from wist-
NOBODY should be surprised that the Inter-Fraternity Council sent a letter to Dean of Students Penny Rue last week, requesting that she open negotiations with them about moving formal rush back to the fall. Once the decision to move rush to the spring was made back in 1998, this attempt to change the situation became inevitable. The fraternities on Grounds cannot survive if formal rush remains in the spring. Unfortunately, rush probably will not be moved unless the fraternities change their nature, perhaps substantially. The fraternities will not survive unless they adapt themselves to this reality.
MOST DEBATE on the issue of whether evolution ought to be taught in the classroom tends to focus on the presumed invalidity of evolution. It's referred to as "only a theory," and proponents of teaching creationism take great pleasure in pointing out various deficiencies in the thesis. In a strange case of the pot calling the kettle black, creationists never seem to realize that their own theory has almost no scientific backing at all. Of course, they put forward all kinds of evidence for creationism. They do not, however, realize that no amount of evidence can prove the creationist thesis, because the concept of creationism is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of scientific proof. Creationism is not science, nor can it be thought of as such.
AS ONE might well expect, the Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty last week prompted an explosion of anger both here and abroad. After the treaty failed a ratification vote mainly along party lines, Democrats viciously attacked Republicans for playing politics with nuclear weapons. Internationally, most of our allies -- 26 of the 44 nuclear-capable powers have ratified it -- expressed shock and outrage that we had so readily abandoned our leadership role on nuclear issues.
THANKS TO the foot-chewing antics of Board of Visitors member Terence P. Ross, the University recently descended into a deep pit of controversy regarding the status of affirmative action. Open letters have been written, tents have been erected, vitriol has been spewed, and songs have been sung. Yet the situation that confronts the University is the same. The president and rector both are committed to continuing race preferences, but they must also admit the possibility that a legal challenge may end that policy. Such an admission does not reflect a form of paranoia. There are good reasons why an affirmative action admissions policy -- a good program -- could well be overturned in court.
BY NOW, you undoubtedly have heard the argument about a million times. It always starts the same way. You'll be hanging out with a group of people, and the subject of the impending change in millennium comes up. Perhaps it comes from a commentator on the television; perhaps someone just says something about where he's planning to go for a millennium party. Inevitably, someone interjects, "Well you know ... the new millennium doesn't really start until 2001."
AL GORE shouts. Those who regularly watch him speak have noted the tendency. His speeches have regular crescendos, a characteristic that often grates on the nerves of those who listen to him. This seems a petty point, but it's indicative of a fatal problem with both Gore and his campaign.