If you’ve followed the news at all the past 18 months, you’ve probably seen coverage of the chaos at University of California Berkeley. Once a bastion of free speech, UC Berkeley has become a house divided over the issue of censorship. The school has been at the center of controversy numerous times for challenging — often times in the form of violent protests — notable political commentators like Ben Shapiro and far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. This has caused the school to become a lightning rod for right-wing criticism.
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The political podcast — it’s a format you know well. It most commonly features a business-casual man at a desk in front of a green screen loudly monologuing into a large condenser microphone. Often the monologue will retread ideologically familiar territory like the degradation of traditional family values or the federal government’s perversion of the Constitution. Without even mentioning names, this description has probably brought someone to mind.
A beloved college tradition and complete waste of time, syllabus week is an unnecessary relic of a bygone era. For those of you who are unacquainted with the phenomenon, syllabus week is the week of class sessions at the beginning of the semester usually devoted to handing out and reviewing course syllabi. These sessions normally feature explanations of the university’s policies on attendance, grading, plagiarism, academic integrity, disability services, etc., as well as a brief explanation of the course objectives and schedule. What’s been obvious since the advent of email in 1993 is that this week-long process could be cut down to 15 minutes if anybody wanted to make the change.
Too often we instinctively respond to problems by choosing to address symptoms we can see without digging deeper to uncover the root. This is a trap that is easy to fall into when dealing with an issue as weighty and opaque as mental illness.
This week, students will return home to spend Thanksgiving with their families and, though it violates one of the holiday’s cardinal rules, politics are bound to come up. Regardless of whether the conversation is good-natured or gets a little heated, it is important to know that even armchair politics matter.
College is all about making decisions. It’s the first time most students are able to independently choose lifestyles, communities and interests. And it’s the job of the university to facilitate and encourage good decision making. You may have seen some of the education posters on campus about responsible drinking and consent. Yet, with one of the most fundamental college decisions — which classes to take — the university leaves students in the dark.
There are few things that teenagers despise more than being micromanaged — and it’s pretty clear that USC has missed the memo. From the moment a new student steps on campus, he or she is dragged by orientation leaders through various informational sessions and PSA skits before being put into a dorm under the watchful eyes of an RM. There is nothing wrong with being an orientation leader or RM, of course, but the fact that these positions exist says a lot about how the university perceives its students.
It’s not news to anybody that student loan debt has reached absurd proportions. Sitting at a cool $1.3 trillion, it exceeds the GDPs of Australia, New Zealand and Ireland combined. While the magnitude of the problem is obvious, the causes are less so. Societal pressure to attend college and overblown tuition prices both fit into the explanation of this popular narrative. However, this fails to account for another major source of the problem: bait-and-switch.
The death of a first-year USC student at an off-campus frat party in 2015 due to alcohol poisoning brought increased administrative and media scrutiny onto the campus, but between 2015 and 2016 alcohol transports doubled and fraternity alcohol violations hit a five-year high. Despite the screaming urgency of the situation, the university has primarily resorted to finger-wagging to solve the problem.