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Letters to the Editor 12/5
Published 12/5/2011
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CSHAC seeking to cut health benefits for grad assistants


Substantive reductions for benefits to graduate assistants’ health care are being considered by the Counseling and Student Health Advisory Committee (CSHAC) in an effort to deal with an expected $264 per student increase in costs. CSHAC said that this increase in cost is a result of changes necessary to comply with the Affordable Health Care Act at our GPSA Senate meeting on Nov. 28. Benefit reductions could include an increase in deductibles, complete removal of dental and vision coverage, raising the co-pay rates, lowering the maximum coverage or a number of other possible changes.

Unfortunately, the CSHAC has approached this issue with little or no interest in the opinions and concerns of the students, their spouses and children, who this will affect. In fact, a representative at the GPSA meeting said that the CSHAC felt it would be a “waste of time” to conduct a survey to find out what graduate assistants' thoughts, opinions and preferences were on these changes.

More disturbing, the CSHAC appeared to be pursuing a less-than-transparent process at best, and an outright effort to thwart discussion or knowledge of these changes at worst. Specifically, the CSHAC only shared this information at the final GPSA Senate meeting of the semester, giving graduate student representatives zero time to communicate with their constituents before a decision is to be made. The CSHAC representative briefly showed the GPSA Senate “confidential” documents detailing benefit reducing options, but was instructed that she was not allowed to distribute these documents. As senators representing graduate students who will be significantly affected by these cuts, we feel a responsibility to inform those we represent.

The only chance for graduate assistants to have input on this matter will be this Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at the BKA conference room on the ground floor of the Health and Wellness Center. If you are a graduate assistant concerned about your health care or that of your peers, or are concerned with the less-than-democratic process seemingly embraced by the CSHAC, please attend this meeting. It is the only chance we have to share our concerns with the CSHAC. And apparently lunch is always provided.

Bekah Torcasso and Nathan Levans
GPSA Senate representatives
Dept. of Sociology

Occupy movement has a clear goal in mind for itself


Derek Harrison’s opinion column published on Dec. 2 is misinformed. By focusing on the small turnout in Occupy Spokane instead of the tens of thousands that have gathered in New York, Seattle or Oakland, he ignores the political and social implications of the nationwide Occupy movement. He dismisses it as an “easy target for conservatives,” furthering the misguided perception that Occupy is about a single ideology.

Occupy has been criticized for having no clear message, which is simply not true. At its core, Occupy is a leaderless resistance against the greed and corruption of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, who own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. To limit corporate influence on government, Occupy’s main demands are: end corporate personhood, limit election campaign contributions and spending, increase taxes on the rich but not the middle class and prosecute the banks that led us into this economic recession. Regardless of your political beliefs, I think you will find these goals are necessary and achievable.

Occupy has already spawned legislation, including the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 and the OCCUPY Amendment. I urge you to research these issues to see how much they apply to you. Then start your own protest against corporate dominance by shopping local, putting your money in a credit union and voting corrupt officials out of office.

It is up to our generation to fix America’s failed political system, and we can only do that through education and collaborative action. We are the 99 percent.

Scott Bonjukian
junior, architecture

The Daily Show can be an important learning tool


While I agree with some of the conclusions Brian Sørensen made in his column, “Let This Be A Lesson To You,” I have some significant reservations. He states that “while showing The Daily Show in a politic science class can hardly be justified as a learning tool, the outrage about its content is laughable.” I agree, at least insofar as he concludes that the outrage that ensued in this example is clearly unjustified. However, the facility of showing video clips of The Daily Show can hardly be so easily dismissed. 

According to recent studies, people aged 18 to 25 derive the vast majority of their news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. However paradoxical that might seem, it appears that these parodies remain both factually informative and useful to a high percentage of viewers in this demographic. Since that is the case, it is entirely prudent to use clips of these media sources to illustrate not just the absurdity that Sørensen concludes exists about the politicization of intellectual inquiry within political science courses, but also the changing nature of media consumption habits by audiences who commonly populate the seats of those courses. 

I would also contend that to conclude that “It is nearly impossible to report political events and history without letting one’s own political affiliation affect how those events are retold” is easily construed as insulting to the ability of faculty whose responsibility it is to educate students in as professionally responsible and collegial a way as possible. Such a conclusion does a disservice to the faculty who knowingly put aside their own views, to offer students a wide array of political opinions across the spectrum, in order to educate their students in critically examining the worth of arguments that differ from their own value systems.

We cannot possibly conclude with any appearance of propriety that showing these examples in high school was a “poor decision,” but rather the ensuing attention only illustrates the insidious evaporation of academic freedoms for teachers at the secondary level in the U.S. That is where the more important attention and critiques should be targeted.

Michael Johnson Jr.
Ronald McNair Fellow, American Studies Dept.

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