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University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

New Course Takes Aim at Camera Phone Composition, Ethics

March 3, 2011

University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

by Alexis Mattera

Cameras are standard features on most cell phones nowadays and for every user that emulates Ansel Adams, there’s another that channels Peeping Tom. Though this outlook has caused more than a few scandals, many people still play fast and loose with the shutter button...and associated photo-sharing apps like Flickr and Facebook that make posting images all too simple. When will they learn? Sooner than later if Immaculata University has its way.

The suburban Philadelphia school is offering a new cell phone photography class focusing on both the quality of the images and the ethical responsibilities that come with taking and publishing them. Communications professor Sean Flannery and professional photographer Hunter Martin will split teaching duties; the latter will handle topics like composition, lighting and editing while the former will cover voyeurism, ethics, citizen journalism and the difference between public and private spaces in hopes that students will realize "the full gravity of what's at their fingertips and the power they can have."

The idea for such a college course isn’t novel – NYU has been offering a cell phone video class every fall since 2009 – but Immaculata officials believe their offering is different because of its ethical angle. "I think it's part of our responsibility ... to teach kids how to use this tool," Flannery said, adding that it's no different from teaching proper use of a video camera in a broadcast news class.

If there are any Immaculata students reading that are enrolled in this class, we’d love to hear about your experiences thus far. Other students, would you take a class like this if your school offered it? Why or why not?


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The Great Homework Debate

Cornell Could Ban Surprise Assignments to Improve Mental Health

March 4, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

by Alexis Mattera

You have just one class left until a full week off from textbooks, Scantron sheets and yawn-loathing instructors. Then, it happens: Your professor goes off the syllabus and announces a new project – a lengthy research paper, to be precise – to be handed in during the first class after break. That thought bubble above your head filled with notions of sleeping until noon and emptying your DVR goes kerplewy and your waning stress level takes a leap into finals week territory. Ouch...but that scenario may no longer occur at Cornell because of a call for change from the faculty. Is it the right choice?

Cornell’s Faculty Senate is expected to vote this month on a resolution that would "strongly discourage" surprise assignments to improve the mental health of students. The resolution, said theatre professor and chair of the Faculty Senate's education-policies committee Bruce A. Levitt, would encourage faculty members to stick to their syllabi so students can better pace themselves. "The idea was not to forbid homework over break, but to make academic work over break the choice of the student," Levitt explained.

If my school had implemented this kind of resolution when I was an undergrad, I probably would have rejoiced but having been a member of a deadline-driven profession for almost six years now, it would have been a detriment. With the advent of cell phones and on-the-go e-mail access, many bosses expect their employees to remain in constant contact even when they are off the clock – something students may not realize until they begin their first job out of college. I’m not saying students shouldn’t be able to enjoy their nights, weekends and breaks but they should be aware that after college, the work needs to get done regardless of the hour.


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Arizona State Professor: ‘I’m a recovering cheater’

by Suada Kolovic

Academic dishonestly has become a rampant problem in schools across the country but the focus is usually on students, not their teachers. Are educators truly exempt from cheating? Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, an associated professor at Arizona State University, had a personal quest in finding out how common cheating is among teachers. Why? She admits she’s cheated as a teacher.

Amrein-Beardsley and Arizona State colleagues David Berliner and Sharon Rideau created an online survey – “Cheating in the First, Second and Third Degree” – to measure what types of cheating take place and to what degree cheating occurs among Arizona teachers. With responses from more than 3,000 educators, the data revealed that while cheating is common, much of it was either unintentional or what many teachers don’t consider cheating, such as leaving up wall displays of multiplications tables during tests. According the USA Today article, Amrein-Beardsley said that as a teacher, she routinely took questions from old tests and made study guides by changing numbers and details from existing outlines...which technically is cheating. "I had no clue it was wrong. I thought I was doing great," she said. Most states have regulations in place that affirms teachers are never allowed to see test questions and that only retired or practice questions are supposed to be used to prepare students.

Now, does this seem like an overly critical analysis of what cheating means? Do you think a teacher is being academically dishonest if they create a new math problem with a new answer but use the same technique to solve it as an older problem? How do you define cheating? Let us know what you think.


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USC Frat Lacks Class

Offensive Mass E-Mail Under Investigation

March 11, 2011

USC Frat Lacks Class

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Southern California recently received the largest donation in their school’s history – a staggering $200 million. Only days later, the spotlight is back on the university but this time the news isn’t good.

According to USC’s Daily Trojan, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity is facing an investigation after an offensive e-mail addressed to members was made public. The letter, designed to be the first in a weekly series called the Gullet Report, aimed to “strengthen brotherhood.” Throughout the rambling four-page e-mail the author expresses his opinions of women: “I will refer to females as ‘targets.’ They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.” He goes on to refer to unattractive women as “filth,” provided code names for women according to their nationality and warned his brothers to steer clear of “middle-eastern targets.”

Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s executive director Mitchell Wilson said in statement, “The content [of the e-mail] is contrary to everything [Kappa Sigma stands] for and we are not going to allow individuals to attempt to tarnish our name in any form or fashion.” Wilson added the fraternity was doing their best to identify the author to hold that person accountable (perhaps using research from this study). The author will likely face expulsion from the university.

While there are plenty of upstanding Greek organizations, the stereotypical fraternity lifestyle is one promoting excess in booze and babes under the guise of promoting brotherhood and academic excellence. What do you think of the latest scandal to rock a nationally-recognized fraternity?


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Beware the Ides of March...and the New GRE Format

Changes Will Be Implemented August 1st

March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March...and the New GRE Format

by Alexis Mattera

Advice to heed today: Don’t leave your house if a soothsayer warns you not to, don’t run through the Tufts quad sans clothing and don’t study for the GRE using last year’s study guides.

Beginning on August 1st, graduate students to-be will make the acquaintance of the new Graduate Record Examination (aka the GRE). For those unfamiliar, the GRE is currently computer-adaptive and adjusts the difficulty of each successive problem based on the answer given to the previous question; the new version allows students to skip questions and return to them later (the computer just modifies the difficulty of the next part at the end instead), which prevents test-takers from losing time and could ultimately lead to a better overall score. As for the content, the writing section will include two pre-selected essay prompts that will require "more focused" responses, the math section will swap out a number of geometry problems for real-world data interpretation (bonus: an on-screen calculator will be accessible) and the verbal section will feature more reading comprehension but no more antonyms and analogies. GRE scoring will range from 130 to 170 rather than 200 to 800 per section but the cost of taking the test will hold steady at $160. There will also be changes to the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), but those won’t take place until June 2012.

What do you think of the changes to the GRE? For those who have taken the current version, which format appeals more to you? For those who are preparing, do you think you'll fair better, worse or the same when these changes debut?


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UCLA Fires Back via YouTube

Administration "Appalled" By Student Rant, Posts Response in Same Forum

March 18, 2011

UCLA Fires Back via YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

One week ago, Alexandra Wallace took to YouTube to post her thoughts on her Asian UCLA classmates in the library. You can probably guess what happened after that – the junior’s rant went viral (viewed nearly 4.5 million times...and parodied), she was called a racist for her remarks and she backtracked with an apology in the Daily Bruin – but the school’s reaction was less than typical: Administrators posted a response on the same site.

Chancellor Gene D. Block called the debacle a "sad day at UCLA" and talked about how the school was "appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments" in the clip posted on Monday. Despite UCLA's disappointment in Wallace, disciplinary action has not yet been taken because the school is focusing its efforts on ensuring Wallace’s safety, as she has received numerous threatening e-mails, which are being investigated by the campus police department. Campus spokesman Phil Hampton hopes the incident will serve as a lesson about the impact of posting material to public websites. "Once you put information out there, it’s difficult to take it back," he said.

I personally applaud UCLA’s course of action thus far because the video was produced using the school’s own broadcast studio and released through channels (YouTube, Facebook and the UCLA website) favored by and accessible to all students. "If it’s a response to something that was seen by people in a new-media format, it’s important that the response be made in a new-media format," Hampton said. I agree...do you?


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Student Resigns CU Diversity Post Over Blog Entries

by Suada Kolovic

For some, blogging provides an outlet for writers to share their personal insights of the world around them; for others, it’s a platform for venting their frustrations about the opposite sex…under the safety of a pseudonym, of course. For Matthew Cucchiaro, the University of Colorado Student Government diversity director, it was the latter.

The Daily Camera reports Cucchiaro originally posted the content in question under a pseudonym in 2009 and although he says the blog entitled, “Today’s Stupid Human Beings: Women,” was “clearly satirical,” he resigned from his position on March 4. His blogs came to light courtesy of an anonymous source who sent copies to the dean of students and CU Student Government’s vice president of external affairs, Allison Foley, said although Cucchiaro didn’t break any rules, he agreed to resign.

A week after resigning, Cucchiaro has since reposted the blog on women including one that said “women are not as smart as men” to stupidhumanbeings.com. Do you think it’s fair that Cucchiaro was penalized for writing something years ago? Did his reaction – reposting the blog – justify the school’s actions? This story is anything but uncommon lately what with the UCLA girl and the controversy surrounding the USC frat still trending weeks later. The moral of the story: think before you post.


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One-Legged Wrestler Wins NCAA Championship

by Suada Kolovic

For Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles, winning the NCAA championship was the perfect ending to a perfect season: Robles, who was born without a right leg, took home the title of national NCAA wrestling champion in the 125-weight class Saturday night. He got the only takedown, in the first period of the match, and worked a pair of tilts to secure five back points.

This win completed an undefeated 36-0 senior season for Robles, though he wasn’t always such a dominator on the mat. He said early in his high school career, his skills were anything but championship-worthy. "I was a terrible wrestler, only about 90 pounds, but my mom told me God made me for a reason, and I believe that reason was for wrestling," said Robles, who was given a standing ovation on the podium by a sellout crowd of 17,687 at the Wells Fargo Center. He told USA Today that his handicap has almost become an advantage in the ring. "I have such a strong grip, and that's because of my crutches," he said.

Robles may have been born without a leg but no one would argue he has the heart of a champion. What’s next for him? According to ESPN, this was Robles’ last wrestling match but he hopes to pursue a career in motivational speaking. He said, “I wrestle because I love wrestling. But it inspires me when I get kids, even adults, who write me on Facebook or send me letters in the mail saying that I've inspired them, and they look up to me, and they're motivated to do things that other people wouldn't have thought possible."


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Robbed Victim Posts Video of Laptop Thief on YouTube

by Suada Kolovic

Getting a computer stolen could be a nightmare for a college student but for one tech-savvy Bentley University freshman, it became a viral dream come true.

Mark Bao discovered his MacBook Air had been stolen but was still able to access several of his hard drives and Web-Browsing history via an online backup service. What did he find? A thief with dance fever. In addition to several pictures of the thief, Mr. Bao found recordings of him dancing, which Mr. Bao took full advantage of and posted on YouTube that same night. “I thought it was hilarious,” Mr. Bao said of the evidence. “I couldn’t believe he didn’t reformat the hard drive or cover up his tracks. It was in plain sight.”

After getting a well-deserved chuckle at the expense of his robber, Mr. Bao notified Bentley’s campus police department and early Tuesday morning, the laptop was turned in to the campus police station. Though the alleged thief emailed Mr. Bao to apologize and requested that the video,“Don’t steal computers belonging to people who know how to use computers,” be taken down, he didn’t oblige. Mr. Bao says he doesn’t plan to press charges and intends to sell the stolen laptop – since he replaced his – and donate the proceeds to support the relief efforts in Japan. Do you think the thief had what was coming to him? Should Mr. Bao take the video down now that his laptop has been returned? Let us know what you think.


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Shooting Hoax at Ramapo College

Man Faked Shooting Attack in Effort to Get Ex-Girlfriend to Pay Up

March 25, 2011

Shooting Hoax at Ramapo College

by Suada Kolovic

We’ve all gone through breakups before, but what do you do if an ex owes you $1,000? The average Joe would probably take their case to small claims court but for one West Orange, N.J. man, that course of action just didn’t have enough pizzazz for him. Instead, he pretended he had been shot and was being held for ransom in hopes that his former flame would come to his rescue...without ever contacting the authorities. Yup, that’s definitely the wrong way to get an ex to pay up.

Twenty-three-year-old Gil D. Jaffe was arrested after he allegedly claimed he was shot at or near Ramapo College in efforts to elicit $1,000 from his ex-girlfriend, authorities said. Jaffe and Leonid Shtaygrad, 21, are accused of running the hoax. According to police, a call was placed to Jaffe’s ex-girlfriend, a 22-year-old former Ramapo student, Wednesday night saying he was shot twice in the shoulder because he owed the shooter money. Shtaygrad, posing as the shooter, then allegedly got on the phone confirming the story and told Jaffe’s ex to send ransom money. The woman called police, prompting a campus lockdown, and Mahwah officers were eventually able to identify Jaffe’s location by tracking his cell phone in West Orange. When police arrived, they found Jaffe had no gunshot wounds then arrested him for violating a restraining order by contacting his ex.

In court Thursday, Jaffe was charged with violating a restraining order, false public alarm and attempted theft by deception. His accomplice, Shtaygrad, was charged with creating false public alarm and conspiracy to attempted theft by deception. Money allegedly owed to you by your ex: $1,000. Bail: $25,000. Proving on a national level that you aren’t boyfriend material: Priceless.


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