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SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

by Kara Coleman

The Web was abuzz last month with talk of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Most people were probably aware that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out in protest on January 18th but what is SOPA and why should it matter to the average American? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stop online piracy, right? It depends.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) authored SOPA and introduced it to the House in October 2011. (The bill’s complete title is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” -H.R. 3261.) While protecting ideas that belong to the States from plagiarism by people outside the U.S. jurisdiction certainly sounds like a noble cause, dealing with the Web is a tricky demographic: If SOPA comes into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to seek court orders against sites generated in foreign countries that they believe are violating copyright laws and American sites would no longer even be allowed to conduct business with or be linked to these sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America is a proponent of the bill, citing protection of creative ideas. Other supporters of SOPA say that it will help the pharmaceutical industry in America by preventing counterfeit drugs from being shipped in inexpensively from other countries. Opponents of the bill fear that their First Amendment rights are being encroached upon, as user-generated sites would likely feel the biggest sting. If a small minority of users violated copyright laws, would sites like YouTube or Flickr be shut down for everyone?

Two days after the online blackout/protest, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) announced that the decision to consider SOPA was being postponed due to the negative response from the sites who protested and the citizens who supported them for doing so. Is this the last we will hear of SOPA or is it set to be an ongoing battle? And finally, how would SOPA affect college students? While most professors don’t consider Wikipedia to be a valid source of information to cite on a research paper, it does give students a good overview of a topic and provide valuable links to scholarly websites that would be good resources. Social networking sites could be affected, too...need I say more? SOPA is not just talk that will stay on Capitol Hill – it could potentially change the way Americans use (or don’t use) the Internet forever.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Hearst Lawsuit Holds Unpaid Internships in the Balance

by Angela Andaloro

College students are always being reminded of the importance of internships. Anyone who has taken a serious look into what’s out there knows that many of the internships offered are unpaid and though students may receive college credit or a stipend, it’s rare that they are actually paid hourly wages. While many students accept these conditions for the opportunity to break into their chosen industry, one former intern is taking a stand.

From August to December 2011, Xuedan "Diana" Wang was an intern at Harper’s Bazaar and is now suing the magazine’s publisher, Hearst Corporation, for improper compensation for her internship in which she was working anywhere from 40 to 55 hours a week. Her lawyers believe that Wang is among many interns who are working for an opportunity and being taken advantage of because if these interns were not doing the work they do, companies would be forced to hire someone to do the work. They reason that interns are not only losing out on money by working under these practices but benefits including Social Security contributions, the ability to collect unemployment and workers' compensation as well. Wang’s claims are grabbing the attention of many as her lawyers are looking to turn her case into a class action lawsuit. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit states that “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”

So what does this mean for unpaid internships nationwide? Will employers cave under pressure and start paying interns for their work? It’s hard to say at this stage but the fact is that many employers hire interns to provide a learning experience for students and because they cannot afford to hire entry-level employees to do that work. This could lead to a decrease in the number of internship opportunities available to students, making them more coveted and prestigious positions when attained. The qualifications to be hired for an internship would be higher than ever. Whether this would be a good thing for students or a bad thing depends on a number of factors. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Respecting the Beliefs of Others

by Radha Jhatakia

No two people are alike and neither are their beliefs. People have similarities and differences, grow up in different environments and have diverse experiences which shape their beliefs; when we are in college, people with diverse beliefs are brought together and thus students must be tolerant and respectful of the beliefs of others. It is not right to ridicule the beliefs of others or to impress our own beliefs upon them.

In college, people will have many different issues they are passionate about and we will take classes with these students and interact with them on a daily basis throughout our time in school. People will practice and believe in whatever is best for them and no one has the right to dictate otherwise. We may not believe in another religion over our own but does that make someone else’s lesser? No, it does not and as citizens of a country where freedom is valued, people must respect that. People must be tolerant of is sexuality; homosexuality may not be your orientation but your beliefs should not cause others to suffer. Whether you believe the same or not isn't the issue and this mindset is especially useful when living on campus for the first time: Your roommate or neighbor could be 100-percent your opposite but respect for their beliefs and lifestyle will make for a more comfortable living arrangement and maybe even a lasting friendship.

In a time when the world is at odds and there are wars over petty issues, respecting beliefs of others is more important than ever. Can you imagine how many conflicts would end tomorrow if those fighting simply followed this advice? Argue for what you believe in – everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean you have the right to disrespect it. Be respectful of those around you and their beliefs – sometimes it’s all we have.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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Should You Commute to College?

February 24, 2012

Should You Commute to College?

by Kara Coleman

Traditionally, most college students live in dorms or apartments on or near their campuses to get the full “college experience.” But before you sign that rental agreement, you might want to consider living at home and commuting to school.

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical college student – eating Ramen noodles for every meal and taking out student loans to pay for books and tuition – but that doesn’t have to be you! My goal is to graduate from college debt-free so I live at home with my parents and commute to a university about 30 minutes away. Because I live at home, I am able to save myself rent and utility expenses and use the money I earn from my job to pay cash for my tuition and books. Some students prefer the feeling of independence that comes with living on your own (I mean, if you live in your parents’ house, you live by their rules!) but not taking out student loans will mean financial freedom after I graduate and get a real job.

The downside to living so far off-campus is that I’m not as connected to events and happenings at school as the students who live there are. It’s not always easy to make it to meetings and events when commuting from the next county but by no means does it deprive me of the college experience: I still attend football games, plays and seminars at my university, and hang out with friends between classes.

Is living home and commuting right for you? While it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s definitely an option that I encourage students to consider while making housing plans for the upcoming school year.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

by Alexis Mattera

There could be a 15-page research paper deadline, a monster exam and an internship shift tomorrow but if you think a college student isn’t going to take even a few minutes to destress or have a laugh, you’re crazy. My go-tos were Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Snood and UCTV but today, it’s all about college-centric memes.

According to Time (and Richard Dawkins), a meme is essentially an idea that replicates and evolves through imitation – a process the Internet makes almost too easy. Since October, schools like Florida International University, McGill, Appalachian State, UT, Duke, Northwestern and BU have all jumped aboard the meme train and the viral school spirit shows no sign of slowing: More student-created takes on Success Kid, Uber Frosh and others keep popping up on Facebook every day.

Have you caught college meme fever or do you think the meme trend has already worn out its welcome?


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all '80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

Bay Area Retail Leadership Center Helps Students Learn from, Network with Professionals

February 28, 2012

BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

by Radha Jhatakia

One of the best resources that college can offer you (besides an education, of course) is the opportunity to find employment after graduation. There are programs dedicated to helping students in different career fields and at SJSU, one of these opportunities comes with the Bay Area Retail Leadership Center, or BARC.

BARC consists of SJSU students and faculty who have partnered up with those in the retail industry. Currently, the list of partners includes Target, Walgreens, Kohl's, Verizon Wireless, Ross, Nike and Walmart and students are able to interact with professionals at these companies and gain insight to what working for a retail corporation will be like while networking and getting potential job offers.

BARC offers a study tour during which students travel to different headquarters and main offices of these companies – an advantageous experience that happens only twice a year. Apart from this, BARC hosts conferences in which speakers present on different aspects of how to make it to the retail industry; internships are also offered. Just like with any networking opportunity, though, it is up to the student to make the most of these prospects in the end.

If there is a program like BARC at your college, take advantage of it – there are so many unexplored opportunities! – but if a program like this doesn’t exist, speak with advisers and faculty to start one! It will be a great chance for you to launch a program that will not only help many individuals but will allow you to gain work experience and contacts in the professional world as well.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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UVA Students Go On Hunger Strike for Higher Wages

by Suada Kolovic

After a decade of dialogue with administration, marches, rallies and petitions, the Living Wage Campaign decided enough was enough: The student group that has pushed for higher pay for low-level employees at the University of Virginia (UVA) is entering the 11th day of a hunger strike with more than a dozen students continuing their protest.

Organizers are demanding UVA pay its employees at least $13 an hour with benefits and wages that are indexed to inflation. “Our university seeks to distinguish itself as a caring community and prides itself on traditions of honor and student self-governance. However, in our ‘caring community,’ hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25 an hour while six out of the top ten highest paid state employees in Virginia hold administrative positions at the university,” wrote Joseph Williams, a hunger striker and football player at UVA, on Michael Moore’s website. On Monday, protestors met with UVA President Teresa Sullivan and other officials but declared it unsuccessful and said they would remain on a hunger strike until their demands were met. University officials insist they have no say over how much contractors pay their employees. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the extreme strategies the protestors are taking? Do you support their efforts? Would you participate in a hunger strike for a cause you believed in?


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From Hollywood to Harvard: Celebrities and College

by Angela Andaloro

When we think of celebrities, we think of polished perfection on the red carpet, wild escapades and overall lives of luxury. What we don’t really think of are celebrities sitting in lecture halls, doing lab work or writing research papers but the mentions of celebrities enrolling in college have increased greatly within the last 10 years. While it’s always positive for someone to continue their education and improve themselves, are celebrities really doing that?

Recently, many young actors and actresses have begun attending college. It seems, however, that their college careers aren’t being taken very seriously – by themselves or others. One such celebrity is Emma Roberts. Roberts began attending Sarah Lawrence College this past fall but after just one semester, she has deferred her studies due to work commitments. Even while she was in school, Roberts was known to miss class, once admitting at a fashion show, “I ditched class to come to this show, and that's probably bad.” How easy would withdrawing from school mid-semester be for a regular college student? What would the limitations be? It’s unlikely these factors existed for Roberts.

Do the Hollywood elite get special treatment in the world of higher education? It certainly seems like it. Perhaps the most interesting case of celebrity favoritism is that involving James Franco and his NYU attendance. A professor at the university claims he was fired, in part because he gave Franco a D in his class after missing 12 of the 14 sessions. The professor’s accusations were shocking, with claims including Franco bribing professors by hiring them to write, direct and even appear in his films. He told the New York Post that “The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco” despite his ridiculous superstar behavior.

Not all celebrities treat their college careers as cavalierly. Natalie Portman is one celebrity who put has always put her education first, not attending the premiere of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" to study for her high school finals and, later, pausing her career to attend Harvard. She once said, “I don’t care if it ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Perhaps young Hollywood should follow her example and do the same: She has a college degree AND an Oscar, after all.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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