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Prospective Kansas students require higher test scores

Prospective students on the bubble will need to study more on their standardized tests after the University gets the go-ahead to toughen admissions standards.

According to the meeting agenda, the Kansas Board of Regents is expected to pass an amendment during its regular meeting on Dec. 19 to allow the University to raise the required numbers for the ACT, SAT and cumulative GPA for automatic admission.

“A student that hasn’t got his act together, and is willing to work hard junior and senior year, there’s little that students can do to raise their GPA,” said Neal Kingston, the director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. “The tests gives them a chance to show what they can do.”

Currently, in-state students can receive automatic admission if they rank in the top third of their high school class and get an ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 980, or have a 2.0 grade point average. With the change, automatic admissions will require either a 3.0 GPA with an ACT of 24 or SAT of 1090, or a 3.25 GPA with the old ACT and SAT score requirements.

“It’s a good thing because of the University’s low dropout rate,” said Holly Goodman, a senior in business administration from Paola. “It makes KU sound more credible.”

Coming out of high school, Goodman had a safe GPA and took the ACT twice: first getting a 21 and second getting a 24. But a change like this would have impacted her approach to the standardized tests.

“I just took the ACT first to see how I’d do,” Goodman said. “Then I studied for a second time. I probably would have pushed it a little bit for the tougher standards.”

Political science senior Aric Kuntz said the tougher standards are big steps, but he said the numbers seem attainable.

“I was kind of surprised for the low standards when I applied,” Kuntz said. “They just need to work at least moderately hard to reach that.”

Value of standardized tests

The ACT and SAT are the major college tests recognized by colleges and universities nationwide. But Kingston said that for most colleges and universities, GPA and other admissions materials are considered before test scores.

“Many students think it’s the most important thing,” Kingston said, referencing the ACT and SAT exams. “It’s not. It’s very different. There’s very little you can do over the last two years for GPA. People start to focus on what students can do. We think that number comes from the tests. The numbers do have weight, but studies admissions officers show that they aren’t that high.”
Kuntz doesn’t buy that explanation.

“It’s probably first GPA, then test score, then other stuff,” Kuntz said. “They’re also used for trying to get a scholarship.”

Kingston said there are differing views, but that standardized test scores are looked at more closely as the fifth condition.

“It’s more like you’re getting an extra chance,” Kingston said.

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Non-music majors fit in with KU ensembles

The timbre of the flute cadenza at the end of Symphonic Sketches from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story warmed pre-pharmacy major Connor Bowman, when the solo notes captured his ears as the KU Symphonic Orchestra (KUSO) performed it at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo.

The cadenza captured the death of Tony, the Romeo-esque protagonist in the Shakespeare-inspired musical, after he was shot when realizing his love, Maria, was still alive. Bowman, a sophomore from Lenexa, listened to this sound not from the audience, but from the stage. The sound came from his flute; it came from the principal flutist.

“I’m the only one playing, and that feeling is really cool,” said Bowman, who is also working slowly toward a music minor. “There’s a moment when it resonated throughout the hall. I just stopped to take it in: embodying death in front of the audience.”

It’s not very common to have a non-music major play a solo or sit as the leader of an instrumental section in an audition ensemble at the University. In fact, less than 10 percent of the KU audition ensembles are non-music majors.

“The audition process is the same process during the first week of class,” said David Neely, the director of orchestral activities. “Music majors are required to be in one of the ensembles, but you don’t need to be a non-music major to be a part of it. It’s a matter of passing the audition.

Neely said KUSO is a heavy practice workload and that the music and class is geared toward music majors. But auditions are blind and seating is decided by the quality of the auditions. By achieving the principal seat, Bowman said the judges thought he played the best flute audition.

“It could mean that we don’t feel the same pressure as music majors,” Bowman said. “We’re doing it for enjoyment and we do it because it’s something that we love to do.”

Band for non-majors

Sharon Toulouse, the assistant director of bands, said some music students also play in multiple ensembles with primary and secondary instruments. Band has two ensembles that are auidition-only: Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band. Those two also have blind auditions.

“We don’t care if you are a music major or not,” Toulouse said. “Even if that doesn’t work, there’s the opportunity to be in University Band,” which is a no-audition, signup ensemble that performs once every semester. Music majors only fill five to 10 percent of the University Band seats. The Kansas Marching Band is also a non-audition group.

“It’s not about what your major is, it’s about do you love playing,” Toulouse said.

Holly Good, a sophomore in chemistry from Shawnee, missed playing flute and piccolo in high school, but now plays in University Band.

“I miss playing in a group,” Good said. “This is just an hour once a week, not a big time commitment. She took University Band for no credit because to her, it was fun and it relaxed her.

“Sometimes I’m stressed out when I come in, but it takes your mind off things,” Good said. Depending on her job status and time commitments, Good said she is willing to audition for the Wind Ensemble.

Parker Riley, a freshman in computer science plays saxophone in University Band.
“I’ve played for eight years, and I wanted to keep playing,” Riley said. “I knew it just wouldn’t overload my schedule. I haven’t had to practice too much for this music. I just enjoy it.”

Non-major orchestra on horizon

Nothing is official yet, but Neely said there might be more options for non-music majors who want to join orchestra.

“One of the things we’re looking at are options for some kinds of ensembles for non-major students,” Neely said. Right now, KUSO is the only departmental orchestra ensemble.

“It would probably be good,” Bowman said. “I don’t know if it would get people to go to more lessons and things like that. But I think it’s a good idea.”

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Students control video game addictions

Final exams week is approaching, but that won’t keep college students from playing their video games, and their grades may not suffer.

College students are big players in the video game field. While many studies have linked video games to negative academic performance, upperclass students have found ways to play while maintaining other responsibilities like jobs and school.

Ali Mahmood, an electrical engineering graduate student at University of Kansas, mostly plays first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor on his Playstation 3, but he plays strategy games on his computer too.

“It’s random,” said Mahmood, who is an international student from Islamabad, Pakistan. “Sometimes I don’t play for months. If I’m playing regularly, I usually play three to four hours of days. I have intervals of when I don’t play.”

KU mathematics senior Bryan Harris currently plays Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a physical dance-stepping game, and Japanese role-playing games like Shin Megami Tensai. The Overland Park, Kan. native first started playing video games when he was in first grade. He currently plays three to four hours per day. But he said he has always been a good student, even with the hefty hours.

“In the past, I didn’t manage,” Harris said about playing five to six hours per day in his freshman year of college. “I just happened to have easy classes so I wouldn’t study for them. Now that I have two on-campus jobs and I’m taking upper-level classes, it’s gotten to the point where I haven’t played in five days.”

Video game addictions

Harris and Mahmood may be considered video game addicts by some standards. And while they say they don’t take a grade hit with it, some of their friends weren’t so lucky. Harris had a friend who would constantly skip class to play video games.
“It was his sophomore year,” Harris said. “He failed all his classes first semester and he failed almost all of them second semester. He does absolutely nothing but play video games all day. It’s people like him because he can’t manage his time.”

David Jarmolomicz, an assistant professor in applied behavioral sciences, researches addictions and associated behavioral problems. He said that video game addiction is a growing concern in the country.

“Funding is starting to come from other addictions,” Jarmolomicz said. “People are noticing it’s something that is starting to become problematic.”

While other addictions like drugs and alcohol rely on external chemicals that make them addicting, video games use the brain’s natural functions to get players to keep playing Jarmolomicz said. One of the ways you learn is by a reward system. If you do something good and feel rewarded or accomplished, your body increases dopamine production, a chemical that reinforces the desire to continue the behavior.

While dopamine production serves as a natural and beneficial function, too much can naturally cause an addiction.

“”It’s like a switch,” Jarmolomicz said. “It’s stuck in the on position. It’s a clever way of hijacking the mechanisms that were built so we can learn from and enjoy positive things. They have people who are trained in behavioral analysis that get hired for videogame companies to make the games more appealing to players.”

Perhaps a result of this natural process, Harris said his experience with video games has helped with time management. “It’ll be even more busy as a grad student,” he said.

Mahmood said his grades don’t suffer from his playing time.

“It doesn’t really interfere with my academics,” Mahmood said. “Even when I have finals, I tend to play more instead of socializing. With video games, you can play missions real quick. If you hang out with friends you tend to spend the whole night.”

But Mahmood doesn’t play video games just to pass time, it comes more naturally for him.

“I play them when I’m tired of reading books, hanging out,” Mahmood said. “For me, it’s more like a relaxation kind of a thing. It’s not like I’m waiting for some free time. It all depends on what games are out there.”

Jarmolomicz said that so far, there is no research suggesting that specific genres of videogames are more prone to addiction.

“It depends on how games are developed, and the person playing,” Jarmolomicz said. “Strategy games are set up to keep you coming back for more. In some ways sports games are socially oriented. It’s also about what the player likes.”

Treatment and finals

Harris will put his DDR sessions on hold during Finals. And he became obsessed with DDR while growing up as can be seen with his current president of the KU Dance Dance Revolution Club student organization, which organizes DDR gatherings.
“All of the members of the club have one thing in common,” Harris said. “We’re all interested in DDR. In video games.”

Video game addiction is a relatively new area, which is why it’s hard to say how to get help with the addiction.

“Unfortunately, how to treat addiction is one of the weaker sides,” Jarmolomicz said. “It’s kind of difficult to say. There’s not a lot of research on it yet. But find a way to get the video games away from yourself, strategies that remove the opportunity to play video games.”

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Navigating this site

I’m using this site to also hold my portfolio work at student media. If you want to know more about me or view my work, click on the menu items above these posts.

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Project Newsie Freedom on hold

I’ve been selected as the Editor-in-Chief for The University Daily Kansan for the summer 2012 publication term. Unfortunately I will have to suspend this project in order to concentrate on my duties there.

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Planning stage for Project Newsie Freedom and some history on U.S. college media rights

SPRING 2012: Planning stage for Project Newsie Freedom

After discussions with some of my professors at the University of Kansas, I’ve decided to make this semester a planning period where I’ll construct a process with which to proceed my investigation into student newspapers in the summer. I also will focus on Kansas college media first.

I’ll provide updates on this process and throw out some ideas. But in the meantime, I will be aggregating news about college media rights and giving some of my experiences. Today, let me present you with some history I dug up while doing a research project last summer. It’s pretty raw because it consists of excerpts from a larger paper.

Not-so-short history on College Media Rights

In the past 10 years, the number of incidents of student newspaper adviser removals, newspaper thefts, and other actions considered as attacks on student media have increased. Ocean County (N.J.) College, Le Moyne (N.Y.) College, Kansas State University, and most recently the College of DuPage (Ill.) are institutions of higher education that have hit a student media adviser with removal or reassignment. This is a progression of battles between censorship and free press for a century.

According to Merriam-Webster, censor is defined as:

To examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable <censor the news>; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable <censor out indecent passages>

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through the Bill of Rights is one of the most popular amendments in American lingo. It states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Originally, the Constitution was criticized for its lack of guarantees for civil liberties; the Bill of Rights was signed in 1791 to grant these liberties to all Federal laws. In 1925, a ruling on Gitlow v. New York held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extended those liberties to state laws.

The right of free press has always been a point of contention between governing bodies and media outlets in the United States. Many court cases have paved the way for the extent of freedom of the press today. One Supreme Court case, Near v. Minnesota, displayed the concerns with media content.

Near v. Minnesota

Near v. Minnesota featured the Saturday Press, a muckraking scandal publication by Jay Near in Minneapolis, which was prosecuted by the Minnesota county attorney through a “Gag Law” the Minnesota legislature passed in 1925. This Gag Law stated that any “’malicious, scandalous and defamatory,” newspaper articles are public nuisances. The legality of this law was put to the test in this court case after the Saturday Press published articles that accused Minneapolis’ Mayor, Police Chief, and County Attorney of criminal offenses and it printed anti-semitic remarks. The Hennepin County District Court found Saturday Press to be a nuisance and suppressed Near’s rights to produce a newspaper.

But after the case went to the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the ruling was reversed and the Gag Law was found to violate the First Amendment. In this landmark case that allows scrutiny of public officials, Hughes stated:

This decision rests upon the operation and effect of the statute, without regard to the question of the truth of the charges contained in the particular periodical. The fact that the public officers named in this case, and those associated with the charges of official dereliction, may be deemed to be impeccable, cannot affect the conclusion that the (Gag Law) imposes an unconstitutional restraint upon publication.

While college media is a special type of media that is often funded by the governing college and advised by college employees, it still retains First Amendment rights. But the level to which it is granted the rights of free press is debatable. Most precedents of student media rights sprung from the 1969 Supreme Court’s ruling on Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. In that decision, the court ruled that students in public schools are entitled to First Amendment rights as long as their free expression is not disruptive or vulgar. This gave basic protections to student reporters, editors, photographers and designers.

Public forums and Hazelwood

Classifications such as “public forum,” “limited public forum” and “non-public forum” determine the level of free press for student media today. Student newspapers are often defined under these three categories. In the 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court case, the court changed its precedent and ruled that public school officials can censor student speech in official student publications not designated as public forums even if the speech isn’t disruptive or indecent.

Leading up to that case, Hazelwood East (Mo.) High School’s student newspaper, the Spectrum, was set up in conjunction with a journalism class. The adviser to the newspaper regularly sent proofs to Principal Robert Reynolds for review before print. In 1983, Reynolds received proofs that contained stories about teenage pregnancy and the effects of parental divorce. Contending that the stories may not be suitable for the high school student population, and that those individuals mentioned in the stories whom were given pseudonyms may still be recognizable, Reynolds eliminated the stories rather than cancel the issue. The issue was brought up to the Supreme Court, and its ruling in favor of Reynolds’ decision gave a blueprint for school officials to control student media.

The Hazelwood decision applies to school-sponsored media that aren’t public forums for students. In deciding whether a student publication is a public forum, limited public forum or non-public forum, courts use forum analysis. Someone’s speech in the middle of a town’s public square is granted greater First Amendment protection than speech in a private office. The town’s public square is considered a public forum, while the private office is in most cases, a non-public forum. According to the Student Press Law Center’s “Hazelwood Guide,” to determine whether student media is a public forum and immune to the Hazelwood ruling, the court has to rule if the government “must accommodate virtually all speakers”(public forum), has opened the forum “for a specific expressive purpose or for free speech use by a specific group of people (such as student journalists)” (limited or designated public forum), or if the forum isn’t open to the public at all (non-public forum). Student publications in this analysis, are often considered to be public forums.

Hazelwood didn’t overrule Tinker’s precedent and actually reinforced it in its explanation. But it did limit the reach of Tinker to high school student media. Courts constantly rejected the application of Hazelwood to college media, until the 2005 ruling of Hosty v. Carter.

Hosty v. Carter setback

In 2000, Governors State University’s (Illinois) Dean Patricia Carter told the editor of the student newspaper, The Innovator, to hold issues until they were approved by university administrators after the Innovator published stories and editorials that were critical of the administration. The order was in direct conflict with the Innovator’s policy, which stated that the student editors would “determine content and format of their respective publications without censorship or advance approval.” Three editors went to court against Carter and were defeated when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hazelwood was a “starting point” for analyzing college censorship cases. Despite the court viewing the Innovator as a designated public forum, it also said that Hazelwood determines First Amendment protections to collegiate journalists. The SPLC states, “Hosty creates a door to censorship that college officials can – if they take certain steps – manufacture the keys to unlock.”

State initiatives for free collegiate press

In response to Hosty and Hazelwood, many First Amendment advocates pushed state governments to pass laws protecting college media rights. Oregon, California, Kansas, and Illinois have enacted free expression laws protecting student journalists. For example in Illinois, the College Campus Press Act is a shield that declared all student media at public colleges as public forums. It also stated that advisers cannot force editorial decrees to student journalists and cannot be retaliated against for not regulating media content. The Act effectively nullified the Hosty ruling in Illinois.

Since the Press Act was a response to Hosty in Illinois, it didn’t reverse or affect the case’s ruling in Wisconsin and Indiana. This was still a major victory for college journalism in Illinois. The Act went through its first major test in 2009 at College of DuPage, when Trustees Kory Atkinson and David Carlin revised the Board Policy Manual to put the Courier student newspaper under President Robert Breuder’s control. The Courier printed an editorial stating that this move would be a violation of the Press Act and the editor spoke at the Board meeting protesting the proposed changes to the manual. As a result, many of the policy changes were removed, including the clause that put student publications under Breuder’s control. Also in 2009, Chicago State University Tempo editor George Providence II and his adviser Gerian Moore applied the Press Act to a lawsuit against the university, which it claims to have censored and disrupt the newspaper’s publication. That case is still in progress.

Court cases and laws have made up the timeline of college newspaper rights. It’s a constantly changing atmosphere in which colleges and universities have found ways to censor student media, and courts and laws have repeatedly nullified those avenues. This is a clear sign that the public will support a college journalist’s right to free speech and free press. As recent history suggests, hopefully laws and court cases will continue to adapt to these loopholes and block censorship of any kind to support the First Amendment rights of college media.

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Project Newsie Freedom

Starting next week, I will take an in-depth look into the operations of college newspapers across the country to assess their level of collegiate press freedom.

Importance of free press

A free press is necessary in any functioning democracy; but it’s extremely vital in institutions of higher education, which are almost autocratic in nature with a controlling President or Chancellor.

While I think the intentions of most college administrations are good, they aren’t elected by the population they directly serve, the student body. This may be necessary because generally students don’t know what’s best for their own academic gain. But students can still get involved in administrative decisions by participating in their college’s version of a student government.

While the higher education model has its workable kinks and advantages, it requires a reporting service that hyperlocally checks a college administration or student government’s actions for the student body: a student newspaper.

My plan

I will follow these guidelines when conducting my research. I will add more points to this post during the research process because this is a new learning experience for me.

  • I will go state-by-state and post my findings on this blog. I will start with my home state, Illinois.
  • I will base my results on my conversations with student newspapers, college administrations and student governments at institutions with notable newspapers.
  • Because I’m still a student at the University of Kansas and will not be able to travel, my interviews will be done through email and phone.
  • I will do enough reporting to understand the structure of the news organization, college administration and student government.
  • I will understand the relationships between the three organizations.
  • I will consider the current media laws in each state while making a judgment on the level of free press at college media.
  • I will rate schools in comparison to the state, not the whole nation; different states have different laws. This will be done after I have reported on all of the college newspapers possible in the whole state.
  • I will use a traditional academic grading scale (A+ through D- and failing) to rate the different schools. Those grades will be based on scores from zero to 100. When I establish a solid criteria, I will post it on here.

As I said in my first post, I experienced an attack on student media firsthand. While this incident led to the creation of this site and my interest in college media rights, I will be as dispassionate as possible with my reporting. I want to expose violations of free press on college campuses but I also want to reward institutions that value student reporting with praise.

Because I’m an undergraduate journalism student and a news editor at a major daily college newspaper, my time is devoted first and second to those responsibilities. This project will be done during my free time (probably replacing video game time, which is a good thing right?) even if it may lead to a less comprehensive social life.

Enterprise reporting is new to me, and I consider this a tremendous project that will take me two or more years to complete alone. I may not even complete it, but the end result isn’t the goal. My aim for this project is to learn more about college media rights and share that knowledge with you through the experience of my reporting.

If anyone has suggestions on how I can better approach this project, please comment. I crave criticism and advice!


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