Home / Opinions / Letter to the Editor: November 19th 2009

Letter to the Editor: November 19th 2009

1.
Dear members of ‘The Spectator’ editorial team,

I am writing with regard to the article ‘Veterans in the classroom’ in today’s issue of your paper. This article seems to be emblematic of an extremely worrying trend at VSU and in American higher education at large, namely the unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of military
perspectives and military values in higher education. In a democratic society with a supposedly clear separation of powers and institutional spheres, it
seems worrying that military values—hierarchy, authority, unquestioning obeisance of orders, the use of violence, etc.—are intruding into institutions of higher learning like VSU, apparently with no questions asked. In a society already characterised by an ever-growing punitive ‘carcereal archipelago’ and in an already crime-plagued and violent town like Valdosta, questions ought to be asked as to the role of military personnel in criminal justice programmes, instead of just uncritically offering a description of their activities, as in your article. Moreover, in a situation in which the USA is already engaged in two illegal wars of conquest abroad, questions ought to be asked at institutions of higher learning such as VSU as to the role which the military has come to play in this society. The total lack of awareness of those issues reflected in
your article is deeply troubling to me. It seems to contradict the very mission of this university.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Daniel Nehring
Assistant Professor of Sociology

2
Dear Mr. Johnson,

Ms. Green’s November 12th Article on “Veterans in the Classroom” was recently brought to my attention, and I am at a loss for words. As a ten-year service member in the United States Army (and I am still serving in the Army), and a professor at Valdosta State University in the Criminal Justice program, I was deeply disturbed by the assumption made by Ms. Green that professors are simply book smart and have no real world offerings. Unfortunately, she illustrated this through comments made by Mr. Pack from the Valdosta Technical College, and I quote, “Say they’re teaching a criminal justice class, and they’re trying to tell you how it is out there in the real world, when all they’ve been is in the classroom or done their college. How can you tell people how it is?” I can answer this question very simply; I have lived it for over 10 years as a commander in the United States Army and as a probation officer before that. I have been deployed with the Army as recently as April 2009 and I am keenly aware of the periods and problems associated with readjustment.

The assumption that was made, that professors lack real experience, not only negates my service in the military and experience in the field, but begs the question of why would anyone come to a 4-year university to get a degree if the professors know nothing about the field. In our program, we have veterans, former police officers, counselors, and probation officers either as tenure-track faculty, or through adjuncts. To not have researched that prior to penning this article is an egregious oversight on Ms. Green’s part, and yours for not forcing her to check all avenues of information. I cannot speak to Mr. Pack’s experience as to do so would make me guilty of the same assumptions that he has made. However, I will say that more knowledge is warranted, from all parties responsible for this article, before speaking about something you do not understand.

Regards,

Dr. Chris Sharp (Captain, U.S. Army)

Assistant Professor

Valdosta State University

3
My name is Donovan Head, and I wrote the letter to the editor which was featured in the Nov. 5 Spectator, that I believe your op-ed article “Your News, Your Views:  Speak up” was a response to.

Overall, I agree, if a club or organization on campus is having a newsworthy event, they need to contact someone on the Spectator’s staff. However, in regards to the Spectator missing entirely the voting that took place on campus, at the first-in-the-nation college campus advanced voting center (not put on by a club or organization, but by the university as a whole), I feel your arguments do not apply.

That being said, I sincerely hope that your article was not what it seemed to be, a pathetic attempt by the Spectator’s staff to use its readers, especially myself and the VSU Student poll workers, as the scapegoats as to why our student newspaper missed such a historic event for our university. If that is the case, then you are missing some very critical facts, and please do not forget the job of the Spectator is to provide VSU students with the news, not the other way around. (And if
you’ll notice, I did take your advice right after I noticed the mistake, and I complained to your Editor-in–Chief; what I did not expect was for the Spectator’s staff to act defensively and blame the students both in the immediate response to my letter to the editor, and subliminally in your article; if you are serious about wanting feedback, then you must act professionally and take criticism in
stride.)

First of all, the Spectator ran two prior stories on VSU’s polling place, despite the horrendous error of giving students the wrong dates for advanced voting. These two stories should mean that the Spectator’s staff was aware of voting on campus, unless of course they have a tendency to forget huge details in the stories they report on, especially the ones they report on more than once. Also, a little Government 101 here: every year on the first Tuesday in November, we have this thing called Election Day, maybe you’ve heard of it? And in Georgia, the week leading up to Election Day is advanced voting, and all Georgia registered voters can avoid the lines and vote early. Now,
if I need to, I can remind your editors a month in advance of Election Day, so you guys don’t miss it again?

Secondly, all of the local news stations from Tallahassee and Albany (NBC, ABC and CBS) as well as the Valdosta Daily Times and VSU News covered this story, and they did not need to be reminded of when Election Day/early voting was either. In addition, it was on the front page of Valdosta State’s website for an entire two weeks, but I guess I shouldn’t overestimate how resourceful the Spectator’s staff is trained to be. Also, there were a total of 600 fliers(in color) posted all over campus for those two weeks, and if any of you happened to drive by the UC, you would have noticed the numerous red “Vote Here” signs at every entrance. All of this caught the attention of the over 200 students who voted here, plus the many more who wanted to but had to change their registration to Lowndes County so they can vote with us next time but I guess. Despite all of that, something even more obvious is needed to get the attention of the Spectator’s staff.

On a personal note, I saw Dr. [Pat] Miller walk by the Executive Dining Room twice, when voting was taking place, and I sent Danielle Everson along with all of my other Facebook friends an invitation to the Facebook group “Those Who Vote Smart Vote at VSU,” which has over 250 members. I just can’t believe given all of the advertisement around campus, and the fact that you guys attempted to cover the story twice before, the Spectator missed it when their coverage was most needed, and now tries to blame us, the students, for their being oblivious.

I could not imagine the Atlanta Journal of Constitution missing Election Day, blaming their irresponsibility on the people of Atlanta, and instead covering a circus that left town three days before the paper was published. Can you see what a joke this makes the Spectator look like? I have had countless students come up to me, telling me they agree with the sentiments I expressed in the letter to the editor, and that finally someone challenged them to do better.

I do have to say, the last two editions of the Spectator were of much better quality than the one I referenced in my letter to the editor, and I hope this trend continues. I am confident the same mistake will not be made next year, and my only request in this message to you is that the staff stops blaming others for their mistakes, takes responsibility for them, and learns from them so they do not happen again.

Thanks and God bless,

Donovan

P.S: In the cartoon that went along with your article, the boy represents the Spectator, right? Because given the facts that I laid out above, that is the only way it makes sense. Also, if you are wondering why I am so presumptive that your article was a response to my letter to the editor, it is because I have seen no other related complaints in recent editions that would spur such an argument by the Spectator’s staff.

Donovan Head
Chairman of the Valdosta State College Republicans

4
To members of the Spectator Staff:
I was angry when I first read the “Your News, Your Views” editorial in last week’s paper. That anger stemmed mostly from the rude tone its writer took, which I’m guessing was used so that students like myself would read it, get angry, and answer you. It must have worked, because here I am writing back. I plan to offer a point-by-point rebuttal to the article.

I scoff at errors in the Spectator on a weekly basis. I feel that writers of the school newspaper don’t all have to be English majors, but they should have completed English 1101 and 1102 as well as own a copy of the St. Martin’s Handbook. There is no excuse for the weekly plethora of comma splices, punctuation problems, spelling errors, and homophone mistakes. Sometimes I stop reading an article halfway through because I’d rather not muddle through all the awful grammar. Also, a school newspaper should generate discussion amongst students. We don’t have to e-mail you everytimeevery time we have a thought that relates to the Spectator.

I have written to the staff a few times now in different ways: e-mails to the Editor-in-Chief, comments on the website, answering the weekly poll, and sending rants via the form on the website. I have little desire to continue offering my input when I receive zero feedback. I have no way of knowing if anyone has even seen what I have written. A generic e-mail saying, “Thanks for your input!” would encourage me to keep up the commentary. “Since communicating is as simple as punching some buttons,” why can’t you communicate back with students who communicate with you?

Please don’t whine about how much work you have to do in order to put out the paper. If you don’t have the time to do it, then quit. I understand it is a major undertaking, but if you chose to be a part of the staff, do your best at it. It is being published for thousands of people to see, and some even base their opinion of the University on how the newspaper looks.

I am in agreement with the general theme of your editorial. To have a successful newspaper, more people need to be involved than just the dozen students that who make up the staff. It is sad that something as easy to answer as an iInternet poll rarely gets more than 25 votes per week. The staff should note that people love seeing themselves in the paper. Invite students to send in pictures from their personal “adventures” as a college student and regularly print some of these in the Spectator. More coverage on Intramural intramural and cClub sSports would be great to see; a reporter from the staff could attend the monthly Cclub sSports pPresidents’ meeting and publish updates on those groups. Intramural sSports cChampions should be guaranteed a spot in the paper. Maybe the Spectator can be the one who tells us what the heck is going on with all the construction on campus.

One last note, I hate the format in which rants and raves are published. Every other newspaper I have ever seen publishes rants and raves from a variety of readers who share a sentence or two about what’s on their mind, not two sides of a single issue written by the same staff writer.

Thank you for all the work you’ve done on the paper so far, and for all the improvements you’re striving to make.

Sincerely,
Ellie Paschal
sophomore
middle grades education major

5
Facebook has our generation firmly in its grasp. There is nothing wrong with keeping in touch with family and friends. A healthy social life is indeed essential for an individual’s well-being. But when I cannot find an available computer in a university library and half of them are being used to check Facebook accounts, something is wrong. This shameful evolution of the American student is really a microcosm of a much more looming threat. That is that while quantity of higher education enrollment is increasing in America, basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills are lagging far behind knowledge of Facebook, iITunes, and reality television shows. Make no mistake: we are in the midst of an educational crisis that strikes at the very heart of our nation’s future well-being.
In a nation where athletes and entertainers are paid exponentially more than educators, scientists, and doctors, this pattern is to be expected. But let us stand up to the superficial market forces that have come to dominate every facet of our lives. We need to make it cool again to become a scientist, doctor, lawyer, engineer, or teacher. Greater incentive has to be created, and it starts with changing the way we think about our own culture and education. Are we going to succumb to this downhill spiral, or will we decide to open our books and close the gap? America is the strongest economic, political, and cultural force in the world because of our ability to transform potential into action. We have the best universities and educational resources in the world. In order to sustain the success and prosperity that perhaps has made us complacent, educational reform must become more important. Demanding more from our students at every level and narrowing the entrance to post-secondary education is critical in developing into a smarter, better performing country. Further, raising our educational standards will enable America to continue leading the world towards freedom, democracy, and connectivity. So log off your Facebook account and go read a book. After all, you are a student.

Clint Thompson

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One comment

  1. Amen!
    As an elementary teacher of 25 years, I strongly agree. Homes are tech savvy, but how about reading and writing? America needs to focus on family values and what our country was founded upon. We have become so materialistic and are teaching our children that life is all about obtaining more “stuff”. Take time to relax and do things together that don’t cost money-use your public library, take a walk, play a game, talk with each other in person… Love to children can be spelled t-i-m-e.
    Let’s log off and make a difference for ourselves and others!

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