Monday, February 18, 2008

Campus Security Revisted

After the terrible tragedy recently at Northern Illinois last week, beefing up campus security has been a hot issue in the news media, and on college campuses. Events like these often become the staging ground for political debates on gun control. Gun control groups (and basically all of the European media) claim that catastrophes are the reason that we Americans need to get tough on handguns, while the Ron Paul crowd says that what we need are more guns. Does it have to be all or nothing?

Of course not, as usual, pundits and politicians are missing the big picture here, and college students are the ones who suffer. If you're really interested in how we can improve campus security, listen up.

First, lets not do anything rash. These events are still very rare. A college student is much more likely to be gunned down in his crappy off campus student housing complex than he is in his Biology lecture. The former is actually something that I think is a real problem (and not just because I happen to live in a crappy student housing complex....okay, it is), but has a different solution. Despite the fact that another "Virgina Tech" is rare, we should be as prepared as we can to make sure it doesn't happen again, and if it does, how we can minimize its impact.

Passing out handguns like candy in classrooms sounds like a dangerous idea to me, and I don't typically have a problem with handguns. Concealed carry permits are typically not available to students under 21 (which would be most of your lecture hall attending population), and lowering that age would be irresponsible. College students are not known for being the most responsible (hell, or sober!) demographic, and having them all packing heat seems at the very least, pretty rash. Plus, in that split second when the bad guy pulls out his piece, if 6 other guys are pulling out guns, its going to be pretty hard to determine who the real shooter is, leading to more accidental deaths.

If students don't feel safe off campus, and the law allows for it, they should be able to get a firearm to protect themselves, as allowed in the 2nd amendment. Keep the heat out of math though.

So what do we do? Totally securing a massive state university appears to be pretty impossible. Several universities are implementing a text-message alert system if a situation arises. All students who sign up for the program would get a text telling them what to do, and where to *not* go. Setting this up appears to be pretty inexpensive, and gets the message out to the most people in the shortest amount of time. Sounds like a good idea to me.

But the most important issue here, to me, is how we deal with the mentally ill. The problem isn't people have guns, (or don't have guns), but rather, very crazy people are untreated...and have guns. While University systems can't be expected to fix the problem of treating the mentally ill (which is a flaw in our medical system), they are able to take a more proactive role. I think that universities should add counseling services to their medical centers and insurance plans, and students who appear to be "at risk" (like the Va Tech Shooter clearly was), should be placed into some sort of treatment program. Both American and George Washington made this a priority when I was in the area, and helped a few "at risk" students.

These attacks are a symptom of us ignoring the plight of the mentally ill in America. We don't cover their treatment plans on insurance, we brush aside their disorders as being "moody", or simply try to throw pills at them...and we stupidly continue to allow them to purchase firearms. To be honest, if we had addressed these problems a little more seriously, I believe my dad would still alive. I hope that we don't let these wake up calls be used for political points in the gun control debate, and actually seek to make some meaningful changes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Its just too cold

So, I'm aware that all sorts of big political developments are going on right now. There are Primaries going on tonight, Vice President speculations are in full force, all sorts of neat state issues are poppin up in Ohio...and I can't concentrate long enough to write about them.

People. Its just too damn cold.

With the exception of brief sojourns in Washington DC and Sacramento California, I've lived my entire life in the Columbus Ohio area. I should be used the cold by happens every winter, without fail, and sometimes comes a little early in whats supposed to be the fall, or lingers well into this mythical "springtime". But this year, it seems like its hit with a greater vengeance than ever before.

Its mind-numbing cold. Its ball bustingly cold. Heck, I didn't just sleep with a space heater last night, I flat out spooned with one. I'm surprised i don't have second degree burns on my face. I've been turning the hot water up so much in the shower, my doctor might think I tried to have sex with a volcano.

Is this a global warming article? A message sounding the alarm of the effects of climate change? Nope...not really. Its just about my ability to handle the weather.

I think the problem is, I can't actually get warm. I live in crappy student housing near Ohio State, where our windows are more porous than the US/Mexican border. Half of my classrooms are in old buildings with poor heating systems as well. The warmest I get all day is on the COTA bus ride downtown to work. No wonder I've been sick for two weeks.

I used to like the snow...I used to like to go sledding, take walks in it, maybe hope for that snow day. As I grow up...I hate it. I hate driving it in. I hate walking a mile and a half through it to get to class. I hate that it makes my pants wet all day. Booo cold.

I hope to make this a weekly thing now. Real political news coming later this week, or when I can feel my fingers enough to type again.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes we can

My friends, Super Tuesday is upon us, and its quite possible that we'll know who our presidential candidates are by Wednesday. I have been following this race with great interest. I must admit, I was very excited to see some barriers being broken...we saw our first legitimatize Latino candidate, and our first real Mormon Candidate (although, sadly, he turned out to be a douchebag. Still exciting symbolically for me). These two men, along with Hillary, are certainly important for historic reasons, and for symbolic representation for a lot of Americas, but I think they're being overshadowed, and rightfully so, by something much bigger.

Our cynicism is being broken down. In 2008, we might not have to hold our noses, and vote for the lesser of two evils. For the first time in recent political history, we're being dared to actually believe in somebody, and much more importantly, to believe in something.

Remember the last time you had your heart totally broken? You probably felt pretty vulnerable didn't want to trust, to love, to be tied to something right away, because you just couldn't handle being burned like that again. I feel like we've had that relationship with our government. We may have become apathetic, unplugged, disinterested...or worse, we keep up with it, but we've become so jaded, we can't change. I believe Obama is our antidote for our ailment.

I'm a political guy. I know a lot of politicians, and I support a lot of politicians....but none like Obama. I loved Bill Richardson because I loved his resume. I love Harry Reid because he showed thats its okay to be a Mormon, and a Liberal. I love lots of other guys you haven't heard of for nerdy, policy-wonkish reasons. Obama is different...he's become an inspiration of a whole movement. He isn't just an efficient, smart cog in the system, he could actually change that system.

Our nation is on the wrong track. We're stuck in a stupid, expensive war in Iraq. Our international standing, and our ability to project soft power is at its weakest point in recent memory. We're locked in a bitter immigration argument, that is fueled more by fears of a changing culture and barely concealable racism than by policy concerns. Our friends don't have health insurance, or they can't afford college. We're in trouble.

Can Obama wave a magic wand, and make all those things go away? No, at least, not all at once. They're big problems, and they're going to take sacrifice, hard work, and time, and most of all, real leadership. That leadership must come from everywhere...from our cities, from our families, and from us. It must also come from our president, and I believe that Obama is that man.

Can we do it? Can we have a real dialog about immigration, that not only fixes our boarders, but doesn't destroy our American brotherhood? Can we find a solution for Iraq? Can we restore our nation to its rightful place, and build a better world for our parents, ourselves, and our children?

Yes we can, or as my family might say, Si nos podemos.

We're grown ups now. Lets not lose our historic opportunity to change the world.