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A new North Carolina law makes it a crime for any student to, “with the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee,”

a. Build a fake profile or Web site.

b. Post or encourage others to post on the Internet private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to a school employee.

c. Post a real or doctored image of the school employee on the Internet.

Story time.

When I was in tenth grade, my school’s principal ordered the installation of several video cameras at the school’s entrances (and, if memory serves, in certain hallways). The year was 1984, and I was pretty bookish for a juvenile delinquent, so I ran off a handful of 8.5 by 11 posters bearing her photo and the message “BIG SISTER IS WATCHING YOU,” and taped them up around the school.

Did I intend to torment her with these posters? You bet I did.

Which means that if I’d done this today, in North Carolina, and I’d put a photo of one of the posters on Tumblr, I’d have been guilty of “cyber-bullying” under section 14-458.2(b)(1)c of the General Statutes of the state. My act would have been a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars along with possible community service or house arrest.

Just for making fun of my principal on Tumblr.

By now you’ve probably seen the report that a new poll out of Ohio found that 15% of very conservative voters said Mitt Romney was more responsible for Osama Bin Laden’s death than President Obama, with another 6% of moderate conservatives agreeing. (More than half of each group said they weren’t sure who should get more credit.)

Cue wringing of hands and mocking of conservatives. But I love their answer, and here’s why.

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, Barack Obama was the commander in chief of the military that killed him. Mitt Romney was adjusting to his new campaign wardrobe of open-collar shirts. And of course it’s not as if he did any of the prep work for the mission in his previous roles as Winter Olympics CEO, Massachusetts governor, or failed Senate candidate.

But here’s the thing. The folks who gave him credit for killing Bin Laden know all this stuff, or at least most of them do. They didn’t give the answer they did because they thought Romney was a member of Seal Team Six.

They gave that answer because it’s an idiotic question.

Romney had nothing to do with the Bin Laden mission. Nobody, even in the fever swamps of conspiracism, has ever claimed otherwise. The only reason to ask the question as framed is to poke at Romney supporters in the hope that they’ll either say something nice about the president or look dumb by refusing to.

Consider this: The folks at PPP could have asked whether Obama or Bush had more to do with the killing of Bin Laden. Or they could have offered “neither” as an answer, to represent folks who believe that the military would have done its thing whoever occupied the Oval Office. They didn’t. Instead they offered “not sure,” a nonsensical option that 31% of the Ohio electorate chose.

That’s right. Faced with a question that’s the political equivalent of “is the sky blue?” nearly a third of Ohioans, and more than ten percent of liberals, said they didn’t know. That’s not ignorance, it’s pollster nullification.

Four percent of non-conservatives polled gave Romney credit for the Bin Laden kill, by the way. I like to think that I’d have been among them.

There’s a lot of chatter this morning about Groupon’s latest deal in the Chicago area: A 60% discount on university tuition at National-Louis University.

Sounds amazing, but the full story isn’t quite as impressive.

The offer is for one graduate-level course. Not one course as in “any one course,” but one course as in “one particular course.” A course that was concocted specifically for the Groupon promotion. It does apply toward a master’s in teaching, but only if, after completing it, you apply for, are accepted to, and enroll in NLU. (Given the nature of the class, it’s hard to imagine it being accepted as transfer credit at any other school.) All in all, this “deal” is clearly more a marketing initiative than an educational innovation.

And that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given National-Louis University’s past…

Until 1990, NLU was known as the National College of Education. It changed its name to National-Louis University to honor to its largest donor, Michael W. Louis, who had made a $30 million pledge to the college the previous year. In 1982 Louis had given NCE three million dollars to create a college of arts and sciences, which the school had also named for him. In 1983 they granted him an honorary doctorate as well.

So. Yeah.

One year ago today a student protest action took place in Canada that was, as I put it at the time, “unlike anything I’d ever heard of before.” Here’s how I described it then:

Student activists and others at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, a Canadian university some seventy miles northwest of Seattle, held a teach-out on “food democracy” and sustainability issues. There was music, a slate of speakers, pamphlets to read, and tea. At the end of the event the group planted a garden.

On the lawn.

In front of the library.

They ripped up the sod, built some raised beds, and planted a variety of vegetables and other native plants. They planted, they mulched, they designed rock borders. They put up fences to keep rabbits out.

On the lawn of the quad, in front of the library.

There’s a symposium about that action — which was hugely controversial in the campus community — being held on the U Vic campus tomorrow. And though organizers have been circumspect about the details, there’s apparently some sort of follow-up action happening today.

More as I get it.

A tongue-in-cheek call for a campus club to “advocate for men in the same manner that female groups advocate for women” has resulted in the formation of a men’s advocacy organization at the University of Chicago.

Back in March, UC junior Steve Saltarelli wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Maroon announcing the creation of Men in Power, a new student group founded “to spread awareness and promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today.” Proposing “a tutorial on barbecuing” and “fishing, hunting, and flag-football retreats” as club activities, Saltarelli soon started receiving emails from men looking to join.

So he set it up. MiP applied for official campus recognition and funding, and held its first meeting in mid-May.

The Chicago Tribune had no trouble finding men’s rights activists to cheer the group’s creation and feminists to deplore it, but it remains unclear just how serious Saltarelli is. His Maroon op-ed was an obvious spoof — “many don’t realize that men are in power all around us,” he noted, pointing out that “the last 44 presidents have been men.” But if the club itself is a hoax, it’s a subtle one, as interviews like this one make clear.

That said, the club is clearly uncomfortable with the charges of misogyny (and douchebaggery) that are directed its way. Its Facebook group and website each include a prominent notice that those “looking for a (white) male champion group that seeks to advance men at the expense of women and/or a clique to isolate yourselves … are in the wrong place.”

Links posted at the group’s Twitter feed make clear that it’s garnering quite a bit of media attention, but its first meeting drew fewer than twenty attendees. If it exists as a functioning campus group a year from now, I’ll be more than a little surprised.

Update: Okay, here’s my hunch. Saltarelli wrote the original Maroon piece as a not-feminist-but-not-antifeminist-either goof. He wasn’t serious about creating the group. But then he started getting attention, and he liked the attention, so he decided to go for it. And then he started getting a lot of attention, and a lot of questions he’d never really contemplated, and he had to start figuring out how to answer them. And now he, and the rest of the group, are trying to come up with a serious rationale for a project that didn’t start out serious, and negotiating some heavy gender politics that they don’t have a lot of tools to address.

(There are a lot of parallels here to the Veterans of Future Wars craze of 1936. I should really get some of the stuff I’ve written about those folks up online.)

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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