Friday, September 23, 2016

Pre-Debate Campus Scenes at Hofstra

Since classes started, I have enjoyed a whirlwind of activities centered around the debate. We had an amazing slate of pre-debate academic activities (check it out here) and our students got to meet some of the more interesting political thinkers, writers, and activists in the country including David Axelrod, Bobby Jindal, Eugene Robinson, Stephen Hayes, Michael Mann, Michael Eric Dyson, Sally Kohn, and Ellen Fitzpatrick. What was really cool about all of these events is that our students not only heard these great thinkers speak, they had opportunity to hang out with them, share a meal, and converse about the major issues in this election.

This weekend, there are concerts, a performance by the Upright Citizens Brigade, and a show by Larry Wilmore. On debate day there are also a ton of activities for students, faculty, and staff. It is a debate-a-palooza on campus. All of the major media have set up outdoor stages and it should be a beautiful weekend for everyone involved with the major activities.

I wandered across campus today to try to catch the vibe. Everyone is excited because this debate is likely to match viewing audiences of major national events such as the Super Bowl. It is going to be the most-watched debate in history. It is hard to believe that it was just several weeks ago that we learned we were getting the debate after another university withdrew. I think this one has gone incredibly well.

Below are a some photos from today that caught some of the action on campus.

You never know who you will see celebrating the debate on campus.

There's some amazing signs on campus.

All the major news channels are setting up stages.
A debate is a great place to see funny political t-shirts.

CNN has the biggest stage. Fox isn't too far behind.

Security is ramping up.

Debate banners are everywhere.

Telemundo is also broadcasting live...

...and they have a prime location.

It's hard to imagine that the media are set up on the old airport where Lindbergh took off for Paris. 

Security fences are up along the roadway that bisects our campus.

The jewel of campus, Hofstra Hall, looks lovely with its sign.

Our brutalist library has a modest decoration.

Inside the library is a nice display of memorabilia from the previous presidential debates we hosted.

We have two statues of presidents on campus. Lincoln and one other. Do you know which one?

More images of the Fox stage getting set up.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Giant Sinkhole Opens in Gypsum Stack in Florida

In the not again category....

Yesterday news broke that a giant sinkhole opened once again in a gypsum stack (a waste pile from phosphate mining). Last time it happened was in 1994 when a huge sinkhole opened up on a gypsum stack near New Wales. This time, it happened near Mulberry. The photo on the cover of my book, Florida Sinkholes: Science and Policy shows the 1994 sinkhole.

The video below shows the sinkhole that opened. Supposedly, it opened in late August but it just made the news yesterday. I am sure that many environmental experts are working hard to try to limit that damage to the Floridan Aquifer. It is my understanding that the pond on top of the stack contained phosphoric acid.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Dreamland

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I just finished listening to the book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, and wanted to recommend it to the readers of On the Brink. The book, by Sam Quinones, details how opiates have transformed the youth culture of the United States since the 1990's via slow, steady, integration of legal and illegal opiate drugs into suburban society.

The book delves into the rapid drug-industry-supported transition from the prescription of legal painkillers by well-meaning doctors into the development of pill-mills that supplied high long-term doses of legal opiates to an addicted class of suburban users who utilized a variety of insurance coverages to pay for their addiction. When the pills were not enough, or when insurance coverages failed, the users turned to petty crime and cheap heroin supplied by Mexican drug runners.

The book details the numerous cultures impacted by the legal and illegal opiate trade: the Mexican drug pushers, the suburban youth and their parents, the doctors seeking to reduce pain in their patients, and the drug industry that marketed pain killers to doctors while claiming that there was limited evidence that the opiates led to addiction.

The book also focuses on the decline of rural and suburban America over the last 30 years as a backdrop for the expansion of opiate use. The author makes a case that economic decline and suburban isolation creates a potent environment for drug abuse. Just today there was a story on about 24 heroin overdoses in one night in Akron, Ohio. Earlier in the week, East Liverpool, Ohio, police shared a photo from a traffic stop that showed parents in the front seat of a car nearly dead from heroin while their baby was in a car seat. Interestingly, to presage this point in time, Quinones used a town in Ohio as one of the main focal points of his book.

The book provides a fascinating geographic context for the problem of heroin. In the past, heroin was thought of as largely an issue for big cities. Now, the problem is in suburbs and small cities--places that were targeted by Mexican heroin pushers over the last 20 years. Heroin addiction is found increasingly in high-achieving college age adults. Those of us in higher education need to be aware of the significant problem of opiates facing young people in the United States. Reading Sam Quinones' Dreamland is a good place to start.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Recommendations for Millennials Entering College

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For some reason, lots of commentators are hating on the Millennial generation. The comments tend to focus on three generational stereotypes--stereotypes that are not fair.

1. The lack of depth of knowledge. Opinions on this topic often focus on the lack of in-depth knowledge in their field prior to entering the workforce. I have to note that Millennials are the first generation to have basic knowledge at their fingertips in their smart phones. They are often much more knowledgeable than previous generations. However, there is a technology gap that creates disparities in knowledge access because the generation no longer accesses information in the same way.

2. The focus on self. There is no doubt that we are in an age of selfies. I think this is not so much a criticism of Millennials but of our times. It's not just the Millennials that are engaged with social media and self branding. Remember:  most of the Housewives in the successful self-obsessed cable show franchise are Boomers.
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3. The expectations for success. Writers bemoaning Millennial culture often note that this is the first generation to get awards for participation and not for earned success. Is this really a bad thing? Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to earn awards within the Millennial age group and the participation award meme is largely apocryphal. While there certainly is a large entitlement culture out there that drives the idea that expectations do not match talent, I do not think it is derives from Millennial culture as much as it derives from out new gilded age of extreme wealth disparities. Many of the surveys that drive this perception are of high-achieving Millennials entering high-pay jobs. It is not reflective of Millennials in general who recognize that they are unlikely to have the same pay or benefits of the previous generation. Indeed, many Millennials have lower expectations than the Baby Boomers before them.

While I do not agree with these three main criticisms, I do have some advice for Millennials to improve their college experience in light of the critiques.

1. Read deeply. Because Millennials tend to know a great deal about many things, but often do not read deeply on particular subjects, you can stand out in your discipline by reading deeply in your major. If a professor gives suggested reading, take advantage of the opportunity. Building reading into your daily schedule will help to develop your understanding of your field and will improve your academic practice. Read a major national paper daily to keep you up to date with a broad range of issues.

2. Limit social media. While we all love social media and it is a useful tool, try to develop discipline so that you stay off of it for most of your productive time during the day. It is a distraction that will take you away from important reading and writing. Again, you will set yourself apart by developing discipline and focus skills that some of your colleagues might be missing.
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3. Build your writing skills. While many of us write a great deal informally on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, we do not often take time to write longer pieces. Start a blog or a journal. Build a portfolio of your writing that you can show a potential employer. Organizations are hungry for quality writers and you will set yourself apart by building strong writing skills.

4. Become data and Internet proficient in your field. What I mean by this is that you should get to know the online sources of data and information in your discipline. Find the major organizations. Learn were you can find data about your profession. Bookmark the leading Websites that support your field.

5. Create online networks. Your generation is great at building online connections around social media. Use those skills to connect to the major players in your profession. Use Linked In or other professional networking sites to build the connections. When possible, build personal connections through meet ups or conferences. Do not create the relationships just to help yourself. Build authentic relationships that last. As you advance in your field reach out to newcomers to help them achieve their goals.

6. Don't buy into criticism of Millennials. Every younger generation gets its share of criticism from the one that comes before. The Baby Boomers were criticized using some of the same rhetoric launched at you. The generation that comes after the Millennials will certainly get some of the same critiques. Recognize that your generation is unique and that you should play to your strengths while understanding that you can build skills to position yourself well to compete against your peers.