Why Reporters Should Do Their Own Reporting

For the past year, news media have reported that University of Oklahoma President David Boren expelled two Sigma Alpha Epsilon members from the school for leading a racist chant during a fraternity outing.

The New York Times and CBS News reported it soon after video of the chant went viral on March 8, 2015. The OU Daily, the student-run campus newspaper, repeated it four months later when reporting on what would become of the closed fraternity’s former house.

So did the head of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education just three weeks ago when writing on The Huffington Post about the organization’s list of 10 worst colleges for free speech in 2015. So did the Tulsa World last month when the fraternity issued a report on the incident.

Oklahoma State University’s student newspaper, The O’Colly, repeated it last month in an article about diversity on that campus. The Tulsa World did so again on Sunday in a story reviewing race relations on the OU campus in the past year.

Two of those local reporters told me that they were sure Boren had expelled the students. The New York Times had said so.

But Boren didn’t expel the students. A university spokesperson said today that the students “permanently withdrew themselves.”

So why do news media keep repeating that Boren expelled them?

In part because Boren publicly issued a letter to the two students saying, “I have determined that you should be expelled from this university effective immediately.”

The same day, Boren said on Twitter, “I have acted today to expel two students who were leaders in the singing of a racist chant.”

That was on Tuesday, March 10, two days after the video went viral.

But an Associated Press story published March 11 noted that one of the students said he had already withdrawn from the university.

On March 12, a sports columnist for The Oklahoman noted that the student “withdrew from school on Monday morning, long before Boren issued the expulsion.”

On March 13, an attorney representing other fraternity members corrected a reporter  who said the two had been expelled.

“I’m not sure that expulsion is quite the accurate word to use,” said Stephen Jones at a press conference. “My understanding, and it’s subject to revision, is that these two young men withdrew from the university and they withdrew on Monday morning before President Boren’s press conference, which I believe was on Tuesday.”

(Watch Jones’ comment at the 6:22 minute mark of the video.)

But a year later, news media still report that Boren expelled them.

The O’Colly reporter agreed that he should ask OU rather than continue relying on other reporters.

This was OU Press Secretary Corbin Wallace’s first response on Feb. 16: “The students were permanently withdrawn from the University following the incident last March. I hope this is helpful.”

No, that wasn’t helpful. Did they permanently withdraw themselves, or did the university do it?

In a second email, Wallace clarified, “They permanently withdrew themselves.”

To The O’Colly and Tulsa World reporters’ credit, they published corrections/clarifications.

Today, I wanted to confirm with Wallace that “withdrawing themselves” indeed means the students were not expelled. His replied, “Yes, … is correct in saying the students permanently withdrew from the university.”

Does it make a difference? Under the First Amendment, it does. Being expelled from a public university for uttering protected speech off campus seems like a winnable First Amendment lawsuit. Withdrawing yourself from school isn’t one.

I am raising the issue in part because the current reporting leaves the impression that a public university president was empowered under the First Amendment to expel students for no other reason than they uttered disgustingly offensive speech.

Yes, the students should have been ashamed of what they said. Yes, they should have been criticized. But that wouldn’t justify a public university’s violation of their First Amendment rights.

My other reason is that this exemplifies why reporters should do their own reporting.

In my public affairs reporting course, students may not quote from other news media in their stories. “Do your own reporting,” the instructions emphasize.

Some students don’t get why they can’t just repeat what another journalist reported.

Here’s why. Because maybe sources will tell you what they didn’t tell other reporters. Because maybe circumstances have changed since the previous story was written.

And because sometimes, even The New York Times gets it wrong.

Better to get it right on your own.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications



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The Atlantic: The Coddling of the American Mind

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus


There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.


But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.


By almost any definition, critical thinking requires grounding one’s beliefs in evidence rather than in emotion or desire, and learning how to search for and evaluate evidence that might contradict one’s initial hypothesis. But does campus life today foster critical thinking? Or does it coax students to think in more-distorted ways?


Emotional reasoning dominates many campus debates and discussions. A claim that someone’s words are “offensive” is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness. It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong. It is a demand that the speaker apologize or be punished by some authority for committing an offense.


Rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control. One of the great truths taught by Buddhism (and Stoicism, Hinduism, and many other traditions) is that you can never achieve happiness by making the world conform to your desires. But you can master your desires and habits of thought. This, of course, is the goal of cognitive behavioral therapy. With this in mind, here are some steps that might help reverse the tide of bad thinking on campus.

Click to read the full article.

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A Professor’s Pointers for Success in College

By Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
prof. at St. Lawrence U.

. Read all of your syllabi carefully. The syllabus is your contract for the course. There’s no excuse for not being aware of essential information that has been provided to you. In addition, check your email account daily; faculty and staff members will use email to communicate additional information to you.

Stay on top of your work. Try not to procrastinate. “Plan ahead” should be your mantra for your academic life. Nobody ever says “Oh shit, I started on that too early,” but plenty of students regret waiting until the last minute to begin studying or working on a project. Avoid pulling all-nighters.

Always do the assigned readings, even if there isn’t a quiz. Professors know when you haven’t read, even if they don’t call you out on it; you’re not fooling anyone.

. Take pride in your work and in yourself.

Read the full list of tips.

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10 Things to Do in College

By Sarah Juliet Lauro
Visiting assistant professor, Clemson University

3b: Protest something: be it the removal of graffiti on campus or the rising cost of tuition. Learn about the power of having opinions and making them heard.

Link to column.

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The biggest challenges for universities: a prof’s view

Valid points by Todd Pettigrew, associate professor of English at Cape Breton University.

    • A pervasive problem in university education is that students simply do not get the preparation they need to adequately begin university studies. … There are four things that can happen when students arrive unprepared.
      • First, they can fail—and may accrue a substantial amount of debt for what is probably a waste of time and potential.
      • Second, they may do much worse than they expect, and complain about their professors being “too hard” because they “always did well” before.
      • Third, they find one or more of the growing number of professors who are so battered by the first two that they give in and award grades they don’t deserve.
      • Or, fourth, they work hard, get better, and learn what they are supposed to learn. Only the last, of course, is desirable, and it is the least common.
    • One of Toope’s challenges is that universities must adapt to changes in student expectations. This has the matter backwards. The real issue with expectations is getting students to understand what our expectations are of them, not to conform to their expectations of us.
    • At its best, a university is a gathering place. A place where we bring as many of the most exciting minds we can find and let them create, and nurture, and support all manner of learning. To be sure, this sounds like a place whose definition is imprecise and its results hard to quantify. It is. And they will be. Getting  politicians and bureaucrats and administrators to accept such a vision will be supremely difficult.
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6 Simple Steps to Eliminate Excuses

  1. Practice honesty. The first thing to know is that an excuse is nothing more than a lie. The more you make excuses, the easier it gets. Lying, like most everything else, becomes easier the more you do it. But so does telling the truth. Practice telling people the truth all of the time. If you don’t want to go out with a friend, don’t lie. Tell the truth. Wouldn’t YOU appreciate your friends telling you the truth?
  2. Prioritize. Use your talent, time, and resources doing things that are important and meaningful for you. Stop saying yes to doing things that you don’t like doing. If the person or project doesn’t excite you or make you happy, then don’t waste your time. If there are people in your life who are draining your energy, then don’t give them yours. Make a list of what is important to you and do things toward that end. If spending time with family is a priority, then take steps to prove it.
  3. Set realistic goals. Personal excuses pop up when a deadline goes rushing past and you have not finished the project. Whether your goal is to exercise, finish a project, or simply drink more water, you should set realistic goals for yourself. Nobody likes to feel like a failure, so when a goal isn’t met we make an excuse. “I’m too busy with the kids to exercise.” No you aren’t. Take the kids with you. Exercise at home with them. Exercise while they are at school or napping. I used to work out on my lunch break because I knew I wouldn’t do it after work. Tell yourself to exercise for thirty minutes each day, and work on that project for at least fifteen minutes a day. Setting small, easy to achieve goals makes cutting out excises a lot easier.
  4. Stop procrastinating. Procrastination is just another word for excuse. Let “now” be your buzz word. If the dishes need to be done, DO THEM NOW. You won’t have to make an excuse if the task is finished. Doesn’t procrastinating make you feel worse? You know you have things to get done, you just don’t want to do them. Just get it over with. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment after, and you won’t spend the rest of your day worrying about doing the dishes.

For the last two, read http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/6-simple-steps-eliminate-excuses.html.


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10 ways to annoy a college professor (and lose a reference)

The author, who teaches PR to university students, explains the habits of students that grate on college professors.

Here are some ways to ensure your professor will remember you—not so fondly:

1. Text in class. Do you really think we don’t notice you clicking away. Unless you are a surgeon awaiting a call to surgery, for these two hours you are paying to learn something, perhaps you can shut off your phone.

2. Arrive late for class and then ask questions about topics discussed before you arrived.Please anticipate traffic or parking issues, and build in extra time to get to class. If you had a plane to catch, a red carpet event to attend, or a business deadline, would you be late? If yes, then PR isnot the industry for you.

3. Skip class and arrive the following session asking, “Did I miss anything?” No, of course you didn’t. We stared at the wall and contemplated why you decided not to show up.

4. Pretend to take notes on your laptop, but really be updating your Facebook profile. Yes, we can tell when you are listening and taking notes—and we know when you are surfing the Web.

To read the full column: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/46278.aspx#

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10 Skills That Will Get You Hired In 2013

Through anecdotes or proven track-records Milgram and Rasmussen agree:  It’s critical to show how you put those skills into action and contributed to the success of previous employers.  Providing specific examples of how these skills spelled success can mean the difference between an offer letter or being shown the door.

No. 1 Critical Thinking (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

No. 2 Complex Problem Solving (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

No. 3 Judgment and Decision-Making (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate ones.

No. 4 Active Listening (found in 9 out of the 10 most in-demand jobs)

Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate and not interrupting.


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The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Cramming for Exams

From The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Cramming for Exams

The most common post-exam complaint is, “Why didn’t the lectures just teach us how to do the exam?” For the same reason sex isn’t just wetting a condom and throwing it in the toilet. Your professors are actually trying to teach you the subject. Exams aren’t the point of education. They’re the flaccid little appendix we still sort of need to test if people have been turning up. Exams used to be walking into a room with all the smart people and just talking to them until they decided whether you were a dumbass or not. We suspect most students don’t want to go back to that.

“You’re in college to learn how to think and do things. Exams are an extremely small part of that. If you treat the only minor obstacles in four years of opportunity unmatched in the entire history of human civilization as a huge hassle to be avoided, you’re right when you say the educational system isn’t working for you. But it’s not the educational system’s fault.”

Column contains some valuable advice for students to consider at the start of the semester.

Read more: The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Cramming for Exams | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-7-dumbest-things-students-do-when-cramming-exams_p2/#ixzz1gXIhEAzu

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College professor walks out if students don’t bring snacks for lab class

Students in George Parrott’s psychology courses must bring homemade snacks each week to the (three-hour) laboratory section. They must work out a schedule such that groups of students make sure each session is covered and that snacks aren’t repeated from week to week. If there are no snacks, Parrott walks out of his class at California State University at Sacramento, and the students lose that week’s instruction.

Parrott said that he’s teaching students to work together to set a schedule, to work in teams to get something done, and to check up on one another, since everyone depends on whoever has the duty of bringing snacks on a given week. Typically, no student should be involved in preparing the snack more than twice a semester, he said.

He’s been doing this for 30 years. This is Parrott’s last semester before retirement.

He said that if the university tells him to stop enforcing the rule, “I’d probably ignore it.”


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