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Current Affairs

April 23, 2009

Students Stand Up...on Twitter

So, I probably don't need to tell you about the ongoing protests by students and faculty at UVM over budget cuts for next year and the lay-offs of 109 faculty and staff. It's been really captivating to watch the situation unfold (and makes me glad that the biggest controversy at St. Mike's revolves around student government leaders treating themselves to chicken wings).

What I've been most impressed with has been how the UVM student group leading the protests, Students Stand Up, has done a great job presenting solid, well-considered ideas. Even if you disagree with their mission, you certainly can't call them a bunch of college hippie psuedo-activists protesting for the sake of it — the group has a real plan to fix the university's budgetr.

Yesterday I started following SSU's Twitter account (@studentsStandUp), which has been been providing constant updates since the rally/sit-in. It's kind of surreal knowing that there's somebody sitting in Waterman, Tweeting away from his/her phone while getting threatened with arrest for trespassing, but it's been a fascinating read.

And if I may offer a bit of advice to future sit-in participants: Next time the police begin to get involved, just have someone start a pillow fight across Burlington. That will keep them distracted.

March 11, 2009

UVM and New Yorkers: Not Fond of the Heartland Institute

University of Vermont student Connor Gibson spent last week as one of the 204 UVM students in Washington D.C. as part of Power Shift, where 12,000 students from around the country convened at the Capitol to demand a shift towards greener environmental policy. After the conference he traveled to New York and helped to film and edit this video, asking New Yorkers what they thought of the International Conference on Climate Change, a gathering of global warming skeptics being held near Times Square by the Heartland Institute. The results are amusing.

I don't see what's so bad about global warming myself — it'd allow us to catch a nice tan year-round even in Vermont, right?

February 25, 2009

Stimulating Burlington

Wondering what that stimulus package might buy for Burlington? According to the United States Conference of Mayors report on the stimulus, Burlington has submitted a mere $145 million worth of projects for consideration in the stimulus package.

Check out the list of proposed projects at StimulusWatch.org. The projects named range from the mundane (building bus shelters, renovating lights in city parking garages) to the spectacular (building a friggin' funicular to the waterfront).

I'm not an economics major, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that the city will actually get about 3% of that $145 million. Will that ugly median on Main St. up in the Davis Center area get transformed into something other than an eyesore? Will we be riding around on a new fleet of clean-burning CCTA buses in a few years? Will the Moran Plant be redeveloped into an ice rink/climbing center? I'm kind of rooting against that last one actually — I know the Moran Plant currently looks like it got a bomb dropped on it, but it makes for some damn cool photographs.

There's no doubt that conservative Burlingtonians (both of them) will decry all these projects as nothing but "pork," and they may have a point — but come on, riding a funicular down to the lake would be pretty cool.

January 20, 2009

Inauguration Fever!

The importance of the swearing-in of Barack Obama as our 44th President was not lost on the students of St. Michael's today. Seems like nearly every campus institution was getting in on the excitement, offering up some way of commemorating this "historic event" (and in such decidedly non-partisan terms, of course). The College Conservatives, however, did not get in the action, at least publicly.

I've heard numerous reports of faculty canceling class today or altering arrangements so that students could watch the inaugural festivities — one of my professors turned today's class meeting into an online course, complete with podcast, and two of my former professors canceled their classes because they're actually in Washington today. Even Sodexo dining services got in on the act with a dinner themed to Obama's hometown of Chicago in the dining hall, with classic Chicagoan dishes like deep dish pizza and sirloin steak on the menu.

But perhaps the most striking quality of all is how excited most students were for today. Lots of Obama t-shirts were out today, including at least one "Tanzanians for Obama" shirt. I overheard so many people talking about watching the inauguration this afternoon, I think it even surpassed the Lost season premiere as the go-to TV event.

There were plenty of places on-campus to watch Obama's oath and subsequent speech with the greater community. One television was set up in the dining hall of the Alliot Student Center, with another out in the lobby. Large viewings were being held in the library, the Center for Women and Gender, and the recital hall in the McCarthy Arts Center. I chose to watch with a small group of friends in the common room of my suite, though — the same place I watched history every night as it unfolded this past fall.

January 16, 2009

Frozen!

Some weather we're havin'.  Nothing makes the morning walk to class brighter like a temperature of -10°F.  A true Vermont welcome back to school, I guess. Not to be too gross, but I think the mucus in my nose froze solid today. Eeek.

It could be worse, though.  According to the National Weather Service, the record low temperature observed in Burlington was a reading of -30°F, set on January 15, 1957. And from February 12 to 18, 1979, Burlington went over six days without seeing the temperature go above zero on the thermometer. By comparison, this is but a light chill. Okay, maybe a medium chill. But once this snap goes away, the typical temperatures in the 20s that we'll have for the rest of the winter will seem downright tropical by comparison.

In the meantime, since it's far too cold to go anywhere, enjoy this video of a guy making a small orchestra of Tic-Tacs, and then wonder why you never had that kind of creativity or ambition (or corporate cash backing).

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