Author Archive

Eicher picks up another endorsement

February 11, 2010

Friend of The Sconz, Paul Axel, gets another inside scoop on the District 5 race.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Analiese Eicher for County Board Supervisor, District 5.

He gives us two reasons for the GMCC’s endorsement of Eicher.

1. They have a better sense of how her campaign is being run

2. She seems more friendly to business.

Beyond picking up endorsements, what exactly has Eicher’s campaign done? Still no website, and very few public statements or actions. I’m sticking with the obvious. The Chamber of Commerce is interested in business, and Eicher appears to be more of a moderate.


The Herald Ed Board gets it right, for now

February 11, 2010

This is turning into a bit of a theme week for me but, what the hell. In todays paper, the Herald Ed Board impressively calls for an honest debate on the morality of primate experimentation undertaken on campus.

This editorial board does not wish to argue in favor or against the research at this university. That’s because we’ve not been engaged in enough debate and fact finding to set out a course in one direction or the other.

But in this case, neither has the university. It may be that the procedures and processes in place are there for a reason and do justify the research being conducted in the name of scientific and medical progress. But there is a need to reevaluate this long-standing policy, as controversial and onerous as it may seem, to assure the university community that the platform we stand on is supported by sound pillars.

The Board refrains from taking a position for lack of relevant knowledge, and thats fine. But, that seems to imply that they will engage in fact finding in the future. Two thoughts on that.

First, if the Board does choose to follow up on this implied promise they should bring in people beside Eric Sandgren and Rick Marolt, because neither present particularly exhaustive arguments right now. The UW philosophy department is one of the best in the english speaking world. There are much better options out there.

Second, the Board should take a stand on this in the near future.  This has the potential of being a situation in which the Ed Board can be influential and controversial (making it good for the paper too) without being outlandish. The administration has a lot to lose here, and considerable pressure is going to be needed from mainstream sources to get them to even reexamine their policies.

Finally, where is the Cardinal on this?

Biddy fires back at Wyndham…poorly

February 10, 2010

A lot more to unpack here, but I thought I would get this out before the campus press did (and they should).

This is the part of the letter Martin sent back to the County Board of Supervisors that simply falls flat on its face.

She adds that Eric Sandgren, who oversees the university’s animal research enterprise, “informed meeting attendees that the campus considers the ethics of animal research on a case by case basis, just as the ethics of research involving humans is addressed case by case.”

The problem is that Biddy made the mistake of quoting the guy who should actually know whats going on here, but who continues to present completely incoherent philosophical views (this is not to say that there aren’t coherent views on his side). Human research involves willing participants, primate research does not. This “case by case” analogy is completely fallacious.

Ignoring that for a second, though, the real issue should be whether the case by case evaluations undertaken by this committee and based on this philosophy Sandgren espouses are turning out ethical results. The answer is, all too often, a resounding no.

The goal here should be stricter requirements on this mystical “utility” calculation used to determine if a given experiment is ethical or not. Most students and Madison residents would get behind this if some of the past abuses of the process became mainstream, which makes it a realistic and achievable goal (and perhaps deserving of an oversight committee itself).

Wyndham Manning speaks…about animal ethics?

February 9, 2010


Twenty Dane County supervisors sent a letter to UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin on Friday questioning the university’s process for deciding whether monkey experimentation is ethical.

In the letter, the supervisors asked whether that committee, the All-Campus Animal Care and Use Committee, is the right body to look into ethical questions.

The first signature on the letter was from none other than our tireless student advocate Wyndham Manning.

Ignoring Manning’s ineptitude, which I am very surprised Johnson would want anything to do with via an endorsement, what does the County Board think is going to happen? Biddy Martin is going to go to this debate of semi-qualified people, form a steadfast conclusion on one of the trickiest area of applied ethics, and end all primate research on campus, costing the University tens of millions of dollars?

Time for a new strategy guys.

Big Red gets a shout out from David Brooks

February 7, 2010

From Brooks’s column on big-time college sports in the NYT on Friday.

Several years ago, I arrived in Madison, Wis., for a conference. It was Saturday morning, and as my taxi got close to campus, I noticed people dressed in red walking in the same direction. At first it was a trickle, then thousands. It looked like the gathering of a happy Midwestern cult, though, of course, it was the procession to a football game.

The analysis that follows I could not agree with more.

In a segmented society, big-time college sports are one of the few avenues for large-scale communal participation. Mass college sports cross class lines. They induce large numbers of people in a region to stop, at the same time, and share common emotional experiences.

The crowds at big-time college sporting events do not sit passively, the way they do at a movie theater. They roar, suffer and invent chants (especially at Duke basketball games). Mass college sports are the emotional hubs at the center of vast networks of analysis, criticism and conversation. They generate loyalties that are less harmful than ethnic loyalties and emotional morality plays that are at once completely meaningless and totally consuming.

Just another reason to never minimize the importance of athletics.

Madison ranked the 15th ‘drunkest city’

February 5, 2010

Men’s Health puts Madison at the 15 spot, only 4 spots below Las Vegas.

The methodology seems a bit weak.

The magazine, which will publish the list of 100 major cities in i’s March edition, drew upon such data as death rates from alcoholic liver disease, booze-fueled car crashes, frequency of binge-drinking in the past month, number of DUI arrests, and severity of DUI penalties.

Check out this sweet interactive map of drunk while you’re at it. Does this motivate or depress you? (I’ll take the former)

The importance of a campus memorial

February 3, 2010

As Jack eloquently alluded to in the Brunch Links today, yesterday saw the loss of UW-student Neha Suri to bacterial meningitis. Like Jack, I also did not know her, but I imagine a few of our readers did based on her major and work at the DC among other things.

A memorial for Neha organized by the University was held earlier today. At the end of the memorial, it was reported (though I can’t find a written source right now) that rather than a moment of silence or prayer, Neha’s family requested that Dean of Students Lori Berquam lead attendees in a rendition of “Varsity.”

It has always been a theory of mine that the reason I can not find a UW alum who rates their years in Madison as anything less than exceptional is because of the expansiveness of our campus’s community, which allows for an experience in which there is something for everyone. However, this expansiveness also has the potential to lead to a feeling of isolation and a lack of community amongst students.

That is why, in addition to remembering the departed, memorials organized by campus officials, with members of the administration in attendance, and which garner coverage from campus papers, are important in solidifying and reinforcing a necessary sense of community so easily lost on such a vast campus.

We are not a private college where everyone often knows everyone; and thank God for that. But, at certain times it is important that we act like one.

May she rest in peace.

Rumors surface that Pitt will be joining Big Ten

February 1, 2010

This post probably wouldn’t pass the test of journalistic ethics, but the Pitt forums on are rumored to be buzzing with this news. Supposedly, athletes at Pitt were told that on Feb. 4th the school would be joining the Big Ten. Some athletes allegedly tweeted about it following the announcement but were forced to take them down.

Money wise this wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Adding Pitt wouldn’t get the Big Ten into the East Coast media market anymore than having Penn State already does, and getting into that market seemed to be the main reason for expansion.

Basketball wise, Jaimie Dixon (the coach of a very good Pitt program) in the Big Ten scares me.

Plato and Politics rarely mix

February 1, 2010

As long as we’re on the theme of videos tonight, check out this two minute clip from the BH website showing a UW-Madison committee addressing the question of whether invasive research on primates is ethical.

Some analysis and an explanation of the title following the jump…


Lets actually ‘get the facts straight’ Critical Badger

January 29, 2010

I really hate to do this. But, at some point being publicly attacked, having your factual integrity questioned, and having a solid and personally important editorial responded to with an overtly condescending “/dur” from a campus fixture necessitates some kind of response.

To recap, Danny S. (aka the Critical Badger) really didn’t like my most recent column in the BH on campus safety, or the column I wrote a year ago that it was a follow up to. It looks like he even hated the first one so much that he failed to read the second one, which, I will admit, was a more complete and responsible column.

Danny sent an email to Jack, Jason Smathers at the Herald, Ald. Bryon Eagon and me titled “Getting facts straight,” where he implied that the facts in my most recent column weren’t correct. You can see his full explanation of this claim on his post at U&S.

This appears to be what he has an issue with in my column:

“In the column, I cited crime statistics from a then recently released Campus Safety Guide to show the miniscule risk violent crime posed to students on campus, in a general attempt to push back against the irrational emphasis being placed on crime in the campaign.

To which he opined at U&S:

Yes, crime literally on the grounds of UW-Madison is generally not a problem. That’s because they happen OFF CAMPUS. Data not included in this report.

Of course, he shouldn’t be so dismissive of the crime dealt with by campus police around campus, because anyone who lives in a dorm falls completely under that category, and it affects a great deal of additional students as well. Pick up a campus map and take a look, there are campus buildings on more than just Bascom Hill.

The shortsightedness of his criticism doesn’t stop there. In a response email I was forced to point out the obvious to him:

You will also notice that I bring in city crime statistics as well. Admittedly, I do not have exact numbers for the few specific streets or the very limited areas where campus and city are blurred. A consolidation of those numbers does not exist that I can find, and I have spent time looking for them, including asking Eagon if he has any.

At any rate, it is somewhat irrelevant. The point of the column wasn’t to calculate the exact risk of crime every student is subject to while living in Madison. It was to use some relevant data to show that safety issues might not be as big of a deal as the candidates were making it out to be. Citing a combination of campus crime stats as well as city stats (considering city stats include parts of the city much less wealthy and safe than the city around campus) seems sufficient to do the trick, while in no way being disingenuous.

Nothing factually inaccurate. No misrepresentation. Not disingenuous. Just an argument you fail to agree with or pick up on.