Undergrad Press Coverage on Gun Control, Election-Year Politics and Penn State Sanctions

Glenn Ricketts

1. The recent mass shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado prompted a range of commentary from student papers still publishing over the summer.  Some sought to grasp possible motives in the mind of the gunman: the editors of the UI/ Champaign-Urbana Daily Illini, for example, tried but couldn’t reach any firm conclusion.  Their counterparts at the DePaulia in Chicago wondered if the shootings represented the rage of a new type of disconnected, socially isolated individual who, in the new world of social media has few genuine personal contacts with real people. By contrast, a columnist at the Independent Florida Alligator found media portrayals of the accused killer strangely humanizing, which she attributes to the fact that he’s white. And at the USC Daily Gamecock, a self-proclaimed “geek” surmised that many like himself were among the victims.  

2. But the most common editorial stance focused on the need for tougher restrictions on guns: sales, possession and enforcement. Having recently seen the heavy artillery he could easily buy at a local gun show, a writer for the Oklahoma Daily isn’t surprised that the Colorado tragedy occurred, but he’s plain dumbstruck that anyone could oppose much tighter control on such lethal merchandise.  That’s also the view of a colleague at the U of Houston Daily Cougar. Despite the powerful “gun culture” which presently envelopes the country, the Colorado tragedy should force us to face up to its consequences.  Likewise the editorial board of the MSU State News: Second Amendment Rights notwithstanding, the Colorado massacre could have been prevented if tougher restrictions had been in place.  Some animated correspondents heatedly dispute the editors’ reasoning.  The opinion editor of the KSU Collegian appreciates the presidential candidates’ decision to stop campaigning while the country is in mourning, but she hopes that they’ll also get serious about the obvious need to change gun policies, so there’s no repeat of the Colorado shootings. 

3. The NCAA announced heavy sanctions against Penn State, following the release of the Freeh Report’s findings in the sex abuse scandal, detailed here in last week’s student press review; a capsule summary of the ruling’s details was provided in this piece by an IU Daily Student sports reporter. At PSU itself, the editors of the Daily Collegian acknowledged that, while it’s difficult to find exactly what’s “right” in an instance like this one, their school failed in some very serious responsibilities and must now accept the consequences.  Many respondents argue angrily that PSU has been shafted, pure and simple.  An individual  columnist put the case more directly and likewise stirred up some passionate feedback, while a colleague at the paper emphasizes the painful process that healing will entail, including the removal of Joe Paterno’s statue.  

4. The story was big news elsewhere as well, and PSU didn’t get much sympathy.  The editors of the Minnesota Daily thought the Nittany Lions got exactly what they deserved, but also expressed surprise at the NCAA’s unprecedented departure from its regular procedures.  A sports writer at the MSU State News thinks the sanctions were very tough and wholly appropriate. He wonders just how they’ll affect the world of collegiate athletics overall.  At the Iowa State Daily, a regular sports columnist recommends scorching the earth at PSU: not only should Joe Paterno’s statue be removed, it should also be burned.  It’s nothing but a reminder of the idolatry that abetted the revolting crimes of his former assistant coach. From a different angle, the assistant opinions editor of the Pitt News endorses the NCAA’s ruling, but also attempts to view the sex abuse scandal within a wider perspective of other prominent institutions’ responses to similar scandals.  Finally, lest anyone forget, Penn State will be playing football come September, kicking off against Ohio University.  A writer for The Post tries to anticipate a game that won’t be just another home opener

5. International Affairs: A columnist for the Miami Student thinks it’s time for international intervention in the Syrian civil war to depose the reigning Assad dictatorship. That’s also the opinion of a political analyst writing in the UW/Madison’s Daily Cardinal. At the Daily Pennsylvanian, a Saudi Arabian student presents an open letter to the Syrian president and offers him some retirement advice. In other Middle East issues, a writer for the USC Daily Trojan urges American and European leaders to support Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s newly elected president.  Meanwhile, a Pakistani native and U of Michigan sophomore laments his country’s internal political turmoil for readers of the Michigan Daily.  US-Chinese relations also got some coverage, and a regular writer for the Indiana Daily Student offered a tongue-in-cheek satire on the flap over Chinese manufacture of American athletes’ Olympic t-shirts.  A bit more ominously, another commentator in the Iowa State Daily saw serious trouble in Chinese-American relations, possibly even a war.  But back to the Olympics, a staffer for the USC Daily Gamecock thinks it’s really too bad that the whole show has become so dominated by commercialism

6. Election –year politics:  GOP candidate Mitt Romney got some rough handling in recent commentary, as with this columnist for the Illinois State Vidette, who thinks the Republican nominee has some major problems telling the truth.  At the Syracuse Daily Orange, an op ed writer thinks he’s tongue-tied on the health care law he purports to oppose, and isn’t making sense.  A colleague at the Independent Florida Alligator suggests how the GOP standard bearer might add some zest to his square, boring image, while the editor-in-chief of the KSU Collegian advises Romney to think about Sen. Rand Paul as a VP running mate.  If he’s smart, he’ll realize that he’s got to distance himself from the discredited, unelectable Bush-era neoconservatives. And whatever the outcome of the presidential contest, a staffer for the Michigan Daily thinks there’s not likely to be any change in the perennial partisan gridlock that makes Congress so deservedly unpopular. A colleague at the Tulane Hullabaloo is similarly pessimistic, especially following the primary defeat of GOP moderates- such as Indiana’s Richard Lugar – by Tea Partiers. Meanwhile, the campus editor of the Miami Student examines local opinion on the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, which is a significant and potentially troublesome issue for the Democrats.  But for an op ed writer in the Daily Illini, same-sex marriage is the watershed issue this time around, whatever else is at stake.  And whatever your issue, a self-designated political independent writing for the Oklahoma Daily concludes that if you’re a college student and expect to be in school for a while, it’s in your self interest to vote Democratic

7. Campus odds and ends: A guest columnist for the U of A’s Crimson and White offers some thoughts on the present dismal status of classical music and is surprised by the barrage of heated comments that they generate.  At the Daily Illini, a cultural critic ponders the implausible success of a seemingly cheap, pulp novel.  Several commenters suggest that it’s one more piece of evidence illustrating popular culture’s relentless slide into mediocrity and dummed down reading level.  At the University Daily Kansan, an op ed staffer argues strongly for a free and unfettered student press on campus, and deplores widespread attempts by administrators and politicians to encroach on that status.  Of course that can come with some problems, and his colleague at the Indiana Daily Student complains about the outright theft of his intellectual property by various internet sources, who don’t give him his proper attribution.  For the record, please note that we’ve linked directly to his article.  For a columnist at the Daily Texan, academic freedom was vindicated at U/Texas Austin, where the Center for Middle Eastern Studies refused to accede to a threatened academic boycott.  Some respondents, though, don’t think that the center’s director was especially heroic. Finally, a conservative columnist in the UW/Madison Daily Cardinal offers his ilk some tips on how to survive at an overwhelmingly liberal campus, and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan tries to describe her mixed emotions as she prepares to depart for graduate school. 

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