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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Too Much Construction?

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The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research university in Amherst Massachusetts and is the flagship school of the University of Massachusetts system. With more than 27,000 students, it is the largest public university in New England. I’ve attended UMass Amherst for the past two years, and there has never been a time when I have not seen the campus plagued with construction. Whether it’s changing a light into a rotary or building a new research lab, it seems that the campus is constantly under construction.

UMass Amherst has a reputation of being repeatedly voted as one of the ugliest University campuses (20 Ugliest…). The constant construction might be a contributing factor, as well as being a traffic nuisance. Tuition costs have been steadily rising in recent years. Believing that the University was raising the cost of tuition simply to pay for their new buildings, I was irritated.

While researching what the University was spending its fund on, I uncovered a major flaw in the system. The money that the University spends on construction projects come from alumni donations, as well as loans from the UMass Building Authority, while tuition is completely separate. As a result, the University raises tuition as well as splurge on hundred-million dollar buildings. Recently, UMass Amherst was ranked 94th on ‘Best National Universities’, and 42nd among public universities (U.S. News). Alumni donations flooded the University. With this influx of money, the University adopted an aggressive expansionist policy.

A center for recreation opened in 2009, serving as a state-of-the-art fitness and activity area for students and faculty. The total cost was $50 million (“New Recreation Center”…), a relatively small price tag, comparing it with other recent buildings. Two years after it opened, the ‘Rec Center’ is a major highlight of the UMass Amherst campus. Adding to the Recreation Center’s appeal was a suitably sized parking lot; giving Parking Services an ideal source of revenue, while allowing off-campus students convenient parking after 5 p.m. for their workout. Yet only two years later, the parking lot was closed and construction on new dorms started.

The Commonwealth Honors College is the honors college at UMass, although it hardly seems it. Open to anyone interested in intensifying their curriculum and who can maintain a high enough GPA, many are originally attracted to the program. Unfortunately, most are met with disappointment after the realization that there is no special housing, and no sense of community (Shore).

With the Honors College building, the appeal of the honors program and UMass Amherst greatly increases. With a building specifically for the Honors program, the program becomes more attractive to prospective students, being surrounded by their Honor program peer. Perhaps UMass will shed some of its ZooMass and ‘bro’ reputation, and instead become more of a beacon of education.

Also in the plans is a new academic building, slated to be built on the north side of the campus pond. The choice of location is somewhat unpleasant, as a new classroom would take away from the aesthetics of the campus pond in the warmer months. Not only visually infringing, a local preservationist group contend that “plans to construct a new classroom building near Campus Pond at UMass will ruin an iconic landmark and its surrounding landscape” (Cain). Both sides are currently fighting over the matter, slowing production of this building down considerably.

Goessman Laboratory was built in 1922, and it shows. Hazardously out-of-date, renovations are desperately needed. It turns out renovations are already in the plans and are expected to be completed by January 2013.  Renovation is expected to be complete in January 2013. The renovations include lab renovations, new ventilation, new heating and air conditioning, new lab waste and neutralization systems, sprinkler system, generator, and wireless internet (Facilities…). It’s about time; these renovations have been needed for years.

Joyce M. Hatch is the retiring vice chancellor for administration and finance. It was her job to decide which projects to give the green light to, and has stated that “every single one of these buildings is needed”(Lederman). After researching exactly how the University was spending its money, I am inclined to agree with her. Each new building and renovation is badly needed and come at a time when other colleges don’t have the money to invest in new facilities. While the sheer volume of money that is being invested into UMass Amherst is staggering, there is no need to worry that this money isn’t being put toward necessary causes.

 

 

Work Cited

Blaguszewski, Ed. “New Recreation Center Officially Opened at UMass Amherst, Creating New Era of Health and Fitness Opportunities for Students.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of News and Media Relations, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Cain, Chad. “Preservationists Aim to save UMass Campus Pond from New Building.”GazetteNET | News and Information from Northampton, MA by the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

“Facilities Planning Construction News, Schedules & Calendars.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Lederman, Diane. “Construction Begins on New UMass Honors College Dorm | Masslive.com.” Western Massachusetts Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather – MassLive.com. 28 May 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Shores, Chris. “Commonwealth Honors College: Myth or Reality?” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 21 Nov. 2010. Print.

“The 20 Ugliest College Campuses in the USA – A List of All Ugly Colleges.” Think Student Loans | Private Student Loans & College Loans From Think Financial. 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.

“Top Public Schools | Rankings | Top National Universities | US News.” Review. U.S News & World Report. Print.

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Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

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­Andrew Tarbox

Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

 

            Growing up, there is one thing all people seem to focus on: the future.  As children we dream about our lives, having illustrious careers and perfect homes.  Into adolescence, we think about our first kiss and falling in love.  With early adulthood comes the pressure of the real world, wondering if we will receive a stable job in the career we choose and whom we will eventually marry.  Regardless of race, cultural background, or sexual orientation, these thoughts have crossed the minds of all citizens in the United States, but some may not always have the same opportunities as others.

            My peers have surely possessed these thoughts many times.  With most of us being eighteen, we have begun the progression into young adulthood and begun to think much about the future.  Since arriving at college, I myself have been somewhat obsessed with the idea of my forthcoming years and what is to come from them.  I hope to finish school, receive a job, and that there will be a man in my life somewhere down the road whom I will one day marry and adopt children with.

            That idea had never worried me until I started to think about it recently.  It has never bothered me because, for seven years now, same-sex couples have had the ability to obtain marriage licenses in Massachusetts. The first state in the United States to do so, Massachusetts thus granted these couples legal recognition and the ability to receive equal benefits to those of heterosexual couples. But what if I moved and wanted to get married in another state or moved after my marriage? Would it still be considered legal? Would my husband and I still receive the benefits provided to us previously? There are only six states in the United States, along with the District of Columbia, that have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage.  Although there is much progress being made in the realm of equal marriage rights, there is still much that needs to be accomplished in the foreseeable future. With this being such a hot topic, the public is being bombarded by countless pieces of information.  My ultimate goal is to streamline this information and bring some clarity to what the people behind these issues are saying.

            As of right now, the battle for equal marriage rights centers around the Defense of Marriage Act.  Passed in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act defined a marriage explicitly in federal law as a union of one man and one woman.  More than one thousand rights and protections given to couples upon marriage by the federal government are thus denied to same-sex couples, including Social Security benefits, health insurance, hospital visitation, and pensions.  Thankfully, the state government controls many aspects of day-to-day life in the terms of marriage law, not allowing the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent individual states from defining marriage in their own terms (“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle”).  This means that even though certain states are allowed to give homosexual couples the legal right to marry, they are still denied the countless federal benefits given to heterosexual couples by the United States government.

            Those that are currently fighting in favor of equal marriage rights make a case for it in terms of both human and Constitutional rights.  In Manuel Lopez’s essay The Case Against Gay Marriage, he quotes a gay conservative Andrew Sullivan.  Sullivan doesn’t look to outlaw private disapproval or discrimination, but simply wants homosexuals to receive equal treatment under the state, including the right to a civilly recognized marriage.  He views marriage as a “social and public recognition of private commitment”,  and as a contract which constitutes “an emotional, financial, and psychological bond between two people.” Sullivan’s opinion is that, in this aspect, “heterosexuals and homosexuals are identical,” so there is no reason to prevent people of the same sex from marrying (Lopez 1).  This is the view that most contemporary homosexuals share.  They feel that being homosexual is as much a part of them as their hair or eye color and thusly their sexuality shouldn’t separate them from heterosexual couples in terms of rights.  If the federal government were to deny all hazel-eyed persons the right to vote even though that’s merely part of who they are as a being, would they not retaliate?  They would.  Being denied a federal right under the premise of something out of one’s own control is purely unconstitutional.  The view of marriage as a right is shared by all of those whom are backing the fight, including organizations like the Human Rights Campaign. 

            Those on the other end of the spectrum view marriage in a more religious light.  They believe that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman should stay intact based on the biblical idea of homosexuality being a sin.  Thus, certain values were created in terms of ‘marriage’ and the belief that if anything brought change to it, it would weaken both the definition and respect for the institution of marriage and further weaken any traditional family values (Messerli).  In this light, it there seems to be a strict hypocrisy between heterosexual and homosexual couples.  Heterosexual celebrities who have marriages that last a few days or months only to follow in divorce are doing nothing wrong, but if a homosexual couple who have loved and stayed by one another for years get married, they are responsible for ruining the sanctity and values of marriage.   At thirty-one years of age, Kim Kardashian has been married twice now: once at twenty for four years and again at thirty for a mere seventy-two days.  There are accusations that she didn’t even want to get married and merely did so to boost her own business.  On a personal note, my mother has a close gay friend that lives in Louisiana with his partner and they have been happily together and in love for fifteen years.  However, these two men have not been given the opportunity to get married because of both the federal and state ban of same-sex marriage there in the state.

Margaret A. Somerville wrote that marriage is “the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship” (3).  Manuel Lopez wrote that “marriage is part of the natural order, an order bigger than ourselves and our desires,” in the sense that marriage is a result of the desire to be a parent (4).  In this sense, it seems that some people merely see marriage as an embodiment of the evolutionary process of reproduction.  Marriage has become so much more than this idea.  Marriage is the idea of committing one’s heart, mind, and soul to another person in eternal unity.  This idea that marriage is merely evolutionary is negated in Cynthia Wagner’s “Homosexuality and Family Formation, where she writes that parenting may be as strong an urge in homosexual individuals as it is among heterosexuals, despite it being seemingly counterintuitive from an evolutionary point of view. In a recent study of Samoan gay men, evolutionary psychologists found a strong willingness for the caretaking and teaching of nieces and nephews, offering the uncles a boost for their family lineage and a way to “earn their evolutionary keep” (Wagner 6-7).  Many of those opposed to equal marriage rights see the homosexual lifestyle as something that shouldn’t be endorsed, categorized by unstable relationships and excess promiscuity, thus incapable of a stable marriage and the ability to create a stable familial environment.  Nevertheless, according to a 2007 study of adoption trends by the UCLA School of Law and the Urban Institute, more than half of gay men said they desired to be a parent, compared with forty-one percent of lesbians surveyed.  More than a third of lesbians had given birth, while seventeen percent of men had the ability to father or adopt a child (Wagner 7).  This leads me to believe that homosexual marriage has all the potential to be as stable and loving as a heterosexual marriage is.  While homosexual couples may not have the ability to actually create children, the need for adoption is stronger than ever, and their ability to create a family environment conducive to the raising of children is just as strong as that of a heterosexual couple.

            The American Psychological Association has openly expressed their support in the fight for equal marriage rights.  Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson of the APA write that “traditional ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ discussions of same-sex marriage are headed for the history books where they belong, along with debates about the merits and demerits of ‘inter-racial” marriage’” (Kitzinger 174).  The fight for interracial marriage follows a scarily similar path to that of the battle for equal marriage rights.  Many believe that as long as the fight stays strong, people will soon realize that marriage between people of the same sex is no different from marriage between people of two races.  A person’s skin color and sexuality are part of themselves and thus it is inhumane to deny them a human right on the basis of something they cannot control.  In reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kitzinger and Wilkinson wrote out that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.”  They feel that as long as marriage is a foundational social institution in the United States, based on our on Constitution, equal access to said institution should be a fundamental principle of equality (Kitzinger 176).

            All in all, those that are looking for equal marriage rights in the United States are merely asking for marriage to be seen in a term of democracy, of human rights, and that certain unalienable rights like those written in the Constitution should be given to all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  They see the denial of equal marriage rights as discrimination and denying of countless rights.  The actual ability to have marriages, in their eyes, reduces the potential of promiscuity and high-risk sexual lifestyles for a greater focus on familial lifestyles.  Equal marriage in the land of the free where all men are created equal doesn’t seem like a difficult concept, yet it is still a daily struggle.  With twelve percent (six states) of the nation in favor of gay marriage currently, those fighting for equal marriage rights have still got a long struggle ahead.  Hopefully there will be a day in the near future where we, and our children, possess the ability to love and marry whomever we so choose, because ultimately the idea of marriage today leads me to believe that’s what it should be about: love.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle.” The United Families   International Blog. United Families International, 9 July 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

Kitzinger, Celia, and Sue Wilkinson. “Social Advocacy for Equal Marriage: The

Politics of ‘Rights’ and the Psychology of ‘Mental Health’.” Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy 4.1 (2004): 173-194. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Lopez, Manuel A. “The Case Against Gay Marriage.” Good Society Journal 14.1/2

(2005): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Messerli, Joseph. “BalancedPolitics.org – Same Sex Marriages (Pros & Cons, Arguments For and Against, Advantages & Disadvantages).” Balanced Politics. 30 July 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.

 

Schaff, Kory. “Equal Protection and Same-Sex Marriage.” Journal of Social Philosophy

35.1 (2004): 133-147. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Shah, Dayna K. “Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report.” U.S. General Accounting Office. United States General Accounting Office, 23 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Somerville, Margaret A. “The Case Against ‘Same-Sex Marriage’” Marriage Institute. Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law, and Culture, 29 Apr. 2003. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Wagner, Cynthia G. “Homosexuality and Family Formation.” Futurist 44.3 (2010): 6-

7. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Somnambulism

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Somnambulism

Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is a common sleeping disorder among children. Not much is known about somnambulism, only that it causes people to move in their sleep. Many theories about somnambulism have been created, a lot of doctors used to think that it was a person acting out his or her dream. Recent studies have shown that sleepwalking does not occur during dreams. No one knows yet what exactly causes somnambulism.

A hereditary predisposition to somnambulism was investigated by researching sleepwalking in twins. Both monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins were used. The study showed that both monozygotic twins sleepwalked 6 times more often than both dizygotic twins. It also showed that thumb sucking and nail biting was more prevalent in sleepwalkers than non sleepwalkers. (Abe)(Bawkin)

Sleepwalking and other sleep related disorders can be a sign of an underlying mental disorder. A recent study showed that sleepwalkers were more likely to have other mental disorders such as, hallucinations or bipolar disorder. Factors found to be associated with sleepwalking were age of 15 to 24 years, a sense of choking or breathlessness at night, sleeptalking and a road accident in the last year. The conclusion found was that sleepwalking and other sleep related disorders are the result of an underlying mental disorder. (Narasimha Pai)

Scientists used electroencephalographic recorders to monitors subjects brainwaves while sleeping. The apparatus used to record the subjects allowed for complete mobility so the subject would not be restricted from walking while sleeping. All subjects were known sleepwalkers, and all recordings were made on nights where sleepwalking occurred. The studies showed that sleepwalking is not related temporally to dreaming, and it does not affect the amount of time a person spends sleepwalking. Dreams occur during REM sleep, but all incidents of somnambulism occurred during slow wave sleep. The subjects reported that their average dream time each night and that time did not change from sleepwalking nights to regular nights. The incidents usually began during stage 3 or 4 of sleep. Typically the EEG showed that brain waves in a sleepwalker were the same as in a normal child, but then the brainwaves displayed a lower amplitude for about 10 to 30 seconds. In almost all the incidents the subjects brain waves after sleepwalking were the same as normal brain waves in a person waking up. During somnambulism incidents the subjects seemed aware of their surroundings but indifferent towards it. Their eyes were open and they had a blank expression on their faces. Activity ranged from sitting up to running or jumping around. Some subjects responded when spoken to, although they typically used one syllable words and they seemed annoyed. When subjects did not return to their bed spontaneously they could be led there easily. Subjects never remembered the incidents the morning after. (Jacobson)

Somnambulism has been studied by many people. Many factors such as genetics, mental disorders, and more may be the cause of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking has been found to be unrelated to dreaming. Not much is known about somnambulism, but scientists are constantly discovering. A cure may be found, but like most other ailments, that will take time and research.

 

 

Works Cited

Jacobson, A. Kales, D. Lehmann, J.R. Zweizig. “Somnambulism All-Night Electroencephalographic Studies” Science. n.p. 14 May 1965. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

Abe, M. Shimakawa. “Predisposition to Sleepwalking” European Neurology. Psychiatria et Neurologia. 1966. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

Narasimha Pai. “Sleep-Walking and Sleep Activities” BJPsych. n.p. 1946. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

H. Bawkin. “Sleep-Walking in Twins” The Lancet. n.p. 29 Aug. 1970. 17 Nov. 2011.


Easing Away From Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

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Easing Away From Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

Anita Palanukorn

People naturally use cosmetics in their everyday lives. Whether it be applying deodorant or rubbing lotion onto dry skin, both men and women spend a minute or two of their days enhancing their exterior appearances. But have you ever wondered how these products came to be? How did companies create these products so that they were guaranteed to be safe for human use? One such method of testing for the safety of chemicals in human cosmetic items is the general use of animal experimentation. Animal testing is simply the use of non-human animals in experiments. While animal experimentation has been extremely effective in ensuring the safe usage of chemicals in cosmetics, the tests that the animals are forced to endure often involve the suffering of the animals being tested. The use of inhumane animal testing methods begs the question of whether it is necessary for companies to employ such procedures despite the moral questions surrounding the experiments. Do cosmetic corporations have a means of bypassing animals in the chemical testing process so as to make the production of cosmetics as morally acceptable as possible? And if so, how effective are these alternative, cruelty-free procedures?

According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, most animal testing in cosmetics involves the testing of irritancy of chemicals and the potential harm they might cause if these chemicals were eaten, inhaled, or came in contact with a living body (145). In particular, the Draize tests are the most frequently-used tests for irritancy in substances used when producing cosmetics. They involve the placement of potentially corrosive chemicals on either the skin or the eyes of live animals. In the Draize eye test, “various concentrations of products are applied directly into the animals’ eyes, which can cause intense burning, itching and pain” (145). Alison Abbott, a senior European correspondent for Nature magazine, states that these chemicals are often directly applied into the eyes of live rabbits, whose eyes are then assessed for possible damage and overall reaction to the irritants (144). The National Anti-Vivisection Society further explains how certain substances are “applied to shaved and abraded skin, which is then covered with plastic sheeting” when testing for chemical irritancy on the skin (145). As in the Draize eye test, the skin would then be evaluated to see how it did or did not react to the chemical placed upon it.

With the knowledge of these tests in mind, why is it that companies still consider using animal testing on their products? The United States Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for making sure the cosmetics are safe for people to use, neither requires the use of animal experimentation to test a product nor subjects cosmetics to FDA “premarket” approval (“Animal Testing”). Yet, most companies that have continued to use animal testing argue that they wish to experiment on animals because it has been effective in determining the safety of chemicals on humans in the past. Andrew Knight, an Australian bioethicist and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, writes that there have been claims that animal research is vital to the understanding and curing of human diseases. He further states how many cosmetic manufacturers believe that animal testing is essential for the “greatest achievements” in the medicinal industry, and how the “complexity of laboratory animals” provides a sufficient model for research pertaining to the “complexity of humans” (39).

Another reason companies continue to test cosmetic chemicals on animals is because of the convenience of maintaining the traditional use of animal testing in their procedures. The National Anti-Vivisection Society claims that cosmetic producers view animal testing as a “legal safety net” to ensure that they have “appropriate” safety data in case they are ever sued for defective products (147). In addition, the FDA does not even have a definition for the term “cruelty-free.” Cosmetic producers can easily label their products as such without restriction according to their definition of what may be considered “animal testing” (“Cruelty-Free/Not Tested On Animals”). For example, if a company does not test their final products on animals but uses other substances in their products that have been tested on animals, they may still be able to label their products as “Not Tested On Animals” because their claim only pertains to the final product.

There are still many ethical issues that arise from using animals as test subjects in research. First, the commonly-used tests like the Draize tests are possibly painful and damaging for the animals. If a chemical is indeed corrosive, then naturally an animal would be subject to significant amounts of pain from these procedures. Irritancy tests are also a cause of great distress, which is defined as “an aversive state in which an animal is unable to adapt completely to stressors and the resulting stress and shows maladaptive behaviors” (qtd. in Knight 29), often due to the environment the animals are kept in (32). According to a 2004 study by scientist J. Balcombe and associates, general human contact (i.e. handling, cage cleaning, and restraining during procedures) distorted homeostasis, or the maintenance of biological equilibrium, within most of the common laboratory animal species (i.e. rats and mice) (31-2). These results indicate the presence of stress and potentially fear in laboratory animals (32). Such tests not only bring up ethical questions but reveal a certain hypocrisy as well. As Roman Kolar of the Animal Welfare Society says, “…it seems unacceptable that we, as humans, put sentient beings into states of suffering that we would never accept for ourselves” (112). Animals used in cosmetic testing are almost certainly sentient creatures (like rabbits, rats, and mice); they may not have the ability of higher-level perception like humans, but they are still capable of receiving and perceiving pain stimuli. People are definitely aware of the unpleasantness of such chemical testing methods; for what other reason would we choose to test human products on animals instead of on fellow people? But since the animals used in these experiments are also sentient creatures, it is simply not fair to subject them to cruel tests, especially when we ourselves would probably never willingly endure such unnecessary pain.

There are also legitimate scientific reasons as to why animal testing methods should be re-evaluated and reformed. The leading scientific argument against animal testing would be whether or not test results done on lower level mammals like mice and rabbits can accurately be “extrapolated” to humans (“Cosmetic Testing: Facts”). Abbott claims that “Most animal tests over or underestimate toxicity, or simply don’t mirror toxicity in humans very well” (145). Seeing as humans and, for instance, mice are different organisms, it makes sense that the reactions of both species have a higher chance of being different. Studies dating back to 1971 even show how multiple Draize tests performed in different labs turned out to be irreproducible and unreliable (145).

So what are the possible alternatives to animal testing? In a general statement, the non-profit organization “In Defense of Animals” states that cosmetic companies should start using “cell and skin tissue cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and mathematical models” instead of using live animal test subjects that may not even give accurate results on the health hazards of chemicals on humans (“Cosmetic Testing: Facts”). In place of skin irritant testing, the National Anti-Vivisection Society suggests that companies use procedures such as Corroxitex®, which evaluates the corrosiveness of acids, bases, and acid derivatives, instead (149). This is done using a biomembrane and chemical detection system that uses color change to show when a substance is corrosive (“Testing Alternatives”). Another possible test would be EpiDerm, which is a “layered model of human-derived epidermal keratinocytes” that functions as artificial human skin (“Testing Alternatives”). This method too can be used to test chemical irritancy with skin.

But as with all things, even the alternative testing methods have yet to be perfected (or as perfected as it can be in this constantly changing realm of science). Even with Corroxitex® and EpiDerm, which are two methods validated by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, or ICCVAM, scientists are sometimes advised to test the final product on live animals to once again confirm the irritancy or corrosiveness of the tested chemical (“Testing Alternatives”). Among cosmetic companies (and any other company using animals experimentation), there is a general apprehension about the effectiveness of alternative animal testing. According to Thomas Hartung, the former head of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, people feel “uneasy about taking risks where stakes are so high and issues so emotive. We all want to be sure that there is real evidence that alternative tests are predictive of human toxicity” (qtd. in Abbott 146).

Nevertheless, it is still important to try and ease away from the prevalent and inhumane use of animals in the laboratory setting. While current validated alternative testing methods may not exclude animals entirely, they are at least reducing the use of live animals in cosmetics testing. Abbott believes that the long-term benefits of reducing animal suffering while still progressing in the area of science and cosmetics are preferable to the current inhumane usage of animal testing in science (146). The science of cosmetics is as constantly changing as any other realm of science; the continuous process of researching and learning new techniques still has the potential to someday leave the cosmetics industry free of cruel animal testing methods.

Works Cited

Abbott, Alison. “Animal testing: more than a cosmetic change.” Nature 438 (2005): 144-146. Print.

“Animal Testing.” Cosmetics. United States Food and Drug Administration, 1999. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

“Cosmetic Testing: Facts.” In Defense of Animals. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.

“Cruelty-Free/Not Tested On Animals.” Cosmetics. United States Food and Drug Administration, 1995. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Knight, Andrew. The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2011. Print.

Kolar, Roman. “Animal Experimentation.” Science and Engineering Ethics 12.1 (2006): 111-122. Print.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society. Personal Care for People Who Care. The National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2007. Print.

“Testing Alternatives.” American Anti-Vivisection Society, 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.

Jonathan Murray

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Student Loans: The Most Oppressive Kind Of Debt and Why We Have It

               The culture of education in the United States is one that is unique and competitive.  Students are groomed to be good college students and become productive members of society.  In recent history, there has been a shift in demographics and types of students attending colleges.  More and more students, with assistance from the government or other educational institutions, are attending college.  The surge in college students has resulted in even more money being loaned to pay for these educations.  Few however fail to realize the oppressive nature of this debt but incur it because they see it as a necessary asset in the job market.  The student loan industry is not favorable towards students and prospective applicants.  Those who find themselves in these positions must have a firm understanding of its history and the consequences of their decisions.

Education in the United States has only recently become accessible to most people.  Before the 1940s, “the only education legislation was the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges and vocational education for disabled veterans” (Strach 65).  A majority of the population in this country would finish high school and move into an industry or vocation immediately after.  The first major piece of legislation that changed this culture was the GI Bill of 1944.  The GI Bill provided among other things loan guarantees for homes and travel expensive.  It also “covered college tuition…up to five hundred dollars per year and paid [veterans] monthly living allowances while they pursued their studies” (Collinge 2).  This was the first instance in our nation’s history that the federal government provided aid for people who wanted to go to school.  “By 1974, nearly 50 percent of all new college students were returning military personnel, and by the time the original GI Bill expired, in 1956, a remarkable 7.6 million Americans had utilized the program” (2).

Servicemen and women following the GI Bill had a greater opportunity to gain an education.  However, demographics including low and middle-income families were still struggling.  Doors would not open up for these groups until the Higher Education Act of 1965, specifically the work-study provision.  Under the work-study program, “the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs [of part-time student employment], and the colleges and universities would pick up the remaining 10 percent” (Strach 66).  Realizing that most support for families came in multiple forms, the work-study program gave struggling students another avenue to not only pay for school but also to support themselves with a small income.  Although work-study gave students a small cash flow, families could not guarantee they would get financial assistance.  This would change with the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants/Pell Grants of 1972.  These grants “guaranteed [students] an amount based on their college costs minus their expected family contribution” and were described “on a scale second only to the GI Bill” (Strach 67).  With greater opportunity, lower and middle-income people now found it somewhat affordable to get an education, resulting in a great surge of college students in America.

Although government programs made it somewhat easier to afford university, some students were not prepared for this type of education.  Community colleges in recent history have begun to take overflow from universities and colleges as an inexpensive education route.  Community colleges have existed in the United States since the early 1900s, but “recently, community colleges have had [a] workforce training aspect…” (EduExec).  With more and more industries looking for people with higher degrees, some community colleges have even started offering bachelor’s degrees.  The upward trends in community college applications is a growing sign of a society that values education, and these institutions are trying to meet the public need.  With the growing rate of students and the lack of employment, community colleges are turning away more and more hopeful applicants each year.  To fill the growing demand, for-profit institutions have been gaining market share and capital.

For-profit institutions are different than regular educational institutions in regards to their ability to raise funds.  Unlike traditional institutions whose cash flow comes from alumni donations and governments, for-profits sell shares of their school to raise capital.  In essence, for-profit schools are businesses that sell degrees as products.  For-profit education is the fastest growing sector in the industry, averaging 25 percent growth a year and totaling over 2.8 million students (Durrance).  The reason for such an upsurge in for-profit schools comes from abundant aide and an easy application process.  For-profit institutions collect 25 percent of the federal student aide funds but only have 10 percent of the nation’s student body.  In actuality, most of the profit comes from federal aide.  The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit in the country, reports that 86 percent of its revenues come from federal aide (Durrance).  These new types of educational institutions create easy opportunities for people to get an education.  The downside of easy access education is the amount of people who want it.  With a lackluster economy, the rise in higher education attendance has gone through the roof and saturated the market with degree-holding individuals.  As a result, there are too many degree holders who go on to get jobs that do not require a degree at all.

More and more people feel as though it is necessary to have a college degree.  There is a degree if truth to this statement because many employers look for degrees as a necessary component for hiring.  As a result, students who wouldn’t normally go to college have flooded traditional, community, and for-profit colleges looking for a way to get a better job.  In addition, a majority of these people can’t afford the tuition bill. As a result, taking out student loans and acquiring massive amounts of student debt has become a “necessary evil.”  Without the debt, there is no way to get an education, and without an education, it is extremely difficult to get a job.  The culture of student debt has become that many don’t weigh the options when taking out loans.  Many do not do research and few realize the oppressive nature of the debt.

With the downturn in the economy, many people who have student debt have realized the significance of their decision.  People are drowning in debt and there are very few consumer protection laws to shield them.  Some claim the reason behind the lack of consumer protection comes from favorable legislation from Congress to benefit loan givers, specifically Sallie Mae.  The federal government in 1972 created Sallie Mae as a government sponsored enterprise (similar to the Postal Service).  Its main purpose was to create, service, and collect on federal student loans.  In 1997 Sallie Mae began to privatize and eventually broke all connection with the government in 2004 (Collinge 5-14).  Sallie Mae is now a privately owned bank that offers federally backed loans for a profit.  Many people are unaware of its status with the government and feel that their loans are safer because they think Sallie Mae is a part of the government. In actuality, the laws regarding student debt allow Sallie Mae and other private loan givers to employ “draconian methods of collection” (Collinge 6).

The two biggest injustices done to loan holders are laws regarding consolidation and bankruptcy.  Congress and private lenders like Sallie Mae have made the process so favorable for them that one can never be relieved of student debts.  Most debts, including credit cards, are dischargeable in bankruptcy court.  That means that the debt is forgiven or reduced to a more reasonable level for the individual.  “[The] 1998 Higher Education Act reauthorization abolished [a dischargeable] provision…[which makes] student loans…the only type of loan in U.S. history to be nondischargeable in bankruptcy” (Coolinge 14).  One debt holder who went to bankruptcy court said: “The judge told me not to come back unless I was in a wheelchair” (qtd. in Collinge 14).  Student debt is also one of the only debts that can be consolidated once.  “Once a student graduated and consolidated his or her loans, he or she could never leave that lender, even if there were other lenders who were willing to offer better terms (15).  Students are bound to one lender and if they are unable to pay the rates, the company can garnish wages, lower credit scores, and affect your ability to get a mortgage or other loans.  “The freedom to change lenders in order to find better terms for a loan is a consumer protection that is taken for granted in every other lending industry, but is nonexistent for student loans” (15).  Without essential consumer protections in place, students are subjugated to the harsh policies of the lenders and government.

The fight over student loan programs in the United States has been one that is both partisan and emotional.  Many times, true and effective legislation is defeated in Congress because of the strong legislative ties big banks have with Congressmen.  A sign of hope came last March with the Health Care Overhaul bill.  Written into the legislation were significant education reforms including dramatic changes to Sallie Mae’s federal subsidies.  With this new legislation, Sallie Mae “will no longer be able to make student loans with federal money” (Herszenhorn).  That money will now go towards endowing more Pell Grants and tie them to the national inflation rate.  Although the amount a student can receive is only about one-third of the cost of public university for a year, it is a significant step in the right direction (Herszenhorn).

The problem of student debt is one with an extensive history that revolves around political and economic factors.  The government, in an attempt to provide opportunity to returning veterans, created a culture that valued higher education.  As time progressed, more and more people were able to afford a higher education. Because of the downturn in the economy, more and more people feel it necessary to get a higher education.  Many of these people take out significant student loans without regard to their consequences.  They soon discover the oppressive policies towards student loan holders and realize the difficulty there is in repayment.  This problem is not an easy fix.  The average student in America has over $26,000 in student debt after graduation (Herszenhorn). The mix between students, banks, governments, and educational institutions creates a situation where there are many agendas trying to be satisfied.   The best way to fight the problem is for people considering higher education to understand the entire process and consequences associated with the system.  Education is a good and necessary part of life, but not if it requires substantial loans that will linger for decades after graduation.

Works Cited

Beaver, William. “For-Profit Higher Education: A Historical and Historical Analysis.”

Sociological Viewpoints 25 (2009): 53-73. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27

Oct. 2011.

Clark, Jane B. “The Dark Side of Student Debt.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance 65.6

(2011): 65-66. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.

Clark, Kim. “The Loan Without the Regret.” U.S. News & World Report 2010:

71-72. Web. 24 Oct. 2011

College, Inc. Prod. Chris Durrance. WGBH- Frontline PBS, 2010. PBS. PBS_Frontline, 4

May 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.

Collinge, Alan. The Student Loan Scam: the Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History, and

How We Can Fight Back. Boston, MA: Beacon, 2009. Print.

Herszenhorn, David M., and Tamar Lewin. “Overhaul of Student Loans Passes Congress

– NYTimes.com.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Mar. 2010.   Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/us/politics/26loans.html&gt;.

“History Marched Forward: Community Colleges Change Face of Higher Education with

Introduction of Bachelor’s Degrees.” EduExec 24.8 (2005): 1+. Academic Search

Premier. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Strach, Patricia. “Making Higher Education Affordable: Policy Design in Postwar

America.” Journey of Policy History 21.1 (2009): 61-88. Academic Search

Premier. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.


Tony Moore

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Video Games: Heroes or Villains?

            Many young children and teenagers have heard their mother’s incessant plead to get away from the screen and to go outside or pick up a book for once instead. The urge to play “just one more level” before starting that homework or doing those chores can be quite distracting. But are video games really as awful as Mom exclaims or as brutal as those TV ads depict? It turns out that video games can have a strong impact on participants’ lives in both positive as well as negative ways.

When imagining the typical video gamer, one might envision the stereotypical overweight, slightly nerdy looking man who traps himself within his basement till two every morning leveling his character (see Figure 1). This behavior, of course, has poor physical health consequences. Rani Desai noted in her survey of high school gamers that both males and females tended to consume more caffeine (almost three times more), which, in the case of our stereotype, would cause him to sacrifice sleep, a vital mental resource, in order to play games. Desai also found that female gamers tended to have a slightly higher than average body mass index (BMI), however, male gamers and their BMI seemed to be unrelated. Overall, male gamers tended to display a neutral correlation between video games and heath whereas “among the girls, gaming was associated with modestly lower risk of depression and moderate increases in serious fights and carrying a weapon” (Desai et al.). This implies that video games may have a positive effect on mood and a negative effect on aggression.

Numerous studies have been conducted claiming a link between video game violence and increased aggression in players. For example, Gentile notes in his study on the effects of violent video games that “adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, [and] were more likely to be involved in physical fights” (Gentile et al.). Since several video games contain some sort of violent content, it has been hypothesized that gamers nowadays tend to be more aggressive. Gentile also states that “playing violent games increases aggressive behaviors, increases aggressive cognitions, [and] increases aggressive emotions.” This is an intense list of negative consequences, but what makes violent games instill such hostility? Many video games today include multiplayer in addition to classical single player modes. With real life opponents, gamers are much more competitive and inclined to demonstrate dominance over friends and real life opponents. Whereas facing a computer can be competitive, there may be a stronger feeling of satisfaction after defeating a nonvirtual enemy which could translate into real life aggression towards real people. Though correlation does not mean causation, the fear that violent video games may increase problematic antagonism is clearly not misplaced.

But not all video games are violent: in fact, video games can promote cohesion through cooperation rather than competition. Multiplayer games sometimes implement a cooperative mode enabling players to use teamwork to achieve a goal instead of contending for supremacy. This cooperative multiplayer encourages “(against the stereotype of gaming as a socially isolating action) the development of team, social, communication, and resource sharing skills” (Kirriemuir). Video games, especially in the last half-decade, offer social opportunities unlike any games of the past. With services such as “Steam,” “Battle.net,” “Xbox Live,” and the “Playstation Network,” gamers can play with people all over the world via the internet. Instead of the aforementioned antisocial stereotype, gamers have become increasingly connected: perhaps even more so than nongamers. This is because it is now not only possible, but common to play with dozens of friends and family scattered all around the country at once for multiple hours- something totally unrealistic as a daily occurrence in a nonvirtual world.

Besides supporting teamwork and socialness, video games can also provide a huge range of additional benefits. In his study on video games in education Kirriemuir observes that a basic gain from playing is an increase in hand-eye coordination. He also found that complex, modern games promote the development of strategic skills. Not all games are so simple and straightforward or are mindless shooters. Video games can stimulate mental activities and exercise the brain. Many games are virtual puzzles that require deep thought to overcome. Video games excel at “stimulating curiosity and encouraging experimentation in a safe “virtual” environment” (Kirriemuir). Being exposed to these types of games improves cognitive function- the opposite of what most moms expect.

There is a huge area of video games dedicated to the education of the people. Kirriemuir comments that “simulation games can offer learners sophisticated scenarios to support meaningful post-game discussion.” For example, these scenarios are extremely useful for training pilots for strenuous flight conditions that could arise (see Figure 2). Practicing these simulations beforehand rather than in the cockpit for the first time is essential for everyone’s safety. An advantage of video games as opposed to worksheets for learning is that “pupils receive immediate feedback on their actions and decisions, inviting exploration and experimentation.” It is easy to test one scenario and then quickly another as the game plays each one out while you witness success or failure. The entertainment games can provide captures pupils’ attention much more intensely than a textbook or blackboard. The potential video games have as a teaching method has been proven and is continuously being capitalized for the benefit of all users.

So are video games heroic tools for the world to profit from or evil devices that promote hostility and laziness? The paradox of video games is not so easily categorized. There are clear benefits and detriments to the use of video games. With proper adult supervision, violent video games can be restricted and therefore the aggression they may induce can be as well. New games such as “Wii Fit” seem to break the typical “couch potato” stereotype, and intricate real time strategy games turn the “lazy gamer” into a blazing mental menace. Not all games are “Wii Fit,” but also not all games are violent killing sprees. In fact, Adam Theirer found that “out of 1,638 games rated by the ESRB in 2010, only 5% were rated “M” for Mature” and more than half of these games were rated “E” for “Everyone” indicating that violence in video games is, in truth, quite limited (see Figure 3). In moderation, video games can promote positive cognitive growth and social connectedness. Video games can be abused, however, and problems such as addiction or increased hostility are legitimate threats. Dedicated gamers agree that video games are a fantastically amusing form of entertainment, but how this entertainment is exploited is, of course, up to the user.

Figure 1: Sterotypical Gamer

Figure 2: Flight Simulator

Figure 3: Percent of Ratings in 2010

Works Cited

Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig Anderson, and Brad Bushman. “The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 43 (2007): 489-96. ScienceDirect. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Desai, Rani A., Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo, Marc Potenza. “Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming.” Pediatrics. 126.1 (2010): 1414-424. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Gentile, Douglas A., Paul K. Lynch, Jennifer R. Linder, and David A. Walsh. “The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance.” Journal of Adolescence 27 (2004): 5-22. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Kirriemuir, John. “The Relevance of Video Games and Gaming Consoles to the Higher and Further Education Learning Experience.” Ceangal 2.1 (2002): 1-14. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Schmierbach, Mike. ““Killing Spree”: Exploring the Connection Between Competitive Game Play and Aggressive Cognition.” Communication Research 37.2 (2010): 256-74. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Thierer, Adam. “Again, Most Video Games Are Not Violent.” Technology Liberation Front — Keeping Politicians’ Hands off the Net & Everything Else Related to Technology. 21 Mar. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.


The Debate of Killing a Killer

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Derek Luthi

The Debate of Killing a Killer

What if I told you I could easily prevent thousands of deaths and cases of cancers caused by a virulent, rampant disease? What if I told you I could do this by simply distributing vaccinations to both genders? What if I told you this disease is totally preventable, yet I didn’t agree with saving its victims due to myths and unrealistic beliefs?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a killer. It is an awful disease that is the culprit of many deaths each year. We have the means for its prevention, yet HPV vaccination for girls is a controversial topic to some. This controversy carries over to the current question on whether or not males should also be vaccinated. The issue is starting to play a huge role in the media; Fox news recently broadcasted a story on male HPV vaccinations. This story makes clear the benefits that would come from vaccinating males, including a statement from the Center for Disease Control that, “The HPV vaccine will afford protection against certain HPV-related conditions and cancers in males, and vaccination of males with HPV may also provide indirect protection of women by reducing transmission of HPV”(Roberts).

Although these vaccinations will save lives, many people still disagree with this action. In the Fox news story, a poll was taken which showed that more people were against vaccinating males because it disregards the practice of abstinence. They think that these vaccinations will encourage promiscuous behaviors in adolescents because it gives teens protection from this disease. (Roberts)

Mystifications and uninformed people often sway the public into believing that HPV vaccinations, and vaccinations in general, do more harm than good. For example, Representative Michele Bachmann stated during a debate recently that the HPV vaccine is “dangerous,” and that it can be linked to mental retardation. Although her belief was almost immediately proven false, it is ignorance such as this that sometimes sticks with viewers. The New York Times article containing this story states that, “when politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop”(Grady).

Another myth about vaccinations is that they cause autism. This has also been proven false, but a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, says that these types of false allegations “always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford”(Grady).

HPV vaccinations bring up many public health and ethical issues. Some states want to require vaccines for school attendance. In the academic journal article “HPV Vaccination’s Second Act: Promotion, Competition, and Compulsion”, author Jason Schwartz states that, “Although some argue that HPV vaccines should never be mandated for school attendance, the temptation for policymakers to revisit this ethical and policy debate must be resisted until HPV vaccination has successfully become a routine, trusted component of adolescent medical care” (Schwartz). This train of thought exemplifies the opposition to HPV vaccination in this country, which restricts us in immunizing possible victims as effectively as possible. If the ignorance towards the vaccine continues, there will not be a powerful impact in decreasing rates of HPV infections.

Instead, if people saw how serious this virus is, then they may be able to more clearly see how beneficial the vaccinations are. HPV is so common and prevalent in today’s society that it will infect 75% – 80% of both males and females throughout their lifetime. Those infected with specific types of HPV may experience severe consequences, including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females; it can cause mouth, throat, and anal cancers in men, and genital warts in both males and females. Exposure to HPV can result from any type of genital contact, disproving the myth that intercourse is necessary for its transmission. Also, many times HPV has no signs or symptoms, making it very difficult to detect, and therefore, infections can occur without anyone knowing it. (“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents”)

Gardasil is the most widely used current vaccination for girls. It is administered as a series of three injections over the course of six months. It helps protect against four different types of HPV and drastically decreases one’s risk of HPV-caused cancer. For example, in females ages 9 – 26, Gardasil helps protect against two strains of HPV that cause 75% of cervical cancers, and two other types of HPV which cause 90% of genital warts cases. (“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents”)

One study was conducted to test success rates of HPV vaccinations for a variety of different circumstances and factors. Calculations were made, and the results came out very promising, especially when adding in the vaccination of males. They indicated that if the combined number of males and females vaccinated were equal to the total number of vaccinations given to females alone, the number of infected individuals as a whole would decrease. The study also suggests that HPV vaccinations have the potential to eradicate the disease altogether. (Brown 232)

Right now, the government needs to focus on the groundwork for vaccinating more of the adolescent population. On the other hand, making this vaccination mandatory for school attendance would strip people of their rights since there is still much public opposition. Until HPV vaccinations become more accepted, the government cannot jump to any extremes. Therefore, more action does need to be taken if we want to see substantial results. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country (Roberts). If we have the means of putting an end to its wrath then why aren’t we? It seems ridiculous not to utilize the remedy on adolescents who could suffer from HPV. The question is: how can we do this if not everyone sees the benefits?

Works Cited

Brown, V., and K. A. J. White. “The HPV vaccination strategy: could male vaccination have a significant impact?.” Computational & Mathematical Methods in Medicine 11.3 (2010): 223-237. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Grady, Denise. “Remark on HPV Vaccine Could Ripple for Years.” New York Times. 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

“HPV and Your Child: More Information for Parents.” GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant]. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

Roberts, John. “CDC Backs HPV Vaccine For Boys | Fox News.” Fox News – Breaking News Updates | Latest News Headlines | Photos & News Videos. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

Schwartz, Jason L. “HPV Vaccination’s Second Act: Promotion, Competition, and Compulsion.” American Journal of Public Health 100.10 (2010): 1841-1844. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

 

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