Archive for January, 2007

Women’s basketball: A powerhouse program yet again

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Carrie Jarka

I would like to preface this article by saying that all of this is factually unsubstantiated. The following thoughts are merely my own musings.

So how does women’s basketball coach Nancy Fahey do it? How do you lose two All-Americans and First Team UAA players and only return 14 points to a starting line-up and still sit atop arguably the toughest conference in Division III women’s basketball? Here are a few possibilities:

1. Hustling: Hustling is normally a good thing in basketball, but not in the Paul Newman sense. Fahey and her Bears were holding back in the non-conference games so the UAA opponents wouldn’t see the real deal. The Bears hid plays along with talented bench players so that the loss of sophomore Shanna-Lei Dacanay looked to be the final nail in the season’s coffin. Dropping out of the national rankings for the first time in years (and then jumping to the 11th spot, the largest jump in poll history) was just all part of Fahey’s plan. Just call them “Fast Eddie” because the UAA just got played.

2. Bribery: In one of the largest scams to hit college basketball since the feces hit the fan in Michigan, Fahey and her staff paid the contending UAA schools to play poorly. How else can one explain the then second-ranked Yellow Jackets of Rochester shooting barely over 20 percent and NYU giving up 32 points to Sarah Schell? It could be that the Bears defense and Schell are just that good, but people still think there was only one shooter that day in Dallas, so why not a Division III basketball bribery scam? Could be fun.

3. Secret Scholarships: Perhaps Fahey and her staff have secretly been sliding money and other incentives in order to entice freshmen and transfers to choose the Danforth Campus over other schools. I suspect fake cushy “jobs,” free clothing and even payoffs from alumni. There are far too many new and expensive cars parked by the Athletic Complex. Now that I think about it, they could just be from the law school, but I’m still suspicious.

I’ve come up with some other potential reasons (some of which involve alien abduction, for which I had no conclusive evidence so I decided to withhold), but the above reasons should be enough to cause a reaction from the NCAA violations committee. It’s like Ohio State losing to Florida in the championship – it just doesn’t make any sense.

There has to be a reason other than Fahey’s 472 wins and four National Championships. It can’t be that the Bears have had six different top scorers this season and are holding opponents to only 56 points per game. I demand an investigation before Fahey’s previously unranked team runs away with the UAA championship and into the postseason.

Police Beat

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Scott Fabricant

Tuesday, Jan. 23

11:11 a.m. INFORMATION ONLY REPORTS – ANHEUSER BUSCH HALL – Complainant reported information on a disturbing, but non-threatening phone call. Disposition: Informational only.

11:16 a.m. LARCENY-THEFT – SIMON HALL – Complainant reported a departmental laptop missing from the copy/workroom area. The computer was last used on Dec. 22 and was discovered missing on Jan. 4. Estimated loss valued at $1700. Disposition: Pending.

9:13 p.m. LARCENY-THEFT – OLIN LIBRARY – Student reported unknown person(s) stole his white MacBook laptop and power cord from a table in Olin Library on level A. The student stated he left his laptop to get a drink of water, and when he returned the laptop was gone. No suspects or witnesses identified. Theft occurred between approximately 9 p.m. and 9:01 p.m. Estimated loss valued at $1500. Disposition: Pending.

Wednesday, Jan. 24

12:10 a.m. TRESPASSING – OLIN LIBRARY – Subject was reported to be seen urinating in a plastic bottle while in an open lounge area of the 1st floor. Subject left prior to officer’s arrival, but later returned to the library. Officers identified the subject as homeless and issued a No Trespass Warning. Disposition: Cleared.

3:52 p.m. FRAUD – UNDESIGNATED AREA OFF CAMPUS – Fraudulent check activity investigation. Disposition: Pending.

10:01 p.m. AUTO ACCIDENT – UNDESIGNATED AREA OFF CAMPUS – Minor accident involving a single University vehicle. Disposition: Cleared.

Thursday, Jan. 25

3:23 p.m. PROPERTY DAMAGE – REBSTOCK HALL – Maintenance reported subjects playing cricket in the Rebstock dock area had broken a window on the east side of the building. Subjects were contacted and identified. Maintenance cleaned up the glass and boarded the window. Damage to be paid for by involved parties. Disposition: Cleared.

Friday, Jan. 26

5:55 p.m. VMCSL – ELIOT HOUSE – Based on earlier incident, ResLife conducted a search of a student’s room which revealed small quantities of suspected marijuana and cocaine. Student assigned to the room admitted to the possession. Student was arrested and booked at St. Louis County Jail. Disposition: Cleared by arrest.

Saturday, Jan. 27

11:53 a.m. LARCENY-THEFT – HITZEMAN DORM – A student reports that during a party with about 20 guests, her iPod was stolen. The item, valued at $200.00, had been left on a table during the party. Time of occurrence: between Jan. 26 at 11 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 1 a.m. Disposition: Pending.

5:28 p.m. LARCENY-THEFT – GREGG DORM – Unsecured bicycle taken from walkway outside of Bear Bikes. Time of occurrence: Jan. 27 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Total loss valued at $250. Disposition: Pending.

Monday, Jan. 29

11:14 a.m. VMCSL – LIEN RESIDENCE HALL – During an investigation, a search of a student’s room was conducted which revealed small quantities of suspected marijuana and cocaine. Student assigned to the room admitted to the possession. Disposition: Cleared by arrest.

11:22 a.m. FRAUD – WOMEN’S BUILDING – The Student Union Business Manager reported fraudulent purchases on their credit card. Total fraudulent purchases at this time are less than $200. Disposition: Under investigation.

8:08 p.m. BURGLARY – PARK HOUSE DORM – Student reported an unknown black female was in her unsecured dorm room upon her return. Suspect told student that she was there to work on a project with the complainant’s roommate and then left. Student verified this was false and contacted police. Jewelry and credit cards were reported missing. Time of occurrence: Jan 29 at 5:35 p.m. Disposition: Pending.

Low sodium levels at birth linked to obesity, other risks

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Scott Fabricant
Scott Bressler

People who find themselves constantly nibbling on tortilla chips and pretzels may have a predisposition for salty snacks. A team of Israeli researchers may have found a link between a love of salty foods and being born with low sodium. Consumption of too much sodium is a risk for obesity and other health issues.

A study of 41 premature births in Israel found that low blood sodium at birth was linked to an increased desire for salty food and snacks in children between the ages of 8 to 15. The study also found that those born with low blood sodium were 30 percent heavier by the early teenage years. Long-term high sodium intake has been strongly linked with obesity. Adult obesity may be tied in some instances to low sodium at birth.

Researchers have suggested such a response could be an evolutionary adaptation, or a way for people to protect themselves from sodium deficiency and loss by creating stronger cravings for it.

The children with the lowest blood sodium at birth consumed around 1,700 milligrams more sodium a day than the children born with regular sodium levels, well surpassing recommended daily intake.

Connie Diekman, director of nutrition at the University, expressed doubts over the results. Daily sodium calculations were performed using food frequency questionnaires, which leave accuracy of results up to the memory of the participants.

“What is the cause? That is what I wanted to see more research on, further studies tracking throughout someone’s childhood. It’s difficult when you do a food frequency study, combined with the fact this wasn’t an ongoing survey, to really say this caused that. Right now, it’s a hard leap to make,” said Diekman.

Diekman also expressed concern that the study was only of premature babies, and that more research with normal weight newborns needs to be performed.

Too much salty food can be a real issue. In addition to obesity, other health risks have been linked to high sodium.

“High sodium intake can lead to health problems, though not everyone is susceptible. In people who are salt-sensitive, too much sodium can lead to hypertension or fluid retention, and in some people it affects overall kidney function,” said Diekman.

Current dietary recommendations call for 2,300 milligrams of sodium every day. Diekman advises students to read food labels and check online so they’ll know how much sodium they’re consuming.

“Good clues to high sodium are if you’re eating too many processed meals, quick grab foods, frozen items, or canned items. You’ll definitely get more sodium than if you’re eating fresh whole grains and fruits,” said Diekman. “Try to shift to lower sodium by getting fresh food in their natural state, not processed and preserved.”

University earns C- in sustainability report

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Ben Sales
Scott Bressler

Washington University ranks below average in sustainability among its peer institutions, according to a recent study. Out of seven categories, the University earned one B, four C’s and two F’s, which average to a C-.

“The report was put together with the goal of providing clear information about different schools’ programs on sustainability on campus,” said Mark Orlowski, the executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which puts out the evaluation. “Students and administrators could refer to it as a resource to learn about what schools are doing [and] what the best practices are.”

Orlowski’s organization, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., looked at seven categories in their nationwide evaluation of 100 schools. Washington University earned a B in Food and Recycling and C’s in Administration, Climate Change and Energy, Green Building and Investment Priorities. The University earned failing grades in Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement, areas that measure how the University manages its outside investments and corporate influence regarding sustainability.

James McLeod, Dean of Students, said that although the University is not where it wants to be in terms of sustainability, it is in the process of working towards that goal.

“This is a priority for us,” said McLeod. “We do have a number of initiatives going. It does take time for those things to come to fruition.”

The report said that the two F’s resulted from lack of information regarding the University’s activity in those areas, rather than from any explicit failure in policy.

“We could not find any policies or statements about this on the school Web site, and we did not receive a response [from the University],” said Orlowski. “We were only able to gather data from public sources.”

But McLeod said that the University was not sufficiently familiar with Sustainable Endowments to provide the needed figures.

“Providing information to an outside organization is not as easy as many expect it to be,” he said. “You have to be organized in a way that the organization asks. I believe this is a new venture and I could imagine that we have not organized our own data in a way that is easier to get.”

Orlowski added that those two categories reflect the school’s intention in furthering sustainability in its surrounding area, and that the University has a duty to use its local influence to propagate those initiatives.

“You have certain rights and responsibilities to use your voice towards sustainability,” he said. “We were looking to see whether the University has anything in place to act on those resolutions.”

McLeod said that the University does have mechanisms for sustainability funding in place, and that the administration is working to improve those funding plans.

“We try very hard to invest our endowment prudently and responsibly,” said McLeod. “We want to be better every day. I expect us to be more and more focused on this in the future.”

In terms of the other categories, Orlowski said that the University has made some notable accomplishments, but that there is still a wealth of untapped potential on campus.

“On the campus side, Wash. U. is doing pretty well, but there are definitely opportunities to join those other schools,” he said. “There is certainly opportunity for improvement.”

Emily Dangremond, president of Green Action, said that the intent of the study was good but that the school should be judged more strictly in terms of Food and Recycling, where it achieved its highest grade.

“There are a lot of improvements we can have in food and recycling,” said Dangremond, a junior. “We do not have the same environmental ethic as other places do. We have some really active people, and the administration is doing its part in trying to increase the amount of efficiency in building, but a lot of it is not very well publicized.”

This improvement, said Orlowski, is the goal of the survey-to give schools information about their peers’ activities so as to spread knowledge of how to best further campus sustainability.

“It is our hope to provide a measure of activity, for students and schools to understand where their peer institutions are, which schools are doing good work and which schools could use more resource and initiatives,” he said. “It is important not to focus on the grade, but on the great programs Wash. U. already has, to look at other institutions, learn from them, and adapt those programs.”

Dangremond agreed that the goal of the survey should be increased awareness, but she said that that effort cannot come only from Green Action or another individual group.

“In terms of improving the climate change and energy score, that will have to be more campus wide. That will take more than just one group,” she said.

Overall, schools scored higher in on-campus activities, and, like the University, earned lower marks in the financial categories. Orlowski attributed this tendency to on-campus activities being more visible to outside observers.

“You can see a green building, you can taste organically grown food in the dining hall, but you can’t see, touch, feel or taste an investment or an endowment. It is not visible. Those are out of sight and out of mind.”

Dangremond, however, said that she would have liked more emphasis on on-campus activity, and more evaluation of students’ efforts.

“They could have had different groups for food and recycling and maybe a category for student involvement,” she said. “The way they did it was more from the administration’s standpoint. They might as well look more at on-campus things as well.”

Despite current deficiencies, Orlowski noted that there is an upward trend in sustainability advocacy on college campuses, a pattern that should appear in next year’s report. “The trend is that there is more activity happening and excitement on campus in terms of sustainability,” he said. “It will be very exciting to see what is happening a year from now, to see the progress, the new initiatives being created.”

Local rapper Jibbs offers to open WILD

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Mandy Silver

St. Louis native and former boxer, Jibbs, approached Team 31 with a bid to open WILD in late April, as confirmed by Team 31 co-chairs sophomore Randy Lubin and junior Pehr Hovey.

The co-chairs said that the spring show’s headliner has already been secured, but declined further comment as to the specific artist. According to Hovey and Lubin, contracts with the opening bands will not be signed until March.

Mike Kociela, managing director of Entertainment St. Louis, a third party contractor for Team 31, independently confirmed Jibbs’ bid, citing the rapper’s interest in “building a connection with the local college market.”

Entertainment St. Louis has aided Team 31 in booking and producing the annual shows for the past five years.

“Jibbs’ management approached me looking for college dates. I suggested Wash. U. and they were interested,” said Kociela.

While Kociela placed the odds of Jibbs’ Wash. U. performance at 50 percent, he stated that Jibbs’ offer was low compared to other openers. “He shot us a very reasonable price,” agreed Lubin, who added that “for such a low price, there is no real downside.”

Jibbs gained popularity after adapting the nursery rhyme “Do Your Ears Hang Low” into the hit song “Chain Hang Low.”

The rapper, who is 16, began rapping at age eight after he caught the attention of his older brother, DJ Beats. Like Will Smith, Jibbs does not cuss in his songs.

In August 2006, “Chain Hang Low” became the most popular rap download on iTunes. Jibbs’ debut album, Jibbs Featuring Jibbs, was released in October of that year.

Panel for peace draws crowd

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Troy Rumans
Scott Bressler

An Israeli-Palestinian conflict forum drew over 100 members of Washington University and the St. Louis community to Ursa’s Fireside on Monday, where an Israeli and a Palestinian discussed why they favored peace over militancy.

The forum, hosted by Students for a Peaceful PalestinianIsraeli Future [SPPIF], featured Shimon Katz, an Israeli, and Sulaiman al-Hamri, a Palestinian, both of whom led a frank discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It made me really happy to see all the people here. It’s good to know that people want peace,” said Andrea Ginsburg, a senior who attended the forum. “We’re taught to be scared [of the conflict], and it helps to see real Palestinians and Israelis to break that down.”

Junior Aviva Joffe, co-president of SPPIF, was impressed by the nature of the discussion.

“I was really pleased by the event because people asked challenging questions. A lot of what SPPIF tries to do is ask the hard questions,” said Joffe. “All attitudes should be shared and discussed, even those which disagree with us. The important thing is to sit and talk about it.”

Al-Hamri and Katz presented unique views on the conflict, given their personal involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Al-Hamri spent four and a half years in Israeli prisons for his involvement in protests and demonstrations, before resolving to use non-violent methods to resolving the conflict.

“My family has spent a total of 25 years in Israeli prisons. We have paid the price in the conflict, yet I remain committed to peace,” said al-Hamri.

Katz acted as an officer in an elite Israeli Defense Force combat unit, until he also became interested in non-violent ways of living. Service in the army for an Israeli citizen is compulsory, however, which presents a predicament for Katz.

“I do believe that as an Israeli citizen I am obliged to go to the army, just like I am obliged to pay taxes,” said Katz. “So, I work to find a middle path that will allow me to remain true to my values.”

Though the two come from starkly contrasted backgrounds, both espoused the importance of peaceful cooperation.

“It’s a duty to retaliate against an occupation-whether for national motives or religious motives, but it is also a duty to do so peacefully,” said al-Hamri.

For the most part, the attendees of the forum appreciated the diverse backgrounds of the two speakers.

“It was nice to hear directly from the [combatants] involved, instead of the media,” said Tyson Meyer, a member of the local community who attended the forum.

Not all present agreed with the way in which the Combatant’s message was framed. Following the presentation, Sophomore Michael Safyan handed out a pamphlet entitled “Big Lies: Demolishing the Myths of the Propaganda War Against Israel.”

“Historical revisionism is lying about things of the past,” said Safyan. “Revising the past by impugning my ancestors is not an acceptable grounds for a sustainable peace.”

Safyan’s pamphlets were not sanctioned by any campus organization, and while he was allowed to hand them out, he was asked to stand outside Ursa’s.

The event was sponsored by Combatants for Peace and Brit Tzedek ViShalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace. Amnesty International, Wash. U. Students for Israel, Sakina, Model UN and the Muslim Student Association also co-sponsored the forum.

Al-Hamri is the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants for Peace. He co-founded the movement in April 2006, and is currently on a 22-city tour throughout the United States. He has a master’s degree in American studies from Al-Quds University and a bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology. Katz will be beginning studies for an M.A. in clinical social work at the Yeshiva University in New York to pursue his goal of non-violent service for the state.

Multicultural group performs at AC

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Josh Hantz
Courtesy of Barzi Goldblat

The Idan Raichel Project, a popular band in Israel, is coming to Washington University tomorrow night. The band is known for its messages of love, tolerance and diversity, and has a heavy Ethiopian musical influence as well as Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Mediterranean.

“If you look at the band, you see they’re all about celebrating differences and multiculturalism,” said senior Alex Freedman, head of the event. “We hope students connect with this appreciation for diversity. We hope they realize that each culture has something unique and special to offer. We can really learn from each other.”

Going along with this theme, six multicultural dance groups, including Bhangra, AfikyLoLo and Lunar New Year Festival, will kick off the night with an hour-long performance before the band takes the stage.

“The dance show is going to be lights out,” said Freedman. “If anyone else but Idan was up there, it would be the main event.”

Raichel himself, 29, comes from an Eastern European family that promoted music in his childhood, although not necessarily from a cultural perspective. He said that was why he became open to music from around the world, especially Gypsy and tango.

While in the Israeli army, he joined a rock band and toured military bases. There, he learned how to produce live shows. After being discharged, he developed his knowledge and skill of Ethiopian music and in 2002, he joined the music scene with the Project. The other band members come from such backgrounds as Sudan, Suriname and Yemen.

Juniors Sarah Yael Morris and Laura Seidenberg, co-chairs for the concert, related the band’s diversity to Washington University’s.

“What’s so great about a school like Wash. U. is that we are so diverse and have the ability to be so diverse,” said Morris. “It is something that everyone can benefit from. It represents a lot of openness in respecting everybody’s different backgrounds and being able to understand people that aren’t just like us. If we foster that at this level, it will affect changes at a broader level.”

She added that integrating ideas of diversity with an actual multicultural concert is a great way to promote that message.

“In bringing Idan to Wash. U., we are really facilitating a huge event that will hopefully make our campus multicultural not only in definition, but also in practice,” said Morris.

Freedman agrees.

“A lot of times on campus, diversity means bringing in talking heads and 10 students coming to listen to them, but they’re the ones that need that the least,” he said. “To have a musical experience and celebration like this – it is something totally different. It can be very powerful and very moving. It’s something that hasn’t been done at Wash. U. before.”

While more than a dozen groups including Jewish Student Union, St. Louis Hillel and Congress of the South 40 are officially sponsoring the event, the chairs have also gained support from 23 non-Jewish cultural groups.

“Many cultural groups have their own events and have their moment in the spotlight,” said Freedman. “But it’s always one group being showcased. That’s not what this concert is.”

The University is the last of the band’s four stops in America before it returns to Israel. The group has played at Brandeis University and in Miami and Chicago over the past week.

Doors to the Athletic Complex open at 6:30 p.m. The opening dance show begins at 7 p.m. and the band goes on at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale in Mallinckrodt during the day and at the door for $5.

Extra costs hurt low income students the most

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Ben Paviour

Students at Wash. U. are no strangers to an annual comprehensive bill that is fast encroaching on $50,000. The University has done a commendable job distributing financial aid and scholarships and is known for its generous grants that steers Ivy-bound students towards the Midwest. But the administration and the board of trustees need to address smaller costs that can quickly make the school unaffordable for low-income students.

In keeping with this year’s “Higher Sense of Purpose” theme, I would like the University to ask the following question before endorsing expensive add-ons to tuition and room and board: What would Mark Rank do? In a world where paying nearly $45,000 a year to go to school might already be a bit morally dubious, is it really necessary to charge students $6 for a box of cereal at Bear Mart? Low-income students who might save significant amounts of money by going to an in-state, public institution are not likely to be swayed to move to St. Louis when they see that Wash. U. charges $44,240 a year and has the gumption to charge for services like the gym, internet and visits to the health center that are free at publics.

Much of the debate over costs at Wash. U. last semester focused on ResTech’s terrible Internet service. These arguments have all been made before, but they are worth repeating: the Internet is unreliable, the lack of wireless in dorms puts Wash. U. at a competitive disadvantage with other elite institutions and, most importantly, charging an extra $270 for a service that has become essential to students and is free at almost every other college is outrageous. Charging for printing is equally offensive. At my high school, many of the pages that came through the library printers were rap lyrics and porn. Either students at Wash. U. are exceptionally good at hiding their Jeezy lyrics and Jenna pics in a layer of anthro readings or they are printing materials that they legitimately need for class. The library has set up yet another roadblock to learning for the economically disadvantaged.

For now, at least, students are able to go elsewhere to print. Not all of these expenses are optional; Wash. U. requires all students to enroll in its $660 health insurance plan. The basic plan does not cover regular check-ups, eye and dental exams, most prescription drugs and a long list of other obscure medical problems and situations (someone else will have to pay for your sex changes and injuries sustained while hang-gliding). Although low-income students are more likely to need insurance, those who already have insurance will be forking over a substantial sum of money for overlapping coverage. Making the insurance plan optional might inconvenience Student Health, but it would not force students into purchasing something that they may not need.

Excessive charges seem to have become something of a school policy. Witness the changes enacted to the study abroad program in 2001. Beginning that year, all Wash. U. study abroad programs were revised to have costs comparable to spending a year at school. One of the many appealing aspects to studying abroad is that higher education is relatively cheap elsewhere compared to the United States, even including room and board and other expenses. For instance, King’s College in London charges Å“11,402 (about $22,000) in tuition per year for international arts and science students. Even taking into account exorbitant London rent, cost of living, health insurance and air travel, the total does not come close to Wash. U.’s $47,842 price tag. The University argues in a Record dispatch from Feb. 18, 1999 (when the changes were announced) that the extra funds will go towards “more faculty involvement, more funds for program development, review and redesign, as well as some funds for scholarship support.” The impression I get from this bureaucratese is that the University has arbitrarily raised costs in the name of standardization.

There are other areas that the university could stand to moderate costs – Bear Mart, with its $5 12-pack sodas, and the campus bookstore, with its overpriced office supplies, both dutifully exploit their respective monopolies – but I recognize that running a university like Wash. U. on a budget is a very difficult proposition these days. At the same time, the wealth of Wash. U. students has not escaped the attention of college guidebooks and therefore prospective students; Princeton Review notes that although most students don’t flaunt their wealth, “This is a rich school” and “many Washington students come from boatloads of money.” If the University continues to pay lip service to making higher education affordable to all students, it needs to address costs in ways that scholarships, loans, and grants do not.

Ben is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Learning about life, courtesy of a soda can

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Dennis Sweeney
Scott Bressler

Soft drinks rot your teeth, break your bones, screw up your body’s ability to experience arousal, burn your stomach lining and destroy your life. Anybody who drinks Coca-cola, Sprite, Mountain Dew or any of the other nutritionless, body-assaulting products advertised by corporate suitsters who don’t care if their product makes you overweight or sterile is ridiculous. It is extremely easy to cut soft drinks out of your life – just drink water instead. There is no reason to disrespect yourself and all human life by drinking pop.

That’s what I was thinking, at least. I mean, really, not drinking pop would probably be an easy thing to do that would significantly improve your long-term bodily well-being. I don’t drink pop. It made sense to me.

But then I threw the idea out to my Diet Coke-drinking friend. I harped on her for a while about it, cited the weird chemicals found in the list of ingredients, and generally made a case for the fact that it is bad news. Then she asked, “Well what about coffee? That does the same stuff.” And I said, “Oh, but that’s ok.” I was, indeed, serious. But the point, after a few seconds of reflection, became clear. I do drink coffee occasionally, so I don’t find it particularly offensive; but I abstain from soft drinks, out of habit I guess, so I declare them to be the cause of all that is wrong in the world.

It appears that it is easy to make a case for just about anything, no matter which side you are on. Take coffee, for example. The anti-coffee individual can say it stains your teeth, has more caffeine than most soft drinks, is grown by poor exploited peasants in South American countries, gives you heart disease, and on and on. The coffee advocate can say that it tastes good, it doesn’t have a bunch of sugar like pop does, it is an authentic beverage that has been around for many centuries, it prevents diabetes and certain cancers, etc. etc.

The only real truth that one can get out of such an argument is that people will find evidence for the side of something they naturally favor, and use it to back up the view that they originally held anyway because of personal preference. Most “evidence” to support a certain view, then, is rationalization. It is searching, after the opinion is firmly and arbitrarily entrenched in one’s mind, for facts to support that opinion.

And if you don’t buy that, at least borrow this: almost anything can be defended. There are few things in the world that are unarguable, but those that are arguable are (we all know the futility of debating) hardly worth arguing about. For people to say “This is right, and that is wrong” is a fallacy. It would be more accurate to take a more utilitarian approach, and choose what is “most right” as what has the most benefits. But then again, the value placed on specific benefits are a result of personal value systems, so it ends up being a personal choice anyway.

I guess it is all right to assert things like “There should be three more minutes added on to the time between classes at Wash. U.” like the Student Life Staff Editorial did Monday (“Seven minutes in hell,” Jan. 29, 2007). But it’s important to remember that everyone has their own reason for doing things – there is a reason it is seven minutes and not 10. And often those reasons are things that a person naturally tending toward the opposite belief may not have even thought of.

An upshot here is that it is not really worth it to stake the whole of your being on one argument. I mean, say you have a purpose, like helping people – that’s doing something unarguably good. But to support a certain, say, political view as if it is the same thing, as clear and unarguable, as helping people, is to declare a right that you do not have – a declaration that is very dangerous. You might believe you have more pluses than the other team, but you do not have the unarguable right of way, and you ought not act like you do.

It is being obtuse to pretend that what one believes is obvious, that it is the truth. Like Jack Kerouac says in “The Dharma Bums,” “the final sin, the worst, is righteousness.” Believing that my own beverage of choice is far more acceptable than another’s is just as absurd as believing the same about any of my other opinions. Who am I to judge?

Dennis is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

The case for more toilet paper

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 | Joshua Malina

In the many years since the industrial revolution, and progress in science more generally, toilet paper has made great leaps in comfort, design and overall utility. This University, however progressive it is in other areas of college life (see campus architecture), has ignored these steps forward in favor of thrift and cowardice, as they recurrently purchase thin, rough, non-perforated toilet paper. Such frugality is not only detrimental to student life, but economically insensible, as the many costs involved with the use of poor quality toilet paper exceed in value what the University saves in dollars.

The most obvious and irritating characteristic of cheap toilet paper is roughness. Frequent users of University toilet paper will testify to the reality of irritation, inflammation and even bleeding on contact areas that are common effects of poor quality paper use. These reactions, along with the serious mental effects involved with such an experience, constitute real pain endured by theUniversity community that detracts from the utility of the student and teacher body, making them less effective at achieving (or distributing) an education commensurate with the university’s status as a research institution. The bottom line: the more time spent on taking care of their bodies, the more time considering their discomfort, the less time students and staff can allocate to the learning process.

Another cost of the use of poor quality toilet paper on campus is a result of its thinness, which forces members of the community to use more tissue per wipe. This not only increases the cost to University purchasing agents, who may have not considered what the community might do in the event of a thin tissue, but also adds to the time cost of each wipe. Couple this with the problem of toilet tissue non-perforation, and wiping can become an all day affair.

But lay aside for a moment the pain of purse that the University may endure through such extra consumption, and the pain experienced by students and teachers who use the toilet tissue, and consider another form of discomfort: filthiness. Although we may reasonably assume that the propensity of students to clean themselves in the bathroom stall may be highly inelastic, there is still some point where the cost in pain of that extra wipe will exceed the potential filth that students may elect to retain. So, although it would be true to assume that most bathroom users are fairly clean when they finish their duty, there will be some instances where a dirty bottom is better than an irritated one.

And for that crude reality, there is no solution but a change in university policy. As unimportant as it may sound, more money should be spent on university toilet paper to reach a higher quality of tissue. It would improve student and faculty life immensely more than that extra gothic fa‡ade or gargoyle that seems to always be just a pencil mark away from next semester’s budget.

Joshua is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].