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F*ck the Cloud

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 27, 2011 in Technology

[Update @ 10:00am on 02/28/11: Still locked out of everything. Now on Day #2 of no Gmail… no Gchat… no Google Docs… no Analytics… no Feedburner… no Calendar… :( ]

Take a look at this photo. It’s a screenshot from the Gmail account that I’ve been using for about 5 years now.

Buzz is there, but my emails aren't. And no ninjas.

Notice anything unusual?

That’s what I saw when I logged in earlier today. First thing I noticed — no ninjas. I’m not a fan of the bland white default, so I switched things over to the Gmail ninja background.

Next thing I noticed: the privacy-invading Google Buzz is turned back on, even though I cut it off the day it came out.

It was at about that point I realized the biggest issue — 100% of my emails before this morning were completely and totally gone. So were my chat logs. So were my settings. :surprised:

After probing around online in a panic, I discovered this thread in the Gmail forums and a cryptic entry in their Apps Status dashboard that they were “investigating”. Along with a reassurance that it only affected 0.08% of Gmail users… which doesn’t reassure me at all since I’m one of the people affected :mad:

Access Denied. To everything...

Then, just to add insult to injury, as of about 20 minutes ago my entire Google Account has been disabled. Meaning I can’t just get to my Gmail — I also can’t get to Google Docs (including my homework), Google Scholar, Gchat, Analytics, Feedburner, Webmaster Tools, and all the other G-stuff I’ve gotten into the habit of using.1

I’ve disliked “cloud computing” ever since it was created. When N.C. State announced plans to migrate from its own mail servers to Gmail, I was skeptical. Likewise during my second term as NCSU’s Senate President, where the (otherwise phenomenal) Student Body President I worked with still reigns as the biggest Google Docs fanboy I’ve ever met.

Maybe it’s my libertarian-leaning political beliefs. Maybe I’m a neo-Luddite. But personally I prefer having all the data coming to my home network where I’m responsible for my own backups and not subject to the failures of someone else.2

Then I got lazy trusting in Google’s reliability and set my cron jobs to download/backup my Gmail on the last day of each month. And of course this all failed today, hours before that cron job was supposed to run :beatup:

The only saving grace is that I didn’t lose all my stuff — I’ve still got a not-quite-a-month-old archive stored locally at home. But my distrust for the cloud has been affirmed, and I will now redouble my neo-Luddite ways in trying to avoid cloud computing as much as possible.

Grrr.

  1. Just out of sheer coincidence, helping Google make $$$ through its advertisements. []
  2. Few things can provide peace of mind quite like a 1TB RAID with hot-swappable drives that can then go to the bank safe deposit box ;) []

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Things TDot Likes: The Wolf Web

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 30, 2010 in Things TDot Likes

Not only did Tuesday include one of the most awesome-est football games I’ve ever seen in my life, it also marked 10 years ( :eek: ) since I first became a member of the online message board community called The Wolf Web :D

Partial Screenshot of the TWW homepage

TWW was started back in April 2000, at the tail end of what turned out to be the dot.com bubble. Even though it wasn’t officially affiliated with N.C. State University it quickly turned into the de facto social network for the Wolfpack nation.

So on that December 28, as I was sitting in the offices of the McKinney & Silver ad agency trying to find ways to kill time (I was working as their under-utilized courier back then), someone suggested I check out the site as a way for me to stay connected to NCSU while I wasn’t enrolled in school… and I signed up :)

I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours of my life got spent talking with folks on that site since then :beatup:

There’s little I can write in this entry to adequately describe what TWW was like back then. There were all sorts of people. All sorts of debates. All sorts of controversies. If anything of interest was happening on or near the N.C. State campus, odds were good you could get real-time and accurate information from TWW — something local news stations actually did on multiple occasions (I’m looking at you WRAL) well before stuff like Facebook and Twitter were even invented.

Some of News14's hacked closing reports

Students went to TWW for the news and gossip, like when a faculty member’s online nude photos of herself got discovered and she went to the press claiming they were photoshop’d instead.  But there were also plenty of times when the TWW membership created the news themselves.

For example, when the NCSU Campus Police made their blotter publicly available on the web without taking the appropriate steps to secure it — they included the username and password in the source code :crack: — folks on TWW exploited the lax security and started posting fake entries (typically including derogatory remarks toward the police).

Similar hilarity had ensued a couple months earlier in February 2004 when the Triangle was crippled by a massive snowstorm and News14 Carolina made a poorly-moderated web app for reporting (and later editing) event closings. TWW found out, and I’ve got about a dozen screenshots like the ones on the left from some of the entries that were added :mrgreen:

The also played a decisive role in 2007 when a certain non-traditional student decided to run a campaign for Student Senate President against a guy who happened to like our University’s arch-rival :angel:

I spent the next 2 years regularly recruiting student leaders from them, hitting the boards for info and suggestions, and putting the concept of “netroots” activism into practice — not only proving it could be done, but getting to thumb my nose at people who said it couldn’t ;)

Awesome photo courtesy of TWWer ambrosia1231

There were a fair share of somber moments too, as you’d probably expect from a massive community of people spanning ten years. I found out not too long ago that a friend I had met through the site — and who took what is probably the single best photo of 雅雅 and I ever — passed away in October :(

But she and her husband, perhaps not surprisingly, met through TWW too (cue the “awwwww”). For every sad moment in the past decade, there seems to be a counterbalance by at least a dozen or more happy ones :)

Even though The Wolf Web’s heyday in the mid-2000s has long past, and it’s been fighting the “this place seems like it’s on the decline” perception since at least 2004, I’ve been blessed to meet dozens of really cool and interesting people since I signed up on that dreary December day ten years ago.

TWW kept me tied to N.C. State when I seriously thought I was never coming back. It provided a forum for me to develop my debating skills. Its members got me elected to office. And it kept me occupied and out of trouble for God-knows-how-many hours of my life ;)

Not to mention giving me a topic for a blog entry :beatup:

So to the creators and members of The Wolf Web: thanks :*

Have a great night everybody!

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Week #68 in Review

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 27, 2010 in Weekend Roundup

I disappeared again, sorry! :beatup:

Out of the 144 weeks from the time Orientation started until I get my J.D. in May 2012, something about the 2-day class week before Thanksgiving triggers a feeling of “omgwtfshootmeplzkthxu”.

Out of curiosity I checked the law:/dev/null archives for this same time last year, and sure enough there was this entry on panic setting in before finals. I’ve got the same feeling a year later, so blogging took a back seat for the week.

But, today was game day again — which means I got absolutely nothing productive accomplished and could properly get things updated here. Plus it gave me an excuse to tag an entry for the Weekend Roundup category for the first time since Week 8 ;)

Here’s a week-in-review look back at what’s happened in my life over the past 7 days:

  • As I hinted before my disappearance, last Saturday was spent with 雅雅 as we watched the N.C. State Wolfpack stage an amazing comeback to defeat the Baby Blue Powder Puffs of the University of Non-Compliance at Cheater Haven — for the 4th time in 4 years :D We ended up winning by a score of 29-25, which included one of the most improbable touchdown catches I’ve ever seen in college football; check around the 2:13 mark of this NCSU-UNX highlight videofor the whole play. After the requisite celebrating and trash-talking, we headed out to go see Harry Potter VII Part I… and I was generally unimpressed. No hate mail please :P

    My SBA colleague after her team lost last week

  • Got to spend Sunday afternoon picking out a Wolfpack shirt for the SBA secretary, who happens to (1) be a UNCCH graduate and (2) have an affinity for making outlandish bets on losing sports teams ;)  The rest of the day was used to revise my brief in opposition to the State’s motion in limine for DV Law, then frantically figuring out what on Earth I was going to say during oral arguments.
  • Monday was compartmentalized into three distinct phases. Oral arguments took place Monday morning and turned out fairly well, even though I didn’t get to use several of the pre-packaged zingers I had prepared just in case :(  The afternoon was spent being annoyed about this UNCASG news piece in the Daily Tar Heel — and for once it wasn’t because of what the DTH printed. Bear in mind there is nothing at all whatsoever in any of ASG’s governing documents that dictates what amount (if any) officers have to be paid, yet these people are amending its Constitution and eliminating a constitutionally-mandated financial oversight position, purportedly to save money they’re not required to pay in the first place. “We mismanaged our budget, so let’s eliminate one of the key people responsible for making sure we don’t mismanage our budget” is the unspoken message being sent to the UNC Board of Governors and the other political players in North Carolina.1 :crack: Then Monday night was right here in front of the laptop banging away at my last Legal Letters assignment of the semester until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Tuesday was my very last Legal Letters class ever, which called for celebration.  Even though the professor was cool the material was just mind-numbingly bland and no amount of caffeine / cash / illegal narcotics could keep someone awake in it :beatup:  I also had an interview with the tech company I mentioned last week, which I think went well but honestly I’m not sure; I’m supposed to get a call this coming week with a thumbs up or thumbs down. The prospect of getting the job has me insanely nervous because everything I’ve done up until this point has either been trivially easy2 or difficult-but-practically-a-hobby.3 This would be a combination of being totally new, probably difficult, and sufficiently not-a-hobby that I’d be fired if I screw up. Which I don’t think I will, but you get the point. I’ve always been a high-risk/high-reward type of person, but I still get butterflies in my stomach in the process…
  • In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I used Wednesday to finally clean my apartment thoroughly for the first time since the semester started getting crazy. Washed all my clothes, cleaned up the wasteland that was quickly becoming my kitchen, and so on. Stocked up on food for the holiday, donated $$ I didn’t have to the Durham Rescue Mission to help those who aren’t as lucky as I am, then went home, put all the food away… and ended up falling asleep in the recliner watching TV :oops:
  • Thursday of course was Thanksgiving. It was only me this year, but I was blessed to have a handful of folks offer up their own meals if I wanted them — I declined though, because I wanted to experiment with cooking my very first turkey without potentially killing anyone ;)  It turned out well for a first attempt4 so I was happy. Followed that up with the obligatory mashed potatoes and gravy, some steamed broccoli and cheese,5 and a few rolls. The only downside is that I will be eating turkey-related leftovers for weeks :sick:  In between cooking and eating, also spent about 8 (non-contiguous) hours sending personalized text messages to folks wishing them a happy Thanksgiving. Maybe a little crazy, but cheaper than sending a bunch of holiday greeting cards no one reads…
  • And then yesterday was pretty much spent banging my head against the desk in the hope that something useful would fall out for this Evidence memo due on Monday. It’s ostensibly optional extra credit, but when (1) you’re graded on a curve and (2) a majority of your classmates are going to turn something in, “optional” isn’t really optional :beatup:  I’m in the position of defense counsel in a criminal case (sound familiar?) trying to block the State’s effort to get evidence introduced under FRE 404(b) about prior bad acts allegedly committed by my client. The only problem is that pretty much every case I’ve found that holds any weight for this particular factual scenario says the evidence needs to come in, and the more exotic theories I’ve come up with are even more thoroughly refuted :mad:  I’m going to come up with something, but doggone it I hate making losing arguments…

NC State got Ron Cherry'd on UMD's 4th and 1

Which brings us to today. My Wolfpack disgraced themselves in College Park, Maryland, losing to the Terrapins by 31-38. We actually played far worse than the box score indicates, scoring 14 points in the first 9 minutes and 14 points in the last 4 minutes — making only a 3-point field goal during the 47 minutes in between. NC State got screwed when Maryland was given a first down they didn’t earn on 4th and 1 with under a minute left (see the photo), but the truth is we played so horribly that we pretty much deserved to lose anyway.

I’m not in a position to complain since I predicted we’d end the season at 7-5 and we’re actually 8-4, so I’m just gonna be happy with our bowl game and look forward to next season :spin:

The rest of this evening has been spent trading critiques with EIC about our various papers due tomorrow (Evidence and DVLaw for me, both of those plus Race and the Law for her). And finally writing this blog entry :D

All in all it’s been a good week… and now exams are upon us :eek:  GOOD LUCK to everyone facing finals, and if you have a few prayers to spare feel free to send them my way ;)

  1. And that’s not even touching the fact they’ve supposedly burned through more money in less time than I did during either of my two terms, despite me making over 115+ separate campus visits in addition to the group setting three separate attendance records while making do with more-expensive travel options (reimbursing rental cars over paying straight IRS mileage rates) and a smaller budget. And yes, I realize I’m retired and at some point I really should stop caring, but considering massive tuition hikes are on the horizon for everybody it’d be nice if the students’ representatives could get their act together… []
  2. Paralegal work, teaching Intro to Java, etc. []
  3. Being a research intern at the Legislature, leading the single most-distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina, etc. []
  4. Ever-so-slightly overcooked, but nothing a little gravy couldn’t fix :beatup:  Also, props to Butterball for having mini-turkeys for small Thanksgiving meals :D []
  5. My first time cooking broccoli too! []

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A chance coincidence of coincidences…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 13, 2010 in Student Government

…or, perhaps, divine intervention. That was the theme of my first speech to the UNC Board of Governors, after taking my oath of office as the Board’s student member.

With my term as UNCASG President ending in the middle of final exams, I never really paused to realize how accurate a characterization that is of my life — and particularly my involvement in Student Government.

It’s a point that got reiterated a couple times over the past few days.

Comments from one of the forefathers of ASG

Earlier today I was getting ready to drive down to Fayetteville State University to run a parliamentary procedure workshop for their Student Government Association, when I logged into Facebook and saw this comment from a past President of UNCASG. This guy is one of maybe 2-3 people who were pivotal in making the organization into what it is today, so I consider it high praise :)

It’s praise I never could have gotten had I not been elected President. And that election was the end result of meeting the Pickle Princess three years ago this past Sunday. I was attending a reception for legislators hosted by the University system, my first event as Student Senate President at NC State. Even though I had been working for a lobbying firm for months I still felt profoundly out of place. So rather than continue trying (poorly) to blend in and mingle, I sat down at a table next to her and introduced myself. We ended up becoming friends, then competitors, then colleagues. Most of what I did in the Association when I was Senate President was to impress her, and she returned the favor by getting us elected a year later when folks loved her but loathed me.

And that UNCASG election itself never would have happened had I not first been elected Student Senate President, a freak election that hinged on my opponent’s taste for apparel touting our university’s athletic arch-rivals. This was after I served the preceding year as a Student Senator, appointed to a vacancy after first losing a 4-person Student Senate election to 3 seats… coming in 4th, to at least 1 guy who didn’t even campaign :beatup:

That appointment was actually my 3rd separate stint in the Senate. I was a Student Senator my freshman year, decided to run for Student Senate President that Spring (as a freshman), and — predictably — got totally obliterated. Yet the guy who beat me “agreed” to appoint me to a Senate vacancy, scheduled my appointment for confirmation, even had me show up to the Senate meeting where I’d be approved. Then, as I was walking to the front of the chamber… he withdrew my nomination, prompted by a pre-planned objection made by the Student Body Treasurer at the time.

The Treasurer happened to be… the same guy who wrote those remarks on Facebook I mentioned at the start of this post :surprised:

To this day that experience easily ranks among the most embarrassing moments of my life, but it taught me some valuable lessons. Most importantly: it motivated me to work harder to excel at what I did so I wouldn’t go through a similar experience again. That motivation led to my return to the Student Senate the next year (albeit briefly), kept me focused on returning to school after finances forced me to drop out, and reminded me to seek perfection in everything I do since.

Except, it seems, law school grades :beatup:

Anyhow, I’d go on with more examples but this particular post is already pretty long. Was it all a chance coincidence of coincidences? Divine intervention? A bit of both? Not sure, but I know it’s been an eventful journey… with an even longer road ahead :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

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“You like me, you really like me!”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 2, 2010 in Site Stats

Or, if you don’t like me, y’all were at least kind enough to stop by regularly and make April the busiest month yet for law:/dev/null! :spin:

law:/dev/null Pageviews and Unique IPs over time

Here’s an updated graph of our pageviews-per-day and unique IP addresses. We had a 5.4% increase in unique visitors for the month1 along with 1 additional daily pageview.

But TDot,” you may be wondering, “+1 pageview-per-day is a mere 0.098% increase in traffic. Can you really consider that an increase in traffic beyond any but the most literalist of interpretations?

I certainly can, dear reader — though whether you agree with my rationale is another matter entirely :beatup:

You see March’s numbers were a big 51% jump over February, skewed upwards over just three days of traffic when local folks heard about a mere college student taking on one of the largest think tanks in North Carolina.2

Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with a comparable controversy this month… but the traffic rate held constant. That either means (i) the old political folks who stumbled across this little piece of internet real estate over those 3 days decided to keep reading all month (plausible but not likely), or (ii) new people somehow found law:/dev/null and became regular readers (plausible and less not likely).

Regardless, I’m not one to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth: I truly appreciate y’all being here, regardless of your reason, and I hope you’ll continue to stop by in the future (and spread the word!) :D

In referrer-related news, Google also continues to be our top referring site, sending about 1.5% of the folks who stop by here on a given day. Here are a selection of the 80+ searches that brought folks here in April:

  • decade: We had 4 separate people use this query. I’m guessing you got directed to my thoughts on the 2000s, but my question is this: people actually do searches on single, generic words?? :surprised:
  • nccu law study room reservations: Are done on the NCCU Law intranet. Can’t help you on this one. Sorry.
  • how to get into nccu law: Through the doors ;)
  • nccu law blogs: There are at least 3 of us I know of: myself, Madame Prosecutor, and a brother I’ve started calling the Prophet. If you find any more, let me know and I’ll add ’em to the blogroll.
  • hard work never killed anyone but: why take the chance?
  • student election poster: Take a look at my SBA poster or my SSP poster. You can take a guess at which one worked :beatup:
  • campbell law can 1ls work?: According to Campbell 1Ls at NCSU’s pre-law forum, nope.
  • how long does it take to get a decision from nccu school of law?: As long as it takes ;)
  • t greg tomes: T Greg’s Tomes are my political missives posted on Facebook. Haven’t put many of them on law:/dev/null, but I’ve posted this one and this one.
  • rick ingram unc: You’re probably looking for his SBP endorsement by the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel in that 1st Tome I just listed.
  • nccu law admission by email or mail?: Mail! Email admission notices are tacky :P
  • 5 u.s 137 shepardize: Yes, it’s true — I Shepardize old cases for fun :beatup: (5 U.S. 137 is Marbury v. Madison)
  • c grade law student screwed?: God I hope not, otherwise Contracts has ruined my life
  • best parking spots at nccu school of law?: The ones that are available. Word of advice for the incoming Class of 2013: show up early ;)
  • what classes do you need to become a lawyer at nccu: The same classes you need at every other ABA-accredited school. But you can check out NCCU Law‘s specific course catalog here.
  • law student disclaimer: You can read mine right here.
  • capsule wardrobe for a law student: How did someone looking for fashion tips end up here?? :crack: Check out TRPLS instead :)
  • computer scientist or lawyer: Lawyer
  • 1l memo useless: #truestory
  • attending nccu law: Congratulations! :D

I continue to be amazed at the searches that bring people here… :)

And finally, our Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of April 2010, including two repeaters at #1 and #5:

  1. On my first ever closing argument: Alice in Wonderland (03/24/10)
  2. On sound principles making sound politics: More vindication! : ) (04/20/10)
  3. On political hacks-in-training writing commentary: On UNCASG, $1, and the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel (03/30/10)
  4. On the never-ending end of the semester: Like a mirage in the desert (04/10/10)
  5. On political hacks writing commentary: Crazy, or just lazy? You be the judge (or, “Erroneous trash masquerading as punditry”) (03/15/10)

*THANK YOU* to everyone for your continued support of the blog — it means a lot :)

I’m heading to bed, gotta be rested for my last final exam as a 1L! Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. Approximately; the logs only measure unique IP addresses, so if multiple people have logged in from the same IP (e.g. using corporate wifi with only 1 publicly-exposed IP) those folks get missed. I think the folks missed are balanced out by the spambots though :beatup: []
  2. Residual traffic to that entry has kept it at #5 in our Top 5 list for April :crack: []

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A brief note of thanks

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 25, 2010 in Student Government

My apologies in advance to the regular readers here at law:/dev/null — most of you were never given the context behind tonight’s entry, and those of you who were in all likelihood won’t care :beatup: This particular post is dedicated to a (relatively) small group of people, the overwhelming majority of whom don’t even know this blog exists.

But this is one of those occasions where something needed to be said…

I don’t believe I’ve ever written a post on this blog while intoxicated. And I probably shouldn’t even admit that I drink on this site since I have -0- doubt that prospective employers have checked out this section of internet real estate on more than one occasion. But the glories of in-browser spellcheck (thank you Apple and its Safari development team!) have enabled me to exercise questionable judgment free of any technical obstacles ;)

It’s about 4am on Sunday morning, and for the past 5 hours I have had the incredible privilege and honor of being in the presence of (and yes, drinking with) about 30 of my closest friends — including quasi-adopted family — as we all celebrated my last meeting as President of the UNC Association of Student Governments, followed by our annual end-of-year awards banquet that was executed at the highest level of perfection.

And the success and smoothness of the meeting coupled with the banquet coupled with having these folks over tonight has truly meant an incredible amount to me :spin:

For better or worse, I’m actually a fairly stoic guy.1 It’s partly a bi-product of my upbringing, but it’s mostly the result of my chosen extracurricular vocation — being in charge means having to make tough decisions, having to make tough decisions usually means hurting people’s feelings, and hurting people’s feelings usually requires maintaining one’s composure in order to make a decision that’s in the best interests of everybody even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

So as a result of that well-cultivated stoicism, I rarely convey to the people around me how deeply appreciative and moved I am by their presence in my life. And when I do, frankly no one believes me :beatup: But I tell you folks — and this is one of those #truestory moments — I can’t fully articulate in words how grateful I am for all of you.

I’ve served on behalf of students in some capacity or another every year that I’ve been in college. I began my freshman year as a Student Senator, and I was absolutely abominable at it — I was arrogant, disrespectful, thought I had all the answers, the list goes on.  I actually ran for Student Senate President and got obliterated, coming in 3rd place out of 3 candidates.  I spent the next year in the campus equivalent of political exile, fought my way back into the Senate a year later… just to drop out of college entirely.

As utterly ridiculous as I’m sure it sounds, it ate away at me during the 5 years I was a college dropout to know I had ended on such a low note. I had been rejected by 26,000+ students because of my own arrogance, thought I had recognized the error of my ways and worked to improve, only to then get put out of school entirely.  So I fought my way back into N.C. State in August 2005, and I’d be lying to you if I said the thought of getting back into SG didn’t cross my mind all the way back then.

To make a very, very, very long story short, I thought God had other plans for me. I resumed writing an editorial column for the student newspaper, the Technician. I supported a friend of mine for the Student Senate Presidency. I ran for 1 of 3 Student Senate seats for seniors in the College of Engineering, and came in 4th out of 4 candidates — losing to a guy who didn’t even campaign.2 And I had resigned myself to the fact that at best I would be, as the Technician once quoted me, “the old guy in the back of the room who knew all the rules” and spent his time helping the other folks do their jobs.

Fast forward 3 years. I was elected by the campus of N.C. State to serve as Student Senate President — winning the position I had sought almost 10 years earlier — largely by virtue of the fact my opponent had questionable fashion sense. I was elected to a 2nd term as Senate President the following Spring, then a few weeks later elected President of UNCASG by a 1-vote tie-breaker cast by the presiding officer following a marathon 3+ hour political debate.

And as much as I’d like to pretend I had something to do with that latter victory, the truth of the matter is the Pickle Princess (my running mate) was a far more capable+likeable leader than I, and managed to pull votes from the campuses who didn’t like me at all :beatup:

I was privileged to serve a 2nd term — a rarity among Presidents — and over these 2 years have been blessed to take part in major efforts to refocus the organization, proactively address the costs of higher education, and serve the students of the University by tackling the issues that impact them most.

That all came to a close tonight when my successor and his own vice president were sworn in, both of whom have a lot of work ahead — but who I truly believe are the most capable people for their positions. Despite my official role as ASG President wrapping up, it’s still truly humbling to have been an out-of-state native, political washout, former college dropout, slightly-older-guy-with-slightly-thinnning-hair, and still be asked to work as a student leader with many of the finest such leaders the State of North Carolina has ever produced.

Anyhow, I know this entry is hitting the rambling side (word count in WordPress says I’m pushing 1,000 words), but I just wanted to say *THANK YOU* to each and every one of you with whom I’ve had the honor of serving in the N.C. State University Student Senate3 or in the UNC Association of Student Governments. I know I don’t say it enough, and I know when I say it you probably don’t believe me, but it has been the highest honor of my life to consider you my colleagues and friends. Your work has made an incredible and tangible difference to higher education and the students of the University of North Carolina, and I thank God every day for having the amazing opportunity to be a part of that and to serve alongside you.

Thank you for an incredible journey these past 4 years :) Your support and presence tonight has been incredibly humbling and deeply appreciated. I truly do love you all and look forward to serving with you (albeit in other capacities) for many more years to come.

Thank you all so much,
-T Greg Doucette

  1. Though you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t tell amid all the emoticons I throw into these entries ;) []
  2. Even though he later became one of the few people in my life who I would call if I were ever faced with imminent death and needed help :beatup: []
  3. The single most distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina :) []

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On being the wrong kind of [expletive deleted]…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 12, 2010 in Randomness

First, my apologies to the regular readers here at law:/dev/null for the short entries over the last few days — I’ve been working mightily to get caught up in Civil Procedure and in Property, so that I can eventually catch up in Contracts :crack:

I promise you I truly do have posts drafted on things other than the random banalities of my life. Really!

Tonight’s just isn’t one of them :beatup:

Please also accept my apologies if you’re a vulgarity-averse reader who happened to stumble upon this entry. I actually curse far less on this blog than in real life,1 and it’s a tremendous effort to keep the language here PG-rated and still get a point across.

But apparently I’m an asshole.

That statement comes as a surprise to about -0- of you, which means I should preface the remainder of the post with a clarification ;)

At the risk of oversimplifying things a bit, in general there are two types of assholes:  (a) folks who act a certain way because it’s their job or demanded by the circumstances, and (b) those who act that way because they’re too self-absorbed to care about anyone else.

I readily concede that when it comes to just about anything even tangentially related to student government / higher education / politics / etc, I frequently occupy the first category. It’s why I don’t hesitate to ridicule campus op/eds or professional pundits, why I take pride in successfully making at least 2 grown men cry, and why I contemplate non-constructive criticism with a desert-sized volume of salt — my peers asked me to do a job, I take that job seriously, and those who don’t take their own jobs seriously (by writing illogical commentary, making unethical decisions, or spouting pointless vitriol) deserve to be called out, defeated, or ignored respectively.

So I stipulate to being a Type (a) asshole. And yes I’m proud of it ;)

But I strenuously try to avoid slipping into Type (b) asshole-ishness. Why? A good chunk of it is just my personality and upbringing; another is learning from the experience when I went overboard as a college freshman. Then there’s also a fairly large piece I attribute to abject terror that I’ll one day become one of those folks we all hear about, the type who eventually do well in life and then “forget” the people that helped them along the way.

To combat that last point, I fought my natural shyness and turned into a zealous people person. When I became Student Senate President — bringing with it a university-provided meal plan — I scheduled daily “Breakfasts/Dinners with the President” where any student, even ones I had never met, could send me an email and I’d take them to breakfast or dinner to talk about whatever issues they wanted to talk about.2 When I took over UNCASG, the Pickle Princess and I started a “Listening Tour” where we spent hours upon hours (upon hours) driving to every single institution in the UNC system multiple times apiece just to meet regular students and hear what they wanted out of the Association. Staying a people person is why I send thousands of text messages a month, hate the law school bubble, and get all weepy-eyed when people remember my birthday.

“Forget your vulgarity, TDot,” you may be saying. “Get to the @#$%ing point already!”

My point is apparently there are some people who just don’t talk to me because I try to be a people person :beatup:

雅雅 was in the library studying tonight, and during a break she pulled up my Facebook page. A guy sitting next to her mentioned he knew me from a class we had in Spring ’08…

…but he never spoke to me because I was “the popular kid” :surprised:

That really bothers me for some reason, not least of which being that I spent most of my natural life as a social leper3 and had a serious chip on my shoulder when it came to the “popular kid[s]” growing up.

So to the guy in the library next to 雅雅 who had a class with me years ago where we never actually met, hopefully you’ll know someone who knows someone who knows someone who points you to this blog entry, and we can meet one day to talk about politics or Comp Sci or something.

And that applies to everyone else out there too! I’m not wealthy enough to be a celebrity or ethically-compromised enough to be a politician — I’d love to talk to you :)

I’m heading off to bed, have a great night folks! :D

  1. When I presided over the N.C. State Student Senate, some Senators actually brought down a big water cooler jug they had converted into a jar… and into which I was supposed to deposit a quarter every time I uttered a vulgar word during my reports or while presiding over the meeting. Rather than waste quarters (useful for parking meters) I just wrote a $50 check to cover me for the session :beatup: []
  2. The Dinner with the President program made for some interesting conversations, let me tell you. Especially when the people I met with often had IQs that were orders of magnitude higher than mine and I have -0- background at all whatsoever in their topic. []
  3. Even in SG — my colleagues can probably confirm it for you :beatup: []

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Crazy, or just lazy? You be the judge (or, “Erroneous trash masquerading as punditry”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 15, 2010 in Student Government

My apologies in advance to the new readers here at law:/dev/null. This is a long post and has nothing to do with my 1L tenure at NCCU Law. Regular law school postings will resume tomorrow :D

—===—

==============================
I. INTRO
==============================

When I got elected President of the UNC Association of Student Governments back in April 2008, winning by a 1-vote margin after a 3.5 hour debate, it turned out I was the first conservative Republican elected to the presidency in at least a decade.1

I wasn’t surprised by the discovery, but it did make me a bit skittish considering the Association had been known for bitter political divisions in the years immediately preceding my election. For a group representing 215,000+ students from 17 institutions — including 5 historically black universities,2 1 historically native american,3 1 historically female,4 a fine arts conservatory,5 a residential high school,6 and a number of other universities across the state ranging geographically from the mountains7 to the coast8 in both urban9 and not-so-urban10 areas — trying to forge consensus is a tall order even in the best of circumstances.

And back then wasn’t “the best of circumstances.”

So when the other ~80 student leaders in the Association worked with me to put together one of the most successful years in the group’s 38-year history, I took it as a point of personal pride.

We had folks from all 17 institutions regularly attending for the first time in history. We set records for attendance. We restructured the group to focus on areas where it could have a tangible impact, and actually did have a tangible impact in the areas we focused on.

There was occasional drama throughout the year of course, but it was often over easily-addressed issues of transparency (the more the better) and accountability (perform or get fired). The political divisiveness was largely absent — folks were mature enough to accept that they have different political opinions, and that those different opinions have approximately -0- relevance to whether people can work together on higher education issues.

That success was reflected in my reelection: instead of 3.5 hours and a 1-vote margin, the vote was unanimous after about 20 minutes :)

You can probably imagine my amusement then, when — after successfully unifying seven-dozen college students from across the political spectrum — I found my reputation trashed by so-called “adults” for being either too conservative or too liberal depending on the issue.  It’s even more mystifying when those attacks are apparently manufactured out of whole cloth, completely and totally refuted by the very sources of information cited to create them.

One of those hit pieces came out last week during Spring Break, from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. In their Commentaries piece “Other People’s Money,” Pope Center authors Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson go out of their way to condemn the Association of Student Governments and do their best to run my own reputation through the mud for good measure.

When I first read the full piece yesterday, I had no intention of responding in writing to the Pope Center itself — and I still don’t. The column has multiple factual errors that could have easily been corrected with a 2-minute phone call to me, several of the quotes cited/paraphrased are deliberately stripped of context, and the qualitative conclusions it makes demonstrate the yoga-like rhetorical skills of the authors by condemning in the opening paragraphs what it embraces in the closing.

Writers have to make a deliberate effort to twist facts that much, and that typically translates into having no interest at all whatsoever in any honest dialogue.

But for better or worse we live in the age of Google, and I’ve already had politically-minded folks asking for explanations. So rather than repeat the same “This is wrong. This is wrong. That is wrong. That part right there? Wrong. Here? Wrong too.” over and over again, I figured I’d offer a line-by-line dissection with links to supporting documentation.

So are Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson crazy? Or are they just lazy? You be the judge…

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==============================
II. BACKGROUND MATERIAL: DOCUMENTS
==============================

I’m a big fan of the Fox News “We Report. You Decide.” model of debate, so in dissecting any editorial it’s necessary to have all of the objective facts first. Reasonable people can disagree on the conclusions drawn from those facts, but if those same people are arguing from two different sets of facts then they end up talking past each other.

Fortunately, my undergraduate degree was in Computer Science — meaning over the past 2 years UNCASG has generated a boatload of documentation on its operations ;)

Here are some items you may want to either review online, print out, or just have ready at your fingertips:

1) Pope Center commentary “Other People’s Money” (03/07/2010): [HTML] | [PDF]

2) Pieces cited by the Pope Center —

  1. UNCASG’s Tuition Petition event listing on Facebook:  [HTML]
  2. Durham Herald-Sun article “UNC panel OKs tuition increases systemwide” (02/11/2010):  [HTML]
  3. Carolina Review article “Waste, Bureaucracy, …and the ASG” (September 2009, pages 8-9):  [HTML]
  4. Daily Tar Heel article on tuition (October 2008):  [This DTH piece is conspicuously absent from their online archives, but I recall the story — if I can get my hands on a PDF copy I’ll upload it, but for now you’ll have to check the physical archives in Chapel Hill]
  5. Facebook correspondence between myself and Jenna Ashley Robinson (02/08/2010):   [PDF]

3) Pieces cited by me —

  1. UNC Board of Governors policy on the Association of Student Governments (10/11/2002): [HTML]
  2. 2010-2011 Proposed Tuition Rates presented to the Board of Governors (02/01/2010): [PDF]
  3. Pope Center commentary “The High Cost of Low Tuition” (12/10/2007): [HTML]
  4. UNCASG Resolution 29 on tuition and fees (01/30/2010): [PDF]
  5. UNCASG Finance Bill 14, amending the budget for FY2009-2010 (09/26/2009): [PDF]
  6. Pope Center piece “Myths of the Ivory Tower” (03/10/2010): [HTML]
  7. Facebook note by me re “pornstar healthcare” (03/09/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  8. Facebook note by me re “pornstar healthcare” update (07/08/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  9. N.C. State Technician column “Could Higher Tuition Actually Be a Better Deal? (Part I)” (09/12/2005): [HTML]
  10. N.C. State Technician column “Higher Tuition a Better Deal? (Part II)” (10/03/2005): [HTML]
  11. Raleigh News & Observer letter “Look elsewhere, UNC” (07/28/2006): [HTML]
  12. N.C. State Student Senate Resolution 26, “Tuition Certainty Act” (03/14/2007): [HTML]
  13. “The Clock is Ticking…” campaign platform (04/19/2008): [PDF]
  14. UNCASG Resolution 18 on tuition and fee increases (10/25/2008): [PDF]
  15. UNCASG Resolution 23 on tuition and fee increases (01/24/2009): [PDF]
  16. Federal estimate of median income for a 4-member family (03/13/2009): [HTML]
  17. “Four families” charts from UNC General Administration (01/26/2010): [PDF]
  18. Facebook note on the Daily Tar Heel and UNCASG (09/04/2009): [HTML] | [PDF]
  19. Facebook note on tuition stand-in media coverage (02/09/2008): [HTML] | [PDF]

—===—

==============================
III. SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS
==============================

Enough background, let’s get on with the analysis.

People who have worked with me at NC State, NCCU Law, UNCASG and out in the “real world” will tell you I’m usually a pretty good sport when it comes to folks disagreeing with me about a political issue. I appreciate being challenged because it forces me to reexamine my arguments and make them stronger.

I’m not as forgiving for people who intentionally make arguments in bad faith, particularly when they cite factually wrong data for support.

But again, I’ll let you be the judge. Below are blockquotes from the Pope Center piece (directly copy/pasted with no editing by me) with my notes underneath.

***

Snippet #1:

Understandably, the UNC Association for Student Governments (ASG) is also battling the legislature’s tuition plan. The student organization, which purports to represent UNC students in general, has circulated a petition with over 20,000 signatures that decries the legislature’s plan as a “backdoor tax increase on students and their families to balance the state’s budget.”

There’s no “purports” to it — the Association is the student organization “designated to represent the interests of students in the deliberations of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.” See the very first section of the Board’s policy on the Association (Item 3(a) above).

How effectively UNCASG fills that role is certainly a topic for debate. I’m confident I’ve executed my minor role in the group well over the past two years, though I’ve also readily accepted criticisms that I haven’t.

But let’s not pretend like the Association’s claim to represent students’ interests is a false one. It’s a bit like claiming the U.S. Congress “purports to represent taxpayers” — it does represent taxpayers, regardless of whether you personally like Congress or any of its actions.

The quote cited is a copy/paste from UNCASG’s Facebook event listing for the Tuition Petition (Item 2(a) above).

***

Snippet #2:

However, the ASG is oddly in favor of the universities’ proposal to raise tuitions nearly as much-—even though it also hurts “students and their families.”

The “nearly as much” weasel words should be a giveaway that this particular statement makes no logical sense, but just for the sake of argument I’ll pose a question to you:

Let’s say you’re a student at a random UNC institution like, for example, UNC Charlotte. The state legislature has already decreed that you’re going to pay $200 more (~8%) in tuition starting Fall 2010. Would you be in favor of an alternative proposal to only pay $103 (~4%)?

See Item 3(b) for rates at other universities.

Now yes, it’s true that 4% is “nearly as much” as 8%. And if you’re above a certain income threshold I’m sure it’s also true that $100 is “nearly as much” as $200.

But I’m having a hard time seeing how favoring a plan to pay half as much as the N.C. General Assembly has already decreed is “odd.”

The argument seems particularly disingenuous coming from an organization that has opposed low tuition rates (see Item 3(c) for an example), but I digress…

***

Snippet #3:

In a recent Durham Herald-Sun article, ASG president Greg Doucette declared that “all the students are on board” with the tuition hike—-obviously overstated rhetoric. In November of 2009, students at UNC-Chapel Hill protested when the trustees voted to raise tuition by 5.2 percent.

The weasel words in this snippet? “In a recent Durham Herald-Sun article.” Go take a minute to read that particular article; it’s Item 2(b) above.

Notice anything unusual?

That’s right, it’s an article on what was said at the UNC Board of Governors meeting. The very meeting that Jay Schalin attended right before he asked me questions about the petition afterwards (we’ll get to that in Snippet #10).

So why quote the newspaper article instead of his first-hand experience?

You see when I made the statement “all the students” were on board with the increase, I was referring to the members of the Association — the same people who unanimously adopted a resolution on the tuition/fee increase proposals (see Item 3(d)), two dozen of whom were present at the BOG meeting and were asked to stand and be recognized.11

That should have been obvious considering my presence at the podium was by virtue of the committee chairman recognizing me to give UNCASG’s position on tuition/fees.

Folks who were present at the meeting (like Jay Schalin) know that’s who I was referencing, but it’s not clear in the writing of the Herald-Sun news article. So rather than quote from his personal experience and then get exposed as a fraud, Schalin instead chooses to reiterate a context-free quote in another publication so he can claim he’s still accurate.

Now no one’s ever accused me of being a genius, but if I know there’s going to be differences of opinion among the 80ish students in UNCASG (see the 2nd paragraph of this post) I’m pretty sure I know there’s going to be differences of opinion among the 215,000+ students UNCASG represents ;)

Hopefully you’re willing to believe me on that :)

***

Snippet #4:

And some students are not happy about paying for others’ educations. N.C. State student Quinten Farmer emailed the Pope Center to say he was adamantly against “the plan to use 50% of the tuition increase only to benefit students on need-based grants.” He said “this policy hurts thousands of students who don’t qualify for financial aid, but are still struggling to pay for college themselves.”

This is the same rhetorical device as the Herald-Sun snippet #3 above.

I have no doubt Mr. Farmer said the policy “hurts thousands of students who don’t qualify for aid” — but is there any actual empirical evidence that it actually does so?

On that, the Pope Center piece is conspicuously silent.

Mr. Farmer’s presumably self-initiated correspondence also begs the same question I posed to you in Snippet #2. Is he aware that he’s already slated to pay $200 in the General Assembly’s budget enacted last August, of which $0 will go to his University? Which “hurts thousands of students” more — paying 8% with $0 going to the University, or paying 6.5% where the University keeps the funds raised?

***

Snippet #5:

Indeed, there are indications that the ASG does not serve as an independent advocate for students, but instead is functioning like an arm of the administration (perhaps due to administrative pressure). In this case, the ASG appears to be “astroturfing,” in which the petition provides fake grass-roots support for the administration’s plan.

The weasel words here are “indications” and “appears.”

Go take a look at my responses to Jenna Ashley Robinson’s questions for this piece, where she specifically asks about whether I’ve talked with UNC General Administration (it’s Item 2(e) in Section II).

Not only do I point out to her that the campaign was “entirely student-conceived, student-created, and student-run” — I also point out that “there hasn’t been any collaboration or detailed discussion with” University administrators, and even provide a detailed history on the entire project’s genesis! :beatup:

When I notified UNC General Administration of our plans in mid-December, I got 2 responses. The first was “We recommend that you hold off”; the second was “With all due respect, your plan is not going to be helpful in getting what is most important to NC resident students, i.e., an alternative plan in place.”

With responses like those, does it “appear” to you like UNCASG is “functioning like an arm of the administration”?

I don’t know where those administrators’ opinions stood two months and 20,000 signatures later given the total lack of coordination between ASG and UNC General Administration, but deploying a project opposed by them doesn’t seem all that collusive to me…

***

Snippet #6:

The petition does not reveal what the administration’s plans are, only that “the money raised through higher tuition rates should go back to the students through higher University funding.” The omission of the administration’s intent certainly suggests the appearance of a deliberate attempt to mislead.

By this point in the post you can hopefully figure out who’s doing the “deliberate attempt to mislead” — but I digress…

This particular snippet prompts me to ask 2 questions:

1) Where would it go?

The quote was pulled from the Facebook event listing for the Tuition Petition, but go to the downloads page for the campaign and download the petition for any campus.

Where exactly would you put the language regarding the Administration’s plans? Bear in mind the proposal voted on by the Board of Governors was 13 pages long (Item 3(b)).

Had we put something in the petitions to that effect, no doubt the Pope Center would condemn us for unduly summarizing the plans.

2) Would it even matter?

I’ll again reiterate the same question from Snippet #2. Which would you choose?

==> Pay $200, with 0.00% going to your University

==> Instead pay $X < $200, with 100.00% of $X going to your University

This is a binary decision; the $200 increase is already in place, enacted in the August 2009 budget bill. Barring an effort from UNCASG, the Board of Governors and UNC General Administration to convince the Legislature to change it, students will be paying those rates in August 2010.

I might be wrong here, but I suspect the University could propose spending the money on hookers & blow and students would still prefer the cheaper University plan to the more-expensive General Assembly plan ;)

***

Snippet #7:

Also, ASG members receive considerable stipends—-some as high as $4,000-—from the administration for their service. This almost automatically creates a conflict of interest for the members.

Weasel words here: “from the administration” and “almost.”

It’s true, I receive a $7,000 stipend for my service as UNCASG President. The organization’s budget is a public record that’s been available online throughout the session (see Item 3(e) in Section II above, line item 2101).

I’m not sure how “considerable” I’d consider it, considering I had to give up a $19,000 internship working for the N.C. General Assembly to take the position.12 But I digress…

The broader point is that the stipend comes from studentsnot the administration. UNCASG’s budget is in the form of a $1/student fee, a fee that I’ve had to pay myself along with thousands of others in the University.

I can’t speak for anyone else in the Association, but the fact I’m paid by other students’ money makes me more cognizant of my obligation to do a good job, not less. It’s the entire reason why I’ve gone out of my way to solicit student feedback, promote absolute transparency in UNCASG, and be a good steward of the students’ trust.

In other words, there’s no conflict of interest at all — hence why it’s only “almost” a conflict.

On an unrelated side note, the University administration is actually forbidden by policy from “assert[ing] control” over the Association (see §4 of Item 3(a) listed in Section II above). Surely someone like Jay Schalin, who notes in another Pope Center piece that he’s been a “paid observer of academia” for three years (see Item 3(f)), should know that by now.

***

Snippet #8:

Plus, there is the possibility that general administration officials have pressured Doucette for support. Doucette himself told the Carolina Review, a student publication, that “Bowles cussed me out” when there was a difference of opinions about student health care policies (referring to university system president Erskine Bowles).

Weasel words here? “Possibility.”

Schalin and Robinson here are quoting the September 2009 edition of the UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Review, a conservative/Republican publication known as much for its factual errors and limited readership as any incisive analysis.

See Item 2(c) in Section II above to read the piece yourself.

I stand by my comments in that particular column, which related to the UNC system’s decision to implement mandatory hard-waiver health insurance for all students system-wide. University President Erskine Bowles did have some choice words to share with me relating to ASG’s position on the proposal…

…but that was exactly my intent :crack:

Students didn’t like the health insurance plans, and I felt like the student opinion wasn’t being listened to adequately. So I labeled the proposal “pornstar healthcare” and wrote a widely-circulated note blasting the plan. See Item 3(g) in Section II above.

My Facebook note was sufficiently flamboyant that it got the attention of several folks, even someone at Fox News who wanted to pitch the issue for a segment on Hannity (I declined). It also resulted in more questions being asked than UNCGA could answer at the time, delaying implementation of the program by an entire year.

Frankly I’d have been surprised if I didn’t get chewed out given the note’s contents. But the bigger point is that I didn’t care — I’d gladly take a verbal beating in exchange for getting what my organization wanted on behalf of its constituents, which was a year-long delay and several tweaks to the program.

That’s exactly what we got, as you can read in Item 3(h) of Section II above.

Knowing the context of this particular situation, coupled with the administration’s comments regarding the tuition petition noted in Snippet #5, should sufficiently expose as shamelessly false the idea that I care one iota about “pressure” from “general administration officials.”

You regular readers here at law:/dev/null know I’m a formerly homeless college dropout who not only fought his way through a bachelor’s degree but is now excelling at law school. I’ve worked for a former prison warden when I was an Assistant Clerk of Superior Court in Wake County. I’m training to become a United States Marine. I work for 215,000+ of the finest scholars in the country.

Someone using salty language towards me because they dislike a policy choice I made falls pretty low on the totem pole of things I care about in life…

***

Snippet #9:

When Doucette took over the ASG presidency in the fall of 2008, he initially opposed tuition raises. The main newspaper on the Chapel Hill campus, The Daily Tar Heel, quoted him in October of 2008 as saying, “I hate seeing tuition increases anytime,” and “I think it [increasing tuition] runs a great risk of pushing people out of the university.” At that time, Bowles reproached the ASG for coming out against tuition increases before the chancellors made their own recommendations. “I don’t think that’s the way business should be done,” he chided the student group, according to the Daily Tar Heel.

There are no weasel words here — the “analysis” is just plain wrong :roll:

The particular DTH news story is missing from their online archives, but I have no doubt I made that particular comment and I continue to stand by it. Raising tuition impedes access and I hate seeing increases. In my perfect world, those increases wouldn’t happen.

But I also know rising costs are an inevitability of life, and because of that I didn’t “oppose tuition raises” when I took over the ASG presidency. The Pope Center is basically playing make-believe to suit their interests.

Don’t take my word for it though, I’ve got plenty of documentation to reiterate the point:

  • Two separate editorials I wrote in the N.C. State Technician back in September and October 2005, the first (see Item 3(i)) noting that higher tuition wasn’t inherently bad, and the second (see Item 3(j)) suggesting the Student Government advocate for “fee caps” and “aggregate increase limits” — the very policy the UNC Board of Governors adopted two years later in 2007 (that I purportedly opposed).
  • A letter I wrote to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer in July 2006, advocating a policy that “[gives] universities more political cover to raise their tuition rates, but… also protects students and their families” (see Item 3(k))
  • A resolution I wrote in November 2006, adopted by the N.C. State Student Senate, calling on the University to adopt that very same type of policy (see Item 3(l))

All 4 of those items were written long before I ever became Student Senate President at N.C. State, and even longer before I ever considered running for ASG President in March 2008.

But just to clarify the point for anyone who thinks I might have changed my mind at some point between then and the ASG Presidency, I’ll offer the following:

  • Media coverage from a “stand-in” I led at the February 2008 UNC Board of Governors meeting supporting limited tuition increases. A meeting attended by… Jay Schalin (see Item 3(s))
  • My April 2008 campaign platform for ASG President, where I advocated for the same thing (see Item 3(m) page 11)
  • Two separate UNCASG resolutions on tuition and fee increases, the first in October 2008 and the second in January 2009 (see Item 3(n) and Item 3(o)). You might notice Item 3(o) bears a striking resemblance to Item 3(d) — that’s because the resolution text is largely the same, since the political opinions of most rational people don’t suddenly change in a year’s time.

If there’s one trait I’ve had on tuition and fees over the last 5 years, it’s consistency. Both Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson should have easily seen any of these within even 10 seconds of actual research — Robinson in particular, since most of these items are linked off my Facebook profile that she used to contact me about the piece.

But just in case, I even made the effort to note my philosophy on tuition and fees in my ensuing correspondence with Robinson via that Facebook profile. Go back to Item 2(e) and read the last section of my response.

And yet they somehow got it completely, totally, and irrefutably… wrong :crack:

***

Snippet #10:

And this year, Doucette has a completely different attitude. After the recent BOG meeting, he dismissed students who do not qualify for aid as “rich” and said they “can get loans” if they can’t afford the tuition.

The commentary from this snippet presumably came from an impromptu interview with Jay Schalin at the February meeting of the Board of Governors, when he approached me after the Budget & Finance Committee adjourned.

We just covered in Snippet #9 that the Pope Center completely fabricated my “different” attitude from whole cloth, despite half a decade of digital evidence to the contrary. So I think I can safely skip dissecting the first sentence.

Two points on the sentence following it:

1) The median income for a family of 4 in North Carolina is ~$64,591 according to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services annually in the Federal Register (see Item 3(p)). Financial aid breakdowns provided by UNC General Administration show that even families making $90,000 receive significant grant aid (see Item 3(q)).

Folks, that means if you’re at the point where you don’t qualify for any financial aid then you or your parents are pulling in six figures or more — and are substantially above the median income for a typical 4-person family.

To me that qualifies as “rich,” particularly for folks attending college who come from college-educated families. And my (admittedly unscientific) suspicion is that the overwhelming majority of the taxpaying public would agree.

2) Regardless of the above point, all students — rich, poor and in between — should be willing to get loans if they want an education and can’t pay tuition. My education was funded largely through loans because earning a degree was important to me. An education is an investment in yourself, and it makes sense that you personally should bear a significant chunk of the cost in the form of a loan you’ll need to repay.

I made the same point in my correspondence to Jenna Ashley Robinson (see the end section of Item 2(e)).

Now I may not be widely supported in that belief, but it seems comically asinine for a purportedly conservative organization like the Pope Center to chastise me for believing in personal responsibility…

***

Snippet #11:

Criticism of the ASG’s allegiance is neither new nor limited to one side of the political spectrum. Both of UNC-Chapel Hill’s major student publications, the liberal Daily Tar Heel and the conservative Carolina Review, have called for an end to the mandatory funding of the ASG for its failure to represent student interests.

Two points here:

1) Calling the low-circulating, error-filled, poorly-edited, monthly-published Carolina Review a “major student publication” is laughably ridiculous on its own. That goes double when the sentence indicates it’s 1 of only 2 such “major” entities on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, with the other being the widely-circulated, sufficiently-accurate-for-use-by-most-of-Orange-County, professionally-edited, daily student newspaper.

2) Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson also conveniently fail to put a time horizon on the Daily Tar Heel’s criticisms or note any of its changes in opinion over time. Fortunately I did that work for them months ago so you don’t have to — take a look at Item 3(r) in Section II.

***

Snippet #12:

Several former UNC-Chapel Hill student body presidents have refused to attend ASG meetings and have called it “inefficient” and “unscrupulous.”

Another convenient absence of a time horizon. Let’s review:

===> The current 2009-10 Student Body President, Jasmin Jones, has not only regularly attended UNCASG meetings but also came up with the entire Tuition Petition idea (see the first section of Item 2(e))

===> The 2008-09 SBP, J.J. Raynor, attended as well (see Item 3(r) again)

===> The 2007-08 SBP, Eve Carson, attended as well (since that’s how I met her)

So at least since April 2007 when I became a part of the Association in my role as N.C. State’s Student Senate President, every Student Body President of UNC Chapel Hill has attended ASG meetings. I know because I’ve seen and talked to them in person — as have a number of other delegates.

Now I can’t speak for any Student Body Presidents going back more than 3-4 years, but really if you have to reach back that far to criticize an organization it should be a clue that your criticism is probably unfounded ;)

One last point of interest: the UNCCH 2010-11 SBP-elect, Hogan Medlin, has already asked for info so he can plan to attend UNCASG meetings. By contrast one of his 5 opponents, Nash Keune — the editor of the Carolina Review who included a “withdraw from ASG” plank in his platform — came in a distant 4th place in the campus’s election last month with a whopping 12% of the vote.

***

Snippet #13:

The legislature and UNC system also need to go back to the drawing board. There are countless alternatives better than either existing proposal. For instance, tuition increases could be limited to the amount needed to maintain academic quality, helping out the tuition-paying students. Or the legislature could take it easy on the people who really foot the bill, the taxpayers who provide some of the nation’s most generous higher education subsidies. In this scenario, UNC schools could raise tuitions and keep the money, but only if their state funding was cut by the amount of revenue produced.

This is where the yoga-like flexibility of the authors’ rhetorical skills go on full display, and those of us with even a vague semblance of logical thought processes get left in the lurch.

Read those last 2 sentences. Then re-read them again. Now go read the opening section of the Pope Center piece (Item 1). Then come back and re-re-read those last 2 sentences.

Notice anything?

Yes folks: the very Pope Center piece that spent the past 1,400ish words (i) condemning what UNCASG dubbed a “backdoor tax increase”, then (ii) condemning UNCASG itself, wraps up with… (iii) an endorsement of the very same backdoor tax increase it condemned 1,400ish words earlier.

You see, a scenario where universities “raise tuitions and keep the money, but only if their state funding was cut by the amount of revenue produced” is EXACTLY WHAT IT IS NOW IN THE STATE BUDGET.

Existing state appropriations are reduced by the exact same amount that tuition rates go up. In other words, the state is raising tuition and keeping the money.

I don’t really have any analysis I can offer here. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried… :crack:

—===—

==============================
IV. CONCLUSION
==============================

I used to be a big fan of the Pope Center, and their sister think tank the John Locke Foundation. QuietStorm worked at JLF for quite awhile, as have a number of other friends and an Economics professor I had at N.C. State.

But now having experienced first-hand how aggressively some of its personnel will either (1) twist or (2) invent “facts” to support an argument — even if it means writing a piece that is self-contradictory in the process — I can’t really take any of their commentary with anything less than a warehouse-sized volume of salt.

Fortunately for the Pope Center, I’m not a contributor so they lose nothing from my distaste. They even get to keep the moral high ground since I’m a net debtor to society given my ample student loans and relatively inexpensive law school tuition. They’ll probably even get some more hits on their website from the folks who happen to swing by law:/dev/null, and may even garner a contributor or two out of the bunch.

Even so, I expect better from folks who complain of the very same tactics purportedly employed by academicians in the ivory tower.

The sanctimony is amusing, to be sure. But whether it’s the result of laziness or mental instability I’ll leave up to you.

—===—

Sorry again for the rant. Have a great night folks! :)

  1. And it may very well be longer than that — the Association’s records are limited before 1998-99. []
  2. ECSU, FSU, NCAT, NCCU and WSSU []
  3. UNCP []
  4. UNCG []
  5. UNCSA []
  6. NCSSM []
  7. ASU, UNCA and WCU []
  8. ECSU and UNCW []
  9. NCSU and UNCC []
  10. UNCCH, UNCP and WCU []
  11. Including, among many other attendees, the Student Body Presidents from East Carolina, Fayetteville State, NC State, UNC Asheville, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Western Carolina — the top student leaders on their respective campuses, representing a combined 55% of the 215,000+ students in the University. []
  12. North Carolina’s state constitution forbids serving in both the legislative branch and the executive branch of government at the same time, so when I became an ex officio member of the executive UNC Board of Governors I had to give up my legislative day job. []

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-

TDot’s Tips #8: Don’t burn your bridges

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 8, 2010 in TDot's Tips

I’ll confess: I was notoriously arrogant when I first got to N.C. State back in 1998.

I know that comes as a shock to all of about -0- of you :P

In hindsight I’m not entirely sure why I acted the way I did. I was only a slightly-above-average student, paired with well-above-average acne and well-below-average athleticism :beatup: But you wouldn’t believe it from how I carried myself and interacted with other folks.

Until I met QuietStorm.

We both were freshman appointees to the single most distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina, and both of us got assigned to the same committee. I jumped into the policy debates in person and over the listserv from Day 1, and didn’t hesitate to employ a little vitriol in condemning proposals I considered ridiculous.

In response to one of those emails a few days after our appointment, I got a polite response from QuietStorm — our first interaction with each other — essentially telling me to STFU. My response was far less refined, including at least one reference to me “actively mock[ing]” people with her political beliefs.

She shot back minutes later informing me that I didn’t know her well enough to know her political beliefs, she was only trying to be help me avoid alienating people, and a closing admonishment: “Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’re going to need one.”

I realized she was right — over the next few months I learned that she was not only more politically conservative than me, but that we also made a phenomenal team. So I dialed back the pretentiousness over the next semester and adopted a policy of trying to be courteous and respectful to everybody.1

I’m sure there are plenty of folks in the world who don’t like me, but hopefully their distaste isn’t from anything I did to them :)

Days like today remind me it was a good choice.

It started this morning in response to my quote in this article for the Raleigh News & Observer. I sound like a fool, but got a Facebook message from someone who graduated in 3 years, read the story and wanted to wish me well in law school.  The name looked familiar but I wasn’t 100% sure why. A quick Google search confirmed my hunch — QuietStorm and I both worked with him in the Student Senate way back in 1999.

Then after CivPro I drove down to Raleigh to get my car repaired (again). I was talking with one of my colleagues from western NC about the tuition/fee vote at this week’s meeting of the UNC Board of Governors, and after I hung up a guy standing near the door goes “Hey are you Greg?” After my initial impulse to go “who wants to know?” subsided, I found out he was a student at UNC Pembroke (about 1.5 hours south of Raleigh) who I had met for a few minutes almost a year earlier as part of our UNCASG Listening Tour.

Here in the span of a few hours were two folks, interaction with the former separated by time and the latter by geography, who I never expected to cross paths with again. Imagine how either of those conversations would have turned out had I still been an asshole! :beatup:

And as if Life wanted to underscore the point, just before writing this post I got a terse email from a guy working for an organization I’ll leave nameless, demanding a favor from me in my capacity as President of UNCASG — the largest student advocacy organization in North Carolina, and thus a preferred audience for his group. The guy in question? One of the folks responsible for deploying various crude insults about me2) back during my first campaign for Student Senate President.

Needless to say I declined his request :angel:

As many a 2L, 3L and post-L will tell you, the folks we’re working with in law school are going to end up being our friends and colleagues for years down the road. It’s probably a good idea to treat them well so they’ve got a favorable impression of you in the future, because whether it’s in a courtroom or a car repair shop you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone again :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Albeit only as a “no first strike” policy: folks who were rude/mean to me or friends were exempt :angel: []
  2. Mispronouncing my last name sounds similar to a feminine hygiene product, which was apparently the height of civic discourse for the campaign. It’s part of why I felt no sympathy when this poster started appearing ; []

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1

The “Decade from Hell” that wasn’t…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 4, 2010 in Randomness

Happy New Year from law:/dev/null! :D

First, an aside to give a big *THANK YOU* to all of you who take time out of your day to stop by :) Somehow, despite my sporadic posting schedule over winter break, I still have regular visitors — and it makes me smile. A lot. And I’m normally not the smiling type ;) So thank you :)

***

2010 is finally here, which to hear folks tell it is either a good thing or A Good Thing™ depending on your perspective. Since apparently 2009 was a horrible year that ended a horrible decade and whatnot.

Time Magazine Cover on the "Decade from Hell"

Time's cover for the so-called "Decade from Hell"

Don’t believe me? A few weeks ago Time Magazine even went through the trouble of writing this article about “The Decade from Hell” to explain it to you, so surely it must be true.

What’s that, you say? You missed that particular article? Me too. In my case it was intentional, since I realized a few years back — during the 00’s coincidentally — that Time had long since turned into a publication worth far less than its cover price, stuffed with stories based on laughable premises like this one.  For all the complaints about the 00’s, I suspect decades like the 1930’s / 60’s / 70’s would beat it on the “this decade sucked” scale, especially if you happened to be something other than a relatively prosperous / white / straight / Christian male ;)

***

In my case I’d have to say the past decade turned out pretty well. It had its low points just like everything else in life, but considering where I’m at now obviously it turned out for the best :)

Let’s do a quick recap (inspired by this post at oh hay, it’s kk):

2000 – Get pulled off the ballot for Student Senate President at N.C. State, forced to drop out of college and give up my job with Apple Computer, and start loading trucks at UPS to pay bills. But prior to leaving NCSU, get appointed a Student Senator by the guy who won SSP, and then elected President Pro Tempore. Spend the rest of the year mentoring future student leaders with QuietStorm. Also get my first apartment.

2001 – Get my first decently-paying job as a file clerk at a law firm, then get promoted to a litigation assistant. Was sitting at my desk working on pleadings and listening to K97.5 when the news of the September 11th attacks came across the radio. Spend the rest of the day glued to the television.

2002 – Laid off from the law firm job in February when the economy tanked. But get hired weeks later by the North Carolina State Bar, and promoted twice in ten months. Several of the candidates I helped also win the November 2002 elections.

2003 – Voluntarily take a $10K/yr pay cut and leave the State Bar to serve as the first Director of Special Projects for the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office. Ridiculously high-stress job, but have carte blanche to fix a lot of nettlesome problems around the courthouse and enjoy the responsibility. Also become the youngest elected Vice Chairman of the Wake County Republican Party.

2004 – Grow disillusioned with the WakeGOP, particularly its hostility to homosexuals. Decide to voice my opinion in the newspaper on the opening day of the State Convention; told to resign from the courthouse job by the (elected) Clerk of Superior Court soon thereafter as a result. Spend the rest of the year helping elect Richard Burr to the U.S. Senate and Richard Stevens to the N.C. Senate. Then snag a decently-paid paralegal position with a local law firm.

2005 – Voted out of the WakeGOP at its County Convention in March. Law firm dissolves due to disagreements among the partners; officially decide I dislike BigLaw. Convince N.C. State to let me come back to school. Become one of the youngest lobbyists in North Carolina a couple months later. Make Dean’s List for the first — and only — time in my college career.

2006 – Lose my race for a Student Senate seat… to a guy who didn’t even campaign. Get appointed to a vacancy by the Student Senate President, then made Chairman of the Appropriations Committee when the original Chairman resigns; spend the year remaking the appropriations process and writing legislation like I have nothing better to do with my time. Keep lobbying, and pick up a side job teaching Intro to Java to freshman.

An anonymous campaign poster from my SSP race

2007 – With 61% of the vote and 4 days on the ballot, win campus-wide election to become the oldest Student Senate President in N.C. State history after one of the craziest elections of all time — the same race where I was removed from the ballot at the start of the decade. Campaign becomes material for at least 3 different courses, including on campaigning, advertising, and the computer ethics of using Facebook for opposition research. Pay off my remaining ~$15K debt to N.C. State; give up lobbying to focus on Student Government. Unilaterally implement first ever student fee referenda.

2008 – Decide to postpone graduation to finish my minors in political science and economics. Lead a welltelevised silent sit-in at the February UNC Board of Governors meeting opposing tuition hikes. Earn the highest job approval rating of the 4 highest Student Body Officers, and get re-elected Student Senate President with 89% of the vote. A month later, win election as President of the statewide Association of Student Governments by a 1-vote margin. Finish the calendar year with the Student Senate all over local media again, and a revitalized UNCASG setting a 4-year attendance record.

2009 – N.C. State’s Student Government gets a 66%+ favorable approval rating when measured by the Poli Sci and Stats Departments. Retire as Student Senate President; protégé wins election as my successor. Unanimously re-elected to a 2nd term as President of UNCASG. Graduate with a BS in Computer Science and minors in both Economics and Political Science. Start my 1L year as a Legal Eagle at NCCU Law.

And start law:/dev/null :D

***

It’s been quite a ride. I’ve moved about a dozen times. I’ve made thousands of dollars in salary; paid thousands more in taxes, rent, car payments, tuition. I’ve met hundreds of people, including some who (hopefully) will be friends for the rest of my life. The list goes on.

Looking back it almost doesn’t feel like it took 10 years to get here. If the next 10 turn out even remotely as well, things are going to be pretty good :D

That’s enough reminiscing from me, I’m off to bed. Good night everybody! :)

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