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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

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I. INTRO
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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
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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]

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III. SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS
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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:

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==============================
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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3

Weekend Update

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Mar 1, 2010 in NotFail

Hey y’all! :D

Sorry for missing my self-imposed weekend deadline for writing. My monthly UNCASG meeting was Friday-Sunday on the NC A&T State and UNC Greensboro campuses, so the evenings when I usually write were instead spent enjoying the company of some folks I hadn’t seen in awhile. Hopefully y’all will forgive me :)

Here’s a quick 5-point update on the past few days:

====================
MBP BRAIN TRANSPLANT SUCCESSFUL
====================

Last Monday my 4-year-old MacBook Pro got shipped off to Texas for a new logic board, and wasn’t slated to be back in my hands until tomorrow.

Apple somehow got everything repaired and sent back to the Southpoint Apple Store by Friday — I got a text on my phone from FedEx around 10am when it was dropped off, and promptly skipped out of class to go pick it up :beatup:

I’m pleased to report the surgery was a success! :D In addition to the logic board it needed, the folks replaced the RAM chips, the fan assembly, the SuperDrive, and cleaned both the keyboard and the screen… all for the same price :surprised:

I already officially :heart:’d Apple. But all that made me :heart: them even more.1 :lovestruck:

====================
WHITE GUY WINS BLSA TRIVIA CHALLENGE
====================

No one was surprised last semester when I joined the NCCU Law chapter of the Black Law Students Association. I was active in the black community at my alma mater, had 3 roommates for years who were even more active than I was, etc.

And even if I wasn’t active, Delta the 2L was going to shake me down for dues anyhow :beatup:

So when BLSA had a trivia contest for Black History Month,2 I sent in an answer on a whim.  Turns out I was the first one to reply with the correct answer on that particular day, which prompted a pair of challenges: a nice “Now you know I expect you to win this right?” from Delta, and a snarky “What do you think you know about black history?” from a colleague I’ll leave nameless.

I don’t know much, but I do know I got declared the winner on Friday ;)

Here’s how the final scorecard turned out:

  1. T. Greg Doucette @ 7 points
  2. Melanie Bates @ 3 points
  3. Whitney Frye @ 2 points
  4. LaKeeshia Austin @ 1 point (tie)
    Lori Hale @ 1 point (tie)
    Stephanie Locke @ 1 point (tie)
    Alyssa Moore @ 1 point (tie)
    Ashleigh Parker @ 1 point (tie)
    Demetria Watkins @ 1 point (tie)
    Oluseun Williams @ 1 point (tie)

The contest had a $25 gift card as a prize, but I’m getting more joy out of proving a point :angel:

====================
UNCASG COLLECTS 22,000+ SIGNATURES
====================

That meeting I mentioned was one of our busier ones of the year as I try to wrap up everything I want done before my term ends April 30th. 3

The Tuition Petition stack... and this is without a handful of universities!

One of the highlights has been the UNCASG Tuition Petition campaign, where we’ve been getting students across the state to petition the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal a mandatory 8% tuition increase (with $$ going to the state’s budget deficit) and replace it with lower rates set by the UNC Board of Governors (with $$ staying on each campus).

We gathered up the petitions from most of the universities this weekend, and it looks like we’ve gathered over 22,000 signatures — well over our goal of 21,500 :D

Now comes the “fun” part: verifying names, erasing contact information, duplicating petitions, getting them bound into volumes, then distributing them to key legislators.

I think I’m gonna delegate that part to someone else ;)

====================
MIDTERM PANIC SETS IN
====================

Midterms start on Wednesday with Property II. CivPro II and Torts II are next on Thursday, then we wrap up on Friday with Ks II and CrimLaw I.

Thought I was freaking out before finals? Imagine what I’m like after not having my outlines for a week :beatup:

If my posts over the next few days sound more and more like the rantings of a delusional mind, I’ve probably gone crazy :crack:

====================
AND MORE @#$%ING SNOW…
====================

Oh and it’s scheduled to snow again starting tomorrow. This will be the 2nd time in less than a week, and at least the 5th time in 5 weeks.

Last I checked North Carolina is still firmly part of the South and Durham is still part of the generally snow-free Research Triangle. I love snow — once or twice a year. This is getting a bit excessive… :mad:

—===—

That’s the past week of my life in a nutshell :) Hope all of you are doing well, and enjoy the rest of the week! :D

  1. On an unrelated side note, I see why so may Mac users dislike Windows and vice versa. It’s incredibly un-intuitive going from one OS to the other. My efficiency on the PC laptop I was using in the interim was less than a third than on the Mac, at best. []
  2. Each day featured a trivia question relating to someone famous from the black community, and the first person to provide the correct answer got a point. Most points at the end of the month wins. []
  3. I can already tell letting go is going to be a challenge… :cry: []

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4

Vindication

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 18, 2010 in Student Government

It’s been a good day :)

Things started off well when I made it to Legal Research & Persuasion on time. A minor success to be sure, but with our new schedule this semester I miss 2 days’ worth of LRP every time there’s a UNC Board of Governors meeting — so this is the first lab I’ve been to since the semester started :beatup:

It got even better when we got grades back for the quiz I mentioned yesterday. The grade itself wasn’t a surprise (BlueBook/citation stuff is one of the things I did professionally back when I was a paralegal) but it means I don’t have to go to class tomorrow. And since Professor Ks cancelled that class too, it also means I get to sleep in extra late since those are the only 2 classes we have on Friday mornings :D

But the main joy came from reading the student newspaper at my alma mater.

Some quick background:  I briefly mentioned last month that the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments had already gathered 15,000+ student signatures on a tuition petition calling on state legislators to scrap a mandated tuition increase (with $$ raised going to the state’s General Fund) and replace it with a smaller tuition increase set by the Board of Governors (with $$ raised staying on each respective campus).

Back when we were prepping the campaign, back before the first signature was signed, we got a lot of hostile carping from a lot of different folks — and as the guy in charge, most of it was directed at me.

One well-connected person told me to “hold off.” Another more tersely insisted “your plan is not going to be helpful” (though he was kind enough to preface it with “with all due respect”).  And then there was N.C. State’s Technician, which was kind enough to editorialize here that the Tuition Petition was a “futile gesture designed to improve the image of student leaders”… yet another condemnatory editorial in a span stretching back to the start of my 1st term :roll:

But then by the time last week’s BOG meeting started, the number of signatures had grown from 0 to over 20,000 — over 90% of our 21,500 goal, with 3 weeks left to go.

It was a point I made sure to mention in a speech from the podium, flanked by over a dozen Student Body Presidents and other student leaders from over half the institutions in the University system, with thick stacks of signed petitions in their hands :angel:

After the meeting, the very same gentleman who just a month earlier said the petition campaign wouldn’t be helpful came up and thanked us for doing it, noting how helpful it would be when budget deliberations take place this summer.

Then today, as I’m in the FishBowl reading for Torts, I discover the Technician wrote a fresh editorial… now citing what they call the “great” work UNCASG is doing with the petition.

I almost fell out of the chair :beatup:

Now I’m not the obnoxious type to demand someone say point-blank they were wrong, but I’m more than willing to infer it from their subsequent words/actions ;)

So yeah, it’s been a good day :D We’ll see how tomorrow turns out :)

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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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-

“No officer, I’m not on scholarship…”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 25, 2009 in The 1L Life

In a few previous posts like this one I mentioned to y’all that I work with a statewide student advocacy group called the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments. We had our October business meeting this weekend (hence the lack of a post last night — I was busy helping dominate everyone at flip cup during the post-meeting party 0:) ) and one of our delegations had the misfortune of getting hit by a car as they were pulling out of a gas station.

Thankfully no one was injured.  The car was no longer drivable, but Enterprise got them a replacement by 6am today so they made it home on time.

Since I’m the guy in charge of the organization, I headed out to the accident scene to help make sure my folks were all squared away. The Durham police officer who reported to the scene bantered with us while filling out his report, wanting to know where I went to school. After telling him I was at the N.C. Central University School of Law, he goes “I’ve heard good things about that school. You must be on a full ride over there, eh?”

I wish :beatup:

One of the weird things about someone with my complexion picking an HBCU’s law program as their top choice is that folks tend to think the only reason you could possibly be there is for some (presumably race-based) scholarship money. But NCCU Law actually has one of the most diverse law programs in the country. And you already know my other reasons for making it my destination.

I’m not sure what the white equivalent to Dennis’s Tyrone would be, but whatever it is — I’m not that guy ;)

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-

Longest. Day. Evah…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 14, 2009 in Student Government

Wednesdays are always long days on my class schedule, but I feel like today in particular just draaaagggggggggggggggggggeeeeeeeddddddddd on.  So despite my very best efforts to come up with something witty or worthwhile for the blog tonight… this is all I’ve got at the moment :beatup:

On a non-law note, if you happen to attend one of the 16 institutions in the University of North Carolina and want to know how the process for setting student fee rates works, I wrote a note on Facebook for my SG friends at N.C. State.  Feel free to check it out too :)

Hopefully I’ll have something more entertaining tomorrow.  Good night everybody!

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