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Quarter in Review

The Daily’s opinion columnists were asked to revisit a column they wrote earlier in the quarter to note any new developments or to re-engage the topic. They are revisiting these topics today. Here’s what they came up with.

Columnist Thomas Cloud wrote “Emmert really makes less than Obama” on Feb. 4, in which he examined the true benefits of being president of the United States compared to being president of the UW.

Be angry at legislature, not Emmert

Thomas Cloud The Daily

First things first: Mark Emmert is not the highest-paid employee at the UW — Steve Sarkisian makes more than Emmert — but nowhere do I see angry protesters shouting about cutting Sarkisian’s salary. That’s because he is a popular figure in a popular sport, and he brings money into the athletic department.

I think a lot of people are angry with Emmert simply because he makes more money than they do — what I call the politics of envy. The UW hired Emmert because he is a professional and quite competent at what he does, and the university pays him the salary that they do because the market demands it. Under Emmert, the university completed its most successful private fundraising campaign ever. Furthermore, he helped create and launch Husky Promise.

He brings so much more money into the UW — billions of dollars — than we pay him for. He’s a Husky himself and good man.

If you should be mad at anything, it should be the legislature. They’re cutting education spending to scare you into voting for an income tax. It’s a fear tactic to get more money out of you, or perhaps to get you to gang up on those wealthier than yourself to feed the state’s insatiable hunger for money.

Columnist Colin Gorenstein wrote “Seattle needs to apply its literacy” on Jan. 5, in which he addressed closures of book stores and newspaper publications despite Seattle being one of the most literate cities in the United States.

Visit Pioneer Square’s Elliot Bay bookstore in final days

Colin Gorenstein The Daily

In case you were wondering, no, I haven’t stopped thinking about the travesty that is the relocation of The Elliott Bay Book Company. While owner Peter Aaron has been periodically updating the bookstore’s main page, assuring visitors that the new place on Capitol Hill is really coming together, I must reiterate: The cafe in the TV show “Frasier” was modeled after the Pioneer Square location.

It’s just as much about the walls that contain the books as it is about the books themselves. I don’t doubt that the Capitol Hill location is really coming together and that it will be a great place, but it simply will not be able to achieve the same magical ambience of the Pioneer Square bookstore.

The new location is tentatively set to open as soon after the closing — March 31 — as possible. For those who voiced complete disregard for the value of the Pioneer Square location, stating that Seattle has enough existing bookstores as is, I urge you to visit Elliott Bay Book Company during its final days. Perhaps you’ll finally comprehend the magic that one can only experience while in the presence of greatness and support other struggling businesses so they can stick around.

At least one good thing has come from the closing of this location: Eighty percent off the entire used book selection for the store’s liquidation sale. I can celebrate that.

Columnist Chris Jordan wrote “Court decision drowning out voices of people” on Feb. 10 in which he examined the recent Supreme Court decision that gave corporations and unions the right to spend money on election campaign advertising.

Signs of hope to overturn court decision

Chris Jordan The Daily

Through Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court has struck down limits on the spending of corporations and unions on political campaigns. These powerful companies and groups can now spend unlimited amounts of cash from their enormous general treasuries (without the input of stockholders) in support or opposition of politicians.

Back in February, I criticized the court’s ruling, which was a major setback for limiting the power of special interests and corporations over our political system. Recently, there have been signs of hope that this flawed decision may someday be overturned.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) both introduced amendments to the Constitution designed to give Congress the power to regulate campaign finance.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation that could blunt the impact of the decision in the short term by requiring the CEO of any company that runs political ads to appear in the ad and endorse it.

Finally, a poll taken by The Washington Post found that 80 percent of Americans oppose the decision. A full 72 percent said they support efforts to reinstate limits on corporate and union spending.

Whatever the method, this ruling must be corrected.

The loudest voices our politicians hear should be those of the people, not the richest corporations and special interests.

Columnist Mike Noon wrote “Vote in special election tomorrow” on Feb. 8, in which he looked at voter apathy in local elections.

Election apathy can be conquered

Mike Noon The Daily

Only in the United States can something as important as voting become so mundane that the majority ignores it. If the right to vote is the most important right guaranteed by our constitution, what does it say about us when only one-third muster the effort? Electoral apathy is not a foregone conclusion but a conscious act that can be changed.

Both Seattle Public School propositions passed in the Feb. 9 special election by nearly 50-point margins. But can this decision really be considered the majority view with a turnout of 35 percent? Nearly 84 percent of King County voters showed up in the November 2008 election. Voting is just as easy now as it was then.

The worst part is that this type of apathy is endemic. Federal, state and local elections are not the only types offered. The general elections for both the ASUW and the GPSS will occur in a few months. Any student who is a member of one of the local credit unions is eligible to vote for its board of directors. These votes have important ramifications for everything from your paycheck to your bank account.

Voting can sometimes be an inconvenience, but it is well worth it. In fact, some of these elections are held online, dropping the effort required significantly. Democracy works best when people participate, so spend a few minutes next time and vote.

Columnist Russ Wung wrote “Fiscal responsibility requires cutting spending, not raising taxes” on Feb. 3 in which he looked at the federal government’s budget policies.

State should cut spending, too

Russ Wung The Daily

Regular readers are aware that I have spent a substantial amount of time trashing the federal government’s fiscal bacchanalia. There is, however, an alarming parallel between this ongoing catastrophe and the actions of our state government in Olympia, Wash., which I have largely neglected up to this point.

Last month, the state legislature passed a bill suspending I-960, allowing tax increases to be passed without a supermajority of state legislators. March’s newest sales-tax increase, passed 25-23 in the state senate, is no surprise.

Some may clamor for such tax hikes or a state income tax, either out of irrational egalitarianism or in hopes of shielding the UW from budget cuts or tuition increases. They would impose upon the earnings of taxpayers without regard to what new taxes will do to the economy and to the job market.

Given the glorious excellence of our fair institution, we may reasonably assert that tuition subsidies to the UW ought to continue but that cuts should be made to other wasteful areas of state spending. Tax increases of any sort (except those on sin taxes) are not worth the economic downsides under any foreseeable conditions.

Columnist Zachary Gussin wrote “Wither art thou, Muffin Man?” on Jan. 21, in which he looked at a potential Washington state tax on baked goods.

The Return of the Muffin Man: Can the Candy Man?

Zachary Gussin The Daily

Earlier this quarter, I discussed a potential sin tax on “baked goods.” That legislation has since been dropped from the discussion in Olympia, Wash., but has been supplanted by an equally absurd “candy tax.”

Really? Replacing one reactionary and non-implementable tax with another doesn’t change the nature of the beast. As Jean Thompson, the owner of Seattle Chocolate Company, wrote in a guest column for The Seattle Times, Washington has a number of small-business confectioners. Fran’s and Theo aside, there’s the delicious Almond Roca, and the choking hazards that are Aplets and Cotlets. The entire economy of Cashmere, Wash., depends upon Aplets and Cotlets.

Good news is spurting out of Olympia recently. There’s a proposal that would allow Washingtonians to vote on a state income tax. You’ve got to love Washington politics: This tax would affect only the richest of our state’s citizens and would help prevent the anti-populist and inequitable flat taxes that our entire government is currently funded by.

In summation: Keep what’s sweet and let the income tax come.

Columnist Emily McFadden wrote “Vagina Monologues: Celebrating womanhood” on Feb. 16, in which she addressed the issue of making discussion about sex, gender and the body part itself less taboo.

Why are we so intrigued by gender?

Emily McFadden The Daily

Looking back on this quarter, I immediately thought of my experience writing about Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, in addition to reading “In her shoes,” by Celina Kareiva, The Daily’s coverage of the UW drag show.

Both of these articles evoked numerous responses from readers online — most regarding levels of propriety and the importance (or unimportance) of sexuality in our lives, as well as the importance of maintaining boundaries dictated by the logics of gender. Comments were varied, ranging from accusations of perversion and hedonism to mandates of innocent fun and playful recreation.

Reading some of these made me wonder why people were so intrigued and offended by these deviations from the dominant social trope we call normal — that of heterosexual masculinity. Why are people so intrigued by gender, and especially when the boundaries between strictly defined gender roles begin to blur?

What broad, sweeping statements can I, a straight white girl, say about gender roles and the plight of those subjected to discrimination and abuse? Not a lot, it turns out. However, I’d still like to ask the staggering question of why our hyper-gendered society still remains largely uncomfortable with such instances of divergence.

Columnist Gavin Verhey wrote “Get the most of your education: Speak up in class” on Jan. 13, in which he suggested students do more to learn and be active in class.

What raising your hand in class can accomplish

Gavin Verhey The Daily

Unlike most columns, the topic I wrote about didn’t leave my mind as the week passed. I kept track of hand-raising throughout the quarter, alert to each opportunity that was created in class by students raising their hands and saying something.

At some point mid-quarter, I lost count.

The in-class discussions that only occurred due to one student bravely raising his or her hand and asking about a topic were so high in number and so relevant that I was blown away. Students debated with guest speakers, brought up questions in class that would later appear on the midterm, and shared their personal experiences.

I’ll never forget how a student visiting my class for the day recognized me after a rousing in-class discussion and told me he had been inspired to speak up and add to the debate because of my article.

To him, and everyone else who spoke up this quarter: You rock. Keep raising those hands. I’m glad we have students like you to keep class from being boring. To everyone else, don’t be afraid to give raising your hand a try in the quarters to come. It’s amazing how much can stem from a single question. This quarter alone is plenty of evidence.

Columnist Rebecca Kuensting wrote “Don’t panic, but don’t forget about swine flu” on Jan. 13, in which she discussed how hype surrounding swine flu caused students to take a relaxed attitude toward the virus.

The UW community is smart about swine flu

Rebecca Kuensting The Daily

The hype surrounding swine flu that ignited panic in September of last year had led many people to stop taking the virus seriously. I echoed the Campus Health Services (CHS) Web site’s warning that another wave of cases might be on its way.

Though swine flu did reappear on campus as the Web site predicted — Hall Health confirmed three cases in January — the virus did not spread or cause any major disruptions.

CHS reported that besides those three cases, there has been “no further H1N1 activity on campus,” though flu vaccines and resources will remain available.

Despite the relaxed attitudes and frequent jokes about swine flu I observed in my original column, the fact that the cases reported in January were limited to three people suggests that the UW community really does take the swine-flu threat seriously.

For nearly a year we’ve been inundated with admonitions to wash our hands, carry hand sanitizer, stay home when sick and get vaccinated for the H1N1 virus. And it seems that despite the lack of panic, people listened. We’ve come a long way from last year and seem to have finally mastered being both sensible and safe.

The CHS Web site now states, “We do not know if we will continue to see H1N1 disease or ever see the seasonal influenza virus.” We may have seen the last of the swine flu for this season, but that’s no reason to get complacent. Cover your cough, get the H1N1 vaccine and check the CHS homepage for flu-related updates.

Reach all Daily columnists at opinion@dailyuw.com.

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