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Friday, March 18, 2011

Japan Coverage on the decline

Now that the numbers are in the hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands, past a half million in casualties (dead, wounded, homeless and missing), the interests of American News Media and the American public is beginning to wain. Pew Media Trust reports a 70% reduction in coverage from Wednesday to Thursday, with a quick scan of media today indicating interests may have fallen even more.

American media provides what they perceive the audience wants to see or read, driven, except for NPR and a few exceptions, by advertising revenue and ratings.

As with the Tsunami that his Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and the earthquake aftermath in Haiti, once numbers grow and Americans tire of seeing destruction, the demand is to return to "American" stories on politics, bus accidents and things that happen closer to home.

This is why America has remained a isolationist and highly conservative country compared to world coverage and the residents of most educated industrial countries. Could this also be why our education levels and our overall economic strength in this new world economy are also declining?

Catastrophic cuts at UNLV would hurt the community

Beyond campus
Catastrophic cuts at UNLV would hurt the community, too

James Woodbridge, Neon Reverb co-founder and UNLV philosophy professor

Sunday night in the backyard of the Beauty Bar, Rachel Fannan is singing to a crowd of shaggy-haired hipsters during Neon Reverb's closing ceremonies.

"I wanna get you off my back, I wanna get you off my back, I want ..."

Outside the bar, under the lights of East Fremont Street, one of the festival's organizers, James Woodbridge, shares the musician's sentiment.

Woodbridge, a Las Vegas resident of four and a half years and assistant professor of philosophy at UNLV, will likely lose his job if the school's state funding is drastically reduced.

University President Neal Smatresk revealed the proposed cuts March 8, and the harshest would permanently close the philosophy and women's studies departments, as well as the School of Social Work.

Woodbridge says he likes Las Vegas and the life he's made for himself, but he will be forced to move away if he is fired.

"I will have to try to find a job somewhere else," he says. "I will have to declare personal bankruptcy, I will have to pack whatever I can fit into my car with my dog and go someplace where I can teach philosophy, because philosophy is my career. It's what I do. In fact, it's more than what I do -- it's who I am."

If departments are eliminated, teaching jobs will disappear and students' degrees will be compromised, but the cuts will also have farther-reaching effects -- consequences beyond the university setting.

With Woodbridge would go the certainty of the Neon Reverb's future. The semiannual festival was established in fall 2008 and stages local acts alongside notable indie bands. It has become a popular fixture in the downtown scene, growing beyond music to include film, comedy, art and storytelling.

"Thirry [Harlin] and Jason [Aragon] might carry it on, but I wouldn't be here," he says.

Of the departments facing elimination, the School of Social Work provides perhaps the most tangible benefit to the Las Vegas Valley, through pro-bono field work. Students in practicum courses are required to volunteer 20 hours per week at local organizations. In 2010, social work students logged 84,000 hours -- quantified at a $1.1 million value -- at agencies such as the Department of Family Services, the public defender's office, hospices and medical facilities.

In the case of DFS, the school provides a majority of training to incoming Child Protective Services workers. Joanne Thompson, director of the UNLV School of Social Work, says that without the department's assistance, DFS would not be able to sustain its five-week intensive child welfare training course. To complicate matters, she says, the DFS also faces funding cuts.

"[Eliminating the school] would be a drastic blow to this community," Thompson says. "Our social-service infrastructure is delicate at best because it hasn't been able to respond to population growth. It would be tragic."

The Community Counseling Center also relies heavily on practicum students. The clinic provides therapy to 36,000 Las Vegans annually, at low to no cost. Included in its services are marriage and family counseling, substance abuse and mental-health therapy, as well as HIV treatment.

Deputy Director Antioco Carrillo said unpaid interns do the work of 12 full-time positions, allowing the clinic to see patients who would otherwise be placed on a waiting list.

The center is funded through the city, state and federal government, but Carrillo says the funding is minimal, and he keeps 20 interns at all times to supplement his staff of about 35.

"They're not paying attention to the impact to the community, to organizations such as ours," Carrillo says. "It's devastating. It's going to be much more difficult to provide the quality of services that we have."

UNLV undergrad Tamara West interns with DFS and the U.S. Veterans office, providing child protective services and job training, respectively. By the time she finishes her degree, the former Army member will have volunteered nearly 500 hours.

West and Thompson do not understand why the department has been placed on the chopping block. It's a large school, with 430 students, and over the years has brought in millions in funding. According to the Office of Sponsored Programs, the College of Urban Affairs received $7.8 million in external grant funding; $5 million was awarded to the School of Social Work.

"It's not just about, 'I want my program.' This program gives more to the community than it costs," West says. "We are very self-sustaining. The school pays for itself."

West says she would like to obtain her master's degree from UNLV, but she would go elsewhere if she has to.

But elsewhere isn't ideal. The benefit of studying at UNLV, says Margherita Jellinek, is generalist training that isn't offered at other universities. Generalist social workers are broadly trained to work in any setting, whether it's law, medicine or otherwise.

Jellinek, director of the Downtown Clinic, an adult mental health center that cares for 2,000 clients, lauds the School of Social Work for turning out capable, hardworking students.

"They're some of the best I've worked with," says Jellinek, who studied at Columbia and has worked at Yale. "They are folks who are no-nonsense. They are not pretentious; they're focused on doing things well."

Jellinek hires grads to manage anxiety and assess patients in the clinic's waiting room, and says the grads' work is invaluable to the clinic's operation.

"I don't have to tell them what to do," she said. "They apply the skills they learned at the university."

The UNLV Women's Studies Department benefits Las Vegas by hosting public lectures and, more importantly, turning out thoughtful citizens, says women's studies graduate assitant Crystal Jackson, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology.

"Cutting programs that teach critical thinking, problem solving and how to analyze and address social, economic and political issues will have a direct effect on the quality and quantity of our workforce," Jackson writes in an e-mail. "Gov. Sandoval has ensured that Nevada and Las Vegas will suffer economically."

Jackson participates in leadership and student associations; she has represented the Sociologists for Women in Society; she is co-organizing an art and writing event about what it means to be feminist in Las Vegas; she backs queer and transgender legislation; she's protested budget cuts; the list goes on.

Political activism is common in the department.

One of the most publicly visible women's studies faculty members is Lynn Comella, an assistant professor who teaches sexuality and seeks to bridge the gap between academia and broader Las Vegas. As a public intellectual, Comella offers smart commentary on Las Vegas' age-old draw.

Comella, too, said she might leave Las Vegas if her department is cut. Women's Studies employs three full-time faculty members, one administrative assistant and one visiting professor, and was also threatened with elimination last year.

"It's the second year women's studies is offered up as the sacrificial lamb," Comella says. "I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship with my employer."

Cuts would also eliminate funding to the Women's Research institute of Nevada.

"They announced that they were cutting all of this on International Women's Day," Woodbridge says. "And the thing is, they didn't realize that, I'm sure. The incredible lack of awareness and sensitivity of the administration in dealing with this is just further evidence of the need for exactly this sort of education."

Last updated on Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 12:06 am

In Peace and Solidarity From,

Mark Nichols, Executive Director
1050 E. Flamingo Rd., #W369
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 791-5872

The History of Saint Patrick - a Short Story