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Opinion

Letters to the Editor

By Glynis Asu, Jason Ross '14, Anne Debraggio, Lyman Munschauer '13

May 2, 2013

Re: A call to arms for adamant individuals

One particular point in this piece caught my eye: “We are the generation of the information age. With the right key words and a strong internet connection, we could find out anything about pretty much everything… you will be flooded with page after page of information, most of which will be completely irrelevant to what you actually want to know.  It takes time and energy to sort through this mish-mash of fact, figures and possible falsities... And, when you’ve already inhaled all of this information and all of these viewpoints, why would you take the time to come up with an original viewpoint of your own?”

A strategy for handling the constant onslaught of information has been recently proposed by Clay Johnson in his brief and readable work,  The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. From the book jacket: Johnson is best known as the founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008.  He states, “Information is just as vital to our survival as the other three things we consume (food, air and water).  That’s why personal responsibility in an age of mostly free information is vital to individual and social health. If we want our communities and our democracies to thrive, we need a healthier information diet.”

Johnson’s points: The problem is not information overload, it is information overconsumption. The solution is not tools and filters, it is selective habits and healthy choices— balanced information consumption.

He offers tips on “how to consume,” and describes some techniques: data literacy (gathering source-level information), attention fitness (strategic allocation of your attention), and a healthy sense of humor. Most interesting to me, he suggests one aspect of an answer to the question posed in the February Opinion piece about “having time and a reason to come up with an original viewpoint of your own.”

He describes our “participation gap,” and portrays our political information diets as “delivering us the news we want to hear, not the news we should hear, promoting our attachment to the teams of our choosing—the reds vs. the blues, rather than finding the great synthesis of ideas.” He suggests that a healthy information diet always starts locally, advises us to ‘keep your voice your own” by bypassing the middlemen, and provides some practical suggestions for doing so. A fun read, with some interesting pointers for finding one’s (truly informed) individual voice.

­—Glynis Asu
Instructional Support Librarian

In response to proposed housing changes:

Even though I am a rising senior and the housing changes being discussed in Student Assembly this week will have no effect on me, I feel obliged to write this Letter to the Editor. Although I understand the Committee on the First-Year Experience’s desire to socially integrate incoming freshmen into the Hamilton community, converting six out of Hamilton’s twenty-six on-campus Residence Halls into some form of freshmen housing seems inappropriate for two important reasons.

The first reason is that by establishing clusters of freshmen housing, the Committee on the First-Year Experience may actually undermine their goals of socially integrating incoming freshmen into our community by creating housing situations where freshmen potentially socialize amongst themselves at the expense of engaging with the larger Hamilton community.

The second reason is that by converting six out of Hamilton’s twenty-six on-campus Residence Halls into some form of freshmen housing, the possibility now exists for upperclassmen with poor Housing Lottery numbers to live in housing that is inferior to their previous underclassmen housing. Based on conversations I’ve had with current and future upperclassmen, this seems to be a major violation of one of Hamilton’s unspoken rules, namely that as one progresses through four years at Hamilton, the quality of one’s housing improves. I openly acknowledge that this is not always the case, but based on my experience at Hamilton so far, this unspoken rule seems to hold true.

Despite the potential claim by defenders of the proposed housing changes that upperclassmen superiority in quality of housing is unfair, I would argue the exact opposite. If someone attends Hamilton for more than two years and does not transfer they should be rewarded with superior housing due to loyalty to the College and seniority. That the proposed housing changes will violate this unspoken rule for future upperclassmen is a true shame.

Lastly I would like to state that I think the proposed future policy of bringing all students to campus from downtown is an overreach. Even though I would not choose to live downtown, having this decision forcibly taken out of students’ hands seems to be a violation of students’ right to choose. 

—Jason Ross ’14

To honor the sisters of Alpha Theta Chi:

On behalf of the staff, Board of Trustees and especially the patrons of the Kirkland Town Library, I am writing to acknowledge the members of the Alpha Theta Chi sorority for the variety of ways they supported us this academic year.  Whether assisting with a craft project, distributing candy to trick-or-treaters, offering a yoga class, collecting jewelry for the Friends of the Kirkland Town Library Holiday Sale, cleaning audiobooks, rearranging bookshelves, or providing extra hands at our annual Literary Tea Party, their help was welcome and greatly appreciated.  Thank you for reaching out to us and thank you for donating your time and energy to assist the Kirkland Town Library and the community we serve.

—Anne Debraggio
Director, Kirkland Town Library

On Student Assembly:

What does Student Assembly do? Throughout the year I have watched the Administration pass new rules on freshman living, downtown housing, and res life all while claiming student input from Student Assembly. For the vast majority of the student body, these changes are viewed as negative for the sense of community that we experience currently at Hamilton. If most students oppose these changes, then why are they occurring? Why has Student Assembly been our voice but not stopped them? Do they have actual power to affect change or are they just a Vichy government? As a senior who is hopefully graduating, I strongly believe that the students need a larger role that is taken seriously by the Administration, perhaps through the institution of a student trustee board (look at Cornell for an example).

Lyman Munschauer ’13

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