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Week in Review

When retailers are selling snow shovels in Alabama—and they are, just a two-minute drive from my home—you know the weather’s going to get bad. For my East Coast co-workers, I’m hoping the snow doesn’t get too deep and the cabin fever doesn’t go on too long. As for me, I’m hoping the two inches of snow we’re scheduled for doesn’t signal another ‘Snowpocalypse’.
While the weather is dominating the news, other things are happening: Pluto’s still out in the cold, but there really may be another planet in our solar system—a real-life Planet Nine from outer space—and the Oscars are under fire for a lack of diversity. So 2016 is apparently continuing to whipsaw us with wonder and sadness. I hope you buckled your seat belt.
What’s new this week
As the presidential candidates sprint for the finish line in Iowa, Drake University’s Anthony Gaughan reminded us in The Conversation that the gloves are off for the Democrats, specifically pointing out former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton’s “disingenuous” attack on Bernie Sanders’ health care plan. And while the GOP establishment is taking down U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Gaughan also reminds us in US News & World Report that Cruz’s real crisis is about his stance against renewable energy.
At the IHE Call to Action blog, Paul Redfern reminds us that it’s not enough to keep up with trends, but we have to be ahead of them, instead. And Michael Stoner offers some steps toward more effective marketing in 2016.
And our fearless leader, Teresa Valerio Parrot, blogs about why your words and actions matter—and you should choose both carefully.
What we’ve been talking about
Our co-worker, Ali Lincoln, is back from maternity leave, and we are all deliriously happy about it. She’s been working hard to catch up on emails and other projects from late last year, but in her spare time she has made our Slack chat a brighter and even happier place.
What we’re reading
Kristine Maloney
It was one of the biggest higher ed stories of the week. For that reason, and because college admissions fascinates me, I couldn’t resist reading the full “Turning the Tide” report. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s actually not too long, and sometimes it’s nice to see the source material for yourself, especially in a landscape of strong opinions on whether and how this project will work.
Erin Hennessey
I’m one of the few people who haven’t gotten pulled into “Serial,” “Making a Murderer,” or “The Jinx.” Nevertheless, I’ve wondered about what this sudden interest in true crime means, especially for the victims and alleged perpetrators. This New Yorker piece delves into that question, putting it this way: “…[W]e still have not thought seriously about what it means when a private investigative project—bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers—comes to serve as our court of last resort.” (Note that there may be “Making a Murderer” spoilers in the piece.)
Teresa Valerio Parrot
This is a quick read/view and a reminder that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. A Romanian photographer took pictures of his neighbors’ apartments; each occupies the same space as the photographer but resides on a different floor in his building. The variety of their decor and how well each represents their lives are good reminders that any assumptions we make about what is on the inside based on casual observations of the outside are probably flawed.
I also want to express my condolences to the families and friends of the 21 students and faculty who died in an attack on Bacha Khan University, in Lahore, Pakistan. It doesn’t matter where in the world you study or conduct research, you should always feel and be safe on a campus of higher learning. RIP, dear scholars.
Kyle Gunnels
I’ve been following the story about the lead-contaminated water supply in Flint, Michigan, with equal parts outrage, sadness and disgust. As more information comes to light, it astounds me how so many elected and state agency officials in Michigan seemed to just not care about the large number of people given poisoned water for 18 months. Even after the complaints, supporting evidence, public displays and colored water, all ignored and belittled by state officials, nothing was done. Nothing. It’s sad to think that those with power have only finally begun to care because of outside pressure, but it appears that’s the case.
Ali Lincoln
I’m dealing with information overload right now trying to get caught up on three months worth of news, higher ed happenings, and social media trends. Frankly, I was pretty well unplugged from the outside world, and it’s…a lot. Even though I’m armed with end-of-the-year recaps and best-of lists, as well as monthly and weekly roundups (slightly biased shout out to the TVP Comms Week in Review), it’s still an overwhelming amount of information. I smell future blog fodder, so stay tuned.
Perhaps because everything can seem so much more overwhelming now that I come with a baby, I’ve been looking for ways to streamline, simplify, and maximize efficiency whenever possible. Even basic organization escapes me right now, which is why articles about having an uncluttered desk are calling to me, and why I’m anxiously awaiting my library holds on Marie Kondo’s two books to become available.
Bobby Mathews
I’ve always been a big fan of Penn & Teller, the Mutt & Jeff of magic. Their quick wit (and quicker hands) are only part of the show, though. Penn & Teller think deeply about what they’re doing and how it affects their audience, which is why they still have an audience after more than 30 years of doing magic shows. So I was a sucker for this article in The Atlantic, where Teller talks about how teaching is just like performing magic. It takes a level of performance and discomfort to make education come alive.
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