Monthly Archives: August 2010

Burn Down KTRU Blogger’s Guilt; a guest post from Julia

I have been encouraged to write a line by line response to President Leebron’s interview in the Rice Thresher. It is difficult to keep writing against someone whom, in the end, I respect and owe a great deal. I thought that I was doing a pretty good job treating the KTRU issue like any other cause, but it is different when the people on the opposing side know who you are. And for the first few days, I forgot that I knew who they are.

It is quite trying to balance a deep and heartfelt opposition to the KTRU sale with my personal support for the people who engineered and support the sale.

Reading the comments, not just on this blog but elsewhere as well, some people seem to blur the line, following their support for the Rice administration and therefore supporting the sale. Other people have followed their opposition to the KTRU sale and therefore personally opposed Rice administrators.

I find myself supporting calls for Student Association and Faculty Senate to stand against selling KTRU, against the administrative process that led to the sale, and even against the administrators themselves, yet support those very same administrators.

During my time at Rice, I found my greatest supporters and defenders not among students, but among faculty and administrators. I feel like this blog is just a continuation of what I used to do, but considering the differing responses from former fans, something must have changed.

I do not mean to attack, and I do not mean to hurt. I am just trying to save KTRU. But when I do hurt, that is my failure. Looking back at a personal history, it is an issue with which I have some difficulty.

I dunno, I guess I’ll just keep writing until the KTRU saga is over, and then back to talking about Mad Men.

Anyways, I feel pretty awful, so maybe I’ll have something tomorrow. Until then, here is a guest post from Julia talking about the President’s House vs. KTRU comparison (That’s right, I do guest posts. Want to do one? Just ask. It is pretty open):

The Weiss House represents a tradition at the university, like the hedges and the architectural codes. The tradition is one born in the old south, one that William Marsh Rice would probably be proud of, to control the environment around Rice’s campus and bring a certain atmosphere to the university. Not tangible, but probably part of the reason that Rice keeps getting best quality of life.

Now, is the weiss house a necessary part of that tradition? No. It is not used by the campus community at large.  [insert more arguments here]

Likewise, KTRU is part of another tradition. Another atmospheric ethereal unquantifiable bit of stuff that makes Rice what it is. But it is a different tradition. One that, along with the residential college system, promotes the development of individual identity and empowerment for students at the cusp of defining themselves as adults. It gives students a power and a voice, just as the architectural codes give them comfort and familiarity.

The question we must ask is, now that we have argued against the necessity of the weiss house to the architectural womb of rice, where shall we fall on the necessity of ktru as part of Rice’s role in kicking its growing students out of the nest and into the real world as strong, unique, capable individuals?

It is certainly a unique outlet for student expression, one that cannot be captured by blogs or participation in residential college cabinets, newspapers, or student government. Sure, the students who found their niches there could turn to the other creative public outlets rice offers, which have grown over the past few years, with the addition of more literary magazines and such. However, artistic and political voices cannot always be translated from one medium to another. You cannot dance the “I Have a Dream” speech, nor can you write the Mona Lisa. Which is not to say that KTRU djs are creating timeless masterpieces of human endeavor in their daily work, but depriving them of the opportunity to do so is a detriment to the student body of Rice University.


You can post that if you want; i have no outlet of my own in which to do so

BURN DOWN RICE!: Selling KTRU violates the V2C

The sale announcement was contrary to the Vision for the Second Century

KTRU is not an investment. It is a Rice institution. Since 1967, it has served as Rice’s student radio station, and since 1991 it has served Rice and Houston at 50,000 watts. It is completely integrated with the Rice and Houston community. Selling KTRU with no warning is contrary to the ideals of President David Leebron’s Vision for the Second Century, which was unanimously adopted by the Rice Board of Trustees in December 2006.

The Vision for the Second Century was preceded by a Call to Conversation, which launched a sustained, vibrant and thoughtful dialogue about Rice among all the university’s constituencies. Given the vast scale of the planned changes to the university under the Vision for the Second Century, such a conversation was not just a good idea, it was absolutely necessary. While not everyone may have agreed with the end result, everyone could agree with the process. However, now Rice violates that process of open discussion.

The KTRU sale threatens to eviscerate a university institution and change the public face of the university, all without any conversation. Alumni, students, faculty, and KTRU DJs learned about the sale not from a university-wide conversation about financial concerns, but from rumors on a Houston Press blog. Such secrecy about a massive change like the one at hand is contrary to the underlying procedure outlined in the Call to Conversation. In selling KTRU, Rice held no conversation. There was not even a call announcing the sale. Rice learned from the local newspaper.

In addition the method being contrary to the Call to Conversation, the end result of selling KTRU also contradicts many of the goals stated in the 10-point Vision for the Second Century.

KTRU benefitted students

KTRU provided a unique opportunity for the students themselves to run a fully functioning and extremely popular radio station. Rice students could learn not just how to write papers under pressure or cram at the last minute, but how to manage a fully functioning business. The university trusted students to organize and oversee KTRU, and the university was awarded with a critically acclaimed station unlike anything else in Houston. KTRU’s reputation attracted attention nation-wide, and was a major selling point for potential students otherwise worried about Rice’s nerd-oriented, library like a rockstar reputation. KTRU turned students from amateur music lovers into professional members of the music industry, and sports fans into professional announcers.

In his Vision for the Second Century, President Leebron stated:

“We must provide a holistic undergraduate experience that equips our students with the knowledge, the skills, and the values to make a distinctive impact in the world. This requires that we reexamine the undergraduate curriculum, as well as focus on enhanced research opportunities, training in communication skills, and leadership development for our students.”

KTRU was a unique opportunity for students to both hone their communication skills and develop leadership talent. Whether through managing a staff of DJs, arranging yearly concerts, building contacts with local bands, or many other duties of working at KTRU, students built skills through real world application in a way that Rice otherwise cannot offer. By selling KTRU, Rice is eliminating this fantastic opportunity to develop the very talents that Rice should want in its students. Indeed, Rice is defaulting on its responsibility to future undergraduates. Preplanned leadership classes pale in comparison to the experience that KTRU offers. Nothing can match the feeling of turning a radio dial to 91.7 FM and hearing one of your peers DJ at 50,000 watts, blasting student-run Rice radio throughout Houston, radio waves emanating away from earth at the speed of light. If Rice students can do that, then we can do anything. Indeed, It is no surprise that KTRU can claim venture capitalist John Doerr and State Representative Scott Hochberg as among its alumni.

Even students who were not directly involved in KTRU could take pride in knowing that their very own campus housed an award-winning radio station. Now Rice has sold that pride for $10 million.

KTRU benefitted the Rice campus

Besides helping students, KTRU was a boon for Rice as a whole, serving as a key tool for public relations. As President Leebron stated in his Vision for the Second Century:

“We must fully engage with the city of Houston—learning from it and contributing to it—as a successful partnership with our home city is an essential part of our future. We should do so by continuing to integrate Houston into the educational experience of our students […] and by continuing to provide innovative educational and cultural resources to the broader Houston population.”

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, KTRU provided Houston with new and exciting music, contributing to Houston a sort of musical art that is not available on any other Houston radio station. This radio signal was a constant advertisement for Rice University. We provided a benefit for the city, solidifying Rice’s role as a city leader not in merely as a research institution, but an artistic one as well. Local bands with no other resource could turn to KTRU, and Rice, and have their songs played for the whole city. Local artists knew that Rice was an ally and a positive influence on the city. With the sale of KTRU, Rice loses message.

Indeed, KTRU built relationships with the local community not just through music, but through KTRU News. KTRU News actively built working relationships with nearby researchers in the Texas Medical Center, and with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Houston branch. As the Vision for the Second Century states:

“We must aggressively foster collaborative relationships with other institutions to leverage our resources. This is particularly important in light of our comparatively small size. Our geographic location offers excellent opportunities, and we are especially well situated to develop substantial strategic research and teaching relationships with the other members of the Texas Medical Center. We also can expand our teaching and research achievement in the arts in part through effective partnerships with the cultural institutions of the museum district.”

KTRU was merely beginning to expand its news program, complete with its collaborative relationships with other institutions. However, this sale destroys KTRU’s listener base, and undermines arguments for why other organizations should work with KTRU and Rice.

Furthermore, KTRU’s world music show helped build Rice’s reputation as an international institution. As President Leebron stated in his Vision for the Second Century:

“We must become an international university, with a more significant orientation toward Asia and Latin America than now characterizes our commitments. The great universities of the 21st century will inevitably be global universities, and although we are comparatively small, that ought not be seen as an obstacle to our global reach. We should begin by increasing the number of international students in our undergraduate student body […] and foster the international learning (both here at Rice and around the world) of our faculty, students, and staff.”

Unlike any other station in Houston, KTRU consistently played a regular repertoire of international music. KTRU’s musical choices demonstrated that Rice truly was an international university. Students could expand their horizons by listening to KTRU, and know that there was a greater world to engage. International students and faculty could listen and know that they fit in at Rice. While Rice may have to fight the stereotype of Texas provincialism — not to mention its own history of provincialism — KTRU stands as a beacon of a global community. KTRU reached out to the world and tried to educate Rice about what was out there. By selling KTRU, Rice backtracks in its international endeavor, and may cost more than $10 million to make up the lost ground.

Additionally, KTRU provided art for campus enjoyment. As President Leebron stated in his Vision for the Second Century:

“We must provide the spaces and facilities that will cultivate greater dynamism and vibrancy on the campus and foster our sense of community. […] We should make a greater commitment to incorporate art into the campus landscape and interior public spaces.”

KTRU provided a sense of community, creating a joint pride that despite our research-oriented ways, Rice was one of the hippest places in Houston. KTRU’s eclectic music requirements ensured that it constantly played music that was on the edge. More so than any other Rice institution, KTRU provided new and exciting art to anyone with a radio. Not just the Rice campus, but all of Houston benefitted from KTRU’s artistic endeavors. By selling KTRU, Rice is selling one of Houston’s most valuable artistic centers, and it was located on Rice University.

KTRU benefitted Houston as a whole

To understand how Houston benefits from KTRU, one merely has to read an explanation for one of its many awards for Houston’s Best Radio Station. As the Houston Press explained in 2006:

“Somewhere on the dial, among the Blue October and Laura Ingraham, there’s a little college radio station pumping out 50,000 watts of pure uncommercialized goodness. From the excellent MK Ultra DJ sets every Friday night to the generally upbeat morning drive, Rice University’s KTRU gives Houston the very thing most other radio stations lack: quality. The kids cutting their teeth on indie rock, hip-hop and electro manage to pull off a better radio station than Clear Channel could ever dream up.”

KTRU gave something that no other station in Houston can offer. While some may not understand KTRU’s music, it is not difficult to understand how a city as large as Houston can benefit from something like KTRU. Houston strives to be a world city, and Rice benefits from that growth. However, Houston is often mocked for its art scene, or lack thereof. KTRU provided Houston with a desperately needed outlet for local talent. Now, Houston loses that artistic outlet, and Rice loses the constant praise that came from hosting that outlet. It may cost more than $10 million to get that kind of praise again.

The sale sets a bad precedent

KTRU was a time-honored institution for Rice University, and at 50,000 watts it became a powerful tool for Rice and a boon for Houston. However, if Rice can sell KTRU for the financial benefit, it sets an inappropriate precedent that Rice institutions that are not profitable or do not directly contribute to research can and will be sold if necessary. Perhaps other art programs could be sold. Willy’s Statue looks nice, but it renders little direct benefit for the university and could certainly fetch a pretty penny. Rice’s sports programs fail to make a profit. While their existence is often justified by claims that they provide publicity, the same arguments can be made for KTRU. Under this regime of secret sales, Rice’s art and athletic programs can live with the knowledge that a poor fiscal year and a potential buyer are all that stand between them and elimination.

The Vision for the Second Century states that “we must identify and preserve those things that make Rice a distinctive and special place.” KTRU was one of those things. And while the Vision for the Second Century also instructs that “we must be strategic and selective in our choices,” KTRU undeniably provided numerous benefits that will cost more than $10 million to replace.

Edgar Odell Lovett imagined a university with No Upper Limit. By selling KTRU, Rice has stated just where the limit is.

Burn Down Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me’s Bluff the Listener

As part of the necessary steps to achieving proper bourgeoisiedom, I was listening to the Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me podcast on my iPhone while maintaining various yoga positions this past weekend, when something besides the usual Carl Kasell witticisms caught my attention: Rice University was mentioned in the Bluff the Listener segment. However, anyone who knows anything about Rice could have easily told you that the Rice story, which was about an academic study of Lindsay Lohan, was false. Can you find the giveaway?

Mr. LUKE BURBANK (Host, “Too Beautiful to Live”): Facing its worst budget shortfall in nearly 100 years, Rice University in Houston recently made the controversial decision to only fund research projects that involved multiple departments. At first we were worried we wouldn’t find a subject that raised research questions throughout multiple academic disciplines, said PhD candidate Rick Cupfner(ph). But then it came to us, something, or should I say someone, who mystified literally everyone here at the university and hence, the study of Lohanology was born.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURBANK: What began as a co-project between the Women’s Studies and Communications departments to study Lindsay Lohan has now grown to include the medical school, Department of Psychology and Linguistics Department.

Do you see the problem? Rice has neither a Communications department, nor a medical school! (Oof on the Med School reference. That hits a little close to home.) And to get technical, Rice does not have a Women’s study department either, but rather a “Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality.” Smooth move, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. Time to hire some better fact checkers for your fictional segments. Obviously, this completely undermines the legitimacy of NPR’s entire news reporting operation.

Burn Down Joan’s Abortions in Mad Men

On the most recent episode of Mad Men, (Season 4, episode 3: The Good News) we receive a short hint about Joan’s past. After all, how could a woman as beautiful and suave as Joan Holloway, erm, Harris, go this long without getting knocked up. Spoiler alert: She couldn’t.

Apparently, Joan has had two abortions: One from a doctor and the other via a “midwife.” This raises the question of whether either, or both, of her abortions were illegal.

Roe v. Wade was not decided until 1973. However, that does not guarantee that her abortion was illegal. Roe merely limited states’ abilities to restrict abortions. From the second season episode “The Mountain King,” we know that Joan has lived in New York City at least since 1953, given that in 1962 she told her husband that she had worked for Roger Sterling for 9 years.

During this time, abortion was considered homicide in New York State, unless the procedure was to save a woman’s life. Only in 1970 did New York expand rights to an abortion, and even then abortions after 24 weeks were still considered homicide if the woman’s life was not at risk. Given this timeline, it is not likely that Joan’s reference to an abortion from a physician means that she got one legally in New York. However, there are two ways in which one could hypothesize an abortion from a doctor to be a legal abortion.

1. Medical Justification

Joan could have gotten a legal abortion if she could have proved that it was medically necessary. She could have demonstrated that her life was physically put at risk by the pregnancy, allowing an abortion under New York State law. She also could have checked herself into a psychiatric ward and had two psychiatrists certify that she might commit suicide if she had to continue the pregnancy. This justification gives slight flashbacks to Peggy Olson’s own adventures in childbirth, not to be confused with quarantine for tuberculosis.

According to a hauntingly timely December 25, 1964 Time Magazine article titled “Medicine: Abortion, Legal & Illegal”: “some 8,000 [abortions]  are done by physicians in hospitals, with a semblance of legality.” 8,000 out of millions is not good odds. However, the article does explain that some hospitals hold the idea of medically necessity in much broader terms than others: “In some hospitals, doctors construe [saving the mother’s life] liberally and do an abortion if the woman threatens suicide, especially if she is unmarried or has been raped.”

Given Joan and her doctor’s nonchalant attitude towards an abortion from a physician, perhaps she was one of the lucky 8,000.

2. Joan went to a different state

It is not very likely that Joan received a legal abortion in another state. After all, according to that Time Magazine article: “The law in virtually all 50 states declares that a therapeutic abortion is permissible only to save the mother’s life.” However, some places were still easier than others to acquire abortion services. For example. in Chicago between 1969 and 1973 there was a floating abortion clinic known as “Jane.” Women could call a number and be told where and when they could meet with “Jane.” While this time period does not match perfectly with the events in Mad Men, the contemplation of matching timelines does raise the question of why Mad Men’s creators would bring up abortion specifically in this episode. Perhaps that Time Magazine article is not coincidently timely with the show after all. Maybe the creators know their history all too well.

Time Magazine wrote an article in that last week of 1964 because, only the week before, the New York Academy Medicine had issued a report encouraging the legalization of therapeutic abortion.

“Last week the prestigious, 3,000-member New York Academy of Medicine reported in effect that New York State’s—and most of the nation’s—abortion laws are hypocritical, and would be a farce if they did not prove fatal to so many women. Most doctors, said the academy’s committee on public health, are so afraid of prosecution that safe abortions in hospitals have become fewer and fewer, while dangerous, illegal abortions have become ever more common.

The academy’s prescription: amend the law to permit “therapeutic abortion where there is a substantial risk that the continuance of pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother, or that the child would be born with grave physical or mental defects.” As safeguards, the academy would require prior approval of an operation by a committee of hospital doctors, and the abortion would have to be done by a licensed physician under the usual safe, sterile conditions in a hospital.”

Read more:,9171,830977,00.html#ixzz0w55eq9J9

Perhaps while doing research for the show, the various historians on call, art directors, and whomever’s job it is to make sure that Mad Men reeks appropriately of vinyl and cigarettes came upon this article. After all, what a better way to do research than flip through the magazines of the era. “Hmm,” he said, looking at the date of the article. “Perhaps we should throw in an abortion reference to this episode. It would be timely and certainly add a little zazz to the plot.”

Furthermore, 1964 marked the death of Gerri Santoro. Santoro died during an attempted self-induced abortion. The resulting police photograph became a rallying call for the pro-choice movement. Published in the April 1973 issue of Ms. magazine, the the one simple image forced the United States to face the horrors unsafe abortions.

Could this have been Joan?

Given that Joan admittedly received an abortion from someone she describes as “claimed to be a midwife” — a description that is not exactly a vote of confidence — one must think about how much distance there really is between Joan’s character and the fate that befell Santoro. Mad Men can’t exactly hit the viewer over the head with such blunt, liberal feel-good moralizing, while maintaining its status as a good how, but it is difficult to see these timely yet short plot points as mere coincidences.

Mad Men skipped much of 1964, and so we didn’t get to see the reactions to the big events of that year. However, the shockwaves are apparent in nearly every scene of the show, from Don smoking grass with some college girl, to ignoring the metaphorical cancer, to Joan’s appointment with her ob/gyn. Mad Men weaves a delicate web, and it does so most beautifully when the real message slips in with a subtle knife, rather than sticking its thumb in the viewer’s face, trying to hitch a ride.