What we’re reading

This week, we have two pieces from the New York Times analyzing the current nature of higher education. In “Are College Lectures Unfair?“, Annie Murphy Paul discusses factors that affect students of various backgrounds differently. Why is it that lecture courses tend to disadvantage minority students? Do more engaging courses actually affect participation rates and performance? In “Teaching Slavery to Reluctant Listeners,”Edward Baptist, professor of history at Cornell, writes about his experience teaching American history with a changing student demographic. These two articles provide some interesting thoughts to ponder as we start the new semester.

Last Friday, federal health officials announced that they would be stopping a study focusing on the appropriate target level for blood pressure more than a year before its intended end date. Why? Because the evidence was already conclusive. The study tested the effect of reducing systolic blood pressure to below 120–levels significantly lower than federal guidelines currently advise. The results? Lowering blood pressure to such levels reduced the risks of individuals having heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, and dying.

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In case you missed it: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on The Colbert Report

Last night, our very own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was on The Colbert Report to promote his new book, “On Virtues: Quotations and Insights to Live a Full, Honorable, and Truly American Life.” Think burn book, except full of inspiring quotes that make you feel all warm and fuzzy and American on the inside. When asked what makes him qualified to amass America’s virtues in quotes, Senator Whitehouse said,

Washington right now is a little short on some of the virtues— and I’m not even the senior senator from RI— but I want to do what I can to try to push a different debate into the discussion, and to look back and see what people have said and done at some of the most important times in history, things that capture a particular piece of the human spirit. I think that adds a little bit of value.

It’s nice to know there’s someone on the Hill that still has an ounce of hope in America.

Bruno v. Citizens United

College students’ love of Stephen Colbert is pretty widespread, so it wasn’t too surprising to see a group of Brunonians translate his super PAC parody, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow to a University setting. The group, Brown Students for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, was founded by the University’s Democracy Matters branch, and claims to be “secretly pulling the strings behind UCS elections since 2012.”

Besides just having a website, the group recently hired professional professor of psychoceramics, Josiah Carberry, as its director and maintains a hyperactive Twitter feed that spent last the 18 hours spewing out 40+ tweets including, “Remember when Barack Obama killed bin Laden? That was big, but we’ve got an announcement that’s even bigger.”

Earlier today, the super PAC, which is satirically designed to promote awareness about campaign finance reform, recently released a campaign ad attempting to stir up a birther crisis over the UCS presidential candidates’ University acceptance letters. The video’s pretty funny and overtly reinforces the group’s satiric nature; a real super PAC might have enough money to shell out for some better production values.

That being said, you’ve got to like anything that’s sprucing up a presidential race that almost lulled a Herald opinions editor to sleep. Also, we know you all invested $99 in a Colbert Super PAC Super Fun Pack. We want to try a piece of Ham Rove.