Skip to main content

Dispatches from the Culture Wars - Spring Break Edition

Peru Billboard Wrings Water from Air; Tips for Facing Racist and Sexist Online Attacks; Catholic Colleges Go After Condom-Distributing Students; Model for Quality Academics Broken; Triangle Fire Building will get a Memorial Wrap; Wal-Mart Doesn't Have Enough Workers to Keep the Shelves Stocked; Conservatives Stick to Name Brands; Cuba Releases a Shoot-Em-Up Video Game Based on 1959 Revolution

Billboard In Lima, Peru Creates Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air (VIDEO)

By Jessica Prois
March 18, 2013
Huffington Post   

A university and an ad agency have built the first-ever billboard to capture air humidity and turn it into potable drinking water in Lima, the second largest desert capital in the world. The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru and an ad agency called Mayo DraftFCBand created the structure for the residents who are forced to draw polluted water from wells.

Peru gets less than two inches of rain a year and has an atmospheric humidity of about 98 percent, according to a video created by the university. The billboard system uses reverse osmosis, a water purifying process, and then stores the water in tanks that hold 20 liters each. The water is dispensed at the bottom of the structure, which has provided 9,450 liters in three months, according to the school.

As water supplies dwindle amid climate change, growing populations and food insecurity issues, the billboard in Lima is one of a host of many innovative solutions that have been developed.

It’s Bigger Than Adria Richards

By Jamilah King
March 27 2013

Adria Richards is the black technology evangelist who was fired from her job at SendGrid last week for tweeting a picture of two white guys who were sitting behind her making sexually charged jokes at a major tech conference. Richards’s tweets from PyCon immediately drew the ire of trolls and their attacks intensified after the “big dongles” jokesters were canned.

But the bigger story here is how Richards became the target of a very particular kind of harassment. Social media trolls repeatedly called Richards the n-word and threatened to rape her. So far, the onslaught of hate has had the intended effect on Richards. At press time, the technologist—usually a prominent online voice—hasn’t tweeted since March 20 and her popular blog, But You’re a Girl, is silent.

Tech insiders fear these attacks will have an overall chilling effect on already-marginalized women and people of color working and living in these environments. With that in mind, we offer some tips for watching your back and front when facing a sexist, racist Internet mess.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

Boston College Tries to Shut Down Students Distributing Condoms

By Katherine Landergan
March 26, 2013
Boston Globe

Boston College officials are threatening to take disciplinary measures against a group of students who are distributing condoms out of their dorm rooms, calling the act a violation of the university’s mission as a Catholic institution.

In a move that has the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union threatening legal action, BC officials sent a letter to students on March 15 demanding an end to student-run Safe Sites, a network of dorm rooms and other locations where free contraceptives and safe-sex information are available.  Students living in the Safe Sites were told in the letter that the distribution of condoms is in conflict with their “responsibility to protect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.”

Boston College condom clash continues

By Wesley Lowery
March 28, 2013
Boston Globe

Boston College alumni, professors, and local health groups have joined a chorus of support for the BC Students for Sexual Health, whose members were threatened with disciplinary action if they do not stop handing out condoms on campus..

More than half a dozen Catholic colleges across the country — including Georgetown, Notre Dame, and the Catholic University of America — said their university policies prohibit contraception distribution on campus and they would pursue similar discipline against a student group that defied university requests to stop handing out condoms.

“If a student or student group was doing something like this on our campus, we would ask them to stop,” said Steve Maurano, a spokesman for Providence College, a 4,500-student Catholic school in Rhode Island. “We would look at it as something that is at issue with our Catholic beliefs.”

Our Dirty Little Secret

By Adrianna Kezar, David Longanecker and Daniel Maxey
March 26, 2013
Inside Higher Ed

The faculty in postsecondary education has changed so much in the last 20 years that it has been labeled a "revolution" by researchers who study the professoriate. More than two-thirds of the faculty providing instruction in nonprofit higher education are currently employed off the tenure track, and their numbers continue to rise. This shift alone may be cause for concern, but the real dilemma is that institutions have not developed a new faculty model or employment practices that are based on a realistic conception of the faculty and its composition.

The faculty model currently in use has not been achieved through intentional and thoughtful planning. It is the haphazardly derived product of casual, short-term planning and reactionary decision making amid constrained budgets; it reflects little thought or concern for its implications for student learning or enlightened employment practice.

Adjuncts have been writing about their poor working conditions for years. They have done so with trepidation, as many commentators have demonized them as being the root of the problem, rather than recognizing the effects of this poor employment model or the conditions they endure.

NYU Building to Be Wrapped in Art Memorializing Triangle Fire

By Andrea Swalec
March 18, 2013

Today, only a small plaque indicates that a Greenwich Village building was the site of the horrific Triangle fire more than 100 years ago. But plans are in the works to turn the entire 10-story structure into a memorial.

The NYU  building will be wrapped in a huge piece of art made in tribute to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911, a spokeswoman for Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition said last week. The Village-based group launched a design competition to select the art, which will be affixed to the landmarked building indefinitely.

“This memorial will stand as a long-overdue tribute to the fire’s victims, and also as a symbol of workers’ ongoing struggles for dignity and safety in the workplace,” the group said in a statement.

Customers Flee Wal-Mart Empty Shelves for Target, Costco

By Renee Dudley
March 26, 2013

Margaret Hancock has long considered the local Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)  superstore her one- stop shopping destination. No longer. During recent visits, the retired accountant says she failed to find more than a dozen basic items, including certain types of face cream, cold medicine, bandages, mouthwash, hangers, lamps and fabrics.

It’s not as though the merchandise isn’t there. It’s piling up in aisles and in the back of stores because Wal-Mart doesn’t have enough bodies to restock the shelves, according to interviews with store workers. In the past five years, the world’s largest retailer added 455 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, a 13 percent increase.  But in the same period, its total U.S. workforce, which includes Sam’s Club employees, dropped by about 20,000, or 1.4 percent. Wal-Mart employs about 1.4 million U.S. workers. Last month, Wal-Mart placed last among department and discount stores in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the sixth year in a row the company had either tied or taken the last spot.

Why Conservatives Prefer Walmart to Trader Joe’s

By Tom Jacobs
February 7, 2013
Pacific Standard

The cliché that liberals shop at Trader Joe’s, while conservatives prefer Walmart, is no doubt overstated. But where would the perception come from?  Newly published research provides a compelling answer: brand-name products. Conservatives gravitate toward them, and Walmart, unlike Trader Joe’s, is packed with them.

That provocative conclusion can be drawn from a study in the journal Psychological Science, which discovered a relationship between voting behavior, high levels of religiosity, and “seemingly inconsequential product choices.”  They conclude that these tendencies are consistent with traits typically associated with conservatism, such as aversion to risk, skepticism about new experiences, and a general preference for tradition, convention, and the status quo.

A ‘revolutionary’ new video game from Cuba
By Michael Gray
March 28, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle - SFGate

Cuban programmers have unveiled a brand new 3-D shoot-’em-up video game that puts a distinctly Cuban twist on gaming, letting players recreate decisive clashes from the 1959 revolution and giving youngsters a taste of the uprising in which many of their grandparents fought.

The government-run Computing Club aims for “Gesta Final” to be the first commercial Cuban-produced game selling in local currency. It’s expected to be released soon.   There are no plans to market it overseas.