Paid to Protest?

Last November, a peaceful UC Davis student protest associated with the Occupy movement led to pretty big scandal surrounding police brutality when 21 students were pepper sprayed by campus police, captured in this video:

While there was once a great deal of fury surrounding the actions of the campus police, sympathy for the victims is plunging now that the results of the settlement have finally arrived. The amount that the University of California will cough up to each student as compensation for last year’s incident?


Surprised? Jealous? Don’t give a care?

There’s no denying this case cost a pretty penny. In total, $730,000 was awarded to the plaintiffs, plus $250,000 in costs and attorney fees. In addition, $100,000 was set aside for other victims yet to be identified. It seems like these funds could have been allocated differently in a way that could have benefitted the entire student body. Perhaps it could have gone towards programs that promoted the original goals of the protestors: the budget cuts and tuition hikes. On the other hand, some of the students endured pain for days, were treated at a hospital for chemical burns, or experienced nightmares and panic attacks related to the frightening day. All of these things could have had a negative impact on grades, although that’s hard to measure.

In support of the victims, Michael Risher, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement, “If the First Amendment means anything, it’s that students should be able to exercise their free speech-rights on their college campus without being afraid of police violence. What happened on November 18 was among the worst examples of police violence against student demonstrators that we’ve seen in a generation. The settlement should be a wake-up call for other universities and police departments.”

Sometimes seemingly excessive penalties are justified by their ability to set a precedent to other institutions, ensuring the wrongful actions are never repeated in the future. Penn State Football, anyone? It’s harder for people to see it this way though, leaving many to question whether, at face value, the consequences fit the offense. Is being unjustly pepper sprayed really worth $30,000?

Debra J. Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the protesters were completely in the wrong for making a fuss in the first place and that this settlement only encourages disorderly behavior. Referring to the protesters as “privileged recipients of a top-notch university education partially subsidized by California taxpayers,” she adds, “Students surrounded campus cops, who warned students that if they didn’t disperse, they would be subject to the use of force and pepper spray. They stayed. They videotaped. They sued. That’s how so-called civil libertarians conquer. They break rules designed not to squelch free speech, but to protect everyone’s right to public space. Then they sue, secure in the knowledge that state officials will settle with them.”

So were the students really asking for it? Maybe I missed something, but it looked like the students are sitting tranquilly, even as the police get right in their faces with an inflammatory gas. The police officer doesn’t spray them out of concern for his immediate safety, but out of spite that the protesters aren’t obeying his orders to disperse.

But by participating in a protest where you are knowingly breaking a law or a campus rule, what risks are you consenting to? Are you agreeing to be arrested or mistreated, like the civil rights activists of the past? Is brutality part of the power of civil disobedience? f not, where do your personal boundaries lie and when should you give up and comply with authority figures? If you are violated, should you be compensated, and what should that look like?

In the case of UC Davis, can we assign a sum of money, uniform to all the victims, that captures the effect of this incident?

The Olympics Spirit (BADminton edition)

For those who don’t know, and that may be a lot of you given NBC’s atrocious coverage, eight badminton players were kicked out of the Olympics for “match-fixing.” It did not involve bribery or anything of that nature, and the players did everything that is within the rules, but they did try to lose on purpose to get the seeding they wanted (video here).

Unless I am mistaken, it is allowed to suck in sports (please look no further than the school eight miles down*), and as for intentionally sucking? People do it all the time.

Every year right before the massive sixteen teams playoff, there are NBA teams that wonder whether losing on purpose would give them an edge in seeding**. Professional teams in the NBA, NFL, and MLB all rest starters after realizing they are playoff-bound, and from a more personal experience, I once “guarded” Brian Zoubek in a game of basketball, and I am pretty sure he intentionally sucked to make me feel better because at one point, I somehow ended up with the ball.

In the Olympics, favored swimmers never go all out in the preliminary heat to save energy, and in this year’s Tour de France, Wiggins slowed himself down to let his teammate win a stage in the technically individual event.

Of course, there are other “negative tanking” examples in this year’s Olympics: Makhloufi from Algeria, who claimed he was hurt during an 800 meter heat, used his fresh hurt legs the next day to blow away the field in the 1500 run. He was originally expelled from the Olympics, but fortunately for him, he was able to find one doctor that says he knee was hurting. Also, the Japanese women’s soccer coach openly admitted that he instructed his team to tie South Africa so they can play in a more favorable location.

Some of these are considered acceptable (Wiggins was actually praised, and I appreciate Zoubek for letting me touch the ball), and some, not so much. So why are people so angry with these badminton players? And Makhloufi?

Because they took intentional losing to a whole new level? Because the fans who paid to go did not get to see what they wanted? Because it violated the sacred Olympics spirit? Because it was unethical?

They were just trying to win the gold medal while staying within the rules. Yeah, it was ugly, but the Chinese didn’t want to play the only other Chinese group so they can both medal, which is usually the case when it comes to badminton. As for Makholoufi, he just wanted to make sure he brings back the fifth gold medal in Algeria history. It wasn’t within the Olympics spirit, but it didn’t warrant being kicked out of the competition, it certainly wasn’t as offensive as the tweets (see here and here).

It can probably be argued that the badminton players had an obligation to make sure the fans get what they wanted, but by the same logic, they also have the same obligation to their country to try their best to win the gold. Yes, sports are all about trying your best in the events, but they are also about using strategies (AKA, smart ways to win within the rules).

So was it ethical for the badminton players to throw away matches like that? Probably not, but I also don’t think what they did was so unethical that they deserved to be expelled from the Olympics. Though I do think Makholoufi should get kicked out for lying, I do not think he should had been expelled in the first place for stopping in the race.

People may disagree, but we can all at least agree that NBC really should do better.



*just kidding, Tar Heels, looking forward to another great rivalry year

** losing on purpose in basketball would be really comical if both teams tried – imagine flipping the court and many, many, fouls. I wonder which team would be the best at losing.

The KKK Mile

So here’s the briefing:

The KKK wants to adopt a highway in Georgia; the court said no, and now the KKK is suing.

And many people are upset about many things.

Some are upset that the KKK did not get the right to represent itself (this group includes the KKK and the ACLU–strange alliance), and some are upset that the application was even considered (Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials).

A similar case has happened before– the KKK in Missouri was able to adopt part of the highway after Missouri’s state rejection was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2005. Though the KKK sign was sawed down twice and the highway was later renamed as the Rosa Parks Highway.

In the Georgia case, however, the application was denied because the state court believed that “promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern” and could “have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life” of people in the county and state. The court further concluded that the sign would be a distraction to motorists.

At his point I am sure you are curious, so here are some interesting adopt-a-highway signs.

Some of these adopt-a-highway signs are very distracting in my opinion. Yes, the KKK has a racist and violent past*, but using this as a basis for the judging seems subjective and there certainly are organizations that fall in the grey area.

Does the state government have the right to determine what sign is “too offensive” to be posted? It definitely has the obligation to protect the minority, and like Christian suggested, driving pass a KKK sign everyday is extremely uncomfortable for African Americans. But to what degree should the government protect the offended? Should the government step in for Confederate signs in a black community? Or crusade signs in a Muslim suburb? Communist signs for veterans from the Vietnam War? Or planned parenthood in a conservative Christian community? Or pro-gay right organizations in say, my home state Alabama?

This also begs the question: What is the ethical implication of denying groups like KKK the right to clean roads for free? We don’t mind jailed criminals cleaning our streets – and the fact that KKK is offensive to the majority of the people should not be a reason why they shouldn’t be able to represent their views. At the same time, we don’t allow offensive license plates either (“KKK” will most certainly be denied as a license plate).

The KKK claims all they want is to clean the roads, though if they really want to do that, they wouldn’t be asking for a sign. The spokesman also maintained that they just wanted to use this as another way to assist the community (the word “another” is quite alarming). But if all we know is that an organization wants to adopt a highway, it’s hard to say no basing solely on the offensive claim.

Because of freedom of speech, Westboro Baptist Church can protest legally outside of veteran funerals and American Nazi Party can stage peaceful marches with police protection. It is extremely difficult to accept some of the resulting actions, but such is the negative consequence of freedom of speech. So why can’t KKK adopt a highway?


* KKK has changed their stance to white loving instead of color hating, do I believe that and do I think that is a legitimate thing? No, but that is their official stance.

Hail Mrs. Muhammad!

Tim Tebow.

I’m sure starting this piece of writing with his name just ensured many people’s attention. After all, his overtime victory over the Steelers (I repeat, the Steelers!) blew America away. His unconventional style of play and his “shove-Christianity-in-your-face” attitude has won him just as many lovers as critics. One thing that is for sure: he is becoming a household name. In fact, I have just added the word “Tebow” to my Microsoft Word dictionary.

High school students have been suspended for “Tebowing,” Pro-Choice supporters have started a fundraiser that encourages $10 donations for every Tebow touchdown, and, since it’s 2012, Rick Perry has compared himself to Tebow in Iowa (did Tebow forget the third part of the Holy Trinity? I don’t think so. Bad comparison Governor Perry).

As the Tebow-mania becomes hotter and hotter, a topic starts to emerge: What if Tebow was Muslim?

Well first of all, some logistics: Would he be okay playing for the New Orleans Saints? And he sure can’t do Hail Marys anymore. Nor would he enjoy playing here at University of Notre Dame.

But all that aside, what will America think of him?

Sandra Fish from the Washington Post does not seem to think that it would bode well for the Christian poster boy and Engel from Fox News brings up a completely different spin, stating that Tebow would be respected, and that “all hell would break loose” (at least the Christian and Muslim hells I’m sure) if Muslim Tebow’s religious touchdown celebrations were mocked by the players (as Christian Tebow’s prayers often have been).

I agree with Engel that mocking anybody’s demonstration of faith is not a good gesture and yes, the reaction might be much more serious if the Muslim Tebow celebration were mocked. And like Fish, I do not think America would like Tebow as much if he started all his interviews with “Praise Allah.” Feel free to call me out, but for some reason, I just don’t think Tebow would simply receive just some eye rolls or thunderous cheers if after every touchdown, he pulls out his prayer mat and bows towards Mecca (it certainly won’t be an excessive celebration penalty according to NFL rules).

I think there’s something wrong about this. As a society that puts emphasis on freedom of expression and freedom of worship above everything else, why is it that our views on a person can change solely based on his/her religion, especially when the religion praises good values like all other major religions in the world? Just look at how much President Obama had to go out of his way to show everybody that he is not a Muslim. Perhaps we really do need a Muslim Tebow to come change things up a little bit.

Should College Athletes Be Paid?

I love college sports.

I love the energy, the passion, and the live-or-die association from the fans. I love the team oriented approach, the strategies, and the varieties of styles. I love the rivalries, the traditions, and the idea that these athletes are just students like us doing what they love.

Actually, I just came back from Tobacco Roadhouse Sports Bar and concluded a full day of college football, and it was nothing short of glorious (minus the devastating Duke loss).

Continue reading “Should College Athletes Be Paid?”

The Ugly Truth

If you could receive a pay raise worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by declaring yourself “ugly,” would you do it?

Some people would. Maybe they should; that is, maybe their looks really are costing them job opportunities, promotions, sales, trials, or a better deal on their mortgage (see this New York Times op-ed to read more). Studies over the past twenty years demonstrate that the attractively challenged have a valid argument.
Continue reading “The Ugly Truth”