We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Friday, November 10, 2006

Division II? Division I? How About Division None?

Today's Argus editorializes about the costs USD faces if it pursues the recommendations of Inter-Collegiate Athletic Consulting and its own task force to follow SDSU into Division I athletics. the consulting firm's study cautions that the move would require an increase of the athletic budget from the current $5 million a year to $7 million a year.

I find it remarkable that we pour even $5 million into athletics at a public university. Imagine if instead of using that money to support the throwing of balls, we eliminated intercollegiate athletics from the budget, maintained funding for intramural sports and workout facilities to meet the wellness needs of the student body as a whole, and poured the remaining money into academics. Perhaps South Dakota should experiment with converting one of its universities (as a Madison resident, I volunteer DSU) to a purely academic institution. No intercollegiate athletics, no sports scholarships, no money for athletics of any sort that are not open and directly beneficial to every student on campus. Let this one institution focus our money entirely on students who are students first and athletes solely for recreation.

I know SDSU justifies its move to D-I from a marketing perspective: big-time football can generate big-time revenue, not to mention good brand buzz. But USD shouldn't buy into this thinking. If USD is serious about being South Dakota's "academic showcase," President Abbott should send a strong message that athletics should be an afterthought. That's the way it is at the academic showcases of the nation. No great intellectual gun enrolls at Harvard or Yale because of their football teams' records. The same could be true of USD. A university staking its claim to academic superiority should have the courage to put brains over brawn and abandon the rush to Division I. Students with their eyes on the future know that the amount of time they spend at SUD playing ball will have much less impact on their future success than the time they spend hitting the books.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Vote No on Referred Law 6 -- Our Last Shot

A guest writer -- my lovely Lutheran wife -- submitted the following letter for publication in the Monday Madison Daily Leader, but it appears that only paying opinions got ink in that edition. I thus submit to your our final comment on the proposed abortion ban before an Election Day that promises to be a doozy:

I urge the citizens of Lake County to vote "No" on Referred Law 6 on Tuesday. I advocate this for a simple reason: I want to reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States.

Seems like fuzzy logic, doesn't it? However, the facts of the matter speak volumes. Let's compare the U.S. with Holland, which has the lowest abortion rate in the world. Holland's rate is approximately 6.5 abortions per 1,000 live births. In the U.S., the rate is approximately 21.5 abortions per 1,000 live births. Disturbing, isn't that?

Abortion is legal in both countries. So, what factors influence Holland's very low abortion rate? Among many factors are the following: free and widespread access to contraception since the 1970s, a cultural view that abortion is a last resort, and excellent access to sex education (which, by the way, does not result in more sexual activity; teenagers in Holland have a later age of first sexual experience and fewer partners than their U.S. counterparts).

Why not completely ban abortion? Although it seems contrary to reason, countries with very strict bans on abortion do not experience lower abortion rates than countries with more liberal abortion access. For example, Latin America as a region, has strict bans on abortions and an abortion rate of approximately 37 abortions per 1,000 live births, which is significantly higher than the abortion rate in the U.S. Peru, where abortion is illegal, has a staggering abortion rate of 56 abortions per 1,000 live births. (Excellent information on abortion rates is available from the Guttmacher Institute and the National Center for Biotechnology Information.)

Throughout the world, the two factors that have proven to drastically reduce abortion rates are access to contraception and sex education. The evidence shows that restricting access to legal abortions does not result in fewer abortions. If we're truly committed to reducing the number of dead babies, Referred Law 6 is not the way to do it. Let's start discussing and acting on ways to effect real change.

The Information Superhighway -- Still a Vital Metaphor

This morning's Argus Leader tells us the Regents are lobbying for the state to create a high-speed Internet system -- "Internet Three" -- to promote education and draw the big research dollars to our universities and the proposed lab at Homestake.
"This is not just a university issue," Regents President Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen told a legislative committee recently. "This is a full state issue. Without Internet Three, well, imagine South Dakota without interstate."

The price tag -- $8 million to build it, maybe $1.5 million annually to maintain it, if we cooperate with other states -- doesn't seem too bad. But if we build it, we should adopt the same philosophy as we do with the Interstate highways: everyone pays for it, everyone has access to it. If the state builds Internet Three, it should include access for every school, business, and home in the state so everyone can directly enjoy the benefit of this public good (and Erin and I can blog and promote the people's revolution even more efficiently).

Sunday, November 5, 2006

How to Reduce Abortion -- the Dutch Approach

The Netherlands has an abortion rate around a quarter that of the United States. The teen abortion rate is one seventh that of the US. (South Dakota's reported abortion rate is also remarkably low, nearly the same as the Netherlands' rate, although the Guttmacher Institute notes that it's hard to be certain about the SD number, since it doesn't include the number of SD women who go out of state for abortions.) How do the Dutch do it? I suspect kicking out the Puritans four centuries ago might have helped. But research shows the reduced abortion rates actually come from starting further up the problem stream and reducing unwanted pregnancies, not by scaring, demonizing or punishing women, but by good old education and empowerment. The Dutch don't pontificate; they just solve the problem. Instead of just restricting abortion and then patting themselves on the back for being so darned moral, the Dutch educate their people, reduce abortion, and get other public health benefits -- less teen sex, lower STD rates, and fewer unwanted pregnancies -- to boot. Think about that when you vote on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Four Million Dollars Saves a Lot of Babies... or Does It?

This morning's Argus Leader reports that the two main groups battling each other on the abortion ban, Vote Yes for Life and the South Dakota Campaign for Health Families, have raised almost four million dollars. (Vote Yes for Life has taken the lead, 2.2 million to 1.8 million, which suggests it costs more to get doctors to lie.) Now imagine if, instead of ads and posters, these groups had put their money into a fund to support the children of any women who otherwise would have had an abortion. About 800 abortions a year, divide those into 4 million dollars... presto! $5,000 per saved baby. That would cover a lot of pre-natal check-ups and maternity costs. But instead of directly helping women, we throw our money at media campaigns.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

State Fair Breaks Even?

After receiving a couple comments on one of my earlier posts on the State Fair, I went searching for updates. I found the trusty Huron Plainsman reporting on an October 19 meeting of the State Fair Advisory Commission. According to fair business manager Lynn Moller, the fair may break even this year! His figures at the meeting indicated a deficit of a mere $81,061, which may be erased once the Department of Revenue kicks in an expected $14,000 and sponsors write their checks for an outstanding $65,000. Hooray for good news! Perhaps the fair is on its way to reversing twenty years of decline and sustaining itself without continued backfilling and subsidy from Pierre.