The State of Student Free Speech

Last Thursday, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, sponsored a discussion at Quinnipiac University School of Law concerning “The State of Student Free Speech”, particularly as it relates to the Avery Doninger case. I grew up in Williamstown, MA, and frequently would go to events at Williams College, so it was great to see Avery at the discussion, following the topic at least as well as many of the law school students there.

The discussion started off with a welcome from Brad Saxton, Dean of Quinnipiac Law. This was followed by a great exposition of the issues by Professor Emeritus Martin B. Margulies. Prof. Margulies has followed the case closely, having filed an amicus brief in the initial hearing as part of the Connecticut ACLU, and for the hearing before the Second Circuit, as a member of the American Constitution Society.

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NaNaWriMo and Autumn Leaves.

The past few days, I’ve been spending a bit of time off line. I’m still managing to get at least one blog post up everyday, and get at least 1,667 words of the novel written each day. I’m holding my own on the never-ending influx of emails. So, it doesn’t feel like I’m making any headway, but it doesn’t feel like I’m losing ground either.

Yesterday, Fiona and I went for a hike in the Naugatuck State Forest. The day before, we went with Kim to Sperry Falls. Both days, Barley came along for a romp in the woods. (See our photos on Flickr.)

Apparently we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of a beautiful fall weekend to take our dogs for a walk in the woods. Heather, whose blog I found via MyBlogLog took her dog, Lily for some walks in the Ohio foliage.

But perhaps these autumnal strolls are good for the writing anyway. Yesterday, I received a NaNoWriMo ‘pep talk from Sue Grafton’. In her email to all NaNoWriMo participants, she writes of her dreams for her novels,

The pacing will be relentless, yet the story will ebb and flow in a manner that will produce both thrilling surprises and quiet moments where the reader can reflect on what's gone before.

This weekend was filled with quiet moments of reflection, and it showed up in the sections of the story. I’m that the pace will quicken before I know it.

Operation Lysistrata

My earliest memory of Aristophanes’ plays was reading a copy of The Frogs, which my older brother had. Other than the crude jokes early on in it, I don’t remember much. Years later, a friend in college produced a modern adaptation of a Greek play as her senior project. I don’t recall if it was Aristophanes. I seem to remember it using large puppets, having a Greek chorus, and I having something to do with sex and war.

Was it Lysistrata? I don’t know. However, this week, people around Fairfield, CT will have a special opportunity to see a production of Lysistrata, or perhaps more accurately, a documentary about the Lysistrata Project.

In January 2003, two women in New York City, Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, thought to organize readings of the ancient Greek play by Aristophanes, Lysistrata, as a protest of the imminent preemptive war on Iraq. Originally conceived as a local event, however, over the course of a several weeks, word of the Lysistrata Project quickly gained momentum and became a worldwide happening for peace. On March 3, 2003 over 1,000 simultaneous productions of Lysistrata were performed in 59 countries around the globe.

The film "Operation Lysistrata" shows how two women transformed their individual aspirations for peace into a movement which allowed the global community to share in their vision, using grassroots activism, conflict resolution, community building and the role of art in a functioning democracy.

There will be a screening on Monday, November 12, 2007 at The Fairfield Theatre , 70 Sanford St, Fairfield, CT at 7:30 PM. It should be a fun evening. It makes me think of the great quote attributed to Emma Goldman, “If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.” If our political activism, even on matters as important as trying to stop a senseless war, can be filled with fun and art, then I worry people will burn out to quickly and the efforts will fail.

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Donna Hudson and Avery Donninger

Today, I received an email pointing me to a letter in the Waterbury Republican. I haven't seen the letter; I'm not sure if it is online. However, the email summarizes it and asks me for my thoughts. I thought I would publish them here.

In the Waterbury Republican today (11-10-07) is a letter to the editor on page 6A that makes a good point. It was written by Donna Hudson of Harwinton. She says that Avery D isn't in trouble for calling school administrators a foul name. Instead, she's in trouble for inciting a campaign to harass them and disrupt school. It further says the newspaper reporters failed to thoroughly research the incident. What do you think?

I replied:

Donna is partially right. I do believe that Avery was punished for encouraging parents to contact members of the school admininistration concerning the way facilities at the school are used. Most significantly, it was an embarrassment to Superintendent Schwartz who had already been criticized for the way the school administration was handling facitilities.

Yet to encourage citizens of a town to speak with the school administrators about how school facilities should be used should not be considered harassment and disruption, it should be considered civic duty.

Likewise, Donna is correct about newspaper reporters failing to thoroughly research the incident. If they had, they would be up in arms and writing good investigative reporting pieces in the local papers about the principal of the school, testifying under oath that she instructed school officials to place false information in students records.

If that was properly investigated and reported on, people would be wondering about what is in their children's records, and calling for a full investigation, possible criminal proceedings and the immediate removal of those involved.

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Am I, Though, Really?

That was the response that a social networking guru friend of mine at Yahoo! wrote in response to my inviting him to join the group “i'm making a difference”.

On Friday, I received an email from the Sierra Club which said,

I'm writing because, with your help, we can get Microsoft to donate an additional $50,000 to the Sierra Club. Here's the challenge: If more than 50,000 people join their "i'm Making a Difference" Facebook group *through* today, Nov. 9 (until midnight EST), they'll give $50,000 to whichever organization gets the most votes.

This sounds an awful lot like the urban legend kicking around the Internet for ages that Internet users can receive a cash reward for forwarding messages to test a Microsoft/AOL e-mail tracking system.

If it hadn’t of come from the Sierra Club, pointed to a Facebook page, and been something I heard folks from Microsoft talking about as a successful marketing strategy at ad:tech, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

However, this one isn’t a hoax. The Instant Messaging space is pretty calcified. Everyone has their favorite IM client by now and people aren’t changing clients much. There just isn’t that much difference. It is sort of like Coke and Pepsi.

Recognizing this, folks involved with marketing for Microsoft decided to try and use social media and people’s philanthropic interests to get people to pay attention to the latest release of their Instant Messaging program. I haven’t seen any studies on changes in market share of instant messaging programs recently, but folks involved with the effort are touting this as a great success.

The ‘i'm making a difference’ group now has over 50,000 people in it. I suspect that $50,000 is a pretty small price for a marketing campaign like this, but can be a significant help to various non-profits.

So, yes, I believe that my joining the Facebook group, ‘i’m making a difference.’ A chunk of money will go to non-profits as a result. Marketing people will see that using social media and appealing to people’s philanthropic interests can be an effective marketing strategy. Both of these are ways that I hope my social networking guru at Yahoo! is also hoping to make a difference. The third difference may be an increase in people using Microsoft Live Messenger instead of Yahoo! Messenger, which might be a difference that my friend doesn’t want to make.

Now that the 50,000 people have joined the Facebook group, Microsoft is keeping things alive with this:

The i’m™ Initiative from Windows Live Messenger™ makes helping your favorite cause as easy as sending an instant message. Every time you start a conversation using i’m, we share a portion of our advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective social cause organizations. Each of our partners will get a minimum of $100,000. As for the maximum? There is none. The sky's the limit.

Let’s hope this puts pressure on more organizations to share a portion of their revenue with effective social cause organizations.

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