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7/14/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

In the high-stakes, win-at-any-cost culture of today’s higher learning institutions, it can get easy for young minds to grow so panicked over stats and percentage points, so obsessed over every little detail of what’s in front of them, that they forget why they’re at college in the first place: to expand one’s horizons, broaden worldviews and understand that it’s the process of learning and the hunger of curiosity that will make them winners in life, not the size of their test scores. That’s where learned academics in the form of trusted profs come in … and, at the University of Central Florida at least, watch these little shits’ every move. The New York Times reported this week that UCF has gone “high-tech” in its bid to halt exam cheaters at any cost. The school is deploying complex anti-plagiarism web services (because college kids never learn their way around those things), collecting evidence from overhead cameras and screen grabs, using date-stamped scratch paper, confiscating gum that could disguise mouth signals and taking away pool tables to keep students from the depths of de-gra-day. (Yeah, they got trouble, Professor Hill.)  

To prove the merit of its efforts, UCF cites – you guessed it – stats! “Taylor Ellis, the associate dean who runs the testing center within the business school at Central Florida … said that cheating had dropped significantly, to 14 suspected incidents out of 64,000 exams administered during the spring semester,” the article says. The piece goes on to quote a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows students cheat less when shown a Web tutorial about the dangers of cheating, and another that says 61 percent of undergrads admit to cheating as opposed to 65 percent earlier in the decade. 

It’s good to know that colleges these days are steering kids away from their stat-and-score-driven mentality and toward the school’s stat-and-score-driven mentality. Unsurprisingly, college kids today are just fine with that. 

Says a UCF senior to the Times: “This is college.” With a capital C and that rhymes with T and that stands for Tool

Speaking of UCF and worth- less stats strung together to make institutional friendship bracelets best exchanged by the sticky fingers of summer camp felicitations, last week saw the release of a 27-page study titled “A Critical Look Inside: the Orlando Police Department Off-Duty Work Policy and Program.” It was supposedly commissioned by the city’s police chief Val Demings “in order to develop and implement a new off-duty work program that would increase oversight and accountability, reduce officer, public and departmental liability and eliminate the appearance of impropriety,” according to its summary, so naturally we expected crossfire ricochets over bloody pools of blame, especially when the wagging fingers over at Fox 35 News threw up a “Cops & Booze” chyron and called it an exclusive. Well, not so much.

Following an extensive 30-minute investigation and exactly one phone call and one e-mail to OPD, your textual toilers down here at Happytown™ HQ can confidently report that this report is little more than a handcuffed handjob in the back of an unmarked cruiser.

You might remember an award-winning piece run by this very paper (see “Might makes right,” July 10, 2008) in which former Weekly reporter Jeffrey C. Billman bragged of a “three-month Orlando Weekly investigation, drawing on hundreds of documents and dozens of interviews” – even though Billman was fond of four-hour workdays. Still, that story’s exposure of actual police abuse, including the case of off-duty cop Fernando Trinidad’s videotaped shove of a drunk girl down some nightclub stairs – and the absence of due punishment or active oversight for the reported 98 Internal Affairs complaints over a period of five years – presented a compelling case for some real uniformed soul searching

Instead, the UCF report went for a generalized feel-copping that includes this lovely pearl of untruth: “In terms of ensuring proper oversight and accountability, the Orlando Police Department’s policies and procedures are far ahead of many other police departments similar in size and structure. Couple this with the fact that OPD does not shy away from prosecuting guilty officers, or as one officer put it, ‘eating its own,’ one could easily believe that more oversight and accountability within off-duty employment is unnecessary.” 

But one shouldn’t assume such things, the report continues, and instead it advocates for something to create the appearance of justice: better communication, better monitoring of police vehicles, a centralized system wherein the police department doesn’t allow its angry officers to blow off steam at bars in exchange for $200 in unreported cash. If it all sounds vague and amateurish, that’s because it is. 

“City Hall received a request from UCF looking for projects for graduate students,” writes OPD public information officer Barb Jones in an e-mail. “In an attempt to assist we asked [a] criminal justice student to complete his project on our Extra Duty Work Program. There was no committee or scientific research performed. It is premature to assume any change will be made based on a student’s paper.” Ha.  

It’s been well established over the years that today’s Democrats can be too meek when it comes to asserting themselves and downright pussies when faced with even the slightest filibuster threat from their Republican Daddy figures on the right. But it’s rare that a Senate race includes two Dems who just come out and say as much. With Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek, it’s right there in the name, but his competitor, Jeff Greene, goes out of his way to get across just how much of an incurious pussy he truly is. 

Greene, whose inability to modulate the volume of his voice has made him a hilarious caricature in his ubiquitous ads, was the focus of a Washington Post profile a couple weeks ago that calls attention to his Republican past, his friendships with Heidi Fleiss and Mike Tyson (photos of Greene just surfaced with Lindsay Lohan, for chrissakes!) and the fact that he got rich off the foreclosure crisis. Then the Post relates an anecdote from a fundraiser breakfast in Coconut Creek, Fla. “A woman wearing a T-shirt with an eagle flying in front of an American flag asked Greene about the threat posed by radical Muslims,” the article states. It quotes Greene responding with something about how the Koran has “all kinds of this crazy stuff.” But there was so much more, reports Creative Loafing’s Mitch Perry, citing an e-mailed transcript sent out by Meek. 

“It’s a scary world out there,” says Greene. “I believe what I read in the media, and I’m scared, and I’m scared for the world, and I’m scared for America, and that’s why I’m running for office.” 

So let’s see if we understand you correctly, Jeff: You’re a gullible, scared-shitless secret Republican who lacks the courage of your convictions. Way to go, Dems!

OK, so let’s just put this out there: Orlando is a spoiled brat who doesn’t want the ugly kids to show up at her preciously catered princess party. Sound familiar? Last Tuesday the city finally got its way on its compassionately unsound 2006 homeless feeding ordinance when a federal appeals court overturned the original 2008 judgment that allowed the dirty vegans of Food Not Bombs and the God Squad of the First Vagabonds Church of God to enact their truly despicable practice of feeding the homeless out at Lake Eola Park. It’s not like we have a homeless problem right now, and even if we do, we don’t want to see it. Whatever. We could go on about this for hours – or years, like we have back-issue fans – but for now, we’ll let Commissioner Patty Sheehan basically say “fuck you” (again) to the portion of her downtown constituency that doesn’t live an idyllic life torn from the pages of a Land’s End catalog.

“Over 100 people have been gathering at the park every day, and it’s becoming a problem,” she whined to the Sentinel. “It’s gotten to the point where people are telling me that they are no longer going to take their families to the park anymore.” Too bad for the families who can’t eat anymore, then. 

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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