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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Diss-course

    Modernization trumps tradition

    The story: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has pledged $12.5 billion to the construction of a new science- and technology-oriented graduate research university. The institution, which will initially be dominated by foreign students and faculty, will make several important breaks with tradition. The Saudi religious police will be banned from the campus, men and women will be taught together, and students of all backgrounds – except Israelis – will be recruited to enroll.

    The response: King Abdullah’s initiative represents a brave and radical departure from tradition. Many of his directives, particularly with regard to gender mixing, are bound to throw the conservative religious establishment into a tizzy of denunciations of immorality and Western decadence.

    However, the king has chosen a timely moment to shake up his nation’s stagnating intellectual life. Saudi Arabia’s universities are known for churning out vast numbers of Islamic studies majors, even though graduates of such degree programs typically lack the skills necessary to run a modern economy. As the presence of Saudi students on campus increases over time, technological and scientific innovation will hopefully be energized, leading to a stronger economy and greater intellectual contact between Saudi Arabia and the outside world.

    It is possible that King Abdullah’s school will become yet another foreigner-dominated cultural island within Saudi society, with little relevance to the nation at large. But with any luck, the new university will convince Saudis that integration into the global order is fully compatible with the preservation of their cultural traditions and Islamic values.

    -Lauren Myers is a sophomore majoring in math and microbiology.

    Can you spam me now?

    The story: Mobile phone company Verizon Wireless will begin selling its subscribers’ personal information, including their phone numbers and every call they make or receive, to their “”affiliates”” (read: spammers). Customers are given a chance to “”opt out”” by calling a number within 30 days of receiving a notice to this effect.

    The response: Just when you didn’t think cell phone companies could care any less about your welfare, Verizon takes another step forward in the race to see who can violate their customers’ privacy quicker.

    While Verizon, to its credit, supports an opt-out program, and customer service will help direct customers to the number for it, the lines are constantly swamped, so don’t count on your call making it through any time soon. Moreover, unscrupulous “”opt-out”” tactics (who on earth would ever opt in?) betray the fact that the strategy is to profit at the expense of uninformed customers – a group that may well include you and your family.

    At the very least, this provides a unique opportunity for the FCC to prove it cares about enforcing its own regulations and demanding fair play from communications providers rather than mandating how often it is OK to swear on public television. But don’t get too excited; this is the FCC we’re talking about.

    If you’re like me, and you breathed a sigh of relief when you read this because you’re not a Verizon subscriber, don’t get your hopes up. It is quite possible that your number may be given out if you call or receive calls from a Verizon subscriber who failed to opt out. If this is true, then nothing will save you from the spam, other than destroying your cell phone. I recommend putting it in the microwave for a nice light show.

    -Taylor Kessinger is a junior majoring in math, philosophy and physics.

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