Airport Assault: Road Racing at WCU

Airport Assault Road Course
Airport Assault Road Course

In a college town that consists of little more than an expanding campus and a run-of-the-mill athletic department, it’s easy to overlook the absolutely excellent events that take place.

Outside of the Valley of the Lilies Half-Marathon and 5k, and when Western alum Manteo Mitchell pulled in Olympic Silver at the London Games, there hasn’t been a ton to be proud of in terms of athletic achievement. Luckily, and thanks to a dedicated group of collegiate cyclists, Western is now set to host a three-part race weekend on Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23.

Though I wasn’t a part of the riding community, to see this group put together a complete race experience is nothing short of exciting. It’s easy to get lost in the valley that houses Cullowhee, to forget that there are people that want to come and experience the mountains. The nine percent grade of the time trial route may not be the way most people expect to experience Cullowhee, but then again active communities like cyclists don’t always fit into the “most people” category anyway.

The races are open to collegiate riders, with registration online at USA Cycling. These races include the one mile time trial mentioned before, an 18-63 mile road race, and a 20-50 minute criterium. Distances and times will be determined by rider category, which include Collegiate M-A,B,C,D and W-A,B. Each race costs $15 to pre-register, and $18 for day-of registration.

An awards ceremony will take place on Sunday after the criterium, which should not only highlight the weekend’s top racers, but also the little-known hospitality that so many people in the WCU community are full of. With the introduction of the Airport Assault race weekend, I’m proud to say I graduated from Western, and can’t wait to see what this does for the cycling team, the university and the community as a whole.

For more information take a look at the official WCU Cycling Team page and learn more about the excellent people that are making this event happen.

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The Business of Edcuation

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My general disdain for the money made from higher education has been pretty evident, if it hasn’t, just browse through the education category over on the left. Typically my focus is on student loans, the impact that students are left to deal with in the pursuit of a decent education, but today I’m taking a slightly different route.

Thanks to the Western Carolinian, the student newspaper at Western Carolina University, today I’m focused on how the money is being spent by the institution. Before I get started though, I will clarify: the issue I’m addressing in this post is not that money is being spent, but how it is being spent.

Having established that, the inspiration for this post comes from a recent article published by the Western Carolinian in regard to the 2020 Vision Plan for WCU, and the impact that a potential parking garage would have on students, staff and faculty.

Parking garages are expensive, they must be managed and maintained, just like any other facility. I get that. Considering the growth that WCU has experienced over the last few years, I’m not one to disagree with the notion that a parking garage is probably a smart idea for the preservation of the campus and the community. In this case, I’d personally much rather see one structure a short distance from campus that could provide solid parking options for students without paving over the whole landscape.

There is one thing however that sticks out to me though, and an issue that I believe should be a more intricate part of the planning well beyond 2020, and should be considered as we head into 2014.

The faculty and staff of WCU have not received a raise in their salary since 2008, and some of them are upset that their parking fees will go up in order to compensate for the garage. Renee Corbin, director of assessment, even talked about parking further away from campus or making a deal with local business, for a fee. If the faculty and staff are to pay more per year for parking or other fees in order to accomplish the 2020 Vision plan, without a pay raise, they have every right to be frustrated.

Western Carolinian

I can’t imagine that Western is the only school with this problem, not necessarily directly related to a parking garage, but the idea that faculty aren’t seeing pay raises for the work and dedication given to the institutions they serve, as money continues to be spent on expansion projects and useless campus “beautification”.

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Where my problem with the situation goes deeper, is the fact that all of this money is spent, but programs continue to be cut, class sizes increase as classes are cut from programs, and the blame is placed on money and budgeting despite expansion and beautification projects.

Yes, growth is good. I’m not saying that it isn’t, but should the quality of education, and the quality of programs offered be driven into the ground just so the students can have a new fountain or new campus directional signs?

The simple answer is no. At institutions of higher education, something inside me says that we should be focusing on maintaining a competitive level of education, not making things pretty. There are programs at WCU that have scaled back so much, that they hardly resemble the programs that students initially came to the school for.

On a larger scale, the problem with education across the country, high schools and colleges alike, is coming from how money is being spent. At some point, the focus needs to be on advancing what is best for students, or these institutions need to quit pretending to be focused on education.

Yes, I included high schools because North Carolina can’t seem to get anything right in terms of budgeting for education, which may or may not come from the fact that all the people making real decision have no idea what it’s like to work in the actual education system.

Teachers, professors, faculty and staff, they all deserve respect from the students they serve, but they deserve even more from the systems that they are working for.

If education were actually the focus of higher education, I’d be willing to bet money that many of the problems we’re facing would seemingly fix themselves. But when you’re more concerned with the way something looks than how it operates, then no, none of these problems are ever going to be solved.

Education is a business. It’s time the employees were shown that they are appreciated, not just being used to bring in more money under the facade of helping develop the future.

As always, that’s just my two cents and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but where I do think we can come together is in the idea that a change needs to be made to the system as a whole; something is broke, it’s time we fixed it.

School In, Education Out

IMG_1521North Carolina has been reamed by newscasters across the US for being awful in regard to its public education policies, but I live in NYC now. Today marking the first day of school for kids in the city, I thought it would be interesting to compare what was in the news, to how terrible people say North Carolina is.

We’ll start with the greater Carolina. Despite teacher cutbacks, Moral Mondays, and red for ed, the broad statistics seem to consistently put NC around the middle of the bunch. If you take a look at this Education Week grade map, NC sits right in the middle of a more concerning national acceptance of mediocrity. Considering folks are claiming the state is the worst in education, it seems that all of the brain power is getting lost in the facts.

I do support the move to pay teachers what they deserve, they control the quality of education that the future of this county is dependent on, but what I don’t support is educators blindly spouting “facts” as unrelated causes snowball together.

This understanding of the status of education in NC leads me to this: I’m appreciative of the standard of education that was set for me.

I posted last week about the Harlem Engagement Center, meant to help kids that missed a ridiculous 38 days of school. As you refresh that thought, note that today not only marks the first day of school for students across NYC, but it also marks the first time that Kindergarten is mandatory in the NYC school system.

Still think North Carolina is that bad?

Looking at the same reports referenced earlier, NY as a state seems to rank consistently in and around the top 5, but I think that grade was based on a curve. The republican candidates for NYC Mayor recently debated education, and candidate John Catsimatidis actually thinks that ushering kids to a high school diploma can get them a better job.

Yes, students need to graduate; no, you don’t have to make it easier. My stumbling point in his rhetoric though was how he believed that a high school diploma will prevent a graduate from working an $8 an hour job at a convenience store like the “typical” drop out. Unfortunately for Mr. Catsimatidis, the country is full of college grads working those $8 an hour jobs, so at what point is that drop out really any worse off?

Education across the country is in dire need of help, but I think the people that claim to have all the answers are actually the farthest from reality. I don’t have a solution, but I’d be awfully glad to help get us there.

The Engagement Center: Because You Can Totally Force Learning

There’s a reason “The Engagement Center” will be the “first-of-its-kind”, because it’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard.

I’m not a fan of No Child Left Behind, and agree that everything should be done to make schools accessible to kids everywhere, but part of the problem with public education is the idea that you can force someone to learn.

NYC School

This new truancy center, which Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday, is designed to give students who miss 38 days of school some extra help.

This is my point. A focus, funding, should be given to the students that at least show up to school. Who are we kidding, what makes you think that a kid that misses 38 days at a regular school is going to go a special “engagement center” that targets all of the kids just like them.

North Carolina isn’t even respectable right now as far as education is concerned, but at least when I was in school, if you missed 10 days you automatically failed.

Students that continuously underperform, or are ushered through the education process with a less than acceptable standard, do not benefit anyone. The only outcome is the devaluation of a high school diploma, which leads to the inflation of a college degree which I discussed in my post, Student Loans: What They Don’t Understand.

38 days missed is over a month. Let that simmer for a minute. Do you really think that’s a student that is going to let anyone force them to learn. It’s time to hold students responsible for their lack of concern. Taxpayers shouldn’t front the bill because someone doesn’t want to be helped.

You can take the kid to school, but you can never make them learn.