Five Major Differences Between Long-Term and Short-Term Study Abroad Programs

The Round Tower - Copenhagen, Denmark

It sounds simple but if you’re like me, you probably view all study abroad programs as essentially the same, and you probably view most international students similarly as a result.  Hold your horses!  The two are actually vastly different.

I’ve participated in the two extremes of study abroad.  My first introduction was the summer after my Freshman year of College at Arizona State University.  I attended a six and a half week study abroad program through the Barrett Honors College which spent three weeks in London, ten days in Dublin and twelve days in Edinburgh. We traveled, we explored, we took two courses, and it was a great intro to international travel.  In the 7 years since I completed that program I used it, movies, and conversations as a general way of relating to all of the international students I met.  While it helped some, I now realize I made a lot of mistaken assumptions.

Just over three weeks ago I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark where I’ll be spending the next two years pursuing a masters in Communication and Cognition at the University of Copenhagen. An experience which I’ll be documenting here on VirtualWayfarer.  My formal studies start in less than three weeks and without even beginning the academic portion of the experience I’ve already realized that long-term study abroad and short-term study abroad are vastly different.

To clarify terminology – when I say short-term study abroad I’m talking about trips which last less than 7 months but longer than 5 days.  When I say long-term study abroad I’m including year long programs but mainly focusing on complete degree undergraduate and graduate programs.

Here are five of the key differences:

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

1. Commitment

As scary and challenging as short-term study abroad programs can be, you never truly have to commit to leaving.  The study abroad trip is an adventure, sometimes a relatively long one, but always experienced with a set perception of your native country as home.  You know that you’ll be going back at the end of that program and even if that program is 6 months long, you’ll always be in a social/passing through phase.  While you may become a participant in the local culture, you’ll never find yourself striving to become a truly active member or to go native.

In a long-term study abroad program you have to go all in.  You’ve committed to something more than just an extended visit and are literally moving to your destination country.  You operate on the realization that in the 1 to 6 years you’ll be gone that everything will change drastically, that you as an individual will be completely different, and that you are re-locating your home.  There is a realization that to not only enjoy, but to survive the experience you have to make an effort to go native.  That you will be changing far more than just where you sleep and study, but also how you eat, how you socialize, and perhaps even some of your core assumptions and values.

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

2. Support

One of the best parts about a short-term study abroad program is that almost everything is taken care of for you by the partner schools, program coordinators and chaperones.  You’re told exactly what to do to engage in the process, where to be, and what to expect. Things like housing, transport, and course registration are handled, and most programs have you experience the trip as part of a group of people from your University or home country.  For my first trip this consisted of  two courses taught by faculty from my home University and our group was made almost entirely up of students from Arizona State’s Communication and Honors colleges.

While the experience may vary, I’ve found that long-term study abroad comes with significantly less support.  Especially for international students who are completing entire degree programs.  As a full program international student you’re not engaging in a study abroad program, so much as you are opting to study abroad.  The subtle difference is that while one is a program, the other is standard application and acceptance in a University that just happens to be international.  That means that virtually nothing is taken care of for you, though most Universities offer international programs offices which try and provide some guidance and limited help. At a basic level, however, consider all of the things that go into applying for College or Graduate school as a student attending an out of state school (housing, strange fees, long distance phone calls, different time zones, different banks, paperwork, transcripts, moving your possessions etc.) and then consider doing those internationally across thousands of miles.  Things like visa processing and paperwork, language barriers, international time zones, and vastly different education system structures all come together to create a very challenging and daunting experience.    Believe me, trying to complete the housing and visa process alone with minimal guidance or support is an incredible challenge and one that has left me with more than one sleepless night.

Candy and Scale - Copenhagen, Denmark

3. Different Educational Systems

While most people know this, I don’t think people truly internalize the fact that school systems around the world differ greatly. American educational systems are vastly different than European systems which are completely different than Asian systems.

I mentioned earlier that for my short-term study abroad experience we brought our own teachers with us.  You’ll find that in most short-term study abroad programs the academic coursework and structure remain largely the same as the country of origin.  This makes sense as switching back and forth for a few weeks/month-long program would be messy and confusing.  It also goes back to the experience as a visitor vs. participant/member.

Long-term study abroad programs, however, are done in the local educational system.  Remember – you’re just a regular student who happens to be from abroad.  As a participant this means figuring out and learning vastly different registration, course schedule, course load, teaching style and testing systems.  Even the little things like how course hours are credited can be vastly different.  For example while US schools operate on a credit hour basis, University of Copenhagen and most of Europe uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

Street Music - Copenhagen, Denmark

4. Social Restart

I mentioned earlier that short-term study abroad programs tend to set you up with, or travel in packs.  Even though you probably didn’t know most of the people before the trip began, you’re put with a group that automatically forms into a new peer group/group of friends. Some will become great friends, some you’ll tolerate because, hey, it’s only a few weeks or months, and one or two you’ll probably absolutely detest.  Ultimately though, this becomes your social network while traveling and fills in for your family and friends back home.

While there is some of this in long-term study abroad the nature of the program makes it significantly more difficult. There’s a huge sensation of loss as you realize that you’re not returning to your regular social group and good friends in a couple of weeks or months, but that it will likely be years. Years during which they may get married, move elsewhere, or change drastically as people.  As a long-term student you also have to effectively start over from ground zero.  One of the biggest frustrations I hear from people who did long-term study abroad programs and had negative experiences was that they never managed to meet new people or establish a new network.   It’s tough, and it takes an active willingness and investment in meeting, connecting, and generating friendships in a way most of us haven’t done actively in close to a decade.

There is no fall-back social group, or core-social group that you can always spend time with or call up to go grab a coffee, see a movie, or grab a beer. That sense of initial isolation is where I’m at right now, and while I feel very positive about the people I am meeting and my ability to build a new social network here in Denmark, it can be rough at times.  A lot of that will also change as the other international students starting my program arrive in town and courses start giving us an easy common thread to network through.  Still, that in and of itself poses another challenge as I know that if I’m going to be here for two years I need to do more than just hang out with other international students. That means going outside of my comfort zone and doing things that are far less comfortable for an international student – it means committing myself to the culture.

I’ve met some great people in the three weeks I’ve been here, and as orientation starts up I know I’ll meet a wealth of new ones. Despite that, it has definitely been a vastly different experience than traditional short-term study abroad.

Dad and I

5. Family

I always wondered how my international friends, roommates, and acquaintances dealt with being away from family. I come from a very close family where my parents, brother and I talk regularly, travel well together, and have an incredible relationship as peers.  For a long-time I wondered what long-term student’s relationships with their families were like that they were comfortable and able to leave their family for years at a time.  I think at a certain level, though I’m a bit ashamed of myself for it, I assumed that their relationships with their families must not have been incredibly close which made it easier to spend time away.  I’m happy to say I had no idea what I was talking about.  Leaving family behind and knowing that visiting and communicating will be much more challenging is easily one of the toughest things about long-term study abroad, but it in no way reflects the strength of the relationships between an international student and their siblings/parents.

As I write this I’m engaged in a two year program which may extend into a PhD and has the potential to lead just as easily to an expat scenario as a return stateside at the end of my two year program.  Two days before I flew over to Denmark my brother flew to Africa with the US Peace Corps for a two year deployment to Zambia.  Moving thousands of miles away, after spending most of our lives less than an hour away from our folks and each other was an incredibly difficult decision. But it was one that was made possible largely BECAUSE of how close our family is.  Their support, encouragement, and constant wisdom made the move a reality.  So, I encourage you all not to make the same mistake I did.

Are you thinking about studying abroad, or have you done a short or long-term program?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, observations and answer any questions you may have!

Oslo Norway – Vikings, Embassies and Old Friends

Viking Ship Museum - Oslo, Norway

The ride to the airport was uneventful. For 6 Euro, a shuttle service picked me up at my hostel proving the anxiety that I’d had over catching an early morning bus on a quiet Sunday unnecessary.

As the shuttle meandered its way through Dublin I noted how empty the streets were.  After a full weekend the city was finally at rest, recuperating and preparing for a new week.  The airport itself was fairly quiet, which was a relief.

The line to check my bag was short, as was the line through security, which left me ample time to find a bite of food before winding my way towards my gate.

The flight to Oslo was brief.  To be honest, I slept most of it – between jetlag and the late night I’d had the previous evening, I was in desperate need of a nap!

Rygge Airport is located some 40 km south of Oslo.  A small airport, we were the only plane present.  This was convenient given the size of the airport’s one runway, which we had to taxi back up after landing before we were able to get to the gates.

From there a bus shuttled us all to Oslo, where we went our separate ways.   After a quick pause to get my bearings, I set to the task of finding my way to Hildur’s place.  She’d given me an address and general directions, but getting oriented, judging landmarks, and weighing distances is never an easy thing when experiencing a new city/culture for the first time.

In short order I found the subway, figured out what ticket I needed and after a few missteps was headed in the right direction.  Before long I reached the National Theater stop and headed toward the surface.  Candidly, as the escalator dragged me towards the surface, I felt a bit like a groundhog leaving its hole.

Embassy Row - Oslo, Norway

I emerged in the middle of a beautiful greenbelt surrounded by old buildings that borrowed from French and German architecture – creating a unique mixture of the two. Then, with map in hand, I slowly spun about before guessing which direction I needed to go. Unfortunately, it ended up being up hill…toward a large palatial building in the midst of a giant park.  It was, as I would later learn, the royal residence.

The day was beautiful; warm with a few clouds in the sky.  Needless to say it was anything but what I’d expected.  In typical European form a lot of the locals were out enjoying the weather.  Most stripped down to swimming suits, sprawled out in the park, sunbathing, picnicking or barbecuing. It made for a welcome sight.

Feeling fairly confident that I was following my directions correctly, I wound through the park and up a side street before turning onto the street where I hoped to Hildur’s apartment.  To my surprise, I quickly realized I was walking down Ambassadorial Row.  Most of the buildings had unique architecture representing their home country and a diverse mixture of national flags flying from beautifully manicured front lawns.  Thrown into the mix were a few private residences, coffee shops, and B&Bs.

Ambassador's Row - Oslo, Norway

Before long I found the right address and tentatively made my way to the door. There I was stumped.  Unfortunately, while I had her number, I didn’t have a phone or her apartment number.  This was even more challenging because the buzzer had some 8+ last names, none of which I recognized.  Torn between randomly hitting the buzzer’s until I got the right one or backtracking and finding a phone – I made one attempt, then opted for the latter…Which came in the form of a small Korean convenience store where I borrowed the phone and picked up what turned out to be orange-flavored water.

A few rings and a quick conversation later, I was back on my way down Ambassadorial Row.   This time, with the right last name in hand I was quickly buzzed in and made my way up the winding staircase.  Reaching the top I re-connected with Hildur, an old college friend who I’d met a few years earlier while she studied as ASU.  We quickly caught up before striking out for a quick bite to eat and tour of the immediate area.

She explained, to my surprise, that one of the cheaper local foods was Sushi of all things and promised we’d try it at some point during my stay.  For the sake of convenience and price, however, we made a quick pause at McDonalds before heading to the park where I met up with one of her best friends/roommates and another mutual friend who was visiting from the west coast.

We spent an hour or so relaxing in the sun, enjoying the park, catching up, and getting to know each other before heading back to the apartment for a beer and to watch the evening’s world cup match.

After the game it was nap time.  Still fighting jet lag, I crashed out for an hour or two before waking up in time for a delicious home cooked meal.  Shortly after dinner Hildur’s boyfriend Sten got in. He had volunteered to give me a grand tour of Oslo the following morning.  We all spent the rest of the evening catching up, getting acquainted and sharing stories before turning in early – the following day promised to be a full one.

With the sun still up, I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head and slipped into delightful dreams of new adventures and far off lands.  It was 1 am.

How Would The Modern University Educate Plato?

Since the late 1770s education has made significant advances.  Matching the revolutionary changes that occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution, education for the masses has become commonplace in industrialized nations.

The United States in particular has seen fantastic improvements in its education system over the last hundred years.  2007 statistics indicate that some 84% of Americans have completed high school and a record 27% have completed a bachelors degree.  These figures are impressive and have contributed in a significant way to America’s dominant position on the world stage.

However, there is still significantly more that we can and must do to serve the educational needs of millennials and America’s future generations.  Despite the quality and scope of education that industrial era education and the associated systems have delivered, they are quickly becoming obsolete and in some cases detrimental.

21st Century learners live in a period where technology has created a powerful window of opportunity.  Pre-industrial education was limited to the elite and focused on intimate, specialized tutor-peer lessons or direct apprenticeships.  Industrial era education has focused on doing for education what the assembly line did for auto-production.  An ideal learning environment, however, is the synergy of these two models:  Intimate education, deliverable and scalable to all of a nation’s youth.

My alma mater (Arizona State University) is a classic example of Industrial Era education.  With 67,000+ students in the Fall of 2008, ASU delivers a university education on an incredible scale.  They have also proudly labeled themselves the “New American University” and recently released a promotion video advertising how they are breaking the mold and embracing the needs of 21st century students. You can view the video [here]. Yet despite their claims that they are “changing their identity” in response to the impact of the internet and Digital Era – they have barely changed.  For ASU and most major universities, 21st Century education isn’t about improving the educational process – it’s about improving the university’s reach and presence on the global academic stage.

This is a fundamental problem within modern education.  A problem that will continue to get worse as technology advances and true ‘digital natives’ begin entering the university system.   ASU has increased its global footprint – true.  Sadly, it has also increased its class sizes.  As an undergraduate student it was not uncommon for my classes to have more than 50 students.  For many of my general education classes, class size ranged between 150-500+ students. Which brings me to the title of this post.

How would the modern University have educated the Greek philosopher Plato?

Plato’s influence upon our society has been so profound that even the most uninitiated among us have heard his name.  Plato was one of – if not the most famous – of Socrates’ students and went on to become Aristotle’s mentor.  Consider – what would have happened if instead of living and being educated in ancient Greece, Socrates had taught at a major industrial era American university.  What if – as in Ancient Greece – Plato was Socrates’ student.  One of some 499 other students whose entire scope of interaction with their professor is limited to one-directional lecture-based classes.

  • Would Socrates be able to teach using the Socratic Method?
  • Would engaging discussion and debate be possible?
  • Would close student-instructor rapport develop with such power and influence that it would still be credited nearly 2,500 years from now?
  • 2,500 years from now would we know who Plato was?
  • Would the industrial era educated Plato go on to teach and mentor Aristotle?

This question embodies many of the challenges that face 20th Century education.  A system that we are heavily entrenched in and extremely defensive of.

What’s the alternative?  What will the true “New American University” look like?    By introducing modern technology and re-defining the way we design, build and educate in our universities, effective and necessary changes can be made.    The technology now exists to deliver the powerful, focused, specialized mentor-student experience so desperately needed by tens of thousands of students.

We stand poised to embrace education in the digital era.  Yet, to accomplish this transition we need new platforms, new technology and individuals with the vision and willingness to break free from the comfortable, established rules of industrial era universities.   Through my company, FusionVirtual,  I’ve begun planning a project to tackle these questions and challenges.  I challenge each and every one to do the same.  Don’t accept the status quo.  Stop enabling the continuation of 20th Century education – an education platform that has  begun to alienate digital natives.  Emerging learners are not only capable, but ready and waiting for new educational solutions that are not based upon the control of information and limited interaction.  The old models are broken. We have reached the point where we have the technology to truly educate.

Thoughts? Observations?  Eager to share your answers to the questions above?  Please leave a comment below.

Two New Salsa Videos

Howdy all! As a quick sidetrack from my Spain blogs this post includes two freshly recorded videos from this past weekend. What of? Why social Salsa dancing of course!

While each Salsa club is completely different the following videos were recorded at Paragon Dance Studio’s Sunday Night Salsa Function in Tempe, Arizona which trades the conventional restaurant/night club backdrop for plenty of space and a top notch dance floor. Make sure to select the HQ option when viewing both videos & remember – I love your questions! Have one? Post it in a comment response to this post and I’ll get back to you promptly!

Elektra & I Dancing:

Debbie & I Dancing:

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Las Vegas Desert Challenge Ballroom Competition

Vegas Competition Group

This past weekend Nate and I attended the Las Vegas Desert Challenge Ballroom Competition with ASU’s Devil Dancesport Team. The competition draws students from several major southwestern universities and is held over a two-day period. My little brother Nate is currently a Sophomore at ASU and has picked up where I left off with the ballroom program. As part of the fun he’d signed up for a number of dances in this past weekend’s competition with several different partners. I had initially planned to tag along and support Nate and the team but ended up doing a late sign up about an hour before the competition started on Friday. One of Nate’s dance partners and a mutual friend needed a partner for several latin dances and graciously talked me into signing up for the competition.

Friday morning at 6:15 a.m. we all gathered in the parking lot north of the football stadium, staggered onto the two waiting buses and prepared for the long drive to Vegas. Two stops and X hours later we finally rolled into the city that never sleeps and set to exploring our hotel. We had an hour and a half to prepare before check-ins during which I frantically ran around getting the fee paid and signing up for Rumba, Salsa, ChaCha and Merengue. After getting checked in I set about trying to locate an outfit that would work for the comp. Luckily I’d brought a pair of black slacks and was able to borrow a black dress shirt. We all grabbed a bite to eat and then the dancing began.

After an hour of check-ins the comp started at 5 and ran until about 8 Friday evening. The main event was the open salsa competition. Andrea and I made the first two callbacks which was fantastic since we hadn’t had any time to practice together and had only danced Latin once or twice before. What really made the night though was Nate and Debbie’s Salsa. They were able to carry over some of the social Salsa moves we’ve developed for the club, and apply them to the competition environment. The result was a fantastic set of dances which took the GOLD! No small accomplishment given the structure of the Salsa competition. Unlike the majority of the other dances which are broken down into skill categories – Newcomer, Bronze, Silver and Gold – the Salsa is an open dance where all levels of dancers compete at once. As a result it’s both significantly more competitive than some of the other events and has a much larger crowd.

After a few exciting hours of competition the first day of the event ended. We assembled a decent-sized group. After waiting a while to round everyone up about 25 of us started toward the strip. The walk ended up being about a mile or so and after a few hiccups we ended up at a restaurant capable of serving the 15 of us or so that were still together. The food hit the spot and we managed to work in a little dancing at the restaurant in an open space that had been created when they put our 5 or so tables together. Stuffed, exhausted, and dreading the walk back to the hotel we began the mile walk down the strip and the additional mile between the strip and hotel. After a few hours spent socializing we all turned in.

The 2nd day of the competition was long. Check in was from 8-9 and open dancing stretched from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a 2 hour break for dinner. The day was a full one. Luckily the dancing was excellent, and the event organizers did a great job moving things along and mixing in social dances.

All of the ASU competitors did a fantastic job, and there was a lot of terrific dancing. For my part, I danced Rumba, ChaCha, Merengue and had a blast. Mixing things up and keeping everyone on their toes Nate and I decided to have some fun with our Merengue. Dragging our poor partners along, we performed a mid-dance tunnel maneuver where one set of dancers holding hands opens up and creates a bridge/tunnel of sorts, which the other pair then bends down and backs through. While the move didn’t score us any points with the judges (and may have even gotten us disqualified) it was entertaining and well worth it!

While I don’t have any direct video of the comp itself uploaded, Nate just finished posting this video of a ChaCha I danced with Jill during one of the social breaks.

After the competition wound down a group of us formed up and began the trek back towards the strip. After another long, tiring walk, we managed to arrive at the Excalibur before the buffet’s 10 o’clock closing time. As you can no doubt imagine, after a long day of dancing without food breaks, we were famished. We hungrily set to the task of emptying out the buffet and managed to make a pretty impressive dent before relaxing for a few minutes in a food coma.As we left the buffet in the Excalibur we picked up a few refreshments and then hit the strip. Several of the members of our group were under 21, and eager to keep the group intact we avoided areas that carded, sticking instead to the outdoor parts of the strip and common areas/casino floors.

Vegas Competition Group

Singing, dancing, and goofing off we made our way down the strip pausing to take in anything/everything interesting and generally having a blast. Eventually, we found our way towards Paris, Paris! We were delighted to find a large open portion of the sidewalk located directly in front of the bar’s patio area. The bar’s music blasting on the patio was loud enough that we could easily hear it on the sidewalk. As luck had it, it was just right for dancing. Before long we’d dropped our bags, put down our drinks and grabbed our dance partners. The sight of the 12 of us dancing on the sidewalk quickly caught passerby’s attention and before long we’d managed to gather a bit of a crowd. As the crowd grew, the occasional random brave soul jumped in and joined us. Hotel/Bar security kept a wary eye on us, and at one point 3 officers on patrol paused to watch us for a few minutes before continuing on down the strip.

One of the most entertaining moments came when one of the group realized that the music would work for the Wild Wild West line dance we’d learned earlier that day during the competition. If we thought we’d made a scene with the random dancing we’d been doing before, the line dance stopped passerby’s in their tracks. Before long, we’d probably gathered 30 or so people on the street and another 30 or so on the bar patio. After a few minutes of the Wild Wild West line dance, we decided it was time to continue exploring. We picked up our bags and were gone…just like that =) It felt like a spontaneously orchestrated Improv Everywhere skit. It was a blast!

From Paris, Paris! we meandered up and around the fountains before pausing briefly in front of one of the Casinos. Georgi and Chels (our two resident dance/gymnasts) showed off their skills with a number of back flips in a grassy area. Back flips completed and all extremely impressed we made our way inside and found our way to the stunning floral gardens. The gardens are incredible, with intricate designs created out of live flowers. It’s a beautiful and vibrant creation. As an added perk there were a number of beautiful butterflies on display in the butterfly greenhouse. Enjoying the setting we paused for a number of photos…more than a few of which involved dips, lifts, or other entertaining poses before making our way back outside and onto the strip.

Once back on the strip we wandered for another hour or two, pausing to take photos, dancing, drinking, and generally having a wonderful evening. Eventually, footsore and exhausted, we made our way back to the hotel by way of McDonalds. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 4:00 a.m. and after40 minutes or so socializing in the hotel room we split up and called it a night.

After 3 hours of sleep it was wake-up time. We piled our sore, bruised bodies back onto the buses for the trip back to Arizona. We’d all made loads of new friends, had incredible stories, and a wonderful weekend full of memories to show for it. Vegas was a blast!

New Salsa/Rumba Videos

Howdy all,

I decided to take my camera out with me this weekend to two dance events and recorded some quick video. These videos are significantly different than the footage you may have seen from December/May a year ago.

The first is a Rumba filmed at the Shall We Dance studio during Devil Dance Sport’s Spring Magic Themed dance on 4/5/08. The second and third are Salsa’s filmed Sunday 4/6/08 at Shall We Dance during the Sunday night Salsa function and represent typical dances during the weekly social.

Rumba w/ Chelsea:

Salsa w/ Ashley:

Salsa w/ Michiko:

This footage is all of just fun, social, spontaneous dance. Nothing choreographed or planned out.

The New American University: Education, Opportunity & an Assault Rifle?

Kent State/US Flag

It’s gotten to the point where I have to pinch myself when I wake up each morning. It’s not some odd dream; not some perverted nightmare. It is the reality that has become so commonplace over the last 8 years that it is written off as par for the course. Mention the word security and suddenly you’re granted a no questions asked get out of jail free card. The worst part is, the card comes with the kitchen sink and keys to the safe. In this case it looks like those keys are in fact to the gun safe. As a recent Arizona State University grad this one hits close to home.

Yesterday (March 5th) the Arizona Republic reported that all three of Arizona’s major universities’ police departments have adopted plans to purchase military grade assault rifles in the immediate future. The Republic reported that Arizona State University (ASU) will be the first of the big three to adopt the weapons. In fact, according to the article ASU has already purchased four assault rifles and is in the process of raising funds for the purchase of four more. The assault rifles are to be distributed among the campus police vehicles – yeah, police cars with machine guns sitting in them around campus -where they will remain until needed.

So, what’s the justification for putting assault rifles on our college campuses? “Active Shooter” situations in which the University/Police Department claim there may not be sufficient time for SWAT to arrive. Which might sound great unless you are familiar with ASU’s main campus. The catch lies in the details. You see, the Tempe police department is located kitty corner to the ASU Campus. In fact if you include the Brickyard (on Mill) & The Towers (Dorms) you could even argue that the Tempe Police Department is located ON ASU’s campus. If you decide to focus instead on ASU Main’s central core the police station is some 1,000 feet off campus. Take a look for yourself:

Tempe Campus from Google Maps

I realize that the setting and environment are a bit different, but besides the obvious issues, hasn’t history taught us a few lessons about this sort of thing? The “Under Siege” image I created at the top of this post was created by combining a photo of the U.S. Flag and an old black & white photo from the 1970 Kent State incident. A historic moment which illustrated all too well the dangers of combining university populations, protests, and automatic weapons.

I appreciate that police vehicles are fairly secure, but are they really THAT secure? After all Arizona was ranked as the state with the most vehicle thefts per capita in 2001. The last statistics I saw stated that we had improved to 4th in 2006.

It just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially when I reflect on my various experiences with the Tempe/Campus Police. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a perfect record (not so much as a speeding ticket), the utmost respect for the men and women in our police force, and a number of friends who are officers – but I’ve also seen extremely disappointing behavior by the Tempe/Campus Police. I’ll never forget one occasion where an officer threatened to Tazer me if I didn’t walk faster as I was leaving a house party or a discussion I had with a friend working for campus security as he laughed about the reputation one of the Campus Officers had for excessive Tazering. When dealing with students the rules often get bent. They don’t know their rights, have not accumulated a lot of real world experience and are still viewed by society as youths. It shouldn’t happen but it does. Even in casual interactions with the Campus Police there was always a feeling of disdain or an automatic presumption of guilt. That tone was completely different than the helpful, open sincere vibes I’ve received from the other Valley police.

My goal isn’t to harp on the Tempe/Campus Police, rather my goal is to offer some basic perspective as a recent grad on the environment and student/officer relationship on campus and why – beyond the issues of rights, safety, and common sense – assault rifles and ASU shouldn’t mix.

I know assault rifles are cool – but let’s face it, are students really THAT scary?