Around the Big Ten

Around the Big Ten

News from the home cities (and states) of the Big Ten universities:

MINNESOTA: Journalism teacher asks students to unplug

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A professor at the University of Minnesota asked her students to turn off their iPods, cell phones and laptops and turn on the eight-track players, landlines and typewriters.

Last month, Heather LaMarre, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, asked students in her principles of strategic communication course to go five days without using technology created after 1984.

The students were allowed to use technology for only work and school purposes.

LaMarre said she wanted her students to realize their dependence on technology by going through everyday life without it.

"Although great as a tool, I want them to realize technology is just a tool," LaMarre said. "It is not an extension of who we are."

LaMarre said the assignment forced students to be creative and come up with alternative ways to communicate, much like if they were in a crisis where technology was no longer at their disposal.

Also, the assignment enlightened students on what life was like for many of their future employers, according to LaMarre, who said the year 1984 was chosen because this is the time frame in which many of the bosses of today lived in.

"That age group grew up without this technology and comes from a very different viewpoint," LaMarre said.

The majority of the students in LaMarre's classroom, however, come from an age group with a viewpoint firmly entrenched in technology.

Lucy Knopff, public relations sophomore, said the assignment forced her to give up her cell phone, which she has used since junior high.

"It is what I know, and it is hard to stray from what you know," Knopff said.

LaMarre said technologies like Knopff's cell phone have provided a valuable tool of convenience, but how we use this tool needs to be realized.

"I wanted them to realize the difference between using it in a strategic way and using it mindlessly," LaMarre said. "You wouldn't just pick up a hammer or screwdriver and use it mindlessly."

It is this kind of "mindless" use that ended Knopff's attempt a half-hour after leaving the classroom the day it was assigned.

"After leaving class, I put on my iPod," Knopff said. "It is so second nature to me that I didn't even realize it."

LaMarre said early failure in the project was common, with less than 10 percent of her 43 students making it past two days.

Emma Casey, Spanish and public relations sophomore, resisted technology the longest, going three days. Casey said the assignment made her realize being "plugged in" for things like interpersonal communication diminishes the relationship in some ways.

"Relationships that we enter into now are so much more shallow because you have media in between," Casey said.

For her students, LaMarre said anxiety from being out of touch was evident.

"They felt concerned they were missing out on something in life," LaMarre said.

To treat this anxiety, Casey said she had a friend check her e-mail on the third day. She had 225 unread e-mails.

"After she told me how many e-mails I missed, I had to give in and check them," Casey said.

WISCONSIN: University loses round in stem cell patent battle

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – An attempt to protect a patent that covers embryonic stem cell research pioneered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has suffered a defeat.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week reversed an earlier ruling rejecting challenges made to one of three patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The ruling was a victory for two consumer groups have asked the office to throw out the patents, which cover discoveries made by UW-Madison scientist James Thomson. They argue Thomson's work should not qualify for patents and that patent enforcement has hindered U.S. stem cell research.

WARF said in a statement that it intends to fight the decision.

WISCONSIN: Crowds mostly well-behaved at Madison block party

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Madison police say revelers were mostly well-behaved last weekend at a heavily attended block party.

Authorities say they arrested about 200 people at the annual Mifflin Street block party. Police spokesman Joel DeSpain says most of the offenses were for underage drinking or having open containers of alcohol outside.

There were roughly 160 arrests last year. That followed a particularly raucous party in 2008 that saw about 440 people arrested and 60 jailed.

There was one sexual-assault complaint. Police say they're interviewing a person of interest in that case.

The block party takes place near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. It began as a peace festival in 1969 and attracts thousands of college-age people.

IOWA: Faculty have complaints about proposed policy

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Some faculty at the University of Iowa have criticized part of the school's proposed new sexual harassment policy.

The faculty members say they're concerned an informal reporting process would let complaints be filed without the accused being notified. University officials have said they would like the new policy finished by the end of the semester. The school approved a new student sexual misconduct policy in 2008.

History professor Katherine Tachau says the school can have a good policy that protects the complainant and ensures the rights of the accused.

The new policies come in response to an alleged sexual assault of a female student. Also in 2008, two faculty members were accused of sexual misconduct toward students.

PURDUE: Indiana farmers plant corn, soybeans at record pace

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Indiana farmers are making record progress planting the state's corn and soybean crops thanks to warm, dry weather that's been ideal for planting.

As of last week, farmers had planted 56 percent of the state's intended corn crop and 12 percent of the soybean crop. Both are records for late April.

The weekly crop report from Purdue University says weekend rains helped alleviate dry topsoil conditions in some areas and will help crops emerge.

The report said 53 percent of the corn crop had been planted in the north, 63 percent in the central region and 51 percent in the south.

That's a big difference from last year, when cool, wet weather had allowed farmers to plant only about 2 percent of Indiana's corn crop by late April.

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