SOVIET STUDIES NEED SPECIALIZATION

COUGAR NEWS SERVICE

Reviewing, rethinking, restructuring, rewriting.

"Re" words have invaded nearly every discussion about Soviet studies programs at colleges and universities across the country the past few weeks.

The failed coup in the former Soviet Union and collapse of communism there and in Eastern Europe have left U.S. scholars reeling. Now, they are aggressively reviewing and revising Soviet history, political science, sociology, culture and language programs and the way the programs are being taught to reflect recent cataclysmic events.

What has emerged is an academic area now loosely referred to as ethno-politics and the study of non-Russian peoples.

"This forces scholars to an awareness and examination of their deepest assumptions," said S. Frederick Starr, president of Oberlin College in Ohio and an expert on Soviet affairs.

"One assumption is that Russian and Soviet society is inevitably passive and inert and therefore only the leadership ... brings about change," he said. "We looked at the society too often from the top down rather than the bottom up."

Now, educators are making a push to study the Soviets from the bottom up -- a process that involves learning about the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the people and the history of the 15 different republics.

With specialization, Soviet studies programs would still exist as they do today, but emphasis at higher levels of education will revolve around the individual republics. Specialized courses will also be offered at the undergraduate level.

"Today, all of this has to be revisited -- we have to deal with many different cultures and religions. We have to refocus our values," Starr said. He added that the number of specialized republics experts is small nationwide.

Historian Robert Suny is one of those experts, focusing his efforts at the University of Michigan on the study of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"Basically, everything used to be Moscow-centered, it focused on the Kremlin," he said. "The only people interested in specialized studies were people of those nationalities."

That has changed. While a large number of students who specialize within Soviet studies programs are descendants of republic immigrants, others are people who see an area of study with tremendous opportunities.

Soviet studies and Russian language students in the past have worked almost exclusively for the government or for academia. Those opportunities still exist with greater possibilities, but new relations with individual republics have provided new interests for those in business, language translation and politics since new embassies should emerge in each republic.

"If the number of students signed up for a class gives a sense of the interest, I have the largest group (of students) I've ever had," said Susan Worobeck, who teaches "Russia -- 1801 to the Present" at Kent State University in Ohio.

Tom Lairson at Rollins College in Florida agrees.

"I do think there's a lot more interest," said the international politics professor. "Students are more aware ... and they want to have more out-of-class discussions."

While many schools are in the process of restructuring their programs to add more specialization, others are already there. Harvard University, for example, has been an international leader in Ukrainian studies since the early 1970s.

"General studies (of the Soviets) will always be important to put situations into a broader context," said Borys Gudziak, a Ukrainian history graduate student at Harvard who specializes in Slavic Church history. "But up until now the political, cultural and ethnic context of the individual cultures were hard to find because of the politics" in the former Soviet Union, which led to a lack of information. That is the primary reason ethnic and historical studies of the republics have taken so long to arrive in the United States.

Currently, publishing companies, map-makers and others who produce classroom materials are scrambling to update texts, make revisions and offer information about the individual republics.

"Soviet studies have been enriched by the exchanges of scholars (between the United States and the Soviet Union) the past few years. It was restrained before," said Bill Carmichael, executive director of Soviet Union and Eastern European programs for the Institute of International Education. The recent changes "make it much more of a free exchange. There's going to be a much more decentralized process."

Carmichael said scholars in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have already expressed an interest in U.S. faculty exchange programs.

At Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., many Russian and Soviet scholars are already teaching seminars and working in programs for a private, non-partisan organization called the Geonomics Institute that emerged in 1987 as one of the leaders in the exchange of economic, political and academic ideas between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Still, generally speaking, gaining access to information in the Soviet Union will be a slow process.

"I started working on my thesis in 1988 and I spent six months in Kiev after the (communism) thaw had just hit," Gudziak said. "It still took me a month to get a library card and then four months to get into the archives."

Suny found similar problems.

 

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SA APPROVES STUDENT REGENT, FY92 BUDGET

MCKILLOP TO INVADE REGENTS' MEETING

BY ANTON P. MONTANO

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Students' Association members voted to fill the non-voting student regent position and unanimously passed the SA's operating budget for fiscal year 1992 in their meeting Monday.

The Daily Cougar staff columnist Mark McKillop, 37, will fill the vacancy in the student regent position made in the spring of 1991 when elected student regent Veena Sardana left UH.

"For the first time, I really feel like I'm getting involved with the infrastructure of the university," McKillop said.

"I just hope the regents will be able to separate the persona of Mark McKillop from the student," he said.

SA members said they were confident in McKillop's abilities to handle the student regent responsibilities.

"He cuts to the meat," said SA Speaker Lee Grooms. "As student regent, he's not going to have a lot of time to bend the regents' ears, and he knows how to get to the point without being too blunt."

Grooms said McKillop would increase representation of older, non-traditional students at UH.

"He's a commuter, an older student and he's married," Grooms said. "This is the type of student representation that's sorely lacking."

SA senators also approved the allocation of $104,451 of student service fees for SA's fiscal 1992 budget.

The amount is $14,000 less than the FY91 budget because last year the group bought three computers, software and a laser printer for its offices, SA Finance Director Cipriano Romero said.

However, almost $7,000 was added to this year's fiscal budget with the March 1990 removal of compensated positions, including assistant to the directors and executive assistant, Romero said.

One program benefitting from the windfall in the 1992 budget is the newly created Staff Development Fund, Romero said. The budget allocates $2,000 for the fund.

"This is to fund any activity enhancing the student leadership quality in the SA," Romero said. "For example, this would pay to send delegates to national conferences of student leaders."

 

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BRANDING RITES INVOLVE SECRECY

BLACK FRATERNITIES SAY BRANDS SIGNIFY HERITAGE

BY MICHAEL D. OESER

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity says its 80-year-old ritual of branding is done to pay homage to their enslaved forefathers, who were branded as a sign of property.

"It's an outward sign of the internal commitment to the eternal rememberance of their struggle," said Charles Hollis, Omega brother and spokesman, who has an omega symbol branded on each arm.

Hollis, who is a junior majoring in psychology, was quick to point out the branding tradition has never been an official fraternity policy and is not a requirement for membership, although only active members can be branded.

"You wouldn't be able to wear a badge before you were a police officer, would you? Upon membership you earn the full rights and privileges of membership," he said.

While the Omegas are probably the most visible of the branding fraternities on campus, not all members are branded, Hollis said.

Not all the UH chapters of black fraternities that practice the branding tradition nationwide do so here. Other fraternities that brand include Kappa Alpha Psi and Phi Beta Sigma.

However, the Omegas were the first fraternity ever to brand and have done so since the fraternity's inception in 1911, Omega Minister of Information Leon Wiggins said.

Wiggins, a junior majoring in English, said he was the only brother in his line to not get branded because his modeling career wouldn't allow for it. Black greeks now call their prospective member groups "lines" because they abolished the pledging system as of this semester. Wiggins said black greeks in general had received too much criticism for their past pledging practices.

"We were criticized for `practices' that weren't even any of our official practices," he said.

Hollis said there are other reasons the Omegas brand, but that it is all based in ritual and tradition.

"A lot of things in these fraternities and secret groups is shrouded in secrecy and I would be doing my fraternity a disservice by telling you about certain things. It's all very ritualistic.

"We don't brand for a fad. I would hate to prostitute the sanctity of the act like that. It's not a fad to us. You really can't be on the outside and understand what we do," he said.

Hollis said while he did enjoy some of the attention his brands attract, that is not the reason he got them.

Hollis said he didn't know how the actual brand was made -- freehand or with an actual branding instrument -- and he declined comment on whether any anesthetic was used during the branding.

Hollis is the only Omega brother to have a brand on each arm. Each of the brands represents the letter omega, but with slightly different shapes. He said each part of the different shapes has a meaning, but that it was a fraternity secret.

Pi Kappa Alpha President Jeff Shulse, a senior majoring in accounting, said he didn't see anything wrong with the black greek tradition.

"I wouldn't do it, but it's all right with me. I have a tattoo, and I guess it's the same thing. It's just that that's their tradition and tattooing is ours."

 

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PROF WINS DEBATED RESEARCH CASE

COUGAR NEWS SERVICE

A controversial City College professor who studies race differences and has said blacks are "significantly less intelligent than whites" has won a legal battle against his school.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Conboy ruled recently that City College, part of the City University of New York system, violated Michael Levin's constitutional rights and the case pointed out the dangers of the "political correctness" movement.

Levin sued college officials last year, saying his due process and free speech rights were violated when City College formed a panel to review his research. He claimed the examination limited him professionally and threatened his tenure.

In his ruling, Conboy wrote: "This case raises serious constitutional questions that go to the heart of the current national debate on what has come to be denominated as `political correctness' in speech and thought on the campuses of the nation's colleges and universities."

Levin's response: "I'd like to concentrate on the whole issue of race differences. My court case shows that the roof won't come crumbling down on (others who do similar research)."

The judge's ruling said City College cannot conduct any further inquiries into Levin's writings or views, and it cannot establish separate class sections solely because of Levin's opinions.

Levin, a philosophy professor, is on a one-year sabatical and said he plans to finish writing a book about the implications of racial differences.

In the meantime, City College and City University officials are investigating a case similar to Levin's involving remarks made by Leonard Jeffries, chairman of the school's Black Studies Department.

"Obviously, this (case) is going to help him," Levin said.

Jeffries told hundreds of people at a black arts festival this summer that Jews in Hollywood worked with the Mafia to hold blacks down in society. The remarks prompted an outpouring of concern from political leaders.

 

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NEW OUTLET PROVIDES EASY ACCESS TO INFO

BY TERI FOSSUM

NEWS REPORTER

Quick, convenient service is what the Student Information and Assistance Center plans to offer seven days a week at its new University Center location.

The center, previously located in the UC-Underground, moved to its new home outside the UH Bookstore Sept. 10 to offer students and visitors a place where they can have all their questions answered.

If the center's staff can't answer a student's question, they will find out who can and refer them directly to that person, said Melinda Koonce, student manager at the center.

Students can pick up all kinds of information in the form of brochures, flyers and maps. The center provides Metro bus schedules and information on departmental activities, special events and student organizations.

The "Gold Card," which entitles students to discounts at various area businesses, also is available at the center free of charge.

Financial aid forms, transcript requests, change of address forms and GRE and GMAT applications also are available. Forms the center doesn't have can be requested and picked up the following day.

"A number of things we carry so students won't have to go from one department to another, just to save them some time, and at the same time also to cater to our evening students," said Kamran Riaz, assistant dean of students.

Riaz said one future goal of the office is to become a point where students can drop off forms as well as pick them up.

"Our purpose is to make doing business on campus as easy as possible," he said.

Beginning in October, students will be able to redeem their football coupons during the week of the game between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the convenient location instead of making the trek to the athletic office.

"The biggest thing the center is being used for so far is Metro information, since we moved upstairs," Riaz said.

"I just needed directions and they gave me a map and highlighted the way for me," said Brian Reddick, a visitor to UH.

The center is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

 

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COUGAR PLACE RESIDENTS UPSET OVER FUTURE PHONE CHANGES

DIGITAL SYSTEM NOT HARMONIOUS WITH EQUIPMENT

BY MELISSA NEELEY

NEWS REPORTER

Residents at Cougar Place say they are worried about whether their present communication and handicapped equipment is compatible with the new digital system being introduced on campus.

Three weeks ago installation of the new phone system began in Cougar Place, and students do not know if their present telephones and answering machines will work with the new system.

George Walls, a handicapped resident of Cougar Place, said his equipment cannot operate on the new digital system.

Walls, who is paralyzed from the neck down, said all the equipment in his room, including the telephone and the television, are operated by a "synthe-puff," an analog machine which translates the puffs of air he breathes into it into commands for his equipment. The new digital system will not interface with his equipment, and he would be unable to dial out of his room without somebody's assistance.

Walls said he had initially tried to speak to several people involved with the telephone project, but he was repeatedly referred to individuals who did not respond to his questions.

Gary McCormack, UH director of telecommunications, said he and others involved in establishing the new telephone system would meet sometime in the next couple of weeks with campus residents to answer any questions they might have about the digital system.

McCormack, however, said he would try to work out a solution with students in special situations.

"If there are any exceptional cases, we will make amends for them. It is even more important that we work with those who need extra assistance," he said.

Walls said he hopes his insurance will cover the cost of making his equipment compatible or he will be "up a creek without a paddle" because he will have to depend on attendants almost exclusively.

Other residents are worried their present telephones and answering machines won't be compatible with the new system.

Don Gulis, a resident at Cougar Place, said, "It's too late to do something about it. What happens to people like me who already have an answering machine and telephone?"

During the spring semester, a survey was given to all Cougar Place residents asking them their opinions of a new telephone and cable system. However, the results were never posted and no mention of any new telephone or cable system was brought up, Gulius said.

He said he was interested in seeing the survey results to learn the opinions of other students.

 

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REPUBLICAN RUNNING FOR SPOT TO REPRESENT UH IN CONGRESS

BY MICHAEL D. OESER

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

A Republican joined the race for the proposed 29th Texas Congressional district seat despite the fact that the new redistricting for the seat has not been finalized.

Speaking from Eugene Field Elementary School, Clark Kent Ervin declared his candidacy for the district seat, which, if approved, would encompass part of the UH campus.

Ervin joins Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat and the only other contender for the spot.

The redistricting plans were redrawn this summer to reflect the population changes in 1990 Census. The plans have been given to the federal courts to review for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. However, the act states that before the new plans can take effect they must still be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department to ensure they do not dilute the voting power of minorities.

It has been suggested the three-judge Justice Department panel reviewing the plan should give it interim approval so the elections can take place as scheduled.

"Everyone so far has been proceeding as if this is the way it is going to be," Ervin said.

Ervin is an honors graduate of The Kinkaid School and Harvard Law School, and is a Rhodes Scholar.

For the past three years he has assisted in President George Bush's "1000 Points of Light" initiative as an associate director in the Office of National Service.

Ervin cited three issues he thought were crucial to the district: crime and police enforcement, education and what he called "pocketbook concerns."

"It used to be that crime was confined to the inner city. Now, from the barrio, to the ghetto, to the most elegant suburbs, no one is safe," he said.

He entoned the familiar song of putting more officers on the street, but he also said he would fight to raise the state prison capacity beyond 95 percent and limit appeals of convictions to one.

Ervin would also support mandatory life sentences without parole upon a third conviction of any combination of drug felonies and violent crime.

He would also do away with the "Houstonian" type prisons with TV sets and weight rooms. He said he would put prisoners to work rebuilding the city's poorer areas and convert abandoned army bases into more prisons.

Ervin also supports expansion of the death penalty to drug kingpins who commit murder.

The second issue he gave attention to was education. Ervin said he supports the voucher system proposed by Bush.

"The answer is as simple as freshman economics. In education you've got a captive demand side and a supply side artificially limited by union contracts and teacher credential requirements," he said.

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STUDENTS GIVE `D' TO FINANCE OFFICE, UNOFFICIAL SURVEY SAYS

SOME COMPLAIN OF LONG WAITS, LOST PAPERWORK

BY DAVE DAVIS

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

An informal, albeit small, survey taken of students waiting outside the UH Scholarship and Financial Aid Office indicated the students were disgruntled with university bureaucracy and red tape.

Of the 10 people surveyed, eight gave the office a grade of D or below on a scale of A to F. Reasons given for the low marks were: long waiting periods before being serviced, lost paperwork, poor communication skills, preferential treatment given to friends of the staff and the inability to make phone contact with the office.

Several students polled claimed they have visited the office more than three times this year, each time in an attempt to address the same problem. Sharon Zimmerman, a management and information systems major, said she was particularly dissatisfied with the office's turnaround time.

"I've had to come to this office four times already over problems with lost forms, and each time I've had to wait almost two hours," Zimmerman said.

She also complained about the office's "sign the book" policy in dealing with people who have simple questions that can be addressed in a matter of minutes. Zimmerman said she didn't think it was fair to make someone wait two hours to find out whether or not he or she needed to make an appointment to see someone in financial aid.

"They need to create a help desk or an information desk to help students who only need to have general questions answered," Zimmerman said.

The Office of Financial Aid refused to respond to the survey's findings, citing that staff was not allowed to comment on the matter.

Robert Sheridan, Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid was also unavailable for comment.

Not all of the responses to the survey were negative in regards to the office's performance. Kimberly Todd, an elementary education major, said the office does an adequate job, considering its staff size and workload.

"I just think they're understaffed and that they try to do the best they can," Todd said. "I don't think its really the staff's fault."

Todd also said the personnel in the office is usually courteous and helpful, yet could improve in the area of communication.

Poor communication skills was also an often-mentioned complaint of others surveyed. Students said the financial aid staff, in many instances, will wait until the student makes a second unscheduled visit to the office to disseminate information that should have been given on the first visit.

Students also complained that the wording on many of the financial aid forms isn't clear enough. For example, one question on the Student Data Sheet asks whether or not you are a veteran of the armed services.

One student answered no because technically he was still enlisted in a branch of the armed forces. His answer caused problems in the processing of his forms that still have not been resolved.

Most students said they prefer to make contact with the office in person rather than by telephone.

Students say the information the office gives over the phone is often wrong. Dee Byrd, a drama major, said the office once kept her on hold for 45 minutes.

"I got dressed, did my hair and everything. Eventually, I just hung up because I had to go to work," Byrd said.

 

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