Will Unions Save College ‘Student Athletes’ from Poverty?
The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament came to its frantic conclusion on Monday night, with hundreds of millions of dollars in bets, ticket sales, and ad revenue changing hands across the country as young men hurled themselves at each other in desperation on national television. In the end, UConn point guard Shabaaz Napier was basking in the glow of victory, smiling for the cameras with his teammates, which made it easy to forget that he recently expounded on the seedy underbelly of college sports in America.
"I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving," he told reporters in late March when asked about the Northwestern University football team’s ongoing effort to unionize.
In case you haven’t noticed, big-time college athletics is a pretty sordid business that rests on the exploitation of the labor of young men and women, many of them from poor backgrounds, under the auspices of the dubious “student-athlete” construct. Supposedly these kids are on campus to learn first and play second, ridiculous one-paragraph essays notwithstanding. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, the universities, coaches, and NCAA brass rake in huge profits each year—college sports is now a multibillion-dollar industry—while the kids who don’t make the pros (or suffer heinous injuries before they have the opportunity) are largely left high and dry.
Fed up with the status quo, the Northwestern Wildcats—a mediocre but widely identifiable Division I football program—filed with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to form a union and earn legal recognition as employees earlier this year, and, in what is being hailed as a potentially landmark ruling, they won. Now the students are set to vote on April 25 on unionization, and there is at least some chance they will embrace the opportunity, assuming the university overlords don’t scare them away from the idea. With employee status and union bargaining power could come protection for those with athletic scholarships from suddenly being cut off from receiving an education if they became injured or didn’t perform as expected—and maybe, further down the line, they could receive a real share of the cash generated by the massive advertising revenue their athletic endeavors make possible.
The American Bro: A Portrait of the Worst Guy Ever
It is almost 9 AM on St. Patrick’s Day and he is on the Metro North train to Manhattan from some grassy, forgettable Westchester suburb. When he boarded the train he was carrying a case of light beer, but now it is on the floor, obstructing the aisle, in everyone’s way—his entire existence is in everyone’s way. He is wearing a North Face fleece and sunglasses made of neon orange plastic. He is pulsing like the mercury on a cartoon thermometer; he is ready to explode through the glass. It seems impossible for a human being to care this much about celebrating something so tiny, so contrived, to care about recreation, but that is why he is alive. He will come, he will see, he will conquer. He will vomit out the window of a taxi. He is the American Bro.
Flagrant offenses, irritating people, making noise, commanding an audience—this is what fuels him; this is his required voltage. He is on the phone with someone named Ryan or Tyler or Kyle; he is saying “cunt” or “nigger” or “slut” out loud then half-apologizing to no one in particular. I GOT NO FILTER, BRO. He tilts his head and neck back, cackling at the ceiling, electrified by the degree to which he does not give a fuck, by this ability to appall other people, to make your mouth hang wide open like you were witnessing a wildfire. He is not saying words now but just grunting and ejecting YOOOO and DUDE in varying cadences, asking Ryan or Tyler or Kyle when they are getting there, what they brought, if they are pumped. He is pushing it to the limit, going hard, pouring Jäger into a plastic cup, making the conductor wait. All he can hear is his brain-engine humming, the bolts coming loose, people chanting his name. He is a renegade, he is looking women in the eyes for a period of time that blew past BOLD and is entering restraining order, but maybe this turns her on, he thinks, maybe he is dangerous, maybe he is going to walk over to her right now. He is alive to a degree that you will never be capable of, and he is scaring everyone in the universe back into their homes.
Hey, Students! Here’s How to Make Sure Your Life Isn’t Shit in 2014
This year, around 2.5 million people will live the student life. You poor, fuckers. For many of last September’s freshmen, there will be as much as $30,000 worth of debt to look forward to the moment they collect their diplomas and get that precious first glimpse down the barrel of graduate despair.
Those who have been students for a year or two now will be starting to realize that, beneath the tranquillizing veil of $3 pitchers and student discounts, their prospects are actually pretty horrible. While tuition increases at public and private school has been slowing down recently, reports show that net costs—what you and your parents pay after scholarships and grants—are at an all-time high.
So, these days you can add academic profiteering to all the usual troubles: deadlines, mono, freshmen 15, finding yourself, losing yourself, and Tinder dates over $5 stone-baked bar pizzas. Then there’s the legal-high Russian roulette the government is aiding by instantly banning any new substance to emerge from Hangzhou’s chemical factories.
Here are some ideas that will help you sidestep those problems and improve your student life in 2014.
A School in Ontario Staged a Fake Massacre for a Police Training Exercise
Journalism students at Sheridan College, near Toronto, were ordered to take down video and photos (which you can see in the gallery above) of a mock school shooting that have ruffled some feathers with the school’s faculty and administration.
On November 25, the college hosted a training exercise for the Halton Regional Police Department. Students from the school’s musical theatre program acted as if they had been shot dead, complete with fake wounds and blood.
The scenario took place with two shooters played by plainclothes cops. About 100 students and staff participated in the event, with 15 playing dead and a further 10 playing wounded.
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The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media: Interns
Editor’s note: For years, VICE has used part-time unpaid interns—a practice that we recently halted. Our current policy is to pay interns $10 an hour and limit them to 20 hours a week during the school year and 25 hours a week during the summer.
I was 21 years old when I took out my earring, combed my hair, and tried concealing my distaste for power and Washington, DC, in order to ask questions at press conferences. It was the summer of 2006, and I had just left college to go work for a small, do-gooding nonprofit that covered Capitol Hill for public radio.
I went through the whole experience of being a journalist in the nation’s capital: attending deadly boring policy luncheons, interviewing near-dead lawmakers and dead-inside lobbyists, and dying a little inside myself every time I saw my work “edited”—turned into shameful garbage—before going on air.
Like any other reporter, I pitched stories at morning meetings and then did the legwork to put them together, in the process learning the job. While my gut impulse at first was to righteously confront the powerful with strident questions highlighting their logical inconsistencies and factual errors, I soon found it was often smarter to affect an earnest demeanor just a hair shy of sarcastic. You need to let the person being interviewed explain why he is terrible, which is more easily done when he thinks you are stupid or on his side.
Is ‘Vodka Sam’ a Role Model for American Women?
On August 31st, during a University of Iowa–Northern Illinois football game, 22-year-old Samantha Goudie was arrested at Kinnick Stadium for public intox. At the police station, it was recorded that she blew a .341 BAC, a level so high that it’s the equivalent of being in a medically induced coma. Experts (and concerned citizens) concurred that she was lucky just to be alive. Elsewhere, inspired in part by Goudie’s hilarious livetweeting of her arrest, her behavior was all but celebrated—after all, here was a chick who out drank all the frat boys at the big game.
A confession: I attended a major football college, and Goudie’s “epic” party behavior isn’t all that surprising, even if her BAC is. Another confession: When Goudie’s story surfaced, I was sort of proud of her. I mean, certainly proud enough to comment on a friend’s post that she was “a role model for American women everywhere.” In hindsight, I may have been drunk when I wrote that (just kidding—I don’t drink anymore.)
The sad thing is, it’s kind of obvious, especially to those of us who have survived football school, that Goudie is basically a bourgeoning alcoholic. Sure, her tweets were nothing short of Apatow-movie glory—“Girl waiting for court with me goes ‘I wish I knew the girl who blew a .341’ I said hi” [sic]—but then her Vine clips surfaced on a college-party–themed website called Barstool U and they reveal a beautiful, elaborately eyelashed young woman pounding shots, hanging out on her futon alone with her dog and cradling a handle of Hawkeye vodka, and, in one clip, looking kind of frozen in terror. At least for me, all of my creepy, latent hero-worship for “Vodka Sam” was sucked out in an instant, eclipsed by the dense shadow that inevitably falls late at night over a day of drinking that began at 2:30 kickoff. I remember it all too well.
White Student Union
We recently went to Towson University to speak with Matthew Heimbach, the founder of a group that advocates for “persons of European heritage.” We also met the students who want him off campus… or at least muzzled. ‘White Student Union’ is a documentary about race, class, and self-righteous college students yelling at each other.
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Here Comes the White Safety Patrol
Matthew Heimbach insists he’s not a racist. This comes as a surprise to his fellow students at Towson University, in the suburbs of Baltimore, where Matthew has formed a group called the White Student Union that advocates for “persons of European heritage”—what most of us call “white people.” It also comes as a surprise to the African American students who feel targeted by the night patrols the senior history major began conducting in March. The patrols target supposed “black predators,” Matthew wrote on the WSU’s website, citing (among others) a case in which an African American man pulled out a knife and his penis, and wagged both at a co-ed couple who were copulating in a parking garage. “White Southern men,” he wrote, “have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people.”
Also surprised by Matthew’s claim that he’s not a racist is Duane Davis. “You are a fat, racist little bitch,” the scrappy, dreadlocked man told Matthew one sunny Tuesday this April. There was a rally going on, organized by the Student Government Association and the Black Student Union. In a field behind Duane and Matthew, about 100 students protested the White Student Union by reading unity-themed slam poetry from a microphone. When Matthew showed up on the edge of the crowd, a dozen protesters had come to confront him. Down the façade of a parking garage, a banner unfurled reading, wsu gtfo (translation: White Student Union Get the Fuck Out).
“There’s no need to insult me,” Matthew told Duane, who looked one wrong reply away from punching the 21-year-old.
“I’ve killed people,” Duane said. “In self-defense… But I’ve killed people.”
Matthew has the look of someone who’s been bullied his whole life: he puffs out his chest to hide an abundant belly, wears unfashionable drugstore spectacles, and on this day sported what vaguely resembled a Morrissey T-shirt.
“Who is that on your shirt?” Duane said, jabbing Matthew in the chest. The onlookers leaned in to hear the answer.
“Ian Smith,” Matthew said, before rattling off the biography of the former prime minister of Rhodesia, a white supremacist who resisted efforts to end white rule there in the 60s. “He’s one of my heroes.”
A svelte woman in a dashiki interrupted. “If you were dying and needed a heart transplant,” she asked, “would you accept one from a black person?”