Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: University of Washington

May
24th

Tacoma’s Technical Institute comes of age

Few people – even at the University of Washington Tacoma – recall how intensely involved The News Tribune was in the creation of the campus.

In the 1980s, this opinion page ceaselessly hounded lawmakers to create the UWT. A former publisher, the late Kelso Gillenwater, helped plan the state system of branch campuses as a member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.

We got into fray again when Prof. Ed Lazowska, a computer science leader at the UW in Seattle, started talking about building an applied-science technical institute in Tacoma. Two redoubtable civic leaders, Herb Simon and Bill Philip, led the lobbying and fund-raising efforts that made the Institute of Technology a reality in 2001. I like to think that our barrage of commentary in favor of the plan did some good, too.

The infant of 2001 is now a 12-year-old, and how he has grown.
Read more »

April
21st

The wrongfully convicted deserve compensation

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

In 1993, Alan Northrop was found guilty in Clark County of rape, burglary and kidnapping and spent 17 years in prison for the crimes. There was a problem with that conviction, though: Northrop was innocent.

Thanks to efforts by the Innocence Project Northwest at the University of Washington’s Law School, DNA tests of evidence finally cleared Northrop, and he was released in 2010. Besides being wrongfully imprisoned, he missed seeing his three young children grow up. Today he owes more than $100,000 in back child support and says he lives paycheck to paycheck.

Under current state law, he has little chance of receiving compensation for his wrongful conviction. He would have to sue on such grounds as police or prosecutorial misconduct, which could be hard to prove in this case: The victim picked him out of a lineup. Read more »

Sep.
22nd

Low-tech education means outsourced opportunity

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Washington has a high-tech economy, low-tech students, and way too many graduates frozen out of high-paying jobs that require skills they never learned.

So says a new report from Change the Equation, a presidential initiative aimed at stepping up STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – education in the United States.

Change the Equation, a two-year-old nonprofit led by CEOs, assessed each state’s performance in producing engineers, blue-collar factory technicians, nurses, computer specialists and other professionals in tech-intensive fields.

This kind of survey almost always yields dismal findings, but let’s first hit a couple items of good news.

Since 2003, Washington’s eighth-graders have made some gains in math – modest, but it’s progress. The state has also opted to use the national Common Core standards in math, which promises to provide solid measurements of its students’ performance.

Otherwise, Change the Equation pretty much reaffirms something observers have been saying for years: Washington is not preparing most of its graduates for the 21st-century economy.

A couple of ratios sum it up. In this state, according to the report, there are 2.1 STEM jobs for every one unemployed STEM worker – but only one non-STEM job for every 3.7 unemployed non-STEM worker. Twice as many tech openings as tech-savvy job-seekers; nearly four times as many nontech job-seekers as nontech openings.

This might be excusable if the state of Washington were doing its part to give its youth the intellectual skills they need for the expanding technology sector.

It is not. The state’s voters and lawmakers are too comfortable with a status quo that forces employers to hire talent from out of state while relegating native Washingtonians to low-wage jobs or the unemployment lines.
Read more »

Aug.
28th

Armstrong embodied the human hunger to understand

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

You don’t succeed as an engineer or survive as a test pilot without being an intensely practical person. Yet the practical Neil Armstrong will forever be remembered for leading one of humanity’s most impractical adventures.

America had no pragmatic reason to go the moon in the 1960s. While the Apollo program spun off many inventions, the moon voyages were not about developing freeze-dried food or cordless tools. They were mainly about sending human beings up to the nearest heavenly body to have a look around.

Curiosity, pure and simple. It seems appropriate that when Armstrong died Saturday, the Martian rover Curiosity – NASA’s latest impractical adventure – had just begun exploring the bleak landscape of Mars.

In 1969, when Armstrong stepped out of the lunar lander, robots weren’t supposed to be the stars of the U.S. space program. Decades of science fiction had conditioned the world to expect humans to play the lead role in exploring Mars and deep space.

But after six trips to the moon, the United States lost interest and didn’t go back. That was 40 years ago; since then, our astronauts have been tooling around in near-Earth orbit.
Read more »

July
25th

Emmert takes unprecedented steps for unprecedented sins

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Penn State has avoided the dreaded NCAA “death penalty” – a ban on competition – for its cover-up of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. But the punishment announced Monday by NCAA President Mark Emmert nevertheless sends a strong message to college sports officials. Let’s just hope they hear it.

The message: That even highly profitable, revered sports programs will be held accountable for transgressions that once might have been considered outside the purview of NCAA action.

The tough penalties against Penn State include a $60 million fine, loss of bowl revenue, reduction in scholarships, a four-year postseason ban and vacated wins from 1998 to 2011. Current athletes may transfer to other schools without consequences.
Read more »

May
12th

Behind high tuitions, there’s $2.4 billion in financial aid

There’s bad news for would-be college students, then good news, then more bad news. Stick with us.

The bad – for most Washington students – is the new round of steep tuition increases headed their way. Earlier this month, Washington State University approved its second consecutive 16 percent increase, which will raise the price of next year’s schooling by $1,500.

The University of Washington also looks headed for a 16 percent increase; the UW and WSU will each cost something north of $11,000 in 2012-2013. Tuition will be lower at other public universities and lower still at community and technical

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Feb.
4th

Lawmakers: Stop the bleeding of college opportunity

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Higher education must bear its share of the pain as the Legislature squeezes another billion-plus dollars out of the current state budget. It should not bear more than its share.

It’s a longstanding legislative tradition to use the state’s higher education system – universities, community and technical colleges – as a rainy day fund when the economy turns bad and cash reserves run out. College opportunity isn’t protected by the Washington Constitution, though it should be, and it’s often the path of least resistance for lawmakers trying to protect their political darlings from budget cuts.

Over the last three years, the Legislature has already whacked its support for post-secondary education by a stunning one-third or more, depending on the school.

For the University of Washington, funding is down a staggering 50 percent. The state’s community and technical colleges are expecting to serve 10,000 fewer students this year.

At a town hall meeting in Seattle this week, Bruce Shepard – president of Western Washington University – reported that a brain drain has begun, with schools from other states cherry-picking from among this state’s top faculty members.

“No other state has found it necessary to slash higher education to the extent that the state of Washington has,” he said.
Read more »

Feb.
22nd

State colleges can’t afford bargain tuition

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Make no mistake: No matter what the Legislature does this year regarding funding for Washington’s public universities, students will pay a price.

State coffers simply don’t have the money to hold higher education harmless. Lawmakers must decide between sacrificing bargain tuition or educational quality.

The right choice is clear. True college opportunity depends on strong colleges. Giving top schools more leeway to price themselves will help ensure that students continue to get the classes they need and the rigor they deserve.

Without that flexibility, universities are at the mercy of the state budget – and the outlook is alarming. Students once paid a third of the cost of their education; now they pay more than half. The current $2.8 billion shortfall is likely to further the trend of declining state support.

Read more »