Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mini University: Day 3

After a late night at Bear's Place (where I enjoyed Comedy Caravan but skipped the Hairy Bear) and a post-midnight order of Mad Mushroom cheese sticks, I might have been a bit sleepy when I strolled into my first class this morning, "Newspapers in a Paperless World." While it was engaging -- we watched a few journalism-related video clips and did a group activity -- the class wasn't what I had expected. As a freelance writer, I wanted to hear about the future of the newspaper industry; instead, we spent most of the session talking about the past.

To be fair, it wasn't really the presenter's fault. The primary population at Mini University is retirees, and almost all of them still hold subscriptions to their local papers. Many of them don't get their news online, and at least one class participant actively resents "online only" content. (She wanted to know whether such content is legal, since she pays for a subscription but doesn't receive 100 percent of the content that's produced.)

Obviously, this would have been a very different session had the primary audience been young professional freelancers with journalism degrees who are concerned about job security. While there were a few interesting historical nuggets, this session didn't really meet my needs, and I was disappointed.

My educational experience improved this afternoon. My first session was about jury selection in capital cases -- what criteria are used to select them, what biases and influences they have, etc. The presenter is working on the Capital Jury Project, which conducts surveys and in-depth interviews with former capital jurors, with many interesting results.

Fun fact of the day: In a capital case with a black defendant and a white victim, when there are no black men on the jury, the chance of the jury choosing the death penalty is 71.9 percent. But when just one black man is included on the jury, the likelihood of choosing the death penalty falls to 37.5 percent. So, about that whole racial bias thing ...

My last class of the day was a visit to the Kinsey Institute, where we heard an overview of current research projects and then toured the current gallery exhibition, a collection of erotica donated by a single collector. This class was more interesting than it was educational, but it's a good reminder of yet another world-class resource that calls IU home.

If I can crawl out of bed tomorrow after a few rounds of Sink the Biz, I will be starting the day with a class on the fall on Communism in Europe, then head to classes on the future of book publishing and the use of cognitive science in interpreting Shakespeare. One of the things I love about Mini University is that it engages so many different subjects and parts of my brain. We are having a wonderful nerd vacation!

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