But time for a post to fill the void. Last week I noticed a flyer on the wall near my office on the 5th floor of USF's own University Center posted by an SFSU graduate student named Danielle -- I think she just slipped in and taped them up -- asking 18-20 year old women who are currently enrolled in college if they have taken a virginity pledge. The flier offered a $20 amazon.com gift certificate for taking part in the study, which is apparently part of a master's thesis.
At the bottom of the flyer were those things for which there is no name. I mean, that little fringe of tabs that contain contact information that can be ripped off singly. You know what I mean. You print or write a "stack" of contact information across the bottom of a piece of paper, the baseline of each info bit perpendicular to the bottom of the piece of paper, and then cut between each info bit with scissors. I know you know what I mean. There needs to be a word for this.
I noticed on each flyer that some of these tabs had been ripped off. That suggested to me that some members of the USF community had experience with or knowledge of such pledges.
So I created the following class assignment:
The Virginity Pledge
Assignment for Wednesday, September 28. We will collect shared data that we will draw on for a story due Monday, October 2.
Name, age, place of residence, major, marital status for each interview subject.
Question 1: Have you ever taken a virginity pledge?
Question 2: Have you been asked?
Question 3: If asked, what did you respond? If you have not been asked, what would you respond if asked.
Question 4: Why?
Question 5: Ask at least one follow-up question of your own choosing. Try to include at least one exact quote.
Each reporting student is responsible for three interviews: two USF students, plus a USF professor, administrator or other staff member. Exactly what you ask your third source is optional. Use your own judgment.
The idea was that we would get more than 30 interviews, discuss those interviews in class, come up with ways of focusing possible stories based on those interviews, all the while understanding that we might well need to acquire additional information through research or interview to make it possible to create a newsworthy focus for our stories. In any case, each student must write a story. And the student interviewers were required to tell their sources that the story might be published. Nothing is as vacuous as an interview elicited by a student who says, "This is just for a class."
But here's the thing. I am catching some some criticism from some folk in the university community who were interviewed or who talked with those who were interviewed -- or who were contacted by those who were interviewed; FYI; you know -- who thought such questions were too personal. I concede I'm paraphrasing here, but some thought the assignment was kind of a cheap trick as well as an invasion of privacy, a violation of the sanctity of the workplace, the point of which was inviting students to engage in prurient speculation about the sex lives of others. Such "opinion dredging" was superficial and, even when placed in the context of recent studies about the efficacy of such pledges, likely to produce trash journalism.
I'm on a bit of a high horse here, a friend said, but this is a very silly and useless exercise, she said.
I'm writing so fast here, omitting and oversimplifying. Here we definitely have The Blogger as Captain Kirk: "I need Warp 7, Scotty, and I need it now." And Scotty gives him Warp 8!
But I am curious if any of my readers, particularly the faithful B. Lundigan, think this was, indeed, a stupid assignment?