Midday Scan: upsetting more than 1 percent of commuters; UW provost pick; foreign students

Occupy Seattle's blocking of traffic at rush hour has some history hereabouts. New UW President makes a good call on personnel. Nicole Brodeur stands up for UW's foreign students.

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University of Washington President Michael Young

Occupy Seattle's blocking of traffic at rush hour has some history hereabouts. New UW President makes a good call on personnel. Nicole Brodeur stands up for UW's foreign students.

This is not your Daddy's (or your grampa's or your gramma's) seize-the-highway uprising. As the Seattle Times' Mike Lindblom writes, Thursday's rally and rush-hour occupation of Seattle's University Bridge centered on the quotidian issue of infrastructure funding. "Labor groups across the country chose old bridges for their National Day of Action protests to support proposals in Congress that would boost infrastructure spending," Lindblom writes. "In Portland, police arrested some demonstrators on the Steel Bridge downtown, and in New York City — after a demonstration that resulted in a number of arrests — a crowd of several thousand people, led by banner-carrying members of the Service Employees International Union, jammed Manhattan's Foley Square and then marched peacefully across the Brooklyn Bridge on a pedestrian promenade."

Infrastructure is not as viscerally potent as grampa's Vietnam War, although, in accord with the Occupy movement, Thurday's protest was undergirded by broader questions of social and economic injustice. Still, bridge maintenance as a galvanizing cause? Lindblom observes, "In Seattle the federal government is, in fact, putting money into infrastructure, spending $813 million near Thursday's protest site on a $1.9 billion Sound Transit light-rail tunnel from the UW to Capitol Hill and Westlake Center." On May 5, 1970, not far from the University Bridge, 1,000 students paraded onto the southbound lanes of I-5 to protest the Kent State shootings and the invasion of Cambodia. As the late Walt Crowley wrote, "More than 10,000 protesters tried to duplicate the 'Freeway March' on the following day, but were repulsed by State Troopers and police with tear gas and clubs. On May 8, Mayor Wes Uhlman (b. 1935) closed the I-5 Express Lanes for a sanctioned protest march from downtown Seattle to the University District by some 15,000 demonstrators." Enraged and nettled commuters is the one commonality. Otherwise, to bastardize Heraclitus, you can't step on the same pavement twice.

Judgment is an amorphous leadership quality that can't be gauged in advance (beware the resume that claims "judgment" as a candidate attribute). With rookie honchos, as with teenagers, most hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The University of Washington's new president, Michael Young, still largely untested, revealed his administrative judgment yesterday, and it looks to be a home run. As the Seattlepi.com's Amy Rolph writes, "University of Washington President Michael Young has a candidate in mind for provost at the university — he wants to promote Ana Mari Cauce, currently dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. If the appointment is approved by UW officials, Cauce would replace Phyllis Wise, who left the UW this year to be chancellor of the University of Illinois." Dean Cauce, popular with both students and colleagues, is an adroit navigator of the UW's bureaucratic leviathan (no easy task, that) a powerful voice for higher-education funding, and a tenacious crisis manager, having had to shoulder the legislature's draconian budget cuts. Bureaucratic finesse and political savvy are often mutually exclusive, but not with Cauce. A 2008 UW Arts and Sciences profile quotes the future provost, "I love wrestling with problems, looking at them from different angles. And I like working with people. It’s about creating opportunities and nurturing talent. You have to enjoy watching growth in others, with the understanding that their success is your success." Bravo, UW.

Psychologists call it "an action-forcing mechanism." Politicians call it the "stick" in "carrots and sticks." Whatever the wording, someone needs to (insert your action-forcing-stick catchphrase here) on Sen. Patty Murray's supercommittee as the Nov. 23 deadline looms nearer. As Politico's Jake Sherman and Seung Min Kim write, "With less than a week until the deadline, both parties appear ready to rally around their competing proposals — setting up a partisan showdown in the days before Thanksgiving." Failure, it seems, is an option. "The panel has a statutory deadline of Nov. 23 to cut at least $1.2 trillion from federal spending. The real deadline, though, is Monday, when the Congressional Budget Office needs to put a price tag on any offer. Earlier Thursday, South Carolina Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn said the supercommittee has a '50-50' chance of striking a deficit deal, marking the clearest sign yet of skepticism from one of the deficit panel’s members during the home stretch of negotiations," they write.

Given the high stakes, one action-forcing mechanism could have been an up-front pledge by every member to resign in the event of failure. Resignation in the face of defeat is a Japanese political virtue that has never quite caught on in the United States, however. All the while, committee members have been free to raise campaign money while noodling which agencies to slash and what revenues to weigh. As Bob Dole said more than a decade ago, "Where's the outrage?"  

Diversity animates a university, just as foreign students occasionally kindle resistance and xenophobia. The Seattle Times' Nicole Brodeur writes wisely this morning that the fear and push back at the UW's increased foreign enrollment is misguided. "It's not all bad, is it? International students bring their own experiences, their own culture and perspective to Seattle," Brodeur writes. "Opening our classrooms expands our horizons. International students contributed $463 million to the state's economy in 2010, according to a new national report. And there's no denying the flattery that comes when students from countries that seem to have the upper hand in so many other areas (math, science) want to be part of us." In a global city at a global university the old parochial tropes shouldn't apply (just don't tell that to the irate parents whose 4.0 child can't get admitted to the UW).   

Lastly, the best weekend read is Seattle Weekly's Rick Anderson profile of Peggy Sue Thomas, the former beauty queen and accused murderer. The intersection of looks, crime, and Island culture knit together in a compelling narrative. Good stuff.   

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "University Bridge seized in rush-hour rally for jobs"

Seattlepi.com, "UW president knows who he wants for provost"

Politico, "Supercommittee talks on brink of collapse"

Seattle Times, "Foreign students help us"

Seattle Weekly, "Peggy Sue Thomas: Drop-dead gorgeous"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson