New UCF Today columnists will not keep their opinions to themselves in this new editorial series.
The UCF Today website now offers a new forum-style column series featuring nine columnists, all of different backgrounds and fields of expertise and all members of the UCF community. The columnists’ perspectives may differ, but they do have one thing in common: They all have something to say and want to share it with the UCF community.
The UCF Forum, which launched on June 20, is the brainchild of Gene Kruckemyer, the news editor at UCF News & Information.
“I started this series for three reasons: one was to boost the communication throughout the university community, two was to attract more readers to the website and three was to share the columns with other news media outlets,” Kruckemyer said.
Most of the nine columnists featured in the series are university professors, including Dr. Lisa Barkley, Dick Crepeau, David Houghton, Carla Poindexter, Roberto Hugh Potter, Denver Severt, Eileen Smith and Linda Walters. The ninth columnist is Alexandra Pittman, a junior majoring in creative writing and journalism. She is also the current online editor for the Central Florida Future.
These professors’ backgrounds range among hospitality, biology, political science, the fine arts, history and more. This amalgamation of columnists with different areas of expertise is important to one of the goals Kruckemyer hopes to achieve with this series, which is to increase communication among departments within the university.
“I wanted to get a good cross section of people throughout the university,” Kruckemyer said. “I had met some of them while working on other projects at the university. Others were just cold calls once I had heard or read about something they were participating in. I had a good turnout; before I reached my goal of nine, I only had three that turned me down.”
Every Wednesday a new column will be released, Kruckemyer said.
“They all committed for a year to be part of a rotating panel of columnists. There will be six columns per person,” Kruckemyer said.
The UCF Forum’s first installment was a column by Crepeau, a history professor at UCF. Crepeau’s focus is on 20th century U.S. history and the history of American sport. His column titled “An Olympic-Size Debate: Cost vs. Legacy” discusses the 2012 Olympic games beginning this July in London and how it may affect London’s economy either positively or negatively.
The second installment to the UCF Forum was written by Houghton, a political science professor who specializes in American foreign policy and political psychology. Titled “Political-Science Forecasts are Predictably Unpredictable,” Houghton’s column uses very specific events, such as the surprising outcome of the first presidential election in Egypt, to demonstrate his opinion. Within the realm of social sciences, predictions are not reliable since the social world is constantly shifting, Houghton said.
Sharing opinions and exercising our First Amendment right is very important in a university setting, Houghton said.
“There is not enough interchange of ideas across the university. We’ve all sort of sealed ourselves off within departments,” Houghton said. "One of my own objectives with this project is to speak to the other social sciences. Academic freedom is probably the third and most important reason.”
Walters, another of the nine participating columnists, is a biology professor and has been a member of the biology department faculty for more than a decade. She has yet to write an article for the series, but she seems to have a pretty good idea of what she wants to share, especially with the students.
“While the first essay in the series was about the cost of running the Olympics, I think my editorials will be more UCF-centric. I write my first one in August around the time that classes start, and I think it will be a request to students to make their years at UCF count,” Walters said.“We have the freedom to write about topics that interest us here, which is very appealing. If we choose, we can go beyond our traditional course/research subject matter so we should reach a more diverse audience and likely learn something new ourselves.”
Broadening horizons and exposing people to the new and perhaps different viewpoints of others is the main idea behind the new UCF Forum, Kruckemyer said.
“This whole thing is sort of an experiment in itself. I’m not aware of any other universities that have anything like this. … These are intended to be thoughtful or engaging opinion columns. Some people may agree with them and some they may not, but I just want them to make people think.”
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