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Stay connected to the AHSS community through divisional updates, spotlight stories and upcoming events in expressions, AHSS' monthly e-newsletter.

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This Month's Featured Stories  

Political Fact Lab

Students Make a Political Impact with Pilot Fact Lab Class
by Dresden Romero

fact labHave you ever watched a political ad and wondered about the accuracy of the facts? Students in the pilot Fact Lab class in the department of media, film and journalism studies (MFJS) sought and shared the answer to that question as they analyzed and graded Colorado midterm election ads.

Fact Lab was launched in fall 2014. The interdisciplinary course focused on critical fact-checking of political messaging for the 2014 midterm elections, and covered topics such as messaging, civic and political issues, logic, rhetoric and image analysis. It was taught by Chuck Plunkett, politics editor for The Denver Post.

“What makes an ad so dangerous and powerful is that it’s difficult to discern if it’s true or not. Political messaging is not to be overlooked, and it’s a hefty responsibility to take a complex subject and provide a thorough analysis,” said Plunkett.

Molly Homburger, junior political science major, gained an appreciation for the work that goes into compiling ads. “We looked at the ads with a different perspective—the research, claims, visual effects, colors, and wording,” she said.

The five Fact Lab students found it to be a unique learning opportunity, according to Joe Fries, senior journalism major and political science minor.

“I felt fortunate to be involved as a part of the team. We enhanced our public works, gained experience and got to know the process of political writing and fact-checking,” said Fries.

Plunkett adopted a newsroom-style approach to the classroom. Guest speakers included Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, DU political science Professor Seth Masket and other MFJS faculty. Students reported during The Denver Post debates, including the Colorado Senate Debate, Colorado Governor Debate and the Congressional District 6 Debate. 

As a part of Fact Lab, students developed critical thinking, research, and writing skills, and presented credible and useful fact checks of 2014 political ads. These analyses were posted on The Spot, The Denver Post’s daily political and governmental news blog, and made available to journalists and concerned citizens across Colorado. The retweets and comments proved that students were able to spread awareness, and influence political conversations among politicians and media. 

“As college students, you can get caught in the academic bubble. In Fact Lab, we took a real-world approach, tested our ideas and put our work out there,” said Vianes Rodriguez, junior political science major.

Anna Gauldin, senior journalism and history major, agreed and noted that the course required an increased level of accountability. “Our content was made available to a large audience, with the potential to impact political campaigns. What we’re doing really matters,” said Gauldin. 

Plunkett said the pilot class was a success, and he looks forward to the future of Fact Lab. “We’ve already had a remarkable run with several successful ad checks. This is an important endeavor.”

Click here to read more about Fact Lab, or view a video created by the students.

Photo (L to R): Chuck Plunkett, adjunct professor and politics editor, The Denver Post; Joe Fries, senior journalism major and political science minor; Vianes Rodriguez, junior political science major; Molly Homburger, junior political science major; and Anna Gauldin, senior journalism and history major. Not pictured: Mireya Saenz,senior journalism and communications major   

The Bells of DU

Fun Facts about the Williams Carillon
By Miles Canaday

carillonThe Williams Carillon, dedicated on October 24, 1999, contains 65 bronze bells, which qualifies it as a grand carillon. The largest of these bells weighs six tons. The total weight of the carillon is 64,900 pounds. The Williams Carillon was the 160th on North American soil and the second in Colorado. It was cast by the Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry at Asten, The Netherlands.

The carillon, located at the Ritchie Center, is played from a keyboard with wooden manual and pedal keys in a playing cabin located just below the bells. The playing action is entirely mechanical, allowing for musical expression through variation of touch. When school is in session, half-hour programs are performed Monday through Friday, 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

A landmark tower figured in the plans for the Ritchie Center from the beginning.  When Carl Williams was first shown plans for the facility, he wanted his contribution to the project to be the tower. In addition to its stunning architecture, the tower also houses the carillon to provide music for major University events and community concerts. 

Quick facts about the Williams Carillon:

  • The 215-foot tower contains 65 bells
  • The bells’ musical range spans 5.5 octaves
  • It is the 11th largest in North America by weight and 8th largest by number of bells.
  • The University seal on the bells was taken from a wax impression of a bronze WWI memorial plaque in the Mary Reed Building
  • The eight largest bells are inscribed:
    • 5,300 kg: The Chancellor’s Bell
    • 3,748 kg: The Bob Magness Family
    • 3,151 kg: Bill Daniels
    • 2,650 kg:  The Carl M. Williams Family
    • 2,229 kg: For the Faculty: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” - Henry Adams
    • 1,876 kg: For the Students: “Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun.”  - William Shakespeare
    • 1,579 kg: For the Alumni: “I expect I shall be a student to the end of my days.”- Anton Chekhov
    • 1,329kg: For The Staff: “We are, in one another, families.” - William Shakespeare