The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

David Kahana

David Kahana has 4 articles published.

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David Kahana is the Opinion Editor for the Quindecim. He is a History major with an Arabic Studies minor. Besides working for the Q he is also the Secretary-General of Model UN, the Hillel programming co chair and he plays on the frisbee team. He has a lot of opinions and encourages those who have an enlightening idea to contact the Q.

Being Boxed In

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These past few years have seen such an unprecedented growth of anti-semitism across the world. To say that Pittsburg was the start is to ignore the hate that has been manifesting itself since the election of our current president. Anti-semitism has always been present in American culture. General (and later President) Grant, during the civil war, attempted to expel all Jews from Tennessee, but the order was revoked by Lincoln. The 20th century had explicit prohibition of Jews from moving to certain neighborhoods, strict quotas of Jews allowed in universities, bans on Jews joining gyms or clubs, and barring them from resorts. Jews were accused of both being global capitalists out to control the world’s banking, and global communists out to spread Marx’s revolution. However, the past few decades oversaw what many were hoping for as full integration of Jews in American life. Restrictions were eventually dismantled, and many Jews are actively involved in public life from entertainment to politics. However, I fear that now the nation is descending further into anti-semitism.

According to the Anti Defamation League, there has been a fifty seven percent rise in anti-semitism last year alone. A recently announced CNN poll found that twenty eight percent of Europeans say “Jews have too much influence over finance around the world.” The same poll found that one third of Europeans “never heard of the Holocaust or know just a little about it.” That trend looks to only increase with the recent incident at Columbia University, when a professor’s office was vandalized with Swastikas. It is painful to write that Goucher College is added to that unfortunate statistic with the truly evil, cowardly racist graffiti next to a swastika. Other recent news in Baltimore saw the performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a story about the last few years of a Russian-Jewish community, including a pogrom or race riot and their forced exile, be interrupted by a man chanting “Heil Hitler, and Heil Trump” according to the Baltimore Sun.

At first such stories came from afar, incidents happening far away from the bubble of Goucher. It can be easy to write off and ignore such things, being in the North East and having the luxury of never personally experiencing anti-semitism. It only became apparent when such cowardly acts started spreading that we were never really safe. Now we can no longer ignore it, but we cannot really take a direct action.

Security cameras are not a solution; stopping every car that enters campus is not a solution; mandatory online classes are not a solution. The racists and bigots of the world are engaged in a culture war, in which they have built a false narrative of their victimhood to defend their actions. The more incidents that happen, the more bigots will be inspired to act. We must fight this war not with rules and restrictions from administrator but with peer education and leadership. It may be exceedingly overambitious to propose that we can stop the rise of anti-semitism around the world, but we cannot be apathetic to the increasingly dire situation. Anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry and racism must be combated, and we can make a difference at Goucher at least.

Student organizations must raise their voices. I applaud the powerful statements made at the rally in Mary Fisher a few weeks ago, unfortunately more needs to be done. Inviting a strong speaker to discuss and empower students is an option, alongside clubs and organizations having meetings and discussions about bigotry. But fundamentally the main struggle has to be fought between peers, not official organizations. Discussions among peers and stifling those who share bigoted feelings, not through patronizing them, but with thoughtful listening and explanation will be the most effective way. We as a community need to create a culture that does not tolerate anti semitism and bigotry, of any kind, Informal struggles, catching a racist comment here, or noticing and reporting swastika on a bathroom stall there. These things are not normal and we must not allow them to be normalized, especially in a time when they are becoming cripplingly routine.

Should Goucher Be Political?

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The question of whether Goucher, or any other private university, should take political stances is especially pressing in this era of deep political division across the nation. Some clear parameters need to be established prior to opening up the question. For the sake of this discussion, the question will only be analyzed from the perspective of private institutions like Goucher. Such distinction is important because we are not controlled by state governments, as is the University of Maryland, and Goucher has more freedom to enact policies because of its independence. This analysis also takes another liberty when defining what are “political stances”. Following the disgusting racist incident that occurred, Goucher, and other campus groups responded correctly by condemning racism and offering safe spaces. Condemning racism, antisemitism, sexism, and the like are not and should not be considered political. For the purposes of this article, political stances are defined to include topics such as: condemning foreign or US governmental actions, openly supporting social movements, discriminating against types of speakers that may be invited, and publicly endorsing political candidates. These examples stand on their own, and Goucher could adopt some but not all. For our purpose now, I maintain that Goucher-affiliated student groups should take political stances in certain circumstances, but the Goucher administration itself should remain apolitical.

This is not to say Goucher groups should pursue every political position. While Goucher administration should avoid all but the most pressing issues, the Goucher Student Government (GSG), on the contrary, should be more involved in voicing concerns of the student body. Besides adding a bit of flair to GSG, many students, myself included, feel voiceless in the face of global issues. For example, I personally strongly condemn the treatment of the Chinese Muslim community, the Uighurs, by the Chinese government, and the creation of forced reeducation camps, which culturally rob a community of over one thousand years of tradition. In spite of this, Goucher still operates a study abroad opportunity in mainland China. If GSG and other student goups were to publicly condemn the Chinese government, it will at least have the effect of educating Goucher students in helping focus their approach to choosing where they want to study abroad and financially support. How GSG would begin the process of determining if condemnation of a foreign government is appropriate should be determined by the student population in public forums and via a referendum.

Another example of stances that student organizations and GSG should take is on endorsing social movements. There may have been small acts in previous years, but if there are enough students calling for busing to a rally or a type of speaker to be invited, then such voices should be heard and supported. The student body would be receptive if we had a passionate energetic speaker come and discuss their work, even if that meant inviting a political advocate. Other options could be for GSG to host a debate on a national issue. A topic that is highly contentious would be well attended and provide a platform for students to develop current or new opinions, not to mention the fun and excitement it would cause if done respectfully.

Providing a voice for student political opinions must be encouraged by student organizations and GSG. There is too much happening around us and the amount of tension that would be relieved if it could be voiced under a common united platform. If GSG does not want to take such role, which would be a wasted opportunity to encourage involvement, a new organization needs to be created to represent student voices on condemning and supporting the movers and changers of the world we live in. The reason I maintain that Goucher administration should remain apolitical is because if we have a representative organization to address such concerns, it would be redundant and might even misinterpret the opinions of the student population. The students do not vote for the next college president and they should not be speaking on our behalf involving the addressed topics; our own elected and competitive student government should.

 

photo credit: study.com

The Importance of Public Discourse

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Picture Source: Public Photo Credit: Discourse: Importance & Strategies | Study.com

 

I am writing today because the atmosphere at Goucher has, for the duration of my studies here, been lacking healthy public discourse. That is not to say people are not sharing their opinions with their friends, nor is it to say that people have been censored. Public discourse is more than just talking about international maritime trade law over lunch. The Goucher Bubble has alienated many students on campus, not because they feel they are a minority politically, but because there are no safe spaces for dissenting opinions to be voiced. Conversations must be held on all aspects of our modern world. This includes the direction Goucher College has taken. Majors being phased out is only part of the story; the very identity of liberal arts is being redefined and we, students, must be a part of that conversation. Us students must create mechanisms for voicing ourselves to each other and to the larger Goucher institution.

To achieve these goals, I first must ask club leaders to invite speakers who are relevant and even radical. There is a valid argument as how to discriminate and chose which speakers we can and cannot invite. I am not going to provide a simple answer as to who should be provided the platform and who should not. That decision rests with club leaders, but I would say that if one has an unpopular belief, they are no less worthy of sharing their opinion for it. Learning about differing understandings creates bridges between people who have different narratives. A Republican pro-coal politician in West Virginia has a legitimate narrative just like young Democratic Socialist from Queens. We need to seek out these narratives and have them told to the Goucher student body so we all gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world we live in.

My second proposition is intended for the greater campus population. I encourage all of you to seek out groups to have these conversations. Do not be afraid to challenge yourself, and do not succumb to the mistake of judging someone’s character based on how they understand the world. If someone carries a moral stance that you reject, let them elaborate it, and if they are wrong, their explanation and a discussion should correct it. I am a firm believer in the ability of freedom of discussion and a society, no matter how small, that makes discord topics taboo further creates a detachment from the larger community it inhabits.

I also encourage all students to voice their opinions by attending faculty meetings and by engaging with professors and administrators when appropriate. Bring up Goucher’s identity in class, if permitting. What does a liberal arts education mean, and has Goucher betrayed it or merely modernized it? I have witnessed many incidents where opinions were screaming to be heard but there was no one willing to speak them. Breathe life into these opinions – there are avenues, including the one you are currently reading, for a minority dissension to be heard. Take a stance and I, along with the community, will respect you for it. If you are compelling enough, we may even join in with you.

 

Liberal Arts Are Changing — And That Isn’t A Bad Thing

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What is Goucher College? Are we still a liberal arts school even without majors in math, theater, Jewish studies, and Russian? Even if the recently announced phasing out of certain majors does not directly affect many students on campus today, unintended consequences of these decisions may have a broader impact. What does this mean for our identity and future and, perhaps more importantly, was this the right decision?

Clearly, there will be some short-term and potentially damaging consequences. Professors in cut majors may lose their motivation for teaching in areas now deemed unessential. Through this process, many of us students who are future alumni and future donors felt disenfranchised. We were not meaningfully invited to critical meetings where decisions were made, and the most important meetings were strictly closed to students. This neglect may impact students’ current and future commitment to the school.

That being said, with every decision, there are winners and losers. Even at a non-profit institution, hard decisions have to be made. Higher education in the United States ultimately must face economic reality, and we risk losing everything if we fail to make hard financial decisions. If, as argued, many of the discontinued majors were unsustainable from an economic standpoint, their continued funding posed a real problem for Goucher’s big picture. If student enrollment did not support these programs, why and how can we justify maintaining them? Do these curriculum changes have an existential impact, calling into question our status as a liberal arts college?

Photo Credit: ingridperri.com

Technical skills education versus general study have been pitted against each other since the institutionalization of education. Roman Patrician families bought Greek slaves as tutors for their teenage boys to ensure proper education in areas of mathematics, grammar, rhetoric, history, and logic. These skills were essential for a liberalis, a free man, to participate in civic life. Specializing in a technical skill was exclusive to slaves. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, all education was further limited only to the clergy; even noble families were largely illiterate for hundreds of years. The first universities, such as Oxford, were established in 1096. As time progressed, Late Medieval education primarily required choosing between training to be doctor, lawyer, or clergy, or, for the wealthy, the study of the artes liberales.

Higher education in the United States took liberal arts to the next level during the 19th century. Harvard and Yale, once religious institutions, became centers of liberal arts. Higher education was no longer reserved for elite white men. Women’s colleges, like Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and the Women’s College of Baltimore, later renamed Goucher College, were founded. Historically black colleges were established: Spelman College, Howard University, and many more. Educating these once marginalized populations was critical to women’s suffrage and desegregation, along with a huge liberalizing impact on society in the United States.

The 20th century challenged this wave of liberal arts enthusiasm with the creation of research universities and large state schools. These larger institutions promised specialized skills much more affordably than private institutions and threatened small liberal arts colleges. As such, public universities expanded higher education across class lines to more people than private institutions could ever hope to reach. By simply increasing the number of students in a lecture hall, costs per student for professor salaries, heating, and administration could be reduced.

In the 21st century, the major financial challenges to Goucher and other small, private liberal arts schools nationally have only increased. Higher costs due to health care, pensions, and the demand for high quality updated physical structures on campus have only put more demands on small private colleges. Specifically, over the past several years, Goucher has been suffering from serious financial deficit. Phasing out of unpopular majors is only one correction to address this. Investing in new First-Year dorms and a new dining hall, while increasing short term costs, will hopefully attract more students to Goucher and make us more competitive. Keeping unsuccessful majors is not an investment in the future.

On the bright side, despite the loss of some student majors, perhaps the unspent funds could be redirected to better supporting successful departments. For example, psychology is one of the most popular majors at Goucher, yet the department’s funds were essentially redirected to support the book studies minor. Fundamentally, that is unfair to the psychology department, who could use their own funds to invest in themselves, helping attract the best and brightest students to Goucher.

But how does this impact our status and does that matter? Liberal arts in the 21st century cannot be the liberal arts of the ancient Greeks or the Middle Ages, or even the 19th century. The world has changed and the unfortunate truth is that the phased-out majors are unpopular nationwide. Peace studies is one of our most popular majors, but it is only is sixty years old; a baby when compared to most departments!

We must adapt and endure in spite of the fact that we may feel forgotten or ignored. We as a student body must pull together. I am not advocating passivity; I am advocating for clear heads and a willingness to evolve. I hope with time we can begin working together—all Goucher students, administration, faculty, and alumni—for a better community on campus.

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