The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

Madeline St. John

Madeline St. John has 8 articles published.

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Madeline is an English/Spanish double major. She grew up in Hawai'i (no, she doesn't surf) and is happy to experience life on the opposite side of the U.S.. She is immensely glad to be part of the Q and proud of everyone who makes it run. You've probably seen her behind the library help desk in the Ath. Next time you do, please say hi.

First Years Spraypaint Drains to Prevent Pollution

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Left to Right: Andrew Ackerman, Oliver Dillard, Luke DeWitt, Jolie Price, Erica Bulzomi, and Brady O’Neill Photo Credit: Dr. Cynthia Kicklighter

Earlier this semester, you might have seen groups of people huddling around storm drains, gazing intensely at the pavement. This was probably Dr. Cynthia Kicklighter’s First Year Seminar (FYS). They are learning about marine organisms, and what impacts marine environments. One of the topics they are covering is trash pollution in the ocean, and how trash travels into waterways through storm drains. This trash affects our drinking water, pollutes our oceans, and affects marine life.
In the Towson/Baltimore area, all water entering storm drains eventually arrives at the Chesapeake Bay. Because plastic cannot be digested and it can entangle marine organisms like fish and turtles, plastic trash (like grocery bags, snack bags, etc) is particularly harmful.
In order to educate people on campus about this danger and the fact that all trash from our storm drains will end up in the Chesapeake, Dr. Kicklighter learned how to stencil a storm drain. The training was organized Blue Water Baltimore, an environmental charity focused on restoring the quality of Baltimore’s aquatic systems. She then transferred what she had learned from the organization to her First Year Seminar students, who, in the middle of the semester, spray painted stencils of marine life around the storm drains on campus.
“It was freezing outside,” wrote Jillian Carsud (‘19). But the “hands-on experience” was enjoyable.
Jolie Price (‘19) agreed. “I liked the actual ‘doing’ aspect of spreading awareness instead of just talking about it in class,” she wrote. Both students hoped that their project would cause passersby to pause and consider the stencils, increasing awareness about where our trash goes and who it affects.

High Number of Goucher Grads Teach for America

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Rae Walker ‘17 is is currently teaching at Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary/Middle School (PK-8th). Photo Credit: TFA Baltimore

This past year, Goucher was among the top colleges and universities to contribute new members to the Teach For America 2017 corps. With six alumni joining, Goucher contributed significantly to a nationwide network. This past year was also the first year that students were able to apply early to the program–during their junior year of college. Two Goucher students did so and were accepted.
Teach for America (TFA) is a national organization that certifies recent graduates and others without teaching certification to work as teachers in low-income communities. Applicants fill out an online application and complete a group interview online or in-person. Once accepted, applicants fill out a form with their location preferences from a list of 53 different regions across the nation. TFA teachers commit to teaching for at least two years as full-time salaried employees of the school in which they are placed.
As an organization, TFA focuses on understanding and combating educational inequity, an angle that tends to appeal to Goucher graduates. For Rae Walker (‘17) this was one of the reasons he decided to apply. “[As a public school student], the quality of your education literally depends on your zipcode,” Walker said in an interview. “In Parkville they have iPads while in Cherry Hill, we’re struggling for paper. And that’s needed for the curriculum, because they [the school] don’t buy textbooks.”
Walker graduated from Goucher as an English major with a concentration in creative writing. He knew he wanted to be a teacher, but he dropped his major in education because he believed that focusing on his content area (English) was more important than learning theory.
Walker is currently teaching special education at Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary Middle School (PK-8th) in Cherry Hill, Baltimore. He is also working on his Masters in Education at Johns Hopkins and is on track to receive a doctorate in five years.
Walker was drawn to the field of special education because of its relationship to inequity, and the situation that results from the over-diagnosing of students, particularly poor black students. “For gen-ed teachers, [labelling students with an IEP or Individualized Educational Program] is like code for ‘I don’t want to teach you, so I’m going to put you in another class,’ and this can happen as early as 1st grade,” said Walker. Once students are labeled as in need of special education, the effects of that label are difficult to reverse. For Walker, one of the important aspects of teaching special education is advocating for his students.
Teaching in low-income communities requires teachers to be very committed and invested in their students. Lila Stenson (‘17) appreciates the connections she’s been able to make with her students, “learning about their lives and telling them about mine.” Stenson graduated with a degree in Sociology and Spanish and is currently teaching 7th and 8th grade Spanish in Memphis, Tennessee. “It’s really fun to see [my students] grow and get excited when they can say new things in Spanish,” said Stenson.
Walker has also certainly become invested in his students. The Saturday after this interview, he was planning on taking one of his students to the movies because it was their birthday. “I’m a black male figure [in this student’s life], so we’re going to the movies,” Walker said. “On Friday, we’re going to celebrate with a cake.”
Because his special education classes are self-contained, Walker spends all day with the same nine students, who range from 5th grade to 8th grade. According to Walker, it is actually illegal to have over three grade levels together in the same class, but it often happens in Baltimore public schools because of understaffing. TFA works to combat understaffing in schools, but it is not enough. As Stenson states, TFA “really isn’t a long term solution to ending the problems in education.”

Goucher was among the top colleges and universities to contribute new members to the Teach For America 2017 corps. Photo Credit: Teach for America

Stenson became interested in education in part because of her experience working at a summer camp called Breakthrough Collaborative that works with students from under-resourced urban schools. Stenson’s experiences working in local schools through the Office of Community-Based Learning (CBL) added to this interest.
Walker also mentioned one of CBL’s programs, Middle School Mentoring, when talking about what influenced his decision to stay in Baltimore and teach. Both Stenson and Walker highlighted the way in which Goucher encourages students to engage with equity and social justice.
One thing that TFA corps members seem to have in common is their passion for what they do. “I think it is really cool to have a lot of new energy in the teaching field, as a lot of teachers who have been teaching for a while are burnt out,” Stenson wrote in an email interview.
However, because many of the applicants for TFA are young and inexperienced, they also face extra challenges. Stenson has twenty-seven students, which she said is actually a pretty small number compared to some of her coworkers’ classes. She is fortunate to teach a subject (Spanish) that is not tested at the state level, because it comes with more freedom. On the flip side, however, there is also no pre-prepared curriculum for her to use. “I did not major in education and while TFA does pack a lot into their summer training institute, you are still pretty unprepared for teaching everyday on your own. Classroom management and behavior issues are something that I struggle a lot with,” Stenson wrote.
Eliezer (EC) Cartagena (‘18), who did study education and was one of the juniors who applied early to TFA last year, critiqued this aspect of TFA. “TFA tries to train teachers in the summer, which is literally impossible. A lot of people will be woefully unprepared,” said Cartagena.
Cartagena also critiqued the fact that many people use TFA as “a stepping stone,” and move on to other careers. Cartagena emphasizes that students need consistency. “Two years seems like an injustice,” he said.
While many TFA alums move on to other careers, there are also TFA alums who stay in the world of education. As Walker points out, some of the biggest changemakers in Baltimore public schools, the principals of “turnaround schools,” are TFA alums. Cartagena hopes to stay in the school system for at least four years, while Walker sees himself continuing to teach ten years from now.
One of the incentives for applying to TFA are the benefits that come with the program. In addition to offering the opportunity to become certified to teach, TFA offers a summer training institute, an extensive alumni network, affinity group networks with other TFA members, mentor partnerships, and online location guides. TFA also has partnerships with graduate schools. Regional programs either require or encourage TFA corps members to work towards a Masters in Education. Fellowships and awards are also available to help teachers get a financial boost. For Stenson, who was moving to an entirely new city, she appreciated having the support network that came with TFA. “Memphis is a new home, so it is nice to have other people who are new and trying to explore the city as well,” she said.
TFA tries to draw a diverse group of members, and they advertised that their 2017 corps was more diverse than ever. Cartagena highlighted that TFA considers diversity factors besides race, like gender identity and sexual orientation. Walker also mentioned the diversity of educational backgrounds of corps members: “you’ll meet people from across the gamut, from Harvard, Stanford, from your local community college.”
However, despite their diversity of backgrounds, many teachers will face the same challenges. “Teachers are overworked and undervalued, and you need to be really dedicated, because financially you won’t get much from it,” said Cartagena. “Only apply if you’re really passionate about making change happen in school systems.”
Stenson emphasized the importance of flexibility and adaptability. “Things will not run smoothly, materials will not be available, school schedules and student behavior are always unpredictable,” she said. “A lot of this experience is just trying to roll with things.” Walker seconded this. “If administration emails me tonight and says, ‘we’re teaching in the dark tomorrow,’ then I’ll say, ‘okay, I’ll bring a flashlight,’” he said. Walker suggested that teachers should have a “growth mindset”–not just believing that their students can grow, but that, as teachers, they can, too. “You can’t enter the classroom thinking about what happened yesterday,” he said.
Overall, Goucher’s recent graduates who are members of the TFA corps seem proud of the work they’re doing. “It’s a noble profession,” said Walker.
For the 2018-2019 school year, there are a number of TFA application deadlines approaching, through March 2018. If you are interested in applying, Cartagena, who asked several people to look over his application, advises other students not to be afraid to ask for help. “People think that they have to do things on their own, but that’s not true,” he said.
For assistance with the application, students can also take advantage of on-campus resources like the Career Development Office.

CERT: A Team That’s There to Help

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Join CERT to help prepare your community for emergencies. Credit: bosquecounty.us

After the recent natural disasters in the news, you might be wondering–what is Goucher doing to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies? And what can I, here at Goucher, do to help?
One possible answer is CERT. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. CERT is a group of trained volunteers who have the knowledge and equipment to assist at the scene of an emergency before professionals arrive. They can manage crowds, and perform basic search and rescue, triage/first aid, and fire suppression. In the case of a hurricane, they would lead people to safe zones, assist Public Safety, and provide any other necessary assistance.
CERT members also have backpacks that are equipped with a variety of supplies, including first aid kits, helmets, gloves, goggles, flashlights, and other safety tools.
Nothing is a substitute for preparedness in the case of an emergency. Community members can prepare on an individual level by gathering supplies. CERT president Sam Meir-Levi, ‘18, recommends having a backpack stocked with: a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, filled water bottles, a blanket, non-perishable food, sanitation and personal hygiene supplies, and any necessary medications.
An emergency backpack could also include rain gear, duct tape, scissors, whistle, plastic sheets, etc. When an emergency hits, “you shouldn’t be just thinking about these things for the first time,” said Duncan Miller, ‘19, the treasurer for CERT.
Goucher students, faculty and staff can also ready themselves by being aware of their surroundings, and knowing where the nearest entrances and exits are in buildings on campus. This is especially important given the obstacles created by construction, which may limit access to entrances and exits.
The community action that CERT organizes and supports is especially important because of the internal knowledge of the community that its members have. People within a community will have a better understanding of resources, needs, hazards, and strains, argues Kayhla Cornell, assistant registrar in the Graduate Programs in Education, who is also a member of CERT.
Cornell, who has an environmental justice perspective when it comes to disaster preparedness, also mentioned that the number and severity of natural disasters around the world is increasing. Rather than rely entirely on external aid, community members should work together to prepare for them. Cornell encourages involvement in organizations like CERT, that help people to be involved in the community, advocate for themselves, as well as be better prepared for emergencies. Cornell also hopes that, in the future, the Goucher program will work more closely with local organizations, and serve as a local flagship, encouraging other schools to become certified.
The more people who are trained and involved in CERT, the wider their range of communication, the more ground they will cover, and the more people they will help. To get involved, reach out to David Heffer <David.Heffer@goucher.edu>, Sam Meir-Levi, or Duncan Miller. CERT will also be sending out emails and putting up fliers with information about upcoming trainings.

CERT: A Team That’s There To Help

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Join CERT to help prepare your community for emergencies. Credit: bosquecounty.us

After all the recent natural disasters, you might be wondering–what is Goucher doing to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies? And what can I, here at Goucher, do to help?
One possible answer is CERT. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. CERT is a group of trained volunteers who have the knowledge and equipment to assist at the scene of an emergency before professionals arrive. They can manage crowds, and perform basic search and rescue, triage/first aid, and fire suppression. In the case of a hurricane, for example, they would lead people to safe zones, assist Public Safety, and provide any other necessary assistance.
CERT members also have backpacks that are equipped with a variety of supplies, including first aid kits, helmets, gloves, goggles, flashlights, and other safety tools.
Nothing is a substitute for preparedness in the case of an emergency. Community members can prepare on an individual level. CERT president Sam Meir-Levi, ‘18, recommends having a backpack stocked with: a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, filled water bottles, a blanket, non-perishable food, sanitation and personal hygiene supplies, and any necessary medications. An emergency backpack could also include rain gear, duct tape, scissors, whistle, plastic sheets, etc. When an emergency hits, “you shouldn’t be just thinking about these things for the first time,” said Duncan Miller, ‘19, the treasurer for CERT.
In addition to preparing supplies Goucher students, faculty and staff can ready themselves by being aware of their surroundings, and knowing where the nearest entrances and exits are in buildings on campus. This is especially important given the obstacles created by construction, which may limit access to entrances and exits.
The kind of community action that CERT organizes and supports is especially important because of the internal knowledge of the community that its members have. People within a community will have a better understanding of resources, needs, hazards, and strains, argues Kayhla Cornell, assistant registrar in the Graduate Programs in Education, who is also a member of CERT.
Cornell, who has an environmental justice perspective when it comes to disaster preparedness, also mentioned that the number and severity of natural disasters around the world is increasing. Rather than rely entirely on external aid, community members should work together to prepare for them. Cornell encourages involvement in organizations like CERT, that help people to be involved in the community, advocate for themselves, as well as be better prepared for emergencies. Cornell also hopes that, in the future, the Goucher program will work more closely with local organizations, and serve as a local flagship, encouraging other schools to become certified.
The more people who are trained and involved in CERT, the wider their range of communication, the more ground they will be able to cover, and the more people they will help. To get involved, reach out to David Heffer <David.Heffer@goucher.edu>, Sam Meir-Levi, or Duncan Miller. CERT will also be sending out emails and putting up fliers with information about upcoming trainings.

Where The Money Goes: A Budget Update

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On Wednesday, April 5th, the Goucher Student Government (GSG) held a Budget Update in an attempt to inform students about the college’s budget and where their money is going. Both GSG and the administration have been making efforts to increase transparency and communication between students and the administration.

Goucher has two budgets: an Operating budget and a Capital budget. Photo credit: Google images

In July 2016, Goucher College hired Malcolm Green-Haynes as Director of Budget and Financial Planning, creating a position that did not previously exist. While Goucher had, more or less, been financially operating  on a “one-day-at-a-time” framework, Green-Haynes is now looking a year ahead, planning next year’s budget. Part of his job involves looking at more long-term strategies for the college’s financial stability and success. Green-Haynes also serves a strategic role as a point person between the Vice Presidents and Senior staff who make budget decisions, and the functional units of the college, such as academic departments, athletics, co-curricular centers, the library, etc. Green-Haynes communicates with each area to see what sort of funding they have had in the past and what they will need in the future. While this type of communication has existed in previous years, it may not have been happening in the same “holistic” and “systematic fashion” said Green-Haynes.
Green-Haynes is very open to talking to students about the budget and hopes to clear up any misconceptions there might be.
“Let’s do a little Budget 101,” he said, when interviewed for this article.

Budget 101
Goucher currently has two budgets–an operating budget and a capital budget. The Operating Budget, at about $65 million, goes toward the day-to-day operating costs that keep the college running: paying for electricity, people to cut the grass, microscopes for the biology department, uniforms for the lacrosse team, etc. The money for the operating budget comes from tuition, room and board, as well as some state assistance and miscellaneous business activities (for example, renting out Kraushaar Auditorium to outside groups). The administration is trying to increase these miscellaneous business activities in the coming years, in order to increase the operating budget but avoid increasing the cost of tuition, or room and board. Freezing the tuition this year was already a big step, a demonstration, Green-Haynes said, that “this administration is committed to accessibility and affordability.” However, the administration was unable to hold the line on room and board “because that would’ve meant pretty significant reductions in expenses, all in the same year,” said Green-Haynes.
Goucher’s other budget, the Capital Budget, goes toward large expenses and fixed assets: buildings, land, large equipment, IT infrastructure, etc. This budget, at about $36.1 million for the upcoming year, is financed by debt and philanthropic support. The Capital Budget currently funds the construction projects. Revenue for these projects comes largely from specific campaigns for alumni donations with the stated purpose of generating money for construction projects. Alumni support for the Capital Budget will not roll over to the operating budget once construction projects are finished, because the fundraising campaigns focus on construction.
“The fundraising base is fairly limited, so once that’s over, it’s over,” said Green-Haynes. However, he also states that there is an alumni support base in the operating budget, consisting of about $2 million.
There have been no major changes in the budget that will directly affect students, faculty, or staff. In fact, the budget for faculty is growing significantly, due in part to the creation of the new centers and the need for new faculty to teach particular classes.
The college also has an endowment of about $200 million. However, rather than dipping into the endowment for large projects, it makes more sense, financially, for Goucher to secure more debt.
“Debt is part of the business portfolio,” said Green-Haynes. “It is necessary to finance these projects to make Goucher more attractive and more modern, for prospective students, and current students.”

For more information
Members of faculty and staff managing expenses are able to view the budget in real time. The budget is not available to the wider Goucher community, most likely for “proprietary reasons,” said Green-Haynes.
“If you google ‘Bard college budget,’ ‘Johns Hopkins college budget,’ you aren’t going to find anything, and that is probably by design,” he said. Green-Haynes wants to make clear that the reason the budget was not on the website was not due to a lack of transparency, but rather, because the college has not yet figured out a way to make the budget visible to students without it being shared outside the community.
Last year, GSG put together a finance committee, with members of GSG Senate, to meet with Malcolm Green-Haynes. These students then passed on what they learned to the student body in the budget update. This year, the committee will be open to the entire student body, not just students from the senate.
“It is a good opportunity to learn about budgeting and finance, and it looks good on a resume,” said Lilith Saylor (‘20), of her involvement in the GSG Finance committee.
To view audited financial statements put together by the Accounting department, from 2007 through 2015, search “Goucher college financial statements” in Google. Malcolm Green-Haynes also welcomes any students interested in the budget or who have more questions to email him at malcolm.greenhaynes@goucher.edu.

Goucher Professors Discuss the Evironmental Protection Agency

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Madeline St. John, News Editor

February 25th, 2017

When the EPA came into existence in 1970, during Nixon’s administration, it was backed by relatively strong bipartisan support for environmental regulation, likely due to politicians recognizing and responding to real, visible environmental problems across the country. “It was an era in which rivers were catching on fire and people were dying from respiratory diseases related to air pollution,” said Robert Neff, a professor in the Environmental Studies (ES) department.

In the current political climate, the topics of environmental protection and climate change have become divisive ones. A Senate hearing was called to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act, with the argument that it prevents mining and the creation of jobs. Carbon dioxide may be removed from its classification as a pollutant, preventing the EPA from regulating it. Congress approved a resolution to overturn a Stream Protection Rule that prevented companies from dumping waste in local waterways. The U.S. will likely quit the Paris Climate Accords. The list goes on.

Already, the White House has frozen EPA grants and federal contracts, cut in half the number of EPA employees attending an environmental conference in Alaska, and, along with other federal agencies, ordered the EPA to halt their communication with outside organizations.

Scott Pruitt is the new head of the EPA. Pruitt has lobbied directly against EPA regulations. More specifically, Professor Neff cited Pruitt’s opposition to the EPA’s pollution regulations in the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA calculates the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of the bay–the amount of pollution that the bay can handle each day–and divides these waste quantities among the surrounding states. These regulatory efforts for cleaner water have been proven effective. “The dead zone is shrinking, the oysters are coming back…Pruitt was opposed to this approach,” said Neff.

Pruitt’s “agenda would include providing new permits to drill oil and extract natural gas for energy production,” wrote Marko Salvaggio, a professor in Goucher’s ES department. “Not only will this increase carbon emissions, but [it also] threaten[s] our fresh water supplies and the health of the people who rely on this water.”

“Recent reports have demonstrated the petroleum industry’s efforts to confuse the public about the impacts of climate science – in the same way the tobacco industry worked to obfuscate the links between smoking and cancer…these types of campaigns that are now promoted by Scott Pruitt in the EPA,” wrote Emily Billo, a professor of Environmental Studies.

There has also been discussion of subjecting the EPA to political review. Typically, scientific research undergoes rigorous peer review, which, at the EPA, is followed by additional EPA-led review. If the White House adds its own review process, Neff stated, “this will be a complete corruption of that [scientific] process…How do we know that findings haven’t been altered for political reasons?”

Under the current administration, scientific research in general is threatened. Scientists expect to receive cuts in funding, and some will likely lose their government jobs. Cuts in national government funding for science will lead to job loss. This will affect recent graduates looking for jobs, who will have to compete with more experienced workers who will be back to job-hunting. Funding cuts will also likely result in less funding for graduate students.

Cynthia Kicklighter, a professor in the Biology Department, worries that changes in government will particularly impact funding for basic research. Basic research–research to improve scientific theories and understanding rather than, say, “find the cure for cancer”–is the kind of research almost all Goucher faculty conduct, and is the kind of research often “deemed as wasting taxpayer money,” said Kicklighter. She cited the example of a study which put shrimp on treadmills, with the purpose of seeing the effect on shrimp of low oxygen concentrations, which are often caused by algal blooms, in, for example, the Chesapeake Bay. “It sounds ridiculous,” she said, “but there was a legitimate scientific basis. Basic research is often made fun of. It’s misunderstood…Across the country, there is a lot of disconnect, and a lot of people don’t value it.”

Republican senators confirmed Pruitt, knowing that, only a few days after his confirmation, he had been ordered to release the 3,000 emails and other documents of correspondence that his Oklahoma office exchanged with fossil fuel interests during his time as attorney general.

In response to Pruitt’s nomination, about 700 former EPA officials sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing the nomination. This letter was covered in over 150 news outlets, raising awareness of the strong opposition to new EPA leadership. Among these former EPA employees was Goucher professor Dan Engelberg, who recently retired from 15 years at the EPA.

“This isn’t a new thing,” said Engelberg, in an interview, referring to the obstacles that the EPA now faces. “All of this has happened before, with Reagan, Gingrich and Bush. When was EPA last in a truly comfortable position?” he added, in an email.

Part of the EPA’s mission is to enforce regulations related to the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act of 1972, as well as create and enforce other legislation related to pollution control standards. In 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act required that people know about toxic chemicals present in their communities. In the 2000s, the EPA’s role expanded to include climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA plays a big role in environmental protection, and has been very influential during the 47 years that it has been in existence. Engelberg, who worked there for years, was critical of the agency. He stated that “the old structure really wasn’t working as well as it should,” and that there are “chronic issues” in the agency that “are less urgent, but more important.”

“In the early days, the agency was being sued all the time, on both sides,” said Engelberg, meaning that environmentalists, as well as businesses and industry, took the EPA to court, holding them accountable to their own regulations. Certainly, with recent occurrences in Flint, Michigan, the EPA has come under fire, and Engelberg expects, and hopes, such attacks will continue.

However, according to Engelberg, 90% of the enforcement action of environmental regulation is conducted by states. Also, one-third of the EPA’s budget goes directly to states. Engelberg expressed his belief that changes in EPA administration will result more in a “shift to the right” than a “u-turn” or “sinking” of the metaphorical environmental protection “ship.”

“The EPA has roughly 15,000 employees,” said Engelberg. “The president can appoint about 80. That is less than one-half of 1 percent of the EPA’s employees.” He also emphasized that, in general, employees at the EPA “really believe in the mission,” a fact that will make it more difficult to run the organization in a way that goes against its stated purpose. “In a way, I’m optimistic,” said Engelberg.

All of the professors interviewed for this article stressed the importance of optimism, in conjunction with activism. “What makes Trump different [from previous presidents who opposed environmental regulation] is his manner,” Engelberg said. “He’s not intellectual; he’s not well-schooled. People are reacting to his language.” And Engelberg is hopeful that this can be a positive thing–that the pushback to Trump will “energize the public” and cause young people to “take a stand” and invest their time and energy in environmental issues.

Professors also commented on the importance of paying attention to marginalized communities. “[Native American] communities often rely on funding through EPA grants to monitor groundwater pollution, and without this support they are less likely to be able to halt projects that will have detrimental effects on their land and people,” wrote Billo. “Those who are protesting to protect their communities’ rights are also being investigated as criminals by the government, and in some cases forcibly and violently attacked.”

The options for counter-action are numerous. Kicklighter discussed the possibility of citizen science–citizens can volunteer to collect scientific data and make observations (cataloging when flowers bloom, for example), increasing the body of scientific knowledge, particularly in the area of climate change.

Alternatively, one can donate money to environmental organizations, or fundraise for money to donate. Volunteer to clean up streams. Vote, and vote for representatives that value the protection of the environment. Call representatives. Educate yourself on local issues. “There are daily occurrences of oil spills, water pollution, etc. that often go unreported or unnoticed,” wrote Billo. She cited the example of the Curtis Bay, Baltimore, where protesting high school students were able to prevent the installation of a high-polluting incinerator project in their area, where air quality is poorest in the city.

Write letters to your senators on issues related to the environment (for example, on the “modernization” of the Endangered Species Act). Plant trees. Decrease your personal environmental impact. Write an editorial. Take to the streets. Participate in the March for Science, on Earth Day, March 22nd, in Washington D.C.

“Persistent resistance,” said Neff. “Collectively, we’re terrifying.”

Argentina, Abroad, and American-ness: A Reflection

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L to R: Madeline St. John ’18, Rachael Newsom, Lea Love-Moore, ’18, and Reena John.

Madeline St. John, News Editor

February 15th, 2017

I never thought more about what it means to “be American” than I did while abroad this past semester.

American.

What identity, what history, what stories are bottled up in this word?

We define everything in relationship to other things. Upon leaving a place in which characteristics of one’s identity are normal, average, or constantly affirmed, one begins to question and examine that identity more closely.

This happened to me when I came to Goucher and I suddenly became “someone from Hawaii.” In Hawaii, my birthplace was not worth mentioning (Obviously). At Goucher, however, and even more so in Argentina, it suddenly became an object of conversation. I began to think about what it meant to “be from Hawaii.” (What does it mean to be from a state that some still don’t know is a state?)

In Argentina, more or less the same thing occurred, as a citizen of the United States. In Argentina, as foreign students, we became objects of curiosity: ambassadors, representatives of our nation, people to whom questions about Trump and walls with Mexico could be posed.

I didn’t really mind being an object of curiosity. It led to interesting conversations. And I certainly couldn’t resent it as I realized the feeling was mutual. To a certain extent, Argentinians were interesting to me purely because they were Argentinian.

With the presidential elections at the forefront of many minds, this “American” question was riddled with political implication. What did it mean to be part of a country in which Trump was a presidential candidate? What was underlying those words, “Make America Great Again”? And then, later in the semester: what does it mean to belong to a country in which Trump had been elected president?

Several of my Argentinian friends, who would have been on the far left of our U.S. political spectrum, asked me to explain to them the psychology of the Trump supporter. When I began to think seriously about this, I began myself to understand better what people were thinking when they voted for Trump. While I do not support the man, his politics or actions, I could begin to learn about the people who did.

I realized through these conversations, that perhaps I had more in common with the average Argentinian youth than I did with many Americans, especially white Americans in rural areas. Perhaps we do not have to go very far geographically to experience a “culture shock.”

What does it mean to be “American”?

Sometimes this question brought up race. Most Argentinians I met—before I opened my mouth—assumed I was Argentinian. This was a privilege not afforded to my blonder, paler, or more Asian-appearing classmates, who were immediately pegged as foreigners. It was sometimes assumed the blondes were from Germany, the Asian Americans from China. Watching people try to guess nationality based on race, I couldn’t help thinking about the stereotype of the “white American,” often perpetuated by Hollywood and the media, as so many U.S. citizens are not “white.” (Also, “whiteness” is a social construct. However, that’s a discussion for another time.)

Sometimes, reflection on “Americanness” led to thoughts about privilege. There are buzzwords out there, like “globalization.” Another similar word is “Americanization.” As a Goucher friend, Lea Lovemore, pointed out, Americans are privileged when they go abroad to see so much “Americanness.” McDonalds. Walmart. KFC. Hollywood. Uber. Amazon. Facebook. The list goes on. American culture and business, tied to American influence, is truly global.

Notably, however, was that many of the material things that American students on our program missed the most were not things typically thought of as “American.” We talked a lot about Chinese restaurants, Mexican food, German chocolate, and sushi (which does demonstrate our socioeconomic privilege, in being able to eat out and eat a variety of food). Clearly, being “American” has nothing to do with eating hot dogs and hamburgers.

What does it mean to be “American”?

Despite what some might think, it has nothing to do with being white, Anglo-Saxon, or protestant. Neither does it seem to signify having any particular set of beliefs, values, economic status, religion, or an acceptance of these differences in others.

Does it mean being a descendent of immigrants? No, because there were people here for centuries before Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci. Our Argentinian culture professor discussed the desire to dispel the myth that “Argentinians came from ships.” This myth propelled another—that Argentina was a country without indigenous populations, populations which in reality been nearly wiped out by land-greedy government campaigns. I reflected on the utopic “melting pot” image of the early United States, and, in the face of the North Dakota pipeline protests, how we often ignore our own indigenous populations.

What about the equation America=Democracy? Being a U.S. Citizen means a vote, right? But what about selective voter-ID laws, limited access to the polls, and changed registration procedures, all of which can take away that “right”? And even amongst those who do have a vote, strategic gerrymandering can arrange things so those votes don’t really count.

Convicted felons can’t vote. And with policies like the “war on drugs” and “stop and frisk” justifying racist policing in predominantly black communities and leading to the mass incarceration of African Americans, a large percentage of the U.S. population has become systematically disenfranchised. According to The Sentencing Project, in 2014, one in every 13 blacks was unable to vote because of a felony conviction.

Perhaps we can uphold the ideal of democracy in the United States. Perhaps it can be upheld to those on the outside, looking in. But what would one say to those numerous Latin American countries, in which the U.S. actively supported military dictatorships through Operation Condor?

What does it mean to be “American”?

It is a highly flawed question, as long as it assumes “Americanness” to be associated with the United States. This word usage, which, as you may have noticed, I have been using this entire time, understandably bothers many of those, including Argentinians, who are American but not from the U.S.A. From Canada to Argentina, citizens of all countries in South, Central, and North America are Americans, too. (And don’t forget the islands!)

So, what does it mean to be American? Having moved through these possible answers, does the truth come out that is there really nothing more to “Americanness” than being born, or moving, to a certain side of the world? Are we left with emptiness instead of identity? A meaningless name? A worthless denomination?

Or can we define ourselves by our diversity? Can we own our history of colonialism and acknowledge our racial and social hierarchies? Can we be people of mixed race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, origin, class, political and religious beliefs? Can we be people of revolutions, past and present? Can we see our human and hemispheric sameness, and build an identity that celebrates difference rather than similarity?

 

 

 

 

Answer: Yes. In many ways, we already are.

“Picturing Frederick Douglass”: A lecture

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Photo credit: Erika DiPasquale

Madeline St. John, News Editor

February 15th, 2017

At a recent Black History Month event, Donald Trump stated, amidst other comments, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Trump’s use of present tense suggests a possible ignorance of who Douglass was, and of the fact that he has been deceased for many years. A presenter at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore pointed this out in her introduction to the lecture Picturing Frederick Douglass. The lecture, on Saturday February 4th, was attended by about a classroom-full of Goucher students, and focused on the intertwining histories of Frederick Douglass and photography.  The presenter, John Stauffer, Ph.D., Harvard University used a powerpoint of photos of Douglass to punctuate his points.

“Douglass was in love with photography,” said Stauffer. “There were more photos of him than any other American of the 19th century. He was the public face of America.”

Stauffer began his lecture with a bit of historical background on photography in the 19th century, describing the different types of prints and how they were taken. He passed around examples. During that time period, Stauffer explained, it was believed that photo portraits were a “likeness” of someone and contained a part of their “body and soul.”

Douglass was a strong believer in the power of photography. He saw it as crucial in the fight against slavery and for civil rights. Anyone could be photographed and anyone could be a photographer–all it required was “a manual, some chemicals, and about 3-6 months of experimentation,” said Stauffer. Photography was incredibly democratizing and equalizing, and there were hundreds of female and African-American photographers. The photo gallery, where folks came to have their photo taken or look at others, was, in Stauffer’s words, a “model interracial space.”

For Douglass, photography was also a way of showing the humanity of African Americans. “’We cannot trust white artists,’” he said, because he believed that somewhere between reality and the strokes on the canvas, their work became a lie. Photography, on the other hand, held the truth. As well as truth, photography also captured its subjects’ “fundamental humanity,” and their human desire to create liknesses of themselves in their world.

In his own portraits, several patterns emerge. Douglass used a “signature pose,” in which he stared at the viewer with a “defiant” gaze. He was always “immaculately dressed” and, although they were common at the time, he used few props, wishing to keep the emphasis on himself, the subject. In a number of portraits, he clenches his hands, like a boxer, and Stauffer described his appearance as “majestic in his wrath.”

Stauffer highlighted Douglass’ relationship with Abraham Lincoln, pointing out his presence in a photograph of Lincoln’s second inauguration.

At the end of his presentation, Stauffer showed photographs of modern representations of Douglass, highlighting how influential he continues to be today. Perhaps President Trump was not so far from the truth, he suggested, in using the present tense to describe Douglass’ influence in the present day.

After the presentation, an audience member stood up, as if to ask a question. “I just want to make a comment,” he said, “that the next time you show that picture of [Lincoln’s] inauguration, you should point out that there was a much bigger crowd then, than there was a week ago [at Trump’s inauguration].” The audience responded positively to this comment, as they had to comments made by Stauffer throughout the lecture that connected Douglass’ fight for rights with the current political situation and modern struggles, like the Black Lives Matter movement.

This event was promoted by History Professor Matthew Hale, and a bus transported students between Goucher and the event.

Future Black History Month events at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore include a Black Memorobelia and Fine Arts and Craft Show, on Sat., Feb. 11th, and an open house on Sat., Feb. 25th. For more information about upcoming events, visit http://www.lewismuseum.org/main-calendar.

Other participating Baltimore Black History Month museums and organizations include the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Baltimore Visitor’s Center. For more details on Black History Month events in the Baltimore area, check out http://baltimore.org/article/black-history-month-events-baltimore or http://www.baltimoremagazine.net/2017/1/30/black-history-month-events.

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