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Opinion

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.

 

Is Goucher Allowing Bon Appetite to Steal From Students?

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Last year, Bon Appetite at Goucher had a much simpler way of going about meal plans. I’d sign up for the meal plan I felt best fit my needs and that’s what I was given for the semester. Say I signed up for the largest meal plan with 240 meals; I’d get that number of meals and I could use them whenever and however I wanted.

Now, Goucher has come up with a new plan on how to better manage our meal plan needs. I can still choose my meal plan, but there’s a catch. If I sign up for the now largest nineteen meals per week plan, all I get is nineteen meals to use over the course of a week and they’re use-or-lose. If I don’t use all nineteen, they will disappear, meaning I can’t save meal swipes for later in the semester or whatever I choose.

Additionally, last year I was given three-hundred dining dollars (flex) to use at other dining locations on campus over the semester. But this year, that has been cut down to two-hundred-fifty dollars on flex to use.

What gives, Goucher?

I stumbled upon a petition demanding that Goucher make a few changes to the meal plans. First, make food equitable, meaning we should be able to use our meal swipes throughout the semester and across campus in locations such as Alice’s. Meal swipes not used during any given week should always roll over to the next. Second, food should be available in more locations, meaning Goucher needs to reopen The Van and open Alice’s for longer hours including Sunday nights. Goucher need to make the main dining hall hours longer at night and on the weekends. Third, no tax on flex. These, and other demands, had to be met by Bon Appetite last Thursday (September 13th), and students must have a transparent email detailing the plans to make it happen. Since demands haven’t been met and there has been no communication from Goucher or Bon Appetite, students were planning on protesting in Dorsey on Monday (September 17th). Which did not happen.

I am upset that our semester meal plan was changed to a weekly plan and my mind keeps coming back to one particular thought. I cannot resist wondering if Goucher is allowing Bon Appetit to steal from its students. Yes, I knowingly signed up for the meal plan assuming what my needs on a weekly basis would be, but my meal swipes are disappearing because I choose to eat somewhere besides the dining hall (not including the Pick Three option at The Market, which takes meal swipes). My flex has gone down by fifty dollars. Last year, I used every last penny of my three-hundred flex dollars.

Thankfully, Goucher has admitted to some of its mistakes and refunded all of the tax that was charged on flex, which is a step in the right direction. I’m not saying that there is a right or wrong way to go about feeding a campus full of students. I am simply saying that there should be a way to go about meal plans that makes everyone happy.

 

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.

It’s More than the Title – Crazy Rich Asians

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For the first time in a quarter of a century, Hollywood has made a rom-com movie with an all Asian cast entitled Crazy Rich Asians. Starring Constance Wu, Harry Shum Jr, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Remmy Tan, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and so many more, the lineup is breaking grounds. This book turned movie is hitting the big screen on August 17, 2018 and is one of the few blockbuster films starring Asians in lead roles (but the only one with a full Asian cast) this summer. Backed by Warner Brothers and directed by Jon M. Chu, known for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Step Up and Now You See Me 2, the trailer for the highly anticipated movie dropped on April 23 on The Ellen Show.

Now, for some, the plot may seem a bit too generic. Rich man falls in love with a poor woman, decides to introduce her to his family, his mother doesn’t think the woman is good enough, and hilarity/drama ensues. But for the Asian American community, this is a huge deal. For, in Hollywood, Asian American representation is not very common since the practice of whitewashing of roles in major films is very frequent. With the most publicized of these being Emma Stone in Aloha, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in a Shell, basically the whole cast of The Last Airbender, and Matt Smith in The Great Wall. Even Crazy Rich Asians and the soon to be made, live-action Mulan, almost became the victim of whitewashing too. And so, while YouTube creators like Wong Fu Productions, Anna Akana, and Domics produce lots of stories about the Asian American/mundane experiences of life, and television shows like Fresh Off the Boat, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Dr. Kim and Master of None fill in some of the gaps with regards to representation for Asian Americans, the impact is not the same.

However, with all the fanfare around this film, it should be noted that the movie does not represent every Asian American experience. I mean, how could it? It’s an hour to two-hour long film! But if anyone wants to hear more about this topic, the YouTube channel FUNG BROS did a video called CRAZY RICH ASIANS – WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH IT AND WHY YOU SHOULD.

This conversation about what the movie means is only a small part of a much larger discussion. No matter how one spins it, Crazy Rich Asians is a step forward towards representation in the media for Asians and Asian Americans.

Photo Credit: Google Images

The Webcomics Vacuum

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The Webcomics Vacuum

Webcomics are amazing medium, filled will all sorts of experimentation, talent and a diversity of stories, people, and topics that make it wholly unlike any other sector of comics. These comics, though, are severely underrepresented in the wider comic journalism world. Webcomics just aren’t given the space alongside their print counterparts on sites such as IGN, CBR, or the site I work for, Multiversity Comics. The question remains then, why?

Well, that’s what I’m going to try to talk about in this article. Before I try to tackle that, I want to give you an idea of what the webcomic review landscape actually looks like instead of making broad, seemingly baseless claims.

(My Best Approximation of) The State of the Industry

Regardless of what my prior statements may have implied, webcomics are not invisible to comic review sites, as evidenced by the multitude of “best of” webcomic/digital comic lists, and even a category on NPR’s yearly summer series, “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels.” Yet, once the award season has come and gone, they disappear into the ether, with nary a discussion to be see. We hear all about the fantastic in blurbs and yet we come away knowing only a title, a small description and the knowledge that it has caught the attention of enough people. Where is the breakdown, the lengthier analysis of what makes them award worthy? For those that aren’t on the lists but are no less good, where are the highlights of these? Where is the coverage of the new, the strange, the historic?

On sites with recognizable names? Nowhere. Or, more specifically, nowhere prominent or dedicated. Gizmodo has a webcomics tag but it’s sparsely populated. One of its sister sites, Kotaku, has one as well, although it hasn’t had an article since 2016. Newsarama had a column called “The Wild World of Webcomics” which only ran for one, possibly two, years (2011-12), according to the tag on their site. The most recent, and most consistent, webcomics column is from The Beat, though even that one is inconsistent in its updates, with last year being an obvious push to cover more webcomics than in previous years as a part of the site’s “A Year of Free Comics” series. While it seems to have shifted to a bi-weekly schedule since the start of the new year instead of the wildly ambitious attempt at DAILY REVIEWS FOR A YEAR – an attempted feat to be commended – this still isn’t close to the coverage that “regular” comics get.

There are, however, a few dedicated webcomic review sites. These sites tend to be lone blogs run by one person or, in rarer cases, a small team of people. Some are now defunct, such as Wild Webcomic Review, while others, like The Webcomic Overlook, are still alive and kicking. These are also examples of blogs that take a broad, general look at webcomics while there are others take a more specific look. For example, the blog Yes Homo boosts and talks about webcomics that contain positive representation of queer characters.

The only problem here? As is the case with every other site I’ve highlighted, their output isn’t exactly consistent or wide reaching. This shouldn’t be surprising, as they are run by one individual, in their spare time; one cannot expect a single person to be able to comprehensively and consistently review webcomics. The methodology with which these blogs approach webcomics plays into this as well but that is a topic for another day.

As with everything on the internet, I’m sure this doesn’t even come close to touching on the wide variety of smaller blogs that look at webcomics or the scattered posts among other comic review sites. That being said, this is it. These are the biggest, the most comprehensive, the most…well, professional places to find webcomic reviews/analysis on the internet. Again, it’s always possible I’ve missed something but in terms of widespread coverage, there ain’t much.

So, What’s the Deal Here?

My best guesses, and yes, these are just educated guesses, are that there are five major reasons for this lack of coverage. One is that webcomics are a tough medium to review in any sort of regular capacity due to a lack of consistent methodology. Do you review it one chapter at a time? What happens if a chapter is hundreds of pages long? Do you do it by month? Or by number of pages? If something updates frequently, does that mean it gets reviewed more? These questions, and so many more, have to be asked by each reviewer and picking one changes the frequency one can review a webcomic or set of webcomics.

The second is that due to the nature of the medium – lone creators working in their free time on passion projects instead of professionals with an editorial staff – there is a resistance to taking a critical eye to these projects and rightly so. It’s one thing to critique a professionally published DC or Marvel or Image comic and it’s another to critique a single page of a new artist who may or may not be young and just messing around in the internet age.

Third, webcomics are the new kids on the block. They’ve been around in their “modern” form since the publication of Scott McCloud’s fascinating, divisive, and wildly, hilariously outdated yet still relevant book Reinventing Comics in 2001, according to The Comic Journal’s article “The History of Webcomics.” I do realize this article is from 2011 making it, much like Reinventing Comics, wildly and hilariously outdated near the end but it still gives a good, brief look into the webcomic world as seen from over half a decade ago.

But I digress. Webcomics, despite being new, have found their ways in my and many other internet denizens’ lives. Yet they are still fairly niche, more so than “regular” comics. This is in spite of having been around in a similar format for nearly a century and currently seeing a golden age in the public consciousness. The market for reviews of a niche part of a niche medium isn’t exactly a large one.

Hell, even indie comics, as in unconnected to a named publisher like Black Mask or Aftershock, have a hard time finding space alongside the other “floppies” on review sites. You have to have a big name – Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Carla Speed McNeil – to even be considered for the list.

Fourth, due to the lack of centralization I touched on earlier, finding webcomics, especially new webcomics, is a difficult task. There are, as far as I’m aware, nothing like the Diamond previews for webcomics. If a new series begins, you have to know someone who knows that creator in order to find out or be trawling through the web/hosting platform to find it.

There is also no list of past, published titles that can be easily searched. It’s all disseminated via word of mouth on the part of the reader, the creator or the collective/platform these comics are a part of. Each webcomic is its own world, sometimes a part of a stellar system comprised of many other worlds, other times all alone in the vacuum of space. Travel between worlds only works if you can see the other planets or take a long, hard look at the stars in the sky. Otherwise, you’ll never quite know what’s out there.

And, finally, it could simply be these sites just don’t have the desire to or the staff to cover a wide variety of webcomics. Here is my most speculative point. I do not know the staff numbers of other sites nor do I know the readership numbers on the sites I have cited in this article. However, based on the volume of articles and the number of different contributor names I’ve seen, I can make an educated guess as to the size of the various, non-webcomic focused sites.

Some sites have a small staff. Keeping up with news, “regular” comics and other content such as comics-adjacent TV & Movie reviews takes a lot of work and there may not be enough time in the day to cover them. Additionally, I’m sure a lot of these sites don’t make a lot of money, what with advertising and the way ads work on the internet being what it is, and so, unlike a newspaper/newspaper site, keeping staff members on retainer that work all day isn’t feasible. Again, this is just an educated guess. I don’t know how much money these sites make nor who is full-time nor who gets paid per post.

So, if a site doesn’t have the staff to spare to diversify their content to cover a notoriously tricky, decentralized and niche piece of a market, it stands to reason that there isn’t any desire to push for any consistent or comprehensive – an impossibility, I know – or critical webcomic representation. It isn’t worth it to delve into the history of anything webcomic related or do a retrospective on something like “Digger” or “8-bit Theater.”

If it sounds like I’m being too harsh on these sites, believe me I’m not trying to be harsh or critical of them. This is just the reality of the situation. I could also be wrong about these reasons, although I suspect that some combination of these factors is the truth. Motivations are a complicated and many times subconscious thing, guessing at them is a shot in the dark. Do not think ill of them for their mistakes, they are only human.

Photo credit: Google Images

A Letter To The President

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Dear José Antonio Bowen,
I am a fifth grader from the Park School of Baltimore, and I am writing to you about an issue we have been talking about in class: gun violence and school shootings. The recent march in Washington spread the word about the problem of guns in schools, and now it is time to take action and make a change.
We were thinking about what we could do as fifth graders to support this cause. I believe that if more young adults were informed about the importance of voting, perhaps they could help reform gun laws and protect future children from gun violence. For this reason I am writing to Maryland colleges to encourage their students to vote.
Do you know that only 21% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 vote? Young people should be excited to vote because they have just gotten the power to make their voices heard, and they can use that power to address the problems in their communities. Young people need not be copies of their parents and subject to the influence of others. Instead, they should exercise their right to vote in order to make positive changes in society. I would like to encourage college students to vote by making posters and putting them up at your school.

Sincerely,
Juliet Sims

[Provided by the Office of the President]

Why I’ve Become More Conservative Since Leaving Goucher – An Alum’s Perspective

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Nobody asked out loud how best to save the world. We didn’t have to.
I was sitting in class in Van Meter in 2011 or 2012 when a discussion on socioeconomic decline in Baltimore took a philosophical turn. At a surface level, we talked about things like how to become locally involved. On another level, we talked about something much bigger. Baltimore’s socioeconomics was a prompt just abstract enough, just far enough from our own experiences, that the best answer seemed to be to reflect on our own personal philosophical templates for how best to achieve change.
Four years after graduating from Goucher, I sometimes think back to that discussion and what it revealed about how Goucher students view the world and how to fix it – and how, in turn, Goucher shows the world to its students.
“Start a civic organization,” “build a new social network,” “galvanize people with social media campaigns,” were some of the ideas proposed. While there was no shortage of variety, they all had one thing in common, which was that change required the creation of something new; it was necessarily a challenge to established norms. Better to work for an NGO critical of the World Bank rather than for the World Bank. Better to work for a nonprofit rather than the private sector. Let’s describe it as an outside-the-system mentality of changemaking.
Only one student proposed anything else to help Baltimore, and it indeed seemed an especially dull idea. “There are already plenty of great causes and organizations in Baltimore,” they said. Why not join one?
That turns out to be important.
“Change” is an abstract notion. But insofar as the attitude one takes toward it will inform the thousands of important decisions one will make throughout life about career or lifestyle, it has real consequences. Liberal arts students should recognize that adopting an outside-the-system change maker’s mindset – and surrounding themselves with people who share that mindset – potentially distorts awareness of what is actually achievable, paving the way to disillusionment and disappointment. A wiser mindset is one which recognizes that worthwhile change usually comes from demonstrating success within recognized roles or organizations. That, in turn, gives you authority and power—recall that one of reasons Barack Obama gave for attending law school after his years as a community organizer in Chicago (a little-recognized role if there ever was one) was to acquire power.
In my case, the belief that I could succeed outside of recognizable roles or institutions caused me to make impractical choices. My first two years out of college I spent determined to find ways to become a short story writer or novelist — jobs which don’t exist. Goucher can hardly be blamed for foisting that ambition on me, but it did give it room and oxygen to breathe and take on life of its own.
More immediately, I decided that I would go overseas to teach English, first in Beijing and then Hong Kong. I had a great time, and I don’t regret it. But I can now acknowledge that it likely set back progress on career advancement as a journalist, in part by postponing a reckoning with what I wanted for a career. No professor ever directly encouraged this off-the-beaten-road journey of mine. But I can only observe that I departed Goucher as thoroughly committed to that journey as ever.
Why was it, that day in the classroom in Van Meter, that so many students, myself included, immediately conceived of change as something that came from the outside, rather than from within?
One reason may be the homogeneity of political and social beliefs at schools like Goucher. This can make it easy to imagine that alternative perspectives are one-dimensional, lacking in complexity and merit. From that starting point, it is natural to imagine that one already possesses the only quality one needs in order to create something different: willpower. But that is short-sighted. Willpower uncoupled to a recognizable organization or career path or institution will earn you only frustration. Experience outside college quickly shows that not only are practical barriers more taxing to political or social ideals than one anticipates – you’ll find ways to rationalize the compromising of any number of beliefs in order to have a stable paycheck – but also that the establishment institutions or organizations that are all too easy to vilify from campus are in reality constrained by any number of practical realities. In theory, students appreciate those practical realities. In practice, they take some time to hit home.
A smarter attitude to changemaking begins with recognizing the limits to how much change you can achieve. This is a notion intimately tied to the recognition that good solutions already exist. This may sound abstract, but it successfully diagnoses problems in any number of social arenas. In politics, there is no substitute for voting and civic engagement. In journalism, there is no magic antidote to declining readership in an era of instantaneous information, only quality journalism. And so on.
From this follows the recognition that change is most effectively delivered by accruing power within existing institutions and organizations. Achieving success this way demonstrates credibility, and allows people in positions of power to trust you by giving you some of their power. And being in power puts you in a far stronger position to bring change than being out of power.
Let’s assume the two assumptions here are correct: that change is best achieved by individuals who leverage power accrued within established institutions (not from outside them), and that liberal arts colleges like Goucher tend to foster the perspective that change happens from the outside in. Then these schools risk engineering a massive transfer of talent and collective conscience into marginalized roles, while at the same time leaving the world’s institutions to be run by less socially conscious individuals. NGOs will always be a critical part of the world’s democratic systems. But they will never be in the driver’s seat.
We should not allow the world’s institutions to be left to individuals who may lack strong social awareness or even the desire for change. Little by little, the students at schools like Goucher will save the world. But they will be more effective at it by recognizing that the savviest attitude to change is often one that recognizes rather than minimizes limits.

SCOTT CARPENTER ’14

Open Letter to the Goucher Community

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To the Goucher Community,
Following the Goucher Identity Survey Follow-Up discussion, our class made plans for how to best deliver the thoughts of the student body to the administration, faculty, and remaining students that were not in attendance, in hopes of unifying the community around a conversation of our shared stake in Goucher’s identity, budget and future direction. We conducted a survey which received a response of 255 responses. We advertised for the dialogue through tabling that allowed us to collect direct suggestions for the Board of Trustees and President Jose Bowen. Approximately 60-70 students (in addition to invited faculty and administration) attended the session on Wednesday, May 9th from 1:30-3:30 pm. After hearing the students elaborate on some of the responses or percentages represented in the data, we opened up the floor for the community to share its thoughts and feelings.

It seems that students feel that they come into Goucher excited and have fun engaging with the community. Many students love the community, and demonstrate their care through addressing the school’s structural problems. Students have felt demeaned and impeded when attempting to implement these changes. Students expressed hope that this could change. “Goucher can be an experimental and interdisciplinary place that integrates student power through supporting their studies,” said one student.

Some resonating comments highlighted that we are a communal environment, that relies on a close, personal network of friends and professionals. Students are grateful for the support we receive from faculty, though this is dependent on the professors that are here. Without them, students can feel overwhelmed, juggling their academic responsibilities amidst their administrative concerns on our campus. It’s not sustainable for students to lead and market student-run programs without the school providing further support for said students in other areas of their lives. These student-run initiatives are then co-opted by administration for marketing purposes. This ignorance of students’ grievances with structural limitations of certain departments leaves students dissatisfied, and seeking other schools that may address their needs. These students feel disconnected from the Goucher community.“We’re breaking eggs for an omelette that students didn’t ask for, and current students are the eggs,” said one student.

Students expressed feeling panicked with Goucher’s lack of a unified vision. A campus that totes a liberal identity but ignores the needs of marginalized voices poses a challenge to students seeking to engage in true community. Despite Goucher’s shortcomings, Goucher students also seem hopeful that Goucher could truly be a place that engages students from different backgrounds in critical conversations about identity. However, as a student body, we need to be receptive of different views to adapt to a changing community and political climate, and we must be also able to have these conversations in a way that does not depend on students of color to provide the education for those with privilege.

Students value their Goucher experience because of the diversity in thought, and the freedom to think and explore on this campus. Some students appreciated study abroad as the opportunity to connect to communities globally, and that allowed students to experience something outside of their comfort zone. When engaging with outside communities, students want to see Goucher fully embody its social justice identity as demonstrated through its actions and dedication to institutional change. Students wish to see our administration acting proactively in response to issues on our campus and/or political issues that impact members of our community. Students inquired about the history of Goucher’s land as a slave plantation/”farm”, asking that Goucher College maintain honesty with students about our school’s history and intentions for the future. Students also suggested Goucher interview current students about their Goucher experience in addition to conducting exit interviews.

There is an underlying issue of mental health that plagues most students as they continue to have their needs go unmet. Most students are left to figure out how to navigate the system on their own causing much stress and burden for a college student learning how to navigate the world. The services on our campus need to provide more stable options for counseling, as well as more consistent access to advanced treatment. In addition, these mental health challenges prevent leaders from engaging in the community as they must recover themselves. This heavily impacts the campus as we rely heavily on student-run initiatives. If students are not empowered to succeed in their academic and social experiences, our campus climate will decline as more students experience depression and struggle to maintain positivity.

Research into the budget allocation reveals financial information which students value understanding, as students also have an interest in Goucher’s economic stability. Students wish to be seen as equal and valued collaborators in the administration of our campus. What students seek is POWER not support.
Issues that students mentioned needed resolution or sought further conversation on, were:

  • Academics
  • Student Life
  • Social Apathy
  • Mental Health
  • Athletics Department
  • Accuracy of Marketing
  • Structural Limitations in Implementing Institutional Change
  • Goucher’s Identity Crisis
  • Goucher’s Transitional Period
  • Administration’s Focus on the First-Year Class
  • The Goucher Bubble
  • Study Abroad
  • Faculty of Color
  • Financial Restraints/ Economic Advisor for First-Generation Students

This reflection captures some of the perceptions expressed at our Identity Survey discussion. However, it lacks full student input and struggles to weave together opposing views into a unified voice. There are still more questions to consider. What kind of students do we want to attract to Goucher? What does Goucher embody and what does that mean? Are we losing the essence of our identity? How can we make the ideals of study abroad be what we do within the college?

The survey, discussion, and efforts of this PCE 220 class were merely conducted in hopes of sparking more conversations about our respective stake in Goucher’s future. Where do you stand? Where do you agree or disagree? We encourage you to engage in these conversations in the future with your peers or future organizers on this topic. Whatever your concern may be, don’t be afraid to jumpstart conversation and act on your beliefs. We cannot have any collective power until we have the courage to unify amongst ourselves.

LYDELL HILLS ON BEHALF OF PEACE STUDIES 220

A Cereal Defense

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There’s a great scene about midway through an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia called “Reynolds vs Reynolds: The Cereal Defense,” where Mac is trying to convince The Gang that evolution is not real. The back and forth between Mac and Dennis is the best part. Dennis suggests that evolution is real “Because all of the smartest scientists in all of the world agree that it’s real.” Mac responds asking if he’s a fool “because he has more faith in the Saints that the wrote the bible?” “Yeah,” Dennis retorts, “because you just read the words of a bunch of guys that you never met, and you just take it on ‘faith’ that everything they wrote was true.” To which Mac replies by suggesting that Dennis should have no more faith in the scientists, data, and fossil records he believes in because he has never “pored through the numbers and figures” himself, meaning “You get your information from a book, written by men you’ve never met, and you take their words as truth, based on a willingness to believe, a desire to accept, a leap of…faith.” Dennis is speechless.
The scene is absurd, but there is a kernel of insight from Mac here—not about the validity of evolution—but in the way we think we know what we know, and how we defend it. The dogmatism we adhere to when it comes to our politics and culture has reached a fever pitch—it is in fact, religious. This is what discourse is like when everyone, not just liberals and conservatives, operate on differing notions of reality. There is no nuance; everything is either right or wrong.
Think about climate change, I consider this a good parallel. We can objectively observe the Earth’s rising temperature. We cannot observe what exactly is causing this rise in temperature. There is evidence to suggest that a rise in atmospheric CO2 has something to do with it. However, we can’t prove what portion of the cause of rising average temperatures can be attributed this rise in atmospheric CO2. There is little evidence, if any, to suggest that the United States’ entrance or exit from the Paris Climate Agreement will have any effect on the amount of atmospheric CO2, or average global temperatures. However, this is not the prevailing narrative. We are told that people either do or do not believe in climate change—you’re all in or you’re all out—and you certainly can’t engage in economic cost benefit analysis on policies put in place to allegedly stop or slow climate change. If you happen to think some of these policies aren’t worth their economic cost, you’re against “science” and you’re an idiot. Maybe this is what Mac means when he says, “Science is a liar sometimes.”
Think for a moment how many nuanced conversations you’ve had with peers or faculty concerning climate change. Just ask yourself why you think what you do about it and try not to rely on the “95% of scientists say so” line. We must be willing to discuss issues like climate change, policies surrounding these issues, and question why we believe what we believe in order to truly understand the problem and bring others to understand as well.
We should consider our education a failure if we sit in class together with people that all think the same way and with professors who either affirm our previously held beliefs or stand at the head of the class handing us knowledge to be written down and never questioned. So often, anyone who dissents from the orthodoxy gets berated for questioning what others believe to be established. In reality, one of the best ways to know that you’ve received a proper education is by being less sure of things than you were when you started.
What happens when we collectively lose our ability to think of the world in half-truths—because this path is more difficult and less satisfying—is that everything becomes a bit like that climate change scenario. It’s an interesting irony that institutions of higher learning are places simultaneously considered to be where some of our greatest thinkers go to learn and teach, as well as places that are the most ideologically one-sided and doctrinaire.
Ideas touted as extremely important at Goucher such as diversity and tolerance have been fetishized into a different thing altogether; the more progressive you are, the more we tolerate your opinion, regardless of its merits. I’m somebody who champions free market ideas, supports individual rights rather than those of the group, believes in the value of strong families in society, and advertises the unique greatness of America in history. These ideas are not controversial, but the Overton Window has shifted so much at college that they are often dismissed based on their inherent “colonialism,” or because of their association with “white supremacy” and the “patriarchy”—the buzzwords du jour. This environment, which is largely conceived in the spirit of postmodernism, incentivizes a culture of unthinking and faction. It’s not conducive to learning or growing and it’s at the heart of the issue that many people are trying to get at when they bring up free speech on campus. This isn’t about free speech, although it often leads to issues about expression. It’s about whether we go to school to seek truth through legitimate discussion, or whether we’re just going to talk past one another with our preconceived notions of what is right.
Colleges produce our “elite” class, the people who shape debate, policy, the economy, and control the commanding heights of our country. When these people all think the same way—not necessarily just from the left, but within the same general frame of mind—you get a system conducive to producing something like what we have now; President Trump isn’t the end of this, he’s a symptom. This is not meant to be an indictment of the left and their various ideologies, but of the lack of critical thinking on campus. We need more people with diverse thoughts and ideas, but if every person who doesn’t think we should have open borders or espouses principles associated with the free market system becomes a “neo-fascist,” we are going to get less thinking and more dogma.
We can’t be afraid to learn the truth, or grapple with things we disagree with because then we cannot move forward. I have seen this in my classes the few times we have tried to have difficult conversations. Everyone is afraid to say something that they think will offend the sensibilities of someone else, so everyone dances around the issue. You can’t force someone to think a certain way about something, you have to convince them. This goes for every idea. Responsible people need to discuss and deal with the complicated, often sensitive problems we have, otherwise they will fall to the irresponsible and pernicious among us—people like Mac and Dennis, if you will.

Featured Image: The Cereal Defense. Credit: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Wiki

Goucher Problem #∞ (Though, Not Only Goucher’s Fault)

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Upon putting together admission packets, scrolling through Goucher’s website and looking through courses offered, time and time again, Goucher seems to promote the Baltimore Student Exchange Program. For those who are not familiar with the exchange program, it is a way for students to take classes at outside universities if Goucher, or the other colleges part of the program, do not provide that class or language at the home institution. (And to be honest, that is a big reason Goucher appealed to me.)

Now comes into play why I have issues with our Baltimore Student Exchange Program. I wanted to take Chinese for my language requirement, a course no longer offered at Goucher, but I was not allowed to take it at a different institution. Goucher’s language requirement is three semesters for any language if they are to start as a beginner – and it is always best to start this requirement early, especially considering all of the other requirements we students now need to complete (cough, CPEs, cough). However, upon beginning the process of choosing classes, I came upon a roadblock. When I asked about taking Chinese at another institution, the answer I got was conflicting.

For starters, during the summer when Goucher hosted their YouTube live sessions for incoming freshman, I had asked: “How can I take Chinese at another school so I can fulfill my requirement?” And the answer I received was not encouraging and helpful, rather it was, in some ways, meant to deter me. The answer I got was along the lines of “Freshman are not allowed to study at a different institution because we want our freshman to become acquainted with our campus.” Now, the answer is a great one in theory. But the problem with it is simple, how much time would I honestly be spending at the other institution? I’d still be living at Goucher, taking three out of my four classes at Goucher, getting an on-campus job at Goucher, and spending most of my time here. So why was that the answer I got?

That aside, I decided to push ahead and see if I could take Chinese during my second semester. I started to research the system, came up with a class that had a boatload of empty seats and found one that worked great with my schedule. With everything researched I submitted my application and was pretty sure that I was going to be allowed to take the class. I mean the person running the program said in mundane terms, “You are most likely going to get in because it is a language requirement.” However almost half a month later right before finals were starting, I got an email telling me I was not accepted. The reason: there were not enough seats.

Now granted that part was not Goucher’s fault. Rather, it was the other institutions who claimed, when I called them, that there was no availability in the classes even though there was still a good deal more open seats (almost ten). However, with that said, there are still significant problems with Goucher and the inter-collegiate system.

If Goucher is going to be a part of and actively promote students’ abilities to study at partnering institutions, shouldn’t all students be allowed to take part? Goucher is at no point not benefiting if a student is only taking one course at a different institution. Moreover, even if they were not profiting, the pros far outweigh the cons. For us students, there would be more doors opened for educational opportunities, Goucher could be getting other students from those nearby institutions, and the students from Goucher would still be living and paying Goucher for their education due to them still being the home institution. However, if Goucher College is worried that allowing their students to study at colleges such as Towson University, Loyola Maryland or Johns Hopkins University would result in even more students transferring, well then, that is less a reflection of the program itself and more how Goucher deals with their academics.

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