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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.

Problems Within the #MeToo Movement

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In 2006, Tarana Burke founded the Me Too movement. The movement aims to create a community and support system for sexual assault survivors. This platform allows for survivors to share their stories in the public eye, accompanied by the hashtag #MeToo, with the purpose of informing the public and empowering survivors. The sharing of these stories allows for the public to be informed of the magnitude of the issue, while recognizing the personal impact it has on individuals, in order to begin an entire societal shift to change the current state of the sexual violence epidemic. In addition to informing the public, the movement allows for survivors to recognize they are not alone, feel more comfortable coming forward with their own stories, feel empowered to break their silence, and ultimately find a starting point to begin the healing process. Tarana’s ideology behind the movement is “empowerment through empathy”.

In October of last year, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within 24 hours, there were over 12 million posts and interactions involving #MeToo. To the millions involving themselves with the trending hashtag, Alyssa Milano had seemingly started a movement. What was ignored was Tarana Burke’s movement, under the same name and ideology, that had been founded ten years earlier. Burke was shocked to see Milano’s tweet and the explosion of #MeToo, stating, “Initially I panicked. I felt a sense of dread, because something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken from me and used for a purpose that I hadn’t originally intended” (qtd. in Garcia). The widespread popularity of this movement being initiated by a white, famous woman, without the credit given to the actual founder, a black woman, creates an inherent issue with the hashtag that leaves women of color out of the conversation, while the spotlight is held over famous, white cisgender women.

Another group that remains marginalized by the #MeToo movement are trans and non-binary identifying people. First, the language involved in the movement, with the usage of “women and femme”, centers the conversation around the gender binary. This frames the dialogue as a cis men vs. cis women issue, leaving trans/non-binary people out of the conversation. Trans women are still not viewed as women in many circles of society, and as a result, their stories are often invalidated, pushed to the side and ignored. Last year, on RuPaul’s podcast Whats The Tee?, Rose McGowan, actress, Weinstein accuser and an active member in the #MeToo movement, said, “They [trans women] assume because they felt like a woman on the inside . . . That’s not developing as a woman. That’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in this world as a woman.” If people with power involved in the movement perpetuate the idea of trans women not being women and invalidating their experiences, this idea will also embed itself in the movement. “Welcome to womanhood” is a phrase trans women are often met with when they come forward with their experiences of sexual violence (Mamone), rather than being met with support, as cis women are. Many trans and GNC people do not feel comfortable participating in this conversation because of the fear of the lack of support they will receive, or even backlash. They also don’t feel comfortable asserting themselves into the conversation because they do not see themselves represented in the conversation. No trans/gender nonconforming people were featured in Time Magazine’s profile of the #MeToo “SilenceBreakers” last year.

The #MeToo movement ignores the fact that trans and gender non-conforming people experience the greatest amount of violence due to gender. According the the National Center for Transgender Equality, “47 percent of trans people say they experienced sexual violence sometime during their lives” (qtd. in Talusan). Not only are trans people at risk of unwanted sexual advances, but they are also at greater risk of physical assault and murder because of their identity. Intersectional journalist, Meredith Talusan, discusses how the MeToo hashtag only aims to help cis women, as the experiences of trans and GNC people are not brought to the forefront, even though they experience the greatest oppression. Talusan states, ”We continue to be footnotes in discussions of gender-based violence, even when we’re the most affected.”

While the #MeToo movement leaves women of color, trans women and non-binary people out of the conversation, the structure and goal of the conversation itself may not even help to make a change within our society. Although the movement absolutely has the potential to bring a sense of solidarity to victims, an issue lies with the movement’s goal of raising awareness of the problem. Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki describes this issue:

“”Me, too” is framed as an attempt to convince people that sexual violence is a problem. It implies that sexual violence is pervasive simply because (mostly) men don’t understand that it’s so prevalent, which I don’t believe. It reinforces the idea
that if there are enough numbers on your side, then we should believe and listen. One victim should be enough for us to care. One survivor is already too many. Listening and believing survivors is great, but it should be the first step of many in doing our part to end sexual violence. We need everyone to participate in raising awareness and taking concrete actions against rape culture, rather than leaving it to survivors to do the heavy lifting.”

The #MeToo movement places the work on the survivors; relying on them to come forward with their stories in order to initiate change in society. The problem lies within the abusers, and we must target them directly to initiate change. We must also work to put the most marginalized groups, women of color, trans and gender non-conforming people, at the forefront of the

conversation. Problems will exist within any movement, and it is important to examine and address the issues head-on in order to create a more inclusive, intersectional, and successful movement.

Feature Image Credit: Google Images

Why You Should Join Goucher Poll

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You know about Goucher Poll, right? As a Goucher student you’ve probably received a couple dozen emails from them each semester and dismissed them as spam, but I think working for Goucher Poll is a very enriching opportunity for any student at Goucher. It pays $9.25/hour and is very low maintenance. Training for the job is very minimal, and newcomers can learn everything they’ll need to know during a quick one hour and 15 minute training session. Once you actually start working the polls you’ll have multiple supervisors around you at all times that you can ask for help. You can even use your phone while you’re working, so long as you keep making poll calls. I don’t know any other job that lets you do that. Unlike most other jobs on campus, being employed with Goucher Poll doesn’t limit your ability to work additional jobs on campus. You can work a full time job on campus, as well as do some work with Goucher Poll on the side. Even if you’re working solely with Goucher Poll, the shifts are very flexible, meaning you can choose your own schedule. Each shift itself is four hours and 15 minutes long, and shifts take place from 4:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 12:45 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends. This means you can work only as many hours as your comfortable with, whether it’s four and a quarter hours per week or up to 20 hours per week.

I worked with Goucher Poll both last semester and this semester and it gave me more than just a paycheck. I personally have never enjoyed or been proficient at talking with people over the phone, especially strangers, but working at Goucher Poll has helped boost my public speaking skills and phone skills. After hundreds and hundreds of calls over multiple shifts, it stopped being so awkward for me to sit in an office for a few hours a week and ask random Maryland residents about their views and opinions over the phone.

“Even if you’re working solely with Goucher Poll, the shifts are very flexible, meaning you can choose your own schedule.” Photo Credit: Google Images

I’m not the only person who got a variety of useful experience from Goucher Poll. Zahir Mammadzada is a first year student at Goucher who has been working with Goucher Poll since the beginning of his first semester back in September and worked with Goucher Poll for its February poll as well. According to Zahir, working at Goucher Poll is “very interesting because (you) get the chance to meet so many different people from around this area and learn about them.” While Zahir “prefer(s) talking with people in person” he still enjoyed meeting so many Maryland residents through his work with the poll. When asked what he would like to tell other students about Goucher Poll, Zahir told me he would recommend it to anyone on campus. “It’s easy money; I mean, you get paid to just sit there and talk to people for a couple hours. It’s great.” Goucher Poll has closed for this semester but will return next semester and I hope you consider trying it out at least once during your time at Goucher.

It’s Time to Keep Our Schools Safe

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After the school shooting, students plan to demand legislation against gun violence
Photo: Google Images

On Wednesday, February 14th, 2018, a tragedy rocked the nation. In Parkland, Florida, suspect Nikolas Cruz entered the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with a loaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Cruz began shooting within the freshman building, eventually discarding the weapon and ammunition in a stairwell, and exiting the school by blending in with fleeing students. Authorities arrested Cruz at 3:41 p.m. as he was walking down a residential street (Turkewitz, Mazzei, and Burch, 2018). It was later discovered that there were 17 victims from the school shooting, 4 more than the Columbine massacre in 1999 (Cameron, 2018). Despite the amount of shootings that have occurred in the past couple decades, very little has been done by government officials to ensure safety within the U.S educational system.

There are differing views on what can be done to protect those at educational institutions, but what cannot be disputed is the rise of gun violence in the United States and its effect on children. According to a study of World Health Organization data in the American Journal of Medicine, it has been found that 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by gunfire lived in the United States (Cox and Rich, 2018). Even in instances where accidental gunshots were fired on campus grounds with no injuries, those affected still may have experienced trauma.

However, these incidents are not limited to the locations already affected. These events are real, and can happen anywhere, at anytime.

Not even a day after the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Loch Raven High School, 2.5 miles from Goucher College, went into lockdown due to a student bringing a pellet gun into the building. Apparently the student had shown the gun to another student, then discarded it. The offending student was charged as a juvenile for possessing a dangerous weapon on school property. Before the student was arrested, the school went into a lockdown for almost an hour, during which the students of the school hid in fear. Eighteen year old student Jordan Staten said, ‘“We were really scared. It was really awkward. We didn’t really know what to do, just [had to] sit there and wait. Whenever we heard a small noise or something, we’d freak out.”’ (Campbell, Knezevich, and Richman, 2018). No person should ever feel threatened while at a school, a place meant to be a safe space for learning and growth.

What can we do as a school to put a stop to these incidents?

As a community consisting of students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni, Goucher College possesses an incredible capability to induce change. If the entirety of the school and it’s connections were to contact Maryland state and local representatives, and the representatives of their home-state, perhaps some form of legislation could be proposed to address the issue. Now is the time to voice your concerns. We can not afford to keep quiet.

To contact your federal, state and local officials, you can find their information at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

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