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Opinion - page 2

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.

Have Faith: A Reflection

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For Sebastian. Take care, pal, you’ll be missed.
Life is fragile and fleeting. Most of us are aware of this, but I’m not sure if we really understand it. I had a bit of a wakeup call recently, when I got an email from my high school with a very vague subject line of “Sad News.” And so, in a smoky, dinky corner bar in Brazil, I found out that a friend of mine had passed away. It was a chilling, sobering realization, that someone I’d seen months ago, someone my age, was just not here anymore.

“I’m scared of a lot of things, and death has never been one of them, but in this moment, I was afraid of death.” Photo Credit: Google Images

This sobering, chilling feeling kept me up at night for a couple of weeks, because the truth is, I was scared. I’m scared of a lot of things, and death has never been one of them, but in this moment, I was afraid of death. Not because there was so much to see, or so much to do, or because I’d miss people, but because for once I was close enough to it that the unknown seemed imposing, intimidating, and much too close for comfort. I find myself, then, with only a simple sticking point to solve my dilemma: what’s going to happen if I die right now?
I’m not a particularly religious person, and I derive no comfort from the idea of a god or an afterlife, so that can’t help me. That’s not a problem, as I’ve always sort of taken it for granted that I’d just stop at death. I’ve done nothing to leave as a testament to my existence, so that’s no good either. This is a little worse, because I’d really like to leave behind something to prove that I was here. Besides, I’m not exactly hopeful that, were either of those the case, I’d be satisfied with it.
And therein lies the first rub: I’m not a hopeful person. Whenever I’m not doing well, I get logical, which is exceedingly helpful to fix most of my problems, from not having studied to writing papers hours before they’re due. People, however, are neither logical nor fixable, so this attitude isn’t exactly helpful when dealing with people problems. This frustrates me to no end, and frustration makes me cynical. I’m usually okay until I get here, where the cynicism kills me.
Therein lies rub numero dos: I find it exceedingly hard to get out of this mindset on my own, which means I need help, and I am deathly afraid of needing or asking for help. I don’t want to be a drag, and I don’t want to be a buzzkill, so I tend to be hesitant at best when I need a hand. I’m forever thankful to my friends, who have been there for me many times, for helping me despite my best efforts.
If it seems like I’m leading up to a big reveal here, I hate to disappoint, but this isn’t that kind of article. The solution to my problems is me being less stubborn, but that’s not my point. It’s not about finding a solution, but rather about finding out why that’s the solution. Not to be too cliché, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that life, fragile though it may be, is not only the path we walk, but the forest surrounding it. Like any other forest, it gets brambly, sometimes the path disappears, and you’ll probably run into some spots where you can’t see the sky, and that’s fine. Sometimes, all we need is to look around, focus, and have faith.

For students looking for support and conversation about grief, the Student Bereavement Group meets on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:45 in the Chapel Undercroft.

Evictions in Baltimore City: Why We Should Care

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“The Goucher Community’s commitment to working towards a just and fair world necessitates that we are aware of the injustices that are happening at the core of our extended community beyond our campus.” Photo Credit: Lusk Law

As a student at Goucher College, living in a county outside of Baltimore city proper, I want to take the time to address a very important issue that affects residents of the city and should be of concern to students as well. I recently wrote a paper about the impact of eviction on women of color in Baltimore. A 2015 report by the Public Justice Center found that Baltimore ranked second in the nation, along with Detroit, in the percentage of residents who faced eviction notices, particularly single black mothers.
The Goucher Community’s commitment to working towards a just and fair world necessitates that we are aware of the injustices that are happening at the core of our extended community beyond our campus. Though our campus commitment to feminism is palpable, similarly to the movement at large, sometimes our lens is limited and exclusive, perhaps due to our lack of experience and exposure. I’ve noticed that the conversation amongst feminists in general, as well as within the Goucher community, is lacking in two critical ways. First, those identifying as feminists do not consistently use an intersectional lens in understanding and solving issues impacting women and communities, and second, important issues are overlooked in favor of an almost singular focus on issues related to women’s bodies and reproductive rights. “Mainstream” feminists often forget that women of color cannot just think about reproductive freedom because they are not yet afforded the basic freedoms and fundamental rights granted to the majority–in particular, access to safe and affordable housing. We need to widen our focus and strive for an intersectional feminist lens both in understanding and effecting change on campus and, as importantly, within our broader community.
What do evictions look like in Baltimore, Maryland? Scholars Matthew Desmond and Rachel Kimbro have found that the effects of being evicted are felt economically and mentally by all those subject to eviction but particularly on women of color on whom the impact is even more acute. Often, following an eviction, black women and their children will face prolonged homelessness and loss or confiscation of their possessions. In effect, evicted mothers and their families suffer doubly because they are left to spend additional money on new items for the temporary household, all the while budgeting for a new unit. The Baltimore Sun and NPR reported that following homelessness, the family is often forced to relocate, forcing the mother to find a new school for her children, a new job for herself with full knowledge that layoff rates are 11 to 15 percent higher for workers who have experienced an eviction, and rebuild networks of support. During these relocation periods, women of color are often faced with moving to even poorer neighborhoods where food deserts go hand in hand with a lack of other necessary services. All these factors result in a significant, often debilitating, burden on women of color in the city of Baltimore.
Both the physical and mental health effects of an eviction have as great an impact, or more so, on poor, black women’s lives as the economic consequences because these are more long term. Desmond and Kimbro explain that single mothers are desperate to find a new home after being evicted, and thus are often more likely to settle for substandard living conditions. This can lead to significant health issues, such as asthma or lead poisoning. When housing becomes the most pressing and a disproportionately severe cost for a mother, access to other essential needs–like healthcare–become acutely strained. Black mothers evicted from their homes are more likely to face depression and psychological distress due to the extended periods of homelessness and instability as a result of eviction. The American Journal of Public Health reports that not only does homelessness cause depression, but it is demonstrably related to suicides as well. Clearly, the effects of eviction on health and access to health care often are interconnected.
What exactly we, as Goucher students, do from here about the impact of eviction on women of color in Baltimore, I can not say precisely. I hope that this has brought awareness to the topic at the very least, and that perhaps it serves as an invitation to effect change. There are many organizations in the city of Baltimore that can be a start of change such as The Women’s Housing Coalition, Right to Housing Alliance, and the Public Justice Center. However, in the long run, in Baltimore and across the country, we must reimagine public policy to mitigate and address evictions and their indelible effects head on. If we fail to do so, poor people, people of color, and particularly, black mothers will continue to face entrenched poverty and socio-economic marginalization as a result of the eviction process and its prevalence.

America’s Math Problem

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” The budget will increase federal spending by close to $300 billion over the course of the next two years, with military spending set to increase by $165 billion and non-defense spending by $130 billion. This is bad news for Americans, in particular young Americans who will have to foot the bill for the future costs of these decisions.” Photo Credit: Committee for a Responsible Budget

Last Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year budget deal in the early hours of the morning, which was subsequently signed by President Donald Trump. The budget will increase federal spending by close to $300 billion over the course of the next two years, with military spending set to increase by $165 billion and non-defense spending by $130 billion. This is bad news for Americans, in particular young Americans who will have to foot the bill for the future costs of these decisions. Unfortunately, it is also young Americans who pay the least attention to these sorts of issues. Here’s why it matters.
In the simplest terms, we spend more than we have the money to pay for. Many believe that the Federal deficit—the amount by which our government’s expenditures exceed its tax revenues—does not matter. The argument is that we can just make up for this deficit by borrowing money; generally speaking we do not have an issue borrowing at favorable rates because we are trusted to pay back our debts. We have the largest economy in the world, so this is not a crazy assumption. I generally agree that it is okay to run a deficit, but within reason. We start running into problems when the deficit-to-GDP ratio gets too high, or the trend continues in the wrong direction. This is exactly what will happen when we combine this spending deal with the latest round of Republican tax cuts. As things stand, by 2021, we will be facing budget shortfalls above 1 trillion dollars. With entitlement—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid—reform unlikely in this political climate and being as close to the midterm elections as we are, this means there is very little hope of reigning in federal spending any time soon. While we may not face the worst consequences in the near term, we are extending an already dangerous standard for fiscal irresponsibility.
Don’t worry, it’s not just the federal government. Many state governments are coming to the realization that they are on the hook to pay for things they can’t afford either. Connecticut’s most recent state budget positions the state to run a deficit of $3.5 billion over the next two fiscal years. New Jersey has a debt per capita of $4,937, nearly three times the national average. Illinois and Kentucky are in the same boat. There are two huge problems for these fiscally imploding states that the federal government does not deal with: they cannot print money, and their richest residents and businesses—the ones that states raise crucial revenue from in the form of tax dollars—can just move if taxes get too high. They are beginning to do so.
If we continue on this track, relatively soon we are going to have a Federal government in fiscal crisis and state governments, already struggling to fund their liabilities, that will receive less state aid. This is a math problem, and it is a problem for all of us — Republicans, Democrats, people of all ideological affiliations and walks of life. It will be our responsibility to pay for this, just as soon as we’re done paying our student loans. If you think Bernie Sanders is going to relieve us of our college and healthcare payments, that’s fine, just stack it on top of the national debt. We’ll pay for it eventually.
The only way out is if we start electing politicians who are fiscally responsible. I suppose the reason that this problem doesn’t have more purchase amongst our age cohort or even the general U.S. electorate is because it’s not directly related to the culture wars. Whatever your stance on all of these issues we love to debate, you should put them to the side for a second, or at least also demand fiscal responsibility from your elected officials—regardless of whether it says (R) or (D) next to their name. If young voters do not begin to care about spending issues and turnout on election day, this problem will get worse. Elected officials will continue to appease the aging generations ahead of us and pass the burden right on down.

How to Infuse Your Life with Creativity

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Day after day, you perform your quotidian tasks mindlessly, without reason or inquiry.

While you walk the same paths to get to that same place to see the same people to learn the same things, you continually daydream about more exciting times and places. As you daydream and contemplate the existential questions floating in your head, the uncomfortable empty space between your ribs expands. You hopelessly search for a way to fill this void, while a solution to this hopelessness and monotony has existed all along. This solution is creative engagement.

“In addition to benefiting your in education and career, art can help to facilitate your happiness and well being.” Photo Credit: Google Images.

Reflect on the role art played in your childhood. You colored, painted, and crafted for the sheer joy of it. You approached the day with wonder in your eyes. The world was your playground. The unfortunate truth is that society and school has since attempted, and most likely succeeded, to milk you dry of your creativity. Most of us lead lives involving minimal creativity. Starting in middle school, art is entirely separate from the “essential” classes, like math, science, languages, and English. Because art is not prioritized by the education system, many students view art as useless and don’t take any classes. Many students also believe they are inherently unartistic, and therefore do not take classes. The most common perception of art is what is displayed in museums, and consequently, art is seen as unachievable for the normal person— destined for the few that are born with artistic talent. On the other hand, individuals who are talented and enjoy art are steered away from pursing it because of the notion of the “starving artist”. For these reasons, most people avoid art both in and out of school.

We fail to recognize the variety of art forms that exist, and how many of these forms are achievable to the everyday person. We don’t recognize that art has the potential to fulfill us, to assist us academically, to give us new perspectives, to de-stress us, and to assist us in future careers. We are not cognizant of the impact the implementation of creativity can have on every aspect of our daily lives. All of us can get so much out of art, and for this reason, we must reclaim the creativity we once had as children. Now is the time to do it. As college students, we are exploring and diving into different subjects, living on our own for the first time, and preparing to enter a career; art and creativity can assist us along this journey.

The first benefit when integrating creativity into your life is the academic advantage. Using art processes develops specific skills sets that can assist you in education. Art educator, Beth Dickson, highlights the skills you can achieve through art, including “problem identification, solution design, implementation and experimentation, and processes of reflection in order to achieve their outcomes” (71). Personally, creative engagement has given me skill sets that I couldn’t acquire by any other method. I allow myself to experiment and think in more abstract ways which results in more original creations in essays and projects. Thinking out of the box makes problem solving an easier task. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner, so integrating art into my studying facilitates my understanding of ideas learned in class.

Creativity is also a sought after ability in most careers. The aforementioned skills can be carried into one’s career. Employers seek out people who can apply these skills, because “‘creativity’ is synonymous with the innovation necessary for economic growth” (Dickson 57). If a company wants to grow, they must have people that can think creatively and develop new, never before seen ideas. Without creative employees, companies would keep producing the same things, over and over. Creative and innovative minds help the companies to grow. Through nurturing your creativity and obtaining these skills, you will be at an advantage and therefore be sought after by employers.

In addition to benefiting your in education and career, art can help to facilitate your happiness and well being. Releasing repressed emotions through art works to calm and distress your body and mind. Making art allows you to be fully present in the moment, keeping your mind active and awake, and making you more mindful. Art enlightens you with new perspectives on life. Art intensifies our feelings, thoughts, ideas and imagination. Art causes us to admire our everyday life. Art provokes conversation, brings communities together and encourages solidarity. Art preserves history while encouraging change (Howard 2).

Art and creativity contribute countless benefits to your life, and—in the long run—will allow you to lead a happier, more fulfilling life. Don’t have the time or money to take an art class? There are small changes you can apply to your life that can make a large impact, without costing you extra money, stress or time.

First, you must realize you are an artist. Relocate the inner artist that was present when you were a child. You colored because it was an enjoyable activity, not because you were good at it or had the intention of putting your coloring page in a museum. People avoid making art because of the fear of judgement and the fear of their art “not being good enough.” They believe that the function of the artist is to produce likable and wanted art. They believe that the artist is few and far between, as they must be someone with talent and training. This notion is dangerous because art is fundamental for any and every human. Many don’t realize that everyone can, and should, be an artist. Art, in any form, creates an emotional outlet. Art assists you in expressing and releasing emotions when traditional conversation can’t. If you make art, you are an artist— regardless of the quality of the product.

Many believe the notion of “everyone is an artist” makes art less valuable. In an interview, artist Joesph Beuys was asked, “A well-known saying of yours asserts that ‘Every man is an artist.’ If every man is an artist, then why have art academies and art professors at all?” To which Beuys answered, “To be sure, ‘every man is an artist’ in a general sense: one must be an artist for example, to create self-determination. But at a certain stage in his life every man becomes a specialist in a certain way; one studies chemistry, another sculpture or painting, a third becomes doctor, and so on. For this reason we understandably need special schools” (255). Beuys understands that humans are creative beings by nature, and therefore can engage creatively in some capacity, but not necessarily to the capacity of art becoming one’s entire life. Art can be a part of your life, without it being your whole life. You can create art without aesthetic value and without the intention of producing it. Nevertheless, you are still an artist because you are creating art.

Make art. Figure out what works for you. There are so many different forms of art to explore that can allow express yourself in ways that stand out from then the monotony of everyday life. When creating art, focus on the process rather than the product. The actual process of creating art is often ignored. Professor Ellen Langer further explains, “Unfortunately, our culture leads us to evaluate almost everything we do…We look at the end product and pass judgment on whether is it ‘creative’ or not without regard for whether a mindfully engaged individual created it. We distinguish the product from the experience of creating it” (5). As a result of society focusing on the final product, people do not make art for the fear of judgement. The artist’s personal experience in creating the art is what where the importance should be focused, because the process is what provides the artist with personal benefits. The process is cathartic, enjoyable, makes us more creative, and allows us to be fully present and mindful.

Be mindful. Realize that you already use creative processes everyday. Take notice when you are in situations that require creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Find ways you can you expand on these situations and use creative processes more often. Be mindful of your everyday surroundings. We get so caught up in the monotony of our daily schedules that our surroundings become boring. We become blind to what is going on around us. If you look at everyday things with a creative, fresh perspective, life will become more intriguing and exciting. As Joseph Beuys once said, “Even the act of peeling a potato can be an artistic act if it is consciously done.”

Works Cited

Adriani, Götz, Winfried Konnertz, and Karin Thomas. Joseph Beuys, Life and Works.

Woodbury, N.Y: Barron’s, 1979. Print.

Cannatella, Howard. Why We Need Arts Education : Revealing the Common Good: Making

Theory and Practice Work Better. Sense Publishers, 2015. EBSCOhost, goucher.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1057255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Dickson, Beth. Education and the Arts. Dunedin Academic Press

Limited, 2011. Policy and Practice in Education. EBSCOhost, goucher.idm.oclc.org/ login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspxdirect=true&db=nlebk&AN=380339&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Langer, Ellen J. On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself through Mindful Creativity. Ballantine Books, 2006.

 

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