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Opinion - page 3

When Friends are Abroad

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“It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester.”

Studying abroad, on either and ICA or a semester, is a quintessential part of the Goucher experience, but what happens when all your friends are studying abroad for a semester and you’re not? This happened to me this semester, and is going to be even more apparent next semester as well. While it’s been a difficult experience, I’ve definitely learned a lot from it and I wanted to share some of my insight.
My freshman year, one thing that I loved about Goucher was being able to walk down Van Meter and overhear conversations such as, “Professors were just so different in Paris” or “I miss the food from Seville so much!”. There was so much casual name dropping of people’s amazing experiences, I was so impressed and jealous of everyone. When it came time for me to decide where I was going abroad, I so badly wanted to go abroad for an entire semester, however it soon became clear this wasn’t possible. It became obvious that with the schedule of my two majors that I wasn’t going to be able to both go abroad for a semester and graduate in four years. Even though I was disappointed, I was still happy and excited for the different ICA programs that I could possibly go on. However, it turned out that most of my friends were all going abroad my junior year, leading to me to feel nervous about what Goucher would be like without them.
The first thing I struggled with was feeling jealous. It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester. This was especially hard when my friends would tell me about how beautiful Scotland was or how great the beer in Brussels is. I genuinely wanted to hear about their experiences, but also struggled with feeling jealous. I’ve found that while it’s important to listen to my friends and hear about their lives, it’s also necessary to take space away from it as well.
My daily routine has also been disrupted. I’m used to getting coffee with the people I usually have class with around midday, but those people aren’t here this semester. I felt lost at the beginning of the semester because I found myself wanting to get lunch, but not knowing who to text; my go-to people were all eating dinner halfway around the world. This took some getting used to, and I definitely had a few weeks of feeling kind of lonely. However, it also pushed me to reach out to some new people who I had wanted to get closer with.
While it did feel lonely at first, I got to make some incredible new friends. I now feel a lot more like Goucher is my home and that I have a stronger connection to this community, after I was pushed to expand outside my little bubble. I also got to change up my normal Goucher routine and see what a change of pace was like. I’ve been seeing more of Baltimore and trying new things that I would never have had the chance to do if I hadn’t expanded who I was hanging out with.
Another very important part of this for me was getting really excited about the ICA’s Goucher has to offer. We have some amazing programs, with incredible and passionate professors running them! An ICA is very different than a semester for sure, but it’s equally as valuable and enriching as one.
Being at Goucher while your friends are abroad is hard. It’s a big adjustment especially if you have settled into a friend group and a pretty consistent routine. But change is good, and shaking our routines and experiences, while difficult at first, is ultimately positive.

Enacting a Change to Taxes on Feminine Products

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June 2015 “tampon tax” map, used with permission from Washington Post. (Courtesy of Fusion)

In the last couple weeks, I noticed my receipt for tampons from Goucher’s Bookstore included a 6% sales tax. Like most college bookstores, Goucher’s Bookstore is run by Barnes and Noble. This surprised me because I knew that Maryland’s state law now exempts feminine hygiene products from sales tax. I felt urged to do something about this because I feel it is unjust for women to be taxed on these products in general. The Maryland’s government’s website for taxes, Comptroller of Maryland, states that they exempt feminine hygienic products, sanitary napkins and tampons from a sales tax. The law went into effect in July 2017, and was enacted by the Department of Legislative Services. When I brought this up to the cashier, he contacted a representative of Barnes and Noble. The representative replied that they were unaware about this policy change and subsequently updated the system to comply with the new law for all the stores in Maryland. Within a week, the cashier was also able to remove the tax from the products. It was an issue that was easily resolved. He informed me by saying, “Once the register is updated, it takes the tax off and it won’t process the item anymore as a taxable item.”
The pain and effort to maintain personal hygiene caused by women’s menstrual cycles is taxing enough. As a Goucher student, Allie Sklarew explained her opinion on the topic. “I would feel like if I was taxed for these products, it’s a complete insult to women, saying something that is natural to your body is somehow a horrible thing.”  Before I noticed this issue at Goucher, I had already begun research on feminine hygienic tax issues. A Washington Post article titled, “The ‘tampon tax,’ explained” stated, “tampons (and similar products) are tax-exempt in only a handful of states, including Maryland and New Jersey”. The image displays certain states that exempts feminine by sales tax (Fusion, 2015).
When it becomes a woman’s time of the month, it is necessary to purchase products that assist with menstrual hygiene. “Its not a choice to have our menstrual cycle so to be charged is unethical and unjust.” Goucher student Maria Kyriakakos states on the matter, “I think just having that natural occurrence doesn’t mean that we should be priced.” To buy feminine hygienic products are under no choice and menstrual health care is pricey as well as limited in access. Rewire states that, “Feminine products are a $2 billion industry in the United States alone.” Purchasing these various products, including tampons and sanitary napkins, are a monthly necessity, not a luxury.
The amount for these products adds up. As USA Today states, “The average woman spends $150-$300 a year on feminine hygiene disposables.” Over time, the hefty expenses and lack of accessibility can cause significant health issues. Homeless, incarcerated, or low-income women are prone to the most suffering. The price of poor menstrual hygiene can be devastating, even deadly. The New York Times states that, “It is linked to high rates of cervical cancer in India; in developing countries, infections caused by use of filthy, unwashed rags are rampant.” Luckily enough Maryland exempts these products from the sales tax. Most states don’t, and thankfully this issue with Goucher’s bookstore was quickly resolved. Being able to make a change concerning this issue at campus shows that we can all make steps towards change when faced with injustice by utilizing assertiveness, curiosity, and research.

Works Cited
Comptroller of Maryland. (n.d.). Medicine and Medical Equipment. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Larimer, S. (2016, January 08). The ‘tampon tax,’ explained. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Maryland General Assembly, D. (2017). Sales and Use Tax – Hygienic Aids – Exemption. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Meyer, Z., & McDermott, M. (2017, March 27). Tampons are out among younger women. Why feminine hygiene is newest consumer battlefield. Retrieved October 22, 2017
O’hara, M. E. (2015, April 21). ‘Robin Danielson Act’ Would Mandate Independent Testing on Tampon Safety. Retrieved October 22, 2017
Wolf, J. W. (2015, August 11). America’s Very Real Menstrual Crisis. Retrieved October 22, 2017

Pieces of the Peace House, Pieces of Home

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When I think about being old and reflecting on my college years, “I think I will appreciate this snippet of my life, living in the Peace House. College never felt real until my sophomore year; until I lived here.” Photo Credit: Isabella Favazza

The Peace House has been my home for three semesters; which may not seem like a lot, but it is. Living in the Peace House is the longest I’ve lived anywhere outside of the home I had as a kid. Each year, students move from building to building, but the Peace House has managed to draw me back for another year. In the fall, it is humid and the lack of air conditioning coupled with the four flights of stairs is the worst. But as winter comes and one is able to look out of the frosted windows at the quad, sunshine or overcast, its beauty still shines. Even in the spring, living on the fourth floor holds its magic because the trees come into bloom right in front of your eyes and the squirrels dash from branch to branch, making them audibly rustle.
The Peace House sits on the very top floor of Dulaney, located inside of Mary Fisher. It overlooks the quad on one side and the ongoing construction on the other. There are three singles and three doubles, one of which is really just two singles connected by a door; housing a grand total of nine students. The closets are known for their spacious size. The bathroom is divided into two halves, one half having three toilet stalls, and the other having three sinks, one shower, one tub shower, and a plethora of cubbies for people to store their bathing equipment. There are two stairwells that lead up to the Peace House, one of which has a sort of bedazzled, colorful tapestry hung above the archway. At the end of the hall, room 406, a dorm room has been transformed into a common area, at least in name; the furniture has yet to come. When the furniture does arrive, this room will house a futon, a rug, two inflatable chairs, a coffee table, maybe some cacti or flowers, two desks, two desk chairs, a yoga mat or two, and several posters and pictures. The room will be a common area for weekly Peace House activities, such as art projects, movie nights, or support groups. The room will also work as a study room and even a recreational space that can be used for performance art, such as slam poetry or small musical gatherings.
To be the Head of the Peace House is something I do with pride. While I feel it is a position with no weight because the house works as a collective as opposed to a hierarchical structure, planning out events and seeing students come together as a community is something that touches my heart. The purpose of the Peace House changes every year and is decided by those who live in it. As of this semester, the focus has been on community engagement thus far. Future activities will aim to promote self-love and protection.
The following is our blue-print for the Peace House. Each week, members of the Peace House will meet once or twice in our new recreational space to work on small projects; each month the Peace House will do excursions or large activities that will tie into specific themes or upcoming holidays. The weekly meetings have yet to occur, due to the common area not being finished just yet. However, the monthly excursions are up and running. In September, Peace House members went to a nearby farm to kick off the school year with a fun day aimed at bonding activities. For the month of October, members have expressed interest in showcasing a documentary about Trans rights or meeting with David Heffer for a day to learn basic self-defense moves.
When I think about being old and reflecting on my college years, I think I will appreciate this snippet of my life, living in the Peace House. College never felt real until my sophomore year; until I lived here. Residents will come and go, myself included when I study abroad next semester, but the connections students build in this single hallway are tangible and lasting. My roommate, who I had to talk into living here and who considered this his last option in case he couldn’t live in Welsh, has since solidified his membership when he helped another resident clean up after they got sick in the bathroom. The Peace House is not just a set of dorms, it’s a community, and it will always welcome new members with open arms.

Mobile Dean: What It Is and Why You Should Care

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Never be afraid to “Ask Your M.D. (Mobile Dean).” Photo Credit: Goucher College

As a stereotypical college student, I am accustomed to leaving everything until the last minute. A typical day will end at around three in the morning, and the next one will start approximately six hours later with a cold shower and a cup of medium iced coffee in a large cup with extra ice, three packets of sugar, and tons of two percent milk. The idea of planning, setting appointments, and being on time to things is akin to the idea of buying a lottery ticket and hoping to win – yes it’s a nice thought, but unless all the stars align at just the right moment, it is a purely unattainable goal. At Goucher College, the students are privileged to have a friendly set of deans to call our own, who have set aside hours multiple times a week solely for talking with students.
Mobile Dean, while certainly not one of Goucher’s most pioneering products, is an efficient and accessible way for students to get to know the deans. Mobile Dean occurs at least two times a week for about an hour, in different areas each time, but usually ones of high student traffic. Bryan Coker, the Vice President and Dean of Students, Andrew Wu, the Associate Dean for Student Development, and Stacy Cooper Patterson, the Associate Dean of Students for Community Life, comprise the elite squad known as the Mobile Dean. They can usually be found somewhere on Van Meter with a Mobile Dean flag and, more often than not, a bowl of candy. Jokingly, Dean Coker says that “earbuds are our worse enemy, candy is our best friend.”
The inspiration for Mobile Dean came from the higher-up administration interested in seeing more students. Dean Coker says, that while he enjoys getting to know the students, “it’s easy for [him] to see twenty percent of students, total.” He states “Often that is the ten percent of students who are involved in everything…and then the other ten percent of students, are in serious crisis.” While he loves his position as Vice President and Dean of Students, the unfortunate factor is that the higher up a person goes in the academic totem pole, they are less available to spend time with students.
First-Year Experience (FYE) instructor, Moe De la Viez-Perez ’19 says that she really likes Mobile Dean: “it’s a cool opportunity… kind of like open hours.” Though she thoroughly enjoys Mobile Dean, she does express concern about whether or not other students know exactly what it is used for. De la Viez-Perez said that it was not a topic talked about in the FYE classes and that it’s likely first-years do not know what to do with this great tool.
When talking to other students, many expressed that they were unsure of the Mobile Dean’s purpose. The majority of students said that it really didn’t seem like it was worth the effort; due to students running to-and-from classes, clubs, and other extracurriculars, it is difficult to actually stop and talk to the various Deans, especially when the Mobile Dean only occurs for an hour at a time. While Dean Coker recognizes that it has been difficult to market Mobile Dean, he encourages students to check out the Goucher College website in order to see updated dates and times for when it is happening, and he prompts student to never be afraid to “Ask Your M.D. (Mobile Dean).”

Hate Graffiti: What can Goucher do about it?

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“Since I have come to Goucher, hate graffiti has happened on rare occasions,” said Associate Dean of Students, Andrew Wu. Photo Credit: Business Insider

“Hate is alive every single day,” LeBron James said after one of his homes was vandalized with hate graffiti.  “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know being black in America is tough,” James said. “And we got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America.”
The horrific incident that occurred at James’s home has sparked a topic that has many people talking: hate graffiti. The racist events have occurred for years, especially towards African-Americans, the LGBTQIA+ community, and other minorities. Although the incidents have sparked some news, many people do not talk about hate graffiti that has occurred on college campuses, and fortunately Goucher College has been the site of very few hate crimes. Andrew Wu, the Associate Dean of Students of Goucher College, was happy to provide information about past hate crimes that has occurred on the campus.
“Since I have come to Goucher, hate graffiti has happened on rare occasions. In the last couple of years, we’ve had pockets of incidents that have involved racist and transphobic messages. Unfortunately, in my time at Goucher, we have not identified any individuals responsible for hate graffiti,” he said.
The lack of camera surveillance makes it tough for authorities to capture the culprit and when the culprit commits the hateful action, they tend to be isolated.
While Goucher authorities have not been able to capture anyone who has committed hate graffiti on the rare occasions that they have, the school has a low-tolerance for hate crimes. “If someone were found to be engaging in hateful messaging, depending on the person’s affiliation with the college and nature of the incident, a number of individuals/committees (including the Bias Education Response Team) would respond. Generally speaking, the college would have to determine whether or not that person should continue as a member of the community, and if they were, how to ensure that they are provided with educational opportunities to better understand their actions,” Wu said.
Many people have noticed an increase in hate crimes since Donald Trump announced that he was running for president. More crimes have been committed since he has become president.
“Because it’s very likely that these incidents are isolated and individual, it’s hard to attribute them to changes in the political climate,” Wu continues. “However, in my limited experience here, we have certainly experienced a greater number of these incidents since the beginning of last academic year.”
There are multiple ways to try to help prevent these hate crimes from arising on campuses. We could invest in camera surveillances that could be placed in appropriate areas so culprits can be caught easier, place stricter consequences against anyone committing a hateful crime, and promote social equality.
Although racism is alive and everywhere, Goucher students and faculty can still help promote social equality. Goucher is an environment that promotes love, safety, and comfortability among students and faculties. Although, as a collective, we may not agree on everything, we can all conclude that we try to do what is right for the students in the best way possible.

LeBron James quotes from: Chappell, B. (2017, June 01). Hate Is ‘Alive Every Single Day,’ LeBron James Says After Racist Graffiti Incident.

HANNAH CLAGGETT

Goucher Misses Kelly Brown Douglas

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Dr. Kelly Douglas Photo Credit: Washington National Cathedral

Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Professor of Theology at Goucher College since 2000 has officially left the building and left people crying. Dr. Douglas is now the first African American woman to become Dean at an Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). EDS and Union Theological Seminary have signed a partnership “that will allow EDS to continue as an Episcopal seminary through a collaboration with Union at its campus in New York City beginning in the fall of 2018.” Dr. Douglas received her Pd.D. in systematic theology from Union and the institution is happy to welcome her home. Because the EDS-Union agreement happened fairly quickly, Dr. Douglas unfortunately was unable to have a proper send off or goodbye from the Goucher College community.
While Dr. Douglas will no doubt be an instrumental asset to EDS at Union and this is an incredible opportunity for her career, the people at Goucher–students, faculty, and staff–want to say that she will be missed, in addition to wishing her well in her endeavors.
For the first nine years she was at Goucher, Dr. Douglas ran the religion department single-handedly. Ann Duncan, the current Religion Program Director, Professor of Theology, and Head of the Center Geographies of Justice, said that Dr. Douglas essentially created the religion program and made it into what it is today. Professor Duncan and Dr. Douglas were partners for eight years, and while saddened by her departure, Professor Duncan says “I’m also very excited for her because I know with her recent book and a lot of the ways in which her research is speaking directly to this particular moment in history, the particular concerns, not only of the Christian church, but of the American society, has really been very remarkable to watch. And this I think provides a really wonderful opportunity for her to be able to continue her public speaking, but also to really directly shape the training of some of the future leaders of the Christian church. I am very happy for her.” Professor Duncan, who was well aware of Dr. Douglas’ impact on her students, has high hopes for her future.
Dr. Douglas was always supportive and understanding of her students. Having conducted an independent project with her, I will miss her deeply. Ever since my first class with her at 8am on my first day of college, she has inspired me to study theology. While she ran a busy life, she always had time to talk and check-in with her students and how they were doing. Sarojini Schutt ’18, who took Womanist Theology with Dr. Douglas, says she really admired her teaching style and wishes she had taken more classes with her. If she, Schutt, could say anything to Dr. Douglas at this moment, she would say, “Thank you! You are brilliant, inspiring, and bring so much light wherever you go.” Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Goucher College is going to miss you. Thank you so much for all that you have taught and all you have put into this school; you are phenomenal and there is no replacing you.

Goucher and the Environment

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“So, this is the Athenaeum. It’s a LEED Gold-Certified building which means that it’s super green.” I’m laying on the floor of the Ath lobby hearing this phrase echoed repeatedly from three intersecting tours that have coincidentally all met up in the same place at the same time. It’s GIG (not the fun one, but “Got into Goucher” day), which means that dozens of prospective students are wandering the campus being spoon-fed the idea of Green Goucher.
But the truth is, as much as it may want to be, Goucher is not as green as it professes. There are two major non-sustainable practices that Goucher is currently employing: its treatment of trees, and the college’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels.
Let’s talk trees for a moment: Goucher currently plans to develop an 8-acre area in the front of Dulaney Valley Road, adjacent to the main entrance. This project, kept under wraps possibly to avoid student protest, would destroy approximately 249 trees, according to Dr. Cynthia Kicklighter, associate professor of biology, whose class surveyed the area last fall. It is unknown to whom Goucher will lease the land, but a hotel and/or conference center is the current leader. Dr. Kicklighter speculates that the developer of the land would be someone who aligns with the morals and values of the college.
This raises the question, however, of what those morals and values are. During our admittedly brief research into Goucher’s sustainability practices, we were struck by the disparity of thought between the decision makers and the larger Goucher community. “I think Goucher is trying,” Dr. Kicklighter remarked. It comes down to a matter of economics. The upfront cost of going ‘totally green’ (by investing fully in clean energy, for example) is more than Goucher is capable of shelling out, especially considering all the new construction projects. However, Matt Harmin, Goucher’s Sustainability Coordinator, believes in this day and age it would not be destabilizing for any institution to completely back out of fossil fuel investments – Goucher included.
These projects bring us back to the issue of trees. Like many of us, Dr. Kicklighter and Mr. Harmin remarked that they are saddened by how much foliage is being chopped down to make way for new buildings.
“More will have to come down for the Hoffberger addition,” Dr. Kicklighter observed. Once construction starts on the new equestrian facilities, she continued, they’re going to have to start cutting into the surrounding forest.
While there may be plans to replace the trees once construction is finished, anyone who has studied climate change can attest to the ticking clock that is looming over our planet. The community doesn’t have five or more years to wait for Goucher to replace the dozens (and potentially hundreds) of trees it is mowing down. Moreover, though it may be an uplifting image to picture the community coming together to plant new saplings once the changes have been made, those saplings will have substantially less impact on our wildlife habitats and carbon consumption than the large, decades-old (if not some centuries-old) trees we are losing to these changes.
What can we as students do? Dr. Kicklighter believes that earlier education about sustainability is a good start. It is important that we learn about our institutional impact on the environment so that we can take active measures to avoid harmful practices. Harmin believes student power can be one of the most influential presences on Goucher’s campus, and that power can be leveraged for “student engagement with social and ecological justice.”
“Take the student work policy, for example,” Harmin explains, “Students had the passion and made a difference. This is a good example of how student power can work.” Harmin advises that students need to clarify their concerns and stances and meet with the right people to voice these concerns, in order to stimulate broader discussions and motivate change. Another step is to hold our administration and the trustees accountable for where our money is going and how it is being used. Change starts with caring; caring about our climate and caring about our community. If we want to alter any of these practices, we have to keep the conversation going. This can start with a conversation about our investments and the lack of transparency surrounding them.
We understand. Goucher is a business and, like all businesses, regardless of whether it’s a bank or a community, Goucher needs money in order to keep the lights on. But, in choosing to divest from fossil fuels, Goucher would be making an investment in a sustainable, livable future, and more fully embodying the values it espouses. Goucher cannot claim to be a community-centered institution if it is actively choosing to ignore and destroy its global community.

Taking care of the environment is not an impossible feat. We call on you, Goucher College – our students, our faculty and staff – to ignite the conversation. Photo Credit: Google Images

In the Climate Action Plan that Goucher published in 2011 on how it tracks its environmental impacts and continues to work toward greener practices, Goucher clearly shows they track travel for study abroad in their overall Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) (Climate Action Plan Section 8.0). This is wonderful, and a thoughtful understanding of the impacts of one of Goucher’s values. As the report mentions, study abroad is a fundamental and required component of engagement at Goucher, thus it’s important to counter GHG emissions by investing “in a project that results in the measureable reduction of GHG emissions” (Climate Action Plan Section 13.0).
Why then, do we continue to invest in fossil fuels if we so clearly recognize and work against our carbon footprint in other ways? Fossil fuels are responsible for our climate change—a change that is disproportionately affecting economically poor black and brown communities. In refusing to divest from fossil fuels, Goucher is continuing its history of white supremacy. To date, hundreds of universities and colleges, NGOs, for-profit corporations, and a slew of other organizations have divested from fossil fuels. It’s not an impossible feat. Taking care of the environment is not an impossible feat. We call on you, Goucher College – our students, our faculty and staff – to ignite the conversation. We call on you, Goucher College – our trustees, our administration – to take action. Consider the impact of the changes made on campus and think of alternative solutions to develop the college without the environment paying the price. Divest from fossil fuels. Invest in a sustainable future. Show us that you care.

DAVID J. HILLS  & ANNA YOUNG

Campus Construction, Honest Opinions

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While Goucher promises new innovation and advancements for Goucher’s future student population, its current students are the ones dealing with the transition. Currently eighty percent of the college’s residents are affected by the campus’ progress, with nuisances such as excessive noise six days a week and half of the campus being closed down- forcing students to walk around the Loop as opposed to cutting through the Quad, as they did last year. While Goucher promises a fresh new dining hall and two brand new freshman dorms to accompany the four story P-Slez, the current situation on Goucher’s campus is less than convenient.
For students living in Bacon House of Mary Fisher, there is a long walk from anything on campus besides Dorsey and the academic buildings. Bacon used to be easily accessible to facilities such as Pearlstone, a place that can be remembered by current juniors and seniors. The building is now only accessible through one door at the bottom of the loop. At the end of the hall, noise can be heard, sometimes as early as seven in the morning, from workers building a new common space that was supposed to be built before opening week. Most don’t seem too bothered by the less than average conditions for Goucher dorms, but it’s certainly not the normal that’s expected.
This year’s freshman don’t seem too pleased with the promises of freshman dorms and villages, especially with the inconvenient construction. The two First Years interviewed for this article, GS and MW, both expressed their displeasure with the new updates. They stated that the construction, which intends to create a new freshman village for the purpose of community, is doing the exact opposite as it continues to move forward. Since the out-of-place buildings are away from everyone else on campus, there is sentiment that it is hard to make friends with upperclassmen, since getting around to other places on campus can be difficult or time-consuming. Not only that, but the noise complaints are even worse. Noises from the jackhammers or the machinery moving Tuttle cause the whole P-Selz building to shake. “A mirror fell off of the wall in [my friend’s] room because of the vibrations,” said Madison Webster (‘21). This is certainly something new students didn’t expect when touring Goucher last year.
Goucher’s newest advancements are being met with not too much excitement from the current students, who will not benefit from the new structures. The ever-present amount of projects that are happening all at once are impeding on one of Goucher’s core appeals: the scenery and accessibility. One of Goucher’s more alluring factors for incoming students is the small community, now stifled by the current construction. With the inconveniences it creates, students don’t seem too excited about the new structures that are being put up around campus, mostly greeting the updates with a nod of nonchalance, and maybe even a slight eye-roll.

When the Flowers are Frightening

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Sarah Hochberg, Opinion Editor

March 5th, 2017

A few days ago, I put on a dress and sandals, and read Harry Potter on the Great Lawn. Fellow gophers were playing Frisbee, catch, and generally enjoying the nice weather. The high temperature was 75 degrees, and the flowers outside my window have started blooming. However, it’s February.

Admittedly, I enjoyed the fresh air and not being confined to my dorm room because it’s too cold to go outside. I hate the winter, with its chapped lips and freezing winds – I would willingly have a year-round summer if I could. Everything I enjoy doing is better if it’s nice outside. Having said that, it wracks me with guilt that I’m enjoying this clear display of climate change. It’s frightening that the flowers are blooming, and will make harvesting schedules more difficult to foresee. Animals will suffer, and freak storms are right around the corner.

To try and put myself at ease, I focus on a few key statements. First, I can’t personally stop climate change. I will contribute in any way I can to the growing pro-environmentalist movement, but my singular actions will only matter in the sense that they are a piece of a puzzle. Second, whatever happens will not affect this one day of warmth and sunshine. If I stay inside frazzled or go outside and enjoy it, the world will keep on turning. Finally, just as a day of snow doesn’t disprove the warming of the globe, a day of sun needs to also be taken in context. The really scary numbers are the overall stats, that this year was hotter than 2016 which was hotter than 2015, so on and so forth.

So go out and enjoy the random nice day. Visit the horses and play frisbee on the lawn because self-care is important too. It’s okay to enjoy the weather. Use this as a concrete reason to get more involved in environmental groups and causes. Freak out in the back of your mind, and let that anxiety turn into action.

In Defense of Moderation

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Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

March 5th, 2017

This past general election highlighted a disregard of rules, laws, and norms from both major party candidates. The greatest violation however, was that of an institutional electoral principle: the moderating effect of the general election.

Pundits and politicos speculated, that following the primaries, both candidates would move from their fringier primary positions on issues and realign to centrist positions that tend to attract more moderate voters—as they usually do. Perhaps this did not occur because Americans are too disillusioned by our political system to make the candidates pay for their polarized positions. Or, maybe this principle didn’t kick in because of the cannibalistic nature of both parties these days. Mrs. Clinton was perceived to be forced left on her platform to pick up Sanders voters necessary for a general election win. At the same time, Mr. Trump was forced to stick to some particularly unsavory and unorthodox policy prescriptions he laid out during the Republican primaries to re-energize a majority white, male coalition, which needed to turn out in full force for him to have a chance at winning. It could be that this principle didn’t kick in simply because this was an oddity of an election year, which was highly unpredictable on multiple fronts—a notion which is certainly possible, but one I don’t find probable; this year’s anomalies seem to be indicative of a larger trend away from moderation.

To consider what moderation truly is, I looked back to a New York Times opinion piece written by David Brooks leading up to the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama. In the piece, Brooks notes that a moderate does not commit herself to “an abstract idea,” but instead holds dear her country’s way of living “and the animating principle behind that way of life.” In America, Brooks suggests, this animating principle is that “we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream—committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.”

I cannot think of a more relevant quote for the way our current political dialogue operates. The two ideas within this sentence should be read in concert, but in our newly anointed tradition of cherry-picking points to fit our current political narrative, it seems all too easy to envision a liberal using the “nation of immigrants” section to oppose President Trump’s policies, and equally simple to picture a conservative backing the “work hard and rise” portion to oppose some social justice initiative. This is problematic because we are creating an environment in political dialogue where one must pick sides; something that looks a lot like how a conversation would go between two followers of different religions trying to convince each other of their view’s legitimacy. In the simplest sense, this environment is tribal, it creates false choices and politicizes otherwise apolitical topics.

Our representatives then come to embody these tribal allegiances. As we saw in the general election, when we stick to our tribes, regardless of circumstance—which Brooks warns against—a slippery slope can develop. You may then encounter situations where even though Mr. Trump is the personal antithesis of nearly everything you stand for, he’s allegedly a Republican, your party picked him as their nominee, and it would be political suicide for you as a representative to disavow him. Or on the other side of the spectrum, Mr. Trump ends up winning on a platform of nothing less than the equivalent to a slap in the face for progressives everywhere, and you, the good Democrat you are, decide to oppose everything he puts his name on over the course of the next four years. Neither of these scenarios, both of which have occurred over the last few months, reveal a healthy political climate.

Perhaps instead, as a principled Democrat or Republican, but most of all, a principled American, you would realize that there is a more productive middle ground. As Brooks puts it: “There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.”

The way to foster moderation is to reward it in Congress and statehouses everywhere. Moderates need to organize and become a political bloc, and then most importantly, turn out in primaries and general elections — just like so many other interest groups have done throughout electoral history. As it stands now, moderates are the most underrepresented group of people in American politics.

The best solutions our society has found to problems over time have usually been those that form under the pressure of opposing interests. They have checks and balances built into them and they are connected to our country’s “animating principles,” rather than whatever flavor of the month ideology happens to be in charge in D.C. These are the solutions that keep the most citizens satisfied and they come from the citizens themselves, exercising moderation. Solutions that advertise deviations away from our American foundations tend to not be fixes at all, but instead, increases in arbitrary power–part of what got us in this mess in the first place.

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