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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.

Trump Teach In: A Lesson on White Liberalism

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Michael Layer, Sports Editor

March 5th, 2017

Last Monday, February 20th, the Peace Studies department held an interdisciplinary lecture conceptualizing how Donald Trump won the most recent election and a prediction of what the future will look like in his time in office. Speakers included Martin Shuster from Judaic Studies, Lana Oweidat from English, Danny Kimball from Communications, and Yousuf Al-Bulushi from the Peace Studies Department. The nearly two hour lecture was livestreamed by The Quidecim and posted on its Facebook page.

The lecture was attended by roughly 45 students and had many viewers online.  Though many professors gave different takes on the reasons why Trump won the election, all four professors spoke about one common theme: white liberal opposition.

Martin Shuster criticized the way white liberals try to make Donald Trump seem unrepresentative of American politics. He cites examples of Trump’s administration’s policies being contrary to American ideals of liberty, equality, and justice. Shuster finds that white liberals hold Trump up to be diametrically opposed to American values. They glamorize former President Obama, unaware that he deported nearly three milllion people, the most of any American president in history. Shuster mentioned when white liberals are quick to criticize Trump for his proposed marginalization of Muslim, Latina/o/x, and LGBTQA+ citizens, they are often silent and therefore complicit the current ostracism of African Americans, white supremacy, and unjust deportation of people in the United States. It appears that white liberals fight against injustice only when it applies to their agenda.

Lana Oweidat provided an interesting critique of white liberalism. She compared the conscious way Trump supporters seek to marginalize Muslim people mirrors the unintentional way white liberals marginalize Muslim people through messages of solidarity. She brought up political scientific studies that show that anti-Muslim sentiments peak, not after terrorist attacks, but during election cycles. To her, Islamophobia “can be used as a tool of public manipulation.” Oweidat first considers the way Trump supporters “consume” an unfounded fear of the Islamic faith and reveals that because of their anxiety, they are more open to promises of “totality, conformity, and prejudice.” This conscious Islamophobia contrasts with unwise white liberal attempts to promote unity, but ends up as cultural appropriation and stereotypical misrepresentation. Oweidat says that these attempts, though well intentioned, can be just as harmful as the prejudice white liberals who want to overturn by imposing their white, western, American values. Oweidat urges white liberals to be conscious that their culture is not the only one and not more important than any other.

Danny Kimball, a Communications professor, discussed the media’s coverage of the most recent election, specifically social media’s role of disseminating ‘fake news.’ He talks about how news media covers political campaigns as a ‘horserace,’ encouraging a commercial, sensationalist, ratings driven coverage of American politics. Political coverage in this way gives rise to information more focused on entertainment, rather than a commitment to the truth. Social media played an important role in the election, specifically fragmenting, polarizing, and radicalizing the population: “The algorithms of social media platforms are designed to show us more of what we already think… and that further acts to polarize a segregated society ever more apart from each other.” Kimball claims that social media platforms acted as echo chambers (silos or bubbles) where people only engaged with information that agreed with their bias. On Election Day, he felt that white liberals weren’t compelled to campaign or simply vote because they felt comfortable reading sources that predicted Clinton winning.

Peace Studies professor, Yousuf Al-Bulushi, spoke about the concept of Liberalism and how global politics became polarized. Al-Bulushi began his remarks by comparing Trump’s candidacy to other populist movements in American history. He also gave a brief history of how American liberalism focused on white, straight, Christian, property owning men. White centrists felt comfortable with their dominant place in American political culture until several civil rights movements and the economic crash of 2008 threatened white supremacy. A right-wing backlash was created in response to a perceived lack of social status among white centrists that were focused on the prominence of Barack Obama and #BlackLivesMatter. In the 2016 campaign, when Clinton appealed to white centrism, many white centrists had already become Trump supporters, who were promised a return to the white supremacy of the eighties.

The Trump: Teach In was focused on ways to analyze the manner in which Trump won the 2016 election. The lecture was thoughtful, insightful, and critical of both Donald Trump and white liberals whose shortsightedness failed to thwart him.

School Choice & Betsy DeVos

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Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

The phenomenon we have been witnessing over the course of the last several months surrounding the U.S. Department of Education and newly appointed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been an enlightening microcosm of what’s been happening on the political left of late. The ordeal has been a controversy since the beginning, when President Trump chose DeVos as his selection for the position, and came to a peak Tuesday, February 7th when she was confirmed by the Senate with Vice President Pence’s tie breaking vote. These last few months have illuminated several things.

First, Mrs. DeVos’ fierce opposition in the Senate showed that Democratic politicians appear to be more beholden to the wishes of the teacher’s unions—generally one of their largest benefactors—than any other interest group in the country (it turns out money talks for Democrats too). Second, this opposition unsurprisingly showed what the Democrat’s political tactics will be like during the Trump presidency, and that much of the left has not learned their lesson following Trump’s election. Many continue to see their way of conceptualizing and solving issues—in this case the education system—as the only way to look at things; anyone who deviates from their perspective is on the other team and is subject to ridicule. Lastly, and most importantly, the outcry against Mrs. DeVos shows how little people at Goucher and across the country know about school choice. Mrs. DeVos and school choice should be exactly what members of the Goucher community were looking for in this fresh Department of Education if they are as committed to the task of social justice as they say they are.

School choice is in many circles a dirty term and Goucher College seems to be one of those circles. What is interesting about that, is the level of “school choice” a sizeable chunk of those who attend this school were likely afforded in their education before Goucher. This in part has to do with the relative socioeconomic status of many Goucher students, but generally speaking, school choice is exercised more than people think. 43 percent of American children (23.8 million K-12 students) already exercise school choice in several ways. According to the74million.org, 8.2 million moved their homes to attend a more desired school, 5.9 million chose a traditional district school other than their assigned school, 5.3 million enrolled in a private school, 2.7 million enrolled in a public charter school, and 1.8 million were homeschooled The only free school choice options here are public charter schools and traditional district options—not a large piece of the pie. While yes, anyone is free to move where they live, nobody should have to in order to obtain a decent education, and aside from that, moving to a better school district is a luxury that more well off families may have, but poorer families often do not. Countless studies and experiments have shown time and time again that charter schools improve educational outcomes for poor children, and yet there is such an odd amount of negative press surrounding them, particularly in liberal dialogue. Expanded school choice does not mean the privatization of American schools. It means offering more options to those who need them, so their future is not bleak just because of their socioeconomic status.

The proponents of expanded school choice understand that many children have adequate existing public school options available to them, and they celebrate this, because the idea that drives school choice is providing the best educational options to kids, regardless of the type. Nobody knows the dynamics of specific school districts better than the local school boards looking over them and the states that these school districts exist in. This is why Mrs. DeVos is so adamant in her plans to shrink the Federal government’s role in America’s school system. She has voiced a desire to give power back to the parents, educators, and administrators in their districts, power which has been flowing in the direction of the Federal government since the Bush administration, a trend which has only increased in the past eight years.

Additionally, there are two very common complaints about Mrs. DeVos, particularly with teachers and at Goucher. The first is that she has no experience as an employee of the public education system and is, therefore, unfit for the job. Suggesting that she must know all the ins and outs of education specifics like designing curriculums or writing lesson plans for this position is ludicrous. What Betsy DeVos has experience in is politics, and the job which she has been selected for is inherently a political one. The second claim goes along the lines of the idea that her spending millions of dollars to exert influence over school systems during her lifetime somehow disqualifies her for the job. To address this, I would like to direct attention to the massive national teachers unions which annually spend over $30 million on political causes. They can do this because of the dues most teachers have to pay them and watch them spend with little to no input from the actual teachers themselves.

I got the chance to meet Secretary DeVos last Friday in Washington D.C. and she was nice enough to talk to me for a few minutes. Our conversation was certainly not consequential, however it did highlight a few things about her. She is clearly a strong, powerful woman, who despite her vast fortune and life accomplishments, does not consider herself above taking a salary of one dollar to serve the public. She is someone who would spend four hours on a Friday afternoon meeting people she doesn’t have to, after spending a second straight week getting attacked (worse than usual) by people on the right and left who do not share her views on education reform. These characteristics suggest to me that perhaps instead of selling Mrs. DeVos and her ideas short, we should give them a chance. She is one of the few people in the Trump administration who has a truly clear, positive view for the future; the left should give her the same benefit of the doubt they often afforded the Obama administration.

Book Review: “Ember in Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

by
Image courtesy of Google Images.

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 15th, 2017

In Sabaa Tahir’s fantasy world of An Ember in the Ashes, Martials train as ruthless Masks at Blackcliff Academy to protect the Empire, and all other races are subjugated to their rule, including the Scholars, some of whom lead an underground Resistance against the oppressors. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Laia, the daughter of two Resistance leaders executed for treason, and Elias, the bastard son of the Commandant of the Mask-training school Blackcliff. In order to rescue her only surviving relative from torture, Laia agrees to spy for the Resistance as the Commandant’s slave in return for the Resistance rescuing her brother. Elias yearns for freedom from his violent future as a Mask, yet he is named an Aspirant, one of the four Masks competing to be the heir to the throne when the Emperor’s line fails. In an unexpected twist of fate orchestrated by the immortal Augurs who facilitate the Aspirant Trials, Laia’s and Elias’s destinies weave together.

Between the setting descriptions, introductions of supernatural beings, character names, and flashbacks, the world-building is exquisite. There is no moment of stagnation throughout the 445 pages: whenever a resolution seems plausible, another complication arises. All of the tension and suspense build up to the last chapter, which perfectly sets up the sequel instead of reaching a resolution (and that sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was recently published). Furthermore, the characters are well-rounded: they’re motivated by their guilt and grief, and their romantic interests are signs of their humanity rather than a distraction from their goals.

Because of the variety of elements, An Ember in the Ashes will satisfy a wide audience. The assortment of supernatural creatures will appeal to the fantasy and sci-fi audience. The romantic sub-plot will grab the attention of romance readers. Since there is both a hero and a heroine, both genders will find empowerment. Although the Empire isn’t dystopian, lovers of the dystopian genre will enjoy this book because of the characters’ ultimate involvement with the Resistance. The origins and values of the characters in Harry Potter are emulated in both Laia and Elias, widening the audience even further. But it’s not for the faint of heart: graphic instances of violence and torture will likely trigger a visceral reaction for many readers.

While a preface orienting Laia’s and Elias’s stories in the context of the Trials and the Augurs from the begging would’ve made the book even better, as would’ve straightening out the few instances where the alternating perspectives confused the timeline, An Ember in the Ashes deserved all the awards it earned. Such awards include Amazon’s Best YA Book of 2015, People’s Choice Award Winner—Favorite Fantasy, and Bustle’s Best YA Book of 2015 in addition to it being an instant bestseller.

After devouring Ember and its sequel, A Torch Against the Night, you’ll join the hoards of readers anxiously anticipating the release of Book #3 in 2018, to be followed by a fourth. Even better, Paramount owns the movie rights to Ember, so we should have the opportunity to experience the incredible story on the big screen in the (hopefully near) future.

If immaculate world-building, fantastic character development, and perfect pacing are what you look for in a book, Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes deserves a top spot on your To-Read list.

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