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Opinion - page 3

Art Matters: The Benefits of the Arts

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The arts have been around for ages now. The arts have been a source of entertainment for audiences as well as the performers/visual artists themselves. The arts have been something that makes people laugh or cry, or feel inspired and ultimately, make them feel something when they walk out of that room. Aside from what it brings to the audience that attends, it brings that much more to the artist. These artists get to do what they have poured their heart and souls into. The blood, sweat, and/or literal tears that performers and artists go through to get to where they are, is incredible. The arts are so important to many, and have benefits outside of the element of performing and creating itself.

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Photo credit by Goucher Magazine

     All art has the same thing in common: It is an outlet for individuals to explore themselves, their minds and bodies, and see what they are capable of and what works for them. It also helps people build their self-esteem. Not only is it beneficial to their confidence and happiness, it also allows them to have better skills in both academic and real world settings. 

     There are many articles and studies that state the importance of the arts, especially an arts education. In an article by the University of Sydney, they state that “students who are involved in the arts have higher school motivation, engagement in class, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, researchers discovered.” When your self-esteem is boosted, you feel more motivated to be engaged in what you’re doing and want to do well. This can ultimately bring you satisfaction in your life. The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Education and Social Work collaborated with the Australian Council for the Arts in a study where they that exposure to an arts education provides individuals with more motivation in their life in all aspects, especially in school where individuals in the study had more confidence and participate more in their classes. Having this confidence boosts their self-esteem and allows them to be excited and want to participate in what they are doing. Research by Daniel H. Bowen and Brian Kisida has found that increasing students’ arts education throughout the Houston Independent School District “reduce[d] the proportion of students receiving disciplinary infractions…increase[d] writing achievement…and bolster[ed] students’ compassion for others.” 

     Being a performer myself, I of course find the arts and an arts education important. However, there are many who do not. For those who feel the arts aren’t “important,” I hear you. I understand that some may find the lovers of the art to be “preachy” and pushing the importance onto them when it just really something that interests them. Everyone finds interest in something. Some people will like things that others don’t, and that’s okay, but there is a difference between not liking something but appreciating what it does for others, and not liking it and diminishing its meaning or worth as a craft, which leaves those who feel the importance of the arts trying to defend their craft. 

     In my senior year of high school, I had my own experience of the arts being looked down upon. A video from a rehearsal of my last high school show got around to members of the football team at our school. Messages were sent around talking about how “stupid” the show was and asking “why would anyone put so much time and effort into something so meaningless?” This, of course, enraged members of our show. Not often is it even questioned as to why athletes put so much time and effort into what they do. Athletics are important to them as the arts are to me and my peers involved in it—it is not meaningless to us. Even a time as recent as deciding what major I want to pursue in college, there is still judgment and disapproval from those who don’t understand the importance of the arts. When I tell people that my intended major is in dance education, there is a tone of confusion or degradation. I have even had someone say to me “wow, that’s a useful major” in a sarcastic tone, implying that what I love and want to pursue was meaningless or useless.

     When I receive feedback that is negative toward the arts, and especially what I want to do with the arts, it makes me want to push even harder to get to where I want to be in my career. A huge reason for me continuing my major in dance education is so I can give back to others what the arts have given me. The arts have given me a judgement-free outlet to explore myself as an artist. Being involved in the arts has also given me a newfound confidence. I went from being a very shy little girl who would’ve never been caught onstage to someone who couldn’t imagine her life without performing, and has confidence in her performance and in leading her own dance rehearsals for shows she’s choreographed. Without the arts and being in the environment of the arts, I don’t think this confidence would’ve been built up or found at all. I want nothing more than to be able to help see through other people who have the same passion I do.

     Here at Goucher, it is not even a question of whether what you’re doing is important or not. If it is what you want, it is what the faculty and staff here are going to help you achieve. They provide this confidence boost and ability to truly know that this is what I should be doing, and that what I’m doing does matter. As I have started my first year here at Goucher, pursuing a degree in Dance Education, there has been nothing but positivity and encouragement from all involved in helping me achieve what I want. At Goucher, we have been blessed enough to have so many departments in the arts that allow individuals to find this confidence and importance in what they are doing, which I have especially found true in the Department of Dance.

     The arts have been an outlet, a boost in self-esteem and self-discipline, and, most importantly, something that has given me satisfaction in my life. The arts have done this for many others—I’ve seen it with my own eyes. All the elements that the arts can bring to a person can only challenge, inspire, and better those involved and dedicated to the thing that is important to them.

BY RACHEL MILLER

Work Cited

University of Sydney. “Research shows that involvement in the arts has wide-ranging benefits for young people.” Phys.org. 27 Spetember 2013. https://phys.org/news/2013-09-involvement-arts-wide-ranging-benefits-young.html

Daniel H. Bowen & Brian Kisida. “Investigating Casual Effects of Arts Education Experiences: Experimental Evidence from Houston’s Arts Access Initiative.” Houston Education Research Consortium. 11 February 2019. https://kinder.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs1676/f/downloads/Brief%20-%20Investigating%20Causal%20Effects%20of%20Arts%20Education%20Experiences.pdf

Babelwright. “Theatre Isn’t Important.” Babelwright. 24 September 2012. https://babelwright.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/on-the-death-of-theatre-companies/

 

And Why Should I Trust Vaccines?

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Congratulations! You are an evolutionary miracle! Your body is specialized to fend off foes using a complicated system you may have heard about before: your immune system. Yes, the system that fends off the flu, gives you allergies, and makes your knee swell up when you fall down the stairs in Van Meter trying to get back to your dorm after your night class. Your immune system can be broken into two parts: your innate and adaptive immune responses. Your innate immune response is the first line of defense, causing responses like sneezing, itching, inflammation—all that fun stuff. Innate immunity works with brute force, attacking in the same manner and without discrimination against anything foreign.

Your adaptive immune response picks up when brute force no longer does the trick. This response relies on specificity, diversity, and memory, as two immune cells called T cells and B cells take over. These two cell types are capable of remembering viruses and bacteria they have seen in the past. After your body wins its battle with a pathogen, special T cells sit around like your best friend after your break-up: picturing your ex (the pathogen) in their head, waiting until the moment they show their face again so they can beat the crap out of them. When and if that ex/pathogen reappears, T cells also alert B cells, so they can work together to eliminate that threat.

Having this ability to remember is what allows for the success of vaccines. Getting vaccinated is like handing over the picture of your ex (the unique exterior of the pathogen) to your T cells without having to go through any of the emotional trauma of the relationship (the interior of the pathogen that makes you sick). Pretty great, right? If you get too deep into the science, you will soon realize that immunology is immensely complicated and confusing, but the point is: vaccines work because your immune system remembers. Now that you understand why you would want to inject a little bit of dead pathogen into your body: what the heck is in that flu shot that isn’t dead pathogen?

PC: ncnewsonline.com

The Center for Disease Control lists the main ingredients in vaccines as preservatives, adjuvants, stabilizers, residual cell culture materials, and residual inactivating ingredients. If you can get past the absurd vocabulary and really take a look at the five parts of the vaccine, you will find surprisingly familiar ingredients. Preservatives are necessary in preventing contamination of the vaccine, but in day-to-day life you often ingest the same preservatives by eating certain foods, such as fish. Adjuvants function in the vaccine to boost your body’s response, but are more commonly found in drinking water, infant formula, antacids, and aspirin. Stabilizers are necessary to keep the vaccine effective post-manufacturing but are also quite delicious! Common stabilizers are sugar and gelatin, or, ingredients you would ingest by eating a cup of Jell-O. Residual cell culture materials and residual inactivating ingredients are miniscule portions of the entire vaccine concoction left over from manufacturing, the former being produced as the virus or bacteria is grown in the lab, and the latter used to kill the virus or inactivate toxins. Formaldehyde is typically used as an inactivating ingredient, which sounds scary, but formaldehyde actually exists naturally in your body at a far higher level than the level present in the vaccine!

Really, it comes down to this: your beautiful and sophisticated immune system uses vaccines to remember what pathogens look like, so later on when you’re infected with the real deal, your body knows it is time to destroy and can quickly produce pathogen-attacking cells to do so. And all those nasty ingredients they are injecting into your arm? They aren’t so nasty after all! They can be found in fish, eggs, water, Jell-O, baby formula, and even just floating around your body as is. Vaccines are nothing to fear, but rather are an amazing feat of modern medicine that helps us avoid not-so-fun things, like, you know, The Plague.

By: Isabella Davis

We Can’t Afford To Leave Young Climate Activists of Color Behind

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Seeing Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit made me feel a sense of pride and relief. Finally, those in power are being forced to pay attention to the climate crisis. The chilling statistics Thunberg presented on the state of our climate punctated with “how dare you?” made me snap my fingers in agreement. Her weekly school strikes, which she started last year to “protest climate inaction,” inspired the Global Climate Strike (we love to see it). Despite the hatred that has been directed towards her following her powerful speech, both celebrities and politicians (including several Democratic presidential candidates) have expressed support for Thunberg and her demand that world leaders take action to combat a crisis that will affect the entire planet.

At the same time, while watching media reactions, I wondered if I’d ever get to see young climate activists of color given the same platform and having their voices taken just as seriously.

At first, I passed off this musing off as divisive. “After all,” I told myself, “the climate crisis will negatively impact us all. It doesn’t matter who’s speaking on humanity’s behalf; the fact that someone is given this platform is enough.”

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Greta Thunberg at a press conference to announce an official complaint that she and 15 other children filed against five UN member countries. Photo taken by Radhika Chalasani, courtesy of Business Insider

But I started to poke holes through that initial response. While it’s true that the climate crisis will affect everyone, people of color around the world will be the most impacted and have faced the brunt of climate change for years now. NASA called Hurricane Dorian “the most destructive hurricane to ever hit the Bahama islands,”  and scientists Dr. Michael Mann and Dr. Andrew Dessler say that the warming climate “worsened the damage.” The NAACP says that climate change will result in Inuit communities in Alaska “losing their homes to rising sea levels in the coming few years.” And India has seen deadly heat waves and is experiencing a water crisis that will potentially leave 100 million people in 21 of India’s most populous cities without groundwater (which “makes up 40% of the country’s water supply”) by 2020, according to CNN.This water crisis is actually related with climate change and the heat waves, which have been ongoing now in India,” Dr. Shouvik Chakraborty told The Real News Network in June.

These examples and many others (some of which are highlighted in Hannah Claggert’s article “People of Color Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change”) highlight the reality of environmental racism, and show the necessity for young people of color to be given a platform, just like Thunberg has been given, in the climate justice movement. 

Let’s not forget Mari Copeny (also known as Little Miss Flint) who was only eight years old when she urged former President Barack Obama to visit Flint, Michigan. After visiting, Elle reports that “he later signed off on $100 million to help repair Flint’s water system.” Copeny has continued her work by distributing water bottles in Flint, and donating school supplies to children in her community. 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Vic Barrett, and Journey Zephier are three of the 21 youth plaintiffs (who range in age from 12 to 23 years old) in the Juliana v. United States lawsuit, which “order[s] the federal government ‘to swiftly phase-down CO2 emissions … [and] develop a national plan to restore Earth’s energy balance’ because their lives are in danger from government-caused climate change,” according to In These Times.  

Similarly, alongside Thunberg and 14 other youth activists (all are under 18) from around the world, Ridhima Pandey filed a complaint at the UN Climate Action Summit against five countries who have “violated [the childrens’] human rights by not taking adequate action to stop the unfolding climate crisis.” Pandey’s no stranger to taking large actions like this; The Indian Express reports that “[i]n 2017, she had filed a case against the Indian government for failing to take action against climate change.” And while she spoke at a press conference hosted by UNICEF at the UN Climate Action Summit, she has not received the same media attention as Thunberg.

These young activists of color, and countless others, deserve attention from world leaders and support from the rest of the world in the fight for climate justice, especially when their lives and communities on the frontlines of this climate crisis. Thunberg’s work is absolutely vital. And I believe that I can hold that young climate activists of color should be seen as essential to this movement, as well. Historically, the voices of people of color have been relegated to the sidelines of important movements. That can’t happen in the fight for climate justice. There is no climate justice movement unless the voices of those who are being affected most drastically by the climate crisis are at the forefront.

Letter to the Editor

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In December of 2015, I wrote an opinion article for the Quindecim entitled “In the wake of the Paris attacks, Islam must be held accountable.” In the aftermath of the tragedy, I leaned into the narrative that these terrorist attacks were fundamentally linked with religious doctrine. I was willfully ignorant by citing false information and statistics cherry-picked in order to support my argument. In doing so, I helped spread a hateful, racist ideology that has caused pain and destruction to so many people. This ideology can be summed up as a Western superiority complex. It reasons that our (white) ideas are the best and the others (people of color) must assimilate. This distinction between “us” and “them” is a critical component to the plague of white nationalism. Looking back on the words I wrote, I’m filled with deep shame and profound regret. I wish that instead of reading alt-right thinkpieces, I had listened to the words of Muslim students and faculty in our community. I want to offer my most sincere apologies to anyone who read that article or was affected by it in any way. I promise to use my privilege and voice to help support people whose faiths and cultural backgrounds are persecuted in our white supremacist society.

 

By Cameron Yudelson

Marijuana in The South

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Photo Credits: WBUR.org

Marijuana is the new hot topic in the United States. Whether it’s medicinal or recreational, states all over the country are legalizing cannabis. But there is a clear line on the map where cannabis hasn’t been able to enter the scene. Some call it the Bible Belt, some say it’s the Mason-Dixon line, but no matter what you call it: there’s no legal cannabis the South. The conservative rural south will always exist, but what makes these southern, hard-working people opposed to cannabis legislation? Is religion playing a part in people’s distaste for cannabis? Has a deep fear been ingrained into Southerners’ heads? Or is it that Southerners just don’t want to smoke weed?

Smoking cannabis first became popular in America in 1910. It was introduced to Americans by Mexican refugees who were trying to escape from the Mexican revolution. Its popularity wasn’t only with Mexican immigrants but also in the African American community (Mcnearny). With racism still in full swing and Prohibition repealed, white lawmakers targeted marijuana and criminalized “the production, sale, possession, and consumption of the drug” (Warf, Reefer Madness). According to an article by Alison McNearny, “twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana by 1931, and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, essentially making the plant illegal in the United States.”

Marijuana propaganda began showing up everywhere. There were informational signs, movies, and pamphlets made that showed different ways of cannabis ruining lives. This scared the white working-class American people and instilled a deep fear into society. Reefer Madness was one movie made to strike fear in Americans. This 1936 film depicts characters using marijuana and, subsequently, going insane. These false depictions of marijuana and its effects permeated society creating urgency and fear in the hearts of the American citizen.    

Though lawmakers have been opposed to marijuana for a long time, there has always been a push from other parties to prove that marijuana isn’t the “devil’s harvest” (Propaganda Ad). Medical personnel have consistently found marijuana not to be as bad as lawmakers make it out to be. One person who consistently ignored the medical field was Harry Anslinger: the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), and its head for the next three decades. Anslinger repeatedly rejected clinical analyses that concluded marijuana did not induce violent behavior or lead to the use of more addictive drugs (Warf). If he had listened to the doctors, maybe more patients in pain could be healed.

Take the case of Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was just three months old when she had her first seizure. Her parents Matt and Paige were terrified. She was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors found nothing wrong. Despite the doctor’s prognosis, Charlotte continued to have seizures. After five years of pain, seizures, medical bills, and treatment, the hospital could not do more. Charlotte’s father Matt decided to leave the army so he and Paige could take care of their girl. They began to research cannabis. This process wasn’t easy. They were repeatedly denied by doctors who weren’t sure about the effects on children or were concerned about the legality. They finally found a doctor who would work with them. They acquired marijuana that contained high levels of cannabidiol (or CBD, the non-psychoactive part of marijuana) and extracted the oils from the flower. Results were seen immediately after one dose. Charlotte went from having three to four seizures an hour to not having one for seven days. Charlotte is now doing well and the Figi family remained intact. Luckily for the Charlotte and her family, they lived in Colorado where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 2000 (Young). If they had lived in the South, Charlotte may not have had the chance to live.

Though other states are moving past it, fear and misguided knowledge has not left the South. According to DISA, a website created to inform people of their workplace rights, 10 states (20% of the country) have made cannabis fully legal, and medicinal marijuana is legal in 34 states (68% of the country). Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and both Carolinas are a few of the states where marijuana is fully illegal.

This group of states could be called “the South” or states below the Mason-Dixon line, but Bible Belt states is more accurate. The propaganda produced in the anti-marijuana age often depicted the devil with marijuana or had headlines that said “the smoke of hell! Devil’s harvest” (Propaganda Ad). In a census done by Pew Research center, it was concluded that 76% of the South identified as Christian. The propaganda created a sense of fear that smoking marijuana will send you to Hell. These Christian Southerners had a good reason to stay away from marijuana; who wants to be eternally damned? After a little research, it was clear to see that these fears are unprecedented. “The plant called hemp is proper for Christians to use for food, medicine, and enjoyment (Gen. 1:12)” (House). There are recurring themes in the Bible that state that God is ok with the use of everything that is created. That isn’t to say it should all be used without caution, but it surely doesn’t mean one puff of marijuana is equivalent to eternal damnation.

It’s time for Southern policy makers to legalize marijuana and enjoy the economic benefits. Since the legalization of cannabis, California has made over $2.75 billion in sales (DePietro). When states legalize marijuana, a boom in economy follows. Business Insider’s “Every US State Economy Ranked Worst to Best” list has seven Southern states in the top ten worst economies. Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee have not legalized marijuana and all of them are ranked poorly. With a change in policy and information on cannabis, these states could benefit from legalizing marijuana. Not only would the economy boom and jobs be created, patients would be able to get their much-needed medicine and people could recreationally enjoy marijuana.  

As more research is conducted, it seems illogical to remain in a society that isn’t allowing patients to get the medicine they need. If not legalized recreationally, the Southern states at the very least need to update policy and allow these people who are in pain to get access to marijuana. By not reforming the current cannabis policies, lawmakers in the Southern states are blatantly disregarding their citizens health and well-being.  

It’s time for Southern states to journey out of their comfort zone and begin to rewrite policy on marijuana. Cannabis is not something that should be feared, but something that can be used to relax and to heal. Citizens all over will be grateful the South has caught up to the rest of the country.

 

BY ELIJA HALLER

The Problem of College Alcoholism

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Photo Credit: NPR

The general view today of college is a place of heavy drinking culture and partying all night. Many students now go to college to binge drink and party. These students and athletes are turned into a nameless face in a sea of people constantly drunk, which creates problems such as court cases, dropouts, and sometimes death. As a college student now, I have seen many instances of alcohol consumption that changed students who I’ve met so far and persuaded me to no longer consider some people I once called a friend. This has been tough emotionally to have to decide that a friend has turned into someone that I don’t want to see or be around. Even though alcohol is emblematic as the reaching of adulthood in college, many seem to climb that tower a little too early than they are meant to. Tragically, this can cause some to come crashing down and few to reach realization of their trouble before it is too late. But there are a few that see that this as just immaturity and students will grow out of it.

As I look around now, I see that I am not at a school with a strong influence of alcohol, even though it is still present. I have seen students make decisions that they regret for weeks or even months on end, while some feel, as they lay awake in a hospital bed, that they should never drink again. A year ago, a couple of my friends were partying in a room, but some kids were having a little too much, three of whom ended up in the hospital. One had to stay for two days and the other two needed to have their stomachs pumped. Many students do not see the problems of binge drinking until the next day. Students who partake in underage drinking at college just want to feel as if they are now adults and be among a higher social group. This leads them to start drinking every day, every week, becoming the ‘party animal’ that they see in movies or hear about in stories about the average ‘college experience.’ Many students who start and continue in underage drinking have a high “risk of serious social, medial, and legal problems” (O’Malley).  Many of these problems not only affect the student, but also the school that they attend. If there is a court case for drunk and disorderly conduct, it can also look bad on the institution that the student attends. This can cause scholarship losses and people losing their chances of doing something important in life.

Risks of legal and social problems are not the only problems students face. Problems also occur on campus and in classes. Constant drinking can lead to “impaired performance at school or work; interpersonal problems with friends, family members, teachers, and supervisors” (O’Malley). I have seen many students struggle in class or drop out of a class because they couldn’t function properly as a result of a party the night before. Early this year in my history class, I could tell who had been drinking the night before. This person would not be able to keep up with what was going on in class. Later, I would no longer see this person in class. After a month I had found out that the student had dropped out of school and went back home. This is really unfortunate, because the parents of this person had clearly hoped that college would be a place for their child to learn, grow, and enhance the option of future employment. Some students actually do not work and just sleep in class trying to fight being hungover from over drinking the night before. Sadly, they think that coming into class with a hat pulled down on their face with sunglasses on, trying to fight the headaches, the spinning, and the nausea that haunted them all day will not be noticed. This caused some great students to fall to the bottom of the social ladder in classes, and potentially face the possibility of dropping out of school and having to go home empty handed, not rising to their potential.

Studies have taken place all over the world trying to understand what kind of influence alcohol has on students and people. A study at the University of York shows that the police and the parole board “estimate half of all premeditated crime is alcohol related” (McDonnell). This goes to show that most of crime and uncivil accidents have been caused by the influence of alcohol on the mind of students. Most of the court cases and honor boards that happen at universities are in response to alcohol related incidents, such as vandalism, rape, assault, breaking and entering, and theft. Many universities know that this type of abuse of alcohol is happening on campus, but can’t seem to do much about it because it will happen no matter what. For example, there was an incident with a student and her boyfriend at Oxford involving alcohol and a court case. She became angry and stabbed him in the leg when “he realized she had been drinking” (BBC). While incidents like this one happen on college campuses, the girl in this case was forced to spend ten months in jail after the court case. The sad reality is that a case like this rarely deters college students, and these events do happen and most of the times involve alcohol. People who aren’t able to see how alcohol affects them are at more of a disadvantage of preventing accidents and criminal activity.

Many consider alcohol harmless and a pleasure to have while at college. Often student feel that booze allows them to let loose after a hard week or day at classes. While I can agree with the stress factors, many just put that up as an excuse to hide or avoid confrontations of serious accidents. Blame is then directed at the students for not knowing how to drink responsibly. This is a valid argument, but they don’t see what the true danger of drinking or even binge drinking has on a campus. At the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers have discovered that on an average day “4 college students die in accidents involving alcohol. An additional 1,370 suffer injuries tied to drinking, the study says, and an estimated 192 are raped by their dates or sexually assaulted after drinking” (Schemo). This shows how drinking can stir trouble or even be the cause of people doing things that they never would do in a sober state of mind. Many students would blame their guilt upon the alcohol and then the schools would sweep their problem under the rug.

Alcohol has caused many problems and terrible accidents across campuses all around the world. I have seen these effects first hand. I would like to point out the common issue that causes these problems. I believe that banning alcohol on campuses would not solve the problem at hand; rather, I believe better alcohol education is the key. I share all of this to remind my fellow students to be responsible and careful with how you use the alcohol that you drink. I hope that we can come to a better understanding of the dangers of alcohol and use it more responsibly.

 

BY ZACHARY WENNIK

Gophers and Elephants: A Mastodon-supported Goucher Community?

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Photo Credit: NewDinasours.com

Social networking is a natural and important part of the Goucher community and culture. Goucher reaches out to students, faculty, and family members through traditional networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Students, faculty, and staff have access to the GopherApp for iOS and Android to post information, exchange messages, and get feedback. Goucher clearly intends to make use of social technologies to further connect with people with little to no obstruction. However, traditional networks’ own political agenda can interfere with Goucher’s plans in posting their own content, as centralized networks and their parent companies own users’ data. While the GopherApp relinquishes control of their data, the app also comes with its own issues and doesn’t completely solve the problem.

In my sophomore year of high school, I researched the disadvantages of using Instagram to share photos from a legal perspective and a photographer’s perspective. I discovered that Instagram’s data is centralized –– Instagram takes away the rights to my photos. Data centralization can prove detrimental to institutions that own photos or videos, as they are forced to relinquish this data to another company. In an interview with April Glaser and Will Oremus for Slate magazine, Eugen Rochko, the developer behind a social network called Mastodon, makes the issues with centralization very clear: “Centralization is not just centralization of power, but […] data as well […] the more data a platform like Facebook collects—it’s all in one place. It’s easy to access and to analyze.” Despite having some advantages in content control and review, data centralization shifts the controls from the user to the company.

In an attempt to restore control to users, Rockho is working on a new network called Mastodon. It’s a decentralized social network that makes up for the disadvantages of centralized social networks. In the aforementioned interview, he also mentions how Mastodon works in this regard: “With Mastodon, the data is separated. Every server stores only the data of its local signed-up users and the data that they subscribe to from their friends.” Eugen doesn’t own all of Mastodon; rather, he just owns his particular server (aka an ‘instance’). These instances talk to each other to make a network rather than being hosted in one place: this is known as federation. You can think of it like the federation in the Star Trek series: there are many planets and species, but they all come together to form a single federation without being a giant entity.

Adopting Mastodon would give Goucher an opportunity to host its own instance that interacts with others. However, Mastodon’s federation can also lead to access to unwanted servers that could potentially be harmful for the Goucher community or that can violate laws. Thankfully, Rochko has also thought of this. In the same interview, he states that owners of an instance can block other instances from the timeline, images, or the whole instance altogether. Although some consider this as censorship of Mastodon data, this also provides Goucher with the ability to allow students to interact with other Mastodon users from other instances.

Decentralized social networks like Mastodon have an advantage on interoperability. Many developers have been making networks that can work with others; examples include Instagram-alternative PixelFed and YouTube-alternative PeerTube. The interoperability between said networks is possible because of an underlying technology: ActivityPub. ActivityPub works a lot like email and allows cross-network interaction. As such, any services that use ActivityPub can interact with other instances. If Goucher hosts Mastodon, PixelFed, and PeerTube, for example, they can make these services interact with each other quite easily while allowing public access. In contrast, using traditional networks require a third-party cross-posting service like HootSuite or If This Then That (IFTTT) to work between social networks.

Alas, as with any social network, a concern for privacy arises. Naturally, we believe that social networks force us to think before we post. Professor Judith Donath from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society describes this behavior in her book, The Social Machine: “[…] people are free to act as they will, and there is little social pressure on them to conform. Privacy supports diversity; where people have protected private space, they have the freedom to be different from the public mainstream ideal” (Donath 304). This rings true for any social network, including Mastodon. It is also true that, because of this, we tend to think more about what we post. In the Psychnology Journal, Florencio Cabello, Marta Franco, and Alex Haché in 2013 discusses the restriction: “The uncertainty about what we post online also involves serious consequences for fundamental freedoms such as free speech and the right to information” (Cabello, Franco, and Hache 49). Thankfully, Rochko considered this idea; in Mastodon, users can change the visibility level of their content so that it can be targeted towards a certain audience or to the public. Goucher can make use of this to send content on Mastodon only to its users or to the public. This ability to control who sees the content can come handy for sharing information about an upcoming club meeting privately but sharing the next Common Hour publicly.

However, you may be asking the question: “Don’t we already have something like this with the GopherApp?” We do have the GopherApp as a means of communicating with each other in a social way for posting information inside of Goucher. However, from a software developer’s and user’s standpoint, the GopherApp doesn’t necessarily have the same advantages as something like Mastodon. The GopherApp doesn’t have a network that can be accessed via a web client or desktop app; if anyone wants to view the latest updates in the GopherApp, he/she must open the app on his/her phone to do it. Another issue arises from the app: GopherApp users can’t post the same kind of content as one can via Mastodon. Mastodon makes use of sharing links, uploading videos and images, and emoji, as well as providing spoiler tags to censor content to a degree; the GopherApp lacks some of this functionality, forcing its users to view a specific type of content. Furthermore, some additional features, such as club page edits, require the developers to make changes upon request. Another way to look at the GopherApp versus Mastodon is this: Mastodon can do what the GopherApp does and then some. We can further modify the web version of the Mastodon client to include Goucher links and branding, if we really wanted to. Besides using the stock web client Mastodon provides, Goucher can take advantage of some of the other clients designed for Mastodon in mind; there are already a few decent mobile apps for Mastodon that anyone can use to connect with their own accounts, and the rise of desktop clients like Tootle, Pinafore, and my recently-developed Hyperspace make Mastodon really accessible.

Besides the technical and social advantages of using Mastodon, becoming a part of the bigger fediverse has its long-term advantages. In a blog post I wrote last year, “Why I believe the fediverse is the future,” I briefly state some of my previous arguments. However, I also make an important observation about how decentralized social networks can help sustain cultures: “It feels more likely that federated, decentralized social networks put the emphasis on fostering relationships rather than control and censorship of data, which, in turn, helps sustain cultures.” Because of my aforementioned arguments, Goucher, should it move to Mastodon, would retain the ability to focus on its community and culture rather than the concerns of censorship, globalization, and/or centralization.

News outlets are already making us aware of these issues, too. Many have published articles about Facebook’s recent privacy issues, including the scandal regarding their enterprise Facebook Research app that Apple pulled off their store. Examples include Recode in their article titled “Apple says it’s banning Facebook’s research app that collects users’ personal information,” CNN with “Apple says Facebook’s controversial market research app violated its policies,” and even The Verge with “The fallout from Facebook’s controversial research app.” Given these circumstances, it’s easy to see how some are making the migration over to Mastodon and the fediverse.

I’d like to make myself clear on my stance on use of networks like Mastodon at Goucher: I am not saying that we should completely abandon networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. in favor of Mastodon. Most of the world still relies on those networks to connect with family and friends and will probably not migrate right away. Rather, I am proposing that we take a step in supporting an open community that isn’t entirely governed by a single company by hosting instances of Mastodon, PeerTube, PixelFed, etc. Though we cannot guarantee that everyone will migrate to this universe, or fediverse, in this case, we can at least show our support for projects like this. Mastodon currently has over a million users from different instances all over the globe, so it already has established itself in the social network space. However, it is up to us to decide whether we want to have social networks that work for us by us instead of the other way around.

BY MARQUIS KURT

Supreme Color Theory

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Now one may ask, “Is there truly a ‘supreme color theory?’” The short answer is yes, but before on understands the truth behind the “supreme color theory,” one must understand what a color theory is.

For starters, color theory, according to my own definition, is an idea rooted in psychology to use the color of one’s attire to pursue one’s ambitions. The concept of a color theory is to use the color of what you wear to your advantage. What your advantage is can be decided by the color theorist, for each person has their own ambitions and goals and different colors work towards differing goals. However, while this interpretation of color theory is not necessarily scientifically provable as of yet, it has derived from real life experiences. One last disclaimer before the theory is presented: this theory is from my own perspective and my own life experiences this is in no way attempting to be scientific –– just an account of my personal observations. This theory also applies best to conferences where you are meeting many new people at once and need to stand out yourself. Now onto the theory.

For a multi-day conference, one to four days, I recommend the following approaches. On the first day, wear a nice blue or darker color suit or other equally formal attire. Have a bring pink or green tie, or ideally bow tie, to contract the darker colored suit. Ensure the suit/other is well tailored and fits you well. No one looks good in baggy or small clothes no matter the colors you are wearing. The darker colored main part of your attire shows you mean business and are taking the situation seriously; the brighter colored accessories show your character and personality. They will make you stand out and especially at a big conference, like Model UN or Model Senate, standing out is essential. Later on in the succeeding days, you will want to moderate the colors to be more welcoming and not necessarily stand out as the conference progresses. The middle days are for building connections and getting to know people more; if you adhered to the first method and made a good impression, you now have some options open and it is time to explore them. The finally requires a dark suit and a red tie. Bow ties are always more ideal because of their uniqueness; the red tie at the end displays to everyone that you emerged with strength and your final deals and compromises are from positions of strength. Do not fall for the trap of wearing a red tie on the first day; you will just look like Donald Trump. No matter your personal opinion of the President, make your own style ride you own path be your own person.

For single day conferences, one must adhere to the above but snipe specific styles for the type of conference. If everyone is well acquainted prior to the conference, then a bright bow tie may be unnecessary and a softer color would be more effective. On the contrary, if you are unfamiliar with many of the potential attendees, then the brighter colored accessories would be more useful; avoid the plain red tie at all costs for single day conferences. Get more creative and add more personality than just bright red. It is a power move, that will come off as too confident and cocky. Be more creative.

This color theory is more suited to formal occasions, which some clubs would see more use in this than others. Nevertheless, one can apply these colors to less formal meetings. If you are going out on a date, for example, the same color schemes would apply, maybe just not in a suit and tie but shirt and shoes. Creativity is the key; be observant of what attracts and what repels people. Personal confidence in your clothes is, however, the single most effective way to pursue your ambitions, regardless of the formality of the situation. With that, the theory is concluded and I encourage those who may agree or dissent to write or discuss in person with me your opinions on my “supreme color theory” or color theory at large.

 

Photo Credits: HGTV.com

Unionization of Goucher Student Workers

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Photo Credit: https://insights.dice.com/

To be a student worker at Goucher can mean many things. Job hours range drastically from two hours a week to twenty. Many students’ long hours of work results in their social life, clubs, and, most importantly, education being sidelined. With the addition of long work comes increased stress levels. Mental health cannot be ignored and doing such can create more hardship. It is not uncommon for Goucher students to feel overwhelmed when pressure and stress comes from multiple directions. School work plus additional jobs added to social or emotional issues can really take a toll on students. When students need to work on campus just to afford to attend, it is understandable when students feel forced to put education behind their job. While time management is an important lesson of life, it can be a very real challenge to make ends meet with so many responsibilities. There needs to be more support for student workers; too many feel overburdened by the challenges they are being dealt. If an issue arises with their job, it could very easily be the stressful tipping point for them, and confronting that problem alone can feel overwhelming.

For such reasons student workers should be allowed to form workers unions, or a type of collective. This is not to say that student workers are being mistreated by their supervisors per se. This is a statement that must be understood from the perspective of students who share many common struggles. It can be hard as a worker to approach your supervisor, no matter how comfortable you are with them, and make your voice heard. A union of student workers will provide students with the opportunity to come together as equals and discuss their work and how to support each other. Support for students need to come from peers, not only “adults.”

A collective or a union would be instrumental in allowing student workers to consolidate their opinions together and form a common group to lobby and make their voices heard in a more effective way than simply complaining to their supervisors independently. If students were to meet regularly and reach agreements on issue pertaining to their work, such as pay, hours, responsibilities, and more job-specific issues, it will allow for better work cohesion and the understanding that no student is isolated. Students workers would be able to communicate their needs and wants better as a group in an official manner. This could be used by supervisors to help make adjustments based off of a organized majority opinion.

Ibrahim Juhass, a senior physics and economics double major, has been an RA for three years and has worked in IT for four years. His thoughts were as follows:

“I think it is a great idea to have a collective or union student group to support each other. I believe it can only work for some jobs, specifically First-Year Mentors, RAs Librarians, and Ambassadors. It could be helpful if there were new policy changes were being implemented with the input of a student group or union. Students should have the right to know what changes are happening and voice their opinions about them. Additionally, it is important to make sure there is no abuse from students asking for unreasonable complaints.”

Yuchen Ding, a first-year Ambassador who works about eight hours a week as an Ambassador, had this to say when asked:

“I think it makes a lot of sense for us. The power of who decides the work schedule is only with two students and sometimes they mess things up. A union would also help communication between workers and could be used to ask for better pay or benefits.”  

Connor Harrington is a sophomore communications major working as a Technical Assistant who works about eight hours a week making minimum wage. When asked he said, “Union to me would mean protection, rights, and solidarity. I do think students should have a right to organize within the school…potentially even with outside organizations if appropriate.”

There is clearly a need for such student-run institutions at Goucher. Such organizations would not inherently be in opposition to the established work policies, but can and should work in conjunction with the already in place student employment infrastructure. The right to meet and come to common agreements on issues that pertain to them all should be expressed here at Goucher even if there is no established precedent for them yet. Such outlined proposals would produce a larger and more stable student workforce at Goucher, and would have indirect benefits to the campus community at large.

What the post-Goucher world taught me about my dad’s old advice

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When I was a student at Goucher, my dad would encourage me to try to learn a “hard skill” before I graduated. The workplace was a practical beast, he cautioned, and I needed a way to make myself stand out. Programming. Web design. Something.

I silently laughed whenever he told me this. Dad, I’d think, surely you misunderstand how today’s world works.

Like many of my fellow Goucher students, in those days I believed that the modern workplace was friendlier to graduates of the liberal arts than it had once been. Gone were the days when employers narrow-mindedly insisted on graduates with degrees in the hard sciences. Bosses today wanted critical thinking skills and creativity and flexibility and passion for learning. My dad was speaking not of the actual world but an antiquated one, a world of assembly lines and analog watches and giant desktop computers that couldn’t be used unless you had a degree in computer maintenance.

Then, in 2014, I graduated and entered the workplace. English degree in hand, I migrated from place to place — teaching English in Beijing and creative writing in Hong Kong, a stint of unemployment back home in Chicago — before landing a three-month unpaid internship with the literary organization PEN America in New York City. By this point I’d grown weary of not slotting into a more permanent job and lifestyle, and now, nearly two years after graduating, I was determined to stay put. But no matter how certain I was that I could excel in virtually any of the hundreds of thousands of entry-level roles across the New York City area, I couldn’t find work. I’d applied for some 100 jobs in perhaps four of the five boroughs of New York City by the time my three-month internship was up, including a position as a janitor at Brooklyn College. I didn’t so much as get an interview.

These days I think my dad was mostly right. The modern workplace continues to recognize and reward “hard skills,” just like the old one did. The types of jobs available may have changed — you really don’t need a degree of any kind to use a computer these days, and attributes such as creativity are more important than they used to be — but most good jobs still require solid qualifications, the sort that you can put on a CV or identify in the space of a few words.

In its 2017 report, “The Future of Jobs”, the World Economic Forum sought to predict how technology would change the workforce. Some of its findings echoed the kind of new age liberal arts optimism I once took as gospel. For instance, surveys of top executives said that, of the top 10 most desirable skills, critical thinking skills ranked second and that many of the other desired skills had to do with communication.

While such surveys could be used to paint an optimistic portrait of the future for liberal arts graduates, they shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the future of jobs is increasingly in science and technology — where employers really would require you to, say, check a box saying you have skills X and Y. According to recent projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job category predicted to experience the greatest growth over the period 2016-2026 (after healthcare-related work), is “Community and social service.” That’s a good fit for liberal arts grads, but the median annual wage in that sector in 2017 was $43,840. That’s barely half the $84,560 in median wages that will be earned in “Computer and mathematical occupations,” which will grow at nearly the same rate. Then there’s this year’s “Future of Jobs” report, which says the top two “emerging” jobs will be “Data analysts and scientists,” and “AI and machine learning specialists.”

This isn’t to say that you need a degree in computer science or engineering. But it is a useful reminder that some of the most valuable jobs in the future, as in the recent past, will be in fields for which no amount of creativity or communications prowess will substitute for a hard qualification. Outside of a limited number of professions, this is broadly true for many of the most desirable fields of work: business, law, medicine and nursing, architecture, and so on. The kinds of generalist thinking skills nurtured by liberal arts degrees — creativity, critical thinking skills, awareness of social and historical context — will always be valuable, but in most cases only on top of more fundamental qualifications.

My internship with PEN America wasn’t the ticket to New York City employment I imagined it would be. But it did help me realize I wanted to be a journalist, my dad’s old job and one that I had experimented with for some time. After a brief second stint of unemployment back home, I drove across the country to write for a local newspaper in rural California. It was this job, at last, that provided me with some way to “fit” in the world of work and, happily, some sense of direction. After California, I went to graduate school in London and then landed a journalism job here. I believe I was able to do it because at last I had a hard skill — reporting — to talk about during the job interview.

The workplace hasn’t really changed. Perhaps one day the world will be a more just place, and students who don’t choose to prioritize a job-oriented education — the ones who tend to gravitate towards the humanities, like English, modern languages, or philosophy — will be rewarded in the workplace just as much as students who make landing a job their chief focus. For now, however, this remains the case.

Photo Source: Google Images

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