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We Should be Using Zoom to Our Advantage (Opinion) 

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Thanksgiving break posts a tricky question for students who live on campus: when should we head home? 

It lasts from Wednesday through Sunday the week of Thanksgiving, which feels more like a long weekend than a break. On the Monday and Tuesday before, some students have all their classes, some have all theirs canceled, and some have a mixture.

I found myself in the latter situation, as I do not have any Friday classes, and both my Monday classes did not meet, but I still had one class on Tuesday. It seemed pointless to stay on campus for five extra days just for that one class (which I so far had not been absent from). 

Goucher boasts about having students from an array of states and countries (currently 43 states and 28 countries, according to the website home page) but does not do much to support students traveling long distances to get home for breaks. 

SGA has stepped in by offering students financial assistance for transport to the airport or Amtrak stations, but again, there has been no help from higher levels of administration. 

Making the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving break virtual would give students from out-of-state more time to get home and be with their loved ones. 

For many, spending four or five days at home is not worth the hassle of traveling, especially with expensive Thanksgiving fares. Depending on where you are from, a substantial chunk of your break may be spent just traveling. 

Zoom classes would give students the option to head home the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, allowing for a full week of time away from campus while not disrupting the academic calendar. Residence halls could remain open until Wednesday as usual, but students would not have to stay that long if they did not want to. 

I did some digging on Kayak, and flights from BWI to JFK tend to be around $100 cheaper when you fly out the Friday before Thanksgiving rather than the Tuesday before. Expedia reported that their data found flights the Monday before Thanksgiving to be 15% cheaper than Wednesday departures. 

The finance company NerdWallet advised that a longer stay at your destination is one of the cheaper ways to spend Thanksgiving, since it allows the avoidance of peak travel days. 

One can imagine that if we have snow or other inclement weather days this year, professors will be advised to hold classes on Zoom rather than canceling. But holding virtual classes is not considered when they would be convenient for students. 

Thanksgiving break is the first time some get to see their families since moving in if they are able to travel home. It also falls right around the point in the semester where everyone’s final essay or project deadlines and exams are approaching.

A more accommodating break would help alleviate burnout students face during this busy time, as well as reduce the financial burden on those who need to take a plane, bus or train home.       

I sat down for my first virtual class of the semester the Thursday before break, and honestly, I was really excited for it. 

While many people, myself included, feel that an in-person college experience is the most effective and preferable mode of learning, the occasional virtual class can be a welcome change to the everyday, mundane course schedule. 

It is nice to be able to learn from the comfort of my own room and not have to walk to class facing cold wind gusts. I can move around and fidget more freely, which helps me focus. During breaks, I can make a cup of tea or coffee. 

As a student who still wears my mask everywhere, it is nice that virtual classes allow me to learn without wearing one and see all my classmates and professors’ faces. I find it comforting to not worry about catching Covid, the Flu or “Goucher plague” in cramped, mostly unmasked classrooms.

Of course, there’s the argument that students have their cameras off and do not participate, but this happened after being virtual nonstop for over a year. Now that we are in the repetitive cycle of in person classes every day, I’ve noticed a decline in attendance and participation among my peers, as well as an increase in tardiness.

If Goucher truly cares about its students’ mental health and wellbeing, our administration should find ways to make Thanksgiving break a more fulfilling time of rest and innovative solutions to larger burnout problems. Using virtual learning to our advantage is one easy, logical way to do that.

Goucher’s Administration is Overlooking the Issues Black and Brown Students Face (Opinion)

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President Kent Devereaux issued a lengthy email on October 26 in response to a national rise in antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate crimes. As most students know, President Devereaux’s most frequent mode of contact with students is through email, and the occasional decision to eat in the dining hall with other administrators to directly connect with the students he claims to care for and support. 

My main gripe with these emails is the blatant silence from President Devereaux on political issues that directly impact other minority students at Goucher, particularly the non-Jewish Black and Brown community.

In an email sent out to the Goucher community on September 26 regarding an accidental scheduling conflict that landed on Yom Kippur, President Devereaux profusely apologizes for the mistake stating: “As we strive to be a more inclusive and welcoming community, on occasion we will make mistakes. When that happens, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize our errors, offer an apology, and learn from our errors so we don’t make the same mistake again.” 

Yet he fails to ever mention other religious holidays that many students of color celebrate, such as Ramadan and Diwali. These holidays are not scheduled around to accommodate those who practice– where is our apology?

He then states in an additional email regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice goals from September 28: “We have filed legal actions seeking to correct past injustices, such as removing the racist and antisemitic covenants present in the original deeds for the land upon which the College sits today. We launched a multi-year initiative — the Hallowed Ground Project — to examine the written and archeological evidence of the practice of slavery that occurred on this land, long before the College acquired it in the early 20th century.” 

Both of these emails strive to acknowledge injustices in the Jewish community, and loosely address additional issues applying to other minority groups. We then get a quick look at the Hallowed Ground Project, but no other statement in these emails on specific social justice problems address other national or global atrocities that impact Black and Brown people. It is rare that these instances even get an email. 

Lastly, President Devereaux’s email from October 26– “Standing against hate and antisemitism.” 

“Goucher is not perfect. No institution, or human, ever is, but we are proud of that history and our longstanding commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive campus for all,” he said, “We have been proactive in working collaboratively with Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative to assess and improve the campus climate for our Jewish community members. Moving forward, we will continue to work on training, policies, and community dialogue to actively combat antisemitism in all its forms across all domains of our campus community.”

Let me be clear, his ability to take a forthcoming stance against antisemitism is crucial and admirable. But this fails to be as inclusive as he may have intended. As a current Black Muslim student at Goucher, I personally do not feel that issues that my community faces are being considered at all in some of these emails. In fact, it feels as if we are ignoring whole communities.  

Students who observe Ramadan have complained about the dining hall closing at 8pm when they are expected to have broken their fast by or around sundown after the dining hall closes. They have no option for a dining hall meal unless they come earlier in the day to get food to-go. The human rights violations against Palestinians have been completely ignored, while when Ukraine was invaded, their flag was flying on campus shortly after. 

I am not saying that one oppressed group should be valued over the other, or that the issues President Deveraux and the college have touched on are unimportant. My criticism here is that you cannot pick and choose when and who you care about, especially as a president of an institution filled with students who carry a global array of identities. We exist and study here, whether you would like to acknowledge it or not. 

For years now, it is no surprise that Goucher students of color feel as if their presence is only seen through the diversity photoshoots taken for the Goucher website. We are human advertisements to help promote an inclusive space that does not exist. But how can we tackle this problem when the people who run this institution ignore our existence until it benefits their agenda? It is worth confronting this issue, as well as being honest about how we as Goucher students have the capacity to spark change. We must acknowledge the power we hold through our numbers and voices when it comes to issues that personally affect us at this institution. I urge us to have these essential conversations with each other about what we truly deserve at a college we sacrifice so much to be part of. Hold those directly in power and in control of our Goucher livelihoods accountable. We deserve to know we matter.

Written By Maryam Abdiruhman ’24

Goucher Unmasked: The Implications of Dropping the Mask Mandate (Opinion)

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Since the pandemic began in 2019, it has been made very clear how selfish people can be when it comes to preserving the health of those around them. It is evident that those who pushed against the health and safety guidelines before the mask mandate was lifted disregard the well-being of immunocompromised people. 

Recently, the decision was made for Goucher to become mask-optional. But is this decision really for the best? Lifting the masking requirement after spring break last semester led to a spike in Covid cases on campus and resulted in the mandate being reinstated. As an immunocompromised student, it doesn’t feel like a very thoughtful decision. 

While it is understandable why many people do not want to keep wearing masks all the time, it does not make it safe. This decision is especially impactful on those who wish to maintain social distancing but cannot in common spaces such as the dining hall and classrooms. Goucher is a private institution and may follow Covid guidelines that are more cautious than state and local decisions. 

While there may be a few student members on the Goucher Covid Task Force, a larger survey of the community could have given a fuller picture of the preferences for guidelines, especially since masking is so politicized. This also could have given a larger window of time for students, faculty and staff to prepare. 

This institution claims to uphold the idea of community as one of their core values, but this decision clearly wasn’t made with this value in mind. America’s decision to act as if the pandemic is over simply because they do not feel like taking the necessary precautions anymore does not lessen the risk. It is still possible to contract long Covid regardless of vaccination status. 

As the weather cools and more people begin to spend time indoors, a new Covid surge is more than likely to hit campus, making masking more important. Just over a month ago, a new highly-contagious Covid variant, BQ.1 was discovered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that BQ.1 has now grown to make up over 10% of new infections across the country. 

With the new variant, weather changes, and community care in mind, please consider masking up. If you choose to not wear a mask, please try to maintain social distance from others. KN95 masks can be found across campus in various locations including, but not limited to, the Office of Student Engagement, Mary Fisher Dining, and the Office of Residential Life.

By Dom McKinney ’23

Photos of Goucher’s forgotten “please don’t forget your mask” signs by Amita Chatterjee for the Quindecim

Ways of Seeing the World

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By Bel Rosenthal

No flat map is a fully accurate map of the world; each expresses a specific perspective and set of priorities. Regardless of whether you care about or pay attention to maps, they have shaped the way we all see the world. Call one to mind; it is a familiar picture — probably brightly colored, with Russia stretched largest across the upper right-hand side, Europe toward the middle, the U.S. most prominent on the left. South America and Africa are smaller and closer together on the bottom, like the kids of two friends awkwardly ushered together, and then there’s Australia off in the corner. Everyone grows up with maps; they are on the walls of school classrooms, in textbooks, used as decoration, on the news, in movies, and more.

The way that we see the world is not objective. Our perspective and our understanding of things are shaped by our cumulative experiences, many of which we cannot pinpoint or remember and that are constantly changing. This is visible through the example of map projections. Due to the challenge of trying to portray a spherical shape onto a flat surface, all world maps are also distorted and, like us, have a distinct perspective. By not addressing this inherent inaccuracy we have grown to see ourselves as reliable judges of “truth.” However, if we choose to reexamine our beliefs, starting with what the world we live in looks like, we can begin to see how perspectives we may or may not agree with, and that we may or may not even be aware are being presented to us, have shaped and influenced our own beliefs and ideas.

A common comparison used to help people picture the problem presented by trying to transfer the image on a globe to a map is the challenge of peeling an orange so that the peel all comes off in one piece and can be laid flat. It is often in ragged shapes, with disconnected features and little resemblance to what we imagine a holistic map to look like. So, in order to create a cohesive map, the accuracy of some aspects must be sacrificed to allow for accuracy in others. Each of the strategies for doing this is known as a projection or, “a method for taking the curved surface of the earth and displaying it on something flat, like a computer screen or a piece of paper” (“What is”). For example, the land masses and bodies of water closer to the poles could be stretched to maintain lines of latitude and longitude that are as straight as possible. This is done with the Mercator projection (“Mercator,” fig. 1).

The Mercator projection was initially designed for ocean navigation by European explorers and was later used, along with other maps, as a way European colonial powers were able to assert dominance over regions that had not yet mastered geographic mapping (White). Its straight lines made it a very effective tool for ocean navigation, but it is used for other purposes now. It is likely the map you are most familiar with, from its role in most classrooms around the world and even by Google Maps. This, like our own distorted perceptions, is important and sometimes even dangerous because of the ripple-like effect it has on our beliefs and actions. We define much of the rest of the world by its relationship to Europe as the center, e.g., the Middle East or the Western World. The central placement of Europe, on the very map they used to colonize large parts of the rest of the world, reinforces their perspective of colonial superiority and view of their own dominance — and lowers the perceived status of the peripheral regions (Snyder; Wood et al. 90-93).

One of the more popular solutions proposed to address this issue – which was adopted by Boston’s public schools in 2017 (Walters) — is to replace the Mercator projection with one called the Gall-Peters projection (“Mercator,” fig. 1). The Gall-Peters projection gained a lot of attention in the past several years for its more accurate presentation of continental size in comparison to the Mercator. It is seen as an ethical choice for a more balanced view of the world. The fictional “Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality,” that appears in an episode of the TV show West Wing, is frequently referred to as support for this argument (“Somebody’s Going”). The segment’s amusing and easy to follow argument explains many of the problems with the Mercator projection. However, it glosses over the Gall-Peters’ own drawbacks. While the Mercator can feel laughably wrong in that it portrays Africa and Greenland as roughly the same size, when in actuality Greenland is about 14 times smaller (“The True,” fig. 2), the Gall-Peters, in order to present more accurate sizes, distorts many of its shapes and loses directional accuracy. By presenting the replacement of one distorted map with another, they have failed to address the larger issue: that neither is fully accurate and that varied perceptions of truth exist everywhere. The important lesson to take from inconsistent presentations of information – excluding, of course, actual verifiable facts – is that there may not be a “right” one, each shows a slightly different truth, and the best way to get a full picture is to view a variety of different perspectives with that awareness in mind.

Studies on implicit bias, summarized by the Kirwan Institute, also concluded that the beliefs we hold, specifically those that we are not aware of, have a real and measurable effect on how we think and act. They define implicit bias as, “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” They looked at implicit bias through its connection to racial inequities and found that these subconscious beliefs led pediatricians to be more likely to prescribe painkillers to white patients than black patients and that, even when controlling for a number of other factors, they resulted in people with more prominently African-looking features receiving longer prison sentences. They also state that these views do not necessarily align with the ones that we consciously hold, meaning that we are not at fault for acquiring these biases, but also that they are worth recognizing and challenging. Even more hopefully, they assert that we have the ability to reshape and unlearn them (“Understanding”).

My own interest in the way choices made on maps impact our worldview was sparked when I was 11 years old and came across a map on the wall of a restaurant near the southern tip of South America (“The World,” fig. 3). It depicted the Southern Hemisphere on the top half of the map and the Northern Hemisphere on the bottom. I was confused and intrigued by this weird “upside-down” world. After reading the short explanation written across one of the oceans, I realized that simply because Europeans had created the map we use, I had until that moment believed my half of the world to be up. It is clear from the way we speak that we associate up with good and down with bad. Heaven is above us and hell is below; on the ladder of success, that defines America, up is progress and down is chaos. We want to “move up in the world,” sometimes we “feel down,” and we strive to be better than or “above” something. Whether or not we consciously recognize, by being placed on the top, we get to feel superior to those on the bottom. This realization did not feel frustrating or make me angry, though; it was an exciting revelation. Being faced with facts that challenge what you believe can be scary, but it can also allow us to better understand our own perspectives and better communicate with others.

Just because the information we receive is somewhat subjective, that does not mean that it is worthless. Take the example of op-eds; these opinion pieces are inherently subjective, but we still read them. They are published by newspapers and scholarly journals. They introduce us to new perspectives, inform us about relevant issues, and can present nuanced views and reliable information. As you now know, the maps you have seen of the world are also not entirely objective. However, through them you can gain an understanding of where you stand in the world, what our planet generally looks like, and how to get to the closest Chipotle, but also how parts of the world view each other. English professors have likely counseled you to think about the position behind what you are reading with questions like: who is the author, what audience are they trying to reach, what might they be trying to accomplish, and who might that benefit. This works for maps too, and is what the authors of Seeing Through Maps, encourage us to do when seeking a map that suits our needs. They propose the questions, “What can I discern about the self-interest of the mapmaker and/or those who commissioned the work? How do you suppose that self-interest or agenda may have influenced choices of what to include or omit?” (Wood et al. 12). By examining the perspective behind a map or opinion piece, what is prioritized or emphasized and what is sacrificed or sidelined, you are more able to understand the perspective and bias it reflects. From there it is up to you to decide what you do with your source. For a map, maybe think about whether its priorities match what you are using it for. For an op-ed, let it inform your sense of its reliability; learn what it teaches you about the subject, and about the author. Rather than being less useful than an objective source, a subjective source can actually provide you with more information than a direct statement of fact. These questions can be a way to look at any perspective-influenced information you receive, and most information is influenced by perspective in one way or another. If you imagine the subject of your source as the scene in a photograph and the perspective as the photographer, it is clear that knowledge of the photographer increases your understanding of the photo and analysis of the photo increases your understanding of the person who took it.

Works Cited

“Mercator Projection and Gall-Peters Projection.” Mapping, Society, and Technology, University of Minnesota Libraries, https://open.lib.umn.edu/mapping/chapter/7-lying-with-maps/#footnote-402-1.

“Understanding Implicit Bias.” Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/.

Snyder, John P. Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections. University of Chicago Press, 1993.

“Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail.” The West Wing, season 2 episode 16, NBC, 28 February 2001, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVX-PrBRtTY.

“The True True Size of Africa.” The Economist, 10 November 2010, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2010/11/10/the-true-true-size-of-africa.

Walters, Joanna. “Boston Public Schools Map Switch Aims to Amend 500 Years of Distortion.” The Guardian, 23 March 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/19/boston-public-schools-world-map-mercator-peters-projection.

“What is a Map Projection?” Caliper Mapping and Transportation Glossary, https://www.caliper.com/glossary/what-is-a-map-projection.htm.           

White, Nathan. “Geography and Empire.” Postcolonial Studies @ Emory, October 2017, https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/20/geography-and-empire/.

Wood, Denis, Kaiser, Ward L., and Abramms, Bob. Seeing Through Maps: Many Ways to See the World. ODT, Incorporated. 2006.

“The World.” The Upsidedown Map Page, https://www.flourish.org/upsidedownmap/.

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