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Campaign co-chair Barbara Meyers Pelson, second from left, donates  one million dollars to the College.

Rifkin’s weekly message offends student

Campaign co-chair Barbara Meyers Pelson, second from left, donates  one million dollars to the College.
Campaign co-chair Barbara Meyers Pelson, second from left, donates one million dollars to the College.

The following message was sent out to students in the School of HSS in Dean Rifkin’s weekly email.  April 26, 2015

Dear Students: 

I hope you enjoyed at least some of the festivities yesterday during our alumni reunion and, especially, the launching of the College’s first comprehensive campaign. I enjoyed chatting with some of our alumni, learning about their lives and careers since graduation. One recent alumnus I spoke with is working in the office of a New Jersey state senator, another in a law firm, and a third completed a master’s degree and landed a new job with the Securities & Exchange Commission. I also had the pleasure of talking with alumni who graduated 10 or more years ago, including one woman back for her 65th reunion!  Everyone had beautiful stories to tell about the impact of their education at the College. In short, HSS alumni continue to be happy and super smart after graduation!

As a public institution, The College of New Jersey, of course, depends on the support of the people of the great state of New Jersey. Unfortunately, New Jersey, like many other states, has been reducing its financial support of public higher education. The most recent information on the budget proposed for the next fiscal year, as reported in The Signal last week, would suggest a reduction of over 8 percent in state support of our college. 

The comprehensive campaign is designed to help the College be more resilient to reductions in state support.  With the support of donors, the College can build its endowment and, thereby, sustain and perhaps even increase financial aid for students who face increased costs of attendance when the state reduces its contribution.  Increased financial support for the College from donors also means more money for students traveling to conferences to present their research and more money for student scholarships for study abroad, for example.  Indeed, the theme of our comprehensive campaign is “innovate, inspire, engage” because the additional financial support the College is seeking will help us continue to innovate in the design and delivery of the educational opportunities that change our students’ lives, inspire our students to attain the highest levels of achievement, and engage our students not only in the classroom, but all over campus and in the communities beyond Metzger Drive.   

The other theme of our comprehensive campaign is “all in.”  This means that all of us who are members of this community should be “in” in demonstrating our commitment to the College we love. 

As your dean, I ask you, too, to be “all in” by making a donation to the College, no matter how small, every year. By giving even just a few dollars, you add your name to the list of donors. This increases the percentage of students who are contributing which helps the College make the argument to other prospective donors:  if 80 percent of our current students and 90 percent of our alumni are contributing to the campaign (no matter the size of their gifts), we will be more successful in bringing in gifts from other donors who see that rate of participation as compelling evidence of our community’s belief in the value of a TCNJ education. 

So, please, make a gift – and you will make a difference.  The cost of your education exceeds the amount of tuition charged to you, even if you pay the non-resident tuition. By contributing to the College, even just a few dollars, you are saying to prospective donors everywhere that they should be “all in,” too.  When we increase the percentage of students (and alumni) contributing to the College, our rankings rise.  This makes your diploma more valuable, while allowing the College to attract the best qualified students, faculty, and staff.  Again, it’s not the size of the gift you make, but rather the fact that you made one at all.

I also ask you to ask your parents or other family members as well as any friends who are alumni to make a gift as well, again, no matter what size.  It’s not the dollar amount that matters for this aspect of our campaign: it’s the rate of participation for these groups – students, family members, and alumni – that makes a difference in our College’s rankings.  Faculty and staff are also making contributions for the same reason. 

It’s easy to give: just go to campaign.tcnj.edu and click on the button marked “donate.”

And, yes, I’m “all in” myself:  I contribute to the College every month with an automatic payroll deduction and I make additional periodic contributions as well.

Sincerely,

Your friendly neighborhood dean,

BR

This opinion piece was written in response to Dean Rifkin’s April 26, 2015 Weekly Message.

Dean Rifkin,

I have always appreciated your presence in both the HSS and the College as a whole. I have shared lunch and dinner with you, attended plays alongside you and have been very nearly inspired to consider the Russian language thanks to your recommendation and the prospect of having you as a professor. In short, you have had my respect for the entirety of my two years at the College, and I was genuinely disappointed to hear that you were leaving us at the end of this semester.

That said — and indeed because of that — I sincerely hope that the content of last Sunday’s weekly message does not reflect your personal beliefs. Despite its superficially good intentions, your email and its takeaway was patronizing, myopic, brash, naive and, as you can hopefully imagine, downright offensive. I read your email in an airport while traveling during my term of study abroad, a time of personal and intellectual expansion, and I was struck by its utter banality. Perhaps I had simply forgotten about the recurrent solipsism of the College’s administration, but I would like to take the time to offer proof of the existence and myself and my peers.

I, admittedly, have not been on the College’s campus this semester, and as such, was not aware of the College’s new “comprehensive campaign.” Without laboring on the exact nature of this initiative, its implications appear deeply disturbing. In particular, this concept of being “all in” concerns me. In your email, you ask that we students do our part to be “all in” and commit ourselves to the College and its future. In fact, you ask that we become all in, “too,” implying that we ought to be following some moral/social/communal paradigm set forth for us. You then go on to suggest how we too can achieve this state: by giving the College money.

I am perfectly aware of the reductions in state budgets for the College and all public educational institutions. Both of my parents are/were public school teachers, and many of my closest relatives and family friends also have careers in the New Jersey public education system. I am more than empathetic and sympathetic to the cause of raising more money and more support for our public schools, at the college and lower levels.

That said, I have to ask: just how many times do my peers and I have to pay the College to be considered “all in?” Did the designers of this new campaign forget that not only do students here at the College pay upwards of $27,000 per year to attend, but also that the College’s students and their parents also pay taxes that continue to make up the majority of the College’s endowment? Has the administration forgotten that the College has raised its tuition prices year after year, while keeping its financial aid offerings woefully lacking for all but the most impoverished of students?

I understand there are restrictions on how money can be raised and spent by public schools. I understand the longitudinal strategic goals of the College as a “school to watch” and such. But the College’s administration, and too often even its academic faculty, has become blind to the stark reality of what college truly is: a financial investment. I appreciate education as both a pragmatic advantage and as a philosophical endeavor, and I can understand the administrative tendency to downplay the chill of the former while exaggerating the idealism of the latter. But it is disingenuously bordering on dangerous to be so blind to the practical, tangible, life-altering burdens a college education represents, and to then shamefully add more.

My family is lower middle class, with my mom teaching special education and my dad having recently retired with meager disability benefits. They had no way of knowing that the costs of college would skyrocket by the time it was my turn to apply, and even if they had such foresight, they never had the means to offer me any substantial savings. I came to the College knowing that I would be entirely reliant upon scholarships and student loans. I came to the College because it is a decently well-respected and competitive school at supposedly competitive prices. I knew the concrete costs, I knew the theoretical rewards, and I made my decision knowing the potential consequences. After interest is considered, I currently owe over $50,000 in student loans.

I do not blame the College for my situation. I have faith that the College sets its prices to what it needs to survive.

What I do blame is the College, its administration and you, Dean Rifkin, for is the implication that if I choose not to give the College even more money that I am somehow less of a member of its “community,” somehow a less valuable student, somehow less “in.”

How dare you. How dare you patronize me by offering sappy stories of alumni with “master’s degrees” and jobs “at the SEC” and “a law firm” as justification for my blind and ultimately financial faith in this institution and its offerings. How dare you say that the “costs of my education exceed the amount of tuition charged” with absolutely no concrete idea what kind of long-term benefits and detriments my degree might hold. How dare you imply that even if I did donate money that its primary purpose would only be to “make an argument to other prospective donors.” How dare you put out a call for unity and obligation in this time of supposed crisis when you yourself are leaving the College to hold a loftier position at another university, while assuring us that monthly payroll deductions constitute your being “all in.”

I am a student at the College. I am a member of the Honors Program and two academic honor societies; I am a host of a WTSR radio show and a recurring contributor to The Signal; I belong to the Pre Law Society, Parliamentary Debate Team and Aikido Club; I hold a place on your very own Dean’s List; I work in both the College library and as a legal intern in the Office of the General Counsel; I am soon to be an alumni of the College’s study abroad program, having studied at the University of Oxford. My peers and I have been “all in” since the day we matriculated simply because we could have never been anything less. Yet despite the countless things my peers and I have accomplished, all of which helps make the College what it is and what it could be, the College now sees fit to launch a campaign that has at its core a greedy and dichotomizing sentiment.

We see past the kitsch, vapid anecdotes and embarrassingly aphoristic slogans like “innovate, inspire, engage.” We know that our school is both so much less and so much more than the imaginary contrivance you have helped to erect. At this point, the towing of this line has become more tiresome than anything else. It has made me cynical and skeptical, and yes, has led to my pursuing a college transfer. It has made me genuinely question whether a college community can even exist in the first place, or if any bits of uniqueness in a population will immediately be put to use as marketing tools or, as in this case, emotional leverage in fundraising campaigns. But I digress. I suppose that all I ask is that we students are shown respect not only as budding scholars or future workers, but first and foremost as intelligent and capable adults; that the administration that supposedly works for us act with dignity, sincerity and self-awareness; that we are treated not as a means to keep the school solvent, but as the entire reason for the school’s existence.

Do not scrounge your active students for extra cash, Dean Rifkin, and certainly do not extort our fondness for and appreciation of the College. No matter my opinions on the College, the HSS, you, the administration or the state of New Jersey itself, I continue to believe that we are all above that.

With respect,

Alex Holzman

Alex Holzman is a sophomore, double major in political science and psychology. He also serves as a TCNJ General Counsel Legal Intern and is a TCNJ Honors Program Scholar. 

 

US soccer to expand

By Rohan Ahluwalia
Correspondent

Arriving on campus for the first time as a freshman, I was taken aback when I found out that my Community Advisor (CA) was a supporter of the soccer team West Ham United. He told me about how soccer actually has a decent following on campus, and as someone just coming from a high school where soccer was seldom followed, I was astonished and equally excited. I would finally be able to talk about the sport I loved with other people my own age. Before I could only do so with people around my fathers age.

Over the course of my first semester, I met many different soccer supporters. From those who supported Chelsea to Bayern Munich, I had the opportunity to talk to each and every one of them about the sport. The discussions made me jubilant — that was, until I mentioned Major League Soccer, the local soccer league here in the United States. Not many people on campus who follow European soccer follow the MLS. Why was that? Sure, the quality of soccer is not as good in the U.S. as it is in Europe, but following the local league should be done if we want to really see soccer grow in this country.

According to John Tobias, a freshman and an ardent Bayern Munich fan, what turns him off to the MLS is “that the league is just not as good as the ones in Europe.”

“The quality is just better over there,” he said.

That is true — the quality of soccer available in Major League Soccer is not as good as the soccer you can find in Europe, but what separates the European leagues from MLS is that the MLS features some of the best American talent. You get to also see some new American players get their start in MLS, like Juan Agudelo or Geoff Cameron, while witnessing the fastest growing sports league in the world.

Fine, the MLS does not have the best players in the world like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Eden Hazard, but the league has its own players that can still entertain any crowd. Players like Diego Valeri and United States captain, Michael Bradley, add their own flair to the league while world-class players, such as Sebastien Giovinco, are slowly making their way to the league.

At the same time, with the new collective bargaining agreement going into effect this season, the quality of the league will only improve as the teams will be able to spend more money on better players.

The MLS will also soon expand to 22 teams, with new teams in Los Angeles and Atlanta entering by 2017. These new teams will only help further improve MLS, as they will have rich owners who will not mind spending big money on players and youth development, and there’s more where that came from with cities like Minnesota, Sacramento and Miami heavily interested in acquiring an MLS team.

In the long-term, these things will help improve the MLS to eventually be on the level of the top European leagues. But before that can happen, it needs fans. The league is doing very well in terms of attendance and drawing average on TV. But compared to the top European leagues and Big 4 American sports, it’s not even close.

I feel that European soccer fans in the country, especially soccer fans at the College, should help contribute to the growth of MLS. The quality is not there, but the potential for growth is massive. One day, when the league gets to the level of Europe, you can say that you were a follower when the league was still growing.

Bell’s Roar performs an intimate and inspiring concert

By Angela De Santis
Correspondent

With passion, soulful melodies and inspirational lyrics, Bell’s Roar captured the audience at her intimate concert in honor of PRISM’s Transgender Awareness Week in the Brower Student Center on Thursday, April 23.

“I like to write music that comes from my perspective,” said multi-instrumentalist Sean Desiree, who created the solo project that is Bell’s Roar.

Desiree performs under the name Bell’s Roar. (Photo courtesy of Angela De Santis)
Desiree performs under the name Bell’s Roar. (Photo courtesy of Angela De Santis)

Her first song of the night spoke about abuse, which she says is prevalent in our culture, especially in family cycles. She says these issues are important to talk about for self-expression, and that is why “music is so therapeutic.”

Desiree’s original song, “One Shot,”  discussed gender nonconformity and being “whatever you want to be.” As she continued through the night, the audience swayed and sang along, and new groups of people began to gather closer to the performance.

“I loved the music,” junior English and women and gender studies double major David Sanchez said. “It was relaxing and had powerful expressions of gender and assault.”

The music transformed into a more energetic tone as Desiree interacted with the audience and brought some humor and laughs into the show.

She performed a remix to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” and slowly faded out into a powerful song about ancestors that had audience members air-drumming. She then remixed a previous song from the night and danced away in front of the crowd.

“I feel like when you make music, you can go in so many different directions, so why not make (your own)?” said Desiree regarding the remixed songs.

She also covered blues singer Ma Rainey, who was discussed earlier that day at a queer music workshop she held on campus.

“It showed the portrayal and influence of queer artists in music and how it has evolved,” said junior biology major Hailey Marr, who also helped organize the concert and workshop.

The name of the project, Bell’s Roar, comes from the “energy of roaring,” but is also a tribute to feminist writer and social activist Bell Hooks, who focuses on the intersections of race, capitalism, gender and systems of oppression.

After the show, many members of the audience stayed to take pictures and talk more with Desiree. She also spent time selling her CDs, which are each handmade by the singer-songwriter from recycled plastic bags.

“It’s really great to reach out to queer artists and give them a platform,” Sanchez said.

Modest Mouse’s latest album is a shallow effort

By Brandon Agalaba
Correspondent

Modest Mouse released their sixth album “Strangers to Ourselves” in March 2015 after an eight-year gap from 2007’s “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.” Modest Mouse have changed their sound from their fourth album “Good News For People Who Love Bad News.” They’ve allowed the songs to became more accessible and less challenging than those in the early days while sacrificing the aspects that made Modest Mouse who they are. “Strangers to Ourselves” is thus a disappointing showing from the band because it follows this downward trend.

Isaac Brock’s vocals, which were part of what made Modest Mouse so unique, seemed too generic on this latest album. On previous records such as “The Lonesome Crowded West” and “The Moon & Antarctica,” Brock sang in a rough, nasal but compelling style that complemented the music that backed him. However, ever since 2004’s “Good News,” he went for more a more conventional, smoother style akin to a generic, indie-rock singer.

Brock continues this trend on “Strangers to Ourselves,” and it winds up decreasing the overall quality of the album greatly. Even though his vocals are less challenging and more overtly melodic, they wind up sounding nondescript and mediocre. The emotional nuances and outright intensity that his vocals had on Modest Mouse’s earlier albums have virtually disappeared on this album, and they make the songs less energetic, less impactful and ultimately forgettable. Brock’s vocals aren’t bad on a technical level, but they add little to the songs, and they make the listener wonder what happened to the old Brock.

The songs themselves are decent — they have good instrumentation, diversity and go through various moods and feelings. But the songwriting comes up flat. “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” is a funky number with a groovy bassline and solid guitar work, and the title track of “Strangers to Ourselves” opens the album in a nice, operatic way. However, the real problems come with how the songs are actually constructed.

‘Strangers to Ourselves’ features a slew of banal tunes and unenergetic production. (AP Photo)
‘Strangers to Ourselves’ features a slew of banal tunes and unenergetic production. (AP Photo)

The song structures are OK, but they’re uninteresting and not as creative as on Modest Mouse’s earlier albums. The melodies are boring, the emotion is lacking and the songs are quite forgettable. In general, the songs are passable, but they lack substance and wind up sounding boring most of the time.

Modest Mouse has always had a tendency (or flaw, depending on who you ask) to make lengthy albums that take the listener on a journey through Brock’s thoughts on the nature of life. For example, “The Lonesome Crowded West” and “The Moon & Antarctica” are musical adventures that run for more than an hour. “Good News” is Modest Mouse’s shortest album so far, and it still has a length of nearly 50 minutes. However, the length of “Strangers to Ourselves” makes things worse instead of better. The album itself isn’t very impressive in the first place, and the length makes it even clearer that the album lacks memorable songs. “Strangers to Ourselves” runs for nearly an hour, which makes the flaws even more apparent. Instead of being a concise product that runs for 30 to 40 minutes, “Strangers to Ourselves” drags, and it has too much filler. The length will make the listener wonder when the album will end, and the listener will also wonder why Modest Mouse can’t make their albums easier to listen to.

In contrast, though, the production is solid. The album has a nice, clean sound that is polished and radio-friendly. Everything is crystal clear, and the songs ring with life and energy. The instruments are produced well, and nothing overpowers anything else in “Strangers to Ourselves.” The songs are also littered with instruments and sounds beyond the usual guitar, bass and drums, which gives the songs more layers.

The production initially makes the album more bearable, because the cleanliness of the album manages to hide the flaws of the songs at the beginning. However, the lack of energy in the songs causes the production to worsen in some ways.

In general, the album may be mediocre, but it is a disappointment in comparison. It basically confirms Modest Mouse has comfortably settled into being a generic, indie-rock band. The intelligent, diverse, thoughtful and surprising Modest Mouse that fans knew from 1996 to 2000 has virtually disappeared at this point, and it won’t come back for a long time.

Brown Bag discusses public and private art

By Priyanka Navani
Correspondent

Adams hopes to capture a sense of community in his artwork. (Photo courtesy of Hubert Hsu)
Adams hopes to capture a sense of community in his artwork. (Photo courtesy of Hubert Hsu)

Adams, an international artist whose work is widely displayed in his home base of Philadelphia, presented his most favorited pieces to a wide-eyed audience of art enthusiasts and critics alike in Mayo Concert Hall on Friday, April 24.

His pieces, which, Adams admitted “some will not understand,” have been featured at Arcadia University, Moore College of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art and Bridgette Meyer Gallery, among others.

However, though certainly prominent in the world of gallery art with a noteworthy and enviable reputation, it is his public art that has everybody buzzing.

His public pieces are meant to bring about community awareness to a variety of topics including war, autism and climate and social change.

“I liked that he’s actually trying to make a difference with his art,” said attendee Rosemary Nivar, a freshman engineering major with a concentration in social justice.

From murals in Montreal to panoramic street art in Trenton, it is Adams’s hope that his work will also help to capture the “atmosphere (and) physicality of the whole community.”

In 2009, he painted President Barack Obama riding a wave in a photo entitled Spring Break, which was made as a “release from our turbulent times,” according to a press release.

“Often we think of art as decorative, but that is far from (its) capacity,” Adams said.

With an obvious passion for the topics he so skillfully illustrates, Adams was eager to share his journey and advice with potential future artists.

Having never taken an art class in high school, Adams entered the University of Georgia without the slightest idea that his future would be filled with such color.

He always had a knack for drawing and was the editor of his high school yearbook, but did not put the skills together until his friend suggested he take a class in art.

He now encourages students to explore their own abilities, find what makes them come alive and develop a well-rounded perspective in that area.

According to Adams, regardless of which path one chooses to take, “you still have to find a bit of joy, playfulness.”

His last recommendation was one fit for all in this graduation season.

“Ask yourself if your journey will take you somewhere that you want to stay,” he said. 

A panel to remind us that black lives still matter

By David Brown
Correspondent

Mirroring the sentiments of many individuals across the nation, the College’s “#BlackLivesStillMatter: A Panel Discussion” centered on the issues of police brutality toward blacks and how these occurrences gain fleeting popularity, then quickly fade on social media sites.

 

BLACKLIVESMATTER
The #BlackLivesMatter mural stands in solidarity. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Lobman)

The panel, nestled in ABE’s Drawing Room, took place on Wednesday,  April 14 and was hosted by Centennial Hall Community Advisors (CAs) senior English literature major Carly DaSilva and sophomore psychology major Ijal Thompson. The panel featured English and African-American studies Associate Professor Piper Kendrix Williams, African American studies and history Adjunct Professor David McAllister, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Stallings and Black Student Union executive board members Madina Ouedraogo, a freshman sociology major, and Tatiyanna Mingo, a freshman psychology major.

The discussion began with Williams distributing a handout of writings she selected in order to illustrate the historical and contemporary treatment of black people through different eras, including slavery, Reconstruction and now. Her selections, which included the work of Henry Louis Gates, Ida B. Wells, Claudia Rankine and herself, set the tone for the panel.

Examining racial progress was a big focus for McAllister, who has now been a professor at the College for eight years. After reading a selection from “The Souls of Black Folk” by W. E. B. Du Bois, McAllister said he believes that the commonly held notion of racial progress is misleading.

“There are periods in American history when whites are concerned about black lives — the abolitionists, for example, Reconstruction politicians, the white public during the civil rights movement — but these periods of whites caring about black lives were only short-lived,” McAllister said.

His findings emphasize the purpose of the panel: to have people realize that binding an event to a hashtag often renders it temporary and forgettable in the eyes of the public. One recurring theme that continued to be shared by the entire panel is that the issue of police brutality toward blacks certainly isn’t temporary, and it isn’t just a black issue.

“People who care must continue to push the country into a full recognition that black lives matter,” McAllister said. “It will require concerted actions by blacks and whites, Asians and Latinos, indeed a subset of the whole country. Only this can push the rest of the country into requiring in reality what it proclaims in principle, that all men are created equal.”

Drawing on the concept of inclusivity, Stallings highlighted the need for people who care about these issues to first prove it

in their behavior, urging people to change the ways in which they interact with one another.

“We have to remember that all lives matter, but we have to carry ourselves in everything we do, in everything we say,” he said. “If you believe that black lives matter, that all lives matter, are you demonstrating that in the way you carry yourself?”

Carrying oneself in a manner indicative of being aware of those around you, as well as your own behavior, reigns true for Mingo.

“The hashtag is important, but I feel like people should already have this awareness and knowledge that black lives do matter before the killings started, before the tapes came out and before it became public,” Mingo said.

#BlackLiveStillMatter: A Panel Discussion, serves as a reminder that Black lives will always be important, even if the revelation come long after it should have.

Student United Way members rush to complete a challenge. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

Students encouraged to volunteer through clubs

Students make sandwiches for TASK, a local soup kitchen.
Students make sandwiches for TASK, a local soup kitchen.

By Samantha Selikoff   Photo Editor

Just like many universities, the College has a community service requirement for students. However, after our freshman year, most are not obligated to volunteer any further. But with countless clubs aimed at helping others, there are many opportunities to give back to our community, on and off campus, that students do partake in.

This past weekend, it was evident that the College was more than a community when over 1,500 students gathered for Relay for Life, raising over $80,000 for the American Cancer Society. There was no requirement or obligation to go, yet students did, showing how dedicated they are to helping others.

Like many others here, the College is truly my second home because of the organizations with which I chose to get involved. College in general is  what you make it, and heading into freshman year, I knew that I wanted it to be the best four years possible. To do so, that meant I would continue to give back and volunteer. The College has countless opportunities to benefit those less fortunate, which I as well as many others, participate in.

There are many organizations to volunteer with on campus, including Water Watch, a club devoted to protecting the planet; Student United Way, a community service club which works closely with the local community; the Bonner Scholars, an application-based organization that works with Ameri-Corps and even Greek life, which all contribute to different philanthropies. 

“I joined Water Watch because I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved on campus and help to save the environment,” sophomore history major Brett Peters said. “Community service to me means making a difference.”

As a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity dedicated toward community service, I feel that it is important to give back to the community as a whole.

One of the volunteer spots Alpha Phi Omega members serve is the Mercer County Food Bank, and it is amazing to see all the donations that come in.

Alpha Phi Omega also regularly teams up with other organizations such as the Bonner Scholars. Here, members of the fraternity volunteer with after-school programs at local schools such as Hedgepath-Williams. There, parents truly appreciate the volunteers and look to us as if we are the students’ teachers. They, in turn, even often respond positively to us, the actual volunteers.

While some organizations are dedicated solely to community service like Water Watch, Alpha Phi Omega and Bonner Scholars, others incorporate community service into their annual activities.

This year, the College’s Inner Greek Council organized TCNJam — a dance-a-thon to raise money for the B+ Foundation — raising a total of $50,566.54.

“(Inner Greek Council) had our heroes and their families come to be recognized and dance with us, and the founder of the organization came to be with us as well,” senior special education and psychology double major Emily Weisman said. “(The Greek community) could really see how our fundraising affected these people’s lives.”

Even though the College is a smaller scale school, students here still have the ability to make a big difference with the surrounding communities and even the world at large.

Like many other students, I believe that volunteering is a great way to help other people.

“I don’t partake in community service for recognition or a certain number of hours to boast about on my resume,” said junior accounting major Alyssa Blochlinger, who founded Student United Way at the College. “I volunteer because it’s something that I love to do. Being the reason behind someone’s smile is all I need to do it again. That’s what community service is -— a passion to make our world a better place for everyone to live in.”

There are many different events happening on and off campus that give back to the community. Student United Way held their second annual PB&J Race last week, where many different teams were created for organizations to truly come together to make as many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as possible. They were then all given to the local soup kitchen. This year, participants made 1,353 sandwiches.

In addition, Alpha Epsilon Pi just raised over $200 for Heroes to Heroes with their “Pie AEPi” event, where students could pay $1 to pie whipped cream into a brother’s face.

Alpha Phi Omega is set to hold their annual Kids Day Out event on Saturday, May 2, where organizations on campus come together to put on a free event for children from the surrounding areas to come and participate in.

Volunteering is a part of me, and it will always be a part of me, no matter what. Participation in these organizations is simply proof of that.

Winter may be the season for giving, but it seems that April is the month of giving back.

These clubs and organizations only show that students here at the College do not volunteer because they have to, but because they want to.

Using the stories of literary characters to analyze your life

By Meghan Coppinger
Staff Writer

In consuming works of literature, characters bring fresh ideas, experiences and perspectives to the reader’s world. A literary critic and theorist noted this at the College’s inaugural lecture as part of the Visiting Speaker Series on Tuesday, April 7, in the Library Auditorium.

Peter Brooks, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar at Princeton University, spoke to students and faculty of the English Department about “persons and optics” in novels and other literary pieces.

Brooks described “our understanding of ourselves” as something that can be helped when reading a novel. This theory comes from the work of several novelists, historians and experts, including Marcel Proust, T.J. Clark and Mark Twain.

“We need the novel because it changes our view of the world and the people in it,” Brooks said.

In other words, when you read and immerse yourself in a literary character’s world, you gain insight and reflection on who you are and how you would feel in a real-life scenario.

“It’s interesting to think of seeing the world through a different person’s eyes when you read a story,”  said Morgan Romba, a senior education and English double major who attended the lecture.

An important tip Brooks had for the audience, many of whom were aspiring educators, was to assist young readers who analyze characters too simply. They should neither believe characters are real people nor believe characters are black and white. Characters represent an opportunity to look at your own life, and the lives of others through a new lens.

“The more you read, the more insight you gain into other people’s lives,” Romba said.

Faculty welcomed the scholar and novelist with a warm speech, stating Brooks has multiple “identities” that make him a well-rounded and impressive expert.

“There is so much to admire in the identities of Peter Brooks,” English professor Michael Robertson said.

Brooks, described in his biography at the event as “one of the most prolific and highly regarded literary critics and theorists of his generation,” has authored many books and novels, with interests in “19th and 20th century novel, psychoanalysis and the interrelations of law and literature.”

In a lively discussion with the audience after the lecture, Brooks spoke of the excitement which crafting novels can bring.

“For me, trying to create a narrative was simultaneous with creating characters — it had to unfold,” Brooks said.

The event served as a useful networking experience for students to get to know more about literature beyond the textbook.

“It was very informative to get an expert’s opinion on what we read in class,” senior English major Whitney Hendrickson said.

Students participate in carnival games to help raise money for JDRF. (Photo courtesy of Michael Palughi)

Delta Tau Delta raises money for JDRF

By Marc Friedland
Correspondent

The College’s newest fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, held its first Delt Week on campus from Monday, April 6, to Thursday, April 9, to raise money and awareness for its philanthropy, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or JDRF.

Students participate in carnival games to help raise money for JDRF. (Photo courtesy of Michael Palughi)
Students participate in carnival games to help raise money for JDRF. (Photo courtesy of Michael Palughi)

The week’s various philanthropic events included fundraisers with local restaurants as well as prominent guest speakers to advocate for the cause.

“We’re making a profit, and people are showing up to the events,” Delta Tau Delta Philanthropy Chairman and sophomore sociology major Brian Hardie said. “There has been a lot of positive feedback from both the Greek and non-Greek communities.”

The brothers of Delta Tau Delta hosted a carnival as their first event on Monday, April 6, at the Brower Student Center. The afternoon was filled with student participation in several carnival games in hopes of winning prizes, with all proceeds going to JDRF.

Program Director for the New Jersey Chapter of JDRF, Maggie Ford, and her associate, Maryann Malak, spoke at Roscoe West Hall on Wednesday, April 8, to educate students and raise awareness about Type 1 Diabetes. The event saw a big turnout and proved to be very informative to the campus community.

“We learned a lot about how impactful Type 1 Diabetes is and what JDRF does with the money,” Hardie said, noting that the foundation funds the most promising research projects to both look for a cure and improve the quality of life for those who have it.

The brothers come together to bring awareness to their philanthropy. (Photo courtesy of Michael Palughi)
The brothers come together to bring awareness to their philanthropy. (Photo courtesy of Michael Palughi)

The week also involved two fundraising events, the first being an event at Five Guy’s Burgers and Fries as well as a Rita’s Italian Water Ice sale in the Student Center, with all of the proceeds from both events going to JDRF.

Sophomore history and secondary education major Katie McLaughlin, who attended both the carnival and the Italian ice sale, complimented each event’s success.

“They drew attention, and the campus has definitely been receptive to Delt Week,” she said.

The fraternity was testing the waters through Delt Week to see which events were most popular in order to help plan future events, Hardie said.

“This is one of the first big events that included a lot of planning, and we definitely learned a lot about ourselves from working together for this great cause,” said Oscar Nazar, Delta Tau Delta brother and sophomore computer engineering major, who was heavily involved in preparation of Delt Week.

Nazar hopes to see another Delt Week take place in the future following this year’s success.

As one of the many attendees of the week’s activities, McLaughlin is hopeful the event will be a long-lasting tradition, as well.

“It’s a great idea to make Delt Week an annual event,” she said, noting the fun she had at the activities and in helping raise money for such an important cause.

Benjamin analyzes the global healthcare system

By Margaret McElwain
Correspondent

Ruha Benjamin, an assistant professor in the center for African American Studies at Princeton University, gave an eye-opening analysis of global health care in this year’s Dr. Gloria Harper Dickinson Memorial Lecture with a talk entitled, “Discriminatory Design: From Park Bench to Lab Bench, Who’s Designing Our Future,” on Thursday, April 9, in the Library Auditorium.

Benjamin received her bachelors from Spelman College in sociology and anthropology and went on to receive her doctorate in sociology from University of California Berkeley. Currently, Benjamin’s work is raising awareness of the obvious flaws in the global health care realm as she encourages a more social atmosphere in these decisions, where concern for everyone’s health is included. She believes that many of the decisions made by people in the field are created with more affluent individuals benefits in mind because the wealthy are typically the ones in control of these decisions.

Benjamin’s lecture began with the catalyst that drove her interest in the makeup of how things are designed for the public: a park bench. While she was sharing her work in California, Benjamin went to lay down on a park bench when she realized she couldn’t because of the arm rests that were placed intermittently throughout the bench. This simple detail, she said, reveals a lot about the culture of America and even that particular region: They are people who value their personal space.

Benjamin displayed various pictures of park bench designs from all over the world to illustrate how, as she said, “There are many ways to design the bench.”

Park benches reveal a lot about cultural values. (AP Photo)
Park benches reveal a lot about cultural values. (AP Photo)

For example, she found that there were single-occupancy benches in Helsinki and caged-in benches in France. Every culture subconsciously designs their systems around their own social norms, which Benjamin said “is imbued with a broad range of social values.”

Benjamin shared multiple examples illustrating the hierarchy involved in our global healthcare system, from Henry Eta Lax’s overlooked fame for her stem cells, to the stories of nonconsensual vasectomies being performed in the 1990s in Georgia.

However, the prison assessment brain scan controversy was particularly provoking. Currently, certain prisons are running “risk assessment” brain scans on their prisoners to test their brain for “impulsivity,” a characteristic they have found correlates with breaking the law. This comes at a huge disadvantage to the prisoners who will be labeled as more of a threat to society, at times even elongating their prison sentence.

Meanwhile, many Wall Street brokers have had a hand in creating a global economic crisis, yet people do not find them eligible for risk assessment brain scans.

“Why prisoners?” Benjamin asked, frustrated by who is labeled worthy of scientific research and who is not. “Let’s take these brain scans and line them up and down Wall Street.”

In the lecture, Benjamin discussed a trend that is coming about in the global health realm that is particularly catastrophic — the world’s interest in genetics as the answer to every problem in health. Humans prefer the idea of genetics as the scapegoat for problems in health because no one is specifically to blame, she said.

Benjamin will soon be studying the caste system in India, where she will be learning about the “biology of castes.” She is interested in finding if genes are racial or if we make them real because we continue to act on them, excluding and racially dividing. Benjamin asks the question, “Genomically the same or are they the same through political and social mapping?” Unfortunately, theories that take the blame away from anyone or anything and places the blame in genetics is more appealing and often receives the grants.

Benjamin wants to create a revolution in how we design our systems, to make sure that the people who create the systems ask themselves, “Who are we designing this system for?” She wants to avoid medical abuse and systemic forms of exclusion.

“(My goal is) a material and social world that includes input from everyone,” Benjamin said. “(Otherwise we) risk steering this ship into (a) future that is even more unequal.”

Ice-T talks about his history with gangs and how rap turned his life around. (Photo courtesy of Luke Schoener)

Ice-T’s refreshing lecture

By Matt Iannaccone
Correspondent

Not to be confused with the popular beverage, Tracy Marrow, otherwise known as Ice-T, took the Main Stage Theatre in Kendall Hall on Wednesday, April 8, as the College Union Board’s spring lecturer. Most well-known for playing a detective on the hit show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and for his influence on hip hop, Ice-T gave the audience background on his journey and ended the night with important life advice.

Ice-T talks about his history with gangs and how rap turned his life around. (Photo courtesy of Luke Schoener)
Ice-T talks about his history with gangs and how rap turned his life around. (Photo courtesy of Luke Schoener)

Before Ice-T became famous, he experienced an extremely harsh childhood, losing both of his parents. He was left with no choice but to live with extended family out in Los Angeles, Calif. These circumstances caused Ice-T to fraternize with a gang in which he felt as though someone always had his back. In this lifestyle, he committed crimes like robbing banks and jewelry stores.

“We robbed so many banks (that) we’d rob a bank on the way from robbing a bank,” Ice-T said.

He even got shot multiple times, but as Ice- T puts it, he “got shot before it was cool to get shot.”

Although Ice-T took many risks in his younger years, he made it clear that these experiences helped produce his music, and he even gave the audience a quick sample. He created raps and rhymes to entertain his friends who gave him the nickname Ice-T. He also told the audience that his music warns against the potential dangers that the streets have to offer.

Ice-T went on to talk about how he transitioned from the music business into the acting world. In an interview with The Signal, he mentioned that he moved to the acting industry because “there was just like a shortage of hip, young, urban blacks kids, and they said, ‘Let’s go to the rappers.’ So they got me. It was a risk, but like anything, if what you do makes money, you’ll do it again.”

And so for the past 17 years, he has had roles not only on “Law & Order: SVU,” but also in several movies, including “New Jack City.” He mentioned that it really is quite ironic that with his past history of crime, he plays one of the detectives on “SVU.” But even so, Ice-T said that Dick Wolf, the creator and director of all “Law & Order” programs, admires his work ethic.

Ice-T has no plans to slow his busy lifestyle. He will soon be starting a daytime talk show on FOX, and people can continue to see him in action on the next and 17th season of “SVU.” Besides this, he is working on another album called “Blood Lust” with his band Body Count.

However, during his interview with The Signal, Ice-T did mention that he might not be seen in too many upcoming films.

“It’s very difficult to do films when you’re on episodic drama, because we film 10 months out of the year and they’re not gonna let me go to do a movie,” Ice-T said. “So I’ve put my film career on the backburner.”

During his lecture, Ice-T provided students with a lot of valuable advice and lessons, mentioning in his Signal interview that he likes talking to colleges, especially.

“It’s a blessing to be able to give somebody a little information about what they’re headed for, and by me being a little bit further down the road than you guys — maybe not even educationally, just life-wise — I have a lot of stories and experiences I can share,” he said.

One piece of advice Ice-T shared was to keep in mind that “no one else cares” — in other words, just be yourself. He also said that “you shouldn’t let someone make you feel inadequate about your successes. Compete against yourself. Keep bettering yourself.” He mentioned that to be successful, you must be dedicated, focused and passionate.

With all this advice, it was Ice-T’s hope that students left with a revelation: “Ice-T told me the truth.”

-Colleen Murphy, News Editor, and Megan Kaczka, Correspondent, contributed to this report.

‘American Crime’ features powerful performances

By Elena Tafone
Correspondent

While the new series “American Crime” has no relation to the national sensation that is “American Horror Story,” it’s not without its own chills. It’s less supernatural and more realistic, making it all the more terrifying.

The story takes place in wake of the death of Matt Skokie, a returned war veteran who was murdered during a home invasion that left his wife Gwen beaten, violated and in a coma. It follows those affected, from Matt’s divorced parents (Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton) to those who are suspects of the crime and their family members. “American Crime” is like a car crash: brutal, but intriguing, so much so that you may have trouble looking away.

While shows about crime, police investigation and courtroom procedure are nothing new — like “Law & Order,” which has been running for over 20 years and spawned innumerable spinoffs — “American Crime” is different.

“It’s not a procedural,” said John Ridley, the show’s creator, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not about the next piece of DNA evidence — it’s about people dealing with a situation they never asked for, they don’t want to be a part of and will not resolve itself in a week, in a month and sometimes even a year.”

Ridley, who is known for his work on “12 Years a Slave” — which won him the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2013 — wanted the show to examine race relations among other things. These issues are centered around the character of Anthony “Tony” Gutiérrez (Johnny Ortiz), who is initially suspected of having some kind of involvement in Matt’s death and Gwen’s assault. Tony, the son of Mexican immigrants, is forced to face how his heritage paints people’s perception of his involvement in the crime and how he is treated by the criminal justice system.   

“I honestly hope that it doesn’t deliver a verbal message,” Ridley told The Hollywood Reporter when asked about how the show addresses these issues. “I believe and hope the writing is good, but it’s not about preaching to people; it’s about having an emotion and people getting pulled along and not even knowing how they arrived there.”

The series is an anthology, meaning each season will focus on a new story with new characters. The first season, which centers on the Skokie murder, made its premiere on Sunday, March 15, and consists of 11 episodes, six of which have already aired. With its beautiful cinematography, artful editing and powerful performances, it’s sure to be a major contender at this year’s Emmy Awards.

Rifkin leads readings of classic Russian poetry

By Kelsey Leiter
Correspondent

Amid Eickhoff cookies and fresh beverages, students and faculty alike took some time out of their day on Thursday, April 9, to celebrate a piece of European literature — Russian poetry.

Benjamin Rifkin, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, along with Benjamin Jens and Colleen Lucey, instructors of Russian at the College, helped bring to life the words of famed Russian poets in honor of National Poetry Month.

The College’s very own proponents of Russian poetry selected nearly a dozen poems — half from the 19th century and half from the 20th century, Rifkin explained — to convey moods ranging from silly to serious. 

Both Jens and Rifkin earned their doctoral degrees in Russian literature, while Lucey is currently creating her own dissertation on Russian literature.

“It is no surprise that the three of us were excited to share our love of Russian poetry with the campus,” Rifkin said.

The professors took turns going line by line through each poem, with translations featured at the front of the room for students to follow along in order to read and recognize the “emotional charge of each line.”

Poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Fet, Tiutchev, Balmont, Blok, Akhmatova, Tsevetaeva, Pasternak and Brodsky were all recited in the original Russian, because the professors believe that though the authors are relatively well-known throughout the world, there is a something extremely important about keeping the text in its original language.

“Russian poets don’t have the same recognition, and it’s a shame because Russian poetry is so beautiful,” Rifkin said when describing the event.

Between readings of each poem, students had the opportunity to discuss what they thought of the verses and learn more about each particular poem’s historical and cultural context.

Rifkin believes students were most moved by two poems of very different emotional dialects. The first of which, Balmont’s “Skiff of Langour,” can be considered a dark sound poem.

The second, “Incantation of Laughter” by Khlebnikov, is a funny piece that uses gibberish words all derived from the root of the word “laughter” in Russian. The poem begins, “We laugh with our laughter, loke laffer un loafer, sloaf lafker int leffer, lopp lapter und loofer, loopse lapper ung lasler…”

“Russian poetry is amazing. Before the 19th century, no Russian writers entered the world literary canon,” Rifkin said. “But since the beginning of the 19th century, no study of European literature, music or art is complete without the inclusion of Russian writers, composers and artists.”

The purpose of the event was to develop a better appreciation of Russian poetry on campus, and it’s evident that students left the reading with a different appreciation of the genre.

Students share creative works during reading series

By Rachel Anton
Correspondent

INK, the College’s creative writing organization, gives its members a chance to explore their passions by crafting, presenting and discussing their own short stories, poems and more. One of the clubs most popular events is its Student Reading Series, in which three students are hand-selected to read their work in front of an audience.

Students packed the Library Auditorium to watch their peers in this event on Tuesday, March 31. For the first student reading series of the spring semester, Andrew Edelblum, Daniella Bruno-Arlequin and Michele Lesniak were the three readers selected from a pool of applicants to recite their poems. Everyone in the audience was captivated by each of their writing craft by offering rounds of applause and hilarity. The atmosphere of the auditorium was enveloped with innovative vibes giving way for the most sublime imagination.

Bruno-Arlequin performs beautiful poetry in her own style. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)
Bruno-Arlequin performs beautiful poetry in her own style. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)

Edelblum started off the night with his encapsulating poetry. Kira DeSomma described Edelblum’s personality as one that does not need to be explained but experienced. Edelblum’s humble and charismatic presence was reflected his poetry. He read five of his poems, including “MyFavorite Green Dinosaur,” “Breakups and Sitcoms,” “Walking the Dog,” “Weightless in Montauk” and “OK Cupid.” Edelblum verbalized that Jim Halpert of the television sitcom, “The Office,” inspired him to write “Breakups and sitcoms.” This poem was compiled of lines that most everyone could relate to at one point or another. He flowingly expressed that “predictability is comforting but our lives don’t work that way.” His tone was slow-paced at times then suddenly exuberant, successfully compelling the audience to want to know more about his life. Edelblum’s fourth poem, “Weightless in Montauk,” gave the audience a glimpse of his adventurous life. Lines like “the illusion of progress” and “marveling how (the sky) goes on forever, marveling how we go on forever” invited the audience to understand the inner workings of his mind.

The succeeding female poets included the striking Bruno-Arlequin and the lovely Lesniak. Bruno-Arlequin was clad in a black dress with rose patterns and wore matching fishnet stockings and gloves when she took the stage. Her most recent poem contains entrancing lines like “I am rough granite that refuses to yield to the rough waters” and “I am rough edges, there is not a round on me.” This poem is untitled, however, and she proclaimed that she is open for recommendations. 

Edelblum’s charismatic prescence is reflected in his creative work. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)
Edelblum’s charismatic prescence is reflected in his creative work. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)

Lesniak wore a bashful smile to match her thoughtful delivery. Her first poem, “Heatwave,” transported the audience to a familiar summer haze that many are longing to feel again. Lesniak’s inspiration comes from photographs, music and memories, all of which are evident in her poems. She draws a metaphor for the audience when she says, “I counted the sweat drops like shooting stars.” Her writing suggests that she has a keen observation of her surroundings and the events and people that affect her life.

With substantial efforts by INK’s executive board, including President Carly DaSilva, the last night in March was a tremendous success.

If you are interested in recommending Bruno-Arlequin a title for her poem or to write with the creative inklings, find your way to the Bliss Hall Lounge at 3 p.m. where  INK meets every Wednesday.