Category Archives: News

News happenings at The College of New Jersey

New subcommitee to advocate for students

President Wells welcomes the newly elected freshman class council. (Jenn Ren Alford / Staff Photographer)
President Wells welcomes the newly elected freshman class council. (Jenn Ren Alford / Staff Photographer)

The Student Government general body meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24 opened to a fervent round of applause for the newly-elected freshman class council.

Freshmen economics major Ryan Cleary, finance major Matt Ranieri, open-options business major Kelsey Capestro, business management and computer science double major Gregory Vaks, criminology major Kevin Lyons, deaf education and history double major Priscilla Nunez and biomedical engineering major Tyler McGilligan emerged victoriously from elections on Tuesday, Sept. 23, and were welcomed into Student Government with open arms.

One of the discussions of the meeting was how the organization could respond to the concerns of students on campus.

Vice President Michael Chiumento announced that he and Vice President of Governmental Affairs Jess Glynn are starting a lobbying subcommittee.

“We’ll be advocating on behalf of students for problems they experience on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “We’re looking to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Vice President of Advancement Sarah Drozd also shared plans for Student Government to better respond to the needs of its constituents.

“There will be a meet and greet in the Alumni Grove on (Thursday), Oct. 16,” Drozd said. “We want to talk to students about what SG does and see what problems they want resolved on campus.”

There will be Philly Pretzel Factory pretzels at the event, and Drozd hopes that the new Student Government logo will be unveiled there.

She also asked students to email any original designs to advancementsg@gmail.com by Friday, Oct. 3.

Later, Vice President of Student Services Navid Radfar announced a new initiative spearheaded by himself, along with Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Beverly.

“We have a vision to bring a Division I experience to a Division III school,” Radfar said.

The senior biopsychology  major noticed that many students walk around campus sporting T-shirts from Rutgers, Duke, North Carolina and other universities that they do not attend, and he wondered what could be done to bolster the sense of school pride at the College.

“We have nationally ranked teams, but poor attendance at athletic events,” he said.

That is why Radfar will be hosting a T-shirt exchange during the week leading up to Homecoming.

“Come to the Brower Student Center with an old college or high school T-shirt and we’ll give you a brand new TCNJ Homecoming shirt,” he said.

The Student Finance Board allocated almost $1,400 for approximately 350 shirts. All of the T-shirts that are traded in will be donated to charity.

“Some students aren’t in organizations on campus, so they don’t have club T-shirts or Greek letter shirts to wear,” Radfar said. “We’re hoping these T-shirts will help all students identify with the College.”

Radfar, Hecht and Beverly are hoping that an increased sense of school pride will encourage more students to attend the Homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 25.

“We want to see kids having fun at the game, supporting the College and making smart choices,” Radfar said.

CAPS helps the College with coping

CAPS hopes to be a program students can turn to in hard times. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)
CAPS hopes to be a program students can turn to in hard times. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)

By Mackenzie Cutruzzula
Staff Writer

One problem at a time, peer educators are helping students cope with college life in the freshman dorms.

Through a seven-week program, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has spent Wednesday nights helping students deal with adversities from homesickness to time and stress management.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, the sixth session of the program, peer educators shifted their focus to conflict management.

“We are here to talk about conflict and healthy ways to resolve it,” sophomore psychology major and peer educator Claudia Gargano said.

The educators asked the students to read printouts of different conflict management styles and choose the one that most closely related to how they dealt with conflict. The students then wrote their names and conflict styles on a poster that will be hung with similar posters from other weeks in the halls of Travers and Wolfe.

The peer educators took time to talk with students and ask how their transitions to the College are going. They asked if students were getting along with their roommates, or if they needed any advice on communicating better with their roommates. They even equipped each student with a four-step model for handling conflict.

The peer educators also act as liaisons between students and the resources they have on campus for solving different problems.

“Our role isn’t to be the help, but to tell students where they can get help,” junior psychology major and committee chair Nick Spanola said.

During the conflict management event, the peer educators wanted freshman to know about the resources available to them for dealing with roommate and other conflicts. In particular, CAPS advocated for the Residence Life Mediation Program. The Mediation Program is designed to let roommates work out their problems with a third party present to moderate the discussion. They help roommates write out the best solution possible for a successful living situation.

In the past, peer educators only hosted one or two events a month in the lounges of the freshmen residence halls. The seven-week program has been a significant opportunity for CAPS to reach freshmen. Their goal is to promote that students facing issues or conflicts have somewhere to turn for help throughout their college experience.

“Our best key to success is definitely just awareness being out there,” Spanola said.

CAPS is located in room 107 of Eickhoff Hall and offers services for group and individual emergency counseling. The peer educators are available for programs for organizations and classes throughout the year on a number of different topics, including stress management and mental health.

The last Freshman Year Experience peer education-tabling program will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 1, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall. The peer educators will be providing information on changes in relationships.

Trans-activist Mock approved for $13,048

The Student Finance Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24, included proposals from 10 organizations, all hoping to bring diverse and engaging events to campus throughout the year.

The largest request came from the Inter-Greek Council, which requested $29,715 to hold an event called “TCNJam,” a 12-hour dance marathon. As stated in its proposal, the event “exemplifies the core values of TCNJ by bringing together all aspects of the college experience.”  In addition, the day would raise awareness of the impact pediatric oncology has on society, in addition to celebrating sponsors’ achievements in raising funds for The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation.

After a long proposal and much debate, the event was zero-funded.

Earlier in the meeting, there was a co-presentation by PRISM and The Women’s Center, who hope to jointly bring Janet Mock to campus next semester. Mock is a writer and trans-activist who also served as an editor for People.com.

The event was allocated $13,048 in funding, with a lecture and book signing scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 12, in Kendall Hall.

The College Union Board proposed “An Evening of Spoken Word” next. The event would feature two prominent spoken word poets in addition to a handful of student acts as openers.

For various reasons discussed among SFB, such as disorganization, the event was tabled and zero-funded.

Student Government proposed a “Homecoming T-Shirt Exchange” event, which is something new they hope to have on campus this year. The idea is to have students donate old shirts with logos from other colleges and high schools, and in return, receive a free shirt representing the College. Student Government hopes this event will raise school pride and boost morale for the football game. All donated shirts will be be given to a charity following the exchange.

The event, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22, was allocated $1,396.50 to cover the cost of 350 shirts.

The Spanish Club proposed for the first time this semester to bring film producer Alex Rivera to campus. Rivera would be discussing his science-fiction film, “Sleep Dealer,” and the militarization of the US-Mexico border.

After being allocated $3,100 in funding, the club plans to hold the lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

The Asian American Association proposed two events. The first was its annual Multicultural Buffet, featuring foods from various Asian cultures including China, Japan, the Philippines, India and the Middle East. The event, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 5, was allocated $3,604 to cover the  costs of food and setup.

The second event was a lecture titled “Asians in the Media,” given by Filipino-American actor Dante Basco. Basco, who has lended his voice to hit series such as “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “American Dragon: Jake Long,” hopes to discuss Asians being stereotypical represented in the media.

Scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 12, the lecture was allocated $3,870.

Next, TCNJ Muslims Student Association proposed for its annual Eid-Al Adha Dinner. The event is one of the two major Muslim holidays.

The dinner, which the club hopes to hold on Wednesday, Oct. 8, was allocated $4,236.61 in funding.

Chabad proposed next for their weekly Shabbat dinner on Friday evenings. While held off campus in the past, the attendance has gone up in recent years, and the original location can no longer hold all of the attendees. The organization planned on holding these dinners every Friday for the rest of the year.

Originally requesting $16,224, the organization was partially allocated $5,616 to cover nine weeks of dinners through the end of the fall semester.

To end the meeting, the Off Campus Student Organization (OCSO) was allocated $250 to host “A Warm Welcome,” a meet and greet with hot chocolate, scheduled to take place on Thursday, Oct. 9.

Finally, Pep Band, which was recently approved by Student Government, was picked up as an SAF-funded club.

Student spit-takes straight to a summons

  • On Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 12:55 a.m., Campus Police arrived at Travers Hall in response to a resident stumbling into the men’s bathroom and vomiting. Campus Police noticed the resident spitting multiple times with difficulty speaking and holding balance. The resident stated that he consumed approximately nine drinks of rum and beer at a location he did not want to reveal, according to Campus Police. Lions EMS and professional staff of Residential Education and Housing were on the scene. The resident received a summons for underage alcohol consumption.
  • On Friday, Sept. 27, at 2 a.m., Campus Police arrived at Cromwell Hall on a report of a resident vomiting. While Lions EMS was evaluating and providing care to the victim, Campus Police spoke with the victim’s roommate, who said he received a call from a friend to pick up the victim from a party. The roommate said when he arrived, he saw that the victim appeared intoxicated and was not able to stand on his own, according to Campus Police. The victim was transported to Capital Health and received a summons for underage drinking.
  • On Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 5:15 a.m., Campus Police observed on cameras what appeared to be a damaged screen on the ground outside the rear entrance of Phelps Hall. Campus Police detailed and observed that the screen in the back of Phelps from the staircase had been kicked out, and a criminal mischief report was filed.
The student body tailgates during Homecoming 2013 together in one lot. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)

Petition urges more dialogue

The student body tailgates during Homecoming 2013 together in one lot. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)
The student body tailgates during Homecoming 2013 together in one lot. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)

With new and controversial Homecoming changes taking place this semester, students and alumni alike have begun to voice their opposition to the Steering Committee’s new policies through an online petition.

Similar to reactionary movements last year, a petition by ’13 alumnus Mike Griffith has spread across social media, opposing the new changes to the tailgate at Homecoming poised to take place. The petition was created earlier this month, garnering 1,336 supporting signatures as of Monday, Sept. 29. The page is flooded with outrage and concern over the new rules. Moreover, last year’s petition creator, Tim Lee, a ’12 alumnus and Signal photo emeritus, and Griffith, this year’s organizer, both envisioned the same goals for their petitions – to “save Homecoming.”

Hosted on change.org, an online petition platform, the “Petition to Repeal Changes to the Homecoming Tailgate” for this year has a letter addressed to several groups in the Homecoming Steering Committee. It requests the committee to “please remove these restrictions and allow one of the most memorable days at TCNJ return to its roots.” More specifically, the petition targets the separation of the tailgate into two lots – Lot 4 being designated an alcohol-inclusive zone and Lot 6 an alcohol-free one. The letter in the petition calls the setup “unnecessary” and “oppressive,” as well as “arbitrary” and “patronizing” for the imposed alcohol limit allowed in the over 21-year-old area. “The College has seen the petition, but it is not persuasive, and that is not a function of the number of signatures,” said David Muha, vice president for Communications, Marketing and Brand Management. “The petition labels the changes for this year ‘arbitrary’ and ‘unnecessary.’ They were nothing of the sort. The plans for this year were developed with broad input to address very real problems with last year’s event.”

Last year, there were six reported alcohol-related transports, according to Campus Police Chief John Collins. These changes have been made with the intention of reducing the number of underage alcohol-related incidents.

“They overreach, overact and overcompensate,” Griffith said. “There is no need for such draconian measures.”

Although Griffith, along with many of the other petition supporters, has enjoyed all past Homecomings which he has attended — even with last year’s changes — he believes this year, the changes have gone too far.

“It is more than a day of drinking in the parking lot,” said Kate Aebischer, ’13 alumna who is planning on flying back to New Jersey for Homecoming.  “Regrettably, these separationist policies will put restrictions and boundaries between the flow of students and alumni, barring the connection between the two.”

Concerns have been raised on the petition page about the so-called segregation of the tailgate: it prevents parents from consuming alcoholic beverages without leaving their children behind, and for students over 21, it makes it difficult to hang out with younger friends while also being able to drink, Griffith said.

Others believe these changes tarnish the original purpose of Homecoming, as well.

“I feel like the spirit that I have seen the last two years just won’t be there anymore,” said Jennifer Sheridan, a junior early childhood and psychology double major. “I can’t imagine what it is going to be like this year. I feel like there must be a better way to ensure the students’ safety.”

Last year’s petition received 1,154 student signatures and 371 alumni signatures, according to Lee, accounting for nearly a fifth of the student body. Lee further explained his strategy on how to execute a successful petition.

“I was engaged with student leaders who were knowledgeable in the situation; printed and hand-delivered the petition to President Gitenstein’s office; and made myself available to the administration for follow-up,” Lee said.

As far as this year’s petition goes, Lee is unsure about the effect it will have.

“It was created very quickly after the changes were announced, so I don’t know if it’s been researched or made in collaboration with student leaders,” he said.

“The College is always interested in hearing from students on issues of concern, but dialogue is always going to be the most productive form of communication,” Muha said. “In the case of Homecoming, that dialogue needs to be centered on ways in which we can curb underage and excessive drinking.”

The end goal remains the same for both petitions. At most, Lee hopes to see the separation of the tailgating lots removed. However, the lack in dialogue between the actual petitioners and the committee has left these opposing sides on different pages.

“Petitioning for alterations to be made without acknowledging the problems and proposing alternate solutions will not result in change,” Muha said.

Sarah Dash brings music back to Trenton

Trenton native and global ‘LaBelle’ star, Dash, finds her way home. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)
Trenton native and global ‘LaBelle’ star, Dash, finds her way home. (Heiner Fallas / Staff Photographer)

Stepping on stage with gold-studded, black, six-inch heels, music icon Sarah Dash spoke to students in Mayo Concert Hall about how growing up in the Trenton educational and music scene shaped her artist aspirations and singing career.

The Freshman Seminar Program, “Trenton Makes Music,” led by English and journalism associate professor Kim Pearson, sponsored this event on Wednesday, Sept. 24. 

“We’re trying to spotlight the artists that come from Trenton,” Dash’s younger sister Diane Dash-Thomson said. “I think it’s great that she still lives in Trenton.”

During her childhood, the Trenton Church of Christ offered Dash a gateway into the medium of music. By the time she was 14, Dash had already lined up her first professional gig in a Trenton nightclub.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Dash on being the daughter of a pastor. “I grew up in the church.”

Dash was a member of the girl-group quartet Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles in the 1960s and 1970s. It eventually turned into the widespread, famous and successful girl-group trio LaBelle.

LaBelle produced many well-known hits during its run such as “Lady Marmalade,” which made its debut on the popular television show “American Bandstand.” The trio was known for its collaborative style of funk, blues and rock and initiated the “costume” phenomenon for girl groups, focusing on individual style rather than monotony.

They were the trendsetters,” said Dash’s celebrity eyelash stylist and close friend, Austin Gary. “They were the Lady Gagas.” 

In addition to her performances with “Labelle,” Dash collaborated with well-known acts, including The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper and Keith Richards. After her time with LaBelle, Dash primarily moved toward the disco-dance genre while still exercising her big vocals and gospel lyrics. 

Though Dash has traveled the world and performed with some of the most iconic artists in music history, she has found her way back in her childhood Trenton home.

“There was a spirit that I had no control over,” Dash said. “My mother’s spirit was what brought me back there.”

Dash noted that the Trenton of today does not parallel her childhood memories of Trenton. Her neighborhood, for example, is slowly re-gentrifying.

“I’ve been a part of that restructuring,” she said.

“You don’t hear about the good things that will gain self-confidence (in Trenton),” said resident of Trenton and faculty member of the School of Arts and Communications Mary Williams. “You always hear about shootings.”

When Williams learned about Dash’s return to Trenton, she believed that the news should be publicized since entertainment is a critical part in the lives of youth.

“To know that people flourish life, from a small town like (Trenton), should be broadcast,” Williams said. As a result, Williams believes the youth of Trenton can admire Dash and say, “She persevered. I can do that.”

“I do believe in the city, the capital of New Jersey,” Dash said. “We have a lot to offer, and we have a lot of restructuring to do.”

Dash is currently working on an exciting new Trenton project: the Sarah Dash Music Academy.

“The purpose is to bring into the community a sense of responsibility,” Dash said. The Academy would shape and encourage artistically talented students and groom them into “solid citizens,” according to Dash.

“One has to have a formula to remain focused,” said Dash regarding musically-oriented students. “Smart and not hungry.”

Dash also explained that being well-educated in all fields is important to success.

“I’ve continued to read and educate myself even in the fields of computer science,” Dash said.

The Academy will also provide an opportunity for seniors to achieve their musical aspirations.

“It’s a shame to die with something inside of you,” Dash said. “Music can be a lifeline.”

Two of the College’s professors who especially could appreciate Dash’s presence were Pearson and Reverend Todd McCrary, who teaches the FSP, “Evolution of African American Gospel Music.” Pearson discussed the lack of and segregation of efficient historical documentation in Trenton, while McCrary and Dash spoke about Trenton’s history of spirituality.

“What you’ve seen today is not rehearsed,” Gary said. “You really get to see who she really is. She teaches you a lot.”

But ultimately, Dash believes that music hasn’t just changed her life, but that of society altogether — and dramatically so.

“As you grow in your life, you need to understand what it takes to be a performer, if that is your quest,” Dash said. “To understand art is to understand life.”

GoPro not just for the highly adventurous anymore

By Courtney Wirths
Features Editor

• Japanese telecommunications company, SoftBank Corp. is looking to acquire or partner with DreamWorks Animation. The deal could help the two companies continue to compete with other international rivals. SoftBank’s strategy has been to acquire content providers (mainly video game companies) as a way to lure mobile subscribers in the future. A potential price for the Hollywood studio was not disclosed.

American Apparel, the L.A. based manufacturer known for creating clothing basics, has appointed a new interim chief executive and replaced its chief financial officer. The new leadership enters as a temporary replacement for the company’s founder, Dov Charney who was removed as CEO in June over allegations of misconduct. Charney is accused of misusing company funds and allowing nude photos to be published on the Internet of a former employee who sued him alleging sexual harassment.

• Tesla Motors Inc. was in “drive” and ready to hit the streets of China in full force. The cars’ charging stations, however, are proving to be a considerable roadblock. Weary property managers and neighbors often get in the way of the stations’ installations, because many Chinese citizens live in urban areas or apartment complexes and have to park in community lots or garages. The delays and lack of charging stations have caused buyers to become frustrated with the luxury car maker. Tesla continues to attempt to spread new information.

GoPro, the camera company for the adventurer, is attempting to woo the more mild traveler. The new Hero collection offers one cheaper option to its more professional cameras, but also has two higher-end cameras with touch screens that make them easy to use for the everyday vacationer. The products exemplify GoPro’s new strategy of making the brand more accessible to a larger group of consumers.

* All information according to the Wall Street Journal.

Defining Bolivia’s new and changing class system

By Ellie Schuckman
News Assistant

In the second of six presentations from the College’s Politics Forum series, students and faculty alike gathered to celebrate and discuss the recent publication of a book detailing Bolivian life and the constantly changing definition of the middle class.

The middle class in Bolivia is not like the middle class in America. (Courtney Wirths / Features Editor)
The middle class in Bolivia is not like the middle class in America. (Courtney Wirths / Features Editor)

“This is where serendipity plays,” she said. “You just never know where it will take you.”

Miriam Shakow, assistant professor of anthropology and history at the College, listened to a panel of three students examine and pose questions regarding her book, “Along the Bolivian Highway,” on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the College’s Library Auditorium, to which she responded with detailed accounts of her time in Bolivia.

“Within Bolivia, people know that there is a middle class … which, unlike (in) the United States, there is this alternate intermediate category that … is indigenous,” Shakow said. “To be middle-class (in Bolivia) is different than being middle-class in the United States. If you call it middle class, people think of the term ‘clase media,’ the cognitive middle class as amongst the elite, even if they’re not all the way up there.”

The presentation, titled “Readers Respond to Along the Bolivian Highway,” was sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of History and the School of Humanities and Social Science. It was also a celebration of the work Shakow did.

“It’s an important occasion to mark,” said Elizabeth Borland, chair of the College’s Sociology and Anthropology Department. “It’s a big deal for a faculty member to write a book.”

The panel consisted of junior sociology major Chris Felton, senior history and women’s and gender studies double major Caitlin Weisner and senior sociology major Peter Peliotis, each of whom made points regarding specific moments in the book followed by questions they had for Shakow.

“What I really found to be useful … were the parallels found to the United States in looking at our own politics,” Peliotis said. “I liked this idea of intimate politics that Dr. Shakow uses, and that idea is that it’s power struggles between friends, families and neighbors.”

Those in attendance seemed to enjoy the set-up of the discussion, with multiple people giving their views instead of having one speaker.

“I think they had a lot of the same questions I had,” senior sociology major Andrew Wilson said. “It allows for four different perspectives.”

The panel also discussed how people in Bolivia who aspire to reach upper nobility have debated a class struggle: whether indigenous people should rise above their social class or try to break down the hierarchies.

“Bolivia is a society that we often think of as a struggle between the super wealthy elites —  a very small minority — and a destitute of an indigenous majority,” said Borland, referring to details in Shakow’s book. 

In stating the struggles many Bolivians face, the root of the problem may be in the perception others have on those living in rural areas, as 65 percent of the population is poor, according to Shakow.

“(The town I was in) was officially classified as a rural town, but a majority of the people who lived there did not actually work in farming,” said Shakow as she discussed the misconceptions of many indigenous peoples. “The self-perception of the people in this area were that they were farmers, because that’s how they were used to thinking of themselves … But in fact, most people are making a living through coca leaves or cocaine production.”

With an “economic boom” in cocaine production, many people in Bolivia who classify themselves as lower class have emerged as a type of middle class.

Unlike in the U.S. where there are defined upper, middle and lower classes, in Bolivia, those lines are blurred. Those living in rural towns consider themselves lower-class farmers when, in reality, the work they are doing classifies them as members of the middle-class.

“I never once heard anybody I was working with say the term ‘middle class,’” Shakow said. “They didn’t think of themselves — and I don’t think anybody else thought of themselves — as members of the middle class because they came from the rural area.”

Though the debate of this new middle class rages on, Shakow remains optimistic in her work.

$9,775 funded to INK

By Jonathan Edmondson
Arts & Entertainment Editor

INK proposed three high-volume requests at the Student Finance Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

The first event proposed was “The Goods,” featuring poet Marty McConnell. The event, as described by President Carly DaSilva, is a semesterly event fostering student performances from across campus, showcasing various artistic and creative skills. This year, INK hopes to have McConnell, a famous slam poet, headline the event.

SFB allocated $3,275 toward the event, and INK hopes to hold “The Goods” on Sunday, Nov. 22.

INK then proposed both of its Master Series events, in which a writer comes to campus for a lecture or workshop. The first event features Rachel McKibbens, an activist, playwright and slam poet.

“She’ll have experience talking to students about their work,” DaSilva said, alluding to McKibbens’ educational prowess.

The group was allocated $1,500 and is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 12.

Finally, INK proposed for its second Master Series, which is scheduled to feature Edward Hirsch, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

As stated in their proposal, INK hopes this event will “enrich and broaden the creative writing and reading community at TCNJ.”

Hirsch, who writes poetry focusing on condensed versions of large concepts, is also an acclaimed critic.

The event, which is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 13, was funded to cover the speaker’s fees. The speaker requested that the specific amount not be disclosed.

Next, PRISM returned this week to propose another guest speaker. This time, the organization hopes to bring David Jay, founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Jay will discuss his own experiences as both an asexual and polyamorous individual.

“It’s really important that we bring someone to discuss a topic that isn’t well-represented on campus,”sophomore SFB representative Olivia Higbee said.

The group was allocated $1,000, and PRISM hopes to hold the talk sometime in November.

Finally, Student Government proposed their annual Fall Retreat to allow newly elected members to become more familiar with the expectations of the organization.

The group was allocated $970 and is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Exploring the not-so-distant dystopian future

By Gabrielle Beacken
News Assistant

The book takes place in a future, media-driven New York. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)
The book takes place in a future, media-driven New York. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)

The English Department took a closer look at this year’s summer reading novel, Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” on Friday, Sept. 19, in the Education Building. In several close readings, English professors Michael Robertson, Mindi McMann and Jess Row conducted three separate and distinctly focused explications of the novel — interpretations designed to “unfold” literary themes through the analysis of a particular passage.

“Super Sad True Love Story” is set in the near-future of a dystopian American society in New York, where retail and media consumerism have dominated all civilization. There are two central characters: Lenny Abramov, a middle-aged, middle-class descendant of a Russian immigrant who, in turn, falls in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American girl. The novel depicts America’s current economic, political and social status as unstable — encouraging maximum participation in consumerism and abusing heavy military power, while also being deeply indebted to its Chinese creditors.

“The good news is, we’re in a golden age of dystopian fiction,” Robertson said. “The bad news is, we’re in a golden age of dystopian fiction.”

All three professors then proceeded to present their own personally-tinted perspectives on the novel’s themes, conflicts and more.

“It’s good to hear perspectives that conflict,” junior English and women’s and gender studies double major Erin Shannon said. “Everyone has different thoughts.”

Robertson initiated the discussion of the novel, elucidating four conflicts found in futuristic-type fiction that applied to the summer reading novel as well: utopian vs. dystopian, dystopian vs. anti-utopian, hard vs. soft and closed vs. open. Offering examples from famous dystopian novels, such as George Orwell’s “1984”, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We.”, Robertson applied these dichotomies to Shteyngart’s work.

“Super Sad True Love Story” included all of these conflicts while examining both sides, according to Robertson. To support his argument, he proposed interpreting the ending of the novel as both “closed” and “open.”

According to Robertson, the last few lines of the novel illustrate a beautiful countryside scene, suggesting that the setting has reversed back to a “natural” world, leaving the ending “open” for improvement and progress. However, the last lines of the novel also imply a “closed” ending, as the text illustrates a completely silent and dark world where society’s admiration for materialism remains.

Following Robertson’s interpretation, McMann examined the role economic globalization and race played in the novel.

“The characters bury their heads in the sand,” McMannn said, noting how the fictional government’s inability to provide its citizens with basic needs perpetuated a “failed state.”

The U.S. dollar’s worth is null as international competitors have dominated America’s marketplace, said McMann. The novel’s language was additionally filled with heavily racist remarks and outlooks, specifically targeting those of Asian descent and those of Jewish religion. Overall, these elements crafted a state of frayed economic and social relationships. 

Concluding their explications, Row provided a third perspective of the novel. He discussed what exactly makes a futuristic novel “futuristic.” Near-future novels, if they are to possess and address present-day problems in society, must incorporate them into futuristic qualities that will not become outdated by a novel’s date of publication.

“Super Sad True Love Story” was written from 2006 to 2008 and published in 2010. Now, in 2014, it has been six years since the book was written. Technology has progressed and evolved so rapidly over those six years that present-day readers can relate to some of the “near-futuristic” elements of the novel, Row said.

All three of the close readings presented analytical skills that can help foster discussion and further ideas on society’s most fundamental issues.

“The idea behind (close readings) is to build a stronger intellectual community between students and faculty,” McMann said. “I think we had a great turnout.”

Reflecting her optimism, the Education Building’s lecture hall was filled with students, many of whom prompted several inquiries and shared comments and reactions on the novel during the question and answer section.

To students like Shannon, “Super Sad True Love Story” was certainly an interesting, yet perhaps not entirely enjoyable read. Nevertheless, it is important to have faculty and students discuss their opinions and perspectives on such a contemporary work of literature.

“I think it’s a great English Department-wide event,” Shannon said. “It brings us much closer, and it’s great that students engage actively with faculty.”

Ferguson and the future of civil rights

By Ellie Schuckman
Correspondent

As part of the politics forum series sponsored by the College’s Political Science Department, students and faculty alike welcomed the first of six guest speakers to discuss issues concerning society and the choices others have to make a difference. 

Omar Wasow, a highly renowned Internet analyst and current assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, spoke on Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the College’s library auditorium about civil rights and the injustices many United States citizens encounter daily.

“The injustices we face are more diffuse,” said Wasow on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. “There’s not just one grand issue.”

His presentation, “Ferguson and the Future of Civil Rights,” focused on minority groups breaking the current mold and fighting for their beliefs.

“I was already interested in the topic (and how) it linked both domestic issues and international issues,” sophomore international studies major Carolina Charvet said. “As sensitive as racial issues are … I’m trying to be informed instead of making a rapid decision.”

After the recent shooting and protests that ensued last month in Ferguson, Mo., many wondered why Michael Brown — the black teen gunned down by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson — was stopped in the first place. According to Wasow, the police officers in Ferguson were given incentives to get more fines. But, could such have really led to the shooting of an unarmed man?

Wasow says Ferguson has several issues at hand, not just race. (Jordan Baum / Staff Photographer)
Wasow says Ferguson has several issues at hand, not just race. (Jordan Baum / Staff Photographer)

Wasow then compared the current battle of minority groups rising into positions of power with those in hegemonic positions.

“There’s a dominant group, and there are subordinate groups,” he said. “If we think about it, the dominate group is trying to hold on to its position in the hierarchy, and subordinate groups are trying to push for more of an egalitarian system. Then you can begin to see lots of other kinds of struggles fitting into that framework.”

Wasow also highlighted Public Enemy’s song, “911 Is a Joke,”stating how the song “captures an essential truth” — that police may respond differently to a call regarding a white person than they would someone of color.

According to Wasow, though race is most prevalent, what lies at the root of the problem may be the U.S. education system as a whole.

“The failure of public education at the K-12 level is abominable,” he said. “It’s a broken system.”

When students who are classified as “problems” begin school, they are often given to a newer teacher — one who cannot give them the best education but was selected because of his/her lack of seniority, explained Wasow.

“If you can stop (young) people from being charged with loitering … you can help keep them in school,” said Wasow, noting that arresting minors for petty crimes is the “quicksand of our criminal justice system.”

“In some ways, mass-incarceration is just as bad as the Jim Crow Laws,” he said.

Political science professor and chair of the political science department Brian Potter believes that Wasow’s main point is to fight not just racial injustice, but justice as a whole.

“Race is something that divides us, (and) his message is about creating global (unity),” Potter said.

Though hesitant on when serious change will be seen, Wasow remains optimistic.

“Progress is not inevitable,” he said.

How to be a good Chinese wife

Blumberg-Kason relates her experiences in 1990’s China. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)
Blumberg-Kason relates her experiences in 1990’s China. (Photo courtesy of Amazon

First, she fell in love with the country. Then, she fell in love with the man she was tutoring. American Susan Blumberg-Kason was studying in Hong Kong when she met the love of her life in 1994. The two wound up marrying and having a son, and for five years, she tried to be the best Chinese wife she could be. But the marriage did not last, and Blumberg-Kason experienced what she called, “a love affair with China gone wrong.” 

Blumberg-Kason wrote about her time as a Chinese wife, daughter-in-law and mother in her memoir, “Good Chinese Wife.” On Thursday, Sept. 18, under the sponsorship of the department of world languages and cultures, she came to the College to give a discussion on “Gender, Romance and Chinese Masculinity” and to read an excerpt from her book.

When Blumberg-Kason arrived in China, she knew about the foot binding the girls used to perform in order to reach a certain standard of beauty. She also knew that in the ’30s, women’s femininity was taken away to make the men and women appear as equals. The Chinese culture continued to change throughout the years, and when she arrived in China in the ’90s, she was surprised to see that men and women shared domestic duties.

“My American friends’ fathers did not share domestic responsibilities,” Blumberg-Kason said. “Dad would come home, he’d kick off his shoes, sit in his chair, watch the news or ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ Even if Mom was working, she would have to get the kids from school, cook and clean. The gender roles (in China at the time) were not as what we think in America.”

She also pointed out that Hollywood is the only institution to teach Americans what Chinese masculinity is, which we are led to believe includes a lot of sparring.

“I saw things so differently than what I saw in Hollywood, and I feel like if I hadn’t had that experience, to meet people from other cultures, my view and my life would be completely different,” she said.

Immersing herself in the Chinese culture, Blumberg-Kason said she imagined she would be living there for the rest of her life. That thought was solidified when the man she loved brought up the idea of marriage. 

“In China, couples traditionally date if they plan to marry — it’s not like in the U.S. when people date casually until they meet someone they want to settle down with,” her soon-to-be husband told her.

Blumberg-Kason was at first surprised to hear of marriage so soon.

“So this was normal — talking about dating and marriage in the same sentence,” Blumberg-Kason read from her book. “It’s the first time I heard of this custom, but I trusted him. The Chinese culture was so different.”

It all happened so fast.

Blumberg-Kason was soon married and doing her best to please her husband as well as his parents.

However, she said the marriage was “emotionally abusive.”

“This whole book is about me trying to do what I thought was the Chinese way, and I didn’t really know what that meant,” said Blumberg-Kason, who has not been back to China in 16 years. “I tried to take the cue from him, but it was just five years of trying to figure out how to make the marriage work.”

According to the author, the book’s cover, which shows an unbalanced tower of china, perfectly grasps the feeling she had while in the marriage.

“These cups or bowls are about to tip over at any point, and I’m trying to keep everything together,” she said.

Looking back at the marriage that brought her into a Chinese family, Blumberg-Kason said she realizes that there are things she could have done differently, including making sure she and her husband had a more solid plan for their future and not rushing into the marriage.

But, most importantly, “Rather than just trying to be a good Chinese wife, I should have just been a wife and have my American identity,” she said.

This year’s changes attempt to strike a balance between safety and fun. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)

More Homecoming changes to come this year

By Natalie Kouba
Editor-in-Chief

As a beloved all-day celebration at the College and representation of school spirit, Homecoming has served to bring together students, alumni, faculty, staff and family with an institutional pride that is rooted deep.

This year’s changes attempt to strike a balance between safety and fun. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)
This year’s changes attempt to strike a balance between safety and fun. (Tim Lee / Photo Emeritus)

“Homecoming is an opportunity for our campus community to come together, to grow, to learn about history and traditions and to develop the spirit of the institution,” said John Castaldo, executive director of Alumni Affairs.

Each year, Homecoming attracts people to the field and the parking lots for one of two activities — the football game or the tailgate. This year, the Homecoming Steering Committee has other activities in the works to prove that Homecoming is more than the tailgate, including a Rathskeller Beer Garden, Homecoming Festival and pancake breakfast, according to the Homecoming website. These added events are meant to provide more options for entertainment, as well as make Homecoming truly an all-day affair.

This year, Homecoming will begin earlier than usual with a breakfast in the Brower Student Center at 9 a.m. The morning meal will feature 1,000 free pancakes along with omelets, breakfast meats, juices and coffee for sale, as well. This leads into the tailgate’s inception at 10 a.m., which will run all day before concluding at the start of the fourth quarter of the game. The festival  featuring a Cappella groups, dance performances, dollar hot-dogs, a rock-climbing wall and inflatables — is modeled after the popular spring event “Funival,” according to Amy Hecht, vice president for Student Affairs.

“It will be a nice alternative if you don’t want to go to tailgating, or if you just want to bounce back and forth,” Student Government Student Trustee Ryan Boyne said. “It will give people a nice little option to have.”

The Beer Garden will be open from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is structured to provide an environment for those who wish to continue hanging out or drinking. Although it is a 21-and-over only event, each person will be limited to three drinks for the price of $15.

Homecoming is traditionally funded by the Office of Alumni Affairs and the College Alumni Association, which will contribute about $40,000 and $10,000, respectively. The cost of two of the newest events — the festival and free pancakes — is approximately $16,000, according to David Muha, associate vice president for Communications, Marketing and Brand Management.

But, perhaps the change which has mustered the biggest uproar among the College community — including current students as well as alumni — is the recent regulatory overhaul of the tailgate, the event students most look forward to in the fall semester.

Last year, the first changes to the tailgate took place in an attempt to bring the traditional, heavily-geared day-drink event under control, the College gave all attendees different colored wristbands to distinguish the underage from the of-age attendees. Campus Police Chief John Collins said one of the problems they discovered in this idea was that underage attendees were getting wristbands from those who were over 21; confusion quickly erupted, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish who was in fact underage. Last year, Campus Police banded over 4,000 individuals under 21 and 5,500 over 21, according to Collins.

This year, however, the College will be pushing the wristband idea aside and rolling out the plastic fencing for a 21-and-over only area in Lot 4 — an alcohol-inclusive zone. Each partaker will be allowed to bring in no more than a six-pack of beer, 12 oz. each, or a four-pack of wine, 6 oz. each. Hard alcohol will not be permitted. Upon entering the lot and showing the proper I.D., hands will be stamped indicating the allowed limit of alcohol per person has been brought into the tailgate.

In spite of efforts made by the Homecoming Steering Committee to implement changes to the tailgate, it is clear that many attendees are critical, if not openly outraged. 

A petition, similar to the one created for last year’s Homecoming, is already taking shape, garnering over 1,260 signatures as of Monday, Sept. 22. Hosted on change.org, the petition, “Repeal Changes to the Homecoming Tailgate,” calls the new regulations “unnecessary and oppressive,” referring to the separated areas for alcohol-permitted and alcohol-free tailgating zones. Comments on the site yield a wide breadth of criticism. Some parents say they would like to enjoy a drink with their friends while having their children closeby in the same lot, while others claim counting drinks for adults is “patronizing.” Many also contest that fewer students will attend and compare the College’s policies to other universities, which have much more lenient regulations.

Backlash against the groups that organized Homecoming was vocalized last year when it was revealed no student input was considered when planning the activities. But the implementation of the Homecoming Steering Committee in fact heard student voices every step of the way. Headed by Student Government, student leaders, Alumni Affairs, College Advancement, Student Affairs, Student Activities, athletics, Campus Police, Residential Education and Housing, and Alumni Association, the Committee began planning for Homecoming in the spring, meeting twice a month through the summer and up to the first few weeks of school, according to Boyne.

“I personally have been a student here for 3 years (and) have been to three Homecomings,” Boyne said. “(When) you are here on campus everyday, you know what students are saying. So when there is something that will not work, we have our expertise to address those concerns and say, ‘You know, that’s not going to work with students. There will be an uproar about that.’”

Coming from many different perspectives, the goal of the Committee is not to “dampen the spirit of Homecoming,” according to Collins. Last year, six students were transported to the hospital due to alcohol-related illnesses, he said. Ultimately, the balancing act of safety and fun has been a challenge for both the College and participants alike, but the Homecoming Steering Committee saw the most potential for compromise in the outline of this year’s Homecoming plan.

SG ends on a high note with Pep Band

A Pep Band comes to the College to enhance events at Lions Stadium.(Josh Lewkowicz / Staff Photographer)
A Pep Band comes to the College to enhance events at Lions Stadium.(Josh Lewkowicz / Staff Photographer)

A new club that will serve as a welcome addition to athletic events at the College was approved at the Student Government general body meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Pep Band, headed by junior music major Sam Nemeth, aims to enhance school spirit by sitting in the stands at athletic events, especially football games, and playing music to support the team and pump up the crowd.

Governmental Affairs voted unanimously in favor of the club, which has 22 members currently on the charter list.

Vice President of GA Jess Glynn called the club “unique.”

“They plan on having a facility and maybe a coach. There will be many people playing many instruments,” she said.

Later, Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht announced that a presentation about Campus Town will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 11 a.m. in Education Building room 212.

“They want to show us what’s behind the fence,” Hecht said. “There will be pictures and information on the new apartments, restaurants and stores.”

Hecht also shared that a new director of recreation has just been hired, but his name has not yet been released. He is scheduled to begin on either Sunday, Sept. 28 or Monday, Sept. 29.

“It’s very exciting,” Hecht said. “He has a lot of experience with outdoor recreation, such as white water rafting and camping.”

The new director will be responsible for overseeing the Physical Enhancement Center and Fitness Center, as well as helping to move facilities to Campus Town when the time comes.

“Now we really want to get a handle on club sports — I know it’s been tough,” Hecht said.