Category Archives: Opinions

Drone strikes: a culture of unaccountability

By Vincent Aldazabal
Staff Writer

American drone strikes in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are the newest additions to the repertoire of politically sanctioned instruments of American terrorism.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocated for the use of drones for counterterrorism operations. (AP Photo)
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocated for the use of drones for counterterrorism operations. (AP Photo)

President Obama has long since dropped the rhetoric of his predecessor’s propaganda campaign of American decreed “War on Terror,” and instead is consistently asserting that American drone warfare against those with suspected terrorist ties is simply the “right thing to do.”

Amnesty International has declared Obama’s military campaign as war crimes and cites 4,000 civilian deaths, nearly a quarter of which have been children. Amnesty International also has made clear that these death tolls are probably underestimated due to the increasing difficulty in accounting for American destruction in these regions.

The practice of anonymous killing via unmanned drones has created a culture of unaccountability from the persons controlling the machines to the leadership initiating their use. Any inability to absorb the war crimes being perpetrated at the current moment is reflective of the obfuscation of particular historical patterns of presidential wartime violence against civilian populations. More significantly, if we are willing to mount a domestic resistance to such crimes, we must look to the valiant efforts of anti-war dissidents in the experiences of World War I, World War II and Vietnam.

When looking at the critiques that Sen. Robert Lafollette produced on the rhetorical justifications of Woodrow Wilson, which led up to the U.S.’s entrance into WWI, we are given a solid pretext to the development of American domestic opposition to the hypocrisies of Western imperialism.

Wilson stated that America would be “making the world safe for democracy,” yet Lafollette believed this was a false pretense and creating double standards in the aggression of the United States and its allies compared to that of the Axis Powers.

Lafollete pointed to the fact that while the U.S. supported the U.K and France’s right to adequate military defense, they would not have to terminate the crippling imperial policies in India and Africa, respectively.

Lafollette was right to be suspicious, as his critiques were proven valid in the release of the Nye Report in 1935.

The Nye Report was the strongest force in creating a new, reinvigorated body of anti-war American dissidents. The most poignant example was in the growing force of Pacifism amongst American citizens. When angered by the revelations released in the Nye Report, 500,000 students opposed American involvement in World War II on Pacifist grounds and demanded “scholarships not warships.”

Honoring Robert Lafollette’s legacy of dissent was perhaps most vocalized in the American experience of the Vietnam War. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of American men — war veterans and civilians alike — publicly condemned the war, and young women and men of the Student Nonviolent Coalition Committee were also audible voices of dissent.

It is essential to recognize the effect public opposition had in bringing an end to the tremendous loss of both American and Vietnamese life as a result of the schemes of Washington. 

This past summer, the Obama administration disclosed its withdrawal policy related to Afghanistan, beneath which a more elusive political impulse is buried. 

According to the editorial board at USA Today, Afghans are being ordered to “step up their game,” as a terrorist threat that now stretches “from South Asia to the Sahel” is becoming more of a threat to overall hegemony.

Drone strikes are the cause of enormous sources of both psychological and physical destruction. Their current use will only continue to exacerbate the despair that breeds an all-too-familiar, unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

The logic of the need for American public dissent is simple: We must be able to connect the themes of our own personal, collective and national levels of trauma to the trauma ravaging those on the other side of the world. For if we don’t, our humanity and democracy very may well remain enslaved to the illusion of security given by self-righteous displays of violence.

Ray Rice is under fire after a video surfaced of him abusing his then-fiancee. (AP Photo)

Ray Rice suspension raises eyebrows

Ray Rice earns himself just a two-game suspension after allegations of domestic violence in February. (AP Photo)
Ray Rice earns himself just a two-game suspension after allegations of domestic violence in February. (AP Photo)

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

The NFL’s lax two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice incited outrage across the country and demands that the league crack down on players who commit misdemeanors.

“You wonder what kind of message is sent when pot smokers get longer suspensions than people who engage in domestic violence,” Bob Kravits of the Indianapolis Star wrote in an editorial about the incident.

Rice allegedly punched his then-fiancèe Janay Palmer during a fight in February while inside an Atlantic City elevator.

This comes shortly after the season-long suspensions of Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns, LaVon Brazill of the Indianapolis Colts and Cardinals’ Daryl Washington for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. All three tested positive for pot.

Fans are wondering why a hit to your significant other’s face is more justifiable than a hit of marijuana.

Others have argued that the suspension of Rice without a suspension of Colts owner Jim Irsay shows favorable treatment of the higher-ups who sign the checks.

 Irsay was arrested in March and charged with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.

While these instances have most frequently been held up against the Rice suspension, I wondered what other crimes the NFL finds more severe than assault.

In 2006, Odell Thurman of the Cincinnati Bengals was suspended for four games, twice as long as Rice, after failing to appear at a scheduled drug test. Just a couple months later, Thurman was arrested for a DUI and missed the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Vincent Jackson pleaded guilty in February  2010 to driving under the influence and was suspended from the San Diego Chargers for three games.

Houstan Texan Antonio Smith was suspended in August of last year for just one game less than Rice after swinging around the helmet of an opposing player. 

So, by that logic, swinging around two helmets is pretty much the same thing as knocking your fiancée out cold.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games (which was later reduced to a four-game sentence) after prosecutors decided to not even charge him in a sexual assault investigation.

And who can forget when Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg, earning himself a four-game ban?

Looking back, it is clear that when Roger Goodell became commissioner in 2006, he demanded that the league stop being so lenient about players performing violent hits, but something still had to be done about some players’ unacceptable off-the-field behavior.

In April 2007, Goodell introduced a new Personal Conduct Policy following a year of significant scandal surrounding some players’ actions off the field.

But after this recent suspension, I’m not sure if Goodell has cracked down hard enough.

Several members of the United States Senate agree.

“The decision to suspend Mr. Rice for a mere two games sends the inescapable message that the NFL does not take domestic or intimate-partner violence with the seriousness they deserve,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen, Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Chris Murphy wrote in the letter to Goodell and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

When Rice puts on his uniform, he accepts a position as not only a running back for the Ravens, but also as a role model for individuals across the country.

Rice should be ashamed of his actions, and the NFL should be ashamed of the meager slap-on-the-wrist that he received.

Campus alert system under harsh criticism

The College does a good job of dealing with emergencies and keeping students and staff out of danger, despite criticisms on social media. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)
The College does a good job of dealing with emergencies and keeping students and staff out of danger, despite criticisms on social media. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

I woke up at 11:27 a.m. on Monday morning to the buzzing of my cell phone on my nightstand. It wasn’t a message from a friend or an oddly-timed alarm — it was another TCNJ alert.

According to the College’s website, “TCNJ has implemented a text- and voice-messaging emergency-alert system that will be used as one means of providing emergency alerts, timely warnings and informing the College community of major campus shutdowns, such as weather-related closings.”

This text-alert system is certainly a useful tool and has been implemented several times this year to notify students of class cancellations due to snow or emergency situations. But in the midst of these crises, it becomes easy to forget how lucky we are to have this alert system in place.

The @TCNJPROBLEMS Twitter account retweets countless students’ posts regarding emergencies on campus every time an alert is sent out, mostly criticizing the College and its efforts to alleviate any danger.

“Come to TCNJ,” one user wrote. “We have everything ranging from black men in nursing shoes to chemical spills to gas leaks!”

“A few weeks ago, chemical contamination and now there’s a gas leak on campus? Get your shit together,” a student tweeted  on Monday, April 28, shortly after the gas leak was publicized.

“Less than a year at TCNJ and I’ve been exposed to a gas leak, a chemical spill, an intruder, a dorm fire and a dangerous man on a red bike,” another complained.

The College can’t prevent a chemistry student from accidentally exposing herself to the dangerous chemical benzyl bromide, but it can take precautions by notifying students of the threat and securing possible contaminated locations until they are deemed safe by officials.

On that particular day, NBC Philadelphia opted to report on the snarky Tweets posted by students from the College in just as much detail as the actual hazmat situation.

Early morning on November 23, a roof fire broke out in the walkway between Travers and Wolfe. The College responded by evacuating all students and staff from the towers and no injuries were reported.

Something can be said for the many fire drills that students typically take to social media to complain about, since they certainly came in handy when there was a real emergency.

Unless a security guard is stationed at every parking lot, sidewalk and at entrances to every building 24/7 (and let’s be honest — nobody wants that), the College cannot prevent a man wearing nurse’s shoes from sneaking into Travers or a suspected criminal cutting across campus on a red bicycle as he fled from police.

What the College can do is alert students of intruders and quickly work to remove them from campus.

The College cannot prevent a hired construction worker from accidentally striking a gas line, but it can order evacuations and send out text alerts to students and staff so that in case something terrible does happen, everybody remains safe.

Accidents happen, but it’s how the College responds to them that matters. And so far, it has responded very well.

Instead of complaining when things occasionally go astray, focus on all that the College has accomplished this year.

Students should not take these emergency text alerts as a joke, and we should all appreciate how much effort the College puts into keeping us safe.

Michigan schools nix Affirmative Action

By Matthew DeFeo
Correspondent

In April, The Great Lakes State ignited a legal debacle by bringing up the question of Affirmative Action. Michigan universities can now choose to not use race as a method of accepting potential students, and the decision also opened up the opportunity for any other state to hold a vote and do the same. Honestly, I could not be happier.Justice Anthony Kennedy says voters eliminated racial preferences and deemed them unwise. (AP Photo)

Justice Anthony Kennedy says voters eliminated racial preferences and deemed them unwise. (AP Photo)

The institution of Affirmative Action was put in place originally to right past wrongs involving racial discrimination. In a time when the overwhelming majority of the workforce was white and male, accepting a quota of minority students in retrospect seems like it was a sensible option to give minorities a fair chance. Checked boxes next to specific races seemed to pave the way for equality.

Except for one issue my race isn’t listed, and I know plenty of individuals who share the sentiment.

I am merely lumped in with “Caucasian,” and yet when I was young, I would sit at my grandfather’s feet and feel dismayed. My doldrums filled with stories of his inability to go to school without being called a “dago wop guinea” by his own teachers, as well as being chased around town as a young man by police officers who believed that he was up to no good because he was Italian.

According to the Library of Congress, our name belongs to the biggest mass lynching in American History.  Eleven Italian Americans were hanged under the stereotypical suspicion that they were in the mafia. Yet, the government thinks they can cherry-pick which wrongs need to be ameliorated.

A more modern interpretation of Affirmative Action exists, citing diversity as a positive ideal to strive for in employment and academic contexts.

Diversity — now there is a fuzzy concept.

I would make the argument that an African American and a Caucasian who grew up in the same town, went to the same school and had the same level of income would have a fundamentally similar experience and would offer a somewhat similar view on life in an academic context.

So why is a student with a race that is in the minority automatically given certain spots to fill?

I like to think that I am diverse. My father’s family is from the Greater Naples area, and my mother is an immigrant from Sicily. I can speak the nationalized tongue of Italy, as well as my mother’s rustic southern dialect. I have met a myriad of Italians that come from different areas of Italy, speak a different dialect, have completely different food and grew up differently than I did.

If diversity is the issue, why not make decisions based on hair and eye color, height, weight and other factors that might also impact our experiences of life?

Diversity is an interesting ideal and I would agree that it is worth striving for. However, this process appears to work better if it is naturally implemented — i.e. funding the educational systems of inner cities to make them more competitive.

Turning down students who have the grades, public service and well roundedness to be accepted into a school because all of the non-minority seats are filled is discrimination.  If every student accepted into an institution based on these criteria are white, then so be it — that would speak to a greater societal problem. Giving seats away for better representation is not the answer.

Let the little things make, not break, college life

I hate the song “Titanium.” Not because I think it is a particularly bad song, mind you. When I first heard it, I just thought it wasn’t my particular cup of tea, and would have likely just ignored it forever, like I do countless other songs that just aren’t to my taste. Everyone has songs they just don’t listen to, and this was just going to be added to my list.

Staying true to who you are can make your college experience one filled with positive memories and experiences. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)
Staying true to who you are can make your college experience one filled with positive memories and experiences. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

I have heard the song “Titanium” at least 4,000 times, and that isn’t an exaggeration. I have memorized every word and note of it, and occasionally hear it as the backdrop to my nightmares. Why have I heard a song I don’t like thousands of times? Because one of my roommates loves it and played it on repeat for a few months last year and has played it quite often ever since.

As you may have guessed by now, this piece is not about a song I don’t like. It’s about life in college, and all the little things that can drive you crazy about life in college sometimes. It’s also about how those things don’t really matter in the long run, and how if you can learn to enjoy them, even a little bit, your time here is going to be amazing.

A little info to back up my cred so you’ll listen to me even a bit more seriously: I’m a fifth-year senior, so all those classes you’re taking right now are similar to ones I’ve already lived through. All the crazy plans you have for your future college years are sitting comfortably in my rearview mirror. More importantly, all those problems you have with where you are right now are ones I’ve long-since worked through, and trust me, they aren’t quite as scary as realizing that you have less than a month left of school and no job yet.

So here is my lesson, and I hope you hear it well: Enjoy college to the absolute fullest. You don’t need to go drinking or do anything illegal — I’ve avoided all that and still have more crazy and wacky adventures to tell than most. All you need to do is find the people who bring out the best and most fun sides of yourself. If that’s the guy who tells you which club is slamming hardest on a given night, that’s fine, but if it’s the girl who makes it seem cool to sit at home and play cards on a Saturday night, that’s fine too. The important part is that you stay true to who you are, because college is the absolute best time to figure out who that is exactly.

I know, I know, all of these things are pretty cliché and sound like your parents. But here’s the thing about clichés: Usually they’re true.

Personally, I found the people who bring out the best in me the day I came to the College. My roommates and I (there are five of us in total) never met before we signed the lease to our off-campus home. We are all different majors and have different backgrounds. We have different opinions about pretty much everything, and as you may have guessed from the opening of this piece, we have varied tastes in music. In a different setting, at a different time, we may have never become more than casual acquaintances, if we even lasted past the first few minutes.

Today, I honestly cannot imagine my life without these guys. In three incredibly short years we’ve become more family than friends, and they have definitely been the best years of my life.

So here’s the message I hope all of you reading this can take away from this piece: College is not about the classes, even if those are important for your future career. It isn’t about the wild nights or the crazy stories, even though those will definitely be fun memories later on. It isn’t about the extracurriculars, as great as those may be, or about the significance of living on your own for the first time, as big as that is.

College is about the people you meet who make you the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, and about the time you share with those people that will last forever. College is about hearing the same freaking song you hate thousands of times and not caring because the person playing it is family.

I got lucky — I met my college family on my first day here after signing a lease with a bunch of guys I’d never met. Maybe you haven’t found yours yet, but don’t worry, you will. You have some time left, so start looking.

 

United Kingdom says porn is for adults only

By Sydney Shaw

It’s about to become more difficult for minors in the United Kingdom to access porn websites.

Prime Minister David Cameron worries that access to pornography puts innocence at risk. (AP Photo)
Prime Minister David Cameron worries that access to pornography puts innocence at risk. (AP Photo)

Under the new system scheduled to be introduced at the end of the year, users must prove they are over 18 before being granted access to online pornographic material.

I understand the idea behind the push for reform — according to Atvod, an industry regulator, 200,000 children under the age of 15 view “extreme” adult material each month. Atvod went on to say that Pornhub, a site based in Luxembourg, received 112,000 visits from British boys aged 12 to 17 during one month last year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the Internet is “putting the innocence of our children” at risk and “corrupting childhood.”

“(The Internet) has an impact: on the children who view things that harm them, on the vile images of abuse that pollute minds and cause crime, on the very values that underpin our society,” Cameron said.

It’s not hard to see why parents wouldn’t want their children looking up risqué photos and videos on the web, but this new system might not be the easy fix parliament was hoping for.

One of the more popular ideas for users to prove they are of-age is based around being prompted for a driver’s license number upon entering a porn site.

Regardless of whether a user is 15 or 45, I can’t imagine that the majority of people who frequent porn sites would be willing to give up their identities to do so. It brings up issues of privacy and Internet rights.

In most cases, pornography is a victimless crime. It’s not the end of the world if a 17-year-old looks up a sex tape of two consenting adults who were paid a salary and signed contracts to partake in said video. Pornography is a popular business and global web traffic patterns prove it.

Child pornography, on the other hand, is a serious offense with real victims. That’s why it’s so ironic that the UK “War on Porn” leader Patrick Rock was arrested last month on suspicions related to child pornography.

If you’re going to put up a fight against something, it might help your cause to not be guilty of the most serious form of the very thing you are criticizing.

It’s a noble crusade to try to protect the world’s youth, but the UK is doing it all wrong. Find a better campaign figurehead and find a better way to keep kids from exploring the raunchy reaches of the web.

Letterman passes the late-night chair to Colbert

As anyone who watched the news, looked at Twitter, logged onto Facebook or listened to the radio last week can tell you, David Letterman is finally retiring after over 30 years of sitting behind a late-night talk-show desk. Of course, for most people in college right now, that isn’t the interesting part of the story. No, the far more intriguing piece of this tale is that Stephen Colbert will be taking Letterman’s place. This also means he’ll be leaving his job on Comedy Central, and “The Colbert Report” will soon come to an end.

Stephen Colbert is a good fit for replacing David Letterman’s slot on late-night television. (AP Photo)
Stephen Colbert is a good fit for replacing David Letterman’s slot on late-night television. (AP Photo)

As I’m sure many of you feel about this move, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it or disliked it. I love Colbert (which can also be read as, “I am a college student”), so I’m glad he’s being recognized for his abilities with this move, but I also love his current format and will be sad to see it go. I’m also a fan of “Stephen Colbert,” the character the real Colbert plays on his show, and evidently we’ll be getting the real man on the Late Show, so the character might be retired.
But after taking a little while to sit on this and mull it over, I’ve decided that I’m happy about it. And now I’m going to attempt to convince you that you should be happy about it too.

See, the first real issue I’ve heard from the people I’ve talked to about this is that no one is really sure how the Real Colbert will be as a host. He’s in character so often — and plays that character so well — that people don’t generally have a good idea of how he acts or thinks in real life — they think the actual Colbert might be boring.

But I’m one of the lucky few who actually got to see “The Colbert Report” in person, and something you learn going to that show is that Colbert addresses the audience after the cameras have stopped rolling. And I mean the real Colbert, not the character. Speaking from my own experience, the real deal is still a very funny guy and quick as lightning with his jokes. He’s also very polite and appreciative — he thanked us in the audience at least three times, which made me feel all tingly inside — and seems completely sincere. It’s a huge change from the character, but in a good way.

As for the gaping hole that will be left after Jon Stewart’s half hour is over, I’m sure they’ll find someone to take over from where Colbert will leave off. John Oliver won’t be that guy with his new HBO show, but “The Daily Show” has a whole bunch of talent waiting in the wings. We’ve seen Steve Carell, Ed Helms and Colbert himself launch from spots in the program to bigger and better heights, and I’m sure Aasif Mandvi, Samantha Bee or especially Jason Jones would make great Colbert replacements.

So don’t mourn the loss of “The Colbert Report.” Look forward to whatever new show comes in to replace it, and give it some time — great comedy doesn’t always happen overnight. More importantly, get excited: The world is about to meet a whole new Steven Colbert, and I’m sure you’re all gonna love him.

Women’s reproductive rights are human rights

By Stephanie Cervino

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development where nations across the globe, including the United States, declared that reproductive rights are human rights. Over the past two decades, much progress has been made. Yet, around the world, 222 million women in developing countries who want to plan and space their families still lack access to modern birth control and 47,000 women die from the inability to access a legal abortion with an experienced provider. While right here on our campus students can visit the Planned Parenthood office within Student Health Services to obtain sexual and reproductive health services and birth control, off campus and abroad, we still have our work cut out for us.

While students are offered resources on campus through Planned Parenthood, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure reproductive rights. (AP Photo)
While students are offered resources on campus through Planned Parenthood, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure reproductive rights. (AP Photo)

To tackle these significant challenges, in 2015 government members of the United Nations will set new global development goals. And they’ve issued a call for people around the world to contribute to this process by defining the “World We Want” in an online survey and on social media. Beginning last month for International Women’s Day and continuing this spring around major UN conferences, including the Commission on Population and Development, supporters of women’s health and rights are responding to that call with a manifesto defining the world we want.Planned Parenthood Affiliates of New Jersey (PPNJ) work to make the world we want a reality every day. For nearly 100 years, Planned Parenthood has worked to improve women’s health and safety, prevent unintended pregnancies, and advance the right and ability of individuals and families to make informed and responsible choices. And PPNJ is uniquely positioned to engage in UN processes as global citizens — over 20 percent of our state’s population was born in countries other than the U.S., so lawmakers in the state have a particular duty to represent the interests of these global stakeholders. To that end, here’s a little more about the world we want.

In the world we want, access to health care doesn’t depend on your postal code. Or your gender. Or your sexual identity. Or the language you speak. Or the color of your skin.

In the world we want, the College has zero sexual assaults, zero unintended pregnancies and zero obstacles to comprehensive and respectful health services for all students.

In the world we want, politicians don’t come between a woman and her health care provider.

In the world we want, girls are just as likely as boys to stay in school, go after the jobs they want and become leaders in their communities.

In the world we want, there are no new HIV infections, and those living with HIV are able to make decisions about their health and lives, just like anybody else.

In the world we want, young people are empowered and trusted with information about sex so they can prevent unintended pregnancy and protect themselves from STDs.

In the world we want, all people have equal protection and equal benefit under the law.

The world we want is free of stigma, discrimination and violence. And reproductive rights are recognized as human rights. The world we want acknowledges that the only way forward is to protect and expand these rights. In the world we want, all people control their own bodies and their own destinies. This is the world we want. And this is the world we’ll fight for.

How to succeed in … getting men to Broadway

Broadway did not start out as an exclusive girls club. In fact, a night out in the theater was very well respected among the city’s most element gentlemen. Back in the day, there were no gender biases when it came to theater. There was an equal love and appreciation by both men and women. In 2014, as we trudge along to bring equality to all aspects of life, Broadway is evidently falling behind.

The modern straight man has lost his appreciation for the theater, and theater hasn’t been catering to him either. (AP Photo)
The modern straight man has lost his appreciation for the theater, and theater hasn’t been catering to him either. (AP Photo)

A New York Times article published last week, “In Audiences on Broadway, Fewer Guys Among the Dolls,” points out that only 32 percent of audience members in 2013 were men. That number is down from 40 percent in 1980. One of the reasons Patrick Healy points out is the fact that there are very few “grown-up” musicals nowadays. “Guys and Dolls,” “South Pacific” and “Ragtime” were shows that addressed adult themes and had adult humor. Most Broadway shows that are developed now, such as “Legally Blonde” and “Newsies,” are aimed at young children or mothers.

With the recent opening of “Rocky,” Broadway is hoping to wrangle in more straight men. As the article points out (a bit too blatantly, I may add), gay men are a solid, consistent demographic in the Broadway community. The show is based on the highly successful and highly masculine movie and features onstage combat. As many of the men they interviewed noted, “Rocky” gives them a chance to relate to the material. With shows like “Wicked,” which centers on female empowerment, it is harder for men to relate to.

But one must also consider the other reasons why less straight men are attending Broadway shows. At a very young age, some boys are stereotyped (albeit sometimes inadvertently) into behaving a certain way or liking certain items. For example, many boys are inclined to like the color blue, play sports and stay away from dolls.

These qualities may seem innocent, but there is no doubt in my mind that these gender stereotypes stick with boys as they develop into men. I have to raise the question: do some parents even expose their boys to theater? There is no harm in taking a child to see a musical or a play, just to see what they like. Speaking from personal experience, I attended both Philadelphia Phillies games and musicals when I was younger. Without the help from parents, how will kids ever know exactly what they like? I got to experience a lot when I was younger. And even if I don’t love everything, I at least have a profound appreciation for it.

This is what most of us should strive to be. Whether we are gay or straight, man or woman. We should be respectful and supportive. Men going to theater isn’t emasculating just like women attending sporting events does not strip them of their femininity. I firmly believe that some men would actually enjoy theater if they gave it a chance.

And let’s be honest — everyone should try to see a Broadway show once in his or her life. The same goes for seeing a professional baseball or football game. Whether we love it or not, all of these aspects make up American culture. We cannot allow biases or preconceived ideas get in the way of allowing us a unique experience. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. But you cannot just automatically assume you won’t like something if you have never experienced it.

Broadway will always find a larger audience in women and children, and that is completely fine. I just hope that in the future, these statistics start to go up and there is more of a gender balance in the chairs of the theaters all throughout New York.

Grades don’t define you, but they still matter

There has been a growing movement on social media platforms like Tumblr for the past several months that can be summed up in four words: grades don’t define you.

Users cite random tidbits of information, mainly about intelligent, successful celebrities who performed poorly in the classroom.

Posts remind people that Albert Einstein failed miserably in school and how Microsoft mogul Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard at age 20 before receiving his degree.

Kate Winslet (you know, Rose, from “Titanic”) and William Shakespeare were dropouts too.

Photos of Scantrons bubbled in to read THIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU are reblogged hundreds of thousands of times.

Maybe the system is whack, maybe some people are bad test-takers and maybe the SAT doesn’t measure intelligence as well as it could (hey, that’s why they’re revising it, right?).

It is true that getting good grades doesn’t always equate to superior intelligence and getting bad grades doesn’t necessarily equate to stupidity. It’s true that individuals are more than numbers in a grade book.

But, in reality, grades matter. Plain and simple.

What these Tumblr users forget to mention is that Albert Einstein flunked because, well, he was literally a genius and school was just too boring for him. It’s doubtful that everyone who plays the Einstein-was-a-failure card is under-engaged in class because they are just too brilliant.

Bill Gates may have left Harvard early, but hello, he still got into Harvard and that didn’t happen with a transcript of Ds and Fs.

And unless you’re planning on dropping out of school to become one of the most widely recognized actresses on the planet or a poet whose works will prevail for almost half a millennium, your argument is invalid.

Social media has been giving students the wrong idea about how important their grades are. (AP Photo)
Social media has been giving students the wrong idea about how important their grades are. (AP Photo)

It’s true that failing a math quiz every once in a while won’t kill you. Those are the days when you can tell yourself, “My grade is just a number on a piece of paper,” and try not to let it happen again. But skating through your education and rejecting the idea that grades measure anything important is just absurd.

There needs to be some kind of middle ground. Don’t smile at your straight-F report card, but don’t have anxiety attacks over your 89 average, either. Just do your best, study for your exams and learn as much as you can. The rest should come naturally.

A letter to men: It’s okay to step out of the mold

By Maria Mostyka

Guys, where are you? You — the vulnerable, the insecure and the emotional? I know you are out there, struggling alone with your insecurities and problems. Why is it so difficult for you to open up, admit you have not figured it all out, admit you don’t have the answers you should have by now? Having asked these questions, I realize my answers are biased, and I might be wrong because they are from a woman’s perspective. But still, I will try to find the missing pieces of this “communication-gender-feelings” puzzle.

Society often forces men to conform to a set mold of masculinity. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)
Society often forces men to conform to a set mold of masculinity. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

Why guys do not reach out and tell their stories? Well, they’re not expected to. Research by James Mahalik, a professor of psychology at Boston University, showed that in order for men to conform to the male norms in America, they must always show emotional control, put their work first, pursue status and engage in violence. The men’s greatest fear is the fear of being perceived weak. OK, the obvious reason for the lack of communication of emotions is social expectations. Society has become a go-to scapegoat of any kind of problem, yet blaming it does not solve these problems. Even though gender norms are shaped by our society, society is not an abstract entity that is somehow distinct from us and which we can easily designate as a culprit all the while forgetting that it is we — both men and women — who make up this society.

Research by Brene Brown, a renowned expert on shame and vulnerability, provides a striking insight on the unwillingness of men to open up. One of the men she interviewed said it is not the guys who are hard on him. It is the women in his life — his wife and daughters — who are harder on him than anyone else. They would rather see him die on top of a white horse than see him falling. The interviewee succinctly concluded, “When we reach out and are vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us.”

Yes, women too contribute to this problem as much as society. Women set up intimidating goals and don’t help men to reach them. First, women want a man who is vulnerable and strong — who can admit he is scared, but who can hold it together in difficult times and who can show insecurities and dashingly overcome them. It’s not impossible to simultaneously embody these qualities, but unfortunately, both men and women believe that to open up is to be weak. Secondly, men’s idea of sharing can veer to the extreme. To open up does not mean to engage in “emotional vomiting” — it’s not about pouring out everything pent up since you where in fifth grade. And here’s the third problem: when the emotional gates do open, women are not prepared for what comes out. We are not. Our unpreparedness to deal with it shuts men down, resulting in miscommunication, frustration and distance.

In calling for guys, I am also calling for women to be ready to meet insecure, vulnerable and fearful men. The missing pieces of the puzzle fall into places when both men and women treat openness not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of courage. The word “courage” itself is derived from the old French corage — “heart, innermost feelings.” Sharing struggles and overcoming insecurities is a process that takes patience, time and the two of you. Men, tell your girlfriends what really worries you. Women, be comfortable with not knowing what to say. Successful communication is not only about listening, but also about tactful silence. In the end, it is up to us to redefine social norms, so what we can expect from each other is what we really want to do.

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Politicians motivated by ‘something human’

By Mike Herold

Fantasy Sports Editor

Politics suck. Yeah, I’ll say that up front — they are messy, oftentimes brutal conflicts between conflicting viewpoints and goals, where neither side wants to concede an inch, and everyone is out to get what they want, never minding the damage it might cause to anyone else. The work of politics doesn’t revolve around the issues so much as it does around making the right people feel the right thing at the right time to move up, bit by bit, until something astronomical is achieved, most likely power at the expense of those who helped get there. It’s something that has sunk into most parts of our culture, as most people hoping to move up in life at some point have to play their hands at politics.

Politicians are not as heartless and selfish as they are often made out to be, they are mistake-making humans just like all Americans. (AP Photo)
Politicians are not as heartless and selfish as they are often made out to be, they are mistake-making humans just like all Americans. (AP Photo)

It stands to reason, therefore, that the people who willingly decide to enter into such a field of lies and deception must be as terrible as the game they play. I mean, they must be deserving of all the vitriol they face on a daily basis, either in person or on TV. And don’t even get me started on the amount of insane hatred the Internet feels for politicians. For all of that, people in politics simply have to be awful, don’t they?

No. No, politicians are not the evil, soulless beings they are made out to be. They do not deserve the hatred that spews in their general direction seemingly all the time, and are certainly not the monsters the general public appears to believe them to be.

In fact, in a shocking turn of events, politicians are people, just like the rest of us.

And you know what that means? It means they aren’t perfect, just like the rest of us, even if we non-politicians want them to be perfect. It means that a politician brings to the table every quality that makes us all human — the flaws, the imperfections and, yes, the feelings. It also means that at some point, every politician made a decision, a very human decision, to try to do something about an issue he or she cared about.

Because when you think about it, going into politics is very rarely a selfish decision. The modern political hopeful is entering into a world where every imperfection in his or her life will soon be brought to light, every poor decision and skeleton in the closet scrutinized by everyone else in the least personal way possible. Anything that goes wrong will immediately be that politician’s fault, and anything that goes right will definitely be in spite of his or her efforts — or, at least, that’s what anyone in the opposing party will think and say as loudly as they are able.

Does that really sound like something you’d like to do?

Yet politicians, facing all of this, not to mention the financial hit many of them end up taking, still decide to go into politics. They don’t do it for power, at least not all of them. They do it because of something human — they see something they think is wrong and want to be in a position to fix it.

Look, I’m not saying that all politicians are wonderful people — clearly that isn’t the case — but neither are they all terrible. I’m just saying that perhaps we shouldn’t judge them so harshly, or react so gleefully when they fall. We shouldn’t expect them to be perfect, because, when it gets right down to it, they’re people.

Ask anyone — people aren’t perfect.

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Local poverty missing from media coverage

On Tuesday, March 18, my Race, Gender and The News class taught by Professor Kim Pearson, had a field trip to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. As a collective, our goal was to speak with the staff and homeless patrons at TASK to get their opinions of the local media coverage of poverty.

The media coverage for local areas like Trenton fails to focus on the problem of poverty and centers such as the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.  (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)
The media coverage for local areas like Trenton fails to focus on the problem of poverty and centers such as the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

During our visit, several of the tutors and homeless patrons reiterated the notion that poverty is under-covered in the news. They said the media tends to either focus on the negative stereotypes or ignores the issue entirely.

I personally feel that the coverage of poverty is an important issue because those who are in the poverty level or who are homeless are often not configured into statistical reports that the media releases.

According to a census conducted in October of 2013 by the U.S. bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Mercer County is 6.9 percent. This can be compared to the New Jersey unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, according to the same census.

However, the percentages, in reality, are probably lower than what is reported. Typically, the reports do not include the people who have given up looking for employment, are working multiple jobs to remain afloat or are homeless. These people have become invisible in our own county.

Amazing programs like TASK, Homefront and ArtSpace are not only trying to help those who are suffering from homelessness and poverty, but they are also trying to positively reinforce their lives by having the patrons create paintings, poetry and skits. Why isn’t the media covering this? While a couple of local organizations cover the happenings at these places, most do not.

There really are some great organizations and events that are held in Trenton, like the Gandhi Garden, in honor of helping those in need, but without local coverage they will go unnoticed. Media has such power and so much influence over what the general public pays attention to, whether the information is distributed in print or online.

Using the same journalistic practices of reporting and informing the public about local issues, like poverty, journalists have the potential to be the catalysts to great changes.

Smartphones aren’t always the smart choice

By Mike Herold
Fantasy Sports Editor

We live in a world filled to the brim with technology. You know what I’m talking about — there’s a good chance you’re reading this on a smartphone, a technological advancement that was a wild dream as recently as 20 years ago. Come on, a computer that fits in the palm of your hand and also functions as a phone, plays games and lets you watch movies or TV shows that stream from websites? The future is here, and it’s sitting right there in your fingers.

Individuals become more dependent on their phones with each new version companies produce. (AP Photo)
Individuals become more dependent on their phones with each new version companies produce. (AP Photo)

Now here’s the problem: I don’t think that the technological boom is necessarily a good thing.

Hold on, hear me out real quick before you jump to some conclusion that I’m a tech-hating spouter of nonsense.

As most of the people who know me will tell you, I don’t have a smartphone, but that isn’t necessarily because I hate technology. It has more to do with the fact that I’m broke and can’t afford one. Not having one has let me notice something important: Smartphones are making us dumber.

Not dumber in terms of IQ points or scores in class, mind you. When I say that smartphones are making us dumber, I’m referring to the way we communicate with one another, which might eventually translate to a loss in those other, more important categories of “smartness.”

See, back when we were all kids, we had to actually call each other on the phone in order to contact our friends. We had to talk to their parents, most likely, which meant we had to use actual words and some modicum of politeness. Now if we want to talk to a friend, we just send a text, likely lacking in any sort of polite wording or anything resembling proper grammar. Heck, we’ve got autocorrect if we even want to pretend to sound “smart.”

Another area of shrinking expertise is the art of the argument. Not a shouting argument, but a simple hearty discussion of different ideals and points of view.

In the past, in order to sound remotely intelligent whenever you and your peers got into one of these discussions you had to have some sort of prior knowledge about the subject. You had to think differently in order to make whatever point you wanted to make, while possibly seeing another perspective from your opposition. Now we don’t have intellectual debates, we have searching competitions.

A person does not need to remember anything, since Google is just a few finger swipes away, and no argument a college student makes is going to hit too hard against the graduate dissertation the smartphone user can pull up while sitting on the couch.

That’s what I’m talking about when I say that smartphones, and technology in general, are making us dumber. We aren’t required to do as much or learn as much, or even use as many words, simply because every bit of information we’d possibly need is right there in our hands, ready to autocorrect and search as needed.