Category Archives: Opinions

Many students focus more on their work, spending less time with friends.

Young adults more focused on schoolwork: Study finds students socialize less than in the ’80s

Many students focus more on their work, spending less time with friends.
Many students focus more on their work, spending less time with friends.

By Jackie Basile

According to society, teenagers are often viewed as partying all the time and hanging out with their friends 24/7. A typical assumption of college students is that they are consuming illegal beverages and substances at all times without focusing on class work or studying. If you think this is how students live their lives, then think again.

According to a new U.S. News and World Report, college students are studying more and socializing less.

In 2014, the University of California, Los Angeles published The American Freshman Survey, data consisting of over 150,000 freshman participants currently enrolled in over 200 colleges across the United States. Compared to students from 1987 and now, current students spend less time socializing.

According to the survey, just 38 percent of students reported spending less than five hours with friends per week, while 18 percent said they spend more than 16 hours around others. In 1987, the majority of students said that they socialized more than 16 hours a week.

The report begs the question: why the drastic change? 

Young adults are focusing more on getting good grades now as colleges become more demanding and selective as compared to 1987. Today, colleges have all-time low admission rates, including Ivy League schools. Stanford University, for example, has a 5 percent acceptance rate, and Princeton University has just a 7 percent acceptance rate.

Students in high school are conditioned to excel in everything, from acing the SATs to holding top positions in clubs and playing varsity sports, all to receive that precious acceptance letter at the best possible college. It is drilled into students from the instant they walk through those doors freshman year just how important  and limited their time in high school truly is. With the pressures of doing well in school and extracurricular activities, students have less time to socialize and instead learn to put their education first at all times.

“It’s required to have higher education for jobs now,” freshman open-options humanities and social sciences major Emily Loevy said. “Where in the past you used to need a master’s degree, now you need a PhD. It’s more competitive in the world.”

By the time students start college, the instinct of doing well and being involved on campus does not simply disappear. By having limited time to socialize with friends, the routine of focusing more on schoolwork becomes normal. Many students do not want to drink or do drugs because they want to focus on doing well in their classes.

“It’s so much money to get here that it’s a waste otherwise,” freshman nursing major Madison Lacken said.

Thinking back to those first few days of freshman year, everyone was excited to finally be here at the College. Doors in the hallways were always propped open, and people were constantly in and out of each others rooms. Then, classes started and almost everything changed.

“When classes began, I learned to balance my time better,” freshman computer science major Giacomo Corcione said. “I am now able to hang out with my friends a lot less.”

Gradually, doors began to slowly shut and many ran to the library to get their work done. The entire atmosphere seemed to shift within a day. Students love to have fun, but they know when the right time is to hangout with friends and when it is appropriate to buckle down to get work done on time.

“(In this semester), now that we have classes that have to do with our major, you have to pull yourself away from your friends to focus on individual schoolwork,” freshman open-options business major Holly Billand said.

While classwork is vital of course, it is still healthy to interact with friends. By studying in groups, an individual can be surrounded by friends while also being productive.

Contrary to what many may believe, students are devoted to their work and understand the importance of studying hard. Small steps may just be the answer to a better, strong balance of school work and socialization.

Teens texting have become a costly distraction

Even when crossing roads, many are still on their phones.
Even when crossing roads, many are still on their phones.

By Chelsea LoCascio                                                                                       Production Manager

In the aftermath of last weekend’s blizzard, I watched helplessly as another student slipped on the slush but was too focused on her phone to even notice. As a society, individuals have become so desensitized to embarrassing blunders like this that witnessing distracted students jaywalk in front of cars or walk into someone without apologizing is a part of daily routine.

And yet I still hope that they will notice how rude they are being and pull their attention away from their phone in time to see what is happening all around them.

According to a report that was published in October 2014 by Safe Kids Worldwide, every hour there is a teen pedestrian in the United States who is injured or killed after being hit by a car. Of teens who have been hit or almost hit while crossing the street, 47 percent were reported to be listening to music, 18 percent were texting and 20 percent were talking on the phone, according to the same study.

These numbers are too high.

The statistics highlight an alarming amount of people who are downright obsessed with their phone. Next time you are in Eickhoff Hall, look around at everyone eating. A majority of people who eat by themselves cannot stand being alone, so they turn to social media, games or texting, all of which suck them into a virtual world so the real one seems less lonely.

There are also those who eat in a group but cannot pull themselves away from their phone long enough to join in on the conversation. With their eyes glued to their screen, these people miss contributing to great conversations, developing social skills and bonding with new people.

This obsession can also hurt friendships. While an individual vents or needs consoling, they are often ignored and possibly convinced that their problems are not important enough to discuss in conversation. People become so absorbed in checking their YikYak that they unintentionally neglect their own friends.

Oftentimes, when someone even travels, they have become so captivated by taking selfies or snapchatting they forget to appreciate the new environment they are in. Foreign countries are remembered by photos on a screen, not by having experienced the sights of being there. Even at concerts and parties, the priority for many has become taking a ton of  pictures and videos, not enjoying the new surroundings.

It is important for people to remember to take a step back from the phone and stop trying to document every little detail rather than live it. One should not deal with awkward moments or intimidating situations by turning to their phone to avoid learning how to cope. Facing real places, people and even emotions helps someone mature. Inhibiting that growth in this pivotal point in our lives will only make the transition into adulthood more difficult than it already is.

As Edward Norton’s character Mike Shiner said in the Oscar winner, “Birdman,” “Stop looking at the world through your cell phones. Have a real experience.” I could not agree more.

Measles outbreak raises concern for kids’ health: Lack of vaccinations may be to blame for recent epidemic

Many families gather in Disneyland, which has been linked to the Measles.
Many families gather in Disneyland, which has been linked to the Measles.

 

By Ellie Schuckman
Opinions Editor  

Unless you have lived under a rock for the past few weeks, you have probably heard about the Measles outbreak. While the cause of the recent epidemic is loosely related to Disneyland in California, a lack of vaccinations for the disease is strongly to blame.

The disease, which causes a fever, sore throat and rash, is one of the leading causes of death for children worldwide. With a reported 644 cases from 27 states, this is the largest outbreak in the U.S. since Measles was declared eliminated in 2000 by the Center for Disease Control.

While the true cause of what sparked the string of cases is unknown, if those kids were vaccinated as doctors recommend, they would not be fighting for their lives. There is no reason in the 21st century for people to not vaccinate their kids for diseases that can so easily be spread and are heavily known to cause serious harm.

In December 2014, it was first reported that those with Measles could be traced back to Disneyland, with 42 of the state’s 59 cases at the time having been linked to the park. Nine other cases from those living outside of California have also been traced back to Disneyland, according to CNN.com.

Many fear the vaccination because they believe it causes neurological disorders such as autism. Claims that supposedly link the Measles vaccination to autism are not only absurd — they are unfounded.

Scientific evidence has found no link between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and the “onset of developmental disorders such as autism,” according to healthmap.org. Studies that have been done show that the average age where some children may begin to show symptoms of autism is coincidental to that when the vaccine is typically given. There is no direct link between the two, according to PolitiFact.com.

So, even when scientists have proven these claims to be false, why is the belief so strong? In 1998 a British medical journal, The Lancet, published a paper by Andrew Wakefield claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Upon further examination, it was revealed that his study only included about 12 children, some of the work was faked and that he was “paid by lawyers for parents of children in the study,” according to PolitiFact.com.

But the damage was done.

Wakefield started a firestorm which spread around the globe and which many still value to be true. There is no reason for anyone with an open-mind to still believe the lies of a discredited medical researcher. Those who are not vaccinated for fear of other diseases are being ridiculous, especially when they have proven to have a false correlation.

In 2010, model, actress, author and anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy wrote an article for The Huffington Post stating her views on why vaccines do, in fact, have a correlation with autism. She stated how a Time magazine article on the autism debate claimed that experts are certain that “vaccines don’t cause autism.” However, she refuted this by saying, “That’s a lie and we’re sick of it.” Notably, McCarthy has a 12-year-old son with autism.

When public figures begin spouting these unfounded claims, the general public is more likely to believe them. Product advertisement is pure proof of this. Society has an infatuation with celebrities, and when they start preaching about something or promote a specific product, others follow them.

The recent outbreak has been largely blamed to the anti-vaccination movement sweeping the nation. Since Thursday, Jan. 1 alone, there have been at least 121 cases reported in 17 states. Earlier in 2014, there was an outbreak among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio, where 383 cases were reported, according to cdc.gov.

There is a certain understanding that those who do not believe in vaccinations for religious beliefs have a right to their views, yet when those beliefs begin to negatively affect the larger community, it is a problem.

Unless a direct link is found to which the MMR vaccine causes serious harm, there is no reason why every child is not given the shot.

People race to get gifts for loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day not the only time to show affection

People race to get gifts for loved ones on Valentine’s Day.
People race to get gifts for loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

 

By Kelly Corbett
Staff Writer

It’s the magical day of red roses, oversized stuffed teddy bears and everything chocolate. Most people clear their schedules for this romantic day in February, having spent days, or oftentimes  weeks planning ahead for it. But with all the stress of Valentine’s Day, is it simply an overrated holiday, or does it actually hold significant meaning?

There are 365 days in a year, and instead of just waiting until Feb. 14 to shower significant others with love, it should be done all year long. Many people rush to the florist or the jewelers to prepare for this special day, but there is nothing wrong with buying someone heart-shaped chocolates in July or October. Love should be expressed year round, not just on this one day.

Now, I am not saying I hate Valentine’s Day. I love it, and I think the holiday has good intentions. It’s a day to show loved ones how much they mean to you. Whether you’re single or not, everyone has someone important in their life. I simply hate the hype of showing affection for a loved one like it is an unheard of affair.

Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized holiday, almost taking away its significance. According to CNN.com, an estimated $18.6 billion will be spent on the romantic holiday each year. $1.6 billion will be spent on candy, $1.9 billion will be spent on flowers and $4.4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold and silver. All of this going into the pockets of companies looking to make money, not for the price of true romance.

Individuals  dish out ridiculous sums of money to spoil their loved ones with beautiful lockets and the finest chocolate covered strawberries, all in order to give them a magical day. To show someone that you love them, it shouldn’t require reservations at the fanciest restaurant or buying the most elegant jewelry. All of your love for someone shouldn’t be squeezed into just one day, with one set of gifts. Love should be expressed all the time, and not just with material items.

Walk into any department store the week after Christmas, and already you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of red, pink and heart-shaped items lurking on the shelves. Come the beginning of February, every other commercial on TV will be love-focused or Valentine’s Day related. This is all fine, but it puts such an emphasis on what you should buy for your loved ones instead of what you can do for them to show you’re thinking about them.

Most people would love a personalized song, poem or even a card. All are simple gestures that are different than a typical, generic store-bought one. Plan a day trip to their favorite spot for a unique adventure — do something they’ll remember. Flowers will die, chocolates will spoil and jewelry can easily get lost, but good memories won’t ever fade.

Material items are sweet to receive, and there’s nothing wrong with giving them, it just shouldn’t be the sole focus or overdone. There’s only so much a giant teddy bear or a charming bouquet can say as opposed to a caring action.

Don’t stress yourself out too much over Valentine’s Day. You have 364 other days in a year to show your loved ones just how deeply you care, and you don’t have to break the bank to pamper them.

College does not allow true free speech

This opinion piece was written in response  to the article “Freedom of Speech Battles Against Terrorism,” published on Jan. 28, 2015.

By Daniel Worts

The key part of free speech, and the one most people seem to miss, is highlighted here — that true free speech means those who offend you most are granted the same voice as your own, something which I believe the College does not follow.

The College does not abide by this credo and severely restricts some forms of protected speech. I would highlight the “Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace/Educational Environment” as being of particular concern, with parts being blatantly unconstitutional.

The policy is a zero-tolerance one, with goals to prohibit discrimination or harassment based upon defined, protected categories such as race, sex and religion. Violations of the policy include telling jokes pertaining to one or more protected categories and generalized, gender-based remarks and comments.

Under these rules, it is a violation of policy to distribute copies of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or the Bible. They also forbid blonde jokes and the use of a woman in a bikini as one’s desktop background, in addition to “checking someone out.” This policy draws no distinction between truly hateful slurs and social or political commentary or jokes.

Clearly, it is extremely broad, so much so that normal interactions can be called into question. As it stands, our free speech only goes as far as the most easily offended student permits, and that is a serious problem.

This is the same line of reasoning that led the Supreme Court to find it constitutionally protected to burn the United States flag when they said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

When did campuses move so far from fostering conversation, controversial or not?

A recent satire piece by Omar Mahmood at the University of Michigan lost him his writing job with the school’s paper under the same type of speech policy the College has.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gives the College a “red light” — the worst possible evaluation for speech policies on college campuses. The College needs to embrace our constitutionally protected free speech rights and revise this policy, among others, as well as to rewrite time, place and manner restrictions on free speech.

This will enable a significantly narrower scope of enforcement, toning down the administration’s carte blanche regulation of student demonstrations.

‘Frozen’ craze has gone too far

Some think it may be time for Elsa the Ice Queen to ‘Let It Go.’
Some think it may be time for Elsa the Ice Queen to ‘Let It Go.’

 

 

 

By Chelsea LoCascio
Production Manager

Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back any more. How can anyone “let it go” when everywhere you turn, “Frozen” is promoted like someone has been personally paid by Disney’s advertisement team?

The hit film, which made its premiere last November, has long surpassed the time allotted for kids to be screaming the lyrics and the beloved characters faces to be plastered on every corner.

Just recently, I walked into an  Applebee’s expecting a quiet dinner — big mistake. It was “Frozen Night,” and the empty eyes of a cardboard Elsa welcomed me as I entered. I found myself immersed in a cheesy winter wonderland, with the restaurant adorned with ribbons and pictures of the characters. I even had a hard time concentrating as “Let It Go” rang and a toddler cried behind me after dropping her stuffed Olaf.

That was it: “Frozen” went too far. I already hated how much attention the film received, but this was ridiculous. The level of resounding love and affection for “Frozen” never happened for classic Disney films like “The Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin.”

People probably went crazy for those classics, but that was before my time. The difference now, it seems, is that Disney then was a little less concerned about consumerism and more about the quality. Now, all I see are countless “Frozen” shirts,  backpacks, posters, make-up and even band-aids with a picture of Elsa’s sassy smirk and blond braided rat-tail attached to the back.

With the movie breaking box-office records as the highest grossing animated film of all time at an estimated $1.17 billion in sales, it is no surprise that the franchise is still going. “Disney on Ice: Frozen” began touring in September, a short called “Frozen Fever” is set to be released on March 13, Epcot is adding a “Frozen” attraction to their theme park and rumors have swirled over a sequel to the film and a possible run on broadway.

Even if you like buying the merchandise and attending the shows, you might agree that those who break into song when they hear the first few notes of “Let It Go” need to be exiled to their own island.

“Frozen” was an OK film, but there was not nearly as much of a reaction to other recent Disney princess movies like “Brave,” where the female lead actually proved to be more than just a pretty princess. People usually say they love “Frozen” for the memorable songs, and the strong female leads, yet other movies have them, too.

The common theme of finding true love is overplayed in “Frozen” as Elsa, who is supposed to be strong, needs to be saved by Anna, a princess who fell in love immediately and then snaps out of the delusion only to fall in love again.

While the craze, sadly, is far from over, I can only hope that “here I stand and here I’ll stay” are merely lyrics and not an omen.

Senior fights for educational equality

More resources are needed for kids in low-income areas.
More resources are needed for kids in low-income areas.

By Tiffany Piatt

When I think about my time here at the College, I think about a whirlwind of incredible  experiences. But as my time here ticks down, I’ve begun to think of the million-dollar question: What am I going to be doing when I leave?

I debated several different choices, including applying to graduate school or working as a laboratory research scientist. But the question of what I could do after graduation actually had a second part — what should I do? And as I’ve thought about that even bigger question, my thoughts turned towards my time on the executive board for Women in Learning and Leadership. Through WILL, I developed a deep appreciation for the incredible role models that shaped me. When I leave the College, I want to do the same for others.

I lived in Paterson, N.J. for the beginning of my childhood but didn’t stay there. Determined to give us better educational options than they had growing up, my parents moved to the next town over, to a school that offered many Honors and Advanced Placement courses. As a result, I went to a high school where we had plenty of extra  resources to help plan ahead. When people hear Paterson, they may think about crimes, violence and drugs. But I know that Paterson is so much more.

Many kids across the country are like the ones I knew growing up — great kids filled with potential, but lacking the resources and opportunities to imagine bright futures for themselves. For students growing up in low-income communities, just 6 percent will graduate from college by the time they’re 25. This statistic does not reflect kids’ capabilities — it’s a result of entrenched systems of oppression that have denied equal access to opportunity for decades.

I know that I can use my experiences to help kids battling these odds imagine a brighter future and make it a reality. Just like them, I struggled growing up. But I am now about to graduate from college — a feat that I want to show others they can accomplish, too.

All of this led me to apply to Teach For America. Over time, I’ve noticed a trend of many leaving their communities and not wanting to return. I made the choice to go back to my roots because I want to help kids break that cycle.

Being a teacher is hard work, and I will have to push myself to give my students a deserving education. I will need to partner closely with those who have been working toward justice and equity long before I will have arrived. I don’t want a job that lets me turn a blind eye to the injustices kids face daily. I want a job that forces me to look injustice in the face and fight it. I want one that holds me accountable for the injustices that plague our communities — because, although I did not create them, I’d still bear responsibility if I chose not to address them.

As I become a Teach For America corps member, I’ll be joining a network of people working for equal access to opportunity. It’s a network of leaders diverse in background and experience, working across sectors to create change. We are all united around the belief that a quality education is not a privilege — it is a right. As you think about what you’re going to do after you leave here, I hope you’ll join us.

Perry makes a roaring, grand entrance at the Pepsi Halftime Show.

Perry performs poorly at halftime

Perry makes a roaring, grand entrance at the Pepsi Halftime Show.
Perry makes a roaring, grand entrance at the Pepsi Halftime Show.

 

By Ellie Schuckman
Opinions Editor 

The Super Bowl is often breaking records, whether it’s the amount of viewers who tune in, the teams playing the actual game or those notorious commercials.

However, while the big game attracts an average of 111.5 million viewers every year compared to the typical 20.3 million who watch any given NFL game a week, the sudden rise in viewership begs the question — do people tune in to watch the game, the commercials or the often infamous halftime show performance?

In the last decade alone, we have seen legends from Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, subpar performances from the Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO and last year’s flawless display of a true talent, Bruno Mars.

And this year’s lucky winner? The one and only, Katy Perry.

While the “Queen of Pop” has had three million-selling albums, her vocal ability remains questionable. With the rise of autotune, almost anyone can put on a sparkly costume, have help writing a catchy song and suddenly become a star. However, it takes talent to have a positive lasting memory, especially with a performance seen around the world.

From her grand entrance on a shiny lion to her flying escape on a shooting star, Perry’s performance was downright cheesy and unmemorable. While it is hard for any performer to deliver stellar vocals while putting on a decent show, Perry’s lip-synching was delayed, and sounded nothing like the tracks on her albums.

With controversy surrounding this year’s halftime show performer, as reports spread that the NFL wanted the lucky artist to pay to play, Perry booked the deal without paying a dime.

According to Forbes.com, the lucky halftime performer receives no pay for playing the show, but does receive compensation for all travel, lodging and production expenses. The free publicity often serves as pay all in its own right.

After last year’s performance, Mars’s latest album rose 92 percent the week after the Super Bowl, according to the same article.

However, no matter his album sales, Mars delivered a performance which captivated most who watched it. His vocals were flawless, the production was not overdone, he showed off some stellar dance moves and many even begged to have him perform again this year.

Mars managed to entertain his audience, regardless of age or gender, something that Perry was unable to do.

New rules for Meal Equiv stir up controversy

By Kelly Corbett

This semester we said hello to a newly renovated T-Dubs, but also to some stricter rules on our favorite two and a half hours of the day — Meal Equivalency.

The new regulation is putting a limit on how much a student can eat for lunch. A student can either get one meal at Eickhoff Hall during Meal Equiv or $7.25 worth of food elsewhere, no longer both. But the real question is, is it fair?

The hours between 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily was probably the most anticipated time of the day, where students with a meal plan could treat their taste buds to food other than the typical selections of Eickhoff Hall, yet still swipe into the Atrium if their stomachs growled.

However, with the College now enforcing their rule allowing either the use of Meal Equiv or a swipe into Eick, some feel the meal plans purchased at the start of the semester are false.

According to the College’s website, students with meal Plan A or Plan B enjoy unlimited swipes into Eickhoff, and those with meal Plan C enjoy unlimited swipes after 11 a.m. However, with this new rule, “unlimited” is not really the ideal word to use when students are restricted access from Eickhoff during the Meal Equiv period. The website does make note of the new Meal Equiv rule when selecting a meal plan, though it is mentioned toward the bottom of the page. However, prospective students reading up on the College may miss that minor detail and be mislead.

With the prices on food at other dining locations on-campus being so expensive, $7.25 is not enough money for a student to get a proper lunch. Access to Eick ensured full stomachs and that students did not necessarily have to use their Carte Blanche points to buy an extra bag of chips, or a bottle of water.

Now, of course one could argue that, if a student is afraid of going over Meal Equiv and wants to save their points, they could just eat at Eickhoff during the designated time slot. This is true. However, after eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same place daily, a student is entitled to other options without worry.

If the College truly began losing money as students took advantage of the “free” items, then a plan should have been set up to enable one or two snacks from other dining locations when a swipe into Eick is used, not complete and total restriction.

No matter what the solution may be, one thing is certain — the strict use of Meal Equiv or entrance to Eickhoff Hall is an unfair change hurting the student body.

‘Elastic Heart’ raises concerns for youth

LaBeouf sparks heated debates in Sia’s music video.
LaBeouf sparks heated debates in Sia’s music video.

By Alyssa Sanford

It’s not unusual for a music video to come under fire for some objectionable content, and Sia’s “Elastic Heart” video — which has over 84,000,000 views — is no exception.

The video features Maddie Ziegler, a 12-year-old dancer best known for her appearances on Lifetime’s reality show “Dance Moms,” and Shia LaBeouf, the 28-year-old actor who spent much of  2014 in the limelight for his bizarre antics.

Not long after the “Elastic Heart” video was released on Wednesday, Jan. 7, viewers started vehemently objecting to the pairing of Ziegler and LaBeouf. The controversial video depicts the two dancing in a giant cage, wearing nothing but flesh-toned underwear. They appear to be alternately fighting and clinging to each other, but the video offers no context for the dramatic scene playing out on-screen. Many viewers were disturbed by the overtones of pedophilia.

“I anticipated some ‘pedophelia!!!’ Cries (sic) for this video,” Sia tweeted in response to the public outcry.  “I apologize to those who feel triggered by #ElasticHeart. My intention was to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody.”

But this video seemed ripe for controversy. Ziegler appeared in Sia’s “Chandelier” video in May 2014, wearing the same nude leotard and blonde “Sia” wig while dancing in a provocative manner. Meanwhile, LaBeouf was stirring up controversy of his own in 2014, kicking off the year infamously donning a paper bag over his head with the words “I Am Not Famous Anymore” scrawled across it. In fact, LaBeouf’s paper bag stunt closely resembled a photo shoot that Sia did for Billboard magazine in November 2013, in which she wore a paper bag over her own face.

Sia claims that casting Ziegler and LaBeouf in the video was a natural choice. She sees them as representations of “two warring ‘Sia’ self states,” as she wrote on Twitter. The fact that LaBeouf is 16 years Ziegler’s elder is simply irrelevant, regardless of how much it offends her audience.

There is, of course, undeniably objectionable content in the video. Certain movements carry sexual overtones, and the rapid shift between displays of violence and raw emotion are disturbing. But is “Elastic Heart” any more controversial than any other music video?

Music videos have shock value. Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” video depicts an alter ego who was an obsessive, violent and downight crazy ex-girlfriend. “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj boasted women in revealing outfits and highlighted images that play on double entendres. Maroon 5’s “Animals” offended many people because of its romanticized take on stalking. These videos, while shocking and perhaps offensive, garnered a lot of attention and effectively promoted the artists.

Perhaps Sia wasn’t trying to offend her audience, but rather trying to evoke an emotional response, which can run the gamut from empathy to disgust. Music videos are art, after all, and art is intended to elicit emotional reactions.

There is no denying that it’s a disturbing video. However, it is Sia’s right as an artist to tell emotionally-charged, inspirational stories through song and dance, just like thousands of artists before her have done.

Students pack the school gym at the start of the new semester.

New Year’s resolutions prove too difficult to keep

By Ellie Schuckman
Staff Writer

Students pack the school gym at the start of the new semester.
Students pack the school gym at the start of the new semester.

                                               Every year come December, wish lists are often made of goals to accomplish for the following year. People make promises to “do better” and “be better,” while telling themselves when the new year hits that it’s game on.

The clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1 and the celebrations ring on. Meanwhile, hopeful individuals know that tomorrow starts the change. No more late night snacks, no more binge watching television shows and promises to study harder.

January starts out pretty well, with better eating habits and a regular sleep schedule. Gyms are busier than usual, and when the second semester begins, grades seem to be OK.

Then hits February.

After an entire month of sticking to ambition, the plan seems to be falling apart. Stomachs growl at midnight, beds seem to be inescapable, Netflix is only a click away and soon enough the fragile thoughts of “next semester will be better” creep in.

What makes sticking to those New Year’s resolutions so incredibly hard?

According to Forbes.com, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, compared to the estimated 40 percent of Americans who make them.

“I think people lack the money, motivation and time to follow through with their New Year’s resolutions,” freshman urban elementary education and English double major Kailey Stangle said.

It is astonishing that every year the same pattern occurs
— make a promise, try the promise, break the promise, try again next year.

Individuals are often so consumed with the idea of a fresh start that when the opportunity comes for one, they fail to act.

People are often bound by routine and suddenly disrupting what had become “normal” proves overbearing. Some individuals simply lack the mindset to make a permanent change, and easily slip back into bad habits.

“My New Year’s resolution was to keep my room clean, but I failed the first day I got back,” freshman deaf education and history double major Olivia Colomier said.

By walking around campus, or even down the halls in the dorms, students are constantly heard saying “tomorrow.” Whether it’d be putting off writing that paper or running on the loop, goals set at the start of the year never seem to make it to the end.

Tomorrow” has turned into “one day.”

Naturally, the stresses of performing well day after day call for a break every once in awhile, but when a day off becomes a week, a week often turns into more. Watching just one more episode of “Friends” is almost as impossible as eating just one more Pringle.

Changing bad habits takes time, and stopping anything cold-turkey is most often arduous. Consider a light snack a few hours after dinner instead of at midnight. Set a goal to exercise three days a week so it is not too excessive. Study for 15 minutes every few hours instead of forcing yourself to sit down for a full 60 minutes.

Promises made to oneself cannot work unless that individual is willing to commit to their decisions fully. However, drastic changes almost always fail to deliver positive results.

Simple, gradual differences may just be the key to keeping those promises.

Freedom of speech battles against terrorism: Recent string of attacks raises concern over free expression

By Alyssa Sanford
Staff Writer

Demonstrators unite in Paris to show solidarity after recent terrorist attacks.
Demonstrators unite in Paris to show solidarity after recent terrorist attacks.

In the United States, freedom of speech is a constitutional right. Members of the
press and the entertainment industry are often protected by First Amendment rights. So when extremists threaten with violence as retribution for free speech, it’s jarring.

The last several months of 2014 and the early weeks of the new year were tense, as groups opposed to free speech fought to stifle it. North Korea threatened the United States with “a resolute and merciless” response to the release of Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” on Thursday,  Dec. 25, and the threats were taken seriously enough for the FBI and the White House to become involved and for theatrical premieres to be canceled.

Several weeks later, on Wednesday, Jan. 7, cartoonists at the Parisian satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, were killed by Franco-Algerians offended by the paper’s unflattering depiction of the Muslim prophet, Mohammed. 17 people died during the attack, including senior editors of the paper, cartoonists and police units responding to the shooting.

According to the Associated Press, a German newspaper was in need of police protection after reprinting Charlie Hebdo’s offending cartoon on Sunday, Jan. 11, because arsonists had attempted to torch the headquarters.

These were efforts to silence free speech and creative expression, and certainly not the first instances of violence perpetrated against members of the free press.

For instance, in January 2006, a Danish newspaper came under fire for portraying the prophet Mohammed “as an apparent terrorist with a bomb in his turban,” which prompted upheaval throughout the Middle East.

Equally unsettling was the cyber attack launched against Sony Pictures and “The Interview.” The movie depicts American journalists asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un while there, hosting an interview with him. Though North Korea denies involvement in the hack, FBI investigations conclude that the sophisticated malware seems to have originated from there.

“The challenge that movie studios and theaters face is real because they have to balance the issue of freedom of expression with safety and commerce,” said Fareed Zakaria, a Washington Post columnist and host of CNN’s weekly podcast “Global Public Square,” in an episode on Sunday, Dec. 21. “The right response, then and now, must be to affirm freedom of expression.”

Certainly, the depictions of Kim Jong-un and the prophet Mohammed were unflattering and offensive. But the responses to these depictions were extreme. Federal governments got involved. Innocent people died for the sake of satire. Americans and the French feared for their safety and security in countries where freedom isn’t just a right, but a value.

Concern for public safety demanded that “The Interview” be pulled from theaters on Christmas and that copies of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon be removed from circulation. While prudent, this response to threats of violence and terrorism admits defeat. Essentially, the free world relinquishes freedom of expression to appease extremists. It is a white flag of surrender.

Though “The Interview” was not shown by major theater companies, thousands fled to small venues which opted to still release the film. YouTube agreed to stream it online to those willing to pay a few bucks. The movie still managed to make $17.8 million according to Forbes.com. Even under the threat of a terrorist attack, people fought back by watching the movie.

In Paris, though the satirical magazine lost key staff members, they published another issue depicting Mohammed on the front page. According to CNN, Charlie Hebdois now printing 7 million copies of the “survivor’s issue”— which has sold out the initial 1 million published. Typically, the magazine prints 60,000 copies of each issue.

Zakaria is right. We have to practice freedom of expression instead of letting extremists win with threats of violence. Free speech liberates us from living in fear of offending someone, for as they say, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Online testing wrong way to go: PARCC exams set to replace NJASK and HSPA

New standardized tests taken online may prove costly to some students. (AP Photo)
New standardized tests taken online may prove costly to some students. (AP Photo)

By Alyssa Sanford

Standardized testing in New Jersey is about to become a lot more demanding — and discriminating — for students of all ages.

If you haven’t heard of PARCC — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — that’s because it’s a new, online standardized test. According to the New York Times, PARCC has been adopted by school districts in 12 states, including New Jer- sey. PARCC is set to replace tests like the NJASK and HSPA, which tested students from third to eighth grade and high school juniors, respectively.

The new standardized tests are a result of Common Core standards. New Jersey adopted the Common Core in 2010, which is a set of standards in English and mathematics education. Students all across America are expected to learn a specific set of skills in both of these subject areas and take standardized tests that reflect their overall understanding of those concepts. The goal of implementing the Common Core is preparation for college and the work- force, with the National Governor’s Association arguing that “all students (will be) prepared to succeed in our global economy and society” after preparing for and taking these tests.

In the spring of 2015, New Jersey students from third grade to 12th grade will be required to take a series of PARCC tests. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) reports that there will be a performance-based assessment; a speaking and listening as- sessment; and an end-of-year, computer-based assessment. As the tests will be administered online, the durations will rival that of the SAT. Third graders, for example, will be expected to complete approximately eight hours worth of testing, while juniors in high school will spend nine hours and 55 minutes in total on their tests. Tests will only be available for 20-day windows.

It’s no secret that there are academic achievement gaps between students in affluent districts and students in urban and urban-rim districts. For instance, according to data on GreatSchools.org, Trenton Central High students scored an average 66 percent in language arts literacy on the HSPAs in 2013 and 35 percent in math proficiency. The state average for 2013 was 92 percent for language arts literacy and 80 percent for math proficiency. By comparison, Hopewell Valley Central High, a local suburban high school, scored 97 percent in language arts literacy and 92 percent in math proficiency.

These tests were taken with No. 2 pencils and Scantrons. Imagine the disparity between these two districts when standardized testing is administered online, when students from urban districts may lack sufficient access to a computer or struggle with using one.

It seems to me that PARCC testing, while designed to effectively prepare all students for college and the work- force, is actually designed to further impede at-risk students from performing well. The sheer number of hours that students are expected to devote to these tests is daunting enough, but insisting that these tests be taken online when there are thousands of students without proper computing skills simply makes no sense. If anything, Common Core standards should strive to make standardized testing fit the needs and abilities of all students. This is the wrong approach.

The pressure placed on students to perform well is oftentimes overbearing and stressful, especially after they return from a long holiday break. (Courtney Wirths / Features Editor)

Finals after Thanksgiving are an unhealthy tease

By Ellie Schuckman                                                                                                      News Assistant

With the semester coming to an end, the pressure is on to hand in assignments, boost grades and cram for those pesky finals. But what happens when that pressure builds and the stress becomes overwhelming, especially after the Thanksgiving break?

Professors often tell students to enjoy their days off, but not many can truly relax when papers are due and exams are right around the corner. Returning home for five days, spending time with family and friends and “relaxing” is an unhealthy tease.

Now, I love Thanksgiving just like many others, but when it falls in the last week of November, the stress is on. By the time we start school again, there is only one week of classes left before the dreaded finals. That is hardly enough time to barrel down on the work that needs to be done while still studying for extensive tests.

When the dorms reopen and students finally get back to campus, the last thing anyone wants to do is sit down and write that 10 page paper or memorize an entire presentation.

Even though the date of the national holiday is not changing anytime soon, more preparation can be done to transition from break back to schoolwork. While students can try to finish assignments before they leave for the long weekend, professors, too, must be understanding in giving due dates.

Of course, the expectation of college calls for often lengthy papers and daunting projects, however, there must be a consideration that accomplishing these tasks is not always easy.

If students are overly stressed, they will not be able to produce their best work, and the entire point of a professor giving an assignment will be null and void.

Perhaps exams should always start the third week of December, or maybe final papers must be due before the break.

Whatever the solution may be, one thing is utterly clear: The pressure of finals immediately following a lengthy break is unhealthy.