Category Archives: Opinions

Hohmuth rebukes claims that club has skin problems

This opinion piece was written in response to the article “Aikido Club booted from wrestling room,” published on Nov. 19, 2014.

By Art Hohmuth                                                                                                    Professor of Psychology and Faculty Adviser to the Aikido Club

Regarding “Aikido Club booted from wrestling room,” published in The Signal on Nov. 19, I found comments by Coach Galante to be quite incredulous. He is quoted as saying, “Ringworm, MRSA,  infantigo, staff – we don’t see issues with that nearly as much as last year.” The implication that this is because the Aikido Club and the Brazilian Ju Jitsu Club are not using the wrestling room this year strains credibility. Not a single member of either club has experienced a skin problem, even though last year our faces were on the same mats as the wrestlers. How could we possibly pass on skin diseases we don’t have, especially when the coach claims to disinfect the mats twice a day? These are diseases which are most readily transmitted by skin to skin contact — wrestler to wrestler.

At another point, the coach is quoted as saying, regarding the clubs, that he is not sure “if they should have been there in the first place.” Really? Athletic directors and previous coaches have been making mistakes for 26 years?

Unlike the swimming, tennis and basketball coaches, Mr Galante seems to want total dominion over his sports venue. A reasonable person might conclude that raising concern over the spread of disease is a ploy to suggest that wrestling is in a special category, immune from the stated Student Affairs policy, which says that ap- proved clubs have the right to request the use of facilities, as available.

Despite being ‘really attractive,’ Ernst snags an Iowa Senate seat. (AP Photo)

Looks do not define credibility in politics

By Alyssa Sanford

“Shake it off.”

That’s what U.S. Senate candidate — and eventual winner — Joni Ernst (IA-R) said to a crowd of cheering supporters, after retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (IA-D) called her “really attractive” and “as good-looking as Taylor Swift.”

But Ernst’s wry retort shouldn’t be mistaken for ambivalence. She is outraged by Harkin’s careless remarks, as she should be.

Despite being ‘really attractive,’ Ernst snags an Iowa Senate seat. (AP Photo)
Despite being ‘really attractive,’ Ernst snags an Iowa Senate seat. (AP Photo)

“I believe if my name had been John Ernst on my resume, then-Sen. Harkin would not have said those things,” Ernst told FOX News on Sunday, Nov. 2.

And she is absolutely right.

It’s 2014, and women have had a voice in politics since the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920. So why aren’t more politicians and voters recognizing it?

Simply because Harkin is a left-leaning politician does not mean that he is immune to misogyny, clearly evidenced by his remarks in a speech supporting Democratic candidate Bruce Braley. Even though Harkin praised Senator-elect Ernst for her good looks, which is enough to undermine her competence as a politician, he went on to say that “if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she is wrong for the state of Iowa.”

The comparison to Bachmann, a radical right-wing politician, is a blow to Ernst’s credibility. Voters distrust Bachmann, and after Harkin’s comment, could stand to distrust all conservative female politicians by extension.

It’s insulting, but it’s not the worst offense in recent history. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-D) admitted in her book, “Off The Sidelines,” that male colleagues have referred to her as “chubby” and “porky” in her presence.  She also took offense to comments that she is the “hottest member” of the Senate, according to TIME. Sarah Palin is also a victim of lampooning: on “Saturday Night Live,” she was memorably portrayed by Tina Fey and criticized both for her policies and her history as a former pageant queen.

Female politicians are targets, though few and far between. Prior to the election results on Tuesday, Nov. 4, only 20 women held seats in the Senate out of 100 total seats. As for the House of Representatives, out of 435 total seats, 79 women held seats. A special election in North Carolina brought the collective number of women in Congress to a historic total of 100, but Rep. Alma Adams (NC-D) is not expected to hold her new seat for long. The numbers are dismal and difficult to ignore.

According to midterm election reports from the Associated Press, voters “really, really, really” want to see women on the presidential ballot in 2016. For voter Reginald Valentine Sr. in New York, appointing Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office could be just what this country needs. While reassuring that the general public believes women in politics need to claim the ultimate seat of power, it’s equally distressing.

Are female politicians mere “token” items on ballots? Is the election of a female candidate the next in a series of “firsts” on the American voter’s checklist? We’ve seen the first black president move into office, so does it follow that 2016 must mark the election of the first female president? And 2024 the appointment of the first president from the LGBTQ community?

It’s admirable that the American public increasingly wants to see women in power, but a female politician is more than just a token item on a ballot or just a “really attractive” face. These are parameters that limit their credibility instead of giving voters more to celebrate.

If even relatively progressive politicians and voters can’t see that, then female politicians still have a long way to go. But until then, they’ll just have to “shake it off.”

GoldieBlox makes action figure for girls

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

Just in time for the holiday season, GoldieBlox has released an advertisement for an item the company believes will revolutionizes the toy industry — an action figure for girls.

Unlike Barbie dolls, which reinforce unattainable beauty standards to young girls, GoldieBlox aims to create toys to pique young girls’ interests in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

GoldieBlox Inc. Debbie SterlingAccording to the company’s website, one of the factors behind women being so underrepresented in STEM fields is the lack of support for girls who are interested in the subjects.

The commercial for GoldieBlox’s newest toy is set to Metric’s “Help I’m Alive.” The scene is very Big Brother-esque, with cameras set on brainwashed girls waiting in line for Barbie dolls. The refrain repeats, “You are beauty, and beauty is perfection.” One girl, however, breaks away and sparks a revolution. “In 2014, GoldieBlox breaks the mold with an action figure for girls,” the commercial reads.

GoldieBlox hopes to bring up a new generation of female engineers, but many fear that so far, its biggest accomplishment appears to be inspiring parents to buy its toys.

Granted, the company does produce dolls with realistic bodies who tote around tools, but it still upholds the tradition of gender division in the toy industry. Why do the toys come in pastel colors — a detail that screams “little girl” — if the company is trying to take gender out of the equation altogether? Even the fact that GoldieBlox only markets to young girls is enough to make many customers believe the company is contributing to the gender dichotomy of toys. Is it not okay for a little boy to play with a female engineer doll, too?

Perhaps the biggest concern for parents is that, ironically, one of GoldieBlox’s toys follows the “pretty princess” narrative. Even though the toy goes against the traditional plotline, why would a company that labels itself as anti-pink and anti-princess have a princess toy on its shelves?

Some criticize GoldieBlox for claiming it is “breaking the mold” with a female action figure, since it is certainly not the first company to do so. But it is one of the first to put an action girl on the shelves that isn’t complete with huge breasts and a tight onesie. GoldieBlox’s ensemble is simply a white T-shirt and modest purple overalls.

The new GoldieBlox action figure might not solve every problem and eliminate every obstacle for girls, but it’s a good start. I appreciate the company’s mission, and even if this new doll doesn’t change gender roles by the time the new year rolls around, it’s still an important step in doing so.

Promoting positivity to increase self-esteem

By Jess Ganga
Social Media Editor

We all share a common enemy. We walk by it without knowing. It’s in everyone’s home, in stores and at school, and it’s unavoidable. It’s a silent threat and brings down our spirits without saying any words. When people look into a mirror — the enemy — they pick themselves apart, and every flaw is magnified. No one is perfect — I’ll be the first to admit I’m nowhere near it — but many individuals feel the need to join forces with that enemy and bring themselves down.

Today, eating disorders and body image problems are becoming more common among young people and adults alike. It’s hard not to point fingers at reasons that cause people to feel badly about themselves.

One finger should point to the media and the images it portrays. Picking up a magazine and flipping through, you can see picture after picture of skinny celebrities and scarily thin models. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, 69 percent of girls in fifth through 12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape. For girls at such a young age, this is shocking.

Many teens struggle to look like models with ‘perfect’ bodies. (AP Photo)
Many teens struggle to look like models with ‘perfect’ bodies. (AP Photo)

It’s not just magazines, but what’s on our television screens that affects how we view ourselves, too. During cycle 15 of the reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” one of the contestants was known for not only being 6’2” but also having a very tiny waste. During her audition, one of the judges wrapped his fingers around her waist to show just how thin she was. In 2010, ABC News reported on the episode because it did not go over well with many people. In the story, model and show host Tyra Banks clarified her excitement of seeing Ward’s waist. She stated that she regretted what she had seen in that scene and that she’s “a leader in celebrating and promoting” healthy body images.

This and many other examples cause women to face the mirror and wonder if how they look is the “correct” way to be. It’s a prevalent issue among college students.

According to the ANAD website, 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. In a survey of 185 female students, 58 percent felt the pressure to be a certain weight and 83 percent dieted to lose weight to try to achieve that “perfect” number.

Another finger can be pointed at social media. In an article written for the BBC News website, social media has had an effect on body image. According to the article, the use of social media adds pressure to people wanting to look good for their 500+ friends on Facebook and Instagram.

It’s not only friends on social media that have an effect on how we view ourselves, but also the people around us.

In conversation with friends, I often hear about how a person doesn’t like something about themselves. Naturally, once one person says they hate something about themselves, you have to be a “good friend” and point out the latest part of your body you hate.

So what’s the best way to beat the negativity and turn our “imperfections” to perfections? Positivity. On the website for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), the organization provides ten steps a person could do to have a positive body image. Some of the steps include keeping a top-10 list of things you like about yourself and surrounding yourself with positive people.

It’s hard to tell yourself what you like about yourself, but with steps like this and as much positivity we can accumulate, we can defeat the common enemy and change it into our friend.

AP Photo

‘Culture, not a costume’ rejects stigmas

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

The “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign, founded at Ohio University in 2011, succeeds in exposing cultural appropriation that has been ingrained in today’s society. Posters advertise slogans like, “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life,” and “This is not who I am. This is not okay.”

One poster depicts a young black girl holding up a photo of a white student posing as a “gangster” — painted from head-to-toe in dark brown body paint, dressed in a black tank top, snapback hat and a chain. Another illustrates a white man wearing “Asian eye” glasses, in a flannel shirt, suspenders and holding a stack of textbooks.

Although I did not see students at the College clad in such blatantly racist attire this weekend, the campus community definitely needs a lesson in how to select a non-offensive costume — sexually, culturally and religiously.

Ashanti offends some people this year in her Arabian belly dancer costume. (AP Photo)
Ashanti offends some people this year in her Arabian belly dancer costume. (AP Photo)

I am anti slut-shaming. I believe all people can wear as much or as little clothing as they deem appropriate. Individuals should feel comfortable in their own skin and dress in a way that makes them feel good about themselves, regardless of whether others approve of their ensembles. You want to be a Playboy bunny for Halloween? Fine. A sexy cop? Go for it. But it is wrong to exploit an entire culture by manipulating sacred outfits, symbols and traditions into a sexed-up Halloween costume.

Take dressing like a Native American, for example. One girl posted photos wearing tight brown shorts, a brown tank top and a feather headdress. A friend from home was a “PocaHottie,” with boyfriend John Smith at her side.

“What’s wrong with dressing like an Indian?” First, Native Americans didn’t dress in booty shorts and wipe warpaint across their faces to go out partying. If you replaced the feather headdress with cat ears and the face paint for some drawn-on-whiskers, though, you’d be golden. Like I said, people have every right to show off their body to the extent they choose. But Native Americans are a marginalized culture that has suffered from oppression for hundreds of years, and still struggle with stigmas of alcoholism, gambling and mental illness. Exploiting a minority for the sake of a sexy Halloween costume is outrageously insensitive.

“But Pocahontas is a Disney princess.” True. But she was also a real person named Matoaka. Pocahontas, a nickname meaning “the spoiled one,” was taken prisoner when she was 17 by Jamestown colonists who intended to trade her for concessions from her father, Chief Powhatan, according to The Powhatan Renape Nation’s website. After being held hostage for a year, Matoaka agreed to marry John Rolfe as a condition of her release. Rolfe changed her name to Rebecca, and soon, she bore him a son. She died at the ripe old age of 21, most likely from smallpox.

Doesn’t that sound like a nice story? Is Pocahontas a character you want to dress up as to have a good time on Halloween? I doubt that anybody intentionally tried to offend Native Americans, but regardless, your fun should not come at the cost of another culture’s representation.

Individuals should wear costumes that promote inclusiveness on Halloween. (AP Photo)
Individuals should wear costumes that promote inclusiveness on Halloween. (AP Photo)

Another costume I scrolled past several times on Instagram was that of a Middle Eastern man. Some photos were of men with wigs and fake beards holding a Koran. Others bore the caption “Allah akbar.” It is painfully obvious what is wrong with this costume.

In fact, Walmart just recently pulled the “Pashtun Papa” costume from its shelves — a mock-up of traditional Afghan robes and turban, accessorized with a fake silver beard.

Before putting on a garment like this one, ask yourself a few questions: What statement am I trying to make? Is this costume funny, and if so, at whose expense? Am I exploiting another culture to make a poor socially- or politically-charged joke? If so, do not wear it.

The list of culturally appropriated costumes goes so much deeper. Geishas are real people who are skilled in conversation and dance and suffer with the stigma of being prostitutes. Wearing a tight, skin-showing geisha costume on Halloween only reinforces the negative stereotypes. Do not wear a baja poncho with a big sombrero on your head and a mustache taped to your lip. Why take the risk of affronting anyone when you could be Rosie the Riveter, or even pull in your roommate and dress as Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy?

Although you may have good intentions as Halloweekend approaches each year, make sure it goes along with a full understanding of what you are dressing up as.

Solar-powered highways are the way of the future

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

A couple from Ohio may have discovered a way to deal with our warming Earth and the toll that humans are taking on the planet. Scott and Julie Brusaw hope to use America’s highway system to capture and convert the power of the sun.

The Brusaws want to use solar panels to replace roadways. (AP Photo)
The Brusaws want to use solar panels to replace roadways. (AP Photo)

Unless you live under a rock, I’m guessing you’ve heard of Solar Roadways Incorporated. The YouTube video “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways!” went viral this summer, garnering over 18 million hits so far.

The idea is exactly what it sounds like — roads made from solar panels. Although the project is gaining publicity now — especially in the past few weeks in venues like BBC News and Dish Magazine — the couple has been working on it for years.

“Years ago, when the phrase ‘global warming’ began gaining popularity, we started batting around the idea of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon,” according to the website, SolarRoadways.com. “We thought of the ‘black box’ on airplanes: We didn’t know what material that black box was made of, but it seemed to be able to protect sensitive electronics from the worst of airline crashes.”

In 2009, the Brusaws received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype. After successful completion of Phase I, the FHA awarded them with a $750,000 contract for Phase II.

Scott even presented the Solar Roadway at a TEDx Talk in Sacramento on April 16, 2010, calling it “the talk of (his) life.”

If implemented, the Solar Roadways Project will generate three times more clean energy than needed and will cut carbon emissions by 75 percent.

It is an interesting idea, but is it a feasible one? I say yes, but not right now.

Before undertaking such a massive project, we must think about the cost of ripping up every paved road in the nation and laying down solar panels. Each panel costs about $7,000 and the plan calls for billions of them. It would take several years before the electricity generated would recoup their own costs.

Then there’s the question of how the panels would work on cloudy days. As is, most solar panels convert only about 14 percent of available energy into electricity. Would these panels be worth it to parts of the country that must endure long winters and cloudy seasons? Even right here in New Jersey, the College endured days straight of rainy weather last week.

Would glass panels withstand the harsh punishment from cars, trucks and other heavy vehicles? There is a chance that they would shatter under the weight.

There are many questions, but one thing is for certain — this country cannot depend on fossil fuels forever. We are destroying our planet. There has to be another solution.

However, solar panels need to be developed further before they are laid across every major roadway in America.

We have certainly come a long way since the first Solar Collector built by Swiss scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure in 1767, but there is still a ways to go. The efficiency of individual panels need to be high enough to justify spending billions, or even trillions, of dollars on their installation.

If there is more preparation put into the Solar Panel Roadways project, it can be a tremendous success in the near future.

President Obama meets Ebola survivor Nina Pham. (AP Photo)

Why the Ebola hype shouldn’t scare you

By Alyssa Sanford

We all know the facts: Ebola is a highly contagious and deadly disease, claiming the lives of thousands worldwide. According to CNN, this is the worst Ebola outbreak that the world has seen since the disease appeared in the 1970s. Doctors and aid workers are ill-equipped to contain the disease.

Patsaouras Plaza at Union Station was closed off for 90 minutes over an Ebola scare.
A woman adjusts her mask outside a closed-off building after an Ebola scare in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

The mainstream media does a great job of whipping Americans into a frenzy because very few of us stop to consider the facts. What are the chances of the average American contracting Ebola and spreading it across the country?

The answer? Slim to none.

For one thing, the mainstream media focuses on the sheer number of infected patients outside of West Africa. Even though high-profile patients are now declared “Ebola-free,” new reports of patients in quarantine have appeared in the media. On Thursday, Oct. 23, amid reports that Amber Vinson, one of two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, was cured of Ebola, the news surfaced that a doctor in New York City was diagnosed.

Almost all of the Ebola patients in the United States have been cured of the disease and are on the road to recovery, as of Thursday, Oct. 23. This includes the NBC cameraman who contracted Ebola while on assignment in Liberia and two American aid workers who fell ill over the summer.

So, what’s the common denominator in these cases? The infected were all in close contact with Ebola patients. Vinson and Nina Pham, who both treated Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, intubated the patient and performed dialysis, thus exposing them directly to his infected bodily fluids. The infected were not average Americans who contracted Ebola in their daily travels. They were healthcare workers and journalists dedicated to stopping the disease’s spread in West Africa.

President Obama meets Ebola survivor Nina Pham. (AP Photo)
President Obama meets Ebola survivor Nina Pham. (AP Photo)

Shepherd Smith, a FOX News TV personality, decried the mainstream media’s response to the recent Ebola cases in the United States in a Wednesday, Oct. 15 broadcast.

“We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States,” Shepherd reminded the audience. “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio or the television … The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible.”

The hype “lacks basis in fact or reason,” according to Shepherd, because the media is neglecting to explain the disease’s spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “Ebola is not spread through the air or by water” and that the virus can be killed by bleach and other disinfectants, but these facts rarely appear in mainstream reports.

We shouldn’t worry about contracting the disease, even if someone suspected of having the disease is in close proximity. The media recently attacked NBC’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, for leaving her voluntary quarantine in Princeton to get a bite to eat in nearby Hopewell, but Snyderman may not have even left her car or come into close contact with anyone on her trip. She never had Ebola to begin with, therefore invalidating the media’s concerns.

Recent quarantines of airplane and cruise ship passengers were equally ridiculous because the passengers were merely suspected of having the disease.

We need to stop worrying about an Ebola outbreak in the United States. We have some of the best hospitals in the world, an abundance of disinfectants and very few opportunities to come into direct contact with Ebola patients. So before you start wearing a hospital mask and hazmat suit in public, remind yourself that it’s hype, not fact.

The College should offer more resources to its students with mental health problems to prevent further tragedies. (AP Photo)

Mental health resources lacking at College

The College should offer more resources to its students with mental health problems to prevent further tragedies. (AP Photo)
The College should offer more resources to its students with mental health problems to prevent further tragedies. (AP Photo)

By Vincent Aldazabal, Shannon Kane and Hailey Marr

There are times when tragedy catalyzes an urgent response that compels necessary criticism in the defense of hope and the preservation of human life. Paige Aiello, Michael Menakis and, most recently, Sarah Sutherland each committed suicide during their time at the College. Their absences are deeply felt on campus and our hearts are indeed broken.

Sutherland is the third student to have taken her life in the last two and a half years, while Paige Aiello and Michael Menakis committed suicide in the spring of 2013 and 2014, respectively. This number does not include attempts or even the number of individuals contemplating such a choice, but it does give us an insight to the abysmal state of mental health care on campus. This is a brutal reality that we cannot ignore, and we would be remiss in placating the shortcomings of our campus’s institutional leadership and the student body’s own lack of empathy. This piece is dedicated to the memories of three beautiful people and intends to initiate a  campaign of hope predicated upon serious institutional reform and individual empowerment which are now both overwhelmingly essential for the very sustainability and survival of the College’s students. If our students and administrative leaders cannot work to heal broken hearts through the mobilization of humanitarian efforts and committed economic measures for its students, just like it has for academic interests, our public education system is fundamentally broken.

The tone expressed in President Gitenstein’s email following this recent tragedy is ultimately symptomatic of the willful ignorance of systemic hindrances to student’s mental health, as it exists at the highest levels of this college. This disregard is evidenced by the critical lack in funding given to resources like Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS. Many students who have attempted to utilize CAPS have expressed that the work counselors tirelessly participate in is admirable, but they are obviously underfunded and, as a result, understaffed. Given the continuous thrum of construction equipment present on all corners of campus, the message sent to students is clear. For those in charge, the outward appearance of the College is being addressed as a higher priority than that of students’ mental healthcare. The fact is, while our mental health resources are of a high quality in their limited availability, they are not as “extensive” as Gitenstein claims. They will not be extensive until they are allocated funding and resources proportional to their importance, which are now of tantamount value. That students should sometimes have to wait upwards of three weeks to speak with a mental health professional after an initial intake with CAPS, and that they are only allowed to see a professional for a very limited number of appointments, is regrettable. Students are forced to look elsewhere for help. This marginalizes individuals who do not have access to transportation to and from campus or those with subpar health insurance that leaves them unable to afford treatment. There is a very clear bottom line in this situation, and it’s high time that the College’s administration adjust its priorities and put students’ mental health and safety as an immediate platform of essential reform. It will take more than rhetorical gestures and reactive measures to prevent any further tragedies.

This change will be difficult, as we are faced with an increasingly rigorous corporate strangling of academic institutions by private power. Yet our moral consciences are gravely threatened. We must cease praising the accelerated pace of constructing Campus Town if we cannot center financial resources and humanitarian plans to provide serious constructions — institutional and personal — that secure acceptable tools for long-term mental healthcare. In the face of overwhelming grief, we must re-evaluate how we are utilizing the precious time we have here in college. This will require leadership and student collectives to re-emerge from the loss that compels us and be propelled to move forward to build support lines, media campaigns, academic outlets and crucial long-term care for those struggling with mental health. The College must be provoked from the top administrative corners to the brightest minds and largest hearts to form an inclusive community that prioritizes empathy in the pursuit of safety.

Perhaps of paramount importance is the need for bureaucratic interferences with care to be dismantled — most certainly limited by the political power of insurance companies — so healthcare professionals are not limited to healing voices of desperation, most poignantly when the very real expressions of suicidal ideation and feelings are conveyed. Any voices that immediately respond to say radical change is impossible must consider the tragic ramifications of current practices. Either we challenge what we’ve been told is “just how it is” or knowingly await the next heartbreaking and pitiful email from Gitenstein.

Suicide is not an inevitable occurrence of our existence, and the struggle for what is ideal must be continually pursued in the face of social injustice. The best way to honor the memories of those we have lost in the struggle with mental health is to take serious preventive measures. Institutional reform is but the beginning. How we reconstruct our hearts’ intents will only be realized if there is a consensus that three suicides are three too many. Shall we rigorously pursue the protection of our humanity, or shall we continue to adhere to the same order that the powers at be have implemented?

Latino leadership critical for classroom success

By Karen Martinez
Class of 2014

This month, I have the privilege of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month alongside 11 resilient and energetic pre-kindergarten students. This holiday represents a powerful opportunity for our tiny classroom community to expand my students’ conceptions of what it means to be Latino and to learn more about the unique culture and stories they bring to our classroom. Knowing that my students are so young and their educational journeys so new, during this month I cannot help but look to their futures, as well.

By 2040, nearly one out of every four U.S. citizens will identify as Hispanic. But as we see Latino leadership rising across the country, there’s one leadership shortage that hits home for me. Today, just 8 percent of teachers identify as Latino. This gap has real, immediate implications for Hispanic students and is a big part of what ultimately brought me to Wilmington, D.E. to teach my young learners. Here in my new home state, the U.S. Census reports that 44.1 percent of Hispanics over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma. This is staggering, especially when compared to the overall Delaware population — only 15 percent of whom lack a college degree.

Growing up in Jersey City, N.J., I saw the need that existed in my community firsthand. When I enrolled at the College, I knew that I wanted to use my education not to “get out” but instead to give back. It was through tutoring at a local school in Trenton with Circle K that I saw that education has the potential to be the most powerful tool in shaping our nation’s future. Working with children of all ages and backgrounds at Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum reinforced my desire to focus on urban education, so I became an early education major. I knew that I wanted to make a difference for low-income students, but I also knew that if I wanted to really change my hometown, I would have to be part of something bigger than myself. That’s why I joined Teach For America — to be part of the growing network of Latino leaders fighting for social justice in the classroom.

As a Latina, I treat opportunities to get to know my students with extra care. This month, our unit is centered on the theme, “All about me.” During our first weeks of school, I encouraged my students and their parents to make our classroom home, bringing in family pictures and sharing memories from their early birthdays and holidays. For some of my students this unit was a breakthrough. One young student, Ryan, had always struggled with his behavior and orienting himself in social situations. During his “All about me” show-and-tell, he shared about his father being away and how it affects him and his family. After that opportunity to share and open up — fleeting as it may be for a 4 year old — I noticed a change in him and his trust for our classroom community. By bringing my full self to my classroom — as a woman, College grad and first-generation college student — I have the privilege of being both a window and a mirror for my students.

The sharing of a common identity is powerful to my students, but it’s certainly not the only way to connect — all students, even our youngest learners, need teachers who they know believe in them. The path toward meaningful change has been taken by regular people committed to making extraordinary things possible. Great teachers come from all backgrounds, identities and experiences, but we are united by this difficult and deeply inspiring work. Every day, I am challenged to play a role in the future I imagine and humbled to work with a group of students whose imaginations never cease to amaze. As you imagine your own future, I hope you’ll join us.

Authors United controversy heats up, Group returns fire at Amazon over e-books

By Alyssa Sanford
Correspondent

Suzanne Collins. Malcolm Gladwell. James Patterson.

These are just a sampling of the hundreds of names that appeared on a Sept. 19 letter from Authors United to Amazon’s 10 board executives. And despite the fact that Authors United initially described itself as an impartial coalition fighting for settlement between Hachette Book Group and Amazon, the aforementioned authors are at their limit.

Authors United, a coalition of writers, is fighting with Amazon, citing illegal monopoly tactics and demanding an investigation. (AP Photo)
Authors United, a coalition of writers, is fighting with Amazon, citing illegal monopoly tactics and demanding an investigation. (AP Photo)

 

They’re angry, and they’re ready to take legal action against the e-commerce giant for good reason.

Authors United, a worldwide coalition of over 900 writers, both obscure and famous, is taking their grievances with Amazon to the Department of Justice. They claim that Amazon is practicing “illegal monopoly tactics” and that the company needs to be investigated.

The dispute over e-book pricing between Amazon and traditional publishing houses, such as the French company Hachette Book Group, has been going on for several years, but tensions abruptly rose in early 2014. Amazon wanted to set uniform pricing for e-books, while traditional publishers wanted to dictate their own prices. Hachette found Amazon’s $9.99 price tag to be unpalatable. As a result, negotiations broke down.

On May 9, Hachette confirmed that Amazon was delaying shipments of their books. The online retailer slowly and steadily pushed Hachette books out of stock and acknowledged later in the month that they were “not optimistic” the problem would be solved in a timely manner, according to Publishers Weekly.

The New York Times reported on Monday, Sept. 29, that Authors United, previously unwilling to take sides in the Amazon-Hachette dispute, sent a form letter to the top board execs at Amazon, including CEO and chairman Jeff Bezos, pleading with Amazon to reconsider its harmful business tactics.

“These sanctions have driven down Hachette authors’ sales at Amazon.com by at least 50 percent and, in some cases, as much as 90 percent,” Authors United wrote in a letter that can be located on its website. “Several thousand Hachette authors have watched their readership decline, or, in the case of new authors, have seen their books sink out of sight without finding an adequate readership.”

It is becoming increasingly difficult for authors to stay out of the fray. Hachette authors or otherwise, authors like John Green and J.K. Rowling have subtly condemned Amazon for “(bullying) publishers into eventual nonexistence.”

The Times also reported on the same day that Authors United filed a suit with the Department of Justice against Amazon and its “illegal” business tactics, signaling a shift in the tense dynamic between authors and the online publisher/distributor.

As valuable as Amazon is in providing consumers with products at the click of a mouse, and at competitive low prices to boot, this recent development is troubling. Bezos’s company could force small-scale authors out of print and could bring the already-struggling print industry to its knees in a shorter time frame than previously expected.

I want to see Authors United follow through with their suit. There are antitrust laws in place that protect companies in our free-market economy, and Amazon is violating those laws. Obviously, the Federal Trade Commission allows for competition between two corporations, but Amazon is deliberately cutting consumers off from Hachette products.

That’s not competition — that’s monopolization. And that’s illegal under the Sherman Act of 1890, according to the FTC.

If Authors United manages to bring suit against Amazon, it could mean a revitalization of the publishing industry. Consumers should have the right to decide whether or not they’re willing to spend more money on a product — corporations shouldn’t get to decide for them.

Urban Outfitters Inc. lies on the record

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

Long forgotten are the days that Urban Outfitters exploited school shootings, mental illness and Native American heritage. Now, the Philly-based clothing company has moved on to a new project — lying to Wall Street analysts.

Urban Outfitters, though claiming to be the world’s largest distributor of vinyls, is second to Amazon. (AP Photo)
Urban Outfitters, though claiming to be the world’s largest distributor of vinyls, is second to Amazon. (AP Photo)

Last week, it was reported that the company’s chief administrative officer Calvin Hollinger told analysts that “music is very, very important to the Urban customer … in fact, we are the world’s number one vinyl seller.”

Hipsters all around the country held a collective breath. This is an outrage. What about tiny hole-in-the-wall record stores? What about real indie retailers?

According to Billboard, though, “Analysis shows that Amazon is the largest seller of vinyl in the U.S., with about 12.3 percent market share, followed by Urban Outfitters with 8.1 percent market share.”

So it isn’t Urban Outfitters, but Amazon that controls the market for LPs worldwide. But honestly, that’s not a significant improvement.

Local stores like Princeton Record Exchange, Randy Now’s Man Cave and Shore Things have been the backbone of vinyl’s growth for decades. Through the death and revival of records, these stores never abandoned the music.

In an interview with Townsquare Media, Judy Mills, owner and operator of Mills Record Company in Kansas City, M.O., called the decline of small music stores the “Wal-Mart-ification of music.” One reason Urban Outfitters fails as a record distributor is because their vinyls are more expensive (Interpol’s newest album “El Pintor” is $22 at Urban Outfitters. It’s $16 everywhere else). But you lose so much more than a handful of cash. You lose diversity, because labels like XL Recordings and Hardly Art will never have an outlet at a store like Urban Outfitters. You lose service from an overqualified record store employee who will remember your face and suggest new tunes for you next time you venture into the store.

Just like Starbucks is a monopoly over small mom-and-pop coffee chains while many food stores harm local agriculture by not selling local produce, Urban Outfitters’ fixation with creating a mainstream sale of vinyl is bad for the vinyl market. And in the same way that food from a farmer’s market is better for your wallet and better quality, records from genuine retailers are cheaper and of higher value than the collection you’ll find at Urban Outfitters.

Even if you’re okay with the work of independent designers being blatantly plagiarized and the company’s CEO having a not-so-secret, right-wing agenda, you shouldn’t be okay with Urban Outfitters monopolizing the indie music industry.

While the installation of Wi-Fi will add convenience for freshmen, extending the sidewalk is a safer option. (tcnj.edu)

College should prioritize closing loop, Safety more important than Towers Wi-Fi

By Peter Fiorilla
News Editor

Recently, the College discussed the possible options of either installing Wi-Fi in the freshman Towers or closing the loop on campus. This would hypothetically amount to adding sidewalks for the safety of outdoor runners, a move that would serve the needs of fewer people — nobody was exactly clamoring for more sidewalks on campus, whereas the lack of Wi-Fi is a running gag — but nonetheless, it’s a commitment I feel would ultimately serve the campus community better.

While the installation of Wi-Fi will add convenience for freshmen, extending the sidewalk is a safer option. (tcnj.edu)
While the installation of Wi-Fi will add convenience for freshmen, extending the sidewalk is a safer option. (tcnj.edu)

The arguments in favor of Wi-Fi are as obvious as they are numerous. An institution charging nearly $30,000 a year for room and board should reasonably be expected to supply accessible internet in the year 2014, even if it’s of shaky quality and requires Safe-Connect.

Wi-Fi makes completing and submitting homework assignments, e-socializing and an infinite number of other tasks more convenient and streamlined. Middle and high schools across the state have no problem supplying it — I never had any problems with the internet at Watchung Hills Regional High School more than five years ago — while College freshmen are still plugging in ethernet cords like it’s 1983.

What this ultimately amounts to is a huge inconvenience, and one that should be a priority for the administration to remedy. But it’s just that: an inconvenience. Students can live without Wi-Fi in their dorms, and there are hotspots as close as the Travers/Wolfe lounge if they absolutely need Wi-Fi for anything.

Running the loop, on the other hand, has the potential to amount to something more serious. As is, running the loop requires various acrobatic skills to evade oncoming cars and an unhealthy tolerance for danger to go running every day. The loop generally isn’t very wide, and if you consistently go on the road, there will inevitably be near-misses. The transition in the loop from behind the Education Building to Centennial Hall, for example, can be genuinely scary.

As noted in a Sept. 17 article in The Signal, “Wi-Fi in the Towers voted down,” there have been no running-related incidents reported by Campus Police since 2011, and that’s a great sign. But that’s not a predictive measurement — it doesn’t mean anything won’t happen in the future — and after years of running the loop on a regular basis, I think the current setup enhances the possibility of a critical incident occurring. Keeping runners as far removed from that kind of danger should be important to the administration, even more so than supplying freshman with what is ultimately a luxury convenience.

Don’t let your major define your experience

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

With the first month of this semester behind us, now is the time when most students have finally gotten into the swing of their courses and are looking to add clubs, sports or other organizations to their schedules.

Many students join clubs related to their majors instead of branching out. (Michael Cort / Photo Assistant)
Many students join clubs related to their majors instead of branching out. (Michael Cort / Photo Assistant)

As a journalism major and a communication studies minor, it might seem predictable that I settled on The Signal when I was on a quest for my niche at the College. I have gained valuable skills here that I can apply to a future career in reporting, editing and writing in general.

But that does not mean that working with The Signal is only cut out for journalism majors, and it certainly does not mean that other clubs on campus do not have qualities from which I can benefit.

This may sound trite, but learning doesn’t only happen behind the closed doors of a classroom. There is something to be gained from every experience. The College stresses this to its students by requiring volunteer hours freshman year and encouraging them to join organizations like Greek life, sports and clubs.

When students look to branch out, though, many opt for selecting a place where they can employ or refine the skills they already learn in their majors.

The College also recognizes the importance of having a well-rounded education and taking classes outside of one’s major, which is why students have liberal learning requirements. Students should apply the same concept when choosing extracurriculars.

It will be well worth your while to push the limits of your comfort zone and try something new and foreign to you.

Join the American Marketing Association and discover a love you never knew you had for advertising. Improve your networking skills. Learn about the business world, because you never know where you’ll end up after graduation.

Check out the Art Students Association. Maybe you’ll fall in love with painting and declare a minor in Art History.

Follow the on-campus radio station’s motto “Open your mind!” and get involved with 91.3 FM WTSR.

Pushing past the tunnel-vision that many people have for their major can lead to discovering new hobbies, declaring new minors or even switching over to a new major.

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder in late 2013 suggested that a higher-than-expected number of individuals have careers unrelated to what they prepared for in college, so learning skills outside your major can only help you in the long run.

CBS reporter Lynn O’Shaughnessy wrote in an article about the survey, “Among the 2,134 workers surveyed, 47 percent of college graduates did not find a first job that was related to their college major. What’s more, 32 percent of college grads said that they had never worked in a field related to their majors.”

I still haven’t gotten to the best part of branching out — the new friends you’ll make.

In my first semester at the College, I limited myself to socializing with my floormates and a tiny group of other journalism majors that I had met in my intro course. Not surprisingly, my routine was more or less the same every week.

By my second semester, I had dramatically expanded my circle. I made friends in Student Government after covering the meetings. I met tons of awesome musicians that performed at the Rathskeller Student Band Nights. I made an effort to get closer to other students in my liberal learning classes.

Not only do I feel more comfortable on campus with a wider array of friends, but I learn new things all the time from each one of them.

It’s wonderful to find friends that have the same interests as you, but it’s just as important to surround yourself with individuals who have diverse mindsets. People with majors that are different than yours may also have different hobbies, passions and opinions that would benefit both of you if shared.

Whether it’s picking your clubs or your friends, don’t let your major define your experience.

Urban Outfitters sinks to a new low

By Jessica Ganga
Social Media Editor

eat less
Photos courtesy of Urban Outfitters.

Where is the line drawn in fashion between making a statement and tastelessness? Once again, Urban Outfitters decides to push the limits with what they deem “hipster and stylish” clothing.
depression kent state

 Last week, the clothing company began selling a Kent State sweatshirt for $129 as part of a new line of vintage college apparel.

“Get it or regret it!” read the description for the sweatshirt on the company’s website. If someone scrolling online through this section of Urban Outfitters saw the sweatshirt, they would think it was just some faded, dyed piece of clothing. Look closer. After seeing the sweatshirt, people began to notice that the red splotches and holes on the sweatshirt look a little like bloodstains and bullet holes. So what’s the problem? Think back to the ’70s.

On May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine others were wounded at the Kent State University campus while protesting the Vietnam War. The students were shot by the Ohio National Guard unit that was sent to the university after protests broke out.

People took to Twitter and other forms of social media to express their outrage at what Urban Outfitters was selling. With comments like “bad taste” and people insisting the store should be boycotted, it was quite obvious that the sweatshirt was not getting the reception that the store thought it would.

Which brings up the question: Why? Why would Urban Outfitters decide to sell something that blatantly references a devastating massacre? There is nothing “fashionable” about this sweatshirt. It’s just insensitive. Period.

Urban Outfitters did issue an apology (well, what the company considered to be one). Part of the statement claimed that, “it was never (Urban Outfitters’) intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State” and that they “deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.” Basically, they are sorry that people assumed they were referring to the Kent State shootings, but they are not sorry they created this product. They go on in the “apology” to explain that the holes are due to fraying over time and the red stains are simply due to discoloration.

Kent State’s school colors are not even red, though. The university has always represented itself with gold and navy blue, so where is the explanation for the sweatshirt being the wrong color?

Perhaps an even stronger piece of evidence that points to Urban Outfitters purposely producing a shirt in connection to the massacres is the location of the holes and “discolorations” on the sweatshirt.

Ironically, a student named William Knox Schroeder was attending Kent State on an ROTC scholarship when he was caught in the barrage of bullets on the day of the massacre. However, Schroeder wasn’t even in the protest — he was simply walking to class. Schroeder was murdered by the Ohio National Guard by a bullet entering his left shoulder and exiting his chest — the same location as the apparent blood spatter and bullet holes in the sweatshirt.

It is clear that the company is trying to save face by fabricating excuses and refusing to apologize to the many people that were offended by the shirt.

What’s even more upsetting is that this isn’t Urban Outfitters’s first time selling morally-questionable clothing. In 2010, the store pulled a controversial V-neck T-shirt off its website with the phrase “Eat Less” scrawled on the front, modeled by a rail-thin girl. People were outraged that the store would promote eating disorders, a serious disease from which many suffer. Another controversial piece of clothing was a crop-top with the word “depression” written along the top. Once again, people could not understand why the store would commercialize a mental health issue.

There have been many other controversies surrounding this store, which begs the question: When does it stop? There is pushing the limits and then there is going too far. Why continue, especially since the store does have many items of clothing that don’t offend anyone? There are many ways to market clothing, but commercializing tragic, historical events is definitely not one of them.