Category Archives: Opinions

Meal equiv amount is raised to $7.25

By Kelly Corbett
Staff Writer

It’s that time of day again. Students dash to the Lib Café, almost trample each other in the Lion’s Den or jet to the Rathskeller on a mission: to satisfy their growling tummies, in the name of free food of course. It is none other than the magical hours between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., known as Meal Equiv, when students can take a break from Eick food and venture off to the other on-campus dining facilities for lunch. Whether it’s an iced caramel macchiato from the Lib Café or a personal pizza from the Lion’s Den that hits the spot, students receive the first $7.25 of their meals for free, a whole extra quarter than last year.

Although meal equivilancy is increased to $7.25, prices rise in the Lion’s Den. (Courtney Wirths / Features Editor)
Although meal equivilancy is increased to $7.25, prices rise in the Lion’s Den. (Courtney Wirths / Features Editor)

However, due to this increase from $7 to $7.25 during Meal Equiv, several other prices on campus went up. Suddenly that pudding or fresh fruit cup, along with a variety of caffeinated concoctions the Lib Café has to offer, seem just a little bit pricier. In reality, it’s only an extra couple dimes and nickels that are getting squeezed out of your Carte Blanche points, but you don’t need to be a math major to know that after a while it starts to add up.

As you brace your Pure Leaf iced tea and basket of chicken fingers in the frenzied Lion’s Den line during Meal Equiv, you start adding up your meal prices in your head. “How much will I go over Meal Equiv? Do I have enough points?”

Even with the $0.25 increase, it ultimately does not compensate for the other skyrocketing food prices on campus. Perhaps you want to treat yourself to a Strawberry Banana Naked drink but not during the hours of Meal Equiv.  Or as tragic as it seems, what if a particular class schedule does not leave a student with time to experience the hustle and bustle of Meal Equiv? Swipe, swipe, swipe go our student IDs, and bye, bye, bye go our points. With very few stores, supermarkets or restaurants within walking distance of campus, a majority of students’ only options for food are the on-campus facilities. Is it fair to us that the foods be overpriced? Whether students start out with 400 or 150 Carte Blanche points, the points still have to last them the entirety of the semester, and with $5 for a fresh fruit cup or $5.89 for a pint of ice cream, our points are being depleted. Think of how much less these foods cost at the supermarket. As the semester ends, students go on the prowl for points — their accounts drained for some by irresponsible spending, and for many, the overpriced food here.

Bottom line, thank you Meal Equiv Gods for the $0.25 increase, and continue to raise it if you please. But as for the rest of the food on campus, it would be greatly appreciated if the prices would stop rising and even possibly be lowered. Our hungry tummies and Carte Blanche points will thank you.

Christian preachers visit the College to sermonize about sin, evolution, abortion and other controversial issues. (File photo)

Preachers come to campus for Sin Awareness

By Joseph Worthington

As anyone who ventured past the Brower Student Center on Friday is now painfully aware of, Friday, Sept. 12 was Sin Awareness Day.

Although it is not a widely celebrated holiday, those who choose to partake often do so very loudly. The festivities this year included various men preaching, yelling and aggravating students on their way to meal equiv or to class, all while holding various signs spouting ideals such as “Evolution is a lie,” “Be sure your sin will find you out” and, of course, “Atheism is a temporary condition.”

Not that these guys are a problem —the fact that they have the right to do this is a large part of what makes this country so great. What needs to be addressed, however, is the exercise in frivolity that was taking place before the often large and continually rotating crowd.

You know how it’s often said that sometimes things are so horrible you can’t look away? It’s the train wreck effect, if you will. An argument broke out between a few vocal students and the demonstrators about their positions on various faith, science and belief-based differences. What transpired were the most useless arguments that could be observed, the unyielding yelling at the unshakable, a circular screaming match that unfolded over the course of at least four solid hours.

It brings up one simple question: Why? Waving signs and yelling about hell isn’t going to convince anyone who doesn’t already believe, and shouting out retorts about the problems with God isn’t going to convert any believers. Zealotry is a major turn-off from a gateway standpoint, as anyone on the fence is likely to be disturbed by a public display of unashamed passion. If you’re not ready to hop on the soapbox yourself, seeing others waving around graphic pictures of aborted fetuses and literally thumping Bibles isn’t going to be a very good inspiration to get you in the game.

This is not to say that the mob members actively taking part around them were more correct in their actions. Yelling louder doesn’t make your point any more valuable than those you disagree with, and yelling about perceived contradictions and inaccuracies doesn’t change the minds of those who are dedicated enough to give up their Friday to come to the College, invest their money in an impressively elaborate sign collection and stand up zealously in front of the masses.

At one point, a member of the crowd actually ran up and stole a sign from one of the demonstrators and started waving it around, yelling about an erroneous deity that exists only to bash on the beliefs of others. What’s the point of shouting at those who refuse to hear you, except to further satiate, in your own mind, the belief that you’re right?

If you’re looking for self-validation, join a group of like-minded people and have futile “discourse” with them and leave everyone else be. For all the good it did, one might have well just tried to convince the brick wall that the demonstrators were standing on. As if further proof that the ordeal garnered absolutely nothing productive on either side, a memorable revelation overheard while walking away form the shouting match: “There’s a Sin Appreciation day? Weird.”

Christian preachers visit the College to sermonize about sin, evolution, abortion and other controversial issues. (File photo)
Christian preachers visit the College to sermonize about sin, evolution, abortion and other controversial issues. (File photo)

Israel’s hidden war of misinformation

This article was written in response to Zach Khan’s piece, “Summer recap of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” published on Aug. 26, 2014.

By Vincent Aldazabal
Staff Writer

In reading the piece in last week’s issue of The Signal by Zach Kahn titled “Summer Recap of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the main thing that stood out to the eye was the writer’s gross misrepresentation of the stated facts in order to satisfy the familiar discourse of Zionist rhetoric of Israel’s “right to return” and “defense” initiatives waged against the “terrorism of Hamas.”

Palestinian homes are devastated by Israel’s superior air strikes. (AP Photo)
Palestinian homes are devastated by Israel’s superior air strikes. (AP Photo)

This misinformation campaign as propelled by the writer of this piece is startling in its abject contempt for the nature of the truth of Israel’s latest expansion of crimes against Palestinian civilian populations — both within the Israeli state and directed against the Gaza Strip and along the West Bank. The writer wrote the following:

“On July 30, CNN reported that roughly 5,000 rockets had been fired between Israel and Hamas during the past few months. And unless something changes soon, that number will continue to increase.”

The above statement is a misrepresentation of the facts in the sense that the arsenal of Hamas is incredibly minute compared to that of Israel’s military. Hamas is mostly funded by local Palestinian collectives of small minority groups of militant forces. Israel has had the full diplomatic support, financing and arms supplementation of Washington for quite some time, a fact that a basic read of the historical literature overwhelmingly points to. (Norman Finklestein’s Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is one of the most comprehensive.) The significance of this is that Israel’s “Defense Forces” (a misnomer indeed) have an institutional level of military industrial power fully supported by the world’s global hegemon. Hamas’s violence, while clearly immoral, does not have the overwhelming backing of any global hegemon. This realization serves as a bridge to further critique the next fallacious claim of the story’s writer:

Throughout the summer, there has been a steep death toll. Sixty-four Israelis and roughly 2,000 Palestinians have been confirmed dead as of Aug. 21, according to CNN. While these numbers may seem lopsided, there is more to this story than what meets the eye.

Kahn’s numbers for the Palestinian death toll lacks precision in number and status of persons murdered. According to the latest U.N. Report, confirmed by The Washington Post, The Guardian and The New York Times, here is the correct report: 65 I.D.F. soldiers, four Israeli civilians. Meanwhile the total number of Palestinian dead is 2,104, of which 1,462 are civilians, 465 children civilians.

The only point Kahn and I will agree upon is that indeed, “there is more to this story than meets the eye.” As it relates to the bigger picture, a clear pattern of Israeli killing of Palestinian civilian life extends into the late 1960s. From this is the narrowly represented surface history of Israel’s “defense initiatives,” which have been executed with a severe amount of aggression that is now becoming readily apparent.

What is more to this story is the deliberate misappropriation of food, water and medical care that Israel has controlled and restricted access to for years.  Israel’s latest operation of enormous destruction of Palestinian population and property with the misnomer of “Protective Edge” has crippled any Palestinian source of commerce, dietary needs and other basic standards for human living. According to the same U.N. report, 109,000 Palestinians have lost their homes, while only 10 percent of Palestinians “receive water once a day, 6-8 hours a day.”

“According to a CNN report, Hamas has fired roughly 3,500 rockets into Israel as opposed to the 1,300 air strikes from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). With the fate of the country at stake, Israel was forced to make a move. On July 8, Israel initiated Operation Protective Edge. The goal of the operation was to deter rocket attacks from Gaza and the West Bank.”

This portion hardly needs any thorough critiques as it seriously ignores the difference between “rockets” and “air strikes.”  The rockets fired by Hamas are by individual persons, mainly mounted on shoulder, again by a small segment of Palestinian “militants.” Israeli airstrikes are crippling forms of military superiority, built and financed by American power.

The last portion of this piece worth citing is the following:

“Hamas needs to be removed from power — they are known as a terrorist organization internationally that is intent on destroying Israel,” junior psychology major Michael Levi said.

This surely can’t be taken as credible journalistic consultation. While no offense is intended to be brought against Kahn and Levi, whose credibility shall we rely upon, theirs or that of major media outlets?

Commuters should make an effort to respect and connect with their neighbors. (Michael Cort / Photo Assistant)

Improving relations with Ewing residents

By Nicole Stout

I remember entering college in 2011 and being told I was going to miss out on a lot. Everyone was excited to be in a new place filled with opportunity and new things to explore. It just wasn’t the same for me. Ewing was not new for me — it has always been my home.

Today, I am one of a large amount of commuters. Commuting has grown to be extremely common at the College since I started. Over half of the student population seems to be made up of commuters and, yes, that includes the people who live just across the street from the College since they don’t live in a dorm. While commuting works for many students and families, some don’t appreciate the growing number of college students living off-campus in their neighborhoods.

As a Ewing resident who is still pretty close to the community, I hear the complaints of those I grew up with who are now surrounded by students from the College. They are aggravated by trash on the lawns and houses not being taken care of by tenants to the point that they must be knocked down. Although that behavior is unacceptable, some of the claims are exaggerated, and the attitudes of some Ewing residents make it worse. Many of those who live next door to college housing have such predisposed negative opinions about students based on previous neighbors or rumors that they don’t give them a chance. I’ve heard of neighbors calling the police if more cars are at a house than normal just to kill a party before it happens (even if a party wasn’t even happening).

A few have repeatedly called the homeowner to get him to kick out residents. There has been a growing want to keep houses in Ewing as “family homes.” Regarding some houses for sale, the lister has been told not to sell to anyone who wants to rent the house out. If this trend ever catches on, it will be tough for commuters to find a place to stay.

Not every Ewing resident is against having college students for neighbors, though, just as not all college students are disrespectful to their neighbors. I know students from the College who, after snowstorms, have shoveled and made spaces for elderly neighbors’ cars, have gotten together with neighbors over some wine and treats and have helped out their neighbors constantly while going through school. In suburban pockets like these, Ewing residents and college students seem to be much happier. I’ve even been told that the neighbors, children and grandchildren of these neighbors will miss them after they graduate.

So what could we, the students at the College, do about making all our interactions with the Ewing community positive ones? Things won’t get better overnight, but every small step puts students from the College in a better light to Ewing residents. Introduce yourself and offer to help if you have any skills that might be needed. As a Ewing resident myself, we just want to see college students treat this town as if it was your home, because for now, it is. We don’t want such a disconnect from those renting houses.

Commuters should make an effort to respect and connect with their neighbors. (Michael Cort / Photo Assistant)
Commuters should make an effort to respect and connect with their neighbors. (Michael Cort / Photo Assistant)

So please, go out, meet your neighbors. Bake cookies for them or take a bottle of wine or a meal over just to spark that connection. If we all did that, we’d be a few steps closer to fixing relations with the residents of Ewing.

Issues inherent to Ice Bucket Challenge

By Jonathan Steinklein
Class of 2014

APTOPIX Shaw ALS FootballRecently, my mother was challenged by her friend to complete the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge in support of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research.

If you have not heard about it already, nominees are challenged to record themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS or donate to the ALS foundation.

Then, the individual is supposed to nominate three other people to do the challenge and the awareness spreads. The numbness and shortness of breath caused by the ice water is supposed to show people without ALS how it feels to have the disease for just a moment.

The challenge has gotten lots of high profile support from celebrities and politicians — like Chris Pratt, Charlie Sheen and Chris Christie — and has raised over $94 million for the ALS foundation.

My mother, however, decided against doing the challenge or donating money. She gives to so many other organizations that are important to her that she does not feel she has to give money to the ALS foundation as well. Honestly, I feel somewhat similarly. I was also nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge by a friend and declined to do it or give money.

Here’s why: Every once in a while, a social issue will gain momentum, become extremely popular for a little while, then interest will die down and another issue will come to the forefront. It is a familiar cycle — looking back, the same thing happened with issues such as Kony, abortion rights, marriage equality and breast cancer awareness. The meme culture fostered by the Internet has seemingly spilled into charity and activism. In the same way that the majority of people became really excited and then forgot about Gangnam Style and Scumbag Steve, those same people get excited and then forget about different causes.

With that, I have no real qualms with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you choose to donate your money and time to supporting ALS, good for you. People express their love for their fellow human in many ways. I think how people decide to care so much about certain causes shows that many people are altruistic despite living in a world that promotes narcissism at every corner.

However, I do not think it is right for individuals to shame other people into giving any money  causes. I think that is what a good amount of this Ice Bucket Challenge is, and that is regretful. It is horribly classist to assume people even have money to give in the first place. And let’s be honest — the dumping of ice water over one’s head is unnecessary now. The awareness is already at it’s peak. Instead, it seems like many people simply complete the challenge to show to their friends on social media that they are participating in a good cause.

There are people out there who are fully dedicated to a select few causes all the time. But in this kind of culture, caring about one or a few things all the time is a kind of long-term gamble. If you wait long enough, the collective online consciousness will hopefully choose your cause to rain down money and support long enough for it to gain some progress.

But for every dollar you have, there is another charitable hand asking for donations for its cause. Should you be shamed for not supporting organizations X, Y or Z even though you supported ALS or donated to another group? I think not.

Do not shame others for their choice in activism. Whatever organizations they choose to donate to or not, it is nobody’s business but their own.

signal loans resized

Student loans neglect basic student needs

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

While we often hear about students putting themselves through school, it’s a feat that is easier said than done.

Stephanie, a representative from education funding provider Sallie Mae who did not wish to have her full name disclosed, answered some questions I had about the likelihood of a student to be approved for a loan, sans a cosigner.

“While it is a case-by-case basis,” she emphasized, “in my experience, most students applying for a loan will need a cosigner in order to get that loan approved.”

Stephanie went on to explain that because most students haven’t established a good credit score, Sallie Mae has nothing to base the approval on if the student submits a solo application. That’s why a cosigner is so important.

But what if you don’t have a cosigner?

“Well … try to get one,” Stephanie suggested, as if it’s a piece of cake.

Applying for student loans by yourself isn’t as easy as you’d think. (AP Photo)
Applying for student loans by yourself isn’t as easy as you’d think. (AP Photo)

With one parent still financially recovering from a bankruptcy, the other deep in credit card debt and one pair of grandparents taking out loans themselves to move across the country,  they weren’t solid candidates to cosign for my loans.

It was a stressful summer trying to figure it out, but luckily, my other grandparents received credit approval and I was able to take out loans in my own name to attend the College for two more semesters.

Unfortunately, I can’t celebrate just yet.

The College is unable to release the check that contains the overage from my loan until October, which means I am unable to purchase my books for class for another five weeks or so.

This whole ordeal got me thinking, though. What about the students who literally have nobody to cosign for them?

A student can slog through classwork in high school and get accepted into the university of their dreams, but if their parents make just too much money to get a substantial amount of financial aid and the family doesn’t have a savings account, the student needs to take out loans.

That same student can be willing to take out tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans in their own name, knowing the debt to come after graduation. And this still might not be enough to get into school if nobody in the family has a good credit score. 

I understand the practicality of a cosigner — it ensures that if the student is unable to pay loans back, someone is on the hook for all that money. But the bottom line is it shouldn’t be so difficult for students to put themselves through school.

As if getting loans in the first place isn’t tricky enough, interest rates on many kinds of student loans have skyrocketed to almost nine percent, according to America’s Debt Help Organization.

That means for every $1,000 you borrow, you have to pay it back, plus $90 extra.

For College students using loans to pay for their tuition fees, room and board, meal plan and books (approximately $28,000 a year), it costs them $2,520 in interest alone.

If you can make scheduled monthly payments while you are enrolled in school, though, Sallie Mae reduces the interest rate by a quarter of a percent. How generous.

Big corporations should not use intelligent students as a moneymaking tool. It’s high time for major changes to come to the student loan system.

Drone strikes: a culture of unaccountability

By Vincent Aldazabal
Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ray Rice suspension raises eyebrows

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

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several members of the United States Senate agree.

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

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

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

Campus alert system under harsh criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan schools nix Affirmative Action

By Matthew DeFeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity — now there is a fuzzy concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let the little things make, not break, college life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


United Kingdom says porn is for adults only

By Sydney Shaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letterman passes the late-night chair to Colbert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s reproductive rights are human rights

By Stephanie Cervino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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