Category Archives: Opinions

New rules for Meal Equiv stir up controversy

By Kelly Corbett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Elastic Heart’ raises concerns for youth

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

By Alyssa Sanford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s resolutions prove too difficult to keep

By Ellie Schuckman
Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

Then hits February.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow” has turned into “one day.”

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

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

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

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

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

By Alyssa Sanford
Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alyssa Sanford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finals after Thanksgiving are an unhealthy tease

By Ellie Schuckman                                                                                                      News Assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?