Goodrich C. White Hall | Photo by Jason Oh
I recently read a Los Angeles Times staff editorial online called “Warning: College Students, this editorial may upset you,” a title both appropriate and exceptionally misleading. I admit that I initially only clicked on the link because it sounded provocative and captured my attention instantly. The article turned out to be nothing like I expected.
The topic of the article was “trigger warnings” and how they are being implemented in the academic setting of two colleges in particular. It went on to explain that trigger warnings, or a warning given by a professor or writer about the potentially graphic or psychologically upsetting material that is to be discussed, are now required at Oberlin College in Ohio and are strongly encouraged by student resolution at the University of California, Santa Barbara. These guidelines, in the case of UC Santa Barbara, call for professors to write on the syllabus which days may contain subjects that may trigger feelings of discomfort or distress. It calls for students to be excused from class those days without academic penalty. While the LA Times mentions that student resolutions are guidelines and do not have to be followed exactly, the situation at Oberlin College in Ohio is slightly different. At this institution, as quoted in the LA Times editorial, professors are told “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic.”
At Oberlin, the LA Times writes, professors are encouraged and “advised to remove ‘triggering material’ from their courses entirely if it is not directly related to the course’s learning goals.” The issue of trigger warnings is a complicated one. In theory, and often practice, trigger warnings are a brilliant idea. It is of exceptional importance to take into account other people’s experiences and core identity traits that may influence their feelings and to attempt, as a society, to prevent further trauma from affecting the victims of violence or other hate induced actions.
In no way do I wish any harm, physical or mental, to come to anyone based upon a trait, experience, or characteristic they are unable to control. However, the issues presented in the LA Times article are ones that are of increasing importance on college campuses today and need to be discussed. The editorial claims that asking Oberlin professors to remove potentially triggering material from their course whenever it is not directly related to the course’s learning objectives. This seems, to me, to be a little unnecessary, but not for the reason of censorship that the LA Times is pushing. One example of such censorship is the listing of Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart by Oberlin College as a potentially triggering book “because of its themes of colonialism, racism, religious prejudice and more.” The point of the LA Times editorial is that according to psychologists, almost anything can be triggering, not just a discussion of similar events to the traumatic one.
The editorial states that “colleges cannot bubble-wrap students against everything that might be frightening or offensive to them” and uses this to speak to the point against Oberlin’s move to eliminate unnecessary potentially triggering material from its curriculum. While I do see where the LA Times is coming from on the point about literature and seemingly ordinary moments acting as triggers, I think it was unnecessary of Oberlin College to ask professors to remove this material because, in actuality, the material would probably not be included by the professor if it wasn’t necessary. I do not think professors at Oberlin, or any institution, include material that would require a trigger warning for any reason other than academic necessity. It seems like a stretch to me to think that professors are discussing sexual assault and violence in classes just for fun and for no academic benefit. Because of this, asking professors to remove this material if it is unnecessary is, in itself, unnecessary.
Another good point brought up about the situation in UC Santa Barbara is the question of making up work. If a student chooses to miss a trigger-warned class, how is s/he to make up that assignment or answer test questions? To allow for the assignment to be missed would be unfair to the other students, unless the professor compensated for this in some way. As for test questions, this is a trickier situation. It is again unfair to avoid the material as, if it is included in the course, it is probably of some academic importance. I support the idea that trigger warnings be introduced into the classroom as a way to make all feel welcome, I just have some questions about how it is being introduced into the university system.
The LA Times article advocates an individualized approach with students openly discussing their diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder with their professor and obtaining permission to miss class due to the trigger warned material. This doesn’t seem like the best option, as it might create a situation in which the privacy or safety of the student is violated. This is new territory and while there may be a limited number of ideas currently on how to handle this situation, I am sure as it becomes more common, an appropriate solution will be found.
The sad truth is that many subjects are based on the very trigger warning-required topics that Oberlin wants professors to eliminate. As stated above, these included classism, cissexism and racism. While Oberlin does stipulate that it can be included if it is academically necessary to the course goals, even this line is ambiguous. For example, imagine a history class. In that class material there will be racism, classism, sexism and many other forms of oppression and privilege based on gender and other life situations. To avoid a discussion of these topics would be to avoid history, which would be a detriment both to individuals and society as whole. If we avoid all discussion of topics because an individual may be harmed by their discussion, then no topics would be discussed.
This idea of avoidance brings up a difficult line in the definition of trigger warnings. A trigger warning doesn’t necessarily mean the topic is avoided, just that students are warned. But seeing as there is currently no fair way to allow some students to discuss the topic while not unfairly punishing or helping the students who wished to avoid the subject, it seems as though the only option is total avoidance in the name of fairness. It is when issues of racism, classism, sexism and any other instances of privilege and bias are not discussed, that they continue and become even worse. Many college students push for awareness, and there is no better place to become aware than in a classroom. I want people who may be harmed to be protected from harm, but we cannot afford to stop discussing these issues in college classes.
The discussion of issues is a better way to facilitate change. I do agree that students who feel uncomfortable or offended by some of these topics should be allowed to leave through their own personal choice, though how this will be handled is still a work in progress. That being said, discomfort and harm come in many forms and from many triggers. All feelings should be handled and acknowledged equally. I am advocating that no one be put in a situation that they may find to be physically or mentally harmful. My hope is that universities, in conjunction with faculty and students, can identify an appropriate and fair way to prevent harm from coming to students while also addressing the issues and subjects that need to be addressed in order for positive social change to be engineered.
— By Alli Buettner, a College sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri.
Woodruff PE Center | Photo by Jason Oh
This is how you find school spirit at Emory, the college with no football team: first go on a school tour and listen to your tour guide claim, “Emory may not have a football team, but we, um, have school spirit,” and the sentence trails off as she stumbles onto her next topic. Walk around and see the pretty buildings and the DUC. Go inside and see how privileged these students are. Food everywhere. Study spaces everywhere. Shuttles to a satellite campus that’s a 15-minute walk away.
You’ll notice the quiet. This campus is silent. On Wednesdays, they pump music through Asbury Circle, but so loud that the racket drowns out the people. You see so much beauty here, but you can’t hear the people.
Go to a tennis match. Go to a basketball game. Go watch the club volleyball team, and see parents cheer and students mill around, but all the students compete. Present because they’re needed on the playing field.
The other students you see work out on ellipticals, run on treadmills and pedal on recumbent bikes with their backs to the match because the gym equipment forces them either to bring their own entertainment or to stare at the backs of a few idle frat houses. A student may tell you to check out the frat scene. People get loud there. You’ll find Emory spirit there. Give this advice a chance.
And are the frats loud! You can’t hear your friends talk, so you nod. Dance. Drink enough that when random people approach you it feels not only normal, but as if this is how life should always be; attention comes to you with ease.
Embrace the night. Scream! Share your Emory pride. You’re partying because the football team won a big game today. Oh, wait, no. Because the basketball team … no, they’re not in season.
Maybe the tennis team won. You assume the tennis team won, so you drink to that, dance to that and nod at your friends’ moving mouths to that.
Not that you need anything more than good friends to have a good time, but here Emory stands, a swarm of Eagles screaming in the night. But why do we perch our passion in the light?
Comb your hair. Dress yourself in something nice. Pack your bag, but not too full, because you need to look debonair. Emory is a preprofessional hotbed. At this school, you don’t flaunt anything akin to reckless SEC football pride. Your existence is concerned with grades, internships and how to handle all that stress. So you eat too much adequate food at the DUC and head to the quad, where you can moan away your stomachache in peace. There’s a girl under a tree reading a book and a guy sprawled out on the grass poking around on his tablet, but otherwise people walk past the campus’s maybe 100-yard field of grass, and they hardly make a sound.
Now go. You had to park at CVS because you didn’t want to pay to park on campus. How much money? Too much money. CVS tows, so you don’t have much time. As you hustle to your car, you wonder how many millions sit in the Emory endowment. Billions? Of course you have to pay to park. A school with this much money knows how to make money. Emory does not walk to the beat of E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles! Emory hustles to the rhythm of cha-ching, cha-ching.
But trust that Emory has its moments. We volunteer throughout Atlanta. We work on campus and around the community. We host events, support good causes and combat hate when it comes our way. But those callings divide us — in the name of goodwill, yes, but divided still. We flock to Decatur, Midtown and the Clairmont campus to fight our good fight.
We disperse to bring the Emory spirit to the greater community. So we have spirit, yes we do, but we spread ourselves so thin that we can’t be heard like the dense, deafening roar of a college football stadium at 12 o’clock on a Saturday. That’s okay, because our spirit touches more places than the spirits of most schools.
A gust of fresh air and a warm sun urge you to sit by Asbury Circle, and you realize what the lack of sports culture does to this school. Everyone wears a different outfit, as opposed to some fervid assortment of blue and gold, so you can’t shout, “Go Eagles!” and get a heartfelt holler back. No, Emory is not that school.
Emory is where you sit, watch people pass by, and then a girl you know approaches. She’s with a friend. You’re on the phone, and you stare at your friend, thinking you’ll say hi — you used to know her better, but still well enough to say hi — and as your friend passes she stares at the ground. Her friend notices you and maybe wonders why you’re staring at her friend.
You wonder if your friend will look up and say something, and you realize that you keep your mouth shut too.
— By Alex Rosenfeld, a College senior from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Cannon Chapel Building | Photo by Jason Oh
Last November, I broke my leg. It was your average accident: something that could have been avoided and should have been avoided, but wasn’t. I broke both my tibia and fibula and was confined to walking with a walker for the next six weeks.
As you can imagine, this was an extremely frustrating situation. Adding to the fact that I couldn’t stand in the shower, carry my meals from one room to the other or transport myself independently was the fact that on a college campus, classes and engagements occur all over campus. Students constantly express frustration with having to make it between certain locations on campus in a 10- or 15-minute time span as is; having to do so with less than my previous capacities would surely be impossible.
Fortunately, Emory offers a paratransit service for disabled students. That population includes others like me, with temporary injuries, as well as permanently disabled students. You arrange pick-up times with the Office of Disability Services (ODS), and a shuttle comes to take you between classes, to the DUC, to the library, wherever.
But over the three months that I utilized this service, it ultimately proved to be more troubling than helpful.
First of all, the paratransit offices demonstrated an entire lack of understanding of the tribulations of, in fact, being disabled. The shuttles would wait in their allotted spaces outside the buildings, and if I wasn’t there within about five minutes — for example. if I told them that my class got out at 2:15, and I wasn’t there by 2:20 — they would simply leave. They didn’t seem to understand that literally hopping out of a classroom, down the hall and out to the street can take more than five minutes, and if a professor let the class out even a minute or two late, I wouldn’t be able to catch the shuttle in time.
About a half hour later, I would receive a call from the ODS reprimanding me for not showing up to catch the shuttle. Not a call directly from the shuttle asking if I was on my way, but a call after they had left. When this happened, the only options were to wait another 20 minutes for another shuttle to show up, or just start hopping.
Most frustratingly, the paratransit shuttles were apparently not permitted to go onto Cox Bridge. This means that the closest that the shuttles can take students trying to get to Callaway, Candler or Cox Hall is Asbury Circle, by the Dooley statue.
And if you’re physically able, that might not seem all that far. But when you have a disability, even that simple commute becomes infinitely more difficult. With only one working leg, that walk from Asbury Circle to Callaway took at least 10 to 15 minutes every single time, and that was only if I was basically sprint-hopping. The walk goes over a cobblestone ground (which is already difficult to maneuver with a walker) and down a slight but ever-present incline before making it to Callaway: this is not a commute that a physically disabled student should have to make.
And guess what — that entrance to Callaway that’s closest to Cox Bridge has stairs, and the wheelchair-accessible entrance is on the other side of the building, which takes another five minutes to get to. Once finally entering the building, it was still another few minutes to make my way in the building, down the elevator and down the hall to my classroom.
I mentioned that this is all hopping on one leg, right?
The issue is that all these buildings technically meet the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, which legislates that “A public accommodation shall remove architectural barriers in existing facilities, including communication barriers that are structural in nature, where such removal is readily achievable.” These buildings indeed have wheelchair-accessible entrances — it’s just that those entrances can sometimes be in extremely inconvenient locations, particularly when you only have 15 minutes between classes to deal with navigating two academic buildings.
I realized that the shuttles couldn’t exactly motor through the barriers between Asbury Circle and Cox Bridge, so I suggested to ODS that the shuttle go around the other way (up Fishburne, past the library) and drop me off on Cox Bridge in front of Candler.
They told me no, they couldn’t do that, as the shuttles weren’t allowed to go onto Cox Bridge. Frustrated, I explained that I saw delivery vehicles and pick-up trucks go on Cox Bridge pretty much every day.
They said, “But those aren’t our vehicles.” Apparently, there’s a weight restriction on the bridge.
So let me get this straight: there is a road that leads right up to Candler and Callaway, but the paratransit service, which serves disabled students who have limited mobility, can’t access it? Those students are the ones who basically just have to deal with trekking from a further location, while delivery vehicles, which are at least operated by fully-functional individuals, have no problem getting on that road?
There are so many ways to avoid this problem.
Idea number one: use smaller vehicles. In my time on the paratransit service, I was rarely on the shuttle with another student, so there’s clearly no need for the space of a full-size bus. They could just as easily transport students in a van, a minivan or a regular car — a vehicle that would not exceed the weight restriction.
Idea number two: let students ride in golf carts from Asbury Circle to their classes. When I suggested this, ODS told me they couldn’t because of a liability issue. Okay, so have the students sign a waiver.
I find it incredibly hard to believe that I was the first student in the history of Emory University to suffer an injury while taking a class in Callaway or Candler, and moreover, I find it incredibly hard to believe that in this day and age, there isn’t someway to avoid this.
I believe the problem with the paratransit system stems from, in fact, the relatively low number of Emory students who are physically disabled. Statistics from the Emory website reveal that in 2009, 573 students were registered with ODS — but those disabilities include ADD, ADHD and learning disorders. The number of physically disabled students is far lower.
It’s all too easy to take our physical capacities for granted, but trust me: one accident, and you are forced to interact with your environment in a new way.
— By Arts & Entertainment Editor Emelia Fredlick, a College senior from Homewood, Illinois.
By Shaina Shapera
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
This editorial comes in response to the article “ZBT, SDT Host ‘Safe Smart Dating’ Event” run in The Emory Wheel on Oct. 24, 2014. Statements to the Wheel made by members of the Greek organizations Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) and Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) excluded LGBTQ+ identities and irresponsibly ignored the work of several organizations in ending sexual assault, intimate-partner violence and other forms of gender-based violence.
SDT and ZBT hosted “Safe Smart Dating” on Thursday, Oct. 23, a program created by the SDT national chapter in cooperation with their philanthropy organization Jewish Women International. Through interactive polls and discussion groups, students were taught about sexual assault and dating violence. Such exercises were intended to show the prevalence of sexual assault in the Emory community.
The article claimed that “[t]he program was also LGBT-friendly. The hypothetical scenarios discussed at the event deliberately used characters with gender-neutral names so that they could apply to all types of relationships.”
Gender-neutral names do not automatically make a space LGBTQ+ inclusive. In order to make inclusive spaces, all people participating must feel safe to express their thoughts and experiences without fear of tokenization, attempts to invalidate lived experiences or harassment.
Gender-neutral names do not accomplish the aforementioned goals, nor do they effectively engage LGBTQ+ students in the conversation. These attempts to include LGBTQ+ students were lukewarm at best, as using gender neutral names to represent LGBTQ+ relationships fall within the dominant heteronormative discourse by erasing non-normative LGBTQ+ identities.
The use of gender neutral names advocates for “gender blindness” in discussing LGBTQ+ communities. It promotes the idea that only same-sex relationships that can “pass” for straight ones should be discussed. Gender-neutral names do not account for all LGBTQ+ identities.
No one can determine identity from a name, and advocating otherwise promotes gross stereotypes. True inclusion challenges the current distribution of power, analyzes the basis of privilege and actively works to seek out and affirm people without privilege.
True inclusion takes time, effort and deep questioning and thought. It takes constant self-evaluation and a willingness to reject standard structures of power. Questioning the foundations of power and privilege is difficult work that cannot be accomplished in a single event.
The orientation program Creating Emory provides a good foundation for thought by deconstructing stereotypes and forcing students to confront new perspectives. However, Creating Emory alone cannot eliminate sexist and racist attitudes; it must be followed by actively participating in groups dedicated to inclusion and social justice.
I was particularly disturbed by a statement made by SDT president Lindsay Baker concerning the response to sexual assault. According to Baker, “There’s not a lot of public things going on in response to sexual violence on campus.” She referred to her sorority as “pioneers” in their response to sexual assault.
While there is definitely room for improvement in the handling of sexual assault, Baker’s comments ignore the work of several organizations on campus. Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), The Respect Program, Feminists in Action (FIA), Men Stopping Violence, Sexual Health Advocacy Group (SHAG) and Emory Pride work tirelessly to advocate for survivors, promote survivor- centered policies and educate students about social justice at Emory through events, weekly meetings and trainings.
This article was published three days before SAPA’s and ASAP’s largest demonstration for sexual assault awareness at Emory, Take Back the Night. SAPA has had a continuous presence at Wonderful Wednesday and has trained hundreds of students to advocate for survivors. SAPA, ASAP and The Respect Program are currently working to reach out to the Greek community. All new pledges are required to attend a SAPA 101 session. The RESPECT Program facilitates The Greek Initiative, a group of programs intended to promote sexual health and violence prevention in Greek Life.
These organizations do not seek constant validation, but by ignoring their work, Baker’s comments perpetuate the dangerous myth that survivors have few resources available for support and accommodations. Sexual assault and dating violence already isolate and disempower survivors; telling survivors that resources do not exist makes it even more difficult for them to get help.
Instead of discrediting the work of the previously mentioned organizations, please acknowledge their accomplishments and ongoing work. Ask for input from pre-established organizations. Research how to properly include LGBTQ+ students, people of color and other communities on campus in ways that do not hide identity. We need the support and cooperation of all to support survivors and end violence.
Shaina Shapera is a College sophomore from Glastonbury, Connecticut
By Nathyia Watson
Are we witnessing the death of the album?
If current trends continue, it would seem so. So far, no album released in 2014 has gone platinum. Not a single one. The only album to reach platinum certification this year was the soundtrack to “Frozen,” which was released last year. The two albums closest to platinum this year are Beyonce’s self-titled album Beyonce and Lorde’s Pure Heroine, which were both released last year as well.
Of course, the year isn’t over. Some bestselling artists, such as Taylor Swift, whose album 1989 released yesterday, and Nicki Minaj and the Foo Fighters, who are slated for upcoming releases this quarter, could potentially stop the album from going under. But what if they don’t? This year would be the first year since 1976, the year the platinum certification was introduced, that no album has gone platinum. What could be the reasons why?
The short answer is technology, and this proves true in several ways.
For one, the nature of digital sales changes the way people can buy music. I’m referring specifically to singles. An album is just as much a piece of work as a single is. Albums are meant to be crafted, consumed, listened to and appreciated holistically, as one piece of work. Listeners today have ignored the album as a work of art, and have focused solely on what the songs are on an album.
Now, instead of having to buy an album as a whole and bear with the fact that you may not like every song, consumers can now buy specific songs they like, and ignore the ones they don’t. Artists, in this sense, are not selling cohesively-arranged albums, but bundles of singles.
Next, the internet is a plethora of free music. Free songs are abundant on YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and others. Apps like Pandora not only allow you to listen to endless amounts of music for free, but also specifically tailor songs based on your taste preferences.
Perhaps the greatest influence is online piracy. The research group National Purchase Diary (NPD) reports that in 2009 only 37 percent of music consumers paid for their music; according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), since “Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 53 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.0 billion in 2013.” Sales have dropped by over half in a little over a decade, and less than half of all music is being paid for. The thought process here is: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? With nearly all music available online to consumers at no cost, what incentive is there to buy an album?
The prevalence of free music also changes the way artists behave, and their chances of success. With so much free music accessible to consumers, artists are pressured, essentially forced, to give away more music for free. U2 gave away their last album for free to pretty much everyone. Pharrell streamed his entire solo album, G I R L, for free on iTunes prior to its release. Nascent artists are in turn forced to give away much of their music for free, in order to get some exposure. So, when listeners discover a new artist, they don’t have to pay to listen to them and are able to find the bulk of their content for free. As a consequence of this, the only artists who can be commercially successful are the artists who have already been commercially successful and are able to charge for their music. This flooding effect hampers sales now, and will hamper sales in the long run.
So, is the album dead? Probably. No album going platinum this year can be taken as the casket being lowered. The ubiquity of free music and the convenience of buying songs individually makes it hard for albums to be commercially successful. Some albums have recently been able to buck the trend: the aforementioned “Frozen” soundtrack and Adele’s diamond-status 21. Yet the disparity between those two albums is great, leaving no clues as to how to recreate their success. With artists like Maroon 5, Coldplay and The Black Keys, who have all previously gone platinum, unable to recapture the magic, what will it take from now on to succeed at the platinum level? An answer isn’t clear, nor is it clear there is an answer at all.
Nathyia Watson is a College freshman from Norcross, Georgia.
By Mariana Hernandez/Staff
By Erik Alexander
Say your phone malfunctions while you’re in the middle of sending a text. How do you react? Do you call the phone a bad word? Do you question the aptitude of its designer? The phone is a nonliving object. It is incapable of thought or freedom of action.
But when you blame the phone, or when you blame its designer, you view it as something more than an object, something capable of enmity. Your phone is now some deliberating force, and you are the object of its decisions.
So what exactly is an object? It may seem like a strange question, but we interact with objects at almost every moment of our day.
Perhaps it would be easier to first describe what an object is not. An object is not a concept. An object is not an emotion, nor is it anything else that is intangible. An object is not a living thing because it cannot feel. Therefore, a living thing that does not have the capacity to feel anger or other emotions is, for simplicity’s sake, an object. We humans have emotions. Therefore, whether or not each of us is an object depends on our relationship with definite objects.
When your phone malfunctions, you (a) blame the device itself, (b) blame the designer of the phone or (c) chalk it up to circumstance. If you blame the device, then you imbue the phone with the capacity to antagonize, as we’ve already observed. If you blame the designer, then you are not expressing anger towards a definite object. Rather, your anger is directed towards the object’s designer, who you see as responsible for its malfunctioning. You do not know anything else about this designer.
You define “the designer” only through the shortcomings of this phone, yet you cannot confirm that he deliberately made a faulty product. You objectify the designer by reducing them to the malfunctioning phone you hold in your hand.
When you objectify a fellow human, you make a claim about all of mankind and so you objectify yourself. We are all equally human.
Since for the sake of this argument all nonliving things are objects, to objectify them would be redundant. To objectify something that cannot be an object is a strange ordeal. The best example of such is the objectification of a deity in the form of a temple, idol or painting. To be clear, while deities can be objectified, they are never truly objects.
In blaming the phone’s designer and objectifying them thereby, your objectification of the designer is distanced. The designer is unaffected by your commentary, and the whole thing is a harmless ordeal. Yet the practice of objectifying fellow humans takes other, more menacing forms. Consider men who view women as sex objects, for instance. In treating women as objects, these men make objects of themselves. It should be noted that in objectifying women and becoming objects, men are not bringing these women down with them. Just because they presume them to be objects does not make them so.
The implications of direct objectification are severe. To objectify people is to view them as subhuman. This is how prejudice and the commodification of human life occur. A lack of self-control accounts for this tendency.
Going back to the original problem of casting blame on definite objects as illustrated in option (a) of the previous scenario involving the broken phone, we also see the absence of self-control. When we blame objects for all of our problems, we exhibit a lack of self-control, the same self-control that keeps us from objectifying people.
We have the unusual ability to monitor our behavior. Everybody does it; it is a prerequisite of interacting in any society. We are selective about which of our thoughts will be verbalized to others. We do not touch strangers or eavesdrop on conversations because we respect others’ privacy. We do not assault our neighbors when they rat us out to the Homeowner’s Association for letting the junipers grow too tall. We refrain from cheating on exams because we want to at least look like we value integrity. We use contraceptives because we do not want to be parents. These things might seem natural, but they require learning.
Feeling angry is not a choice, so it is not blameworthy. However, everybody ought to be held accountable for how they express their anger, which is a choice. I am advocating a mitigation of the amount of outward anger that we express as human beings, not only towards objects, but towards others as well.
Maybe when trouble arises we ought to commit to option (c), to reflecting on ourselves, and chalk it up to circumstance and move on with our lives, because the alternative, by and large, gets us nowhere.
Erik Alexander is a College junior from Alpharetta, Georgia.
Zach Elkwood is a member of the Class of 2015. His cartoons appear in every Tuesday issue of the Wheel.
By Nicholas Bradley
Election day is on the way and, as the 2014 midterm season draws to a close, the airwaves have been flooded with political advertising seeking to exert some last-minute influence on voters’ opinions. This should come as no surprise to poll watchers: political advertising has been a tradition in United States politics since television technology first became a viable form of communication in the years following World War II. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first presidential candidate to use TV to reach voters with his “Eisenhower Answers America” ad campaign.
Over the years, the common tactic of political advertising mutated from affirmative endorsement of a candidate to open denouncement of the opposition. During the 1964 presidential election, incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson ran an ad called the “Daisy Girl,” marking an important turning point in the nature of political advertising. The ad’s shocking footage of a little girl counting down to a nuclear explosion made its message very clear: the consequences of voting for Barry Goldwater, Johnson’s opponent, could be disastrous.
However, this election cycle is exceptional not because its advertising has been particularly negative or aggressive, but because so much money has been spent on political ad campaigns. According to a report released by the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP), spending on political ads for 2014 elections will total more than $1 billion. If WMP’s projections hold true, more money will have been
spent on advertising in this election cycle than in the 2012 presidential election, a statistic that is even more striking when one considers that voter turnout for midterm elections is significantly lower than for presidential elections.
So political organizations have spent lots of money on advertising – who cares? You should. Elections in recent years have been increasingly driven by money, which, if left unchecked, could have a deleterious effect on the American political process. Political spending by “super PACs,” or Political Action Committees, and other outside political organizations has been on the rise since 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in its Citizens United decision that limitations on such independent political expenditures are a violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
Although the ruling upheld requirements that certain organizations – most notably super PACs – file regular financial disclosures with the Federal Elections Committee (FEC), this has not had the desired effect of improving the transparency of outside spending.
In fact, according to a recent article in the New York Times, a majority of broadcast advertisements aired in this election cycle were paid for by organizations that do not fully disclose their donors. This “dark money,” donated to ambiguously named organizations like Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity, opens the door for wealthy, politically active individuals and organizations to push their own agendas under the guise of political advertising.
Not only are these ads overwhelmingly negative, which has poisoned the discourse of this election cycle, but they interfere with the voter’s ability to make an informed decision about the race. Outside organizations can run political communications when candidate organizations cannot, enabling them to spread messages that differ from the candidates’ own.
Furthermore, there is no legal requirement that political advertisements be truthful so conservative outside organizations have seized the opportunity to target President Obama and demonize any candidate who might support his policies. Let’s just run that back for a second: there is no legal requirement that political advertisements be truthful.
Neither outside organizations nor candidate campaigns are prohibited from lying in their advertisements. In other words, you shouldn’t believe everything you see on T.V. In fact, as the midterm election draws near, I encourage you, the politically engaged reader, to think critically about the political advertisements you will no doubt be forced to watch ad nauseum. An American’s civic duty is not just to vote, but to make an informed decision. Think about who might be funding the ads, question their motivations and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to draw your own conclusions.
— By Nicholas Bradley, Features Editor and a College senior from Skillman, New Jersey.
By Stephanie Fang
The Emory Wheel’s Oct. 24 staff editorial “Thoughts on College Enrollment Process” reflected on the enrollment process for students in the College of Arts and Sciences — highlighting several problems it has perceived with the system and recommending potential solutions to University administration.
However, one specific criticism that the editorial mentioned seems misguided because it demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the program at hand.
At the moment, the College grants early enrollment appointments to students in the Emory Scholars Program — a privilege that the Wheel editorial finds problematic for two primary reasons. First, the editorial argues that the University should reevaluate allocating this privilege to Scholars — who, they claim, are chosen on the basis of academic merit in high school and therefore should not receive such an advantage in college. Second, the editorial suggests this privilege creates what they call “unfair access to courses” because other College students may be just as “engaged with and interested in” certain classes as Scholars are.
While certainly passionate (among other adjectives), the Wheel’s criticism of early enrollment for Scholars lacks substance due to a poor understanding of what the Scholars Program entails and a lack of evidence that indicates how this privilege might adversely impact enrollment for other College students.
First, the editorial inaccurately portrays the Emory Scholars Program — demonstrating little understanding of what the program entails as well as little effort to obtain that understanding. The editorial claims that because Scholars are chosen “based on high school performance,” their early enrollment times unfairly reward them for past achievements that could no longer be relevant to their current academic lives. A five-second Google search takes me to the Emory Scholars webpage, where there is a description of the program’s parameters — “outstanding rising sophomores and rising juniors may also become Emory Scholars through the Dean’s Achievement Scholarships” (DAS). Students who have performed well while at Emory and who have received the DAS access the same benefits as those who are selected for the Emory Scholars Program during high school.
Additionally, the Emory Scholars Program is unique in offering upperclassmen the opportunity to join; many other institutions limit admission to their merit scholarship programs to incoming freshmen (examples include the University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, Duke University and many other comparable institutions).
Every single College student is eligible to apply to the program and to receive the DAS should they meet the necessary metrics. Though the Wheel editorial claims that certain Scholar perks such as early enrollment creates unequal academic access, there is no inequality of access here other than that which is generated by personal performance and initiative.
Second, the editorial provides no empirical evidence to substantiate its claims that Scholar early enrollment creates “unequal access to courses.” Without any data on the number of Scholars in the College who are actually granted this privilege, the editorial cannot reasonably evaluate any impact resulting from it — especially considering that many College students are often able to enroll for courses that were originally closed to them through add/drop/swap and professor permission to overload.
Furthermore, the editorial fails to address other groups of students who are granted early enrollment appointments or students whose AP credits have given them the academic standing to enroll before their class peers.
Third, the editorial recommends that University administration reevaluate Scholar early enrollment to ensure that it is “not simply a benefit with no impact on Scholars’ decision to accept” their scholarships and matriculate to Emory. It is difficult to quantify how much early enrollment or any one particular Scholar privilege induces individual students to accept their scholarships at Emory. However, it is worth noting that many merit scholarship programs at other universities offer similar academic privileges to the students that they have selected. If the Emory Scholars Program does not offer comparable benefits to the students it has chosen, it is at a competitive disadvantage to these other scholarship programs.
Lastly, the Emory Scholars Program requires that all students maintain at least a 3.4 GPA each semester in order to remain in the program. Scholars aren’t granted certain privileges solely on the basis of past achievements as the editorial implies; they must continually perform well in order to retain those privileges.
In closing, the Wheel editorial board is entitled to its own opinions on Scholar early enrollment. However, it should have better researched and supported the claims that it made against this privilege as well as the Scholars Program in general. Though comments throughout the editorial like “[Scholar early enrollment] creates a hierarchy of students in which the education of a select few is given priority over the remainder of the student body” may certainly sound sexy, they ultimately fall flat with no support — melodrama rather than anything constructive.
Emory Scholars is a wonderful program that provides recognition for academic potential and intellectual curiosity, drawing competitive students from all across the world to the University and rewarding current students for their successes while at the University. I am grateful for all the opportunities the program has given me, and I know that it has not only shaped my own College experience but also those of many of my peers. I urge us not to forget all the good that the program does — especially when evaluating it in light of poorly researched claims against it.
— By Stephanie Fang, a College senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a former news editor for The Emory Wheel.
Luis Blanco is a member of the Class of 2017. His cartoons appear in every Friday issue of the Wheel.
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