Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz was allegedly raped in her university residence hall on the night of August 27, 2012. When Sulkowicz filed a complaint with the university in April 2013, the suspect was investigated by Columbia’s conduct council and, ultimately, found not responsible for the incident. In response, the visual arts major made her senior thesis a work of performance art that addressed the difficulty she had experienced in reporting her case to the university.
For the past two months, Sulkowicz has been carrying a standard issue, dark blue twin XL mattress of 50 pounds around campus. Her project, called Carry That Weight, will continue “until the man she accuses of attacking her is no longer on campus, whether he leaves or is expelled or graduates,” according to an article in the New York Times. Sulkowicz does not ask for help as she carries her mattress, although she does accept help from others when they offer.
Wednesday, Oct. 29 was a national Carry That Weight event, during which college students were encouraged to carry mattresses and raise awareness of sexual assault on their own campuses. At Emory, Feminists in Action (FIA) had a table at this week’s Wonderful Wednesday, where the organization encouraged passersby to write a few words about how they could stop sexual assault on campus on a piece of paper. The notes were then taped on three mattresses, which were then carried around campus. Additionally, the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) and Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA) held their annual event, “Take Back the Night,” allowing survivors of sexual assault to share their stories anonymously, or otherwise, in order to increase awareness on the realities of sexual assault on college campuses and in society as a whole.
We at the Wheel feel that Sulkowicz’s project takes a major step in raising public awareness about sexual assault, an experience that many survivors take great lengths to conceal. By carrying her mattress, Sulkowicz invokes imagery similar to Jesus carrying the cross or Atlas with the world on his shoulder, a symbol of the great weight she is forced to bear as a result of the sexual assault she experienced. We feel that her project is a very effective way to shed light on a typically hidden issue and a successful use of performance art to raise awareness of a salient public issue.
In light of Sulkowicz’s project and Emory’s involvement in a federal investigation, we are also taking the opportunity to examine Emory’s own method of handling sexual assaults. According to Emory’s sexual misconduct policy, sexual assaults can be reported either through the Emory Police Department (EPD) or the University’s Title IX coordinator. If students wish to remain anonymous – as survivors of sexual assault are often (justifiably) hesitant even to discuss their ordeal, let alone press charges – they may also report the incident to Emory’s Respect program.
Once an incident has been reported to the University, the Title IX coordinator begins an investigation and determines if there is “sufficient information to support charging a student with a violation of [the sexual misconduct] policy.” The investigation includes interviews with the involved parties, gathering of documents and “other appropriate steps in conducting an investigation.” The misconduct policy is very careful to note that this process is “independent of any criminal investigation or proceeding [… and] will not wait for the conclusion of any criminal proceedings to commence its own investigation.” Simply put, the EPD and the Office of Student Conduct hold independent investigations, even if they are working on the same case.
However, we find this separation of the criminal and conduct processes to be counterintuitive. Many sexual assault cases, including Sulkowicz’s, fail to move beyond the investigation stage of the process for lack of evidence, regardless of whether police or the university conducted the investigation. We understand that it is necessary to offer survivors multiple ways to report their incidents, but we feel that each entity could benefit from the assistance of the other in collecting evidence and deciding to press charges.
Furthermore, while the list of sanctions available to the conduct office ranges from community service to expulsion, nowhere does the sexual misconduct policy mention the possibility of criminal repercussions. We feel that this separation of criminal and conduct procedures limits the degree of justice that can be levied on perpetrators.
While the number of sexual assaults reported at Emory has increased noticeably over the past few years – thanks in part to programs like the Respect Program that facilitate anonymous reporting – these numbers give no indication of the efficacy of the conduct office’s investigations or hearings. Are investigations being conducted diligently? Are perpetrators subject to the consequences they deserve? Since private universities are under no obligation to reveal details about conduct incidents, there is no transparency in the conduct process and no way to account for the outcomes of sexual assault cases. The University should clarify the consequences of being found guilty of sexual assault and send out emails informing the community of expulsions or other consequences when they take place.
Additionally, we would like to see a separate conduct process for hearings concerning sexual assault with a distinct board who is educated about how to talk about sexual assault. This would minimize the trauma involved for survivors of sexual assault who choose to go through the process.
We applaud FIA for bringing Sulkowicz’s message to campus, “Take Back the Night” for allowing often unheard stories to be shared and Creating Emory for insuring that every first-year student is introduced to the issue. Though tiring work, we encourage such advocacy groups to continue reaching out to non-activist organizations and students. We invite faculty to also participate in such campus dialogues, as the classroom can be another site of social change. Finally, we urge all members of the Emory community to use inclusive language in their daily lives and recognize sexual assault as a hate crime. We as a community must stand in resistance to sexual violence and in solidarity with all survivors. We must fight ceaselessly to create a society that categorically rejects all manifestations of sexual assault.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
If you or someone you know has been affected by violence, students can get free, confidential advocacy and support by calling CAPS 404.727.7450 and asking to speak with the Respect Program Advocate.
Textbook prices are absolutely ridiculous. We at the Wheel believe that the most advertised and available textbook options for Emory students are far too expensive.
A trip to the Emory Bookstore at the beginning of the semester can create a significant financial hurdle for many students, costing hundreds of dollars a semester and thousands over the usual four years at Emory. The Emory Bookstore, run with Barnes & Noble, marks up textbook prices in order to create a profit. To offer an alternative, Barnes & Noble created rental options for textbooks, but the prices of rentals are often only fractionally cheaper. Emory and Barnes & Noble should work together to create a better, more financially feasible option for buying or renting textbooks.
One answer may be creating a security deposit program for renting textbooks so that students who return books in pristine conditions can get back some of the money spent at the end of the semester.
We understand that the considerable time and money involved in creating textbooks is the main reason behind why they are so expensive, but the prices for textbooks at the Emory Bookstore are often extreme. While we are glad for the proximity and accessibility of the Bookstore (as well as its efforts to employ students), Emory should reconsider its partnership with Barnes & Noble if these prices are to continue without a financially feasible solution.
Textbook prices are a serious problem, where rising tuition costs for colleges already place a strenuous enough financial burden on potential students without even factoring in the triple-digit costs of textbooks per semester. The University should therefore consider partially subsidizing the cost of textbooks for students.
First-year students probably waste the most money when it comes to textbooks, since many either do not know alternative avenues for textbook or are already overwhelmed with choosing classes and adjusting to college and instead choose the Bookstore. Orientation Leaders (OLs) are also told to promote the Emory Bookstore; this can add to the problem if OLs do not advise freshmen to consider cheaper alternatives like Amazon, Chegg, half.com and swapping books with other students.
The University should correct this in order to keep the financial well-being of its students in mind and make an effort to educate all students on cheaper avenues for purchasing textbooks. Additionally, PACE, a mandatory class for first-years, requires students to purchase clickers that are only used for attendance. These clickers are one of the more expensive models, costing around $50. This seems ludicrous, and PACE should find a more effective and cheaper way to take attendance, like swiping IDs, in order to keep the interests of students in mind.
Some professors often do not make it any easier on students when it comes to trying to save money on textbooks. Some professors add books on the course atlas’ class description or on syllabi that never end up being used. The course atlas and syllabi should better reflect what books are actually needed so that professors do not accidentally make students purchase books that are not necessary. We also encourage professors to make an effort before the semester to look over their textbook list and inform students of the books that are needed and when they will be needed in the semester, so students do not purchase books that will never be opened or do not hurry to buy from the Bookstore instead of another, slightly slower alternative.
Professors should also reevaluate what is actually used in the class; is it worth assigning a $50 book or software for one class? Are the readings that the professor wishes to assign available through Emory’s resourceful libraries? There are various readings and whole books online through the Woodruff Library, books and readings available through Course Reserves and plenty of other material available through databases to which Emory has access. Professors should also consider photocopying shorter readings and posting them (under applicable copyright laws) on Blackboard.
We also encourage professors to consider consolidating readings into coursepacks, a compilation of readings into a pack that can be much more affordably purchased from Document Services, when a class calls for numerous textbooks that are only assigned for short sections. Some classes also frequently require students to buy the newest edition of the work, which are more expensive than older editions. If the newest edition is not significantly different than the old edition, then professors should encourage students to buy older editions.
While we understand the reasons behind the prices of textbooks, professors, the Bookstore and the University should seriously assess its efforts to reduce financial burdens on students regarding textbooks.
The above represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
With the recent release of the Emory College Spring 2015 Course Atlas, student stress is spiking as Emory prepares for the semi-annual ritual of course selection. We at the Wheel feel that the Course Atlas and the enrollment process as a whole could be
improved in several ways to minimize much of the stress associated with course selection.
Many courses on the atlas have ambiguous titles or lack further description regarding the course’s structure and content. Reading lists, grading rubrics and included concepts — information usually provided on syllabi — are a fundamental part of course selection as they provide details as to what the course truly encompasses. However, a significant number of courses on the course atlas do not provide information other than a title or an incomplete description.
Because of this lack of course-related information, students often enroll in more than their intended class load, since attending the course in person is often the only way to understand the course’s content. Not only is this time-consuming for the individual, but other students interested in enrolling in the course are excluded if the particular section is full.
Professors, department chairs and the Registrar should make a concerted effort to increase the availability of information in the course selection process, especially with tentative syllabi available on the course atlas. Going to multiple courses during the Add/Drop/Swap period to figure out what the course is about only adds to the stress of the process and detracts from students’ ability to take the courses they desire.
Additionally, the College should consider an extension of the Add/Drop/Swap period, as some classes only meet once a week, which may not be enough to determine whether a student wants to stay in the class or not. During some semesters, such as this one, some classes are not even able to meet during Add/Drop/Swap due to national holidays or professor absences; therefore, the College should consider extending the deadline by another week or for classes that are not able to meet.
For the course atlas, academic departments should also attempt to release yearlong course atlases so students can tentatively anticipate what courses are available in the spring when planning their fall semester schedule. Although some departments already do this, we would like to see this become standard practice for courses which departments know will be offered across the College. Additionally, adding a search function for key terms on the course atlas would help students interested in very specific topics.
We also find fault with the early enrollment times granted to Emory Scholars, who receive a merit scholarship based on their achievements in high school. As of now, Emory allows Scholars to enroll for courses before all other students. Although we recognize that this is an effective tactic to attract some of the best and brightest students around the country to Emory, this creates unfair access to courses. Every College student is just as likely to be engaged with and interested in a single course as an Emory Scholar, and Scholars, who are chosen based on high school performance, should not necessarily receive an advantage in college.
Additionally, it creates a hierarchy of students in which the education of a select few is given priority over the remainder of the student body. While the Emory Scholar program is largely a positive scholarship, we recommend Emory reevaluate this specific Scholar privilege of early enrollment and determine whether it is a vital reason that ensures Scholars matriculate to Emory, and not simply a benefit with no impact on Scholars’ decisions to accept.
Looking to course selection alternatives, the Goizueta Business School currently utilizes a bid system that allows the B-School to gather data on course demand, grant students courses on an equal playing field and add new sections for a single course if demand exceeds course capacity significantly. Although we know the B-School’s student body is much smaller than the College, we recommend that the College investigate the possibility of such a system, as it may be more efficient than the current course selection process.
Lastly, adding more permission numbers and applications for courses could help ensure both student commitment to the course and a pre-enrollment guarantee. The Creative Writing Program executes this strategy well, ensuring that its students are those who are genuinely interested in the classes and are not only taking them to fulfill General Education Requirements (GERs). However, if departments follow this model, they should also make these applications accessible online for everyone to increase the openness of opportunity for these classes.
As students begin the enrollment process — some for the last time — we wish everyone luck on getting the classes they want. Godspeed.
The above represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Emory Dining held the grand opening this week for Eagle Convenience and Subs, a new convenience store and deli. Located on the bottom floor of the Dobbs University Center (DUC) in a space that was formerly the Faculty Dining Room, Eagle Convenience offers an assortment of microwaveable food, snacks, candy, medicine, supplies and even Boar’s Head subs — all available until midnight seven days a week.
While only food can be purchased with Dooley Dollars, other items can be purchased with Eagle Dollars, cash or credit.
The new convenience store is an excellent addition to campus dining options. The DUC is centrally located on campus and accessible to most students, even those who have reduced or no meal plans yet spend much of their time on campus.
We appreciate the variety of healthy food options available, the selection of foods that require little preparation or cooking, the selection of pharmaceutical products and the friendly staff. And, as a student organization that works late hours two nights a week, the Wheel is especially grateful for a close and inexpensive option that is open until midnight.
Emory Dining has undergone a significant number of changes over the last couple of years, including new eateries like Highland Bakery at Goizueta Business School and Peet’s Coffee at Woodruff Library, as well as improvements to existing establishments, such as a more health-conscious Dobbs Market, an updated Zaya menu and local options and a small-scale convenience store in Cox Hall. These improvements demonstrate a commitment to reacting to student voices about their own dining needs. We have observed students’ needs being met with astounding immediacy.
The Student Activity & Academic Center (SAAC) located at Clairmont Campus recently introduced breakfast options, and restaurants such as Chick-fil-A and DBA Barbecue were rapidly replaced in Cox Hall after student feedback signified a desired change. Moreover, Eagle Convenience itself was announced at the beginning of this school year and opened just after fall break, a considerable turnaround.
These changes are the result of an effort led by Senior Director of the University Food Service Administration Dave Furhman, who has integrated Dining administrators and staff and student opinion through the student-run Food Advisory Committee Emory (FACE). In addition to co-chairs and permanent members, FACE invites any student to attend meetings and input suggestions for campus dining. In the past, FACE has conducted surveys and marketed itself well to determine student preferences on the various dining options at Emory.
Furhman spends substantial time in the DUC and Cox, observing and directly engaging with students for feedback about Emory’s food. He has visited other universities to assess potential improvements to Emory and regularly communicates with the Student Government Association (SGA); at a recent meeting, he informed members about the end of the 10-year Sodexo contract in the spring and the process by which the University will assess whether to renew it or to consider other food service providers. During the meeting, Furhman said if there are any students whose opinions have not been heard by the time the decision has been made, it will have been a failure on the part of himself and FACE.
Furhman’s consistent and outstanding commitment to Emory students and their dining habits should be recognized and lauded, as should FACE’s and its members for responding quickly and diligently to student suggestions. There seems to be a genuine concern about students when it comes to FACE. In particular, FACE’s Co-Chairs Goizueta Business School senior Karoline Porcello and College junior Molly Talman deserve recognition for facilitating the execution of these suggestions.
It is evident that Furhman and FACE take the needs of students to be of paramount importance in their decision calculus, sometimes even superseding financial considerations. We have noticed that Furhman’s approach to food at Emory is very practical — he recognizes how important food is to a college student’s lifestyle and the requisite convenience to accommodate busy schedules. FACE is also particularly good at identifying spaces on campus that could be used more efficiently and executing this, such as in the small space occupied by the Cox convenience store and in repurposing the Faculty Dining Room. Emory Dining and Emory Sustainability’s commitment to sustainability initiatives, such as expanding the Farmers Market and shifting to locally sourced food, is also commendable.
FACE has produced concrete and highly successful results. We believe that FACE is the model that other University student committees should follow, including open access to all students and a focus on gaining exposure so that students are kept in the loop. The fact that some other committees require applications seems bureaucratic, exclusive and unnecessary — the criterion should simply be student interest. Moreover, the activities of other committees are inexplicably kept under wraps or not marketed adequately.
Student Health Services is one such area that we believe would greatly benefit from following FACE’s model. Students from many divisions have voiced various concerns about the location and quality of service of health services that have yet to be met let alone acknowledged. The Division of Campus Life has a number of existing student committees whose efforts are more or less opaque to non-participating students. Even the Emory academic community has precedent for committees, such as the Commission on Liberal Arts (CoLA), that lack the expediency and commitment to student opinion that FACE advances.
Given its accomplishments as a relatively new initiative, it is clear that the FACE model has substantial merits, and other areas of the University should follow FACE’s and Furhman’s model. As students and beneficiaries of FACE’s efforts, we truly believe other committees can have a similar impact on students if they take note of the catalogue of Emory Dining’s improvements.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Early in the morning of Sunday, Oct. 5, multiple swastikas were spray painted onto the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity house, a Jewish fraternity. In no uncertain terms, a hate crime was committed on Emory’s campus against members of the Emory community. This event left us saddened, outraged and deeply disturbed. The University administration’s timely and appropriate response and the broader Emory community’s overwhelming expressions of support for the people affected were extremely encouraging and worthy of high praise.
We both hope and expect that the administration and community will respond equivalently to hate crimes against any group committed on Emory’s campus or against any members of the Emory community in the future.
The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit work suastika, which referred to objects associated with well-being. Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Taoists all use the symbol in their religious practices, as did ancient Celtic and Greek peoples. The swastika originally represented eternity, prosperity and good luck. However, since the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s, the swastika has symbolized, in the Western world at least, hatred, violent oppression and genocide, especially towards Jews, Roma, gay or queer people and the mentally or physically handicapped, the primary targets of Nazi oppression and extermination efforts. The swastika represents actions and an ideology that should abhor any person who believes that every individual, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender identification, gender expression or any other aspect of their identity, possesses an innate right to life, liberty and free expression of their identity.
It is because of this symbolism that the act of spray-painting swastikas onto a Jewish fraternity’s house is a hate crime, rather than a mere incident of graffiti. This event is not just a single, isolated act; the swastikas represent so much more than the misguided actions of a single vandal. They represent both the six million Jews, 1.5 million Roma and over 10 million others, including political dissidents, homosexuals, transgender individuals and mentally or physically handicapped people, whom the Nazis exterminated during the Holocaust and the hatred and intolerance for these groups that still exists today. For this reason, the events that occurred at the AEPi house on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 5 deserve to be understood as a hate crime and condemned unequivocally and immediately.
We were heartened to see that Emory’s administration and community responded in exactly this way. Before the day was over, University President James Wagner sent an email to the entire Emory community, denouncing the “abhorrent act” as “a flagrant emblem of anti-Semitism” and “an attack against everything for which Emory stands.” That same day, the Student Government Association (SGA) sent an email calling on members of the Emory community to “wear blue on Monday in support of Emory’s Jewish community and the rights of all people to live freely and safely.” Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies quickly organized a “Teach-In Against Hate,” held on the steps of the Administration building on Wednesday afternoon. The incident has received attention in the national press, from the national AEPi organization and is currently the subject of an FBI Civil Rights investigation. Additionally, countless individual members of the Emory community has shown their support for AEPi, including the many students who wore blue the Monday after the event occurred and numerous individuals and organizations that reached out to AEPi to offer their support. This response was widespread and immediate, and delivered a message of unambiguous condemnation of the act and support for the victims. We believe that this reaction to the hate crime was both timely and appropriate.
However, some members have asked why the administration and community have not responded with comparable magnitude and immediacy to previous hate crimes committed on campus against members of the Emory community, particularly in regards to instances of sexual assault and racism. One theory is that, unlike other victims of hate crimes, the members of AEPi are largely white and male who, despite their history of oppression, are a protected and influential group at Emory. Those espousing this view are not denying that this event was a hate crime and that the response was laudable – they are simply asking why previous hate crimes have not elicited a comparable response.
We hope that Emory responded so well to this incident because the University has learned from past failures to address discrimination, and it is important that Emory responds with equal strength and urgency to any future hate crimes that occur on campus, against any members of the Emory community.
Emory’s administration and community should respond with comparable outrage, support and immediacy to any future acts of intolerance and sexual assault that may occur within our community. Sexual assault is a violent hate crime. A sexual assault is not an isolated act without larger significance or implication. In addition to the pain that it causes to the individual, sexual assault represents a physical vandalization of someone’s body, an individual’s loss of autonomy and creates a culture of fear, shame and sexual objectification. For this reason, sexual assault is a hate crime. The changes made to Orientation this semester – where every first year student participated in very frank discussions about the nature of sexual assault and how to respond to it during Creating Emory – demonstrate that the University is committed to preventing sexual assault against members of the community. However, we both hope and expect that the administration and community will immediately respond with support and outrage every time this violent crime occurs against a member of our community. When the Emory community is alerted of a sexual assault through an email or police report, we should treat it like a hate crime. President Wagner or the Emory administration should send out an email or message condemning the act. Student groups should call on the Emory community to show its support the next day in solidarity. Groups should organize teach-ins on the quad.
This is just one example of how Emory should respond to hate crimes in the future. The University should respond similarly — with support, outrage and immediacy — to any other acts of intolerance or acts that make any community feel unwelcome, be it verbal, physical or symbolic. The Emory community should continue its efforts to become aware of and condemn the daily microaggressions — the small, sometimes unintentional acts of bias, stereotypes or intolerance — against a number of different communities on campus.
The spray-painting of swastikas on the AEPi house was repugnant, and the Emory community should be heavily praised for its response. Let this response serve as the benchmark of appropriateness and timeliness for the University whenever it responds to a hate crime in the future. Let us contribute to ending hate and fear for all communities at Emory.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
The Emory University 2013-2014 Commission on the Liberal Arts (CoLA) recently submitted its final report to Emory University Provost Claire E. Sterk, marking the end of the year-long process that addressed the state of Emory’s liberal arts community. Through forums, lunches, a survey and other methods of engagement, the final report deliberated on and made a series of recommendations on how best to further the liberal arts on campus and in the culture of Emory. However, we at the Wheel find that, while the report offers several positive, specific and engaging recommendations for improving the state of the liberal arts on campus, many of the suggestions offered by CoLA are often too vague and do not go far enough.
Suggestions such as a reevaluation of the academic calendar or the creation of interdisciplinary “synthesis seminars” are valuable to the community and worthy of consideration. Reevaluating the academic calendar is a concrete, bold step that could meaningfully impact a student’s academic experience, where they could potentially participate in courses of variable length (other than a semester) that would make different disciplines and topics more accessible. Additionally, with its potential interdisciplinary, communal learning structure, CoLA’s “synthesis seminars” could reach the foundation of what we feel liberal arts aims to achieve.
CoLA’s emphasis on faculty-student mentorship is also essential — the impact a single faculty member can have on a student as an educator or mentor is invaluable. CoLA gives appropriate attention to this matter because Emory’s current advisor system is deeply flawed. Students are often paired with faculty advisors in departments in which they have no interest, and partially as a result, many students do not feel they can take advantage of the system. By more closely assessing the coordination and avenues in which faculty and students can develop closer relationships, CoLA accurately prioritizes areas for improvement within the University.
However, absent from the report is a personal investigation or exploration of the role of the liberal arts by CoLA, even though the report rightly encourages the Emory community to discuss that question further. After its intensive discussions and engagements, CoLA should have participated in its own exploration of its vision of Emory’s liberal arts definitions and values, applying this vision to specific disciplines and academic departments.
But they are generic suggestions that might be offered to any school concerned with its liberal arts and do not offer concrete suggestions to create the “leading residential liberal arts research university” that is envisioned by CoLA. CoLA’s suggestions do not necessarily cater to the specific environment of our University.
We hope the University decides to implement many of these engaging, concrete recommendations, but Emory should also take CoLA’s advice and engage further in a discussion about the state of liberal arts at the College, and what the term “liberal arts” means to Emory.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
At Monday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, Sophomore Legislator Max Zoberman introduced a resolution that would urge the University to discontinue supporting the anonymous gossip app Yik Yak on its wi-fi networks.
After the introduction of the resolution, a number of posts on Yik Yak arose personally attacking Zoberman and his authorship of the resolution. The next morning, College senior and Speaker of the Legislature Luke Buschon sent an all-Emory email elaborating on the resolution and inviting the community to an open-forum discussion about the issue on Oct. 6.
A resolution is different from a bill; for this resolution, its passage would be a symbolic stance rather than an actionable affirmation.
We applaud Zoberman for using his platform as an elected official to represent the student body and address a pervasive issue within the Emory community. However, the resolution misses its mark with the problem at hand and presents several causes for opposition.
Personal posts against Zoberman appeared on the app following Monday’s SGA meeting, and recent racist, sexist and homophobic postings have focused attention on Yik Yak as a forum where hate speech may occur.
However, the idea of banning an entire platform of speech is misguided. As discussed in our Sept. 26 staff editorial, “Yik Yak Perpetuates Culture of Intolerance,” the issue lies with the culture of insensitivity manifested through the app, not with the medium in which it is expressed. Getting rid of Yik Yak will not eliminate discriminatory speech on our campus, and other anonymous forums may come up to replace its potential removal.
From a pragmatic standpoint, students with data plans can still access the app, so a call for a ban would only be futile and purely symbolic. As a liberal arts university committed to open discussion, Emory should not delve into the business of censoring forms of expression on its campus, however trivial the expression may often be. Additionally, engaging in a potential “whack-a-mole” strategy of removing anonymous social apps is not an effective policy.
If the University were to ban Yik Yak, where do we draw the line for what is or is not allowed? Twitter, Facebook and countless other social media sites, like the anonymous Reddit and 4chan, also provide similar examples of hateful and incendiary language, yet they still exist on the wireless network.
A fair portion of what occurs on Yik Yak is considered cyberbullying and, despite the anonymity of the app, hate speech is not always protected. While the intent to reduce cyberbullying is noble, Zoberman and other members of SGA should focus on the attitudes apparently existing on campus that propel these aggressive, discriminatory posts on the app, not on banning the app itself. Actively addressing the issues present, through open forums that could be similar to the one SGA is proposing, would be more beneficial rather than asking the University to stifle negative comments.
SGA deserves applause for the outreach that has occurred in the days following the proposed resolution. In addition to the public announcement of the public forum, SGA legislators all across campus have reached out over social media for genuine feedback from the students they represent in order to make a more informed decision.
Open discussion and expression is a necessary part of any sort of community framework, and we are glad to see this discussion take place. We urge students with opinions about this resolution to attend the open forum and the SGA meeting to make their voices heard — non-anonymously.
Emory recently ranked No. 10 on a list of the top 20 medium-sized colleges and universities contributing alumni to Teach For America (TFA), an AmeriCorps program that works toward closing the achievement gap by recruiting and training recent college graduates, primarily from elite institutions, to teach in low-income communities for two years. Emory has been ranked on this list every year since it was first published seven years ago.
While the Wheel recognizes the urgency of addressing educational inequality in the United States, supports TFA’s attention to the problem and is glad to see Emory graduates engaging with communities in need, we also acknowledge the validity of many common criticisms against TFA. For example, we question whether Institute, TFA’s intense five-week summer training program, can effectively prepare rookie teachers to teach in high need schools.
Additionally, because Corps members only commit to teach for two years, they often stop teaching as soon as they begin to mature as educators. It takes time for teachers to develop the relationships with students and co-workers that are necessary to positively impact the communities they serve. We doubt that the constant coming and going of teachers is beneficial in the long term to these communities.
In addition to potentially taking teaching positions from veteran teachers, we see TFA as unintentionally belittling the work of professional educators by implying that anyone can teach by virtue of having attended an elite college or university. Furthermore, many prospective applicants perceive TFA as a back-up plan or “break” before pre-professional or graduate school.
However, we acknowledge that TFA does not necessarily see its mission as creating life-long educators, but instead seeks to build a movement of professionals in a number of fields committed to closing the achievement gap. TFA’s constant teacher turnover, therefore, is not necessarily a failure on their part to accomplish their goals. Nevertheless, we question whether their mission is best for our education system.
We also recognize that Corps members are required to meet state certification requirements, and many have the option of completing a master’s degree by the end of their teaching commitment. We see state certification requirements as enforcing a standard among TFA teachers, and we believe the opportunities for earning a master’s degree will attract more Corps members who are interested in careers in education.
While the benefits and shortcomings of TFA are often debated in the media, it seems that TFA is here to stay and will continue to heavily recruit Emory students. For a school that consistently contributes significant numbers of students to TFA, we feel that Emory does not have enough resources for students to gain experience in education. In light of the announcement of the termination of the Educational Studies department in 2012 and the ending of the Jumpstart program last spring, Emory has significantly limited opportunities in recent years for its students to learn and work in education.
By allowing TFA to recruit on campus without providing students avenues to gain educational experience, Emory is sending its students inconsistent, mixed messages. Instead, we would like to see more volunteer opportunities in education that provide volunteers with significant training and consistent contact with the communities they serve, both of which are especially crucial when working in education. We feel that Jumpstart previously served this purpose, and its termination is a loss for Emory.
We see a parallel between the end of Jumpstart at Emory and some of the flaws with TFA. While Jumpstart Corps members each spent 200 to 300 hours in a preschool classroom over the course of a year (adding up to almost 15,000 hours), Emory ended the program due to a low number of students involved (about 50). In our opinion, this explanation fails to take into account the impact Jumpstart had in the communities it served.
Similarly, we see many students pursuing TFA in order to advance their professional careers in fields outside of education by using the program to enhance their resume. Once again, this attitude towards service puts the interests of the applicant above that of their students. We strongly encourage prospective Corps members to think seriously about their reasons for applying. If they do not have their potential students’ best interests in mind, they should not apply to TFA.
That being said, good intentions still may not be enough. Without adequate skill, preparation and determination, the most well-intentioned Corps member can still do harm in the classroom. We cannot emphasize enough the profound impact, for better or for worse, a teacher can have on their students.
With two deadlines already passed and three more to come before the end of January, many Emory students have already applied or are preparing to apply to TFA. We encourage prospective Corps members to reflect honestly on their ability to teach effectively in addition to taking their strengths and weaknesses into account when indicating subject and location preferences. We also advise students to think twice about pursuing TFA if they cannot see education as a part of their future in some way.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the editorial board of the Wheel.
Anonymous social app Yik Yak has been receiving a lot of attention on university campuses, including Emory’s. Responses range from the actual contributions posted to the app to the backlash by students regarding the stereotypes and problematic discourse used in posts targeting ethnic groups and individual students. We at The Emory Wheel find some posts on Yik Yak blatantly racist and cruel.
For readers who aren’t familiar with Yik Yak, the app is a way for users to post anonymous messages that can only be viewed by users within a small geographic area, such as those on a college campus. Users can comment on posts and up-vote or down-vote posts.
We do not necessarily blame the app itself — cyberbullying was not the intention of the creators. However, we are ashamed that some members of our community find it appropriate to post racist and sexist comments towards groups at Emory, and at times, target individual people by name under the veil of anonymity. We do not want to harp on the obvious, but these posts do truly hurt people, and it’s appalling that some of our own students are perpetuating egregious generalizations, stereotypes and the use of violent language.
While we realize that many of these posts are written in the spirit of fun and jokes, it’s important to contextualize the posts within the history of oppression and verbal cruelty at Emory and in the United States. Do we want to be a part of a community that represents a culture of harm? Should we continue a history of marginalization and oppression? Those who are posting such negative content to Yik Yak are participating in and advocating for a culture of insensitivity, as opposed to creating a culture of inclusivity and community-building. These actions are apparent forms of microaggression and what we say, even anonymously, represents our community as a whole. Many Emory students are using this app simply as a means to insult and harm people and entire populations, and as a community, we can do better than that.
Though some universities, such as Norwich University, have blocked access to Yik Yak, we understand the inevitability of the app’s usage on student phones and do not believe that it is inherently harmful. Anonymity on the internet can often be used for good, as an outlet for some who do not feel comfortable speaking out loud or to admonish harmful behavior without risking backlash. In an ideal society, this culture of insensitivity and blatant marginalization would not exist, but for now, Yik Yak users can actively protest against intolerant posts on the app. We encourage Emory students who participate actively or passively with the app to down-vote racist, sexist and overall harmful posts and to stand up to these anonymous posters. Additionally, since there have been some productive posts about our community, we encourage users to continue to post positive comments.
It’s important to have an outlet where we can use internet anonymity as a positive tool, where students can stand up to others without any reprisal or repercussions. We hope members of the Emory community who recognize these micro and macro aggressions do not passively stand by and allow such behavior to continue. We hope those members of our community who are participating in intolerance and harm will change their mindsets and ideologies. We hope everyone increases awareness on the harms that such comments and actions lead to and, ultimately, treat people as they deserve to be treated — as human beings.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Autumn is drawing near, and the Student Programming Council (SPC) marked the change of season with a “Welcome to Wonderland”-themed Homecoming Week, based on Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice in Wonderland. Daily themes were punny and featured attractions like tasty food and costumed characters. On the whole, we at the Wheel feel that the week was a success.
The week began with the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” event in Asbury Circle, which felt like a Wonderful Wednesday that had lost its way. Asbury Circle was filled with music, food trucks and a plethora of students. SPC relied more on a word-of-mouth and the successful “Weeks of Welcome” initiative, providing very little material advertising. While this means of promoting an event could be effective for those who spend most of their time on campus (first-year students), it failed to catch the attention of students who might not be directly exposed to it. However, the event was held later in the afternoon, which, we believe, gave students who might otherwise have been occupied to attend the event.
Tuesday heralded the “Queen of Darts,” a Jackson Pollock-style collaborative art project, and “Alice’s Coffee House,” which featured free Blue Donkey iced coffee. Alice’s Coffee House was supposed to be held in the Woodruff Health Sciences quad, but was ultimately moved to Asbury Circle on the day of the event. We recognize that the event was intended to include more graduate students, but we feel that the last-minute change of venue defeated this purpose. Again, we feel that these events could have been better advertised, and we encourage SPC to place more emphasis on events during the week, rather than just on the weekend concerts.
We sincerely appreciate that Thursday’s comedy show, presented by Brent Morin, was not hosted in Glenn Memorial Auditorium, as it has been in the past several years. Although Harland Cinema is a somewhat smaller venue, we feel that it is more conducive to such a performance and avoided the problems of difficult acoustics and potential offensive jokes in a religious space that previous comedians have encountered while performing in the church. Morin’s comedy was hilariously self-deprecating, and we like that he tailored his jokes to Emory students. We also appreciate that SPC has consistently chosen up-and-coming comedians, which affords students the opportunity to experience new forms and styles of performance.
Friday’s event was the Homecoming Ball, featuring a performance by EDM DJ trio Cash Cash. The Friday Homecoming concert is intended to liven up Emory’s campus with a little music and dancing, and this year’s show was no exception. Although Cash Cash’s performance was, in terms of musical quality, unremarkable, we feel that they struck the intended atmosphere for the event. However, we take issue with certain elements of the duo’s visual performance, some of which included drawn images of naked women. We feel that such a display was crass and unnecessary, especially within a community where many members strive to break down the over-sexualized barriers needed to achieve gender equality.
The weekend drew to a close on Saturday with the Homecoming Parade and a performance by 90s alt-rock band Sugar Ray. Although turnout for the parade was small, those in attendance appeared to be enjoying themselves. We congratulate SPC for selecting an artist that drew on nostalgia from both current students and alumni. The atmosphere on McDonough was warm and sunny, and we feel that afternoon concerts such as this one are a great way to bring the entire Emory community together.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
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