20 Shades of White

Another year, another Oscars Ceremony, and the usual Twitter excitement over nominations progresses. Leonardo DiCaprio secured another nomination, four forgettable movies secured their actors five of the twenty nominations, and everyone is white.

Apparently forgetting that they did this last year and the resultant outrage it generated on the internet, the Oscar Nomination Committee nominated twenty actors and actresses, all of whom are whiter than white paint.  Given that 94 percent of the Academy’s 6,000-plus strong voting committee is white, it should come as little surprise that no non-white actor was nominated for any of the four acting categories this year.

As pointed out in the Economist after the nominations were announced, the probability of back-to-back whiteouts in the Oscar nominations, over a fifteen-year span, is close to one in 100,000 — less than one percent.  Given those odds, it seems highly unlikely that the selections for this year’s nominations were random or based solely on the talent of the actors nominated.  (And given that four of the movies underperformed in profit/budget comparisons, talent and movie enjoyability were not factors in the nomination process.)

Had the nominations been based on the make-up of the Screen Actor’s Guild, more nominations would have been non-white actors.  (Although the number of nominations would still have been astronomically low in comparison.)

In response, numerous black actors have announced that they will be boycotting the Oscars, including Lupita Nyong’o (winner of Best Supporting Actress, 2014, for her role in “12 Years A Slave), Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Spike Lee, Tyrese Gibson, and Snoop Dogg.  Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor nominee, 2015, for “Spotlight”), has stated that, while he is not boycotting the Oscars as originally stated on his twitter feed, he supports the boycott and the actors participating in the boycott.

Other responses to the whiteout at the Oscars include the revival of last year’s hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite.  The response on Twitter to the nominee whiteout is largely negative, with a few amusing tweets gaining traction, including a comparison of the 20 white-only nominations to different shades of white paint (with little visible difference between the swatches).

On the other side of the coin are responses from white actors, including a memorable and unfortunately real comment from Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling; “It is racist to whites” (referring to the Oscar boycott).  Despite the fact that every single nominee in the actors category for the past two years is white, and that the majority of Oscar winners (and nominees) over the past five years have been white (only three of the 24 Oscars have gone to non-white actors in that time-span), she seems to believe that the boycott due to no POC actors being nominated in any of the categories is racist against white people.

Thankfully, there are two shining spots in this round of Oscar frenzy:  Chris Rock will be hosting the Oscars, and the Oscar nomination committee has already released a statement saying that the rules regarding nominations have been changed to include more diversity in future awards as a result of the overwhelmingly negative backlash.

Athletes and Injuries: Things That Can Be Done to Take Care of Yourself

We cheer for them, we encourage them, we want them to win because they are our athletes.

When it comes to sports, whether it be on the field, on the court, or in the pool, all athletes have one thing in common. Once they push themselves too hard, or are in the wake of an accident, they can get injured. No athlete likes being put on the bench, but it seems as though injury — from something as minor as slight shoulder problems from over rotation in swimming to getting a concussion in soccer and even to spraining or breaking your ankle in basketball or track — is an unavoidable part of being an athlete.  

When faced with an injury, there are several general things an athlete can do — besides not practice — to get back into peak physical condition for their specific sport. The first of many things you can do for standard surface injury such as a bruise, a stub, or just general after practice pain is to visit the trainer. The first of many jobs of the training staff is to make sure that an athlete is feeling their best so that they can do the sport they love. Just walk in, tell them what’s wrong, and most likely it can be solved with some ice, a bit of heat, and rolling/stretching out the area.

If the injury seems like it could be more serious, go to the hospital or your local sports medicine clinic. This can be a great preventative measure so that the injury doesn’t lead to surgery or even worse, not being able to play the sport in question. Many injuries can often be solved with proper care and rehabilitation to the injured area. Most, if not all sports medicine centers can give an athlete an at-home, or in college cases at-school, rehab that can be done over time to improve the injury. While it may seem like a pain to do, it is one of the cases when the end justifies the means. If the injury heals, then the athlete can return to their sport.

So say all else fails and you end up with an injury that results in you being out for most of, if not the whole season. That’s okay. Things happen, and it is more important to recover correctly then to push to hard and make a bad injury worse. At the end of the day, as long as the recovery process goes well and the injury doesn’t prevent you from participating during the next season, then it is worth the time.

So remember athletes, if anything with your body seems to be wrong while practicing, make sure to follow up with it. That way, something small doesn’t turn into something major, and you don’t end up paying for it down the road.

Distant relationships: students and campus police

Everyone today has their own perception of the police, especially through the media’s representation of law enforcement officials. For some, when they think about police, they think about drugs, Michael Brown, or Eric Garner. Some people even think about biases that police have against certain groups.

However, the same is not true for Chatham University’s campus police. Many of the people that I have interviewed—varying in background, race, and gender—trust that the campus police do their jobs. But they do not support the distance between students and Chatham police.

“[One thing I would change about public safety] is [them] not sitting in their cars all the time,” said first-year Madison Mlinac, who is a criminal justice major and a member of Chatham’s first male basketball team.

I too agree with this statement. I see campus police riding around in their patrol cars or even sitting in their cars, and this time could be used to get to know the students and even the faculty. If their job is to protect, then why not get to know the people that they are protecting?

Asuka Kanazawa, a sophomore international student from Japan who is majoring in English, wishes to build relationships with the campus police.  

“I want to communicate with them,” she said. “It’s important, especially being [an] international student.”

Safety should definitely be a major factor for international students such as Kanazawa. These students are miles away from their homes, and Chatham and the United States and its culture are unfamiliar to them.

What we have to do is admit that there is a distance between students and campus police and try to find ways to bridge the gap between them.

In a previous meeting with the Chatham Student Government, Donald Aubrecht, Chief of Chatham’s Campus Police of four years, said, “All of the officers try to attend the sporting events, Easter egg hunts, [and other events] so that students can get to know the officers.”

This is a great way for campus police to get to know students because it lets the students know that there is a support system out there beyond their friends and peers; and also, campus police aren’t just there when something goes wrong.

I encourage all students to take advantage of campus police and get to know them especially since Chatham is a small campus. Although my mother works on campus, I still try to build relationships with other officers.

Every student I asked said that they knew Chatham’s police officers by face, but not by name. When I was in high school, this is how it started my freshman year. There were four security guards, and I didn’t get to know them until late in my sophomore year.

I ended up meeting them when I ended my friendship with a close friend at the time, which I hate to admit, because it should never take something bad happening to take advantage of the resources around you. We as students should feel obligated to have relationships with public safety because, in the end, when we need them the most, they will be there at our rescue.

Why is women on currency a political issue?

    The concept of getting a woman on one of the paper bills of the U.S. Treasury has been one on the minds of many government officials for a while, and citizens have been vouching for a change.

The United States Treasury has been looking for new representatives to be the face on a crisp new ten-dollar bill, and Chatham University had the pleasure of an alumna being in the running for the position. Rachel Carson was one of the women nominated to be featured on the redesigned paper money, but she did not make the final cut for the four top contenders.

    While the concept of a Chatham graduate being on a ten-dollar bill is exciting and forward, a woman in general is a step in the right direction for those seeking feminist equality everywhere. However, the political nature of this decision is at the core of the debate. The debate was brought up at the most recent GOP Debate, and candidates appeared flustered and confused when they were asked which woman they would like to see on currency. Two candidates, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, did not even choose American citizens. Bush chose Margaret Thatcher and Kasich chose Mother Teresa. There is an obvious gap between what is feminist and what is American in today’s politics.

    GOP candidate Carly Fiorina said she would keep the currency as it is. As an audience, we cannot presume to know the thought behind her reasoning, but we can witness a woman saying something that would, in some lights, be portrayed as an anti-feminist argument. In defense of Fiorina, she is the only female Republican candidate running for President in the 2016 election, and she is often overshadowed by the more controversial candidates, such as Donald Trump. As a woman in a mainly male-dominated field, she is cast aside as a secondary character in the election season.

    Women on money is not a foreign concept for the United States, considering at points in time both Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea were on coins. Yet somehow, paper money is a more validating stance. Some women who are in the running are Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name just a few. These women had an extreme impact on the advancement of women, and the idea of putting them on money is going to give whoever is chosen well-deserved recognition.

Still, these women are no less great if they do not make the cut. Their contribution is still important to American society.

Secretary of the the Treasury Jacob J. Lew has been posting updates on the redesign of the bill online, and younger people have created a large social media following. Follow the progress of the new ten-dollar bill at thenew10.treasury.gov.

What SAE fraternity and the Oklahoma City Bomber have in common

There is nothing so great as watching someone truly awful get what they deserve (occasionally with a side helping of getting skewered by the court of public opinion). If there is justice in the world, the skewering will be swift, merciless, and as enduring as the results of a glitter bomb. Unfortunately the caveat exists that, as awful as someone is, there will be someone just as awful who is willing and able to help them try to get away from the punishments they so richly deserve.

A few weeks ago, a video surfaced on youtube of two members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma leading their fratmates in a chant that was racist, offensive, and in no way shape or form acceptable conduct. Public opinion rose up and the frat was eventually banned from campus, with the two alleged ringleaders being expelled. One of the ringleaders did give a rather half-baked apology that makes it sound like he would have done it, and would continue to do it, had he not been caught.

If the story ended there, it would be a good story. The good parts of this story include the national chapter of the SAE disavowing all knowledge and ties to the Oklahoma chapter and taking their charter away into the bargain. The excellent version of this story (in a perfect world), would end with the disbanding of the fraternity and academic suspension and/or expulsion for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, the fraternity has hired a lawyer in an attempt to reverse the judgment rendered on them. And the lawyer, Stephen Jones, is very good at what he does. The man has a history of representing clients who are awful people, the most notable example being Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber).

Stephen Jones is someone you hope looks like a mustache-twirling villain, cackling and rubbing his hands together. Instead, he looks rather normal and a bit like that one grandparent you don’t talk about unless it’s to groan. His current repertoire of excuses for why the men of the fraternity acted the way they did include the usual finger-pointers (helpfully supplied by outside sources): rap and hip-hop are evil and corrupted the minds of pure, innocent young men. Naturally, they are not to blame for anything they said or did. A song called ‘Waka Flocka’ is taking most of the blame, despite being an injured party in this case.

The parents of one of the men expelled from the university say that he is a good boy and that he will live with the consequences of his actions. Unfortunately, society being what it is, he and his fellow expellee will eventually be remembered by the press as misguided young men who made some bad choices and were unjustly punished by a society that didn’t understand them. Sadly, this is not a new thing: young white men are caught being racist, called out on it, and the young men will be defended by the press as misguided youths corrupted by the new trifecta: rap, hip-hop, and violent video games.

If there is justice in the world, Stephen Jones’s push to get the fraternity reinstated and the expulsions overturned will fail.

Why Chatham should not force students to take EverFi’s Haven

Several weeks ago the Office of Student Affairs sent out an email informing students that there was an additional requirement that needed to be completed by juniors, seniors, and graduate students before they would be permitted to register for the Fall of 2015. This involved a 30-45 minute online course called Haven, powered by a company known as EverFi and was intended to arm students with information regarding sexual assault and abusive relationships in order for students to be, “engaged bystanders and community members dedicated to preventing sexual assault and violence.”

The program overall is an excellent source of information, particularly for first year and sophomore students. Additionally it provides fantastic resources for people who are in dangerous situations or have recently been exposed to a harmful circumstance. As a former RA here at Chatham, I know first hand how crucial it is to have an informed community because it enables us to protect one another from dangerous situations.

When  the course began, there was a quick little statement about how the material might be ‘disturbing’ to some people and, if a student felt the need, to look at the resource page for help. As someone who has been through an abusive relationship, I took note of it but since I had put off the course until the last minute–ironically because I had no desire to read about relationship safety and to be reminded of my own former relationship–I just wanted to get the thing over with so I could register for my final semester. So I began the course.

Unfortunately that trigger-warning label was real. It took about five minutes for me to come across material that started me down the path of panic attacks and flashbacks. However, being the rule follower that I am, I kept going because I really just wanted to register for my classes. I quickly clicked through, skipping as much as I could just to make the thing go away.

I was near the end, my heart racing, and one armed wrapped around my golden retriever, when I remembered that the program had mentioned a resource toolbar if students needed help. Figuring that clicking on the thing was hardly going to make the situation worse,  I clicked and was taken to a list that–while it did have wonderful resources for finding help while in a toxic relationship–there was nothing there to help students who had been triggered by the test. I finished the program, shut down the computer, and spent the next 24-hours trying to pull myself back together.

Chatham needs to be aware that the world is not comprised solely of people just waiting to be informed about these topics. There are a number of people on our campus who have been victims of sexual assault and relationship abuse and have moved on from these events. We’ve worked hard to get over these experiences, gone to therapy, relied on friends for support, and learned what triggers us. Chatham needs to remember us, sympathize with us, and give us another option besides a program that comes with a clear trigger warning label.

Additionally, it is not enough just to provide the option as something students need to inquire about. People avoid things that are going to cause them harm. When I read over the email several weeks ago, I chose to put it off until the last possible moment because I really did not care to think about the subject any more than I needed to, and it did not occur to me to petition to get out of it. An opt-out should be stated clearly in the introductory material sent out from the University.

In response to Sandy Trozzo’s “North Hills to revamp two school libraries”

According to Sandy Trozzo’s “North Hills to revamp two school libraries”–found online on Post-Gazette.com, The North Hills School District proposed to spend about $1 million in structural fees and $470,000 on furniture to renovate the libraries in the middle school and high school.

In general, libraries in schools serve as a pathway to future success for many students.  Many adolescents can express their beliefs and emotions when reading, as well as calm their anxiety.  Thus, libraries are important for the growth and development of middle school and high school students.

Libraries provide students with access to computers, printers, and audio books.  Technology is a very evolving sector in society, which can be used to help students boost their grades.

Not every student has access to these important technologies in their homes; thus, lack of access should not determine low grades.  Furthermore, audio books are more prevalent in libraries today because some students require a different approach to understanding and learning.  A renovated library will benefit students in many ways, but a renovated library can also improve the communities where the students live by bringing down crime rates.

The smartest adults I know enjoyed spending their time reading in their local libraries growing up.  If students receive a renovated library, then they may want to spend more time in it or become devoted to it, which in turn, can expand their knowledge and future career.

Bringing Eden Hall on-line: the challenge of sustainability

Kimberly Lucke’s op-ed in the Communiqué–“The Emperor has no clothes: Eden Hall campus’ promise of sustainability as nothing more than an elaborate illusion”– raises some interesting philosophical points, contains some factual errors, and arguments which need a little unpacking. So, in an effort to move towards solutions, let me dive in.

Is the Eden Hall Campus truly sustainable? No, nothing last for eternity. In the end, entropy always wins. But over a timeframe we are comfortable with and with a notion of sustainability that is not so fundamentalist, the Eden Hall infrastructure will be way more sustainable than most university campuses and communities. It is designed to have zero carbon emissions. At present it generates more energy than it uses and does so from renewable sources (geothermal and solar). We actively treat the majority of wastewater and storm water run-off on-site, thus greatly reducing our impact on the waterways of the region.   Our farm is using sustainable practices.  The new buildings are built to high LEED standards. So the infrastructure, energy, and water systems are highly sustainable.

Our challenge now is to build a living and working community on top of this that exemplifies the principles of sustainability. Sustainable communities balance public good (for now and the future) against private desire, and they embody principles of governance which both seek to represent the wishes of the individuals and the rights of the broader public, and generations yet to come.  In this spirit, I throw out a challenge to all of Chatham’s faculty and students. Let’s identify the problems (a thing academia is pretty good at), but also come up with workable solutions. A big chunk of sustainability is about community-generated adaptations to change. Figuring out how to make Eden Hall work as a learning community is the real challenge of the next year.

I also want to clarify that Eden Hall is a campus very much geared for both graduate and undergraduate student use today and in the future. At present, graduate students use it far more than undergrads. The systems that are in place – energy, water, the farm – generate opportunities and data that grad students (and soon undergrad students) embrace and use in their learning.

Eden Hall Campus will be pioneered, seeded if you like, by the Falk School. As the campus grows to the vision of 1,000 students one day, it will become like a branch campus offering a broad range of degrees, but all embodying the sustainable philosophy. Beginning this fall, graduate and undergraduate courses in business, psychology and education are going to be taught there for residents of the North Hills. The new, one-credit Eden Hall Experience classes for all Chatham undergraduates will also be offered. Biology classes and creative writing classes are already planned.

As the range of courses offered at Eden Hall grows, and as we get smarter at using the video-teaching facilities to connect students in one location with faculty in another, the challenge of travelling between the two campus will be reduced.  In the meantime, it is true that public transportation to Eden Hall is poor. That is why we are providing our own shuttle service, shared short-term car rental services and encouraging ride sharing in this inaugural year.

The first residence hall at Eden Hall is on track to open this August. It includes rooms for undergraduates and some more suitable for graduate students, with blocks of two bedrooms connected to their own private bathrooms. True, there are no fully fledged apartments, but that’s the point. We are not trying to emulate the unsustainable lifestyle of today, but rather experiment with a more sustainable lifestyle for the future.

Is Eden Hall isolated and remote? Is there nothing to do out there?  Well, what you see depends so much on where you stand. As someone who lives a mile north of campus, I’ve found there are good farm shops close by Eden Hall, locally-owned restaurants, tennis centers, a community center, shopping and more.

Yes, Eden Hall is not living in downtown Pittsburgh and the campus is not intended to provide urban opportunities. However, with three Chatham locations, spanning a gradient from urban to periurban, and with substantial community-based and urban engagement, we have the unique opportunity to create a 20 mi + learning landscape that can demonstrate how place and scale are key to sustainable initiatives. For example, land use policies, storm water management options, and development approaches vary in their appropriateness depending on location. What is appropriate for downtown Pittsburgh is not appropriate for EHC and vice versa. Our campuses enable us to highlight these place-based differences in a way that other universities cannot.

Whether we are able, over the next 20 years, to build a sustainable campus at Eden Hall depends, in large part, on the engagement of faculty and students.  You can be part of building the vision, for now and for future generations. I welcome the conversation and look forward to working with you all.

Education Failure: Oklahoma edition

Law, religion, and education in the United States tend to mix in the strangest ways. In the 1930s, there was the case of Tennessee v. Scopes (teaching evolution in science as opposed to creationism, outlined in the Butler Act, which eventually overturned in 1967); every law in the past ten years that have allowed businesses, doctors, and other professional organizations or persons to discriminate based on religious beliefs, and the recent slew of anti-abortion measures–the majority of which intersect with sex ed in the United States in one form or another.

The most current intersection of failure came less than a month ago from Oklahoma, of all places.  Oklahoma has some of the strangest laws on the books (few of which are enforced, due to the obscurity of the laws or the possibility of ridicule that would follow trying to actually prosecute breaches of those laws), and the actions of Representative Dan Fisher are no exception.

Representative Fisher is a Republican (most religiously-based laws in the United States come from the Republican party) and quite firm in his belief that ‘politically correct progressives’ are destroying America’s Christian heritage, which is completely against what the ‘Christian’ Founding Fathers wanted. This ignores the fact that the Founding Fathers were atheists, deists, or kept their noses out of the religious debate that they foresaw coming.

Representative Fisher’s latest blunder into things he probably hasn’t researched to the level of a tenth grade student in Advanced Placement US History (APUSH) is the bill that banned APUSH. The grounds for this bill is that the class violates recent changes to Common Core Standards (the standards were changed so that teachers had to ‘teach the test’ so that students could pass state assessment tests).

The unofficial reason, supported by statements made by Fisher and his friends in the Black Robed Regiment–most of whom haven’t set foot in a public school in decades–is that the course paints American history in an unfair light with few positive aspects and excludes what they believe is the true ‘Christian history’ of the United States.

For those who have not taken an APUSH course, it should be noted that APUSH covers American history from the arrival of Native Americans to the latest presidency.  The level of detail dedicated to each portion varies from instructor to instructor, although the course tends towards being a more comprehensive view of American history than what is offered in standard classes at the same grade level.  It is also one of the faster, cheaper ways to earn college credit or make an admissions form look better than the applicant’s competition.

The bill passed 11-4 in the Oklahoma House Education Committee on the sixteenth–less than a week ago–prompting massive outrage from students and parents.

A poll of 6627 students and parents in two cities in Oklahoma showed that 96 percent of them opposed efforts to ban APUSH.  It can be assumed that the other four percent abstained from answering or were supporters of Fisher’s meddling.

Thankfully, the backlash to the bill was so severe that, in the past week, Fisher has begun doing a backstroke that would make Olympic swimmers proud and is trying to distance himself from his bill in any way possible.

With luck, it will not pass the Oklahoma Senate and will not be implemented, saving future generations from having to read the Ten Commandments, Reagan’s speeches, and two sermons instead of learning the full breadth and depth of true American history.

Fifty Shades of Failure: Why you should skip “Fifty Shades of Grey”

It’s that time of year again. The time to buy your loved ones chocolate, flowers, and cards with romantic messages that could have been said better in another language.  It’s also, apparently, the time of year to go watch a movie that glorifies domestic violence and the complete and utter violation of Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC) rules.

That’s right.  It’s the time of year where apparently, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the must-watch romantic movie. Due to the issues of partner stalking, domestic violence, and the lack of SSC–to name just three of the multitude of problems in the books–one must wonder why “Fifty Shades of Utter Failure” was chosen as the senior fundraiser trip when there are so many more options for a Valentine’s Day trip they could have done.

A simple Google search for the search string ‘everything wrong with 50 Shades of Grey’ nets a little over nine million results. The majority of those results are either lovingly created detailings of everything wrong with the BDSM aspects of the trilogy or terrifyingly on-point breakdowns of the abuse presented and excused in each of the three books (the best breakdown is the “50 Shades of Abuse” WordPress account, which also contains trigger warnings in the chapter-by-chapter listings, given the nature of the book being reviewed). Other results include absolutely nauseating discussions of how wonderful the trilogy is, the minutes of drinking games on various forums (‘divine goddess’, take a shot), and dramatic readings on YouTube (the best is the Nostalgia Team reading in various voices, including Mickey Mouse), to name a few.

As the movie is being released on Valentine’s Day (with an early release on Wednesday, February 11), one can only assume that the movie will be only slightly better than the books, given that it must be packaged for a wider audience (people are more likely to watch a movie than read a book in certain cases). Theoretically, this means that the movie could be better written and contain fewer problematic elements, and the cast interviews–especially the recent disastrous appearance from the co-stars of the movie–make it almost worth seeing, if only to view the utter lack of chemistry and the almost palpable (and somewhat murderous, if interviews are to be believed) hatred between the lovely Dakota Johnson and equally handsome Jamie Dornan.

The premiere of “Fifty Shades of Abusive Relationships” does make one wonder at the state of Hollywood, when this is the type of movie that they want to release for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is meant to be shared by couples, or friends, or the people who spend the day counting down to the post-Valentine’s candy sale. Nowhere is February 14 supposed to be a celebration of domestic violence.

Except, apparently, in Hollywood.  There are no redeeming features in this trilogy. It is abuse apologism in the worst form and contains very misleading information about BDSM that can lead (and has lead) to hospitalizations and one-way trips to the morgue.

Instead of going to see “Fifty Shades of Domestic Violence,” consider donating the cost of your ticket to a women’s shelter, a food pantry, or an animal shelter, and watch something vaguely holiday-themed on Netflix.