Cutting Ties

Recently, UMass announced they were cutting ties with Bill Cosby, after a series of rape allegations came forward from numerous women. Cosby served as the honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst’s capital campaign, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the university. While I’m proud of the university for making this decision, I can’t help but find it a little ironic that by doing so UMass is painting a picture of being a proactive campus against rape culture, when in actuality it is a huge problem that there is simply not enough being done about.

In an article published by The Wire, UMass is listed as one of 55 schools listed as allegedly mishandling rape cases. http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/05/here-are-the-55-colleges-being-investigated-for-allegedly-mishandling-rape-cases/361517/

Most of us probably remember the gang rape that occurred in a campus residence hall in 2012. Ultimately this was contributed to a lack of security. This came just two years after an article was published in The Daily Collegian, detailing a student who was only given a deferred suspension, even after admitting to the rape. While campus officials admitted they had made a mistake in that repercussion, several other women came forward after and admitted the university had handled their situation in similar fashion. I find it sad that now under the spotlight the university is trying to take hold of the sexual assault problem when it has been a problem all along.

I can not even tell you how many times I have had my female friends walk home alone late at night because the busses have stopped running. And did you know that a lot of the “safe phones” don’t even work? It is little details like this UMass could definitely think more about. Of course, there is a lot more to be done. I’m glad that Campus officials have realized what a dire situation it is and that cutting ties with an alumni who perpetuates such acts, regardless of how notable he is, is imperative.

You can read more about the university cutting ties with Bill Cosby here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/27/showbiz/bill-cosby-umass-amherst/

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Athletes Voice Thoughts in Wake of Ferguson

You have had to be living under a rock to not be aware of the ongoing situation going on in Ferguson, Missouri. They controversy has been the most polarizing subject nationwide wide for the past several months, and every person has their own opinion. In wake of the decision to not proceed to court, many were outraged and were not hesitant to voice and demonstrate their thoughts. While common civilians used outlets such as social media and protesting, professional athletes in multiple sports used to their high profile platform to get their message across.

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Multiple St. Louis Rams players come out during introductions showcasing “hands up don’t shoot,” in support of Michael Brown.

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Shortly after the decision was made, NBA superstar LeBron James posted this image to his Instagram page, showing clear distaste of how the cases of both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were handled by the U.S. legal system.

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Last week, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose wear a black t shirt with “I can’t breathe,” printed on it, displaying his thoughts of the Eric Garner situation. Garner, under suspicion of selling single cigarettes, was approached and proceeded to be choked by a police officer, which eventually lead to his death. The event was captured on video by a pedestrian, in which Garner can clearly be heard saying “I can’t breathe” while he was being choked.

It is somewhat refreshing to see athletes using their high platform and ability to reach people in a positive way. Too often do we see them, as well as celebrities of other professions, in the news for things that could not affect people one way or the other. Athletes such as the Rams players, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose are using their spotlight to express their opinions on a subject that needs to be talked about, and its nice to see.

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2014 in Review: Republicans, Riots and Racism

2014

A couple of days ago, this picture was what greeted me on Facebook. Because of the outrage and rioting that followed the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, you may not be aware of the identities of the other three boys, all of which were shot by police.

John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in the Dayton, Ohio Walmart in August. He had picked up an air rifle (that can shoot BBs or fire pellets) and was carrying it as he walked through the store, talking on his cell phone. The police claimed they shot Crawford because he failed to drop the gun when they ordered him to, though if you watch the surveillance videos, that can be hard to fathom. The police don’t seem to stop to reason with Crawford; in fact they never stop moving toward their target. The grand jury decided not to indict the officers responsible.

Eric Gardner died in July. While he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes in New York City, an officer placed him in a fatal chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD. The grand jury decided not to indict the officer.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in late November in Cleveland. Some of you may have seen it on the news while you were home for Thanksgiving break, like I did. Like Crawford, he was carrying an airsoft gun. There hasn’t been a conviction at this time.

In a short article by Charles Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, he discusses a personal experience where a white man with an airsoft gun on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus was subdued without a single shot fired. Is the police violence a race issue, he asks? Or does the media make it out to be a race issue?

Johnson brings up the fact that everyone, including the police, are fearful because of past shooting massacres like what happened at Virginia Tech. However, the Virginia Tech shooter was Chinese; the Columbine shooters were white. If we are basing our fear off of the past, race shouldn’t be an issue. Whites, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks alike have proven themselves equally capable of committing violent crimes.

Regardless of whether the race of the victims is over-exaggerated, some sort of reform is obviously necessary. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how so many people can be so upset about these killings and yet none of the officers responsible have been indicted – though there is still a possibility in the Rice case. The officer who killed Gardner used a chokehold which is banned by the NYPD. How can he – or the numerous other officers who have used this move – go without punishment? If there is no punishment, police officers will continue to act as if they are above the law.

Police aren’t supposed to be the bad guys. We – no matter what race – should be able to see a police officer and feel protected, not fearful. Training of police officers needs to place more emphasis on protecting without harming and on finding alternatives to shooting fatally. Perhaps we should require that all airsoft guns be painted bright orange so the police and witnesses can tell them apart from real guns. Perhaps our scientists should spend time researching and developing tranquilizer darts, size they are currently not fast acting and require different doses depending on the size of the person. To say that guns were the necessary weapon to “solve” all of these situations is just absurd. But, we can consider “what if’s” all day and they won’t change the past; now we need to focus on preventing such uncalled for shootings in 2015 and the years to come.

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A Message on Educational Structure

In our last class of the semester, we discussed flaws within the education system. This is something that college students feel more passionate about than anyone, because they deal with those flaws every day.

When I was originally looking for colleges, unlike most people I was confident I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to combine my love for horses with my love for writing and eventually work for a horse-related magazine, like Horse Illustrated, Young Rider, Equus, etc. Most of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about but there is a market for journalism about any subject whether it be science, technology, animals or fashion, because there are people out there who take great interest in these things. Thus, when I was picking colleges, UMass seemed like the perfect fit; it offers both journalism and equine management, whereas any other school I looked at had only one or the other.

It was my grand plan to come here and double major or take equine management as a minor. Only after I had started school here did I find out that you can’t do that because one offers an associate’s degree, the other offers a bachelor’s, and there is no minor in equine management. There is no minor in Animal Science either. BDIC proved impossible as well because you have to pick at least three majors to combine and you cannot participate in classes that are 200-level or below – which, being an associate’s degree, equine management practically only offers classes that are 200-level or below.

Long story short, because of the institution’s rules, I am a journalism major with a French minor. This is the closest I can get to my field of interest due to the educational structure that doesn’t see me as an individual.

According to the UMass website, there are 95 undergraduate majors that offer either bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. This sounds pretty impressive until you consider that there are far more than 95 jobs a person can have, probably thousands. I understand entirely that it would be unethical to offer a major catering to each specific career path – there are not enough teachers, overspecialized classes produce a small student count and the school wouldn’t be making much money from it. But when even BDIC – the system designed to incorporate multiple majors – fails, it teaches students to think less creatively. Modern education teaches students to fit into boxes that they have no control in designing. It’s almost like getting hand-me-down clothes from an older brother or sister. Sure, those clothes fit your sibling, but they might not fit you. “You’ll grow into them,” your parent says. When picking a major, you learn to adapt to the circumstances that someone else has already determined for you.

To use another analogy, a fish grows to fit the body of water that contains it. Having such clearly defined, pre-determined majors is like confining the fish to a small bowl. The student – in the analogy, the fish – can only grow so much intellectually as his or her opportunities allow. By allowing students to take classes that only partially fit their interests, administrators put a cap on students’ intellectual growth. This is because when students study subjects that they are truly interested in and passionate about, they learn more from their work. They CARE to learn more. A more open educational system that caters to students’ individuality would produce students that can say their diplomas are more than just $80,000 pieces of paper.

We are constantly learning, often through our work as journalists, that the world can’t be seen in black and white. When will the education system catch up?

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#FreeTheNipple

Among this years’ media trends was that of feminism, spearheaded by the likes of Emma Watson and Keira Knightley, who wished to increase awareness and equality for women. This feminist wave also gave rise to an interesting phenomenon, the Free the Nipple campaign. Originally starting as a grassroots campaign, its’ aims are to”stand against female oppression, working to change…inequalities through film, social media…” that immediately caught fire. They seek to decriminalize public female nudity, including breast feeding.

Top celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, Lena Dunham, and Rumer Willis joined this national movement, either posting pictures of themselves baring their bare breasts or pictures of support for the campaign.

Chest to impress: Michelle's former flame Cara Delevingne is also a supporter of the Free The Nipple campaign and posted this snap to her Instagram account

After posting a risque photo from a French photoshoot, Rihanna was banned from Instagram for 6 months, violating its policy against “pornographic or sexually suggestive photos.” These kinds of female NSFW  photos have found a home in Twitter, however, which has no such policy.

What do you think of this campaign? Are you pro-breast? What do you think of the way society accepts male topless-ness and not female? Is this campaign going too far or not far enough?

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Response to Professor Arthur S. Keane’s Research Analysis

The paper titled “Students as Neo-Liberal Subjects: A Guide to How Millenials Learn Eighteen Talking Points” was very eye opening and interesting in my development of maturing and my college experience. While reading the document I noted many of the points being addressed that relate to me personally or that I can understand such as that students are in a vocational mindset or that students highly value relational teaching. This reading opened my mind to the extent of the college mind and allowed me to understand how I felt and how everyone around me felt as well.

That being said, there are some points addressed in this reading that make me scratch my head and wonder how conclusive these findings are, but like with most studies, results and survey’s are generalizations on a population rather than actually relating to all students.

One of the most interesting points described is the point on anti-intellectualism. I believe this point is accurate but also misled. While I do agree that their is a pressure to just “shut up and listen” to the professor rather than ask questions or answer them, at the same time in small classroom environments I believe that this type of behavior is accepted and encouraged by professors and peers alike. The study in a sense is bias to the large classroom environment, where it is often annoying to ask questions with 200 others in the lecture because it takes away from the teachings of the lesson and with many students not knowing their professor personally this adds a burden to the class structure and learnings.

Overall the points addressed in this study has helped to open my mind and to carefully analyze all situations for what they are and to not judge those who are trying to open up in college. It also has given me a sympathetic view of professors, who I have a great deal of respect for, rather than the condescending answers concluded to within this research.

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Reinterpretation of Social Media: Revival of Facebook

Social media, like other forms of entertainment start off in society having a common purpose. When it comes to social media, there are no exceptions. Social media is prone to society’s influence regardless of the creators intended goals. With that being said, are social media platforms like Facebook actually dying or is it rather that users are bored of the norm associated with the platform?

My answer is the latter, many of the social media platforms are fantastic and reimaginings of their usage is exactly what is needed to keep their longevity. For example, Facebook is a platform that has since been replaced by Twitter by those who use social media most (teenagers and early adults), yet Facebook is still a fantastic platform if you use it outside of the norm. The norm during the prime of Facebook was not about reconnecting but rather it was posting nonsense statuses and getting likes. It was about uploading countless pictures and commenting on friend’s relationship statuses, being brothers with your best friend and being friend’s with your entire high school, regardless if you were friends or not.

In today’s day and age, this norm has been replaced by countless viral videos, spam, and changes to the interface and legal status (Facebook selling information to marketers) that have led to a downfall of users, but, it is this new age that allows Facebook to grow from a matured high school demographic such as myself. Facebook isn’t dead, it just needs to be reimagined. I now use Facebook to express my opinions and to read the news. By following a bunch of News Outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, XXL Magazine, etc. I am able to stay informed in the world without needing to go to the home page of these outlets and be lost. This new era of Facebook also allows me to actually reconnect with people that I have met throughout my life and not just add everybody.

Overall, the usage of social media is defined by the users, but just because a norm is no longer appealing does not mean a platform is dying but rather a new norm needs to be established that is beneficial to the platform.

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