AWOL - Issue 017

Page 1




+ UNITED WE LEAVE Stadium sparks gentrification concerns

+ UNMASKING PREJUDICE Implicit racism at AU

+ ACING THE SEXUALITY SPECTRUM Recognizing asexual identities




"After a week without response, she tried calling the financial aid office, but the voicemail box was full."


—Julia Rapp, p. 17

AWOL is a progressive magazine run by American University students in Washington, DC. Founded in the spring of 2008 with support from Generation Progress, we are now an awardwinning publication funded by AU Student Media. We exist to ignite campus discussion of social, cultural and political issues, and serve as an outpost for students to explore solutions to local and global problems. We hope to build bridges between American University and the world around it, ultimately making our campus more inquiring, egalitarian and socially engaged. AWOL is not affiliated with any political party or ideology. Our stories have an angle, which is different from having an agenda; our reporting is impartial and fair, but our analysis is critical and argumentative.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Eleanor Greene MANAGING EDITOR: Alexa Marie Kelly ART DIRECTOR: Ellyse Stauffer



"Despite outcry by groups respresenting DC's poorest residents, developments continue at a breakneck pace."

—Brendan Agnew, p. 5

WEB EDITOR: Casey Chiappetta

EDITORIAL STAFF EDITORS: Jess Anderson, Casey Chiappetta, Pamela Huber, Laura Saini, Jessica Wombles CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Evie Lacroix, Andrea Lin, Ben Pitler WRITERS: Brendan Agnew, Casey Chiappetta, Lydia Crouthamel, Emma Dacol, Antoinette D'Addario, Rain Freeman, Evie Lacroix, Ben Pitler, Julia Rapp, Laura Sholtz, Megan Yoder



DESIGN ASSISTANT: Anagha Srikanth ILLUSTRATION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Rain Freeman, Evan Mills, Mithila Samak

LIKE A STORY? HATE A STORY? Want to join AWOL? Write to us:


AFFILIATIONS AWOL is a member of the Associated Collegiate Press, AU Student Media Board and Generation Progress’ Voices Network. The publication has won awards at the National College Media Convention, and our writers have won awards for their articles from the Society for Professional Journalists.


11 THE FEMINIST ECONOMIST MARIA FLORO by Lydia Crouthamel AU professor discusses global gender inequality.

13 AFFORDING A FUTURE PAYING FOR YOUR UNPAID INTERNSHIP by Laura Sholtz High expectations, no wages.


17 THE REAL IMPACT OF HIGH TUITION YOU ARE NOT A LOAN by Julia Rapp Rise of the living debt.



by Evan Mills Seed exchange celebrates legalization.


by Emma Dacol

by Andrea Lin

The perils of having parrots as pets.

Let's not talk about sex.



by Brendan Agnew

by Rain Freeman

Will residents move out when D.C. United moves in?

Students seek mental health solutions.





by Casey Chiappetta

by Evie Lacroix

A microcosm of microagression.

Sun's out, guns out.



PROTECTING POLLY By Emma Dacol Photos by Paige Salmon

Alex is a blue and gold macaw. His owner, Claire Exten, volunteers at the Goruda Aviary in Poolesville, Maryland. The nonprofit sanctuary shelters abused and neglected parrots. She has been volunteering at the aviary for about a year and a half. She explained that since working at the aviary, she has learned a lot about parrot behavior and nutrition. She has also improved her relationship with Alex.



“We have a much better relationship. He’s more level-headed most of the time,” Exten said. “He still has his parrot days where he goes crazy; he’s still a macaw, but then when he does go off the deep end or whatever, I understand why. He’s just being a parrot.” Christopher Zeoli is the director of the Garuda Aviary. He says parrot owners are far more likely to abandon their birds rather than keep them for their entire lives. Like many parrot sanctuaries across the U.S., the Garuda Aviary started by accident. Zeoli and his mother adopted one parrot and started taking in other abandoned parrots. Before they knew it, they had a reputation. The birds started flocking in. According to Zeoli, 98 percent of parrots sold as pets come from abusive parrot mills. There parrots are squished in tiny cages, kept in total darkness and fed an unnaturally rich diet to induce breeding. The diet often leads to heart attacks and strokes. Through his work, Zeoli hopes to increase awareness about parrot welfare and conservation, helping people recognize that parrots are wild animals and do not belong in captivity. However, for those who insist on keeping the birds as pets, Zeoli wants to educate parrot owners about proper care. Approximately one-third of parrot species in the wild are endangered due to habitat destruction and the trade of wildcaught parrots, while millions of wild parrots kept as household pets are discarded. The Wild Bird Conservation Act was passed in 1992, banning the import of wild caught birds into the U.S. But illegal poaching and captive breed-



ing of parrots for the pet trade have continued. Some argue that humane breeding of parrots in captivity reduced demand for illegally caught birds. However, Zeoli argues that because it is so difficult to get parrots to

“He still has his parrot days where he goes crazy; he’s still a macaw, but then when he does go off the deep end or whatever, I understand why. He’s just being a parrot.”

reproduce in captivity, it is impossible for breeders to treat parrots humanely and still run an economically viable breeding business. The natural lifespan of a parrot is between 50 and 90 years, and in the wild, they live in flocks and form intensely monogamous relationships with their mates. In captivity, they try to replicate these relationships with their owners. Parrots liv-

ing with a human family may identify them as its flock, and in some situations, they will form a mate-like bond with one person, which can be very problematic. The parrot can become violently aggressive toward the person’s significant other or children. Parrots exhibit remarkable intelligence. Irene Pepperberg, an adjunct professor of psychology at Brandeis University, proved that an African Gray parrots has intelligence levels similar to that of a human child. Parrots experience isolation in captivity and are not able to fly. They feel stress which leads to selfmutilation in the form of feather plucking, similar to human obsessive-compulsive disorders. In contrast to the media’s false image of the playful, friendly parrot, most parrot owners find their parrots difficult to manage due to their noise and aggression, and they give them up. Because of the intense bonds parrots form with their owners, transferring homes can be very traumatic. Zeoli hopes that the government will put an end to the domestic breeding of parrots and that trade of wild-caught parrots will stop before all macaw species go extinct. He says that working at the aviary and seeing the trauma and suffering experienced by so many birds on a daily basis is “the most emotionally taxing thing I’ve ever done,” but that rehabilitating the parrots and making a difference in their lives makes it all worth it. •

Emma Dacol is a graduate student pursuing an MFA in film and electronic media.


fully approved until DC Mayor Muriel Bowser assumed office, it was proposed by outgoing Mayor Vincent Gray as a final marker of his legacy. Once home to small industries that lined the Anacostia River of yesteryear, Buzzard Point now holds a great deal of unused space, including the husk of an old chemical refinery.


UNITED WE LEAVE By Brendan Agnew // Photo by Evan Mills


ust a block away from the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station stands Nationals Park, which casts a long shadow over the scattered development around. It is surrounded with the usual trappings of large entertainment centers: clean sidewalks culminating in a few chain restaurants. Walk in any direction away from the stadium and you’ll be in the Southeast DC that tourists and college newcomers alike are warned about. In the months leading up to the stadium’s construction, DC residents


were promised a “Stadium District” with shopping centers and condos. It would be like a Chinatown or Columbia Heights, flush with new revenue. For the most part, this promise was unrealized. The District now plans to replicate this strategy hardly a mile away from Nationals Park, this time opting to build a stadium for DC United, the District’s Major League Soccer franchise. United has its eyes on a large plot of land in Buzzard Point, a neighborhood in Southwest DC that has become a hotspot for development in recent years. Although the stadium plan was not

In addition, it’s also home to many lower income residents. The United stadium would not be the first large organization in the neighborhood. Developers such as Akridge Real Estate and Pepco already have large claims where the proposed stadium would be. The DC City Council rejected a land swap with Akridge that would have given the company the Reeves Center municipal building on U Street NW, so now the city must negotiate a deal with Akridge and Pepco or claim eminent domain to expropriate the land. Initially, D.C. United’s management and DC’s City Council struck a deal in which the city unanimously agreed to assign $140 million to cover some of the costs of the stadium’s construction. These funds were expected to be matched by United to some extent. The franchise would also get a tax abatement from the city, which would allow it to sidestep 20 years of tax payments totalling $43 billion. This proposal would make this stadium the most expensive facility in Major League Soccer. According to Neil deMause, author of the book “Field of Schemes,” stadiums are often funded via these methods. “Local governments have used general fund revenue, sales taxes, hotel taxes, business taxes, land swaps, property tax breaks, lottery and gambling revenues, you name it,” deMause said. “The only standard approach is to keep cycling through different proposals until


you find one that people don't complain too loudly about.” In his book and on his blog of the same name, deMause writes about the kinds of backroom deals and concessions involved in the making of sports stadiums and how taxpayers and social spending are often on the hook to pay for them. According to deMause, roughly $2 billion of tax revenue is used in the construction and maintenance of stadiums in the U.S. each year. Proponents of these developments tend to ignore costs paid by taxpayers and are quick to point to the wealth and investment that tends to follow. According to ThinkProgress reporter Travis Waldron, Nationals Park failed to bring about this neighborhood development. “If you accept that Nats stadium was good for the city, then add on that we need a new D.C. United stadium right next to it, you’re essentially admitting that the economic impact did not stretch more than three quarters of a mile,” Waldron said. “I want United to stay around. I’m a soccer fan. But should we spend this money [on the stadium] when we’re trying to replace [the] D.C. General Homeless Shelter, update our transit and invest in affordable housing? These have been long-term priorities that we didn’t stop to think about.” Empower DC organizes low-income communities and gives them a platform to advocate for their needs. Although the group has not organized a specific campaign in response to the stadium proposal, Daniel del Pielago, a community organizer there, says that the organization sees the stadium as a part of a larger effort to push low-income residents out of the District. “The sports and entertainment industries are as guilty of trying to gen-



trify the city as the school closures and cuts to affordable housing that we fight,” del Pielago said. “It’s something we see as tied to the push-out of certain wards in the city, although [Empower DC] may not have the capacity to engage in some of these battles.”

tute, the groups demanded that the District’s government use these funds for infrastructural improvement, job training programs and a host of other services that would allow Buzzard Point residents to reap some sort of benefit from the new stadium.

Buzzard Point is home to three lowincome public housing installations:

The City Council conceded by allotting $4.5 million for community spending, but according to Washington Post reporters Johnathan O’Connell and Mike DeBonis, most of this money will likely be used to fund a new Circulator bus route, designed to get sports fans from Northwest in and out of Buzzard Point without hassle.

"Should we spend this money [on the stadium] when we're trying to replace [the] DC General Homeless Shelter, update our transit and invest in affordable housing?"

According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the average rent in the District has more than doubled since 2000. At the same time, the average income of the city’s poorest 20 percent has fallen dramatically, with most falling well short of the $85,000 a year necessary to meet all the living costs of a family of three in the DMV area. Despite outcry by groups representing the city's poorest residents, developments continue at a breakneck pace.

Syphax Gardens, James Creek and Greenleaf Gardens. If the new stadium goes as planned, residents of these areas could find themselves pushed out by the influx of pricey development that would follow. In September, a group of community organizers acting on behalf of these residents pressured D.C. United’s ownership and the City Council to set aside five million dollars for payments to the surrounding community. Organized by DC’s Fiscal Policy Insti-

According to deMause, Buzzard Point residents will be forced to leave their neighborhood. “You can definitely try to reduce the risk of displacement, but it's invariably hard in a market like DC today—the safest bet is to promote incremental growth that allows a neighborhood to react to slow change,” deMause said. “I can't see how a soccer stadium ever benefits the community it's in— it's just a big empty box that has a flood of people visiting it for a few hours maybe 30 times a year. As far as being a good neighbor goes, I'd rather have a decent supermarket any day, even if that's less flashy.” • Brendan Agnew is a senior studying economics.




Three black students were sitting next to each other in a row—one of them was SPA junior Tatiana Laing—in a constitutional law class. The professor began discussing affirmative action. He mentioned an argument made by one of the Supreme Court justices in favor of affirmative action: a diverse racial breakdown of the classroom leads to better discussion. The professor then turned to the three black students in the class and asked, “So what do you three students have to add to this conversation?” They laughed. Then they turned to each other in both shock and confusion. Laing thought if they said something, they would be playing into the comment; if they didn’t, they would make it seem as though the comment was acceptable. Laing responded, “I don’t think the argument was supposed to be taken that literally,” and the class laughed.


Laing said affirmative action is the “most uncomfortable issue” for black students to discuss because “as a black student, you don’t know why you were accepted to this school.” She said black students are plagued with the question of whether or not they were admitted due to merit or race. Given this anxiety about one’s status at the University, being placed in the position of being a public representative or spokesperson for an entire race is difficult, if not demeaning. And Laing’s experience is not an isolated happening. This sentiment was echoed by sociology professor Judy Lubin, who was the lead author on a statement signed by over 1,800 sociologists demanding justice in Ferguson, Missouri.

everyday life: a woman on a bus pulls her bag closer to her as a black man passes or a security guard keeps a close watch on a black shopper. “We all harbor [implicit biases] one way or another and we do need to be aware of them,” Lubin said. “And it may be race, it may be gender, it may be sexuality; but we have to be conscious of the biases—our standpoints—and the ways in which we view the world, and [make] sure we are treating people the same and not letting biases cloud the way in which we interact with each other.”

“If you’re a minority, and the subject comes up about race, sometimes people assume that you’re going to be the person of color to speak about the issue,” Lubin said. “Or that you must have something to say because you’re black or because you’re Latina. And sometimes the students of color might feel a certain type of burden that makes them uncomfortable.”

More explicitly, racist comments are seen on Yik Yak, an anonymous Twitter of sorts where users can up-vote or down-vote posts. On Yik Yak, we have seen the proliferation of racism within the last couple of months. Following a Black Lives Matter protest on campus called The Darkening, a student posted “Black lives matter. But only 3/5 as much.” Another posted, “Minstrel show outside of mgc at 3, everybody’s welcome!” In response, the AU administration released a statement condemning the racist posts.

Lubin says that particularly in mixedrace classrooms, students are less comfortable discussing race. She frames discussions about race in the classroom as not only a problem people of color deal with, but rather a “societal ill” that should matter to all. When bringing up race in the classroom, she says she uses videos or brings up current events, such as Ferguson, to frame the issue.

More racist posts occurred over spring break. One said, “Slavery was the worst thing to happen to this country, bringing them over here…ugh” to which someone responded “^completely agree. The sad fact is they complain about racism when 99% of the time there [sic] have totally racist views towards white people. At my school I literally get made fun of for being white.”

As a black professor, Lubin says she has also experienced classroom bias directed at her. For example, she says she feels there are higher standards for her being black and a young woman, which she says shows the intersectionality of oppression.

“What we are experiencing on campus is just a microcosm of what is happening in society,” Lubin said. A University of Washington study in 2009 found that 70 percent of those surveyed harbor an unconscious preference for white people over black people in comparison to 20 percent who consciously admitted racial preference in the Implicit Association Test (IAT). IAT measures how quickly people associated positive or negative words with white or black faces. It found that people of all races were quicker to associate positive words, such as “peace,” “love,” and “happy,” with white faces and “awful,” “agony,” and “hate” with black faces.

Modern racism is more subtle and nuanced than its predecessor: we no longer have “white” and “colored” signs over drinking fountains, yet racism still exists. We are socialized to look at people differently. In a report published by the Justice Policy Institute, researchers said that depictions of crime were disproportionate to people of color. We see the concrete examples in



Faith Hornor / AU Photo Collective

The grouping of people into in-groups and out-groups has evolutionary roots: we are disposed to favor our own side. Prehistoric humans who favored their own group while hunting were poised to survive, and this inherent bias to individuals is present today. The combination of the ease of inter-group discrimination and the difficulty of addressing implicit racism leads to people becoming very defensive. “People start to take it really personally when you start to talk about race,” Laing said. “People know there is racial inequality in this country. […] Like if I say the criminal justice system treats black people differently than it treats white people, that makes people really uncomfortable right off the bat and they look at themselves and


say, ‘Well, I’m not racist and I don’t hate black people.’ […] And in this school especially, they say, ‘I want to be a police officer, I want to be a prosecutor, I want to be a congressperson, I want to be president. I’m not racist.’ They associate [systems and institutions] with themselves.” Addressing race and racism is more a matter of what Lubin terms “consciousness-raising,” or allowing people to challenge their beliefs in a safe space. Both Laing and Lubin cite Black Lives Matter as a way of raising awareness about implicit and institutional racism. Laing, along with other students, has been talking to the Office of Campus Life to create a more inclusive community for black students and lasting initiatives such as coalition building. She wants to continue dialogue on campus.

“We’re not mad at any person who has a negative or racist opinion, because what I’ve realized over time is that it’s not that person’s fault,” Laing said. “If I’m walking in the street by myself as an African American woman and I see a black male on the other side of the street, I am just as conditioned to be afraid as every other person in this room. […] We are all products of living in the United States […] It’s just overcoming those perceptions and understanding where they come from because I also feel that’s where the combativeness comes from.” •

Casey Chiappetta is a sophomore studying sociology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.


nity to study abroad,” he said. Students who go abroad, he added, are more likely to graduate on time and gain both global understanding and soft skills that are valuable for future careers. But minority students may face unique obstacles, according to Trixie Cordova, the student outreach coordinator at Diversity Abroad, a program that seeks to give underrepresented students access to international education. She calls them the four Fs: fear, faculty, family and finances.



By Megan Yoder // Illustration by Mithila Samak


arah Snead’s experiences of personal development and growth are common among college students who study abroad. She is a junior studying environmental studies, who was in an immersive international program last semester in Nairobi, Kenya. “It was the kind of experience I was looking for,” Snead said. “I wanted to grow in some way, and I did, and I loved it.”

Snead is among the over 70 percent of AU students who will study abroad at some point during their undergraduate career. In comparison, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, the number of students studying abroad only represents about 1 percent of all U.S. students. But a more troubling trend in national study abroad participation is the racial


“Some of us have never left our hometown, or our state or the United States in general,” Cordova said. “There’s a lot about that that students might find frightening, that might limit their desire to study abroad.” She said faculty can unintentionally present challenges as well—advisers who look at a student’s career track, major and credits hours and encourage them to try another time. But for Cordova, who is Filipina and a first-generation college student, one of the biggest factors at play is family.

disparities among students who do end up participating in international programs. According to NAFSA, 76.3 percent of students abroad are Caucasian, 7.6 percent are Hispanic/Latino American, 7.3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.3 percent are African American or black, 3 percent are multiracial and 0.5 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native. Daniel Obst is the deputy vice president of International Partnership at the Institute of International Education, an organization that aims to make international education more diverse and accessible for all students. Obst says that students are missing out on an important educational and developmental experience if they do not go abroad. “We would like to see students from underrepresented groups having the opportu-

“For me, and for maybe students who are also second- or first-generation students, there’s a lot of other obligations that they may have to their families that makes it really challenging for them to take that time to study abroad, even if it is two weeks, or a semester or a year,” she said. Some families might rely on their English-speaking children to translate, to care for younger siblings or even to bring grandparents to the doctor. Parents who come from countries with different approaches to education might also make parents unfamiliar with the benefits of study abroad programs. “A lot of families came to the United States for the purpose of their son or daughter to attend and graduate


from an American college or university,” Cordova said. “Study abroad sometimes just seems kind of outside of left field. You know, ‘We came here for you to go to school and graduate on time, but it sounds like you are trying to go on vacation to Paris.’ Sometimes those are the kinds of things students have to dispel.”

Study Abroad, is a 5-year initiative that aims to double the number of students studying abroad. The initial phase of the program involves increasing participation in study abroad through scholarships. So far, the program has 142 partners, including the State Department, The New York Times and the government

diversity; in particular, the Gilman program attempts to target underrepresented groups—59 percent of scholarships awarded last year went to minority students, according to State Department statistics.

Often, a large obstacle in the path of any student is funding.

Ethan Merritt, the assistant director of AU Abroad, believes that it is also important for students to plan ahead with their academic adviser to make the process go smoothly.

“My parents had a lot of hesitations financially,” Snead said. “We talked about it a lot.”

“There does not need to be a big financial discrepancy between studying abroad and staying in DC,” Merritt said.

To help students cut costs, AU Abroad offers multiple Mobility Award scholarships of up to $2,500, which are awarded based on merit and financial need, along with school-specific awards and summer language awards. Still, Snead felt that she did not receive adequate information about study abroad scholarships. “There are definitely flaws in the system, and I think the University can definitely take steps to make [study abroad] more accessible to students,” she said. While Devki Gami, a junior studying abroad in India, agrees that AU Abroad should increase awareness of its scholarships, she felt that the University did try to make the abroad experience accessible to as many students as possible. “AU Abroad was extremely helpful,” she said. “My adviser was so awesome in helping with the entire process, from the time I was applying to actually being in India, and answering any and all questions I had.” She said she was particularly concerned about financial aid, but her adviser assured her academic scholarships would still apply. For students nationwide who do need extra help, outside organizations can provide much-needed funds. The IIE’s latest campaign, Generation



“Study abroad sometimes just seems kind of outside of left field. You know, 'We came here for you to go to school and graduate on time, but it sounds like you are trying to go on vacation to Paris.' Sometimes those are the kinds of things students have to dispel. ”

of Ireland. Ultimately, Obst says a main focus of the campaign is marketing study abroad specifically to minority groups. “We need to change the way study abroad looks,” Obst said. Even the State Department agrees. It offers scholarships aimed at increasing

Still, although merit awards and financial aid apply to tuition abroad, work study does not, which may leave some programs out of reach for students relying on that income. In addition, Merritt noted that housing and dining fees at other universities can cost more than at AU. Passport fees, visa fees and airfare can add up quickly as well. Though the University does not keep statistics on the demographic breakdown of students who go abroad and does not have any specific campaigns targeting minority students, AU Abroad recently reached out to the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program to help students in the program negotiate studying abroad. Despite the options available, it is still the nonfinancial challenges that may win out at the end of the day. “I know for me, study abroad was the first of what would become a couple of different international excursions,” Cordova said. “And while I think my parents were very supportive, there was a part of me that felt that I wasn’t being independent and brave; I was being selfish and abandoning my family.” • Megan Yoder is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism.



MARIA FLORO By Lydia Crouthamel // Photo by Rain Freeman

Maria Floro is a professor of economics at AU and the co-director of the graduate program for gender analysis in economics. She recently co-authored a book with two other feminist economists called “Gender, Development and Globalization.” Her professional research focuses on gender in the developing world.



What led you to study gender and economics? I became interested in gender because when I completed my PhD program, I realized that a lot of the discussion and analysis doesn’t take into account certain contributions of women. This is just an important observation that was reinforced as I took more courses. When I wanted to do a dissertation, obviously it was going to be in one of the fields that my graduate school was offering. But I wanted it to be something through which gender issues were addressed, and they told me to try demography. So I actually did demography, but I felt that gender was just beyond the question of population. That really piqued my interest. Your native country is the Philippines. Did you have any experiences there that inspired your studies? Yes, in the Philippines there was a growing women’s movement. I was aware of the demands of Filipino women for gender equality. What’s interesting is that in the Philippines if you look at some of the social indicators, women are doing fairly well compared to other women in the developing world. Things are changing now, but when I was growing up I thought the women’s movement was raising the important issues of the time, and there are many economic issues regarding women that have to be addressed. And I didn’t see any discussion in economics on those important matters. So I felt that one thing I would like to do in my research,and also in my teaching, is incorporate the gender dimension and raise questions. Were you directly involved in the women’s movement in the Philippines? No, I was in America already, but I read a lot of their work. I’m very interested, because I grew up in the Philippines and I’ve always felt that any research I do should address the concerns of people in the developing world. And certainly, the concerns and experiences of women is something that I’m very passionate about. So I read, and I was lucky enough that some of my research has taken me to do some fieldwork in the Philippines, as well as in other developing countries. You have co-authored a forthcoming book Gender, Development, and Globalization. Could you talk about the work that went into writing it? There are three feminist economists [who] are writing that. That book was originally written in 2003 by Lourdes Benería. She asked me a few years ago if I would be interested in revising the book with her because many things have changed since then. The issues raised in 2003 are pretty much the same as the issues raised today, but with more nuances today. We need to take into account that issues between women and men today are mediated by their class, their race or ethnicity, their situation in the labor market and so forth. I really learned a lot from writing that book with Lourdes Benería and our third co-author, Gunselli Berik. What is your greatest takeaway from co-authoring "Gender, Development, and Globalization"? First, many things that I taught and had been convinced of were challenged as I looked for more facts. Second, I was writing parts of that book from the perspective of women in the developing world. One of my co-authors is originally from Turkey and is not allowed to work in trade. The other now lives in Spain, and after retiring from Cornell University, and as one of the first feminist economists is particularly looking through a gender lens at the current crisis that Spain, Greece and other


MONEY MATTERS parts of Europe are experiencing. As we read each other’s pieces while writing the book, we noticed a sense of commonality among the issues. Regardless of whether you’re talking about women farmers in Africa, the unemployed graduates in Spain or the garment workers in Turkey, there is a sense of commonality in terms of what they are experiencing. So that sort of strengthened and reinforced our views on the importance of gender. It also showed that while there has been so much progress, so much still has to be accomplished. One other thing I got out of writing the book is that no matter how much you push knowledge in pursuit of promoting gender equality, you could not accomplish the strategic change that is necessary in policy without collective action (i.e. the women’s groups). And that collective action also must involve other economists and other activist groups, such as the environmental group. I know you’ve done a lot of research in developing countries. Could you describe the fieldwork? I always like to talk to the people whose behaviors and choices I am studying. Fieldwork is very important for me. The quality of the information is so important, and it provides you with a lot of invaluable insight. I also like doing collaborative work when working with developing countries. For example, if it’s not feasible for me to spend all of my time doing field work because I teach and do the writing, the collaboration with local researchers and local organizations is very important. They provide me with the context in which my study is being conducted. Right now I am doing some work on analyzing time use data for China, Mongolia and Thailand. I am lucky to have teams from those countries themselves to collect the data. Can you recall any experiences when doing fieldwork that were especially important or changed your mindset? Each time I go and talk to the subjects of my study, I have always felt that hearing from them directly either challenges your own prior beliefs or reinforces some of your beliefs, but it doesn’t leave your belief the same. It enriches it in some way, either because there are some nuances that you didn’t take into account, or that you didn’t anticipate that there could be some underlying concern of a particular person. The one nice thing about doing fieldwork is that you get a far richer explanation of what is going on. You may not be able to explain it all in your work, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of the question or issue that you’re examining. What is one thing that AU students may not know about the field of economics? It’s an exciting field. It’s a field that has a lot of influence, especially in the area of policy. It has an important role in shaping policy, it provides a lot of tools for using ever-growing information. However, economics does not have one common or single view. Students that take economics should feel free to explore the various perspectives and schools of thought that make this discipline rich. I encourage students to learn the tools of analysis, but also to keep an open mind, to maintain their abilities to think critically, and to question what seems to be written in stone. Very few things are written in stone in economics, because it is a social science after all. •

Lydia Crouthamel is a freshman studying business, language and culture.




By Laura Sholtz // Graphics by Ellyse Stauffer


renna Raffe, an AU freshman, would love to get an internship. But between her part-time work study job at the Davenport Coffee Lounge, full course load as a double major in literature and public relations, sorority membership and participation in club basketball, it seems unrealistic. “Even thinking about doing an internship during the school year next year gives me extreme anxiety,” Raffe said. Many students want to find an internship, but are held back because they cannot afford to work for free.

“If I worked a paid internship that would be phenomenal—I would be killing seven birds with one stone,” Raffe said. “It was my impression that in order to get a paid internship, you would probably have to get an unpaid one first, and do well in that and climb the internship ladder.” The reality is that for those looking to intern in the public sector or for non-profits, more internships are unpaid. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed 38,000 college students in 2013, 48 percent of respondents participated in unpaid internships. Of these unpaid interns, 21 percent worked for government organizations, 41 percent worked for nonprofits and 38 percent worked for the private sector. In contrast, only 11 percent of paid interns worked for the government while 16 percent worked for non-profits. Those who must support themselves and cannot intern face setbacks in getting work experience that makes them competitive in the job market when they graduate. With some students forced to choose between jobs and internships, a question arises: is it better for there to be many internships that only affluent students can afford to accept, or for there to be fewer, more competitive paid internships? AU proudly advertises that 85 percent of students complete internships before graduation. But many prospective students do not realize the demanding nature of applying for internships or the extra expenses. These include transportation and paying for course credit, in order to partici-


pate in what has become a seemingly mandatory aspect of AU student life. The U.S. government doesn’t always do its part to help either. Members of Congress offer hundreds of internships, but many are unpaid positions. Congress may take advantage of the legality of unpaid internships, since government organizations do not have to follow the same rules as private firms. The U.S. Department of Labor compiled a list of guidelines in 2010 under The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that outlines the requirements for an unpaid internship. The law requires that an unpaid internship has to be similar to an educational experience, take place for the benefit of the intern, not displace regular employees and ensure that employers “derive no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities. Furthermore, both the intern and the employer must understand that the internship will take place for a fixed time and that the intern will not receive wages. These requirements apply to all for-profit organizations. However, these rules do not apply for government and nonprofits. Since AU is known for its involvement in public service, the many students competing for coveted positions in the public sector find themselves fighting to work for free. When only the more affluent can afford to work for free, it undermines the diversity of those gaining experience in government early on. Intern rights to compensation in the private sector have come into the spotlight in recent years, especially in the court system. In a 2013, two former unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight claimed that they did administrative work that would have normally required paid employees. Their victory in the Manhattan District Court is seen as a legal victory for unpaid interns. In another court case filed by unpaid interns who worked at Condé Nast magazines, the plaintiffs did not fare so well. A different Manhattan district judge denied their request for a judgment, ruling that the media company did nothing wrong and the interns were not entitled to compensation. Although the judges for both cases used the Department of Labor’s guidelines, their interpretations widely differed. The precedent they set has become a gray area for unpaid interns and employers alike. Unpaid internships, though legally contentious, are at least plentiful. There are thousands of unpaid internships in DC, including working in government, national advocacy groups and non-profits.

"If I worked a paid internship, that would be phenomenal—I would be killing seven birds with one stone."



Zoe Crain, an AU senior in the School of Public Affairs, has worked at two unpaid internships on the Hill and also had paid internship positions. “I think there’s a place for unpaid internships,” Crain said. “But by the time you get to junior year, and you’re really thinking seriously about being able to live on your own, having an unpaid internship is really hard.” Teddy McCullough, also a senior in SPA, had an unfulfilling paid internship at a real estate agency last summer. Although the pay was great, he hated the work. “It was probably the worst work experience I’ve had, but money is a big driver when you’re a college student and you’re trying to pay for rent,” he said. AU does have some resources to help students who cannot afford to complete an internship, but the options are limited. The AU Career Center has a small stipend for students who work at unpaid internships called the Eagle Internship Fund. The center’s website says that these stipends “allow students to participate in unpaid internships in the public and nonprofit sectors and support AU’s tradition of developing professional experience through public service.” But there are only 15 to 20 stipends, and they are only awarded to Pell Grant recipients.

To supplement this program and hopefully expand internship aid to more students, AU Student Government is beginning a project to provide transportation stipends for students with financial need. The pilot program will provide funds to students enrolled in a political internship class in SPA; SG hopes the program will expand to all students if it is successful. William McNamara, SG president Sophia Wirth's chief of staff, is working on starting this program. “Right now, what we can at least do [is] help students break even,” he said. But just breaking even will not do for Raffe, who needs to constantly hold a paying part-time job. “I’m spending so much money to be in this city, at a private school, to have access to the places that I would want to intern,” Raffe said. “And it worries me that I won’t be able to capitalize on that enough that it will be worth paying for private school.” •

Laura Sholtz is a sophomore studying international relations and economics.



Hiring Rates for those who completed Internships












60 40












Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2013

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers




YOU ARE NOT A LOAN By Julia Rapp // Illustration by Ellyse Stauffer

The red patch is more than just a fashion statement. The square of felt that American University students wear symbolizes their protest against tuition increases.



done so they can’t award me anything else,” Johnson said. She didn’t know why the school took her aid away, and the financial aid office couldn’t seem

tudents at AU and across campuses in the U.S. wear the patch as a symbol of solidarity with a student movement in Quebec that protested high turition and won. According to analysis from credit bureau Experian, 40 million Americans have student loans. Tution hikes can hurt students like freshman Mattison Johnson. Johnson says she was supposed to receive a $4,000 grant, a merit scholarship, subsidized and unsub-

to give Johnson a clear answer. “All they kept saying was that ‘After reviewing your file we decided your family makes enough money to cover it,’” Johnson said. According to AU’s website, 71 percent of scholarship awards in 2013-2014 were need-based. To determine eligibility for grants, the University reviews information from a financial aid profile and considers factors such as younger

sidized federal loans for $3,400 per semester and a $3,000 work study job to help cover her tuition. But by the time she accepted the offer to attend AU, the school informed her that she had lost her grant and work study, as well as $2,000 from her combined federal loans combined, because she no longer qualified for the aid. “Even though I could reapply next year, for this year I’m

siblings attending private school, home equity and singleparent families. In order to be eligible for financial aid, students must follow a formula: Cost of Attendance minus Expected Family Contribution equals Need. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the money that a university can reasonably expect students and their families to contribute. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid


(FAFSA) uses formulas to determine students’ EFC from income, interest, benefits and savings. It also considers taxes, number of household members currently attending college, age of parents, marital status of parents, employment of parents, income from retirement and consumer debt. Changes in familial circumstances, such as employment status, can affect the amount of financial aid a student receives. At the time that Johnson learned AU was taking away her aid, both her mother and stepfather were unemployed. She sent an email to the financial aid office explaining the changes in circumstances. She also attached tax forms to prove that her family was financially eligible, but did not receive a quick reply. After a week without a response, she says she tried calling the financial aid office, but the voicemail box was full. She finally received an email offering condolences for her circumstances, but explaining that she appealed too late. Her new financial situation would be taken into consideration the following year, as the University had already redistributed all the financial aid money. Johnson believes that she did not appeal too late, but that the financial aid office took too long to get back to her, and thus ran out of money before they had the time to consider her appeal. She appealed again and received the same response. The AU website also states that an appeal for a change in income requires submission of a letter that requests aid to be reconsidered, a detailed description of the situation surrounding loss of household income, an income reduction worksheet, a federal verification worksheet, tax returns included with W2 forms, schedules signed by the student and an employer letter that confirms the last date of employment. In some cases, documentation of severance and unemployment benefits may be necessary. Johnson and her mother believe that the cuts in her financial aid had to do with information financial aid counselors advised her to include earlier last year. When she turned 18, her biological father stopped contributing to her education. “They told us that we should include my dad’s income in applying for financial aid even if he wasn’t going to be giving us any money,” Johnson said. “We were like, ‘That’s kind of weird, are you sure about that?’ and they said ‘It’s just for informational purposes, it has nothing to do with you financial aid.’” Only after his income was included did her




financial aid get cut. “We’re not sure because they didn’t give us a reason, but we were pretty sure they included his income and that’s why they maybe took it back, because we didn’t add it in until later,” Johnson said. Johnson and her family now have $30,000 in loans for the 20142015 academic year. She wishes that she had researched more before accepting her offer to AU. AU’s communications office did not respond to requests for comment. Johnson is not alone. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, in 2012, 75 percent of students who graduated from private universities had loans averaging $32,300. Like Johnson, some students have become fed up with the student loan model that is causing them to either drop out, burn out or graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Education Not Debt (END), is a coalition of prominent campus organizations including CASJ, the Roosevelt Institute, Fossil Free AU and Student Government. This semester, it pushed for a tuition freeze that ultimately failed. Its end goal is to eradicate student debt; its symbol is a red patch. The collaboration of many seemingly unrelated groups may appear unusual. For example, CASJ is a spiritually-oriented social justice collective, and Fossil Free has historically promoted divestment from fossil fuels. But both are dedicated to empowering student voices. “If we work together, that’s how we win,” said Rebecca Wolf, a junior and organizer for both END and Fossil Free. Wolf says that many students felt like there was a lack of solidarity between the board of trustees and the students. “They’re not taking action on things that students want, like divestment, like a tuition freeze,” Wolf said. But according to an email distributed to the AU community from board of trustees chairman Jeffrey Sine, the administration considers both budget committee recommendations and student opinions when designing the budget. “Their recommendations clearly aimed for the lowest possible tuition increase, set realistic revenue projections, and maintained investment in important priorities,” he wrote, adding that student “advocacy held great weight in considering this budget plan.” “We appreciate the spirited debate that yielded recommendations reflecting balance of a wide variety of interests and concerns, yet keep us moving forward,” Sine wrote in the email. But END isn’t ready to accept the board’s proposed 3 percent tuition increase, one of the lowest raises in AU’s recent history. Members sent letters to provosts, gathered outside of budget committee meetings and attended tuition hike meetings and plan to keep the organization alive as long as needed. “We really do want to make a long term movement out of this,” said Rachel Ussery, a freshman and an organizer for END. “We definitely plan to keep going afterwards, no matter what happens.” •

Julia Rapp is a freshman studying journalism.



EDUCATION FREE FOR ALL By Antoinette D'Addario

Across the country, students are asking for decreased tuition in the face of increased debt and college loans. But for students in Tennessee, college is already free. The Tennessee Promise program, which starts with the high school class of 2015, is a scholarship program for Tennessee students who are planning to attend a community college, technical school or 4-year institution and are pursuing an associate’s degree. “Parents and students view this as a game change and a culture change,” said Mike Krause, the program’s director. He has found the response to be “absolutely overwhelming.” Gov. Bill Haslam created Tennessee Promise after he traveled was traveling the state during the last election season and learned that job vacancies weren’t being filled because there weren’t any qualified workers to fill them. Haslam realized that in order to keep driving Tennessee’s economy forward, more people needed to graduate from college with degrees in areas that the state’s industries needed. The scholarship is awarded to students regardless of high school academic performance, but requires recipients to go to school full-time, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service per term. Though the scholarship doesn’t cover the full cost of attendance, only tuition and fees, the idea is that if it is supplemented with other aid, such as need-based federal grants, students can cover all costs.



Though Krause has heard support from many people, he is particularly impressed with the support of local businesses. “Our business and employer leaders are fully onboard with the [...] initiative, and their reaction has been exciting,” Krause said. Tennessee Promise, which covers many costs for students, does not cost the state anything. The program was created from money that has accumulated in the state’s lottery reserve and was put into an irrevocable trust account. The trust earns interest each year and is self-sustaining, so the program should always have funds available to meet students’ needs. This means every student who is promised a scholarship will receive it for at least four semesters, five if they need to take a remedial course. The self-sustaining nature of the trust will allow more students to receive scholarships each year. “We want every student to go [to college] without question,” Krause said. “When you can tell a student that community college is free and the state is going to be there with you to cover these costs, you can really carry a new message to a group of students who had been maybe ruling themselves out of a college education.”

Several nations already provide college education for free, including France and Germany. Germany tried to take away free college education by charging its students a small fee in 2006, which resulted in public outrage. The introduction of fees was a political move, but the government soon realized there would be greater benefit for both the nation and its citizens by removing the fees and making college free again.

"When you can tell a student that community college is free and the state is going to be there with you to cover these costs, you can really carry a new message to a group of students who had been maybe ruling themselves out of a college education."

While this program is only statewide, President Obama’s national plan, called America’s College Promise, has similar attributes. Students who are accepted to the program will have to maintain a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled at least half-time and be working toward a degree or transferring to a 4-year institution. Under this plan, the federal government will pay 75 percent of average community college costs while states pick up the other 25 percent. The average cost of community college per year is $2,713, according to the College Board. Students will still be eligible for other types of aid, including aid from the institutions themselves and other federal aid. Both Tennessee Promise and America’s College Promise aim to make


education more widely available to American students.

“Tuition fees degrade the educational opportunities for bright young people from low-income families,” Gabriele Heinen-Kljajic, state minister for science in Lower Saxony, said to Germany’s parliament in regards to the cost of college. Both Tennessee Promise and America’s College Promise seek to make future generations of the American workforce more capable and prepared for the jobs they will be asked to do. But there are questions about the effect this program will have on four-year institutions like AU. The average loan debt for graduating students in 2012 was $34,649, according to AU’s website. Sixty-five percent of students had to take out some form of loans in order to finish their education at AU. The admissions office was unavailable for comment about how free community college could potentially affect AU transfer rates or tuition.

If students will soon have the opportunity to earn degrees for free, or transfer from community college and only graduate with two years of debt, 4-year institutions may have to consider lowering their costs in order to continue drawing high numbers of students. Though the president’s plan is still in planning stages, Tennessee’s program provides hope that one day community college will be free to all American students. •

Antoinette D'Addario is a freshman studying foreign language & communication media and justice & law.


gram will be offered by Kogod beginning this fall. Brookstein says fully-online courses are often a great option for people looking to optimize their schedules, as well as “introverted learners, who might not do well in a group setting or be the type of people who like to participate openly in class.” For others, that isolation can be a negative part of online learning. “It’s a lot easier to get distracted in the comfort of your home than the classroom at school,” said Ronald Jordan, a sophomore who took statistics online last summer. Jordan took the class in order to lighten his workload for the following semester, a move Brookstein says she’s seen many students make successfully.

Photo courtesy of Ronald Jordan




few academic heavyweights are harnessing the power of the Internet to push for new models of education. But not everyone is convinced that e-learning can compete with traditional classrooms. “From a financial standpoint online classes make perfect sense,” said Connor Lawrence, a senior taking his second online course at AU. “And on some levels, they make sense if you want your students to spend more time focused on their major requirements.”

Lawrence says that online courses could threaten the quality of higher education “by removing the most important entity in the university, the professor, from the equation.” He said online students miss out on back-and-forth discussions with faculty. According to Stephanie Brookstein, AU’s assistant dean for online learning, AU currently offers fully-online, for-credit graduate programs in SOC, SIS, SPA, CAS and the School of Professional and Extended Studies. An online MBA pro-


Not all online education options offer academic credit, however. People can enroll in Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). First coming onto the online education scene in 2011, MOOCs are often taught by university professors. Some MOOCs are hosted by nonprofit and for-profit third-party sites. Anyone can enroll in any course and work through it at her own pace. The idea of “distance learning,” or education administered beyond the confines of the classroom, is not a new one. American educators in the 1920s explored the possibility of using radio to broadcast higher education lectures across the country. However, only 20 percent of students completed these radio courses, and there was a lack of standardized accreditation. University radio broadcasts were wiped off the air by 1941. The failure of radio courses makes some experts wary of MOOCs, which follow essentially the same model except on the Internet. A 2013 study by Univer-

"In cases where colleges are delivering something that's not so different from a MOOC, say, lectures and multiple choice exams, I think MOOCs are a threat to that as a viable business model."


sity of Pennsylvania researchers found that only about half of students enrolled in MOOCs view even a single online lecture and that the average completion rate is just 4 percent.



Overall, distance learning has made a comeback since the failure of radio courses, and has grown at a rapid pace. According to the most recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 25 percent of undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one online course during 2012. A survey conducted by researchers at Babson College found that 32 percent of undergraduates were in enrolled in online courses in 2013. MOOCs are intriguing players in online education because they are often organized by elite institutions but lack centralized standards. One of the most well-known MOOC hosts is EdX, a nonprofit started by Harvard University. For-profits hosts Coursera and Udacity are also popular. Most of the for-profit courses are still free, except for a select few that can cost between $30 and $100. For all they offer in terms of esteemed educators, MOOCs lack the accreditation of traditional universities. In 2014, a Columbia University report concluded that these courses cannot yet widely assess student understanding and adapt instruction accordingly. Eventually MOOCs will likely become more standardized, says Jane Manning, director of platforms for online learning at Stanford University, which was among the first universities to get involved with MOOCs. “There isn’t yet a universal way for colleges to determine which MOOC tests are sufficient for counting an online course toward a major requirement, whereas with AP exams, the College Board has been delegated the responsibility of determining which courses meet these standards,” Manning said. Once this idea of a centralized board for MOOCs becomes a reality, is it game over for traditional universities? There’s certainly a lot of appeal in being able to select classes a la carte. Nonetheless, Manning doesn’t think traditional universities will become extinct. “In cases where colleges are delivering something that’s not so different from a MOOC—say, lectures and multiple choice exams—I think MOOCs are a threat to that as a viable business model,” she said. “But as long as schools are encouraging things like student and professor interactions, and working together to learn, MOOCs can’t really compete with these aspects of a college education.” Brookstein also sees significant advantages of accredited online courses from traditional schools over MOOCs. “Our graduate programs [at AU] strive to prepare people for the workforce, and right now the workforce is recognizing our programs, not MOOCs,” she said.“But could [MOOCs be a threat] in the future? Sure.” •

Ben Pitler is a sophomore studying journalism.




here’s yet another reason why college students need to get more sleep. It’s called Exploding Head Syndrome.

The name of this disorder is not literal. (Unfortunately.) It refers to the symptoms that people with this illness experience. They hear booming sounds, waking them from their sleep. These “explosions” are harmless. However, in some cases, these interferences cause significant distress for patients. According to new findings in the Journal of Sleep Research, Exploding Head Syndrome may affect more young adults than experts previously thought. Clinical psychologist Brian Sharpless is the author of this new research. He refers to the noises patients hear as “a hiccup of the brain.” You are more likely to experience these “hiccups” if you are sleep deprived. People with sleep paralysis are also more likely to have Exploding Head Syndrome. "My gut would tell me that things like anxiety and insomnia, and a general preoccupation with bodily symptoms and fear of them, would make people more likely to have Exploding Head," Sharpless told a reporter from The Atlantic. The new study involved clinician interviews with 211 participants, all of whom were undergraduates. Among these participants, 13 percent experienced symptoms of Exploding Head Syndrome. However, 2.8 percent said the symptoms significantly disrupted their lives. Even with these new findings, knowledge about Exploding Head Syndrome is low. Across the Internet, many people attribute their symptoms to unusual sources. For instance, some believe the government causes the noises to torture them with sleep deprivation. Maybe as Exploding Head Syndrome gains more attention, people will not need to look for outlandish reasons for their medical problems. - Alexa Marie Kelly



LET'S GET HIGH Photos and captions by Evan Mills

Legalization advocates gave out stickers advocating for the DC Cannabis Campaign efforts.

You can smoke it, you just can’t sell it. On Feb. 26, marijuana use was legalized in the District, but laws limit residents over the age of 21 to the possession of up to 2 ounces of weed and the ability to have plants in their homes, so long as there are no more than three immature and three mature plants. But the laws did not legalize a market for the drug, nor for its seeds, which are needed to grow the plants at home. But pot smokers have found a way to get the goods, as everyone knew they would. They just share it. On March 30, Adam Eidinger, the leader of the DC Cannabis Campaign, hosted a seed exchange at his home and campaign headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue near Embassy Row, where people could bring seeds to trade, legally and in public. The highly publicized event also attracted anti-pot activists, who handed out flyers to passersby. For those who showed up to participate in the exchange, the line stretched a quarter of a mile down the street and took an hour and a half to get through. But people were happy to wait. - Eleanor Greene 21


DC residents swap seeds for new strains of cannabis.

People waited in line for over an hour waiting for free rolling papers and cannabis seeds.



A woman displays marijuana growing equipment to people waiting in line at the second DC cannabis seed exchange.

A man selling marijuana grinders to people standing in line at the DC cannabis seed exchange.



A man hands out information about cultivating cannabis plants to people waiting in line.

A legal exchange of cannbis seeds and paraphernalia. Evan Mills is a junior studying film and media arts.






s the issue of sexual consent continues to appear in the news, another facet of sexual attraction is increasingly entering the conversation after long being ignored.

The number of student groups making an effort to include the ace spectrum in their communities has increased within the past couple of years, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“I had always just kind of assumed I was straight,” said American University junior Tori Gilkeson. “Because that was how you were supposed to be.”

AU’s Queers and Allies (abbreviated as Q&A) made an effort to address this in 2014, when it began discussing the creation of a bisexual, pansexual, fluid and asexual group within the organization, currently known as PFAB.

Gilkeson identifies as asexual, meaning they do not experience sexual attraction. Growing up in a Southern conservative Christian family limited Gilkeson’s options to learn about other sexualities. Gilkeson, eventually discovered solace on the Internet as a high school freshman when they discovered the term “asexual” on Tumblr. Gilkeson is not alone. Their experiences echo the rising awareness of asexuality in recent years, made possible by the abundance of accessible information online that has helped progress the conversation over what sexuality looks like. One of these resources is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, founded by activist David Jay, whose work has allowed tens of thousands to share their experiences with each other.

"There is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity—at its core, it's just a word that people use to help figure themselves out."

According to AVEN’s website, “There is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity—at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out.” For Jay, having a broad definition of asexuality encouraged an open community where people were free to learn and explore themselves. “Though they are virtual encounters, the stories of real people I encounter online are validating and helpful for understanding myself and my identity,” Gilkeson said. As the coordinator of LGBTQ programming at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Matthew Bruno has noticed increased interest in asexual identities over the six years they have worked at AU. “In my first year, no one had ever come up to me to talk about asexuality,” Bruno said. “Especially on college campuses, you’re seeing LGBTQ groups being more inclusive of all facets of sexuality.”


A Q&A subcommittee, the Queer Women’s Advocacy Group, addressed asexual and aromantic identities at its annual event, “Not Your Average Sex Talk,” for the first time last year. “It was not traditional,” said Lex Loro, the executive director of Q&A. “Sometimes in sex talks we forget that people may identify as ace, but it doesn’t mean that they will never engage in sexual activity or that they don’t care about the sexual safety of their friends or community members.”

This solved the problem that many sex-positive discussions often create. The sex-positive ideology encourages open expression and practice of safe sex, but often leads to what Gilkeson observed as “the implication that sexual attraction is both an essential part of humanity and necessary for love, making asexuals less than human or broken in some way and incapable of love or real emotion.”

When talking about the significance of consent, sex-positive discussions also usually fall short of recognizing asexuality. “If it is always true that it is okay to say 'no' to sex at any point, it must be acceptable that the answer might always be 'no,’” Gilkeson said. Sophomore Erin Connolly, the co-coordinator of Q&A’s PFAB community, agreed. “One way sex positivity needs to be changed is to not just say that sex is good for everyone,” Connolly said. “We need to move towards something that actively thinks about different identities instead of saying ‘Oh yeah, do whatever you want.’” PFAB began activities this school year. “The old executive director [of Q&A, Tyler Bowders] mentioned wanting to include a space that was more specifically for bi/pan


people,” Loro said. “Emmett [Patterson, deputy director] and I also wanted it to be for fluid and ace people as well, and we were all in agreement of that.” Action finally took place after increasing pressure to do so from Q&A members. “It was very clear that people who identified as non-monosexual, so not attracted to just one gender, felt that the spaces that already existed were lacking in providing support and programming for bi, pan and ace people,” Loro said. The decision to group the four identities together eventually occurred due to concern over potential lack of turnout or staffing if the groups were separate.

IN OTHER WORDS... Here are some general definitions to help you navigate the diverse spectrum of sexuality. While they are useful, always defer to how someone defines their own idenitity.

ASEXUAL: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction. AROMANTIC: Someone who does not experience romantic attraction. ROMANTIC ATTRACTION: Desire to be romantically involved with another person.

“My fear is that if you create too many new things at once, things fall through the cracks,” Loro said. She says that when the ace community grows large enough to need its own subgroup, Q&A would accommodate for that.

ties of attraction experienced

Connolly and co-coordinator Austin Morgan, a sophomore at AU, both agreed with Loro’s comments, and they emphasized the member-driven quality of the PFAB group.

GRAY-ASEXUAL (gray-a, gray-sexual): Someone who identifies within the area between asexuality and sexuality. This may be because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances or of an intensity so low that it's ignorable.

“This is just more of establishing a community on campus,” Morgan said. “The goal right now is to find out what the people on the campus want and need from us, and what we can do to address that.” Efforts to include marginalized identities mean a lot to students like Gilkeson, who rarely see themselves represented unless they bring up the topic their own sexualities. Within asexuality alone, acknowledging the vast spectrums of sexual and romantic attraction sets the stage for a more inclusive campus. “A lack of attraction is not necessarily a total lack of sexual desire, and is certainly not an inability to have sex, though there are asexuals who do fall into any or all of those categories,” Gilkeson said. “There are as many ways to be asexual as there are asexual people.” •

Andrea Lin is a freshman studying journalism.



SEXUAL ATTRACTION: Desire to be sexually involved with another person. ASEXUAL / AROMANTIC SPECTRUM / ACE SPECTRUM: The varying intensi-

DEMISEXUAL: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. PANSEXUAL: Someone who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.

BISEXUAL: Someone who has the capacity for romantic and/or sexual attraction to those who hold the same gender identity and those who do not. FLUID: Describes a sexuality that exists in a state of flux. NON-MONOSEXUAL: Someone who is sexually/romantically interested in more than one sex/gender. Sources: UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Campus Resource Center,


cidal thoughts. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for students on college campuses, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. With these numbers in mind, many institutions work to provide resources for students. The AU Counseling Center provides services to its at-risk population, offering group and individual counseling. Group therapy sessions are geared toward specific issues, such as sexual assault, stress management and understanding oneself and relationships with others better. Individual therapy works differently, according to Amanda Rahimi, the assistant director for outreach and consultation at the Counseling Center. “The Counseling Center provides time-limited individual counseling,” Rahimi said. “Oftentimes students will come in with concerns that are a really good fit for that, so they will maximize the six to eight sessions here and be able to get a lot of benefits.” Because many still need assistance after maxing out the individual appointments available, the center frequently works to assist students in finding off-campus community providers who fit their mental health and financial needs.


NAVIGATING THE MAZE By Rain Freeman // Illustration by Mithila Samak

“There are some students who come in with concerns that would be best addressed by longer-term therapy, and those are the students we are referring to off-campus providers,” Rahimi said. “We have a huge referral database and we can tailor recommendations to the students' needs. Whatever their wishes are we probably have a person for them.” Though the center offers walk-in appointments from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays, it is difficult to meet every student’s needs. In some cases, students have a hard time finding a time they can meet with a clinician. Zayas describes having a similar experience when she felt she needed professional mental health care in November 2014.

sabel Zayas is a freshman in the honors program at American University. She’s from Connecticut and is an only child. She likes cats and Kurt Vonnegut. And she has dealt with depression and anxiety issues since she was 13 years old.


“When I called them and said I wanted to make an intake appointment, they suggested a date that was three weeks away,” she said. “I decided I wasn’t going to do that and found somewhere off-campus who [sic] took my insurance.”

“Depression feels like being covered in glue,” Zayas said. “I'm sluggish and slow in everything I attempt to accomplish. Depression, in the throes of it, always feels eternal. But thankfully, it's not."

Zayas says she is lucky that her mother is a psychiatrist and has more than four years experience navigating therapy options.

One in five Americans experience some form of mental illness. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, these rates are higher among 18 to 25-year-olds. The American Psychological Association reported that 19 percent of millennials have been diagnosed with depression or an anxiety disorder. In 2011, the American College Health Association found that 30 percent of college students felt “so depressed that it was difficult to function.” The Jed Foundation, an organization that works to promote the mental health of and prevent suicide among college students, found that half of college students in America have, at some point, had sui-


Because the Counseling Center cannot meet all students’ needs, some students and student organizations are stepping up to fill whatever gaps they can, while also attempting to change the stigma around mental illness. Zayas decided to get involved in the campus conversation around mental health. She found her niche within Active Minds, a student organization dedicated to mental health awareness and advocacy for AU students. The group uses different strategies, such as the

In 2011, the American College Health Association found that 30 percent of college students felt "so depressed that it was difficult to function."


online campaign #selfcaresunday, to reach students. #Selfcaresunday encourages people to tweet about ways they took care of themselves on Sunday.



Active Minds has also expressed interest in peer counseling programs, like those present at University of Texas at Austin, Stanford, Cornell and Drexel. “There are already many schools where it’s been successful, whether it’s through a three-pronged approach, like calling, faceto-face crisis counseling and online chat or through some other way,” Zayas said. “That’s something I want to see before I graduate.” George Washington University has a Peer Educator program that is run through its counseling center. The program is a three-credit course designed to train students to be peer educators in topics related to mental health, physical health and substance abuse. They do not have a formal peer counseling program, though the course’s students do participate in many campus and outreach programs each year. Developing an effective peer counseling program requires a lot of time and work. Counselors have to be trained and initially supervised. Financial concerns, as well as liability issues, are also factors, which may explain why AU has yet to undertake such an endeavor “We’re open to the idea, but when it comes to it happening down the line, there’s a lot of factors that are involved in it,” Rahimi said. However, when it comes to finding programs for university students, outside nonprofits and organizations are available to help provide effective resources. AU has an online mental health assessment, run through It is a short questionnaire that tells you whether you are at risk for suicide and if you have characteristics of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. It also lists resources and emergency hotlines tailored to the student’s issues. The Counseling Center also provides workshops and presentations related to stress management, self-care and depression, but could receive funding for additional programs through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We cover the costs of these programs, provide promotional materials and can insure everything involved with the community walks,” said Ryan Newcomb, the AFSP national capital area director. “We have the funding, it just takes someone willing to lead the initiative.” Rahimi believes that outreach is a crucial means of letting students know they are not alone. “We want people to know that when someone reaches out for help that it means they’re strong and they have courage and not that they’re weak or that there is something that is somehow wrong with them.”•

Rain Freeman is a sophomore studying biology and justice, law and criminology.




generational drug problem, high unemployment and rural ennui have combined to form a dangerous HIV epidemic in Indiana, prompting the state to declare a public health emergency in recent weeks. The Los Angeles Times reports that health officials in the state confirmed 81 HIV positive tests in Indiana’s Scott County this year, mostly in the past few weeks, with 74 coming from one small town: Austin, Indiana. And numbers are rising. According to the town’s only physician, Dr. William Cooke, an outbreak was inevitable given Austin’s widespread intravenous abuse of the opiate prescription painkiller Opana. Since Austin is a small town of 4,200 residents with a heavy drug abuse problem, the 80 percent transmission rate— where eight in ten of those who admit to sharing needles have tested positive for HIV—poses a large risk. Certain impoverished and run-down neighborhoods in Austin witness the highest rates of drug abuse, and in those pockets of town, used IV needles litter the ground. Parents had to scour a park where a recent Easter egg hunt was held to ensure that curious kids wouldn’t stumble across the potentially infectious dirty needles. In response to the state’s worst HIV outbreak in history, the conservative Gov. Mike Pence has implemented a 30-day needle-exchange program. Dr. Cooke also installed a new clinic staffed with infectious disease specialists in his practice to help combat the outbreak and facilitate the needle exchange. These short-term measures may stem the epidemic, but The New York Times reports that Austin’s Chief of Police Donald Spicer worries that after the 30day health emergency is over, the state will “leave us high and dry.” For now though, Cooke’s clinic is a haven for the addicted, uninsured and uncertain. -Pamela Huber



auren Hinkel, 22, is a bodybuilder. She is a junior at George Washington University majoring in human services and social justice. She started competing last summer after a year and a half on the GW Rowing Team, and has started training for powerlifting competitions.

Hinkel’s first bodybuilding competition was a letdown in her eyes due to the nature of the category she competed in—"bikini", which requires the least muscular definition and the most pageantry onstage. “After bikini I felt kind of low because there was no sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It was political because judges and trainers were friends [with each other]. I wanted something more challenging.” Still, her experience did not stop her from training for another bodybuilding competition later this year, but now she will compete in the category of figure. Less showy than bikini, "figure" is judged more on a contestant’s muscle and definition. Compared to the pageantry of strutting in front of the judges in bikini, competitors are given poses they must show and are judged on how their bodies look in specific poses. Maria Kalika, 21, another GW student majoring in exercise science pre med, performed in two bodybuilding competitions before she decided to move on to a different sport, powerlifting. Photo courtesy of Maria Kalika


GIRL POWER By Evie Lacroix

This is not what she signed up for, the spotlight brightly shining down, glistening off her bikini, as she struts flirtatiously. She is playing up a persona that judges appreciate, a game of pageantry in the name of health and fitness.


At a powerlifting competition, people compete in up to three categories: squat, dead-lift and bench press. Competitors have three chances to complete the lift, and that is it. Kalika competes in all three categories. “Bodybuilding is really hard in college because it is expensive and it is hard to keep the strict diet,” Kalika said. Onstage, Kalika meticulously sets goals in mind for how much she will lift. For each category she starts off with a lighter weight she knows she can lift: 105 pounds with the bench, 205 pounds with the squat and 260 pounds with the dead-lift. She says that in her next two attempts, the only thing running through her head is self-encouragement. “It’s heavy, and I hope you get this,” she thinks. Then she jumps the weight up, first to something she is less comfortable with, then to something she has rarely done. Judges critique her form as she performs the exercises. They judge her best attempt against those of the other females in her weight class.


In high school, Hinkel was overweight at 218 pounds. She dreamed of rowing on GW’s crew team and decided to join her local gym in Katy, Texas, to get fit. There she met her trainer, Kelvin Franklin, a powerlifter. But after a year and a half on the rowing team, Hinkel was injured and needed hip surgery, propelling her to think differently about how her body looked. “With rowing, I didn’t like the type of cardio I was doing,” Hinkel said. “I had no body shape.” As a rower, she felt too bulky in her upper body. She wanted a sport more customized to how she wanted her body to look. “Bodybuilding is an art,” Hinkel said. “It is sculpting each body part.” More than an art, bodybuilding became Hinkel’s life, not just a stage routine she does during school breaks. She works out five times a week for up to two hours a day, and she prepares all her meals weekly.

IN OTHER WORDS... Here are some helpful terms to demystify the bodybuilding language.

BODYBUILDING A sport that showcases the development of a person’s musculature through resistance exercises. Women’s competitions are broken down into four categories or classes.


“Bodybuilding is only you and your coach,” Hinkel said. She receives daily workout routines from her trainer in Texas through the mobile app Webfit.

The most lean bodies. Women are judged based on balance, poise, and physical appearance viewed from specific angles. This class has a posing routine.

Kalika does not have a trainer helping her at the gym or at competitions. She started working out based on what her friends were doing. From there she built a routine that, for bodybuilding, focused on a longer time holding each rep and a higher number of reps.


Both women face constant criticism while at the school gym. People, especially men, will stare and comment on the girls’ workouts. In condescending tones, they suggest that “women shouldn’t have muscle,” or that the women are on steroids because they are able to lift so much. “I can lift more than guys at the school gym and I know how to do it,” Kalika said. “It is annoying for me to be bothered [by this].”

A more athletic appearance, women have more defined muscles. This class has a posing routine.

FITNESS CLASS Women are athletic in appearance, but the competition is a fitness routine set to music that showcases flexibility and strength.

The casual sexism of the GW gym, combined with a lack of proper equipment for powerlifting, compelled Kalika to start driving 40 minutes out of the District to Powerhouse Gym in Woodbridge, Virginia to train. Here, Kalika says she is in a community of people that understands what she does and why she is doing it.

The most bulky of the four classes, competitors should have well shaped muscle tone that is bulkier compared to other competitions.

Hinkel does not see her regiments and competitions as a part of her life. They are her whole life.


“Bodybuilding is a lifestyle,” Hinkel said. “It is what happens after the tan is gone and the heels are away. It is what happens in the gym and the kitchen and what gives you power and strength. It can be destructive if people compare themselves to others, but it is not about that. You are your own competition.” •

Evie Lacroix is a freshman studying journalism and political science.




A sport based on how strong a person is. A competitor can compete in three different types of exercises: squat, bench press and deadlift.