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ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTEENTH YEAR, ISSUE 16
BLUE DEVIL SUCCESS STORIES First class of Rubenstein Scholars graduates By Chris Kuo Features Managing Editor
To be in the first class of Rubenstein Scholars was to embrace contradiction. It was saying yes to a full-ride scholarship, but also to a struggle to belong. It was receiving a letter in the mail that was so preposterous you wondered if it was a scam, thinking scholarships from big-name colleges went to students from preparatory schools, not to people like you. It was traveling to places you never thought you’d go and making the best memories with friends. It was being sent home because of the coronavirus and having to juggle school and work and family. It was graduating in a pandemic. It was knowing you were a merit scholar but feeling at times like a financial aid recipient. “You kind of feel like you walk around with a mark on yourself,” said Andie Marie Adkins, Trinity ‘20, a member of that first class. The David M. Rubenstein Scholars Program is a meritbased scholarship for first-generation, low-income students. The first 30 Rubenstein Scholars graduated in May, after four years inhabiting a University where many students come from families with six-figure incomes. Courtesy of Andie Marie Adkins Andie Marie Adkins, Trinity ‘20, was a member of the first graduating class of Rubenstein Scholars.
‘Somebody to go back to’
When Cameron King, Trinity ‘20, received his scholarship letter in 2016, his mother warned him it could be a scam. There was no separate application for what was then called
the Washington Duke Scholars program, and King had already received an acceptance letter from Duke announcing his financial aid package. “It was funny because it was the first year that we started, so I really had no idea what it was,” King said. Like King, Adkins was caught off guard by the single-page letter that arrived in her inbox one day in May. “Congratulations, you’re a Washington Duke scholar,” it read. “Call this number if you have questions.” It was “surreal,” she said, chuckling. “I remember thinking it wasn’t real at all.” The first Rubenstein Scholars entered a university that is overwhelmingly wealthy. In 2017, The New York Times reported that nearly 70% of Duke’s student body came from the top 20% income bracket, while only about 4% of students were from the bottom 20% income bracket. The median family income was $186,700, which was fifth-highest among Ivy League schools and other elite colleges. According to class profiles released by the University, firstgeneration students made up 12% of the Class of 2021, 9% of the Class of 2022 and 8% of Class of 2023. In 2016, the University created the Washington Duke Scholars program to “attract more first-generation, limited-income students and add to the socio-economic diversity of the student body,” Sachelle Ford, the director of the Rubenstein Scholars and of Duke LIFE (Low-Income, First-Generation Engagement) wrote See SCHOLARS on Page 3
Alum takes off with Blue Angels Grad student does Ironman, By Maria Morrison Managing Editor
Just over a decade after graduating from Duke, Navy Lt. Commander Cary Rickoff, Trinity ‘09, was zooming across the skies as the #6 pilot for the Blue Angels. From Blue Devil to Blue Angel, Rickoff has always pursued whatever life path brought him the most joy, but he hasn’t shied away from hard work to get there. “I grew up watching the Blue Angels, but never thought in a million years I’d be flying one,” Rickoff said. Rickoff had a fun four years at the University, living life as what he called a “normal college student.” His academics were supplemented with classes and training through the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. For fun, his fraternity brothers were always there to tailgate with him at football games, or cheer alongside him in Cameron Indoor Stadium. “It was a regular college life with military traditions and customs intertwined,” Rickoff said. For the Atlanta native, Duke was close to home but out of Georgia, which met all of Rickoff’s requirements when applying to college. During the school year, he worked toward a degree in biological anthropology and anatomy, now called evolutionary anthropology. His summers were spent on a month of Naval
training, and much of Rickoff’s free time was filled with flying. Rickoff ’s passion for aviation began early, and he earned his private pilot’s certificate in high school. This is also around the time that he learned of the ROTC program, and he decided to try it his first year as a “trial run.” He said that he doesn’t mind trying new things, testing them out and adapting as he goes. “Don’t look too far into the future,” he said. “Look right in front of you, see what you’re enjoying doing and keep going with that.” Rickoff has done his best to follow his own advice. He’s always had big goals in mind but has striven to live in the moment and not try to set the future in stone. Rickoff joined the Blue Angels in September 2018, after going through a process of interviews that he likened to a fraternity rush, along with several written applications. Since being promoted to lieutenant commander in September 2019, Rickoff has accumulated more than 1,400 hours of flight time and 180 landings on an aircraft carrier. He has been decorated with a Strike Flight Air Medal and three Achievement Medals from the Navy and Marine Corps, along with other personal awards. See BLUE ANGELS on Page 3
raises $78k to fight cancer Gracie Blackburn Contributing Reporter
At 26 years old, Daniel Cox has accomplished more than most. A Barr-Spach Medicine and Engineering scholar studying both medicine and engineering at Duke, Cox is a triathlete who recently finished his first full Ironman triathlon and raised tens of thousands for cancer donor matching. Cox was a senior in high school when he first heard about Be The Match, an organization that pairs bone-marrow
donors with cancer patients in need of a transplant. After writing a speech on Be The Match for a school assignment, he took his interest a step further and signed up to be on the donor registry. At 19, Cox found out he had been matched to a potential transplant recipient. Eager to help, he volunteered to give a peripheral blood stem cell donation. Cox said there are a lot of misconceptions about bone marrow transplants and described the process as “really easy.” See IRONMAN on Page 2
Fall photos As fall classes end, campus is resplendent in orange and gold. PAGE 2
‘Freaky’ a lesson in self-confidence Director Christopher Landon combines humor and horror in this twist of the classic body-switching story. PAGE 6
Voting for privacy Courtesy of Daniel Cox Daniel Cox completed an Ironman race to raise money for cancer donor matching.
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IRONMAN FROM PAGE 1 “Basically, you have one needle stick in each arm and that’s it,” he said. “And that’s kind of all you do. You just sit there for like four hours.” At the time, Cox couldn’t fully comprehend how a few hours of boredom would translate into a new chance at life for someone else, but he soon started exchanging letters with his anonymous match. Regulations prevented them from meeting for the first year after the transplant, and because their personal information was removed from the letters, Cox didn’t know who had received the donation. Eventually, after both consented, Cox finally met his match: Missy Ginnetti, an Ohio mother battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After an emotional phone conversation, the two agreed to meet in person. They met for lunch in Dayton, Ohio, which was halfway between Cox’s home in Southern Indiana and Ginnetti’s house in Northeast Ohio. At first meeting, the two felt an extraordinarily strong connection. “To actually see the physical person who’s there because of you, I think that just changed everything for me,” Cox explained. Missy’s husband Pat Ginnetti was also moved by the experience. “There’s a part of him that was a part of her, and it’s like we already knew who he was,” he said. Cox and Missy developed a close friendship, calling one another to talk and organizing fundraisers for Be The Match. They shared stories and plenty of laughs: When Missy suddenly started craving ice cream after the transplant, she joked that he had given her his sweet tooth. Cox ran his first half-ironman in her honor, and the Ginnetti family cheered him on as he raised money for Be The Match. Despite the transplant, Missy Ginnetti died
2 | MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020
of a blood clot in 2016. “She beat the big fight and something unexpected took her,” Pat said. Grappling with Missy’s death, Cox decided to train for a full Ironman to honor her memory. Mustering impressive finish times, he was set to qualify for the World Ironman Championship in Kona this year. He planned to announce his feat at the second Be The Match gala held in Missy’s honor, a collaboration between him and Pat. But the coronavirus pandemic interfered, canceling both the gala and the championship. Cox improvised, organizing his own race in Durham and setting a fundraising goal of $100,000. On Oct. 10, Cox swam, ran and biked through Durham for 10 hours. “It speaks volumes about his character that he’s still willing to put his body through tremendous torture to raise awareness, to honor Missy, and to raise money to help other people,” said Pat Ginnetti, who drove all the way to North Carolina to watch Cox cross the finish line. So far, he’s raised more than $78,000 for Be The Match and is still accepting donations to reach his goal. As Cox and Pat raise money, they want people to remember Missy’s legacy of compassion and positivity. “She took her illness as an opportunity to live life to the fullest,” said Pat Ginnetti, who recalled how his wife touched the lives of so many people she met in the hospital. After her transplant, she became a key advocate for Be The Match, dedicated to helping others defeat cancer. Cox has carried on her mission, working with Congress to secure transplant funding as an ambassador for Be The Match. He encourages anyone considering joining the donor registry to reach out to him or the organization with any concerns. “It’s definitely a defining moment in my own life, so for other people to get to experience that would be nothing short of incredible,” he said.
Photos: Fall comes to campus
Aaron Zhao | Features Photography Editor
Neal Dalal | Staff Photographer
ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OF PRESIDENT Reviews of senior administrators of the University are performed on a regular cycle and are administered through the work of a committee that is charged with conducting the review, summarizing input, and preparing a confidential report. Typically, these reviews occur in the fourth year of the administrator’s five-year term. The Board of Trustees has convened a committee to review President Vincent E. Price, who has served in his post since 2017. The committee includes: Trustee Allyson K. Duncan, as chair, Trustees Edward A. Gilhuly, Gerald L. Hassell, Betsy D. Holden, and Hope Morgan Ward, Professors James Coleman, Jr., Theodore Pappas, Charlotte Sussman, and Donald Taylor, Jr, and Students Reshma Nargund G’25 and Steven Herrera Tenorio T’21.
An important part of the review process is the gathering of input from the University’s many constituencies. Comments on performance and suggestions for the future are important to the committee’s work. The committee invites you to share your thoughts. Communication should include the nature of your interactions with President Price and his team in order to understand the context of your comments as fully as possible. The committee will discuss responses and a summary will be included in the written report to the Board of Trustees. The committee will hold all communications in strict confidence. Comments should be submitted by December 18. Please send to: Presidential Review Committee Duke University Allyson K. Duncan, Chair Box 90030 Durham, North Carolina 27708 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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BLUE ANGELS FROM PAGE 1
In May, Rickoff and the Blue Angels worked with the Air Force Thunderbirds to conduct multi-city flyovers to honor first responders and other essential medical workers for their work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the teams had time for after many of the stops along their normal tour season were canceled. Rickoff called it a “surreal” experience, one that was “very different and very rewarding.” From a piloting perspective, the coordinated flyover brought challenges due to the extensive planning required to work with the other team, including many hours of flight and ground practice. “We have now flown with the Thunderbirds more than any other Blue Angel team in the past by far,” Rickoff said.
Courtesy of Dale Rickoff “Don’t look too far into the future,” Rickoff says. “Look right in front of you, see what you’re enjoying doing and keep going with that.”
This difficult flight coordination also came at the height of the quarantine in response to the pandemic, causing challenges on the ground as well. The teams planned not to stop at any of their flyover destinations, which meant they had to coordinate the two teams—with seven aircraft each—as well as four fuel tankers. In the end, the operation was not only a success, but also incredibly rewarding, Rickoff said. “It was a great way to extend our training and to give a shout-out to everyone out there who was working hard on the front lines and were stuck inside. It was very cool to fly through some of the biggest cities— New York City, Washington, Philadelphia— and every once in a while catch a glimpse down there and see people waving at us,” Rickoff said. Rickoff recently had to say goodbye to an old friend in the squadron. Nov. 4 marked the final flight of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 A/B/C/D “Legacy” Hornet jet as the team transitioned to the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The change was bittersweet for Rickoff. “I was born in 1986, and that’s when the Hornet was introduced for the Blue Angels. All I’ve ever known is the Blue Angels flying the Hornets. It’s going to be weird to look up and see the Super Hornet now,” he said. Rickoff originally trained in the Super Hornet in April 2012, so he was set to go after a quick requalification in Virginia Beach, Va. Although the larger Super Hornet comes with more power and acceleration, Rickoff looks back fondly on watching the Blue Angels Legacy Hornets fly by when visiting his father’s hometown of Pensacola, Fla., where he is now stationed. The Blue Angels’ 2021 season has been planned out since before the pandemic began, and while many plans are still up in the air, Rickoff said that the team is ready to goi ahead with the shows if the venues are open and the Department of Defense allows it.
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ON DUKECHRONICLE.COM Q&A: President Vincent Price on leading Duke through a pandemic, University’s anti-racist mission BY MATTHEW GRIFFIN | 11/13/2020 Editor-in-Chief Matthew Griffin asked the University’s president about leading Duke in a crisis, Duke’s anti-racist mission, community concerns, the upcoming spring semester and more.
Queeristan event series creates a space for queer Muslims at Duke BY AYRA CHARANIA | 11/09/2020 Despite a pandemic that makes connection difficult, a new event series is establishing a space for queer Muslims at Duke. The team was frozen this year, so the crew didn’t rotate. Because of this, Rickoff will spend two more years as a Blue Angels naval aviator. After that, he is committed to another two years in the Navy, which he said he will likely spend as a department head or an instructor. From there, Rickoff has no concrete plans, but his Duke degree sets him up for a variety of careers. “I’ll look at what I’m doing and keep doing it as long as I’m enjoying it,” he said. He reminisced about his time on campus, reminding current students to enjoy their time while they can. Despite all the changes since he left campus in 2009, Rickoff is still impressed by the unchanging Abele Quad: “It’s always a little bit of home when you go back.” Maybe someday, Rickoff joked, he will be able to fly over the Duke Chapel.
student—donated $20 million to the program in 2017. Rubenstein is the billionaire founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group, a private equity company. The Rubenstein Scholarship covers tuition, room and board and any mandatory University fees. It also provides an enrichment fund, mentoring, two summer terms of study abroad or summer school and professional development. Before arriving on campus, King, Adkins and the other Rubenstein Scholars attended a pre-orientation summer program on East Campus designed to prepare them for college life. They took classes together, learned writing and statistics, attended information sessions at various University offices and received new laptops. The session wasn’t all academics: On top of living together in dorms, the scholars also bonded through bowling, trips to amusement parks and time at the beach. “When you come to college, a lot of Duke students have an understanding of what college is. It’s kind of like the next level of high school. But FROM PAGE 1 for me specifically, and I know first-gen people in an email. in general, you really have no idea what you’re According to Ford, the program took on its walking into,” Adkins said. “I think the purpose current name when David Rubenstein—Trinity See SCHOLARS on Page 4 ‘70 and a first-generation, low-income Duke
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Call for Nominations Nominations are now open for the Samuel DuBois Cook Society 2021 Awards. The presentations will be made at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
SCHOLARS FROM PAGE 3 of the summer program is to give you a month before school starts to get your feet wet.” “But,” she added, “I think nothing can really prepare you for being at a school like Duke.” Kayla Lynn Hardy, Trinity ‘20, said many of the scholars who were roommates during the summer session continued to room together throughout their four years at Duke. “I think my first year I felt very isolated. But because we had that first cohort of people, you always had somebody to go back to,” Adkins said. “You felt out of place, but you also felt like there was at least someone else there to understand you.”
‘Good enough to be here’
Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook November 21, 1928—May 29, 2017
The DuBois Cook Society was founded in 1997 to honor the first African American faculty member hired and tenured at Duke University, and to recognize his contributions as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees. To nominate a Duke faculty member, employee or student, please visit oie.duke.edu/about-us/samueldubois-cook-society to download a nomination form. All nominations must be received by January 6, 2021. Sponsorship information is also available on the website. Questions? please email: email@example.com
Feeling out of place was a recurring theme in the conversations I had with Rubenstein Scholars. Kelby Welsh, Trinity ‘20, remembers that during the pre-orientation program the director of the scholarship told them: “You’re not here because this is a scholarship for people who have these socioeconomic differences.” “She was like ‘You guys are the cream of the crop. We picked you because of your high merits, not just because of your low economic status,’” Welsh said. But for some Rubenstein Scholars, this message wasn’t always easy to internalize— especially when, for Adkins, it seemed like other scholarship programs were receiving more resources from the University. “When it came to other scholarships, we definitely weren’t treated the same way,” Adkins said. “That kind of affected the way I approached things at Duke.” Adkins noted that the Rubenstein program didn’t have its own space in the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows until 2018. “Until junior year, we were still considered financial aid,” Adkins said. “It wasn’t until last semester that we actually had a financial aid advisor specifically for a scholarship, where before it was like we were just treated like everybody else’s financial aid system. If we ever had a question about financial aid, we couldn’t go to anybody in the scholarship. They said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to call your financial aid officer.’ It was small things like that that kind of let you know we weren’t considered on the same level.” Karen Weber, executive director of the Office of University Scholars and Fellows, wrote in an email that “the Rubenstein team has continually worked to enhance its programming and expand opportunities for its scholars.” “To strengthen these efforts, the Rubenstein program joined the Office of University Scholars and Fellows two years ago,” Weber wrote. “As members of the OUSF community, the Rubenstein Scholars have full access to programming offered by OUSF, and the Rubenstein staff members’ offices are now located in Smith Warehouse with the other OUSF offices.” That uncomfortable feeling extended to the Rubenstein Scholars’ everyday experiences. Hardy said that for a long time she struggled with “feeling really inferior.” For most of high school, she hadn’t planned on going to a four-year college. When she eventually decided on Duke, she said that teachers and classmates from her high school told her the acceptance was due to affirmative action. During her first year, Hardy almost dropped out of her pre-med program because she was worried she wasn’t smart enough or wouldn’t do well in her classes. It wasn’t until her sophomore year that she began to find footing at the University. “I just spent a really long time trying to prove to myself, to make myself feel like I was good enough to be here,” Hardy said. During her first two years, Hardy took paramedic classes at a community college that was a two-hour drive away. After doing over 500 clinical hours, she became a paramedic. She also graduated with more than three semesters of extra classes, double majored in cultural anthropology and African & African American studies, and won
The Chronicle a 2020 Faculty Scholars Award. Much of Rubenstein programming is oriented toward helping scholars adjust to the challenge of feeling out of place. The programming includes one-on-one mentoring with faculty and other students. “Of course, the scholarship has helped lift a weight off of my shoulders by assisting with the financial burden of attending college, but the scholarship has also provided me with more than just financial assistance—it has provided me with a network of individuals I can depend on,” Michael Ong, Trinity ‘20, wrote in an email. Welsh hadn’t studied chemistry or math when she entered Duke, but she said the scholarship program provided her with the support she needed. “Whenever I told them I was struggling in chemistry, they helped me find somebody. They were there for you, and they helped you talk to the teacher, send emails, go to office hours and navigate the whole ‘how do you ask for help when you’re struggling,’” Welsh said.
‘A world they had yet to meet’
Sujeiry Jimenez’s favorite memory from her time at Duke was the 2020 Duke vs. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill men’s basketball game. Krzyzewskiville was filled with students in blue and white. Paint was everywhere. People were taking pictures, running around and dancing. The stadium was “electric,” she recalled in an email. “Little did I know that this event would be the last time I was on Duke’s campus as a student,” she wrote. On March 10, the University announced the suspension of in-person classes, pushing many students off campus and scattering the 30 Rubenstein Scholars across the country. Like many other seniors, the Rubenstein Scholars had to grapple with the abrupt end to the semester. But they also had to reckon with the ways the glare of the Zoom screen exposed the inequalities they had once been able to hide. “I think you’ll see even in the Zoom background, some people are out on the beach or on the third floor of the house and I’m here in my bedroom in my house at home, just like my one white wall,” Welsh said. Welsh had returned to her home in Adair, Okla. Since her mom was an essential worker with the Cherokee Nation, Welsh had to balance taking classes and taking care of her siblings. Virtual graduation ceremonies also revealed stark differences between her and her classmates. Normally, everyone would wear the same cap and gown and walk down the same aisle, she said. But now she watched as people printed out large banners and hosted drive-by parties. In Adair, it was harder to celebrate since she was focused on caring for her family. Plus, “nobody around here even graduates college or goes to college,” she said. When classes moved online, Hardy worked full-time, 90 hours a week, as a paramedic. I called her one evening in early May, on what would have been Commencement weekend in a normal year. “Today’s graduation day, and I’m working. I just worked on a gunshot wound and took an old lady to her dialysis appointment, but I should be graduating… I was the first person in my family to go to college… I was really excited for them to see me walk,” she said. Other Rubenstein Scholars expressed similar feelings of loss. Jimenez recalled how she missed the rituals of senior spring: the final March Madness, the final last day of classes, the final midnight Pitchforks runs. This is normally a time for seniors to prepare themselves to let go, to have closure with friends, faculty and mentors, she wrote in an email. “We didn’t get that,” Jimenez wrote. Like Hardy, Jimenez also felt the pain of not having a traditional graduation ceremony. “I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, and we are not able to celebrate. It hurts,” she wrote. “I wish I could have shown them where I have spent my past four years, have them meet my friends and mentors. Welcome them to a world they had yet to meet.”
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november 16, 2020
Recess interviews the cast of new high school slasher, ”Freaky,” page 6
what happened to bon appetit How the test kitchen rebranded after public criticism, page 6
Staff columnist Ben Brutocao reflects on Danny Brown’s most recent album, page 7
Photo courtesy of Antoine Williams
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Not like the other slasher movies: ‘Freaky’ is a lesson in self confidence By Skyler Graham Culture Editor
Meet 17-year-old Millie, Blissfield High’s school mascot and, consequently, victim of bullying. Her soft blond curls accentuate a kind introversion made complete with her floral wallpaper and Panic! At the Disco poster. Her best friends, flamboyant Josh and artsy Nyla, have always encouraged her to be herself. Even more so, though, when she’s not in her own body. Providing a fresh and edgier take on the 2003 movie “Freaky Friday,” starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, “Freaky” director Christopher Landon (“Happy Death Day,” “Paranormal Activity” films) combines humor and horror in this twist of the classic body-switching story. “Freaky,” aptly released Friday, Nov. 13, stars Kathryn Newton as Millie, who switches bodies with The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) — the local part-Jason, part-Michael Myers serial killer. After rumors of a serial killer ravaging the town’s irresponsible teenagers circulated throughout the high school, The Butcher stabs Millie with “La Dola,” a dagger which, because it’s a movie, has mystical abilities when used under the full moon at midnight. The switch provides The Butcher with the perfect disguise to find his next victim: a teenage girl. In this lighthearted high school slasher, Landon embraces the teen humor of “Mean Girls” and over-the-top gore of “Scary Movie” in a modern context. As part of a virtual roundtable with Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, The Chronicle had the opportunity to interview the actors about their upcoming movie. “It’s hard to do one genre well, let alone put both under a roof,” Vaughn said. “I think Chris [Landon] has done it with “Happy Death Day” and I think with it being Blumhouse, he felt confident that the filmmakers involved would do a good job of balancing those things.” Although it exudes an intentional cheesiness in its creatively gory murders, the movie still avoids
tropes one would expect from its inspirations. No, the best friends don’t die first, and no, the serial killer and traumatized teen won’t embrace each other after seeing life from each other’s eyes. “I love ‘Freaky Friday’ and ‘Friday the 13th,’ but this movie was so different to me because it kills all those tropes and cliches you see in those movies,” Newton said. “You think you’re going to have the final girl. But these things never stay the way they seem.” In addition to skillfully executing the two genres, “Freaky” allows the actors to embrace characters across genders and generations. “Millie is Millie,” Newton explains, regardless of the body she’s in. This is telling of the actors’ comedic talent and range: I never thought I’d see Vince Vaughn wiggle his booty cheerleader-style or ask if he was “petite.” “My intention was to build [the Butcher] as a real character,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t watch any other performances because I wanted to take an authentic journey of creating this character and having emotional depth, so that when I was in scenes with [Millie’s] mom or the boy [she] had a crush on, that I was really present as the character. The more you’re grounded and emotionally available and honest, it helps the audience buy the stuff that’s more elaborate or out of the box. And I think Kathryn does such a lovely job in the opening of the movie of walking through those experiences that we can relate to.” Unfortunately, bullying is often one of those universal experiences. Millie is bullied by nearly everyone in her school. Obnoxious boys yell at her, snobby girls insult her discount clothes, even her teacher mocks her for being quiet. But, with both her new identity and her body’s new inhabitant, she takes revenge on these bullies — intentionally or not. “I think the Butcher’s a predator,” Vaughn said. “He is the extreme of someone who is looking to prey on people’s self doubt or weakness. You see, sadly, that he is acutely attempting to find any way he can to destroy somebody. And I think that’s a lesson for everyone in life that, sometimes when people are saying things to you that feel very personal, they’re actually just looking for buttons to
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Freaky,” aptly released Friday, Nov. 13, stars Kathryn Newton as Millie who switches bodies with The Butcher. push to see if they can get you to doubt yourself. It’s not that they’re right. They’re just looking to get you to be self destructive. So it’s really about, are you listening to your own voice in self love? Or are you giving the power to someone [who wants] to have a negative impact on you?” And in high school, these people are often unavoidable. “Freaky” is reflective of today’s high schools in its inclusion of diverse friend groups and Spanish classes where no one really learns Spanish, but also reflective of the timeless pressure to be who you’re not before you even know who you are. “I think the misleading thing with high school is, whether you’re a jock, or you’re nerdier or whatever label or category, there’s more in common than not,” Vaughn said. “Everyone in that stage is trying to figure out who they are and [where they]
feel safe socially. I think as we get older, hopefully, we all get more comfortable being ourselves and caring less what people think.” For Millie, learning self-love comes from seeing how the Butcher changes her look with a red-lipleather-jacket confidence. She feels empowered being in the Butcher’s body, not only through her new strength of a 6-foot-something man, but seeing her own body in a new light. “When Millie sees herself from another perspective, I think it’s less about what she looks like, but she looks at herself and it’s the first time she’s seeing herself and the power she can have” Newton said. “I think that’s what the movie’s about: seeing who you are and celebrating it. Because that’s your power, who you are and the gifts you were given.”
What went wrong with the Bon Appétit test kitchen? By Derek Deng Staff Columnist
Dakota Johnson’s Architectural Digest home tour is therapeutic. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls, basil green kitchen cabinetry, a cozy home office lined with Hollywood memorabilia and midcentury armchairs — these are the small details that brighten up my day. Her home tour is part of a YouTube bubble that I turn to as a form of escapism. From Vogue makeup tutorials filmed in celebrity bathrooms to lavish New York City apartment tours interrupted by attention-seeking puppies, I often find myself gravitating toward homey videos flaunting authenticity and candidness. The wildly successful Bon Appétit Test Kitchen used to be at the top of that list. But now, after a series of workplace reckonings, empty commitments toward change and new additions to the Test Kitchen cast, it’s clear that what originally drove the channel toward internet virality is now gone. In June, when Condé Nast’s food publication Bon Appétit was publicly criticized over its mistreatment of BIPOC employees, the magazine released multiple statements committed to equitable change in the workplace. The company fired several racist staff members and the former editor-in-chief resigned. But months after their original commitments, testimonies from employees of color revealed that it was all “lip service,” and that their new contracts were “nowhere near equitable.” As a result, 10 of 13 members of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen announced that they would not appear in video production for the magazine. And now, they’ve been replaced by employees
that are markedly more diverse than the original cast of the Test Kitchen. One chef, DeVonn Francis, is a queer, first-generation JamaicanAmerican chef and founder of Yardy, a food company focused on healing and community for marginalized communities; another chef, Harold Villarossa, is a Filipino-born, South Bronx-raised “culinary ambassador, activist and restaurant vet.” Each of the eight new chefs brings forth a unique set of perspectives, reflecting Bon Appétit’s newfound commitment to “listening, learning and building something together.” Some have applauded the publication for making strides toward a more diverse workplace. Some viewers — and by some, I mean an overwhelming majority — have openly criticized the company for tokenizing BIPOC workers and glossing over internal inequities. An introduction video for the kitchen’s new stars, titled “Why We Joined Bon Appétit,” has 5.9K likes and 48k dislikes. The comment section isn’t particularly positive, either: almost universally, comments are critical of the channel’s new era. As one user writes, “PANDERING THE HOUSEEEE LMAO,” and another surprisingly insightful comment states, “I dislike the tip toeing around the real issue at conde nast entertainment in inequality and wage suppression.” The predominantly negative reactions to the new Test Kitchen cast provide a stark contrast to the generally positive media coverage that the old cast received prior to workplace reckonings. In old videos, there’s a natural flow in the workplace: pastry chef Claire Saffitz is freakishly stressed over recreating an American snack, while Alex Delany stops by for some workplace munchies and resident goofball Brad Leone fools around in the near
Courtesy of Conde Nast
In June, Bon Appétit was publicly criticized over its mistreatment of BIPOC employees. background. In new videos, something feels forced, and viewers get the sense that the publication is attempting to sweep their unignorable past under the rug. In failing to correctly address concerns of racial inequity, Bon Appétit alienated audiences that crave the originality and candidness of the Test Kitchen — in essence, all of their viewers. As one comment puts it, it’s like they’re trying to tell their audience that they’re not racist because they have Black friends. These criticisms point to a broader concern over “woke-washing,” a term that the Harvard Business Review describes as “appropriating the language of social activism into marketing materials.” In the age of “slacktivism,” it’s difficult to distinguish between solid commitments toward internal and external change and hollow gestures of solidarity. Bon Appétit, by refusing to explicitly address their previous mistakes, has
succumbed to the latter. The point of this article isn’t to criticize the new chefs, all of which come with their own distinct set of qualifications, experiences and perspectives. As viewers, we’re becoming fed-up: corporate lip service isn’t enough, and we are becoming more adamant about legitimate promises, tangible change in the media we consume. Statements of solidarity may be a starting point, but bringing back the comforting authenticity of the test kitchen will require organizational and individual accountability that starts with transparency, education and a radical rethinking of the toxic top-down power dynamic. In the meantime, I will support former Test Kitchen chef Sohla El-Waylly in her personal pursuits in the Babish Culinary Universe. This time, she is actually getting paid.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020 | 7
Road to recovery: I finally know what Danny Brown was saying By Ben Brutocao Staff Columnist
A year after the release of Detroit resident Danny Brown’s fifth studio album, “uknowhatimsayin¿” the time has come to revisit a true master closing the loop on his hall of fame career. Especially timely is the album’s core theme: feeling misery for so long that it no longer has any power over you. If you are a Danny Brown fan, chances are your mental health could use some work. He is a titan of misery and mental conditions as yet undiagnosed, a claim justified by a single listen to any song linked here. A heavy drug user, Brown has been through the ringer with his own psyche, a pain uneased by success, which only came after over a decade of toil and self-doubt. Before anything else, Danny Brown is an iconoclast. In 2019, while the masses were expecting another soul crushing “Atrocity Exhibition,” Danny was already 50 miles down a completely different route. The Adderall Admiral’s “uknowhatimsayin¿” is, dare I say, fun? It isn’t Dababy 100 mph fun, nor is it Drake Tiktok-dance-challenge fun, but a more dignified version of fun, the type only a scarred veteran can produce. Executively produced by veritable legend Q-Tip, the album defies succinct explanation. The beats are pointedly diverse and impossible to rap over. Whereas any other rapper would sound like a child wailing during a hurricane, Brown is smoking a blunt in an armchair, armwrestling the hurricane. Brown is so good at what he does that it no longer interests him, so he uses these challenging sonic backdrops as mini-games. He has to give 100% effort to pull it off, and by God he does. This is Michael Jordan bullying Toni
Kuko in the 1992 Olympics, Garry Kasparov playing chess against himself while blindfolded and Serena Williams viciously battling a wall with half a net: a master creating competition for themself. The lyrical content does not hit you on the first listen. In fact, some of the words are so contorted and mangled to fit into these beats that their meaning may never present itself as he intended. However, there is a strong identity throughout, one that proclaims the indomitable resilience of the human spirit. At his lowest, Brown was mixing drugs that by any measure should have killed him. He was drugging himself to death, and rap fans were entertained. They wanted more, they wanted him to die, forgetting that he was a real person and not just a character. It must have been a torturous existence, to be so morosely ill and watch the masses congratulate you for it. The physical and mental toll from this dancing addict routine was immense, yet he survived. As he approached 40, the age when only the best rappers can stay relevant to a Gen Z-dominated genre, he finally acknowledged his worth beyond just a cautionary tale. He became the wise old man on top of the mountain, a testament to the strength found in defeating torment. That is where we find him on “uknowhatimsayin¿” — victorious over his own self-destruction. He found the light at the end of the tunnel and now radiates those crude rays to all his fans that are going through the universal ills of drug addiction, depression and hatred of the world. That lasting damage comes through in every bar, but more powerful is that Brown refuses to dwell on it. In place of this sadistic rumination is a funny, dirty old man pleasantly recalling sexual deviancy in a Burger King bathroom and
Duke Chorale Christmas Concert
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Detroit resident Danny Brown’s fifth studio album, “uknowhatimsayin¿” was released a year ago. giving the kind of advice you would expect: everything sucks, so tell the world to go to hell and be yourself. This is perhaps the first truly absurd rap album (absurd in the literary sense). Like Sysiphus, Brown found himself in an endless cycle of pushing himself to the brink of collapse, only to start all over again the next day. But, unlike that misery fetish of Greek mythology, Brown now refuses to push the boulder, instead sitting at the top of the hill and laughing at the toils of the damned, especially those of his past self. In these days of stagnant misery, this album is a guide to survival. The point of the album is never more clearly stated than on “3 Tearz” in the line, “Every day another episode/I’m just tryna hear the beat like a stethoscope.” Nothing
changes, nothing is ever inherently good, but as long as you have your heartbeat and passions, you can claim mastery over your existence. I will admit, I did not understand this album at first. Embarrassingly, I was among those who wanted to see Brown die, even if I did not consciously know it. I thought the only way for his story to end was in tragedy. But, in these songs, he showed me that everyone’s first and only obligation is to themself, that one’s story should never be influenced by others. There is no such blatant philosophy on the album, but to see a man once defeated by the pressures and miseries of this world overcome them is empowering beyond measure. When I feel myself sinking into dark spaces, I listen to this album and remind myself that if he can survive, I can as well.
EXPLORE CDS DocBoX AN EXPERIMENT IN DEEP INTERACTIVE “TV”
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The Duke Chorale, directed by Rodney Wynkoop, presents its annual Christmas Concert featuring seasonal selections by the Duke Chorale as well as traditional carols to sing along to at home. This family holiday event is a long-standing tradition for many area residents and a valuable food drive for Urban Ministries of Durham. The concert will be free to view online, but please consider donating a non-perishable food item between now and December 1 to Urban Ministries, 410 Liberty St. in Durham. Donations may be dropped off between 10 am -5 pm, MondayFriday. Don’t forget to mention the Duke Chorale when you donate! A report of how much food has been collected will be announced at the concert.
8 | MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020
november 16, 2020
SEMI-NO WOMENâ€™S SOCCER: FALLS TO SEMINOLES IN ACC TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS
COURTESY OF THE ACC
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020 | 9
Column: Duke Math sucks, including in soccer CARY, N.C.—Duke’s math department is notorious among undergraduates, from the difficulty of its curricula to the slog of its courses’ workloads. The Blue Devils experienced the pain of Duke Math Friday evening. The Blue Devils’ fall season ended in the ACC tournament Em Adler semifinals with a 4-0 loss to Florida State. It was Duke’s worst shutout loss since 2009 against Maryland, despite the fact that the Blue Devils actually took more shots on goal than the Seminoles and had multiple free kicks right outside the box. Friday night, the numbers just didn’t work out for Duke. The relationship between out-shooting opponents and scoring goals/winning is tenuous at best, but there’s a slight correlation between out-shooting opponents on goal and scoring/winning. The point is that math is cruel. For everyone at Duke, whether they’re a math major, engineering student, soccer player or combination of the three, math is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. No amount of past performance or instruction is adequate
preparation for the difficulty of math at Duke, be it abstract algebra or scoring goals. You can do everything you’re supposed to and still come up short. Such is the case in sports. Baseball is famous for its lucky draws, college football is especially vulnerable to the random bounce of an oblong ball and soccer is a sport that is played in 90-minute-long stints and yet can still decided by the quality of a few mis-cut blades of grass that render all stats irrelevant. There’s a reason wins can seem certain but sit at 99 percent win expectancy—some games have to be that one percent. Today, you could say that was Duke, even with the lopsided final score. To be fair, the Blue Devils have been on the flip side of this sort of thing many times this season. They were roundly outshot and outcorner-kicked by both Clemson and Virginia in their regular-season meetings, yet escaped those games with a win and a draw, respectively. It’s hard to say Duke has gotten the short end of the stick in totality. This is a case where it’s crucial to have perspective. No one lucks out 100 percent of the time, but if you’re never striking gold, perhaps you should consider changing something. If you’re a math major that can’t seem to pass linear algebra and multivariable calculus,
maybe you should reconsider your approach in the classroom. Similarly, if you’re a soccer team that can’t seem to convert shots into goals at a decent rate, maybe you should reconsider your approach on the pitch. See, there’s generally decent explanations for poor luck in sports. In baseball, bad luck for pitchers usually results from poor defensive play or positioning. In football, turnovers can throw everything out of whack. In soccer, shot quality paints a much more colorful story than shot quantity. I wrote in early October that Duke’s offense would soon take flight behind development on the front line, since its base formation was generating great advantages for the attack. That hasn’t happened yet, for a number of reasons: none of the young forwards have rapidly grown into stars; the Blue Devils are used to a lot of their offense coming from two- or three-man counters, which reduce the most significant advantage of Duke’s numbers advantage; few of the Blue Devils are especially great at finishing. Head coach Robbie Church has hammered that last point in particular throughout the season. He emphasized it after the tie against Wake Forest, following the Sept. 27 loss to North Carolina and before and after this latest match against Florida State.
Courtesy of the ACC
Florida State did a lot of celebrating Friday.
It is fair, though, to expect Duke’s younger players to develop into the finishers the team needs. They’re still teenagers and could develop into anything. But come the spring, when some kind of season and an NCAA tournament will take place, something’s got to give. “We learned that when you get to this level— hopefully we can make the NCAA tournament— and once we get there, we realize, ‘Hey, this level is going to go up. We’ve got to be better. We got to execute better. We got to score goals,’” Church said. “The feeling that we have now is obviously a bad feeling. But this team has been phenomenal this year. They have worked extremely hard.”
The Chronicle What are you going to do on Wellness Day? Read The Chronicle: ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������kolinoscopy Sleep: ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� maximus prime Procrastinate: ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� emulator Student Advertising Manager: �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Rebecca Ross Account Representatives: ������������������ Juliana Arbelaez, Emma Olivo, Spencer Perkins, Sam Richey, Alex Russell, Paula Sakuma, Jake Schulman, Simon Shore, Maddy Torres, Stef Watchi, Montana Williams Marketing Manager: ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Jared McCloskey Student Business Manager ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Dylan Riley, Alex Rose
The Seminoles’ offense
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10 | MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020
Getting around to it
o, this is awkward. I didn’t write that column. In fact, I I graduated from Duke in 2019. didn’t write any columns after March 2018. And as a four-year columnist and And today, November 8, 2020, of all days, opinion editor of The Chronicle from Fall I’m thinking about that final senior column 2016 to Spring 2018—my sophomore and I didn’t write. I’m sitting in my childhood
calling every change of heart a “career move,” and, yet… thinking still about that damn senior column I didn’t write. Was I a really busy senior? Yeah. But not so busy that I couldn’t have taken to
in the field, who somehow picked themselves up and continued to pursue journalistic truth and integrity despite a President who bullied and discredited the media at every turn. Our opinion section was admittedly not in
my beloved college platform to write a few words in appreciation of the mentors at the publication, people who believed in some rising sophomore to ask that I not only take over the editorial section, but that I revive it. And not so busy that I couldn’t write a few more words about the mentees who, for some inexplicable reason, looked to me for guidance and then passed me by, leaving me in awe of their devotion to the craft, to the pursuit of truth and to journalistic integrity and fairness, all the while generously taking me along with them on their journeys. So, what happened? There must have been a moment, a specific shifting of the tides, when my desire to write my column no longer translated into action. In the midnight hours of November 8, 2016, I published an optimistic column called “Trump, Clinton rallies and hot syrup.” The tl;dr of that column is that I attended North Carolina rallies for then-candidate Donald Trump and then-candidate Hillary Clinton. In it, I noted the vast differences between the two: in comparison to Clinton’s rally, Trump’s rally was poorly attended (although he characteristically lied about it), mostly white (although he did shout out to “his AfricanAmericans in the crowd”), and it gave me the sense that the latest 2016 polls were accurate (and that Trump would indeed lose the 2016 election). Hindsight, right? For a bit of background, I’m from Southern California, where we were told by parents and teachers that there was no more “progressive” city than ours. (I’d find out later that there was actually no such thing as a truly “progressive” city. Go figure.) Before Duke, I had never met anyone from North Carolina. Part of the reason I chose Duke was to get out of the bubble of my childhood, and prime myself for an eye-opening experience. Little did I know that Duke had its own troublesome bubble. Then the election happened. That memorable 2016 Tuesday night and early morning, which I spent among friends in The Chronicle’s offices overlooking Abele Quad. And it was in the wee hours of that uneasy morning, as my fellow studentjournalists pushed on with the publication of the next day’s print paper, that I realized: s**t, was I misinformed, misinterpreting, misunderstanding, and just plain wrong about what was actually happening at those rallies, and across our country. It gave me no comfort that others were just as fooled as I was. I recognized that my hopeful voice was naively unaware of, well, reality. And thus burned, I remember feeling unjournalistic (which is not a journalistic word), undeserving of a platform like The Chronicle, and weakened. I didn’t know what to do after that very-gray November day. I don’t know if many journalists knew what to do, either. That didn’t give me comfort either. And yet despite this growing crisis about my own journalistic abilities, I had a job to do. I was inspired by my colleagues and my heroes
good shape when I inherited it, and it was my responsibility to bring representative and valued voices to the newspaper, making sure that columnists were held to publishing two columns per month. So I abandoned my own column in favor of developing those of others. With the seemingly divine interventions of my editorial teammates Leah Abrams and Carly Stern, I restructured the opinion section so that it worked healthily and productively. I held the position for another year, to ensure that the upward trend of our trajectory. And I found real joy in helping writers— from a rising first-year to a Durham school teacher—better understand and express their own opinions, honing their voices in this journalistic community. In the meantime, I fell into the comfort food of my artistic passions, where I could create worlds that were akin to our own, but that were under my control, as I staged stories and characters with the hope of bringing out better versions of our real selves. It provided a simultaneous escape from reality, and a clarion call for a return to reality with more purpose. And at Duke, I found a community in that pursuit. Amongst Hoof ’n’ Horners and Duke Players and a cappella singers and DUI/Inside Jokesters and Small Town recording artists and StudioDuke dreamers and Project Arts stars, I did my best to connect with others, create joy and make a difference. I like to think that I did. And then, last year, I graduated from Duke, leaving behind those communities, and carrying them with me as well. So back to today, in my childhood bedroom, procrastinating the deadline of my next script and socially distanced for the foreseeable future. It’s November 8, 2020. I’m reflecting on that moment that changed my entire Duke career: November 8, 2016. Two memorable elections. Two earthshaking results. And I’m thinking about the Duke community members who helped me chart my course from that numbing, confusing moment four years ago, who picked me up when I was down, accepted me at my worst, and stood by me at my best. The Blue Devils who shared their stories with me—in forms of columns and songs and conversations which not only challenged me to break out of my own bubble, but taught me to be a better person. And today, on a day which feels significantly different from any other—for the first time in four years—I’m thinking about that Tuesday night when everything changed. Four years later, I’m forgiving myself for all of the plans I changed, the deadlines I missed, the dreams I delayed, the opinions I left unwritten. Four years later, I’m considering all the things that I can finally get around to. This belated senior column being the first thing off my list.
Jackson Prince GUEST COLUMN juniors years—I was entitled to write a “senior column” for the newspaper, one that might give a nod to the friendships I made in 301 Flowers, to the Duke community atlarge, and to my own Duke career.
bedroom in Los Angeles, in the midst of a global pandemic, continuing to feed the inner flames of creativity that were ignited at Duke, writing screenplays and stageplays, throwing literary spaghetti at walls to see what sticks,
hot take of the week
“I’ve been burned out since July.”
—Matthew Griffin, Editor-in-Chief, on November 15, 2020
Direct submissions to:
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The Chronicle is published by the Duke Student Publishing Company, Inc., a non-profit corporation independent of Duke University. The opinions expressed in this newspaper are not necessarily those of Duke University, its students, faculty, staff, administration or trustees. Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the editorial board. Columns, letters and cartoons represent the views of the authors. To reach the Editorial Office at 301 Flowers Building, call 684-2663 or fax 684-4696. To reach the Business Office at 1517 Hull Avenue call 684-3811. To reach the Advertising Office at 2022 Campus Drive call 684-3811. One copy per person; additional copies may be purchased for .25 at The Chronicle Business office at the address above. @ 2020 Duke Student Publishing Company
Jackson Prince graduated in 2019. He was editor of the Opinion section from Fall 2016 to Spring 2018.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020 | 11
Privacy was on the ballot A
h, election week. Whether you preferred to dual-screen your Zoom classes with John King’s magic smartboard or to refresh the FiveThirtyEight blog, last week was stressful regardless of political leanings. As the ballots were recorded, people sat eager in anticipation. Who would be leading our nation? Slowly but surely, we received the answer to that question (Congrats, Biden and Harris!). But just as quickly as we heard the
still unclear–as we’re writing this, control of the Senate is still up for grabs, with two seats in Georgia headed to a runoff election in January. We’re not quite sure what the dynamic will be between the White House and Congress. We’ve seen enough of the Congressional failure to address other components of technology policy (*cough* Section 230 *cough*) to know that, with a divided legislature, our odds of getting landmark
that the benefits of companies collecting their personal data are outweighed by the risks. This lack of control is something that permeates all of our online interactions. When almost three-quarters of Americans think they’re being tracked by companies and nearly half are surveilled online by the government, that creates a chilling effect. Our fundamental democratic rights, including freedom of speech and freedom
data privacy, companies and governments are able to expand the surveillance tools at their disposal. Americans are uniquely vulnerable—while other countries are moving to protect personal data, the collection and use of our data is widely unregulated outside a handful of states and localities. Therefore, California’s success with Proposition 24 shows us a path forward: getting privacy on the ballot in another 49
of assembly, are at risk when corporations and governments can monitor every word we’re saying. People of color, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by a lack of autonomy over personal data, particularly
states. Ballot initiatives are different from down-ballot races. They don’t come prefilled with a D or R by the headline— although your preferred political party may endorse one choice or another, there’s more opportunity to build bipartisan, grassroots advocacy around ballot initiatives that can make privacy a priority. At the end of the day, it comes down to a question for the voters. How do you value your privacy and how can we protect it in our increasingly digital world? It’s not a perfect fix. In referendums or ballot initiatives, complex topics like encryption and law enforcement access to data can be poorly articulated in what amounts to a few (perhaps misleading) sentences ahead of a “Yes” or “No” on a ballot. Even if we may all agree that our data needs increased protections, encapsulating how we get there with only two answer choices can yield problematic results. Additionally, influential tech companies, who spend billions of dollars on lobbying initiatives, are unlikely to sit on the sidelines. And, if the future of privacy truly comes to rely upon solely ballot initiatives in all fifty states, then we better grab some popcorn and get ready for a long haul. So these ballot measures aren’t a silver bullet—hardly anything in tech policy is. But they are, nonetheless, a worthy tool to build political will for the next administration and legislature to take on new priorities: privacy, antitrust, misinformation, and more. It’s a clear-cut way for voters to show resounding support for initiatives on the tech policy agenda and to hold their elected officials accountable if they fail to deliver for their constituents. In our tech policy ecosystem, we have all sorts of stakeholders. Legislators, think tank researchers, lobbyists, foundations, and the tech companies themselves are just some of the actors that shape our policy. But rarely do any of those stakeholders represent the interests of arguably the most important tech policy constituency: the users. That’s because the way we think about privacy isn’t necessarily the same way we think about economic or health care policy. Each user’s lived experiences will shape how they interact with the internet, and each user will inevitably have different ideas of how their data is protected. Those ideas can be brought to life in our legislatures, but it all starts on the ballot.
Jessica Edelson and Niharika Vattikonda ON TECH news, the pundits began their predictions: What would be the Biden-Harris administration’s top priority? What would happen to the economy, to healthcare, to education, to national security? What about the internet? As we have written before, the internet— and all that the term encompasses—poses some of the greatest threats to our democracy and to our society, from widespread misinformation and algorithmic bias to privacy abuses and Big Tech’s monopolizing behaviors. The fact that major news outlets, like The New York Times, had to dedicate entire sections to “tracking viral misinformation” about this year’s election only underscores the relevance of tech policy issues to the American people. And how could we forget about this week’s mega-feud between President Trump and Twitter? But, hey, we’re not here for more punditry. We’re simply here to remind you that our incoming elected leaders have the most power in addressing the aforementioned issues. Unbeknownst to many Americans, perhaps even you, the future of the internet was on the ballot this year. In California, the future of privacy was, literally, in the hands of voters. California’s Proposition 24, which expanded the California Consumer Privacy Act and created the California Privacy Protection Agency, passed with just over 56% of the vote. In the world of technology policy, where users and consumers often do not have a seat at the table when discussing hotbutton issues, the presence of Proposition 24 was encouraging. And it was not the first time Californians have put pressure on their state legislators to crack down on Big Tech’s record on privacy. While Congress has floundered in the realm of privacy legislation, California state law has already expanded to protect the personal data of state residents. The initial Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect earlier this year, provided people logging on from California I.P. addresses with an expanded set of rights over their personal information, namely the right to understand what information companies are collecting and the right to opt out of collection. Whether you agree or disagree with the fine print of Proposition 24, it’s clear that we’re seeing a new path forward for privacy advocates: the ballot box. Of course, ballot measures may not be enough to work out the fine-tuned details of privacy legislation, and states passing individual ballot measures will not be enough to correct the patchwork of tech policy that currently exists across our country. But ballot measures can help demonstrate to the federal government what we, as constituents, prioritize. The outlook for federal privacy legislation in the next administration is
federal privacy legislation—akin to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—are slim. While playing partisan politics in Congress may stall meaningful federal
“These ballot measures aren’t a silver bullet—hardly anything in tech policy is.
But they are, nonetheless, a
worthy tool to build political will for the next administration and legislature to take on new priorities: privacy, antitrust, misinformation, and more.” privacy legislation, voters have had enough of unintelligible privacy policies and shadowy uses of their personal data, and ballot initiatives can put pressure on legislators to be more responsive to their constituents. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, over 80% of Americans feel that they have very little control over the data the government and companies collect about them, and a similar proportion feel
when it comes to law enforcement access to data. Poor handling of personal data online and the risk of data breaches has made Americans more wary of the kinds of products and services they interact with. According to another study from the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans opted to avoid a product or service based on these concerns. As we continue to cede more ground on
Want to write a column in Spring 2021? Email the Opinion Editor at email@example.com
Jessica Edelson and Niharika Vattikonda are Trinity juniors. Their column, “on tech,” usually runs on alternate Thursdays.Want them to break down a technology topic you’re interested in? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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