VOLUME VI | SPRING 2020
THE UNFOLDING OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC by Julia Arwine
FROM THE EDITOR
photo by Bo Brueck
Dear reader, There is a before and after to what we are living through. This spring, the novel coronavirus has deepened old problems and created new ones. A disruption, an upending of life like this leaves us all vulnerable — some objectively more so than others. Priorities have shifted and plans have changed, but the experiences before this haven’t disappeared or lost meaning. A case in point is the story we planned to slot on the cover before Miami administration canceled in-person classes. Erin Glynn studied abroad in China in 2018 while wrestling with the grief of her brother’s suicide. A chapter of life doesn’t completely fade when a new one arises. The same can be said for our profile on Maddie DePaoli, the person behind Oxford’s house shows, by our editor-in-chief-at-large Maya Fenter. When it’s safe to have concerts again, someone will take DePaoli’s de facto role next year. The flavor of music will likely change with a new tastemaker, but the legacy and connections that DePaoli passes down to her successor will continue. Leah Gaus’ story about gays who go Greek challenges expectations of whatever “normative” is in the spaces we inhabit, with or without dealing with external implications of a global pandemic. What the mind grappled with before doesn’t go away, either. Kirby Davis’ personal account of her time in a mental hospital exemplifies this. Some small things don’t change. We find in Bo Brueck’s slice of life that his bike still gives back like it did pre-quarantine. But there is no way our staff could ignore the moment we’re living in. Julia Arwine unfolds how the Miami community — professors, administration and students studying
abroad and living on campus — responded to the global pandemic. And Abigail Kemper recounts how her mother, a nurse, copes with what needs to be done at the hospital and at home The offices of Miami’s Student Counseling Services (SCS) are quiet for the rest of the semester. Last fall, Amanda Parel learned how to manage her anxiety with help from SCS sessions. The lessons she gained outside of class haven’t faded. This spring, being able to manage the mental energy required to cope with what we’re going through is more important than ever. The campus isn’t exactly empty, though. The people who kept it clean and running before are still working shifts now, however limited. Caroline Roethlisberger details Miami’s fall from grace as a place that workers used to flock to for a living. Meanwhile, plans have been rocked by forces outside of the global pandemic. Will Gorman follows how three female students navigate sexism and other obstacles on their individual paths to law school. Life moves forward, with problems from before and after. With or without a disruption, we could not have completed a 100% digital issue without our flexible team of editors, designers and writers. Maya, thank you for anchoring me when I have bonkers ideas. Sam and Abby, thank you for helping guide words on the page to where they need to go. All three of you do it beautifully. Alissa, you have been indispensable in leading Mason and your team of designers as art director. You did it again. For one last time, you brought TMSM’s stories to life. Mason, I love your work and I am so excited to continue to collaborate with you as you step into Alissa’s role. Thank you to Bea for managing the business side of things, as well as our advisor Dr. Tobin and countless professors and TMS newspaper editors who have suggested someone’s story or an idea that made this magazine better. Lastly, thank you to Google Hangouts for making our meetings possible. To think in such a place, we lived through a pandemic. This is Issue VI. Stay well,
Chloe Murdock Editor-in-Chief
Volume VI | Spring 2020
Editor-in-Chief Chloe Murdock Art Director Alissa Martin Editorial Staff Sam Cioffi, Abby Bammerlin, Maya Fenter Art Staff Mason Thompson, Max Pyle, Min Kim, Anna Skalicki Photo Staff Bo Brueck Copy Editors Sydney Hill Business Manager Dan Wozniak Head of Student Media Chris Vinel Faculty Advisor James Tobin Business Advisor Fred Reeder Distributor WDJ Inc. - Bill Dedden
PROSE Chloe Murdock
Letter from the Editor
ài (爱) to love and ái (挨) to suffer
A Little Night Music
So Long, Mother Miami
I Didn’t Get a Lobotomy, but
What a Ride
Depression Still Sucks Julia Arwine
Rushing In and Coming Out
Trial by Law School
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A journey of emotional and cultural immersion by Erin Glynn
Content Warning: This piece has mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation
(kāfēi guăn, coffee shop)
aradiso was my favorite place on the sprawling and sometimes unnerving Peking University campus. To get there, you have to walk up and across a bridge over eight lanes of insane Beijing traffic, flash your ID at the East Gate guards on the edge of campus and dodge bicycles, motor scooters and the flood of other PKU students for about three blocks. There’s no flow to foot traffic in Beijing. No one worries about keeping to the right side of the street. You just keep your eyes open and try not to get trampled or run over by a distracted guy on a bike. Once you make it to the right building unscathed, you descend the short staircase, push past the door and through the plastic curtain flaps that aren’t much guard against the smog, and you’re there: in the most bizarre cultural mishmash concentrated into one coffee shop.
Paradiso seems to be trying to mimic a European café. There are a bunch of vaguely French Impressionist prints on the walls along with one inexplicable print of dogs playing poker. The menu features espresso along with Chinese milk tea. But the snacks in the counter are German and Japanese, and the music playing is old-school American country (I heard the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers rendition of “Islands in the Stream” no fewer than four times there). Inside, I felt like a bonafide global citizen. Not in the pretentious way that some political science classmates use the word, as a transition into telling you about that time they got trashed in Italy. But in an unironic hippie sense, I could see the best things about different cultures harmonizing in this crazy and wonderful study space. On this day, I hadn’t come to study. Though I had a batch of 50 new characters to trace and retrace before my next Mandarin exam, I just wanted to read and think for a bit. I settled onto a couch with a hot milk tea and Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” That’s where I was when I read it. “One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it.” That was how I felt about China. THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
(dàodá, to reach; to arrive) I arrived in Beijing shivering and clutching an airplane blanket full of my own vomit. It wasn’t the most auspicious beginning to a semester abroad. It was Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018 — exactly three weeks after I lost my 18-year-old brother to suicide. Throughout those weeks I had waffled, trying to decide whether to go through with the trip I had been planning for two years. Friends, family and strangers all repeated to me that going was “what Declan would have wanted.” The more I heard it the more frustrated I felt with the idea of trying to predict what Declan would have wanted. My brother was one of my best friends, but I was no longer sure I could say anything definitive about him. He had made a choice so breathtakingly out of character, I no longer felt confident that I had ever really known him. From what I thought I knew, I figured Declan wouldn’t care much whether I stayed in Kentucky, went back to Ohio or fled to China. The thought of staying home for three and a half months, surrounded by memories of our childhood, was unbearable. The
laundry list of logistics to go back to school gave me a splitting headache. That left China. It all seemed logical when I boarded the plane in Cincinnati. But when the wheels touched down nearly 7,000 miles away, I realized how scared I was, in a country of 1 billion people where no one but me mourned my brother. What was I thinking? How would I survive this? And did I want to? I had no answers. And that emptiness in me frightened me even more than this city of 20 million strangers.
(dìdi, little brother) I love it when people ask me about Declan. He was the funniest person I will ever know. He could twitch an eyebrow at exactly the right moment and I would double-over, laughing until my stomach hurt and my glasses fogged with tears. He was incredibly kind. He loved little kids and ugly dogs. He was obsessed with the periodic table and planned to get a doctorate in chemistry. He liked to make fun of me for picking majors that wouldn’t make any money. He made noise constantly. He sang to narrate whatever he was doing. He would sing about everything in our fridge in a toneless stupid little song until I laughed and then he would smile, always so pleased to cheer other people up. When he wasn’t narrating, he would whistle. He taught himself to play the guitar. One summer day when I got home from work, I discovered he had moved an entire drum set into our basement. His taste in music was eclectic and deep. He worshipped Stuart Copeland of The Police, but couldn’t stand Sting. He wasn’t as troubled by religion as I am. He didn’t let things bother him as much as they bothered me. I’ve heard people describe their loved ones as a rock, but Declan was the opposite for me. A balloon maybe. He lifted my spirits, lifted me up out of myself and helped me realize things aren’t as serious as I make them out to be. He helped me have fun.
(nánguò, to feel sad; to feel unwell; [of life] to be difficult) On the first morning, I woke up at 5 a.m. Beijing time, 5 p.m. East4 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
ern Standard. The simplest time zone calculation in the world. But that just made the distance seem more momentous. Twelve hours ahead of everyone who knew me. If something happened to me here, would 12 hours pass before anyone found out? Clarity and logic were beyond me now. My breaths ended in ragged sobs. I could feel my heart and my head pounding. I was disoriented and panicked. I crossed to the window and realized the sunlight was fighting its way through the smog that sat heavily on the city. I’d heard about the air pollution in Beijing, of course, but seeing it was different. Below me, red Chinese characters were fixed to the roof of another international student dorm. I didn’t recognize a single character. It was so stupid to come here. I didn’t know Chinese. I meant to cram the weeks before I left. I had a study schedule mapped out, but that had been scrapped for obvious reasons. I stared at the building below me. Not the best view. All I could see was an industrial-looking roof with some weird-looking pigeons milling about. God, were the pigeons different here too? I thought about Declan, alone in Louisville, a new place, different from where we grew up. He’s alone, and he’s scared. He hangs up the phone call with his girlfriend, he sits on that ledge and then … what? He panics? Is the decision to jump made all at once? Police officers described the security footage to my family the night they gave us the news. They promised no one else would ever see that footage; I never want to. But this feels uncomfortably close.
I study the window latch. Grubby, probably hasn’t been opened in a while. Why would anyone here want to breathe in more poison? And I’m thinking about it, which I promised everyone I wouldn’t do. What would it feel like to jump? Quick, I hope. That’s what everyone assured me. “Your brother didn’t suffer,” they said. I could do it. I wouldn’t have to survive this semester. It would be simple. I touch the window and then step back, yanking the curtain over it. I throw myself back on the bed, terrified by how badly I want to be dead. I won’t move for an hour. I’ll stay right here. If I still want to kill myself at 6:00 a.m., I can call somebody. By 6, my mom will be home from work. My best friend, Erica, will be done with her classes. They’ll talk to me, they’ll help me out of this. In the meantime, I need a distraction. Before the plane boarded, I downloaded “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” from the library to read on my phone. A week after Declan died, I was sitting on the living room couch, needing something to do other than grieve and reply to condolence messages on social media. I Googled “what to read while grieving” and the Internet delivered a Buzzfeed list: “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” all books I had heard of and thought about reading someday. Nothing seemed right to me until the Harry Potter series. The author of the list pointed out the books deal with heavy themes and tackle love, loss and morality. It was perfect. I wanted to reread something comforting and familiar. I wanted to regress into my childhood. And Declan and I had loved Harry Potter; reading the books and watching the movies was something we did together. I started to read, still sobbing, but didn’t bother cleaning my face. I’d deal with my mind first. And it worked. I sat up an hour later, and I could be alone with my thoughts again. I gingerly thought about what my family might be doing right now. It felt like prodding a recent wound to see just how badly you’re hurt. It was bearable. I knew I could get up, maybe say hi to my suitemate today, maybe go outside for food. I couldn’t face the entire semester, not even the entire day. But I would stay alive for one more hour and then one more, until I got back home. I wouldn’t hurt my parents or my sisters again. If I could minimize their pain, if I could convince everyone that I would be all right here and that we all still had a future worth working towards, all of this would be worth it.
(héhé, harmony) My cohort visited the Lama Temple together. The temple’s Chinese name, Yōnghé gōng, loosely translates to “harmony palace,” and the grounds look like pictures of China you see on postcards or in a textbook: ancient red buildings with yellow-tiled roofs, stone lions guarding the palace gates and long gold dragons over doorways. Our teacher told us to light incense, bow and ask for something we wanted. My group joked about what to wish for: a boyfriend, to pass this semester. I let the group go ahead and waited for my sticks of incense to catch fire. I didn’t know much about Buddhism, only that it seemed more chill than the Catholicism I was raised with. But the temple felt peaceful. More than that, the halls and statues I wandered through held a sense of authority. I wondered if I would anger my God. But I couldn’t
stop myself from praying here. Surely it would be good for Declan if I covered all the bases, right? So I walked slowly through the halls, staring up at the giant Buddha statues and pleading silently for them to do what they could to make sure my brother was having a good afterlife. Once I found the last Buddha, a 60-foot tall statue carved from a single sandalwood tree, I felt peaceful for the first time since Declan’s death. Something about the trip – the prayer, the atmosphere, maybe just realising I wasn’t here alone – had worked. I looked around at my cohort and didn’t resent their excitement. I even felt a little myself.
(rìcháng, daily; everyday) My suitemate Tara was from Chicago, but her parents were Chinese. They had immigrated to the U.S. from the Fujian province and spoke a dialect at home. She could understand spoken Chinese much better than the rest of us, but still struggled with written characters.
6 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
Tara introduced me to the rest of the students in our cohort as we explored our new neighborhood. We were all from American universities, but not all American. Two students, Akiko and Nobuo, were from Japan and studying at Soka, a private university in Southern California that had a sister school in Tokyo. Mark studied at Soka too, but he had spent the first 10 years of his life in Singapore before moving to Seattle and becoming a dual citizen. Most of the other students came from small colleges on the East Coast. I latched onto Jacob and Alyssa, two students from Wisconsin. We took an online test that sorted us into classes by language ability. It placed Akiko and I in Class Eight together with three other Americans, four other Japanese students, and one student each from Canada, Germany, England, France, Italy and Thailand. We took our reading and speaking classes together, chanting our new vocabulary aloud each day. We spoke Mandarin with each other even when the teachers weren’t paying attention, because it was the only language we had in common. My classes required lots of practice, drilling and rote memorization. Mandarin is supposed to be among the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn, which is why I loved it.
I’ve always loved learning new languages. I find vocabulary memorization comforting, and the intricacies of grammar fascinating in terms of what a language’s rules reveal about the people who speak it. Learning a new language means you have clearcut accomplishables: I need to know 60 new words by next class, I need to be able to write these new characters in the proper stroke order before the next exam, I need to understand how to talk about time and
THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
past-tense for this next composition. Studying required no deep thought, which was ideal. I studied, I learned and I felt a sense of accomplishment as the semester went on. Now I could walk into the dumpling place near my dorm and order without stuttering and pointing at the pictures on the menu. Now I could ask my classmates about their majors and their hobbies. The first weeks passed quickly, and I settled into a routine of language classes, homework and exploring Beijing by night and on the weekends. I got to know more of the other students as we visited the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the 798 contemporary art district. Living in the city, much like learning Mandarin, gave me straightforward goals and obstacles: Don’t get sick from the air, the food or the water. Don’t say anything about the government online or in person; that would get me detained. Don’t act like a naive foreigner. Watch out for scammers and black taxis. The semester felt like playing a mentally ill video game. The stakes of my life became much simpler, but much more significant: I needed to survive, preferably with my sanity mostly intact, until Dec. 15, when I would go back home. Everything I did felt like a life or death situation. Some of them actually were, but most would have felt manageable were I not grieving or dealing with culture shock. I was grateful for the never-ending intensity of life in Beijing, however. I couldn’t numb myself or dwell too much on what had happened. The video-game logic the city inspired in me had me convinced that if I stopped moving forward, or made too many mistakes, I wouldn’t make it back home. The adrenaline rush to my daily life was terrifying, but exhilarating. There’s freedom in only worrying about your survival and a kind of healing that I couldn’t have found anywhere else. Foreigners are noticed in China, especially outside major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. I often heard locals refer to me as waiguoren, foreigner, or bai nu, white girl, as they passed me. People took pictures of me on the subway or in restaurants. But being a foreigner in China came with a sort of freedom. You know that you’ll always stick out because you can never truly look or behave like a local, so you can let go of self-consciousness. I felt like I had the space and chance to redefine myself, away from anything familiar. Everything in the country – the food, the fashion, the politics – was so unlike what surrounded my life before and that felt right. Declan wasn’t in the world anymore. Everything should be different.
But one mo more, u
(chángchéng, the Great Wall) Jacob, Alyssa, and I piled into a truck with Cybele, a girl who went to school in New York, and bounced part of our way up the mountain. Our driver was friendly and kept shooting us questions in Mandarin. I let Jacob and Cybele take the lead answering. Their command of Chinese is leagues above mine. After the bumpy ride, we met the rest of our group at the host family’s house. Besides us, they were also hosting a French couple for the night. The open-air seating area where we would eat dinner looked out on the mountains and, I guess, the wall,
8 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
t I would stay alive for ore hour and then one until I got back home.
though it was too dark to see. I kept my coat on to eat. It was so cold, I wondered if I’d have to sleep in it. Once we dropped our stuff on the kang, making sure to turn on the heater so it worked by the time we went to bed, we headed to the outdoor platform that looked out onto the mountains, where our teacher, who we called Jiang Laoshi, had a small fire going and a surprise for us. I had no idea where she tracked down graham crackers and marshmallows in Beijing, but I was so happy to see familiar food that I could have cried. We immediately started toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Even the small daughter of our hosts got into it. I don’t think she had ever tasted a s’more before. Her eyes lit up as she crunched into it, marshmallow and chocolate smearing all over her face. Jacob, ever-ready with his speaker and a playlist, started blasting ABBA and The 1975. It was surreal to listen to “Dancing Queen” and feel the music drift toward an ancient wonder of the world. Tara, Mark and I linked hands with the hosts’ little daughter and spun in a circle with her to the music. She giggled, and every time one of us would have to stop, protesting we were
too dizzy, she insisted we keep dancing and so another student from our group would sub in. After a while we were all dancing in a circle. The hosts’ daughter would point to one of us at random, and that person would move to the center to show off their best or most ridiculous moves. The smoke from the fire still rose into the cold night air that numbed my nose and cheeks. It seemed like every song Jacob picked next was a favorite of mine. I looked out at the circle of these people I had come to know so well in such a short amount of time, and had one of those rare moments when you can come out of yourself and see where a moment will be in the span of your life. A moment when you think, “Man, on my deathbed, I’ll be glad I have this memory.” Full of love for my friends, for our host family and for China, I felt more than happy. I felt peaceful, content, joyful. I hadn’t felt like this since Declan’s death. I’d assumed it would be years before I felt this way again.
(zàijiàn, goodbye; see you again later) I went for Indian food with Class Eight for one last outing. We managed to break through the language and cultural barriers a bit to tease and laugh with each other. When I got back that night, I felt queasy and tired. Hoping to sleep it off, I got right into bed, barely stop-
THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
ping to take my shoes and glasses off. When I woke up, pain was shooting through my stomach and I felt too dizzy to stand. I was desperately thirsty and annoyed that I didn’t have any water left in my jug. I’d have to boil some and wait for it to cool down. Hē rè shuĭ (Drink hot water) is the instruction any older Chinese person gives an ailing foreigner. Like Europeans, Chinese people do not believe in ice in their drinks, and think any beverage cooler than room temperature is a shock to the digestive system. They believe hot water is far better for your health, and can improve any affliction, from a headache to food poisoning. After setting up the little electric kettle in my room, I messaged my teachers an apology and told them I wouldn’t make it to class. I tried to stand up to get the water. As soon as I was fully vertical, the room spun. I lost my balance and fell back down onto the bed. Hours later, the agonizing stomach pain woke me up around 1 a.m. My phone was dead and my charger had broken after getting wet. I freaked out. When was the last time I talked to my parents? They knew I was sick, but I had last updated them yesterday morning. If they were trying to reach me and I wasn’t answering, they had to be insane with worry. When I was away for school in Ohio, we went as much as a week without talking. But China was different and Declan’s death had made our communication different too. I knew not hearing from one of their kids would send them into a tailspin. I couldn’t live with myself if I let them wonder if I was dead any longer. I sat up slowly and the stomach pain intensified. I moved as slowly as possible, not wanting to blackout again. The neighborhood had to have at least one 24-hour convenience store. If not, campus certainly did. It would be hard to find without using the map or translating apps on my phone, but not impossible. I grabbed my room key and shuffled out, pausing to rest in front of the elevators. Already the pain and
the vertigo had me worried I wouldn’t make it to the campus gate without fainting. Mom and Dad need to know you’re alive, I reminded myself. You can do this for them. People are praying for you. I made it all the way to the alley a block away from the pedestrian bridge I had to cross to reach campus before I had to sit down again. I crouched in the street and heard laughter and voices bouncing off the adjacent walkway. It occurred to me that I could get jumped on the way to the convenience store, or end up lost and unable to return to the dorm, or get hurt because I was too weak to jump out of the way of a car or motor scooter. That would also not be great for my parents. I don’t know how long I stayed crouched in that alley, desperate to find some way to reach the people I loved most. Eventually, I realized the situation wasn’t going to get any better the longer I stayed outside, so I dragged myself back into the dorm room. I stayed in the dorm for another day and a half, alone and deliriously afraid, unable to stand up or let my family know I was alive. When I next woke up, Tara brought me food and let me borrow her phone charger. I immediately called my mother, who told me she had been a few more hours away from calling Miami and the embassy. She urged me to go to a hospital. I refused. I didn’t say it out loud, but I was certain if I went to a hospital now, three days before my departure flight, I wouldn’t be able to go back home. I was so scared I would be quarantined or detained for something else, and the idea of staying any longer than I had promised myself felt like it would be the breaking point. My mind would snap, and I wouldn’t ever make it home in any meaningful way. I’d be too broken. When I first arrived in China, a part of me wanted to die. Now that it seemed the experience might genuinely kill me, I wanted nothing more than to live. I stayed in bed for the next couple of days, missing the farewell dinners, final classes and last-minute goodbye trips. On the day before my flight, I got up and tried to pack, stopping frequently to rest. Jacob and Alyssa came to visit and help, promising that
When I first arrived in China, a part of me wanted to die. Now that it seemed the experience might genuinely kill me, I wanted nothing more than to live. 10 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
they’d see me again at the airport. We left for the airport, and I said goodbye to Jacob, Alyssa, Cybele and Tara. We all promised to find time for a Midwestern reunion soon.
(huíjiā, to return home) When I got off the plane, I felt that sense of emptiness again, but it was different from the pit that had settled in me when I arrived in Beijing. I felt lighter. Once I was back in my family’s embrace, sobbing together in the middle of the airport, I felt the burden of carrying Declan’s memory lift slightly. I was back where other people remembered and mourned Declan. I was sharing the grief again. A year later, I’m still trying to make sense of that time and how it’s changed me. I thought as I left that I would grieve Declan in China, it would be the worst three and a half months of my life, and I would come home and be okay again. For that time, I could let myself be as broken as I needed to be, far away from anyone who knew me.
I wouldn’t have to be strong for anyone else. I could scream and cry alone in my tiny dorm, surrounded by strangers who wouldn’t care. In that sense, going to China was as freeing as I’d hoped it would be. But you have to come back home. While there was relief in that return, I hadn’t left my grief in Beijing. There was pain that was now a part of me, that would stay within me, bone-deep, no matter where I traveled. As sad as that sounds, I find it comforting. Declan is gone, but I think about him every day. I wouldn’t be able to forget him if I tried. In one of my first language classes in Beijing, our instructor taught us the word ái (挨), pronounced with a rising tone, like you’re asking a question. She told us it was a verb meaning to suffer, to pull through hard times. I was grateful to add it to my vocabulary, but confused. In Ohio, my professor has taught us ai meant love or affection. I realized later that night I had been thinking of ài (爱) with a falling tone, pronounced short and sharp, a staccato sound. I was reminded of the contradiction any time somebody called me by my Chinese name (jĭ ài ruì) because it included yet another ai sound. A native Mandarin speaker would always be able to tell the difference, but to me the sounds of my own name, of love, of suffering would forever be indistinguishable. S
PICTURED: Erin & brother Declan
A one-story house, garage bands and the maestro behind it all by Maya Fenter
n a side street with no lights, there’s a house with no name. A single porchlight illuminated the small doorstep and a few cars had parked in the driveway, but those were the only signs that the house was open for visitors. It’s not the type of place you just stumble on. You had to look for it. A big guy with long wavy brown hair perched on a stool by the front door. Next to him was a cooler with a jar sitting on top. He marked backs of hands with Xs after guests paid a $3 cover charge, either in cash or through Venmoing Oxford-DIY. There were also cans of Natural Light for $1 each—some cans inside the cooler and others in the open, chilled in the crisp November night air.
Senior Maddie DePaoli stood outside the house talking to a friend. She wore a 90s-esque gray sweatshirt with “School Bus” embroidered on the front in bright colors and a neon yellow mesh vest. A construction paper wheel hung around her neck by a piece of string and a paper stop sign was banded around her arm. That night’s house show landed on Hallo-weekend, so she was dressed as a bus driver. And also the school bus. Her friend Michael was wearing a plaid flannel button-down over a hoodie, and said he’s dressed as a guy going to a house show.
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At 9 p.m., there were only about a dozen people at the house, including the band members. The start time was listed as 9 p.m. on the Facebook event for the show, but that was not strictly enforced. It all depended on how many people were there. Before the show started, Maddie stood in the kitchen, sipping a drink from her plastic chalice. She wasn’t who everyone was there to see but she was the reason everyone—the big guy at the door, the band, the crowd—was there that night. This wasn’t her house, though. In fact, she never hosted a show at her own house. She said she didn’t have the ideal space for it. The ideal house, according to Maddie, has a large open space for the bands to perform and a crowd of people to watch. Basements are best, but that night’s venue only had a two-car garage, which Maddie said is the next best thing. She also liked when houses have outdoor spaces for people to hang out, either a porch or a backyard. “A lot of people that come to these shows, they like to smoke their cigs,” Maddie said. She tried to have a rotation of a few different venues so one house didn’t have to host every single time. “I’ve never seen anything rowdy, I’ve never had the cops called,” Maddie said. “But if I had to host something big like that and make sure my house is clean and all that kinda shit eight times per semester, I’d get worn out.” This house had just one story. When you walk in, the living room is straight ahead with a TV, fireplace and a cat tower. Just about every surface was some shade of off-white or beige, except for the back wall with the fireplace, which was wood-paneled like the
basement of a family home from the 70s. Through the small kitchen was a door leading to the two-car garage. The door was open, letting the chaotic sounds of the first band warming up echo through the rest of the house. Meanwhile, members of the two other bands slated to perform that night walked in and out of the front door, carrying equipment and setting it in the corner by the dining table. Two bowls, one filled with red jello shots and the other with blue, took up space on the kitchen counter. A sheet of computer paper taped to the cabinet above had “$1” written on it in Sharpie, and then below it, “Pls help, these shows double our electric bill.” *** “Music is starting!” Maddie shouted through the
She’s not who everyone was there to see, but she’s the reason everyone was there that night.
house at around 9:30. The handful of people mulling around migrated into the garage. The garage was dim with just a single line of Christmas lights hanging on the back wall. The cold air leaked inside, leaving people shivering. The first act was a guy who goes by Marty McFly. He’s a member of a band from Columbus called The Emperor Chaz, who describes their sound as neo-soul and hip-hop. But that night, sans band members, he performed a solo rap set. He spat out fast-paced rhymes to a series of backing tracks and beats. As he rapped, he slid his feet effortlessly around the garage floor and twirled the red cord of his microphone in his hand. There were only about a dozen people in the garage, but almost everyone was nodding to the beat. His last song began with a backing track that was a remix of the “Seinfeld” transition music, and the hook of the song was a series of “What is it about…” jokes. It was a hit with the crowd. *** Maddie is a senior, but started going to house shows during the spring semester of her freshman year. One of her friends introduced her to the scene, and it drew her in. “I was like, ‘Damn, this is a cool spot that isn’t a shitty bar Uptown,’” Maddie said. For one, she likes the music at the shows better than what they play at the bars. But at house shows, she fits in with a crowd of people who stand out at Miami. “It’s all the weirdos coming together under a big music umbrella.” It was at these shows where she met Rebecca Sowell, who was in charge of booking shows before she graduated last spring. The summer before Maddie’s junior
year, she saw a band perform and knew the guys from high school. She really liked their music, so she asked Rebecca if she could book them for a show. Not only did Rebecca say yes, she asked Maddie to help her with some of the bookings that fall. By the spring of that year, Rebecca handed over the job to Maddie completely, and she booked all of the shows that semester. *** In the half hour break between Marty McFly and the next act, the house filled up. It was just past 10 p.m. — late enough for people to begin their night, but early enough to catch them before it’s time to go to the bars or wherever their night takes them. The next band was Wicked Messenger, a five-person rock band from Columbus, Ohio, which had just released an EP a few days ago. Thirty-five people crowded into the garage for their set. It was full, but not packed to the point of feeling like you needed to fight for space. People stood shoulder to shoulder in loosely defined rows. A kid in a hockey jersey stood beside a tripod near the front to film the performance. Maddie stood in the front like she was leading the pack, but probably mostly because she was one of the shortest people in the room. A fog machine released a plume of smoke into the garage — far more than the handful of Juul smokers could ever puff out of their mouths — marking the beginning of Wicked Messenger’s set. The frontman thanked Lexi, one of the girls who lived at the house, and her roommates for hosting the night’s show, and in return, Lexi shouted happy birthday. The frontman turned 22 that day, so the crowd broke into an impromptu singing of “Happy Birthday” while his bandmates played along.
“I get a real kick out of the crowd jumping up and down, moshing, just dancing around.”
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The garage seemed too small to contain the energy inside.
After playing a few more songs, the drummer took his shirt off. Their last song was the band’s rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. The drummer started chanting, “A pirate’s life for me,” and the whole crowd followed along, building up to the iconic riff. One guitarist bent his knees and raised his hands up. When the beat dropped, and he swung his arms down, just about everyone in the garage started jumping. The bass vibrated the walls and your insides. The garage seemed too small to contain the energy inside. ***
Maddie tried to book bands who have a variety of different sounds. Rebecca was partial to shoegaze music—a subgenre of alternative rock that’s mellow and almost dream-like. Maddie doesn’t mind that type of music, but it’s not quite her thing. Instead, she’s partial to garage rock, punk, pop, funk—just any music that gets people moving. “I get a real kick out of the crowd jumping up and down, moshing, just dancing around,” she said. “That gets me energized and I feel like people have a good time when they’re dancing. So I try to find bands that are more upbeat, so not necessarily screaming in your face, but just bands that are more upbeat that people wanna dance to.” Occasionally, bands would come to her and ask to play a show, especially once more people knew her as the girl who books house shows. But mostly, Maddie scouted out bands herself. She had attended her fair share of live music events in the Cincinnati area, and if she saw a band she liked, she would go up and ask them if they would be interested in playing in Oxford. But a lot of her scouting happened over social media. “I stopped using Facebook years ago, but I use it a ton now for bands because everyone has Facebook Messenger, every band has a page.” She would look at other venues — mostly bars and clubs in Cincinnati — on social media to see what bands they were booking, then look into those bands to see if there were any she wanted to bring to Oxford.
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She scheduled about two shows each month, about one every other week — infrequently enough where there would still be some novelty to each one, but often enough where people wouldn’t have to wait too long if they missed one. *** At the end of Wicked Messenger’s set and after a lengthy applause, everyone flooded into the house to escape the cold. About half of the crowd lingered inside while the other half left through the front door and into the night. Maddie sat in a chair with the jar of cash resting in her lap as she flipped through dollar bills, counting up the night’s total. In the past, the majority of the shows were donations only. But Maddie was adamant about charging a cover so she could give the bands something in return for performing. Last year, she lost a venue that had hosted several shows in the past because they said they weren’t comfortable charging a cover. “I personally feel shitty if I don’t [charge a cover],” she said. “If you have just donations, people don’t like to give a lot of money, and if I give a band $10 for coming from who knows how far away, I would feel like crap.” During the downtime, I stood leaning against the back of the couch people-watching, and occasionally typing some notes on my phone to make myself look busy. Michael, who I met outside when I first got to the house, came up to me, and we spent a few minutes raving about Wicked Messenger’s performance. A few moments later, a girl carrying a large White Claw can sat on the couch behind me. I recognized her as the girl who I smiled at during the last performance after we made random eye contact. “We were standing for a long time, man!” she said, plopping down on the couch. I agreed with her — my feet had gone numb from the cold — and she pushed a blanket aside to make room for me to sit next to her. She is a graduate student from Ohio State University studying optometry and made the two-hour drive from Columbus to see Wicked Messenger perform. She has known the lead singer since she was seven. He’s like a little brother to her. She’s also been dating one of the guitarists for six years. She was eager to tell me about her life. Then she asked me questions about my major and my year in school, and about journalism and what I liked to write about. She was more bubbly than I am at my most outgoing, and I appreciated that about her. I appreciated the fact that sparking conversation with strangers wasn’t completely lost here. *** It was past 11:30 by the time Fycus, the last band of the night, started their set. There was no loud an16 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
nouncement to mark the beginning — just Maddie and a few other people disappearing into the garage. Practically no one was in the garage, especially compared to the crowd that was here for Wicked Messenger. Many had since left the house and moved on with their night. Marty McFly, the members of Wicked Messenger and the home’s residents made up most of the crowd. Fycus’s opening number was instrumental. They’re a group from Cincinnati that describes its sound as indie garage rock. It’s in a similar vein to Wicked Messenger’s sound—rock, but not in a heavy-metal type
The conga line morphed into a can-can kick line, as they wrapped their arms around each other and kicked their legs up to the beat. People closed their eyes as they swayed back and forth, holding their drinks up to the ceiling. Maddie turned around from her spot in the front to see everyone behind her twirling around and dancing with their hands up in the air. She smiled. Then she joined in. She got worried when she saw over half the crowd leave after Wicked Messenger, but at the end of the day, she’d rather have a few people really getting into
“To be able to provide a space for people that are a little different and for them to feel comfortable and invited ... that makes me feel good.” of way. But there’s more of a dream-like quality to Fycus’s music. A group of three were dancing in the corner—not just bobbing their heads, but really dancing. I’m not much of a dancer, especially when I’m sober and don’t know anyone in the room. So I stood near the back and just watched their slightly uncoordinated movements. But it was hard to hide in a room with only a dozen people. The girl who I talked to on the couch saw me and reached her hand out, then wrapped her arm around me when I walked toward her. I started to dance along with her, Marty McFly and the members of Wicked Messenger. Something about the company made any fear I had of potentially embarrassing myself disappear. Their energy was truly contagious. Soon enough, everyone was dancing. Fycus had performed at an Oxford show about a month before. Maddie usually wouldn’t book the same band twice in one semester, but after one group canceled on her, she asked them to come back because of the energy they had brought the previous time. Fycus’s music wasn’t particularly fast-paced, but there was something about it that managed to get the whole garage moving. It only got colder as the night continued, but between songs, people ran inside to toss their jackets on the nearest chair. Dancing, it turned out, was a very effective way to keep warm. Strangers grabbed each other’s hands and swung each other around. The guys of Wicked Messenger started a conga line and stumbled around the garage, gripping the shoulders of the person in front of them.
the music than a large crowd just nodding their heads. Maddie isn’t a musician herself. She’s a sociology major and doesn’t have any immediate plans to go into the music industry after graduating college. She simply loves live music and loves bringing people together. “To be able to provide a space for people that are a little different and for them to feel comfortable and invited… that makes me feel good,” Maddie said. “That is why I do this… I just want people to have a good time, that’s all.” When Fycus finished their last song, the echo of the last note faded into the small crowd’s clapping and cheering for an encore. Between it all, I saw Maddie turn to her friend, beaming. S
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The university’s fall from prestige as a premier employer in Butler County
his could describe campus at 2:40 a.m. on any given weekday: Miami’s geometric sidewalks are bare. Many students are fast asleep. A few are making their way home from their night out. One student, Jacob Bryant, just woke up and is preparing to head to work. After driving to campus, he pulls into a parking space at Cook Field. By 3:30 a.m., he’s unlocked the doors to Laws Hall and clocked in for work. Jacob is both a full-time Miami student and employee. The 24 year old hopes to graduate with a degree in botany in May 2020. Jacob started part time at Miami six years ago. He worked at King Library for a year before moving to Laws Hall. He used to make a little over $9 an hour, about
the same amount he made as a baker at Walmart. He wore a blue polo, signifying his status as a Building and Grounds Assistant. Now, he and other Miami employees sport the red Miami polo, shared by all Physical Facilities, Dining and Housing staff, with dark wash jeans. Jacob walks around in gray sneakers that are falling apart from wear and have been bleached from cleaning chemicals. Black rectangular glasses sit atop his nose, and a beaded wood rosary dangles around his neck. Jacob says five people used to clean Laws Hall. When he arrived, this number dwindled to three. Now he and his coworker, Keri Sherman, are responsible for the entire building. Two people now cover 69,454 square feet.
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“Once upon a time, generations of families worked for the university. It used to be a big deal to work at Miami, even with terrible pay.” “We’re each doing the work of two and a half people,” he said. Armed with a vacuum and cleaning supplies, Jacob begins work on the first floor of B.E.S.T. Library, which takes up most of Laws Hall. He must finish vacuuming by 8 a.m. so he doesn’t disturb students. Jacob is also in charge of cleaning Laws 100, the large first-floor lecture hall, and the third floor. Keri cleans the basement and second floor. Keri said some people leave to find better work while others retire, but their positions are not being replaced, leaving existing staff “spread thin.” “People do not like working here,” Jacob said. “But I can endure it because I can remember old Miami.” *** Miami was admirably known as “Mother Miami,” a premier employer in Butler County. The university maintains its status as the largest employer in the county, but its prestige is dwindling. Despite union contract advances, sentiments of the once-strong community atmosphere are fleeting among workers. With limited staff, the expectations of employees are high and morale is low. Jeffery Mills, electrician and Miami Union Vice President, chose to work at Miami almost 13 years ago because of the respectful work environment and
free tuition waivers for his children. He said the environment has changed. Jacob’s brother, stepbrother, uncle, stepfather and step-grandfather worked for Miami. Some retired and some left to find better work. “Once upon a time, generations of families worked for the university,” Jeff said. “It used to be a big deal to work at Miami, even with terrible pay.” *** As the secretary for Miami’s Union, AFSCME Ohio Council #8, Local Union 209, Jacob helped negotiate the new contract this summer alongside Jeff. He spends about 12 hours a week doing union work and writing newsletters. “When I first arrived at Miami, I thought AFSCME was an insurance company,” he said. According to its website, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) is the largest U.S. trade union with over 1.4 million members nationwide. Jeff said that unions help negotiate better working conditions and benefits, and provide representation for workers during contract negotiations and disciplinary hearings. Miami’s new union contract is effective July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022. While Jacob voiced concerns about Miami’s
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“I’ve heard people say ‘back when it was Mother Miami, we got free parking.'" work environment, “It’s the best contract we’ve had ing at age 15. He’s worked at both Walmart and KFC — at the same time. in 12 years,” he said. At KFC, he worked his way up to a supervisor Now, union representatives can be present at the new hire orientation, which has never been allowed position. “KFC was way better than this [working at Mibefore. Jacob hopes it will increase union membership, because new hires can learn about how union ami],” he said. Jacob used to live with his brother, who also participation can influence their work experience. The lowest paying jobs now start at $13 per hour, worked at Miami. They put a down payment on a a win for the union. Last year, the minimum wage house together, but lost it last year. Now, Jacob only supports himself with his Miami paycheck and lives was about $10 per hour. Jacob felt there was still room for improvement alone in an apartment off campus. He said he has just enough to get by, but other and hoped to negotiate a minimum wage of $15 per employees are single moms and have families to hour. In August 2019, Ohio State University an- support. nounced it would raise its minimum wage to $15 per *** hour, in order to attract and maintain a qualified workforce. Around 4:30 a.m., Keri pulls her car into the Marla Neibling, Director of Employee and Labor Relations, said the university considered negotiat- space next to Jacob’s, walks to Laws Hall and clocks ing a $15 minimum wage, but “it was not something in, ready to begin her work on the third floor. She we could afford to 100% agree to for the next three gets a schedule that tells her which classrooms are being used, so she can prioritize her cleaning. years.” On her agenda, she has classrooms and reInstead, Marla said the administration came up with creative staff incentives. One was a “stay bonus” strooms to clean, and trash to remove. Despite the sometimes dirty nature of her job, based on how many years a person had worked at “It’s done wonders for my immune system,” she said. Miami. Keri is 46 years old and has worked at Miami for While the university already offered longevity bonuses, it reduced the minimum number of years 12 years. She began as a temporary employee in the bookstore. from 10 years to five. “Back then, it took a while to get on full-time staff,” She believes the university and the union negotiKeri said. ated a fair deal for both parties. She later moved to Millet, filling in for a man on “We had to get to a middle ground to get a conmedical leave. After, she worked for building sertract that was fruitful for both parties,” she said. Despite advances in union negotiations, “Con- vices in a 10-month, full-time position at the Shriver Center. Then she migrated to the production kitchen tracts can only address certain things,” Jeff said. “A new contract won’t make a difference on mo- in food service for three years. Eventually, she made her way to Laws Hall as a custodian three years ago. rale.” Keri enjoys her hours in Laws Hall. Her 4:30 a.m. Marla has worked at Miami for three years, and she has only heard long-time employees refer to the to 1 p.m. shift allowed her to watch her son’s football games. university as “Mother Miami.” Keri has three children. Her middle son, who “I’ve heard people say, ‘Back when it was Mother Miami, we got free parking,’” she said. “But those is 22 years old, works part-time at Pepsi as a merchandiser stocking shelves and coolers and setting days are long gone.” up displays. “He makes 15-something an hour, and is making *** more than I am,” she said. “And I’ve been working Jacob grew up in Eaton, Ohio, and began work- here for 12 years.”
"But those days are long gone.” 20 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
But she says she’s lucky. Keri’s husband, an electrician, also supports their family. “We’re not living paycheck to paycheck like a lot of other people,” she said. Last year, Keri was diagnosed with melanoma and received treatment about once a month. With limited staff size, if Jacob or Keri takes a sick day, the other is responsible for the entire building. “If one of us is off, there’s no one to take our place,” she said.
workers to join. “If you’re not in the union, you’re telling Miami that you’re happy with the way things are going,” he said. “The more people that are involved makes for a better work environment. It means you are more invested in the place you work.” ***
*** Miami has been hosting job fairs and advertising open job positions, but Jeff said no one shows up. Jacob said that the benefits listed on job advertisements were ironically achieved through union negotiations. When Jeff began working at Miami, there was a waiting list of job applicants. The Armstrong Student Center, once open 24-hours, restricted its hours during the fall semester to 6:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. due to employee shortages. The smaller staff size means more custodians have to cover other buildings. Like Jacob, Jeff’s own department had been significantly reduced from 12 to five electricians well before classes canceled mid-semester in spring 2020. Due to the pandemic, Armstrong Student Center operations are now closed with exception to Pulley Diner and Emporium, which are open with limited hours to provide carryout dining services for students remaining on campus. Despite tension between workers and management, Jacob empathized with his supervisors. “They’re being squeezed too,” he said. “It’s the administration’s fault.” Managers are not covered by the union, which results in more job insecurity. Jacob said this creates a stricter work environment, with changing standards and more intense supervision. “The one big thing I hear is that you never know what is expected of you,” he said. Jeff attributes Miami’s diminishing reputation and low morale of workers to management positions being filled by “outsiders.” “Hiring from the outside makes you feel like all the time, energy and years meant nothing,” Jeff said. As vice president, he said he hopes to provide a voice for those who cannot afford to speak up and encourages his coTHE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
In his classes, he has witnessed other students make fun of workers, calling them “illiterate,” “gross” and “dumb.” At 5 p.m., Jacob finally clocks out and heads At 6:30 a.m., Keri stands on a chair to remove home. When he returns to his apartment, he does a sticky note that had been attached to the wall. In one classroom — her “room from hell” — sticky homework and likes to watch movies and read. He notes are often arranged in pyramids on the wall, tries to get in bed by 9 p.m., but often doesn’t go to sleep until 10. left over from in-class brainstorming exercises. “Keri and I are both sleep deprived,” he said. While Keri is removing sticky notes, Jacob has “Our break times are often spent setting our alarms.” moved on to Laws 100. His is set for 2:40 a.m. S The lecture hall is filled with wooden theatre-style seating with collapsible desktops. They’re old, and many of the seats no longer retract to an upright position after its sitter leaves their seat. Jacob must walk through every aisle and push each seat up so he can sweep underneath. On this day, Jacob found a powder blue HydroFlask water bottle, which retails around $40, under a seat. He places it on the shelf in the back of the room, where it joined other water bottles, umbrellas and jackets students have left behind. Jacob says it will probably be there until the end of the semester. *** By 10 a.m., Jacob has already worked six and a half hours. He clocks out and heads to class. This fall, he’s taking plant taxonomy, botany principles and landscaping, and a history and opera class for his Miami Plan requirements. As a full-time student and employee, Jacob experiences two different perspectives. In his classes, he has witnessed other students make fun of workers, calling them “illiterate,” “gross” and “dumb.” Despite his long days of custodial, class and union responsibilities, Jacob’s hard work has earned him a strong 3.9 GPA. Keri said Jacob is one of the hardest working people she knows. But Jacob doesn’t want to work at Miami forever. He wants to get his undergraduate degree, leave Oxford and eventually pursue a Ph.D. After his last class ends at 3 p.m., Jacob returns to work. He spends his afternoon shift picking up the basement and making second trash rounds. He focuses special attention to sweeping and mopping the stairs that have accumulated dirt throughout the day. ***
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THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
by Kirby Davis illustrations by Alissa Martin
Content Warning: This piece has mentions of self harm, suicide, suicidal ideation and sexual assault *Names have been changed to protect privacy
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“… if only something were wrong with my body it would be fine. I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head.” – Sylvia Plath, “The Bell Jar”
hen you tell a doctor or therapist that you cut yourself, they always ask, very matter-of-factly, “To feel or to kill?” If you don’t want to be committed, you say, “To feel.” To cut yourself to feel, though, you need to know how to do both, so you don’t accidentally kill yourself. I knew how to cut myself, “to kill.” But I couldn’t do it. I wanted to die, but I didn’t want my friends to have to write my obituary. I didn’t want the guy I’d accused of sexual assault to think my suicide was his fault. I had a final in an hour. I needed to study. I slapped some Band-Aids over the non-life-threatening cuts I did make and rolled my turtleneck sleeves back down. My forearms stung. I should have left school then, but I didn’t. I waited another year, which I barely made it through, before my friends and professors convinced me to take a “medical leave of absence” for depression. My pediatrician signed off on a document, via email, confirming I’d been clinically depressed since high school. And I left. *** I made a doctor’s appointment a few days after I got home. My usual physician was unavailable, but would I like to see Dr. Weber*? “Sure,” I said. “Thank you.” Dr. Weber was a young, baby-faced blond who most of my friends would think was cute. I thought he looked like the attractive older guy in a teen movie who turns out to be the villain, driving the main female character to realize she’s been in love with her childhood best friend the whole time. “Your regular doctor said you’ve been having some issues with depression,” he said, taking a seat. “How long has that been going on?”
“It started in 10th grade, but it got worse my sophomore year of college, and it’s been bad on-and-off since then,” I recited. “Mm-hm,” Dr. Weber said, typing notes on his laptop. He was totally Kelly’s type. Maybe Samantha’s, too. “You’re on Prozac?” “Yes.” “How many milligrams?” “Forty.” “And it’s not helping?” “Not really.” “Do you ever have thoughts of suicide or selfharm?” Dr. Weber asked. “Yes.” “Which one?” “Both.” “Do you ever self-harm?” he asked. “I cut myself sometimes,” I said. He asked if he could see; I rolled up my sleeves and showed him. “Well, that’s not good,” he said. “You can’t be doing that.” Noted. He asked if I’d thought about inpatient therapy. I said yes. “Is there anything stopping you from checking in today?” he asked. “I’m not ready,” I said. “I want to see how I feel at home and if anything changes.” Dr. Weber looked suspicious. “But if you’re thinking about killing yourself …” “I won’t,” I said quickly. He still looked suspicious. “Okay,” he said. “If you promise not to hurt yourself in the meantime, will you come back and see me on Monday?” “Yes,” I said. “You’ve got to promise you won’t hurt yourself,” he repeated. “I promise.” “If you feel like you want to, you’d better call me.”
On Monday, having not killed myself, I drove back to the doctor’s office.
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“Okay,” I said, as if I had his phone number. On Monday, having not killed myself, I drove back to the doctors’ office. I waited under a rainbow-colored corgi mural until Dr. Weber brought me back to an examination room. “How do you feel?” he asked. “The same,” I said. “The same?” “I don’t feel any different,” I clarified. “I’m still depressed.” Dr. Weber jotted the name of a hospital on a Post-It note and handed it to me. “This is the place I send people with health insurance,” he said quietly, like it was a secret. “They’ll take good care of you there if you choose to do inpatient.” “Do you think it’s a good idea?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “I’ll call them tomorrow morning and tell them you’re coming. Okay?” Did I want to check myself into inpatient, or wait until I was bad enough that my friends or family had to do it? Neither, I thought. But that no longer felt like an option. If inpatient didn’t work, I reasoned, maybe I could kill myself and not feel terrible about it. At least then, I would have tried everything. “Okay,” I said. *** The next day, I sat across from a social worker at a hospital in suburban Cleveland, in a cold room that looked and felt as if it were meant for police interrogations. I clutched my bag, which held my phone, an empty notebook and pen, “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk and the lighter-hearted young adult novel “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins. I was only allowed to keep one after I checked in. The social worker asked me the same questions Dr. Weber had, and added a few. “Are your parents still together?” “Yes.” “Did you experience any childhood trauma?” “No.” “Have you ever been sexually assaulted?” I was quiet long enough that she looked up. She repeated the question I never knew how to answer. I thought I’d been sexually assaulted. But my school told me I hadn’t. Maybe I hadn’t. “Have you ever been sexually assaulted?” The social worker repeated. “No,” I said. “Actually, yes. But it wasn’t rape.” I declined to elaborate. I thought I might throw up if I had to recount it in explicit detail one more time to one more person behind a desk. The social worker jotted something down. “Are you interested in our outpatient pro26 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
Did I want to check myself into inpatient, or wait until I was bad enough that my friends or family had to do it?
Neither, I thought. But that no longer felt like an option. gram?” she asked. “I’m interested in inpatient,” I said. “I don’t know what else to do.” “Well, I always say, if you feel you need to be here, there’s room.” The social worker told me I would see a psychiatrist right away, then every other day. There were group therapy sessions every couple hours, and I’d have access to a gym, kitchen and common area with a TV. Did I want to check myself into inpatient or did I want to put my friends or family in a place where they had to? Neither. *** After I checked in, the social worker gave me hospital scrubs to change into while I waited to be admitted to the 1600 block, whatever that meant. I gave her my jeans and oversized turtleneck and then waited, in the baggy blue scrubs, outside her office. I had to give up my bag, but she let me keep “The Winds of War” and my phone (for now). Trying to distract myself, I opened up my New York Times crossword puzzle app. A few minutes later, two police officers entered from a back doorway. One gently told me they were bringing someone in on a stretcher soon, and that I
might want to move. “Nothing better than a good book,” one of the officers said, nodding toward me. I smiled back, not bothering to point out that I was just using “The Winds of War” to prop up my cell phone. The social worker returned, and let me jot down some important phone numbers before I had to surrender my phone. Then she handed me off to a nurse, who led me to the 1600 block. That nurse gave me more forms to fill out. She instructed me to sit on a metal folding chair in the hallway and wait. There were no clocks anywhere, so I had no way to judge how much time was passing. They’d taken “The Winds of War” with the rest of my belongings, to be checked for hidden drugs and needles, so I had nothing to do but sit and be anxious. At one point, the guy who’d been wheeled in on a stretcher earlier passed me. “You good?” he asked. I nodded, wondering if I seemed particularly distressed. Maybe it was the fact that I’d been sitting in the hallway wearing hospital scrubs for at least half an hour. More patients passed and asked, “You good?” Obviously not, I wanted to snap. Neither are you. We’re in a mental hospital. But every time I just nodded. Two of the patients were thrilled to tell me there was Gatorade in the
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kitchen if I wanted, as if you had to check into a mental hospital to drink Gatorade. Eventually, after it felt like everyone in the facility had passed and stared at me and asked whether I was good or offered me Gatorade, a nurse told me I could go to my room. She led me there, and I found a room with two beds, two desks and no door. A woman was asleep in one of the beds, snoring loudly. My desk held the only belongings I was allowed to keep: “The Winds of War,” deodorant, Chapstick, reading glasses and my shoes. When the nurse left, all I wanted to do was lie down and maybe cry. But would that make me look crazy? I opened “The Winds of War” and stared at the first page until it blurred. After a few chapters, my roommate stirred. She noticed me and introduced herself. “Sorry I’ve been out all morning,” she said. “They gave me the wrong dose of sleep meds last night.” She passed out again before I could reply. I couldn’t stare at “The Winds of War” any longer. I wandered out into the hallway, found the phone bank and dialed my dad’s office number. I explained to my father that I’d checked myself into the facility in Willoughby and not to worry if I wasn’t answering my phone. I’d discussed it with my parents the night before, but hadn’t confirmed I was going to check myself in; I didn’t want them to talk me out of it. “Do you want me to get you out of there?” he asked. “No,” I said. “I think I need to be here.” “Okay,” he said. “Well, you call me if you change your mind.” “I will.” On my way back to my room, I asked a passing nurse if I could see a psychiatrist that day, as promised by the social worker who checked me into the facility. “Oh, no,” she said. “Dr. Lucas* is only here from 5 to 8 a.m. every other day. You might see him later this week.” “What?” “Dr. Lucas is only here in the morning,” the nurse repeated. “You might not see him for a few days.” In the past couple weeks, I’d found comfort in telling myself a psychiatric hospital in 2019 couldn’t possibly be as bad as the one in “The Bell Jar” — Sylvia Plath’s 1963 autobiographical novel about her own time in a psychiatric facility. But this facility was worse. At least Esther Greenwood, Plath’s protagonist, had access to medical care when she was hospitalized. “I want to leave, please,” I blurted, no longer caring if I sounded crazy.
The nurse gave me a grin that I felt was a little too smug, given the situation. “I’ll send someone to talk to you.” I waited in my room, trying to focus on “The Winds of War” and ignore my drugged, snoring roommate. I had made a huge mistake. After a few chapters, a woman knocked on our doorway. “Kirby?” she said. “I’m Nicole, the head nurse. Why don’t we go chat?” Nicole brought me to a roomy storage closet, where we sat in metal folding chairs next to shelves stocked with toiletries and pillows. I wished I’d put my shoes on so I felt a little more dignified. She asked why I was there. Nicole stopped me to ask what Title IX was, and I explained to the hospital’s head nurse that it was the law dictating public universities’ sexual assault policies (among many, many other things). I continued. Sometimes I cut myself, and I thought about killing myself a lot, but I’d probably never do it. I was there because I’d been in therapy for years and had tried three different antidepressants, but none helped. This was my last resort but, I quickly realized, not the right place for me. I reiterated that I wanted to leave, please. “Is it because there are men here?” Nicole asked. I said no. “Is it because there are scary men here, with tattoos?” she tried again.
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I clutched ‘The Winds of War’ like a security blanket. Without clocks or news or Netflix, it was the only thing tethering me to reality. I insisted I wasn’t afraid of men, or people with tattoos, or even combinations of both, but Nicole didn’t believe me. She offered to move me closer to the nurse’s station, in the center of the facility, so if I saw a man and became “triggered” I could cry out for help (as if anyone was around to help). Nicole also offered to move me to the ward with other patients struggling with depression and anxiety. “Is that not where I am?” “Oh, no,” she said. “You mentioned you had a drinking problem, so they placed you with the drug and alcohol addicts.” I tried to explain that, actually, I’d said I had maybe drunk a little too much at school that semester, but not since I’d been home. I’d been very clear that I had come to be treated for depression. “Huh,” Nicole said. Would I like to be moved to the 1400 block? It was where the schizophrenic people lived, but I’d have my own room. “No,” I said. “I just want to leave, please.” That was impossible, she explained, but she could move me to the correct block and place me with a roommate less than 50 years my senior, if I wanted. While retaining the facility’s overall prison hospital vibes, the 1500 block (for people with depression and anxiety) was a little less threatening. The walls were yellow, not gray, and there were other 20-somethings there. My new roommate was Katie, who wasn’t in the room but, Nicole assured me, was also a college student. She had a copy of Stephen King’s “It” on her desk, on top of some crossword puzzle books, and not much else. As soon as Nicole left, I found the 1500 block phone bank and called my dad. I relayed the fact that the hospital had placed me in the wrong ward, promised me therapy I wasn’t going to receive and misinterpreted everything I tried to
tell them. “I’ve been reading the Google reviews of that place,” my dad said. “We never should have let you go there. I’m getting you out.” I told him that was probably impossible, since I’d signed myself in for 72 hours of treatment, but he repeated that he was going to make the hospital let me out. “I’m gonna go ape shit on them if they don’t,” he said. *** I read “The Winds of War” until Nicole knocked on my doorway. “Hi, Kirby,” she said. “Your dad is at the front desk, and he’s making a scene.” Feigning shock, I apologized and asked if I could see him. Nicole told me she could arrange a meeting in a visitation room and led me there. My dad was ushered in shortly after, sweater vest on, billowy work coat folded over his arm. He was fuming. Why were they keeping me if Dr. Weber called and told them they didn’t need to? Why had they lied about how much treatment I was going to receive? Did Nicole want the hospital to be sued? Because he was prepared to take legal action. Did she know I was a journalist? I could easily publicize how awful this place was. My father and Nicole went back and forth for at least 15 minutes, and Nicole didn’t budge. She insisted I was keeping things from him, and that he didn’t comprehend the scope of my issues. “What, the cutting? I know about that,” my dad said. “Well, there are other things Kirby disclosed to me privately …” “The Title IX stuff? I know about that, too,” he said, and turned to me. “Is there anything you’re not telling me?”
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“No,” I said honestly. Nicole said I’d told her otherwise. I hadn’t. She agreed to leave us alone for a few minutes. My dad and I had a running inside joke that he could do anything. Once at an elementary school father-daughter dance, I urged him to enter a hula-hoop contest, even though he’d never done it before. He won. Then at my little sister’s rock-climbing birthday party, he beat my cousin Jacob to the top, even though he’d never rock-climbed before. His friends joked that he was a ticket broker, not a stockbroker, because he could get them into any Cleveland-area event at any time. As far as I was concerned, my dad really could do anything, except breathe without a sleep apnea mask at night and . But he couldn’t get me out of the psychiatric hospital. Nicole returned, and promised to score me a meeting with the elusive head psychiatrist, Dr. Lucas, when he arrived at 5 a.m. the next morning. She also promised to help me set up an appointment with a therapist once I got out, which would show Dr. Lucas I was serious about getting better. My dad left. Defeated, I went back to my room and read “The Winds of War” until Nicole appeared to escort me to her office. I apologized for my dad’s rudeness, but she said she’d seen it before in other “protective” parents. Her office was mostly bare, except for a few framed photos of her son and a large plastic box of snacks I assumed she bribed patients with. I watched her Google “Cleveland therapists.” Nicole scrolled through the list of results, and randomly clicked on women within a 30-mile radius of my house.
“How about her?” she’d say, as if I could discern anything about the doctors from dated headshots and their office addresses. Not wanting to be difficult, I said, “She looks nice,” to all of them. Nicole left messages with four or five, and two got back to her. We scheduled appointments, and I jotted the information down on my yellow “Winds of War” Post-It bookmark. Nicole asked if there was anything else she could do as she led me back to my block. I didn’t want to be any more trouble, but I couldn’t ignore the pounding in my head any longer, and requested ibuprofen. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll notify your nurse.” Who the hell is my nurse? I would later learn everyone in the facility was supposed to be assigned a personal nurse, who they could go to for anything they needed. I was never told who mine was. Without explaining, Nicole let me in through the door to 1500. I was met with a line of people led by a short, twiggy brunette who didn’t look older than 14. She stared me down. “Who are you?” she asked. Before I could answer, she turned to a passing male employee. “Who is she?” The guy stopped. “Katie*? Weren’t you supposed to go home yesterday?” “Yeah, but I had a breakdown over the weekend,” Katie said flatly. “So I stayed.” I introduced myself, and Katie asked if I wanted to eat dinner with “us” — her, a girl and two guys. I was terrified of everyone around me, but also in no position to refuse social interaction, so I accepted. We were shepherded into the hallway and told to wait until the 1600 block members had all returned to their rooms. Katie asked what had brought me there.
“Sorry I’ve been out all mornin “They gave me the wrong dose meds last night.”
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“Drinking and depression,” I said. Even in a mental hospital, I was worried “cutting” would make me sound too unstable. “You don’t look like you have a drinking problem,” one of her friends said. “Is it the turtleneck?” I asked. No one laughed. “You don’t look like you should be here,” Katie said. “Thank you?” Sitting with Katie and her friends at dinner, trying to pick the noodles out of some kind of congealing gray beef dish, I felt like I’d been accepted into the facility’s most popular clique. Katie, the spindly teenager, clearly ran the place; she knew every other patient by name and reason they were there. She was concerned with one of the women at the table next to us, who — somehow — kept finding ways to cut herself with shards of glass. Katie and friends explained that the 1400 block was where the “really crazy” people went. If someone did something stupid in 1500 (where we were), everyone would cry out, “Send ‘em to 1400!” One of Katie’s friends proudly announced that she’d narrowly avoided being placed in 1400, because she was there for setting her boyfriend on fire. “It just burned the alcohol on his clothes, though,” she clarified. “He’s fine.” He was supposed to pick her up at the end of the week. *** Every five minutes or so after dinner, I asked whoever I could find for ibuprofen, and eventually someone told me to wait by the nurse’s station. I sat while everyone else got their meds.
“You good?” Katie asked me. “Yep,” I said. “You good?” one of her friends asked a few minutes later. “Yep,” I said. This continued for some time with nearly every passerby. At one point, a couple security guards and a nurse rushed past me into the hallway with the bedrooms. I switched chairs so I could peer into it, and found the woman at dinner Katie had been worried about, wandering the hall aimlessly. Her arms were both bleeding. “She’s going to 1400 for sure,” someone said. Eventually a nurse called “Miss Davis” over to the window and handed me a cup with Motrin and Prozac, and another one with water. I was told to head to the common room, where group therapy was supposed to start soon. There were no clocks anywhere, so I could only judge time by how much of “The Winds of War” I’d read and how dark it was outside. Byron had just confessed his love for Natalie. I guessed it was around 8 p.m. In the common room, Katie saved me a seat next to her at a round table near the back. The grown men were all clustered around the TV watching football, and a handful of other people were coloring with stubby crayons or reading their own books. I clutched “The Winds of War” like a security blanket. Without clocks or news or Netflix, it was the only thing tethering me to reality. Two girls who looked younger than me, who appeared to be leading us all in the absence of any certified nurses or doctors, announced that we were going to start “Group.” One of them instructed us to take a sheet of paper
ng,” she said. e of sleep
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She worries, though, that even if she does,
and (with crayons, of course, lest we stab ourselves with something sharper) draw a timeline of our life’s goals. Once we showed them our timelines, we could go to bed or watch “Hancock,” the movie Katie insisted on playing. While we waited for the crayon line to die down, Katie passed me her composition book. “You said you’re a writer?” she asked. I nodded. “Can you read my poetry?” she asked. “You can tell me if it’s good or not.” “Absolutely.” I needed a break from my World War II drama, though I guessed a mental hospital patient’s poetry would be even darker, and I was right. Katie was battling an eating disorder and depression, I gathered from her poems. She’d said she was in high school but seemed younger. I told Katie her poetry was deep and moving, and I scribbled a timeline of my life as quickly as possible. Get out of here. Finish school. Go to grad school. Get a job. Get a dog and retire to a nice Midwestern lake house, eventually. I couldn’t find anyone besides the camp counselors who worked for the hospital, so I couldn’t ask for a blanket or pillow. I laid on my balled-up turtleneck and tried to read “The Winds of War” from the dim street light filtering through the window. I wondered which season of “America’s Next Top Model” my housemates were watching in Oxford. *** In the middle of the night, a nurse flipped mine and Katie’s light on and took our blood pressure. He said nothing after gruffly demanding I give him my arm. Shortly after, another nurse barged into our room and turned the light on again. She rolled a cart over to my bed and rasped, “I need to take your blood.” Worried that any kind of resistance would prevent me from leaving in the morning, I offered her my
right arm. She botched the blood drawing, leaving my arm bruised for a month. The nurse haphazardly slapped a Band-Aid near the affected area, which fell off by itself minutes after she wheeled back out of the room. Blood soaked through my sweater which, thankfully, was dark gray, and snaked down my arm. I rinsed as much as I could in the sink, fighting a panic attack about a nurse checking in and thinking I cut myself. I flushed the Band-Aid down the toilet and returned to bed, still bleeding into my sweater. Hours later, but still before sunrise, the light flipped on again. “Miss Davis?” a rough male voice said. “I’m Dr. Lucas. Let’s talk.” I followed him down the hall and into the same room where I’d spoken with my father a day before. I gave him the same speech I’d given Nicole — I was told I would receive exponentially more treatment than I actually was, my family would fully support my trying to get better at home and I already had appointments the following week with psychiatrists. Dr. Lucas was short, with a few dark hairs straining over his scalp, and looked like he’d never smiled before. He asked if I was in college. I said yes, at Miami of Ohio. “So you’re a smart girl,” he said. “You know why you’re here.” Before I’d left school, one of my professors asked why I was missing classes and not turning in homework assignments. I told her I was depressed. “Of course you’re depressed,” she’d said. “You’re too smart not to be depressed.” I swallowed a ruder response to Dr. Lucas’ comment and said nothing. “I’ll be honest,” Dr. Lucas said, “I really don’t want to let you out. But I also don’t want to deal with your father anymore.” “Understandable,” I said. “In my 30 years working here, I have never let
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she’ll end up suicidally depressed again and back in a hospital. someone out in less than 48 hours,” he said. I held my breath. “But I’m going to do it.” I thanked him and promised to not kill myself. He told me he’d send a nurse to speak with me and get me released later that day. Before I left, a social worker had to evaluate me and decide that I probably wasn’t suicidal anymore. I read “The Winds of War” at my desk and waited. A woman who looked like she’d stepped out of a 2009 Delia’s catalogue — floppy flower hair clip and all — knocked on our doorway. She asked me about my time at the hospital, and I held my tongue, worried Dr. Lucas would renege on his promise to let me out if I wasn’t cooperative. The social worker asked if I had anything to write with, so I could finish filling out the self-evaluation sheets privately. I said no, and she left me her pen. We weren’t supposed to have pens. We weren’t even supposed to have sharpened pencils. But she’d left me a pen. The staff had also left my journal in my bag, with “The Winds of War” and my deodorant, and I sat down to fill in my future self about my time in the hospital. I wrote until my hand ached and another nurse appeared in the doorway. I needed a physical before I could go home. She led me to yet another conference room, and asked if the cuts on my arms were old (yes). She checked my sight and hearing and, after consulting a clipboard full of my information, asked if I went to Miami in Ohio. “I went there too,” she said. “What are you studying?” “Journalism.” The nurse’s face twisted into a disapproving scowl. “I hope they’re teaching y’all to be more truthful than the journalists I see on TV.” “They are.” THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
We were silent for the rest of the check-up, until I asked whether I needed someone to check me out of the facility, even though I had a car there. “Yes,” the nurse said. “You’ll need someone to sign you out.” Back in 1500, I called my mom and asked her to come as soon as possible. I packed my belongings and left the contraband pen on my roommate’s desk, for her crossword puzzles. “They let you keep your deodorant?” she asked. I nodded. “They took mine because people have been smuggling fentanyl in the tubes,” she said. Several chapters of “The Winds of War” and two Saltine packs later, a nurse appeared in my doorway and led me and two other patients to the lobby. My mom was waiting, doing a sudoku puzzle. “I wasn’t sure how long it would take,” she said. She’d brought her laptop and Kindle, too. I approached the reception desk. “Hi,” I said, “My mom’s here to pick me up. Where should she sign me out?” “Oh, you don’t need a signature.” The receptionist smiled. “Have a great day!”
azine, Esther spends weeks entertaining suicidal fantasies, then tries to kill herself, then gets checked into a mental hospital. The novel, which is not-so-subtly autobiographical, ends with a rehabilitated Esther hoping she’ll be allowed to leave the hospital and go back to school. She worries, though, that even if she does, she’ll end up suicidally depressed again and back in a hospital. Sylvia Plath, famously, did wind up suicidally depressed again. She killed herself in 1963, the same year her mother published “The Bell Jar.” I hope Esther got out of the hospital. I hope she went back to school, and graduated, and became a writer like she wanted to. I hope that if she decided she wanted to, she settled down with a guy who wouldn’t encroach on her independence or pressure her to have kids, and I hope she was happy. I hope she never got that depressed again. S
*** Last fall, when I was trying to decide whether to stick it out in school and maybe end up killing myself, or go home and maybe check myself into a mental hospital, I told my friend Jack I felt like the protagonist of “The Bell Jar.” We were sitting on his porch, and Jack was drinking a Four Loko, which he’d picked up at a gas station earlier. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday night. “That’s a little dramatic, Kirby,” he said. I asked him if he’d read the book. “No,” Jack said. “But that’s still a little dramatic, don’t you think?” Obviously, I thought. My worst fear, since I’d been clinically depressed, was that I was being “a little dramatic” — that since I had no logical reason to be so sad, it was my fault for not being able to snap out of it. If Jack, the most depressed of my friends, thought I was being dramatic, maybe I was. I sped through “The Bell Jar” in high school, the day before I had to turn in a paper on it. I reread it when I got out of the hospital, and wished I’d done so sooner. Rereading “The Bell Jar” confirmed that Jack was wrong. I was exactly like its protagonist. After a summer interning at a women’s mag-
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MENTIONED IN PASSING
What a Ride The bike that gives back
by Bo Brueck illustrations by Andrew Rogers
’m mashing the pedals on my blacked-out track bike, climbing up the hill in the center of campus on my way to class. The sun torches my neck, and sweat begins to form under my T-shirt, sticking the thin cotton to my back. It’s not the best part of my daily ride, but it’s worth it. As I crest the hill, I find myself at the familiar intersection of Spring and Oak. This junction is the reason I ride this way. The stop sign here means I get to practice my track stand. I begin to count the pedal cranks left before I reach the crosswalk. Five, four, three… I slow my legs. Two, one… I lean back on my left pedal and push down on my right, engaging the fixed rear cog in either direction. This battle for balance results in a stationary position atop the steep descent ahead of me. I’m performing a track stand. The feeling of locking into a stock still track stand is unlike anything else. The control and balance it requires brings out more focus than any homework assignment ever could. It gives me something to look forward to every morning and every evening as I commute to class and back home. My favorite place at Miami is wherever I’m riding my bike that day.
*** The track stand was developed for fixed gear bike racing in the velodrome, an Olympic sport that has since migrated to the streets. Fixed gear bikes allow the rider to transmit all energy into rotating, or slowing, the rear wheel of the bike. The front gear is connected directly to the rear cog by the bike chain. One speed, no coasting, no brakes. *** My eyes dart from car to car, waiting for one to jump out at me. My legs bounce rhythmically up and down, modulating my speed. My hands clench the bars until I can feel the rubber grips digging into my palms. I ride this reasonably dangerous contraption because it offers a break from the monotony of everyday life. Whether it’s a fight with my girlfriend or the paper I still haven’t started writing, none of it matters when I’m flying down a hill on the edge of control. Riding this bike takes a lot out of me, but it gives a lot back too. S
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ne speed, no coasting, o brakes.
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THE UNFOLDING OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC by Julia Arwine
Additional reporting done by Abby Bammerlin and Hannah Horsington THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
Wuhan is a household name across the world now, but not for the reasons Shaoyang loves it.
o Shaoyang Zhou, Wuhan has always been a beautiful city. Wuhan is a crowded city of more than 11 million people, and like many major cities, it has its rougher neighborhoods. But Shaoyang’s home is near Wuhan’s East Lake, which is surrounded by universities and the political center of the city, which is itself the political capital of the province. He was born there and grew up there. He came to the United States at age 16 to finish high school and go to college at Miami University, where he is now a senior economics major. The last time Shaoyang visited his hometown was last summer. The city is always changing, and every time Shaoyang returns he discovers something new. But he always enjoys taking a walk at night down to the riverside and smoking a cigarette along the fence. “The world is so beautiful at [that] moment,” he said. Wuhan is a household name across the world now, but not for the reasons Shaoyang loves it. By Jan. 6, 2020, 59 people in Wuhan had reported pneumonia-like symptoms with no clear cause and were quarantined together. City officials traced many cases back to Huanan Seafood Market, which was promptly disinfected and shut down. By that point, however, it was too late to stop what had already begun. Now, for many, Wuhan has become synonymous with sickness, as ground zero of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has swept all over the globe.
The New York Times The virus works like this. It is primarily spread from person to person through droplets that are too small for human eyes to see — but they are large enough to contain tiny particles of the virus which then enter your system, said Timothy Wilson, assistant professor of microbiology at Miami and a faculty expert on immunology, infectious diseases and vaccines. Once someone is infected, they may be asymptomatic for part or all of the duration of the infection, and so may go about their life normally, unaware that they are spreading the virus to people and surfaces around them. Many of its symptoms are similar to the flu, but it is from a separate family of viruses that humans lack
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base immunity to. Different strains of the flu crop up each year, killing thousands, but most people’s immune systems have at least some ability to withstand it through vaccines and prior exposure. Not so with the novel coronavirus. Though there are several other coronavirus strains, this one is fairly unrelated to the others, Wilson said. What makes this virus dangerous, especially for older and immunocompromised people, is that it goes after the lungs and causes inflammation. “The more inflammation or swelling you get in your lungs, the less ability your lungs have to actually exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide,” Wilson said. “So your lung function starts to drop off and that’s usually what lands you in the hospital, is when you get enough inflammation in your lungs that your lungs aren’t functioning correctly.” Initially, the death rate of COVID-19 — another name for the virus — was lower than that of the flu, which usually kills far less than 1% of everyone infected. But as early as March 3, according to the World Health Organization, coronavirus fatality had reached 3.4%.
The New York Times The week before Miami’s spring semester started, life in Oxford was business as usual. Students moved back to Oxford, or prepared to. Professors geared up to dive headfirst into teaching. For many, coronavirus felt far away. Although Shoayang knew his family and friends were in danger of exposure back in Wuhan, he was not distracted from preparing for what would be his last semester at Miami.
“They are strong people,” he said. “They know how to take care of themselves. They won’t let me worry that much. So in general, I was fine.” Shaoyang knew that with students returning to school from all over, the spread of the virus to the United States would happen sooner or later. However, he hoped that the rest of the world would learn the lesson that Wuhan was teaching and prepare for it accordingly. Erin Beckloff, assistant professor of communication design, knew how serious the virus could be. In early January, her husband took a business trip to Shanghai, China. Though Shanghai is four hours away from Wuhan, where the virus was still at its strongest, he self-isolated for two weeks upon his return. He consciously avoided meeting a friend with a newborn, and both he and Erin, along with a cautious neighbor, began collecting supplies. Erin and her husband sensed that the virus would, sooner or later, end up everywhere. Even so, the possibility of immediate danger was one of the last things on Beckloff’s mind. On top of preparing for classes, she was running a hiring search for a new faculty member. “I just didn’t think through how it was going to affect education,” she said. “I don’t know why. I thought about health care. I thought about business. I thought about other economic implications, but I just didn’t really process the fact that ... education was going to be kind of at the forefront.” Dean of Students Kimberly Moore was wary of the virus from the start. It is her job to care for the overall well-being of the student body as a high-ranking member of the university’s administration. The news of a new virus caught her attention right away. “With virus or disease or health-related issues that are global, you’re always kind of paying attention a little bit because it can be so personal so fast,” she said. She began receiving more concerned calls about the growing outbreak, especially regarding study abroad programs. As part of a global Miami community, Moore had to think about students far beyond the Oxford bubble. Over winter break, Moore began meeting with other members of the administration to go over contingency plans. The university has response plans in place for all sorts of emergencies, including crises of
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the infectious variety. In these meetings, Miami officials pulled up the pandemic plan. They began reviewing it in the context of the virus’ possible spread to Oxford. Just in case.
The Miami Student Moore was ending a conference in New Orleans when she heard the news: two students who had recently returned from traveling in China had reported flu-like symptoms and were being tested for COVID-19. She spent almost the whole last day of the conference on the phone with people in Oxford. From the moment she set foot on campus, she was swept up in meetings as part of Miami’s Crisis Management Team. The students, whose identities the university kept tightly under wraps, were isolated in their apartment off campus while waiting for their test results. Striving for transparency, officials then announced the situation to the public. For senior Sabrina Ludwig, it was the first time she had heard about the virus and thought it must not be too serious. In China maybe it was, she thought, but not here. Leaving class that day, she spoke to a classmate who disagreed. “There’s two suspected cases here, so I’m going to get some masks from Lowe’s,” the classmate said. Sabrina was skeptical. It seemed like an overreaction to her. But soon after the announcement, there was a run on masks in stores across Oxford. Shaoyang decided to take it one step further: that day, he donned a full hazmat suit and set off across campus for class. Though Shaoyang was not scared about the two potential cases, he wanted to raise awareness about the virus with the suit. What happened in Wuhan was totally unexpected; he didn’t want the same to be true for Miami. It was entirely possible that the virus had reached Oxford, and he wanted people to be prepared. “I [decided] to do that because I know college students are cocky,” he said. “They won’t take it as a big deal.” Also, he thought it would be fun. And it was important to take any chances at fun he could get.
The New York Times “People react to fear in lots of different ways,” Moore said. “Some people rise to the occasion, and some people don’t.” For some, that fear manifested in blame towards students from China for the spread of the disease. Some thought every Chinese student ought to have been tested before being allowed back in class. Some said they ought to return there, though many of Miami’s Chinese international students had not been back to China since before the outbreak began. On social media, such comments cropped up with more frequency. Neither of the quarantined students were confirmed to be Chinese. And in the months since, studies have found that the largest U.S. outbreak came from travelers from Europe, not Asia. Beckloff thought the university should have waited for the test results to return before saying anything about the two students to the public, to avoid this sort of thing. She heard from some of her students that international students in dorms were facing trouble from the fallout. Sabrina noticed xenophobic and insensitive comments both online and from people around her. One thing she heard a lot: “Some guy wanted to eat a bat, and now, he fucked us all over.” Though there is a rumor that patient zero contracted the virus from eating bat soup, this has never been confirmed — and neither has the identity of patient zero. “[I saw] people avoiding Chinese students,” Sabrina said. “Like, weird glances, I saw… stuff like that.” Shaoyang, however, didn’t experience anything like this, nor did he hear about it happening to anyone he knew. Conversely, he noticed people being nicer to him, as if to make up for the hurtful actions of others. “I think it’s because domestic people heard [of] those discrimination cases as well, and they know what is right and what is wrong,” he said. “Well, I mean, the cases [are] bad, but I also know there are good people and bad people everywhere.” One thing that didn’t sit well with Shaoyang, though, was when people continued to call it the “Chinese virus.” He heard this even after the World Health Organization (WHO) named this particular coronavirus strain COVID-19, which avoided association with any geographic location, animal or group of people. Moore knew about the comments going around on
social media, but didn’t receive much in the way of reports through the university’s bias reporting system. Though she saw the worst in people through posts and comments online, she was also heartened to see the best of the community come forward. Miami’s Associated Student Government wrote a letter encouraging the Miami community to be compassionate. Other student leaders wrote letters and cards that Moore took to the two students in quarantine. “I saw and felt and witnessed a tremendous amount of community support and well wishes for those students,” Moore said.
The Miami Student Journalists from all over the state awaited with bated breath as Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton took the podium at Miami’s latest press conference, fingers poised to post updates as soon as the words left her mouth: “I’m very pleased to share that the results are negative for both students.” The news was a relief for people all over the community, but Moore couldn’t let her guard down. Though those two particular students were safe, the university still had to prepare for the situation to worsen everywhere. “... This was just another thing that I was ready to respond to and move through,” Moore said. Students and professors continued on as usual, but the scare was a wake-up call for Beckloff. “I think seeing how seriously it was handled might have been the first time that I realized it was going to be worse than I expected,” she said. “I think that’s when the reality of it kind of hit me that this is coming. This is just the very, very beginning.”
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But not everyone Beckloff knew felt that way. For some, the confirmation that the students didn’t have the virus meant life could resume as usual. “I think a lot of people just let it go at that point,” Beckloff said. “And we all went on for a month.”
The Miami Student Senior Leeann Tran’s parents didn’t want her to go to South Korea. A third party ran her study abroad program and started classes later than most Miami students, in mid-February. By then, the virus began to ramp up in China. Deep down, Leeann felt that everyone wasn’t taking the outbreak seriously enough, but she wasn’t going to give up her study abroad experience that easily. She insisted that everything would be fine, that they would just keep monitoring everything closely, and boarded her flight to South Korea. And for the first week, everything was fine. People filled the streets, businesses stayed open, and Leeann enjoyed the country with new and old friends. By the end of that week, other programs began to cancel, and students started to leave. Every day, Leeann and other students would get notifications on their Korean phones of new cases cropping up in various parts of the country. Leeann could read the writing on the wall, but she was determined to do as much as possible with the time she had left. “It was us trying to cram in as many experiences as we could,” she said. “Because I was like, if this is my last week, I want to make an itinerary, and I want to visit all these places I want to go to.” She visited the National Palace, popular shopping and cultural districts, traditional villages and other famous South Korean sights. But even along the tourist trail, the popular districts were sparsely populated. One night, while out to eat with some friends, Leeann received a message in the program’s group chat: the United States had just raised its travel advisory for South Korea to Level 3, which meant avoiding all non-essential travel there. Right then, some of her friends pulled out their phones and began booking flights home. In the next few days, students scrambled to book new flights, to pack, to say goodbye to the friends they’d only spent a couple weeks with. Soon after the travel advisory was raised, Miami strongly recommended that all students in South Korea and Italy, which was also at a Level 3, return to the States.
So Leeann did, even as she felt that the United States would be in over its head soon. “Watching things from Korea I was like, no one is handling this correctly,” she said. “I was hearing things about people back home, like no one was wearing a mask and people were starting to panic buy stuff, and I was like, ‘Yeah, things aren’t gonna go well in the U.S.’” More than 5,000 miles away in the tiny European country of Luxembourg, junior Kayla Jones awoke in the small hours of the morning on March 11 to a knock on her door. It was her housemate, one of three other Miami students who lived together with their host family. “Do you know what time it is?” Kayla said, bleary and irritated from sleep. The time didn’t matter to her housemate. “We’re going home,” she said. President Trump had just announced a travel ban on most foreign nationals from Europe to the United States. It was not initially clear whether there would be exemptions for permanent residents, so Kayla and many other Americans traveling in Europe believed they had just two days to return or they would be stuck there until the restriction lifted. Hours later, Miami announced that the university had canceled its current and upcoming study abroad programs that were not done through third parties. Kayla and her housemates scrambled to re-pack a semester’s worth of belongings in a few hours. Some visited the chateau where professors held classes for one final time. The students at Miami’s Luxembourg campus signed a shirt that would join dozens of others pinned to the walls of a local bar affectionately nicknamed “Das Boot.” It read: “CORONA WITH LIME PLEASE.” With only the spotty signal of her Luxembourgish phone to aid her, Kayla embarked on a chaotic journey via public transportation to the airport after finding out that taxis couldn’t come to her host family’s home. She’d only been in the country for a few weeks, so she was still relatively unfamiliar with the bus and train systems, and was only able to find her way with the help of a kind stranger. Flights were selling out quick, with prices reaching thousands of dollars; Americans weren’t the only ones trying to get home. With how things were escalating, plenty of people abroad had reconsidered their travels. On one bus, Kayla met a man from Ireland who was also trying to return to his home country. As Kayla tried to find her way to the airport, her dad was thousands of miles away trying to book her a flight. Somehow, he managed to find one, and sent her the flight details as she finally arrived at the airport: she would go from Luxembourg to Amsterdam to Paris to Cincinnati. “I didn’t sleep for like, three days,” she said.
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Shaoyang learned that a close friend of his in Wuhan was infected. The hospitals were full, so he had to isolate and take care of himself. Another friend he knew from Britain had caught it as well. The news hit him hard. For Shaoyang, it has always been much easier to care for a select few people than about the world as a whole. To be so far away and to be helpless was painful. “I could do nothing,” he said. “That makes [it] very, very hard.”
The Columbus Dispatch Moore was not caught off guard when she heard that the virus had officially reached Ohio. She knew it was only a matter of time. But she felt prepared. “When the case had popped up in the Cleveland area, you know, I don’t think that changed what we were doing,” she said. “We were always getting guidance from Butler County Health and Ohio Department of Health. We were well-connected there because of the instance that happened in February. And so when the state had their first cases, it was not a surprise.” Sabrina, on the other hand, was just starting to realize how severe the situation was. “The first time I really thought like, ‘Oh, this shit’s getting real,’ was when they postponed ‘No Time to Die,’ the James Bond movie,” she said. Her parents had planned to spend spring break in California; Sabrina started trying to convince them not to. The day before, the university told professors to start thinking about how to move their classes online by the end of the week. Beckloff was teaching two classes this semester, both studios. When she came into her letterpress class the next day, she spoke with her students about the news of the cases in Cuyahoga County and tried to alleviate their anxiety. She joked about how they could do letterpress from home if they had to: by using potatoes as woodcuts and condiments as ink. “So much of it’s so surreal — like we’re continuing to try to do our jobs to the best of our ability, we’re trying to do the very best for our students, but then we ourselves aren’t kind of functioning in our full capacity,” Beckloff said. “Because everyone feels that fear and grief and the ups and downs of it.” For Shaoyang, the only surprise was that it hadn’t happened sooner. At the same time, he was beginning to worry about his loved ones in China.
*** On March 10, it was official: Classes would move online until April 13. Some people went home straight away, and some celebrated; though it was a Tuesday, parties broke out in the middle of the day on the front lawns of houses across the Mile Square. Clearly, the severity of the situation hadn’t sunk in yet for some. On campus, members of the faculty gathered to ask questions and to hear what university officials had to say. Not even two days had passed since faculty had been told to start planning to move online. For Beckloff, who works in the small College of Creative Arts, it was the highest amount of faculty members she had ever seen in one place. “I think people were shocked,” she said. “And it was pretty hard to process in the moment.” The atmosphere, she thought, was almost surreal. People asked about everything from online classes to intramural sports to horseback riding. Sabrina was in a lab class when she got the email with the announcement. For the rest of the period, she had to take breaks to go to the bathroom and cry. “I wasn’t really crying about a specific thing,” she said. “It’s just like, all the information was very overwhelming to me.”
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Just days later, Miami went one step further: Classes would stay online for the rest of the semester, and almost all students living in the dorms would have to leave by the end of the month.
ing about feeling detached from this thing that matters to me so much,” she said. “Teaching and being with my students is the best part of my job. And to think that I’m not allowed to do that. That was the thing that really got me.” Beckloff met a student in Armstrong for dinner that Thursday. The student center was so empty, it felt surreal. As they talked, it was a moment of normalcy. But as she headed home, Beckloff couldn’t stop thinking about the small things lost: no more meeting with students, no more in-studio classes, no capstone presentations, no commencement for the seniors she knew. She knew people were dying and suffering all over the world, but it was these small losses that hit her the hardest. It was almost an hour-long drive between Miami and her house. She cried nearly the whole way there.
The Miami Student The administration had to move faster than anticipated, but based on the recommendations of the Ohio Department of Health, Moore and other officials knew it was necessary. “This stuff is not easy,” Moore said. “It’s not easy, and it’s heightened. You have to make big decisions, sometimes quickly, more quickly than you probably would want. It’s not easy, but, you know, Miami has some really wonderful people here and it’s always easier to make difficult decisions and work through difficult things with good people.” Though it may have been necessary, it took a steep toll on the campus community. The goodbyes that would have been said in May had to be abruptly done in March. Organizations’ events planned for months suddenly had to be called off across campus. For many seniors, there was no closure on what was effectively the end of their college experience. It took a long time for Sabrina to pack her things. She procrastinated as much as she could, partly because she hated packing, and partly because she just didn’t want to leave. At 7:45 p.m., she and a group of about 15 friends gathered at the university seal in the center of campus. As the sun went down, they stood around the seal and screamed in a moment of pure catharsis. Afterwards, they went Uptown for ice cream at Graeter’s before parting ways. Sabrina left campus as a student for the last time. Beckloff, too, struggled to come to terms with it all. “I’m in my office, thinking about all this and think-
The Columbus Dispatch All over the country, restaurants and bars closed their dining rooms and dance floors. March Madness was canceled, as well as most other professional and college sports — if anyone still played, it was to empty stands. Broadway stages kept their curtains closed. Blockbuster movies set to premiere in the coming months were postponed, even juggernauts like Marvel’s “Black Widow.” Both Disneyland and Disney World closed their gates. Students all over the country canceled spring break trips. In Oxford, a friend of Sabrina’s who worked at Bar 1868 found himself out of a job — and he was far from the only one. Income became an uncertainty for many, even with the promise of two weeks’ unemployment pay. When Gov. Mike DeWine announced the stay-
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at-home order on March 22, the world of Ohioans shrank even further. Classes from quarantine proved to be a challenge on both ends. Beckloff was faced with the question of how to teach a studio class, which usually needed specialized equipment, from afar. She wasn’t the only one wondering this. As part of a well-connected community of designers and letterpress educators and printmakers, she knew plenty of people who could help. She started a Google Drive and invited more than 30 of those people to join. “I don’t know how we’re going to teach this,” she said. “But let’s all figure it out together.” Beckloff knew that lots of her students took her class because they wanted something you couldn’t get online: the act of creation, of physically making something with your hands. Even separated from the studio and the equipment, she wanted them to still have that. So, over spring break, she assembled packages of paper, craft supplies, brushes, X-Acto knives, stamps and more. The meditative process of assembling the kits helped her cope and process. “I went through my own studio,” she said. “I’m glad that I held on to a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know why I was using it. It’s like I needed it for this occasion.” Knowing that letterpress printer friends of hers were hurting for business, she also commissioned materials from them. With all of it sanitized, she taped up the 12’’x12’’x6’’ boxes and sent them off to her students. “[I wanted to] give them this, like, physical reminder that we’re all connected,” she said. “I just want to introduce them to these experiences that they would have had if I was bringing in visiting designers to engage with them in person. So if they can’t have that experience, how can I introduce them to the printing community through these distance methods?” Not every class adapted so smoothly to being online. The lack of structure and upending of routine set many students back. For Kayla and Leeann, there was the added challenge of transitioning classes that they had begun in a
different country. Shaoyang at first thought moving online would be good, before many of his discussion-based classes became writing-based. It multiplied his workload. To help offset the challenges that online learning posed, on March 25 the university extended deadlines to withdraw from undergraduate classes and to elect for a credit/no credit grading option to April 17.
Associated Press Quarantine. It’s a state of living that, until now, most people have never known. No going out to eat, no meeting friends for drinks. No parties, no family gatherings. No seeing a movie in theaters, no shopping at malls, no casual interactions with friends on the sidewalk. No end in sight. For Beckloff, a self-proclaimed extrovert, the transition has been tough. Within the walls of her home, it’s only her, her husband and their best friend — they invited him to stay with them for the duration of quarantine, since he lives alone. Beckloff tries to keep busy. While working from home, each member of the household stays occupied with their own hobbies. Beckloff decided to take up gardening, something she had never really done before, since she never considered herself to be good with plants. But in some strange way, planting seeds gives her hope. “It’s like, time is still moving because these plants are growing,” she said. Sometimes she stretches. Sometimes she medi-
“I don’t know how we’re going to teach this. But let’s all figure it out together.”
But in these dark times, she is proud to see how her fellow leaders in the community have devoted so much to working through challenges with compassion. “They really are trying to do the right thing,” she said.
tates. Sometimes it’s necessary to physically calm her body down. “I do have days where I just feel like I’m gonna burst into tears at any moment,” she said. “And nothing in particular happens. It’s just, the whole thing is overwhelming and it all hits you, you know?” For Shaoyang, quarantine has had its pros and cons. His outdoor activity is restricted and his workout routine is destroyed. Once he can do so, he intends to return to China after graduating, so he is sad that his last semester in college and his last few months in America will be spent confined to his apartment. But in some ways he is happier. He has more time to catch up virtually with his family and friends, and has connected with his two roommates more. Though all three of them have always liked to play video games, they never really played with each other before. Now, it is one of their most common pastimes. “I am having a very positive attitude towards the future,” he said. “I believe everything will end soon. Also, I am prepared for the worst outcome.” Since her return from South Korea, Leeann has made quarantine more bearable by staying in touch with friends she made in the program. Though they only met in person for a short time, they had gotten to know each other virtually beforehand and stayed in contact afterward, too. “I never expected to get so close to those people so quickly,” she said. They often FaceTime or watch Netflix together virtually. This kept her sane when Leeann first returned, when she self-quarantined for two weeks in an Airbnb to ensure she infect her family in case she was a carrier. For Moore, work never stops. There are calls to answer, questions to field and problems to address even while working from home. She misses the face-to-face connections she used to have. She doesn’t sleep much.
The Wall Street Journal There’s an old English saying that is purported to be a translation of an even older Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” In these times, it is easy to understand why such a wish is a curse. The sidewalks on campus are quiet. Classrooms sit darkened and empty. Offices are vacated, doors are locked, dorms are hollowed-out shells. Pulley Tower rings blithely on, playing cheery tunes few people hear. Uptown restaurants’ dining areas are closed. No music spills from Brick Street or The Woods, night or day. Delivery drivers duck in and out of various establishments, keeping business alive while trying to chase their own paychecks. In the surrounding neighborhoods, people out for walks or runs skirt each other cautiously. Others keep to their decks and porches, watching passersby with varying degrees of wariness. It’s a suspension of normal life, a breath taken in and held. Already, the financial impact on businesses that usually rely on students is tangible. Many restaurants have cut back drastically on staff and hours. Sushi Nara has closed. Miami has taken drastic action as well. “I’m definitely worried about the financial toll that
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this is going to take on our university,” Moore said. “In our economy, and our local economy and our national economy and global economy, there’s some major domino effects to this that we aren’t even quite sure about yet. And we’re all going to need to brace ourselves and adapt accordingly.” Miami refunded tens of millions of dollars to students living in dorms and using meal swipes. Departments in each college were advised to tighten their belts. Half of all visiting assistant professor jobs in each department are on the chopping block, and tenure and tenure-track professors as a whole must take on greater course loads in the fall. Nationwide, unemployment rises. College seniors fear for their job prospects. Around the world, people wonder: when will all of this end? And what will come after?
The New York Times At home, Shaoyang’s family and friends are starting to regain some freedom; slowly but surely, China is beginning to emerge on the other side of the curve. His infected friend in Wuhan is recovering. So is the one in Britain. Now, his family worries more about him; the United States has more confirmed cases than any other country in the world. Ohio has extended its stay-at-home order to May 1, which will be reassessed if needed. But Wilson predicts that all this is far from over. The need to shelter in place might end soon, but social distancing guidelines will remain in place far longer, in order to buy time until a vaccine is produced or an effective drug treatment can be found. “There are going to be disruptions,” he said. “There are going to be various levels of social distancing taking place, essentially until a vaccine can be produced.” Wilson estimated that could take anywhere from 10 months at, on the very shortest end, to two years. The rate of new cases is slowing, but health experts
warn this is not a time to become complacent. If people did return to their lives as they were pre-virus, ignoring distancing guidelines, the number of new cases would only begin to accelerate again. But restlessness is growing. Across the country, people gather to protest the continued closure of businesses and stay-at-home orders. On April 20, hundreds of protestors flouted distancing guidelines to gather around the Ohio Statehouse and demand that Gov. DeWine reopen the state. Similar protests have occurred in over a dozen states from coast to coast. Despite what they, and many others, long for, a return to normal is far away. Like it or not, some degree of disruption will be the new normal for some time. “Keep going and be patient and adaptable,” Wilson said. “This is going to be with us for at least a year, and so we’re all going to have to be as adaptable in the situation as we can be, and keep moving forward.” S
MENTIONED IN PASSING
BOILING OVER A first responder comes home to her second shift
by Abigail Kemper
er key scrapes in the lock and the dogs announce her arrival with frantic barks. She steps into the house after a 12-hour shift in the emergency room. Her nurse’s uniform is wrapped carefully in a Kroger bag and set by her feet as she puts on hand sanitizer and sprays her shoes and work bag with Lysol. She hasn’t left the doormat. At work, the hospital makes her wear a mask all day paired with gray suction goggles, which she wears over her glasses. At times she feels like she’s suffocating. Last week, after spending her shift assigned to COVID-19 patients, she had a panic attack. Even as a kid, my mom loved taking care of people. As a teenager she nannied and took care of her alcoholic father. Instead of finding a place in her father’s company, Gorsuch Realty, she went to nursing school and started her first nursing job, working night shifts. She later worked in the emergency room, radiology, surgery pre-operations then return to the ER. She doesn’t feel like a nurse right now. She says she’s never felt more detached from the patients. The hospital expects nurses to be machines with the sole purpose of detecting the coronavirus. Mom goes upstairs to shower and comes down sporting a ratty pair of gray flannel pants, a red long sleeve Christmas shirt that says “warm and cozy” (antithetical to her mood), and a thick headband to hold back her short, wet hair. Her L.L. Bean clogs pound every step despite the carpet. She takes her uniform down to the basement to wash. Wet clothes were left in the washer and dryer. “Aaandy! Why is there laundry in here? You know I need to wash my uniform after my shift.” My stepdad Andy is getting the water ready for the noodles and stirring the sauce. He stops, already
exasperated, and heads downstairs. An irritated exchange is muffled through the vent. When she comes up from the laundry room, she starts picking everything apart. She notices an Amazon box on the counter, which has not been properly sanitized. There are at least 36 COVID-19 cases within the Amazon empire. “Why didn’t you take the Amazon package out of the box?!” She is in grad school to be a family nurse practitioner. She works two shifts a week and does homework on the other five. Mom is used to the quiet of being a (usually) empty nester. But with two daughters who moved back from college mid-semester and a laid-off husband, the house is fuller than it’s been in years. She sweeps the floor like it’s never seen a broom and sprays cleaner on random surfaces. “Such bullshit,” she says. “I shouldn’t have to do fucking chores when I get home.” She rifles through the shoe bin, piled to the top. “Don’t keep so many shoes downstairs. It’s common-fucking-sense.” She examines the living room. She yanks the couch into its proper position. “Someone pushed the couch up against the wall again. I have to fix it everyday.” The water is boiling, noodleless, and steam begins to billow from the lid. I try to visualize portions of noodles we might need by looking at a handful of yellow sticks. “Is this enough?” I ask. “There’s another box in the emergency bin. Go
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look!” she yells. Before I get the chance to put away the noodles and look for another box, she’s marching down the stairs again, making herself known. I start to follow. “Just don’t! I’m already going down here aren’t I?!” her head snaps back at me. “Seems like you had a bad day today,” I say. “Yeah, I had a busy fucking day.” This is the part of the coronavirus people don’t see on TV. First responders are worn out and overwhelmed, not smiling ear to ear. Families are overcrowded and tense. For many, the stay-at-home order feels like a time bomb and the clock is running out. I go back up and a few minutes later, a box of spaghetti flies up from the basement. It hits the kitchen floor with a bang. “Here’s your pasta,” I hear from the stairs. I put in the spaghetti and Andy comes back to take over. As he tries to finish dinner, she goes upstairs loudly closing doors and cabinets. Andy’s phone rings and it’s Mom, calling from upstairs. She interrogates him about the insurance and his unemployment. He puts down the phone and shakes his head. “I’m not gonna be here much longer, Abigail. I love you, but I’m sorry I can’t do it. This ain’t my life,” Andy says to me. I don’t reply. Andy is out of work for the next few weeks. He was one of the last four employees kept on at a commercial flooring company. Mom has been filing unemployment for him because he doesn’t use computers often. “It’s not right that I have to take this on also because you don’t want to learn,” she bites. “Also you can walk the dogs tomorrow. Since you’re not working. I have so much schoolwork.” Andy starts to eat his spaghetti. She prods him further about his job. He leaves, taking his plate with him. “If this whole quarantine doesn’t end, I’m getting a divorce,” she says to me. “God, can you please just be silent. Please.” Silence. In China, the quarantine skyrocketed divorce rates. Both of them try to bring me into their problems like I could change anything. I just want quiet. “Well, how was your day?” she tries again. “Fine.” “You have schoolwork?” “Yup.” The only sounds left are the forks scraping our white Ikea plates and the slurp of long spaghetti noodles. S
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Gays Who Go Greek
* Gia’s name has been changed because she is not out to her family.
by Leah Gaus
illustrations by Min Kim
n the first 24 hours of sorority recruitment in 2017, I learned that looks count, no matter how many times people tell you they
don’t. I thought I had to pretend to be straight to count. I had been pretending for months, which made it easier. I intentionally grew my hair past my shoulders and bought dresses I would never wear again. I read Pinterest articles on how to make chapters want to choose me. Mid-afternoon on the last Friday of that January, I touched up my cateye eyeliner, smoothed out a few frizzy hairs, and tucked in my Panhellenic shirt to match the other potential new members. No one would have known that I was president of my high school's GayStraight Alliance for three years. I don't think anyone knew I was queer when I rushed. I didn’t have pride
buttons or stickers on my belongings, and I appeared stereotypically straight with a full face of makeup and long curly hair. I even wore a belt, which I had never done before in my entire life, solely because accessories are how you individualize yourself when everyone is wearing the same Panhellenic shirt. I made myself look like someone I wasn't — a girl who could actually use a curling iron and would go to date parties looking for a nice guy in the crowd. I've always been odd. I wanted to fit in, to be liked. Rushing was the door to a fresh start, but not just anyone could enter. Who I presented myself to be in the brief five minutes I spoke to a sister is who I would become — someone who belongs in Greek life. Halfway through formal recruitment, I caught the flu and had to miss part of the third round. When a potential new member doesn’t show up, the chapter often assumes she isn’t interested.
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I didn’t receive any invitations to Preference Round, the final event before bids are officially distributed to join a sorority. With that, I was “dropped” from the formal recruitment process and decided to look into informal recruitment, a more casual process conducted by some chapters after formal. A few weeks later, I accepted a bid for Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi). *** It was National Coming Out Day my junior year, and I had recently figured out I’m pansexual. I remember sitting in the Women's Center on the third floor of Armstrong (before it became part of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, or CSDI, on the second floor) and thinking, I should go down there and take a photo. Why not? I'm wearing letters. Does it matter?
I walked outside, turned around and went back upstairs before I changed my mind again. Our founders would have approved of this. AEPhi was founded on inclusivity, and to our chapter, founding principles carry weight. In my bright pink AEPhi sweatshirt, I stood underneath the frame of the rainbow door and smiled. That photo is the most-liked one I’ve posted on social media with 94 likes, second only to a photo of me holding my bid card when I joined AEPhi. Every time I got coffee with my “little sister” in the chapter, Paige Hartenburg, we talked about our love lives. She always asked me if “there are any girls in the picture.” I started to stop caring about looking “straight.” Whatever that means. One of the buttons on my backpack says “pansexual good.” A shirt in my closet reads “queer and forever here.” I used to spend my free time between classes in the CSDI. Three months ago, I asked my hairstylist for an angled bob on impulse. She cut it to the base of my neck, and I left feeling more like myself than I had in years. ***
“I’m a lesbian. How will that go over in your sorority?” Gia*, then a freshman, looked each sorority chapter representative in the eye while delivering this opening line during the recruitment process. Most chapters brushed off her question or changed the subject, but no one was outright aggressive or hurtful. But Gia, who looks back on recruitment now as a senior, wasn’t just there to impress her future sisters. She wanted to make a space for herself and others like her. If she couldn’t answer the question or handle the question, Gia did’t want to be there. According to the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, 24% of undergraduate students at Miami University are affiliated with a Greek organization. While no statistics exist on how many identify as LGBTQ+, the experiences of this untracked group within Greek life have left a trail of studies behind. Miami’s LGBTQ+ Services has conducted two studies on the intersection of Greek life and being queer on this campus, but neither of them are available online. While two articles highlight certain statistics and state that the full study reports can
be found online, they have since been removed from the university’s website. A 2013 article from The Miami Student summarizes one study’s findings, stating that LGBTQ+ respondents reported feeling less accepted than straight students by fraternities and sororities. The other study, conducted in 2015, found that “66% of straight Greeks feel they always fit in at Miami, while just 33% of [LGBTQ+] students feel equally comfortable on campus.” Colleen Blevins, who is the Associate Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said she hopes to update this information soon. “Our 2013 and 2015 data is obviously out of date, and I have the intention of diving back into the projects soon, including disseminating an updated survey and exploring educational opportunities in partnership with CSDI,” Blevins said. Dr. Kim Vance, the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Miami, said that a statement of inclusivity does not exist for the Cliff Office. “However, the Division of Student Life’s mission does include a commitment to inclusive environments,” she said. “We are a part of the division and as such are also committed to this mission.”
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*** Miami provided Gia with substantial scholarships that allowed her to move far away from her home of Kansas and escape her conservative roots. Gia can blend in with the sorority archetype at Miami: T-shirts emblazoned with letters, girls sporting athletic leggings, stainless steel reusable water bottles selling for $40 and laptop stickers trending on Redbubble. In the end, she received invitations from three sororities to Preference Round. Her sorority’s smaller size drew her in. Out of Miami’s 18 Panhellenic sororities, 16 (including Gia’s chapter) home to anywhere from 100 to 250 women. Similar reasons drew me to my own sisterhood. Our small size means that I truly feel as though I have a dozen sisters who know my story and will unconditionally support me. This support manifests in sorority suites and fraternity houses, which
serve as gathering places for chapter members. Newly-initiated freshmen live with their chapter the following school year. While fraternities each get an offcampus house, sorority women live in dorms. In my suite, a group of sisters regularly dotted the floor, finishing homework or venting about their week. Sometimes Katie knitted in the corner or sang showtunes. Sammie searched for something in the office, or Sonny napped on the couch. Without that suite, I may never have learned that other AEPhi sisters identify as queer. One day, I was complaining to a few sisters about the poor dating prospects on campus and it came up that we were all queer in one way or another. “We should make a GroupMe and call it AEBi,” someone said. About five or six people out of 11 members identify as queer in Alpha Epsilon Phi.
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Last year, I served as Vice President of Membership and New Member Education for my chapter. I opened up a new member meeting with our usual icebreaker, “oys, boys and joys,” where each person can say a negative thing about their week, something related to a crush or relationship, and a positive thing that happened. No one has to share all three if they don’t want to. One of my sisters was a new member at the time. “I remember you making this little clarification along the lines of, ‘Or girls. It doesn’t have to be boys,’” she said. “It was this little reassurance that I would be accepted regardless of who I might be interested in at the moment.” This small moment made her feel like she could bring anyone to a sorority function regardless of gender. “I don’t feel like I’d ever have to come out to you guys,” she said. “I could just nonchalantly say I had a girlfriend and everyone would be like, ‘Cool, can we meet her?’ And that’s a neat feeling to not feel a pressure to explicitly label
“ Feeling secure that however it
shakes out, this chapter and my sisters will support me is really comforting in the face of personal uncertainty. myself as gay.” She asked to remain anonymous because she’s questioning her sexuality. “Feeling secure that however it shakes out, this chapter and my sisters will support me is really comforting in the face of personal uncertainty,” she said.
*** “What I’ve noticed is that sororities either have a decent number of [LGBTQ+ members], or they have none or one or two,” Gia said. Gia’s sorority is larger than mine and has roughly 25 to 30 queer members, about the same percentage as my own — but they don’t talk about it, in public or in private. The Lambda 10 Project, a clearinghouse for educational resources for LGBTQ+ members of fraternities and sororities, conducted a 2007 national survey to explore the queer experience in Greek life more closely. They found a curious paradox: a majority of undergraduates thought their chapter was LGBTQ+-friendly, but “33% of alumni/ae rated the climate of their chapter as hostile.” The organization reported that a majority of queer members hold a leadership position in their chapter. A national list of more than 300 inclusive and LGBTQ+-friendly colleges and universities does not include Miami. *** Andreas VanDijck, an openly gay brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi, hangs out in his fraternity house as much as I do in my sorority suite. Andreas is the kind of person who vibrates when he talks, moving THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
his hands and occasionally shaking his leg. Energy runs through his veins, contagious to anyone speaking with him. While he joined the chapter as a junior and therefore hasn’t lived in the house itself, he would spend time there a few days each week. “When I rushed, I think that people knew that I was gay, and I don’t think it made any difference,” he said. “I would probably be okay taking a boy home or whatever, if I did live there.” As the only openly gay person in his chapter right now, it can be easy to feel left out or “a little different.” When his brothers talk about women, he can’t relate. “I think that’s the most difficult thing,” he said. “It’s just because you can’t relate to the more conventional experiences that people have in college, going home with someone and hooking up, that sort of thing. It’s just not necessarily the same for me because there’s so many fewer options, and because we don’t even have a gay bar here.” Most fraternities on campus have between 80 and 100 members, less than Miami’s sororities. AEPi has 48 brothers. “We’re all very accepting here,” Andreas remembers his chapter advisor
saying at one of his pledge class meetings as a new member. When Andreas and his advisor discussed formals and date parties, his advisor mentioned that they could “bring a friend or significant other,” making sure to avoid using gendered language. Andreas took a friend as his date to a
“People were like, ‘So what do they have between their…’ and I was like, ‘What? Why are you asking me that? That’s none of your business,’” she said. Gia is open about her own identity on campus. While she identified as lesbian her freshman year, she now identifies as gay because of its umbrella term quality. “And then people started asking me about it,” she said, “and I was like, ‘What if there was a penis? Does it matter?’” Gia says that she’s stopped caring about the binary expectations of Greek life. She bought a bunch of button downs knowing that the general body of her chapter would be more supportive than the executive board. “What the fuck are you wearing?” Gia imagines the executive board asking her. “I’d be like, ‘A button down.’” While she never wore them in front of the exec board, she says that some sisters would see her on campus in button downs or more masculine clothing and look her up and down. While it can be tough for queer people to feel accepted in Greek life, it’s even more difficult for those who are transgender, nonbinary, or genderqueer. Only 11 national sororities and five fraternities have public transgender inclusion policies, ranging from formal announcements to subtle word changes to the membership statement. The frequent language choice of “those who identify as men” or “women” automatically excludes anyone who does not fall into either category. Having these policies doesn’t mean they need or choose to utilize them. Even if an organization has an explicit statement, membership is up to each individual chapter’s discretion. Several sororities and fraternities were founded 50 years after other “mainstream” organizations, with the intent to provide a safe, supportive community for queer students, like Delta Lambda Phi (the first national fraternity for gay, bisexual, transgender, and progressive men) and Gamma Rho Lambda (the first national multicultural
“When I rushed, I think that
people knew that I was gay, and I don't think it made any difference. chapter formal, but some of his brothers have told him, “Why don’t you just take a guy? That’s chill.” *** Gia’s sisters haven’t been awkward or hurtful when she brings someone to formals, but sometimes they don’t understand. Last year, she attended a formal with her significant other at the time, who identified as nonbinary and presented slightly masculine, and it confused some of her sisters.
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sorority inclusive of all under the LGBTQ+ umbrella). None of these exist at Miami. Four fraternities and one sorority were founded at Miami, which is considered the “Mother of Fraternities.” But none of those chapters were founded with LGBTQ+ people in mind. Many universities have local LGBTQ+ friendly chapters, such as Alpha Delta Epsilon sorority at State University of New York College at Geneseo and Tau Delta gender-neutral sorority at Otterbein University. To be more inclusive, some of these organizations refer to their members as “siblings,” as opposed to “brothers” or “sisters.” “I feel like there was an extra emphasis on me not mentioning anything to do with being queer during recruitment,” Gia says. Within Panhellenic’s regulations, members cannot discuss certain topics during rounds, including significant others, but sometimes it just slips out — a casual, not ill-intentioned mention of having been to a potential new member’s favorite vacation spot with your boyfriend, or how you both love dogs and your boyfriend’s golden retriever is just the cutest thing ever. The strictness of these rules varies among sororities, and Gia’s chapter is more lax about them than others. During one round, she mentioned her girlfriend in response to a potential
member, similar to how a sister across the room might casually bring up her boyfriend. The girl wasn’t even phased — no potential members ever were when Gia brought it up. After that round, her sisters pulled her aside. “Remember, that’s on the list of things not to talk about,” one said. *** “When I first came to Miami, I was like, ‘I’m gay and I want to fix things,’” Gia said. Greek life was on her to-do list. Two years after she rushed, Gia presented to Rho Gammas, or formal recruitment group leaders, on LGBTQ+ identities. Separate from Gia’s efforts, the Panhellenic Board hired its first Director of Diversity and Inclusion last year, created with the goal of promoting diversity within the community. The board also hosted its first Reverse Recruitment Kickoff, a day-long event designed to prepare members for formal recruitment with a values-based mindset. Chapters made sheet signs with their values to hang during one of the rounds and attended a diversity and inclusion training that promoted diversity within the Greek community. A Panhellenic Board member, who cannot speak publicly on behalf of the
““People were saying like,
‘It’s great, we put up a sheet sign, and we talk about these values for that week...
National Panhellenic Conference, said it was a small step in what needs to be a larger effort. “It was a really good start, but I don’t think that it necessarily hit what it was going for yet,” she said. “People were saying like, ‘It’s great, we put up a sheet sign, and we talk about these values for that week, and then what do we do with them the rest of the year?’” During the event planning process, chapters were reluctant to discuss diversity. In my chapter VP role, I attended Panhellenic roundtable meetings for recruitment. Some representatives wanted to move the diversity and inclusion breakout session to chapter meetings, so they could avoid the required conversation. “That way we don’t have to do it,” I heard someone say under her breath during a meeting. *** I may not check all the boxes of the Greek life stereotype, but I can pass as straight. Gia, Andreas, and I all could if we wanted to. We probably often do to strangers. Some LGBTQ+ people can’t pass as “normative,” and with the homogeneous nature of Greek life, they can’t even get through the door if they try to go Greek. Those of us who have slipped through need to hold the door open for them. S
and then what do we do with them the rest of the year?’”
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Unburdened Learning how to take a breath
by Amanda Parel illustrations by Anna Skalicki
fter my class ended early, I finally made the call I’d been considering for two years. “Thank you for calling the Student Counseling Service at Miami University,” answered a cheerful woman. “How can I help you today?” I’d researched the Student Counseling Service (SCS) online. I knew that the first appointment was the initial consultation, where I would describe my problems to a counselor who would determine the best course of action. I also knew from friends that SCS is notorious for being understaffed, inept and having a waitlist that’s weeks to months long. The receptionist told me to pick my “best day”
*To encourage readers visiting SCS to remain open to making an appointment with any of the qualified counselors on staff, the clinical mental health counselor in this story has asked to be referred to as “M.” so she could check available times. I almost laughed — between work, classes, dance rehearsals, my editor-in-chief role for a campus writing group and chapter meetings for my English honor society, I didn’t have a “best” day. I quickly penciled my 9 a.m. appointment for next Friday in my color-coded planner while the woman noted I’d be coming in to discuss my issues with anxiety. *** One October morning my senior year of high school, I woke up to a text that one of my friends, Sydney, had died by suicide.
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With my friend’s funeral and memories of her still fresh in my mind, I visited my grandma in the hospital as her health worsened. Less than three weeks after Sydney’s death, my boyfriend at the time found out one of his friends died by suicide at 15 years old. I watched my friends and family cry. I signed my friend’s casket. I tried to comfort my boyfriend while he talked about how unfair it all was. Bad things kept happening, and I became consumed by the fact there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop, control or predict them. I woke up one day and realized the voice in my head that had assured me that things would be all right had been silenced forever.
*** I was looking out the window of a Steak ‘n Shake in Troy, Ohio, when suddenly I could feel the Earth spinning beneath me. My face grew warm. My heart started racing. Take a deep breath. Everything is OK. Breathe. I was losing control over my own head, and the realization made my heart beat faster. My thoughts spiraled, and I felt trapped. I was sitting across from the guy I was dating at the time, happy and in love, and a few weeks away from the start of my second year at Miami after finishing the first with a 4.0 GPA. I was munching on shoestring fries and sipping a milkshake.
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Why can’t I just be OK?
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be OK? What’s wrong with me? “I’m feeling panicky,” I told my boyfriend. “I need to step outside.” He knew what I meant — it had happened before. I walked out into the parking lot and pressed three on my speed dial through tears. “Mom?” I said. “Do you remember last summer when I started feeling anxious and panicky and how I told you sometimes I thought I could feel the world spinning?” I felt the concrete slant upward beneath me and started crying even harder. “I need help. Can we please get me help?” *** I sign in at the front desk, where a lady hands me a laptop and directs me to the waiting room to fill out paperwork. One form asks me to rate how relatable I find certain thoughts or behaviors based on my experiences over the past two weeks on a scale from 0 (Not Like Me) to 4 (Extremely Like Me). “I find that I cry frequently” gets a 4, “I worry about having anxiety or panic attacks in public” gets a 3 and “I feel like no one understands me” gets a 2. “Amanda?” A man in a blue plaid shirt and jeans approaches me with a friendly smile. He looks young, maybe late 20s or early 30s. The counselor shakes my hand and leads the way to his office — a small, rectangular room with gray walls and fake grass in the windowsill. I take a seat next to a coffee table that’s offering the small comforts of a bowl of mints and a box of tissues.
The man tells me he’s a clinical mental health counselor who has worked with college students for over four years, and this is his first semester working at Miami. M asks the magic question: Why am I here today? I talk about how when I feel like I’m not in control, I start to panic and cry. I’m filled with a sudden, unnamable dread that possesses my whole body, like once when I was at the movies with my friends and was suddenly gripped by the feeling that I wasn’t getting out of the theatre alive. “How frequently do you experience these attacks?” About every other week. “How long do they usually last?” Anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. “Is there a common trigger?” Any time I feel like I’m not in control: an insurmountable list of assignments, motion sickness, financial problems, every three months when there’s something new that’s wrong with my car that I don’t have the money to fix, any unexpected crisis. Sometimes it’s nothing at all, and then panicking over nothing reminds me how I can’t control my own thoughts, and I panic more. Talking to my boyfriend, Carter, who is the level-headed opposite of me, usually helps me in those moments. He can say everything will be OK and believe it’s true. But sometimes, that’s frustrating to me. He doesn’t understand. I describe how I lean on Carter when I have a bad day, and I’m afraid I’m becoming a burden. Carter can’t relate to my anxious moments. I think he gets frustrated with me; he tells me things are going to be alright, then I say I don’t believe him.
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M nods and jots down some notes. He lists four and canceled plans. “Six. Or seven.” options for me. First, I can seek individual counseling. Fred wants to see how I breathe naturally. Sitting Second, I can attend group therapy sessions. Third, I can meet with a psychiatrist at Student Health Service across from me, he mimics what he wants me to do: feet flat on the floor shoulder-width apart, right hand if I’m interested in medication. “But let me be the first to assure you that you don’t pressed just below my collar bone, left below my belly need medication to treat anxiety,” he adds. “It’s an op- button, back resting against the chair. He immediately points out that my shoulders tion that helps, but it’s certainly not necessary.” I almost tell M how after I called my mom from move when I breathe, a breathing style that may inthe Steak ‘n Shake parking lot, we went to my regular crease my stress and anxiety. Great. I can’t even breathe correctly? doctor together to discuss options. My doctor said she Fred explains that since I breathe like I’m responddidn’t want to write me a prescription because college ing to a stressful situation, this likely affects my brain students are likely to abuse anxiety medication. She encouraged me to seek out a therapist, but chemistry and bodily responses: the secretion of then I started another busy school year, and then I adrenaline and cortisol, increased heart rate, the feelspent the next summer abroad in Spain. Life sped on, ing of being in danger. We try again. This time, I should let out a deep sigh and my anxiety went along with it. “One program I think you could really benefit from like I do when I’m stressed and focus on pulling my stomach in, like I’m flattening it against my back. is biofeedback,” M says. After a few deep, focused breaths, I do begin to feel He describes a workshop where I’d be attached to more relaxed. sensors. I’d think about Fred tells me that on avsomething stressful, and erage, it takes about 28 days I’d get to see my heart for a new habit to form. Pracrate increase, my blood pressure rise, how my Maybe if I can manage my ticing this breathing exercise for even five minutes a day body physically responds anxiety more often on my can make a difference. to the anxiety. Then, I’m He gives me three sensors introduced to techniques own, I can stitch some part to clip to my fingertips to to calm me down, and I’d of myself back together into measure my heart rate and get to see how they affect my physiological responsone piece. I might also stop palm sweat. He opens a computer program with 15 bioes. I can also combine this feeling like a burden to the feedback exercises and clicks with individual counselover to the first activity. The ing or any of the other people I love. screen shows a CGI nature options. shot of a mountainscape at “The counselor who dawn. The narrator tells me runs the biofeedback has actually given me permission to refer students directly to focus on making my breathing deeper, slower and to him,” M says, “so we can set up a one-on-one ap- more regular. “I can tell you’re doing well. Do you know how?” pointment, and then you can decide from there if it’s Fred asks after a few minutes. really for you.” I shake my head. He gestures to the screen, where “That would be amazing.” the sun is now peeking out above the mountaintops. “The sun is rising as your body relaxes.” *** Fred asks me to rate my stress level on a scale of Dr. Fred Shueh is a licensed psychologist who has one to 10 again. I give myself a four. been studying biofeedback techniques since 2007. *** Biofeedback has been integrated into everyday life for many people. When your Fitbit monitors your A week later, M takes me back to his office promptheart rate, you get biofeedback. The trick is to use mind-body techniques alongside this feedback to ly at 3 p.m. Everything looks exactly the same, from learn to control heart rate, palm sweat and other bodi- the position of the bowl of mints to his blue button-up. After a few minutes of small talk, we dissect how ly functions affected by anxiety to recover to a calm Carter reacts when I come to him with my problems. level. “From what you talked about last time, it sounds “If you had to rate yourself on a scale from one to 10, 10 being the sky is falling and one being you’re on like Carter just gets really frustrated and doesn’t unvacation, how would you rate your stress level over the derstand where you’re coming from. Would you say that’s an accurate description?” past two weeks?” Fred asks. I stiffen at the harsh analysis of the boy who brings My brain hastily constructs an arbitrary algorithm based on hours of homework, mental breakdowns me Wendy’s chicken nuggets when I’m sad. THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
Iâ€™m still not certain that everything will be OK. What I do know is that even if itâ€™s not, Iâ€™m not as helpless as I felt before.
“Well, he starts from a place of understanding. But after a while, when I’m not calming down, I think he starts to get frustrated with me.” “How does he handle this frustration?” “He just kind of wants to drop it,” I say. “After he tries to reassure me for a few minutes, he starts just saying, ‘I don’t know what you want me to say,’ like I’m expecting some kind of right or magical answer when I know he can’t just fix everything.” “Right,” M nods. “And boyfriends kind of look at themselves as problem-solvers, as fixers, so if they don’t know how to fix the problem, they might just feel lost.” I nod in agreement. “I’m going to focus on ways you can cope with anxiety on your own, so that you don’t always have to go to Carter, or you can make it a last resort.” We devise a three-part plan for when I have anxiety attacks: Plan A: Breathe from my belly while listening to music. Plan B: Go to the place where I’m most comfortable (my bedroom) and find an outlet (freewriting). Plan C: Talk to Carter. Something about having concrete steps to follow gives me more control. Maybe if I can manage my anxiety more often on my own, I can stitch some part of myself back together into one piece. I might also stop feeling like a burden to the people I love. “I like to imagine anxiety and stress as like a tower,” M says, “and the tower is made up of chunks of experiences and things that make us stressed.” At certain moments, the tower becomes so tall that it reaches what he calls “the anxiety threshold,” where I start to panic. With anxiety, the tower consistently hovers below that threshold until something triggers a shattering point. Neither breathing nor my three-step plan will make the pieces of my tower completely disappear. The goal is to find a way to at least bring the natural baseline for my tower further away from the anxiety threshold. “Does that make sense?” Yes. Things are starting to make sense. *** “Is it hard dating someone with anxiety?” Carter looks away from the status of his fantasy football league and takes a hard look at me. “No.” He pushes his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “There aren’t any challenges?” “There are challenges with dating anybody,” Carter says. “But it’s not like anxiety presents more or greater challenges.” But doesn’t it frustrate him that my anxiety demands his time over and over again? “I mean, it can be frustrating.” I flinch.
“But it’s not like I’m frustrated with you. I’m just frustrated with the anxiety. I understand that that’s not what you want to be doing either or what you want your brain to do.” I recall something an author who visited campus once shared, a phrase that the internet attributes to a variety of different writers: “Love is giving someone power to destroy you, but trusting them not to.” There’s another way to interpret this: Love is asking someone to help you, and trusting that they’ll try. *** During my third session, M talks about how other people’s support helps anxiety and panic attacks significantly. “But how do you avoid feeling like a burden?” I ask. I look down at the floor. “I feel like I still struggle with asking people for help without feeling like a burden, because I’m always asking the same people.” “But you know that knowing you have someone there for you helps,” he says. “And you’re not actually a burden to those people, that’s just thoughts coming from your anxiety. Anxiety breeds by telling you you’re a burden to others.” I don’t have much more to talk about, and we wrap up a little early. “Before you leave, I just want to check in with you,” M says. “How has your experience with counseling been?” I tell him the truth: my experience with counseling has been great. The breathing techniques have helped, and developing the three-step plan makes me feel like I have some degree of control in situations where I feel most helpless. I also find that speaking to someone who’s trained to converse about mental health problems gives me further comfort and stability. Even just the confirmation that I do have “mild to moderate” anxiety after years of uncertainty makes me feel like I have a better grasp of my situation. I can’t imagine how different my college experience would have been if I had this disposition and these coping techniques from the beginning. M informs me that the counseling center has entered its waitlist period, which they had hoped they wouldn’t hit until November. The wait is about two weeks. We can continue meeting every other week, we can lengthen the time between appointments or I can take a break from counseling to see how I’m doing on my own. I tell M that I’d like to transition to meeting once a month now. I’m still not certain that everything will be OK. What I do know is that even if it’s not, I’m not as helpless as I felt before. When I walk out of the counseling center, I stand in the chilly fall air and take a deep breath. S
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Miami women navigate the pre-law track
n the early 1970s, Beth Naylor’s fa- know any other women who wanted to ther returned home from arguing a pursue a law degree. There was no place case in front of the U.S. Supreme to search for that community, either – Court. He had brought home a no pre-law track, no on-campus organisouvenir for his pre-teenaged daughter: zation for pre-law students. Naylor could look around her and a sweater with “a woman’s place is in the house and the senate” emblazoned see women who would go on to find success in other fields. But among the on the front. Her dad, her role model, believed in women she knew, law was the exception. “Point blank, you’re asked, ‘Why do its message and so did she. Naylor graduated from Miami Uni- you want a job? Don’t you plan on getversity in 1982 with a political science ting married and having kids?’” Naylor degree. She obtained her Juris Doc- said. “Which was kind of a legitimate tor (J.D.) from the University of Notre question back then that you had to respond to. But society was different.” Dame Law School in 1986. She wasn’t deterred. She’s practiced law for over 30 years, “We really didn’t see that there were now a senior partner at Frost Brown Todd in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among other obstacles [to success],” Naylor said. accolades, she received the Ohio Glass “You didn’t know what you didn’t know.” An annual study by Enjuris revealed Ceiling Award in 2013 from the Nationthat in 2016, more women were attendal Diversity Council. But Naylor’s success began at a time ing law school than men for the first where it wasn’t quite as common for time. That proportion continued to women to practice law. During her un- grow in the following two years. Out of 111,619 law school students dergraduate years at Miami, she didn’t 64 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
last year, over 50% identified as female. When the American Bar Association published that in 2017, women made up roughly 35% of the legal profession. That number increased to 38% in 2018. So, not quite half – nonetheless, it’s another statistic on the rise. And as such, women pursuing the ideal of law school today are the future of the profession – they’re the ones tipping the scales. But at what cost? And with numbers increasing so consistently, at what point does it become clear when one is “cut out” for the legal profession?
Haley Growing up with a mom who took in heaps of rescue dogs, Miami senior Haley George saw real-life animal rights issues in her very own home. Now, Haley wants to take up her mother’s mantle in her own way. She fell in love with the court system
her junior year of high school. Haley took AP Government that year and, with her class, placed second statewide in Wyoming’s branch of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution. The competition required her class to research as much as they could about the content of the U.S. Constitution and, in small groups, make arguments based on what they knew in front of a panel of judges. When Haley was researching court cases for the competition, she soaked up details for every decision she could. With her group, she jumped headfirst into cases on freedom of religion, cases dealing with the education system, every impetus for said cases and the impact they have on day-to-day life. She was fascinated. “I was really good at it,” she said. “The memorization aspect.” So when she arrived at Miami, she immediately began shaping her education to look like a lawyer’s might. Political science major? Check. Prelaw track? Check. Law and Public Policy Academic Scholars Program? Check. She even tacked on an English literature major to strengthen her writing skills and a management minor to gain
familiarity with the business world. Just in case she’d need it in court. Haley got a job at Miami’s Susan J. Henry Center for Pre-Law Education. She went to Law Day – the center’s annual event where students meet with law program representatives galore – every year she could. She helped run the event last fall and even became secretary of the pre-law society. The pre-law track led her to an internship at the Office of the Wyoming State Public Defender the summer after her first year at Miami. Then to an internship at the Butler County Courthouse in the spring of 2019. And the subsequent summer, that track led her to an internship with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, a California law firm dealing with cases of medical malpractice. “And I just never got off that track.” She was banking on law. Every move she made was designed to make her an excellent candidate for a J.D. program. She shouldn’t want to get off the oneway train to the legal profession. But she’s tried.
Miami senior Deanna “Dee” Ponzani stumbled upon an interest in law completely by accident. She used to watch every crime drama on television and fell in love with forensic anthropology – “Bones,” the “CSI” franchise and “Law and Order.” While she loved the genre, she knew her favorite procedurals would never reflect the reality of the career. She wanted to find out the facts about the legal profession herself. So for a required high school project, the Cleveland native pursued a weeklong mini-externship at Parker-Hannifin’s legal department. “I remember them handing me this giant stack of papers,” she said. “I think most people would probably get up and leave if that happened.” When Dee saw the tall stack of papers, she saw promise. “Just read a couple of pages, interpret it, tell us what you think,” her supervisor told her. So she dove into the massive document. “I started reading,” she said, “and I thought it was fun. And I’m sure most people would think it was awful, but I thought it was so interesting.” She flipped through page after page, consuming heaps of content about mergers and acquisitions. International law, business law, businesses succumbing to wealthier entities… Dee was addicted. And when her supervisor checked on her, she had quite a bit more to say than just her interpretation of “a couple of pages.” She told the vice president of Parker-Hannifin’s legal department how thrilling it was to read up on mergers and acquisitions. He was surprised – and impressed. “You really have an eye for this,” he told her. So she kept her eye open.
Kelly Unlike Haley or Dee, Class of 2019 Miami alum Kelly Burns didn’t come into college with a fervor for the legal system. But during junior year, Kelly took a
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Journalism Law and Ethics course and loved it. Sure, igniting her interest in law at age 21 may have been a late-game revelation compared to others with the same interest. But it didn’t matter. She loved the in-class mock trials.
sult was lower than she’d scored months prior on a practice LSAT — a practice test she’d taken with no preparation. Sitting in her aunt and uncle’s guest bedroom, she shed a couple of tears. But she had to walk through the house to leave, and she decided she couldn’t let
the LSAT at University of Texas at Arlington. The July 2019 administration of the LSAT was the first time some test-takers took the Digital LSAT – a version of the LSAT run entirely on a touch screen tablet with a stylus for writing. Technical difficulties ensued when Dee’s stylus stopped working. Later, her tablet died – twice. The LSAT is normally a three-hour test. Dee sat in that testing room on UT-Arlington’s campus, cramped into a plastic chair with her body hunched over waves of faulty tablets for almost seven hours. Trapped without the ability to leave the room with only the trail mix and water bottle she brought to nourish her, her relatives see her cry. She rushed out the door, keeping her Dee’s first LSAT was, as she described, composure, dashing to her car. She got “a disaster and a half.” As she exited the university building inside and sobbed alone. In her mind, her whole life plan was falling apart into the daylight of a sweltering Texan before her very eyes. All because of one summer, she called her dad. “How’d it go?” he asked. He’d been email. She started breathing heavily. Pan- waiting at home all day for news about icking. Feeling what she thought might his daughter’s results. “Terrible!” she laughed into the phone. be her calling slip away. Her score was 10 points lower than To Haley, her low score was proof the scores promised by her anthologies that she wouldn’t succeed as a lawyer. She called her parents, hours away in of practice tests. On a test scored beCheyenne, Wyo. No one saw her cry, but tween 120–180 points, that was significant. But luckily, all test-takers who took her mom and dad heard her cry. “I don’t know what I’m going to do… the digital LSAT in July could retake the I’m gonna join ROTC,” she said to her test for free. Dee instantly canceled her score and mom, weeping over the phone. “I’ll learn how to fly a plane. That’s what I’ll scheduled a retake for February. do.” But her ideal future, after raising animals with her family all her life, was to help defend animal rights cases in the Seven months after Kelly decided to court system, or craft legislation to de- pursue law school, she found herself at fend animals. a pool party, day-drunkenly splashing “A lot of people maybe aren’t as close around with her friends over Memorial to the issue as I am,” Haley said. “So I Day weekend. want to represent animals and give She checked her phone to find a them a bigger voice in the community.” “friendly reminder” email. She couldn’t give that dream away. A reminder that she would be taking At least, not yet. the LSAT in one week. “Shit,” she said. “I thought this was in, like, three more weeks.” So Kelly dusted off the book she’d “I started studying for the LSAT just brought with her to Luxembourg, where she’d studied abroad for the recently for fun,” Dee said. With inspiration to succeed from her wrapped semester. She’d taken the book favorite crime shows, Dee began what with her to study while traveling, but she called “casual studying.” Most stu- never got around to opening it. “I just didn’t care enough,” she said. dents start studying three to six months She got a “fine” score on that LSAT – in advance. Dee had been studying for a year by the time she sat down to take a 157 – but would have needed a higher
“ It’ll be interesting... ” she said, tapping her fingernails on the table in front of her.
She loved discussions about fair use and copyright. She received an A on every assignment. She raved about the class to other journalism majors and encouraged them to also take it. She cited it as her favorite class she’d ever taken. That was when she first thought about the legal profession as a post-graduation endeavor. Being an attorney pays, and if she didn’t hate the subject matter, it might just be something she could stomach long-term. She told her mom the following Thanksgiving that she wanted to go to law school. Kelly’s goal was to work with a publishing house and help to avoid libel lawsuits. “Yes!” her mom exclaimed as the two sat together in her mom’s car. “Yes, oh my God, yes. You should go to law school!” Resounding approval. Good. She wouldn’t be met with resistance from her family on this. She signed up to take the LSAT. It was real, then. At least, that’s what her mom thought. “It wasn’t really me wanting to be a lawyer,” Kelly said. “It was … I don’t want to be poor.”
Haley As Haley headed out one morning to her California internship at Lewis Brisbois, an email notification popped up on her phone. Her LSAT scores were available. She took a deep breath. This was the metric for her success in the legal profession, right? Yet despite weeks of studying, her re-
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score to get into her dream media law program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. So she planned to take the test one more time and set the date for September. Another date to look forward to. Or dread. Then, two months after Kelly took the LSAT, she was hit with a blast from the past. Her brother’s best friend and recent law school graduate, George, found out that Kelly wanted to go to law school. They’d known each other since they were young. His arrival put more pressure on Kelly’s back to succeed “Where’s Kelly?” George asked upon entering her home. “I want to talk to Kelly.” George not only instructed, but seemingly demanded, in front of Kelly and her mom, that she should be studying for an hour every single day. Oh – make that two hours every Saturday. “First, you need to get in a prep class,” George said, “then you need to take the LSAT, write a killer essay on your application, get into law school, then step on everyone’s necks to get to the top.” No sarcasm. There was a brief pause. Kelly awkwardly laughed, unsure of how serious George was. She could only envision herself stepping on so many necks. Her mom looked at her, then at George, then back at her. “You know she’s not that competitive, right?” her mom said. “What do you mean?” George asked. “She’s been playing video games for as long as I’ve known her.” He laughed. “She’s been competitive since she was nine years old!” Kelly sat down with her mom after that conversation. “Uh, yeah, you’re right,” Kelly said, a little shaken. “I’m really not that competitive.” Her mom smiled. “George is hyper-competitive. Let’s not use him as an example.”
Haley “All of the internships I’ve had have been male-dominated,” Haley said. At the Butler County courthouse, the judge was a man. The prosecutor at the Butler County
courthouse was a man. Almost every figure of courthouse authority who she worked under was a man. Rarely did she see women in attorney roles. At the Wyoming state public defender’s office, the public defender was a woman, but it was still mostly male-dominated. “You’d see women working in lower positions,” she said. “But it was mostly men at the top.” In California? Haley was one of the only women at the firm. “It’ll be interesting,” she said, tapping her fingernails on the table in front of her, “to see if more women going to law school helps get more women in the field.”
Dee This past summer, Dee was a supply chain intern in Fort Worth, Texas. She was the first intern that office had ever hosted. She was the only woman in that office. She didn’t mind it at first. Her office was underneath fighter jets – “which was pretty sweet” – and she loved the projects she was assigned. After all, she’d cycled through different business majors at Miami to finally find what she liked. From her viewpoint, work was great. “The people?” Dee said through a nervous laugh. “Not so much.” Every person that Dee worked with was a former male member of the
avoid the people around her. “I would have to, like, cough,” Dee said, “because I hadn’t talked to people for so long.” And ultimately, she learned it would be “best” if she didn’t come to the hangar some days. Why? “You’re just a big distraction,” her coworker once told her before a procedure in the hangar. “Whenever you walk in here, everyone drops what they’re doing to look at you.” Dee was afraid to wear anything at work. Whether casual or formal, she felt like she would always be met with sexist comments on her appearance. From how she dressed (a t-shirt and loose jeans) to the way she did her nails, nothing seemed immune from sexist scrutiny. “Oh, you can get any job,” Dee was told by a male coworker while musing about post-grad plans. “All you have to do is put your picture on the resume and you’ll get it.” “You would do amazing in the military,” another peer said. “You’re really pretty. People would do all the work for you.” Eventually, she was fed up. “Hey,” she said to her supervisor, “I’m not really comfortable with some of the things you’ve been saying.” Her supervisor looked surprised – who was this tall, curly-haired intern telling him what to do? “If you’re going to compliment me,” she’d told him, “could you maybe compliment me less on my appearance and
“ ...to see if more women going to law school helps get more women in the field.
armed forces. She felt like they judged her for being, in more ways than one, the odd woman out. She often found herself hiding in her office. While most of her coworkers worked in a nearby hangar, she had a conference room to herself in a different building. She minimized her time in that hangar. She’d spend all day alone just to
more on my work ethic?” He apologized the next day. Months later, she’s convinced herself to view it as a constructive learning experience. “Now,” she said through half-hearted laughs, “if something else sucks as bad in the future, I guess I’ll know how to deal with it.”
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Kelly I chose Miami University to get my journalism degree, Kelly wrote on Facebook, but I figured I’d switch it up and now I’ll be going to law school at Marquette University! I’ll be starting in the fall so if anyone has any links for potential roommates or people I should know, let me know! She paused. She thought she should probably thank her parents, too. Her mom was ecstatic about this, after all. Huge shoutout to my mom and my dad for supporting me way too well in this and everything. She attached a couple photos and posted her big announcement. On the last day of one of her last-ever Miami classes, one of Kelly’s professors asked seniors to declare their post-grad plans. “I’ll be going to law school at Marquette,” Kelly said. “Oh!” her professor said. “That’s
great!” Kelly nodded. “Yep,” she said, without much enthusiasm. She never knew how to feel about telling others she’d be attending law school – some people dream their whole lives of becoming lawyers only to fall short at the application stage. When Kelly found out she’d gotten into law school – not even one of her top choices – she cried. She texted her roommates immediately, a late night digital celebration from the comfort of her own bed. Kelly had made it. The work had paid off – the test-taking panic, the painstakingly crafted personal statement she’d made her friends proofread, the flurries of rec letters she’d asked professors to send – it was worth the hassle. She was going to law school. But she wasn’t necessarily happy about it. “I was more happy that I wasn’t too dumb to be rejected,” she said.
Haley At home in Wyoming after her internship ended, Haley spoke one-onone with an attorney who knew her father. “If you still want to have a family,” the attorney had told her, “you really have to know this is what you want to do.” Haley sat and listened to her family friend talk about battling a brain tumor. Facing the very concept of death, the woman regretted not spending more time with her family. She didn’t have that time because of her job. That thought was terrifying. Was Haley giving up the very idea of having a family to call her own? Would she be too busy to enjoy doing anything but being a lawyer? Was this still a good idea? Haley thought about jumping off the pre-law track, again, after that conversation.
Dee “There’s always going to be men, or other people, who don’t know how to respect people around them,” Dee said. She has higher hopes for the legal field when it comes to social equality in the workplace. “I think, by [entering law school], you have a better understanding of what’s appropriate and what’s not,” she said. “By the time you get through college, you kind of learn those things.” She now worries, instead of comments on her appearance, she might face sexist comments about her intellect as a woman. “The LSAT is not easy, studying is not easy, getting to law school is not easy,” she said. “But if anything, there might be a problem with people questioning if I’m qualified to be in law school.” She started laughing, with anxiety lacing each chuckle. Dee’s blonde curls bounced as she nodded to assure herself that she was, in fact, qualified to be in law school. Looking ahead to life post-undergrad, Dee wants to find a full-time supply chain job—with an employer who will pay for her education—before transitioning to law. Returning to the male-dominated 68 THE MIAMI STUDENT MAGAZINE, SPRING 2020
world of supply chain was a necessary stepping stone in her eyes. But she felt prepared. She felt like she could take on whatever the business world might want to throw at her for a couple of years. “I always try to think of, like, ‘Legally Blonde,’ and how kind of empowering that movie is,” she said, “no matter how much [protagonist Elle Woods] is seen as a joke by other characters.”
for her law school career. “If this was a story I was reading,” Kelly said, “I would be like, ‘damn, what a clear sign this girl isn’t supposed to be here.’” Because when she realized she’d need to withdraw fairly soon to get most of her tuition deposit back, she stopped prioritizing law homework and started prioritizing what she wanted.
Dee smiles – a recognition of a shared struggle.
Kelly As Kelly ticked “yes” on the confirmation of the Marquette enrollment form, she felt her anxiety compound. As Kelly toured Eckstein Hall with her mom – “Isn’t this so gorgeous? Oh
“ I always try to think of, like, ‘Legally Elle Woods still got the job done when she went to law school. Dee hopes she will, too. So she’s keeping her eyes wide open.
Haley and Dee
The sun was setting on Labor Day, its golden rays leaking down Oxford, Ohio’s uptown. Haley sat outside Kofenya, sipping “Saying that I wanted to go to law coffee as the day turned to night. While her posture was upright, her figure was school is a bit of a strong statement.” About a week and a half into her law obstructed by two LSAT prep tomes. “LSAT LOGIC GAMES BIBLE,” a school venture, Kelly found herself sitting in Marquette’s Eckstein Hall doing thick green book read. “A Comprehenhomework with her new friends Carsyn sive System for Attacking the Logic Games Section of the LSAT,” the rather and Lauren. She hadn’t told them yet; Kelly lengthy subtitle continued. Beside this planned on dropping out of law school “Bible” laid another – the blue “LSAT LOGICAL REASONING BIBLE.” in a few days. Haley took a brightly colored meLauren stressed over the hours of homework she’d done the night prior chanical pencil to a notebook, careand work she’d have to put in the fol- ful not to knock over her coffee cup – though it was empty for who knew how lowing night. Carsyn complained about a specific long – when she heard a familiar voice. Dee was leaving Krishna, an Indian assignment that had taken her over two restaurant just two doors down from hours to finish. Kelly silently listened. It had only Kofenya, and had started to walk toward taken her 30 minutes, maximum, to her house with two friends. Just as she left her peers, Dee’s complete the same assignment, but it squinted eyes caught Haley’s – and froze didn’t matter anymore. While Carsyn and Lauren frantically at the sight of her LSAT prep books. “Haley!” Dee called. “What’s up?” typed and searched for solutions to law Haley looked up from her studies, problems, Kelly worked on narrative arcs for the novel she’d dreamed of writ- smiling as Dee walked over to Haley. “Hey,” Haley said, hints of fatigue lacing for the past year. No law readings. No cramming. No ing her voice. “What are you up to?” Dee asked. memorizing facts – just fiction. Haley motions to her study books. She saw it as an emblematic moment
Blonde,’ and how kind of empowering that movie is.
my god, we have to go inside. This is so pretty!” – all she wanted to do was leave. As Kelly listened to her boss at her paralegal job over the summer talk about case after case after case – moments where he’d had to compromise his morals for the sake of the job – she thought, I don’t want this. I don’t want to do this, I can’t do this, I’m not cut out for this. As her boss joked, days before she left for Marquette, that Kelly wouldn’t want to be a lawyer after working with him for a whole summer, she felt a pit of guilt in her stomach. He was right. It wasn’t his fault, sure, but she still didn’t want to be a lawyer. As Kelly sat down in her law classes for the first time, she thought if she could just sit in the back of the classroom and go unnoticed by the professor, no one would be able to tell the difference if she later decided to leave Marquette. It was a rainy Milwaukee Monday the day Kelly dropped out of law school, just two weeks after her arrival in August. She’d packed up her belongings and loaded them into her brand new car, just recently christened with the long drive up to Milwaukee. She’d arranged to live with her aunt Eileen during her law school years. But barely a couple weeks in, Kelly announced she was moving out, that she was no longer going to attend Marquette.
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“Just do whatever you need to do,” Eileen said. Luckily, her aunt told her she thinks it’s better to realize you hate law sooner rather than later. Kelly was realizing sooner. There wouldn’t be a battle to fight there, unlike with her mom. Eileen, at least, understood. She had made a couple of friends at Marquette – Lauren and Carsyn urged her to “give it at least one more week” before dropping out – but she made up her mind months prior. She told the office of the registrar that she, emotionally, couldn’t handle the stress of law school, and that this wasn’t a good time for her to pursue a
Nicole was drinking, and Haley was the only sober one at the bar. Regardless, through Nicole’s undecided plans and Charlotte’s prestigious job offer, the conversation drifted to Haley, who was swirling the ice in her glass. “What are you doing after graduation, Haley?” Nicole asked. “Law school,” she said with a relatively straight face, almost fatigued. As though she was tired of answering the question. To friends like Charlotte, who know Haley more closely than the average acquaintance, this comes as no surprise. There’s not much novelty in Haley’s voice when she announces it. It’s a ques-
with animal rights organizations on campus before, another piece to her perfect J.D. candidate puzzle. She should still go to law school. That’s what she keeps telling herself. That she is good enough.
Dee Dee accepted a full-time job with the same company she interned with last summer – the same company where she’d faced loads of sexism. She was hesitant at first – “I put it off for the longest time” – but realized how much she loved doing the work. She expects to have more of a voice than she
“ Just do whatever you need to do...
J.D. “I hope we see your application again next year,” the registrar had told her, politeness oozing from her lips. And she left. The rain, a literary symbol for rebirth, comforted Kelly as she returned to her car, ready to leave Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. She deleted Carsyn and Lauren out of her phone. She was thankful for their kindness over the course of her short semester but acknowledged she’d probably never see them again. Kelly packed up her car, said goodbye to her aunt and began the long drive back to her suburban Chicago home. She wasn’t leaving behind a sunny, blooming metropolis. She was leaving a gloomy city she called a “prison.” Free of her own worries, free of her mom’s expectations – she could finally breathe again.
Haley In late September, sitting in the quaint, quiet wooden chambers of Oxford’s O’Pub, Haley sipped water while her friends talked about jobs, internships and post-graduation plans. She wasn’t the focus of the conversation, which was fine – it was her friend Charlotte’s birthday, everyone was keeping track of how much her friend
did as an intern. tion she’s been answering for years. She believes that she will be placed in “I don’t want to go to law school for a different unit than the one she worked the same reasons as everyone else,” Ha- with in summer 2019. She requested ley said, cryptically, in the pub. this upon being hired and has full hopes And yet weeks later at October’s end, that if her experience sours for a second Haley sat three days before her second time, she can turn things around. attempt at the LSAT in King Library. “As a full-time employee, I have so Twelve chairs occupied the study much more power to speak out,” Dee room, but it was only she who sat hov- said. “A lot of people in HR would not ering over an open LSAT preparation put up with that.” book. Dee’s second LSAT went more Haley despises the LSAT. Retaking smoothly than the first, but she’s the test is the last thing she wants to learned not to put so much emphasis on spend her time on. the test itself rather than what she can But after her first result, she knew do with her score. she could study harder. She just knew “It has nothing to do with law. If I’m she could do better. not meant for that, that’s okay. I don’t And even just a handful of days out want a test to determine whether or not from her second LSAT, Haley can’t I’m going to be good at law,” she said. bring herself to even say out loud that “But there’s so many people who want to she wants to go to law school. Despite be lawyers. If I’m gonna go to law school, the fact that the two of us were alone I need to be going to a good law school.” in a King Library study room, she was Ultimately, as LSAT scores stay eligiterrified of someone discovering her un- ble for five years, Dee still hopes to use certainty. her scores on law school applications “I think a lot of people in my law down the line. school class know this is what they want “It’s just best that I work for a while,” to do,” she said. she said. “It would be nice for an emHer voice turned to a whisper. ployer to pay for [law school], but if “I’m still not sure if this is what I want that’s not the case and I still really want to do.” to go… you have to invest in yourself.” But she thinks that a J.D. will be beneficial for what she wants to do professionally. Working on animal rights legislation is her dream – she’d even worked
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Haley Later in the fall, when Haley met up with a friend who’d graduated from Miami a year early, they traded stories about their journeys with law school. While he’d been accepted to University of Michigan’s law school the year prior, he’d instead been completing a term with City Year, an AmeriCorps program in which participants work as classroom aides in schools across the country. In the past, Haley had heard from law students and attorneys alike that taking a gap year between their undergraduate education and their pursuit of a J.D. was one of the best decisions they’d ever made. Haley, engrossed in the throes of law school applications, believed it was too late to plan a gap year – until she applied for City Year. “I just thought I was a little too far behind to have a constructive way to spend a year off,” she said. “I heard about the opportunity and went for it.” Haley was raised by two teachers, so her mind had wandered to pursuing education in the past. But she still plans to pursue law school in the fall of 2021 – assuming she still wants to. “I still want to apply after taking a year off, refocusing,” she said. “It’ll just be good to make sure being an attorney is the route I want to take.” *** Beth Naylor was elected president of the Notre Dame Law Alumni Board for the 2013-14 school year. She’s worked with prospective law school applicants as well as students looking to get into the field, and as such, has been able to see firsthand what struggles exist for students today. She’s seen that now, there’s more information to prepare women for law school than ever – but with information comes a burden as well. “You get in your head about it … you can’t let it defeat you, you can’t focus on the negative things so much,” she said. “I wonder if it was better to not be aware of that from the get-go.” While women now make up over half of law school students, the numbers don’t reflect women occupying positions in the legal profession with that
same proportion. Neither do the experiences of Haley, Dee or Kelly. Naylor’s solution? Resilience. “Put up the good fight. Stay in the game,” she said. “Are there going to be challenges? Yes, any job is going to have challenges, but stay in the game. If we don’t stay in the game, we’re not doing anybody favors.” S
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