FOURTH ESTATE March 23, 2015 | Volume 2 Issue 18 George Mason University’s official student news outlet gmufourthestate.com | @IVEstate
Patriots of the Round Tables New classrooms designed to increase student engagement | page 7 (AMY ROSE/FOURTH ESTATE)
INSIDE: NEWS / WHERE’S CABRERA? / 5 • LIFESTYLE / MUSIC SCENE / 12 • OPINION / POLITICAL CORRECTNESS / 15
Crime Log March 19 2015-006945 / Hit and Run. Complainant (GMU) reported damage to a vehicle. Offender unknown/fled scene. Damage estimated $1,500. (30/Kessler) Lot C / Inactive / 8:36 a.m.
March 19 2015-007012 / Liquor Law Violations. Highly intoxicated subject (GMU) was transported to Access for medical attention. Subject was referred to Office of Housing and Residential Life for possessing alcohol while under age 21. (54/King) Rogers Hall / Referred to OHRL / 10:32 p.m.
March 19 2015-007022 / Burglary. Complainant (GMU) reported returning to their residence and finding it had been entered and several items had been stolen. Offender unknown/fled scene. Case referred to Investigations Unit. (54/King) Student Apartments / Pending / 11:32p.m.
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(JOHANNAH TUBALADO/FOURTH ESTATE)
Mason English professor Danielle Harms was recently profiled in a New York Timesâ€™ blog for her teaching methods. Read more on p. 6.
POPULAR LAST WEEK 1
Interview with the Candidates: Bhatia & Zaidi The first video in a series of interviewing student body candidates for President and Vice President.
Interview with the Candidates: Freeman & Sprague The second video in a series of interviewing student body candidates for President and Vice President.
Campus Drive remains undrivable The entrance was supposed to open on Jan. 7, but as of publication, it remains unusable to the public and there is no publicly announced completion date.
Letter from the editor: Life after Paul Hewitt Welcome back to your featured presentation of “Fourth Estate: Six More Issues Until This Letter Becomes Respectable.” Hopefully your spring break was enjoyable. Some highlights of my spring break were having a David Lynch book guide me through learning about transcendental meditation, learning to saber a champagne bottle and mainlining Gilmore Girls. I know everyone has dying to know my opinion, so, Jess > Logan > Dean. All are awful in their own way, and the person I have on top for Rory’s heart does close-up magic. Moving on to actual relevant information to you, Mason fired men’s basketball Coach Paul Hewitt this past week. As a coach in relation to media you couldn’t really ask for a nicer, more thoughtful coach. Hewitt was always gracious in my interactions with him, and was always willing to give answers beyond typical platitudes. From a student and fan perspective, I definitely see the case as to why he was fired. His offensive and defensive sets were lackluster and never really seemed to maximize the abilities of his players and recruits. Scoring has been going down across the nation in college basketball even as all offenses trended more toward the ‘Spurs-ification’ that the NBA -- less long-range/ mid-range twos and increased emphasis on attacking the basket and launching threes at will. Even with this national trend, the Patriots under Hewitt seemed particularly anemic. While Mason ranked in the top five in the Atlantic 10 in free throw attempts this season, they ranked dead last in three-pointers attempted. On defense, Hewitt-coached teams could never really seem to commit to how they wanted to defend opponents. Just as soon as they would put on the press, they would retreat and get lost inevitably leaving an open player behind the arc. While the Hewitt’s tactical decisions on the court were sub-optimal at best, what I think was a big contributor to his downfall were off-the-court factors. When he was hired in 2011, Mason had a different president and athletic director who ushered his arrival in Fairfax following his buyout at Georgia Tech. The new leadership at Mason had no real vested interest in keeping Hewitt around for the final year of his contract. Where Hewitt most struggled off-the-court was in generating enthusiasm with the dedicated fan base and donor base. Justifiable or not, Hewitt came in at a time when dedicated Mason fans were at their most agitated. Fans were stunned to see Jim Larranaga finally leave to pursue a major conference job. Larranaga left a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with returning key players, so the administration made the choice to select a coach that had also led a team to the Final Four in Hewitt and hoped to see an instant return on their investment. Of course that never ended up happening. Fans grew restless as the years passed with no postseason berth coinciding with the rise of what would become mid-major mainstays like Butler and VCU. Mason was always in the same national and local conversation of mid-major darlings that were bound for success due to a prior deep run in the tournament. There was a basic flaw in this premise, by its nature the NCAA Tournament is a freaking crapshoot. Even in professional sports, what we view as ‘upsets’ are really just random circumstances brought about the small sample size of single elimination in the case of the tournament and a seven-game series in professional sports. Games beyond 1-16 or sometimes 2-15 matchups become nothing more than slightly weighted coin flips. This doesn’t devalue what Mason did in 2006, but that Cinderella run was more likely the byproduct of luck and skill at the right time and right place rather than whatever narrative was spun at that time and in hindsight of a culture of grit and toughness. Beyond randomness, Butler and VCU were led to their success by winning the coaching lottery. Butler found Brad Stevens who led the team to compete in two national championship games and only failed to reach the NCAA Tournament once in his six seasons. Stevens’ prodigious talent earned him the head coaching job of the Boston Celtics. Shaka Smart has also been at the helm of VCU for six seasons, and like Stevens, has only failed to reach the NCAA Tournament once. Say what you will about whether his ‘Havoc’ defense is just marketing or not, it’s translatable to some measure of success in the college game. Mason fans saw their team trend in the wrong direction while others trended upward,
and this only built a sense of entitlement to what should have been for Mason and the burden of that blame fell squarely on Paul Hewitt’s shoulders. Even Hewitt’s first two seasons which resulted in two 20-win seasons rang hollow with the fan base or generate any more attendance or enthusiasm without a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, Mason fans should want their team to be in the best position possible to win every season and to generate some sort of excitement in Fairfax but there are 350 colleges each year that wonder what could have been. It’s good to appreciate the whirlwind time that was the later Larranaga years, but nostalgia and lingering on glory days can haunt a program if the goal is to recapture the magic of the past. Now Mason finds itself hoping to secure the winning lottery ticket to find the next Stevens or Smart, but fans should temper expectations and realize that just because Mason had a great run once doesn’t mean that will possibly ever repeat itself. Mason administration and fans need to shed the ghosts of the past, and look ahead beyond the shadow of Larranaga and 2006 to appreciate what new path Mason basketball can find under a new coach.
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Va. in-state ratio bill fails in committee again “There’s no intention to reduce the number of Virginia students in any way, shape or form. We are just trying to continue to grow as a university both nationally and globally,” Boyce said. But if this bill is ever successful in becoming law, that could mean an increase on in-state tuition, especially if there is less state financial aid to universities. Boyce said that a decision to raise tuition would be up to each school’s Board of Visitors. “The truth of the matter is that out of state students bring in a higher tuition base, so mathematically it could be [possible]. I guess the bottom line it’s just pure math,” he said. Currently, Mason’s in-state and full-time student’s tuition for one semester is around $5,000. The full-time out-of-state students pay over double at around $15,000, according to the IRR. Smith said that he does monitor these types of bills, but he’s more concerned with other issues like campus sexual assault, faculty pay raises and financial aid. According to The Office of Government and Community Relations website, they track VA bills on university curriculum, enrollment, finance, legal issues, students and also K-12 education and regional interest.
(WALTER MARTINEZ/FOURTH ESTATE)
RAQUEL DESOUZA | ASSISTANT ONLINE NEWS EDITOR
A Virginia General Assembly bill for a percentage cap on out-ofstate students wasn’t passed, again. The in-state ratio bill died in the Committee on Education in February 10. House Bill 2134 proposed that all Virginia universities, expect for Norfolk State University, Virginia State University and the Virginia Military Institute, a requirement to have 75% of its student population from Virginia. According to Mason’s Director of State Government Relations, Mark Smith, this bill has been brought up in Richmond every year for the past six or seven years. He said this is most likely because legislators get letters from their constituents asking why their son or daughter with a high GPA and plenty of AP courses didn’t get into the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary or Virginia Tech. According to the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia, VTech had around a 30% out-of-state student population for the academic year 2014-2015. UVa had around 33% and William and Mary had around 37%. George Mason was lower with around 23%. All four of these universities are part of the CollegeFactual Top 10 Best Colleges in Virginia. Mason is #7 in the ranking. Smith believes that Mason has become a first choice institution for a lot of first-year students and for transfer students from community colleges. He also said that the General Assembly was challenged with many other issues and this bill ended up on the back burner. But he thinks this bill could probably be brought up again. 40 percent of the state’s public school population growth will be in Northern Virginia. Loudoun, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties saw a growth of over 5% last year, according to Northern Virginia Magazine. Most of the state’s other counties will see a decrease in its student population, but the concentrated growth in Northern Virginia makes up for that. This could mean that representatives from this area will continue to hear concern
from parents about competitive in-state acceptance rates at prestigious Virginia schools. Even if this bill passed, it would not affect Mason’s admissions process. According to Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Matthew Boyce, the university doesn’t anticipate going past the proposed 25% cap. “From the Mason perspective, I don’t see it having a major impact on us,” Boyce said. “We continue to grow, but it’s internationally, nationally and locally. I would imagine that it would have more of an impact at other institutions.” According to the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, or IRR, Mason has a total population of over 32,000 this spring semester. This includes around 6,000 out-of-state students. Boyce said that this also includes around 100 international students. The numbers for the fall 2014 semester showed that 68 students are enrolled at the Mason global campus in Incheon, Korea. Although the residential population has been increasing, the Mason Master Plan states that, “The Fairfax campus is and will remain primarily a commuter campus.” There are currently about 6,000 on-campus students.
For the final budget compromise for fiscal year 2015-2016, Mason received an additional $950,000 in state aid. According to House Bill 1400, the university’s total in aid is around $907,000,000 for 2015 and around $930,000,000 for 2016. This includes funding for auxiliary enterprises, student financial assistance, educational and general programs and financial assistance for educational and general services. “These are the mountains we’re trying to move,” Smith said. The next Virginia legislative session will begin on Wednesday, April 15.
Cabrera no show remains unexplained REEM NADEEM | PRINT NEWS EDITOR
An “Ask Dr. Cabrera” event was supposed to take place on March 18; however, President Cabrera did not attend, and no one substituted in his absence. No statement was released explaining the situation. According to Newsdesk, another “Ask Dr. Cabrera” will take place April 29. Students and faculty representing GMU Transparency, who planned to use the event to ask questions about private donations to Mason, were disappointed with the administrative error and lack of explanation. According to Cabrera’s twitter, he was in Richmond for a campus sexual violence task force meeting. “I do think it’s an error, I wouldn’t go so far to say he did it intentionally but the fact that the error happened at all - I mean they previously specifically told us ‘come next time, bring your friends,’ so it’s not like it’s a surprise that we have some two, three dozen students here and the fact that people were waiting and a mistake like this happened - mistake or not, he’s not here and all of these people ready to say what they have to say but no one was here to listen,” Rachel Brewer, junior and Student Power member, said. Many Student Power members attended an earlier “Ask Dr. Cabrera” event this semester for the same purpose and plan to use these public forums as an opportunity to directly communicate with Cabrera and the administration. According to Colin Nackerman, junior and Student Power member, Cabrera told
Student Power he would be willing to meet with members of the group and discuss concerns over an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. “It’s unfortunate because...with things of this nature, it is really important to [Student Power], and it is our only forum for us to speak with Cabrera since he refuses to meet with us still, even though he said he would meet with us, he still won’t. So this was really our opportunity, now this kind of pushes our timeline back even farther. It just postpones what we’re trying to do even more,” Nackerman said. Students and faculty have been advocating for transparency at Mason since August 2014 when Student Power wrote an open letter to the administration stating their concerns. Student Power campaigns to reduce student debt and for contingent faculty’s rights, while GMU Transparency is trying to get answers about private funding at Mason and the effects it may have on academic freedom. The two groups are separate but affiliated. According to Samantha Parsons, junior and co-founder of Student Power, some students expressed concern to her about a loss of academic freedom. Brewer said that while there may not be an obvious effect, the possibility of strings attached to donations is always present. “I feel like there’s always that shadow hovering over [faculty], that you have to be careful with what you do if you want to keep your job,” Brewer said.
Associate Professor of Art Mark Cooley, who brought his students to the event, said he felt that though his academic freedom has not been hindered, it is a possibility. “... [P]ersonally, no I don’t feel my academic freedom has been limited. I’ve had a really good experience here and a lot of support among my colleagues,” Cooley said. “I see the potential for it though, because I look at other schools as a model...Of course schools are looking for private money and they should be, because public money is drying up, but it is concerning because of strings that may be attached, and especially groups that have a very strong record of having a large lobby and so on, so you wonder definitely.” Although there may not yet be a consensus over the extent to which academic freedom may be limited at Mason, Cooley said practicing political activism at the student level is a unique opportunity. “I was telling the students I thought it was amazing when I was in college the idea of getting engaged with the political process and so on was just so far out. I was just so engaged with my studies, relationships, trying to pay the rent and working that it’s really a great thing that they’re doing this,” Cooley said. “No matter what their political beliefs, just their political activism is just a great thing. And it makes me look forward to the future because so many people are down on the kids of today and it makes me hopeful because we need more participation, more engagement.”
Students and faculty wait for the opportunity to speak directly with President Ángel Cabrera on March 18 in Research Hall.
(PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLIAM DICKSON)
news Lunch date: teaching composition through imaginary conversation
(JOHANNAH TUBALADO/FOURTH ESTATE)
MADISON ANTUS | STAFF WRITER
Mason English professor Danielle Harms was recently profiled in the New York Times’ blog The Learning Network, for a new method of teaching English Composition to Mason students. The Learning Network is a website that offers “rich and imaginative materials for teaching and learning using New York Times content,” according to their website. Some of the content they post includes lesson plans, student opinion pieces, news quizzes and ideas from readers. Last semester, Harms sent in her own idea. “Months ago, kind of on a whim, I impulsively submitted that idea. I thought ‘it draws heavily on the New York Times, I really like this project and I’ve worked hard on it, so maybe I’ll try and share it,’ and then I heard nothing, and I forgot about it for months. And it was just in February or late January when an editor contacted me and said they wanted to run with it,” Harms said. Harms has been developing this method for about three years. It begins with Harms assigning her students the following project: “The New York Times editors are proud of the writing they publish in the Room for Debate series, but they have noticed a problem: The responses are brief, and often interested readers are left wanting more. That’s where you come in. The editors have decided to expand the Room for Debate series by publishing a few thorough and in-depth essays responding to the debate questions.” She then asks her students to write an essay answering one of the previous debate questions featured on the Room for Debate series.
The first step for students is completing an in-class writing assignment that Harms says is her favorite step in the process. Students decide what question from the Room for Debate series they are interested in, and then they read that article and research it. The next step is slightly different from normal composition projects - students pretend to have lunch with the New York Times editors to discuss their idea. “Once that’s done, I tell students …to imagine that the New York Times editors know that they are writing an essay in response to one of their “Room for Debate” questions, and that to help them understand the many sides of the debate, they thought it would be helpful for the student to go to lunch with some of the experts who weighed in on their “Room for Debate” question,” Harms said. The students then write down the “conversation” they have with these experts. Harms described it as a great learning experience. “I really like it because it’s playful and imaginative,” Harms said. She continued, saying “students come up with great stuff, and I get a kick from seeing how people portray the lunchtime conversation.” “For some reason there’s always more than one person who includes the characters in the dialogue ordering drinks, and they always ask for Perrier,” Harms said. “I get a kick out of that too.” The process finishes with peer review, a final draft and a “lessons learned” paper.
“We spend about seven weeks working on this project, and for many students it’s the longest they’ve ever spent on the writing process for one paper,” Harms said.
As far as Harms’ students, she says that many of her students are surprised at how much they like being in a composition class, and at how much they learn.
Harms said that her enthusiasm for teaching isn’t a rare occurrence.
Harms said that recently “a student admitted that she’s been pleasantly surprised by how helpful and applicable the class has been so far. I understand that reaction. It’s a required class and I always try to acknowledge to students on the first day that while I love teaching this class, I’m aware that when they look at their schedules a composition class may not be the shining star they’ve been looking forward to for months.”
“While I was thrilled to have my teaching resources featured in the New York Times, I also think the way I teach the research project is pretty reflective of an approach shared by many others in the Composition Department,” Harms said. She described other educators in the department as “professors working to engage students in creative and innovative ways.” Eric Eisner, associate professor of English, agreed with Harms’ statement. “I think in our composition program generally, instructors put a good deal of time and energy into coming up with assignments that help students think of their essays as a chance to do genuine writing,” Eisner said. When Harms began thinking about this method of teaching, she said that she looks for ways to teach that will be “intellectually challenging” to students at any level, while teaching them skills they can apply to their professional, academic and social lives and allows them to write about something they are interested in, or that is in their academic field. “I also look for something where students are working on an extensive writing process, where they’re kind of experimenting with ways of writing or steps in the drafting process that they can apply in other writing tasks,” Harms said.
Eisner said that the assignment “strikes me as the kind of assignment likely to produce much stronger, much more engaged and engaging essays than would a more traditional prompt along the lines of ‘just research something that interests you’ or ‘choose sides on some controversial topic.’” He also added that this assignment showed students that issues have “multiple viewpoints and areas of agreement and disagreement that cut across positions,” instead of the common essay that requires students to argue for or against a topic. Harms sees this class as a way for students to develop skills they can use at Mason and in their professional lives. “It’s a chance to exercise critical thinking skills and to investigate interesting questions that students are genuinely curious about. No matter what students do in their professional, social or civic lives they are sure to communicate, and the ability to do it well is invaluable.”
Looking at learning upside down she is less attentive in lectures than in flipped rooms.
supposed to write it down in their notebooks and do the homework.”
“The big difference is active learning versus passive learning,” Aralar said. “I know that I can sit in a lecture and fall asleep, not take notes, be on a laptop, whatever, but it’s really hard to do that in the [alternative], flipped classrooms.”
This is not the case in flipped classrooms. Kinser said, instead, a teacher must prepare everything ahead of time. This leaves more time for application and conversation during class. The room then becomes more active, compared to a lecture environment.
Mason is expanding the use of these classrooms in an overhaul of the third floor of Innovation Hall. Construction is currently under way, and it is expect(ERIKA EISENACHER/FOURTH ESTATE) ed to be completed in time for fall classes. According ELLEN GLICKMAN | PRINT NEWS EDITOR to Kimberly Eby, associate provost of faculty In mid-February, Mason was praised for turning development, regularly scheduled technology the average classroom on its head. The school updates for the building have a budget of $1.2 was recognized for embracing the concept of million, along with additional money for third a flipped classroom - a space designed to foster floor changes. The renovations coincide with student engagement and team learning. the first student goal of Mason’s strategic plan, The school was one of three winners in the 2015 “Innovative Learning,” which includes an initiaEDUCAUSE Learning Initiative video competi- tive to make “new and innovative physical and tion. ELI, who hosts the annual contest with the virtual learning spaces.” New Media Consortium, is a non-profit that uses information technology to improve higher education. Each year, ELI and NMC compile a list of IT trends at colleges, and schools submit videos that demonstrate creative use of one of the technologies. The items for 2015 were: flipped classrooms, Bring Your Own Device, Makerspaces, wearable technology, adaptable learning technologies and Internet of Things. Mason won for its use of flipped classrooms, which are essentially rooms with furniture and technology arranged in such a way that encourages students to work in groups as active learners. Round tables fill these rooms, so there is no front nor back of the class and no definite focal point from which a teacher could lecture. Mobility characterizes many of the items in a flipped classroom. The tables have wheels and can also split in half. The chairs move, as will projection screens that come down from the ceiling or up from the tables, planned for Innovation Hall. Ben McCall, a junior electrical engineering major, said learning in a flipped room is a novel experience. “Being in the class was a whole new world,” McCall said. The goal of the room is to make an environment where students become invested in their work. “The whole thing is, it’s just giving the reins to the students and letting them have a little bit of a say in what they want to learn,” Katherine Pettigrew, an assistant term professor in the College of Science, said. April Aralar, a junior bioengineering major, said
Eby said this is an opportunity for Mason “to take what we know about best practices around student learning and student engagement and to build classrooms that give faculty members the flexibility to engage students in individual work and collaborative team-based work.” According to Eby, these rooms give teachers the opportunity “to capitalize on some of what we’re learning about the science of learning.” No flipped classrooms are exactly the same, and this variety will be seen in the updated Innovation Hall. A goal is “to build a variety of different kinds of classrooms that afford those kinds of active and collaborative student engagement strategies,” according to Eby. However, she said specific components of the classrooms have become popular among students and teachers. One example is the walls, which, in current classrooms, are whiteboards. Aralar said she likes the whiteboards because, while working with them, it is easier to know when she has gone off track. “I like knowing that I’m doing it right, so being able to write up there and the professor validating if I’m getting it right or somebody else coming over and saying, ‘No it’s actually like this,’” Aralar said. A teacher’s approach in an active learning classroom is very different from the current norm, according to Jason Kinser, associate professor in the School of Physics. “It’s completely different,” Kinser said. “In a normal classroom, we prepare lectures, you stand on a stage, you tell them everything, and they’re
McCall said student preparation is also necessary to make the design work. “I think the attitude behind the flipped class is to do a little more preparation ahead of time, so that when you come in to the classroom you’re ready to hit the ground running with questions and with answers,” McCall said. The flipped style is not everyone or every class, Pettigrew explained. She said the rooms are only successful when both faculty and students are open to the format. “You have to have the faculty engaged in teaching that style, and that’s not for all faculty because it’s taking them out of their comfort zones,” Pettigrew said. “It’s a very tricky question because you’ve got to have the faculty who believes in the method and then believes in the course material that could be taught that way. Not everything can be that way.” She said classes that involve critical thinking and concept mapping are well-suited for flipped rooms, as well as courses for early students. “I think every student should have one class in a flipped room,” Pettigrew said. “And it really needs to be their freshman or sophomore level so they can still make the decision to get out of college before they are that far in debt.” Pettigrew also said the active learning environment has the benefit of being similar to the typical workplace. “We’re in a business meeting,” Pettigrew said of her interactions with students. “We’re having a discussion. Let’s make this two-way to see if you guys are understanding the meat of the information.”
“I’m a firm believer that if you are not immersed into your computer, you’re not going to be successful in this world,” Pettigrew said. “Every job requires that.” “In class,” Pettigrew said, “we’re using it [electronics] as a tool and a resource to go after what we need.” According to a 2011 Pew Research Center Study, 88% of undergraduates own a laptop. Kinser said if a student is in need of a laptop, the physics department has backups. Eby said she does not anticipate many students lacking the necessary technology to learn in these classrooms. “In some limited situations, [like] a software engineering class, they may not have it on their own computer or the instructor may not want them to do that,” Eby said. “But a lot of the time they’re just pulling up something in Microsoft office and doing that - like an Excel sheet or a Word document or something like that - or posting something on Blackboard, and they don’t need to have a special program to make that happen.” Some critical research has surfaced as flipped classrooms become more common. A few studies suggested there is no significant improvement in students who learn in flipped rooms compared to those in lecture halls. Others say the spaces require students to self-teach, and the role of professor is diminished. However, for the past two years, Kinser said he and other colleagues in the physics department have been collecting data that compares student performance in lecture to flipped classes, with optimistic results. “We’re watching how the students perform as they progress through their four years at Mason and try to get more of a feel for the long term impact of active learning,” Kinser said. He shared some results of the two years of number collection. “The average scores for the physics classes in the active learning room are ten to fifteen percent higher on exams than they are for the lecture room,” Kinser said.
The teamwork is also a key aspect of the workplace, according to McCall, who works for the Naval Research Laboratory.
Kinser said it is rare for students in lecture halls to improve exam grades as the semester goes on. Students in the flipped rooms, however, “had a 50/50 chance of improving,” he said.
“It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a collaborative session like we would have at a real job,” McCall said.
Perhaps most telling of a flipped classroom’s success, Kinser said attendance is almost perfect.
Bring Your Own Device is frequently encouraged in flipped classrooms. McCall said BYOD also adds to the real-world feel. “We were encouraged to use computers, smartphones, any kind of technology, websites we could find,” McCall said. “You could use WolframAlpha, which is a huge math tool, so we’re able to utilize resources and that’s a huge part of working in the working world.” Pettigrew said computer competency can be a vital part of a student’s education.
“We’re also seeing a tremendous amount of enthusiasm,” Kinser said. “The attendance rate in the active learning room is close to 100%.” Kinser said he as seen more students take ownership of their work. “For students that are A and A+ students, I don’t think the active learning does much,” Kinser said. “They’re already engaged, they already know the stuff, but for the rest of the population, more normal population, the active learning seems to gain enthusiasm and involvement and pride.”
Polar vortex, jet stream are at the heart of cold temperatures NATALIA KOLENKO | STAFF WRITER
While Fairfax had a relatively usual winter, the rest of the country had a season out of sync with the norm. The weather in Fairfax may have seemed more extreme than usual, but multiple Mason environmental science professors and students confirmed the weather was normal for the region. “While this winter [has been] ‘normal,’ it’s also fair to say that this winter the weather in the U.S. has been ‘unusual’ in the sense that the eastern third of the country has been anomalously cold for an unusually long spell,” said Jim Kinter, a professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences. “New England has received more snow this year than ever recorded in a single winter [and] the weather in the U.S. has been more persistently unusual than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.” Natalie Burls, also a professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, said this unusual weather is due to the polar vortex and the jet stream behaving unusually. The website Science Hijinks, a joint National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA educational website, describes the polar vortex as an area of low pressure—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—that is parked in polar regions. The website says this low-pressure system is almost always in these polar regions, but sometimes, full of cold Arctic air, it can break off and migrate southward, bringing all of that cold air with it. The website also says that the polar vortex has traveled south to areas like Fairfax because the vortex has been weakened. “As climate change causes the polar ice caps to melt, the polar vortex becomes loosened and is able to travel south towards the eastern United States,” junior Piash Debnath, an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major, said. Eric Altshuler, a research scientist of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, described the normal pattern of the jet stream in winter as flowing across the continent in a more or less west-to-east direction. Altshulter then described the unusual jet pattern, which has been occurring the past two winters. He said the jet stream has been entering North America farther to the north of its normal position and exiting farther to the south. This then causes abnormal warmth and dryness west of the Rockies and frequent surges of Arctic air from Canada, resulting in below-normal temperatures over most of the eastern U.S. Debnath said there are a number of factors that may have contributed to the unusual positions of the polar vortex and the jet stream, but climate change may play a part in it. “The block of cold air that usually stays trapped near Greenland may have escaped because of the melting of the glaciers and at times during this year and last year, the temperature in the North Pole has been higher than in the eastern
(JOHANNAH TUBALADO/FOURTH ESTATE)
United States,” Debnath said. “Overall, the average temperature of the globe is still increasing, but the low and high temperatures of many parts of the world have been drastic, leading to crop failures and economic disasters.” Kinter said that climate change is usually measured on a much larger scale than just an individual city like Fairfax, but if Fairfax and Mason are affected, it would be due to increasing
sea levels. “The Third National Climate Assessment suggests that sea level rise is a serious threat to coastal and tidewater Virginia, with anticipated increases in sea level that will negatively impact coastal infrastructure, fisheries and transportation,” Kinter said. In terms of what Fairfax winter temperatures will be like in the future, Burls said that it is hard
to predict regional temperatures, but Fairfax will likely continue to see these extremely cold temperatures during some winters due to natural variability in the jet stream and the polar vortex. Burls continued that the only “unusual” aspect of this weather is that it occurs infrequently; whether or not climate change will result in any changes in the frequency or intensity of these events is a topic of ongoing scientific research.
Master’s Degrees That Matter Accelerated Master’s programs for George Mason undergraduates:
• Master of Public Administration • Master of Public Policy • International Commerce and Policy • Political Science • Biodefense
Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs also offers Master’s degrees in:
• International Security • Peace Operations • Organization Development and Knowledge Management • Transportation Policy, Operations, and Logistics • Health and Medical Policy
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
#GMU “George Mason’s men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt will not return next season #GMU”
@NBCdianna Dianna Marie Russini
“I hope GMU knows how they destroyed my heart when they took away La Pat and OG Burger. Thanks #MasonNation”
@corinneyy_ Corinne McMichael
(SAVANNAH NORTON/FOURTH ESTATE)
#RidetheYak stopped by the Johnson Center on Friday, March 20 to give away freebies and pose for photo ops.
We had so much fun today at the North Plaza giving away candy and ribbons for Good Deeds Day #gmualphaphi #gmugood”
@GMUAlphaPhi GMU Alpha Phi
“He kissed me! #RideTheYak #GMU”
POPULAR LAST WEEK ON GMUFOURTHESTATE.COM 1
10 apps for student survival From fitness to studying to travel, there is an app for everything. We have compiled a list of the best apps to get you through the rest of the semester.
Black history from behind the lens The documentary “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” discusses the history of the portrayal of African Americans.
Photo gallery: Pentatonix The Grammy award winning a cappella group performed at the Patriot Center last week.
Studying Abroad in Florence “I chose to live with a host family because I wanted to experience a more authentic Italy,” Sophomore Matthew Odom said, “Students studying abroad often live by themselves or with other students and create a sort of ‘mini America’ in which they only speak English, only go to American bars and clubs, and only have American friends. By living with a host family, I’ve forced myself into interacting and better experiencing Italy.”
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Another popular means for ‘experiencing Italy’ is weekend travel outside of Florence.
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“One of the unique facets of the program is that generally speaking, students have off every Friday,” Professor Cathy Wright said. “This allows people to travel widely.” “On the weekends, I usually dedicate at least one day to homework so I can travel on the other day,” Odom said, “So far, I’ve only done day trips but I plan to branch out and do an overnight trip soon.” BARBARA BROPHY | STAFF WRITER
Twenty-three Mason undergraduates are currently living and studying in Florence, Italy through the Center for Global Education’s Florence Semester. The program allows students to earn class credit while taking in the enriching atmosphere of Florentine arts and culture. Students left the United States in early January and will return in early May. While abroad, all are required to enroll in 15 credit hours. These hours must include an Italian Language course and a seminar on Global Propaganda taught by Communications Professor Cathy Wright, the program’s academic director. Classes are held at two locations within the city’s historical center: Centro Fiorenza and CAPA International Education, both of which are former palaces. On a typical weekday, students can be found rushing through downtown Florence on their way to classes or accompanying professors on excursions to art museums or other historical sights. “My Italian Art History course takes place in famous museums all around Florence where we [analyze] pieces of art throughout history for three hours,” Sophomore Stephen James Guion said, “It’s very rewarding learning about so many events and places, and then having the privilege of going to visit and actually touch the ruins themselves.” While abroad, Mason students have the option of living in an apartment or with an Italian host family.
Along with traveling throughout Italy, students are learning the country’s language and getting an honest taste of its lifestyle. “I think a lot of my pre-conceptions of Italy have disappeared,” Odom said. “[Americans] often picture Italy as a care-free, beautiful place run by the Mafia where it’s always warm and sunny and no one works. This could not be farther from the truth. It’s cold here, it rains a lot, and not every place is beautiful. The Mafia isn’t everywhere and yes, people go to work.” Yet Florence is distinguished from other Italian cities by its welcoming and accessible atmosphere, something that makes living here less jarring to the inexperienced American student. “Florence is a good place for students to study abroad because it is in a central location in Italy. It’s a tourist town and most people here also speak English, so if you don’t speak Italian, or don’t speak it well, you will be able to communicate easily,” Professor Wright said. “It’s a small town, which means it’s easy to get around, which is nice since we don’t have cars.” On the whole, students are accumulating an invaluable set of new skills by living in Florence. “Studying abroad teaches the student a lesson of leaving their comfort zone and stepping into a new culture where not everything is going to come easily,” Guion said. “A lot can be learned, especially when you choose to adapt to your surroundings, rather than bringing your home-country over with you.”
(Valid for Carry Out with GMU ID or Delivery to GMU Fairfax Campus Only)
One Large 1 Topping Pizza…
(tax and delivery charge not included, $9 Minimum Delivery)
MORE STUDENT VALUE DEALS! One Medium 1 Topping Pizza…$6.99 each Choose any Two (or more) items…$5.99 each
Small 10” pizza w/2 top / Sandwich / Pasta tin / 8pc Chicken (Code 9181)
3 Mediums w/ 1 top each…$5.55 each (Online only Code 9116)
One Xtra-Large Cheese…$8.99 (Online Code XL) 2 (or more) Med pizzas w/2 tops each….$5.99 each (Code 9193) (online code items good for both on & off campus delivery) (Remember some deals are not available online. Pan & Brooklyn crusts additional) Must mention special when ordering. Offer can’t be combined with other offers or specials. Prices do NOT include sales tax. Delivery areas may be limited to ensure safe driving and excellent service. Pan & Brooklyn crusts are additional. Delivery charges may apply. Drivers carry LESS than $20.00 MINIMUM DELIVERY is $9.00
HOURS OF OPERATION during GMU School Year… Mon-Thurs 10:30am until 1am and Fri-Sat until 2am (Summer and Mason school break hours we close at 12mid Mon-Thu and 1am Fri-Sat)
10649-A Braddock Rd (University Mall)
Fresh life in a ghost town Where is Mason’s music scene?
band’s upcoming full-length album, Home: Loss and Ghosts, is being recorded at Mason’s recording studio. “For us it’s a matter of convenience,” Iqbal said. “Because of my major, I can get us a session at any available time. It’s wellequipped and a great studio to work in, it’s just that a lot of people don’t know about it.” The band hopes to help revitalize the music scene in Fairfax and the rest of Northern Virginia and recording the album locally is one step on the ladder. It is a lofty goal with no clear course of action. In a commuter town based around movement with a clear lack of permanence, keeping a music scene young and healthy is difficult. During the winter, the group performed at locations throughout Virginia, as well as a few spots in North Carolina. However, the only local venue the band performed at along this route is Jammin’ Java in Vienna. The band is aware of this disconnect, but still strives to help improve the scene. “I mean, sure the scene’s a little lacking,” Fall said. “But we don’t really have anyone to blame for that but ourselves. It has the potential to be a great scene, and I think we can make it better.” “I don’t think really any of us plan in staying in Virginia our whole lives, but while we’re here, we want to make the most of it and have an impact,” Iqbal said.
(COURTESY OF DONOVAN HALL)
“I am not the same ghost that I was before,” Fall said in the band’s recent single, “Sonder.” JESSE HARMAN | STAFF WRITER
Fairfax, along with most of Northern Virginia, is a mixing bowl of millions of individuals chasing success and capitalizing on the plethora of opportunities available. This ecosystem bulges with a variety of cultures, and yet it still lacks a culture of its own. The cultural sterility is especially true with music. Venues can open and close within the same year. South of D.C. and north of Richmond, bands and musicians swirl with frantic desperation in an attempt to break into both respective scenes. So when asked about the music scene in Northern Virginia, specifically Fairfax, the most accurate response is: “What music scene?” Despite a tidal wave of opposition to young bands in the area, Fairfax-based alternative rock band Castle of Genre stands primed and ready for a breakout. Mason students Brandon Iqbal (guitars and vocals), Joey Fall (guitars and vocals), and Patrick Stolte (bass), along with Virginia Commonwealth University student Anthony Crawford (drums), anchor the indie outfit all along the Virginia landscape. The group’s popularity has blossomed at venues on the east coast, and they have maintained a consistent online presence. The band has gotten about as big as big can get for this small scene, but even potential local legends have humble beginnings. “Freshman year of high school, we were at this party and a bunch of people were jumping on a trampoline,” Fall said. “Brandon and I weren’t really feeling that, so we went inside, played some guitar, and shared some songs.” “I remember looking at him and I said to him, ‘You can really do this. We can really make something out of this,’” Iqbal said. “So we started getting together and set the groundwork for some early Castle stuff.”
A few years passed, lineups shifted, and a few songs sprinkled their way onto the internet. But finally, Castle of Genre solidified its current lineup and released its EP Vint Hill in February of 2013, named after an abandoned Army facility near the members’ homes in Gainesville. The wheels have kept turning with no end in sight, and the band cut a break any musician would dream of: “Sleeves,” the single off of Vint Hill, was featured on the Netflix original, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. “My uncle’s been writing for a bunch of TV shows for a while,” Fall said. “He’s been telling me for a long time that he wants our music to be on one of his shows. He finally got the creative control to do that, so it just sort of fell into place.” Weeks of talks with lawyers and executives passed until finally the band could see the feature. Instead of just a short snippet for background music, Castle of Genre received an incredible amount of exposure. “We really had no idea going in what to expect,” Stolte said. “We thought it’d just be like five seconds of the song.” “It was a full-on plug,” Iqbal added. “They said our name and the song title, twice, and the song played for a pretty long time. It was just really cool to see.” The band’s popularity surged shortly after the show’s premiere, earning them a spike in followers worldwide. New and old fans alike poured in with support across nearly all social media outlets. On the positive results of the television spot, Fall said, “It’s incredible, you know? That’s part of our legacy. As long as that show’s online somewhere, or on DVD, whatever, we’ll be a part of it.” Despite the band’s budding and more global fanbase, the group makes efforts to keep their efforts local to Northern Virginia. The
Even after Castle of Genre’s best efforts, and those of many others in the area, there is always the possibility that the music scene may never flourish. But for all the area has going against them and other young musicians, Castle of Genre continues to evolve and push towards new heights. For the band, success is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”
(WALTER MARTINEZ/FOURTH ESTATE)
Spring into a box of tissues KELSEY DAVIDSON | STAFF WRITER
As spring slowly arrives, moods improve alongside the weather. But for some, the warmer weather brings something a little less cheerful: spring allergies. The stuffy nose (or runny), watery and itchy eyes, headaches and the constant sneezing are about to arrive. “Spring time allergies really suck. They are the worse and I know the allergy seasons have been gradually getting worse, like last year’s was really bad,” said Haley Savino, an undeclared. “In terms of myself, I had the worse throat problems and I just sounded horrible because my throat gets really scratchy and itchy when allergy season comes around. It was so horrible, I had to bring a tissue box to school, it was hard times.” “My eyes get really irritated, weird, like there are a thousand fuzz balls in the back of my eye sockets and my nose gets all stuffy,” said Nathan Baker, Philosophy major. Sometimes allergies can be a hard thing to pinpoint with symptoms similar to a cold, but Student Health Services are working hard to keep the Mason community healthy. There is no charge to be seen by one of the healthcare providers at the office. “An exam with provider, one of the nurse practitioners or one of the physicians here, would help us with that [whether it is allergies or a cold],” said Lisa Campo RN, adult nurse practitioner of Student Health Services. “So, we actually do examine the person’s nose and the nose will look different if it’s an allergic reaction versus if it is a cold and there are some other things that go along with it. It can sometimes be hard for the person to tell the difference. Sometimes it will clear throughout the day, like when they are inside, in air-conditioning and then gets worse
when they go outside.“ According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies are greatly influenced by the weather as a windy day or mild winter could led to more pollen. Pollen is also at its worse during mid-day and the afternoon. Campo says that the time for spring allergies is starting now, as the weather gets warmer and plants start to bloom. However, there are things that Student Health Services can do to help those suffering from allergies. “There are quite a few things we can do, we can help students with identifying what some of their triggers might be, if it’s spring type allergies, outdoor kind of things,” Campo said. “We can help with prescribing medications for them. We can also get them referred to an allergist if it’s really bad and they need testing. And we do offer help with allergy shots here, where they have been prescribe by their allergist if they need them. Sometimes it’s just the beginning of needing allergy medication that we can prescribe for them.” Pollen is practically everywhere, so it is hard to escape. Even if one may never have had allergies before, this could be the season that they hit. “Usually [students] come to this area and get allergies, but the thing is, when you live in different areas you are exposed to different pollens and you can have different reactions, but we are a very highly allergic area pollen type area” Campo said. The ACAAI says to keep your windows and doors shut to avoid allergens, and to shower or change clothes once exposed to pollen. Those affected can also wear a mask when doing outdoor chores and take needed medication before going outdoors.
(LAURA BAKER/FOURTH ESTATE)
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When education advances a political agenda American higher education has a reputation for being liberally biased. The allegation, generally coming from conservative circles, is that public education especially at the collegiate level indoctrinates youths and compels them to advance a radical agenda. Like many stereotypes, it has its factually dubious moments. However one course offered at Mason that has already garnered extensive attention online may fit the stereotype. Last month, student and conservative writer Ashley Goldenberg penned a column found at the Daily Caller about Dr. Paul Gorski’s spring course NCLC475, titled “Animal Rights as Ecofeminism.”
while punishing ideological opponents, all in a public education setting. That is a near perfect example of taxpayer-funded viewpoint discrimination. It is also peculiar because Gorski is known for not being a policer of thought. According to the entry for Gorski on ratemyprofessors.com, the professor in question gets wide acclaim for his welcoming of debate. “He encourages class participation so be prepared to speak out in class. He values the opinions of his students,” posted one student. “He loves students opinions, and always gives good responses to whatever they say even if he doesn’t agree,” posted another.
Goldenberg accused Gorski of having a course that was absurd, especially in its effort to connect animal cruelty to “sexism, racism, heterosexism, imperialism and poverty.”
As Gorski noted in a rebuttal to the Goldenberg piece, “I have never had a single student note on a course evaluation that I taught in ways that were politically biased.”
In defense of Gorski, there is no rule for public professors mandating that they never teach a course that has at its core an argument.
Then again, how diverse is that sample space? There are not a lot of conservative or Republican students who will consciously take courses with titles like “Animal Rights as Ecofeminism.”
For my own studies in history, I took a summer course arguing that New Deal reforms as a collective had failed by the 1980s. This was a position disputed by some taking the course. However one crucial difference exists between that history course and the animal rights course. For my summer class, disagreement with the central thesis did not affect an individual’s grade. Yet Gorski’s spring course does in fact penalize individuals who may be unwilling to participate in animal rights activism. According to the NCLC-475 syllabus, the course is graded on a scale of 1,000 points, with 1,000 being an A. However, 300 of those points are connected to a project called “Building a Local Campaign.” This project demands that students form groups and “identify a contemporary animal rights issue and develop and (partially) deliver a campaign on that issue that is grounded in the principles of ecofeminism and intersectional activism.” Said action is listed as something that must be legal yet can “be educational, or protest-centered” and students must “find a way to document the action in photographs or images or video or in some other manner.” If one is opposed to taking part in Eco-Feminist activism, too bad. They can lose 300 points and go from an A to a C-. That Gorski’s course does not allow those who disagree with ecofeminism to organize an action more in keeping with their views is troubling. Gorski is effectively rewarding ideological peers
If everyone in said sample space agrees that animal rights and feminism are linked and deserve unflinching support, then of course no one will protest being academically compelled to take part in said activism. Do feminism and animal rights intersect in such a manner which calls for the elimination of all oppressions overt and covert? That is an argument for another time and another place. What can be said here is that no student who disagrees with such a thesis should be compelled to go against their beliefs and be forced at the threat of a lower grade to take part in advancing said cause. Supporters of the course could always say take another class. By that reasoning, Mason should be able to have a Christian evangelism course offered wherein students have to complete a group proselytization project. If people do not like it, then simply do not take the course, right? The issue at hand is whether or not people who are paying ever increasing tuition fees are having their money directly funneled into programs that actively and blatantly campaign for a partisan agenda. Judging by the syllabus for NCLC475 / WMST-600, “Animal Rights as Ecofeminism” fits such an accusation. It fits that stereotype of liberally biased higher education all too well. MICHAEL GRYBOSKI / COLUMNIST
Is political correctness a danger to society? According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of political correctness is as follows: “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” There are many people in the United States who feel as though being politically correct is something that we all come to accept. Quite frankly, I amongst many other conservatives feel as though political correctness is a danger, as well as a menace, to society. One could make the argument that I’m a hardcore conservative, but the facts are that I’m quite the contrary. I grew up on the fact that a person should tell something the way it should be said—upfront and honestly. I think a great example could be that if someone is doing something deemed morally wrong or inappropriate, they should be called out on directly and in a matter-offact fashion. Others would think of this as cruel or harsh. Another prime example of political correctness being a danger to society is the descriptive label concerning the phrase “African-American.” The irony is that this can be perceived as an offensive label. The masses want to be identified as “AfricanAmerican” without giving it a second thought. I do not covet this title in any way, shape, or form. I find it to be quite offensive as there is no direct correlation between the label and biological reality or ethnicity. For instance, a person could be placed under the
label of being “African-American” when in reality they may be of Native descent. The aforementioned examples while only a few, remain too many to list. Even as early as the last fifteen years, applications for employment state in the ethnicity section “check all that apply” and or “one or more races”. My point is that race is not all black and white as people see it. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” My point is that the truth needs to be said regardless of whom it may offend. I may not like something someone says, however they have every right to it, as protected under our First Amendment. Let’s be realistic, we live in a harsh world and the sooner our generation, who is largely liberal, realizes that, the sooner we can acknowledge the real problems in our country. I understand that it is important to some that we as a society should be sensitive on many issues, but it’s time that we become a society that reports the true and cold facts, rather than one that censors some of the information for the sake of protecting the interests of one group over the other. That in itself is dangerous and if we teach the future generation that, the America I know and live in will not last very much longer after my generation is gone. AARON M. WILSON / COLUMNIST
WILLIAM & MARY
2-1 (W) 1-0 (W)
6-10 (L) 1-8 (L) 5-1 (W)
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
THE WEEK AHEAD SPORT
HOW TO WATCH
MARCH 24-25 3 P.M.
MARCH 27 7 P.M.
(FOURTH ESTATE ARCHIVES)
Men’s basketball head coach Paul Hewitt was fired on March 16 after four seasons. For the full story, visit our website.
THIS WEEK IN SPORTS
Mason Cable Network will be streaming all home baseball, men’s volleyball and women’s lacrosse games this season. For more information, visit masoncablenetwork.com
Looking for a new coach The men’s basketball team lost to Fordham on March 11 in the opening round of the A-10 tournament for the second consecutive year. On March 16, coach Paul Hewitt was fired after four seasons. Mason has begun looking for a replacement.
March Mats Junior Greg Flournoy and senior Jake Kettler both earned spots at the NCAA Tournament wrestling competition in St. Louis, M.O. on March 19. Kettler lost in his matchup, but Flournoy advanced to the second day of competition before losing to Noel Blanco, a wrestler from Drexel University.
Mulgrew to MLS Timi Mulgrew, senior forward and this past season’s leading scorer of the men’s soccer team, signed a contract with the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer. Mulgrew went through training camp on a tryout with the team before earning a contract.
Volume 2, Issue 18