The Spectator The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper
Volume 111 No. 2
“The Pulse of the Student Body”
September 22, 2020
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
Junior Caucus, Cynthia Tan and Elio Torres
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
Courtesy of Gitae Park and Satvik Agnihotri
Senior Caucus, Ruth Lee and Falina Ongus
Sophomore Caucus, Satvik Agnihotri and Gitae Park
Kristoff Misquitta Wins Genes in Space Competition
In-Person Classes Delayed Until October 1
By ANDY CHEN, NADA HAMEED, SARAH HUYNH, and ALICE ZHU
Senior Kristoff Misquitta won the sixth annual Genes in Space contest, for which his experiment will be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021. Senior Sebastien Beurnier and sophomore Fu Chen won an honorable mention for their experimental proposal. Both teams will receive a miniPCR DNA Discovery System from Genes in Space for Stuyvesant. Genes in Space is an annual national competition in which participants address challenges in space exploration through an experimental proposal involving the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Proposals are evaluated on multiple factors. “The judges consider how essential it is that the PCR be conducted on the ISS—a strong proposal explains why this procedure cannot be done on Earth,” biology teacher Jessica Quenzer said in an e-mail interview. “The writer must convince the judges that this research question is worth investigating; the experimental design has merit; the potential results [have] a benefit to humanity and has the urgency to be conducted on the ISS within the next couple of years.” Teams with the top five proposals are selected as finalists, and a panel of scientists
from Genes in Space scrutinizes each team’s proposal at the Finalist Launchpad event, traditionally held at the ISS Research & Development Conference. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the final round and announcement of the national winner were conducted and live-streamed through Zoom. Misquitta’s proposal analyzed the efficacy of medications in space. “Astronauts take a lot of medicine in space, as many as four medications per week, but the medications don’t actually seem to be working as effectively as they would on Earth,” he said. “My proposal is essentially studying what’s going on in the body when astronauts are taking medicine through the lens of a liver enzyme called cytochrome P-450 and basically looking at how their expression is changing in space. [T]hat can tell us the expression of the cytochrome P-450 genes, which produces enzymes, are changing in space; [and] that tells us how astronauts might be processing medication differently.” He credited the inspiration behind his proposal to a statistic that he had come across. “[A]ccording to a study done over 79 shuttle missions, […] about one in five medication uses by astronauts were documented as not effective, which seemed really high— 20 percent. And it seemed strange that little continued on page 7
By JENNY LIU, MAGGIE SANSONE, and SAKURA YAMANAKA
Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the start of in-person classes for New York City public schools and announced that the Department of Education (DOE) will phase students into classrooms on a rolling basis just days before the expected start of in-person learning. Elementary schools will open on September 29, while middle and high schools will open on October 1. This announcement follows de Blasio’s initial delay of the 2020-2021 school year to September 21. The second delay has raised concerns regarding preparing students effectively for inperson classes. “Stuyvesant may be prepared to reopen in-person classes, but I don’t think the same can be said for schools across the city. Most schools are facing staffing shortages and are extremely underprepared to start this school year,” junior and Student Union (SU) Vice President Shivali Korgaonkar said in an e-mail interview. “I’m not surprised that in-person classes are being pushed, but I wish this had all happened in a more organized manner. The constant adjustments to the school schedule have been confusing for everyone.” The abrupt announcement was generally met with frustration and confusion. “It frustrates me that they’ve had all summer to prepare yet have had to delay school twice. I’ve seen teachers work
all summer preparing for blended/remote learning, and to see that the system/ DOE is not prepared is disheartening,” senior Chloe Liu said in an e-mail interview. Others were ambivalent to the delay. “I see how some teachers and parents may be aggravated by this decision, but personally, I want to stay home a bit longer if students in NYC schools have been tested positive recently for COVID-19,” junior Florence Lei said. “No one gets an upper hand by choosing full remote and blended learning. With Stuy’s model, all instruction is remote, so I’m not going to see my teachers in-person either way.” For administrators, they were neither surprised nor upended by this decision and plan to use the time to adjust and further meet the needs of students and faculty. “As a community, we have become quite adept at ‘rolling with changes’ during this year,” Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said in an e-mail interview. To prepare for future announcements, the SU is working to help students adapt to the recent changes. “We plan to give constant updates about our current situation if the DOE or our administration doesn’t. We will continue to do SU updates [and] weekly schedule [e-mails and] plan on implementing virtual morning announcements,” Korgaonkar said. “We want there to be an equitable and consistent source of information, so we hope to centralize all of our updates on our SU website.”
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Evolution of Hip-Hop Fashion
Behind the Art
Follow A&E writer Fariha Mabud as she goes through the eras of hip-hop fashion from the late ‘70s to the present. see page 19
Meet the artists who have been brightening the pages of our paper during these remote circumstances. see page 22
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Endorsements: Sophomore Caucus SATVIK AGNIHOTRI AND GITAE PARK Record: ★★★★☆ The Agnihotri-Park ticket has solid experience in student government, as Agnihotri was Freshman Caucus president last year and Park was a member of his cabinet. This experience should help cut out some of the “growing pains” that come with beginning a new term. Courtesy of Satvik Agnihotri and Gitae Park
Entering a school year with so much uncertainty surrounding how the administration will handle remote and blended learning, students must be able to receive clear communication from the administration on how they plan to run things. The Agnihotri-Park campaign promises to provide that link between the sophomore student body and the administration by building upon what they learned from their experience as part of the Freshman caucus presidency (with Agnihotri as president and Park as a cabinet member) and the relationships they made with faculty. In addition to having already learned the ropes of being part of a caucus, Agnihotri-Park seems to have striked the perfect balance between ambition and impracticality, having put forth policies that are both helpful and very doable. These policies include a study group program, in which students can connect with others from their class and study together as they would in the library or
cafeteria, somewhat fulfilling the social aspect lost in remote learning. The Agnihotri-Park ticket plans on collaborating with clubs when organizing events this year. For instance, they will split profits between the Student Union (SU) and clubs in events like a potential chess tournament in order to support clubs affected by budget
cuts this year. They will also create a website, in which they will centralize important information from the administration and their own resources for the sophomore class. One of the pillars of the Agnihotri-Park campaign is inclusivity. They plan to hold open caucus meetings for the sophomore
Campaign: ★★★ ☆ With an Instagram page of racked up followers and a well-functional website with a chat feature, Agnihotri and Park have developed a solid campaign. Platform: ★★★ ☆ Boasting a variety of doable, though not outstanding, ideas, Agnihotri and Park have made promises which seem to improve sophomores’ school experiences while at home, highlighted by their “virtual study group” proposal.
class, welcoming any suggestions and ideas. “Just because you’re not in the caucus, doesn’t mean you can’t have good ideas. The underlying idea of the [open caucus meeting] policy is that we are open to your ideas; if you come to us with a good idea, […] then we will definitely act on it, because there’s no reason not to,” Agnihotri explained during their interview. The ticket will also designate
a section on their caucus website to the collection of ideas from the sophomore class. The organized policies, strong record, and familiarity with the nuts and bolts of running a caucus make the Agnihotri-Park ticket a solid candidate for this year’s race, especially in the age of remote learning. Thus, The Spectator is endorsing them for Sophomore Caucus.
DANIEL JUNG AND RYAN LEE While their platform uses a metaphor about a bridge and its supporting arches to express their campaign’s sentiment more elegantly, the Lee-Jung campaign’s messaging seems largely centered around amplifying student voices. In some ways, their campaign really hits the mark. Ryan Lee and Daniel Jung’s online presence is impressive, consisting of a website that is relatively easy to navigate and packed full of content, various social media accounts, and a well polished Google document outlining their ambitious platform. They even have a YouTube channel in which they explain their various policy initiatives, all presumably in an effort to deliver on the accessibility that they promise potential voters. Their platform goes in depth on each policy, emphasizing their “research” and including potential challenges, benefits, and solutions alongside each proposal.
That being said, the actual policies themselves leave much to be desired. While the Lee-Jung campaign’s rhetoric is adamant in their pursuit of involving and serving more sophomores in caucus activity, this doesn’t seem to be reflected in the policies they’ve chosen to run on. Many of the ideas detailed in their platform leave much to be desired. In some cases, the policies are merely extensions of existing SU projects and are entirely dependent on the SU’s cooperation. Often these policies don’t seem to be directed toward helping the sophomore class specifically, and what’s more, most seem to fall well outside of the reasonable capabilities of the sophomore caucus. Specific policies that come to mind include the proposal to secure more discounts from neighborhood businesses for sophomores and acquire umbrellas to be rented out to students, both of which either
are already being implemented by other organizations like the SU or have been discussed by them. What policy initiatives that remain are very similar to what many other tickets have proposed, such as hosting online events and curating study guides for sophomores to use. Some of these ideas are good, such as requiring teachers to make their lesson plans public, but not unique to their campaign. And even the better of their ideas seem to feature certain flaws in their proposed implementation, like the proposed $3-$5 charge for students to attend online events that might not even require an upfront cost. These kinds of issues aren’t particularly surprising, considering that while the candidates’ lengthy bios expound in great length upon their respective accomplishments, Lee and Jung have little in the way of relevant experience outside some minor
Record: ★★☆☆☆ While the candidates’ lengthy bios expound in great length upon their respective accomplishments, Lee and Jung have little in the way of relevant experience outside some minor leadership roles in robotics and Key Club. Campaign: ★★★★☆ Their online presence is impressive, with a website, social media accounts, and a well polished Google document outlining their ambitious platform. Platform: ★★☆☆☆ While the Lee-Jung campaign’s platform is impressively sized, with the document stretching to over 50 pages, it contains a lot of fluff and unrealistic policies with little targeted specifically toward the sophomore class.
leadership roles in robotics and Key Club. Their lack of experience in student government isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself, but it seems clear from the flaws in their platform that they don’t have even the basic understanding of how caucus operates that might make up for it.
While Lee and Jung have some admirable goals, we believe that their inexperience coupled with their lack of understanding of the role and capabilities of Sophomore Caucus would hinder their ability to serve the sophomore class, especially in these strenuous circumstances.
KATE ALVAREZ AND IRIS CHAN Record: ★★☆☆☆ The Alvarez-Chan ticket has little experience in student government, with slightly more in leadership: Alvarez holding two leadership positions within Stuyvesant and having served as the vice president of her school’s chapter of the National Junior Honors Society. Campaign: ★★★☆☆ Boasting an Instagram and a website, though the latter has been poorly advertised, Alvarez and Chan have created numerous pathways to reach the sophomore class. Still, they lack a Facebook page, one of the best methods of communication for Stuyvesant students. Platform: ★★★☆☆ While their teaching assistant proposal seems promising, the majority of Alvarez-Chan’s other campaign promises seem either infeasible or unnecessary. Basing much of their campaign on the promise to create a more inclusive grade as well as their emphasis on college help
and general accessibility, the Alvarez-Chan ticket has an ambitious plan for the coming year. Alvarez asserted, however, that their pas-
sion will allow them to achieve such goals and their dynamic partnership—with Alvarez planning ahead and Chan acting boldly in important moments—will help them succeed as a Caucus. The Alvarez-Chan campaign rests its policies, efforts, and objectives on a foundation of effective communication with the sophomore class. As co-presidents, they wish for their platform to have optimal transparency. When asked about previous experience, however, Alvarez and Chan had little to point to within student government. Still, Alvarez and Chan cite their unconditional embrace of positivity as a way to bridge the gap between students, student leaders, and administrators and ensure that this year’s sophomores maintain “positive mental health” and get the an-
swers they deserve in these unprecedented times. Their platform features some promising and creative ideas, including collaborating with other organizations and clubs at Stuyvesant to organize and host events with fun activities pertaining to specific students’ interests. When asked how they would ensure optimal attendance at these events however, the pair’s explanation consisted of “organization” and their ability to “plan ahead.” In addition, their plans for racial justice seem unlikely to change anything, and their proposal to bring college admissions officers in to talk to sophomores would only exacerbate Stuyvesant’s already-toxic obsession with college. Still, among their most promising policies is that of appoint-
ing upperclassmen to offer advice and logistical guidance to sophomores as teaching assistants. Chan said that she had already reached out to ARISTA (which expressed interest in working with them if they were to become Caucus presidents) to collaborate on this initiative. While this might save teachers time in the long run and present a smoother transition to certain classes, it is not guaranteed that all teachers will want to read through applications for assistants or that a sufficient number of upperclassmen will apply given their arduous schedules and academic situations. In light of Alvarez-Chan’s minimal record and experience in the SU as well as campaign ideas that seem unlikely to play out, The Spectator chooses not to endorse the Alvarez-Chan ticket.
MAHIR RIKI AND KOEY NG The Riki-Ng ticket is fairly light on substance. Their policy proposals are limited in both number and originality and mostly consist of boilerplate caucus activities like newsletters. Virtual events such as video game tournaments are central to their campaign, but when pressed for details on what exactly the execution
of such events would look like, they struggled to give satisfactory answers and did not appear to have given the matter much consideration. The candidates didn’t have great chemistry, and their relationship did not come across as one of two equal partners in leadership. When asked to describe their records, one of
them had difficulty remembering what the main activity they cited consisted of, and neither had particularly strong credentials. In short, though the Riki-Ng ticket has no atrocious qualities, it is far from the sophomore class’s best choice. The Spectator is not endorsing it.
Record: ★ ☆☆☆ The pair have minimal relevant experience, and one struggled to describe even that. Campaign: ★★☆☆☆ They have a small Instagram account and a bare-bones website. Platform: ★★☆☆☆ The Riki-Ng platform is short on originality and detail.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Endorsements: Sophomore Caucus DAMIAN KORIK AND GOSSAMER MORTON Record: ★ ☆☆☆ Neither Korik nor Morton have any prior experience in student government or leadership. They emphasized this, claiming instead that this gave them insight into the experience of “regular students.”
Courtesy of Damian Korik and Gossamer Morton
The Korik-Morton campaign mainly focuses on giving students a greater voice, whether it be regarding their grades or providing input on caucus policies and events. There was, however, nothing about the campaign that made it “special.” It was a perfectly fine effort—but it was also quite average. Neither candidate had prior experience in student government or leadership, but both claimed during an interview that this was a point in their favor rather than a liability, stating that this lack of experience in leadership gave them experience in being “regular students” instead, making them relatable. Both emphasized heavily when interviewed the value of true leadership, despite neither of them having occupied a leadership position in an extracurricular activity at Stuyvesant. Their proposed policies, as well as being limited in number, were by and large nothing beyond conventional. One proposed policy is to send out a biweekly survey for students to “report any grievances” regarding schoolwork
Campaign: ★★ ☆☆ Despite having a campaign website and an Instagram account, their campaign has little active social media presence, and their Instagram has only one post—a photo of their campaign logo. They also lack any sort of presence on Facebook. Platform: ★★☆☆☆ The Korik-Morton campaign emphasizes student agency, but a majority of their proposed policies seem only to build on previous ideas and lack originality. The rest of the policies, while clearly well intentioned, seem largely unfeasible.
or teachers. They would use this mass input to contact assistant principals if there seemed to be a common issue among students. Both stated that the current “spiral of communication” is inefficient, and that a mass student response would put less burden on the affected students to speak up and streamline the process. In a similar vein, they expressed a desire to work with the SU to bring about a unification of grading
platforms, something which has come up repeatedly in the past years. They additionally wanted to implement more in-person events on multiple days and in multiple locations, with social-distancing measures in place. These policies were perfectly fine, but they were not ambitious or adventurous. It was evident that these ideas were built off of previous ones, and we would have liked to see something more original.
Their one more adventurous proposal was for a new escalator policy, which would have students only use escalators if they “needed” to during the specific passing time. They claim that this would make “escalator travel much more efficient and reduce the amount of wear and tear on the escalators.” When questioned further, it was clear that they hadn’t fully thought about the policy’s implementation and ef-
ficiency. Beneath the policy section of their website, they included a link to a Google form for student suggestions about potential policies, further emphasizing their belief in student agency. Despite their willingness to take feedback from students, Korik-Morton failed to make a strong case for what they would offer in return. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
JEFFREY TAN AND JOHAN WIELAARD Record: ★★☆☆☆ Wielaard and Tan have both filled leadership positions at some point in their middle school careers, priming them for potential SU leadership. This prior experience includes captaining sports teams and acting as academic mentors for younger students. Courtesy of Jeffrey Tan and Johan Wielaard
Campaign: ★★★☆☆ Though the Tan-Wielaard campaign has not done the best job of outreach and maintaining an online presence, the duo has a strong rapport with one another and are balanced in the qualities they bring to the table. Platform: ★★★ ☆ The Wielaard-Tan platform is specific and actionable. Their plans include karaoke night, group study sessions, and even “Random Play Dance,” in which danceable K-Pop songs are played in a random order. One concern about these plans though is that they may be too recreational, putting perks over priorities.
The main word that comes to mind when one seeks to describe the Wielaard-Tan ticket is “good.” Theirs is a good campaign. The two candidates have a good rapport and brainstormed many initiatives to improve the conditions of the sophomores, like karaoke nights and group study sessions. They have also managed to strike a difficult balance that caucus
candidates often fail to strike: that between making policies that are in caucuses’ wheelhouse and policies that will meaningfully impact students’ lives. Namely, they would try to persuade Principal Seung Yu to have all teachers post their slideshows on Google Classroom after their classes. That balance is delicate, and they manage to strike it. That’s impressive and
commendable, and it makes their campaign stand out. Their platform, however, does not always succeed in this regard. Most notably, their plan to make the school’s elevators accessible to anyone who must commute seven or more floors between periods is problematic on several levels. First, there are too many students with seven-floors-or-greater gaps
for the policy to be effective. There would just be long lines for the elevators. Relatedly, the plan would create enormous traffic for those who do need the elevators, such as students with medical passes or teachers with carts. And because of these shortcomings, the administration would never agree to the policy. Wielaard-Tan’s more unre-
alistic policies, combined with a level of detail that while not completely unsatisfactory is not highly rigorous, hurt our generally positive view of their platform. But we were not terribly impressed with their record. As with the rest of their campaign, they were good: both worked in small leadership positions in middle school or freshman year, and they ably described those positions. But neither consisted of the sort of event-planning executive experience that one wants in a Caucus leader. Their campaign, finally, is good. Their website is accessible and decent-looking; they have an Instagram account with four posts; the candidates have a good rapport, and they present professionally. But there is nothing that makes them stand head-aboveshoulders over other tickets. It is, well, good. We think that, if elected, Wielaard and Tan would serve their class well. They would be good, but we do not believe that they are the best option sophomores have.
Endorsements: Junior Caucus DIYA RAO AND ANISA PALEVIC Record: ★★ ☆☆ Rao has minimal experience in student government at Stuyvesant while Palevic was a Sophomore Caucus Events Committee member. Campaign: ★★ ☆☆ The pair has pages on both Instagram and Facebook along with a website, but there is little to no content posted. They attended the Junior Caucus debate, presented their platform well, and it was evident through their interview that they respected the policies of the previous year’s Sophomore Caucus but had ideas for how it could improve. Platform: ★★★ ☆ The ANIDIYA platform, as outlined in its policy statement, is very comprehensive. The platform’s ideas and plans to execute them are clear, and there are unique ideas for the junior class. Though creative, some proposals seem over-ambitious and not well-thoughtout.
The ANIDIYA campaign most significantly aims to help juniors de-stress during their most difficult year at Stuyvesant, and the ticket specifically focuses on dealing with the uncertainties of college applications during COVID-19. In general, the platform centers on hosting fun activities
as opposed to more academic initiatives, with the exception of their college preparedness plans. While Rao lacks experience in student government at Stuyvesant, she (along with Palevic) is a part of the debate team and runs a non-profit organization that helps to bridge the educa-
tional socioeconomic gap among middle schoolers through book clubs and tutoring sessions. On top of being a member of the Events Committee for last year’s Sophomore Caucus, Palevic has interned for Congresswoman Tedra Cobb’s campaign, which she says has taught her much about leadership and campaigning. Rao and Palevic seem to have good chemistry with one another; during their interview, they emphasized how they complement each other. Rao describes herself as more of a “big picture” person, while Palevic carries out the ideas. Given Palevic’s experience on the Events Committee last year, this dynamic makes sense. Ohe of the campaign’s main points is events and creative empowerment, which will rely heavily on social media to advertise programs. They are also planning on showcasing student artwork through story highlights on the Junior Caucus Instagram page.
In order to help juniors relax, the campaign plans to hold optional Zoom craft sessions—not dissimilar to the Bob Ross sessions hosted by Tan-Torres last year— during which participants can learn origami and painting. While ANDIYA’s focus on creativity as a means of de-stressing is commendable, the campaign itself has not effectively used social media for outreach about their ticket, thus calling into question if this proposal would play out. ANIDIYA also focuses on increasing extracurricular involvement through club spotlights on Instagram, and they plan to use Google Forms so that clubs will easily be able to reach out to the caucus for a spotlight. Again, their record on social media is unclear, as the campaign currently lacks a strong presence. ANDIYA’s emphasis on social media throughout their platform also feels very limited and lacking in creativity, as online platforms are not the only
way to engage and support the junior class. Lastly, the ticket emphasizes transparency: letting the student body know what actions the caucus plans to take as well as its progress. To uphold transparency, the campaign proposes monthly updates and anonymous feedback forms. While commendable, transparency is something expected of all caucuses, whose leaders traditionally send out emails to their grade, sometimes even biweekly, with announcements and updates. Overall, ANDIYA is very aware of the needs of the student body, citing their own or their friends’ concerns about remote learning and addressing those issues with promising proposals. Their lack of experience and limited campaigning over social media, however, do not make them the most promising candidates for Junior Caucus. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Endorsements: Junior Caucus
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
CYNTHIA TAN AND ELIO TORRES
After successful Freshman and Sophomore Caucus terms, the Tan-Torres duo is back and running again. The Tan-Torres ticket’s selling point is undoubtedly their experience. This past year, they organized seven initiatives pre-quarantine, including a gingerbread house competition and an escape room event, both of which sold out all available tickets. They also hosted six events during quarantine, including a Bob Ross painting event with chemistry teacher Michael Orlando and two iMessage game tournaments. Tan and Torres are also heavily involved in the Stuyvesant community. Through their work outside of caucus, Tan and Torres have seemed to maintain a solid grasp on the needs of their class. This is evident through their platform, which is broken down into four sections.
Though they have strong ideas throughout each of these sections, their Events section is, on the whole, their best. Aside from their semi-unoriginal ideas of virtual study hall sessions and virtual self-care seminars, they propose a SING! Greatest Hits Night, which would be a virtual screening of the top moments in past SING!s, and a virtual relay competition, harkening back to the success of their events like the Sophomore Caucus Escape Room. Our only critique is aimed at their virtual college tours idea, in which instead of partnering with the college office to host virtual information sessions for juniors, they plan to contact colleges themselves. The second section of their platform is their External Affairs projects, the most notable part being their plans to negotiate free or reduced CitiBike memberships for
Stuyvesant students as an alternative mode of transportation to school. They also want to reach out to local publishers, galleries, and newspapers to have students’ work displayed. This, however, seems unfeasible, as it is often difficult to have work published, even if the organizations are smallerscaled and local. The third section is their Internal Affairs projects, which is broken down into collaborations with the Student Union (SU), clubs, student body, and the administration. Though not thrillingly creative, this section houses solid plans, including working with the SU Events Department to transition classic Stuyvesant events (such as Styloween) online, partnering with student organizations like the Black Students League and ASPIRA, allowing students of all grades to attend caucus meetings, and communicating with the administration to monitor the feasibility of hosting Junior Prom. A few policies seem idealistic, though, such as having non-caucus volunteers assist at caucus events. Their final section is expanding their website. Among others, the ticket hopes to include an SAT and PSAT update page, a scholarship opportunities page, a college application timeline, and a competition and awards opportunities page. They also want to continue working on their opportunities bulletin and their study guide plat-
Record: ★★★★ Both Tan and Torres have served in caucus for the past two years, giving them an unmatched level of experience. While they successfully organized 13 initiatives during their time as President and Vice President, respectively, of last year’s Sophomore Caucus, their website has not been updated since first semester, and some juniors have noted a lack of communication via e-mail from the caucus. Campaign: ★★★ ☆ The Tan-Torres campaign is classic and energetic—they have a website, as well as pages on both Facebook and Instagram. They’ve used social media to successfully advertise their ticket and were polished and engaged during the debate, both signs of a successful campaign. Platform: ★★★ ☆ While the Tan-Torres platform has excellent ideas scattered throughout, these initiatives are hidden among both unoriginal and unfeasible ideas. Their platform seems to prioritize quantity over quality, and while some of their initiatives are strong, we would have loved if their platform had been more heavily edited. form, both initiatives started last year. While these pages would clearly benefit and assist the junior class, Tan-Torres’ current website has not been updated since the end of 2019, meaning it seems unlikely that their IT department will be able to create all of these resources. It is clear that this ticket has invested most of their time into brainstorming unique social events, which is understandable, as their achievements last year were mostly event-based as well. While some ideas for academic policies are feasible and helpful, such as a guide for teacher recom-
mendations, many are unrealistic and vague, such as “advocacy for spring semester program changes” or creating Junior-Caucus-specific virtual college tours. While some of the policies show that their heart is in the right place, they aren’t well-thought-out. Tan-Torres’ ideas for this year, aside from a notable few, aren’t particularly unique, but they don’t need to be—the ticket’s experience last year has clearly informed their proposals this year. The TanTorres slogan is Trusted and True, and ultimately, that is entirely accurate. For that reason, The Spectator endorses this ticket.
DANIEL LYALIN AND EMMANUEL ABAYEV Campaign: ★★ ☆☆ Though the DNA ticket has an outstanding website, its campaign efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Platform: ★★★★ The DNA ticket has a meticulous platform oriented around technology that is almost perfectly adapted to virtual learning. The ticket, however, fails to propose innovative ideas that will inspire social interaction among the junior class. The DNA ticket stands out for its pragmatic and effective platform. Lyalin and Abayev plan to enact practical, useful initiatives, like a redesigned Junior Caucus website, a central database with access to all recorded class sessions, a customizable bell schedule, and a program that filters Internship Coordinator Harvey Blumm’s Student Opportunity Bulletin. The ticket also plans to expand StuyVantage to essential online student services like Duolingo Plus and a schoolwide GitHub Student Developer Pack. In fact, the ticket has even
started working on some of its ideas along with its technology team. Lyalin and Abayev also exhibit great chemistry and a collaborative spirit. As was clear at the Boardof-Elections-hosted debate and has even been acknowledged by the duo themselves, Lyalin is more technically-grounded in logistics and details while Abayev is more creative and thinks outside of the box—two contrasting leadership styles that compliment each other well. They have known each other since the seventh grade, and their
partnership and mutual respect for their differing leadership styles came through strongly in both the debate and their interview with The Spectator. Moreover, DNA’s professionalism—they came to the interview dressed in a suit—is greatly appreciated. Its website, which was entirely created by the candidates and their technology team, is also beautifully designed and informative. Despite these strengths, Lyalin and Abayev suffer from a lack of experience in the Student Union, though they have some in-school leadership. Lyalin is a board member on the Red Cross and the vice president of the Stuyvesant Ethics Bowl, and Abayev is the director of the Writing Center. Outside of Stuyvesant, Lyalin founded a nonprofit organization, School Supply Campaign Inc., and Abayev assisted Congressman Max Rose in his campaign, founded a tutoring program, Alpha Prep, and aided a study of NCAA athletes at the University of South Carolina. Additionally, DNA’s presence on social media is lacking, and the campaign does not attract enough
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
Record: ★★☆☆☆ Though the DNA ticket has shown experience in leadership and civic engagement outside of school, the duo has limited involvement with governance in school affairs.
attention from the junior class, ultimately allowing their strengths—a great platform and strong presentation skills—to go largely unnoticed. The ticket’s inability to engage with the greater junior class is also apparent in its lack of social proposals. While their more tangible proposals would greatly benefit the junior grade, social interaction is more important now than ever before. The ticket does not have any original event ideas and does not explain how it would go about creating a “truly unforgettable” Junior Prom. Caucus events are crucial to
promoting unity and camaraderie among all grade members, and the DNA platform does not have a clear, dynamic plan to address this. We, however, commend the ticket for its emphasis on realistic, innovative digital initiatives. Overall, the DNA ticket’s strengths do not compensate for its lack of experience, minimal campaigning, and absence of dynamic social proposals. Though there are undoubtedly many great aspects of the DNA ticket that would make Lyalin and Abayev effective Junior Caucus leaders, The Spectator does not endorse it.
LEO SMULANSKY AND ETHAN BROVENDER
Brovender and Smulansky, like most candidates, lack any experience in the Student Union or caucus. Their respective leadership over smaller Stuyvesant clubs like the Minecraft Club, however, are more hopeful, especially since many of their policies stem from this involvement. But the lack of specific support for the junior class, especially academically and in light of remote learning, draws greatly from the promise of this ticket. Their disjointed dynamic, unfamiliarity with student government, and rather unrealistic and sometimes even unproductive policies further question their capabilities to lead the Junior Caucus. For specific initiatives, the campaign put focus upon a club exchange program where different clubs would swap leaders, as well as a distanced educational
support club hotline for clubs to receive help as they transition to remote learning. When asked further about how these programs would be put into motion, the two’s answers were unhelpful at best, saying that the hotline would be run by club leaders deemed “successful,” and unproductive at worst, with the club exchange program not having a solid argument on how exchanging leaders for a few days would allow clubs to effectively improve. Their aim to make clubs even more accessible by compiling a description of them into a pamphlet, or a “better” StuyActivities, is unrealistic and unnecessary. Above all, Brovender-Smulansky’s sole emphasis on student organizations may demonstrate a lack of understanding of a caucus’s responsibilities. While their
key point of broadening policies and initiatives to the entire student body is commendable, they are not running for Student Union, nor are they pursuing specific roles in its Clubs and Pubs department. As candidates for Junior Caucus, they lack any specificity toward supporting their grade. They only cite game nights and events, such as “lightning round” Zoom sessions for quickly meeting new people, as junior-specific initiatives, though both can ultimately be applied to the general student body. When asked about how they would support their grade academically in the context of remote instruction, they vaguely replied, “You’ve just got to work with what you got.” The ticket certainly understands the social need for students to reconnect in these circumstances but would have a hard time fulfill-
Record: ★★☆☆☆ While Brovender and Smulansky have some leadership in Stuyvesant clubs and the latter has interned for the city government, they lack experience in the Student Union or caucus and are unfamiliar with their workings. Campaign: ★★☆☆☆ With little to no online presence and clear lack of thorough planning and organization, the ticket has earned a Campaign score of two. Platform: ★★ ☆☆ The Brovender-Smulansky platform certainly stands out from that of other candidates, but not for all the right reasons. Their ideas for improving how clubs are run and organized at Stuyvesant have not been posed by others, but they aren’t productive or realistic enough to implement. Most importantly, they fail to propose any plans for supporting the junior class academically or resource-wise. ing any other responsibilities as caucus leaders. The Brovender-Smulansky ticket runs on the promise of helping Stuyvesant student-run
organizations adapt to a virtual school year, but this is not what the junior class needs in such an unprecedented time. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
The Spectator â—? September 22, 2020
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The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Endorsements: Senior Caucus RUTH LEE AND FALINA ONGUS Record: ★★★☆☆ Though Lee has some experience serving as a member of caucus over the past three years, Ongus has no prior experience in student government. Both candidates of OnLee lack experience serving as presidents of caucus and have no official track record as a team. Despite this, both candidates have indicated leadership in extracurriculars, with Lee producing Soph-Frosh and Junior SING! and Ongus serving as the co-president of the Black Students League for two years. Through their leadership roles, both have created sufficient connections with the administration.
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
The OnLee campaign, composed of Ruth Lee and Falina Ongus running as co-presidents for Senior Caucus, centers around three core values: Advocacy, Community, and Tradition. From providing college resources to keeping senior traditions alive, OnLee has established a solid range of policies, hoping to support their peers and keep the senior class united as they head into their final year at Stuyvesant. OnLee, however, lacks the years of caucus experience their opponents have, which is especially evident in some of the gaps in their platform. OnLee offers a few policies to aid seniors as they begin the college process this upcoming semester. One is the Alumni Network, where OnLee plans to partner with the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association Mentorship Program to expand their services to help seniors receive constructive feedback for their college application essays. This idea of reaching out to alumni, however, is not novel, as other caucuses have proposed similar processes. There are many larger existing college-help programs, such as
Y Tú También and QuestBridge, that many Stuyvesant students already use. Though OnLee has taken the initiative of reaching out to alumni, 20 of whom are willing to participate, it is unclear what steps OnLee will take to ensure that the policy is fully implemented. They also aim to organize a grade-wide scheduling system for guidance counselor meetings, which addresses a pressing concern many seniors in need of college help have had in the previous year. A major pillar of the OnLee platform is Community—uniting the senior class through small-scale projects. OnLee aims to increase the usage of Senior Caucus social media platforms, not only to update the student body, but also to host events, such as movie nights or Kahoot! games, challenges, and feature clubs—a stark contrast to the lack of social media presence of past caucuses. One of OnLee’s new ideas is to compile songs, suggested by seniors, into “Class of 2021” playlists to play during Friday Café Sessions—productive live streams on YouTube every Friday in which
Campaign: ★★★★ OnLee has marketed itself through various social media platforms, including a Facebook page and an Instagram account, both of which have received extensive follower support. Their website highlights their platform with a page for college resources and a short montage of their campaign that showcases their strong chemistry and natural enthusiasm for Senior Caucus. Though OnLee was able to meet in person for both the interview and the Senior Caucus debate, their social media posts and policy descriptions alone exhibit genuine passion for the Senior Caucus. Platform: ★★★★☆ The OnLee platform promotes a comprehensive balance of organized policies that address both the academic and leisurely concerns of the senior student body. While planning on continuing previous Senior Caucus initiatives, OnLee not only outlines a flexible plan that can adjust senior traditions for the virtual end of the school year, but also adds a couple of ambitious policies into the mix. Though their practical policies lack originality and the more zealous policies lack a clear, viable path, the OnLee platform has a clear foundation that demonstrates authenticity in their values and a dedication to ensuring that their policies come to fruition.
students can study and connect with their peers through music. Believing that the senior class is “fragmented,” OnLee hopes that these policies will not only provide stress relief for seniors, but also foster a closer-knit community. While caucuses have held movie nights in the past, Kahoot! nights and Friday Cafe Sessions are more unique ideas that are both feasible and practical methods of connecting students. As traditions are a defining part of the senior experience, OnLee hopes to preserve them while introducing new ideas of their own. Acknowledging the uncertainty of hosting end-of-the-year events inperson, OnLee has accommodated by proposing virtual versions of senior traditions. For instance, they plan to continue last year’s Senior Caucus’s modification of creating a virtual banner where seniors can upload their signatures in place of a physical one. Though many of their ideas are practical, this section of their campaign has some shortcomings. For example, OnLee hopes to code their own yearbooksigning website for the senior class.
This plan, however, fell short when they were unable to provide a definitive answer for who would code the website, indicating that though this idea is ambitious, there is no clear path for its completion. In addition, OnLee hopes to organize professional photographers to take students’ photos for prom. Though their intention to emulate a prom experience is good, OnLee cites funding such policies through events such as Kahoot! nights. This is an unreliable method of raising money for such an expensive project, especially since it has never been conducted before, and should there be a lack of participants during such events, they would not have an alternative way to raise money. Though their policies vary in feasibility and ingenuity, a definitive strength of the OnLee campaign is their connection to the student body and the role they envision it playing in unifying seniors. “[Ongus] and I have been involved in community clubs that we think we’ve made impacts in, and we’ve really made it a mission to bring
KATERINA CORR AND AYALA SELA
Julian Giordano / The Spectator
As the incumbent candidate, the Corr-Sela ticket, composed of Katerina Corr and Ayala Sela, faces an uphill battle as they attempt to convince their grade to grace them with the caucus vote for another year. Best known for their past projects, including the Spanish Pen-Pal program and the “So You Want to Be A…” career initiative, Corr and Sela have had ample experience as caucus leaders. The duo, however, found themselves stumbling after last semester’s virtual turn, demonstrating a lack of transparency that was sorely felt by many members of the then junior class. While the Corr-Sela campaign is undoubtedly the safe choice for this year’s Senior Caucus election, it will likely take a lot of effort and promises to ensure that the seniors won’t find a repeat of their faulty junior representation. “We had no idea whether or not we were going to be able to implement the [junior prom],” the CorrSela campaign said regarding their lack of transparency last semester. Corr-Sela repeatedly alluded to their “lack of clarity” concerning the release of prom tickets to the junior class as the main cause for their insufficient communication. Many of last year’s juniors expressed that they didn’t receive adequate support from their caucus, especially as Stuyvesant transitioned to remote learning. In response to these sentiments, the duo said, “We did a pretty good job” but acknowledged that “there is definitely room for improvement in terms of transparency.” CorrSela said their shortcomings from last year were a valuable experience, and they hope to learn from the past and expand upon their initiatives, though they did not elaborate upon their failings or how they hope to improve. The strongest aspect of the
Record: ★★★ ☆ Having served as co-presidents of both Junior and Sophomore Caucus, the Corr-Sela ticket wields impressive Student Union (SU) experience. They have helped formulate successful initiatives during their time in caucus and have built positive relationships with the administration. That being said, they have fallen short of expectations in the past, especially in this new remote environment. As the new administration takes over, the Corr-Sela administration has missed too many chances to successfully connect with the senior class. Campaign: ★★★ ☆ Corr-Sela hit all the check marks for a successful campaign: an organized website, a strong social media presence, and a solid debate showing. Yet their dynamic and outreach efforts felt artificial. In our interview with the candidates, one dominated their responses, and there was minimal chemistry between the two. It should be acknowledged that the interview was conducted via Zoom, which can easily diminish chemistry that could otherwise be apparent in-person. Still, responses in the debate and interview felt scripted, and though Corr-Sela’s social media and website are impressive, they lack the personal touch of the OnLee campaign. Platform: ★★★★☆ The Corr-Sela campaign’s platform reflects the work of a duo that has been part of an organized student government for many years. Continuing numerous old projects and adding a few new ones to the roster, the team’s platform is reliable but not groundbreaking. While most policies are competently outlined, the group’s platform begins to fray when large-scale policies are discussed, lacking the clear direction and realism that are required to implement the projects that they discuss. For the most part, however, the Corr-Sela platform possesses an incredibly solid set of focal points from which to build their campaign.
Corr-Sela campaign is their extensive platform, in which they comprehensively detail their policy on matters from college to traditions and nearly everything in between, even going as far as promising an effort toward altering various longstanding and outdated Stuyvesant traditions. With years of experience, CorrSela have the smaller-scale aspects of their platform down. The duo has long-standing relationships with many members of the current Stuyvesant administration, and they have strong bonds with many other caucuses and SU members. This unique advantage puts them in a prime position to execute the more nitty-gritty aspects of their campaign. The duo also spawned several projects over the years that they can continue to expand through a senior year term. Some smaller-scale projects that the duo will likely be able to continue into their senior year include their trademark “So You Want To Be A…” newsletters and their college preparation efforts. These tasks incorporate skills the team has used extensively in the past and can jump right back into if given the office. Their platform, however, begins to falter when their more complex policy proposals are examined. While the duo is able to dream big about what they would like to achieve as Senior Caucus Presidents, some of their ideas seem unachievable, even during a normal school year—especially their plans to amend school-wide policies, such as altering the curricula for various English and history classes. This promise feels somewhat empty, especially when it is looked at through the lens of their previous record as well as the sheer effort, dedication, and years of persistence that it
our clubs together,” Lee said. Citing SING! as one of the few unifying events that they have both participated in, Lee elaborated: “We want to bring that sentiment of community, and we want to bring that sentiment of understanding that we’re a support system for each other. And that’s going to follow through if we become Caucus presidents.” Overall, The Spectator has chosen to endorse the OnLee ticket for Senior Caucus. Considering their minimal experience compared to Corr-Sela, OnLee is the riskier choice. And while both Corr-Sela and OnLee introduced similar degrees of ambiguity in their platforms, only OnLee shows a fresh enthusiasm that matches the ambition in their policies, apparent through Lee and Ongus’s strong chemistry and their emphasis on bolstering the community of the senior class. With a new outlook for senior year, OnLee radiates a passion and dedication that embodies the spirit of senior year, as well as a confidence in their platform that ultimately distinguishes them from the other candidate.
would likely take to make a dent in this long-standing institution. And while Senior Caucus does not have the jurisdiction to carry out any large-scale racial equity projects, Corr-Sela’s plan to address implicit biases by releasing a “comprehensive document that compiles free online resources on the training and combatting biases” feels insufficient to tackle all racial injustices at Stuyvesant. Furthermore, their implicit bias training for the senior class would be very difficult to execute, regardless of Corr’s prior training. Though some of their written platforms lack the realism needed to inspire maximum confidence, CorrSela have created and are continuing a strong set of policies and projects that at the very least should make for a smooth transition into senior year. Several of their senior traditions, such as their senior slogan Zoom background competition or second term senior stickers via Facebook frame, feel especially promising. The Corr-Sela campaign is invariably 2020’s safe choice for the Senior Caucus. With years of caucus experience and existing bonds with current members of both the SU and Stuyvesant administration, there is no doubt they know what they’re doing when it comes to student government. But with such an experienced ticket, one would expect a more impressive and extensive list of accomplishments as well as a better grasp on effectively connecting with their grade. Moreover, their faulty record, especially over the past few months, has led to serious doubts about their ability to put in the appropriate effort and energy needed to energize the senior class as a whole and lift the duo out of the transparency and communication issues that have been plaguing their ticket.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
News NEWSBEAT 154 Stuyvesant seniors have been acknowledged as semifinalists for the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. Spanish teacher Carlos Bravo, social studies teacher Victor Greez, biology teacher Marianna Reep, and technology teacher Joel Winston have retired from Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant updated its grading framework, in which grading has been broken down into three categories: summative assessments, worth a maximum of 70 percent, homework/ preparation, and classwork/ participation, both of which are worth a minimum of 15 percent. Stuyvesant held its annual college night virtually on Wednesday, September 16. In coordination with the Student Union, Principal Seung Yu held town hall meetings for each grade on the first day of orientation, Wednesday, September 16.
Kristoff Misquitta Wins Genes in Space Competition continued from page 1
had been done about this, mostly because being on the ISS there’s usually something you can do— there’s a last resort of returning astronauts to Earth,” he said. Misquitta, the third student at Stuyvesant to win the Genes in Space contest, had prepared extensively for the contest and was shocked to receive the news of his win. “It was total disbelief. It took me a good week to process it from the time of the announcement that I actually have a spot reserved on the ISS for my experiment to being able to interact with the people I’ve dreamed my whole life of working with,” Misquitta said. “I see Genes in Space as the culmination of a lot of dreams I’ve had since I was a child, […] and I think it’s an experience I’ll only get once in my lifetime.” To prepare for the launch of his experiment at the ISS, Misquitta is working with a team of scientists to ensure that his experiment comes to fruition. “One of the aspects that Genes in Space encourages you not to think about when writing a proposal is
feasibility,” Misquitta said. “We’re going to try to focus on doing a larger portion on Earth because it’s much easier with all the access to labs […] having astronauts do it in space, they need to train to do it first, and it’s a lot of approvals to get through as well.” Beurnier and Chen’s proposal, for which they won an honorable
research into a potential cause,” Chen said. Both Chen and Beurnier found participating in the Genes in Space competition to be a rewarding experience. “It’s a really good way to learn a bit about space travel and what NASA’s doing and genetics in general. I think it’s a good way to be exposed to
“I see Genes in Space as the culmination of a lot of dreams I’ve had since I was a child, […] and I think it’s an experience I’ll only get once in my lifetime.” —Kristoff Misquitta, senior mention, focused on the epigenetic regulation of genes in developing mice embryos in space. “We wanted to do this experiment because no mammalian embryo has ever been grown beyond the blastula phase in space, and as this has obvious implications for future extraterrestrial exploration, we decided to choose this topic and
a certain part of scientific research,” Beurnier said. Chen added, “You truly learn a lot from the experience, and your work right now as a high schooler could impact the future of science through the doctors who read your proposal.” For future Stuyvesant students hoping to participate in the con-
test, Misquitta emphasized the importance of having perseverance and creativity when coming up with a proposal. “While you start researching, I guarantee it’s going to feel like every topic that you could possibly propose has already been proposed and that there’s no room left for an idea that’s original. But keep in mind that if you do enough research, if you go to these science websites, read enough papers, explore textbooks, I can tell you there’s going to be one more thing that no one has really thought of to explore,” Misquitta said. “And if you do find that one topic, it’s going to be really compelling.” As a mentor, Quenzer believes that the Genes in Space competition helps students build crucial skills in all fields. “I see Genes in Space as this incredible opportunity for students. It allows them to learn about and potentially use technology that did not exist when I was in high school. It teaches them how to write convincing proposals, public speaking, and networking,” she said. “These are invaluable skills. This contest opens doors. It is like grad school in miniature.”
Student Union Introduces New Online Initiatives By JENNY LIU, MOMOCA MAIRAJ, KATIE NG, and RAJHASREE PAUL The Student Union (SU) is ushering in the upcoming, atypical school year with a set of new initiatives to help students adjust. Under the leadership of senior and President Julian Giordano and junior and Vice President Shivali Korgaonkar, the SU organized these initiatives in the hopes of building a sense of community. “There’s a certain energy that stems from interacting with people in person, and [t]hough [the SU] acknowledge[s] that we cannot recreate that dynamic online, it’s so important we all work together to somehow bring back the small things that make Stuy Stuy, […] to recreate a sense of normalcy in our completely abnormal lives,” senior and School Leadership Team (SLT) Alternate Caroline Ji said in an e-mail interview.
Get to Know Yu: Weekly Conversations
Monthly Town Hall Meetings
The beginning of the school year marks the beginning of Principal Seung Yu’s first year at Stuyvesant. His appointment follows former Principal Eric Contreras’s resignation in late July and comes at a time when policy-making for the school community proves difficult, as students are physically absent due to remote learning. The SLT and Event Planning Department of the SU introduced “Get to Know Yu: Weekly Conversations” in an effort to better connect Yu to the student body in late August. Every Friday afternoon, 15 students have the opportunity to connect and chat with Yu. “The hope is that through these conversations, [Yu] will get to see and experience the different slices of life that exist at Stuy, better understand the different interests that students share, [and] allow students to share parts of their personalities and values with him,” Ji said. In a virtual setting, it is difficult for students to connect with administration on a personal level. Former SU President Vishwaa Sofat (’20) and Giordano, who was SU Vice President at the time, served as the liaison between the student body and administration, funneling student concerns to their respective departments in the spring of 2020. Though the SU set up surveys to streamline communication, students still lost opportunities to interact directly with faculty. “One of the things students loved about [Contreras] was his Open Door Policy. You could walk into his room, say hi, and raise a point anytime,” Giordano said. “How can this happen this year? How can we make it so that it’s more than just checking boxes on a survey? The idea that came to the forefront was that we should create opportunities for students to have intimate conversations [with Yu], almost as if they were meeting in person.” The conversations follow a semi-structured format, allowing Yu and the students to have discussions that are intimate and relevant. “A thing that particularly stood out to me was that [Yu] was willing to engage with us on a personal level,” freshman Andrew Park said in an e-mail interview. “He took the time to ask each of us what our hobbies were and what we wished to achieve by coming to Stuyvesant, and I found that conducive to getting closer to him.” Members of the SLT and Event Planning Committees rotate as facilitators to ensure that the sessions run smoothly. “We work continuously with [Yu] to make these initiatives as productive and engaging as possible for our community,” senior and SLT Representative Sarai Pridgen said in an e-mail interview. “These weekly meetings are purposefully small and aim to create real bonds between [Yu] and members from all of Stuy’s niches.” This initiative relies largely on the students, whose feedback will allow the SU to make necessary adjustments to improve the functionality and efficiency of the conversations. Ultimately, the goal of these conversations is to foster familiarity between Yu and the student body during an unprecedented school year. “[Yu] seems like a good principal who can connect with the students closely and get to talk to them on a more equal footing,” Park said. “I’m glad that I was able to talk to him and get to know him better.”
In addition to weekly Get to Know Yu events, the SU is hosting monthly town hall meetings open to all students and staff. Inspired by last year’s Coffee with Contreras sessions offered to parents, the SU is looking to extend the opportunity to students so they can learn about new initiatives from both the SU and school administration. “Every month, the administration can come give a presentation on what they’re working on. If students are working on something, we can share student presentations too,” Giordano said. In doing so, the SU hopes to provide regular updates for projects in progress and open a dialogue for questions and answers. Eleanor Chin / The Spectator
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Features When Clubs Go Remote… By NICOLE ITKIN, TASHFIA NOOR and RACHEL VILDMAN
side conversations, and make for a plethora of distractions. Junior and co-president of the Ethics Forum Michelle Zhang said, “Meeting online [limits] social cues and makes it harder for well-timed, professional discussion without unintentionally speaking over others.” Communication aside, distractions are also at an all time
Cadence Li / The Spectator
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced all clubs to flounder in an abrupt switch to the remote sphere, and it has also made the unifying experience that clubs provide more important than ever. While club leaders know that their clubs cannot be entirely replicated in an online format, they hope they can continue to provide interactive environments like those of previous years. The sudden and unexpected switch to remote learning threw off the election process for club leaders last year. Junior and Student Union (SU) Vice President Shivali Korgaonkar said, “Normally, the SU President and Vice President are elected in April, but this year, both SU and Caucus elections were pushed to September.” She added, “Julian [SU President] and I ran uncontested, meaning we were able to officially take office on September 10 after fulfilling our signature requirements for the petition. However, the [Board of Election] will still be hosting a town hall for Julian and [me], where students can ask us questions and express their concerns.” Junior and Clubs and Pubs Auditor Jennifer Ji added, “Because of COVID, a lot of elections and positions are empty, and there is more of a delay. Shivali and Julian [just decided on an executive board], but they still have to fill out director positions for this upcoming year.” While leaders typically promote their clubs by filling the halls of Stuyvesant with vibrant, eyecatching posters, club leaders will now have to take on much more innovative approaches to finding members. Ji shared, “Since we’re switching to remote, it’s a lot harder for freshmen to get engaged and meet members because attending Zoom meetings can be extremely daunting. Facebook will be extremely important this year for clubs to get their name[s] out and get incoming freshmen to join.” Many clubs have taken advantage of existing social media platforms. “Our most effective method so far is posting in the Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class of 22, 23, and 24 groups. We have also
created a club Instagram account, @stuysavethechildren,” junior Maya Dunayer said when speaking about Save The Children, a club that she helped found last year and a branch of the nonprofit organization by the same name. Senior and Key Club President David Shi explained Key Club’s plan to attract more members. “Our club plans to compile video clips from members and the board to show what the club entails during this virtual transition,” he shared. However, students, particularly incoming freshmen, are finding it very difficult to find information about clubs. Freshman Henry Ji said, “ I know a little about the clubs, such as that they will be going online, but I don’t have much more information other than that. I also don’t really know where to go to find out more information, and a lot of people seem to also be in the dark. I am not very confident [in my knowledge of ] how [clubs like] debate [and] sports [teams in general are going to] work.” A hub of information on the clubs at Stuy, Stuy Activities is meant to function as a place where students can browse through clubs and find information. Junior and member of the SU IT department Victor Veytsman is aware of issues concerning StuyActivities: “I feel like people have been aware of StuyActivities but haven’t used it much. Because of the pandemic, a lot of things will have to be conducted online, which [will] make StuyActivities more relevant [and more popular].” He continued, “StuyActivities 2.0 was written from the ground up. The style and functionality have [been] changed to make it easier and more intuitive to use. I’m really happy with the fact that StuyActivities is open source, meaning that anyone can contribute to it if they’d like to. [We’re planning] on building more features, such as club posts, so look out for those in the near future!” Attracting members, however, is just the first step for club leaders, followed by actually planning and overseeing the club. While this comes with many different challenges, one looms particularly large with the switch to remote: engagement. Online platforms are formal, with no room for
high online. “It’s really easy t o stop paying attention in a Zoom meeting by scrolling through TikTok on your phone or watching Netflix,” Under Secretary General of Personnel of Model United Nations (MUN) Dunayer said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is how frustrating this is for the person who is running the Zoom meeting.” For some clubs, switching to remote means that many features of their clubs won’t be able to take place this year. “One of the greatest parts of MUN is its interactivity; the entire premise of the activity is being able to interact with people face-to-face, whether that means getting up in front of a room to speak or working with other delegates to create solutions to complex topics,” Dunayer said.
“With virtual meetings, much of that interactivity and camaraderie that makes MUN special is lost.” Senior and Research Club president Ethan Samuel-Lin agrees with this sentiment: “Labs can never truly be replicated digitally. Due to this, [we’ve] decided to shift our focus more [toward] educating our community in techniques behind research [and educating our members in] potential applications.” The Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) has been affected similarly; without the ability to use a theater and have in-person meetings, the entire premise of the club will be different. Junior Katherine Lake, a member of the STC slate (the governing body of the STC), said, “STC normally relies heavily on being in-person and having access to the building for productions, [so] adjusting to remote performances and scheduling will certainly be a challenge. Virtually, we hope to recreate [the] experience by having a fall/winter musical, where crews will meet through Zoom at a similar frequency to produce our first virtual show.” Lake continued, “We are [still] planning to host several exciting events every few weeks [in which we can] bond with new members and have fun.” Michelle Zhang, junior and vice president of the engineering department for the robotics team, said, “All of our lessons will be given online in the form of presentations and video calls. In the engineering department, we plan to utilize Onshape, a computeraided design software system that multiple people can work on at once. I’m concerned about the actual building aspect of robotics [because] the engineering department is very hands-on, [and] there are some aspects of engineering that I fear we may not be able to teach as effectively [online].” The transition online, though difficult, has its fair share of benefits. Thanks to the multitude of
digital platforms, hosting and attending meetings can be just a few clicks away. Shi noted that the screen sharing feature on Zoom has proven to be very useful. “We do love to incorporate the use of PowerPoints in our meetings, [so] being able to screen share means we can more easily convey information to members. Previously, this would not be possible, as the use of smartboards by clubs [is] not permitted,” he explained. In addition, the accessibility of online platforms has led to a rise in attendance and meeting frequency. “More people will be able to attend [meetings as] compared to when we held in-person meetings [because] everyone has very different schedules,” shared senior Emma Donnelly, one of the founders of Project Kaleidoscope, an artistic activism club that runs an online publication blending art with social advocacy. “Now, our available time is more streamlined.” For Donnelly and senior and co-founder Kelly Guo, going fully remote has also allowed them to grow Project Kaleidoscope outside of Stuyvesant. “We started it last summer, and we initially just created it for Stuyvesant students, but then we really wanted to expand, especially because of the increasing importance of recognizing social justice issues,” Donnelly shared. Being fully online has allowed them to do just that. “We were able to focus on how we could leverage the virtual climate to expand,” Donnelly said. This fall won’t be easy; people will be kicked out of their Zoom rooms, club leaders will have to speak to a wall of black screens, breakout rooms won’t open, and people will start scrolling through TikTok during club meetings. Still, club leaders have to keep going, and in order to do so, they might just have to trust that their members will show up, pay attention, and make the best of the situation. While there is no doubt that the transition will be difficult, it’s one that is necessary. As Jennifer Ji said, “Clubs are a vital part of school. Extracurriculars are a way for students to blow off steam from school and [teach] students time management, commitment, and new [skills]. [They’re] a bigger part of academic life than people may realize.”
Stranger Things: Pandemic Edition By AVA FUNG and CALISTA LEE
Yaqi Zeng / The Spectator
Even before the pandemic, a normal day in New York was never actually normal. Think of the lady in the park commanding her army of pigeons, the people screaming at the deli, or anything in Times Square, really. And even though New York has been in lockdown for months, the craze hasn’t been silenced but has rather returned in full force. People in quarantine are baking sourdough and going days without seeing the sun. The Internet has gone corona-crazy, pumping out everything from pandemic memes to coronavirus T-shirts that nobody can decide whether to find funny or offensive. Even the school system, normally a sober presence, has also gone a little loopy after a semester of remote learning.
During quarantine, sophomore Marilyn Shi has gotten to know a more quirky side of herself.
“Honestly, the weirdest thing I’ve seen from the pandemic is probably me,” she admitted. “I’ve done
a lot of weird things. My TikTok ‘For You’ page is quite the reflection of that. It’s full of minion love stories and Elon Musk filters.” In addition, Shi has been coding her own unusual games. She made her own game in Roblox called “Child Comes Out of You SIMULATOR,” which is Shrek-themed for any at-home pregnant moms with an affinity for Shrek to practice on. Hobbies aren’t the only things that have become a little strange—so have Zoom classes. Sophomore Frances Schwartz noticed some wacky aesthetic changes in her classmates in the spring: “I do remember that there [were] two guys that came into the class meeting with hats on [...] One of them had a floppy beach hat on, and the other had a fedora, and [the teacher] said to both of them in that intimidating way he does,
‘Did you guys have an unfortunate haircut?’” Because all the barbershops were closed at the time, both students said yes. “It was so funny because you could tell it was [so] last minute,” Schwartz said. “They just looked [at] the Zoom camera and reached for the nearest covering.” The strangeness does not end in our homes. For those who are able to go outside, it’s another place to witness events they wouldn’t have seen half a year ago. Senior Sean Fung noted, “The weirdest thing I’ve seen is [...] people grocery shopping in full out hazmat suits. There’s also this person in my neighborhood who I used to see walking around all the time in an astronaut suit and [...] protective helmet.” Sophomore Anna Kathawala has seen similar scenes in Manhattan while buying groceries with
her family. She recounted, “As we were walking down the street, we saw a man with two brooms in his hands, and he was holding them out to maintain his social distance.” While these stories describe people on the cautious end, there are also those who err on the side of danger. Fung saw that others have been working their way around wearing masks by inventing their own fishnet masks. To his shock, people on the Internet have commented that this invention saved their lives. As the pandemic drags on, many aspects of students’ lives have deviated from the norm. From how their days are spent to bizarre attire, these new and quirky personalities and situations are all reminders that even when times get rough, New Yorkers always find unique and distinctive ways to get through them.
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Features Zooming in on the Problems: How Stuyvesant Teachers Are Adapting to This Coming Year
By ALEXANDER LAKE
Undergoing change is difficult. Often, change occurs over time, and this gradual nature of it is what makes change easier to cope with. But with the arrival of the coronavirus in the United States, many things were altered drastically and suddenly. One of the most important things that changed was the education system. Students and teachers were forced to adapt to the new reality almost instantaneously. Plunging into remote classes was no mean feat for either teachers or students, as there were so many unknowns at the time. The new academic environment was not one that teachers had time to prepare for, so classes were inevitably negatively affected. Students were left to do more individual studying than before, and in a virtual world of many distractions, it was much harder to keep on task than it would have been in a classroom. Now, about six months later, school is back in session, and
teachers across departments have been adapting and learning from their mistakes to make the transition into the new school year as seamless as possible. Both remote and blended learning present numerous obstacles, all of which faculty members are deconstructing in order to ensure a positive student experience. Within the Social Studies Department, teachers are tackling the issue surrounding the bulk of the curriculum. With school starting later than usual, the same amount of material needs to be taught in less time. “The history department is working to combine content delivery with skills development,” history teacher Lori-Ann Newman said. “Teachers are collaborating on how [to best] deliver key elements of their courses as effectively as possible in this crunched timeline.” Newman recognizes, however, that the experience of inperson learning is never going to be the same as either a remote or a
blended classroom. “I miss hearing my students talk about their position on a law or a Supreme Court decision [...] leading to new ideas and new angles and positions on historical topics that maybe have not been previously explored. We learn from each other, and that’s the magic. That’s what I miss.” STEM-oriented classes, however, have a different set of challenges. For a course like physics, which is very conceptual in nature, there are some notable hurdles that teachers must overcome. As much as a student can spend their entire day memorizing equations and the specific scenarios that they fit, applying the concepts is a key component of succeeding in a subject like physics. Finding ways to demonstrate concepts virtually and interactively has been a large part of creating a more invigorating learning experience. “The teachers will be providing the students [with] additional resources such as simulations and video demonstrations, and the
teachers will be creating their own video presentations,” said Assistant Principal of Physics Scott Thomas. Additionally, Physics Lab, a class intended to fill in conceptual gaps in students’ learning and give them a chance to experiment with their physical surroundings and apply their classroom knowledge in a hands-on setting, will not be able to take place in-person. Though this class had its shortcomings last year, adaptations have been made this year to ensure a better experience. “Physics Lab will no longer be a separate class with another teacher, but rather a more integrated part of the regular Honors Physics course with the student’s own teacher,” physics teacher Thomas Miner commented. This change should in turn streamline the learning process, as teachers will have more control over when they address a specific concept. With regard to instruction, Miner intends to employ a “flipped classroom” model, which he believes best suits a remote environ-
ment. “I plan to provide much of my instruction asynchronously, through videos I create and others I link to. Then, in my scheduled live sessions, I plan to answer questions and work with students on problem-solving,” Miner said. By finding new ways to deliver material to students, teachers are able to build a virtual infrastructure that encourages collaborative learning just as they would have in a regular school year. Though it’s never going to be the same as the sought-after Stuyvesant experience, students certainly aren’t losing everything when it comes to learning. Stuyvesant students are lucky to have teachers so committed to providing quality education even during difficult times, and though the student body will need to continue to adapt to the situation, it is important to remember that the teachers will be adapting alongside them in a continuous search for the optimal remote learning environment.
“This is about more than just the budget”: Meril Mousoom’s Fight for Justice By ANGELA CAI, ARPITA SAHA and MIM PARVIN “Imagine the pain, the agony, of being left behind. Of being told that your arts education, your summer youth employment, will be left behind. Of being told that we don’t matter,” senior Meril Mousoom said in an online testimony during a city council conference this May. Of the 1.1 million students in New York City public schools, Mousoom was only one of a handful of students testifying in front of the New York City Panel for Education Policy (PEP). These students called for a cut in the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s budget so that the money could be shifted toward funding for schools. Despite the testimony being conducted online, the message of Mousoom’s speech resonated through the screen. Mousoom’s introduction to the world of activism began at seven years old: “Since I was seven, I [have] read the news every single day, and in middle school, I joined my school newsletter,” she described. From there, Mousoom joined programs such as Center Against Asian American Violence and Girls for Gender Equity, which helped to solidify the foundation of her activism career. Mousoom uses the knowledge she gained from these programs to increase her outreach: “I’ve actually been trying to shift myself to helping other people [for resources] such as accessing political education,” she explained. Mousoom has also taken part in a multitude of activism groups in high school. Aside from testifying in front of policy-makers, Mousoom is also a member of several coalitions, such as NYC Fight for Our Lives, which protests for the working class and those affected by COVID-19, and PoliFem, which encourages young women to run for office. Though Mousoom is a vocal advocate for several causes, she feels most frustrated lately by the massive cuts in school funding.
The reason why Mousoom chose to focus specifically on school budget cuts traces back to her middle school days. “My middle school didn’t have much funding, so many electives such as art classes were being cut. I feel like the same thing happening then is happening now,” she explained. However, disparities in the educational budget has been a recurring problem for decades, starting way before Mousoom’s experience in middle school. When the city council recently passed a bill that cut nearly one billion dollars from its education budget, Mousoom was reminded of the Foundation Aid freeze in 2009. As the main source of state school funding, Foundation Aid was created after a 2006 court case that accused the state of violating children’s rights by failing to provide them with basic education. To remedy the problem, Foundation Aid was created to increase school funding. Following the 2008 Great Recession, it was put on pause. “We still need that money,” Mousoom said. “Access to basic education was impaired way before the pandemic, and now the city wants to cut another one billion dollars.” In opposition to the bill that passed, Mousoom helped produce an online play called “Youth Resist the Budget,” which criticized the city council’s decision. “Surprisingly, a couple hundred people came, and so did two members of [the] city council,” she said. “It was really amazing.” Mousoom’s proudest accomplishment, however, was her testimony in front of the PEP. Her speech caught the attention of several city council members, including Vanessa Gibson and Daniel Dromm. “They told me they thought my speech was really powerful. Even Carlina Rivera, another city council member, followed me on Twitter,” she said. “Later, I found out that the three city council members actually voted against the budget, meaning they supported defunding the police.” Mousoom cites her English
teacher Emilio Nieves as a largely influential figure. “His class is the reason I’m able to write speeches. We looked over speeches and analyzed why they were successful,” she said. For Mousoom, writing speeches is an art form, and she focuses on using emotions rather than statistics to center her experiences. Mousoom uses techniques such as ethos, pathos, and logos, which are often used in speech writing to emotionally sway audiences. Other figures of inspiration include youth activists Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, and Irsa Hirsi, an American environmental activist. Though giving speeches is an integral part of activism, Mousoom finds organizing rallies and protesting to be far more gratifying experiences because she has been able to do them in-person as opposed to virtually. “When you protest, you’re doing a lot of planning and hands-on stuff. When you’re testifying, you’re doing the same thing but in a more sanctioned way,” she said. Mousoom has attended many rallies and speeches in the past, but her first experience helping organize a rally was this year in June, working jointly with the coalition Dignity in Schools. Taking place in front of education chancellor Richard Carranza’s house and at the exact same time as a PEP meeting, the rally advocated for policefree schools. There, its members, including Mousoom, testified live. The rally ended up being successful, and the panel voted to transfer school safety from the hands of the NYPD to the Department of Education. The rally’s success was due to the collective effort and preparation of Mousoom and the members of Dignity in Schools. Organizing a rally includes checking off some important prerequisites such as establishing mutual aid, which is an organization theory based on exchanging food and water with fellow protestors, and ensuring that there is press to record and
showcase protests to a wider audience. The latter is especially important because effective protests often include a list of speakers who write impactful speeches and make crucial points that can politically educate a large audience. “Everyone has different goals, and they eventually come together. Some people do mutual aid, but I help by being the chant leader,” Mousoom said. After helping organize several other rallies, Mousoom acknowledges that the biggest hurdle in getting involved with activism is learning where to get started. “When I do find people to testify, I not only ha[ve] to educate them on what’s going on, but I also ha[ve] to help them find their own voice. It’s really hard because they needed a lot of guidance,” she explained. Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns over safety have prevented many students from participating in protests. In the long run, Mousoom hopes that more young people will become involved in activism, especially by going to rallies. For those who don’t feel ready to become outspoken, “go to a protest, talk to the MCs, [and] talk to the organizer,” Mousoom advised. Seeking guidance is a good way to start. “You should always ask for help. If you’re
unsure, [there are] always people who are willing to give you political education,” Mousoom emphasized. One of the most important aspects of activism is staying informed, and Mousoom points out that popular news sources often leave out urgent information. The New York Times, for example, has not written about governor Andrew Cuomo’s aim to cut New York’s education budget by 20 percent. Mousoom receives most of her information from fellow organizers, virtual workshops, hearings about NYC’s budgets, teach-ins, and Twitter, which is a good way to access local politicians. According to Mousoom, during these uncertain times, it’s imperative that students make their voices heard. Even small contributions such as staying well-informed can make a difference. There are many students who are still in quarantine, and this may make activism seem impossible, but social media and virtual resources are more powerful now than they have ever been. With corruption running rampant among our state and federal governments, young voices are needed everywhere. As Mousoom said in her PEP testimony, “This is about more than just the budget. This is about justice. This is about our future.”
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The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Opinions The Good, The Bad, and The Worrisome As in every other September, the back-to-school grind is upon us, but it looks very different this year. With brand new platforms, a never-before-used schedule, a fresh principal, and shifted school-wide policy, navigating this year is going to be a largely novel experience for students and teachers alike. While many of the new changes are exciting and could revolutionize the way that students learn online, others are cause for concern. The Good First and foremost, the clear structure of classes is a great improvement: 55 minute periods at a specific time of day, as opposed to the asynchronous video lessons and Google Classroom posts of last semester that had the tendency to feel haphazard. The 10-minute breaks between classes are a major upgrade, as they give students the opportunity to go to the bathroom, stretch, grab a snack, and rest our Zoom-weary eyes. Given the lack of clear plans regarding the future of school sports and extracurriculars, the 9:10 a.m. start time is an incredibly thoughtful and generous decision by the administration and provides a comfortable start to an unusual school day. Teachers’ creative use and variation of online platforms also elevate the remote student experience. On Zoom, for example, teachers have been embracing the full potential of features like breakout rooms, polls, and reactions. Some have been experimenting with platforms beyond Zoom, like Flipgrid, which allows students to create and post their own videos, and Edpuzzle, which allows teachers to record tutorials with built-in questions for students to answer at certain points in the video. For STEM classes, Whiteboard Fox effectively emulates a blackboard, allowing students and teachers to follow along together (and even saving the board for future reference).
Some teachers have been using these technologies to experiment with the “flipped classroom model,” in which students learn the material from a pre-recorded video outside of class and do practice questions or participate in a Q&A during the live session. This model is ideal for remote learning, as it allows students to pace the “lecture” portion of class as they wish and then collaborate with their peers and teacher during class time. Perhaps the most tangible shift from last semester to now is the implementation of definitive policy on camera display on Zoom. While last year’s classes often felt disjointed and empty, staring at a list of silent names or icons for an entire virtual period, the cameraon policy enforces much higher participation rates and increased engagement across the board. Additionally, the mandatory office hours time makes for a much more cohesive learning experience from class to class and provides some much-needed reassurance for distressed or confused students. The Bad This year’s remote learning has brought with it the same challenges as last semester. Because many students have siblings and parents who are also situated at home, it can be difficult to emulate the same school environment without an optimal space to learn. Moreover, the separation between school and home has been blurred as both classwork and homework are completed at home: without a daily commute or after-school sports practice, assignments blend together, and it becomes exceedingly easy to either let assignments slip by or not take enough time for oneself, outside of school work. Having to keep up with class and homework updates makes it increasingly difficult to take a break from our technology. While the 10-minute passing periods have been useful in granting a short break between classes,
with the extra 14 minutes per period, students spend many hours sitting in the same chair and staring at the same computer screen every day, leaving their eyes sore and their bodies cramped and stiff. The back-to-back calls for each class have already left students feeling drained with “Zoom fatigue” within the first few days. As some teachers have already adopted, incorporating short breaks into classes (or “stretch-breaks”) is very helpful for maintaining focus and engagement through the extended class periods. Sitting in front of a screen for almost an hour straight per class is a very difficult task, and staying focused throughout is even more challenging. The Worrisome The main difference between last year’s remote learning and this year’s is the scheduling. While students are receiving significantly less instructional time, Advanced Placement (AP) test-makers are not planning to shorten the amount of material that will be covered on AP exams, which brings up the question: how will we cover everything we need to get to in only two-thirds the time? Thus, many of us are worried about finishing the curricula in time for standardized tests at the end of the year— and, more broadly, fully absorbing all the material. Furthermore, less class time provides less opportunity for students to get to know teachers, and vice versa, especially given that all communication is only through a screen. This could raise concerns for future teacher recommendations, as it’s difficult to write for someone whom you don’t know well. While there is no clear solution to this concern, some students are concerned about organization: with the vast majority of learning materials online (and without the Parents’ Association’s planner), it is easy to lose track of assignments in the online abyss.
Letter to the Editor from Stuy Faculty
By Annie Thoms, Stuyvesant English teacher with the support of 66 teachers and 4 non-pedagogical staff members, whose signatures can be found at the botom of this letter at stuyspec.com. To the Editors: In “An Open Letter to Principal Yu,” you raise many important points about the way forward for the Stuyvesant community during this unprecedented time. In the section “Hold Teachers to a Higher Standard,” however, you mischaracterize and elide the experience of many Stuyvesant teachers during the emergency pandemic period last spring. The tone of this section is accusatory, and implies that many Stuyvesant teachers chose to check out, that our “effort slipped.” We encourage you to rethink your assessment of our efforts with a more empathetic lens. Just as the student body had a widely varying set of home circumstances, so did your teachers. Many of us are caring for our own small children at home, and were trying to navigate their remote schooling schedules while fulfilling our own. Many of us were ill, or had family members who were ill. Many of us, like many of you, lost loved ones. Many of us, like many of you, live in apartments where it is not easy to find a space where we can teach uninterrupted. Many of us, like many of you, struggled and continue to struggle with anxiety over the constantlychanging guidelines and requirements that shape our lives in this new reality. Many of your teachers never stopped working this summer. We researched online teaching platforms and set up and attended informal training sessions for each other during our vacation time. We attended union meetings and SLT meetings, drafted remote and blended learning plans, wrote and signed letters and petitions in our effort to make sure that the new school year would be as safe and as intellectually stimulating as possible. A group of us engaged in an allyship course, meeting regularly and strategizing how to help our Stuyvesant community become more anti-racist. You would not believe the number of full-faculty emails we sent, trying to figure out how to do our jobs and support and teach you to the best of our ability, trying to figure out how to keep ourselves and you and all of our families physically safe. As we begin this new school year together, it is vital that we extend empathy to each other, and that we recognize that all of us—students, faculty, and staff—are on the same side. In order to make this school year work, we will need open, respectful communication between students, faculty, and staff, and an understanding that we are all coming out of a traumatic spring, and still living and working in the midst of trauma. We all need to do our best in showing up for each other in order to get through this. That begins with empathy.
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Editors’ Response The reaction of some faculty members to a portion of The Spectator’s Issue 1 Staff Editorial “An Open Letter to Principal Yu” is a reasonable one. Teachers, no less than students, were forced to adapt quickly with few resources to a totally new set of challenging circumstances, and with that in mind it is understandable that not all teachers were able to continue live instruction. We wholeheartedly agree with the writer’s argument that “we will need open, respectful communication between students, faculty, and staff” in the coming year. We agree too without hesitation that many teachers have put in extraordinary effort since mid-March, rising far above their standard call of duty to meet the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic. And most of all, we agree with the writer’s central focus on empathy, which is crucial not only in difficult and traumatic circumstances but in everything, all the time. In hindsight, much of the section fails at achieving its intended purpose— opening a constructive dialogue about the undeniable failings of Spring 2020’s remote learning—and instead paints teachers with far too broad a brush when in actuality not all teachers were deficient or absent. Indeed, many of the bravest, most conscientious and most present teachers are among the signatories of the letter, and our initial Editorial failed to acknowledge their many successes and the radically different experiences of teachers during the pandemic. Despite its failings, the message still
stands. In the Editorial Board’s discussions surrounding the content of the then-prospective Editorial, several editors who spoke had an experience with a teacher who consistently assigned busywork to students while not maintaining any active presence. The letter demands empathy, and admirably so—but empathy goes both ways, and teachers who piled up daily assignments during a pandemic while not engaging in other ways with their students are also guilty of a lack of it. The intent of our Editorial was never to name and shame teachers, which is why throughout the section we used “some,” “a few,” or “certain” teachers to refer to those we saw as remiss, and a majority of Stuyvesant teachers can rest easy in the knowledge that they did right by their students in a time of crisis. While the admirable efforts of many teachers should have been acknowledged, to recognize those real failures which did take place on the part of faculty should not be taboo, and indeed one of the keys to the open and constructive dialogue referenced in the teachers’ letter is an openness to criticism on all sides in the interest of improving upon the remote learning experience for all parties. We thank the signatories for contacting us with their concerns about our Editorial and hope that this can be the beginning of a new era of open communication between students and staff with an eye toward the betterment of the entire Stuyvesant community.
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Opinions The Beginning By TARA WONG Once, there was nothing. It wasn’t just once, it was all the time, everytime. But there was no time. There was nothing. Nothing was. Then a small seed showed up. Nobody knows for sure who planted it, or where they came from, but the seed was there, and all of a sudden there was. The seed was small, and dense, and rather plain on the outside. But inside, there was the greatest gift of all. This seed was The Beginning. And one day, it blew up. Out of nowhere came somewhere. Out of nothing came infinity. And most of all, everywhere you looked, there was everything. Stars and galaxies, planets and moons, and the greatest gift of all. It was bouncing off everything, each time leaving a little bit of itself behind. At last, the gift settled. It dissolved and became a haven, and from those tiny little specks grew other great gifts and a woman. She was rather alone on this planet, but she didn’t mind; being born from the greatest gift of all means that you are, in a way, the greatest gift of all. The woman loved everything she had. But one day she realized that there was something missing. The woman wanted company. She wanted a friend, perhaps a few friends, to share this joyous place with. So she raised seven females to accompany her: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Light, Time, Mind, and Soul. The eight spent as much time
together as they pleased. They created beautiful, magical things, which are now lost in an infinite realm of space and wonder. After a very long while, the first woman, who had a bit of a leader’s role, gathered her sisters together and announced, “We should share our gifts, the greatest gift of all. We must create a being that can understand it, and use it to its best advantage.” So together, they created the first beings. Earth constructed them (one male and one female), giving them each a head and arms and legs and hands and feet and eyes and a nose and a mouth and everything she could think of. Next, each of the women presented the things with a gift: Fire gave emotions; Water gave persistence and strength; Air gave freedom and the desire for it; Light gave hopes and dreams; Time gave thoughts, opinions, and knowledge; Mind gave darkness and awareness; Soul gave love and truth. Last of all, the leading woman took the things’ hands and smiled, and with that the greatest gift of all was transported to them, and they became beings. They thanked the women, and went off to create their own tribe. The women continued to create more and more unique beings, and from these beings sprouted new creatures, new knowledge, new gifts. Each one was visibly grateful, and each showed different types of intelligence and skill. But then came the fateful day that they
created humans. Instead of thanking them, or even smiling, they looked around, confused. The humans sat down, and felt the grass. They looked up and tried to grab the sky. They touched each other as if they had no idea what they were. The leader realized the mistake they had made. The beings had uneven amounts of each trait. They had too much persistence, and too much desire for freedom. Their hopes and dreams were unrealistic, and their thoughts, opinions, and knowledge were sloppy and mixed together. Their minds were too dark, their souls not bright enough. The woman was smaller than the man and had more logic, but the man was visibly stronger and had more emotions. The women looked at each other frantically and tried to take the humans back, to fix them. But it was too late. They had already pulled each other along. The leader reassured the nervous women: “Never fear, my sisters. They are so intensely dull that they will kill themselves off before breeding. They will destroy themselves, and be rid from this place.” So the women disregarded the humans. It was their biggest mistake. While more, better beings were created in the little haven, the humans were at work. They created technology, and massively multiplied after only a few thousand years. They began branching out to other distant reaches of the universe, killing off innocent beings
to occupy their land, just as they had done to their own kind. Soon the universe was crawling with the humans, and they were coming for the women. “I was a fool!” the leader cried. “We should have gone after them. Now it’s too late.” Her sisters gathered around her with heavy hearts. “It’s not too late,” they said. “There is still one more thing left to do.” They held out her most prized possessions, which she had been born with. “Do you really think it’s time?” she asked. “We’re ready when you are,” they replied. “Then let’s go,” she said. “Let’s start over.” They left their haven just as the humans began to invade. They rode the universe to the top, where a penumbra concealed all existence. They broke through, and the humans tried fruitlessly to follow. “Wait!” the first woman said, and the sisters turned. The woman summoned the youngest humans, one male and one female, and took one in each arm. “Now we can go.” “What are you doing?” the sisters asked, but the woman quieted them. “I’m giving them a second chance,” she responded, smiling as she cradled the babies. Then she took her most prized possessions in one hand. They were two seeds. The greatest gift of all, named Life, planted one.
“Good luck,” Life whispered, with a smile. In their clasped hands she placed her other seed. “You’ll need this.” Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Light, Time, Mind, Soul and Life, left. They knew that the humans were smart enough to understand their task. But the future is a mess of possibility, and it was up to them to choose which path they would follow. THE END Last year, The Spectator held a middle school writing competition, receiving 88 submissions from talented writers. Here is our top submission, though our top ten will also be available on stuyspec. com. • Australia (Emma Kraja, Mark Twain) • E is for Enemy, or is it? (Cheryl Chen, Mark Twain) • Untitled (Chloe Chen and Madelyn Chin, Louis Pasteur) • Farm Day (Lucas McGarvey, Mamie Fay PS 122 Gifted and Talented Program) • The Disappearing Uighurs (Landin Huang, Louis Pasteur) • Stress in school (Alissa Cyriac & Audrey Effros, MS67) • Follow the Darkness (Noah Ng, Mark Twain) • Veganism: A Red Herring (Alisha Vohra, MS67) • Untitled (Michelle Huang, no school provided)
Be Prepared, America By MERIL MOUSOOM The future of America is here. A lot of us might identify as socialists; some of us even identify as communists. Some of us want to defund the police; a lot of us want to abolish the police. It’s easy to laugh, to say that these are fringe beliefs. But to underestimate the New Left would be a mistake. I was among the first wave of people in New York City to call for defunding the police back in late April. When I was trying to organize various efforts—like testifying in front of the city council and producing a play for the cause— many people disagreed with my beliefs, quite disrespectfully actually. I was made to feel dumb for wanting money for education, healthcare, and housing. But after the death of George Floyd, suddenly, defunding the police was not so “radical” an idea. The protests and online events in which I struggled to get a couple hundred people suddenly drew crowds of thousands. A lot of people started understanding. Not enough—the New York City Council overwhelmingly failed to defund the police. But it was not a failure. For the 2021 City Council elections, the new round of candidates believes in defunding the police by at least one billion dollars. Some of them, like Kristin Richardson Jordan and Whitney Hu, identify as abolitionists and want to abolish the police and jails. Others are seeking the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) endorsement. Why are people seeking the DSA endorsement? Because this year, the DSA (a group I am a part of ), won five seats in the New York State Senate and Assembly. This winning of seats continues a trend that began in 2018, when former DSA members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and State Senator Julia
Salazar won their seats. Non-DSA leftists have also defended progressive champions like Senator Ed Markey from challengers, ending longtime political dynasties like the Kennedy dynasty in the process. His win on September 1 was driven by hundreds of youth volunteers. The main reason why they vouched for Ed Markey was his co-authoring of the Green New Deal, the same piece of legislation that endured so much scorn for being “extreme.” But there is another piece of the puzzle. Ed Markey was the same man who had voted for things like the 2001 Iraq War. But 2001 was 17 years ago, and now—after introducing bills like the Make Billionaires Pay Act and calling for the canceling of rent—Markey is with the likes of progressives like Bernie Sanders. This proves that the New Left is not an exclusive club. Anyone can join the DSA, anyone can come to a protest I plan, and anyone can come to our teach-ins to get included. But for those who fail to listen to our calls for change, we have a special weapon: holding people accountable. No longer can people like Governor Cuomo hide under the guise of being a Trump-hating Democrat while opposing basic measures like taxing the rich to provide economic relief. We show up to the homes of people like Corey Johnson, who take bribes from real estate moguls. With their “vote blue” yard signs, liberals have remained largely silent as their own local Democratic government cuts social programs. With their love for Obama, they forget that he authorized a genocide in Yemen. Liberals have been failing to mobilize and to vote in their local elections, disregarding the work of the Civil Rights Era. Instead, we are continuing that work; the March on Wash-
ington, the place where Martin They have not spent hours waiting Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have outside of a jail, waiting for their A Dream” speech, recently had friends to be released. Said friends’ a 57th anniversary march a few crime? Peacefully protesting. weeks ago. And there was one soAnd when we fail to defund lution championed above all: ven- the police, we end up defunding dors were selling t-shirts with it. As education, healthcare, housing, I marched there a couple of weeks and a myriad of other things that ago, screaming the words “Defund actually decrease crime. the…”, the crowd screamed back: Democrats should focus on “Police!” That same weekend in being “realistic,” as former presiWashington, D.C., I also planned dential candidate Pete a speak out in defense of Buttigieg Black lives in front of told evthe MLK memorial. eryone. It was on the birthBut why day of Fred Hampshould ton, another Black we listen revolutionary civil to him, rights activist. Again, the man the same message who took of defunding donations from bilthe police was lionaires like the owner met with a of one of NYC’s most smattering expensive properties, on of enthusithe urgency of issues asm. like economic relief for Like the America’s poorest? civil rights And it’s not just movement, Pete Buttigieg who we also have many looks down on our movepeople who hate us. ment. As an education adSo many liberals take vocate, I have arranged to social media, rantprivate meetings with state ing about how much legislators and their conthey hate the defundstituents to convince them ing of the police moveto sign onto bills. The lack ment. When I was of humanity is appalling. quoted in a Gothamist Despite spending more article about my bethan 30 hours a week on liefs, the comments activism this summer, I was section went nuts, calltold that we did not work ing me a “brainwashed hard enough by a state sena16-year-old,” among tor, and he refused to fund other things I do not education. Our activism for want to relive. school integration came at But these people have “not the right time,” a state not been kidnapped and assemblymember said. put into Another unmarked state senapolice tor I met Ka Seng Soo / The Spectator cars. This with to disexact thing happened in a Manhat- cuss education funding was more tan protest a couple of months ago worried about the billionaires to a trans woman named Nikki. having another expense than the
thousands of teacher layoffs and arts programs that were to be cut this year. It’s important to note that all of these state legislators are Democrats, but very clearly moderates. And as Jenny Chen, one of the leaders of the wildly successful Ed Markey campaign, said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that broken systems require bold solutions.” This begs the question: Why are we arguing over the feasibility of Medicare for all in the midst of a pandemic? Why are we refusing a Green New Deal as the west coast burns in wildfires? Should we not recognize history when we see it? Shaming Bernie Sanders, the man who put progressivism on the national scale, is like shaming Barry Goldwater, the extreme conservative who fell short of winning the presidency in 1964. So they failed. But you forget that in 1980, the extreme conservatives had Ronald Reagan, the man who set the stage for our current president. So yes, we may have not won a true progressive presidential candidate in 2020. We may have not defunded the police. But we are coming, and everyone should be prepared. At the core of this is the movement on the streets. As someone who has planned protests weekly since June, I will keep being out on the streets with or without someone in the government who cares about the things we do. We will continue taking up space for our causes. Movements don’t have presidents—they have people. And I know that we are on the right side of history. Meril Mousoom is an education justice activist. They organize events weekly around urgent issues like unsafe reopening, police-free schools, and more.
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Opinions House of Cards
By ELICIA CHAU
Lauren Chin / The Spectator
My middle school experience was careless and easy. It was frivolous middle school drama—my friends and I whispering and gossiping at 3:00 a.m., wrapped in sleeping bags on the floor of my best friend’s basement. It was playful comparisons between a 99 average and a 98.7, teasingly and enviously saying: “Oh, of course you’ll be the valedictorian.” It was easily agreeing to get Chipotle after school or to go play badminton in the park without a care in the world, because only the same two teachers would give homework anyway. It was the unspoken trust we had in life—trust that we would always be able to live in the moment. At my tiny middle school in the middle of nowhere, it felt like I knew so much. I had all the time in the world; every day seemed to move as if life would freeze for me if I just asked nicely. With this security and faith in my own self-importance, I had all the time to explore myself: to draw what I wanted to, to watch whatever shows I pleased, and to have the freedom I craved. I could lie down and just think without having a budget for time. I knew the parts of myself that I didn’t have
to show anyone else. I knew myself—my rawest parts and who I was—and that was enough. But Stuyvesant—in all its competitive, impossible glory—is different from my middle school. A m i d struggling t o
keep my average afloat, adapting to the concept of possibly losing friends because of horribly lined up schedules, and trying to manage with four hours of sleep at night, it slowly be-
came more and more apparent how quickly life was leaving me behind. The time I once spent sketching—because wow, frogs are really cool—became time spent making study guides because I have an AP Environmental Science test tomorrow (and I barely understand this chapter). The time I used to watch the anime I saw on my Instagram feed became time used to frantically text my friends, asking if they wanted to hang out since we were finally all free. The me that was once able to think for myself, recap my life, and keep myself calm and up-to-speed became the me trying to sleep as soon as I finished my work for the day because the train leaves at 6:40 a.m., and I can’t miss it again. All of a sudden, time was moving too fast. It wasn’t waiting for me—not anymore. There were more students in my grade than in my entire middle school—all of them a million times smarter, a million times more talented, a million times better than I was. In my effort to compete with them, I lost touch with the things that once kept me alive. These were the same things that made me unique, and the slower and further back I fell, the more I realized how much of myself I was losing. This fast-paced, we-can’t-and-won’t-wait-for-you environment meant there were no
longer enough hours in the day for myself. The balance between getting enough sleep at night, managing my grades to ensure a good future, and maintaining a social life could topple over at the slightest touch. Like a house of cards, the balance was fragile. Like a forgotten card, the time that I once spent on myself disappeared. Knowing yourself is a privilege, something that I had mistakenly taken for granted. The entirety of freshman year, I found myself empty and tired. Exhaustion and fatigue took over as soon as I got home, and I was forced to face the mountain of work left to do. I tried to catch my breath in the tiny intervals between classes, as if they were the only moments I had to myself. It’s because of this exhaustion and the resulting time shortage that when people ask me what I like to do for fun, I no longer have a clear answer. It’s because of this tiredness that at night, I often dread waking up, haunted by the idea of experiencing another boring and empty day. With sophomore year rapidly approaching and without me having understood my freshman year, I’m not so sure what it means to really be a student, to be human, anymore. I’m stuck attempting to redefine who I am as a person, facing the cruel realization that what matters most is how we present ourselves, instead of who we are.
After all, I spent all of freshman year holding my house of cards together, sacrificing the parts of me that I had reserved for myself in an effort to maintain that balance. My conversations with the people around me aren’t about what I like to do on a Thursday night anymore—they’re about grades and school and when we might have free time. For better or worse, prioritizing these things, the surface that now defines who I am, has become more important than my own perception and understanding of myself. Seeing myself from middle school compared to myself now pains me. It’s strange seeing myself with eyes so bright and excited only a year and a half ago, when I now can barely find it in me to pick up a pencil and sketch something. As I keep chasing after that feeling of aliveness while trying to balance my house of cards, the path to finding that aliveness grows longer and more impossible, as if it winds and extends further each time I take a step. It’s an endless journey, one that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to see the end of. It’s a forever I’m not sure I can dedicate myself to. It’s an ending I can’t seem to find. My arms, the ones that I had once used to try and hold my life together, are giving out. Just like that, the house of cards falls.
The Backbone of America By RAE SEONG JEONG
The impact of poor posture has proven to be much greater than what meets the eye. Excessive slouching stunts growth in both individuals and the economy—after the common cold, back pain is the largest cause for absenteeism from work, account-
back pain being the second most common reason that people see a doctor, individualized attention for back pain cases has become rare, and treatments for them became more generalized. Today, the general treatment that doctors offer are opioids. The problem is
ing for 15 percent of sick leaves. It also accounts for the third-highest amount of healthcare spending at a staggering $87.6 billion. And, for younger generations, bad posture is linked to a multitude of immediate physical and mental health impacts, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. More alarmingly, spine-related health problems have also been found to be a major contributor to the opioid crisis. With
that opioids are overprescribed and anything but a viable solution. According to experts, while opioids temporarily alleviate neck and back pain, they do little to fix the underlying problem. Rigorous physical therapy and posture education, experts advise, remain the only solutions. Yet in modern doctors’ offices, these recommendations are completely absent. As more and more Americans go to the doctor for back pain, less and
Mandy Li / The Spectator
President Donald Trump delivered his remarks at the commencement ceremony of the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, on Saturday, June 13. As he proudly announced the expansion of the armed forces under his administration—with the Space Force, hypersonic missiles and all—the president’s customary political posturing was present. But West Point’s graduating class was soon joined by audiences on social media. A video clip of the ceremony, in which Trump can be seen taking tentative and shaky steps as he walked down a ramp at his entrance, began trending on Twitter, along with the hashtag #TrumpIsNotWell. The hashtag, which remains trending, is reflective of a longexisting concern where Americans have raised an eyebrow at the President’s awkward balance and posture at public appearances. It remains unclear whether it’s Trump’s physical or political backbone that warrants greater scrutiny, but one thing is certain: Trump’s positioning sheds light on the larger, intergenerational crisis concerning the decline of American posture. Poor posture is an epidemic that easily outpaces COVID-19. For years, it’s adopted many names, from the classic “tech neck” to the more recent “Zoom hunch.” These pithy labels, however, can be misleading. Though the rise of technology has certainly played a significant role in the spread of poor posture among younger generations, poor posture was reaching the youth long before iPhones did. While straining your neck to look down at an electronic gadget for hours at a time would undoubtedly play a part in accelerating the rise of bad posture, the root cause of the increase in poor posture lies in education. With the establishment of the
American compulsory education system 100 years ago came concerns for the health-related impacts of children sitting at desks for six hours a day—an unprecedented expectation at the time. To address those fears, school officials zealously enforced posture in education by incorporating posture into daily curricula. The American Posture League (APL) was born in 1914 with hopes to standardize posture education across the nation. Under the APL’s watch, posture education was not only enforced consistently across the country, but posture evaluations gave measurable and trackable results. Thus, the maintenance of posture in American schools was not only strictly enforced, but also closely monitored. The efforts of school officials and the APL ultimately proved successful—that is, until posture education vanished in the 1960s. However pervasive the importance of maintaining good posture once was, with sayings like “don’t slouch” and “keep your elbows off the table” ringing through American schools and households alike, the pressure to sit upright soon buckled under the influence of pop culture. The flapper movement, for example, championed slouching as an act of protest, associating upright posture with rigidity and conformity. Throughout the 20th century, America experienced a push toward making schools more progressive and less disciplinary in nature. As a result, posture education, alongside the punitive and rigid nature of traditional schooling, received the boot. The consequences of this removal have reverberated into the modern day; research now finds American posture in rapid decline. The lack of attention to posture—coupled with even longer school days, the ubiquity of gadgets like mobile phones, and full-day videoconferencing schedules—experts warn, is a recipe for disaster.
less receive the treatment they need. And from the perspective of the pharmaceutical industry, the reasoning is clear: there is far more profit to be gained in prescribing pills than physical therapy. The solution is simple: reimplementation of posture education in schools. In order to circumvent profit-driven incentives in the healthcare industry, deliver effective measures to decrease neck and back pain, and bolster long-term musculoskeletal health across the board, action must start precisely where the problem did: in education. Several studies measuring the effectiveness of postural education programs—conducted with various age groups, regions, and sample sizes—found statistically significant trends in the improvement of posture and general musculoskeletal health. In one study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Science this past July, a one-year postural education program was found to decrease lower back pain in students by up to 49 percent. Just as they were 100 years ago, proper posture education and maintenance should be required and standardized components of schooling. In the wake of COVID-19, the epidemic of poor posture makes its stand yet again. As schools implement remote learning solutions and students continue to fall victim to the “Zoom hunch,” American posture continues to worsen. But with or without remote solutions, President Trump still stands staunchly to push for brisk school reopenings—at a press conference last month, he championed the necessary “mental, physical, emotional, and academic development that schools provide.” His posture on education is undoubtedly a resolute one, and for the sake of health, productivity, and the economy alike, that posture should also include—well, posture.
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Opinions Editor’s note: it is generally against Spectator policy to publish anonymous articles. We made an exception in this case, however, because of the writer’s concerns that they might face homophobia in their personal life as a repercussion for publishing the piece in their own name. We hope that one day, people will be able to express opinions like this and express resistance only to their ideas, rather than to their identity. When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots in middle school while doing independent research on the queer rights movement, I wondered why we hadn’t learned about the important event in class. Though some U.S. history classes at Stuyvesant do teach about the LGBTQ+ rights movement, I have never encountered queer history in school and know of none of my fellow sophomores who have done so. Additionally, many history classes do not include discussions of gender and sexuality throughout history, which fuels misconceptions about queer identities. We ignore the sexualities and gender identities of important historical figures despite the fact that these were parts of these figures’ life experiences. History curricula throughout New York City need to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ history by teaching students about the LGBTQ+ rights movement, including discussions of gender and sexuality throughout history, and by highlighting the sexualities and gender identities of important historical figures—in a way that is appropriate for all grades. The LGBTQ+ rights movement should be taught across the city to students in elementary and middle school rather than those in 11th grade; the LGBTQ+ rights movement is an important part of U.S. history, since it illustrates the struggles of sexual and gen-
der minorities and how they have progressed to gain the rights that they rightfully deserve. Students should learn about this history in earlier grades in order to understand and recognize the struggles that queer people have gone and continue to go through in our society. Additionally, it is important to teach queer history to younger groups in order to instill ideas of respect and equality. Though many may believe that it is inappropriate to expose younger children to queer identities, this stems from the idea that queer identities are inherently sexual and vulgar, which is not the case. Because of the fact that we have accustomed to cisheteronormativity, we see queer identities as inherently vulgar in our society when it is in fact possible to introduce younger grades to queer history by excluding violent or sexual parts. However, more action needs to be taken to break certain misconceptions about LGBTQ+ identities. The misconception that LGBTQ+ identities are an invention of modern-day Western civilization can easily be broken if we choose to study different norms of gender and sexuality throughout history. For example, in Sparta, the custom of pederasty meant that military men had sex with boys as well as their own wives. Though this custom is disturbing, it helps us understand how norms about sexuality have changed throughout history. And though it may come as a surprise to many, gender norms were very different even in Medieval Europe, when Christianity saw women as “having strong, often ‘insatiable’ sexual ‘drive’ and capacity.” This illustrates how ideas about the characteristics of each gender were thought about differently in various time periods and how gender is much more based on social norms than biology. Furthermore, Hinduism includes deities and legends that defy traditional sexual and gender
norms, such as Ardhanarishvara, the combination of Shiva and Parvati, who represents the blending of masculinity and femininity; Agni, the god of fire, who is bisexual; the gender-fluidity of Vishnu and Krishna; and the gender-neutrality of Budha, the god of the planet Mercury. This variety of different sexual and gender norms throughout various time periods, regions, cultures, and religions shows us that queer identities have been a part of the human experience throughout history. Brief discussions on the gender and sexuality norms of a region and time period can be included in world history classes for high schoolers in order to illustrate the importance of gender and sexuality in different cultures and to be able to discuss certain ideas about sexuality and gender with the appropriate age group. The sexualities of important historical queer individuals outside of the LGBTQ+ rights movement are rarely discussed. Figures like Alexander the Great and Alan Turing were both queer. Alexander the Great was a bisexual military genius and hough we remember him for his ability as a conqueror, we should also acknowledge his sexuality. Alan Turing worked as a mathematician to decipher coded messages that helped the Allies defeat the Nazis during World War II but was sadly later criminalized due to his homosexuality. It is important to recognize the sexualities of these two individuals as well as that of many other important historical figures in order to show that queer people are able to achieve the same things as straight people and that the accomplishments of queer people are as important as those of straight people. Additionally, recognizing the sexualities of different historical figures shows us
how sexuality has been part of the experiences of these figures and how it has shaped them. Recognizing queer history is important not only because queerness is a part of the human experience, but also because it makes people feel represented. About 5.1 percent of adults in N e w
Cadence Li / The Spectator
Adding Rainbows to History
York City identify as LGBTQ+. It is likely that more students in New York City identify as LGBTQ+ as a result of wider acceptance among youth of the LGBTQ+ community now than in the past—and that is in addition to the many students who are closeted nonetheless. The group PFLAG estimates that at least 40,000 to 100,000 students in New York City identify as gay. In order to make queer students feel represented and in order to cultivate safe spaces for these students, LGBTQ+ history should be included in the curriculum. Though
history teachers throughout the city may argue that their job is not to make students feel represented, students need to have safe spaces and comfortable classroom environments in order to learn. Additionally, history teaches us about the stories of different communities and cultures; therefore, queer students should feel that their culture and their community is also recognized. History is about teaching the story of different cultures and different people and thus we can’t exclude queer people from the story. By giving importance to queer history, teachers and history curricula throughout New York City will be able to create environments where no student has to feel less important because of their identity. History curricula throughout schools have been dominated by cisgender and heterosexual stories, which diminishes the importance of LGBTQ+ people. By making our history curricula more inclusive, we will instill a sense of equality and respect for the LGBTQ+ community among our students while creating safe spaces for them to learn. By teaching students in younger grades about queer history, we will be able to highlight the importance of queer history, discuss queer history with a wider audience, and allow kids to recognize queer people as an important part of our society. By choosing to add discussions of different sexual and gender norms in various time periods and regions in our world history classes, we will be able to highlight how queer identity has been a part of the human experience for a long time rather than an invention of modern day Western civilization. Together, we will make sure that history includes the stories of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.
Biden’s Key Balance By JACOB STEINBERG Since its founding, America has had an uncomfortable relationship with racial issues. From the slavery on which America was founded to the Civil War fought on the basis of race and from the explicit oppression through the Jim Crow laws to the pervasive impact of the eroded relationship between law enforcement and the African-American community, especially police brutality and similar racially-motivated murders, the treatment of African-Americans in this country has been a severe issue. This relationship reared its head over the summer, as the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery took center stage in American discourse. As a result of the slew of videos of similar incidents and the haunting tales of similar experiences that poured out in response to those events, millions of Americans took to the streets and protested. These protests have been vastly popular, and a majority of Americans support the organization that is the basis for them, Black Lives Matter. They are also unprecedented and vastly impactful and should be recognized as such. But despite the large support for the Black Lives Matter protests, there has also been increasing fear among Americans surrounding the small amount of violence within them. This fear is not entirely unjustified: approximately
seven percent of protests this summer ended up with violence. But the vast majority were peaceful, and though it is absolutely true that much of the violence was caused by rioters and opportunistic looters, it also should be noted that some of the blame may have to be placed on law enforcement’s responses to the protests, which in some cases were more violent as the protests themselves, and rightwing provocateurs aiming for violence. Regardless, the violence has led to some negative perceptions of the protests, and many Americans even believe them to be dangerous toward America. As the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden has needed to address the violence. At this time, he has struck a balance. He has condemned the violence, such as a shooting of a Trump supporter in Portland, while upholding the still-popular protests, saying: “The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right... and I challenge Donald Trump to do the same.” This balance is important, and Biden’s is the correct position to take. Biden faces an important and difficult situation, and the balance affords him the best chance to win the presidency. A major reason the balance
Biden is striking is so important is that major institutions have spent significant time focusing on the violence. One such institution is mainstream media; though the protests are groundbreaking, their consistency makes it easy for them to fade out of the news cycle, and the protests fail to hold their ground as strong news stories. On the other hand, riots are exciting, far more of a spectacle than the protests, and more relevant to the lives of Americans unaffected by police brutality. So, rather than focusing on the protests, the media tends to give disproportionate coverage to the fear-mongering violent minority of the protests, distorting their true image. Furthermore, the Republican Party has undergone a negative shift toward the protests. Though the party and its voter base generally supported the protests at their onset, the Republican view of the movement has plummeted, now sitting in the single digits. Even a murder committed during the protests by Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old right-wing terrorist, has been defended by President Donald Trump. The Republican National Convention decried the protests, focusing heavily on law and order—clearly implying that there is a lack thereof in the support of Black Lives Matter—and even including a couple who brandished and aimed guns at protestors in its lineup. Overall, though the protests ought to be able to
stand alone as peaceful demonstrations of support, they are now inseparable from the riots that occasionally interact with them. Biden has also had to deal with the political ramifications of the protests, and consequently the violence within them. The large majority of his party, and the demographics that constitute it, support the protests. Democratic leaders have generally been proponents of the less extreme policies and ideas pushed for in the protests. To go against the protests would be a mistake that would alienate a large part of his base and potentially cost him the election. However, Biden cannot appeal to just his base. A large part of the argument for Biden in the primaries was his moderate appeal to independents and Republicans abandoning their party. Thus, he must make it a focus to retain that potential voter group. He holds a massive popular vote lead, but he is close to the threshold that offers President Trump a chance to secure an electoral college victory. With that in mind, Biden has needed to maintain a focus on a message that maintains the leftwing part of his base and doesn’t scare off the independents and Republicans that are key to the success of his candidacy. Though it may seem natural to just focus on the protests, a relatively safe topic, that would be misguided. According to the Pew Research Center, seven percent more Americans
prioritize violent crime over racial and ethnic inequality in their hierarchy of concerns. This forces Biden into a balancing act: how does he condemn the violence in a way that appeases all parts of the voter base, and what tone does he use? The balance he has found seems to have stuck. Continuing his support of the protests maintains his base, and the aforementioned condemning of violence avoids alienating the voters that will end up deciding the election. At the moment, Biden’s rhetoric is popular, and his polling is spectacular. However, these situations are extremely volatile, as evidenced by the aforementioned shootings by Kyle Rittenhouse and in Portland, and the needed tone may change. But for now, Vice President Biden seems to have figured it out. If his messaging maintains its high approval, then Biden must continue to amplify it. The interaction of Americans and race, protests, and rioting is a major focus in the upcoming election, and if Biden’s position, correct or not, is able to be misconstrued, then he faces a severe challenge to his electoral chances. This issue is paramount, and if the balanced position Biden has taken weakens, he will face issues with both his left-wing base and his independent and Republican core voters. His balance may then help decide the election.
The Spectator • September 22, 2020
Opinions By ISABEL CHING A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I met up for a socially distant picnic at a park in Brooklyn. I was excited; I’d gone to the park a few times before the pandemic for small social gatherings and was expecting a picturesque lunch beneath the trees, surrounded by chirping birds and lush scenery. This expectation was not the case. The once-beautiful park had become a wasteland. The grass was uncut and overgrown, overflowing trash cans reeked of rotting food, and the park was littered with trash—suffice it to say that the visit was far from idyllic. I was upset but not surprised. This pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives—the education system being entirely redesigned from the ground up to accommodate newly implemented health regulations, socially distant visits are the new norm, sanitizing is a daily routine, and masks are the hottest item of the season. It has meant unprecedented loss, too: the global economy has continued on its seemingly neverending downward spiral, with over 13 million Americans unemployed, and the coronavirus has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans and counting. In these uncertain times, many New Yorkers searching for salvation have turned to the outdoors. New Yorkers desperate to leave their homes in the scorching summer heat have turned to one of the few outdoor oases still open citywide: parks. A must-have for most major urban centers, parks
The Plight of New York City’s Parks— And What You Can Do to Help
serve a variety of purposes, the foremost being the provision of beautiful outdoor spaces that are available in an efficient and sustainable way. They continue to be some of the most universally accessible resources for all citizens, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or background—a rarity in a time filled with so much discrimination, bias, and hatred. Parks are the heart of the city, a physical representation of the beautiful mix of culture and humanity that our shining metropolis is so famous for. Parks are the city’s highlights—testaments to its resilience and enduring legacy. They are beautiful, accessible, and clean. Or so we think. In recent months, the influx of visitors due to the pandemic has put an immense strain on parks system, making it difficult to keep up with the soaring demand for clean outdoor spaces. As a result, parks have deteriorated. Grass is uncut and knee-high, trash cans are far past capacity, and park grounds are filthy. This predicament begs the question: why has the city let such a valuable resource go unmaintained, especially when New Yorkers need them the most? Unsurprisingly, the answer is money. Already-struggling New York City finances have been hit hard by the COVID-induced economic collapse, and the city has been forced to enact some nasty budget cuts in an attempt to compensate, including an $84 million-budget cut to the parks system. The cuts comprise about 14 percent of the New York City Depart-
ment of Parks and Recreation’s (NYCDPR) $587 million annual budget—a staggering number considering that the department is responsible for over 30,000 acres of properties, around 14 percent of the city. The effects of these budget cuts are more than noticeable and have only been exacerbated by their unfortunate timing (summer is the busiest season for parks and tends to be the time when the most upkeep is required). In past years, upkeep for New York City parks during the summer was carried out by around 1,700 seasonal workers, who made sure that parks were clean and ready for use. This year, however, seasonal workers were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the NYCDPR had 45 percent fewer staff to manage parks and saw maintenance hours reduced by 25,000 hours a week. With dwindling staff numbers, funding that has been stretched far too thin, and an ever-increasing need for wellmaintained and usable parks, the NYCDPR has been scrambling to find a solution to ensure that New Yorkers are able to experience the outdoors, even in a pandemic. But they should not have to. Park management is just as much our responsibility as it is the city’s, and a little help can go a long way— after all, we are the people who use them. The first step visitors can take to improve park conditions is to adhere to the parks’ department guidelines, which provide an overview of the NYCDPR’s expectations for visitors, outlin-
ing fines for littering, disorderly conduct, and abusing property and park grounds. These rules are not strictly enforced because the NYCDPR does not have enough staff to fine visitors who violate park policies. A possible solution to this issue is to establish a department that would oversee the enforcement of these rules, thereby improving the condition of parks substantially and generating much more revenue. Unfortunately, financing such an endeavor would be incredibly difficult given the department’s distressing fiscal state, and thus, this initiative may just be a project for the future. In the meantime, there is much the everyday park visitor can do to contribute aside from following park guidelines. The parks department has recently started a campaign that urges visitors to pick up after themselves in order to limit the amount of trash left behind and minimize the workload of paid park staff, essentially asking visitors to be conscientious of themselves and their surroundings. However, maintaining a clean park environment for yourself and others is not the only way to keep parks alive and well. Making a donation of any amount to the parks system goes a long way toward providing badly needed resources, supplementing the recent budget cuts, and providing funding for the hiring of more staff and purchasing of more park equipment to ensure that facilities function properly—all measures that would only further enrich the experience of everyday park visitors.
For those feeling more generous, the parks department also offers other tax-deductible donation alternatives, including programs like Adopt-a-Bench and Dedicate a Tree. Wonderful ways to support your local park while also leaving something meaningful of your own in the process, these programs allow park lovers to place plaques with inscribed messages on a bench or tree in return for sizable donations. The plaques will be maintained by park staff for years to come, allowing donors to have their own little piece of the park and creating a long lasting memory to be enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers. Monetary donations are not the only donations accepted, though—those unable to support parks financially can provide time and labor. By volunteering at local parks or working with a partner organization, students and others can work to improve park conditions by picking up litter, planting trees, gardening, and maintaining park infrastructure. Signing up to volunteer is simple and fast—a few clicks and you’re ready. Don’t continue standing idly by when there is a dire situation and a clear solution—parks belong to us and it’s our responsibility to keep them beautiful and usable. For many of us, the pandemic has been a time to re-experience the simple pleasures in life like parks. Do your part to make sure they’re still there tomorrow—it shouldn’t be too difficult to have a little common decency.
Delaying School, Saving Lives By MAYA DUNAYER
Sophia LI / The Spectator
The week after Labor Day weekend is usually filled with a flurry of back-to-school shopping and procrastinated summer homework as students prepare to go back to school on that dreaded Thursday. Only this year, things are looking a little different. Though Mayor Bill de Blasio was anxious to begin the school year in person, he has pushed back the school year start date for New York City public schools all the way to September 21, due to pressure from the city’s teachers. Though de Blasio has faced some backlash for this decision, delaying the start of school was ultimately the right move, as it gives extra time for educators to prepare, allows Department of Education officials to make school buildings as safe as possible, and shows that the voices of teachers are being listened to. From March to June, remote learning was simply a nuisance and a setback. Many thought that we would simply have to ride out the remote learning wave for the rest of the year and would be returning to school in the fall as usual. Many teachers opted out of using Zoom—or any synchronous instruction—and favored assigning worksheets, DeltaMath assignments, and instructional videos instead. With only one week to prepare the remote learning curriculum after schools closed on March 13, teachers scrambled to find workable remote learning methods. And now, with blended learning starting on September 21, teachers must create two curricula in order to accommodate both remote and blended learning students, while making sure that each medium operates with the same
quality and difficulty level. De Blasio’s postponement of the school year start date will give teachers an adequate amount of time to perfect their curricula. With this
additional time, our teachers here at Stuyvesant will be able to make sure that their new curricula are as close to in-person learning as possible.
More important than the curricula, however, is the safety of students and teachers who will be part of blended learning. Many teachers feel that they are not safe in their classrooms and consequently do not want to return to school. At Stuyvesant, 25 percent of teachers and 13 percent of non-academic staff have submitted a request to be exempt from coming to school due to medical accommodations. These teachers are concerned for their safety, and asking them to come into school when they feel so unsafe in the midst of a raging pandemic is simply unfair. In addition to teachers feeling unsafe, the Stuyvesant school building itself is not safe for returning students and teachers at the moment. The school’s ventilation system currently uses filters with MERV-8 ratings, and 25 of the filters were found to be defective in the city’s 2019 inspection. Filters with a rating of MERV-13 or higher are recommended to protect against COVID-19, meaning that our filter system should be updated to make sure our students are safe. In other words, there is still a lot of work to be done. Stuyvesant simply cannot open without these concerns being addressed, and Mayor de Blasio needs to understand that helping the economy should not be put above the health and safety of students and educators. The delay of school opening also shows that the voices of teachers still carry weight. The Teachers’ Union threatened its first strike in 45 years if de Blasio did not give teachers more time to prepare. The last strike by the Teachers’ Union in New York City was in 1975—after the city laid off 15,000 teachers and other school employees due to a financial strike. Because teachers
in New York City are public sector employees, it is illegal for them to strike under the Taylor Law. The Teachers’ Union knows the risks of strikes in New York, and the fact that they are still willing to threaten a strike shows the severity of this situation. De Blasio’s pushing back of the school start date shows that he understands how severe a teacher’s strike would be, and therefore demonstrates that the teachers of New York City still have a voice. De Blasio has taken the first step on the path to a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship with New York City’s teachers, but there is still work to be done. Listening to the demands of the Teachers’ Union is not enough; consistent communication and giving the representatives of the Teachers’ Union a say in the way school operates this year are imperative to ensuring that our teachers can teach safely. It is also important for de Blasio to ensure that teachers receive a clear plan of action that outlines exactly how blended learning will function this year. In short, not only do teachers need to be kept informed, but they must have a seat at the decision-making table, as New York City’s schools cannot function without them. Teachers are a vital part of our society. Without teachers, who would teach kids their first reading, writing, and math skills and make sure that they step out of college with the tools necessary to face the world? The well-being and safety of teachers are essential if we want to reopen schools this fall. De Blasio made the correct decision by listening to the concerns of the Teachers’ Union, and he needs to continue listening if he wants to achieve the reopening that he has been pushing for.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Science SCIENCEBEAT Phosphine has been discovered in the clouds of Venus. It’s a possible sign of life in its highly acidic but temperate atmosphere.
A new method to rapidly test antibiotic combinations on 3D-printed discs may significantly improve treatments for bacterial infections.
Children have been found to use both hemispheres of the brain to understand language, while adults only use one. This may explain why children can recover from brain injuries more easily.
Nanoscale copper wires can catalyze a reaction that converts carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethylene, an important building block for plastics, solvents, and more.
How the Coronavirus Is Projected to Harm the Youth By RIONA ANVEKAR The effects of quarantine on children’s mental and physical health are vastly different. While quarantine has maintained many children’s safety, the lack of social interaction, one of the most important factors for psychological development, has taken a toll on children’s mental health. Beyond the effects of quarantine, a struggling economy and the coronavirus itself have turned children’s entire worlds upside down as anxiety—and stress levels—have increased. Children will be affected indifferent degrees and ways depending on how personally affected the child was and where COVID-19 had the most impact. Mental illnesses tend to develop at a young age, making it important to pay attention to the mental health of children. Due to the quick-spreading nature of the virus and the slow nature of studies, there is not much research on the effects of the coronavirus on mental health. However, studies from previous pandemics and disease outbreaks can be applied here. Studies have already shown that there are significant differences in children’s short-term mental health before and after the coronavirus not only in America but also around the world. A survey in China found that 22.6 percent of children reported depressive symptoms and 18.9 percent were experiencing anxiety after a 30-day lockdown, a much shorter time period than
American children had to endure. Moreover, children with pre-existing mental health problems may be more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. After 9/11, adolescents’ level of distress was closely related to whether or not they had a history of such conditions, and experts predict to see the same pattern because of the coronavirus. Paired with the coronavirus, the struggling economy will add to the mental health repercussions in children. During the Great Recession, a five percent increase in unemployment rates correlated with a 35-50 percent increase in clinically meaningful childhood mental-health problems. Since January, unemployment has increased by about seven to 11 percent, and thus, it can be predicted that a similar mental health blowback will occur. A recent study collected combined data reported by parents of children who were directly affected by various tragedies such as cancer, the Ebola virus epidemic, influenza, COVID-19, and more all over the world, including Canada, the U.S.A., Spain, and Italy. It concluded that children subjected to social isolation have a higher likelihood of developing acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, grief, and a four times higher degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to those who were not quarantined. Younger children may also be clingier or defiant—as that is how they often display their worries—in ways that caregivers don’t
understand. Moreover, high PTSD prevalence was noted in studies about short-lived infectious outbreaks like SARS, and there was a likelihood of the younger population experiencing similar distress and trauma that will be more residual and lasting due to the prolonged coronavirus outbreak. On top of an increase in mental health issues, access to mental health professionals and therapists has decreased because of increased reliance on technology, travel restrictions, and the closure or availability of limited outpatient services in many hospitals. Among students who received mental health services between 2012 and 2015, 57 percent received some and 35 percent received all of them from school. Unfortunately, with schools shutting down, so have many of their mental health services. Though research has shown the harmful effects of quarantine during childhood, the neural circuit mechanisms behind the negative effects of social isolation are poorly understood. However, in a study on mice, researchers got closer to understanding these circuits. Researchers socially isolated male mice for two weeks after weaning and saw significant results. During social exposure in adulthood, medial prefrontal cortex neurons, which compose a circuit vulnerable to social isolation, failed to activate. The cells in this circuit are supposed to project to the paraventricular thalamus, an area of the brain that relays signals to the brain’s reward circuitry. In this
circuit, the failure to activate the medial prefrontal cortex neurons, along with inhibitory input from related neutrons (essentially other neurons also failing to project to the paraventricular thalamus), results in an inactive paraventricular thalamus and thus, sociability deficits. Further research and application of the results to humans could not only result in a stronger understanding of the correlation between juvenile social isolation and sociability deficits but also treatments for psychiatric disorders caused by isolation. Time will only tell how the younger generation will be affected by a global pandemic in the long term. To be realistic, the comparison of the coronavirus pandemic to previous outbreaks strongly suggests that the youth’s mental health and sociability will be negatively affected. Moreover, as the United States continues to fail to control the coronavirus, mental health repercussions will only get worse, harming the youth of today. As for Stuyvesant students specifically, mental health is already a big issue with the majority of students taking on a stressful workload with AP classes, extracurriculars, and more. Now, with the addition of deteriorating mental health due to social isolation, we must pay more attention to ourselves and take care of ourselves. Hopefully, those who choose to take blended learning will see their mental health improving, and we can soon all return to school and regain our normal lives.
Coffee: A Modern Necessity By DAISY LIN Despite the fact that many students may not be returning to school during the upcoming semester, one thing is sure to return: the consumption of coffee. Whether it’s Dunkin’ Donuts’s catchphrase “America Runs on Dunkin’” or Starbucks’s twintailed siren, there are countless appearances of this product in the modern world. It seems as though there are coffee-based drinks designed for everyone: black coffee for those seeking a low-calorie option, frappuccinos for those wanting something sweet, espresso for those wanting a richer flavor, and of course, an iced coffee with milk and sugar from the bagel cart or Ferry’s for Stuyvesant students. Many of these coffee drinkers credit this morning drink with keeping them awake throughout the day after a long night of working or studying. So what exactly is coffee, and how does it give people the energy boost they desire? Coffee originated from Africa in the country of Ethiopia during the ninth century. Once Ethiopians discovered coffee’s uplifting effect, coffee culture began to spread around the world. Coffee was introduced from the Islamic world to Europe through trade, and cafés subsequently became commonplace in European cities. From there, coffee beans were spread and grown throughout the East Indies. Coffee production was also introduced to the Americas during the 18th century. Today, it appears as if there is a coffee shop on nearly every street. The process of creating a cup of coffee begins with the coffee tree. The fruit of the tree, known as the coffee bean, is the secret
behind the 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed daily. These beans are roasted and ground into a fine powder that serves as the base of all coffee drinks. A single Arabica bean contains six milligrams of caffeine, while a Robusta bean has 10 milligrams; a standard eight-ounce cup of coffee has approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine helps consumers feel alert, happy, focused, and energetic. It is believed that the production of this drug was a trait found in the coffee tree that helped it sur vive. Studies published in the jour-
energy, a high-energy molecule, known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is constantly being broken down. In the process, adenosine, a sleep-inducing molecule, is released into the body. Neurons in the brain have receptors tailored toward this molecule. When adenosine binds to these receptors, it causes neurons to react more languidly and slow the release of certain brain-signaling molecules. This delay causes an individual to feel more tired. Therefore, caffeine is known as an adenosine receptor antagonist because it prevents adenosine from binding to proper recept o r s in the brain. Due to caffeine and adenosine’s
nal Science shed light on how caffeine in low doses, as found in the nectar of the coffee tree, helps bees and other insects remember the plant better and revisit it more often, raising the chance of pollen on the tree spreading. After entering the body, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. Because the body needs a constant supply of
similar molecular structures, caffeine has the ability to infiltrate the adenosine receptors without activating them. As a result, the consumption of caffeine prevents adenosine from binding to the appropriate receptors, diminishing the effects of sleepiness. Caffeine is also linked to dopamine, a pleasure-inducing molecule. When adenosine en-
Sammi Chen / The Spectator
ters a paired receptor with dopamine, the shape of the receptor changes and makes it difficult for dopamine to bind. As a result, the dopamine cannot reach the receptor, and the feelings of pleasure subside. However, when caffeine enters the paired receptor, dopamine can still bind with the receptor relatively easily. Because dopamine can now reach the receptor, feelings of pleasure can be felt. According to Scientific American, the brain’s desire to re-experience these emotions will cause it to begin seeking out caffeine. Beyond a brighter mood, coffee can also provide health benefits. A report published in 2017 by the Annual
Review of Nutrition links caffeine’s effect on adenosine and dopamine receptors, with a reduced risk of an individual developing diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and some types of cancers. Though research is still being done on the science behind coffee’s disease prevention abilities, most scientists believe it is because of hormonal changes
caused by caffeine. Healthline has also published findings connecting coffee to an increase in the body’s ability to burn fat, as caffeine increases the level of epinephrine (a hormone that mobilizes fat from fat tissue). Despite the positive aspects of coffee, there are also some downsides. According to Mayo Clinic, coffee is associated with increased heart rate, blood pressure, urination, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, it can intensify the effects of anxiety and insomnia. The brain can also adapt to regular consumption of coffee. After it notices that the adenosine receptors are constantly clogged, it creates new ones. This means that the body will need an increased amount of caffeine over time to feel energized. Furthermore, over the last few years, reports from National Geographic and other news magazines have suggested that the extinction of popular coffee trees like Arabica and Robusta is due to changes in the climate that growers are unable to control. This extinction would be detrimental to the coffee industry, as it relies on these species to make its drinks. As a result, humans must prioritize forest protection if they want to preserve the tradition of having a cup of coffee every morning. Coffee is no stranger to the average Stuyvesant student. From procrastinating on MET projects in Art Appreciation to studying until the a.m.s for especially difficult physics tests, it is hailed as a useful tool to give us the temporary boost we need to get through the day after a long night of productivity (or idleness). The next time you stop by the bagel cart for a cup of coffee to boost your spirits, thank caffeine and the coffee tree.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Science Steroids Could Lower Death Rates Among COVID-19 Patients
By ANGELINA CHANG
Hospitals struggled to keep up with the number of incoming COVID-19 patients this past spring. While doctors were able to rely on established treatment guidelines for other illnesses, little was known about treatment options for COVID-19. But through trial and error, researchers have been able to determine what treatments are effective. According to a series of clinical trial results published this week by The Journal of the American Medical Association, cheap and widely available steroid drugs could save the lives of severely ill COVID-19 patients. The meta-analysis followed seven randomized trials and evaluated the effects of three steroids—dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone—in more than 1,700 patients. The study revealed that each of the three steroids reduced the risk of death. Steroids are often used by doctors to reduce inflammation; they were seen as possible COVID-19
treatments because many patients die not from the virus itself but from the body’s overreaction to the disease. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation by suppressing inflammatory genes in a cell’s nucleus and increasing expression of the gene that encodes Annexin A1, a protein that limits inflammation. Researchers from Oxford University found in June that dexamethasone reduced mortality rates among critically ill patients. Specifically, it reduced the risk of death for patients on ve n t i l a t o r s and those who need oxygen by 12 percent and five percent, respectively. A study in France analyzed the effects of low doses of hydrocortisone on 149 COVID-19 patients; those who received the drug were more likely to survive, but the trial was stopped too early for the results to be significant. Another study testing hydrocorti-
sone included 403 patients in eight countries. While the results suggest COVID-19 patients would benefit from hydrocortisone, the trial was also stopped prematurely. A small trial of 47 patients conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that methylprednisolone led to a nine percent drop in deaths. The trials were terminated
asone, for patients who require ventilators or supplemental oxygen. Corticosteroids are currently the go-to medication for critically ill COVID-19 patients, beating out other treatment options such as remdesivir and convalescent plasma—the part of the blood that contains antibodies against viruses. While the Food and Adminisor Drug t a ect Sp tration (FDA) authoe h / T rized hospitals to treat all hanCOVID-19 patients with remC ena Ser desivir, the data is not as robust as it is for corticosteroids. The same issue lies with using blood plasma: e a r l y while it is recommended by the under the rec- FDA, the evidence supporting the ommendation treatment is weak. of the Data Another benefit of corticosteand Safety Monitoring roids is their low cost. According to Board. Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings As a result of these promising Solutions, a company that aims to trials, the National Institutes of provide a cost-saving solution for Health (NIH) recommends corti- purchasing prescription drugs, a costeroids, particularly dexameth- six to 10 day treatment of dexa-
methasone would cost between $10 and $13. In contrast, remdesivir, a drug that has been shown to shorten recovery times for severely ill COVID-19 patients, would cost $2,340 for just five days. However, the use of corticosteroids can have adverse side effects, such as hyperglycemia, secondary infections, and psychiatric effects. The prolonged use of corticosteroids could also increase the risk of reactivation of inactive infections by impeding the immune system. Steroids reduce the activity of the immune system, which is the body’s defense against infection. Thus, the WHO and NIH have cautioned against using corticosteroids on mildly ill patients. Before this treatment for COVID-19 patients becomes more widely used, additional research on steroids will help us further understand how these drugs affect the body and whether they’ll be effective in the long run. Healthcare professionals and patients should continue to follow WHO and NIH guidelines and stay informed on future updates.
The Dichotomy Between the Arts and the Sciences
By ANGEL LIU
If someone says the word “science,” you probably wouldn’t reply with the word “art.” The two disciplines are normally seen as very different, if not polar opposites. However, their dissimilarities might be due to our preconceived notions rather than any actual distance. Both art and science utilize skills of observation in an effort to make sense of the world. Scientists collect data, quantitatively and qualitatively, and use it to develop and test their hypotheses. In some schools of art, observations are used to transfer three-dimensional objects or scenes onto paper. Accurate visual representation of plants, animals, and humans requires a great amount of tech-
nique and skill. It uses knowledge of the subjects’ anatomies along with tools such as linear perspective, light and shadow, and color. Advances in one field can often lead to the same in the other. For example, Galileo, an Italian astronomer, made improvements on the telescope that brought forth more realistically rendered celestial objects, such as the moon in Cigoli’s “Assumption of the Virgin.” Moreover, Galileo’s own understanding of Renaissance art and chiaroscuro allowed him to deduce that the shadows he saw on the moon were mountains and craters. A shining example of proficiency in both art and science was Leonardo Da Vinci, who was a scientist, painter, engineer, and sculptor. His most famous painting,
“The Mona Lisa,” employs the use of optics and facial nerves to create that ever-elusive smile. More than 7,000 pages of Da Vinci’s detailed sketches and notes have been uncovered, among which include the architecture and flight of birds, astronomy, and the flow of rivers. Early Islamic works also have science and art seamlessly incorporated into their architecture and crafts. Examples include a set of 11th-century chess pieces, a 19thcentury inkwell, and a 15th-century pair of window panels, which uses light and material science in its design. Additionally, music and math, which are subdivisions of art and science respectively, are linked with each other as well. Music is divided mathematically, with each measure encompassing a cer-
tain amount of time, which is portioned into beats, and further into notes. In ancient Greece, music is math, or as Pythagoras alluded to, “There is geometry in the humming of the strings; there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” The separation into the two cultures of art and science occurred in the West during the 19th century. It might partly be a result of the two fields becoming increasingly specialized, with art being broken down into impressionism, cubism, expressionism, etc. and science into molecular biology, meteorology, gerontology, etc. The two disciplines developed a unique culture and methodology. The term “scientist” in itself was coined around 1834 by a Cambridge University historian and philosopher of science called
William Whewell, through analogy with the word “artist.” The major difference between them is that art is subjective and more focused on communicating its ideas to the outside world while science is objective and more focused on inquiring and experimenting to figure out a truth. Today, some institutions, such as the Wellcome Trust, are trying to bridge the gap between the two fields. The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) movement and the use of technology like Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator have also begun to close the distance. Ultimately, though the two fields may be far too nuanced to be merged, their underlying principles can be more related than one might think.
Quarantine Check-in: Science Clubs at Stuy By THE SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
Extracurriculars at Stuyvesant have had to adjust greatly to the circumstances of the pandemic, so we at the Science department have put together a guide to the STEM clubs at Stuyvesant and how they’ll function this year!
Hello World! A Look Into Girls Who Code @ Stuy By ZOE PICCIRILLO Girls Who Code @ Stuy empowers girls to explore computer science and helps aspiring female programmers gain confidence in their skills. During weekly meetings, upperclassmen mentors teach lessons in all areas of computer science, from web development to cybersecurity. Girls Who Code @ Stuy emphasizes the importance of having a supportive community as one explores computer science. To that end, club members receive a lot of mentorship both one-on-one and in small groups. “[Mentors] are like the ‘Big Sibs’ that will guide you and give you meaningful advice from their true personal experiences,” said Junior Si Ying Ding. Ding joined the club in her sophomore year and developed a close connection with one of the mentors, whom she views as an older sister. Though mentors can’t interact with members in the classroom this year, they will be planning virtual Zoom bonding activities and staying in touch with members online. The club also organizes several events throughout the year, including guest speakers, panels, and trips to tech companies around New York City. Though last year’s trips had to be canceled once schools closed, Girls Who Code @ Stuy continued to invite guests to speak virtually on Zoom. This year, non-mandatory meetings will be held weekly (a specific weekday is to be determined) via Zoom. They will consist of presentations, collaborative coding environments like repl.it, bonding in breakout rooms, activities, and individual projects such as building your own web page. “Joining GWC was the best decision I made, and you won’t regret it. This is the comfort zone where you can start coding and making friends,” said Ding. The club functions to ensure that virtual meetings will continue to forge this comfort zone so that girls at Stuy have a safe community for coding.
Zoom-ing in on the Research Club By SONYA SASSON It’s a regular Friday afternoon at Stuyvesant High School. The end bell rings, and on the seventh floor, a small group fights the mob heading for the escalators. Rather than retiring for the weekend, they have one more stop to make. Reaching the end of the corridor, the group enters a brightlylit classroom buzzing with anticipation. The hallway bustling abates as the students gather around tables lined with lab trays and microscopes. It’s time for Research Club. The Stuyvesant Research Club is one of the most prominent science clubs. Its weekly commitment helps students acquire the skills necessary to pursue outside research through lectures, a state-of-the-art research magazine (SIGMA), guided experiments, and the Stuyvesant Research Mentoring Program. However, with the 2020-2021 school year forcing extracurriculars to go virtual, the Research Club made some adjustments. According to senior and Board Director Neil Sarkar, the club will maintain its meeting schedule over Zoom. Still, one glaring question remains: How will they replicate hands-on experiences for online use? “We don’t want our members to miss out on the valuable skills that they would have gained if we were in a normal school year,” Sarkar explained in an interview. Consequently, senior and President Ethan Samuel Lin opted to use virtual labs that demonstrate the procedures in actual hands-on lab experiments. “We decided to shift our focus toward educating our community in techniques behind [the] research,” Lin noted. Altogether, the team is confident that the Research Club will thrive through the pandemic. continued on page 17
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Science Quarantine Check-in: Science Clubs at Stuy continued from page 16
Mapping Out StuyMAPS By DANIEL GORDON Stuyvesant Modeling A Protein Story, or StuyMAPS, is a low to medium commitment club that functions as Stuy’s branch of the regional MAPS program. Led by seniors and Presidents Michael Nath and Kristoff Misquitta, StuyMAPS focuses on the intriguing puzzle that is protein folding and modeling. Each year, the club chooses one protein from a protein family, such as the aquaporins, and researches a specific aspect of it, whether it be its physiological function or 3D structure. A model of that aspect is then created using Stuy’s 3D printers. At the end of the year, the club delivers a presentation describing its protein at the citywide MAPS conference. Last year, the club conducted research and hosted a virtual symposium on the CLOCK family of proteins, which plays a major role in the pathway critical to the generation of circadian sleep rhythms. StuyMAPS encourages students to gain valuable biology research experience without the stress of a competition or internship; of course, no prior experience is required. “Everyone works from the ground-up,” said Nath. “In [the] first semester, we teach members how to effectively digest and research proteins of interest. Practice builds typically follow, with members familiarizing themselves with JMol, the protein modeling software.” The club will host virtual meetings for the first semester, but Nath and Misquitta hope that physical meetings will resume in the second semester, where club members would ultimately design a protein model and prepare the final presentation.
Stuyvesant Science Bowl: A Competition Like No Other By JENNY LIU Stuyvesant Science Bowl is a low to medium commitment club dedicated to enhancing the skills and science knowledge of students through fun competitions. The practices and meets ultimately culminate in the participation at the Regional NYC Science Bowl competition and even potentially at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl in Washington D.C. The club will be holding its meetings virtually until further notice, including interest meetings for prospective members in late September. The club will hold around two meetings per week but will increase them in the last few weeks leading up to the regional competition. A typical meet before the COVID-19 pandemic would include mock competitions according to the rules of Science Bowl, in which two teams would face off against each other using buzzers. A typical meet virtually will follow a similar fashion. Discord bots will also be set up to simulate Science Bowl. In meetings, teams will face off against each other in friendly competitions by using the chat to buzz in. “But we will also try to hold meetings a couple [of] times a month that have more of a competitive atmosphere with teams likely to go to real competitions,” senior and Science Bowl President Sebastien Beurnier said. The club will also be providing a compilation of online textbooks with a reading schedule to supplement members’ learning.
Touching Base With Stuyvesant Biology Olympiad By ARTHUR LIANG
On the Stuyvesant Science Olympiad By HENRY CEN When asked to describe the club, senior and President of the Science Olympiad E-Board Rita Chen warmly replied, “Science Olympiad is a place for all Stuy science enthusiasts to learn, have fun, and compete together.” Science Olympiad, colloquially “SciOly,” is a highcommitment extracurricular focused on preparation for competitions throughout the year that span five science subjects: biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and technology. Within these subjects, students are given a choice among various science events to compete in, which fall into the categories of “study events” and “tech events.” Students participating in study events, such as astronomy, ornithology, and forensics, study their subjects in preparation for a competition in the form of a written test. Students in tech events meet in Stuy’s Innovation Lab and build different machines that are eventually brought to and tested at competitions. In response to concerns about safety in the midst of coronavirus, any participation in Science Olympiad this season will be virtual, which includes competitions and meetings. The invitationals that the Stuyvesant team will attend will be entirely virtual, along with Regionals and States. Unfortunately, this means tech events are cut for the 2020-2021 season. Meetings in the 2020-2021 season have been moved onto Zoom. Students competing in study events will have the choice to attend virtual weekly informational meetings that are facilitated by veteran team members with competition experience. For students in tech events, as they can no longer meet at the innovation lab to work on building their machines, meetings this season will focus on teaching the physics and engineering concepts behind builds in place of the hands-on activities normal meetings would entail.
Susannah Ahn / The Spectator
Stuyvesant Biology Olympiad aims to foster a community for those deeply interested in the many facets of biology and prepare members for the USA Biolympiad in the spring, the nation’s premier high school biology competition. “From the onset of the quarantine, we have been holding all meetings and lessons virtually […] so we are acclimated to operating in a remote environment and are well-equipped to continue to do so in the fall,” senior and Biolympiad President Sebastien Beurnier said. Over the course of quarantine and throughout the summer, the club has consistently held lessons on Sundays and Thursdays and meetings called “Checkpoints” to go over practice questions on Tuesdays. All materials like lesson recordings and problem sets are organized into a shared Google Drive as a supplement to the live lessons and discussions. For the upcoming school year, the club is expanding from one to two divisions: the Study branch and the Events branch. The Study branch will be a spin-off of how the club operated during the quarantine, focusing on teaching members advanced biology concepts from several textbooks like Campbell, Alberts, and Vander’s. On the other hand, the Events branch will host monthly virtual events open to everyone to promote enthusiasm for biology at Stuyvesant. Though remote meetings aren’t conducive to engagement, the club is excited to continue offering its services this fall and hopes to instill a greater appreciation for biology in all of its members.
Making Herstory: Stuyvesant Women in Physics & Engineering By CHLOE TERESTCHENKO Stuyvesant Women in Physics and Engineering was founded in April 2020 to help equalize the disparities between women and men in the physics field. Some challenges facing women in STEM currently include the lack of equipment, technical support, travel money, funding, clerical support, and employees/students. The club hopes to bring together female students who are interested in physics and engineering so they can have meaningful networks, understand the history and future, and be exposed to current women in the Physics and Engineering fields. “As a girl in computer science, I experienced firsthand how isolating it can be to be one of the only women in a STEM class or club, so I, in conjunction with my friend, decided to create an inspiring club,” senior and co-president Grace Cantarella said. In the future and through remote learning, the club will meet once every two weeks through various activities, including lectures, watching movies, reading books, and experimenting. Beyond the academic aspect, the club will also include bonding sessions to create a tight-knit community among women in male-majority fields. Cantarella said, “I want to empower young women to explore their interest in the STEM fields within a supportive environment.”
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Music By CHRISTINA PAN The evening comes sooner than expected. It’s only five o’clock, yet the sky is already darkening, and the first droplets of rain begin to fall on the pavement. On the streets, rush hour is starting, and there’s the faint crescendo of revving traffic. A slight drizzle starts, and I quicken my pace. I turn on the block and start to cross the street when something catches my eye. The first thing I see is the pickup truck. It’s parked right outside one of the parks, painted scarlet red, with some words on the side that I can’t quite make out. There’s a small handful of people standing beside it. I stop at the crosswalk and walk toward the truck. I move closer and see it: the words “NY Phil” and “Bandwagon,” boldly emblazoned on its side. On the small “stage”—a raised platform on the grass— there are only three musicians: violinist Yulia Ziskel, violist Cynthia Phelps, and cellist Sumire Kudo, who are all part of the Philharmonic’s orchestra. The organizer and founder of the initiative introduces himself as Anthony Roth Costanzo, a countertenor, actor, and producer, who recently starred in Philip Glass’s opera “Akhnaten.”
Music By JENNY LIU If there were ever an expiration date for an artist’s relevance, Yo La Tengo (Spanish for the outfielder’s cry “I have it!”) certainly hasn’t reached theirs, even after more than three decades’ worth of producing, singing, and touring. The Hoboken, New Jersey-based indie rock band— which consists of James McNew and husband and wife duo Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley— carries with them a reverential air: it’s difficult not to appreciate their endless creative ambition and musical eclecticism. Though they never broke into the mainstream (frankly, I doubt it was ever their intention), Yo La Tengo has amassed a loyal following over the years. Indie rock, while technically accurate, is too run-of-the-mill of a term to describe Yo La Tengo’s music. In fact, to compartmentalize their music would be a disservice to all parties involved. Their extensive discography—15 studio albums, six compilation albums, 15 EPs, 22 singles, two film score albums, four collaborative albums, and an album of song covers—reflects the many ways they’ve changed their sound. The band has explored the extremes of feedback-driven noise rock (think “Deeper into Movies” on “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One” (1997)) to sweet melodic pop (such as “Today is the Day” on “Summer Sun” (2003)) and calm, muted alternative rock (like “For You Too” on “There’s a Riot Going On” (2018)). But the creativity doesn’t end there. Even after a song is produced, the band will produce different versions and release it on different albums; reworked versions of “Barnaby, Hardly
The New York Philharmonic Returns in a Pickup Truck It’s been almost half a year since the Philharmonic closed the doors of its famous Lincoln Center concert hall. It isn’t expected to open through at least the beginning of 2021, and even then prospects are uncertain. Since then, the Internet has been the Philharmonic’s only venue, from archived material to virtual performances. The performances at Geffen Hall are planned at least a year in advance, with the program and players set well before the concert date. The Bandwagon, however, is endlessly adaptable; from the program to the players to the venue, Costanzo stresses they’re “still learning as [they] go.” Pop-up concerts like the B a n d wagon are not a new concept: just like food trucks or pop-up retailers from bakeries to clothing shops, stumbling upon them by chance attaches something special to each encounter. The unpredictability and temporary nature of each pop-up, combined with the small-scale audience, make for an intimate and memorable experience that is needed more than ever in the age of the
coronavirus. The Philharmonic’s musicians will travel across the city in their rented Ford F-250 to bring live music, from classical to contemporary works, to audiences in all five boroughs from August 28 to November 8 with nine performances weekly each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The location and times of the concerts are unannounced to prevent crowds from gathering—and so that everyone has a front-row seat. The performance starts with Carlos Simon’s “loop” for string
For the remainder of the program, the Bandwagon performs classical string trios and arrangements of operas and musicals, with vocals sung by Costanzo. After “loop,” they play the Scherzo from Dohnányi’s “Serenade in C major,” a fast-paced, lively movement, followed by a sweeping arrangement of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament,” from the opera “Dido and Aeneas,” then Beethoven’s elegant “Adagio-Allegro con brio” from String Trio in G major, then Handel’s aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the opera “Rinaldo,” and lastly Gershwin’s playful “I’ve Got Rhythm” from the musical “Girl Crazy.” The pieces they play are fleeting, yet each presents its own beautiful intensity. SiAdrianna Peng / The Spectator mon’s “loop” is trio, a special commission barely under four minfor the Philharmonic. Before utes, but as the trio begins to play, the trio begins to play, Costanzo the rain begins to fall. With the reads out loud Simon’s inspira- piece’s erratic rhythms and the tion for the piece: “Before this upending entrance of the storm, crisis, my life was filled with many it almost feels like a scene out of different varying experiences, but a film: the protagonist, running COVID-19 has forced my daily through the rain, chasing after regime into a seemingly never- seemingly unattainable dreams. ending loop. My piece ‘loop’ repAfter the piece ends, umbrelresents my mundane, day-to-day las are drawn over the trio, and life for the past couple months.” the music continues.
The Encyclopedic Task of Understanding Yo La Tengo Working” can be seen on “Fakebook” (1990), “President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dogs” (1996), and “Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo” (1996). In addition to their original work, Yo La Tengo includes several cover songs on their albums, ranging from forgotten wonders such as the Kinks’s “Oklahoma U.S.A.” (1971) to total obscurities like the Escorts’s “The One to Cry” (2013). I’ve thought a lot about why in particular Yo La Tengo strikes the right chord for me. I’ve reached the (in retrospect, all-too-obvious) conclusion that they just listen to and are inspired by a wide range of good music, like Fleetwood Mac’s “That’s All for Everyone” (1979), Will Rigby’s “Paradoxaholic” (2002)— which is so obscure that I had to go through a dark Internet rabbit hole to find it since the album is not even available on YouTube or Spotify—and NRBQ’s “All Hopped Up” (1977). Decades of good music have been absorbed by the band and are reflected in their own work. For me, understanding and following their music is an encyclopedic task: it takes time and patience, but there’s always something fascinating to discover. Due to their long presence in the genre, Yo La Tengo’s music has a very mature sound compared to that of other indie rock artists I listen to (Wallows, The Cranberries, and Vampire Weekend, for example), a particularly eyeopening trait. It’s unique to find so many layers of complexity and continuity in a band spanned over the course of more than three decades—it means that they have an ability to respond to the changing times and the musical climate.
At the height of the New Wave movement in the ‘90s, their albums were much louder, coupled with noise freakouts and incorporated elements of punk and glam rock, though without the makeup and high heels. With more recent albums however, such as “Fade” (2013) and “We Have Amnesia Sometimes” (2020) (yes, they released an album this year and already have another EP lined up for October—oh, the power of their minds), it’s more introspective and quiet with its bossa nova melodies, as if the outer turmoil of the world is too much to reflect in their music right now. It’s no surprise that their lyrics, such as the ones in “Ohm” (2013), are articulate about the passage of time: “But nothing ever stays the same / Nothing’s explained / The harder we go / The longer we climb / ‘Cause this isn’t the road we know.” Despite Yo La Tengo’s distinct nature, the band has received many comparisons over the years to the short-lived but hugely influential The Velvet Underground—so much so that they portrayed the avant-garde rock band in the independent film “I Shot Andy Warhol” (1996). I’d like to think the statement holds true, and they’re musical relatives in this lifetime and others. The wry, conscious songwriting and buzzing guitar of Kaplan (singer/guitarist) bear a close resemblance to that of frontman Lou Reed. The steady drumming and strong backup vocals of Hubley (singer/drummer) have a striking similarity to those of Maureen “Moe” Tucker. I suppose it comes with the territory of being an underground artist, but there’s something very admirable about Yo La
Tengo’s steady independence and consistent humility from the very beginning. For photo shoots—on the rare occasions that they have one—and performances alike, you can see them wearing commonplace clothing consisting of plain jeans and T-shirts (exclusively striped, in Kaplan’s case). Unlike many of their contemporaries, the “rock star persona” is nowhere to be found in Yo La Tengo’s performances: their body language is shy, and they look down when they sing, their voices augmented by their instrumentation instead of the other way around. The music, not the people, ends up in the limelight. The trio was even portrayed as small-town troubadours in an episode of “Gilmore Girls” (20002007), which, if you’ve watched “Gilmore Girls” and its rustic, small-town atmosphere, is very fitting. To be frank, the humble image and lack of promotion may contribute to Yo La Tengo’s underratedness. But I wouldn’t say that they work against them. The trio has been in the music scene for a while now; if they wanted a mainstream following, they certainly have had the time to try and reach one. But I think, and they probably know, that it would ruin the authenticity of the band. They’re here for the music, not for the fame. I believe that many like myself admire them even more for this and go on to become diehard supporters. It’s hard to imagine what indie rock would be like without Yo La Tengo. The genre would lose a beloved institution. Yo La Tengo’s enduring ability to make good music provides a mode of creative dedication and stability that’s comforting in an everchanging music scene.
Playlist 4 a.m. Euphoria By THE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DEPARTMENT The school year is steadily approaching, and it is unfortunately time to rearrange our haphazard sleeping schedules. For the time being, sit back and unwind during the early hours of the morning with these songs!
Space Cadet Metro Boomin (ft. Gunna) Hip-hop Inside Friend Leon Bridges (ft. John Mayer) R&B / Soul Headaches Raveena R&B / Soul In the Afternoon MGMT Alternative rock Sunday Morning The Velvet Underground Rock No Room Nana Adjoa Alternative / Indie Rainbow Bap Jaden Hip-hop Deletee (Intro) Bladee Hip-hop Mothercreep FKA twigs Goth Locket Crumb Psychedelic Rock Dreamland Glass Animals Alternative / Indie Beautiful Faces Declan McKenna Indie Rock People Watching Sen Morimoto Hip-hop goodbye Billie Eilish Pop Flowers Eva Noblezada Musical Theater Nikes Frank Ocean Pop Ma go Moji x Sboy Hip-hop Magnetised (Acoustic) Tom Odell Indie
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Arts and Entertainment The Evolution of Hip-Hop Fashion
Fashion “I went to class looking sharp, always living up to my street name even if I wasn’t in the streets,” Dapper Dan said in his 2019 interview with Vanity Fair. “That was the era of bell-bottoms and platform shoes, and when I mixed those with the exotic clothes I’d brought back from Africa, I was a sight to be seen.” Dan, born Daniel Day, opened his first haberdashery boutique in Harlem in 1982. For the next decade, Dan’s boutique would import bootlegged fabrics and illegally screen-print luxury brand logos onto custom, streetstyle pieces that were often more expensive than the originals. Coinciding with the rise of hip-hop music, Dan’s boutique attracted a variety of artists and later became known as the embodiment of ‘70s hip-hop fashion. Hip-hop, born out of the underground Black and Latino communities of New York City, rose to global prominence in the past 50 years as a culture and art movement for the disenfranchised. Hip-hop’s look was as integral as its sound, serving as a form of self-expression and an indicator of financial success. “Fashion has always been an important part of the hip-hop identity because fashion has always been an important part of Black identity in America,” said producer and filmmaker Sacha Jenkins, director of the hip-hop fashion documentary “Fresh Dressed” (2015). “Because when you don’t have much ownership over where you can land in society, your financial situation, [or] your educational situation, the one thing you can control is the way you look.” Late ‘70s to Mid ‘80s Between the late ‘70s and the mid ‘80s, the rise of hip-hop fashion followed the commercial rise of rap music. Hip-hop fashion was a mixture of two aesthetics: sportswear and prep; both stressed prestige and wealth and tied back to Africanism. The hiphop “standard” would include
Food By ROXY PERAZZO Lots of teenagers have had to sit through tedious lectures or comments from their parents about the time they spend on TikTok. Maybe becoming your family’s personal chef can persuade them to change their minds! Who knows, it could even lead to them making their own accounts. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, here are six amazing TikTok recipes that anyone can make for themselves and their relatives. Breakfast Waking up early for school makes it really difficult to eat a good breakfast, but overnight oats are an easy fix. User @kenziejo_clark has a lot of videos on overnight oats, but for a fun, fall vibe, her pumpkin oats are the perfect choice! In a jar or container with a lid, add ½ cup of pumpkin puree, ½ cup of your milk of choice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Then add ⅓ cup of raw oats and a little bit of maple syrup, stir, and refrigerate. All you have to do in the morning is heat it up and enjoy! Lunch With only a few minutes be-
Ismath Maksura / The Spectator
By FARIHA MABUD
black (sometimes leather) tracksuits, Kangol bucket hats, Adidas or Puma trainers with fat laces, and heavy gold jewelry, which was popularized by performers such as Big Daddy Kane and Roxanne Shanté. But hip-hop’s focus on the grittier sides of street culture made high-end brands such as Polo, Timberland, and Tommy Hilfiger wary; they were accustomed to white upper-class customers. The exclusivity of these brands, however, had unintentionally made hip-hop style more enticing. In a 2004 BlackBook magazine interview, rapper JayZ stated that the inclusion of luxury fashion in hip-hop culture was his way of “living it on our terms, instead of trying to emulate an elite lifestyle.” Dan’s legendary fashion trends also made a recurrence in the ‘80s, widely known as “blackenize fashion.” His clothes of this era personified street culture and the str ug gles of people who were young, Black, and rich but could not enjoy the luxuries of white people due to geography and race. “He drew on a long legacy of Black style as both a form of self-realization and a statement of politicalaesthetic resistance,” said Rachel Lifter, assistant professor of fashion studies at Parsons School of Design. Wearing a Dapper Dan piece was a sign of a successful hiphop career. But by the early ‘90s, Dan’s popularity caught the atten-
tion of fashion industry lawyers. Dan had no choice in 1992 but to close his boutique and continue his business underground, selling his clothing through discrete road trips throughout the country. For the next quarter of a century, Dan was still active and revered as a hip-hop icon but out of the national spotlight. Late ‘80s to Early ‘90s Artists like KRS-One and Public Enemy coupled their antigovernment, anti-police stance with the rise of Black nationalism in the late ‘80s. Black nationalist colors of red, black, and green became popular in the hip-hop scene, in addition to protective hairstyles such as box braids. Loose blouse pants from rappers like M.C. Hammer and headwear such as Fezzes, Kente cloth hats, and kufis became ubiquitous as hip-hop shifted into the ‘90s. Cross Colours, established in 1989, became the first exclusively hip-hop clothing brand. The brand’s proposition—“clothes without prejudice”—was specifically aimed at Black youth. They used their clothing to voice political and social issues in the Black community, gaining recognition from celebrities like Muhammad Ali, TLC, Will Smith, and more. Following Cross Colours’s success, other labels saw potential in the market for authentic hip-hop fashion and expanded their focus. Nike collaborated with Michael Jordan to create the well-known basketball shoes Air Jordans in 1984. Other clothing brands such as Reebok, Fila, Champion, and Carhartt drew wide recognition after being sported by hip-hop groups such as Wu-Tang Clan and Gangstarr. Adidas also gained popularity after the band RUN-D.M.C.’s now iconic hit song “My Adidas” dropped in 1986. Inversely, the hip-hop fashion of this time influenced high fashion designers. Isaac Mizrahi, inspired by his elevator operator who wore a heavy gold chain, fea-
tured a collection with hip-hop influences in the late ‘80s. Models wore black catsuits, gold chains, big gold nameplate-inspired belts, and black bomber jackets with fur-trimmed hoods. Chanel also incorporated notable hip-hop elements into several shows in the early ‘90s. One clothing line presented black leather jackets and piles of gold chains with pearl accents. In another, models wore long black dresses accessorized with heavy, padlocked silver chains. The transition to the mid ‘90s expanded the feminine spectrum of hip-hop fashion, led by the girl group Salt-N-Pepa, who sported both “boyfriend” looks and more sultry outfits. TLC and late R&B singer Aaliyah created trends such as baggy pants paired with cropped, tight tops that remain widespread today. Mid to Late ‘90s Hip-hop’s biggest stars started wearing increasingly extravagant clothing in the mid ‘90s. Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy), along with icons such as Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G., and 2-Pac, popularized this trend by drawing inspiration from the oldschool gangster look of the 1930s and 1940s and calling it “ghetto fabulous.” Many rappers set aside previous trends in favor of classic gangster fashions such as bowler hats, double-breasted suits, silk shirts, and alligator-skin shoes. High fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, however, remained prominent in the hip-hop scene due to their “exclusive” reputation. Hilfiger pursued the continually expanding hip-hop market, featuring Black models in the company’s advertising campaigns and having rappers like Puffy and Coolio walk its runway shows. Additionally, hip-hop jewelry culture—featuring the new popularity of platinum and diamond Grillz—caught the attention of luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and 212 Diamond City, which began making appearances in hip-hop music videos and films.
Womenswear continued to grow as a submarket within hiphop fashion. Female performers such as Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown introduced glamorous, high-fashion feminine hip-hop styles, such as Kimora Lee Simmons’s fashion line of Baby Phat. Conversely, Lauryn Hill and Eve popularized more conservative styles that still maintained both a feminine and hip-hop feel. Then came Pharrell. 2000s to Now As the group N.E.R.D. (Noone Ever Really Dies) began receiving high praise for their heavy use of electronic, bass, and funk beats in the new genre of experimental hip-hop, lead vocalist Pharrell Williams became widely influential for integrating skate, Japanese streetwear, and punk influence into his hip-hop looks in the early 2000s. Hip-hop fashion, though already far from its original sportswear origin, began its new reputation as limitless in its experimentation. Together, Harajuku fashion designer Tomoaki Nagao (Nigo) and Pharrell created the label Billionaire Boys Club (BBC), which debuted in Pharrell’s “Frontin’” (2003) music video. This video solidified the conjunction of hiphop and skate culture. Though skate culture had long been a predominantly white, California-led subculture, the growth of street skating throughout the ‘90s linked the two initially distant scenes. At this moment, Pharrell—and his partnership with Nigo—helped combine elements of hip-hop fashion with aspects of street skating trends, unifying them under the umbrella term known as “streetwear.” Read the rest of the article here:
Five Simple Recipes for When the Clock’s TikToking
tween Zoom classes, a simple salad makes for a great lunch. User @myhealthydish (yes, the same woman who made the infamous bell pepper sandwich Gordon Ramsay reacted to) boasts many recipes for healthy meals and snacks, making it the perfect page to search for a quick and easy salad recipe. Portion size for each ingredient is totally up to you, as there are no given measurements, and anything can be added or removed. Start by combining romaine lettuce, spinach, red bell peppers, cucumbers, avocado, grilled chicken, and parmesan cheese in a bowl. In a separate mason jar or container, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey. Close the lid, and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss it thoroughly. Congratulations! You’ve made a delicious, five-minute lunch. Snack For a more time-intensive but beginner-friendly snack, try focaccia! Focaccia is an Italian bread made from a dough similar to that of pizza. This recipe comes from the user @zaynab_ issa, who has a lot of other great cooking videos.
First whisk together 2½ cups of warm water and two teaspoons of honey, along with one packet of yeast (she uses instant yeast in the recipe, but active yeast works just as well). In the same bowl, add five cups of flour and five teaspoons of salt, and combine well. Next add ¼ cup of olive oil to a new bowl, and coat the dough in it before covering with a cloth and letting the dough rise either overnight or for a few hours. Once the dough has had enough time to rise, poke it with two forks, and let it deflate. As a side note before choosing a pan, the first time I used this recipe, my dish was smaller, making the end result thicker and,in my opinion, better (that said, focaccia varies in thickness and can even be made on a baking sheet). Once the dough is deflated, add one tablespoon of olive oil to an already buttered pan, and pour the dough in, coating it in the oil. Cover the pan with a cloth, and let the dough rise for another hour. Once the hour is up, make sure to preheat the oven to 450℉, and then use your fingers to dimple the dough. This prevents the bread from rising too quickly, and it gives focaccia its signature look. Drizzle more
olive oil on top, being careful not to let it pool into the dimples (shallow ones are okay), and then sprinkle it with salt. Put the dish in the oven for 25 minutes, and voila! This focaccia can be used for sandwiches, but I prefer it as a snack with butter, cheese, or tomatoes! Dinner For a fancy twist on a classic boxed meal, try user @cookingwithshereen’s recipe for macaroni and cheese! Start by mixing one tablespoon of melted butter, ½ tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, a pinch of salt, and ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs, which could be substituted with homemade breadcrumbs made from leftover focaccia. Once combined, pour the mixture onto a baking sheet, and toast on 325℉ for five to eight minutes, tossing halfway through. Next mix one egg and ½ cup of halfand-half, and set the bowl aside. Then prepare 1¼ cups of both cheddar and either monterey or pepper jack cheese (in the video, she grates her own cheese, but pre-grated works just fine). For this recipe, Shereen uses a pressure cooker, so the pasta is
prepared slightly differently on a stove. If you’re using a pressure cooker, pour ½ pound macaroni, four cups of water, and salt in all at once, and cook on high for three minutes. For a stovetop, let the water boil before pouring in the pasta, and cook for the brand’s suggested time. Once the pasta is ready, strain and return it to the pot. Now pour in the milk mixture on a warm setting or medium-low heat, and add ¾ teaspoon garlic powder and ½ teaspoon dry mustard. Stir the mixture for two minutes until the egg has thickened (make sure the heat is low so that the egg doesn’t scramble). Add more salt, the cheese, and four tablespoons of cold butter. Stir the pot until the butter has melted, top with the breadcrumbs, serve, and enjoy! Dessert For a super simple dessert, try user @abimhn’s recipe for cloud bread! Cloud bread is essentially meringue in cake form, but it has a fun look and is an easy trend to hop on. First preheat the oven to 300℉, and mix three egg whites continued on page 20
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Five Simple Recipes for When the Clock’s TikToking
and six teaspoons of sugar while whisking, preferably with an electric mixer (it takes a lot of mixing to form peaks). Once stiff peaks form, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla
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in a medium-size bowl until bubbles form at the top. Gradually add four teaspoons of cornstarch
in the oven for about 25 minutes, and let it cool completely before eating! We’ve learned the TikTok
dances, but now it’s time to up our game and let TikTok infiltrate mealtime, too—your mom and dad will approve as long as you do the dishes.
“Lovecraft Country”: Cthulhu and the Klan
Television By GAVIN MCGINLEY
ment a cryptic plan using Atticus’s blood and the biblical Book of Names and the latter tries to learn more about their enigmatic enemy. Despite being the only recurring threat in the show, the Sons of Adam often feel like a tool to bridge more interesting themes and episode ideas. Much of the tension in the show comes not from ghosts, cultists, or monsters, but the violent racism directed at the Black main cast, at a time when such danger was unavoidable. It is in this way that “Lovecraft Country” reinterprets and subverts its source material—the racist beliefs that plague the writings of Lovecraft himself. Lovecraft is overwhelmingly controversial and for good reason. While his unique brand of existential dread and unknowable danger revolutionized horror and inspires artists like Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, he is almost as well known in modern times for his horrific racism, antiSemitism, and xenophobia. Lovecraft was a man with many fears, most of which come through in his works. Some of those fears, like non-Euclidean geometry, New York City, the color gray, and temperatures below freezing, are quite funny and clearly represented in his many short stories. Just as present in his writing, however, is his fear of minorities, immigrants, and particularly racial mixing. Many of his narratives seem allegorical for his anxieties about the shifting demographics and increasing multiculturalism in communities. His grotesque creatures, which manifest his dislikes of things like sea life and slime, can be interpreted to represent his other fears, such as minorities and people of other cultures, or larger ideas such as the far-right theory of white genocide. Needless to say, any piece of media attempting to bring Lovecraft into the modern day has a lot of work to do. One way “Lovecraft Country”’ in particu-
It’s hard to imagine a piece of media more perfectly timed than “Lovecraft Country.” Released amid America’s long overdue reckoning with racism, the television series manages to combine more traditional elements of horror with the cruelty of the Jim Crow era to provide an in-depth history of the U.S.’s complex relationship with race. The HBO series is based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff and takes the format of a chain of largely independent story arcs, with each episode tackling different ideas and utilizing different tropes from horror, science fiction, and melodrama. While “Lovecraft Country” is far from special as a work of horror exclusively, it succeeds in using the supernatural to enhance its commentary on historical and social issues. The plot starts by introducing Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), an African American Korean War veteran and a longtime fan of the works of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. After receiving a letter from his missing father, he sets off on a road trip through a segregated America to Arkham, Massachusetts, the town that supposedly inspired many of Lovecraft’s writings. Accompanying him are childhood friend and civil rights activist, Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett), and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), who is writing a travel guide for Black Americans. Each episode of the series has a largely self-contained narrative, with plots ranging from an expedition through a booby-trapped tomb to the classic horror trope of a haunted house, the only connecting elements being the prejudice of ‘50s America and the Sons of Adam, a secretive cult of powerful sorcerers. Every sub-arc in the show serves to progress the conflict between this dark society and the main characters as the former maneuvers to imple-
lar projects a progressive message while still utilizing common Lovecraftian tropes is the reversal of the typical roles found within them. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the Sons of Adam, the main antagonists of the show. Though Lovecraft often features cults in his stories, they are usually painted as satanic, hedonistic, and compose of people of color, in opposition to a white American or Western European protagonist. They essentially embody everything Lovecraft found foreign and detestable, juxtaposed with what he knew and supported. “Lovecraft Country” flips this on its head, with Sons of Adam being a Ku Klux Klan-esque, Evangelical secret society standing against an all-Black main cast. What was previously written to be foreign and unnerving to Lovecraft’s audience is revised, not only to be less racist but also to feel closer to home for the audience. Most Americans are well aware of the existence of violent white supremacist groups in our nation and its history, and few will find the same mystery in the Sons of Adam as Lovecraft injected into his tales. Thus, Lovecraft liked to focus outward in his stories and feared that which was alien to him, and his audience, “Lovecraft Country” looks inward. Instead of its horror coming from the possibilities of the unknown, the threats distinct from normal life or community, it points to the problems present in society today. “Lovecraft Country” chooses to find horror in the ugliest parts of familiar life, making the show stand out not only as a reworking of Lovecraft’s works, but also as a vehicle for meaningful social and political commentary. Such changes are common throughout the show and may seem confusing before one considers that other than a few tropes and references, “Lovecraft Country” isn’t trying to be especially Lovecraftian. The series
aims for a more classic version of horror, and sometimes, such as the Indiana Jones-style treasure hunt in episode four, it comes across as more action-drama than anything else. While this is disappointing, it does make a lot of sense: Lovecraft’s style of writing doesn’t translate well into a visual medium. It’s hard to convince an audience of unknowable, inescapable danger when the supposedly incomprehensible monster is rendered in CGI and looks like all of the other grey and slimy behemoths that fill every movie and show. The few times a Lovecraftian horror does appear in “Lovecraft Country,” it falls flat, as no matter how much shaky camera work and dark lighting the director uses, there’s always a sense of anticlimax following its reveal. Slapping a bunch of eyes and teeth on something fails to shock and awe when people have been used to photorealistic dragons for years. When the intangible is made tangible, horror is turned into a gimmick. But in its pursuit of a more classic style of horror, “Lovecraft Country” starts to show the limitations of a television series. There’s a large number of topics and subplots that have to be touched on in every arc, with every conflict being far too rushed to build any real tension. The self-contained nature of each hour-long episode starts to cause problems when a new, temporary conflict is created and resolved every time, in addition to the development of the show’s lore, exploration of its time period, and commentary on politics and American history. The slow build that good horror relies on can’t fit alongside all this, leading to the feeling that every moment of dread zooms by before it even starts. Everything in “Lovecraft Country” feels slightly too fast, and nowhere is this more present than its character development. Every character is introduced
with an interesting backstory or complex worldview that is pushed to the back as the plot chugs on. Atticus is implied to have had an entire life in Korea that he left behind, but the show doesn’t have time to elaborate on this any further, so it’s never revisited. The same is true for Leti’s civil rights activism. Montrose (Michael K. Williams), Atticus’s father, is a gay man at a time when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, but even that takes a back seat as the main cast is far too busy fighting ghosts or running through a dungeon. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the strange romantic relationship between Atticus and Leti, the two main leads. Any development in their relationship has to be done with explicit dialogue or a magic hallucination, with the audience having to be told the connection is there whenever it becomes plotrelevant. For a show so centered on its characters, “Lovecraft Country” seems reluctant to focus on them instead of the plot, leaving much of the cast feeling vague and unfocused. “Lovecraft Country” moves quickly. It’s an ambitious show, with every episode aiming to cram complex world-building, horror, history, and social commentary into an hour. While this can make the viewing experience feel rushed and many of the characters frustratingly unfinished, the series still has plenty of worthwhile ideas. Its reconciliation of classic Lovecraftian tropes with a more progressive, less horrifying message creates a fascinating dynamic between the show and its inspiration and does a genuinely good job of discussing American history. Despite the problems “Lovecraft Country” might have as a television series, its larger messages still manage to come through to make the show not only entertaining, but also important in these turbulent times.
The Thrifting Controversy: Four Quick Tips to Thrift Ethically
Ivy Jiang / The Spectator
By ZIFEI ZHAO In the name of indie clothing and sustainable fashion, teens around the world have flocked to thrift stores and charity shops. With social media influencers showcasing their vintage sweater vests, tennis skirts, and lingerie tops for low prices and environmental activists encouraging secondhand shopping, it’s no wonder why thrifting has become so popular. But long before thrift stores became a teenager’s favorite place to shop, places like Goodwill and The Salvation Army were stigmatized as dirty stores for people who could not afford name brands. For many middle-class teens, finding a nice pair of vintage jeans may be the highlight of their thrifting experience. For low-income families, finding a presentable piece may make or break their next job interview. With thrift stores growing in popularity, stores have raised their
extract and any food coloring you want, both optional. Scoop the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and use a spatula to shape it. Lastly put it
prices to increase profit, and nicer pieces of clothing are becoming scarce. Many people are traveling to low-income neighborhoods to find “better deals.” And with secondhand clothing apps like Depop and Poshmark becoming more widespread, many middle-class teens are buying thrift store pieces in bulk and selling them at high prices for profit. These practices make it more difficult for lower-income families to find decent clothing. With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge the positive, sustainable impact of thrifting. Most clothing stores in malls and shopping centers, such as H&M or Hollister, are fast fashion brands. To sell their clothing at such cheap prices, these stores often pollute the environment and use cheap labor from third-world
countries. On the other hand, sustainable clothing brands that offer reworked clothing made of recycled materials are not perfectly eco-friendly and can be incredibly expensive, so naturally the most sustainable and accessible option would be to buy secondhand clothing. Taking this into account, how can we find a middle ground between the s u s - tainable efforts of thrifting and gentrification? Here are some tips to help: Choose Pieces You Know You Will Wear When thrifting, it’s easy to splurge when finding name brands at cheap prices. Instead of concentrating on how the
sweater is only $4, think about if you’ll really wear the sweater. You can consider whether the piece complements the colors in your wardrobe and visualize potential outfits. Fast fashion has paved the way for the obsession with new fashion trends. Rather than trying to keep up with the latest styles, try thinking carefully about what you like to wear and what enhances your appearance. This tip will make your thrifting standards more specific but ensures that you will walk out with a few pieces that you absolutely love. Find Alternative Methods of Obtaining Second Hand Items Besides thrifting, there are other ways to get a hold of secondhand items. Instead of venturing into low-income neighborhoods for thrift stores, look around in your own community. You can join buying and selling Facebook groups or explore local garage sales. As an even cheaper
option, you can organize clothing swaps with friends and family or ask them for any hand-me-downs. Learn How to Mend Your Own Clothing Learning how to sew is an incredibly useful skill. Instead of throwing out clothing because it doesn’t fit or shows signs of wear, try altering or mending it. Often, a quick stitch can make your clothes look brand new. Or if you’re tired of the same clothes in your wardrobe, you can get creative and combine old pieces of fabric to create new clothing items. Donate Back to Thrift Stores/ Charity Shops If you’re cleaning out your closet and find some old shirts that you haven’t worn in a long time, don’t be so quick to throw them in the trash. Consider docontinued on page 21
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Fashion continued from page 20
nating your old clothes to thrift
Music By ANSON GUAN There is perhaps nothing more persistent in hip-hop than the XXL Freshman Class. The hip-hop magazine XXL has annually released a list of up-andcoming rappers and given them an opportunity to showcase their talents since 2007. The rappers, dubbed that year’s “Freshman Class,” take part in a series of freestyles, in which they spit short solo verses a cappella, and a round of cyphers, in which they are split up into three groups to rap over a beat. The list is known for promoting emerging rappers into the mainstream, and this year’s class is no different. It is comprised of Polo G, Rod Wave, Baby Keem, NLE Choppa, Mulatto, Lil Tjay, Jack Harlow, Chika, Calboy, Lil Keed, Fivio Foreign, and 24kGoldn. This year’s lineup of rappers is telling in a number of ways, for both the present state of the XXL Class and the future of hip-hop. The Pop-ification of Hip-Hop More than any other, this year’s Freshman class shows that melodic rap is the new wave of hip-hop, with over half of the artists featured this year having a heavy reliance on melody. What has also become overwhelmingly prevalent is the inclusion
Daniel Berlinsky / The Spectator
By AGATHA EDWARDS Fans all over the world were shocked to hear news of renowned film star Chadwick Boseman’s passing on the night of August 28. He was an inspiration to millions and played characters who were often black activists or icons calling for change. After a four-year-long battle, Boseman died from stage four colon cancer at age 43, which came as a shock to the general public as he hadn’t disclosed information about his illness prior to his death. Despite his abridged life, Boseman’s influence extends far beyond the roles he played. We are blessed to have experienced films, in which Boseman represents African American characters who face insurmountable challenges, and to see him handle these roles with his trademark grace and ever-present dignity. Seeing Boseman act in roles he loved and aspired to be characterizes him as a true hero to all. Born on November 29, 1976 in Anderson, South Carolina and initially interested in art and sports, Boseman became aware of the racism present in his town during high school, after one of his basketball teammates was shot and killed. He wrote a play to honor his teammate’s memory, which sparked an interest in acting. After graduating high school, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in directing at Howard University and attended the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. From there, Boseman was
The Thrifting Controversy: Four Quick Tips to Thrift Ethically
stores. This helps strengthen the secondhand clothing cycle and reduces clothing waste. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is
another man’s treasure.”
At the end of the day, we have to realize that there are tons of
perfectly wearable clothing in the world, and sometimes even thrift stores may throw away perfectly fine clothes to make room on
their racks. By simply reducing our need to consume more, we can all enjoy second hand clothing in mutually beneficial ways.
Five Things to Learn From the XXL 2020 Freshman Class of artists who barely even classify as rappers per the traditional definition, such as singer/rapper 24kGoldn. A big contributing factor of this move toward melodic hip-hop is TikTok, in which songs with catchy hooks and pop sensibilities are becoming increasingly prevalent. Artists like Baby Keem or 24kGoldn likely wouldn’t be on the list if not for their music’s rampant success on the social media app. These People Can’t Freestyle Another thing we can gather from this year’s Freshman Class is that some of these artists can’t freestyle. This year’s bout of freestyles were some of the weakest in recent memory, and the lowkey melodic style of many of these artists is a part of it. A majority of the melodic rappers featured on the list rely on autotune and good production to make their music, and when they rap in the same melodies without those elements, you get freestyles that sound more like elementary singalongs than rap verses. On one hand, you could say that making them rap without a beat is like making a drummer drum without sticks. The style of their music is focused more on riding the beat than pure lyricism, and going a cappella is something they are not accustomed to, which is apparent
with Lil Keed’s freestyle. On the other hand, you could argue that rappers of any subgenre should at least sound good without a beat, especially since melodic rappers like Travis Scott have had decent freestyles in the past. But the reality is that if XXL really wants to showcase the talent of the Freshman Class, they should consider making adjustments to their freestyles. Going No-Show Baby Keem skipped the cypher entirely this year, continuing the trend of artists not showing up for their Freshman Class events. The growing list includes Trippie Redd, who didn’t do the cypher, Blueface and Tierra Whack, who didn’t do their freestyles, and Gunna, who didn’t show up for anything but the photoshoot. Don Toliver attempted to pull the same move that Gunna did this year but was rejected for his refusal to properly participate. It seems that rappers want the clout of being in the XXL Freshman Class without putting in the work. A Rising Movement While artists like Don Toliver and Lil Tecca are notably missing from the list, there is no absentee
more notable and tragic than Pop Smoke, who was killed in a home invasion this February. Before his death, he was chosen as the first freshman on the list. The rising New York rapper was a leader in the movement of New York drill, an emerging subgenre defined by stuttering, bass-heavy beats and uneven flows. While other artists in the scene have found success, Pop Smoke was poised to take the genre to the next level. He had cosigns from hugely popular artists like Travis Scott and Quavo, and his posthumous album “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” (2020) showcased New York drill on a global scale, debuting on top of the Billboard 200 albums chart. Fivio Foreign, one of the biggest names in the genre, represents it in this year’s Freshman Class. His freestyle and cypher showcased not only his unique artistry, but also New York drill as a movement. Nicholas Evangelinos / The Spectator
The Standouts This year’s Freshman Class has been a bit underwhelming. It is one of the biggest classes in XXL history with 12 artists but is somehow less interesting and sonically diverse than most. The setup of this year’s cyphers doesn’t help either. The artists are far apart to enforce social distancing, hurting the chemistry that elevated cyphers in the past, especially the legendary 2016 cypher featuring Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, and more. Still 2020 totes a few diamonds in the rough. Polo G came through with thoughtful lyrics and smooth melodies on both the freestyle and cypher. Jack Harlow had a surprisingly conscious and well-written freestyle, and while NLE Choppa and Fivio Foreign’s lyrics were mediocre, their delivery and charisma made up for it. Chika is the most artistically unique rapper on the list, with her emphasis on lyricism, and Baby Keem’s freestyle was one of the most emotional performances of the event. The sub-cypher with Mulatto, 24kGoldn, Fivio Foreign, and Calboy had a level of energy and chemistry nobody expected, even if the other cyphers were mediocre. And while Lil Keed’s freestyle will definitely go down as one of the worst of all time, it is as hilarious as it is quotable.
The Iconic Life and Career of Chadwick Boseman able to land a few smaller roles on TV shows, including “Cold Case” (2003-2010), “ER” (1994-2009), “Law & Order” (1990-2010), and “CSI: New York” (2004-2013), but he became more publicly recognized after his feature in “The Express” (2008), the story of an African American college athlete who struggles with racism from his teammates during the Civil Rights movement. Boseman plays the minor role of a running back who takes after the main character, which is where Boseman’s passion for starring in films about Black struggle and pride began. He landed his first major role in the movie “42” (2013), a picture about baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the Major Leagues. Boseman’s portrayal of Robinson is stunning, perfectly delivering scenes of joy, struggle, and victory. He expertly depicts what it was like to be an African American experiencing racism and hatred, as his acting takes us deeper into the mindset and courage of the baseball player. Seeing the extent to which Robinson was booed and jeered at by opposing teams and white spectators
in the baseball stadium created palpable guilt in the audience, as Chadwick held a mirror up to our undeniably similar political climate. Boseman’s portrayal of a hero who broke color barriers provided inspiration to all to be
confident and proud in the work they do, even if they’re discouraged by others while doing it. Turning away from his more traditionally dramatic roles, Boseman’s portrayal of Black Panther
in the standalone film and a few other Marvel films is perhaps the commercial highlight of his career. “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler set Boseman’s character up to be a powerful force who fights valiantly for his country and the people of Wakanda. The movie puts an emphasis on the importance of family, and Boseman’s acting makes Black Panther’s grit and determination to protect his family clear. Black Panther’s now famous “Wakanda Forever” call represents the culture and tradition of his people, giving a message to the African American population to honor their own culture. Though many may feel that the film’s fight scenes overshadow some of its deeper messages, it was clear what Boseman wanted the public to take away from the movie. His character learned to let go of the past, forgive the actions of those who came before, and have faith in himself to help not only Wakanda, but also the whole world. By doing so, the Black Panther became the best version of himself he can be and ultimately found strength in himself and his people. In his most prominent role
as a Black hero, Boseman emphasized Black empowerment and gave confidence to others that they too could have an impact on the world. Boseman decided to keep his cancer diagnosis secret from the public; he suffered for four years without letting anyone besides his family and close friends know. Part of the reason he kept it a secret was his mother Carolyn, who always told him to not let people fuss over him. Instead of having people focus on his struggle with cancer, Boseman wanted people to focus on his work and dedication to films that emphasized Black empowerment. If Boseman had let the public in on his secret, they would have been more concerned with his well-being rather than the amazing stories that Boseman told through his acting. Looking at Boseman’s career and life overall, the passion and love he put into every project and role is more than evident. The millions of people who watched his films got to experience Boseman portraying characters that have inspired us all. “Black Panther” (2018) is currently the 11th highest-grossing film of all time, largely in part to Boseman’s superb acting and fiery charisma. He, however, will be remembered not only as an actor, but also as an activist who brought attention to stories of Black power. Through his work, Boseman wanted the world to understand the struggles of African Americans and how they overcame them, ultimately a successful and inspiring feat.
The Spectator â—? September 22, 2020
By THE ART D
Susannah Ahn / The Spectator
Sabrina Chen / The Spectator
Sunny Bok / The Spectator
Serena Chan / The Spectator
Sophia Li / The Spectator Cadence Li / The Spectator
Adrianna Peng / The Spectator
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Eleanor Chin / The Spectator
Ismath Maksura / The Spectator
Chloe Huang / The Spectator
Fariha Mabud / The Spectator
Humor These articles are works of fiction. All quotes are libel and slander.
How to Make Your Voice Heard (When You’re a Minor) By CHRISABELLA JAVIER
unable to vote. Inform people about the causes that you feel most passionate about! Don’t worry about how other netizens will react. After all, it
It’s election season, and that means we’re screwed! While many Stuyvesant students (rightfully) have opinions about how our nation should be run for the next four years, almost all of us face the very inconvenient fact that we will be under the age of 18 on Election Day. This predicament means that we will not be able to have a direct say in the corrupt affairs of our government. Indeed, it is quite frustrating. Of course, there are still ways to make your voice heard even if you are unable to vote. We here at The Stuyvesant Spectator have decided that we will assist the young Christin a Ji ang students of our school in chan/T he neling their voices (at least for Spe cta their college applications). tor should Method 1: Use social media be common k n o w l to spread your message. This is edge that the Internet is a place probably the easiest way to make where everyone is polite and your voice heard when you are truthful about everything!
Method 2: Volunteer for a political campaign. By volunteering for a political party, you can help influence the election and make your voice heard. It doesn’t even have to be approved by the campaign! In fact, steal a truck from the campaign office and drive it chaotically along the West Side Highway with an otamatone in one hand and a megaphone in the other, screaming about how everyone around you needs to vote for a specific person or cause! Boom! Your influence has been spread. Method 3: Put your AP Computer Science skills to work! Pretty much all elections are done using computerized voting machines. When you think about it, they’re all basically glorified Google Forms. Therefore, it should be a breeze to hack into them and get your vote in—even if it is by unsa-
vory means. Alright, I have no CS experience whatsoever, but it can’t be that hard, right? We’re big-brain Stuy kids! You don’t even need any fancy hacking equipment. All you need to do is hook up your laptop to the voting machines somehow, and voila! You’re inside the election, and you can make your voice as loud as you want it to be. Method 4: You’re never too young to make a bold political statement through assassination. Sure, it may seem daunting, especially with all of those Secret Service agents standing around your target, but it’s nothing a rifle shot or a Molotov cocktail can’t get around! Heck, use the element of surprise and run at your mark with a large sword. They’ll never see it coming. And when you are being dogpiled by multiple well-trained bodyguards, you will feel the sweet elation of having made your voice heard at such a young age, especially when you appear on the news afterward.
Method 5: Make Spectator Humor Editor Oliver Stewart vote for you. Otherwise known as Olly, he will turn 18 on Election Day, meaning that he will be able to vote. Therefore, if you want to make a direct impact on the election, hold him at knifepoint and tell him that if he doesn’t vote for who you want, you will destroy everything that he loves. To prove that you won’t hesitate, immediately follow up with cutting up and eating a copy of The Spectator while he watches helplessly. And there you have it: five foolproof ways to make your voice heard, even when you are legally a minor in the United States, and therefore, cannot vote. Remember: there is no such thing as being uninvolved in politics. And by that, I mean that if you don’t care about politics, then I will use you as a human shield for when I use Method 4.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Humor A New Foray Into Holistic Admissions By LILY VAYSMAN We are living in troubled times, uncertain circumstances, an interesting period of history, facing novel challenges, and so on. These challenges present themselves in a unique way for rising seniors, who are battling for spots at the country’s most competitive colleges. But fear not: in the past two weeks, six Ivy League schools have shed more light upon the hazy decision processes to be used in consideration of the fact that schooling last year was admittedly somewhat wobbly; many students also didn’t have the chance to take the SAT or ACT. Though different schools’ proposals have varying details, there has been one major detail in common at the forefront of these reveals. The schools, and most likely others following in their footsteps, will be considering astrology in place of standardized scores. The 2021 application to these schools will include, in lieu of any numerical grades, a lengthy zodiac analysis. “We’ve been wanting to add something like this to our application process
for a while,” said Rheia Jecter of Yale’s admissions department in an e-mail sent out to all students who’ve ever thought “Man, wouldn’t it be cool to go to Yale.” “A true aggregated view of a student naturally involves how well they’d work with other students and teachers. In order to encourage a more welcoming and compatible student body, astrology is a natural concern,” she added. She went on for several paragraphs about how diversity considerations involve more than just helping minority students fight against the ingrained prejudices and historical disenfranchisement in higher education, and also, could you even imagine what a class of Virgos would look like? In the interest of holism, of course, every student’s full chart will be under consideration. (For those who don’t have a full analysis of their
chart, the College Board provides this service for only $300.) Other schools taking this approach have addressed concerns regarding time zones and students who don’t know their exact time of birth. The assurance came in the form of platitudes about how we’re all going through this troubled time together. Tarot readings and auras are also prospected to be a major
Fariha Mabud / The Spectator
part of the Class of 2021’s application process. With quarantine having caused a great degree of financial insecurity and mental health strain, colleges want to
ensure that students have the proper means to deal with such issues. Thus, students with prosperous futures in their cards, as well as those with more stable vibes, will be offered a leg up in admissions. Such readings are reportedly all done by one elderly woman named Madame Helga, who is to be paid seven percent of all the future donations made to the six Ivies in question by students accepted through her “seeings” in order to push her to pursue more prosperous prospectives. Neither Madame Helga nor any admissions directors could be reached for comment on the clear inequalities exhibited in these judging processes. For instance, applicants from Chicago, Madison, and the whole of Wyoming will have a competitive leg up over other students since Mars was in the third house over those areas in 2003. Another concern has been that aura reading over Zoom might prove more unreliable for students with worse technology—it’s hard to judge a student by their cover when said cover comes via spot-
ty WiFi, a glitchy virtual background, and a stunning 144p display. Stuyvesant’s college counselors have encouraged students to approach admissions similarly to before these announcements— that is to say, panic over which teachers are the best at writing compliments, save essays until the last minute, and make important decisions based on where one’s significant other mentioned being kinda interested in once. Several teachers, namely those teaching AP Social Psychology and Sci-Fi, have been fielding a sudden influx of requests for recommendations. Overall, the new astrological method of application is unquestionably a startling and unexpected development, but the general student consensus seems to be “Who cares?” With so much up in the air these days, it’s hard to say whether the changes will even be implemented or whether a new approach to holism will sprout up a week from now. Whatever’s in the cards, though, rest assured that our friends at the College Board and school admission offices are looking out for us!
Am I Better at Fighting Than the Founding Fathers? Yes. Yes I Am.
Teo / T
This July, Disney+ viewers got the chance to watch a special recording of the musical “Hamilton” with the original cast. This has sparked somewhat of a renaissance of what was once the absolute nightmare that was the Hamilton fanbase. Of course, with this new uprising of Hamilton fans, I started to think. By now, most of us have come to the realization that while we are grateful for the creation of America itself, the founding fathers were pretty much all horrible people. Most of us would absolutely love to have the opportunity to slap them on their wrinkly, racist faces, which is why today, I would like to present to you my guide on whether or not I could take each of the founding fathers in a fight. Leading the pack with my easiest win is my historical nemesis himself, Thomas Jefferson. Infuriating and ugly, Jefferson’s only redeeming quality I can think of (and a poor one at that) was his taste in design. I vehemently despise him, and with that alone, I think it would be very easy to take
him down. Honestly, after writing this article, I might start a hate account for him. Next up, we have George Washington. Yes, he is one of the greatest modern military minds, but the man couldn’t even practice basic dental hygiene. I mean, I know 18thcentury medicine wasn’t perfect, but you could at least try. He also low-key looks like I could cough on him and he would wither away. After that, we have the absolute Chad, Benedict Arnold. What an absolute player; we have no choice but to stan. This leads me to believe that he would stand more of a chance than others would, but treason? That’s baby behavior. Absolutely spineless. Unfortunately for Arnold, this means his odds of winning are slim to none. And rounding off the last of Vivian
By CAROLINE PICKERING
my probable wins comes John Adams. Every picture of him looks so sad, but his son had a pet alligator at one point, so I feel like he must have some hardcore genes in there somewhere. He would probably put up a bit of a fight, but in the end, I think I would most likely win. In the middle of the pack, we have the Bill Nye of founding fathers and A m e r i c a ’s Favorite Grandma, Ben Franklin. I personally still don’t understand how electricity works, nor do I particularly want to, which gives him a leg up in a fight. This makes things slightly more evenly matched, but he’s still pretty old, so I think he’d get tired pretty quickly. Then, we have the dark re-
minder of my past himself, Alexander Hamilton. I know I have my fair share of childhood trauma, but honestly? Pretty sure he has more pent up rage due to his poor character development. I might be able to pull through, but it’s a close call for sure. Up next is James Madison. While I don’t remember much about him, he looks relatively beefy in his portrait, so unless I start doing a LOT more pushups, I think he might be winning this one. And how could I leave out the royal two-for-one special, you ask? Without King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France’s funding, the American Revolution would have most likely been crushed. This would, of course, enter them into the running. While I think I could easily beat the living daylight out of Louis, Marie would put up more of a fight. She would obviously have so much strength from getting to play peasants every day with her friends while the actual peasants of France suffered and died. Also, have you SEEN what she wears? Walking around in
those skirts had to have been a workout, giving her the physical prowess to take me down almost instantly. Of course, our penultimate fighter would be The Beer Man, Sam Adams. I personally fear and despise New England and most of its inhabitants, and commercials for the beer named after him are certainly not helping. This gives him unkillable energy, so I’d say the odds of me winning a fight against him are slim. Last but certainly not least, we have the arguably most important founding father and my personal favorite, King George III. Honestly, without him, none of this would have been possible. Obviously, I would refuse to fight him out of sheer respect. Solid 11/10, would love to get my butt handed to me by him any day. Overall, I’d like to think that on a good day, I could take any of them because racist old people are evolutionarily inferior. I’d like to think that someday, someone could fulfill my dreams and turn this article into a reality, but until then, I’ll be planning, Thomas. I’ll be planning.
Help Me, I Am Stuck in a Hole in Battery Park By JORDAN BARAKAT Hey guys! It’s me, your boy Jordan Barakat. What’s up! Anyway, you’re probably reading the title of this article and thinking, “There is no way that you ended up trapped in a large ditch in Downtown Manhattan.” Well, rest assured—this is not a falsehood. I am indeed stuck in a large hole that I dug myself in Battery Park back in August. A little bit of context as to why I decided that this would be a good idea: See, a few months ago, I bought a shovel. It was this purchase that compelled me to risk exposure and empty my already dwindling wallet by buying a MetroCard and taking the 5 train all the way down to Battery Park. I had the
bare necessities in my backpack: a shovel, a pocket knife, my laptop, and a kiddie pool. It was the middle of the night, so there wasn’t anyone to give me weird looks as I began to dig a large hole in the middle of the park. It took me a couple of hours to finally get the hole deep enough to be comfortable. So, content with my work, I jumped in Jenny Chen /T
with all my stuff, and for the first time in months, I felt like I was finally able to relax. It was nice for, erm, about a week. I was able to scroll through my social media feeds without my mom yelling at me to do something productive like “take out the trash” or “walk over to the table for breakfast.” Speaking of breakfast, getting food while I was in the hole wasn’t actually that hard. I put up a sign right by it that said, “The Amazing Food Eating Hole! Try for yourself!” and the food basically Spectator
began serving itself. Looking back, I still can’t think of any problems with deciding to live in a hole in Battery Park. It was a foolproof plan. The few problems that did arise, such as the fact that I didn’t have cover from the rain and there was nowhere to go to the bathroom, were more or less absurd twists of fate that no one could have expected. But the worst problem that arose? I couldn’t get out. I had just sort of assumed I could shimmy my way up the hole in order to go outside, but by the first day, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never have enough upper body strength to be able to get up. I tried to text one of my friends on Messenger to rescue me, but
then I remembered that I didn’t have any friends. So, I’ve been stuck in a hole for the past two months. It’s not that bad. The worms are nice. I have one as a pet now. His name is Worm. I’m doing remote learning anyway, so it’s not like I need to leave the Battery City hole any time soon… Wait. No. Get me out of here! This hole sucks! Someone threw a bag of dog poop in here! Why would anyone do that? There’s a trash can literally 100 feet away from here! Send help! I think Worm’s gonna murder me for that bagel! Help me! Send help! Call the fire department! Or the earth department? Whatever department deals with teens in holes, SEND HELP TO BATTERY PARK!
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Humor Stuyvesant’s Most Wanted: Cheating By LOGAN RUZZIER I brooded over my beatenup laptop and sighed. Each of my keystrokes terminated with an almost imperceptible snap as my fingers escaped the clutches of each sticky, grimy keycap. Just as I was selecting my ’60s jazz album of choice, the obnoxious banner of a message notification blocked my cursor. My eyes narrowed and the creases of my face deepened, evidence of my checkered past. I clicked through my monochrome display (I only work in grayscale) to confirm my suspicions that the incomplete message displayed the notification. I gritted my teeth and closed my room’s shades even further. I grimly put my detective hat on. It seemed that Stuyvesant’s students were upholding the school’s notoriety amidst remote instruction. Alerted by the uncharacteristically high grades of members of the football team, the school staff suspected an online academic dishonesty ring. They requested my assistance as the resident detective of the institution and renowned snitch in taking them down. I was not the man they needed nor the man they wanted, but I was who they had. I had already proven myself as an invaluable tool in the school’s war on unsanctioned practices such as vaping, passing Adderall, and having fun. Despite my beneficial service, however, I was loathed by the administra-
tion for not playing by the rules. It was immediately clear to me just how I’d nab those crooks. I would infiltrate their ranks by disguising myself as an overworked student in need. I also knew just where to start. I
that he was a no-talker who’d eat in history class and frequently pull 70s on his tests. It was students like him who’d be most likely to commit the most heinous of classroom sins: copying answers.
fortunately incredibly dense. I did have one lead: a particularly fuzzy screenshot with horrible quality from numerous successive screenshots. After Kevin recounted who he’d gotten this material from, I pro-
It seemed that Stuyvesant’s students were upholding the school’s notoriety amidst remote instruction.
would approach the scene from its ripest market: pre-calculus students. The first step would be to target a potential customer, so I attended a mandatory live session and took careful note of the people present on the call. Afterward, I consulted Google Classroom for a full list of the members in the class. I was able to find the names and contact information of the handful of slackers who had skipped the stream. Discounting the forgetful ones and the friends I’d like to keep (ha, not like there are people I would like to be friends with), I maliciously selected Kevin. I vaguely recalled
If I did not already have a damaging alcohol problem, talking to Kevin over text would have given me one. I was correct in assuming he’d be an answercopier and that he’d already gotten the whole week’s worth of homework stolen ahead of time, but it was inordinately difficult to find out where all the solutions had come from. I was mistaken in believing they’d all be traced back to one person, as it seemed that the screenshots of individual worksheets that Kevin received had been scavenged from different students. I was already being incredibly suspicious, vulnerable to being ousted as a mole, but Kevin was
ceeded to the next echelon of academic dishonesty: fabricated projects. Luckily, I shared an English class with the person Kevin told me about, so I could easily continue my plan without being too conspicuous. I asked the person if they’d be willing to write my upcoming essay for me, or, if I was right on track, have it written for me by someone else. It was then that the case opened up to a frightening degree. They gave me a proposition: $15 for the whole essay, immediately, no questions asked. The cheating ring that this proposition implied was an almost fantastical prospect: Projects across
the school would be completed as soon as they were assigned, possibly multiple times over, for resale to other students. However, the holy grail was fumbled. I came into contact with a member of Stuyvesant staff, shrouded with the codename “M0r@n,” to present my findings and arrange an exchange of money for the essay. I explained that I would do this to gain the trust of the student I met through Kevin, and perhaps I could come across the greater extent of the scandal. However, the admin was not convinced that I could uproot the entire Academic Dishonesty underground and did not wish to provide the $15 I needed for my work. He snatched up all the clues I’d provided, suspended Kevin and all five of his contacts, and declared the mission a success. I received much praise from the staff and future access to the teacher’s lounge for my operation, but I know in my heart that I have failed. I know that I cannot solve my school’s problems because the school administration will not allow me to fulfill what the task demands. I have emerged from this case as an even more jaded, even more brooding, detective. In times as dire and uncertain as these, even I don’t know what’s to come, least of all what lies at https://bit.ly/3huVIfD. —From the desk of █████ ███████, codename “Sotto”
Girl Scout Cookies in the Digital Era By ASA MUHAMMAD
of the profits. Instead, there will be a tiered rewards system. Troops that make a minimum of $10,000 will be rewarded with a five-pound chocolate bar, and those that make $50,000 will receive a big Toblerone. After reaching the $100,000 mark, members of the troop will receive more substantial prizes, like a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Acevedo stressed that the lessons the program instills are “invaluable,” but children often need “incentives” to get work done. “We don’t want the girls to grow up believing that money is important, and that’s why we make sure to never reward them with actual legal tender.” We interviewed a few of the Girl Scouts who participated in the trial run of this program, and here’s what they had to say:
Troops that make a minimum of $10,000 will be rewarded with a five-pound chocolate bar, and those that make $50,000 will receive a big Toblerone.
But what is this new initiative anyway? Similar to the tried and true Girl Scouts method, this new program is centered around cookies (but not your classic Samoas or Thin Mints).
told us, explaining the hands-off approach. Though data harvesting is currently one of the most profitable markets in the world, the Girl Scouts will be seeing none
“I used to accept the terms and conditions on any site that I used, but when we made our ‘Which Pony Are You’ quiz, we were able to track any stuff users searched, and a lot of it was
Sabrina Chen / The Spectator
Computer science has long been a male-dominated field, but the Girl Scouts of the USA has plans to change that. CEO Sylvia Acevedo announced that the Girl Scouts will be unveiling a new program that introduces young women to concepts in computer science and entrepreneurship. “Our girls will be learning via practical experience and group exercises. Here at Girl Scouts of the USA, we value teamwork and collaboration, so troops will be functioning as their own mini startups, with consultants to guide them through the more technical aspects, while at the same time learning through practical experience and group exercises,” Acevedo said at a press conference.
Instead, the Girl Scouts will be selling our cookies. “Flavors” vary from the classic Neapolitan, a consumer demographics package, to Where Are They Now, providing real-time location service data. The program will pair each troop with representatives from some of the nation’s leaders in data harvesting. Mentors from companies such as Facebook, Snap Inc., and Twitter will be guiding troops through app development, maximizing engagement, and seeking buyers. The mentors will give lessons but will not be directly involved in planning and development. “We want to make sure that the girls are involved in every step of the way. We’ll offer guidance when necessary, but these girls are tenacious, and we want to give them the space they need to thrive,” Acevedo
a version of ‘My Little Pony’ that I’d never seen before.” — Sophie, age 8, Nevada “I think it’s really really really cool that we get to do this because last Girl Scouts camping trip, they let us stay up 36 hours straight in order to finish updating our site, and my mom never lets me drink coffee, so this was really really really fun!” —Jack (Jacqueline), age 11, Kansas “We say that it’s anonymous, but it really isn’t. I got my dad to use the app, and now I know what I’m getting for Christmas.” — Rachel, age 9, North Dakota
“My troop actually sold to some overseas buyers, and they had child representatives just like us! It was really exciting, but their uniforms were a lot drabber than ours.” —Penelope, age 13, Connecticut The new program is set for a full launch in late Q4 2020, though some states are slated for a 2021 release, just in time for the Girl Scout Cookie season. The launch will include data packages to be sold in bulk, but will not impede sales of physical cookies. However, discounts will be available if ordered on the scout-built website, cookiesforcookies.com.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Sports Sports Editorial
The MLS Is Back By KRISH GUPTA and MATT MELUCCI
one game in the five since the restart.
The MLS is Back! Just two games into league play back in March, the MLS was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic and forced to come up with a creative solution to play out their season. After a four month hiatus, the MLS hosted a fittingly named “MLS is Back Tournament” in July to kick off the season and restarted league play soon after. Here’s a look at where each of the 26 teams in the MLS stand as the playoff race begins to thicken.
5. NYCFC The Pigeons, expected to build on their tremendous 2019 form under coach Doménec Torrent, had a disastrous start to the season, losing their first four games before squeaking by Inter Miami in the group stage to earn a spot in the knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament. In the Round of 16, they faced the rival team, Toronto, who had knocked NYC out of the playoffs in ’19. New coach Ronny Delia was under fire for transforming an Eastern Conference favorite into a bottom feeder, but NYC flipped the switch, defeating Toronto handily to advance to the quarter-finals. Since the regular season restart, the Pigeons haven’t looked back, winning their last three, including a win over the Crew, to vault them into a playoff qualification spot. If City can keep it up, look for them to make noise late in the MLS Playoffs.
EASTERN CONFERENCE 1. Columbus Crew The Columbus Crew are the hottest team in the league right now, cruising in front of the pack in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, the award given to the team with the best regular season record. In the MLS is Back tournament, the Black and Gold were sent home by Minnesota United FC in the Round of 16 in heartbreaking fashion, with the Loons moving on to the quarterfinals after a 4-3 victory in penalty shootouts. Since the regular season restart, the Crew have lost just one of their last four, including a victory over MLS is Back semifinalists Philadelphia Union. Through 10 matches, the Crew boast a league-leading eight shutouts, the best for an MLS team since the 2010 LA Galaxy. If Columbus can keep it up, they will make a serious run at their fourth Supporters’ Shield in 16 years and their second MLS Cup in club history. 2. Toronto FC Toronto FC had a strong group stage showing in the MLS is Back Tournament but were limited by injuries to Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore, and NYCFC took them down in the Round of 16. Despite this, the Reds remain a perennial heavyweight in the Eastern Conference, sitting at second in the Conference, just two points short of the Crew. Young stars Richie Laryea and Akinola have TFC fans dreaming, justifiably, of another MLS Cup. 3. Philadelphia Union Philadelphia homegrown player Brendan Aaronson has taken the MLS by storm, and as long as he stays with the Union, they are as good as anyone in the league. The Union made a run to the MLS is Back tournament semis, narrowly falling 2-1 to eventual champions Portland. Since the league’s restart, the Union have lost just one game, a 1-0 defeat to the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew. 4. Orlando City SC Since entering the league as the MLS’s 21st expansion team, the Lions haven’t made the playoffs once, despite boasting the likes of Kaka and Nani. New head coach Oscar Pareja has transformed a perpetually losing franchise into a viable contender, leading Orlando, which weren’t even expected to make it past the group stage, to a Cinderella run and then, to the MLS is Back Tournament Finals. The magical tournament has proven not to be a fluke as the Lions have only lost
6. Montreal Impact The Impact have lost three of the four games since the restart, but they have had a difficult schedule, with three Canadian Classiques against heavyweight Toronto FC. They got an especially sweet 1-0 victory over Toronto in one Classique, however, as they halted Toronto’s run at the record for the longest undefeated streak in MLS history. 7. New England Revolution The Revs have had a solid, if not unremarkable start to the season, as they’ve tied five games and are currently sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are trending down since the restart, having won just one of their last five. To compound their struggles, they will have to fend off emerging teams NYCFC and the Impact for a playoff spot. 8. Atlanta United Atlanta United have looked nothing like their usual dominant selves this season, but still are just one spot out of a playoff berth. With star Josef Martinez out for the season due to injury and the departure of Pity Martinez, new players will have to step up for the Five Stripes if they want to challenge for a shot at the MLS Playoffs. 9. Nashville SC In its inaugural season in the MLS, Nashville have surprised many people by winning some games and outperforming expansion cousins Inter Miami. The Band held off Orlando City to a tie in their most recent game, and just before that beat Miami 3-2. Unlike the glitzy Miami, which, led by David Beckham, attracted Blaise Matuidi and other international talents, Nashville consist of a hardworking group of players who can get the job done. Expect them to fall just short of a playoff berth after a relatively successful opening season. 10. New York Red Bulls The Red Bulls fired coach Chris Armas, but their 2020 losing ways have continued. In the five games since the restart, they have won none, including a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the
Philadelphia Union and a 1-0 loss to rivals NYCFC in the Hudson River Derby. It’s time for the Red Bulls to rechannel their former winning tendencies if they want any chance at a respectable season. 11. Inter Miami The Herons will welcome French star Blaise Matuidi with open arms, as they are currently sitting at 13th place in the Eastern Conference and in need of a boost. Granted, they have had a string of encouraging results since the restart, winning the Florida Derby against Orlando City 3-2 and drawing in two games. At this point, the playoffs are out of reach for Miami, but they will look to finish the season strong and carry some momentum into their second season in the league. 12. FC Cincinnati FC Cincinnati were historically bad last season but have taken a small step forward in 2020, sitting at 12th in the league. They haven’t scored a goal in the last five games, an extremely concerning stat, but have maintained a solid defensive line. Coach Jaap Stam has his work cut out for him in Cincinnati for the coming years. 13. DC United DC have been bad. Really bad. So bad that they became the second team in MLS history to not record a single shot in a game. Despite this, they still are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference due to positive results from before the MLS is Back Tournament over six months ago. With an unprecedented turnaround, the Black and Red could make a run at a spot at the MLS playoffs. 14. Chicago Fire Through 10 games this season, the Fire have won just two and have a -7 goal differential. Enough said. WESTERN CONFERENCE 1. Seattle Sounders The Seattle Sounders have been MLS Champions twice in the past four years, and they once again look promising in the West. They started off with an early exit in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament, in which LAFC destroyed their tournament run with a 4-1 victory. However, after a month lapse in MLS games for the Sounders, they improved their back line in training and stood their ground as a top competitor in the MLS with a 3-0 win against long term rival and MLS is Back Tournament champions, the Portland Timbers. Even after losing 2-1 at home to the Timbers, the Sounders reminded the league of their prowess with a crushing 7-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes, keeping the Sounders as one of the top competitors in the West. They will likely remain at the top of the Western Conference this season and win the Cascadia Derby considering the number of quality players they have, like Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz on the squad. 2. LA Galaxy The Los Angeles Galaxy had a rough start in the MLS is Back Tournament as they could
not reach the Round of 16, but they have proven their worth in recent games. With a sudden turnaround, the team has won its last four games, including two matchups against rival LAFC, giving Galaxy the edge in El Tráfico. LA Galaxy are not nearly done with their journey this season and will likely continue their win streak, potentially posing a risk to the Sounders.
gone from being at the top of the Western Conference with only four defeats out of 34 matches in 2019 to losing four of five games in a row for the first time in its history. Considering the core issues of injuries, notably Carlos Vela’s absence, and faulty defending, it is unlikely that LAFC will find the same success it had last season to end up a leader of the Western Conference.
3. Houston Dynamo Similar to LA Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo struggled in the MLS is Back Tournament, facing an early exit in the Group Stage. However, they too regained confidence after three consecutive wins against the then Western Conference leaders, Sporting KC and Minnesota United FC, even without Dynamo star Mauro Manotas at forward for two of the matchups. With a strong desire to win and Tab Ramos at the helm, there is no limit on how far the Dynamo can go.
8. FC Dallas FC Dallas have faced some tough losses within the club this season. The team was unable to compete in the MLS is Back Tournament due to a high number of COVID-19 cases amongst the players and staff. Additionally, Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal will be out for the rest of the season due to his recent hip surgery. Dallas’s homegrown player Reggie Cannon has now finalized his transfer to Boavista FC, leaving another space in the club. These various changes have prevented Dallas from reaching their true potential this season, and it will not be easy for the team to clinch a top spot in the West.
4. Sporting KC Sporting Kansas City’s current record as first in the Western Conference is not quite indicative of their true lackluster performance in the MLS. The team reached the quarter-finals of the MLS is Back Tournament, where Philadelphia Union knocked them out with a final score of 3-1. After starting off regular season matches with a win against Minnesota United FC, Sporting went winless for four consecutive games. There is definitely hope for Sporting, however. The squad will likely make the playoffs this season as injuries subside and the team’s confidence grows. 5. Minnesota United FC Minnesota United FC made a deep run in the MLS is Back Tournament, only facing a defeat against the Orlando City Lions in the semifinals in a disappointing 3-1 match. However, they then struggled with regular season games, losing three consecutive matches until a reinvigorating victory against Real Salt Lake. New addition Emanuel Reynoso settled in well with the club after transferring from Argentina, and he has provided the necessary hope for the Loons to potentially move ahead in the Western Conference despite their rough start. 6. Portland Timbers After a fantastic beginning to the MLS restart, the Portland Timbers have fallen into a slump. They launched into the MLS is Back Tournament, cruising through the Group Stage straight to the Round of 16. After a few close matches, the Timbers had reached the Final against Orlando City, where they overcame the Lions with a 2-1 victory. Hopes were high for the champions of the MLS is Back Tournament, but the Timbers proceeded to go winless for three consecutive matches. With their lackluster defense and injuries, the Timbers will have difficulty defeating the top teams in the Western Conference. 7. LAFC Los Angeles FC have taken a sharp turn from their performance last season. The club has
9. Real Salt Lake Real Salt Lake have had no problem scoring goals since the MLS is Back Tournament. Starting with the tournament, Salt Lake scored 10 goals over three games. After losing the quarterfinals of the competition to the San Jose Earthquakes, the club continued to play high-scoring matches but couldn’t win. Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez was quite pleased with the state of the squad after the MLS is Back Tournament, but such satisfaction has not translated onto the pitch as Salt Lake have remained toward the bottom of the Western Conference rankings. Salt Lake will require more training and dedication to truly serve as a threat to the conference top contenders. 10. San Jose Earthquakes While the San Jose Earthquakes were able to compete in the semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament, they no longer showcase that same level of performance. The Earthquakes have not won a game since then, and they were ridiculed in a 7-1 defeat against the Seattle Sounders. Unfortunately, if San Jose does not improve its defensive set pieces, they will maintain their low position in the Western Conference and suffer a difficult season. 11. Colorado Rapids The Colorado Rapids have been winless since the start of the Group Stage of the MLS is Back Tournament. The Rapids have stayed focused in their games, occasionally scoring a last-minute goal, but these efforts have typically been to no avail. 12. Vancouver Whitecaps FC Vancouver Whitecaps FC have not seen much success lately. After losing to Sporting KC in the MLS is Back Tournament Round of 16, the Whitecaps went winless and scoreless for three consecutive games. The Whitecaps will likely remain at the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Sports Sports Editorial
HBCUs on the Quest to Achieve Athletic Excellence By AIDAN LOOK Makur Maker, the five-star center from Hillcrest Prep in Las Vegas, Nevada, committed to Howard University on July 3, becoming the highest-ranked (16th in the nation and fourth in his position) basketball prospect to commit to a historically Black college or university (HBCU) since 2007. After making his announcement, Maker took to Twitter, tweeting, “I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow. I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey.” Though his choice to attend a HBCU raises many questions, one thing is clear: it will change the landscape of HBCUs dramatically. Despite being heavily recruited by them, many high school athletes have historically avoided attend-
ing HBCUs, a problem that many HBCUs have struggled with. The root of the problem is that HBCUs consistently gain less revenue than their predominantly white competitors and, thus, are viewed as less desirable options. For example, George Washington University competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference, a widely-watched conference, whereas Howard University competes in the MidEastern Athletic Conference, a conference with dramatically less viewership. Though both schools were near the bottom of their conference standings, George Washington University was able to make a significantly greater profit. Howard University made $10,120,853 in sports-related revenue during its ’19-’20 season while George Washington University, a Division I school, made $20,243,953 in
revenue. This dramatic difference in revenue is important, as sports teams use their revenue to cover the cost of scholarships, post-college educational programs, coaching staff, travel, and many other expenses. HBCUs have gone to extreme measures to compensate for their comparatively meager profits. For instance, many HBCU football programs make deals with nonHBCU powerhouse football programs in which they play games (knowing they will lose), giving non-HBCU teams easy victories in exchange for money. These games have severe negative consequences for HBCU teams, as these losses are very demoralizing for players and increase the risk of injuries. Nonetheless, teams continue to participate in them to garner as much money as possible, a testa-
ment to how underfunded HBCU teams are. Another consequence of this lack of revenue is that HBCUs cannot easily afford quality training staff and resources. This issue feeds into a never-ending cycle in which highly recruited athletes are more inclined to commit to powerhouse Division I programs, where they have higher chances of success, instead of HBCUs. If more high-ranked recruits committed to playing for HBCUs, these athletic programs could gain a huge financial and reputational boost. Mikey Williams, a guard from San Ysidro High School in San Diego, California, who ranks third in the nation, has recently released a list of 10 schools he would like to commit to—five of which are HBCUs. This news is extremely important for the HBCU community,
because if this trend continues, HBCUs will be able to build highquality, competitive teams capable of gaining nationwide attention, which, in turn, will lead to greater funding and revenue. But money aside, there is something greater at stake. Committing to HBCUs gives Black athletes the opportunity to honor and continue the legacies of their ancestors, who fought resiliently to ensure educational equity through the establishment of HBCUs. Today, HBCUs serve 300,000 students, and nearly 20 percent of all Black graduates receive their degrees from HBCUs. As more athletes like Maker and Williams continue to use platforms such as sports to promote HBCUs, those numbers are expected to rise, and with them, greater respect for HBCUs.
Referee Friemel Was Justified in Defaulting Djokovic. Here’s Why. By CAROLINE JI It was an outcome that stunned all. Top-ranIt was an outcome that stunned all. Top-ranked male tennis player Novak Djokovic was defaulted from his match and charged with multiple fines after unintentionally striking a line judge with a ball, adding to what has already been perhaps the most bizarre U.S. Open in history. The 17-time Grand Slam winner shook the hand of his opponent, Pablo Carreno Busta, before abruptly leaving the stadium. He later took to Instagram, voicing that he felt “sad and empty,” but would use this moment as a “lesson for [his] growth and evolution as a player and human being.” From his tactfully composed tweet to the rather poised way he dealt with the judges, Djokovic did an impeccable job garnering sympathy for his case. His support has been especially apparent on social media pages, on which countless tennis platforms have been flooded with messages essentially conveying the same line of reasoning: Djokovic didn’t intentionally harm the line judge, and, therefore, should not have received such a severe repercussion. And while that reasoning is very appealing, it doesn’t fully work. According to the Grand Slam rule book, Djokovic’s incident falls under two categories: ball abuse and unsportsmanlike conduct; Soeren Friemel, the main referee of the match, chose to classify this case under the latter. The penalty ranges from a warning to a default, depending on the referee’s interpretation of the action’s severity. For Friemel, however, the verdict was clear: “The line umpire was clearly hurt, and Novak was angry. He hit the ball recklessly, angrily back and taking everything into consideration, there was no discretion involved.” Though Friemel’s ruling received immense backlash, he was simply doing his job as a referee and sticking to the hard rules as delineated by the Grand Slam rule book, some of which even Djokovic admitted he wasn’t aware of. Referees aren’t supposed to appease crowds, and in fact, playing without crowds has arguably been “the great equalizer” in allowing referees to make fairer judgments without external influence. In addition, allowing Djokovic to play the “I didn’t mean to do it” card sets the dangerous example that in sports, especially ones that can get very physical and aggressive, intention overrides outcome and that inappropriate conduct can be excused under the guise of “emotions.” In other words, as long as a player doesn’t mean to harm someone and is acting under pressure, he or she shouldn’t have to face the full consequences of his or her actions. Just because Djokovic didn’t mean to strike the line judge with the ball doesn’t change the fact that he did and, more importantly, that the line judge suffered because of his careless actions. And who are we, as audiences watching through a screen, to dictate the level of pain the line judge must have experienced from having a ball unexpectedly swipe her throat? This is not Djokovic’s first rodeo, and he clearly knows where line judges stand on the court; striking the ball in
the general vicinity of the line judge, regardless of whether or not he meant any harm or the level of pain actually wrought onto the line judge, clearly demonstrates his lack of caution around surrounding staff. And what’s worse is that he has exhibited unsportsmanlike conduct before—countless times in fact—and has received many warnings for them. It is doubtful that another warning would have done much to make him reevaluate his careless actions, whereas, it’s safe to say, his default has been a true reality check for him. Arguably, the main reason why there is so much controversy surrounding Friemel’s ruling is that at the center of the debate is the topranked player himself, who, especially without fellow tennis legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, was extremely likely to win the whole tournament. Djokovic used his fame as leverage in making his case, but as Friemel proved, being popular does not guarantee a free pass from the rules. In fact, Nick Kyrgious, another tennis player who has often been dubbed the “bad boy” of tennis, posted a mocking tweet on Twitter, asking fans, of three choices (five years, 10 years, or 20 years), how much probation time he would receive if he were in Djokovic’s shoes. Unsurprisingly, 20 years garnered the most votes, a testament to the often downplayed double standard that exists between low and high-profile athletes when it comes to ruling. Most fans are used to seeing Djokovic, along with many other high-profile tennis players, face lighter penalties like warnings when violating rules, and it’s this unscrutinized assumption—that top players, more often than not, won’t have to face harsher penalties—that makes Djokovic’s incident so controversial. Furthermore, many people have applauded Djokovic for his immediate concern for the line judge’s well-being and his online apology, citing them as portrayals of his character. But this isn’t the first time he’s had to apologize for inappropriate, harmful behavior. Djokovic organized the Adria Tour in June 2020, at which multiple people became infected with the coronavirus; even Djokovic, at one point, was suspected of having contracted the virus. And of course, you guessed it: he apologized, saying he was “deeply sorry” (sound familiar?). His lack of attention to and forethought on the way his actions affect those around him is laughable, and he’s issued so many apologies that whether they even hold meaning anymore is highly questionable. Whether or not he is actually taking steps to reflect on his decisions and become a better player and person, as he claims, is debatable, but it’s clear that he needs more than just a few warnings and light penalties to truly self-assess his conduct. What I find most disappointing of all is that Friemel and the line judge have been receiving extensive criticism from sports fans. Why two staff personnel, who are putting their bodies at risk for the greater good of allowing tennis to continue, are being heavily chastised for an incident that Djokovic single-handedly instigated, I will never understand. To me, it’s pretty clear: there’s only one person at fault here and his default was completely justified.
Djokovic’s Default: Unnecessary and Uncalled For By SAM LEVINE
When I watched Novak Djokovic hit a ball behind him in disgust after getting his serve broken to go down 6-5 in the first set, it seemed like a normal reaction. After all, countless tennis players have done that—it’s not an uncommon occurrence. I’ve seen players slam their rackets, yell at umpires—actions that seem much more aggressive than what Djokovic did. So when the ball he hit drilled a line judge in the throat, obviously it was bad, but I didn’t think that it warranted a default from the match, and I still don’t. I understand why the main referee, Soeren Friemel, defaulted Djokovic: what he did technically falls under a rule that warrants that punishment. The United States Tennis Association posted on Twitter later that day, saying that the reason for his disqualification was “hitting a ball with negligent disregard for the consequences.” That does seem to be something Djokovic did. But in his reasoning, Friemel said that “the line umpire was clearly hurt and Novak was angry.” While this all makes sense, it brings up the question: had the line umpire simply gotten up and laughed it off, would Djokovic still have been defaulted from the match? It seems like he wouldn’t have, and that small difference in reaction wouldn’t have changed what Djokovic did. It was impossible for Djokovic to have predicted that the ball would have hit the umpire, and he really hit the ball out of frustration. While your emotions can sometimes get the better of you, it was clear here that there was no bad intent, and that makes a difference. If you look at basketball, one of the only ways someone can be ejected is via a flagrant two foul, which means that there was “unnecessary and excessive contact.” This rule is never black and white though, and it often requires the referees to get together to see if the foul was in fact intentional or if the player was simply trying to make a “basketball play.” Again, the intent comes into play. In a more similar sense, if a player chucks a basketball at a referee, they will be ejected from the game almost immediately. However, if he just bounces it behind him and it happens to hit the referee unintentionally, oftentimes it will just be a technical foul, which won’t result in an ejection unless it is that player’s second offense of the game. Djokovic didn’t slam the ball at the line judge. If you look at the replay, he wasn’t looking or aiming. He just hit
the ball behind him, and it happened to hit the judge. And if the ball didn’t hit her, nobody would even remember him hitting it, and he’d probably be in the finals of the tournament. That part is important as well. Djokovic was the number one ranked tennis player heading into the Open, and with stars like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal absent from the competition, he was the clear favorite to win his 18th Grand Slam. While some would argue that’s even more reason to punish him, I’d say it’s quite the opposite. Djokovic is one of the best tennis players of our generation, and I think that should garner him some respect from referees and fans alike. Regardless of his mishaps earlier in the year, including organizing a tennis tournament where multiple players contracted COVID-19, I don’t find it fair to default the best player in the tournament, someone who most fans tune in to watch specifically, for something that was a clear accident. Even if that may be a little unfair to other lesser-known athletes, that should be the treatment you earn after such sustained excellence. Here’s a prime example of that in action. At the 2006 Australian Open, the golden boy of tennis, Roger Federer, had a similar incident. After a fault, Federer smashed the return shot behind his back and hit a ball boy right in the nuts. Seems like “hitting a ball with negligent disregard for the consequences” to me. So naturally, Federer should’ve been fined, if not defaulted from the match, right? After all, it was pretty much the same thing as Djokovic’s incident. Well, the ball boy got up and laughed it off, no penalties were issued, and the commentators said that the boy should feel lucky to have been hit by a ball hit by Federer. Interesting how that works. If we go back even further, another top-ranked tennis player, John McEnroe, did similar, if not worse, things during his career. In fact, he is known for yelling at umpires, smashing rackets, and doing other unsportsmanlike things throughout the entirety of his career. These things can all be construed as verbal abuse, or at the very least, unsportsmanlike conduct. While he was fined countless times for a total of over $65,000, he was only suspended once and never defaulted from a tournament. But it was Djokovic who ended up being defaulted for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball. Not Federer. Not McEnroe. Only Djokovic.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Sports Athlete of the Issue
An Underclassman Who Is Running Up a Storm By ALICIA YU Bella Stenhouse Height: 5’5” Eye color: Blue Hair color: Brown Birthday: 3/6/2005
2. What events do you specialize in? My favorite events and the ones I’m best at are the 3000-meter run and the 5000-meter run in cross country. I also do the 1500-meter and the 800-meter
3. What’s your favorite part of running? I like the stress relief on an everyday level. I also think that running is a really fun way to make friends and be part of a community, like the one at Stuyvesant; I like the team aspect. I think it’s also a great way to relax after a long day. 4. What are your future goals with running? I want to continue to improve my personal records in all the events I run, and I want to continue to qualify for and run at our state championships again. I would also like to win a city championship at some point in high school. 5. How have you stayed in shape during the quarantine? I’m pretty lucky that I’ve been able to run consistently throughout quarantine, and I live near a park, so that helps.
I’ve been able to keep running as normal throughout quarantine and do some strength training and stretching. I haven’t been able to use weights, so I just do some body weight exercises at home. 6. How has your experience been on the girls’ cross country and track and field teams? I really love the Stuyvesant team. It’s like the best thing about Stuyvesant because as a freshman, I didn’t really know anyone, so it was a great way to get to know other people and to have friends. I knew someone in most of my classes and would always see someone in the hallways. It’s a really close-knit team, and it’s amazing to be a part of it. 7. How do you balance running with schoolwork? It’s definitely hard, and it’s not something I’m perfect at. But I think the key is to do work whenever you have free time and not procrastinate. I think that it’s
helpful to wake up early in the morning because I just focus a lot better in the morning than late at night. For me, running’s a pretty big priority, so I’m not going to skip practice even if I have a lot of homework; I just always make time for running and then fit in my schoolwork as well. 8. What is your proudest memory? I think my proudest memory is qualifying for the Federation Cross Country Championships with the team this past cross country season. It was really special to go as a team, especially because we weren’t sure if we were going to make it. It definitely was a team goal throughout the season. 9. What is your funniest memory? When we were at the Federation Cross Country Championships in Bowdoin, I just remember we were walking to Walmart on the side of this highway. It
Courtesy of Ed Yaker
1. When and how did you get into running? When I was in third grade, my gym teacher, who was also the track coach at my school, asked me if I wanted to come to a meet, and I just said yes. I really liked it—I really liked running with my friends, so I just continued to do that in fourth and fifth grade. Then, I ran on my own and on a club team in middle school.
was super weird because it was dark and freezing, and we were all singing “Hamilton” lyrics. Drink of Choice: Water or a smoothie with frozen fruit Favorite food: Frozen blueberries Motto to live by: Keep showing up. Fun fact: I have a very long tongue.
Fantasy Football: Spectator-Style By THE SPORTS DEPARTMENT “Armed with the valuable second pick in the draft, I picked Saquon Barkley once CMC was off the board and went on to fill my team with young sleepers and some established vets. Headlining my roster behind Barkley was Cooper Kupp, Adam Thielen, Le’Veon Bell, Josh Allen, Harrison Butker, and Julian Edelman. Later in the draft, I took potential breakout running backs in Cam Akers, Ryquell Armstead, and Latavius Murray in hopes of one becoming a strong RB2. Through a number of shrewd trades and acquisitions after the draft, I formed a new look and much-improved team, landing superstar receiver Michael Thomas, feature running back Kenyan Drake, top-five tight end Mark Andrews, Texans’ new number one receiver Will Fuller, and potential breakout Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, among others. I’ve kept my young sleepers on the bench, who could easily become fantasy starters later in the season. I got rid of a past-hisprime Bell, the highly valued Barkley, and Thielen, but saw huge improvements in score projections with a more complete roster. As the season approaches, my biggest hopes are for Cam Akers to emerge as the Rams’ top dog and for Hollywood Brown to become a consistent threat in the Baltimore Ravens’ sizzling offensive scheme.” —Krish Gupta, junior “I landed the third pick in the draft, which I believe to be the worst pick in the draft this year because of the clear drop off in talent after Saquon Barkley. Sticking to my ‘best player available’ draft strategy, I took Michael Thomas with my first pick and went on to take Chris Godwin, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews with my next three picks. I took Mark Andrews with the sole purpose of dangling as trade bait to get a starting quality running back to replace either Jonathan Taylor or Kareem Hunt. After the draft, I traded away Mark Andrews and Michael Thomas as I planned. In turn, I received Saquon Barkley, my favorite player in the NFL and a top two player in fantasy football this year, and Adam Thielen, a WR1 to replace Thomas. After the trade, my team going into the season has Matthew Stafford, Daniel Jones, Barkley, Taylor, Godwin, Thielen, Kittle, Jamison Crowder, and Hunt. My biggest hope is for Taylor to become the undisputed RB1 in Indianapolis and have a breakout season, or for Hunt to establish himself as a dependable RB2 as the second option in Cleveland.” —Aidan Fingeret, junior
“With the ninth overall pick of the fantasy draft, I selected Joe Mixon, the thrilling feature running back of the Cincinnati Bengals. Over the next few picks, I acquired some breakout rookies last year in Josh Jacobs and DK Metcalf, and proven players such as Dak Prescott, Rob Gronkowski, and Ben Roethlisberger. Along the way, I picked up exciting potential breakout stars such as Justin Jefferson, J.K. Dobbins, Mecole Hardman, Jonnu Smith, Chase Claypool, and Drew Lock. Through a slew of trades, though I had to give up Josh Jacobs, I acquired a potential breakout wide receiver in Calvin Ridley, as well as two excellent wide receivers in DeVante Parker and Sammy Watkins. I also traded the Patriots D/ST for the upstart Vikings D/ST. My biggest hopes for the season are for Drew Lock to establish himself as a great passer for the Broncos, Justin Jefferson to carry his dominance at LSU into the NFL, J.K. Dobbins to contribute to the Ravens’ electrifying run game as an RB2, and Jonnu Smith to continue the Titans’ miracle playoff run last season as their TE1. My proven stars are dominant, my diversity of breakout stars are exciting, and I’m looking forward to the season!” —Yaqin Rahman, junior
uang / The Specta to
“Going into the draft with the fifth pick, I wasn’t too happy with my position. I grabbed Dalvin Cook because I was cautious about Alvin Kamara, especially since the draft was right after news broke that he may hold out for a new contract. With my next three picks, I strayed from my normal 2-RB strategy, in which I try to pick running backs with my top two picks, and instead picked DeAndre Hopkins, Patrick Mahomes, and AJ Brown with my next three picks. The Mahomes pick was a different pick for me, as I usually wait until the later rounds to draft a QB, but in my eyes he was the best player available after taking Hopkins. Following the draft, I traded Todd Gurley and Hopkins, along with a few other smaller names, to acquire Josh Jacobs, who I think will be a breakout star this year, and perennial stud Davante Adams, who will be my number one receiver. Overall, I think I have far and away the best team in the league after the draft and my trades (which I benefited from, unlike Krish), and I believe that I can finish the season on top.” —Sam Levine, junior
“Unfortunately, getting kicked out of the Spec Sports league, I teamed up with my dad for his annual fantasy football league with his high school friends. As per our beautiful strategy from last year, we went for the early pick of Patrick Mahomes, standout quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. Our next two picks were Steelers’ running back James Conner and Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz. One of my favorite players for weekly drafts, Allen Robinson from the lovely Chicago Bears, was picked next. Backup players include Daniel Jones, staying true to my hometown team, the Giants, and Robby Anderson from the Panthers. As the season begins, I’m happy with the team we have, and I can’t wait to scream randomly at the television whenever my player scores.” —Aki Yamaguchi, senior
“With the 12th and final pick of the first round, my strategy for the first round was to take the best running back available, who was rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Edwards-Helaire, coming off a National Championship with LSU, cemented himself as a dual-threat back in college, making him an ideal pick for a PPRscoring league. With the first pick of the second round, I took Travis Kelce, the best tight end in the league. In the following rounds, I took Chris Carson, Robert Woods, Jarvis Landry, and Mark Ingram II, established players who, barring injury, are almost guaranteed to perform well. To round off my starters, I took Will Lutz and Cam Newton, the latter of whom has a huge potential upside for a mid-round QB. I entertained a couple of trade offers, but in the end, I decided to stick with the majority of my team, other than picking up a few handcuffs for my stars. My biggest hope for the season is for Edwards-Helaire to succeed as the Chiefs’ number one running back, as there is always risk in drafting a rookie.” — Maya Brosnick, sophomore
“Going into the draft, I was hoping Michael Thomas would fall and I could draft an elite receiver, but of course, things never go as planned. Nonetheless, Alvin Kamara had great value at seventh overall, and I’m ecstatic I was able to get Julio Jones on the swing back. Kamara and Jones both have extremely high floors, so I had freedom to take the riskier pick of Juju Smith-Schuster in the third round. Later, I picked another boom or bust selection in Melvin Gordon and followed by selecting potential breakout T.Y. Hilton. I prefer to wait to draft tight ends and quarterbacks, as those positions aren’t of strength, but that doesn’t concern me too much. I’m ready for an elite fantasy season.” —Ben Hamel, junior
“People think I took Lamar Jackson way too early, but I went with my gut, predicting another record year and justifying him as my first pick. I ended up picking Aaron Jones as my RB1, which isn’t too bad in my opinion. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger, and the Packers’ reliance on the run game makes Aaron Jones one of the best running backs in fantasy football. Odell Beckham Jr. is my wildcard boom-or-bust pick. Keenan Allan is always consistent, so I can rely on him to give me solid numbers. Austin Hooper is my only flaw in my starting lineup because it’s difficult to trust Baker Mayfield. I have Leonard Fournette on my bench, who I hope will be a solid backup for Raheem Mostert if things don’t go his way. Overall, I am happy with my players and see them all contributing generously.” —Tausif Tamim, senior
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
Sports Sports Editorial
By RUDOLPH MERLIN With the New York Mets barely missing the playoffs last season with an 86-76 record (their first record over .500 in the past three years), expectations were high as they began the 2020 MLB season. On paper, the team was loaded with talent. Utility player Jeff McNeil led the team in batting average (BA) last season at .318. Michael Conforto was another consistent hitter who had been improving each year. The team also had a young power hitter, first baseman Pete Alonso, who crushed 53 home runs last season and had 120 RBIs. The trinity of the Mets’ offense was supported by skilled veterans such as catcher Wilson Ramos, who looked like he was hitting in his prime last season. It seemed like their offense was going to be a pitcher’s nightmare in 2020. But their offense wasn’t even supposed to be the strongest part of the team. Back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob Degrom was the reliable ace of their pitching staff and upcoming minor league talent David Peterson was sure to impress this season. Noah Syndergaard, who came second in the rotation, was undergoing Tommy John surgery and would be out for the season, but with the Mets signing Michael Wacha and former Cy Young Rick Porcello, many felt they would fill his shoes. Finally, with Seth Lugo being promoted to closer, coupled with the unfaltering Jeureys Familia in relief, the Mets bullpen was finally going to stop blowing games and
The Mediocre Mets
park the bus. For the first time in a long time, the Mets had a strong lineup to pair with their elite pitching staff, which left many fans confident that they would be going on a trip to the postseason. So how are the Mets currently doing, you ask? Just the usual. The Mets are a middleof-the-road team in the National League with a 22-27 record, a small chance of reaching the postseason, and an even slimmer chance of reaching the World Series. Why am I not surprised? As it is with the Mets every year, their offense has been rendered obsolete. The key hitters that contributed to the Mets’ terrific performance in the latter half of the 2019 season haven’t shown up. Shortstop Amed Rosario is hitting .250, far from his .287 at the end of last year. Pete Alonso is hardly a threat, as he has been potentially the worst hitter for the Mets with a .215 batting average, and has failed to make up for his lack of getting on base with homeruns like last year. Wilson Ramos used to make up for his liability behind the plate with his hitting, but he has been slumping with a .23 batting average as well. Despite poor performances from a third of the starting lineup, the Mets still lead the MLB with a collective batting average of .279. The organization has made an effort to boost their offense these past few years, developing a solid 1-2 punch of Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo (whose ability to
draw walks is another feat). Hitters such as J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil made their mark on the organization in 2019 and haven’t let up. All of these players took a team from being ranked 20th in hits per game just four years ago to the fourth best hitting team in the league. Yet the Mets still aren’t among the top eight teams in the National League with their seemingly potent lineup. How? Despite the ability of these runners to get on the bases, the Mets continue to falter in driving runners home, an issue that has truly sunk the team this year.
This year, the Mets leave an average of four runners in scoring position stranded per game. This statistic is the worst out of the 30 teams in the MLB, and the Mets currently rely on one man to get their big hit: Robinson Canó. Canó, a 37-year-old second baseman, has been a stable presence in the lineup throughout his entire career. He currently has a .318 BA and an overall .320 BA when runners are in scoring position. Canó has played beyond expectations this season, but with his contract ending in 2023, his age may become a liability. The only other stability the Mets have seen this year is with their ace-pitcher, Jacob Degrom. Humble and hardworking, Degrom is one of the best pitchers in the National League with a 1.69 ERA, and has won back-to-back Cy Young awards. His excellent pitching isn’t expressed in his four wins though, as he earned three no-decisions in games where he let up only one or two good runs because the Mets’ offense grew stagnant. That seems to be the story of the Mets’ season year after year: good pitching but no offense to support it. The lack of support DeGrom gets offensively isn’t helping the rest of the starting rotation either, which has its own difficulties. Steven Matz has yet to deliver a performance mimicking his ascension to dominance in the second half of the 2019 season, as he holds a record of 0-4. Michael Wacha, who was acquired from the Cardinals, has
r Yume I garashi / The Spectato
Over the past four years, the Mets have increasingly left more and more runners in scoring position. The Mets rarely left runners stranded on the bases in 2017, which allowed them to come back into the game despite their lackluster hitting. Now when the Mets are down by two runs in the bottom of the seventh, all hope is lost.
been inconsistent with a 1-3 record. Worst of all, Rick Porcello, whom the Mets signed as a free agent from the Red Sox, has severely struggled. He currently holds a record of 1-5 and allows more than one hit per inning on average. The logic in signing Porcello, who despite having a winning record last season, had an abysmal 5.52 ERA in Boston (and currently has an ERA of 6.06), is incomprehensible. When the Mets have the liquidity to sign free agents, they spend a combined $13 million on two underperforming and historically average starting pitchers. Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler, whom the organization couldn’t keep in free agency, is now a Phillie and a major contender for the Cy Young award. Wheeler has four wins and zero losses, and throughout his six years with the Mets, his total annual salary was a little less than $10 million, which is the same price the Mets paid for one year of Porcello. With the Mets’ offense igniting in recent weeks and with some help from an expanded playoff, the Mets somehow still remain only two games behind a playoff position. However, with fewer than 15 games to go, the team has a series against the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals. The Mets’ performance against these top-caliber teams will determine their fate. Will they have another season of above-average performance and leave Mets fans with hope for the future, or will they continue to be a mediocre team that just can’t quite compete with the powerhouses of the MLB? My pick is the latter.
What Lies Ahead for the Premier League? By SHAFIUL HAQUE
Liverpool Triumphant in the Premier League, Liverpool are determined to strengthen their team before the transfer window concludes. Manager Jurgen Klopp has said farewell to older, longstanding members of the squad, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne. Currently, the Reds signed left back Konstantinos Tsimikas for $14 million. The Greek player would be a favorable backup for Scottish Andrew Robertson. Klopp is also eager to sign highly skilled midfielder Thiago Alcântara from German supergiants FC Bayern Munich. The Spaniard performed superbly for them, with 91 percent passing accuracy in open play and 288 duels won last year. His presence would boost creativity and structure in the midfield, an area that Liverpool are enhancing. Though the board is finding it inconvenient to agree to a $30 million fee with Bayern, they hope to obtain him as soon as possible. The Merseyside manager may consider integrating youth players into the team, with prospects Rhian Brewster, Harry Wilson, and Curtis Jones as options. Klopp already built an outstanding team from scratch, and he looks to refine his team in hopes of build-
Yaqi Zeng / The Spectator
Transfers, which occur when a player in a contract decides to move to another club, are a major aspect of soccer, primarily in England. When a player transfers to a club, their old contract is terminated and they negotiate a new one with their new team. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the transfer market in the Premier League has endured troublesome times. Soccer halted in March and gradually resumed in a plan called “Project Restart.” During those times, the transfer market was in chaos: player value dropped and clubs experienced massive financial loss. Once the season concluded, members of the Premier League proceeded with plans for next season with three substitutions per match and a slow increase of capacity. Along with these adjustments, transfers are steadily returning. Players are now free to request a move away if they desire or request a contract extension if they wish to stay. And that is what’s happening currently: transfers in the league are announced weekly. With plenty of transfer rumors preceding next season, the acknowledged “Big Six” clubs in the Premier League are attempting to sign additional players to reconstruct their squad. Though not all transfer news is released yet, let’s explore how each club
plans for the future with new arrivals.
ing on his title-winning success with a new squad. Manchester City Manchester City’s last season was one of reflection, and Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks to rebuild certain parts of the team with his massive transfer budget. The Manchester club already departed with club legend David Silva for Spanish club Real Sociedad and winger Leroy Sane for Champions League winner Bayern. As a replacement, the Blues purchased exciting young talent Ferran Torres from Spanish club Valencia for $25 million. The forward impressed with six goals and eight assists in 44 games. Guardiola will also adjust defensive problems in the team. The Catalan manager is keen on selling center backs Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones, both prone to mistakes. So far, Manchester City signed solid defend-
er Nathan Ake from Bournemouth for $52 million. Ake has proven his capabilities with 36 interceptions and 147 clearances in the league. Guardiola feels that the Dutchman is an upgrade for his backline and would consider converting him from a center back into a left back, replacing inconsistent defender Benjamin Mendy. City are also in contact with Italian club Napoli to sign 29-year-old robust defender Kalidou Koulibaly. Though Guardiola’s last season was burdensome, he looks to reclaim winning ways with a resilient defense and a passionate team. Tottenham Hotspur Tottenham Hotspur had a rocky start to the previous season. Manager Mauricio Pochettino was sacked four months into the season, and current manager Mourinho guided the squad into sixth place. During the summer window, the West London club increased squad depth in almost every position to regain Champions League qualification. Argentinian Giovanni Lo Celso, who was permanently signed, would provide ingenuity in the midfield with two assists, 965 passes, and 42 accurate long balls. Compact midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg left Southampton for $18.3 million, and he would help win back possession of the ball with
210 duels won and 326 recoveries. Also, experienced right back Matt Doherty moved from Wolverhampton Wanderers FC for $18.5 million. Though his fitness and positioning is currently questionable, Doherty is statistically a good choice as the starting right back for the Spurs, with 160 recoveries and 233 duels won in the league last season. Furthermore, the free addition of former England goalkeeper Joe Hart would give the club a backup option for World Cupwinning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Mourinho suffered the loss of many prominent long-standing figures at the club such as Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, and he looks to bring forth a new generation of players who will begin to contest for trophies in the future. Check out the rest of the article here.
The Spectator ● September 22, 2020
THE SPECTATOR SPORTS Sports Editorial
The Fall of Barca FC Barcelona (Barca) is one of the greatest clubs in the history of soccer. Many legends such as Diego Maradona and Johan Cryuff have played for the club, which has won countless major trophies, most notably five Champions Leagues and 26 league titles. However, in recent years, Barca has been going through a major decline. With an aging squad, numerous embarrassing defeats, and many internal conflicts, the future of the club looks bleak. After winning the treble in 2015 (in which Barca won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, and Champions League) to getting destroyed 8-2 in the 2020 Champions League quarter finals against FC Bayern, the necessary question to ask is: Where did it all go wrong? One of the most significant factors in Barca’s decline was the departure of Neymar. Before he left for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Neymar was thought of as the future of Barca. However, PSG activated a release clause in his contract and offered Neymar a ludicrously high salary to convince him to leave. After much consideration, Neymar accepted the offer. This departure was one of the many humiliations that Barca would face over the next few years. The club had lost their most talented youngster, and all they could do was watch. To this day, Barca has been unable to fill the hole in the squad that Neymar’s departure created. Barca signed Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund in an attempt to replace Neymar, but Dembélé’s career has been plagued with many injuries that have stopped him from showcasing his talent.
Barca’s drift away from club values has also played a major role in its demise. Ever since Neymar left, the Catalan Giants have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to fill the void left by the transfer. They bought players such as Dembélé,
of Barca, have demonstrated how the club can develop some of the best players in the world by giving members of La Masia an opportunity to play in the starting squad. This system is how players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Andrés Iniesta became
Philippe Coutinho, and Antonie Griezmann, each for over $100 million. Still, it is difficult to argue that any one of these players are worth the ridiculous amount they were bought for. Many fans are disappointed that the club spent so much money on players when they could have instead invested it into developing talents from their world-renowned youth academy, La Masia. Cryuff and Pep Guardiola, former managers
some of the all-time greats in their respective positions. This method worked so well because La Masia trained players to perfectly fit into the Barca playstyle. However, Barca has not shown the same trust in La Masia products as they once did, and now, they try to buy players from foreign leagues instead. This method seems to have failed the club as many of the transfers struggle to fit in with the Barca playstyle. Had Barca placed their
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By NAKIB ABEDIN
trust in their young players instead of buying new ones, this decline may have been prevented. Another potential reason for Barca’s downfall has been poor management on all levels of the club. Ernesto Valverde, former manager, was kept at the club for many years despite poor performances. Under his management, Barca suffered humiliating comeback defeats to Roma and Liverpool, which made the club a laughingstock in the soccer world. Quique Setién was hired as an interim manager to replace Valverde after he was finally fired. Expectations were high as Setién could have brought the team back on top. However, nothing much changed with him at the helm. After a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern in the 2020 Champions League quarter finals, Setién was fired as well. The blame shifted from the manager to the president of Barca, Joseph Bartomeu. Bartomeu was criticized by many former players, including Neymar and Dani Alves, for his treatment of players. In fact, Alves left Barca solely due to issues with Bartomeu. With a board reelection coming up in 2021, Bartomeu now needs to completely change the morale in the club if he wants to have a chance at winning. Bartomeu has taken a few steps toward improvement, though many of his efforts have been in vain. For example, he has told many of his players to leave the club. He even threatened to terminate Luis Suárez’s contract, though this almost shot him in the foot, as Messi, Barca’s best player, almost left the club because of it. He changed his mind mainly because he did not want to engage in a legal dispute with his own club.
However, though Messi is staying at Barca, his transfer saga has created internal conflict in the club. In the interview announcing he would stay, he revealed his opinions about the Barca board: “And the truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time. They juggle and cover holes as things go by.” Clearly, even Messi is unhappy with the direction the board is taking with the club and has even hinted at a feud between him and Bartomeu that has been occurring behind the scenes. After the appointment of Ronald Koeman as the club’s new manager, the future of Barca is uncertain. Some believe that Barca will bounce back to its former glory. Others believe that Barca may plunge down and become a midtable team. The only thing that we know for sure is that there will be massive changes. If Bartomeu and Koeman don’t make the right decisions, Barca may never be able to recover from this sharp decline. Barca does have some hope of getting out of this hole due to recent La Masia graduates. For example, Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati have become fan favorites at Barca and performed well for the club. Additionally, Barca can potentially sign Eric Garcia from Manchester City to add even more young talent to their roster. There have also been reports that Koeman will sign Gini Wijnaldum from Liverpool FC or Memphis Depay from Olympique Lyonnais in order to provide more rotation for the starting squad. With the arrival of Portuguese striker Francisco Trincão as well, Barca will be able to construct a rejuvenated team filled with many youngsters. This possibility may be its last chance to save its legacy.
The NBA’s Coaching Dilemma By TAEE CHI The Brooklyn Nets made headlines last Thursday when they hired Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash as their new head coach. Nash, a two-time league MVP and eight-time All-Star, retired in 2015 after a successful 18-year career in the NBA that cemented him as one of the greatest point guards the league has ever seen. However, Nash’s lack of coaching experience has led many fans to question his ability to lead the Nets, a team that, led by superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, is expected to contend for a championship next season. More importantly, Nash’s employment has put a spotlight on the growing lack of diversity among head coaches in the NBA, a pressing concern that is especially important during this time of racial tension in the U.S. As one of the more progressive sports leagues in the nation, the NBA has always strived to promote diversity and take a stand against racial inequality. Yet in a league where 81 percent of the players are Black, just seven of the 30 head coaches are non-white, and only five of those seven are Black. This statistic has decreased from last year’s count, as the Knicks’ David Fizdale, the Pacers’ Nate McMillan, and the Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry, all of whom are Black, were fired by their respective teams during this year’s regular season. With the number of Black head
coaches dwindling, the news of Nash’s hire on Thursday fueled a passionate debate among fans, in which many questioned the decision made by the Nets’ front office to hire Nash—a white coach—despite his inexperience. Stephen A. Smith, a commentator on ESPN’s First Take, even went so far as to call the move “an example of white privilege.” Smith’s statement, which attributed Nash’s hire over potentially more accomplished candidates solely to his race, immediately provoked backlash, and many were quick to point out that there
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had been past instances where Black coaches were hired despite having never coached before like Nash. Namely, Derek Fisher, head coach of the New York Knicks back in 2014, and Jason Kidd, hired in 2013 to coach the Brooklyn Nets, were brought up in such arguments. While Smith’s take on
the matter may have been a bit extreme, the fact is that, out of the nine former NBA players who are currently head coaches, only two are African American, a number far too low considering the NBA’s player demographic. The diversity, or lack thereof, in NBA head coaches extends beyond the position. Currently, only eight of the 30 teams in the league have a Black general manager, while the Toronto Raptors’ Masai Ujiri is the only Black president of basketball operations. With so few Black front-office executives, it may be time for the NBA to consider implementing its own version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule. Enacted in 2003, the Rooney Rule encourages equal opportunities when hiring staff members and executives by mandating teams to interview ethnic minorities for head coaching and senior football operation positions. If the NBA created its own version of this regulation and even expanded the policy to include all levels of workers, it would show the association’s advocacy of diversity and inclusion and set a great example for other leagues and organizations around the nation. Since the NBA resumed play in the Orlando bubble, it has done a superb job utilizing its media presence and overall popularity to help combat racism in the U.S. To ensure that the league’s support for social justice was clearly visible to the millions of viewers around the nation, players were given the option to display a social justice mes-
sage on the backs of their jerseys, and the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was printed in giant text near the half-court line. The NBA also postponed three playoff games that were set to occur on August 26 as a response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African American man who was shot seven times in the back by Wisconsin police on August 23. Moreover, the league held a meet-
ing following Blake’s shooting to discuss the possible discontinuation of the playoffs, an option that was ultimately overturned but still stood as a testament to the NBA’s opposition to racism. These showings in the bubble have made a powerful statement to the world, and it’s now time for the league to look within and address the racial disparity in its leadership and coaching.
SPORTSBEAT After winning the U.S. Open Women’s title, three-time major champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from playing in the French Open due to a hamstring injury. The Miami Heat currently lead the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs 2-1 against the Boston Celtics, while the Los Angeles Lakers are up by two against the Denver Nuggets in the West. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks won his second straight MVP award. LeBron James raised some concerns with the NBA Awards voting practice after only receiving 16 out of 101 votes. Big Ten Football is back. They recently released their third version of a 2020 schedule, with eight games planned—starting October 24th. In a major transfer, Gareth Bale has sealed a contract for his return to Tottenham from Real Madrid for a season-long loan. Bale left the Spurs in 2013 for a then-world-record fee of 89.5 million euros.