At 8m on a Tuesday in February, masked and hooded figures gather across rural countries of Louisiana. It is quite and calm, but it won’t be for long. Everyone is clad in bright hues, primarily of purple, green, and gold, with fringe running up and down the sides of their costumes. My photographer uniform - dark jeans and a cargo jacket - is intended to make me blend in but instead broadcasts that
I am an outsider.
Repeatedly I am asked, “You ain’t never run Mardi Gras before, huh?” Cover photo by Kelly Cole
A Letter from the Editors
In the wake of The Narrative Issue, our venture for Spring 2016, we began deliberating on the theme of our next print version of the publication. With the election swift-approaching in the subsequent November, we recognized the necessity to move from the inward focus of The Narrative Issue and outward into the wider, more chaotic spheres of the social and the political. From mounting passion for and anxiety about the future came The Power Issue. Power can mean many things:
strength, perseverance, dominance,
Power can mean energy, can mean the pull of a single voice or the low roar of thousands. Power can mean both creation and destruction. In this issue, we have explored a variety of manifestations of power, from protests to performances, from mental health to writing itself. Our mission is always to provide a platform upon which young writers and artists may engage with and interrogate the world around them, whether that be on campus, within the state, or the world at large; the contributors to this issue have taken this mission and ran in disparate directions. Our hope for The Power Issue is not only that it entertains but that it compels you to consider: what is power? What does power mean to me? And to what ends will you use that unique power in the interlocking spheres of your private life and the world? Godspeed,
Annyston Pennington, Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Bolf and Rebekah Edwards, Associate Editors
Changing the World? (Yes You Are). McKenzie Hohenberger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Nothing like Lovecraft: An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer Samantha Bolf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 Linguistic Capital: American Language Education Caroline Rock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 The Power of the Mind Jacob Hood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Student Empowerment in the Age of Trump Varun Hukeri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Iron Siqi Jiang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 A Night with Trevor Noah Amina Amdeen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Photography from Austin’s Women’s March Nikki LaSalla . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Changing the World? (Yes, You Are.)
By McKenzie Hohenberger
hat starts here changes the world. It gave us chills at orientation. We cheered when the class president closed his speech with it at Gone to Texas. We, the proud students of this acclaimed university, claim it as a truth. Sometimes, however, it might ring a little too loudly in our ears. Sometimes, it may sound more like a threat than an inspiration. Sometimes, in the quiet of our ambitious and competitive hearts, the words twist themselves into something that sounds more like, “Am I the only one who isn’t changing the world?” Feeling inadequate is not uncommon among students at the University of Texas. As we sit with one another at meals, watch each other’s lives on social media, and walk with one another to class, our accomplishments, academic backgrounds, and professional goals inevitably arise. We gauge our own successes based on our peers’. During the holidays, as we float like mutants between the comfort of
childhood and the respectability of adulthood, we answer the same question over and over, “What are you going to do with that after college?” As if familial expectations weren’t heavy enough, we also carry loaned or granted money in our pockets to pay for our years of progress here. Our scholarships carry the names of honorable intellectuals who have passed on, or who have maximized their resources so successfully that they have the ability to set aside money for intelligent strangers. Put bluntly, this amazing opportunity is also an anvil hanging over each of our heads. This is the nature of student anxiety. For each of us, there is a face or a name that takes on all the characteristics of success. For me, it is the face of a friend of mine who works on the legislative floor at the Capitol here in Austin, is involved in a non-profit organization benefiting Dell Children’s Hospital, and even has time to read in her spare time (whatever that is). As I interviewed some of my peers, I discovered that even the most accomplished among us feel like they could be doing more. Laura Laughead, a freshman journalism major, finds that her insecurities are rooted not in what she could be doing here at UT but what she could be doing outside of the academic world. Laura has already interned for an agency in Houston, and she participates in four different committees in an on-campus organization called Texas Students’ Television. She has been selected recently as one of five finalists for a television show that she wrote in a contest, and she is waiting to find out if her show will be picked up by the TSTV station and produced. Yet, when asked about feelings of inadequacy, Laura explained, “There’s this girl from my hometown, and she’s not in college. But she is out in the world, and she’s been in Vogue editorials. She models. And so, whenever I see that it’s like, oh my gosh. You know, you’re out in the real world having real experiences, and I’m here in college. Even with the stuff that I’m doing I’ve felt inadequate, like I shouldn’t even be in college. I should be working, I should be in the real world, you know, traveling like she is.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rachel Mattison is a senior biology major in the midst of interviewing for various medical schools across Texas. She utilizes her summer and winter breaks to work at a pediatric clinic in her hometown, and she was recently given a preemptive offer to run the practice, which has a branch in Dallas as well. As we spoke, she informed me that s h e had
experienced feelings of inadequacy during conversations with other medical school applicants while waiting to be interviewed. “Some of them have been published, and others have started health initiatives. It just makes me realize how much I haven’t done, you know. I also wish I had been able to gather the money to go on a mis-
sion trip. Mostly everyone has helped bring medicine didn’t start out rich. They came from the Philippines. or healthcare to somewhere abroad.” Rachel has So, they came all the way from there, and then they maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her undergraduate went to Canada, and then they came here, and they career and is involved in a women’s spirit group and worked. And they didn’t even really want me to come medicine organization on campus. She is to UT. I had to convince them that I could do it. also using her senior year to take And they did everything to get me where I am now, advantage of the research so I want to give everything I can to make sure it’s program available for worth it.” Daniela’s strength is in her dedication to STEM majors at her coursework and to creating relationships with her UT. Despite her professors. She often visits office hours, both for help many qual- with her coursework and to learn more about them ifications as individuals. She is an active member of Future and her Doctors of America and Global Medical Training, which are both on-campus organizations that will ca ter to her career goals. She often feels pressured by the success of her peers, as well as the expectations of her parents.
wonderful résumé, Rachel is not immune to feelings of inadequacy among her peers.
These stories and many more were all held together by a common thread—each of these students has a specific image in their minds that means success, and they often use these images not to inspire themselves, but to increase the heavy pressure that they feel daily as UT students. The key here is not to rid oneself of ambition, nor is it to advocate a stagnant academic career. It is to truly understand that you are neither alone in your feelings of inadequacy, nor are you likely to rid yourself of these feelings by overloading your schedule and neglecting your mental and physical health. Rather than keeping student anxieties buried deep in our private lives, we should acknowledge that they exist and allow this truth into our conversations with peers. As students at this prestigious university, we should commit ourselves to three mental practices. First, we must abandon fear of failure and actively involve ourselves in activities on and off campus. Second, we must make ourselves vulnerable by speaking freely about our imperfections and fears. This will unify our student body. Third, we must deny any inner voices that tell us we are the only one feeling this way. It isn’t true.
Like Rachel, Daniela Banci is a pre-med student. She is a sophomore, and she speaks from the perspective of a student whose main goal is to validate the investment her parents have made in her education. “For me, my parents
Nothing Like Lovecraft An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Author of the Southern Reach Trilogy By Samantha Bolf
n 2016, I read the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. Immediately, I was enthralled with the world he had created in only three books—a world of natural beauty and edlritch horror, which at the center was a woman biologist. I felt transformed, as though something had shifted, both in myself and the world around me. When I contacted Vandermeer about potentially interviewing him, I didn’t believe that he would respond. Still, I needed to express to him, at the very least, how much I had been changed by his writing. He responded that he would be happy to answer any questions I wanted to send him— and his answers are just as well-written as his novels. Samantha Bolf: I’ve never fallen in love with a character [the biologist] so quickly, and I immediately adored and would’ve listened to her describe Area X and be ambiguously terrible and amazing for a very long time.
Jeff Vandermeer: That’s awfully kind of you—I’m glad you liked it so much.
SB: Did anything in particular inspire the character of the biologist? Was she completely (forgive this pun) organic, or was she created as a result of an experience with similar professionals, or what you had previously known of biologists, or characters that had stuck with you? JV: Most of my main characters are an organic mix of imagination, people I’ve known, and my own life experience. In the case of the biologist, I combined strong, self-sufficient women I’ve known with my own love of nature, and in particular marine biology, and some of my own memories that worked in this context, transformed. For example, I too had a swimming pool in my backyard growing up that was overgrown and full of frogs and fish. The biologist’s encounter with a starfish is similar to my own as a child, lost on a reef in Fiji. And it’s true my dad is a research chemist and entomologist, so I’ve been around scientists and in particular those studying living creatures, most of my life. But those are just conjuring acts that become subsumed by the person you’re writing about. The biologist, like the characters of Grace, the former director, and Control, all feel like real people to me— people I might bump into one day. SB: Was the narrative of Annihilation created from a conglomeration of previously read horror fiction? The New Yorker compared you to Thoreau, but it definitely felt Lovecraftian to me. Did you always have a proclivity for the strange and inexplicable in literature? JV: When I started writing short stories, I thought what I was writing was pretty normal and usual, but my friends always told me it was a bit weird, a bit surreal and dreamlike. Kafkaesque. Since I often turned to extrapolation based on cutting-edge biological studies, including study of fungi and plant life, that effect often became magnified. I’m not a huge fan of Lovecraft, and especially not with regard to this trilogy because I think the trilogy embodies the antithesis of what Lovecraft valued. More importantly, there is no aspect of the settings and events, not including the uncanny events, that isn’t taken from first-hand observation. Which means the biggest influences are autobiographical. SB: You recommend on your website that aspiring writers to cultivate, if not a relationship with nature, some sort of physical activity they can engage in. Is this something you do? Do you often find inspiration strikes when surrounded by nature? JV: Many scientific studies show that hiking without a mobile device cuts your stress and enhances your creativity. I get a similar effect from weight-lifting, although it’s not as intense. Mostly, I think it’s important to recognize as writers that we exist as both body and mind.
For me personally, if I don’t hike or workout on a regular basis, my writing suffers. Everybody’s different, but what it boils down to is finding time away from writing that’s not full of fragmentation but instead is full of peace. As for exercise, if you can exercise, find something you love and want to do. It’s not about body type or anything except that it helps your intellectual pursuits as well. Of course, some of us have day jobs that already include physical exercise, so… SB: You did an amazing job of writing women like actual characters in Annihilation (and Authority and Acceptance). It was honestly a shock when I looked at the name of the author and realized you were not a female author. Did you go into Annihilation (or do you go into any of your projects) with the intention of writing characters as a certain gender, or do you have a process for writing female characters that differs from writing male ones? JV: I don’t like to make generalizations about writing characters because each person I write about comes to me in a different way, and my job as an author is to try to understand them and then convey what I understand about them. If I were to go in saying “I want to write about a woman now,” I think that’d be a mistake. Characters manifest to me in a particular way and then I explore who they are and try to put what’s useful to put down on the page. That said, in Annihilation I don’t have the added complexity of layering in modern society and how the average woman working her way through that society may find different challenges and obstacles than the average man. The biologist is only ever juxtaposed with nature and the little bit of culture she tends to reject or interrogate or resist. Yet I was aware of that very issue in her relationship with her husband and aware of the different things it places on women rather than men in heterosexual relationships, so some of that is in there. And then it’s, again, having an awareness of how this affects and is reflected out from your particular character. It’s always about the specifics. And some places I know as a writer I don’t have the experience to explore. For example, I love Adiche’s Americanah, but I could never have written that novel. ...One thing every writer is wise to know is where they are strong and where they are not strong—and that includes when and how they decide to explore a particular character or set of characters. SB: This is more of a personal question, and you definitely don’t have to answer this, but the entire time I was reading the trilogy, it reminded me of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Was the Southern Reach Trilogy in anyway inspired by House of Leaves? Or was there any particular work that did inspire the trilogy if not House of Leaves? JV: I do love House of Leaves, but I don’t think it was any particular kind of influence, especially because House of Leaves is itself riffing off of older supernatural fiction and off of the work of writers like Nabokov. Infinite Jest is nothing like House of Leaves—I think the main thing is people see two large, ambitious books with footnotes and can’t help but make the comparison! I will say that I was working on the unique typography and design of my first major book, City of Saints and Madmen, when House of Leaves came along, and it did inspire me to push even further in terms of the layout. SB: How do you feel about the plans for an Annihilation movie? How involved are you with production and planning, or are you involved with it at all? JV: Alex Garland’s kind enough to keep me in the loop, but I don’t have any control over any of it, either in terms of casting or script control. That will change with future projects. Garland’s a very talented filmmaker—I’m curious to see what his version of Annihilation looks like. SB: Again, thank you for both responding and also for writing the trilogy. It’s served as an intense source of awe
and inspiration for me, and I would not be exaggerating if I said that reading the novels changed my life as a writer. JV: Again, that’s very kind. I really appreciate it and in fact that kind of makes my week. I hope you like the next thing, too. It’s got a flying bear in it, which you don’t see every day…
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Linguistic Capital American Language Education
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By Caroline Rock
ewer than one percent of American adults are proficient in a foreign language they studied in a high school classroom.1 In comparison, 51% of students from countries in the European Union learn two or more foreign languages by their upper secondary education.2 America’s second language learning programs are far behind those in other parts of the world. U.S. educational institutions do not make foreign language learning a priority, and therefore many students graduate high school monolingual. This issue seeps into other areas of
How do you teach about other cultures when the only culture many students are exposed to is their own? Learning a education.
language and learning about its culture go hand-in-hand, as components of the culture are inherent in the language. This is paramount in exploring the link between language-learning and the climates of other classrooms. Many parties are involved in the decision-making of foreign language learning, making it a difficult problem to solve. The first party that has a stake in this issue are the students themselves. American students might not see any need to learn a foreign language, especially if they plan to continue living in the states for their careers or have no resources or desire to travel. Even if they con1 Amelia Friedman, “America’s Lacking Language Skills,” The Atlantic, May 10, 2015. 2 “Foreign Language Learning Statistics,” Eurostat, September 23, 2016.
sider a job on the global market, they may suffer from “English
exceptionalism”, which is the belief (subconscious or otherwise) that be-
cause English is the lingua franca, knowing it is enough get them where they want to be.3 This mentality is dangerous, as it can extend beyond an attitude regarding language. The lens can be widened to suggest that those who believe in English language exceptionalism might also believe in Anglo exceptionalism or U.S. superiority over other countries. Rather than localizing students, educators must strive for them to adopt their role as citizens of the world. With such a technology-centered world, shouldn’t learning language skills be easier? Free resources like Duo Lingo or Lang-8 exist in addition to countless free apps, websites, and YouTube channels dedicated to assisting language learning. These resources in the classroom might lessen the need to cut budgets from language programs while still keeping them in schools. However, some irreplaceable resources are necessary expenses, such as textbooks, internet access, and teachers. Again, these may be increasingly difficult to obtain in rural or underfunded areas. And as interest in less commonly taught languages increases, a shortage of teachers follows.4 Some may counter by saying that foreign language classes are not necessary because these web-based resources exist. But these aids to learning are intended to be used in conjunction to formal language education and certainly not as a replacement for a teacher. There are also differing views from the public on the necessity of language education. Today, there is less push from the federal government to learn a foreign language than there was after 9/11 or Sputnik, when the National Defense Education Act was put in place.5 Some believe, however, that not learning a foreign language is still a threat to national security. While this bold claim speaks directly to American democracy, this idea can be applied to producing good global citizens as well. Are we really creating the best citizens possible if we allow the majority of students to leave school speaking as many languages as when they started? While the EU has 24 official languages, the United States has one. The EU is comprised of 28 diverse countries that are relatively easy to travel among; the closest neighboring countries to the U.S. are less accessible to many Americans. This makes it harder to practice language skills, harder to convince schools to implement foreign language programs, and harder for students to agree to take foreign languages––especially languages other than Spanish or French. Imagine trying to convince students and their parents in Wyoming that studying Swedish or Arabic will help them in the future. Conversely, in other parts of the country, students are already bilingual, and therefore the public view may be that it
3 Clayton Lewis, “Monolingual Myopia,” US News, March 21, 2015. 4 Myriam Met, “Foreign Language Learning in K-12 Classrooms in the United States,” in Encyclopedia of Language and Education, ed. Nancy Hornberger, vol. 4 (New York: Springer, 2008), 129-142. 5 Met, “Foreign Language Learning in K-12 Classrooms,” 129-142.
is unnecessary to fund foreign language programs. For example, many Korean students in California are learning English, while many students in the South speak Spanish at home and English at school. In some schools, there has been a significant push to allow education in minority languages in an effort to create equal opportunity, as under the Bilingual Education Act.6 In these cases, one can see why foreign language learning programs are less of a priority. Still, many others do not ignore the benefits of teaching our students foreign languages. More Chicago public schools are including Chinese programs.7 Oral proficiency guidelines form the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages steer teachers away from ineffective traditional assessment strategies and encourage the integration of distance learning.8 Many also see the benefits of foreign language learning as a preparation for the future, which will undoubtedly be more internationally connected by transportation and technology. Solutions for this issue are easy to theorize but hard to implement. The root of the problem is that there is no national standard for foreign language programs. The federal government leaves it to state governments to decide if learning a second language is even required. Many states like Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky do not require students to complete any foreign languages in order to graduate high school.9 If the federal government created a standard across-theboard for all states, more students would gain experience in foreign languages. Another solution is earlier exposure to languages. Most students don’t begin until age 14, if they are required to begin at all.10 As American education stands, students may only identify with the kinds of texts in the canon (largely British and American literature, written by whites) and assume that other cultural texts “are not for them.” Students not given the opportunity (or who choose not to take the opportunity) to learn about another culture through its language may lack interest in translated texts or texts by authors of other cultures. It is less fruitful and productive for teachers to introduce these types of materials into a classroom if their students are susceptible to English language exceptionalism. Discussion may be limited. The responses may lack empathy. Students may struggle to see from a non-American lens. We can see the dangers of English language exceptionalism extending beyond an attitude of language acquisition; it becomes an attitude about cultural awareness.
6 Thomas Ricento and Wayne Wright, “Language Policy and Education in the United States,” in Encyclopedia of Language and Education, ed. Nancy Hornberger, vol. 1 (New York: Springer, 2008), 285-300. 7 David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler, “America’s Foreign Language Deficit,” Forbes Magazine, August, 27, 2012. 8 Met, “Foreign Language Learning in K-12 Classrooms,” 129-142. 9 Jennifer Dounay, “High School Graduation Requirements: Foreign Language,” Education Commission of the States, accessed October 30, 2016. 10 Met, “Foreign Language Learning in K-12 Classrooms,” 129-142.
The Power of the Mind By Jacob Hood
he Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas seeks to provide counseling at lower costs than other counselors in Austin while offering students a multitude of helpful services. For example, the CMHC gives students the chance to use their crisis line, participate in group therapy sessions, and get involved with outreach programs such as Suicide Prevention Week. Even though the CMHC was granted $3.7 million for the 2016-2017 year––according to the Executive Assistant to the Associated Vice President for Student Affairs––the cen ter is so overwhelmed and understaffed that many students feel that their mental health needs are not being met. Within the last year, the cost of individual counseling sessions at the CMHC has doubled from $5 to $10, causing many students to have less access to their services.
and other students like myself feeling a similar loss of power. In a high-stress environment like UT’s campus where mental health issues can go unreported, concern over the wellbeing of students is widespread. For students across UT’s campus, the stress of college life can lead to forms of repression and loss of control. In the wake of funding cuts to the CMHC and growing concerns over inadequate mental health services, students are recognizing that mental health, while having the power to disrupt our lives, can also be the place where we find control.
Students are recognizing that mental health, while having the power to disrupt our lives, can also be the place where we find control.
I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder ten months before coming to UT. I came from receiving routine counseling to attending a university where my options for accessible therapy were limited. In the past, therapy gave me control over obsessive thoughts that would spur anxiety and self-destructive, compulsive acts. Upon coming to UT, I felt my control over my mental health begin to slip without easier access to continuous therapy. The funding cuts and the overwhelmed state of the CMHC has left me
Currently undeclared liberal arts major Shamika Kurian is a strong advocate for proper mental health services on college campuses, noting that, “You never really know what people are going through so it’s important for anyone to have access to those resources.” Her recognition of the need for adequate counseling services for UT students has been heavily vocalized, particularly after funding cuts to the CMHC. Fellow student Carol Ze-Noah, a government major, also supports the implementation of campus services such as the CMHC. “Proper health services serve as an outlet for us to discuss our worries with people whose job is it to listen and provide as much
help as they can,” she said. Ze-Noah noted that students may have issues they do not feel comfortable discussing and believes that it can even be difficult to discuss such topics with close friends and family for fear of being judged or not properly understood.
it can take it away,” she stated. But Kurian has her own way of gaining control over her mental health–– she finds coping strategies in her love of playing music and her naturally humorous attitude. “If I joke about it, it takes away the harshness of it sometimes.”
Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed. “College is a huge transition for many students. It can be very difficult to perform academically when your mental health isn’t solid.” Especially during the initial transition [from high school to college], the mentality of “make-it-or-break-it” can add excess stress that can take away a student’s sense of control over their academic and personal lives. UT students live in a very high-pressure environment, where the goal of success and making the grade can come at a high emotional cost.
Anonymous answered with complete certainty: “Mental health can absolutely give someone a sense of power.” However for them, like other students, gaining that sense of power is often easier said than done. “I have to either devote large amounts of time to preserving my mental state or repress my problems and hope they don’t bubble up. Typically, due to the time restraints of school, I choose the second option.”
“There is power in developing a balance between powerlessness and our innate ability to achieve. Sometimes that can be as easy as getting out of bed in the morning and being a ‘person’. And other times, it can be as hard as realizing that power is derived from knowing that you have the capacity to overcome,” Ze-Noah stated. Even as these students recognize the sometimes overwhelming nature of psychological distress, they also noticed how having adequate mental health can give students back a sense of power. For Ze-Noah, she gains control over anxiety issues by practicing meditation and working to perform well academically, which she said give her a much-needed sense of control. “I find solace in knowing that I have control; it’s nice,” she said.
Many students across UT’s campus face a daily battle for their mental health, employing their own tactics for combating their obstacles and gaining a sense of control. Amidst the struggles of college life, it is important that students seek ways to promote their mental health––be it through counseling, medication, or their own, personal ways of gaining power.
Kurian’s perspective on the power of control differs from Ze-Noah’s. “I think mental health can give you confidence, but not as much as
By Varun Hukeri
here is no doubt that 2016 has been one of the most momentous years for American and global politics. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump, this past year marks a radical shift in the power paradigm that has long dominated the political landscape since the end of World War II. However, it has become clear that the drama will continue into 2017 as both the left and right challenge globalization, the financial sector, establishment politics, and the Washington Consensus. For students at the University of Texas at Austin, the new year brings new opportunities to organize, rally, and exercise the power of civic engagement. According to an October 2016 poll conducted by The Daily Texan, 64% of students surveyed supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a monumental lead over the 10% of students who stated they planned to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump. With Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s upset victory in the presidential election and Republican successes in the Congressional elections, UT students now find themselves in a university and city dominated by left wing-politics but in a state and country dominated by right-wing politics. The result of the 2016 Presidential election was met with unprecedented resistance. Protests, marches,
and walkouts were witnessed not just all over the country but also the world. In particular, the Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marches that took place in dozens of cities made up the largest protest in United States history and featured over 3 million protesters voicing support for a variety of sociopolitical issues that the new Trump administration might threaten, including reproductive healthcare rights and equal pay. In a democratic society, opposition is not only natural but also a symbol of empowerment. For decades, that power has been a hallmark of colleges and universities, representatives of counter-cultural thought and activism. Thus, it was no surprise that when opposition movements broke out in Austin with the J20 walkout and the aforementioned Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s March, students were an integral component of such protests. These demonstrations signal new opportunities for UT student activism, particularly for those that feel like the new administration has disempowered them. It is important to note that power and empowerment are not partisan. Both
Age of President Trump
students in agreement and disagreement with the new administration can take advantage of the campus and community resources in three key ways: education, involvement, and mobilization.
good citizenship is to remain informed about relevant issues and engage in discourse, particularly with those who have differing views. The UT core curriculum allows students to take Government and History courses that offer academic perspectives on how the United States government functions as well as its broader historical implications. Outside of campus, students can seek civic empowerment through the numerous in-depth and credible news sources available online. A valuable component of any institute of higher education is the opportunity for civic engagement, and a wide range of organizations at UT Austin promote both partisan and nonpartisan involvement within the campus and community. From nonpartisan groups like UT Votes and Texas Political Union to left-leaning organizations like University Democrats and their right-wing counterparts like College Republicans, participation in these organizations is an effective method of encouraging students of all affiliations to be more active in the political arena.
Students can also empower themselves through exEmpowerment is impossible without educa- ternal involvement. Numerous off-campus interest tion, and the most effective way to demonstrate groups, political organizations, and government enti-
ties constantly need a supply of volunteers, activists, and interns. From the feminist League of Women Voters to the environmentalist Sierra Club and politically-focused positions in the Texas Legislature, students not only gain valuable social and professional experience but also find their voices empowered. Any passionate individual or activist knows that actions speak louder than words, and the most impactful mode of empowerment is mobilization. The demonstrations following Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s election show the effectiveness of mobilization. However, not everyone in the world has the ability to mobilize. In the United States, the First Amendment gives individuals the privilege to assemble and protest peacefully, a testament to the capacity of each person to become an agent of change. Furthermore, American citizens can also mobilize by contacting their elected representatives to advocate for the causes they are passionate about. After all, the purpose of these officials is to represent their constituents, and communication between the constituent and the representative helps to ensure that the
new administration puts the interests of all people at the forefront in the aftermath of a very contentious election. The nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s transformation over the last couple months has demonstrated that 2017 will no doubt prove to be a truly landmark year. Being a UT student means that there are plenty of opportunities to rally for the causes they believe in using the resources available both at the University level and across the city. Power is best defined as the ability to influence people and events, and in the age of President Trump, education, involvement, and mobilization give students the means to empower themselves.
By Siqi Jiang
Arguments, they are like rock-paper-scissors. As surely as rock beats scissors; Beasts, They are weak to my sword. Sharpen yourself, and they will come. There is nowhere else to go. Professor V. He thought I was a goddess in the classroom. You thought that I was a goddess in the classroom. Solar flares erupt in my skull, I sound the retreat A defeat? The instructor, he is horrified. That’s right, I can’t be wrong. Lest the stars shift To accommodate my silence. I have been devouring them for so long. The galaxy, it does not know the debt That it owes to black holes. (You saw the machine, and I: its sole occupant ghost.) You bring your weapons, unaware That I am still here, flesh. Teeth bared. Damnatio ad bestias is best enjoyed In the company of friends, and The view of my dismemberment Is probably better In the expensive seats. Popcorn? It’s really quite unfair, you know. That I I should bear the weight of Damocles alone. See how the silver shines under the freckled moon. You watch, and you think: You are seeing the secret to storms An ingredient that some Thunder-god
Has been keeping from us. With all our learning, Are we not only soothsayers Howling in opposition to the sun Vainly hoping that it was wrong about us all along. My friends, they are good, but not close. Never close. It is one thing to realize that I am only gilded gold An imitation at a dusty discount store. It is another to realize That I will cost you in pride, The only blood-currency that an Oracle Would risk himself for. You think that imperfections Should move some cosmic sorrow? The gentle rivers, forgiving They smooth even stone. Cruelty does not have to draw blood. I stumble––as all tyrants must. HERE IT IS, my neck! I am EXPOSED My face is EXPOSED The wolves, They don’t need any telling. Survival does not require a guiding hand. They leap; their mighty jaws give them mandate. It is not murder, To bloody a hart in the woods. I say: You can’t have thought that I would die so easily? Come, my nemesis. Blame me, Soil my name, and Surrender your ill-gotten legitimacy. There is nowhere else to hide. Even a despot can be A champion for the people. Surely there were citizens Who wept at Caesar’s funeral. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. I cannot become gold. But iron? I can do that.
A Night with Trevor Noah
By Amina Amdeen
Turns out, once you go black, you can go anywhere else.” The audience erupts with laughter.
“For the first time in American history, they’re asking the black man to stay,” Trevor Noah continued. Trevor Noah is not a political commentator, pundit, or confirmed expert. He is a stand-up comedian, and as of early 2016, the host of The Daily Show, which airs on Comedy Central. As I sat amongst the packed auditorium, watching and listening to him speak, I couldn’t help but ask myself why the likes of Trevor (or Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, to name a few) don’t run for office. They’re often more well-liked, trusted, and relatable than the myriad of politicians they criticize. But that’s not the job they signed up for––they’re comedians, not politicians. Even so, the average age of The Daily Show’s audience is 36 years old, and though it’s nowhere near the top source of news for Americans in general, it is extremely popular among young
people (who are surpassing baby boomers in numbers). The rise in popularity of comedic and satiric news is compounded by the fact that social media is replacing cable TV as the primary news source for young Americans. The most notable example is Facebook. Facebook comment sections are notorious as breeding grounds for polarized, dirty “debates” riddled with insults, personal attacks, and misinformed arguments. At 4:24PM on December 22nd of the year 2016, I got into another Facebook comments argument. I tried to stay out of it, but I knew that my classmate was extremely intelligent and wanted to engage with him. I challenged his preconceived notions but remained respectful while doing so, to exemplify the kinds of civilized discussions between differing opinions I admire. I was extremely satisfied with my classmate’s last comment on the thread: “Good point.” The role of social media in our generation’s consumption of news, the formation of our political ideology and the opinions we form about ourselves and each other cannot be underestimated. In a study conducted by the Media Insight Project (a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research), young Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 cited Facebook as the number one gateway to learn about 13 out of 24 major news and information topics. It was the second-most cited gateway for seven others. Since its rise in the early 2000s, Facebook has been a ubiquitous aspect of our digital lives. In and of itself, the website is not a threat to our access to information. Rather, it seems to facilitate it, given the way news spreads like wildfire within the vastly interconnected social circles of its users. But if you couple that with the increasing popularity of comedic news shows like The Daily Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it becomes clear that the line between entertainment and information is more blurred than ever before––which results in individuals, especially younger ones, who cannot identify credible news. A study conducted by the Stanford History Education group that found that less than a third of students could fully explain how the political agendas of various organizations can influence the conclusions they represent on Twitter. This startling observation and its devastating implications can be summed up by Michael Lynch, a modern philosopher who studies technology and the changes it brings about within society. Lynch noted in a New York Times piece that the
internet is “both the world’s best fact-checker and the world’s best bias confirmer—often at the same time.” While we have a metaphorical informational “Garden of Eden,” in that we have more information at our fingertips than we ever have, most of us don’t have the time, energy, or dedication to read every single factoid on the internet or hunt for credible sources. Instead, the wealth of knowledge available is more likely to back up every single claim in existence, no matter how outrageously false. The question becomes: who shoulders the responsibility for the spread of false information? Is it the manufacturers of false information, the entities that twist facts and figures to fit a fabricated narrative? Or is it the common citizen that fails to view headlines with a critical eye, that fails to search for the truth? The interesting thing is that while internet-users are learning to be critical of digital headlines, they are even more distrusting of politicians. As Aditi Shorewal, the editor of a student paper at King’s College, London told the Economist on January 23rd, 2016, “My generation has a huge interest in political causes but a lack of faith in political parties.” In the US, this trend is most validated by the rise in the number of Americans identifying as Independents, rather than Democrats or Republicans. According to Pew Research the beginning of the Reagan administration saw 27% of Americans identify as Independent, compared to 39% in 2015, a higher percentage than either party. This change in identification is more than political. “Independent” has come to mean independent of news-consumption, fact-checking, and policy. Although the distinction between entertainment and politics has blurred, and our politics occasionally descend into absurdity as a result, there is no doubt that our generation is more than prepared to take the reins from our predecessors. Hasan Minhaj, a correspondent for The Daily Show noted on the December 15th Yearly Review show, “We’re going to be begging for fake news, because the real news will actually be unbelievable.” Our job as young citizens is clear: no matter where we choose to consume our news, we need to ensure that we are getting the truth. The tools are there, we simply must utilize them. Only after we learn to push back against the attempts of political parties to make our decisions for us can we truly be in control of our own country and our own destiny.