Tufts Observer VOLUME CXXVIX, ISSUE 1
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
THE NUMBERS GAME OF CAMPUS DIVERSITY (PAGE 3)
THE SCHOOL-TOPRISON PIPELINE (PAGE 6)
VICE MEDIA: NEWS FOR THE MILLENIAL AUDIENCE (PAGE 22)
EDITORS editor-in-chief Nicola Pardy managing editor Evan Tarantino creative director Bernita Ling assistant creative director Ben Kurland
February 3rd, 2014 Tufts Observer, since 1895
Volume CXXVIX, Issue 1 Tufts’ Student Magazine
TABLE OF CONTENTS
section editors Anika Ades Robert Collins George Esselstyn Nicholas Hathaway Justin Kim Ben Kurland Moira Lavelle Katherine Pong Sahar Roodehchi publicity director Stephen Wright photography director Knar Bedian photography editor Alison Graham art director Griffin Quasebarth lead artists Mia Greenwald Eva Strauss
FEATURE 100% Demonstrated Need: Investing in Diversity on College Campuses
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR by Nicola Pardy
by Ellen Mayer
lead copy editors Eve Feldberg MT Snyder
NEWS Al-Qaida’s Bloody Gamble by Robert Collins
copy editors Savannah Christiansen Carly Olson Joey Cheung
OPINION Funding Equality
design assistants Anastasia Antonova
by Justin Kim
web director Kumar Ramanathan staff writers Allison Aaronson Ellen Mayer Julia Malleck Jamie Moore editor emeritus Molly Mirhashem
10 MISAKO ONO
NEWS Arrested Future by Eve Feldberg
POETRY & PROSE Not Your Birthday Cake by Alison Graham
PHOTO INSET Faces of the Hill
by Ana-Maria Murphy-Teixidor
OPINION Rethinking Selectivity by James Davis
ARTS & CULTURE VICE: News for Our Generation? by Anika Ades
The Observer has been Tuftsâ€™ student publication of record since 1895. Our dedication to in-depth reporting, journalistic innovation, and honest dialogue has remained intact for over a century. Today, we offer insightful news analysis, cogent and diverse opinion pieces, creative writing, and lively reviews of current arts, entertainment, and culture. Through poignant writing and artistic elegance, we aim to entertain, inform, and above all challenge the Tufts community to effect positive change.
POETRY & PROSE Orchids
by Jorge Monroy
ARTS & CULTURE Outkast Never Left by Xander Landen
OFF CAMPUS Cosplay is Not Consent by Nick Hathaway
26 BAHAR OSTADAN
CAMPUS Learning on the Edge by George Esselstyn and Sahar Roodehchi
EXTRAS Police Blotter
by Moira Lavelle and Eve Feldberg
CONTRIBUTORS Misako Ono Eva Strauss Ana-Maria Murphy-Teixidor Mia Greenwald Bahar Ostadan Chelsea Newman
Letter from the Editor
ow much time do you spend thinking about the future? If you’re a secondsemester senior, you can surely relate to the dreaded dinner party ‘what about next year?’ questions that point you in a perennially forward-facing direction. Thinking about post-grad life is a necessary part of planning the next stage after Tufts. But as evident from the to-do sticky notes that mark so many Jumbo desktops—digital or otherwise—and the daily campus conversations sprinkled with ‘tomorrows’, ‘next weekends,’ and ‘this summers,’ I think it’s safe to say that most Tufts students are somewhat preoccupied with the future. Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert conducted a study in 2010 linking levels of happiness to mental focus. They claimed that when people’s minds wander from their present activity, their happiness levels tend to sink. The study would suggest that people reading this issue of the Observer would derive more happiness by simply focusing on the material in front of them compared to those who allowed their minds to stray to daydreams of the past and future. So is all this talk about upcoming plans draining from our present happiness? Psychologists, spiritual gurus, and wellness-consultants alike have advocated the benefits of “flow”—immersing your mind fully in activity— to achieve greater levels of happiness and mental control. Of the quarter-million people they studied, Killingsworth and Gilbert found that on average, Americans’ minds were wandering 47 percent of the time. In today’s climate of social media whirrs and pings, we are surrounded by opportunities to dip into thoughts of the past and future. Check your Twitter feed and you’re transported to an upcoming music festival this summer; check Instagram and your sister’s #throwbackthursday blasts you back to the past. Social media provides infinite rabbit-holes of daydreaming possibilities. By losing yourself in hoping, planning, and reminiscing of other times, you might be missing out on the awesomeness of now. It’s humbling to remember senior year of high school, envisioning myself at Tufts, walking across the quad, attending fascinating college classes, and exploring everything that Boston had to offer. Sometimes when I find myself lost in a distant mental location, I remind myself that I’m living those daydreams now. Have you ever felt nostalgic about a moment as it was happening? It’s as if our minds only process experiences within a frame of the past or through a lens of the future. It’s easy enough to imagine landing that dream job in New York or San Francisco, and to romanticize what you’d be doing from day to day. But it’s also easy to omit what you’d think day to day in such situations—chances are it would be very much like what you think on a daily basis now. Killingsworth and Gilbert’s data suggest that the location of the body is not nearly as important as location of the mind when considering happiness. So let’s define our experiences at Tufts beyond mere retrospect and anticipation. Nostalgia is sweet, but joy is sweeter. O
Nicola Pardy, Editor-in-Chief
Investing in Diversity on College Campuses
By Ellen Mayer
he discussion of diversity on college campuses can feel like a numbers game. How many Black students are in the graduating class? How many international students? How many from low-income families? Recently, the Obama administration has been crunching numbers, focusing specifically on diversity of income. How many students from low-income families go to college? How many graduate? The White House reports that only nine percent of those born in the bottom quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent of those born in the top quartile. To address this gaping class divide, President Obama hosted a summit last month with over 80 leaders in higher education. In order to attend the President’s summit, college presidents and philanthropists had to make a public commitment to forward one of the summit’s four initiatives, as laid out by a White House fact sheet: 1. Connecting more low-income students to the school that is right for them and ensuring they graduate, 2. Increasing the pool of students preparing for college through early interventions, 3. Leveling the playing field in college advising and test preparation, and 4. Seeking breakthroughs in remedial education. These initiatives explicitly acknowledge and address many of the systematic barriers low-income students face to achieving a college degree. But one of the most obvious barriers receives little mention—the stratospheric cost of higher educa-
ICON BY NICHOLAS MENGHINI
tion. Low-income students cannot afford to pay the tuitions at elite colleges, and very few of those colleges can afford to fund significant scholarship programs. The White House fact sheet makes no mention of race or ethnicity, but a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic families are classified by the government as “low-income.” The 2009 census data indicates that 39.4 percent of Black families and 37.2 percent of Hispanic families have an annual income under $30,000 dollars, as compared to 20.4 percent of White families. This means, of course, that financial barriers to education disproportionately affect students of color. Admitting more low-income students will not automatically increase racial or ethnic diversity on campus, and the Obama administration’s failure to address racial inequities in higher education is a serious oversight. That being said, income diversity does overlap with racial and ethnic diversity, and both require colleges to invest in financial aid. So how much does diversity cost? And who pays? The government’s chief method of financial support for low-income students comes in the form of Pell Grants. But the College Board’s annual report on student aid indicates that during the 2012-2013 academic year, federal loans made up only 43 percent of student aid, the lowest share in the last 10 years. An individual Pell grant is calculated based on the student’s financial need and
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
ICON BY DIEGO NAIVE
Where Tufts is failing to meet students’ demonstrated need, so too is the rest of the country. the cost of his or her institution. Currently the maximum Pell grant is $5,500, a small fraction of the annual costs of college, even for in-state students at public universities. The Obama administration has called on colleges to make up the difference through financial aid packages, but this is only possible for the most elite and well-endowed institutions, especially after the recession in 2008. In recent years, Amherst College has been much lauded for its push towards diversity in admissions. Currently, 23 percent of their students qualify for Pell grants and students of color outnumber White students on the central campus. Amherst meets its students’ financial needs by supplying about 60 percent of students with grants-only financial aid. The school’s commitment to meeting student need may be impressive, but it is not exactly easy to reproduce. Most schools don’t have an endowment of over $1.6 billion. In fact, there is very little incentive for colleges and universities to invest significant funds in financial aid for low-income students. Stephen Burd of the New America Foundation reveals in a 2013 essay that instead of discounting tuition for
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low-income students, many colleges actually use their grant money to attract wealthier students with higher test scores. In doing so, they maximize their revenues and move up in the rankings of best colleges by US News. Burd’s essay also includes an analysis of data from the US Department of Education, which measures the “net price” that students pay for college after grant aid is exhausted. Of the private institutions analyzed, nearly twothirds charge a net price of over $15,000 a year to students from the lowest-income families making $30,000 or less annually. Figures like this suggest that nationally, low-income students are still facing impossible financial barriers to higher education. So long as the American job market places such a premium on the college diploma, low-income students are left with little choice but to accept a nearly insurmountable state of indebtedness. Here at Tufts, the administration has recently launched a new financial aid initiative to raise $25 million in scholarship funds (with $13 million designated for undergraduates). Though Tufts has never had an official need-blind admissions
policy, Karen Richardson, the director of diversity recruitment at Tufts, noted that the school did admit the classes of 2011 and 2012 need-blind. “That was able to be done due to the campaign fundraising and a good economy,” Richardson said via email. “The undergraduate admissions office continues to use need-blind practices in reading applications and I think it’s important to note that we always have and will continue to meet 100 percent demonstrated need for all admitted students.” The diversity numbers game can break down admissions statistics by race and ethnicity. It can tell us the cost of college, average student debt, and the size of a school’s financial aid package. Often missing from the conversation of diversity are the inequities in education that are a little harder to quantify. In 2013 the Tufts Council on Diversity released a report indicating that students pay a cost, beyond the price of tuition, if by their presence they bring some kind of diversity to a college campus. The report shows what many Tufts students already know, that first-generation, lowincome, and historically underrepresented students are regularly marginalized and subject to bias incidents on campus. The council’s data from multiple focus groups indicates that students feel silenced, inside and outside the classroom, by racist or sexist comments and other forms of discrimination. As compared to those at peer institutions, “underrepresented minority students” at Tufts are the least satisfied with research opportunities and teacher access outside of the classroom. Combined with financial restraints, which keep many students from fully accessing Tufts’ resources, the above factors create an environment that is neither safe for a diverse student body nor conducive to academic achievement. In fact, one of the Council’s most urgent findings is that Black and Hispanic students show a significantly lower six-year graduation rate than White students at Tufts. The Council on Diversity did not just report these problems; it also made recommendations for how the university might address systematic inequities, including training for faculty and staff to achieve “cultural competency,” and integrating issues of diversity and social justice into the curriculum across disciplines. To put these initiatives into practice, the council recommended hiring a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), and the admin-
istration has already begun to assemble a search committee for that purpose. Tufts Junior Darien Headen, who served on the Council’s Undergraduate Working Group, said he was pleased with the report’s substance. Nevertheless, he noted that it might be a bit idealistic. “My fear is that the recommendations aren’t necessarily going to be implemented or they’re not going to be implemented quick enough to really see changes,” he said. “These sorts of conversations and talks have been had at Tufts before but now I think it’s time for the actual action. If action isn’t taken then what are we spending our time doing?” Headen acknowledged that the CDO position would open up a centralized, administrative forum (which formerly did not exist) for addressing issues of equity and diversity on campus. Still, hiring a CDO would not necessarily bring about change. “It’s all about how structures are put in place,” Headen said. “So we have a Chief Diversity Officer but if that person doesn’t have administrative and financial support, because they will need that, then I don’t know how the position will thrive.” In fact, all of the Council’s recommendations require further investment of money and administrative support. The report’s central argument is that investment in diversity cannot stop with financial aid. Tufts is not meeting students’ 100 percent demonstrated need if the school doesn’t invest in guaranteeing their wellbeing and academic success after matriculation. The Council’s report takes pains to note that disparities in academic achievements across race and class lines are not unique to Tufts. Where Tufts is failing to meet students’ demonstrated need, so too is the rest of the country. The recent White House summit reveals that addressing educational disparities has become a national agenda. But when President Obama called on college administrators to further the cause, he did not mention investments in social justice on college campuses. If most colleges are scrambling or unwilling to raise money for financial aid, it is unlikely that they will also invest in the programs necessary to support a diverse student body, especially if those programs are left out of the diversity conversation. So long as the question of diversity remains limited to the numbers game, admissions statistics, and financial aid packages, disparities in academic achievement will remain entrenched. O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
“Y ARRESTED FUTURES By Eve Feldberg
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
ou’re a stupid fucking bitch!” the student snapped. She tried to run away down the crowded hallway at Burncoat Middle School in Worcester, Massachusetts. “No, you did not just call that to me,” the vice principal yelled after her. The student rolled her eyes and continued to struggle through the packed halls, until a school police officer arrested her. She was charged with disturbing a lawful assembly under her school’s zerotolerance discipline policy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The Obama administration is acknowledging that zero-tolerance discipline policies like this in public schools unfairly affect minority students and students with disabilities. On January 8th, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder released a document that describes what the American Civil Liberties Union calls the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The document outlined ways to “assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” Zero-tolerance policies and arrests by school police officers, critics say, disproportionately affect minority students and students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education reported that over 70 percent of students either arrested or referred to law enforcement last year were Black or Hispanic. Students with disabilities are twice as likely as their peers to be suspended or expelled. One-third of Boston’s public school students are Black, but during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, two-thirds of the students arrested were Black, according to a 2012 report by the ACLU of Massachusetts. Right here in Medford, where only 15 percent of public school students are Black, 32 percent of students assigned out-of-school suspensions were Black. No Black students received inschool suspensions. Zero-tolerance policies are school rules that mandate the unconditional suspension or expulsion of students
PHOTO BY MISAKO ONO
committing drug or violence-related offenses. According to the New York Times, these policies have been “broadened and distorted” by state and local governments “to expel children for minor infractions.” Carla Amurao of the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS describes how, post-expulsion, students “unnecessarily forced out of school become stigmatized and fall behind in their studies; many eventually decide to drop out of school altogether, and many others commit crimes in their communities.” The presence of school police officers, known as Student Resource Officers (SROs), has increased over the past two decades, leading to more arrests for minor offenses. Some see the zero-tolerance policies and the increased presence of SROs as part of an unjust institution that funnels students directly from school into the criminal justice system—the “school-toprison pipeline.” “Schools first adopted these policies in the 1990s, not long after they had become a central feature of larger ‘tough on crime’ tactics aimed primarily to combat drug use and distribution,” explained Freeden Oeur, a Tufts University Assistant Professor of Education. Zero-tolerance policies were also part of a broad response to the 1999 Columbine shootings, as a way to address concerns about students bringing weapons to school. General safety is certainly an important consideration for school officials. A local high school teacher, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears repercussions from the school administrators, expressed her concerns: “The things that go on…we don’t feel safe. I don’t know how to balance that with zero-tolerance, but there’s got to be a way to make your school feel safe.” But fifteen years after Columbine, these policies have created school environments that disproportionately affect minority students—and Massachusetts advocacy groups are taking notice. “A lot of the criminalization of young people in schools comes through a lens of racial
control,” Carl Williams, a racial justice staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts, told the Observer on January 16th. From a perspective of race, he sees the presence of SROs as especially problematic: “It turns school, for young people of color, people in marginalized communities, into… junior prison. In communities of color, police are there like an occupying force in an occupied country.” In an email to the Observer, Tufts Associate Professor of Urban Education Sabina Vaught wrote, “school and prison are mimetic and complementary compulsory state institutions that operate to reproduce systems of white racial domination in the United States.” In a phone interview, Joan Meschino, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law, said that combatting the “school-to-prison pipeline” is her organization’s “signature project.” Meschino said that Massachusetts Appleseed sees schools, not prisons, as the best place for students to address their problems. Appleseed focuses on structural issues of discipline within classroom and school environments. She said that judges in Massachusetts juvenile courts feel that “as a group, they [are] probably the least qualified to address the underlying needs of the child in front of them.” At least one school in the Boston area is following Appleseed’s philosophy. Charlestown High School in Boston has moved away from zero-tolerance policies in favor of discussion groups “aimed at creating a tight-knit community in order to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to MSNBC. The new program at Charlestown aims to replace suspension and expulsion with “restorative justice”—in-school support for students, rather than jail. Yet these attempted solutions do not earn universal praise. In her email, Professor Vaught expressed concern that these methods are too simplistic, ignoring the root of the problem of student expulsion and incarceration. “This model masks the problem of systemic domination and directs the remedy at the individual, pathologized student,” she wrote. “Asking students
to repress resistance in order to reduce the number of suspensions is another way in which the state enacts harm on students already harmed by the system.” Although disagreement remains regarding the best way to create equitable discipline policies, there is growing concern within the news media, national and local governments, and academia that changes need to be made to discipline policies in public schools. But safety is still a serious concern among lawmakers and school administrators. Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder’s document acknowledges this, expressing a hope to “maintain school safety and student discipline.”
Zero-tolerance policies, critics say, disproportionately affect minority students and students with disabilities. In a press release, Holder was optimistic. “By ensuring federal civil rights protections, offering alternatives to exclusionary discipline and providing useful information to school resource officers, we can keep America’s young people safe and on the right path.” But there are countless students like the girl from Burncoat Middle School who experience the effects of police presence and zero-tolerance policies in their schools. For these students, a charge like “disturbing a lawful assembly” or “disorderly conduct” can become the first of many they will face after entering the criminal justice system at a young age. O
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Al-Qaida’s Bloody Gamble By Robert Collins
n the badlands of northern Syria, the rebels are fighting a brutal enemy—but it’s not President Bashar al-Assad. On New Year’s Eve, the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), an Iraq-based Al Qaida affiliate, released the mutilated body of Dr. Hussein alSuleiman, the young leader of one of the largest Syrian rebel groups. Pictures circulated on the Twitter accounts of Syrian rebels, and the streets erupted in protest. Marchers held signs depicting ISIS as a parasite from the film Alien, bursting from the monstrous chest of Iraq. Within days, the main insurgent groups in northern Syria were engaged in 8
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combat with ISIS. After two weeks, a thousand militants were reported dead. On January 19th, ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for an end to the fighting, but ISIS’s behavior was too abhorrent for the Syrian rebels to accept. The release of Suleiman’s body on December 31st was the last straw—but only the latest in a long list of affronts. Since its arrival in Syria in May 2013, ISIS had killed rebel fighters and tried to take control of the rebels’ supply lines to Turkey. ISIS had kidnapped aid workers, civilian activists, and journalists, as well as Syrian Kurds, Christians, and Alawites. Across the border in Iraq, equally momentous events unfolded. On New Year’s
Day, ISIS captured the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, the sites of some of the fiercest battles of the US occupation. When Baghdadi offered his olive branch to the Syrian rebels, ISIS remained in control of the cities. As of this writing, ISIS still holds the cities. The Syrian fighting is bleeding over the border into Lebanon, and ISIS has moved with it. As of January 24th, ISIS has a branch in Lebanon called the Abdallah Azzam Brigade, Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution told the Tufts Observer in an email. ISIS is an outgrowth of Al Qaida in Iraq, “perhaps the most extreme and violent franchise of Al Qaida in the moveART BY EVA STRAUSS
NEWS ment’s history,” Riedel told the Observer. The stated goal of ISIS is to establish a panregional Islamic state in Iraq and al-Sham, an area consisting of most of the Levant. Al Qaida is not new to Syria. Jabhat Al-Nusra, an Al Qaida affiliate and homegrown spinoff of ISIS’s predecessor, has been operating in Syria since January 2012. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS is the most powerful group among the foreign fighters coming in to exploit Syria’s instability and found an Islamic state. Now Jabhat Al-Nusra is fighting ISIS. Images on ISIS-linked web pages confirm Riedel’s impression of the group, painting a grim picture of its activities in Syria. Twitter feeds reveal long convoys of trucks filled with black-clad gunmen, armed “cub scouts” at an ISIS training camp, and a man holding a wooden box containing a severed head. YouTube videos depict convoys of machinegunmounted ISIS flatbeds roving across the Iraqi desert. ISIS has also used social media to support its outreach campaigns, which focus partly on encouraging the support of children. ISIS recruits children for training camps, and its fighters give money and gifts to children in the street. Despite its large social media presence, little is known about the strength and organizational structure of ISIS. According to the Twitter account of an alleged ISIS insider, which was picked up by Al Akhbar, a Beirut newspaper, the leadership council of ISIS consists of three former Iraqi army officers who served under Saddam Hussein. ISIS’s finances are equally opaque. Riedel told the Observer that ISIS’s funding probably comes from “a combination of criminal operations and Gulf donors.” The Syrian rebels who oppose ISIS are convinced that the group is working with the Assad regime. Foreign diplomats are increasingly suggesting the same. Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, for example, said that ISIS and the Assad regime are cooperating, after a deadly car bomb exploded at a town on the Syrian-Turkish border on January 20. But an August 2013 video of Abu Wahib, the ISIS commander in Anbar, tells a different story. The video shows Abu
Wahib questioning three truck drivers on a highway in Iraq, concluding that they are Alawite, the minority ethnic group of Assad, and then shooting them with an assault rifle. At the rifle-point of Abu Wahib, ISIS has been quick to assert itself by capturing territory in its home state of Iraq—perhaps too quickly for its own good. “If I were running ISIS, I would put all my chips in Syria,” Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.), a co-author of the military’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual, told the Ob-
“ISIS has de facto sovereignty in some areas in Syria because of the weakness of Assad’s government.” server in a phone interview on January 22nd. In Syria some groups are capable of overthrowing the Assad regime, Nagl said, but in Iraq, the government is too strong. “The interests of Iraq broadly align with the interests of the United States.” Nagl said, “It’s not the same as in Pakistan where Al-Qaida operates unhindered.” Nagl, a veteran of both Iraq wars who was stationed between Ramadi and Fallujah from 2003 to 2004, expects that Iraq will oust ISIS and reassert its sovereignty in Anbar Province. Nagl considers ISIS’s move to capture and hold territory in Iraq a “critical error” that negates its previous advantage operating as an elusive insurgent force. The day after the Observer interviewed Nagl, the Iraqi Army recaptured the city of Khalidiya, where Nagl had been stationed.
Yet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki seems unwilling to use overwhelming force to drive ISIS out of the major cities, relying instead on targeted airstrikes. The Iraqi government is trying to convince local tribes to drive ISIS out, with logistical support from the Iraqi military. Maliki has reportedly rejected senior officers’ plans to drive ISIS out of Fallujah with a large-scale operation. The Iraqi government isn’t doing more, Nagl said, because of political pressure. “Maliki made a critical error when he failed to conclude a security relationship with the United States,” Nagl said, adding that Iraq is fully capable of suppressing ISIS. But the goal would have been better served, according to Nagl, by US special forces, which might have remained in Iraq had Maliki concluded a security agreement with the US at the end of the occupation. The security situation in Iraq is at its worst since the departure of US troops in 2011—and much of the credit goes to ISIS. According to UN figures, there were 7,818 terror-related civilian deaths in Iraq in 2013, more than twice as many as in 2012. “ISIS is a serious threat to the stability of Iraq, but it can not take over Iraq” because of opposition by the Iraqi Shia majority, Riedel told the Observer. He added that ISIS is a more serious threat to Syria because of the country’s Sunni majority. Nagl said, “ISIS has de facto sovereignty in some areas in Syria because of the weakness of Assad’s government.” But Assad “retains enough loyalty, enough levers of power,” he said, to prevent his fall to a group like ISIS. The US has agreed to send arms and artillery to Iraq to fight ISIS, but it will not intervene with military force. The presence of Al Qaida in Syria complicated the US stance toward the Syrian rebels, but now that ISIS has broken off from the rebel groups, the US is taking action. The Daily Telegraph reported on January 21st that the US is secretly contributing millions of dollars and “non-lethal aid” to rebel groups fighting ISIS. Meanwhile, ISIS—perhaps the strongest and most extreme Al Qaida group— continues to terrorize Syria and Iraq. O FEBRUARY 3, 2014
funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding funding equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality equality
by justin kim
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n January 7, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill allowing undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition, joining 18 other states that have passed similar legislation as part of the Dream Act. Students who lack legal immigration status but have attended at least three years of high school in New Jersey and have earned a diploma will qualify for the lower tuition rates. This new legislation follows a series of immigration reforms at the state level that has moved towards integration rather than enforcement. Earlier in the week, the Washington State House of Representatives passed a measure allowing undocumented students to qualify for state financial aid. Other states like California, Illinois, Connecticut, Oregon, Nevada, and Maryland have recently started issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Under federal law, undocumented students are ineligible for any form of federal financial aid, including grants, work-study arrangements, and student loans. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are approximately 2.1 million undocumented students in the United States, nearly 30 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Many of these individuals, despite meeting the financial aid eligibility criteria, cannot afford to go to school while paying the out-of-state rates, which can be nearly three times as much as in-state tuition. Private scholarships are often out of the question because many require citizenship or at least legal permanent resident. Opponents of these new reforms cite high costs in a time where many
states are already struggling with scarce resources generated by budget deficits. The measure issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in California, for example, will cost the state $65 million. There are also ideological reasons, as proponents of stricter enforcement balk at the notion of what they see as rewarding illegal behavior. But there is a logical and pragmatic rationale behind this new legislature. It makes little economic sense to make it difficult for qualified students to attend university when the state already supports their K-12 education. Under federal law established by the Supreme Court case Plyer v. Doe (1982), the state is required to provide a public education to all students, regardless of their legal status. According to Gov. Christie, New Jersey invests approximately $17,700 annually in each student in the public school system. That investment is derived from taxes, and taxpayers should be able to maximize their return on investment. Facilitating an opportunity for higher education among undocumented students would ultimately lead to a higher likelihood of those individuals earning higher incomes, which would translate into increased tax revenue. Penalizing the children of undocumented immigrants—students who have managed to flourish in an adverse environment—would be nonsensical, especially since they are not responsible for their parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States. If they are capable enough to put themselves in the position to be accepted to a university in the first place, chances are that they will capitalize on the opportunity to further their
education and meet the perpetually rising demands of the labor market. Expanding the skilled labor force eventually puts money back into the economy. Additionally, these reforms will create an impetus for students to excel in school and generally foster a culture of better academic performance. There is no doubt that immigration remains a politically contentious issue. However, efforts are being made to achieve some sort of progress. Congressional Republicans are mulling over proposals to overhaul immigration policy, which could potentially provide a pathway for more than 6.5 million illegal immigrants to gain legal citizenship in the United States. While Republicans traditionally have been known to push strict anti-illegal immigration laws (such as Arizona SB 1070) the new surge in inclusive measures serves as a reminder that politics are always at play. Immigration has become an increasingly important issue, especially for Hispanic voters and other minority groups. The fact that Congress and Republican leaders such as Gov. Christie are moving towards integration rather than isolation is representative of a general GOP realization that the support (or lack thereof) of immigrants could have huge political and economic ramifications. New Jersey’s bill is an achievement, but Gov. Christie still has his concerns. Establishing a program advocating tuition equality also creates the risk of making New Jersey what he refers to as a “magnet state,” where outside residents could potentially exploit the new system. But as Gov. Christie says, “This is what compromise looks like.” Other leaders would be wise to follow. O
“There are approximately 2.1 million undocumented students in the United States, nearly 30 percent of whom live below the poverty line.”
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NOT YOUR BIRTHDAY CAKE BY ALISON GRAHAM
You are five years old
and the cake tastes great: two textures dissolve on your tongue, a soft, spongy yellow birthday cake—it’s not your birthday, though, but your grandmother’s—and a creamy white frosting so sweet it tickles, almost burns after a while, leaving the roof of your mouth raw and numb but forever asking for more, so you do and your mother serves you another slice that you let slide down your throat before you remember to say that sweet, sing-songy, sugar-coated “thank you” of yours in between spilling crumbs on the hardwood floor and sucking sugar off of each one of your tender fingers; you sit there with your soft and full stomach anchoring you to the chair but your little legs are free and dangling inches above the floor, kicking aimlessly until you see your mother’s eyes dart toward you, glazed by a sudden interest in your presence, and she tells you to sit still and listen to the conversation, which you then hear for the first time, the buzz of grown-ups decades away; you watch it bounce around the candle-lit room, voices melting together like sugar and butter, like the frosting that was thick and sweet and creamy on your tongue as you shoveled it in, but which stings afterwards, leaving your mouth sour and thirsty, leaving you suddenly afraid to ask for water.
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PHOTO BY ALISON GRAHAM
By Ana-Maria Murphy-TeIxIdor
Throughout my life, music has been the one thing that’s kept me sane. My dream job would be to make music and travel the world, and I can’t see myself being happy doing anything else.
What’s the farthest ride you’ve ever taken on your motorcycle?
My wife and I rode 11,500 miles. We rode to each corner of the US. We went up to Maine, then to Seattle, the to San Diego, and to Virginia. We didn’t quite make it to Florida.
MAY 7, 2012
Montserrat Teixidor What are the advantages of having a child at Tufts? Being able to see her more often.
What are the disadvantages of having a child at Tufts? Being able to see her more often.
How can you win if you donâ€™t try? 14 TUFTS OBSERVER
I came to the United States because I thought that this is where the action is. And I wanted to be in the middle of the action. I thought the smartest people were doing what I wanted to do, writing about American Literature. I wanted to work with the brightest and the smartest. That was America, so that was a logical choice.
Before I die, I want to be able to change the way people think so that they are more concerned with how they can make others happy. My goal in life is to take away pain; hopefully I can change the world.
MAY 7, 2012
Well, it’s obviously a formula. There’s a jacket, there’s a vest, and then there’s the tie, and then some kind of pocket square. Cannot leave home without the pocket square. It’s a critical part of the wardrobe, for some reason. If I ever leave the house without the pocket square, it’s a bad day.
Jose A. Lopez
Life is just one damned thing after another.
orchids by jorge monroy
There was sand that led up to brown doors at midnight And pearls that glistened softly far away. There were orchids, blue onesâ€”hungry orchids sleeping And watching dawn get up under moist wreaths of dreams. Shadows pulled close and stepped around. Cornfields skittered across waters of red, And meadows of tiny blues with big greens filled the wet days. Orchids surrounded by cicadas, beating their bodies and whipping their wings alongâ€” The rows of identical shacks lined with black string filled the fields of orchids. Almost forgot of places hid behind memory and loss tucked behind, And treasures held close by shadow arms and subtle pricks. Anything could happen when fireflies line up against windowsills And pretend to be innocent. Anything could happen. And wistful mornings will never lose interest in frigid nights, Because keeping each other warm is easier together than alone. Coffee lain on lips of slumber tussle between dusk driven nights, And fallen leaves leave trees bare like untouched white winter snow. Eyes squint as rays peak over the orchids bundled on the corner Table and chimneys tumble in and curse out with smoke. Loneliness picked up an orchid And placed it in your hands.
ART BY CHELSEA NEWMAN
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
Learning on the Edge
where does tufts draw the line between education and safety?
By George Esselstyn and Sahar Roodehchi
n December 27th, a bomb detonated in the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, killing high profile politician Mohamad Chatah and injuring over 70 people. Shortly after, a Tufts organization known as EPIIC, Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship, made the decision to cancel its highly anticipated trip to Lebanon because of safety concerns. While this was an abrupt decision, it wasn’t without precedent. EPIIC falls under the expansive umbrella of the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL). The IGL prides itself on its wide variety of immersive student programs that promote education and leadership abroad, including programs in high-risk areas like Lebanon, where political unrest and growing social movements abound. Their mission statement highlights the importance of
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viewing and dealing with international conflict effectively and morally: “We develop new generations of critical thinkers for effective and ethical leadership who are able to comprehend and deal with complexity, to bridge cultural and political differences, and to engage as responsible global citizens in anticipating and confronting the world’s most pressing problems.” Sometimes, however, bridging this gap between differences comes with serious risk. EPIIC student and Tufts senior Sarah Butterfield, who is familiar with risky work environments, claims, “You can’t go looking for trouble.” Butterfield was one of two students forced to evacuate Cairo, Egypt, in July of 2013. Before her evacuation, she had been studying abroad in Cairo for the year
on her own—separate from any of Tufts’ approved programs. “It was dangerous from the beginning,” Butterfield reflects. But given her familiarity with Cairo, the Arabic language, and her goals of researching the Muslim Brotherhood, she felt confident in her endeavors. However, after escalating protests during her trip, Butterfield received multiple emails from International SOS, a resource that alerts travelers of potential risks while abroad, urging her to leave. And, as the violent protests and persistent emails continued, Butterfield got a call from Tufts directly. “They said that I was mandated by the US State Department to evacuate.” Isabel Weiner, another Tufts student, had moved from a study abroad program in Alexandria to an internship in Cairo, and found herself in the same situation as Butter-
PHOTO BY BAHAR OSTADAN
field. Weiner kept journal entries of her experience, and wrote about the “unsettling” trials of leaving: “I opened Gmail after dinner and immediately went into a state of panic. I was being moved to a hotel the next day and then being taken to the airport at the crack of dawn on Friday morning. I began to cry.” And, within 24 hours, Butterfield and Weiner’s time in Cairo was cut short. So where is the line drawn between educational opportunity and security? For Butterfield, the limit echoes the mission of the IGL: “For me the line is that, if you choose to go on one of these trips, you have to be self-aware enough to know the dangers of the country. You can’t go there and think, ‘I came here for adventure.’ Or ‘Oh, these protests are really cool,’ which I found a lot of people doing.” Butterfield sees the value in highrisk learning, but also knows when to draw the line. Weiner notes, “An important thing, wherever you go in the world, is to separate your sense of adventure from being unsafe ... being able to make smart decisions when you’re in a highrisk situation.” Bahar Ostadan, also in EPIIC, traveled to Tunisia over the winter break without interruption. Along with another classmate, Ostadan conducted interviews with student activists, NGO leaders, and government officials about the role of youth in strengthening civil society during the transitional government’s constitution writing process. Ostadan accredits the IGL for her ability to do so without fear: “I felt very confident knowing that the IGL’s in-country contacts helped gauge the potential risks in a given location.” After completing the mandatory six-hours of pre-departure security briefings, which educated Ostadan and her peers on everything from “drinking water precautions to registering for the State
Department’s SOS Emergency Evacuation Service,” Ostadan felt prepared for her journey abroad. For Ostadan, personal safety and travel are about examining the facts. “As potential travelers evaluate their safety, it is equally important to evaluate their sources of concern. Are people being cautioned against traveling to certain countries for the right reasons? For example, while the U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings against Americans visiting Tunisia, they should be taken with large buckets of salt. I have been to many countries on the State Department’s watch list, often feeling safer than I do in San Francisco.” After escalating
protests during her trip, Butterfield recieved multiple emails from International SOS urging her to leave.
At what point should a region be labeled too dangerous to travel? At what point does the educational benefit outweigh the potential danger? These are questions that the IGL deals with each day to provide students with a safety net while working in the field. Sherman Teichman, the founding director of the IGL, emphasized the sense of duty that must come with the opportunity to partake in this level of highrisk travel. “Part of leadership is preparing students,” he says. “If you’re at Tufts, you represent the thin intellectual ozone layer of the world by the mere dint of the fact that you have your health, your sight, you have literacy, you have the means to be
here. You are unbelievably privileged. The question is what you do with the privilege.” Teichman comments on the “careful and calibrated cost-benefit analysis” that the program must use to conceptualize which programs make sense and which do not. Lengthy security briefings, intensive literature, and hefty writing requirements make up the backbone of the IGL’s thorough preparation for students going abroad. However, above all, Teichman says, “We have to rely upon [the students’] maturity; we have to rely upon their insights and their ability to truly comprehend the sensitive environments to which they go.” As a result, programs like EPIIC foster an honest sense of global citizenship at Tufts, as they show students how to live, learn, and lead in the worldwide community that is oft wrought with conflict. According to Teichman, “What’s palpable is really how they change their ideas ... It’s amazing how mature our students can get.” For students like Ostadan, Butterfield, and Weiner, maturity aligns with determination. After being evacuated in 2013, Butterfield and Weiner returned to Cairo in December to continue their research, which ranged from political interviews to public health analysis. Along with over 40 other IGL students venturing into the Middle East, they traveled with specific goals in mind: original research and illuminating discovery. For the IGL, participating students, and Tufts as a whole, the delicate line between education and safety is unpredictable—contingent on the political and social climate of the country. And, as the students travelling to Lebanon understand, socio-political climates can change in an instant. For others, working to get through the precautionary hoops of the IGL is worth everything: “There is no doubt,” Ostadan says, “that the best lessons exist in the places you least expect.” O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
Rethinking Selectivity Why America is missing the point of college education By James Davis
hen I was young, the media taught me that there is a hierarchy in the American undergraduate school system, with some schools being “better” than others. To me, the selectivity of a college was synonymous with the quality of education that it provided. Though my mindset has changed since then, that of the mainstream American media has not. Every year, US News & World Report publishes interpretive rankings of the best undergraduate schools in the country, based on statistics like the class rank of incoming students, test scores, and graduation rates. Other publications like Forbes and Business Insider also have their own ranking systems. Though I’m sure these websites have no malicious intent in creating these rankings, they encourage readers to value one school over the other. There is a widespread belief in the United States that a person’s intellectual worth is directly tied to the selectivity of the college they attend. No doubt, this belief stems from the fact that selective schools like Harvard and MIT have boasted many of the leading members of a variety of intellectual and business fields. Though attendance at schools with low acceptance rates is often correlated with personal achievement, there is no real causality.
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Education is learning about yourself and the world around you. It is not about being magically transformed into a successful individual. Though it’s easy to cite individuals like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Gabe Newell as examples of successful Harvard College graduates, all three of them actually dropped out of Harvard. Though they were at Harvard at that point in their lives, I don’t think their success can be attributed completely to the university itself. Harvard is an excellent school and its students certainly receive fantastic educations, but the likes of Gates, Zuckerberg, and Newell didn’t succeed because of their Harvard education. They already possessed the vision that led them to become highly influential leaders in their respective fields, and it was their own individual brilliance that allowed them to succeed in their pursuits. Jack Welch, one of the most successful CEOs in history, graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In an article he wrote for the Boston Globe last year, Welch described himself when he arrived at UMass in 1953 as a “work in progress.” Welch explains that two professors he met during his time at UMass Amherst “changed the trajectory of [his] life.” Their guidance led him
ART BY GRIFFIN QUASEBARTH
s “Aselfperson’ worth is not
defined by the name on their college sweatshirt.
to the subject of chemistry, resulting in his drive to earn a PhD in chemical engineering, and ultimately brought him to General Electric. Of course, the largest arguments from proponents of brand name schools have to do with how they relate to professional success. They say that one gets a leg up in the job search from attending a brand name school, the idea being that if a recognizable school’s name is on a person’s resume, it will give them a higher likelihood of employment. From a purely financial perspective, statistics show that financial success is not necessarily tied to brand name school attendance. According to CNN Money, Stevens Institute of Technology has on average the third highest paid graduates of any school in the country, and Babson College has the fifth highest. Though some would not consider these “brand name” schools, it does not seem to have affected the financial success of their graduates. But average salary is not the best way to evaluate the success of someone’s college
education, as different career paths often yield different financial gains. And yet, the reality is that every employer is trying to hire the best worker possible. An individual’s accomplishments and attitude, regardless of where they went to college, are what really matter in the hiring process. Though the University of Massachusetts Amherst may not be a “brand name” school, it evidently didn’t bother the person who hired Mr. Welch at GE. It is the responsibility of employers to look holistically at the people who apply for jobs at their companies, and if those employers are only using the names of universities to determine that, then they may miss some of the best candidates. Great people can come from selective universities, but that does not mean that they cannot come from anywhere else. Ultimately, a person’s self worth is not defined by the name on their college sweatshirt. There is no “best college” in America, but there are best colleges for individuals. Famous schools like those in the Ivy League may have excellent
resources and brilliant faculty, but what gives them and every other school in the country the potential to be great is how much their students get out of the time they spend there. In an article for the Prospect, Emily Keator says that though she was accepted to Harvard College, she chose to attend the lesser-known Davidson College because it was a “better fit for [her].” She said that she valued the “small classes and close relationships with professors” that Davidson offered her, something she feared she wouldn’t get at Harvard. Rather than following rankings, Keator followed her reasons for going to college in the first place, and it was those reasons that led her to a school where she is happy and is getting the most out of her education. What really should be ranked is the progress and discoveries a student experiences during his or her college career. The success of an educational experience is determined by how much a person values and grows from it. College is about giving people the chance to follow their dreams, for success is whatever we define it to be. O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
ARTS & CULTURE
NEWS FOR OUR GENERATION?
By Anika Ades
ast year, the counter-culture magazine VICE premiered a news-format television series on HBO. The self-titled program is a perversion of 60 Minutes targeted at millenials, with in-depth reporting on outlandish yet newsworthy stories around the world. The series features some of the most alarming and current stories of the year, including unprecedented access into North Korea, interviews with children training as suicide bombers for the
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Taliban, and crews in Nigeria who mine and refine their own crude oil. The mostly white, male, skinny, tattooed reporting team is shown in the middle of gunfights and explosions, speaking with the uptalking drawl and existential self-reflection that is endemic to urban 20-somethings. As Rolling Stone writes, “It feels a little like your buddy from the bar just happened to be wandering through eastern Afghanistan with a camera crew.”
The final episode of the series features a piece in which a VICE reporter, a few Harlem Globetrotters, and Dennis Rodman visit North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The Americans join North Korea’s national basketball team for a demonstration of “basketball diplomacy” in a country that censors essentially all foreign media and communication. The game ended symbolically with an impossible show of good sportsmanship: a
ART BY GRIFFIIN QUASEBARTH
ARTS & CULTURE
110-110 tie. The piece featured the young reporter looking on in shock at a state dinner and tours of opulent but empty supermarkets and cityscapes. At one point, reporters were brought to a room of civilians allegedly working on computers; each one stared at an empty Google search bar with apparent confusion. The reporter mused about the strictness of their tour schedule and the attitudes of the Korean people they encountered, all the while sharing conspiratorial glances with the camera. At times, the gonzo-style journalism revealed elements of both bleak quotidian scenes and the incomprehensibly opulent ceremony of government, but overall implied a trip that seemed to be a carefully crafted fallacy. Due to its unconventional reporting style, VICE has become a black sheep within the news community, drawing deep criticism from old guard reporters such as Dan Rather. Though perhaps this negative attention is exactly what has brought VICE a degree of legitimacy amongst young viewers. Tufts freshman Gus Esselstyn explained his conflicted interest in the HBO series: “There are so many ways you can present a news story. They do this psycho journalism where they’re so involved they turn it into a game. But at the same time this is HBO; this is entertainment.” Leaving behind such burdensome pillars of traditional journalism as objectivity and political correctness, the VICE crew dives into important conflicts and political movements that are either too dangerous or too obscure for mainstream media sources to touch. With an untraditional approach to online and television-based journalism, VICE is tapping into stories that interest millenials, while delivering said content through avenues that are relevant to them. Despite VICE’s reputation as a counterculture news source, the magazine’s image has been reworked and tamed in recent years. VICE began in 1994 as a free magazine based in Montreal, with the mission of covering the
shadowy underworlds of politics, sex, and popular culture. As a platform for showcasing undiscovered artists, photographers, journalists, poets, and designers, VICE moved its headquarters to Williamsburg, Brooklyn before going international. In 2013, 21st Century Fox invested $70 million in VICE, earning a 5 percent stake in the company, although founder Shane Smith maintains autonomy over content and publication. This sort of high-low, against-the-odds story defines the progress of VICE from
culinary insider. Its most popular and emblematic web series Fringes covers the stories of individuals living on the edges of society. In one episode, they follow a delivery drug dealer in New York City. In another, they conduct interviews with residents of a shantytown in Tijuana, where hundreds of thousands of deportees from the United States reside. It is difficult to say whether VICE is indeed a legitimate news outlet, but it has certainly found its niche in popular culture with an ever-growing online and
“IT FEELS A LITTLE LIKE YOUR BUDDY FROM THE BAR JUST HAPPENED TO BE WANDERING THROUGH EASTERN AFGHANISTAN.” low budget depravity to broader cracks at legitimacy. Even the description on its Twitter account, which until early last year read, “VICE: The all-seeing, all-swallowing whore of Gomorrah” now reads, “VICE: The definitive guide to enlightening information.” Although VICE is famous for its HBO series, its most contentious material resides in the many web series it produces. With headlines ranging from “The Burmese Bin Laden Swears He’s a Good Guy” to “This Guy Shot Porn on the Westboro Baptist Church’s Lawn,” VICE toes the lines separating humor, irony, and hard-hitting reporting. Spinning traditional reporting formats is one of the site’s fortes. For instance, the cooking series Munchies follows young, world-renowned chefs through nights of marijuana haze and drunkenness to experience their cities through the perspective of a stoned
television audience. The magazine does cover some incredibly important material alongside raunchier content—including an entire issue dedicated to the conflict in Syria in late 2012—months before traditional media outlets began in-depth coverage. Likewise, its coverage of sex, drugs, and trafficking are no less legitimate for falling outside the traditional lens of the mainstream purview. It is rather the ways in which these conflicts are presented that has earned deserved criticism and continues to challenge the legitimacy of the newsgroup. Despite, or perhaps due to, VICE’s flawed reputation, Forbes recently estimated its value at over $200 million, with viewership on the rise. Regardless of repute, journalistic ethics, or professionalism, VICE will likely continue to report like one of your buddies on issues of international import, and young audiences will continue to watch. O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
ARTS & CULTURE
OUTKAST NEVER LEFT By Xander Landen 24
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
ART BY MIA GREENWALD
ARTS & CULTURE
efore Antwan Patton and André Benjamin graduated high school, Southern hip-hop wasn’t cool. While groups like Geto Boys in Houston had seen moderate commercial success in the late 80s and early 90s, for the most part airwaves and cassette players were overpowered by what was coming from the coasts. Patton’s and Benjamin’s ears were open to the music drifting down from the Northeast and Northwest, as well as what was playing closer to home in Atlanta when they began sporting their titles as Big Boi and André 3000, graduated high school, and formed Outkast in 1992. This was also the year that UGK, a group from Port Arthur, Texas, released their commercial debut Too Hard To Swallow. As a gangster rap album that quintessentially and flagrantly flaunts guns, drugs, and the objectification of women, this was an abrasive attempt by Southern rappers to make a name for themselves. Outkast’s 1994 release Southernplayalisticadalicmusik, also addressed sexuality, violence, and inner city life. The album was influenced by André’s and Big Boi’s experience growing up in Atlanta and by other musical movements. The track “Git Up, Git Out” is their ode to productivity, which discusses avoiding fulfilling stereotypes and prescribed destinies that Black men in their communities faced. This sort of message resonates with music from groups like A Tribe Called Quest, a New York crew whose track “Excursions” explains, “You gotta be a winner all the time / Can’t fall prey to a hip-hop crime”. Southernplayalisticadalicmusik allowed Outkast to craft a sharp Southern voice. Big Boi and André delivered unabashed, subversively goofy lyricism in the context of hardcore hip-hop beats: pitting himself against the critics from the East and West Coasts on the album’s title track, André asserts “like collard greens and whole eggs I got soul / that’s something you ain’t got.” The album went platinum. Outkast’s niche in hip-hop soon expanded beyond its position as a Southern vanguard of the genre. Big Boi and André made themselves a sensation of the present by talking about the future. The song
“Millennium” off their second album, ATLiens, is a personal, disillusioned, and concerned account of the turn of the century. The track “B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad)” from the 2000 album, Stankonia, inadvertently predicts the Iraq War (though the song was probably intended to reference the First Gulf War) three years before it occurs. The track is heart-racing at 155 bpm and revolutionary in its successful mesh of rock guitar, soulful vocal hooks, techo blipping, and pounding drum machines. Stankonia remains one of the most critically acclaimed albums in hip-hop. However, Big Boi and André have
Outkast’s frontmen are unafraid and perhaps proud of their failure to conform to any image that exists within the genre. never taken themselves too seriously. “So Fresh, So Clean,” a song off Stankonia, pairs a Southern gangster rap beat with surreal nonsensical lyrics, poking fun at the genre’s excessive bravado. Outkast’s frontmen are unafraid and perhaps proud of their failure to conform to any image that exists within the genre—evidenced in André’s flamboyant style when donning wide rimmed fedoras or head dresses, bow ties or pocket squares. This attitude was the key to their ubiquitous praise in the early 2000s (and six Grammys) before the duo split apart to pursue solo careers in 2007. Their middling approach to hiphop allowed their music to span genres. It became accessible to a wider audience: today you can find their later albums on the shelves of Urban Outfitters.
Recently Outkast announced they will be playing 40 festivals later this year to celebrate their 20th anniversary. André and Big Boi are also reportedly releasing solo albums before festival season begins. This summer, Outkast will be playing alongside contemporary artists, many of whom derive elements of their style from the duo. At Governor’s Ball in New York City, attendees will not only hear from Outkast, but also Tyler the Creator, a rapper whose popular success and persona rely on the irony of his delivery and lyricism. Tyler is a rapper who makes beats and writes lyrics that are so painfully vapid they find meaning. His tendency is to taut surrealism and violence to the brink of listenability. In his hit, “Yonkers,” he boasts of threesomes with triceratopses and “swallowing cinnamon” over a beat that sounds halfway like nails on a chalkboard. But something about the track’s violent instability keeps us interested. Tyler, like Outkast, relies on hip-hop as a medium that is inherently taken seriously to deliver ironic messages, ones that challenge our expectations as listeners of the genre. At Coachella, Outkast will play with Kendrick Lamar, whose 2012 release Good Kid m.A.A.d city is a commentary on gang culture in Compton, California. Outkast’s influence on Kendrick is audible. Kendrick’s nasally, alien-like vocals in “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” mirror the futuristic spoken word flow found on several tracks in Outkast’s 1997 release Aquemeni. But on a deeper level, Kendrick, like Outkast, is attacking the issues facing his inner city community by mocking the personalities that perpetuate them. Kendrick’s “Backseat Freestyle” and Outkast’s “We Luv Deez Hoez” both serve as sarcastic commentaries on hypersexualization in hip-hop culture. Outkast’s return to the realm of hiphop could not come at a more appropriate time. Hip-hop artists are more than ever willing to bring a conscious sense of humor to their music and are less concerned with adopting the genre’s traditional aesthetics. André may not have been 1000 years ahead of his time, but 10 might be a good estimate. O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
COSPLAY by Nick Hathaway hen you attend Arisia, a Boston-based sci-fi and fantasy convention, the first thing that strikes you is not the props or the costumes, it’s not the red, blue, and purple hair, the bubblegum pink wigs, and it’s not the green and gray full-body makeup. Through the automatic revolving door of the Westin Waterfront Hotel erupts the sound of people talking—a lot of them. These attendees talk excitedly, clumping into eclectic groups of aliens and elves, samurai and steampunk stilt-walkers. They talk with each other personally, amicably, and perhaps surprisingly, about issues of social consequence. And the talking isn’t limited to the lobby. Around 5:00 on a Saturday, a group of thirty or so people shuffled into a conference room to discuss feminism. Before the panel began, I witnessed an elf with red hair talk casually with members of the panel, and slowly the usual formal awkwardness melted into a conversational familiarity between the panel and the rest of the audience. Arisia is filled with these panels, covering topics as diverse as asexuality, polyamory, and BDSM. “I spend a lot of time on Tumblr,” says Melissa Kaplan, a psychotherapist who volunteers her time as a conference chair for Transcending Boundaries, an event dedicated to gender and sexuality. Kaplan is referring to the online community of feminists and sexual rights activists who use Tumblr as a space for constructive dialogue—a dialogue that overlaps greatly with conventions and fandoms, particularly Arisia. Even though the panel began by defining third-wave feminism, the discussion had begun even earlier, prompted by the
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demographics of the speakers—four women and one man. When the sole male panelist commented on feeling nervous, Melissa Kaplan responded by saying that the topic of feminism merits a larger influence of women’s voices. The conversation was not weighed down by anxiety, however, as each panelist contributed respectfully to topics as diverse as gendered children’s toys, discrimination in the workplace, and intersectionality. (The intersection of different systems of oppression.) Going from definitions of feminism to the criticisms usually lobbied at feminists, the panelists maintained their sense of humor and levity. Asked about the definition of cis-white privilege, the male panelist, Alex Jarvis, described it as “playing the game of life on easy.” As a computer programmer working with RailsBridge, a grassroots organization that fosters the inclusion of women in his field, he used an experience he had at a party to illustrate the weaknesses of the argument typically heard from men’s rights activists. When asked by a friend why men’s issues weren’t talked about as often as women’s, he proposed an experiment: make a list of the most limiting aspects of having a male identity and then compare it to a second list filled with the things women have to deal with. After removing from the male’s list “everything that gave them access to women’s bodies,” he and his friend found out that the typically cited men’s issues, in the words of Alex Jarvis, “couldn’t even crack the top five women’s issues.” After a while, the conversation turned towards children. “I want us to stop gender programming four-year-old behav-
CONSENT iors,” Kaplan said in a comment that elicited applause from the audience. The panelists elaborated on gender programming, using the example of a young girl in a toy store being pointed towards the“girl’s toys” by a stranger. The basic message of the panel was clear: third-wave feminism is about uncovering gender bias in unexpected places and creating a more leveled playing field for people of all gender identities. Still, the convention community faces unique challenges. On a panel addressing the sexual harassment of cosplayers (those who dress up as characters), one woman described the problem of “glompers”: “They’re the people who see someone dressed as one of their favorite characters and decide to hug them without permission.” And the glompers come with the creepers. Some female cosplayers have had to deal with fans following them and, sometimes, taking inappropriate pictures, which has prompted conventions, such as Dragon Con, to release updated sexual harassment policies. After bringing up these issues, a panelist cited an excuse often heard by con-goers in relation to sexual harassment: “We’re all fans here.” These statements are the convention equivalent of “If she didn’t want me to comment on her [insert body part here], then she wouldn’t have dressed so provocatively.” Even at Arisia, where feminism is discussed openly and critically, there are those who extend rape culture to all aspects of their lives, and all events they attend. If anything, the one thing we should take from Arisia’s sexual harassment and feminism panels is that there’s still a lot of work to do.
When Meagan Marie, a popular cosplayer, wrote a post on Tumblr about her experience being harassed at the Pax East conference, others began posting similar stories online. Recently, this trend and the “Cosplay is not consent” movement have been spreading through conference circuits and the Internet. Much like the “Who Needs Feminism?” movement that posted pictures of people answering the question with whiteboards, con-goers are heading to the web to contribute their unique strain of feminism and anti-rape culture, one colored by the subtleties of “geek culture.” Despite these setbacks, panels like these are continuing to address an educational need. As unexpected as it is to witness a girl with a pink wig and bedazzled cheeks discuss feminism, it’s clearly necessary. Within Arisia, and the greater convention culture, there seems to be an overlap with those willing to analyze and apply potential solutions to these issues. Many attendees identify as geeks first and want others to see them that way. From “Chainmail 101” to “Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities” and “Coming Out” to “How to Survive the Nerd Convention Apocalypse,” the panelists and con-goers at Arisia have fostered a unique blend of serious dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor. Near the end of the feminist panel, as the audience members prepared themselves for their next event, panelist Alex Jarvis put it this way: “Of course, if women have an equal standing with men,” he says with a smile, “then society will crumble and lesbians will marry dinosaurs.” O
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
By Eve Feldberg and Moira Lavelle
No Place Like Home
A Tufts student living off-campus on Curtis Street called TUPD to report suspicious activity in his home. A strange man was trying to enter the apartment. TUPD, along with the Somerville police, arrived on the scene to find a 23 year-old Somerville resident, extremely intoxicated. Once the Somerville police explained that he was not, as he believed, at his own home, he was taken into protective custody. It’s almost comforting to know that even after college ends, people still get really, really blackout.
Police received a call from the brothers of Theta Delta Chi, the fraternity commonly known as “123.” They reported that someone had thrown eggs at the front of their house, a process commonly known as “egging.” The police reported that the damage was not substantial, however the brothers have decided to go ahead and get a professional company to power-wash the entire house.
TUPD received a call from a Tufts student in his Somerville Avenue residence. He reported that someone had walked into his house, claiming he wanted to purchase drugs. The quick-witted student snapped a pic on his phone before the man fled toward the Powderhouse rotary. Upon apprehension, the suspect claimed that someone on the street had directed him to the student’s residence, a supposedly dope place to buy drugs. Chief of Police Sergeant McCarthy recognized the man as someone he had previously arrested in 1981, coming out of Wilson House with the same story. In 1982, a call came from College Ave—it was the same guy. As recently as 2010, the SAME GUY tried the same thing at another College Ave residence. This dude enters student housing under the premise of a drug deal and steals small items each time. He is 59 years old, and has been arrested 285 times. Two hundred and eighty five times.
Sunday, January 26th, 3:20 am
Monday, January 13th, 9:17 am
Thursday, December 19th, midday
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FE U AT RE
MAY 7, 2012
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