Tufts Observer VOLUME CXXVIX, ISSUE 3
MARCH 3, 2014
TECHNOPHOBIA IN THE DIGITAL AGE (PAGE 2)
WHAT COMCAST’S LOBBYING MEANS FOR MEDIA DIVERSITY (PAGE 6)
WHY WE’RE INSTAGRAMMING INTERACTIVE ART (PAGE 24)
EDITORS editor-in-chief Nicola Pardy managing editor Evan Tarantino creative director Bernita Ling assistant creative director Ben Kurland
March 3rd, 2014 Tufts Observer, since 1895
Volume CXXVIX, Issue 3 Tuftsâ€™ Student Magazine
Table of contents
section editors Anika Ades Robert Collins George Esselstyn Nicholas Hathaway Justin Kim Ben Kurland Moira Lavelle Katharine 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 Tech Terror: Human Anxiety in a Computerized World by Anika Ades
NEWS State of Denial
lead copy editors Eve Feldberg MT Snyder
by Eve Feldberg
copy editors Savannah Christiansen Carly Olson Joey Cheung
OPINION Restrictive Access: How Drug Tests Are Denying Welfare To Those Who Need It Most
design assistants Anastasia Antonova Claire Selvin web director Kumar Ramanathan staff writers Allison Aaronson Ellen Mayer Julia Malleck Jamie Moore editor emeritus Molly Mirhashem
by Katharine Pong GRIFFIN QUASEBARTH
NEWS The Comcast Lobby by Moira Lavelle
PROSE Songs To Die To by Jade Chan
OPINION Smart Money by Will Freeman
ARTS & CULTURE The Wellesley Walker by Xander Landen
22 TAYLOR WESTMONT
PHOTO INSET Camera Obscura
The Observer has been Tufts’ 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.
ARTS & CULTURE The New Age of Interactive Art by James Gordon
24 POETRY Don’t Grow Up It’s A Trap by Elayne Stecher
CAMPUS Invisible at Tufts by Gabe Gladstein
OFF CAMPUS Sidelined by the City: Obstacles for Boston’s Minority Business Owners by Robert Collins
EXTRAS Police Blotter
by Moira Lavelle and Eve Feldberg
CONTRIBUTORS Riley Aronson Beau Collins Chelsea Newman Charlotte Rea Eva Strauss Andrew Terrano Taylor Westmont Cover by Bernita Ling
By Anika Ades
ry hard to think about a single aspect of your life that is not touched by a technology invented within your lifetime. You may have purchased the clothes you are currently wearing online, or awoken this morning to the alarm on your cell. Even if you don’t own a smartphone, your credit card information is stored online— along with your address, contact information, and social security number. For many young, tech-savvy computer users, the presence of our information online doesn’t scare us. Nevertheless, the exponential advance of technology is an intimidating, and sometimes anxiety-inducing, aspect of modern life. And computers are more integrated in human interaction than any technology that has preceded them. For those
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who are uncomfortable adapting to this intimate invention, using the web can be a stressful and exhausting experience. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. A new and largely unstudied realm of anxieties has evolved concurrently with the intensification of man’s relationship with technology. Technophobes are becoming more and more uncomfortable as computerized technologies become more integrated in our daily lives. Limiting access to online resources and information, technophobia causes very real disabilities in regards to employment, socialization, and communication. As one might expect, these disabilities disproportionately affect aging and
poor populations who are either unwilling or unable to learn about or access new technologies. The Obamacare rollout has been a striking example of the clear disadvantages faced by those who fear or strongly dislike computers. This public resource targets older populations that are uniformly less computer-savvy. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 62 percent of people over the age of 75 own a computer, compared with 90 percent of Americans in general. Those without access to computers were unable to access the online informational materials necessary to complete registration. Social Security Offices offer in-person services as well as a website with many supplementary tools. For instance, there is an application to view bank deposits and submit applications electronically, saving online users time and money by managing their monthly reports from home. It is striking that even this public service specifically targeted at senior citizens utilizes web tools that can be intimidating for many senior citizens. The daunting expanse of technology has left technophobes and the tech-averse shaking in their boots, but technophobias have existed long before computers and the Internet. It may surprise readers that certain basic inventions were, at their conception, highly controversial. For instance, home electricity was criticized in its time for corrupting the moral fabric of the home, and was considered by many to be unhealthy. In the 1950s, as televisions and telephones were becoming standard home appliances, a new class of technophobias arose. A pink rotary phone marketed as a private phone for young women, called the “Princess,” was released by Bell in 1959. It instantly sparked controversy regarding the threat of indecent conversations that young women could be conducting in private, and the many moral and ethical implications of giving teenage girls access to this technology. Within 10 years of the of the phone’s release, private lines were ubiquitous in the
bedrooms of teenage girls across America, and the controversy, in retrospect, seems rather silly. Genevieve Bell, a cultural anthropologist at Intel Labs in California, studies how to ease the tech-averse into the modern world and how to shorten the period of moral panic associated with new inventions. Intel, understanding the monetary loss associated with tech-averse consumers, charged Dr. Bell with researching the ways in which humans have evolved to socialize. These natural tendencies, according to Bell, can be applied to technology to narrow the gap between human-human and human-computer interaction Dr. Bell is fascinated by a repeating pattern that, she argues, has emerged with each major technological advent of the last few centuries. First, a new technology is invented and becomes widely available (think Princess phone or, more recently, the personal computer). Its release leads to widespread use, which is soon followed by a period of “moral panic” and then, eventually, controversy-free adoption. This phase of moral panic is evident in the myriad health concerns, social critiques, and debates surrounding smartphone use, artificial intelligence, and online data storage security. Frankenstein, the popular novel by Mary Shelley, can be read as a technophobic interpretation of technology overpowering man. And just this year, the film Her, directed by Spike Jonze, portrays a fictional yet all-too-realistic future that examines the complex relationships humans form with their computers. Bell argues this pattern is applicable to contemporary inventions, but she maintains a forward eye towards progress. “I am firmly in the present. But, sometimes, I want to drag the future here and see if we want it.” While true technophobia is a disability in our ultra-connected world, to what degree is a cautioned attitude towards new technologies and their applications beneficial? Technology has become so engrained in the life of the modern human that it is often difficult to determine when inventions improve or compromise our quality of life.
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Electronic medical records (EMR), for instance, were hailed as a streamlining technology that would allow medical professionals to keep better records of patients and store imaging and test results. According to Deborah Rubin, M.D., an Attending Radiation Oncologist and Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Vermont School of Medicine, EMRs have been detrimental to the quality and efficiency of medical care. Says Dr. Rubin, “Although the EMR has improved access to laboratory reports and imaging reports, it has actually impeded communication between doctors and staff. The language of the program is canned and unnatural so [EMRs] actually impede communication.” Dr. Rubin also notes that communication between EMR systems at different hospitals is difficult. If a patient at one medical center needs treatment at a separate facility, the programs between hospitals often don’t speak to one another. “The EMR is really designed for lawyers and billing personnel. The whole record is designed to document what you bill for and enhance the capacity to bill. It also protects the doctor from malpractice suits, to be sure you have met your legal requirements and billing requirements. The record ends up reading like nonsense because it’s essentially just a text full of these billing codes.” Looking towards the future of technology in medical care, Dr. Rubin, like many other senior 4
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physicians, is skeptical. “Younger physicians are faster [at EMR data entry], but they have almost completely lost the ability to communicate about the patients. They are clicking boxes and filling in coding phrases, but they are not able to talk about patients in their own words. In 20 years when these residents are attending physicians, you will lose the voice of the doctor and you will lose the voice of the patient. You aren’t able to care for patients as well because you don’t have their own description of their condition.” Regardless of profession, technology is here to stay. The simple truth is that as we continue to rely on technology to make our lives easier, we are paying with our money, our privacy, and our information. In light of Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations, there is ample justification for skeptics of online privacy and the dehumanizing, data-centric elements of modern computing. Regardless of whether technophobias take the form of a basic incompatibility with computer hardware, or a more complex aversion to human-computer interaction and privacy, these phobias must be addressed as modern society marches ever onward towards a more integrated future. How we prepare for this world that is so dramatically different from today’s is to move forward with one eye towards progress and one eye on what human elements, if any, we are leaving behind.
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MARCH 3, 2014
THE COMCA O
n Feb. 12, Comcast announced that it was buying Time Warner Cable for 45 billion dollars. Though the two companies do not compete directly in any markets, there are many questions as to whether this merger will be approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or stopped under anti-trust laws. Regulators will investigate the deal based on the power of the new company, and how this power will be augmented in negotiations with other cable networks as well as relative to the cable consumer. “We’re concerned about the consolidation of media power across platforms,” Josh Stearns, the Press Freedom Director of media advocacy group Free Press, told the Observer. “This new company would have an incredible
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amount of power over what we watch, read, see, and hear. We’re worried about a lack of competition and diversity and consumer choice.” However, many other groups and entities have come out in favor of the new merger—but their reasons can be traced to the Comcast payroll. The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced its support a few hours after the merger was announced. Comcast’s charitable foundation has given the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce $320,000 over the last five years. Comcast has said it is looking to have many of these sorts of endorsements from members of both state and congressional legislatures, as well as nonprofit and minority-led groups. Comcast is using its vast web of lobbyists and their immense capi-
tal—$25,489,500 spent in 2013—to ensure that these endorsements come in. Since 2008, when it became mandatory for corporations to disclose philanthropic gifts, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have together directed more than $3.7 million to “honor” various lawmakers—traditionally minority lawmakers. Many of these lawmakers supported Comcast when they bought out NBC in 2011, in another controversial deal. Comcast and Time Warner have also contributed millions to caucus-affiliated nonprofits: over $990,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, almost $800,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, $281,000 to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, and $135,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Policy and Leadership Institute. ART BY BEAU COLLINS
Comcast argues that the company has a long history of promoting diversity and aiding in educating minorities. But if all of these groups support the merger, it is likely that Comcast’s support of diversity will lead to a lack of a different kind of diversity in American cable service—the kind of monolithic media Josh Stearns is concerned about. Comcast has pledged to divest three million Time Warner Cable subscribers, and to continue its commitment to net neutrality—meaning they will not provide faster and better Internet services to customers who pay more. Stearns is not convinced. “There are plenty of people who get money from Comcast,” he said, “Right now we need the people who have a real stake in this issue, such as our half a million members who care about their communities
and media, to get the chance to be heard. This debate will probably go on for a year. We need policy makers to listen.” Distancing himself from groups that have come out in support of the buyout, Stearns added, “Here at Free Press we don’t take any money from companies or agencies. We are supported only by donations from members.” Not only does Comcast pay support to many members of Congress, but it also recruits many of their lobbyists from within the US government. In 2011, Meredith Attwell Baker, then a Federal Communications Commissioner, announced she was resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast. Four months before, Baker had voted in favor of the Comcast and NBC Universal merger. This is not a new phenomenon. Baker’s boss at Comcast, Kyle McSlarrow, is
the head of Comcast’s lobbying and government-affairs office. McSlarrow previously worked as the Deputy Secretary of Energy in the George W. Bush administration, worked for three Republican senators, and worked on Dan Quayle’s presidential campaign. Comcast insists there is no foul play at work. “People would like to take this 20-plus year-old incredible commitment to communities and these organizations and would like to make it a bad thing— that we are buying off support for the transaction,” David L. Cohen, the Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation, who also runs Comcast’s charitable foundation, told the New York Times. “That is simply not true,” he said. “And I believe it is offensive to the organizations we support.” O
MARCH 3, 2014
State of Denial
By Eve Feldberg
The bill failed in Kansas. But what about Utah, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Nevada, and Ohio?
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iscrimination is horrible,” said State Representative Charles Macheers (R) in his defense of Kansas House Bill 2453. “It’s hurtful.... It has no place in civilized society.” The bill, entitled “Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage”, would have allowed denial of service to gay couples “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender.” House Bill 2453 is part of a group of bills that seek to protect religious freedom. At the same time, provisions of these bills allow discrimination against LGBT Americans. Conservative interest groups are lobbying for this wave of legislation in multiple states. In Kansas, they wrote the bill. On Feb. 12, the bill, which was sponsored by the Committee on Federal and State Affairs, passed with a final vote of 72 to 49. The Committee, which has a Republican majority, presented the bill as a protection of the religious freedoms of those who are opposed to same-sex marriage on a religious basis. The bill’s passage in the House drew national outrage. Some of the most vocal opposition has come from small businesses in Kansas. Emily Mitchell, the director of communications at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, directed the Observer to a press release, which read in part, “The impact [of HB 2453] on Kansas businesses, particularly those with very few employees, is very troubling.” It cited concerns about “potentially costly legal questions over how businesses would be expected to comply with areas of business speech, discrimination, and privacy concerns.” The main concern for the Chamber of Commerce is that regardless of the policies a business might have, one of their employees can deny a customer service based on that employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” If the business were to then fire the employee for their discriminatory action against the customers, the employee could sue the business under HB 2453 for the business’s discriminatory action against the employee. Civil rights and gay rights activist groups are also concerned. Thomas Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, told the Observer, “When we had our attorneys look at this [bill], there are certain parts of this that they think might not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
House Bill 2453 was written by a Washington D.C. lobbying group called the American Religious Freedom Program, which describes itself as “devoted to protecting and strengthening Americans’ God-given and constitutional religious freedoms.” Tim Schultz, the State Legislative Policy Director for the American Religious Freedom Program, sent written testimony to the Kansas House Judiciary Committee in defense of the bill. He called it “a thoughtful and balanced civil rights law,” saying that the legislation would “ensure that Kansans of all faiths continue to enjoy robust rights to the free exercise of religion for many generations to come.” Nowhere in his testimony did Schultz mention the LGBT community in Kansas or their rights. The American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP) is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative Washington think-tank. The EPPC created the ARFP in 2012, and as of June 2013, the group has founded “bipartisan religious freedom caucuses” in 18 states. According to the Catholic News Agency, these caucuses “focus on threats to religious liberty.” Tufts University Chaplain Greg McGonigle told the Observer in an email, “Whenever religious traditions are used to promote discrimination...my belief is that the religion is being co-opted to justify an underlying prejudice that is not religious at all.” House Bill 2453 is by no means the only bill of its kind being debated in state legislatures. Witt said, “We’re seeing similar legislation pop up in other states. It is a coordinated national effort by the extreme right.” On Feb. 19, the Arizona state Senate passed Senate Bill 1062, which allows individuals and businesses to deny their service to someone if providing that service would violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs” in any way. Kansas House Bill 2453 did not pass in the state senate. Even before it was voted on, Republican leadership in the Kansas Senate was clear about its position on the bill. In a statement on Feb. 13, Senate President Susan Wagle (R) explained that while the Republican majority in the state Senate supports religious freedom, they “also don’t condone discrimination.” However, the bill in Arizona did pass in both houses. Similar legislation has been, or will be, introduced in Idaho, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee,
and Utah. And the commonalities between these bills reach far beyond their content. According to Mother Jones, bill writers in Tennessee and South Dakota also consulted with the ARFP, the same organization that wrote the Kansas bill. Support for versions of the Kansas bill in other states has also come from an organization called Citizen Link, the public policy arm of Focus on the Family, a self-described “global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive.” Citizen Link has established “Family Policy Centers” in 38
House Bill 2453 is part of a group of bills that seek to protect religious freedom. At the same time, provisions of these bills allow discrimination against LGBT Americans. states since 1988. The Idaho branch of Citizen Link is called Cornerstone Family Council. In a statement to Al Jazeera America, Cornerstone’s executive director, Julie Lynd, said her organization has been “involved in working on the language” of this kind of legislation in Idaho. In hearings regarding Arizona Senate Bill 1062, Josh Kredit of the Center for Arizona Policy testified in support of the bill. The Center for Arizona Policy is also an offshoot of Citizen Link. On Feb. 24, three Arizona senators asked Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the very bill they had voted to pass. The senators—Driggs, Pierce, and Worsley—were all part of the Republican majority that had passed Senate Bill 1062 less than a week earlier. In a letter, the senators said they had voted for the bill with a “sincere intent” to protect religious freedom, but that “the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance.” The vote in the Senate was 17-13. Had the three senators voted against the bill, it would not have passed. O MARCH 3, 2014
Restrictive access: how drug tests are denying welfare to those who need it most
by katharine pong
MARCH 3, 2014
n Illinois, legislators are working to pass House Bill 1351, a bill that will require those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money to undergo drug tests. If applicants fail these tests, they will either lose benefits or be required to receive substance abuse treatment. On the surface, this seems like a good idea; welfare recipients who use drugs are likely to spend their TANF allowances on drugs, thus abusing the money that they should be using to advance and become self-sufficient. Requiring TANF recipients to be drug-free will decrease the possibility of this scenario. However, this legislation is not actually beneficial to welfare recipients, nor will it make TANF more effective. Instead, it is discriminatory, uneconomical, and even unconstitutional. First and foremost, House Bill 1351 operates under the prejudiced assumption that the poor are likely to be drug usersâ€” most likely addictsâ€”who have made poor choices in their lives and are impoverished because of them. This conclusion implies that poor people have done something to deserve their circumstances, which ignores the structural violence and oppression that contribute heavily to their poverty. In fact, these stereotypes about drug use are untrue. According to a study cited by The Journal Gazette in Indiana, only three percent of welfare recipients tested positive for drugs, while nine percent of the average population tested positive for drugs. The difference between drug use for low-income people and middle- to high-
ICONS BY IRENE HOFFMAN AND JOE MANZELLA
income people is not that low-income people use drugs more, but that they are punished for their drug use more frequently and more severely. In the Washington Monthly, Kathleen Geier explains that “economically privileged folks can indulge in countless bad behaviors and make any number of boneheaded decisions without paying any serious consequences.” Furthermore, the rationale behind the bill subscribes to the concept of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor— the idea that only certain impoverished people are worthy of assistance. By denying TANF funds to applicants who test positive for drug use, the program sends the message that some people simply are not good enough, moral enough, or ambitious enough to be helped. But if the government deigns them unworthy of financial assistance, where can they turn? Impoverished people who are often racially, politically, socially, and economically marginalized may depend on welfare to survive. “In order to protect them, you’re going to take away the benefits that they have to sustain life,” said Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) of the bill. The drug-testing program is also cost-ineffective, both for welfare recipients and the government. Applicants for TANF would be required to pay for their own drug tests, which cost $16. Considering that the average TANF benefit level is $432 per month for a single-parent family of three, even this seemingly in-
consequential cost of a drug test is a cost that welfare recipients should not have to pay. The state also does not provide assistance in paying for the treatment, which is a huge financial blow. And the program would be even more costly for the government. Other states with similar programs say that the cost of testing people was greater than the money saved in denying applicants benefits. According to the Star Tribune, a similar program in Arizona yielded only one positive drug test out of 87,000 over the course of three years. Seeing as government money for welfare programs is tight enough as it is, it is illogical to waste money on frivolous drug tests.
Denying TANF funds to applicants who test positive for drug use sends the message that some people are not good enough to be helped. Finally, this proposed legislation infringes upon civil liberties and constitutional rights. In December, a Florida state judge affirmed this by striking down the state’s drug testing law. To drug test individuals without warrant or cause for suspicion is a violation of protections against unreasonable search and seizure. It also implies that impover-
ished people’s privacy and public rights are unimportant. Various opponents of the program make the point that the government gives financial benefits to other members of society, such as leaders of corporations, who receive tax breaks without mandated drug tests. In light of these criticisms, the politicians responsible for the bill have created a new version that they hope will address its flaws. The revised bill tests only individuals who have drug-related misdemeanors on their record, since those with drug felonies aren’t even eligible for TANF. However, changes to the bill won’t change the nature of the bill itself. The reality is that there is no “best version” of this legislation; House Bill 1351 only serves to worsen the welfare system at the expense of those who need it. If TANF is a program designed to help people get on their feet and become selfsufficient, then House Bill 1351 simply sets up more barriers to this independence. This is a challenge that should not exist, especially considering the other problems with the US welfare system. Instead of targeting people and punishing them for their circumstances, TANF and other welfare programs should provide them with the means and resources to access a higher quality of life. This will not come through moral superiority and punitive measures, but rather through more comprehensive anti-poverty programs that actually help individuals break out of the cycle of poverty rather than trap them in it. O
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SONGS TO DIE TO by Jade Chan
You once told me you judged songs based on whether they’d be nice to die to or not. You smiled after you told me that, and I thought about how you were like magnolias— dangerous but irresistible. Mozart’s Lacrimosa tops my list.
I love it when you wear your gray cardigan/blazer hybrid thingy.
I want you to hold me. To whisper artsy musings into my ear at night, and to fingerpaint the night sky across my eyelids. I want you to show me parallel perspectives, and describe to me all the cubist sides of myself I’ve never known.
I just want to sing “Baby, it’s cold outside” with you over and over.
I don’t want you to unravel me. I want you to revel in my knots and stop trying to untangle me.
Sometimes I wonder if you’ll see beyond the bright, and embrace the shadows too— cause that’s what makes an object 3D.
Please wear more turtlenecks.
ART BY EVA STRAUSS
MARCH 3, 2014
camera obscura andrew terrano
MAY 7, 2012
14 TUFTS OBSERVER reaMAY 7 photos by: Charlotte
MAY 7, 2012
Photos By: riley aronson
by Elayne Stecher
I know that I am stardust and the universe composite but I don’t want to be your everything. everything is such a vastness like an ocean without a bottom or a sky without a top and you don’t get to put your name on it just because you’re lost in it. become un-lost in me. I am not your belonging, I am not your earth mother, I am not your heart or the black eye that I gave you when you took me as your lover and I am not your everything. it took me months and years and lifetimes to learn that this pedestal is a mockery: I am not gold or goddess just girl. I green.
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INVISIBLE at Tufts n one of the many angular, multi-story houses on Boston Avenue in Medford, seven high school seniors are in stitches. Two of them attempt to drop a cluster of vegetables into a frying pan on the stove, quickly recoiling when the pan hisses and shoots up steam. The kids, all recent immigrants from China, are cooking up more than vegetables. Broths and meats are thrown together; chopsticks fly; the words, while I do not understand them, are quick and spirited; the smell of Chinese food— not American Chinese food, but something more genuine—suffuses the air. While a few cook and a couple check their Sina Weibo pages (China’s Facebook), others work on their homework. They discuss it entirely in Chinese, though when I glance at it, I find it is written in English. This comes as no surprise: these students are part of the University Preparatory Program (UPP) at Tufts, a cooperative between Tufts English Language Programs and GreatOne, a Chinese education organization. UPP is headed by Adam Cotton, the Department Director, and Kevin Paquette, the Program Director. According to Cotton, UPP’s goal is to “prepare these students for the next step” in their lives in
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America and their education by assisting the students with the college application process while simultaneously improving the students’ English skills and allowing them to “‘live’ the language as [they] learn it.” This latter goal is the program’s general focus. The students’ primary course of study is English language and American culture, and UPP promises an environment in which “English is truly their common language.” Paquette hopes to provide the students with “a better understanding of themselves, American culture, and the American university system.” Becoming a part of the Tufts University community is an important aspect of achieving those goals. Although their housing is ten minutes off campus, the UPP students are taught by Tufts professors, and many of them spend a great deal of time on the Tufts campus. Cotton and Paquette feel that integration into the Tufts community is an essential way in which the UPP students can experience this country and its people. The students in the program tend to agree. Other than receiving acceptance letters from their chosen American universi-
BY GABE GLADSTEIN ties, the students’ personal goals include improving their English skills and gaining an understanding of American culture. Out of the nine students I spoke with, representing just under a third of the program, eight felt that hands-on experience with students at Tufts is an optimal way to achieve those goals. Their teachers, including Lynn Stevens, Andrew Creamer, and Caroline Gelmi, agree that the students get that handson experience in UPP. Stevens says that the UPP “makes a big effort to inform students of what’s happening on campus,” and that over the year they spend here, the students “become increasingly comfortable.” Though he supports integration, Creamer reminds me that these students are not enrolled at Tufts University, and that the distinction between UPP students and Tufts students is significant. Creamer’s line of thought is echoed by the administrators of the program; Paquette told me that the UPP students “are not undergraduates; they are affiliates here.” Regardless, Paquette said, “The students have every opportunity to explore what they want to get involved in, and we try to help them out as best we can to get
ELEPHANT ICON BY M. TURAN ERCAN
them to take part.” Paquette told me about the accessibility of on-campus clubs to the UPP students and the One with One program, in which a Chinese UPP student is paired up with a Tufts student taking classes in the Tufts Chinese program. The concept was concieved by Dr. Mingquan Wang, a senior lecturer in the Tufts Chinese program. She said the goal of the program is to “promote and facilitate both linguistic and cultural exchanges between American and Chinese students.” Through a brief application, provided to students in the Tufts Chinese program and all the UPP students, Wang matches each Tufts student with one Chinese student using a series of basic criteria. Once a match is found, the students are given each other’s email addresses and a few coupons for coffee in The Tower Café. Cotton and Paquette both emphasize that it is very much up to the individual student whether he or she becomes involved on campus. “Autonomy is the rule,” Cotton tells me. Both Cotton and Paquette feel that the students’ current level of integration on campus is sufficient. After interviewing nine of the students, I found that eight of the nine felt that there was room for more integration, and four felt that they lack integration altogether. All of the students interviewed told me that the language they use most often every day is Chinese. According to one student, “We feel like we are still in China…because all our classmates are Chinese, and we speak Chinese after class.” This comes as no surprise. The students live in two houses, and only with each other (no non-Chinese speakers live with them). Chinese is, as one would expect, their preferred language, but their close-knit environment here is too insular and ‘Chinese’ to compel them to break free of their comfort zones. Their houses on Boston Avenue are small Chinese islands in an English-speaking, Medfordian sea. For that reason, as one student said, “The program is isolated.” Many of them feel they have few opportunities to get outside their social norms, and four or five
of the students told me that they are not entirely sure how to do so and that they are somewhat afraid of the prospect. Another student summed it up well: “When you only associate with your Chinese classmates in class, you don’t really know how to place yourself [with American students].” While some were able to join clubs and have benefited greatly, others tried and failed. “After I went there I felt that I was the one who was left out…I couldn’t just fit in,” one girl professed. Citing a fear of social awkwardness, another student admitted, “We didn’t really dare to attend those clubs.” The students received little guidance in how to become at ease, make friends, and succeed in club settings. The One with One program has also had varied results. The success or failure of the partnership is placed in the hands of the student partners—the success “depends on their commitment,” Wang maintained—and this seems to be where the problems arise. While some relationships have proven very successful, others were more difficult. “Some of our partners forgot about us,” one student told me. “After my first partner dumped me, I actually had another partner. And she dumped me too.”
Their houses on Boston Avenue are small Chinese islands in an English-speaking, Medfordian sea. A central issue is that the UPP and the One with One program lack recognition on campus. One UPP teacher commented that “in many ways [UPP is] invisible on campus,” which my discussions with Tufts
students have verified. In fact, the UPP program goes so unnoticed that even some of the Tufts undergraduate One with One partners, who are paired with students from UPP, are unaware of the program’s existence. They know their partners come from China, but overall, they do not know how or why. Yet there is a great potential for mutually beneficial relationships between Tufts students and the UPP. When asked about a possible association between the Asian-American Center and UPP, head of the Asian-American Center Linell Yugawa declined to comment, but a representative from the Chinese Student Association (CSA) expressed interest, saying there is definitely potential for an association between the CSA and UPP. The UPP students are an intriguing and unique part of this campus and community and are seeing Tufts and this country through new eyes. Perhaps most importantly, they have an intimate perspective on China, a country that is a focus in the studies of international relations and political science, two of the most common majors at Tufts. I have found these students to be open to discussing ideas about this country, about China, and about the world, and they truly seek to connect with students on campus. Cotton and Paquette’s University Preparatory Program and Mingquan Wang’s One with One program have provided an excellent foundation for these Chinese students to experience this country’s culture, education, and students, but there is still some work to be done. One UPP professor commented, “We have to have a balance where we offer a place on campus, but how much is campus willing to integrate with us?” Though it may take time and effort on the part of Tufts students—and some additional structure and encouragement from UPP—to help these students become comfortable, if we succeed, our campus could engage in one of the most intimate and exceptional cultural exchange programs in the country. It’s waiting for us, and it’s right over the hill on Boston Ave.
MARCH 3, 2014
by will freeman
MARCH 3, 2014
n Feb. 12, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order mandating that businesses with new or recently renewed federal contracts will have to pay their minimum wage workers $10.10 an hour starting in 2015. While this increase will only affect the less than half a million workers who provide concessions, services, and construction to the federal government, advocates of a higher minimum wage hope that this move will push Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, a bill that promises to raise hourly pay for all minimum wage workers to match Obama’s mandate of $10.10 in three 95 cent increments by 2015. The supporters of the Fair Minimum Wage Act emphasize that the bill is intended to help the minimum wage “catch up” with inflation that has occurred since 1968, when the minimum wage was at its peak buying power and the lowest paid Americans made $1.60 an hour, or, adjusted for inflation, $10.71 in 2013 dollars. Today the minimum wage has stalled at $7.25, meaning that an individual can work full time and still fall below the federal poverty line of $15,130 of yearly income for a family of two. Additionally, 58 percent of the jobs added since the end of the recession are classified as lowwage, making the minimum wage issue all the more relevant to the increasing worker population. A Congressional Budget Office report published on Feb. 18 estimates that raising the federal minimum wage to its proposed figure could lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Arguments for the minimum wage increase are fairly straightforward. Lowincome workers who will benefit from the wage increase are most likely to spend, rather than save, the majority of their income. As such, a wage hike will stimulate the economy through increased consumer spending. Furthermore, a higher mini-
mum wage encourages productivity and decreases worker turnover. Businesses such as Gap have already realized the benefits of higher wages, as they increased hourly pay from the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is considering following suit not out of philanthropic impulse but economic rationale. Critics say a higher minimum wage will harm small business owners. According to a report by Small Business Majority, however, 67 percent of small business owners also support an increase in the federal minimum wage. Finally, minimum wage earners themselves have organized behind groups like Fast Food Forward, a New York-based worker center, to stage protests calling for wage increases. If consumers, chains, small business owners, and minimum wage earners are all to benefit, why the controversy?
Raising the federal minimum wage to its proposed figure could lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Arguments against raising the minimum wage focus on the misguided assumption that a wage increase will make it harder for businesses, especially small ones, to retain employees and hire new workers, and that this will in turn eliminate jobs. However, a 2013 study carried out by the University of California at Berkeley compared hundreds of counties in U.S. states with different minimum wages and found that boosting the minimum wage has little to no effect on em-
ployment, even during periods of high unemployment. While the Right criticizes the supposed inefficiency of increasing the minimum wage, it also calls for the scaling back of public services and accuses the poor of leeching off of government handouts. Conservatives point out plenty of problems but offer no solutions to the growing issue of income inequality, suggesting instead that the mechanistic workings of a free market will ensure a living wage for the hardworking through the benevolent forces of competition. If elementary economics textbooks served as adequate models for the real world, one would imagine many problems of economic policy might be more simply resolved. Unfortunately for conservative pundits and politicians, however, such models fail to account for the pervasive, systemic inequalities in access to education and job opportunities that complicate the picture. Conservatives who argue against increasing the minimum wage simultaneously profess concern for minimum wage earners while supporting school privatization measures, condemning public healthcare, and opposing a more progressive income tax structure. This blatant contradiction in conservative logic exposes that, beneath the rhetoric around the economic wellbeing of working Americans, the Right is truly concerned with holding on to its shrinking base of support and expanding its political influence, even if it means opposing popular, economically beneficial legislation at the expense of minimum wage earners and the recovery of the economy as a whole. While Obama’s recent mandate is just a first step, time will show that increasing the minimum wage is part and parcel of a larger program of progressive economic reforms that must be enacted to create prosperity in the long run. O
MARCH 3, 2014
ARTS & CULTURE
The Wellesley Walker
The Role of Art on College Campuses By Xander Landen 22
MARCH 3, 2014
PHOTOS BY CHERYL ROSE
ARTS & CULTURE
ufts is teeming with art. A lot of it is behind the scenes in Gifford House, where a John Singer Sargent painting hangs on the wall, or in storage. But if you look around the corners of Tisch Library or in the lobbies of most academic buildings, you can get a taste of the impressive art collection the university has amassed since its founding in 1852. Last year, an original Salvador Dali sketch was on display in an alcove outside of the Tower Café. Students working and sipping coffee on couches below where it hung may not have even noticed, unless they looked up, squinting at the display label. But the University’s most prominent artwork doesn’t need to be stared at, because it stares at you. For the last few years, eccentric statues have graced the center of campus. Tufts welcomed the “Colossal AcornHead” by the Vermont artist Leslie Fry in the 2012-2013 school year, and “Ostrich II” by the Parisian artist Quinten Garel, which came to Tufts on loan from a private owner for the 2013-2014 year. Walking down the steps from the library, students are now accustomed to being met with the wide-eyed, hollow gazes of these statues. The five-foot long bronze AcornHead greeted students with a wizened, stolid expression while this year, the ostrich head looks ahead vapidly with eyes that seem to follow students on their walks to class. Some students question the purpose of these statues’ unavoidable, daily presence in their lives. “[The ostrich head] is certainly something that calls one’s attention and sparks conversation, but it’s not necessarily something that I need to walk past every day,” said sophomore Josh Zoland. “They don’t inspire awe,” said another student who prefers to remain anonymous. “I didn’t like the acorn head but at least you could make sense of it. It was like an acorn of knowledge fell from the tree to impart knowledge on Tufts students. But the ostrich doesn’t make any sense. You can’t interpret anything about it.” At the beginning of the year, sophomore Alison Graham, who works at the Tufts Art Gallery, overheard students say that the ostrich head was a commentary on white supremacy. “They may have been joking, but I think it’s better than no conversation at all,” she said. Graham believes that it is valuable for art to be exposed to and scrutinized by the public. “If you only have art majors looking at something, you’re only going to tend get the same response to the work.” In early February, at nearby Wellesley College, the installment of a “hyper-realistic” statue of a sleepwalking man clad in tighty whities garnered uproarious international scrutiny. Part of this attention comes from the attention to lifelike detail of the Brooklyn based artist Tony Matelli’s depiction. From afar, and even up close, the statue looks like a man in such a deep slumber or zombie-like
state that even the thin layers of melting snow on his arms, nose, and around his feet fail to awaken him. Then there’s the issue that this listless, nearly naked man with arms outstretched is on the campus of an all-women’s school. Over the last month, nearly one thousand Wellesley students signed an online Change.org petition to remove “The Sleepwalker” from his position outdoors and into their art gallery space, The Davis Museum. “The main issue with it is that no one consulted students about it being put in a very public space on campus. People say it’s a trigger for those who have been affected by sexual assault,” says Nicole DeCanio, a sophomore at Wellesley. DeCanio did not sign the petition because she felt the students organizing the campaign against the statue blew the issue out of proportion. “I think they made a big show out of it when people who felt uncomfortable or unsafe around the statue could have addressed their concerns privately,” she said. “I don’t really want to support the people who are fighting for a cause just to say they’ve done it.” The petition states: “[We] assert that the undue stress that “The Sleepwalker” causes some of us is enough reason to move it inside the Davis Museum... We welcome outdoor art that is provocative without being a site of unnecessary distress for members of the Wellesley College community.” On Feb. 20, the college’s president H. Kim Bottomly said moving the statue would destroy the exhibition’s “artistic integrity.” She did note on her blog that the statue led to important conversations about “art, freedom, censorship, and feminism.” Alison Graham at Tufts said that in a way, the controversy caused by “The Sleepwalker” shows that its artist did a good job. “He was probably trying to evoke some sort of reaction, and he was successful,” she said. Back at Tufts, gallery workers and curators have also had to consider whether or not to remove the ostrich head statue. It turns out the reaction the ostrich head has evoked might result in its extraction from campus, and is probably not what its creator had idealized. Recent, repeated vandalism of the statue has left it with several foreign paint marks. Graham says this could hurt the university’s ability to get artwork in the future. “It’s sad because even though people don’t have to care about it or even notice it, they shouldn’t go out of their way to hurt it. It makes it really, really difficult to request loans in the future. All of this goes into our records and insurance policy,” she said. It seems like on-campus art may cause more controversy than it’s worth—but at the same time, controversy can push students and artists alike outside of the frame of convention. O
“If you only have art majors looking at something, you’re only going to tend to get the same response to the work.”
MARCH 3, 2014
By James Gordon
his past summer, tens of thousands of people braved hours of queuing in the New York summer heat to experience the Museum of Modern Art’s latest attraction: “Rain Room.” This interactive installation allowed viewers, ten at a time, to wander through a room in which artificially simulated rainfall pours down on them. The draw, however, was not the chance of escape from the sweltering July heat; rather, the magic was in the ability of the installation’s sensors to pause the rainfall wherever they sensed a visitor standing, inciting what MoMA’s website describes as “the experience of controlling the rain. ” The installation, created by London-based art studio Random International, generated so much publicity that it drew devoted crowds willing to stand in
MARCH 3, 2014
the sun for an average of five hours for a ten minute experience. The public reaction, though remarkable, was not unexpected. The attraction had averaged a waiting time of 12 hours during its London debut. Nevertheless, some critics didn’t buy into the hype. In his review for the New York Times, Ken Johnson criticized the piece as being “little more than a gimmicky diversion.” But regardless of critical response, there is no doubt that the popularity of interactive art installations is on the rise. The MoMA’s latest interactive attractions, featuring performance artist Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present,” as well as Yayoi Kasama’s installation at the David Zwirner gallery titled “I Who Have Arrived in Heaven,” received similarly sensational
ART BY CHELSEA NEWMAN
ARTS & CULTURE
responses from the public. In “The Artist is Present,” hundreds of thousands of patrons lined up outside for the chance to sit in a chair across from Abromavic herself and gaze into her eyes. Visitors waited hours for this fleeting but profound interaction with Abromovic, knowing that they could not truly experience the profundity and depth of the work unless they had created their own unique and personal experience with it. This surge in the emergence of interactive art raises the question: why is this trend gaining traction, and what does this traction say about our society’s perceptions of and expectations from art? One explanation can be found in the propagation of social media and our subsequent desire to personalize and take ownership of our artistic experiences. Applications such as Spotify, Pandora, and Netflix now give the audience more freedom to customize their experience than ever before. We are no longer limited to the prescribed programming of television and radio, but instead have the ability to shape our cultural consumption in a way that reflects our preferences, and more importantly, in a way that contributes to our identity. Modern society seems to expect this capacity for customization in the visual arts as well. “The nature of the web [has] trained people not to want to sit still and look” argues Frank Rose, the author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories. “There’s a huge appetite for something more immersive and sensory, in which you can take a somewhat active role.” Viewers resist what they see as experiential limitations set by an artist’s vision or intention. Thus, artists have begun to cater to these expectations and desires by creating interactive art pieces through which each viewer can personalize his or her experience and create an individualized relationship with the work. Social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have catalyzed a phenomenon of entitlement in which the rising generations feel the constant need to assert a heightened sense of personalized identity. The growing influence of social media has blurred the line between the creator and the viewer. It has abstracted our sense of artistic ownership. In an age where image and experience sharing happens in an instant, viewers are claiming ownership over art, whatever its form may be, and obscuring our conception of art as property belonging to the artist. Though artists still largely maintain authority over their artistic intentions and vision, a greater emphasis is being placed on satisfying viewers by providing them with a desired experience. Take Yayoi Kusama’s “Mirrored Room,” for example. In his review for the New York Times, William Grimes celebrated Kusama’s grand reflections on “death and the afterlife” but also emphasized how “‘Mirrored Room’ offers a little something for everyone by ”providing an opportunity for the “ultimate selfie.”
“One click and there you are, floating in the universe, or rather, multiple yous, replicated over and over.” When the viewer becomes absorbed with taking the “ultimate selfie” or competing with friends for the ultimate Instagram picture, they can make the art their own in a new way. We often interact casually with this type of art before sharing the creation. People can take pictures of themselves in the rain room staying dry amidst the rain, but they can’t take that same selfie with the Mona Lisa. Following the endorsement of MoMA’s official “Rain Room”
, There’s a huge appetite for something more immersive and sensory in which you can take a somewhat active role.” hashtag—#RainRoom—which promised to stream tagged photos into a museum sponsored live feed, upwards of 20,000 hits flooded the hashtag on Instagram. While this selfie-mania poses a real threat to the preservation of the artist’s statement and intention, the public’s dramatic reaction to these highly popularized interactive art pieces hasn’t proved to be solely negative. Despite hours of waiting to experience these installations, they have certainly made art more accessible to those who lack the historical and technical background to partake in more traditional fine arts. Moreover, interactive art has given a new kind of thrill to those who have such background. Furthermore, these innovative art pieces draw considerable crowds, and have consequentially increased museum attendance. Abromavic’s interactive piece drew a total of 561,471 viewers to the MoMA. This remarkable figure certainly contributed to the recording-setting 3.09 million visitors who attended the MoMA’s 2009-10 season (which also included the heavily attended “Monet’s Water Lilies” and “Tim Burton” exhibits). There is no doubt that public interest in the art world has been revived, and has ignited the contemporary art scene with a sensationalism that fosters an eager audience who is willing to support and partake in the artist’s work. O
MARCH 3, 2014
BY ROBERT COLLINS
oston’s new mayor, Marty Walsh, has been in office seven weeks, and already the klaxons are sounding in the press over his treatment of diversity in city government. Walsh, a salt-of-the-earth son of Dorchester has put a special emphasis on neglected neighborhoods. For the first time in the city’s history, the mayor has appointed “people of color” to fill 50 percent of his cabinet and police command staff. But for many in this city with an often troubled history of race relations, it’s not enough— especially for Boston’s minority business owners. At a forum examining the city’s approach to minority-owned businesses at the Boston Convention Center on Feb. 17, which drew the new US Senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey, Walsh affirmed his commitment to building an administration that reflects the diversity of Boston. But Walsh admitted he hasn’t
MARCH 3, 2014
yet met his diversity goals, both in government appointments and in the doling out of government contracts. “The solution must start by setting the bar high in City Hall,” he told the crowd of about 200, which included minority business owners and city officials. “With your help, we will make Boston a place where everyone can climb the ladder of success.” George Richardson, 65, who attended the forum and ran a business called Genesis Transportation in the late 1980s, is hopeful for the new mayor, but wary of the Boston political machine that he feels ran him out of business. “The idea is excellent,” Richardson said. “But we have to understand we’re in the Boston machine mentality. It’s well overdue.” Like many black business owners, Richardson had to close his business in 1990 because banks wouldn’t give him the credit he needed. Despite Richardson’s
years of experience, he said, “they didn’t want to take the risk.” Richardson employed 35 people, running the business in his spare time on top of a nine-to-five job with the City of Boston. Richardson recalled changing tires on the Genesis bus fleet in the street at 1 a.m., once knocking himself out with a heavy wrench in the process. “It was a lot of work, but it left a lot of people satisfied,” he said. Senator Markey spoke on the history of race relations in Boston, encouraging the city government to rise to the example of its progressive forbears. He set goals to give minority-owned businesses equal access to capital, to build an educational workforce for small businesses, and to keep minority college students in Boston after they graduate. James Cater, 36, who works for the City of Boston and who attended the forum, said he considered moving out of
PHOTO BY KNAR BEDIAN
Sidelined by the City
Boston because of a lack of opportunities. “If this city isn’t minority-friendly,” he said, “then you move out, there’s no choice.” Markey’s words seemed to ring hollow with some of the other panelists, including Beth Williams and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who focused mainly on using diversity statistics to hold the arbiters of government contracts accountable in terms of diversity. “There has been a lack of progress compared to other major cities which have mandates. We need to really be putting some numbers behind it,” Cater said. Williams, a panelist and the owner of Roxbury Technology, mirrored Richardson’s experiences on a larger scale. “I have to show my mortgage to get certified,” she said. “My taxes aren’t enough. In the ten years that I’ve been a business owner in Boston, I’ve never received a government contract.”
OBSTACLES FOR BOSTON’S MINORITY BUSINESS OWNERS
Steven S. Rodgers, a Harvard Business School professor, and according to Williams, “one of the founders of teaching black entrepreneurship” said, “Minority businesses have been ghettoized that they’re all small businesses.” Another prominent black business owner, Richard Taylor, said, “There are no black CEOs in this town.” Taylor, who is chairman of the Taylor-Smith Companies, went on to outline a bold plan to demand capital from the Federal Reserve Bank. Mayor Walsh left with Senator Markey before the panel discussion began. “You don’t judge the success of a mayor in his first seven weeks,” Walsh told the Boston Globe after the forum. While many minority business owners have hope for the new administration, only time will tell whether Walsh can dismantle the political machine built by Mayor Menino over 20 years.
Walsh’s officials at the forum outlined large building projects that would employ much construction labor—a 1,500-room hotel in the “Innovation District,” and a plan to turn the district into the “21st Century Back Bay.” Walsh mentioned only briefly the prospects for bringing businesses not only into the wealthy districts of Boston but also into the cash-strapped neighborhoods of Mattapan and Dorchester, where he lives. Richardson’s plans are less grand. Though he’s retired now, Richardson is trying to collaborate with Boston civic groups to empower black business owners. Richardson said he wanted “to keep them from making the same mistakes I did.” “Minority businesses aren’t going to be million-dollar businesses,” Richardson said. “It’s not about the bottom line for us.” O
MARCH 3, 2014
By Eve Feldberg and Moira Lavelle
Long Distance Traveler
Two Tufts students were approached by a 19 year old male while riding on the Green Line back toward campus. When they switched from the Green Line to the Red Line, he did too. When they got off at the Davis Square stop, he did too. When they got on the Joey, he did too. He followed them all the way to Dewick MacPhie Dining Hall, at which point the students called TUPD. When officers arrived on the scene, they found the suspect with a plate of food from inside Dewick. Upon questioning, they discovered that he was a student from Bunker Hill Community College. He must’ve heard it was General Gao’s night. Who wouldn’t travel across Boston for that?
Officers responded to a noise complaint on Curtis Avenue. When they arrived at the scene, officers were met with a handwritten note on the front door encouraging all guests to enter through the side door. They did. Approximately 200 guests were in attendance at this rager, as well as a disc jockey. The resident of the house said he didn’t know how it got so out of control, as it was intended to be a “small party.” Yeah, because the best way to keep a party “small” is to get a DJ.
Monday February 17th, 5:30pm
Sunday February 23rd, 12:45am
MARCH 3, 2014
Return Visitor A 50 year old man approached the desk in TUPD headquarters asking for a ride. He had been drinking and was told he was trespassing. TUPD was familiar with this man; he had done this before, and like all the other times he was asked to leave. A while later, officers received a call from the staff of that other publication, the Tufts Daily, complaining that a person was in their building, refusing to leave and generally giving them a hard time. When the police arrived at the scene, they realized that the perpetrator was the same guy from earlier that night. They arrested him for trespassing. He’s had 111 prior arrests. This was number 112.
Monday February 24th, 11:45pm
FE U AT RE
MAY 7, 2012
ple ase r ec ycle