What We’re Proud Of Occupy Nashville [4, 6] 17th Annual Drag Show  Slut Walk 
Vol XI No II 10.2011
Orbis / In This Issue / October 2011
Inside Orbis Features
05. Michael Moore speaks on
04. In defense of Occupy
campus, sings some too Steve Harrison
The often inflammatory director asks for cooperation and positive action in current politics.
Published with support from the Center for American Progress/Campus Progress Online at http://www.campusprogress.org
The movement should not be disregarded by those who cannot understand the current cultural climate, which is precisely why we need Occupy.
Amplifying Vanderbilt's Progressive Voices
06. Occupy Wall Street comes
09. Diversity is not the issue,
Wave of protests across America brings national political discourse to the Nashville capitol and Centennial Park.
Safiullah’s transfer from Arts & Science to Peabody showed him that it’s academic climate we should pay attention to, not skin color or fashion choice.
to Nashville’s Legislative Plaza
07. Vanderbilt’s grab for African lands could harm Sae Park
Volume 11, Number 2
What is Orbis? Orbis is a forum for social and political commentary relevant to the Vanderbilt, Nashville, and greater communities. By providing a voice for alternative viewpoints at Vanderbilt University, Orbis creates a platform where diversity can be a unifying force in the community. Visit us at www.vanderbiltorbis.com.
New investments in Africa raise questions as to Vanderbilt’s intentions and transparency.
04. On Partisanship
08. Drag Show promotes open
Neither the left nor the right holds the key to perfect government.
community on campus
Andri Alexandrou and Meghan O’Neill The seventeen-year tradition returns stronger than ever, amidst national change and challenges yet to be overcome.
11. Skillshares Dylan Thomas
You can keep learning after graduation, just look.
Editor-in-Chief Andri Alexandrou Associate Editors Carol Chen
Features Editor Steve Harrison Commentary Editor Dylan Thomas Designer Ricky Taylor Web Editor Matt Joplin Editor Emeritus Jon Christian
Questions, comments, concerns? E-mail us at email@example.com. E-mail submissions to the address listed above, or send to Box 1669, Station B, Nashville, TN, 37235. Letters must be received one week prior to publication and must include the writer's name, year, school and telephone number. All submissions will be verified. Unsigned letters will not be published. Orbis reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. All submissions become property of Orbis and must conform to the legal standards of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc., of which Orbis is a division.
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Orbis / From the Editor / Calendar / October 2011
Campus Progress engages students in national issue campaigns on critical issues — from global warming to civil rights, student debt to academic freedom. Visit CampusProgress.org/issues for more.
a note from the editor October/November 2011 This is an interesting time for the young and politically aware in America. Occupy Wall Street has transformed into a movement that has taken over America and demanded attention from the upper elites. Carol Chen covers the progress of the Occupy Wall Street movement (p. 6), and Dylan Thomas provides defense for protestors against critics of indefinite demands (p. 4). Steve Harrison covers Michael Moore’s recent talk at Vanderbilt (p. 5), who commented on the state of current American politics and the need to stand up for the protestors. The Nationwide SlutWalks have served as another nationwide movement (p. 10) in defense of women’s rights against a culture that blames the victim. Even as these national movements find ground here in Nashville, Vanderbilt students have their own concerns. Sae Park talks about how the Vanderbilt administration is acquiring land in Africa (p. 7) and why we need to demand transparency. Sami Safiullah discusses the state of diversity on campus, finding that it may not necessarily be as bad as we thought (p. 9). We’re also proud to present some very positive moves on the part of Vanderbilt students to make ours a better community and to reach beyond the confines of our wrought-iron fences. This year, The Vanderbilt Lambda Association puts on its seventeenth annual drag show that has come to be a mainstay of Vanderbilt programming, this year participating in the homecoming line-up. We review a history of LGBT rights here on campus, in Nashville, and the United States commemorating the event (p. 8). Dylan Thomas also discusses the opportunity for students to teach each other on campus with skill shares (p. 11), and start life-long educational practices. Finally, Alex Papadakos discusses his unique political opinion, of being a Republican with liberal tendencies (p. 4). His treatise serves as one example of the state of political partisanship in our country. Stay strong, Vanderbilt. Andri Alexandrou
October 23 Crude, a film about the battle between South Americans and Texaco over the contamination of ground water by the oil company. Free screening presented by the Alternative Energy Club, Sarratt Cinema, 2 pm. October 26 The End presents Screaming Females with Underground Railroad to Candyland and Diarrhea Planet. The show is 18+, tickets are $7, starts at 9 pm. October 27 Vanderbilt Holocaust Lecture Series will present The Last Survivor, a film that follows the lives of survivors of four atrocities: the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Congo. Two survivors will take part in a panel discussion following the screening. The showing is free in Sarratt Cinema at 7 pm. October 28 Tongue N’ Cheek, Vanderbilt’s premiere improv comedy troupe, presents “Shot of Jack” at 7:30 in Sarratt Cinema. The show is free. The Green Bird, a theatrical fantasy play by Carlo Gozzi, opens at Neely Auditorium. Tickets are free for Vanderbilt undergraduates. Show times continue through opening weekend, followed by performances November 3 to 5 and 10 to 12. October 28 and 29 Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring live cast Little Morals, will be presented at the Belcourt Theatre. The event is 18+, and they advise leaving the rice and glitter at home, but bringing “a government-issued ID and gumption. Tickets are $10, doors at 11 pm. October 29 Music City Burlesque 4th Annual Boo-lesque is being held at the Belcourt Theatre. A sexy, loud romp featuring Bebe McQueen, Rose Hips, Lux-O-Matic, and Freya West. Tickets are $15, 8 pm. October 31 Pretty Lights Music presents the Halloween extravaganza Illumination at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium featuring: Pretty Lights, Zeds Dead, Porter Robinson, Nit Grit, Wick-It the Instigator and Cherub. Tickets are $37 (including tax and fees), starts at 6 pm. The 7th Annual Yazoo Halloweast Pub Crawl will travel to Three Crow Bar, Beyond the Edge, Drifters BBQ and Red Door East starting at 7 pm. The event is free to attend, and awards will be given out for best costumes.
Orbis / Commentary / October 2011
Occupy Wall Street: The Open-Minded Forum We Need Imperfect protest movement provides voice for disenfranchised Dylan Thomas COMMENTARY EDITOR
Critics of Occupy Wall Street just don’t get it. Whether they’re busy slamming protesters as lazy idealists, dismissing them as radicals and socialists, or scoffing at the movement’s overall lack of a razor-precise agenda, the people who roll their eyes at the booming crowds on Wall Street and beyond are completely missing the point. Especially at the outset of the movement, many of the reactions Occupy Wall Street provoked from journalists and commentators could hardly be classified as reactions at all. Instead of directly addressing what Occupy could mean for the future course of American political discourse, several in the media took up the issue with a
On the State of the Party Spectrum Alex Papadakos CONTRIBUTOR
Before partisanship dictates position, one must examine both parties with the simplest of comparisons. It has been the notion that liberals hold the environment, equality, and peace as the centers of their doctrine. They believe that with the increase of government, security and protection can be fostered for all. They find the notion of industrialization and pollution distasteful. In the broadest sense, liberals have genuine ends they wish to pursue by means of a larger government. If considered from a perspective of the process of attaining an end goal, one might discover that liberals only hold the ends in their doctrine. Where are the means? At the same time, the Republicans always attain the means as their ends. While a liberal may be focused on rallying support for the homeless, the Right invests in business ventures that are meant to create jobs. We can deduce that Right hold the simple notions of independent freedom as gaining wealth and possessing freedom of choice. A traditional Republican favors security fostered by their own successes rather than ceding power and resources to government for protection. In order to foster this selfsustained security, wealth must be secured. Therefore, the
dismissive attitude. On the right, FOX News’s Dan Gainor referred to the protest as a “disorganized and liberal whinefest” predominantly attended by those who are “mostly young, rarely bathe, and chant a lot,” failing to acknowledge the presence of the elderly, the upper-middle class, and even the politically conservative, on the streets of New York. Criticisms from all sides of the political spectrum have followed, seemingly destining the movement for failure and claiming to see no real purpose in the Wall Street riots beyond causing a ruckus. Yet most Americans—54%, in fact, according to the most recent surveys—resonate with Occupy Wall Street’s campaign against corporate greed. The massive expansion of Occupy Wall Street to Republicans’ ends are security and their means monetary resources. Many would consider this greed, but in simple terms, it is merely one tool for protection. This end security is the same that liberals wish to seek by the means of a strong government providing protection. In this way both sides want security, but differ upon their focus to attainment. One considers self-sustained capital and the other an overseeing, benevolent government. From an economic standpoint, liberals may have the ideal ends in sight, but the Republicans control the means. If there were no economy for “greed,” in other words a functioning tool, there would be no capital for government. It was in this same thought process that I transferred my “flag” from one party to the other. If one dedicates their lives to a lofty ideal without any means of attainment, then one could consider it a wasted life; the only chance of success for one’s vision to be attained is by seeking the means necessary for its consideration. Instead of dreaming of the impossible, I sought resources that could attain a reasonable amount of ends. Despite holding the means, I find the Republican constituency so consumed by their need to advance their own monetary freedom that they endanger the rest of society. The Right has assumed the “free market” doctrine to be gospel. The theory dictates that by having all seek their own respective pursuits that an equilibrium point will be attained where all individuals advance. In theory this would excel, but in practice we know it fails. The notion fails when we forget to consider what happens when certain individuals gain too much power and their own desires begin to infringe upon the intentions of others. Without a fix being rendered, the system becomes nothing more than serfs and a king as we have seen with recent events—the current state of politics and the banking fiasco. The Right needs to understand that while individual security is a right, when abused it will cause the undoing of us all. Today’s Right has held on to this doctrine as a definition of their identity to such an extent that it has rendered them blind to reason. While it may seem extreme, the left has held onto their core beliefs despite possessing a failsafe mechanism for meeting the end. The Right needs to admit their fallacy and re-draft their party line in favor of individual rights for all, not the lucky few.
seventy major American cities and 600 communities internationally cannot be written off as pointless. With exponentially growing numbers flocking to the protests, Occupy is making a bold statement of its legitimacy that even the harshest critics can no longer deny. Yet even opponents who concede that Occupy Wall Street is more than a meaningless circus show still hesitate because of the totally variegated political representation they see in the streets of our cities. The most popular criticism of the occupiers is that they protest without a concrete goal, and that’s not exactly untrue. Though individual Occupy movements seem to overwhelmingly despise corporate greed and corporate personhood, when it comes to specific plans of action, the masses are at a loss for consensus. But could we ever expect anything different? Occupy Wall Street intentionally represents the 99 percent, the working and middle classes who aren’t sitting on sevenfigure incomes. For that reason, it’s inherently inclusive rather than exclusive, and it works hard to stay that way. The movement refuses to endorse political candidates or take platforms on specific political issues, because if it did, it would no longer represent the 99 percent, but a small sliver of it. For Occupy to get its overarching point across effectively, it can’t afford to alienate so many people with minute details. Not only does it make sense for Occupy Wall Street to eschew an official checklist of demands, it’s also the best move they can make toward real change. Because the movement aims its energy against corrosive ideas like injustice and greed rather than toward specific policy measures, it creates solidarity among people from all walks of life. Environmentalists, union members, health care reform advocates, and anti-war activists all find a place in the Occupy movements, and the setting of an open-minded public gathering gives everyone the chance to teach others about their causes. That openness creates a movement full of people with informed, diverse perspectives and a common ambition toward a just society. What these people see is that regardless of which specific political issues they’re passionate about, some solution can be found in a fair democracy which disallows total political domination by the ultra-rich elite. It would be naïve to suggest that Occupy Wall Street is the perfect protest movement, but perfect isn’t what outraged Americans are looking for. While critics are quick to note that the movement hasn’t yet resulted in any policy changes, they overlook the fact that Occupy is changing our society in a very real way. The raw, organic energy of the protests engages Americans who might otherwise be sitting at home feeling hopeless about their mountains of mortgages and debts. It’s dragging people away from complacency and reminding them that they can, and should, take an active stand when political decisions negatively impact their lives. It may not be everything everyone is looking for, but it’s a lot of what many people are looking for, and for that reason, it’s creating some of the most tangible forward momentum toward a fair democracy that any of us have seen in quite a while.
Orbis / Features / October 2011
A Different Michael Moore Inflammatory director calms his tone for a Vandy audience Steve Harrison FEATURES EDITOR
Love him or hate him, author and Academy awardwinning documentarian Michael Moore certainly generates a good deal of buzz with just the mention of his name. Some conservatives revile the filmmaker as unpatriotic and overly critical of the U.S. government while some liberals applaud his in-depth investigations of America’s failing institutions. Moore’s abrasive, unrelenting style shown in films such as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” distinguishes him from others unwilling to stir the pot, and, for this reason, he generally elicits a strong response from all sides of the political spectrum.
Even with his forceful rhetoric about the need for certain policies, Moore maintained that the American government and its people need to work in unity and find more commonalities Yet when Michael Moore came to speak at Vanderbilt on October 4, a different, more temperate figure surfaced instead of the lightning rod prone to extreme views. Moore mused on Biblical themes, stressed the need for civil political discourse, and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” undoubtedly leaving a few members of the audience wondering if they had indeed been listening to that Michael Moore for the last two hours. Moore began the evening by plugging his book “Here Comes Trouble,” a collection of short stories about growing up in Michigan, and relating to the audience his Catholic school upbringing. With a slow, somber register, he retold a Biblical story about the criteria for reaching heaven, which culminated in Jesus telling a disciple that he will be judged on how he treats the least among us. Moore also provided a statistic showing that the Bible features salvation as its most prevalent theme, followed closely by caring for the poor. This religious current allowed Moore to transition into one of his central questions of the evening—“Doesn’t your Judeo-Christian button tell you that there’s something wrong [in this country]?” Attempting to find common ground, Moore framed the issue of income inequality in the United States from a moral and religious perspective.
Moore then intensified his tone and proceeded to question the lack of civility in political debate that narrowly frames the issue of income inequality as “capitalism vs. socialism.” He pined for the conservatives of a generation earlier who actually believed in conserving the United States’ poorest class, calling today’s dialogue a “Matrix-like” situation for people his age that were used to conservatives primarily being concerned with assisting the impoverished. Moore stressed that corporations, defended rigorously by contemporary conservatives, were not always predisposed to a certain profits-first mentality, and that there once was an appropriate corporate deal: “If you worked hard at your company, your company prospered, and you then prosper.” He elaborated that this generation’s elite class found this deal inadequate to producing lucrative lifestyles, making enough “the dirtiest word in corporate America.” The new wave of conservatives, Moore explained, has been threatening Obama’s hopes for a second presidential term by forcing him into ridiculous compromises, which is why Obama has been a huge disappointment for liberals. Yet Moore articulated that there was enough time for Obama to turn his presidency around and proclaimed, “I want that man [I voted for]. I want that spine. There’s still time!” Even with his forceful rhetoric about the need for certain policies, Moore maintained that the American government and its people need to work in unity and find more commonalities in order to escape the recession, claiming that the majority of the country holds generally liberal views on virtually every issue except for the death penalty. “We’re all American. We’re all in the same boat. Why can’t we just sink or swim together?” Moore said. In an interesting tact, Moore spoke not just to rally his liberal base but also to convince independents and conservatives that the ideas he espouses (welfare, green jobs, stricter corporate regulation) could only be to their and the nation’s benefit. He explained that the lower economic classes have historically been the catalyst for major societal changes, requiring any prosperous, stabilized nation to depend on the poor. Seizing on a wayward financial system and high unemployment rates nationwide, Moore urged the Vanderbilt community to take part in the “Occupy Nashville” protests. He praised the “Occupy” mission as a stand against corporate greed and for an empowered American future where many more citizens possess actual economic and social agency. Before leaving the podium and taking a seat in a living-room style chair to read from his book, Moore decided to sing an impromptu version of the national anthem. In a timid, trembling voice, he launched into a crescendoing version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that prompted the audience to its feet. Whether this was simply a conciliatory ploy or a genuine outpouring of emotion, one thing can be said for sure: by toning down his vitriolic demeanor and emphasizing his main points in a non-condescending manner, Michael Moore garnered respect from his Vanderbilt audience.
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Orbis / Features / October 2011
Protesters congregate on Legislative Plaza to join the national Occupy movements. Photo: Andri Alexandrou
Occupy Nashville takes over Legislative Plaza
Nashville community protests in solidary with national Occupy movements Carol Chen ASSOCIATE EDITOR
The Occupy Wall Street movement currently filling the streets of New York and cities around the world is a roar of public frustration against government and the dismal economy. Starting September 17 and snowballing ever since, the Occupy movement has expanded everywhere. From right here in Nashville to far-flung corners, protesters are converging to vent their anger. So far, media attention has been the largest impact of the movement. The American Occupy movement protests the big banks’ irresponsible behavior that created the financial crisis since 2007, which has thus far gone unpunished. While the financial sector has returned to business as usual after several government bailouts, the banks still refuse to lend money. Corporations with invisible but powerful hands manipulate the halls of power, and even though they have been turning profits for a while, they show only a tepid desire to hire. After three years of a message of hope and promises of change, the United States still battles a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, or 14 million Americans, and many more underemployed. Even these numbers are a somewhat unreliable source, as they rely on a sample of households for statistic estimates, and concrete numbers are only available for those who have been unemployed for a short enough time period to still receive unemployment benefits. The “99%” figure that has become a badge of pride for protesters comes from the concentration of income in American society. It is undeniable that income inequality has increased in the U.S. The top 1 percent of Americans makes 23 percent of pre-tax income, comparable to the rate in 1928 right before the Great Depression. Even China and Egypt experience a smaller income gap than Americans do.
Those in the top 1 percent own 42 percent of the net worth in the U.S. For Occupy, “99%” is the average Joe, the 99 out of 100 whose voices are drowned out by the influence of power and money. These numbers represent how the rich are disproportionally successful. Not only that, large, faceless companies reap huge advantages while the average person continues to struggle. The movement has materialized out of rage regarding the individual’s powerlessness when put up against uncaring corporations, and has effectively provided a critique upon our paralyzed federal government. Occupy Wall Street is an organic movement with no designated leaders or central manifesto of demands. Critics have warned that its amorphous structure will be the source of its failure, while protesters find it one of the movement’s very virtues. With no talking figurehead, the entire movement can be a sincere airing of everyone’s pentup grievances, like a blank slate upon which protesters can express their anger for the world to see. For others, the lack of a concrete set of demands trivializes the entire protest. Some protesters want to make actionable requests to capture the protest’s feeling and have something tangible to pressure lawmakers with. Critics say that the lack of a set of demands reveals the movement as only the “whininess” of some disgruntled people who should go home and find jobs instead of making a ruckus. Many think that the protesters are mostly disaffected young adults, but as the protests have continued the population has diversified. Now, pictures of protesters show that the movement is being represented not just by youth who are battling dismal post-graduation economic prospects, but people of all ages and political philosophies. As the protests spread from New York to cities across the U.S. and internationally, they highlight worldwide disenchantment. More than 900 cities have had Occupy protests.
Almost 25,000 Chileans marched through Santiago and hurled invectives at Chile’s mega-rich president. Prominent student leader Camila Vallejo proclaimed, “This is not a battle by youth or Chilean society. This is a world battle that transcends all frontiers.” Some 200,000 Spanish “indignados” flooded Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza on Saturday. Greek protests rail against the harsh austerity measures imposed by the government at the insistence of E.U. powers. Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Quito, Seoul. The specific demands are different but the spirit is the same. And right here in Nashville, hundreds of protesters swarmed the Legislative Plaza on Saturday, October 16, and the crowd shouted out, collectively, “Occupy Wall
The top 1 percent of Americans makes 23 percent of pre-tax income, comparable to the rate in 1928 right before the Great Depression. Street, Occupy Nashville, occupy everything and never give it back.” It remains to be seen what the fate of Occupy Wall Street will be. While it is possible that the viral protests and sleepins will fizzle out, the determination of protesters may last longer than the media expects. In a financial climate such as ours, desperation may prove to be a surprisingly enduring force.
Orbis / Features / October 2011
Vanderbilt Dealings in Africa Demand Transparency University must prove its investments non-harmful to African communities
ment. Following that, about a dozen students gathered to create a campaign against Vanderbilt’s land grabbing, calling for more transparency from the administration. “There was no public reply [from the administration],” Wibking said. “The administration chose one signatory on the letter to write a reply, and that individual was to remain confidential. The students in the campaign are trying to get in touch with Matthew Wright, the vice chancellor for investments. We asked for a meeting but he declined and referred us to the private response that one of
In late June, [faculty and students] wrote a letter to the administration expressing their concern about Vanderbilt’s investment. Sae Park STAFF WRITER
Since June 2011, American universities have been operating through British hedge funds to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland. Reports of land acquisitions in seven African countries revealed that Vanderbilt and other American universities with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. While foreign investors, universities in this case, profit from such land grabs, the people who originally live and work off the land are forced to find other means of livelihood. The Oakland Institute, a California-based policy thinktank whose mission is to increase national and international public participation in social, economic, and environmental issues, released an informational briefing, entitled “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa.” It stated that Emergent Asset Management (Emergent), a private limited liability company based in the UK, claims to be managing the largest agricultural fund in Africa.
When Emergent’s operations begin to earn profits through the increase in the value of the purchased land, the universities that have made investments will also see profit. The universities in question, including Harvard University, Spelman College, and Vanderbilt, have declined to comment on this matter in the past. Furthermore, it would appear that most students at Vanderbilt do not know much about Vanderbilt’s recent land grabbing practices. Junior Ben Wibking said that in late June, faculty members of the anthropology department, students, and other scholars of the university, wrote a letter to the administration expressing their concern about Vanderbilt’s invest-
the signatories of the original letter received.” Wibking added that the members of the student campaign meet at least once a week where they report on efforts to reach out to other student groups on campus in order to educate students and faculty and try to get them involved. “We also talk about their long-term strategy in order to push the administration to respond to student and faculty concerns,” Wibking said. “We try to model it on a consensus-base where we don’t have a leader or a president where one person doesn’t have decision-making authority. As far as what the group does on a whole, we try to have equal say.” In addition, students in Professor Lesley Gill’s anthropology class about activism and social change will be hosting an educational forum about this issue in late November. Although their project is still in development, the students hope to raise awareness among the student body and encourage them to obtain more information. “I think the university should accept responsibility for its investment,” Wibking said. “They should provide evidence that what they’re doing is ethical and beneficial to the populations in Africa or divest and make a public apology and promise that future investments will not take peasants’ land.”
Campus Progress provides support, mentorship, and materials to students engaged in campus and local advocacy campaigns on issues like environmentalism, a living wage, poverty, and the death penalty. Visit CampusProgress.org/GetInvolved for more.
Orbis / Features / October 2011
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The Dance for Change: How a Drag Show Acts as Cultural Catalyst Seventeenth Annual Drag Show reflects growing changes in a formerly-hostile climate Andri Alexandrou and Meghan O’Neill EDITORIAL STAFF
Life as an LGBT student on Vanderbilt’s campus hasn’t always been rosy. In 2007, two students were attacked for holding hands as they walked outside Towers. Just this past year, the Christian fraternity BYX became the focus of controversy when a brother was allegedly kicked out for his sexual orientation. The fraternity’s actions violated Vanderbilt’s anti-discrimination policy, bringing to light that the organization had been operating under a contradictory code of conduct that did not permit homosexuality within the fraternity. Despite these actions of intolerance, Vanderbilt has been steadily building a community of acceptance for students in the LGBTQI community. The Vanderbilt Lambda Association, the gay-straight alliance, was established in 1987 to provide a safe space on campus for students no matter their background or orientation. Their primary goal is to increase awareness and open up the dialogue in the community about LGBTQI life. On October 19, Lambda presented its seventeenth annual drag show in the ballroom of the Student Life Center. The event began as an occasion to celebrate freedom of expression and to show how much support exists within the Vanderbilt community for people of all orientations. It has grown in popularity over the years and is now a main-stay of campus events, this year being featured in the homecoming line-up. Performers in this year’s drag show included members of MTSU’s Lambda chapter, local performers from Play Dance Bar, nationally recognized JuJubee, Raja, and Pandora Boxx,
In the 1950’s and 60’s, being homosexual was considered un-American and subversive, and homosexuality was listed as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and several Vanderbilt students. Additionally, VJ Stretch, a resident DJ at Nashville’s Play, brought his audio-visual talents to the event. The Drag Show has proven a successful merger of all things Lambda aims for: community, diversity, awareness and expression. “When several hundred students gather in the same room for our show it makes a statement that this campus has students who are accepting of diverse individuals,” said Luis Muñoz, president of the Lambda Association and senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Nashville, too, has started to provide a wider arena for the LGBTQI community. Play Dance Bar on Church Street, not two miles from campus, is one institution that has fueled
the thriving Nashville community since its opening in 2005. Bars and clubs like Play have served an important role in the movement for LGBTQI rights over the last several decades. They serve as a safe environment where people of different orientations can gather, be themselves, discuss issues and have fun. In fact, it was a bar, The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City, where the Stonewall riots took place, often seen as the event that sparked the gay rights movement. The movement for LGBTQI rights in the United States has come a long way since the severe cultural suppression of the pre-1960’s era. In the 1950’s and 60’s, being homosexual was considered un-American and subversive, and homosexuality was listed as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Laws were enacted that made it illegal to wear opposite gender clothing, and cities actively worked to rid public places of suspected homosexuals. The US Postal Service refused to mail materials that talked about homosexuality in a positive manner, and suspected homosexuals were barred from holding government and university jobs. After years of oppression, the LGBTQI community and its allies began to fight back and push for equal rights and equal treatment. Through marches, protests, political rhetoric and, occasionally, riots, the movement has accomplished many of its aims: non-discrimination acts, recognition in the community, and acceptance and support throughout most of the country. However, the fight for equal rights continues today with the legislative battle over the legality of gay marriage. After Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a divisive debate has ensued over whether same-sex couples have the right to marry. Though many polls show
Orbis / Features / Commentary / October 2011
that public support for gay marriage is over 50%, samesex marriage licenses are only granted in six states, plus Washington, D.C. and two Native American nations. One state recognizes same-sex marriage but does not grant it. 41 states prohibit same-sex marriage through statute or state constitution. Recently, the gay rights movement gained a major victory with the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, enacted in 1993. The policy prohibited discrimination against closeted homosexuals or bisexuals, but also prohibited openly homosexual people from serving in the armed forces. Since 1993, over 13,000 men and women have reported being discharged on the basis of sexual orientation to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The act was repealed on September 20, and individuals who were previously discharged based on orientation are now able to reapply for service, while individuals can no longer be discriminated against in the military based on orientation, closeted or open. The Department of Defense has also removed “homosexual conduct” as a grounds for administrative separation. Military chaplains are somewhat divided on the issue. Some support the repeal, while others have spoken out against it. The Catholic Church has spoken in support of the policy, but does not have plans to change its services. The Southern Baptist Convention has warned that they may no longer endorse chaplains following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, saying that the policy will make it hard for chaplains opposed to homosexuality to speak out against it. 65 retired chaplains have signed a letter opposing the appeal. Meanwhile, other chaplains have said that the event is a “non-issue.” Tennessee, too, has seen controversy over LGBTQI rights and acts of discrimination. While a legal ban on same-sex marriage has been intact since 2006, urban centers such as Nashville have generally been tolerant of the gay and lesbian community. Play Dance Bar and its neighboring bar Tribe serve as a few institutional examples of the thriving Nashville community. However in May 2011, Bill Haslam signed into effect a bill that would prevent Tennessee cities from having anti-discrimination policies that conflicted with the state. Currently, the state allows companies to discriminate against employees or potential employees on the basis of sexual orientation. This bill overrides Nashville’s civil rights ordinance that did not allow employers to discriminate based on sex. Corporations, such as Nissan, DuPont and Comcast, have spoken out against the bill saying it contradicts their antidiscrimination company policy. For now, however, it seems the decision is in the hands of corporations as to what policy they will follow. Another anti-gay bill came close to passing this past spring. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill sponsored by Senator Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, would not have allowed educators to discuss anything other than “natural human reproduction science” with students K through 8, prohibiting any counseling or discussion regarding homosexuality. The bill did pass the senate, however, suggesting that
politicians are still at odds over where to draw the line when it comes to the LGBT community. In Dec 2010, Belmont University made its stance clear when Lisa Howe was asked to resign her position. The women’s soccer coach had just announced that she and her partner were expecting a child. The school maintains that the decision was Howe’s, that she was neither dismissed nor asked to resign. However, Belmont students rallied in protest against the school’s decision. Though Vanderbilt’s track record isn’t perfect, the administration maintains a fairly safe zone for LGBT students. An act of violence in 2007 against two students prompted a response by the administration to more strongly enforce its anti-discrimination policy. The two male students, a Vanderbilt undergraduate and a recent graduate of the Divinity School, were verbally accosted by a Vanderbilt student and guest in Towers West for their affectionate behavior. The student and guest made anti-gay comments and slurs towards the male students as they ordered food at Quizno’s. The victims asked if there was a problem, and were told to “get out of [the attackers’] face.” As the victims left Towers, they were attacked by the student and guest, who struck them in the head several times. The student attacker was suspended from the University. The K.C. Potter Center, created in response to the 2007 attacks, has served as a community center for students. Since Oct 2007 the center has provided a space for students, faculty and staff of all orientations to find information, support, and community. It also serves as a student hangout and hub for LGBTQI-related groups on campus. In addition to the K.C. Potter Center, Vanderbilt has multiple resources for LGBTQI students and allies, in a quest to create a safe, accepting environment on campus. Vanderbilt Lambda provides a gay-straight alliance for undergraduates, and the Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity offers a place for gay, bisexual, and progressive men to socialize within the Greek community. For graduate students, the Vanderbilt community has GABLE, the Office of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns at the Divinity School, OUTLaw, a gay-straight alliance at the law school, LGBT, MD, a network at the Medical School, Out in the Academy, a discussion group in the Graduate College of Arts and Sciences, and Queeries, the association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and allied graduate students at Peabody. The K.C. Potter Center has also enacted a “Safe Zone” program, in which individuals go through training and receive certification stickers which they can use to reveal themselves to others and to designate spaces as a safe place in which to discuss LGBTQI issues. The program aims to extend the safe space on campus for LGBTQI students. Despite the challenges faced by LGBT individuals, from national legislation regarding right to marriage, to challenges on campus where a self-proclaimed tolerant institution still experiences residual hostility, progress is being made. “We still have to make continuous strides forward,” said Muñoz. “Misconceptions about the LGBT community still exist and we have to work to resolve those unnecessary tensions.”
Though Vanderbilt’s track record isn’t perfect, the administration maintains a fairly safe zone for LGBT students.
A Study of VU Cultural Diversity Notions of color and school are not indicative of much. Sami Safiullah STAFF WRITER
My friends in the College of Arts and Science warned me against transferring to Peabody. They told me that my wardrobe would need to be the perfect mix of J-Crew and Lacoste, and my lack of Greek knowledge would erase my social options. Apparently, because I do not fit under a certain Southern and Caucasian stereotype that is allegedly reinforced across every lawn on this particular campus, I was incompatible with Peabody students. My previous semesters of pre-med chemistry and biology classes were comprised of an odd conglomeration of frazzled ‘Asian,’ Greek, and other students from many social niches. So, my first day on Peabody was a huge culture shock. I was the only non-foreign student of color in two of my classes, save the occasional athlete. Unarguably, the difference in wardrobe was astounding. Everyone had on Greek letters; I had no idea what they meant (still don’t). I felt like the only male student wearing socks with my shoes, and I lost count of girls wearing the classic sundress and cowboy boot ensemble. Had I made a mistake venturing into this insular world, where the surprisingly friendly professors knew all about their students’ social lives? Two weeks later, I realized this new culture impacted neither my academic nor social life. My classes were fascinating, attendance was always high, and everyone seemed passionate about what they were learning. The lack of diversity in Peabody is partly due to preconceived judgments students like myself carry into Vanderbilt. The negative feedback I got for transferring all came from my friends of color, who continue to believe that Peabody is full of unintelligent gold diggers fervently designing coloring books amidst their Greek functions. The stigma surrounding the college is absolutely perpetuated by students who believe rumors, and especially by students who fail to venture beyond the classes that are nonsensically prescribed to them.
Orbis / Features / October 2011
Vanderbilt Feminists gather October 1 to join Nashville SlutWalk. Photo: Kelley Hines
Nashville SlutWalk Defends Woman’s Right to Dress Andri Alexandrou EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
“Showing my legs doesn’t mean I’ll spread them.” “A dress is not a yes.” “Sluts pay taxes too.” These protest signs marked the Nashville SlutWalk on October 1. This local walk was organized in solidarity with the walks started in Toronto after a police officer suggested women should “stop dressing like sluts” if they don’t want to be raped. With this informal quip, the Toronto officer has attracted the attention of feminists wanting to draw attention to the culture of questioning the rape victim rather than the rapist. The nationally-occurring event provides a point of culmination for an increasing number of controversies over the rights of women regarding sexuality. Courts have ruled in favor of the accused-rapist due to ambiguity of case specifics; the Republican party has waged a war against reproductive rights and, recently, tried to make a more strict definition of rape; rape cases go un-categorized (and therefore uncounted), even though women report crimes, so that cities can manipulate statistics. A 1999 Italian court ruling was the first to attract attention in attempting to define rape in ways harmful to women. An eighteen-year old woman had been wearing tight pants when her assailant groped down the front of her pants. In the eyes of the court, the woman would have had to help remove her own jeans, thus requiring her “collaboration and consent.” Since then an annual “denim day” on April 21 has
drawn attention to the need for courts to reconsider the definition of rape. The Italian court overruled their first decision in 2008. The GOP recently attempted to redefine rape as explicitly forcible in their “No Taxpayer Funding For
Much like the Occupy Wall Street protests going on right now, these marches aim to change a cultural norm rather than focus in on one piece of legislation. Abortion Act.” Current legislation allows for government funding to go toward abortion only if the pregnancy resulted from rape. Along with the attacks against Planned Parenthood, this effort even further limits the rights of women. The SlutWalks consolidate many of these concerns in an effort to draw attention to the real need of reforming how our culture regards the sexuality of women. Much like the Occupy Wall Street protests going on right now, these marches aim to change a cultural norm rather than focus in on one piece of leg-
islation. While this has been a form of critique for the national Occupy movements, the SlutWalks provide the forum for these unanswered concerns to be voiced. “Slut,” the word first used by local organizers and now by national and even international movements in efforts to unite global efforts for women’s rights, has drawn some criticism for distracting from its primary legitimate purposes. Marchers across the country, for example, dress in scantily clad outfits as they march through urban centers, drawing attention to their bodies in ways that many protesters are not so sure contributes to the cause. Kate Fridkis, Huffington Post blogger, challenges this jarring word which is, in some ways, at the core of the spontaneous feminist movement. “A slut is a woman who wants sex too much,” said Fridkis. “I don’t want to proudly call myself a slut. I want to insist that no such thing exists.” That’s the spirit of these national SlutWalks, perhaps. These marches draw together women of all ages, ethnicities, personality types, sexual orientations and wardrobes. Everyone is calling herself a slut, yet no one is a slut. Through the evolution of feminism, from braburning to birth control to abortion to sisterly love, a common thread connects every decade. Kelley Hines, president of the Vanderbilt Feminists, describes the imperative of “making the opinions, ideas and choices of women matter in society.” The SlutWalks, at their most fundamental level, do just this.
Orbis / Commentary / October 2011
A Change of Pace
How to Learn After College Skillshares provide practical education in a post-collegiate life Dylan Thomas COMMENTARY EDITOR
We’re living in a dream world right now. Regardless of the nit-picky things we often hate about college, from deadlines and midterms to mind-numbing conversations overheard in the Randwich line, these are the only four years of our lives many of us will find ourselves living in such a uniquely energetic, intelligent, and motivated community. Vanderbilt may get a bad reputation for being anti-intellectual, but compared to an average workplace environment or residential neighborhood, we’re basically experiencing the Enlightenment between 21st and West End. Several observational studies indicate that the majority of people stop making regular intellectual pursuits after they finish their formal education, preventing people from reaching their full potential and creating a lull within postacademic communities. It’s no secret that a college environment, in which we’re dropped into a scholarly Mecca, is perfect for pursuits of the mind. But what happens when we leave college and rejoin the “real world” where education becomes external to us? The brick-and-mortar educational system does a lot of things right, but because it focuses on the goal of a terminal degree, it often doesn’t prepare us to be lifelong learners. The solution, as more and more people are discovering, is to provide an alternative educational structure for our post-college lives, one that is both practical and meaningful for us. That’s where the concept of skillshares, learning communities that allow average people to teach one another the skills and useful knowledge they know, began making its grand appearance into modern culture. The concept itself is an old one—people taught one another specific trades long before academia came to dominate education—but it’s tried and true, and it’s making a comeback. Though they may sound outdated or obscure, skillbased learning communities are everywhere. Look on our own campus for a glimpse: extracurricular groups from WilSkills to Juggleville to Café con Leche all foster community education in a smorgasbord of skill-specific topics. Meanwhile, just down the road at Legislative Plaza, Occupy Nashville has begun its own skillshare, giving everyone and anyone the opportunity to teach their practical skills and knowledge to the crowd. On a larger scale, Skillshare, Inc., a New York
City-based experimental company, has put power and resources behind skill-based education and launched public skillshare programs in cities across the United States and throughout the globe, where everyday people are teaching courses in bicycle maintenance, toymaking and fiction writing techniques daily. Skill-based learning is expanding for good reasons. First, skillshares are lovably pragmatic, so they’re especially appealing to average students who dislike the information overload presented in many traditional classrooms, most of it seemingly inapplicable to their daily lives. Not only can people choose what they wish to learn within skillshares, but the process of the education is simultaneously an application which reaps tangible results from learning experiences. Most of us at Vanderbilt, though, ended up here because we actually like academia—so what makes skillshares alluring to us? The philosophy behind a skillshare is totally different from the one backing a traditional classroom setting. In a skillshare, instead of simply listening to professors, we are all put in a position to teach one another, regardless of our degrees, our majors, or our backgrounds. Learning to see ourselves and our friends as teachers and communicators empowers us, and sustaining a skillshare that enables its participants to do new things makes us independent. That combination helps build communities which excel. When we teach each other things that matter, we begin to recognize our intrinsic value as a community and appreciate the lush array of interests we find in those around us. Whether organizational or simply among friends, skill-based education can give us new, useful perspectives now and help us build learning into our daily lives long after we’ve gotten our degrees. Learning is the most direct avenue to internalizing a deliberate lifestyle, because when we can educate ourselves about the things we wish to pursue, we become active and passionate. Learning skills from our friends gives us insights and hobbies more meaningful than the ones we’d gain from idling in front of reality shows or video games. In short, skill-based learning leads us to things that will actually fulfill us rather than simply keep us preoccupied. That’s why it’s important that we take the skillshare model and run with it, transforming our communities into thriving centers of intellectual wealth and treating our potential as individuals with the careful respect it deserves.
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educational system does a lot of things right, [but] it
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Orbis / Entertainment / October 2011
The Legacy Modern Business Icon Meghan O’Neill ASSOCIATE EDITOR
This year, we mourn the death of a major figure in personal computing, Steve Jobs. Though some claim that Jobs isn’t the god many make him out to be, he is actually a genius. First and foremost, his contribution to bringing a computer into the average American household cannot be understated. Without Jobs and Steve Wozniak, it may have taken Americans much longer to accept the concept of personal computers, and the modern technological landscape might look much different. I won’t say that Jobs was a revolutionary post-1980s. He didn’t invent the MP3 player or the tablet computer, or even the smartphone. And he didn’t design the iPod, iPad, and iPhone alone: there’s a reason Apple is a giant corporation with a huge Research and Development department. What Jobs and his team at Apple did was, in some sense, more important than that: he made technology user-friendly. I’ll admit that Windows is not, in general, a bad interface. And yes, switching from a PC to a Mac is very unsettling, initially. But you can’t deny that Macs have a much sleeker, easy-touse interface than PCs. If I “accidentally” click on the Safari button two, three, or fifty times, I don’t want fifty windows to pop up and freeze my computer like my PC would do, and Apple knows that. I want to click a button and be able to see all the windows I have open, and to switch between them quickly and easily, and Apple knows
that. I don’t need the gaming capacity of a PC or the ability to get between my interface and my computer for programming purposes. All I need, and want, is a computer that does the basics: plays my music, lets me surf the internet, stores my photos, and makes it easy for
me to manage my wired life. That’s exactly what Jobs and Apple have created for me, and for that I support them by spending my hard-earned cash on their products. Furthermore, Jobs guided Apple from the brink of bankruptcy back to profitability. His mind for good business led Apple to numerous profitable products, and under his guidance, their marketing became not only hugely prevalent, but also hugely enticing. He may not have been the technological revolutionary that some people want to make him out to be, but Steve Jobs was not just your average CEO. Even if he is only remembered for his phenomenal leadership and business decisions, he is an incredibly important figure.
Overhyped Tech Celeb
Jim Gillin STAFF WRITER
Steve Jobs is not the technological god that society popularizes him to be. Sure, we can mourn him briefly and forget about him, as is done with any celebrity death, but in the history books, Jobs
should be remembered for his early contributions to personal computing—not for all the iGeneration pop-computing hype that Apple has generated in the 21st century. Jobs is hailed as a visionary, some sort of superhero. The iPod, iPad, iPhone, and iMac are all revolutionary devices credited to Jobs, but I really don’t believe he deserves all the credit he receives. For one, a large amount of the success of these devices is attributable to cult status, and not toward genius or any actual device innovation. There were mp3 players before the iPod came out, but the cute commercials and product name were what really helped it gain prominence. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, and the iPad is really only getting the attention
that it is because, by now, people are used to clamoring over every ridiculous gadget that Jobs reveals at his speeches. What’s the innovation here, cutting a laptop in half? Tablet computers have existed for a while. No, Jobs’ real credit shouldn’t be in the invention of these devices, but in the cult-like following he has gained for Apple products. Jobs was evidently a rash, temperamental manager who was difficult to get along with. Many Apple employees spoke out about the fear that Jobs inspired in them; it was a joke, though apparently not too farfetched, that an Apple employee didn’t want to get stuck in an elevator with Jobs, because he or she might not have a job when the doors opened. Jobs also temporarily eliminated corporate philanthropy by Apple upon his return in 1997. So why mourn this man? The successes of Apple’s products in recent years are due to the hard work of the engineers who crammed so many chips into so little space, and the marketers who made them look pretty and lured people into desiring them. What Jobs did was announce the products at conventions and expos, demonstrating how cool they were and emphasizing their novelty. I believe Apple will suffer only from the loss of his public appearances, and not from his contributions to the company. Truly, Steve Jobs is not the hero of modern computing as he is often described. His work designing and popularizing the Macintosh personal computer back in the 1980s deserves commendation, but that’s not why he is being remembered—so I have no problem letting Jobs go.