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Counterpoint APRIL 2008 VOLUME 31 / ISSUE 6

THE MIT/WELLESLEY JOURNAL OF CAMPUS LIFE

The Mental Health Issue Considering the campus mental health crisis p11

[also inside: the biggest military blunder of the War in Afghanistan; exploring D.C. in pictures]


E D I TO R I A L S TA F F Editors in Chief

Managing Editor

Edward Summers MIT ’08 Kara Hadge WC ’08 Kristina Costa WC ’09 Marion Johnson WC ’09

Counterpoint The MIT/Wellesley Journal of Campus Life April 2008 Volume 31 / Issue 6

D E S I G N S TA F F Layout

Artistic Director

Kristina Costa WC ’09 Hailey Huget WC ’10 Caroline Sun WC ’11 Julie Camarda WC ’08

B U S I N E S S S TA F F Advisor Treasurers

Rebecca Faery MIT F Katie Gosling WC ’10 Sandy Naing WC ’09

Business Manager Publicity

p o l i t i c s LIZ KIM

S TA F F W R I T E R S

SPECIAL FEATURE

m e n t a l

SARIKA NARULA

11 The Stress Factor

MEHROZ BAIG

12 A Late Night Lifeline

W EL LESLEY CO NTR IB UTO RS Elana Altman ’11, Mehroz Baig ’08, Alexandra Cahill ’11, May Chen ’10, Caitlin Contag ’11, Megan Cunniff ’11, Rayla Heide ’10, Cammie Lewis ’09, Elizabeth Pan ’11, Jane Repetti ’09, Caroline Sun ’11, Minying Tan ’08, Anna Prendella ’11, Christina Tran ’11, Alyssa Torres ’09, Shu-Yen Wei ’11, Melissa Woods ’08

Nightline lends an ear when things get tough. VERONICA COLE

13 The Entitlement Culture

ALEX CAHILL

16 Finding a Safe Space

Do extensions help students with mental illness?

OMHA fights the stigma surrounding mental illness. ANONYMOUS

17 Backward from 500 A diagnosis of OCD can be as complex as the disease is.

f e a t u r e s CHRISTINA TRAN

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EB BARTELS

19 E.B. in D.C.

TR U S TE ES

Matt Burns MIT ’05, Brian Dunagan MIT ’03, Minying Tan WC ’08, Vivi Vasudevan MIT ’07

Cover photos / EB Bartels WC ‘10

r e g u l a r s THE EDITORS

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SUB SCR IPTIO N S One year’s subscription: $25. Send checks and mailing address to:

Counterpoint, MIT Room W20-443 77 Mass. Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139 Counterpoint is funded in part by the MIT Undergraduate Association Financial Board and by the Wellesley Senate. MIT and Wellesley are not responsible for the content of Counterpoint. Counterpoint thanks its departmental sponsors at Wellesley: Middle Eastern Studies, Peace and Justice Studies, Art, Philosophy, and Africana Studies; and at MIT: Writing & Humanistic Studies.

iWaste What happens to a discarded computer?

Photo essay kicker

SUB M IS SIO N S Counterpoint welcomes all submissions of articles and letters. Email submissions to counterpoint@mit.edu. Counterpoint encourages cooperation between writers and editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

h e a l t h

Want to de-stress? Get some rest!

M I T C O N T R I B U TO R S Kevin DiGenova ’07, Ken Haggerty ’11, Kenneth Hu G, Priyadarshi Panda G, Durga Prasad Pandey G, Vivi Vasudevan ’07, Mike Yee ’08

Weapons, Strategy and War U.S. carpet bombing has left Afghanistan unstable.

Rayla Heide WC ’10 Jenny Kim WC ’08 Jane Repetti WC ‘09

E.B. Bartels WC ’10, Julie Camarda WC ’08, Veronica Cole WC ’09, Kristina Costa WC ’09, MaCherie Edwards WC ’11, Kara Hadge WC ’08, Ouqi Jiang MIT ’08, Marion Johnson WC ’09, Ami Li WC ’10, Jenny Kim ’08, Itamar Kimchi MIT ’08, Sarika Narula WC ’11, Edward Summers MIT ’08, Barrett Strickland MIT ’08

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AMI LI

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/etc About this special edition of Counterpoint.

Agenda Events at MIT, Wellesley, and in Boston for the month.

ANNA PRENDELLA

22 Last Page The frat party survival guide.

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Mens Sana in Corpore Sano Introducing the Mental Health Issue

{ by the editors}

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he Romans had the right idea in striving for “mens sana in corpore sano”: a healthy mind in a healthy body. Everyone has most likely heard those words at some point in their education, but how many of us are actually living up to them? You can probably count the ways in which you fail to meet the Romans’ standard of life by recalling the number of times you have pulled an all-nighter to finish an assignment; subsisted on pizza and soda to get through days of studying for finals; spent hours sitting in the same chair staring at the same computer screen or taken up chain-smoking or another unhealthy addiction to temper your stress. Everyone deals with the anxieties of college life differently; few of us stop to think about how healthily we are living. All that matters is that our 4

work gets turned in, roughly on time, and the professors like it well enough to give us good grades so we can get into graduate school or find highpaying jobs, right? And maybe learn a little along the way, too, of course. But have you ever felt that your coping mechanisms just weren’t working? Suddenly, pizza and Red Bull aren’t enough to pull you through that allnighter. In fact, you can’t even get out of bed in the morning—or the afternoon, or the evening. You miss classes and social engagements alike because you have panic attacks, or you have fallen into a deep depression. Perhaps your worries about gaining the “freshman 15” have morphed into an eating disorder. Somehow, you just aren’t the person you used to be. What do you tell your friends? “I can’t go out to

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dinner with you…because I’m not eating.” What do you tell your professors? “Sorry, I needed that extension because I’m depressed, and my medication isn’t helping me.” It seems unlikely that most people would feel comfortable being so candid. From the hectic, high-pressured lifestyles many students lead at Wellesley and MIT, it would appear that mental health is not a high priority. Societal stigmas regarding mental illness pervade campuses just as easily as they do the rest of the world, and our feelings of youthful invulnerability do not make us immune to mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 25 percent of the U.S. population has a depressive episode before the age of 24 and almost half of all college students experience debilitating feelings of depression. Suicide is the third highest cause of death among those aged 15 to 24, but the second highest cause of death among college students, according to the APA. Eating disorders often begin during high school or college. More young people who have been diagnosed with mental illness in high school are able to attend college than ever before, but have colleges’ resources risen to the challenge of helping them succeed once they are there? In this issue, Counterpoint’s writers take a look at just a few sides of mental health issues as they affect members of the MIT and Wellesley College communities. Our treatment of the subject can hardly do it justice; despite the services currently offered on college campuses, both universities and society at large have a long way to go before the stigmas surrounding mental health will yield to allow for truly open discussion on the subject. Herein lie our attempts to get the discussion going. We hope you will continue it: let us know what you think about mental health at MIT and Wellesley by writing a letter to the editors at counterpoint@mit.edu. -- The Editors

Staff Photo / EB Bartels ‘10

/ E TC


Agenda CELEBRATIONS Wellesley: 5/9 All Day Inauguration of H. Kim Bottomly The inauguration of H. Kim Bottomly, the 13th president of Wellesley College, will occur on May 9th, with inaugural activities starting the night of May 8th. Activities include the ceremony, various celebrations of the achievements of women in the sciences, a community picnic, and fireworks over Lake Waban. For more information visit http://www.wellesley.edu/ inauguration. Houghton Memorial Chapel, Jewett Auditorium, Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center, Severance Green MIT: Fri. & Sat. 5/2 & 5/3 5:00 pm Steer Roast MIT’s largest party and alumni event, located in the Senior Haus courtyard. Pit lighting is at 5:00, the bands start at 8:00. This event is open to MIT students with valid ID, alumni, and those on the guestlist only. Senior House

PERFORMANCES Wellesley: Thurs. 4/10 at 7:00 pm; Fri. 4/11 at 8:00 pm; Sat. 4/12 at 2:00 & 8:00 pm; Sun. 4/13 at 2:00 & 7:00 pm Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Wellesley College Upstage presents Tom Stoppard’s seminal play about two minor characters in Hamlet elevated to the main stage with the action of Hamlet going on in the background. Free to Wellesley/ MIT/Olin, $10/$5 all other adults/students Barstow Stage, Alumnae Hall Wellesley: Fri. 4/11 8:00 – 9:30 pm Blue Notes Spring Teaser Catch an a cappella concert tonight with the Wellesley College Blue Notes

April 2008 with special guests the Wheaton College Gentlemen Callers. See newbies, oldies, and stick around for the unveiling of the new CD title! Pre-order CDs, set to be released at the May 3 concert. Free and open to the public. Anderson Forum, Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. Wellesley: Mon. 4/21 8:00 pm Wellesley College Spring Concert: Sean Kingston Continue Spring Week festivities with a concert featuring Sean Kingston! Openers include Wellesley College FreeStyle and DJ Felix. Doors are at 8:00 and to reserve off-campus tickets (all non-Wellesley), email SpringConcert@wellesley.edu. MIT: Fri 4/25 8:00 pm Third Eye Blind featuring opening act Howie Day MIT’s Spring Week concert is Third Eye Blind with special guest Howie Day. Presale tickets are available for MIT students for $12 until April 24th and are $15 at the door. Pre-sale tickets for all other local college students are $18 until April 24th and $21 at the door. To order tickets online, go to http://web.mit.edu/spring. Johnson Athletic Center Wellesley: 4/26 7:30 pm Allure: Ethos’ 26th Annual Fashion Show Ethos’ annual fashion show raises money for the Kathleen Daly Scholarship fund and the American Asthma Association. Come and experience this dynamic show, showcasing fashions from the hottest stores, designers from the greater Boston area and performances! Doors open at 7:00, Show starts at 7:30 with afterparty to follow in Tishman Commons. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information contact skatwiwa@ wellesley.edu. Keohane Sports Center

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MIT: Fri. – Sun. & Thurs. – Sat, 5/2 & 5/3, 5/8 & 5/9 at 8:00 pm. 5/4 & 5/10 at 2:00 pm Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse The MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players present their last production of the spring, which tells the tale of a family of noblemen cursed to live a life of crime. The event is open to the general public and costs $12, $10 MIT community; $8 other students, senior citizens and children; $6 MIT students. For more information, go to http://web.mit.edu/gsp/www/ Archive/2008iap_coxbox/. W20, Sala de Puerto Rico

LITERARY MIT: Mon. 4/14 5:15 – 7:00 pm CDD Forum, “Modernizing Beijing: Formal and Social Transformation from 1900 to 2008” Liang Zhao, lecturer DUSP and Project Director of Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, will explore the connections and repercussions between the old and new elements of urban Beijing. It interprets Beijing’s modernization process by examining the urban development at city, district and building levels. Encompassing Beijing’s urban development over the past 100 years, and will argue that despite the socioeconomic turmoil and physical alteration the city has undergone, its urban transformation represents consistent rethinking of the path toward modernization. Open to MIT students only. 10-485 Wellesley: Tues. 4/15 4:30 – 6:30 pm Domna Stanton Lecture: Charlotte Brunch Charlotte Bunch is the executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. The topic of her lecture is Taking Stock: Feminism and 60 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Collins Cinema 5


Wellesley: Thurs. 4/17 5:00 – 6:30 pm Poetry Reading: Frank Bidart Acclaimed poet and Wellesley College professor Frank Bidart reads from his new book, Watching the Spring Festival. Collins Cinema Wellesley: 4/27 2:00 – 3:30 pm Mary Beth Cahill The campaign manager of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign will speak on the upcoming election. Free and open to the public. Tishman Commons, Lulu Wang Chow Campus Center

EXHIBITIONS Wellesley: Wed. 4/9 5-8:30 pm Davis After Dark Celebrate the opening of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center’s spring exhibitions, Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian and Upton Pyne: The Photography of Jem Southem (previewed in the previ-

Online Calendars: https://calendar.wellesley.edu/wv3public http://events.mit.edu

ous issue of Counterpoint) There will be food and crafts, lectures by museum curators, and performs by Wellesley College FreeStyle and the MIT Logarhythms a cappella. Free and open to the public. Davis Museum and Plaze MIT: Mondays 4/13, 4/20, 4/27, 5/5 Trivia Night @ The Thirsty Ear Pub Show off your brains and compete for some of the best prizes in town including movie tickets and restaurant gift certificates! The Thirsty Ear Pub is located in the basement of Ashdown House. Enter through the courtyard. Must be over 21-proper ID required. This event is open to MIT students only. MIT: Fri. – Sun. 4/11 – 4/13 7:00 – 10:00 pm European Short Film Festival 2008 MIT’s 4th European Short Film Festival offers a unique glimpse into the most recent short-film productions from Europe, with a special focus on productions from European film schools and award-winning films from recent Festivals in Europe. Topics for this year’s festival include: Migration, Anxiety, Media Culture, Food (Culture), Toys and Games. All films have English subtitles. For more

Events listed here are subject to change. Readers are advised to check with organizers ahead of schedule.

Submitting an Event to Agenda: Send title, date, time, duration, location, brief synopsis, organizers/ sponsors, frequency of event (if applicable), contact information and admission and ticketing requirements to: cptevents@gmail.com Promotional pictures (of at least 200 dpi resolution) strongly encouraged but not required.

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information, visit the web site: http:// web.mit.edu/shortfilm/. This event is free and open to the general public. 32-123, Stata Center MIT: Sun. 4/20 9:00 am – 2:00 pm Swapfest MIT’s monthly high-tech, computer, electronics and ham radio flea market. Buy, sell or swap all things nerdly. Held the third Sunday of each month, April thru October. Rain or shine covered space is available for all sellers. Sellers, call 617-253-3776 (9-5) for more information. For more information, visit the web site: http://www.swapfest.us. The event is open to the general public and costs $5, or $4 with MIT or Harvard ID. Albany St. Garage and adjacent lot, on Albany St. between Mass. Ave. and Main St., Cambridge. MIT: Mon. 4/28 7:00 – 10:00 pm CMS Media Spectacle The Comparative Media Studies Program’s annual salute to Chris Pomiecko and the event he founded which showcases the finest film and video work of MIT students, staff and faculty. Free and open to the public. 32-155


Weapons, Strategy and War How the U.S. policy of carpet-bombing is losing the war in Afghanistan

{ by liz kim}

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t’s been nearly seven years since the United States invaded the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and four since President Bush declared the campaign to be a victory. In those seven years we also invaded Iraq, threatened to invade Iran, got into a trade scuffle with China over underwear and reelected the worst president America has ever had. Seven years after invading Af-

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on the brink of collapse and by all accounts, we have failed miserably. Why? The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is considered to be less stable now than it was in 2001 when it was first invaded, and the majority of Afghani citizens perceive Hamid Karzai to be a puppet of the United States. Major causes of public discontent with President Karzai are his seeming inability to provide ba-

Afghanistan or the consequent military and political mistakes we have made, but carpet bombing is a particular tactic that warrants our attention and anger. In the first six months of 2007 over 300 Afghani civilians were killed by coalition forces, with the vast majority of these casualties resulting from the use of heavy airpower. Compare that to the 486 TOTAL American causalities from the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom till now. Why are so many civilians being killed? Because of reductions in ground troop levels in Afghanistan, international forces rely on U.S. heavy airpower to kill insurgents. B-52 bombers drop loads of bombs to decimate entire villages in the hopes of killing a few insurgents. This tactic is commonly known as “carpet bombing,” defined by the Department of Defense as “the progressive distribution of a mass bomb load upon an area defined by designated boundaries, in such manner as to inflict damage to all portions thereof.” The areas being defined consist

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POLITICS

For every insurgent that is killed in a bombing raid, we kill several civilians, and for every civilian we kill, we create several insurgents. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that we are creating more insurgents than we’re killing and that there is a reason why Afghanistan is growing more unstable every day.

ghanistan, Osama bin Laden is still on the run; Hamid Karzai is about to be ousted by his own parliament; the Taliban has retaken over half the country and U.S. and coalition forces are using brutal bombing tactics that have turned the Afghanis against us. Afghanistan is

sic social services for the Afghani people, rampant corruption in the government and the rising civilian death toll not as a result of Taliban attacks, but of American and NATO bombing campaigns. This article can hardly cover all the problems with our initial invasion of

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of Afghani villages and densely populated towns, and the damage is being inflicted on innocent civilians rather than combatants. Beyond causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians, the bombing campaigns literally destroy entire villages and leave thousands homeless and 7


with no material possessions. Some may ask if the bombing can be justified if it at least solves the “terrorist problem.” If we’re killing enough al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents, it has to be worth a few villages right? To clarify, we’re not “hunting terrorists” in Afghanistan, we’re trying to put down an insurgency. Insurgents are not the same thing as terrorists. Furthermore, the American bombing campaign is not only failing to eradicate the insurgency, it’s fueling it. According to the Senlis Council, a security and development policy group, carpet bombing is the best form of propaganda the Taliban could have wished for. Americans are dropping bombs on the heads of those we need to support us, in the name of creating a state that we ourselves are destroying. For every insurgent that is killed in a bombing raid, we kill several civilians, and for every civilian we kill, we create several insurgents. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that we are creating more insurgents than we’re killing and that there is a reason why Afghanistan is growing more unstable every day. Bombing raids provide insurgents with recruiting fodder and justify the insurgency in the eyes of ordinary Afghani citizens. In addition to fueling the insurgency, there is substantial evidence that the intelligence on which we base our bombing raids is often wrong. U.S. air “support” in coalition missions has killed British soldiers by mistake. There is also evidence that Afghani warlords send false intelligence to coalition forces in order to get back at rival warlords. On a political level, the bombing campaigns have made President Karzai look powerless. Karzai has pleaded repeatedly with both NATO and American commanders to cease the bombing, but he has been unable to change American policy. For all our talk of having established a sovereign democratic nation, Afghanistan’s sovereignty is barely existent, and (the absence of ) Afghani democracy is another story entirely. Some analysts have proposed a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan as a poten8

tial solution to the problem. A status of forces agreement (SOFA) is a bilateral executive treaty that establishes the conditions under which a foreign army can operate in a sovereign country. Such an agreement would limit the bombing and require greater cooperation and coordination between the Afghani government and international forces. While it is unclear that a SOFA would stop the imminent collapse of Afghanistan, it would at the very least provide the Afghani people some say in how foreign troops operate in their country. It would be unfair to the U.S. military to ignore the other reasons why bombing is used so heavily in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a large country and current military overstretch has made it nearly impossible for us to maintain enough ground troops in Afghanistan to replace bombing missions with ground attacks. Taliban insurgents are hardly innocent either: they intentionally hide in urban areas in order to provoke American attacks and increase support for the insurgency. It would be both too easy and incorrect to blame the military for being over eager in their use of American air power in Afghanistan and to chalk up civilian casualties to flawed military strategies. So whom do we blame? Understanding why we use bombs so carelessly in Afghanistan requires a deeper look at how we, as a nation, have prioritized our “security” over the

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lives of citizens of other nations. Anthony Burke, a scholar of international relations, argues that the bombing in Afghanistan exemplifies the strategic calculation of lives of Afghani civilians as less important than the lives of American forces. This calculation has roots both in American exceptionalism as well as in cultural imperialism. In a study conducted by the Project on Defense Alternatives, military analyst Carl Conetta concludes that despite the fact that the U.S. flew 64% fewer sorties over Afghanistan than NATO did in Kosovo, it has caused two to three times more direct civilian deaths. According to Edward Herman, a recognized media analyst, CNN ordered its reporters to stress that the American military was trying its best to minimize civilian casualties and to mention the 9/11 victims whenever they had to cover civilian deaths. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but it is evident that our perceptions of the war in Afghanistan are being mediated by a larger security structure that emphasizes the need to secure America at any cost. What is happening in Afghanistan has slipped off our radar, and it’s about time we remember the first war we started in the name of fighting terror.

Liz Kim ’09 (ekim3@wellesley.edu) wishes she could bend it like Beckham.


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iWaste The unknown dangers of discarding old technology

Discarded computer hardware and peripherals boxed up for disposal.

Staff Photo / Christina Tran WC ’11

{ by christina tran}

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he giant cardboard cartons haphazardly filled with monitors, keyboards, hard drives and computer towers were hard to miss. Four of the boxes sat in a line by one set of doors exiting Wellesley’s Science Center, resting on wooden pallets, clearly ready for removal. A friend of mine, passing by and spotting the components of some iMac G4s, was intrigued, so she set about asking people in the technology administration departments 10

if she could purchase a used machine from the school. The response was no, due to legal restrictions that prohibited reselling the computers and the fact that the computers were outdated anyway. It was cheaper to replace them, rather than maintain them. Every time I walked by the boxes to get to class, I marveled at the mountains of wires and plastic. It just seemed like such a waste, and where would it end up? The United States creates two mil-

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lion tons of used consumer electronics per year. With all of the pressure to adopt environmentally conscious attitudes, it’s easy to feel like a good citizen by finding recycling options for outdated items, such as the perfectly fine iPods and cell phones some people toss out because they just have to have an iPhone (really, you can’t just superglue your iPod and cell phone together and call it a day?). It’s clear to see how new technological developments and excellent marketing make way for the consumer culture we have today, encouraging everyone to give up used gadgets for the Next Big Thing. However, when you call for an old clunky computer monitor to be picked up or drop off last year’s cell phone in a recycling bin, you shouldn’t be too certain of where they end up. Actually, a frightening percentage of intended electronic recyclables is increasingly becoming what is known as “e-waste.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 15 to 20 percent of America’s electronic products are recycled. That leaves a huge chunk of products unaccounted for, which raises the question of where they all actually go – and who actually deals with them. The first widely circulated report of the controversy appeared in February 2002 and was published by the Basel Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC). It revealed the true destination of the tech waste: it was being exported internationally to developing and rural areas in or around places such as Bangalore, India, and Guiyu, China, the largest known e-waste dumpsite on the planet. This overseas transfer costs less than the price of processing the waste domestically, with the added bonus of inexpensive sorting and extraction labor provided by locals vying for employment. Exported waste heaps create landfills out of neighborhoods, contaminate rivers and water sources with lead and introduce countless toxins and chemicals into the environment and air that are directly linked to increases in cancer and health


issues in villages that are already poor and struggling. The laborers either burn or smash the waste to compact it, which releases even more poisons into their surroundings, or dismantle products to extract valuable parts and metals such as copper and gold that can be reprocessed. In most cases, they are provided with no protective gear and dismal wages, as low as $1.50 a day, on average. It all gives new meaning to the noble concept of recycling. Despite numerous public investigations into these situations, the e-waste export business still continues. In fact, it was exposed that impoverished villagers overseas aren’t the only people being capitalized. A SVTC report revealed that Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR), a U.S. company that provides labor opportunities in prisons to develop job skills, has been exploiting inmates to essentially do the same work as the workers in China or India. At the Atwater Prison facility in Atwater, California, investigators found that inmates under the program were ordered to smash cathode ray tubes around to extract the glass, or pick apart computer pieces with their bare hands. Similar health ailments have developed, including serious lung problems. On the domestic front, UNICOR, as a government establishment, maintains that its policies and procedures are acceptable and continues to run its programs. Internationally, there is no definite law in the U.S. that prohibits e-waste exportation, but it shouldn’t be an unusual idea, especially since the European Union and other countries such as Japan have adopted such legislation. The Basel Convention, which became effective in 1992, is a treaty that calls for attention to international toxic trade and discourages its movement to developing countries. The United States is one of the few countries that have yet to ratify it and even appears on the Basel Action Network’s Hall of Shame. That’s only a little embarrassing. Maybe you can’t stalk your e-recycling company’s ships to China and bust them on the spot, but you can make an

effort to minimize your e-waste trail with a little bit of effort. For example, Apple refurbishes and resells the old Macs that people send back to the company instead of just disposing of them and claims on its website that none of the products sent to their company are exported overseas. HP offers a comparable take-back program, as well. In getting rid of your other electronics, research your options and avoid recycling companies such as UNICOR. There also needs to be a greater general resistance to the disposableproduct turnover mentality that is embedded in our culture. In the realm of technology, when new innovations are emerging every day, consumers need to stop scrapping their functioning old goods for something shinier, faster and—let’s face it – often only slightly better. Even then, there are still many possibilities for what some may call old technology, such as giving them to inner-city schoolchildren or to those developing countries we inevitably pass our tech goodies to anyway. Perhaps we’re moving so quickly ahead with all of our eager advances that we can’t slow down to look over our shoulders and take care of what we leave behind.

Christina Tran ’11 (ctran@wellesley.edu) is the mega macdaddy of ecology.

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Interesting links Original Feburary 2002 BAN report concerning e-waste exports: http://www.ban.org/E-waste/ technotrashfinalcomp.pdf Companies that have pledged clean recycling services: http://www.computertakeback. com/responsible_recycling/ Informative video message about waste: http://www.storyofstuff.com UNICOR’s recycling site: http://www.unicor.gov/recycling/ SVTC report about UNICOR: http://www.etoxics.org/site/ DocServer/ToxicSweatshops. pdf?docID=321 Basel Action Network: http://www.ban.org E-waste exportation photos: http://www.ban.org/photogallery/index.html

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The Stress Factor How much have you slept lately? { by sarika narula}

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f you attend Wellesley or MIT, chances are you have firsthand experience with stress (frequently even on a daily basis). But most people who experience stress don’t realize how much they can do to combat stress, or how many mental problems it can cause. Especially as college students who are surrounded by stress, it is surprising how many of us dismiss stress as a necessary part of our lives that we cannot decrease. Stress is twofold: there is good stress (called eustress) that makes you push yourself and do your best, but there is also the bad kind (distress), the kind that is self-paralyzing or causes anxiety. So many factors (both external and internal) lead to distress, and some can be controlled. Most of the internal factors of stress are mental or psychological, such as pessimism, self-criticism, unrealistic expectations and many more. In other cases, it may just be that your personality is more prone to stress; for example, if you are a perfectionist or a workaholic, you are more likely to stress yourself out for reasons other people would consider irrational. Though some stressors are external, such as your physical environment and major life changes that are out of your control, the internal stressors are those that actually cause most problems and need the most attention. One of the most common stressors is sleep deprivation, an internal stressor that can be dealt with. How many times have you sacrificed sleep to finish an annoying lab report or essay, cram for a test or even simply to hang out with your friends, only to wake up the next morning feeling cranky and panicked about the remaining work you have? For most people I know, 12

that number is too high to count (or too painful to recall). Yet according to Dr. Richard Kadison of Harvard University, sleep is just about the most important thing you can do to curb stress and prevent mental illnesses from cropping up. During his lecture “Mental Health Across Colleges” at Wellesley College on March 4, Dr. Kadison noted with concern that most college students average 6.2 hours of sleep per night, less than the recommended eight hours (though some people need even more than that!). Some students would argue that they go to sleep late some weekends (say 4 a.m.) but wake up at noon, guaranteeing them the magical eight hours. The catch here, however, is that sleeping on a 4 a.m. – 12 p.m. schedule feels to your body exactly like “flying to Europe every weekend,” says Dr. Kadison. Dealing with jet lag every seven days does not sound like a fun experience – even though you may be doing something shockingly similar. Although sleep patterns vary with each individual, most adults start feeling sleepy at 11 at night, which is the ideal time for them to sleep. Not only does getting enough sleep feel physically amazing in helping to reduce stress, but long term it also makes a difference. Dr. Kadison revealed that sleep deprivation can trigger bipolar disorder and result in a greater likelihood of depression, so those rare hours of sleep are more precious than you probably thought. You’d also better keep off the roads if you haven’t been sleeping enough—people who are sleep deprived may drive worse than drunk drivers! Getting more sleep may sound like an external factor in decreasing stress, but

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because it is a conscious decision that you can change, it is actually an internal factor and can be controlled by each individual. Similarly, altering your outlook towards stressful situations will help immensely. Stress can be a psychological issue in that your anxiety consumes you, while the problem is not really that overwhelming. In that case, try to view your problems as opportunities to learn, while keeping a sense of humor about life. Sleep, however, is not the only way to decrease stress and worry in your life: exercise, constantly cited as an excellent stress-buster (think of all those endorphins), is also the most efficient anti-depressant. Regular exercise can actually improve your sleep, increase your feelings of capability and possibly even improve your academic performance, so cutting exercise out of your life is a mistake. Yes, we’re all stressed. Yes, we tend to lose sleep and often feel like there is not enough time in the day to finish everything. But habitually pulling all-nighters or mentally criticizing yourself is both physically and mentally detrimental. Making sleep a priority does not need to affect your academic life, and vocalizing your stress to those around you can help relieve tension. So next time you think about pulling an all-nighter, consider alternatives as well as the consequences. Take a deep breath and walk around campus. Or just get some sleep instead!

To find out more or to get help dealing with stress, visit these websites: •http://stress.about.com/od/ fearandstres1/a/anxiety.htm www.wellesley.edu/ •http://web.mit.edu/counsel/ www/

Sarika Narula ‘11 (snarula@wellesley.edu) is on the midnight train to Georgia.


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A Late Night Lifeline Talking with MIT’s Nightline { by mehroz baig}

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to keep his or her silence. Most staffers only tell a handful of people about their involvement with the nightly service. “It’s a little weird to have so few people know this about you,” confided Micah. Staffers are free to put their experience on resumes and talk about their time with Nightline, as long as caller confidentiality is not compromised. The entire focus is on the calls Nightline gets and the shared experience of the entire staff. So I wonder: who is on the other side of the phone line when someone calls Nightline? Callers know nothing about their confidants expect what they can tell from their voices. Micah’s is a cautious voice, a slow, smooth-talking radio voice, I’d say. But not like one of those annoying talk show hosts out to raise trouble. At the same time, however, Micah doesn’t sound like a DJ who’s asleep on the job either. He sounds attentive and thoughtful. The rest is up to your imagination: Micah may have brown hair, or maybe he’s a blond, or a redhead, take your pick. Perhaps he’s a tall guy and maybe we’ll give him glasses. You cannot know for sure, but all that matters for Nightline’s purpose is that he is another human being available to talk to you when you need it. Like any human being, Micah has his likes and dislikes: “I like to cook,” Micah told me, and “I’ve gotten quite fond of Babybel cheeses, you know, the ones with the wax?” His favorite color is “bluish-green,” not teal, but specifically

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ightline, a student-run help line at MIT established in 1978 fully functions every day of the term, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The idea is pretty simple: you can call Nightline during their operating hours and talk to either a male or female staffer about anything that is bothering you. “Micah,” who gave me false name to conceal his real identity, joined Nightline almost two years ago when he saw a poster with the slogan, “People say men don’t listen. Prove them wrong.” Callers’ issues vary tremendously, as Micah pointed out, “There’s anything from ‘I hate my TA’ to relationship problems to serious issues.” Whatever the issue is, the point is that “We’re a listening ear for people.” He is quick to mention, however, that Nightline is not in any

So I wonder: who is on the other side of the phone when someone calls Nightline?

way a mental health service. The fiveweek training for staff provides them with skills to listen and to react under a crisis—they do not replace medical help. Micah, a senior at MIT who is now a coordinator for Nightline sounds like any other guy. I personally have never seen him nor do I know his real name. Confidentiality is an integral part of Nightline and all staff members and all callers remain, “totally anonymous.” With that comes the responsibility for each staffer

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“bluish-green.” There was much that Micah could not divulge, for the sole reason that he wants to keep his identity a secret. He admitted to “being a big fan of soccer” but we had no discussions about specific teams he roots for. There were many questions I asked to which he responded, “I’d prefer not to answer that.” But it’s all part of the commitment he’s made. He did admit, “It’s a little nerve-wracking the first time [you are on-call]. But you get used to it.” For the very reason that Nightline staffers cannot anonymously call Nightline itself, the staff has support group meetings. “Essentially, we talk about what’s been going on in our lives; it’s a place we can vent and discuss any troubles we’ve been having.” Ultimately, whoever picks up the phone genuinely believes in what Nightline does. Nightline celebrates its 30th anniversary this spring and not only serves as a forum for listening, but for information. People can call about bus schedules, phone numbers for offices or the nearest pizza place, or the Mets score. “Some people have a game of stump-the-Nightline,” Micah pointed out. “Nightline is a very laid-back thing,” he said, and the most important concern for all those working there is that “people [are] totally comfortable calling [us].” It’s the personal connection that is important to the staff. Their reason for being the voice on the other side is to listen, to provide comfort when you need it. So whether you imagine a blue-eyed Micah answering your call or a freckled Micah with hazel eyes, remember that he and his staff have a solid grasp of the caller’s perspective. “I can think back and imagine times in my life where this kind of service would have been really helpful. I’m glad I’m a part of it. I’m glad I can help people.” For Nightline, all it takes to help another person is answering a ringing phone.

Mehroz Baig ‘08 (mbaig@wellesley.edu) is 8-67-5-3-0-9. 13


M E N TA L H E A LT H

The Entitlement Culture Professors and students weigh in on the practice of granting informal extensions

Staff Photo / EB Bartels WC ‘10

{ by veronica cole}

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don’t have a planner, but if I did, I can imagine what it would look like. I probably wouldn’t write down the birthdays of my friends or the parties I plan on attending; I can use Facebook for those. Instead, this planner would probably be full of the myriad academic commitments I have: the papers I have to turn in, the tests I have to take, the projects I haven’t started yet. I suspect this is how the planners of most Wellesley and MIT students would look. After all, isn’t that what college is all about? Aren’t we here

to do more work than we feel is even remotely possible to complete in four years and somehow come out of it all prepared to tackle the real world? If this is the plan – to dutifully complete all of that work our parents pay for us to do every year – serious illness is something that could throw a wrench right into it. There are many illnesses (we might first think of mono, but –lest we forget– there are infinitely worse diseases out there) that could sneak up on any college student without notice; after all,

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bad things could happen to anyone. If a student were to experience any serious illness, however, it would seem only fair for her academic institution to accommodate her by providing extensions, extra help and whatever other resources she needed to continue to succeed academically. But if the college intends to apply such a plan to students suffering from serious illnesses, it must look at all serious illnesses. This includes a type that is frequently overlooked: mental illness. Acute or chronic mental illnesses can 9


throw a student into a set of circumstances that run completely perpendicular to a productive academic life. But how can the college’s academic authorities take students’ mental illnesses into account when deciding how – or in some cases, whether – to accommodate them? The issue of extensions and excused incompletes can be dealt with a few ways. The most formal process is probably requesting an excused incomplete from the Academic Review Board at Wellesley. (See the sidebar for more information on the official policy.) Presumably, the Board expects that any student with a legitimate mental health issue should have documentation of his or her diagnosis and treatment. This seems reasonable: if someone is experiencing psychological issues that are so severe as to completely prohibit them from turning in work on time, one hopes that they would seek help – either while the prohibitive episode or

circumstance is occurring or, even better, ahead of time. But what about when a student needs an extension on an assignment during the course of the semester? In this case, students probably have to take advantage of a less formal approach: asking a professor for an extension. One can imagine how the lack of formality of this type of action could put professors in an incredibly difficult situation: how do they decide whether a student’s reason for asking for an extension is legitimate? Though it seems to vary from professor to professor, there appears to be a sense on campus that severe mental illness, which actually warrants extensions, speaks for itself. “Actual mental health extensions tend not to be asked for but given,” explained one student. “You talk to the professor after the fact. You can’t predict that you’re going to have a panic attack and say, ‘Oh,

As far as what’s on the books, the official policies on extensions and incompletes – listed under Article V and Article VI, Section 4, of the Articles of Government of the Academic Review Board of Wellesley College– provide a substantial amount of detail on the protocol a student seeking accommodations needs to follow. If a student needs to apply for an excused incomplete at the end of the semester, he or she should notify his or her Class Dean within 24 hours of the missed work, and submit “a written explanation and supporting documents” within two weeks. But what’s far less transparent are the circumstances that actually warrant an excused incomplete. Section 4 of Article VI states that “dire emergency or illness” constitutes a reason for being granted an excuse for an incomplete grade. And the nature of the circumstance leading to the request of the incomplete is crucial – Article V states that if the student “fails to make an adequate explanation (dire or serious illness) within the time specified, the Academic Review Board will treat the case as unexcused incomplete work.” Though it is clearly critical that certain requirements must be met by the student’s circumstances and documentation thereof, it is not clear what they are. How dire must the emergency or illness be? Must it be the case that the student’s circumstances are so prohibitive that the paper or test at hand represents the very least of their worries? 14

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Professor, I’m probably not going to be handing that in.’” However, it seems plausible that this isn’t always the case – that even the most severe mental issues could go unnoticed, for one reason among others: mental illness is something that is difficult to discuss, particularly for those experiencing it. “You should tell the professor at the beginning of the semester,” she said, “but then again, if you have a mental illness, do you really want to tell people?” When a student is dealing with an individual professor, instead of petitioning for an excused incomplete requiring documentation, she could be forced to address the problem face-to-face, by telling the professor personally. Doing so could be so stressful that a student might hesitate to tell even the most understanding professor about her circumstances until it’s necessary, which is often too late. Thus, all of these concerns – the fear of judgment by a professor, the stress and awkwardness associated with talking about mental health, the difficulties of obtaining documentation when it is required – beg the question: are mental health extensions underused, because those who truly need them are unable to ask? On the other side of the coin, however, some students have expressed concern that extensions for reasons of mental health are, in fact, used too frequently – that perhaps professors are too lenient with regard to granting extensions for issues of mental health. Again, the subjective nature of mental health and illness seems central to this difficulty of interpretation: because a professor can’t know for sure what a student is experiencing internally, how can it be assured, without relying on documentation, that a student is not requesting an extension for a problem that is not severe enough to prohibit them from completing their work? This occurrence could be more common than we realize. After all, a student’s reasons for asking for an extension, though they might not be sufficiently serious, do not necessarily have to be unscrupulous. It might not be (and, one would hope, rarely is) the case that a student actually fabricates a mental illness in order to obtain an


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granted an extension. “I do think that students feel more entitled to mental health extensions nowadays,” said one professor. While we as students have a right to fair treatment by our academic authorities, we should let ourselves acknowledge that, based on the circumstances, an extension might not always be the fair course of action; thus, it doesn’t seem right that a student should be “entitled” to an extension

them, they might be less accessible. Again, though, the question of subjectivity persists: who decides whether mental issues are severe enough to warrant an extension? One professor I spoke to had an interesting answer: she said that not a student’s professor, but the student herself, should decide whether she is capable of handing in an assignment. She explained her poli-

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extension. What seems more likely, rather, is that relatively normal problems of stress or anxiety could seem insurmountable enough, in a moment of extreme pressure, to constitute a mental health excuse – even when they might be less related to a mental illness (which might not even be present) and more related to a student’s inability to budget his or her time. One student I talked to had experi-

We’ve probably all been there – slaving away at an assignment in advance, only to hear of a friend in the same class being granted an extra week to complete it because she was “too stressed out” to get it done. Of course, nobody wants to admit that this bothers her, but in reality, it’s only natural that such a situation would seem unfair.

enced such anxiety and stress under pressure – and, like so many of us probably have, had heard of students citing mental health issues when asking for extensions, when their circumstances were no different from hers. She explained, “If I ask for an extension, I ask for an extension. I don’t try to legitimize it by saying it’s for a mental health reason – it’s out of the professor’s charity that they even give me an extension at all.” Her frustration is understandable. We’ve probably all been there – slaving away at an assignment in advance, only to hear of a friend in the same class being granted an extra week to complete it because she was “too stressed out” to get it done. Of course, nobody wants to admit that this bothers her, but in reality, it’s only natural that such a situation would seem unfair. “It can seem as though a student who has simply not budgeted her time well or is unprepared to deal with the material can claim to be ‘struggling,’” said one student, “and thereby receive an unwarranted extension.” Because the subjectivity of mental issues makes their presence and severity so difficult to prove on an objective level, we can never call into question the circumstances leading to another student being

the instant that the designation of “mental illness,” which might even be spurious, is thrown into the conversation. There exists, of course, one obvious counterargument to this line of reasoning: perhaps we, as students, are too judgmental of others when they are granted extensions that do not appear to be substantiated by actual mental illness. Perhaps we should just mind our own business: in the end, is it really hurting anyone if a student catches a break every now and then, even if on the basis of factitious circumstances? In reality, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that the answer is no. It appears as though frequent use of unwarranted mental health extensions could hurt the people that these extensions are intended to help: those with legitimate mental illness. “I think that a mental health extension is a totally legitimate excuse,” said one student I spoke to, “but often people mistreat it or use it as an excuse for the fact that they didn’t pace themselves properly and then got anxious. I feel like that delegitimizes real mental health extensions.” When too many students abuse mental health extensions, their legitimacy is undermined – and thus, when someone with a serious mental illness needs to use

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cy: if a student is suffering from “physical or mental or emotional illness,” she need only write a statement, saying that she is acting in accordance with the honor code, before handing in a paper a day late. “I always make a point not to draw a distinction between physical and mental or emotional illness,” the professor said. “So I tend to leave it in the students’ hands to decide for themselves. My inclination is to trust the student’s judgment.” Perhaps this approach is a possible answer to the problem of who defines mental illness: perhaps if we are left to decide for ourselves, we must take full responsibility for our decisions and their outcomes – both long and short term. This policy, it seems, has worked – this professor believes strongly that students have not abused it. “And even if students occasionally do abuse mental health extensions,” she adds, “it’s better that students have access to them than not.” And, considering the alternative, it’s hard to disagree.

Veronica Cole ’09 (vcole@wellesley.edu) turned this article in two weeks late.

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M E N TA L H E A LT H

Finding a Safe Space A conversation with the Organization for Mental Health Awareness

{in t e r v i ew by alex cahill}

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n OMHA safe space talk panel lies somewhere between a group therapy session and the intimate exchanges of close friends. During one recent panel, about ten students gathered in the McAfee Living Room in March to participate in a candid discussion about depression and anxiety. Such talk panels are key activities for the Organization for Mental Health Awareness at Wellesley, an entirely student-run mental health organization on campus. Founded in 2001, OMHA seeks to de-stigmatize mental health issues on campus and provide students with more information and help them cope with mental health issues. The organization coordinates these safe space talk panels to give students the opportunity to speak candidly about their own experiences with mental health issues while receiving support from their peers. The organization also maintains OMHA Safe Space, a closed conference on FirstClass that serves as a place for students to communicate openly without the presence faculty or staff members. This year, the organization has taken a more prominent role on campus, sponsoring the recent visit of Dr. Richard Kadison, Chief of Mental Health Services at Harvard University and author of College of the Overwhelmed: The Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It. Below, Lana Roskin ’10, Co-President, and Karolina Psutka ’09, Vice President, offer some insight into their organization, the important role it has in their lives, and why Wellesley needs a student-run mental health organization.

Q: Now that the two of you are Co-President and Vice President, can you reflect back upon how you each became involved with 16

OMHA? Karolina Psutka: My first semester here was pretty traumatic; I had to deal with a lot of anxiety. I had this conception of Wellesley as this group of perfect women that had all of their shit together in every single way, you know, and this pressure to be the best. I felt really, really alone, too. Once I started connecting with other people on campus, went to the Stone Center and started talking with others, I really wanted to prevent [my experience] from happening to someone else because the worst thing about mental illness on campus, or going somewhere new is feeling like you’re the only one that deals with it. That you’re somehow crazy, and your life’s not going to turn out ok, which is really not the case. All of these illnesses you can get treated for just fine, there’s no reason for someone to feel alone. Lana Roskin: Yeah, I also had a very rough, not just first semester, but first year in general. I had a lot of anxiety about school work, I had a tendency to self isolate and stayed in and did my work because I also had this idea that I had to be perfect and I had to be the best or else there was no point in my parents sending me here. I also dealt with some eating issues. At the very end of the second semester of my first year I heard about OMHA. Because OMHA was somewhat inactive last year, I hadn’t heard anything about them all year long. And I was amazed that there was an advocacy organization on campus. I found out that a lot of the things that I experienced that were really shitty could have been easily prevented if someone had reached out to me earlier and had said, “This is what you can do

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to help yourself.” I wanted to be part of the movement to make the transition to Wellesley easier, especially for the people who don’t understand that they’re not alone. KP: I feel a component of our organization which perhaps we’re not addressing is de-stigmatizing mental health on campus. I mean, one of OMHA’s activities my second year was to put up posters all over campus. I think that’s really important for just getting the word out about how prevalent of an issue mental illness is. That it’s not something people can just really shake off, that’s it’s a legitimate illness. That it should be treated, because this isn’t a bunch of crazies. This is your neighbor; this is your best friend. It prevents people from doing what they should be doing. LR: I think people have a tendency to minimize serious issues, as if to say, “You know, it’s just the way she is, it’s not a big deal, it’s fine.” It’s hard--it’s really, really hard to recognize that it’s serious, not a minor little quirky thing. It all adds up to something that changes the way you live your life. It’s important that if people see these behaviors in themselves or others, not to trivialize them, but to try to understand them. Q: What types of resources are available beside OMHA or the Stone Center? LR: The Mental Health Educators are another OMHA resource on campus that have been trained by the Stone Center. KP: They’re supposed to be based in dorms, too. In previous years, SAAFE and OMHA both had representatives in dorms and they’d serve as liaisons between the Stone Center and the general student population. Of course, they weren’t trained in a medical sense, but they were trained about mental illnesses and what you should do when you’re faced with certain people in certain circumstances. It’s also somebody for students to reach out to if they feel too intimidated to go to the Stone Center themselves. LR: We’re trying to get that back together this year. Also, RDs [resident directors] and RAs [resident assistants] are a resource, even though people often don’t recognize them as anything more than


bringing order into the dorm. But really they know the basic training of how to respond to people. KP: RDs will really coordinate with the Stone Center to make sure that that person is getting help, and also to maintain a level of healthiness in your dorm. LR: If you don’t feel comfortable going to the Stone Center, there’s always Safe Space, that we talked about earlier and you should also feel comfortable going to your RA, or the RD, or the RA from another floor. Q: Do you think that the College could do anything more to provide for students? LR: I think Wellesley is doing a lot, but I think that there’s always more that can be done. KP: To be honest, this is something that our organization struggles with. It’s kind of like once you get inside of the organization you lose the perspective of what it was like to be on the outside. So, we’re always open to suggestions, basically. One of the things that came up was getting the word out to professors more. During our last lecture with Dr. Kadison, we talked about making mental illness awareness a topic among professors. It’s good for them to know about these things so that they can help students and maintain a certain level of empathy and sensitivity. LR: On a very different note, we could always try to target a new audience. Because, for instance, when we do a lot of internet spamming for events, some people aren’t likely to just check FirstClass, so it would be wise to put up posters, or flyers, or table tents because people pay attention to different types of media. The school in general needs to be open to student ideas and student needs. Q: Do you think that, in general, the College environment provokes these issues? KP: I don’t want to discount the fact that Wellesley might be a unique environment. Personally, I’ve been on a lot of campuses, I know that they’re more laid back, and that Wellesley is kind of a microcosm of ambition, of talent and of separation from the rest of the world, which kind of contributes to an unhealthy environment for

mental health. But by the same token, I think that this can be endemic in other Colleges as well. Part of what Dr. Kadison brought up was that these days people are being treated more and they can come to College; talented students with mental health issues can come to College. And that’s also made mental health a more prominent issue on campuses. LR: I wouldn’t say that Wellesley’s a unique environment. I think any school that has really high expectations, and a sort of academic environment, and less social outlets: I think the same issues occur at other schools. It’s not just Wellesley alone, it’s just schools of this nature. Obviously, every school is unique in some way, you know certain schools are party schools and they have their own issues, often with excessive alcohol or drug use. Wellesley is considered a more academic school, a rigorous academic institution and so it has its own problems, but so do other schools in that category. I wouldn’t say that Wellesley stands alone, as some people seem to believe. Q: Both of you mentioned that you felt pressure to be perfect at Wellesley. Has that initial pressure worn off? KP: I don’t feel the pressure to be perfect anymore. I definitely don’t. I think that happened because I’ve talked to different people, and there are many people who have perfectly successful lives even after having issues in high school. LR: I agree. I think that the outside pressure isn’t going to go away unless the entire school changes somehow. Everyone’s going to f**k up here and there, everyone’s going to having a shitty semester, or get a bad grade. You can’t put more pressure on yourself every time something happens. You learn from mistakes and tell yourself it will be better next time.

Alex Cahill ’11 (acahill@wellesley.edu) sings oh-de-lally, oh-de-lally, golly, what a day.

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M E N TA L H E A LT H

Backward from 500 Living with OCPD {by anonymous}

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have always been an anxious person. My anxiety never seems to stem from the usual places – school, relationships, parental pressure – the gardenvariety most people are familiar with. Instead, I have intense anxiety about fairly benign or irrational things. The first thing I remember fearing was squirrels, and my most recent fear is contamination of the dining hall food. Unlike other people, who normally part with their childhood fears, I hold on to mine. A salient example: when I was six or seven, a playmate told me that the only way to prevent vampires from biting you is to cover your neck while you sleep. To this day I sleep with the covers tightly wrapped around my neck, not necessarily because I fear vampires, but because something bad might happen if I don’t cover my neck. All of this was fairly normal to me until I was thirteen, when I began to have an intense fear of sharp objects. I worried that I would injure others or myself. At night, I would worry that I would sleepwalk and somehow grab scissors or a knife, so I constructed intricate barriers out of pillows to prevent this from happening. I pretended to have a collector’s interest in pillows, and thus amassed many huge pillows that I slept with every night. Safely tucked beneath my fluffy protection, I then would count backwards from 500, thinking that this would prevent the imminent danger I sensed. I would have to fall asleep before I got to one, or else I’d have to start at 500 once more and count until I fell asleep. As I got older, my anxiety became more intense. At 14, I developed an eating disorder and incessantly inspected my body and my food. I would meticulously pick apart everything I ate and go on fad diets 17


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People often joke about being “OCD.” Many times, friends have watched me wash my hands and lightheartedly diagnosed me. However amusing irrational rituals can be, the unfortunate truth is that they indicate real suffering.

weekly. At 15, I began to fear contracting HIV, even though I didn’t become sexually active until I was 17 and have never engaged in high-risk sex. In the last year and a half, I have had three HIV tests. I scrutinize my throat daily for signs of infection and my body for any lesions or scratches that may not be healing properly. I sanitize everything in my room with alcohol. After my first semester at Wellesley, my infirmary history was more than a few pages long. One rainy night I literally ran to Health Services after hours in order to have a spot on my leg examined; of course, nothing was wrong with me. When I had my first HIV test at the beginning of my senior year of high school, I found out it was negative and began sobbing to my family doctor. I told him that I probably was very ill and the test was wrong. After my second negative test at the end of my senior year, my doctor referred me to a psychologist. I worked up the courage to tell my parents, who then flatly refused to let me see a therapist because they believe that only “insane” people require counseling. Going to college allowed me greater autonomy in my health choices, and I have realized how wrong they were to not encourage me to seek help for my anxiety. When I shed tears of happiness after I found out my latest HIV test was negative, the Wellesley Health Services doctor suggested I talk to a therapist. After my second session of describing at length my numerous ridiculous rituals, from saying goodnight in three different ways to inspecting the dishes I eat from, my therapist recommended that I be evaluated for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by a psychiatrist. OCD is an anxiety disorder that involves persistent and disturbing thoughts or impulses (obsessions), as well as habitual actions to alleviate the angst caused by the obsessions (compul18

sions). People develop this disorder typically from the age of four to 25, and one in 25 people will suffer from it in their lifetime. On any given day, two percent of the adult population is living with OCD. Common obsessions include germs, harming oneself or others, deviant sexual thoughts, moral doubts and correcting disorder and asymmetry. People often joke about being “OCD.” Many times, friends have watched me wash my hands and lightheartedly diagnosed me. However amusing irrational rituals can be, the unfortunate truth is that they indicate real suffering. For example, my parents would gleefully tell anyone who would listen about my “cute” pillow forts they helped me construct and the “adorable” way I slept with a hood of blankets, probably because they can’t imagine the pain that is associated with these compulsions. People with OCD really do believe that they will cause serious harm by not performing particular actions. Imagine if your wellbeing, or the wellbeing of your family or friends depended on counting to a particular number, or performing meaningless mental tasks to get rid of bad things such as dirt, or bacteria. Speaking from personal experience, it is time consuming and exhausting, but most of all, frightening. I feel that these actions and thoughts also put pressure on my relationships. Both serious relationships I’ve had since beginning to fear HIV have involved intense cleaning, awkward questions about my partners’ sexual history and frequent requests for them to be tested. I am often uncompromising in my rituals, causing my friends to wonder why I am so inflexible about truly random things. Worse yet, I sometimes feel a barrier between others and myself because it’s difficult for them understand my neurosis. It has been a little less than a year since my parents and I had our first conversa-

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tion about my mental health. Encouraged by my therapist, I decided recently that I should talk to my parents again about having these worries and routines. Their first reaction was flat out laughter. Between peals of mirth, my dad proclaimed that the therapists these days don’t know what they’re talking about and I should probably just “stop worrying.” That’s the point. I can’t stop worrying. Recently, I saw a psychiatrist and received an official diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) – sort of like “OCD lite.” Unfortunately, personality disorders are harder to treat and are associated with a pervasive dysfunctional worldview. Further, those suffering OCPD have less insight into their actions than those with OCD and there is less research conducted to find the root of OCPD and any potential treatments. However, my psychiatrist prescribed a low dose of anti-anxiety medication and with any luck, it will help. Within the last few weeks my parents have grown more accepting of my anxiety and the idea of being treated for it. Contrary to my parents’ initial beliefs, speaking with a therapist has been extremely helpful and has calmed me down enormously. For over a decade, I have been too afraid to share my irrational fears, especially about HIV and sharp objects. I worried that any potential confidant would feel the way I felt: terrified and confused. I worried that these thoughts were indicative of the sort of person that I am. When I sat down on the therapist’s mini chaise lounge and spilled my darkest secrets to a stranger who didn’t run away, I was absolved of much of the responsibility put on myself after years of worrying. I no longer have to be the sole bearer of these thoughts. Though I struggle every day not to sneak off to the bathroom in the middle of class to probe my tonsils, it has become easier to wash my hands less frequently and not to gag when I see people taste the dining hall food before serving themselves. I am more able to simply put my worries aside instead of belaboring them every minute of my life. Anonymous


F E AT U R ES

E.B. in D.C.

Exploring the nation’s capital with Counterpoint’s roving photographer

The Lincoln Memorial

The WWII Memorial

{ by eb bartels}

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pring break is frequently a time to travel – time to visit friends at other colleges, go places you’ve never been and basically get the hell away. Not so much for me this spring break. I spent my time off during the last week of March sitting on my couch popping pain killers and watching Planet Earth with my dad after having four impacted wisdom teeth extracted from my face. So instead, I will reminisce of January break when I actually left my couch, armed myself with four different cameras and traveled to Washington, D.C., for the first time to visit my best friend from middle school, Meri, at Georgetown University.

Of course a trip to the National Zoo was also necessary, though we were unsure what animals we would find roaming around in the middle of January in D.C.

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19


Meanwhile, at home in Massachusetts, we had one of the largest snowstorms of the winter, delaying my flight. (left) The weather in D.C. was perfectly fine though. We even saw a couple of early cherry blossoms to complete the touristy D.C. experience. (above)

What trip to D.C. is complete without a run in with some FBI traffic cones? (above) At right, clouds on the flight home to Boston. 20

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Clearly, if you have never been to D.C. before, you have to hit up all the major tourist attractions. These include all the major monuments, including the Washington Monument (above left), the Lincoln Memorial (above right) and the White House (left), where I look particularly impressed by the stateliness of it all.

EB Bartels ’10 (ebartels@wellesley.edu) believes in w-a-s-h-i-n-gt-o-n, baby, d-c.

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L A S T PA G E

The Frat Party Survival Guide There are dangers on the dancefloor... { by anna prendella}

B

e warned before asking college girls about their bad party experiences: the answers you’ll receive may make you never want to socialize again. According to female Wellesley and MIT students, hidden dangers include “ear lickers,” “wearing a skirt without tights” and “drunk gay boys who forget they’re gay.” I was instructed to avoid “using the stripper pole,” “white guys” (“because they try seriously to hook up with you, whereas black guys know it’s just hilarious”), “girls who aren’t from Wellesley,” “girls from Wellesley” and “looking at the guy you’re dancing with when the lights come on.” Of all the threats described to me, these three were the most frequently mentioned or appeared to be the most dangerous.

3. Sketchy Guys You may find that boys occasionally come up behind you and start grinding without introducing themselves (much like jungle cats or guinea pigs). This is easy to work with: establish a system with friends where they check out guys for you. One signal means, “He’s mad sketchy; get out!” and another, “He’s totally hot; work it.” Sketchy guys are the ones who stare creepily at girls from dark corners and look at least 30 years old. They don’t follow proper dancing-with-strangers protocol. (i.e., The boy spends a few songs behind the girl, then may turn her around to get his freak on. He may attempt “subtly” to reach for something other than 22

hips, but will respect the “subtle” re-positioning of his hands if said girl doesn’t appreciate this admirable effort.) Instead, sketchy guys latch on and go straight for the boobs. They don’t respond to finesse, instead requiring brute force and perhaps the aid of larger menfolk.

2. The Roof-deck Every party has a different location to serve this purpose, but for the frats with which I am familiar, it’s the roof-deck. Some guys, playing the polite host, ask girls if they would like “a tour of the roofdeck; it has an amazing view.” Clearly, what they’re really asking is whether the girls want “a tour of their dicks; they have amazing erections.” Girls do realize this: during Orientation week at Wellesley, it is repeatedly emphasized to first-years: “Don’t ever go near the roof-deck! Carry your rape whistle at

counterpoint

all times! Trust no man! Use the buddy system! And leave no woman behind!” Possibly this threat is sometimes overexaggerated. If you actually do want to go make out, it’s best to let a few friends know where you’re going and how quickly you intend to be finished. Let’s face it: whatever you’re about to do won’t take that long—most of the guys who offer tours have been really frustrated for a long time.

1. Soulja Boy No matter where you are, with whom you’re dancing, or how tightly packed the dance floor is, every single boy within hearing range of the speakers will, upon hearing the opening strains of “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” flock together into mass formation to perform its elaborate dance moves. They will crush you in their rush to gather for the dance, which, when objectively observed, is not unlike an ancient mating ritual from the Amazon. If the menfolk can’t reach one another, it doesn’t really matter. They dance where they stand and trample anyone who gets in their way. A note of caution: the “Soulja Boy” dance involves a lot of jumping around and kicking. It doesn’t matter how hot you look or how into you he was five seconds ago: he is a slave to “Soulja Boy.” He will kill you if he has to. Anna Prendella ‘11 (aprendel@wellesley.edu) won’t stop believin’.


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April08