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CONT features 10 46 THE POWER OF (BLANK)

From knowledge to love, language to dance

WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME The untold impacts of language formation


Intersections explored in photographs

RELATIONSHIPS: THE GAME Navigate the rocky terrain of romance


The inherent power... of Kanye West


The relevance of reading in everyday life

36 63 197 STUDENTS

The potential power of a new generation


Exploring power in human connection

40 71 THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY Defining diversity at Wells


A guide to avoiding power abuse


Study survival strategies from readers like you 2  COVER DESIGN BY JILLIAN FIELDS

TENTS constants 6 73 EDITORS' NOTES

A few opening remarks


The evolution and influence of journalism over time


Powerful films you should probably watch

SHORT STORY CONTEST Taylor Fehr’s “Sector 7”


When conversion and conversation collide


Theresa Mendez’s “Who's Afraid of Feminine Masculinity?”


Owning your sex life


Robyn Moody’s “God vs. the Cannibals”


When looking at an ad is more like looking into a mirror


Advice from Wells’s resident goddess

100 PHOTO CONTEST Molly Baillargeon’s “Still”


THE SYCAMORE is Wells College’s student magazine. This is our ninth biannual issue. In keeping with our mission, we print on sustainably harvested paper and use nontoxic ink.


Editor in Chief Chief Copy Editor Creative Writing Director Chief Design Editor History Editor Technology Editor Staff Designer Sex Columnist Humanities Editor Film Critic Advice Columnist Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Designer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Copy Editor Staff Writer Staff Writer Staff Photographer Staff Photographer Staff Photographer Staff Illustrator Staff Designer Advisor

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Wells College 170 Main Street Mailbox Number 296 Aurora, NY 13026


COPY EDITOR’S NOTE In an interview with The Onyx in 2008, founder and then Editor in Chief Alex Schloop said that he wanted to see The Sycamore be able to count as a credit-bearing internship experience. I have done just that, getting four credits for my work as Chief Copy Editor. It has been a rewarding and an intense experience, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it.   I want to thank everyone who made sure this issue of The Sycamore was a successful one. Judy, our new Editor in Chief, has pulled me through when I was overwhelmed, has graciously given me slack when I needed it, and been so encouraging and supportive—it has been absolutely wonderful to work with her this semester, as I’m sure it will continue to be. Our Chief Design Editor, Jillian Fields, has also done so much to ensure not only this issue’s quality content but also my sanity. I greatly appreciated (and needed!) her support and patience as I went through the designing process for the first time. Her masterful help fixing my rookie mistakes is the main reason that my designs don’t look like a twelve-year-old’s fantasy come to life, and I thank her for that.   But The Sycamore wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful as it is without having such a wonderful staff of writers and photographers behind us. This semester, I’ve had the opportunity to greet many new members who have contributed a wealth of new perspectives. It was a privilege to read Atiya Jordan’s take on the size of the First Year class of which she is a part, Michelle Lee’s piece on the personal connections that make up our worlds, Mike Lynch’s priceless satire on the hip-hop artist Kanye West (which I hold is the best piece to read when starting the weekend), Missy Brewer’s study of the various meanings of “power” in the Wells community, Ramona Reed’s profession of her love of and belief in books, and Shane Puskar’s well-researched discussion of the difficulties of religion in a truly democratic society.   Although I haven’t worked as closely with them, our new photographers, Gabrielle Uhrig and Keegan Evans, have both contributed thoughtful photographic studies on man’s presence in nature and power structures in relationships, respectively. We have also welcomed Kelly Cobler, The Sycamore’s sole illustrator, and Elizabeth Ingham, staff designer.   I’ve been lucky to be a part of The Sycamore—the quality of the content and the staff have both made for a great experience. I hope you have as great of a time reading it as I have!




A collaboration between a staff of 20 and Wells at large, this issue explores power—its implications, consequences, and pervasive influence on our lives. Recently, power seems to permeate our national and local discourse. In the past few months, our country has witnessed a divisive presidential election that constantly called into question the uses and abuses of power. And even here at Wells, we are nearing a power shift, as our president of nearly two decades retires from her position. These observations led our staff to unanimously and enthusiastically approve the theme.   We have had the great fortune of welcoming 10 new members to staff. This group consists of First Years eager to try their hand at producing a college magazine and upperclassmen desiring to make The Sycamore part of their Wells experience. Of course, our returning staff members have also outdone themselves. Hillary continues to bring unusual films to our attention, Jes offers a second installment of her lively sex column, Victoria explores diversity at Wells, Julie surveys students on their tips for powering through a study session, and Jeremiah investigates targeted advertising in his new technology column.   This year, our staff has benefited from the tireless efforts and apt ability of two new senior editors, Chief Copy Editor Rebekkah McKalsen and Chief Design Editor Jillian Fields. Rebekkah has logged many hours striving not only to tie up all grammatical loose ends but also challenge our staff writers to create meaningful content that embraces their own styles and interests. Likewise, under Jillian’s creative guidance and admirable determination, our staff photographers and design team have assembled a fresh and adventurous issue—taking our aesthetic in a surprisingly playful direction. I so appreciate the brilliant leadership they offer and am personally so thankful for their direct and unfailing support.   At the start of the semester, we aspired to produce a magazine that Wellsians could be proud of and regard as a platform for fresh discussion about any topic that troubled or excited them. By hosting a design workshop open to the public and acquiring a membership to the Associated College Press, we also hoped to tighten our connection to our local community and the larger community of college journalists across the nation. And in keeping with The Sycamore’s original mission, we have continued to use environmentally responsible printing methods.   As you peruse these 100 pages, I hope you feel that we were able to meet our goal of creating an entertaining and thought provoking issue. It has certainly been an exciting and enlightening experience to get here.


Film Reviews Title: Le Monde Selon Monsanto

(The World According To Monsanto) (2008) Director: Marie-Monique Robin Distributed by: ARTE A three year project by French filmmaker and journalist Marie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto brings to light the actions of the Monsanto company. Originally one of the world’s leading chemical engineering companies in 1940s and creator of Roundup herbicides, in 1997, Monsanto transitioned into the biotechnology. Currently, Monsanto is one of the most powerful corporations out there, having a presence from the chemicals used in lawn upkeep to the food on the average person’s dinner table. The World According to Monsanto shows the controversies that Monsanto has created for the entire world—ranging from the pollution of pcb (polychlorinated biphenyl), a chemical compound proven to provoke cancer, into the water sources of Anniston, Alabama, their use of Agent Orange, and the massive government cover-ups regarding Monsanto’s products.   Despite the fact that this film makes one aware of the actions of the extremely powerful Monsanto company, and being full of in-depth research, the way in which Robin visually created this documentary is far from interesting. In the film, the filmmaker finds information on Google. In doing this, Robin highlights the power of Google. Although the film is not visually interesting, The World According to Monsanto is worth checking out.


Title: Re-Animator (1985) Directed by: Stuart Gordon Distributed by: Empire Pictures Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, “Herbert West, Re-animator,” Re-Animator tells the story of medical student Herbert West ( Jeffery Combs) who finds himself at the prestigious Miskatonic Medical School with an antidote for brain-death. There he meets Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot), another optimistic medical student, as well as his soon-to-be professor Dr. Hill. West challenges Hill, saying that he had stolen all of his theories from West’s previous instructor Dr. Gruber. Soon, Dan Cain and Herbert West move in together, despite the protest of Dan’s fiancée Megan Halsey, who also happens to be the daughter of the Dean. Herbert turns their basement into his own personal laboratory and begins conducting his bizarre experiments there.   Before long, Dan finds Herbert’s laboratory and the re-animated corpse of his cat. Dan is intrigued by Herbert’s findings and brings the information to the Dean. Dean Halsey refuses to believe Dan and expels both Dan and Herbert. However, this does not stop either of them, and the two begin working together to defeat death, using the resources of Miskatonic’s morgue. However, the solution is not fully completed and the results are not what Herbert had planned for; the re-animated corpses possess zombie-like qualities and inhuman strength. Dean Halsey is suspicious of Dan and Herbert, and finds them in the morgue. Herbert and Dan cannot hold back the newly re-animated corpse and it kills Dean Halsey. In an attempt to cover their tracks, Herbert re-animates the Dean, but he does not return from death correctly, and is taken away by security officers. Dr. Hill approaches Megan and convinces her to let her father (the Dean) be put into Hill’s custody in order to treat him, but in reality, he only lobotomizes Dean Halsey. Hill also blackmails Herbert so that he can get credit for Herbert’s reagent. Herbert West does not want to adhere to his former professor and murders him. Using him for his first human test subject, Herbert re-animates both Hill’s head and his detached body. Like Herbert West’s previous tests, the results are not what he had intended.   If this Lovecraftian horror-comedy is one thing, it is gruesome. The film does not go five minutes without adding some type of gore to the comedic charm of the movie. Using everything from deadpan jokes to bone-saws, Re-Animator brings up the question of what drives the will of human beings.

Image credit: and, respectively.


Title: Bronenosets Potyomkin (The

Battleship Potemkin) (1925) Director: Sergei Eisenstein Distributed by: Goskino The Battleship Potemkin is a silent film divided into five different segments (“Men and Maggots,” “Drama at the Harbor,” “A Dead Man Calls for Justice,” “The Odessa Staircase,” and “The Rendezvous with a Squadron”). The film is loosely based on the real events of the Potemkin mutiny of 1905, wherein crew members were dissatisfied by the quality of food they were provided. The Potemkin crew gathers to the ship’s deck to meet their Captain and when he asks which of the men ate the food, only a small amount of “petty officers” step forward. All of the other crew members are to be punished for not eating what was provided for them. The crew gathers by the turret, and while some try to escape, they are caught before it is possible. Their punishment is being shot down in front of the entire crew. One sailor named Vakulinchuk calls to those with the guns, causing the gunmen to realize they were aiming at their own brothers. The Captain continues to command that those who did not eat be shot, but the crew dropped their rifles. The Captain rushes one of the gunmen in attempt to do it himself, and a riot breaks out. During this riot, the captain is thrown overboard. The crew is able to take down their superiors, but Vakulinchuk is killed in the struggle. Once ashore, the nearby civilians hear of Vakulinchuk’s death and the uprising that occurred on the Potemkin. Enraged by the occurrences, the civilians band together to support the sailors. The working class civilians all gather on the steps of Odessa to send food to the sailors at the shore. Before 10 

long, soldiers begin marching down the Odessa steps resulting in one of the most famous sequences in film. The soldiers open fire on the innocent civilians, killing and wounding many without remorse. In response to the death of the civilians, the Potemkin fires on the headquarters of the General. Other Russian fleets, who heard of the uprising caused by the crew of the Potemkin, were ordered to take down these revolutionaries. In the final sequence, “The Rendezvous with a Squadron,” the crew of the Potemkin has to face the approaching fleet, and the crew prepares themselves for battle. The two ships—the Potemkin and the Destroyer 267—are face to face. The Potemkin offers for the Destroyer 267 to join them in their revolt of their Tsarist oppression, and the Destroyer 267 lets the Potemkin pass through without a single shot fired.   What Eisenstein did while making The Battleship Potemkin was focus less on actual dialogue and more on editing images together through the use of his montage theories. By expanding the duration of certain scenes, Einstein hoped to create a more emotional theatrical experience that created sympathy for the working class civilians and sailors. This use of montage was groundbreaking for its time, and The Battleship Potemkin is considered to be one of the most influential propaganda films of all time. Despite its historical importance, these technical breakthroughs may be lost on a contemporary audience.

The Power of... (Blank)

By Missy Brewer

people individuality









ower can be embodied in many different ways. No two people have the exact same perception of the word. And this is exactly what makes the concept of power so fascinating. I strove to discover just what people thought of “power.” When I asked students and faculty at Wells what word or phrase should fill in the blank, I got a wide variety of responses:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Knowledge—Zachary Tripsas (Class of 2016), Windy Wells (Class of 2016) Truth—Molly Gimbel (Class of 2016) Religion—Patrick Munroe (Class of 2016) Greek gods—Kelly Cobler (Class of 2016) Love—Carson Jordan (Class of 2016), Justine Tibbits (Class of 2016) Friendship—Gloria Franco (Class of 2016) One—Abena Poku (Class of 2016) Will—David Glidden (Class of 2016) Individuality—Laura Allard (Class of 2016) The people—Clare Harwood (Class of 2016) Us and words—Stephanie Leung (Class of 2014) The Word—Professor Burroughs Speech—Lyndsey Wells (Class of 2016) Language—Professor Easter Nature—Fahad Rahmat (Class of 2014) Plastic—Jeremiah Miller (Class of 2014) Dance—Professor Goddard




Knowledge (n): The fact of knowing or being acquainted with a thing, person, etc.; acquaintance; familiarity gained by experience. Knowledge is what enables humans to survive and thrive on Earth. The basic knowledge that we exist has given mankind the base upon which we have built our successes throughout the centuries. This acknowledgement of existence is what makes man distinct from animals, and without such a beginning, we would never be able to expand our knowledge beyond the most rudimentary facts. But we do have this recognition, giving us the ability to further our knowledge in all fields. As early as when man invented the wheel, humans have strived to create, build and learn more about the world around them. Even when we have gotten it wrong—“oh yes, the Earth is definitely flat” or “of course, the sun revolves around the Earth”—these conclusions required extensive research and began the evolution that is knowledge. Whether it is scientific, mathematic, historic, philosophical, artistic, social, political or economic, the human race is always improving upon its former knowledge. This knowledge catapults man into a position of respect, a position of power. Embracing and absorbing what is taught, formally or informally, gives you the advantage of knowing the world around you. Knowledge in many different fields gives a person even greater power, because ze can relate and inform many. Pursuing an education, which gives you the advantage of being specialized in a certain area, can potentially lead to you making a very good living.

Religion (n): Action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power; the performance of religious rites or observances. Since the beginning of time, humans have turned to some higher power for support or guidance. Whether it is to nature, a group of gods, a single God, one god in many forms or to an immortalized human, mankind goes to religion for a way to cope with the struggles of everyday life. The practice of worship has the effect of focusing and calming people.   Religion has a long and complicated past, and while a painful amount of wars have been fought over the right to practice a certain religion in a certain area, it was developed namely to give people a soothing distraction from the hardships of working and living with little means, and also to give them something to look forward to after death. People are often under the impression that their religion is the only “correct” one and that all the others are “savage.” These beliefs cause some groups to persecute people of other religions or kick them out of disputed territory, thereby starting wars. In the past, a person’s religion often determined where they could live, and sometimes there were horrendous consequences when it was decided that people of a certain religion were no longer welcome.   Religion has also been the deciding factor in choosing rulers for a country or kingdom, leading to political turmoil in various states. Since these outdated times, the practice of religion has evolved into a way of life for many—rather than following a religion in order to forget about daily labors, religion is now heavily tied into a person’s political and social views. Religion also has the power to change lives that are not necessarily tied to the religion. While there are a countless number of religions in the world, Christianity (and the various sects encompassed by it) is a prime example of what power religion has come to hold. Charity and community service has become deeply associated with churches across the world, and much good has come from these organizations. Freedom of religion and the power to practice whichever religion you choose has become an extremely sensitive topic and as Americans, we have the privilege of the Constitution guaranteeing our freedom of religion. Though this freedom is not always respected within communities, the fact that it is ingrained in the federal government gives everyone the legal power to choose their own religious preferences. The practice of religion has been a part of civilizations for so long, that eradicating these practices is an idea that borders on impossibility. Religion changes lives, whether for the good or the bad, and it will never truly leave mankind.


Love (n): A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other’s welfare and pleasure in his or her presence (distinguished from sexual love); great liking, strong emotional attachment; (similarly) a feeling or disposition of benevolent attachment experienced towards a group or category of people, and (by extension) towards one’s country or another impersonal object of affection. The ability to love is inherent in the nature of all species. This love can vary from purely physical to highly emotional, but whichever it is, love is certainly a strong and influential capability. In human tradition, love brings two or more people together in a close bond that is difficult to break. Love can also be towards a whole group of people, an object and/or an idea. We exclaim our love for things in quite dramatic manners— “I love Sherlock so much. I can’t. I just. I love it!” This overwhelming feeling of love creates the strongest connections in mankind. Love can exist romantically, within families, between friends, and in innumerable other situations. Love can also be from afar, with the receiver not ever knowing that ze is the object of that person’s love. Once a person feels love, and can truly live hir life with it, ze has the power of relationships, and belonging. It doesn’t matter if a man loves another man, a mother loves her daughter, a toddler loves their fluffy kitty or fan girl loves her Tumblr fandom. The love gives the person a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and a sense of unity. Love is the center of an infinite number of books, movies, TV shows, songs, plays and musicals. Everywhere you look in society, you see love, and you see its unlimited power.


Individuality (n): The aggregate of properties peculiar to an individual; the sum of the attributes which distinguish an object from others of the same kind; individual character. There are seven billion people on Earth and although this may seem like an incomprehensible amount of human bodies, each body is a separate entity with its own unique physical features and special thoughts. A person is made up of hir actions, feelings, thoughts, opinions, background, experience and much more. Once all of these factors are mashed together, a single, cohesive unit is created. Even though many people have similar interests or views on certain subjects, there is always something that will differentiate a person from the 6,999,999,999 other people in the world. By harnessing their differences, one person can make a huge change in the world. People such as Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, and Mahatma Gandhi never would have contributed to the world what they did without pulling away from the masses and asserting their special opinions or ideas. An individual is a separate entity, one of many in a crowd, but ze doesn’t have to conform to that crowd. Once someone separates from the group, hir voice can be heard, and what ze has to say can affect the world and the people around hir. A famous actress can use her fame to bring attention to a current world issue. An up-and-coming politician can gain a lead by spreading original policies, thereby grabbing a new following of people. A high school student can step out of the crowd to stop a bully from terrorizing a peer. A person should fully explore their individuality to discover what makes them unique because oftentimes, that individuality is the catalyst for large scale change.

The people (n):

Language (n):

The whole body of citizens of a country, regarded as the source of political power or as the basis of society; esp. those qualified to vote in a democratic state, the electorate.

The system of spoken or written communication used by a particular country, people, community, etc., typically consisting of words used within a regular grammatical and syntactic structure.

When individuals rally together for a cause or use their large numbers to make a change, those individuals discover the power of the People. In the United States, this power is evident and is seen at its height every four years for the season of presidential elections. Everyone above the age of eighteen has the ability to vote for the President of the United States, and although many Americans do not take advantage of this opportunity, it is a very unique opportunity that we have. Yes, there is the Electoral College, causing some to question how powerful the People really are. But the Constitution begins with “We the People,” and this small phrase has almost become a slogan for the United States as a whole. Democracy is a staple of our country, and while it may not be perfect it has lasted for over 230 years, allowing the masses to choose presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and much more. Even where the United States’ version of democracy doesn’t exist, the People in those nations still wield impressive power. The United Kingdom, for example, has a royal family, but the general populace still votes for positions such as the Prime Minister. Throughout history, people around the world have discovered—and are still discovering today—the ways in which they can make changes in their local communities, towns, and nations. Gandhi gathered such a following that India went through revolutionary changes without Gandhi himself ever engaging in destructive violence. The power of the People, however, certainly isn’t limited to the political system. People can come together to make changes as simple as cleaning up the litter in a town, or hosting a marathon to raise money for cancer research. “The People” has no predetermined size, so its numbers can range anywhere from a small high school doing a charity event to a whole nation voting in a new leader. The ability to make change is taken for granted in many nations, especially the United States, but this ability is a truly amazing quality of human nature that should be taken advantage of, rather than forgotten.

Language is the way in which people communicate. We express love, hate, interest, frustration, happiness, sadness, enjoyment, and boredom through our use of language. We unconsciously learn our native language as children, picking up on accents and colloquialisms. As we grow, we change our language to match that of our peers and we continuously adjust it according to the environment around us. When two people don’t speak the same language, they can still communicate through bodily language. Language has the power to connect people around the world and to spread ideas across countries. All species have developed a form of language, and the more this language is developed, the more advantages that species has. Dolphins use high-pitched noises which they can use to recognize an individual dolphin, songbirds chirp to find a mate, and elephants rumble to find one another across long distances. Language can be used in many different forms, each with its own qualities. Speech gives language a distinctive sound with specific inflections. Writing displays language visually, clearly laying out the technical aspects of language. Body gestures are hard to discern, but if you look closely enough, they have plenty to say about how a person is feeling and what state of mind ze is in. Language used incorrectly has the power to rip people apart, tear relationships to shreds, and destroy the bond between nations. Miscommunication is the root of numerous conflicts throughout history, demonstrating the harm that ineffective language can cause. No matter which way you look at it, language controls people, who must use language to better their lives.


Dance (n): A rhythmical skipping and stepping, with regular turnings and movements of the limbs and body, usually to the accompaniment of music; either as an expression of joy, exultation, and the like, or as an amusement or entertainment; the action or an act or round of dancing.

Nature (n): The phenomena of the physical world collectively; esp. plants, animals, and other features and products of the earth itself, as opposed to humans and human creations. Everywhere you look, there is an amazing and beautiful world surrounding us. Whether you believe that Earth’s natural features come from pure science and evolution or that they are a product of God’s creation, there is no doubt that nature contains immense and unique power. Without human interference, nature consists of plants, animals and the ecosystems that include them. The processes of nature are functional by themselves, working to control certain populations and keep the whole of the earth in balance. Humans have developed formulas and theorems for mathematics and the economics of world trade, but nature already had these principals in its back pocket. Nature’s processes also function to create substances that humans have taken for themselves over the years. Although this disruption has caused shortages in some natural resources and somewhat of a crisis in energy and other industries, the human population has not taken down nature. As seen in the small shoots of grass that emerge in cracks of concrete, nature has the power to break through the industrial world that humans have constructed around and through it.

Every day someone, somewhere, says, “Oh no, I can’t dance,” which, quite frankly, is a lie. Can you move to music? Yes? Then you can dance. Dance does not have to be beautiful, graceful, or pleasant to look at in order to be dance. Granted, dances that are pleasing to the eye are generally the ones that are better liked and more widely recognized as “good,” but that is not what defines dance. People are sometimes trained as dancers, and this often makes the dance more clear and conventionally “pretty,” but those who are not trained and just want to move around, whether with music or without it, can create equally beautiful tales with their bodies. A dancer is much like a writer or a singer, but instead of using words, the dancer uses hir body to communicate hir emotions, thoughts, and opinions. Slow, elongated movements can denote sadness while quick, energetic actions often indicate joy. Dances can also tell stories. Explicitly narrative ballets – such as The Nutcracker or Swan Lake – take audiences through the protagonist’s journey, but simpler dances can tell similar stories just as easily. Some dances have very specific moves that define the dance and often these specifications create moods of their own that are easily transferred to the audience. A tango tells the story of a conflict between a man and a woman. A fox trot exhibits the love story between the partners. A solo jazz piece often narrates the process of a woman who is struggling to find her place in show business. Dance’s ability to allow an individual to express hir emotion is unlike that of any other art form because it is a bodily experience. •

All definitions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary Online at 16 

n a M vs .

e r u t Na

Photos by Gabrielle Uhrig










n recent months, it has seemed that the amount of religious language in the American political scene has been on the rise. It was only this past February that former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told ABC’s This Week that he does not believe there is an absolute separation between church and state, saying, “The First Amendment means the free exercise of religion and that means bringing people and their faith into the public square” (Forden). Santorum’s quote raises several relevant, engaging questions regarding the status of religion in the public sphere. For instance, is religion, as philosopher Richard Rorty contends, a “conversation-stopper” when it is used in our democratic forum to dictate public policy? Furthermore, if religion is a “conversation-stopper,” does that mean it should be excluded from the political arena?   Before going any further, it seems best to say what “religion as a conversation-stopper” actually means. When Rorty claims that religion acts as a conversation-stopper, he is essentially arguing that when religious arguments (which are often filled with metaphysical assumptions) are entered into the public sphere they slow down public discourse by not being inclusive enough for democratic societies to function in a healthy manner. In other words, when religious premises—which are often unshared premises—are entered into the political arena, they are likely to act as roadblocks to productive discussions of public policy. For example, if I were to claim that abortion should be illegal, because that is the will of God, then that, for Rorty, would constitute a conversation-stopper. How is my “knowledge” of the will of God—a topic that certainly has many diverse opinions—worthwhile to discussions of public policy? After all, in a democratic society, my opinion that abortion is wrong because that is the will of God is on equal footing with the opinions of everybody else, regardless of their theological views or lack thereof.1   Moving on, why does it matter if religion acts as a conversation-stopper? To be blunt, dropping the religious references in public discourse would make the democratic process function much more fluidly. A liberal democracy such as our own depends on diverse groups of people working together trying to

1  By “equal footing,” though, I do not mean to suggest that

the belief that abortion is wrong because the will of God declares it so is on equal footing epistemically with every other person’s opinion. Simply put, in a democratic society, all opinions are on equal footing in the sense that everyone has a right to their opinion.

find common ground through shared values. Religious premises, though, are not shared universally. In Rorty’s eyes, religious premises violate the spirit of the “Jeffersonian compromise that the Enlightenment reached with the religious.” The proper place for religious views, then, is in one’s personal life.   To help discussions of public policy run more efficiently, Rorty proposes that we privatize religion. To quote Rorty, “The main reason religion needs to be privatized is that, in a political discussion with those outside the relevant religious community, it is a conversation stopper.” Unlike other references, religious references appeal to unshared principles. Indeed, shared principles — secular principles — are principles that any person could hold, regardless of religion. On the other hand, religious references are appeals that only a certain audience is able to accept as legitimate. To clarify, if someone were to introduce religious premises into political debate, Rorty would respond by saying, “So what? We weren’t discussing your private life; we were discussing public policy. Don’t bother us with matters that are not our concern.” I should point out that Rorty is not saying that religious people cannot have a voice in matters of public policy. In a democracy, the voices of religious people are equal to those who are non-religious. Rorty’s point is that for religious people to enter the public sphere they should appeal to values that everyone could share, otherwise we have no obligation to listen to them. In his book, Philosophy and Social Hope, Rorty writes,   The only test of a political proposal is its ability to gain assent from people who retain radically diverse ideas about the point and meaning of human life, about the path to private perfection.   The test that Rorty provides does not burden religious believers in the public square. A religious person would surely be continuing democratic dialogue if they were to say, “I think euthanasia should be illegal, because murdering people is wrong.” Such premises are secular, and most people can relate without having to be a part of a special community of believers.   So, is Rorty’s formulation of religion as a conversation stopper correct? First off, it seems that Rorty is correct in pointing out that religious appeals rely on unshared premises. When someone enters religious appeals into the public arena, ze is essentially entering in language that only select groups of people, who already accept such language as legitimate, are able to understand. Similarly, religious appeals always assume the primacy of an obviously unshared authority, such as the Christian Bible, the Pope, or Allah. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, religious appeals often have infallible sources. How can you hope to have a conversation with a fellow citizen over public policy if THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  25

your fellow citizen believes his view is sanctioned by God, and, therefore, is necessarily the correct one? With this in mind, it seems Rorty’s formulation of religion as a conversation stopper is correct. However, let us look at what Rorty’s critics have to say. Religion Scholar Jeffrey Stout has criticized Rorty, arguing that Rorty fails to leave room for moral argumentation within the public sphere. Stout chastises Rorty for speaking of religion in essentialist terms. Stout writes, “The conversational utility of employing religious premises in political arguments depends on the situation” (Democracy and Tradition). However, Stout claims, religion can act as a conversation stopper when used in a specific context. Stout explains, “There is one sort of religious premise that does have the tendency to stop a conversation … faith claims.”   What makes faith-claims act as roadblocks to productive conversation? According to Stout and philosopher Robert Brandom, faith-claims perform the peculiar function of imploring others to accept such premises into their own point of view, while at the same time, to quote Stout again, “not accepting the responsibility of demonstrating … entitlement to it” (Democracy and Tradition). This point leads Stout to the heart of his criticism: religion, in his view, is not the sole owner of faith-claims. There are people, religious and non-religious, who hold beliefs quite fervently without claiming to know that they are true. Thus, according to Stout, if we hold onto Rorty’s privatization principle as it stands, it doesn’t allow for much political discussion about tough moral issues at all. Many of the reasons offered in the public square wouldn’t pass Rorty’s test.   Stout is correct to point out that religion is not essentially anything. Outside of that point, do Stout’s other criticisms make Rorty’s insights irrelevant? Hardly. In his paper entitled The Political, Jürgen Habermas shows us that at the dawn of civilization, when kings and other emperors ruled the day, religion and references to the divine were about the only accepted criticisms of rulers that furthered political conversation. The commands of Kings could only be questioned by reference to the divine. Even so, what Stout fails to consider is that in our current liberal democratic society, references to the divine are more or less outdated methods of political argument. Citizens are permitted to talk openly in the public square, but at the same time, religious buttressing is not needed to stand up for a political opinion. Religious premises end up being unnecessary baggage and slowing down what would otherwise be productive conversations of public policy. I’ll quote Rorty in a comment directed towards philosopher Alan Carter that I believe is applicable against Stout:   [Stout] does not think it good enough to say: OK, but since I don’t think there is such a thing as the will of God, and since I doubt that we’ll get anywhere arguing theism vs. atheism, let’s see if we have some shared premises on the basis of which to continue our argument about abortion. (Philosophy and Social Hope)

  In other words, if we are going to allow religious premises into the public square, we are ultimately going to end up debating theology under the guise of public policy, which is not only impractical, but a sign of an unhealthy democratic system. Another distinguishing feature between religious faith-claims and secular faith-claims is that faith-claims of religious believers operate in an exclusionary manner. Democracy is supposed to give all citizens equal say in terms of public policy. Unfortunately, religious faith-claims, unlike most of the “faith-claims” of the non-religious, are only accessible to a particular community of believers. Habermas explains,   By using any kind of religious reasons, you are implicitly appealing to membership in a corresponding religious community. Only if one is a member and can speak in the first person from within a particular religious tradition does one share a specific kind of experience on which religious convictions and reasons depend. (The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere)   Secular reasons (what Stout may classify as non-religious faith-claims) don’t require this special kind of membership. Appeals in the public square to “maximize happiness” or “minimize pain,” for example, are based on experiences or desires shared by all humans. Language that requires special membership to use, or even understand, is antithetical to healthy democratic discourse.   Correspondingly, do we really have to grant to Stout that secular claims are on the same level as religious faith-claims? Even if we consented to Stout’s assertion, we could still respond as Rorty did:   … citizens of a democracy should try to put off invoking conversation-stoppers as long as possible. We should do our best to keep the conversation going without citing unarguable first principles, either philosophical or religious. If we are sometimes driven to such citation, we should see ourselves as having failed, not as having triumphed. (Religion in the Public Square)   Although the above response to Stout is adequate, we do not have to accept Stout’s view that secular “faith-claims” are on the same level as religious faith-claims. In fact, it is better to refrain from calling secular premises “faith-claims.” Unlike secular claims such as “maximizing happiness is good,” the importance of religious faith-claims is that they are not solely based on shared experiences or on commonly shared values. Instead, they are based on a shared acceptance of a particular authority that is usually considered infallible. Let me explain: one would not accept Leviticus 22:18, and attempt to advance it in the public square, if that person did not believe Leviticus was a good authority on the matter. Without a doubt, what Leviticus says only matters because the Divine, or divinely inspired institution, sanctions it.   I won’t deny that secular claims are made with appeals to unshared authorities, too. However, the distinguishing features

“Dropping the religious references in public discourse would make the democratic process function much more fluidly.”


between the two types of appeals is that secular authorities don’t matter for the claim being made, nor are they treated as infallible sources. For example, if someone cites John Stuart Mill in the public square by arguing that his position on maximizing happiness is the correct one, it only takes a small exercise in practical wisdom to see that the argument is not so much about John Stuart Mill, but about the ideals he advocated, and the best goals to have for public policy. And, really, let’s be honest with ourselves, there aren’t that many citizens who enter the public square demanding that other people follow the word of John Stuart Mill; nobody has ever been put to the stake for not following the word of John Stuart Mill, or Immanuel Kant for that matter. To illustrate, the value of the two types of claims is found in what is being said (secular claims) versus who is saying something (religious claims). When it comes to discussions of public policy, though, since religious premises act as mere appeals to unshared authority, they are unlikely to be productive. Again, we run headfirst into the problem of private discourse and experience that only a certain body of citizens can share.   Interestingly enough, Stout holds that by refusing to listen religious premises, citizens would stifle political conversation. Here, another issue Stout has with Rorty becomes apparent: Stout seems to believe that we lack enough commonly held principles to keep productive political debate going. However, as G. Elijah Dann notes, considering the massive array of religious values that people hold, it is hard to imagine how citizens could work through all those values in the public square productively if they can’t even work with what we already have: pleasure being better than pain and liberty better than oppression. Surely, the sheer amount of religious values held by the public makes it seem absurd that productive conversations of public policy could be had without the privatization of religion.   In his book, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, Michael Sandel lays out a position that is in direct opposition to Rorty’s. In all fairness to Sandel, his main target isn’t Rorty, but John Rawls, an American political and moral philosopher. Even so, Sandel’s criticism can be applied to Rorty. Sandel’s main concern is that if religion (or any deeply held moral belief ) were to be privatized, the language used in the public sphere would only lead to resentment, and trivialization of the issues. Sandel writes, “often, [privatization] means suppressing moral disagreement rather than actually avoiding it. This can provoke backlash and resentment.” In other words, not listening to religious premises in the public square leads to frustration and a further disruption of the democratic process, and unfairly burdens religious believers by making them translate their religious premises into secular language if they wish to participate in the public sphere.   Sandel’s criticism has major flaws. First of all, Sandel either fails to see the resentment that religious premises in the public square create, or he flat-out refuses to accept that religious appeals have such an effect. It is not the lack of religious premises entered into the public square that cause frustration, but it is their abundance. As Sandel readily admits in Justice, citizens are not willing to leave their religious persuasions at the door before entering the public arena. The trouble occurs because believers are typically unwilling to compromise on their beliefs. It is this THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  27

unfortunate stubbornness that frustrates non-religious citizens and religious citizens who accept liberal neutrality. Allowing religious premises into the public square would just further the frustration that already exists. Also, secular translation is no more of a burden on religious believers than it is on the nonreligious, as the non-religious should refrain from referencing troublesome foundational principles. Rorty writes, “‘Restructuring the arguments in purely secular terms’ just means ‘dropping reference to the source of the premises of the arguments,’ … this omission seems a reasonable price to pay for religious liberty” (Philosophy and Social Hope). Indeed, privatization can only be seen as a burden on religious individuals if believers are viewed as having moral values more connected to their identities than non-believers have with theirs. But, as Rorty points out, Enlightenment ideology or any other secular ideology can give non-believers just as much meaning to their lives as religious ideology do for their believers. Therefore, we need not accept that notion.   Rorty was correct to describe religion as a conversation stopper. Religious appeals entered into the public square are almost always exclusionary; the only citizens with access to such appeals are the citizens who are fluent in the language of the religious tradition being referenced. Stout might have been correct to point out that religion is not essentially anything, but he fails to acknowledge that religious premises only appeal to a certain community of believers. Productive democratic discussion depends on citizens appealing to shared premises. Entering religious premises in the public square excludes people from dialogue, or leads to conversations of theology instead of public policy. For democracy to function in a healthy manner, religious citizens have to privatize their religious views, and non-religious


citizens have to drop the references to their foundational principles. Democracy depends on shared secular premises, and religion does not operate using those terms. •

Works Cited Butler, Judith et al. The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. New York, New York, Columbia University Press: 2011. 61. Print. Forden, Sara. “Santorum Says Separation of Church and State Isn’t Absolute.” Business Week: February 26, 2012. Accessed May 5, 2012. <> Rorty, Richard. An Ethics for Today., New York, New York, Columbia University Press: 2008. 43, 67. Print. Philosophy and Social Hope. New York, New York, Penguin: 1999. 169, 171, 173-4. Print. “Religion in the Public Square.” The Rorty Reader. Ed. Christopher J. Voparil and Richard J. Bernstein. Blackwell: 2010. Print. Sandel, Michael. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?. New York, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2009. Print. Stout, Jeffrey. Democracy and Tradition. Oxfordshire, Princeton University Press: 2004. 86-87. Print.

One Man With All This Power As Appreciated by Mike Lynch

THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012â&#x20AC;&#x192; 29


hen you picked up this issue and saw “Power” written across the cover, what was the first thing to flutter into your mind? Wait a minute, why bother asking? Clearly only one thing entered your brain—the hit single “Power” by America's only hip hop genius, Kanye West. I know most of you feel the same way that I do about this musical maverick from Atlanta. In fact, when asked who my top five favorite bands are, I'm always inclined to answer with: Kanye West, Kanye West, Kanye West, Kanye West, and Adele. If Kanye was able to form a duo with himself, which I'm sure he's tried, he'd completely take over the hip hop industry. Just wait until next year’s hologram performance comes around.   Considered to be a legend by all functional members of society, Kanye is notorious for speaking his mind and letting people know just who is in charge—him. Some people go as far as describing Kanye as egocentric, arrogant, nonsensical, but that's not true at all. They just don't know to deal with a person of his caliber. After appearing as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone and portraying God in his music video for “Power,” it shocks me that no one has started a religion based around this man. I give it a couple more months before I decide to start one myself. I’ll call it Yeism, and it’s bound to become the biggest religion in the world in no time. Kanye is a God, plain and simple. The man believes himself to have lived many lives, though he’s not always sure as to what part he played in them. In an interview, Kanye says, “I must have been European in another life or somethin’.” Kanye is clearly some sort of higher power, and I could ramble on all day to you about his great deeds and the wisdom presented in his lyrics, and though there’s no point preaching to the choir... I think I will anyway.   Since his arrival on the music scene in 1996, everything Kanye does or says has made an impact on our society. As he himself has said, “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice”—a job that he has fully embraced with all his might. Kanye is an outspoken member of our generation, capturing the feelings of anger, anguish, and sorrow that we as the American people are unable to voice ourselves. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Kanye West was there at the center of the destruction. He took it upon himself to channel all the rage, frustration, and sorrow of those affected


by the disaster and voiced what everyone was thinking; “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Whether it was true or not, somebody had to take a stand and speak for the American people. And if not Kanye, then who? Who in this great country would have to courage to voice our opinions for us? No one. There should be a statue of him in New Orleans. That man is a hero, and we should be honored to walk the same ground as him.   Over the past 12 years, Kanye has been nominated for 161 different music awards, in which he has ludicrously received a mere 53. Most of those losses are complete nonsense, and if the judges of the music industry knew anything about music, he would have a room full of the hundreds of music awards he deserves. Kanye doesn’t like to lose ’cause Kanye knows he’s the best. Many of you may remember in 2009 when he added some input to Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for mtv’s best female music video award. You may think this was an outrage, and completely unacceptable, and in many ways it was. That award should have gone to Kanye for any one of his numerous music videos containing scantily clad “hoes” being showered in dollar bills. mtv really managed to screw that up, and no one can blame Mr. West for storming onto the stage in the first place. Sadly, this was not the first time Kanye was cheated out of a music video award and stormed the stage. Three years early he lost the best video award at mtv Europe Music Awards. After losing to justice, Kanye stormed the stage and attempted to make an argument for why he should have won. That was completely unnecessary because he was the obvious winner of best music video. Instead, they gave the award to a duo whose album title was †. That’s not even a letter; it’s just a symbol. How do you even pronounce that?!   What does Kanye need mtv for, anyway? After being nominated for five mtv music awards, and being the performing artist, Kanye walked home with zero of the 13 awards he deserved. Are you feeling outraged about this? Of course you are; I know I am. How this sort of injustice took place, I have no idea. But I do know that Kanye wasn’t about to just let this fly. Oh no, instead, he took a bold stand and told mtv what was what. Some considered it to be a tantrum but it was really just Kanye speaking his mind. No more mtv for Kanye. He swore off of it, saying that he would never return. And who can blame him? I

can’t. What sort of people invite you to open up their award show and then give you none of the awards? That’s just absurd.   The man is a musical genius. An entity so perfect, so superb, so divine that every time I am graced with the sound of his music, chills run through my body. Nothing takes me higher than listening to him throw down line after line of pure talent. And though it may be a sin to think so, lately his music has not been as flawless as it has in the past. But don’t question my faith in Ye; the travesty instead is due to his new collaborations. With bottom of the barrel dirt artists like 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Pusha T, Kanye’s music has become sub par. And you can’t blame him, that’d be lunacy—it’s down right out of the question. To accuse him of fault is unimaginable when he is only being dragged down by working with artists who aren’t on the same level he is.   But at the same time, to allow Kanye to create such abominations as “Birthday Song” is just not acceptable. Somehow, someway, we as disciples of Yeism must find a way to stop this before the holy name of Kanye West has been smeared into nothing more than accompaniment on malicious tracks about big booty hoes. And so I’m not calling for your help. No, I’m demanding it. As part of our sacred duty as Kanye fans—or followers, rather—we must do something to stop this before things are too late. Because if we can’t do anything to help him out of this funk, then who could?   Oh right, Kanye could. •

It shocks me that no one has started a religion based around this man.

Works Cited Lewis, Britany. “Kanye West’s 10 Greatest Interviews of all Time (Videos).” Global Grind. Global Grind, October, 2012. Web. Accessed October 4, 2012. <http://>


197 S T U D E N T S

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nglish writer Gilbert K. Chesterton once stated, “Education is simply the soul of society as it passes from one generation to another.” Essentially, the power of each generation moving forward individually guides the following generations to be even more powerful. The more power, the more influence and change are possible, leading to a more desirable education.   The “power of generations.” Catchy phrase, right? Here at Wells College, this phrase can be defined in many different ways. According to Jennifer Michael, Dean of Students, “Someone with power has the power to influence change, has the ability to motivate others, can make an impact on society or themselves even, and is able to listen and receive information.” In other words, power in this case is used to act in a positive manner and with the sole purpose of making change happen in the community. However, the underlying question is—does power corrupt people or do people corrupt power? Unless one’s power is used for a greater deed, power can subsequently backfire and corrupt the minds of the beholder. Essentially, the intended purpose can be good but the power to do good can also be abused. In that case, it’s up to that brave soul with the power to be able to see what it takes to actually utilize what they have.   Each year, new generations of students enroll at Wells College with different talents, ambitions, and intelligence. They each have a distinct power within them: to make use of their talents and intelligence to greatly influence Wells and how well it can continue to progress over the years. Students are a boundless factor in shaping this institution.   Dr. Cindy Speaker, Provost and Dean of Wells agreed when she stated, “[In] both its current student bodies and past student bodies, you definitely see how students have influenced the nature of the institution, the community that’s built here, and in part [that is] because the students are the largest constituent group of the com-

munity. I also think it’s more than that; it’s more in terms of student engagement both in the classroom and out of the classroom, the residence halls, and just all that is Wells. When student engagement is high and positive, it really ripples throughout the entire community.”   The students’ ability to be able to stand up and voice their opinions is also a distinct power within a group that can greatly influence change in a community. Being that Jennifer Michael has been at Wells for less than a year, she comments, “The history of Wells is based on its students and just learning about the community myself still, [I] hear [about] how much voice students have had, in access to administration, access to the president, and in ability to influence change on campus and have their voices heard. We just went through the trustee meeting. Students were present at that, and they had their voices heard there. I would say 100% that student voice has influenced Wells.”   Due to the fact that Jennifer Michael, Dean of Students, relatively new to the community, comments the way she does is amazing because even she can notice how generations of students can distinctively impact the school with the amazing powers that they do have.   The start of the new year sparked many uncertainties concerning the “hugeness” of the 2016 class because it is the largest class of Wells history. Dean Michael stated, “This is my first group of students that I’ve seen come through and I think in looking at the class of 2016, as they come in,… [they have] that critical mass of student thought and process.” Many people, especially the students here at Wells, are actually very anxious to see what this class has to offer to the college. Senior Brenna Toomey stated, “I’m excited to see more people at Wells because that means more opportunity for Wells, but I really think there is a lot of responsibility for those who have been at Wells to kind of mold us. I like seeing the bigger numbers. Being in a class with 89 people is really suf-

focating. Of course, people will leave. To me, the more people that come to Wells, then the more opportunities there are for people at Wells.”   In that case, Stephanie Letteer, also a senior, states about the different classes, “I think they have different impacts and I think the longer you’re here, the more acquainted you become with it, the more power you hold and choose to hold. The seniors, because we’ve been here the longest, we try to pass that on to the younger generation, and tell them how it is and how it isn’t. With the new freshmen that are coming in and what I’ve seen so far, you guys have your own ideas and you’re bringing them forth so things are changing slowly. It’s like a ladder.”   With bigger numbers being on campus, Toomey added, “A lot of people complain about the change in attitude and [there being a] lot of disrespect towards the school. I think a part of it is that the senior class is so small. It’s a part of leadership of the upperclassmen. Wells is a very unique place and a very small school. You need that upperclassmen leadership; this is what the school is about.”   American Anthropologist Ruth Benedict once stated, “The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community.” As many have noticed, traditions are a big deal at Wells and they have been greatly impacted by the generations that come and go. As each generation becomes a part of Wells, they individually contribute differently to the traditions. Specifically, each class year has traditions and has their own power to pass on these traditions in any way possible to the future classes. Do you think you know Odd/Even? Did you know that “the very first Odd/Even game was played in 1898” (“Odd/Even”)? As it’s been for a very long time, the Evenline team uses blue and green colors and consists of students who will graduate in even-numbered years, and the Oddline team uses purple and yellow THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  33

and consists of students who will graduate in odd-numbered years. As long as this tradition exists, “regardless of which team wins, there is plenty of enthusiasm, and valued memories are once again added to this long-lasting tradition” (“Odd/Even”).   The first Odd/Even sing-off this year of 2012 was September 28th in the Dining Hall. As many have noticed, due to the “hugeness” of the class of 2016, that night at the Odd/Even sing-off, there were massive amounts of blue and green illustrating the spirits of the Evenliners. The sheer number of Evens obviously influenced the loudness that surely would sound out the Oddliners. According to Dean Michael, “I think power comes in two ways: power in numbers—the class of 2016 is big —and having a loud voice. I heard it at Odd/Even; when the Evens would cheer, it was so much louder.”   In addition, as big as this class is, each individual has the power to influence change in traditions or bring what they have to offer to the table. Dean Michael said, “This generation of new students has a lot of great talent in it. I looked at a pool of students that was very intelligent coming in.” It was also shown through the talent of the Evenliners in how creative they were with the lyrics of the songs and how innovative they were in designing their outfits. Even though the Oddliners took the victory of the sing-off, the 2016 freshmen team of Evenliners was still able to win the basketball game. The students who have been here longer tend to go more crazy and free when these events would take place. As for the freshmen, they have more to learn from the upperclassmen, and they also have the power to change attitudes and mold these traditions into what they can become.   President Lisa Ryerson once reported, “Looking back, the 2004-2005 academic year was an extraordinary time in the history of Wells College by any measure. In the most public sense, the college opened the year with the decision to become a coeducational institution. On October 2nd, 2004, the Board of Trustees made the decision that Wells College, historically an all-women’s institution, would admit men as matriculated students beginning in the fall of 2005” (“Toward a New Vision for Wells College”). However, the female students wouldn’t stand for such a decision because they argued that they paid to attend an all-woman institution and that they deserved to graduate from one as well. Therefore, these women protested and did what they felt necessary in order to be heard. When the board made their decision, online reports from the Sioux City Journal stated, “More than a third of Wells College’s all-female student body protested trustees’ decision to admit male students, sleeping in the lobby of the administration building or in the 15 tents set up on the lawn outside.” These women were most worried about men ruling the classrooms or even the school and about the end of the 136 year tradition of Wells College being an all-women institution. The board of trustees made their final decision anyway on October 2nd, 2004, which led to “a legal challenge to the recent decision by Wells College to admit men in the fall of 2005 … in New York State Supreme Court in Cayuga County” (Dickinson) on November 29th, 2004. Two students filed a lawsuit against Wells College because they claimed that Wells “violated New York State General Business law by engaging in deceptive acts and that they were led to believe that they would be attending a women’s college for four years” (Dickinson). Many parents and alumnae supported these students by 34 

Photo by Gabrielle Uhrig

collecting donations for the legal challenge and signing petitions.   “I mean if you think about Wells, it’s used to being a single sex institution. The power of those women to keep that going and then the strength of them to transition into a co-ed institution, the men coming into a single sex environment and the power it must have taken them to live on this campus… I can see it in this year’s class and definitely looking forward to seeing it in going forward,” Dean Michael said in support. Men have contributed a lot to this institution despite their relatively new presence on campus. Their first Even/Odd game was in 2008 and the games have been tradition ever since. While the girls sing and play basketball, the men dance and play dodge ball.   531 students (including the 197 members of the 2016 class) partying in the main lounge of the Dodge residence hall would be impossible. In the past, during the fall semester, Dodge has hosted an event where Wells students and their guests danced the night away to ‘70’s music, hence the name Disco Dodge. However, as class sizes have grown, the event’s organizers have realized that party would be a sweaty disaster. Now, Disco Dodge is held in the Sommer Center where everyone has the opportunity to dance the night away. Then there’s Erotic Ball, and not many students can truly explain its intended purpose. However, Toomey asserts, “Erotic Ball originally started as a body positive movement; first and foremost, it’s a sex positive movement. People aren’t thinking about those aspects anymore. Now you hear people saying, ‘I have to go on my diet for erotic ball.’”   There have been many additions to Wells in recent years (the Express Café is relatively new, as are the colors of the walls in the dining hall). As the college adjusts to accommodating a class the size of 2016, imagine what changes will occur during the course of the four years with seniors leaving, then the juniors, and so forth. Toomey is hoping that “this wave of students is going to help strengthen the academic departments and hopefully bring in a lot of exciting things.”   197 students! Let’s see what else they've got! •

Works Cited Dickinson, Rachel J. “Save Our Sisterhood (sos).” Save Our Sisterhood (sos). November 29, 2004. Web. Accessed November 1, 2012. <> “Odd/Even.” The Student Life Office, October 29, 2007. Web. Accessed October 28, 2012. <http://> Ryerson, Lisa M. “Toward A New Vision For Wells College.” 2005. Web. Accessed November 1, 2012. <> “Students at All-women Wells College in N.Y. Protest Decision to Admit Men.” Sioux City Journal. October 3, 2004. Web. Accessed October 31, 2012. <> THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  35

Let's Talk About Owning Your Sex by Jes Lyons, Your Average Everyday Sex Enthusiast


Sex, Baby: Life Everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power. —Oscar Wilde In a sexed up world where I am constantly surrounded by everyone’s opinion on sex, one thing is clear: their minds are on sex. Be it their inability to get it, their enjoyment of it, or their ambivalence towards the matter, the subject still makes its way into the subconscious as often as, say, breathing. It’s biological.   Biological and absolutely unavoidable. You can’t go very far without hearing the word “sex” or various innuendos referring to sex in some form of media. Sex is in TV, books, and movies. It’s cliché but “sex sells,” and it’s everywhere. I could go on and on about how sex has been exploited in the media, but what about sex promotion? There are few examples, but they exist. Take Sex and The City as a prime example. Sex is right in the title!   And I just love that show. I watch it because the girls go out and get theirs and it’s lovely to see, but mostly, I watch for the character Samantha Jones.   Why do I love Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones so damn much? Well, for one thing, it’s her hilarious one-liners and take no prisoners personality. It’s her surprising clothing choices and outrageously successful PR career. But more than that, she’s one of the first characters in the mainstream of our society who seems to gain her popularity and acclaim for more than her beauty and wit. What makes her attractive, interesting, and new, is her sexuality. No one owns their sex life quite like Samantha Jones. She’s the television Mae West of the late ‘90s and early 2000s.   But what is it about this overt sexual agenda of hers that makes her so memorable to her audience—so powerful?   She is vulgar, loud, and downright obnoxious the majority of the time, but at the deepest center of her character is this: she is comfortable with her sexuality.   What a stunning concept. A woman who loves sex and is totally fine with telling someone to their gaping face how much she loves it. The more outrageous idea, however, is how uncomfortable most people are with their sexuality.   Sexual conviction starts with accepting a simple fact about yourself. You must ask yourself this question: do I like sex? If no,

then that is absolutely fine. Accept this about your personality, be strong in it. Own it. If yes, then that is absolutely fine. Accept this about your personality, be strong in it. Own it.   The root of being secure and confident in oneself is taking pleasure in and loving everything about oneself. Being sexually secure, is accepting and celebrating how much you love or don’t love having sex, and it’s that simple. When the strength from that conviction pours forth from you as an individual, you have control over yourself, your sex life, and your sexuality.   The power of sex can come from having lots of it, or having none at all. You get to choose how you wield your personal sexual power.   Sure, it sounds like a cheesy superpower from an x-rated movie, but think about Samantha. She decides what she wants and goes and gets it. She decides whom she shares her sexual appetite with, be it herself (yes—women masturbate), someone else, or several other people. To Samantha, a strong and independent self-made career woman, “Money is power. Sex is power. Therefore, getting money for sex is simply an exchange of power.”   This really got me thinking. Sex as a power exchange.   And who gets money for sex? Prostitutes.   One of the fairly well-known and popular legalized Brothels in this lovely country of ours is the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, just outside of Carson City, Nevada. Some of the most popular and sought after porn stars have worked there over the years, and of course, men and women alike flock to the venue to exchange their hard earned pay for a night (or a full day, or longer, who’s judging?) with the lovely ladies. These sex workers, named “bunnies,” are treated with respect and honor. They can choose how long or how briefly they want to work there—offering them plenty of financial freedom and power over their lives. In fact, the bunnies of this establishment are allotted a list of services they will and will not do, and also control the prices they wish to charge. This allows for a convenient search for the right companion, and also ensures the employees of the ranch full control over their sexual persuasions. (If you’re interested, check out the faq on their website; it’ll tell you everything you need to know if you want to make a visit.)   However, it’s not only the ladies who work there that earn THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  37

"This really got me thinking. Sex as a power exchange."

money for their illicit favors. In 2008, Natalie Dylan auctioned off her virginity to be consummated at the Bunny Ranch (the only place where it wouldn’t be condemned by law). In fact, the Bunny Ranch prides itself on being the “devirginizing capital of America” (Frequently Asked Questions). Natalie, a forward thinking Psychology student, felt that “one must earn their money the way they see fit (within legal constraints) and have full awareness of one’s finances.” And her choice felt empowering to her. She was being proactive with her body and taking full control of what she could do to better her life. The kicker of the whole situation was that she was in full control of who won the auction; the highest bidder did not, essentially, win. So not only was she in control of the money she made from her virginity auction, but she was in control of the person with whom she shared this important moment. This author applauds her entrepreneurial pursuits and wish her well.   Technically, prostitution is illegal and unregulated in the majority of the United States of America, and frowned upon in most other Western cultures as well. However, there are certain loopholes. No one said anything about the intangible (i.e. not currency) exchange of personal powers and limits as an exchange in sex.   Ah, bdsm. There’s that. (Put the 50 Shades of Grey down.) The acronym bdsm stands for Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, Sadism & Masochism, and mixtures and combinations of all or only some of these activities. The very watered down definition of bdsm is a relationship between the Dominant (or Dom) and the Submissive (or Sub) that may involve bondage, strict rules and guidelines, and punishment for the Submissive if they do not adhere to the guidelines outlined by the Dominant. bdsm does not exclusively contain just these power-dynamics. Some of the community simply enjoy “kinky” sexual activities like paddling, whipping, bondage and restriction, and infliction of pain. In the sexual power exchange of the Dom and Sub, the Sub is, theoretically, gaining their sexual power and thrills from giving their power to the Dom. And likewise with the Dom, gaining it from the Sub’s acquiescence to their demands. These roles are not necessarily black and white, however. There are grey areas (no pun intended).   There are some in the bdsm community that partake in “switching.” That is, changing in between the role of the dominant and the submissive (not using a switch, though that 38 

may be involved in certain circumstances). The “switch,” i.e., the person doing the switching, can change between the Dom or the Sub in an already established relationship, or change their Dom or Sub label with multiple bdsm partners. As long as the lines of communication are open between those in the sexual relationship, switching should be no trouble at all. There are those in the community and out of it that see switching as a kind of bisexuality, an “on the fence” attitude. However, most bdsm communities, such as FetLife, are welcoming and accept any and all participants in the lifestyle. With this open-minded mentality, an integral part of the bdsm community is support and understanding of limits. Limits are, essentially, what one person wants to do, and will not do. There are hard limits, the limits that are not meant to be pursued farther, and soft limits, which, with the right partner and comfort level, may be brought up for discussion. Pushing those limits, however, without prior discussion and consent from both partners is completely taboo (not to mention wrong) and will result in the end of a healthy bdsm power exchange.   The bdsm lifestyle is wild and intense and definitely not for everyone, but the amazing thing about this power exchange of bdsm is the approbation between adults to partake in the trading of control.   How thin is the line between sex and control? Sex as a means of control of others, for example. Sexual manipulation.   I don’t mean manipulation in a negative way. Look at modern Burlesque performers as a choice example. For performers as infamous as Dita Von Teese, it’s all about the strip tease. The allure of the art form is much more about what the performer isn’t giving the audience, and much less about what the performer is giving. The audience can look, but they cannot touch. They can enjoy the flesh, they can feast their eyes upon the succulent body on the stage, but they will not know the touch of the performer that night. This is simultaneously arousing and mildly frustrating. The withholding and the mystery are what make Burlesque so exciting, and what begs the question: is withholding sex powerful too?   Yes.   Sometimes withholding sex as something very sacred to oneself is very powerful indeed. It shows strength, courage, and individualism, especially in this age of fairly available sexual partners. Choosing not to have sex is a personal conviction, be you asexual, not yet ready to explore your sexual horizons, or

Works Cited determined in your religious doctrine. It shows self-assertion and pride, and no one can fault you for your decision in this matter.   If a relationship does not work out due to one’s desire to have sex not matching the desires of the other, then it wasn’t meant to be. No one should have to push into a sexual relationship before they feel it is the right time. On the other hand, no one should be withheld from their sexual prime if they do not want to be. Sexual health and activity are important to some people, and mutual respect for one another’s desires is vital to any healthy relationship. Those looking to get down with their naughty sides should set out a time frame and ease into their sex life. However, there is no shame in not being ready, and virgins and non-virgins who simply abstain from sexual activity deserve just as much respect as those who are more frequently having sex.   So which is more powerful? Withholding, or freely partaking in sexual activity?   Both are powerful in the same way.   If you choose to have as much or as little sex as you please, then it is your prerogative as an adult human being with a body and insatiable (or nonexistent) carnal desires to partake in any amount of sex you damn well please.   Sexual choice is sexual empowerment. What is more empowering than deciding how many orgasms you’re going to have in a day? Set a goal, then challenge that goal. You’ll be happier in the long haul. Walk around naked (indoors, no one needs that on their record) for a day. Become acquainted with your sexual health. Look at your private parts in a hand mirror. Sexual health is important—this cannot be stressed enough. Sexual empowerment is all about taking care of your desires, your partner’s (or partners’—I’m not judging!) desires, and your sexual health, sexually active or not. Know your boundaries and limits, know what you want out of your sex life, and make it a aspiration to ensure you get what you want and need out of it.   Whether you’re a bunny, a Dom, Sub, or Switch, a virgin, a burlesque performer, or an average everyday sex enthusiast (like me!), there’s a way to enjoy and take pride in your sexual lifestyle. Just remember to keep it safe (always use a condom and get tested). The moment we stop pushing sex out of the way like a hobby, and push it as an inclusive part of everyday life, the world will know peace; we’ll be too busy getting it on to argue anymore. •

Dylan, Natalie. Interview. By WB Gene. March 10, 2009. Web. <> Cooper, Sari. bdsm: Fifty Shades of Grey Unplugged. Sussex Publishers, llc: March 6, 2012. Web. < bdsm-fifty-shades-grey-unplugged> Sexual Empowerment 101. OneStudent. <> Frequently Asked Questions. < faq.html>


The Politics of Identity: Defining Diversity by Victoria Carreon



t Wells College, diversity and race-based privilege are not just subjects that we discuss in pretty much every social science class, but are issues that we talk about all the time—at every chance we get, it seems. Many members of the Wells community pride ourselves on our diversity. We tell ourselves that we’re a unique little place because we have people from all over the world from different backgrounds, each with unique experiences. The representation of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds at our institution allows us to get to relate what we learn in many classes to the people we know, who are often willing to share their stories as well. As Wellsians, we acknowledge that people from different races, ethnicities, and classes face differing experiences. We know a lot about diversity, but what do we really know about diversity at Wells? In a parody video called “My New Name Tag” created by Resident Advisors in the fall of 2008, John Norris from the Class of 2009 jokingly said, “Yeah, I love diversity. I talk about diversity at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” The video was a hit that year, especially with first-year students and the Dean of Students Office, because it was exactly the kind of image that we believe we reflect as a school. The idea that Wells College is a place where diversity is a fundamental value is also used on promotional materials by the Admissions Office. On their site, the Admissions Office asserts, One of our core values is inclusive and intercultural excellence. It is a guiding principle that reflects our college-wide commitment to social responsibility and cultural pluralism...You’ll see this value reflected in our mission statement, community standards, academic programs, community service initiatives, and in our people—every day. This statement is a pretty big promise to make to prospective students, but is it something that the Wells can live up to? It just might be, actually. Most people familiar with Wells know that the student body of the college has changed significantly within the last ten years. While Wells was an all women’s college for 136 years, in the fall of 2005, men were allowed entry into the school, obviously leading to major changes in the makeup of the student body. Some alumnae have expressed the concern that our school lost a sense of its identity, or weakened it, because it now has less to differentiate it from other small liberal arts schools. The identity of Wells College is a representation of the students, staff, faculty, and administrators. While our school might not have the unique factor of being a single-sex institution anymore, there are many other ways in which the school ensured that Wells College remains a collection of unique individuals who share many of the same values but are different in their own ways. The topic of “diversity” is often regarded as an issue that involves race, ethnicity, and social class, but according to Malindra Ratnayake, the Director of Residence Life and Learning Communities, using a broader definition of diversity can allow people

to see the layers of diversity that truly exist at an institution like Wells. “To me, diversity is anything that’s different—anything that separates one person from another,” Ratnayake said. “A lot of people limit it to skin color or other overt forms of diversity, but to me, it’s much more—gender, sexual orientation, class standing, social status, veteran status, and people’s upbringing. All contribute to diversity.” When examining diversity at Wells through this perspective, seeing the ways in which Wells College has an interesting makeup of people is a little more evident. Even so, it’s hard to look past the issue of race and ethnicity as indicators of diversity because information like social class, veteran status, upbringing, and medical conditions are not immediately apparent. The ways in which diversity can be fully examined are limited simply because there is limited access to the information that might highlight other forms of diversity. Comparing Wells, however, to other higher educational institutions is another option for examining the amount of diversity at the college. Races and ethnicities represented at Wells College deviate from other schools in the area that are small and carry the same degree of prestige as Wells. Nearby Elmira College has about three times the amount of students that Wells does, but the school doesn’t list the represented races and ethnicities in its view book or on its website. According to The Princeton Review, however, about 73 percent of Elmira’s students are White. The percentage of White students at Wells is about 66 percent, according to statistics provided by the Registrar’s Office, meaning that about 170 of our 531 students are not White. Furthermore, the percentage of minority students has increased throughout the past ten years. During the 2002-2003 academic year, 75 percent of Wells students were White, according to the stats provided by the Registrar’s Office. About a quarter of the student body was made up of minorities, with Blacks consisting of five percent of the school’s population, 4.3 percent being Latino, and 3.4 percent being Asian/Pacific Islander; less than one percent of students were Native American. It is important to note, however, that more than eight percent of students’ races were not identified. Currently, the student body’s racial make-up is distributed as follows: 10.7 percent are Black, 5.2 percent are Latino, two percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and two percent are Native American. Two percent of students identify themselves are more than two races and 10 percent did not identify as any specific race (two percent more than in the 2002-2003 academic year). The number of minority students at Wells has increased, giving the school a different kind of power—one derived from a student body full of hidden differences that create a multicultural and unique environment for a small school. The numbers provided above clearly state that the majority of students at Wells are White but that Wells is also “less White” than similar institutions. By comparing our school to institutions that should have a similar makeup due to prestige, proximity, and price, we can see that our school is diverse at the basic racial and ethnic level, which is often regarded as the most important indicator of diversity. Using a broad definition of diversity, like Ratnayake’s, allows the college to strengthen its core value of diversity by ensuring there are students from every possible avenue—it thus truly appears that Wells values students THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  41


Modeling by Gina Laungani, James Howard, Amy Koch, and Shada Baker


with unique backgrounds and experiences. This definition of diversity indicates that our school can keep the promise that it presents on marketing materials. Yet, since many people’s personal histories and individual experiences are not public knowledge, some students might feel like the community is more homogenous than it is. Visible indicators, like racial or ethnic characteristics, are used to measure diversity at a glance. Because there is a White majority on campus, minority students might feel as if the school isn’t as diverse as they were led to believe. I think anyone who has a distinct background might be worried about their acceptance

44 44 

or rejection by the social scene of college. The current Collegiate Cabinet President, Geentanjali “Gina” Laungani, recently confessed she was worried coming into Wells that she would have a hard time fitting in because she was from the Caribbean. Now in her senior year, Laungani has developed a core group of friends whose differences brought them together. These women, who Laungani calls her “sisters,” were brought together by a group aimed at supporting minority students. Praising Our Work, Ethnicity, and Race (power) is an organization that promotes relationships and connections between students who are interested in promoting racial, ethnic, and work-based diversity. power is a club for students to express the unique issues they might face at Wells because they are marginalized for whatever reason. “This organization has meetings in which students of diverse backgrounds can come together and talk about any issue big or small that they feel impacts them and their life at Wells or that concerns them outside the Wells community,” Laungani said about the purpose of the organization. According to her, though, power can also serve a greater purpose for students at Wells, saying the organization “has become my family at Wells. All the women who I have met through power are my sisters and the current members of power are very dear to me. power also helped me stand up for what I believe in, both in and outside Wells.” While power has played an important role in her life, Laungani does have some concerns about the influence and presence that the organization currently has on campus, saying, “The membership of power has changed in that there are not as many students on campus who take interest in the club or have any knowledge of the club’s existence and what the club provides for the Wells community.” Laungani’s concerns about the support available to students who might find themselves more different than similar to others are not issues that the school is ignoring, according to Ratnayake. While he admits that he is not an expert on diversity and does not intend to present himself as one, Ratnayake said that he is personally passionate about diversity and that it is a cause that he has taken up, within the limits of his position as the Director of Residence Life. Prior to Ratnayake becoming the Director of Resident Life at Wells, the programming requirements for Resident Advisors did not include any programs relating to diversity. Such requirements have been added to the current model that RAs are expected to follow, making it a part of their job to promote diversity at Wells. For Ratnayake, college is supposed to be a time in which students are exposed to people

that they might not have had the opportunity to interact with outside prior to attending school, even if the area that students come from is already diverse. “Before I came to the US, I never knew anyone who was openly gay and [the first person I knew who was] was actually my RA,” said Ratnayake, who is from Sri Lanka. “And we had some interesting conversations, and are in contact even to this day.” Yet, the definition of diversity that Ratnayake gave extends beyond the racially- and ethnically- based definition given by Laungani and the one that is typically thought of when race and ethnicity are brought up regarding higher learning institutions. Just think about if you’ve ever heard the term “reaching quota,” which is a common term referred to letting in just enough minorities to satisfy government requirements. The perspective that Ratnayake offers in regards to diversity, however, is a broad one; it attempts to highlight all of the contrasts between each student on campus. These differences may make Wells College more colorful, but dealing with differences on a personal level might cause individuals to feel left out or misunderstood. It is important that, as a community, Wellsians recognize the different experiences that each student is facing and how these differences might impact their social interactions and their academic success. According to Ratnayake, looking at these differences is like “peeling back layers”—layers which can hide a lot. In Ratnayake’s more inclusive vision of diversity, organizations dealing with marginalized groups, but are not based on race or ethnicity, can be considered as a form of support for minorities. So, even though they don’t deal explicitly with race and ethnicity, Sexuality and Gender Activists (saga) and the Women’s Resource Center (wrc) are two more organizations that can be considered as being outlets for minority students. Yet, not all diversity is based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation—there are lot of other issues that can make someone unique that just these labels may not illustrate. For instance, a student that appears to be a part of the general majority, a member of hegemonic culture, so to speak, might actually be dealing with an underlying issue that enables him or her to be considered a minority. For example, students with learning disabilities or other disabilities that affect their lives can also be considered a minority group. By simply looking at a student, such things might not be so apparent. Most people will not be able to tell, just by glancing at someone, whether or not he or she deals with an illness like epilepsy or lupus, conditions that can limit someone’s capabilities, on a daily basis. While these students may not benefit from an organization in which they gather to raise awareness of their problems, they are not being left without support. Wells College’s commitment to supporting students that have a broad range of issues that might separate them out from others does not end by including a specific type of programming into their Residence Life mission. The school also has a Student Achievement Coordinator, Megan Riedl, who works with stu-

dents with disabilities. to ensure that the unique challenges they face don’t impede upon their academics. “When people think about diversity, they don’t always think about disability. However, disability is the largest minority group in the nation, and the only group any of us can become a part of at any time,” Riedl said, who is a disability specialist. “Here at Wells, around 10 percent of our students identify themselves as having a disability, which is average for the nation.” Since disabilities aren’t always evident to others. Riedl said having one might make it “harder for students to connect with others.” The Office of Student Achievement, however, can support students so they don’t also have as much difficulty performing well academically. Through this office, students can develop an accommodation plan that will make it easier for them to succeed at Wells College. In regards to working with disabled students, Riedl said that Wells College does a good job of supporting students with disabilities. “I’ve worked at other college campuses, and Wells, by far, has the most understanding and helpful students, staff, and faculty,” Riedl said. By supporting students with disabilities, Wells is making a strong commitment to ensuring that students that with a widerange of experiences, privileges, and disadvantages are given the opportunity to succeed at Wells. Our school really is a diverse place, and the College is upholding one of its unique factors, the Honor Code, by using truthful statements in its admissions materials. The more I looked into the issue of diversity at Wells, the more I became aware of the colors that are evident when you put on the truth glasses, that don’t seem to be rose-tinted at all. The reality is evident in the statistics and the staff of Wells is expressing that truth when it comes to diversity at our college. At first, it might seem like they’re using the rhetoric that prospective students want to hear, but it all depends on what definition of diversity is used. The definition of that word contains a lot of power, because it can alter the way we view our surroundings and ourselves. Using the right definition, whether for our community, or our institution, enables us to say that we are diverse without lying. We’re telling the truth, all of us, when we say that we are diverse because we use a more inclusive definition that gets at the heart of diversity. The power of diversity, then, really depends on how many geographies, ideologies, histories, and experiences are collected on our small campus. If supporting diversity is supposed to mean including as many people as possible, then maybe making the definition as inclusive as can be will make everything more diverse. If we want to continue to pride ourselves on being diverse, we have to continue to support it and include as many people as we can. Diversity, after all, is just about celebrating our differences. •


Words Will Never Hurt Me The Untold Impacts of Language Formation By Rebekkah McKalsen Illustrations by Kelly Cobler


anguage is so integrated into every moment of my day that it’s hard to imagine life without it. Texts, dinner table conversations with friends, papers, facebook notifications—none of these would be possible without the medium of language. I think of the monks who used to take vows of silence, sometimes for years on end, and I can’t even imagine what that would be like.   But what would happen if a child was never exposed to a spoken language? The historian Salimbene reported an apocryphal experiment by King Frederick ii of Germany that tested this question. According to Salimbene, the experiment was conducted in order to decipher what language children are born with—Frederick’s hypothesis was that the children would grow up to speak Hebrew (the language of Adam and Eve) because that was the supposed first language of mankind. However, according to Salimbene’s account as found in C. H. Haskin’s book, Science at the Court of Emperor Frederick ii, “[H] e labored in vain, for all the children died” (686). There are also feral children, such as Victor, who was found in Paris in the late nineteenth century. Several such children were discovered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and they inspired Edgar 46 

Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes, which was a romanticizing of their stories. When he was found, Victor could not speak, and he was estimated to be about the age of fourteen (around puberty, which is of note) although he could barely walk and was extremely small for his age. He never learned to speak more than a few scattered words and Itard, who studied him and attempted to teach Victor to speak, was discouraged because Victor could not seem to make the leap from saying a word to understanding what the word implied.   This seems to show that children who are not exposed to language at an early enough age have problems not only acquiring language, but also adapting intellectually and socially to the world as it is constructed. According to Douglas Candland in his book, Feral Children and Clever Animals, “Speech is a behavior… This ability might be taught, yet the speech might fail to have meaning or feeling.” Victor and other feral children like Kaspar Hauser from Germany had continuous problems with quantitative reasoning; they could not connect ideas with words in order to convey meaning through their words. It was as if they were completely bereft of the ability to learn languages.

Another child, Genie, was found in the 1970s when her mother escaped from an abusive husband and sought help for herself and the child. Because Genie was found after social sciences like psychology and linguistics were developed, her case was exciting for researchers who wanted to correct the methodical mistakes of past researchers concerning feral or “wild” children. She was thirteen and a half when her mother walked her into a welfare office in Los Angeles County and like Victor, was so underdeveloped that staff originally estimated her age at six or seven. Her feet were malformed because she was never allowed to walk and she was only about four and a half feet tall.   Genie was immediately placed in Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for a case of extreme malnutrition, and her case was in national headlines for several weeks. A grad student studying linguistics at the University of California at Los Angeles by the name of Susan Curtiss was given time to help the girl learn the English language while also conducting research into the nature of Genie’s language acquisition. Genie showed initial promise; when she was found, her speech development matched that of a six-month-old, and after a year, this had increased to the proficiency of an eighteen-month-old. Curtiss believed that once she hit the development of a two-year-old, Genie would skyrocket into normal speech patterns like any toddler would at that stage in their development, eventually coming to full fluency. However, Genie’s development ominously stopped. Candland writes, “Although Genie’s vocabulary increased, her speech stayed limited to a few short utterances; it soon became clear that she was understanding more than she could produce” (53). Her faculties for learning language like other children were somehow impaired or missing. A common suggestion made is that first language acquisition is only available to humans before puberty; cases of children like Victor and Genie support this hypothesis because they were not successful in acquiring languages after puberty. One article by Layne Wood suggests an even tighter time frame of the first three years of a child’s life: “Children who do not acquire age-appropriate language skills during this time will likely struggle with speech, language and, consequently, literacy…”   In her time at the Children’s Hospital, Genie was often in the kitchen associating with the cooks, who allowed her to range in the kitchen and play. One day, the hospital experienced an earthquake. One of the cooks noted her run into the kitchen during the quake, yelling profusely. He later commented that “if there had been one more tremor Genie would have achieved normal speech on the spot” (Candland 53). Instead, her speech never became “normal.” She was unable to construct even simple sentences and although she made progress with vocabulary and connecting words to their objects, her vocalizing never strayed far from incoherent babbling.   Another problem that Curtiss noticed with Genie was her inability to make cultural adjustments. Genie was allowed into the play yard with the other children after a few initial weeks alone. She was very selfish and would often claim things as hers even after abandoning them, much like an errant toddler. Another anomaly, possibly related to her history of child abuse by her father, was that when she became angry, her tantrums were not focused on the focus of her irritation, but inwardly on herself. She reportedly wouldn’t make any noise when having a tantrum, but would flail about, scratch at herself, and blow her

Children who do not acquire age-appropriate language skills during this time will likely struggle with speech, language and, consequently, literacy.



The trouble with language acquisition is that the nativists have proved that it's a mystery and the environmentalists have proved that it's impossible. wordswillneverhurtme


nose—all in absolute silence. Thus, her childhood with abuse and without language contributed a lot to her actions. After a few months, observers at the Children’s Hospital were delighted to see Genie hit another girl in a fit of anger. As Candland noted, “Actions that would have earned a normal child a spanking seemed in Genie to be healthy signs of emergence;” Genie was moving away from her dark and abusive past (51).   When studying feral children, it is difficult for researchers to isolate which problems have arisen from their relative isolation from language and which have arisen due to other problems such as malnutrition, abuse, or isolation from normative human culture. To turn this conversation to a new chapter, it is perhaps worthwhile to consider the Deaf community.   Deaf children have no experience with spoken language, but they are not isolated from normal human interaction like feral children. Do they have as many difficulties adjusting to the world and to spoken language as the “wild children”? According to Padden and Humphries in their book, Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture, “Knowledge of Deaf people is not simply a camaraderie with others who have a similar physical condition, but is, like many other cultures in the traditional sense of the term, historically created and actively transmitted across generations.” The Deaf community acts as a distinct entity as a reaction to being isolated from the hearing community. This is important to note in relation to feral children because those children have been found occasionally over the course of the centuries and therefore lacked the opportunity to create any sort of community based on their shared experiences. Even if it was possible, the wide variation of their experiences—from being caged in a room alone to being abandoned in the wilderness—defies communal experience.   Another point of interest among the Deaf is that, although their language (in America, asl) is unspoken, deaf children learn sign language in nearly the same way that hearing people learn to speak. Deaf children can become fluent in sign language even if their parents are not fluent; that is, they can “acquir[e] rules [their parents] did not model, and consistently follo[w] rules that they used only inconsistently” (Senghas and Coppola 323). If the language is learned after puberty, they will have a foreigner’s accent similar to when adults learn a second language. It is also interesting that there are many different forms of sign language just like there are many different kinds of spoken languages, including dialects of various sign languages in remote villages. There are hundreds of different sign languages across the world aside from asl: there are also bsl, AusLan, sln (from the Netherlands) and many, many others. These phenomenal details, which highlight some of the affinities between sign languages and spoken languages, contribute to infamous linguist Noam Chomsky’s idea that language formation is at least in part an innate process that humans lose after puberty—the time after which people will not usually need to learn any more languages to survive in their environment.   This says a lot about the way in which we as humans learn language. According to Noam Chomsky in his groundbreaking

1956 lecture at ucla, while all languages appear to have their own grammar and structure which are completely independent of other languages, all languages actually operate with the same underlying, universal structures and are not just similar, but identical. Oversimplified, Chomsky’s argument was that “there is one sentence we are able to understand, but most of the sentences we hear are not like that model. So we have to move the sentence around to understand it” (Candland 29).   Chomsky’s assertion led to huge controversy in the world of linguistics, which was divided into those who leaned towards being “pro-Chomskian” or “anti-Chomskian” in their work. Another way of categorizing the split in the linguistic community is the environmentalist approach versus the nativist approach, which hearkens back to the age-old psychological debate between nature and nurture. However, after much research, psycholinguist George Miller finally declared, “The trouble with language acquisition is that the nativists have proved that it’s a mystery and the environmentalists have proved that it’s impossible” (Candland 39).   Regardless of the reasons behind it, feral children who are not exposed to any type of language before puberty, whether spoken or visualized, seem incapable of not only learning a language, but also using the same processes of logic typically used during language acquisition for other tasks. This could be seen in Genie, who was “unburdened by any evident capacity for prejudice or appraisal” when found and who, like a blind child, could not “integrate tactile and visual information” (Rymer 9, 47) in order to understand the world around her.   With so many developmental problems associated with feral children, perhaps the key to the role of language in our lives lies in this question: what language do those without language think in? The pre-lingual deaf “will, not surprisingly, think in sign language,” but what of the feral children who have no way of communicating (Hiskey)? It would seem that they also have no way of communicating with themselves. Russ Rymer quoted the German philologist Steinthal, who believed that language has more purposes than just communicating, as saying, “Language is self-awareness… One understands oneself: that is the beginning of language” (75). •


Works Cited Candland, Douglas. Feral Children and Clever Animals. Oxford University Press, New York, New York: 1993. Print. Haskins, C. H. Science at the Court of Emperor Frederick ii. The American Historical Review, v. 27, No. 4: July 1922. Page 686. Web. Accessed October 15, 2012. < stable/1837535> Hiskey, Daven. How Deaf People Think. Today I Found Out: July 20, 2010. Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. <> Padden, Carol and Humphries, Tom. Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1988. Print. Rymer, Russ. Genie: A Scientific Tragedy. Penguin Group: 1993. Print. Senghas, Ann and Coppola, Marie. Children Creating Language. American Psychological Society: July 2001. Vol. 12, No. 4. Page 323. Web. < SenghasCoppola01.pdf> Wood, Layne. Infants and Language Development. Livestrong: June 15, 2011. Web. Accessed November 5, 2012. <http://www.>










The Brawn of Books ddd The Relevance of Reading in Everyday Life

By Ramona Reed



y love for reading began in middle school. I remember going to the school library to pick out books; I began by reading teen fiction novels. Now, these books didn’t contain what I’d now call good content, but they captured my attention nevertheless. In high school, I moved on to more established writings; Brave New World, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Flies, etc… Part of the reason I loved these books was because they made me feel special. They were part of my identity; I was the girl who was always reading. In class, I usually finished my work early, so I read. I remember someone inquiring, “So, are you done with your work?”   “Yes,” I replied.   “Oh.”   While some tomes are dense and sometimes uninteresting, many are rich in meaningful experiences.   Furthermore, I actually learned from them. Reading made me a more open-minded person; I’m more open to discussing deep, personal issues with people because I want to understand their perspectives. In English class, I was able to use my knowledge by applying it to whatever subject we were discussing. When we were reading The Bluest Eye, my teacher, Mrs. McDonald, made the point that Cholly Breedlove’s actions were in part a result of a traumatic event in his past, and I added that arrested development would contribute to this character’s actions. Many students in my class had no clue what I was talking about, but my teacher nodded her head. I was glad that I knew enough to be able to explain that his traumatic childhood led to his inability to make appropriate life choices; he was “stuck” in the same pattern of abuse that he’d faced as a young man. My reading patterns got to a point where I was reading 3 or 4 books at a time (except for when I read East of Eden, but that’s another story), so I had plenty of material. Reading was certainly fundamental to my contributions in class.

  I don’t mean to come off as some self-righteous know-it-all. My reading doesn’t make me any better than anyone, however, reading is good for each individual as well as everyone around them. The cia World Fact Book states, “Low levels of literacy, and education in general, can impede the economic development of a country in the current[ly] rapidly changing, technology-driven world.” Reading helped me in the classroom, but many students are uninterested in reading quality books as recreation. Basic literacy in the US is about 99%, but what types of books are we reading when Barnes & Nobles is pushing books like Twilight and The Hunger Games under our nose before we read The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice? While reading for fun is important, we must challenge ourselves.   Reading allows us to develop critical thinking skills necessary to make many important decisions. If you’ve never read The Jungle, you might not be very concerned about the foods you are eating, and if you have never heard of Brave New World or 1984, you might not be too concerned with your ability to make your own choices in a democracy. Reading about a cultural experience is meaningful because it urges us to take a look at our own lives and reevaluate the meaning of the things we take for granted. When I read Animal Farm, I started thinking not just about communism, but democracy, too; I wondered if I really lived in a democracy where I could do anything and be anyone I wanted and if democracy really is the best political system there is. One of the main reasons corruption was able to persist in Animal Farm was the illiteracy of some of the characters, who couldn’t read the “laws” written for them, so the animals in a position of power could change the rules without much objection.   At a recent political science colloquium at Wells, Professor Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo did a presentation concerning South Sudanese politics. As part of his presentation, he listed five priorities for the new nation state; education was at the top


of the list. In any nation, education is a long-term investment which “must reflect the particularity of [that country].” A good educational system must prepare children to be productive adults; reading is a skill necessary for the development not only of the individual, but also of their country. This is a concept corroborated by Professor Tukumbi, who said that many adults depend on the youth to vote; their children dictate to them the choices and write for them. Enthusiasm for voting and participating in government is vital to the future of South Sudan as well as the rest of the world, but how can South Sudan maintain youth involvement if the youth can’t read?   Reading the news and other sources that educate us about the current state of the world, including books, is just as important as reading for personal recreation. When we read—especially high quality books of established merit—we improve our vocabulary as well as promote the economy. The people who work at paper mills, who collect news to be printed and who sell the finished products are all vital to the community. Someone has to cut down trees, someone else will transport them and process them, yet another community member will investigate stories to report them or write novels to be published, and someone else will print the papers.


  Some of my peers don’t share the same ideal that reading can be fun: “Though children are taught to read in the school system beginning in the early grades, the role of literacy in their lives outside the classroom becomes increasingly remote” (Marc). I think part of this remoteness is a result of peer pressure. To avoid being sneered at or mocked by our classmates, we do what we can to fit in; we learn to play volleyball, kickball, dodge ball or soccer. Whatever throws the scent off of our intellect, we do it. The intended function is to fit in and be “normal,” but the result is that we often develop our identity based on our friends instead of our own thoughts and actions. In his book, Bonfire of the Humanities, David Marc states that the humanities are “tools essential to the getting of knowledge for the purpose of making rational decisions.” He also writes, “Culture is a source of nutrition for growth[; the] growth of consciousness, the personal and the social always in synthesis.”   A recent study by Natalie Phillips has investigated the validity of reading as a good activity, proving scientifically that reading engages your brain. “Cognition is shaped not just by what we read, but how we read it.” Corrie Goldman adds, “Critical reading of humanities-oriented texts is recognized for fostering analytical thought, but if such results hold across

subjects, researcher Natalie Phillips said it would suggest ‘it’s not only what we read—but thinking rigorously about it that’s of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.’”   While reading most certainly positively impacts the individual, the world’s economic, sociopolitical and behavioral statuses are also impacted by people’s reading habits. Reading as part of a good education creates jobs for teachers to instruct students, making people smarter; smarter people mean innovation, ushering in new jobs, such as industrial or internet-based jobs. Our ability to communicate effectively through writing is increased when we read, so we can communicate and understand others. We are producing better leaders because they will be more confident in their knowledge base but still open to the ideas of others. Also, when we are ignorant of what is being written, we cannot affect change because we won’t have the knowledge to fight injustice. •

A good educational system must prepare children to be productive adults; reading is a skill necessary for the development not only of the individual, but also of their country.


Works Cited The World Factbook. < the-world-factbook/fields/2103.html> Marc, David. Bonfire of the Humanities. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995. 26. Print. Goldman, Corrie. This is Your Brain on Jane Austen. Stanford Report, September 7, 2012. Web. < news/2012/september/austen-reading-fmri-090712.html> Philips, Natalie as quoted by Corrie Goldman. This is Your Brain on Jane Austen. Stanford Report, September 7, 2012. Web. <> Why Reading is Good for Your Brain. Huff Post Books, September 14, 2012. Web. <> Lumumba-Kasongo, Tukumbi. Update: Sudan politics and prospects for the future. Wells College Political Science Colloquium, October 15, 2012. 62â&#x20AC;&#x192;

Connect the Dots By Michelle Lee


It's more than just romance.


our entire life, how many people do we meet? How many people do we truly get to know? Can one meeting with a person have the same impact as knowing someone your entire life? Relationships are important. From birth to death and even sometimes after, our connection to other people is important. Because in the end, that’s what a relationship is. “Relationships” are described as “a connection formed between two or more people” (oed). So why are they so important? Why do we put so much effort into staying connected with other people?   Perhaps one of the most unsettling realizations we as people have is that no one part of us is wholly original. Who we are is composed of so many different parts, and it is how those different parts come together that make us unique. The largest and most influential part of our lives is our relationships and the power that those relationships have on us. We build these bonds from day one. Friendships, romantic relationships, parental relationships; the word “relationship” is not restricted to one specific type of connection.   The theory of “Six Degrees of Separation” is well-known. Every person is about six people away from knowing everyone in the world. It’s the concept of a “friend of a friend of a friend.” When I imagine a map of the relationships in my life, I would use a Venn diagram with an obnoxious amount of circles, all overlapping in some way and in the center of it: me.

Parental Concern Our relationship with our parent(s) influences us probably a little more than we would like to admit. I’m sure the phrase “I hope I never become like my parents” is a commonly heard phrase. Parents are significant. They raise us. They love us (most times). We crave their acceptance and love. From birth, they influence who we are. If power is described as the “capacity to direct or influence behaviour of others,” which it is in the Oxford English Dictionary, then parents are some of the very first people to do this.   Eat your vegetables. Play nice. Share. Don’t do that. Be polite. Parents instill behaviors and habits into their children the same way their parents instilled certain behaviors and habits into them. As a baby, parents hold the power for good reason. As the child gets older, the parent demonstrates their power


in different ways. Here’s a curfew. Here’s your allowance. Yes, you can hang out with them. No, you can’t hang out with them. Even when you have children of your own, your parents and what they taught you before affect how you raise your children. If the parents become grandparents, they not only continue to influence you, but they also begin to influence your child. Most times, their ability to control us is beneficial. They teach us how to interact with people, what’s socially acceptable, etc.   They impact the people we become. How our parents behave directly changes how we behave. Maybe so that you become more like them. Maybe so that you become nothing like them. Either way, personality and behavior influence our social circle, activity, academics, occupation, and anything else that we do. That’s a scary amount of power. Parents are scary people.

This circle continues when you become a parent. You influence your child the same way your parents influenced you. And despite popular belief, the power in a parent-child relationship is not a one-way street. Children change their parents just as much but in a different way. Children tend to force parents into a hyper sense of responsibility and a child means changing one’s previous behavior into one that better suits the situation. It’s why a Venn diagram has a shared center. In all relationships, the shared center serves to remind us that connections are rarely one way.

Love, Love, Love. What is It Good For? The first thing that comes to mind when the word “relationship” is brought up is romantic relationships- boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands, wives, companions, etc. Love. Oh, love. How many things in our life center around romantic love? There are songs, books, television shows, and movies dedicated to love. But why? What in the world is so great or important about love? As Lemony Snicket puts it, “Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby—awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.” Love changes people, whether it be for the better or worse. When we enter a relationship, we are under the impression that we can trust the other person with our heart. No matter how poorly or greatly a romantic relationship ends, things change. You are not the same person you were when you entered it.   And maybe that’s a good thing. No one wants to stay the same, and no one gets to stay the same. Perhaps the difference between romantic and platonic relationships is that romantic relationships demand the power dynamics be addressed. Too many times has the question “Who wears the pants in this relationship?” been asked. Forget pants. Nobody should be wearing pants. Relationships should be naked. The evolution of a person and relationship are parallel lines, running directly opposite each other. Constantly developing your person in a relationship means understanding the other person is also developing and that these developments should benefit and add to the relationship, not detract from it.

The evolution of a person and a relationship are parallel lines...

... running directly opposite each other.


You Should Meet These Friends of Mine. Our friends hold an enormous amount of power over us. You go from friends that were chosen for you to friends that you choose. We choose to surround ourselves with certain people, and these people affect us. Speaking from personal experience, my friends drive me to push myself. I was and still am friends with intelligent people who challenge themselves personally and academically. Because of the expectation in our social sphere to meet certain standards, that became the “norm.” We debated about politics during lunch if we weren’t too busy finishing our homework. We, not too covertly, asked how the other did on a test or paper, mentally fist-pumping if we did better. None of us talked about the competitive nature of our friendships. It was simply an accepted fact, and if you didn’t agree or couldn’t keep up, you failed to become part of the main friend group.   Friends are tricky. You influence them. They influence you. And round the circle goes. You have outside influences, such as the media, your parents, a romantic interest, etc. Your friend has the same outside influences. Finding people who become family is an amazing thing. They are the people who challenge yourself to be better than you are. Who convince you that every shift in your being is for the better, but if not, well that’s okay too. They accept you and you accept them and you somehow gain the naked relationship you might have been expecting elsewhere.

So. How do we sort the good relationships from the bad ones? How do we make sure that another person’s influence does not completely consume us until we don’t exist anymore? Is it possible to remain uninfluenced in any form of relationship? To be honest, I have no clue and I think most people don’t. However, living life without connections because of a fear of change seems like a sad life to lead. Fall in love. Make a friend. Break a heart. Talk to your parent(s). Or try to. Expand your circle, the Venn diagram that is you, and somewhere along the line find peace with the most powerful person in your life: Yourself. ∙

Works Cited “power, n.1.” oed Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. October 5, 2012. < ?rskey=KqlE1K&result=1&isAdvanced=false> “relationship, n.” oed Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. October 5, 2012. < ionship>


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hello, jane The Advent of Targeted Advertising by Jeremiah Miller

“Hello, Jane, you could use a cold beverage now,” a billboard calls out as 20-year-old girl walks by with a bead of sweat forming on her brow. It sounds like something out of science fiction —because it is. It’s almost the exact scene out of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. The thing is, this technology is only a stone’s throw away from being a reality.   In the good ‘ole days before the advent of the internet—specifically before Google pioneered the immortal cookie—companies would cart in trucks full of cash and lay them at the feet of broadcasting gods as part of a ritual that the companies hoped would get them customers. Sure, they could use demographic information, but the advertising companies only had so much information to go off of for particular areas. An area could be broken down into race, socioeconomic status, genders, average political affiliation, and age, but when it came to individual buyers, that information was still too broad to get any real consistency. As a result, during your childhood, you were bombarded with ads about the Magic Bullet, because companies noticed a lot of 60-year-old grandmothers living in the area and thought, “Hey, these people might want this for their kitchen.” What the companies failed to realize is that the only people watching the television were their 10-year-old grandkids waiting for cartoons to come on while their parents were at work. That’s only a caricature of the system, but the effectiveness of those ad campaigns left something to be desired.   Today, ads are much more related to our interests—or rather, they’re more likely to be. In about 2004, Google pioneered what has since been dubbed “the immortal cookie.” (And before you ask, no, the immortal cookie isn’t a love child between the Cookie Monster and Edward Cullen.) The immortal cookie is a cookie placed on your computer that doesn’t expire for 30 years. The cookie was placed on a computer after visiting Google. From there the cookie acted as your “unique visitor id” meaning that whenever you went to a website it tracked you based on your unique visitor id and stored the information for later. The next time you went to Google you may have noticed an ad that was slightly more relevant. By creating a profile of your behaviors associated with your unique visitor id they begin to be able to display more relevant ads. This process is called behavioral targeted advertising.   Another type of advertising exists called contextual advertising. Contextual advertising differs from behavioral advertising in that the ads generated are based on the content of the page being viewed. For example, if a person goes on to a website 68 

about sports, it is likely that they will receive ads about sports equipment, or have some ad that is related to the sports community. Contextual advertising doesn’t necessitate the collection of behavioral data; however, it seems logical to want to merge behavioral advertising with contextual advertising. In merging the two you may be able to get a more specific picture of your audience.   Now, I’m well aware of how ads can be way off in terms of targeting. One second you are researching Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and the next second you’re on Facebook getting ads for The next thing you do is yell, “Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me, and hide me from the heavy wrath of my unique visitor id!”   This misdirected targeting occurs because the technology, as Slate writer Farhad Manjoo said, “[Targeted ads are] dumber than any human salesperson, and they’re just smart enough to make you queasy’’ (Manjoo). The queasiness comes from the fact that nothing useful is being done for you, but you know the illustrious “They” are watching you.   This election season has thrown us into the brave new world of voter-targeted ads. Voter targeted ads existed in the past, but this election proves to be more focused on it than previous elections (Beckett). Several companies claim to be able to provide campaigns information about voters online. Specifically, they claim to provide targeted ads to viewers based on their voting habits, income, geographic location, and the list goes on (Beckett). CampaignGrid—a company that specializes in votertargeted ads—assigns 18 different attributes to voters and collects information on them. These attributes include age, gender, socioeconomic status, and more (Beckett).   Privacy experts have raised concerns about this sort of advertising. They claim that if medical and financial records are protected, voting records should be given the same amounts of privacy. Google has taken a stance and has classified voter information as “sensitive personal information,” where sensitive personal information is defined as, “A particular category of personal information relating to confidential medical facts, racial or ethnic origins, political or religious beliefs or sexuality” (Google). Not all companies have taken this stance. In fact, Facebook is involved with some of the companies that contribute to the “political cookie” system.   Both campaigns use voter-targeted advertising; however, the Obama campaign has been labeled as aggressive in its use of targeted ads. Interestingly, the Obama Administration has

advocated for a privacy bill of rights that would deter targeted advertising. They have gone so far as to release a framework for establishing it. In the recent election, however, the Obama campaign played by the rules available to all (Whitehouse).   Where do voter-targeted ads and political cookies fall into with our online life? Do we want that information up for sale without our permission? A survey conducted by the Annenberg School for Communications surveyed adults and 86 percent of them said they do not want political ads targeted towards their interests (Turow).   Earlier, I mentioned Minority Report because technology companies are working to make Minority Report-styled billboards come to fruition. The future of targeted advertising may make our lives just as eerie as John Anderton’s. Similar advertising screens already exist in train stations, airports, and a variety of other crowded venues; however, the screens display generic products in hopes of reaching a broad audience. ibm claims that they are working on tailored ads that will show people ads related to their personal interests (Gray). The screens, as they are being planned, will pull from cards used in mass transit—examples include mta, Metro, or Oyster—to get through turnstiles and onto the subway.   It works by using Radio Frequency Identification (rfid) tags, a common bit of technology usually found in passports, Metro cards, and your neighbor’s dog. The tags transmit data over radio frequency electromagnetic fields. The hope is that the information gleaned from, say, a Metro card purchased using a credit or debit card, will have a digital profile of the user’s preferences already constructed in association with the Metro card.   Privacy concerns quickly arise with rfid tags because the signal they send tends to be unencrypted. This means that anyone with an rfid reader can copy the signal and read the information. Alternatively, they can clone the signal and parade around as a virtual copy of an individual. Another concern is that private corporations will have access to where you travel to. Now, those who use a gps or a smart phone have already accepted being tracked by some company. However, a company that collects rfid broadcasts would immediately turn around and sell that information to advertising companies and make a quick million dollars.   If the rfid tags are too weird, don’t worry, the Japanese have an answer: facial recognition. The facial recognition system is called Next Generation Digital Signage Solution. It offers them advertisements suited to their demographic (Hough). How

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exactly this process works is that the advertising screens have cameras built into flat panel monitors. When a person walks by, a picture is taken and sent to a server. The software on the server then processes the image and determines the person’s age (within 10 years) as well as their gender (Hough).   Privacy advocates have raised concerns about profiles of people being built around this footage, but nec, the company behind this system, claims that the software has been developed to be anonymous by immediately deleting a person’s face after the image has been processed.   These technologies are currently being trialed in the United States and around the world. In a matter of no time people everywhere will be getting hit with ads about something they Googled as a dare.   Considering that targeted advertising is an opt-out system, many may wonder, “How in the nine hells do you do that?” That question is fair, because opting out is incredibly difficult. As it stands there are some 40-50 advertising networks currently, and users must go to each and every one of those websites and optout. Then, six months later, they must opt-out again (Gross). This system is unwieldy, but advertisers fear that if an opt-in system is put into place, revenues will drop. The concern is legitimate because targeted ads are four to ten times more effective than non-targeted ads (Gross).   Proponents of targeted advertising say that if the ads are targeted, people will not have to see ads irrelevant to them. If people are seeing ads that are more relevant to them, they’ll buy the products. This will make everyone happy because the advertising company is pleasing whoever paid them, and the customer is getting what they want.   Opponents of targeted advertising often cite privacy concerns as their main reason. The idea that a profile of a person’s interests, what they buy, where they travel, and who they talk to is being created disturbs some. They argue that this information should be private. Now, the unique visitor id isn’t stored in an alphabetical series like “John Smith,” with his address and phone number following. It’s stored like most information in the digital age, as a series of 1s and 0s in a server somewhere, but the fact that it can be linked to John Smith if someone asks forcefully enough (or is handed a subpoena) is where concerns arise.   I would like to point out that the technology mentioned above extends beyond the scope of advertising. Most major search engines collect as much information about you as possible, including your geographic information. This is done based on any number of things including, but not limited to, your gps (especially if it’s Google Maps), your ip Address, and your isp (Internet Service Provider). The cookies that a number of websites (Google and Facebook being the big names) place on your computer track every single page you go to on the internet. Have you ever sent an email an Gmail and have it ask, “Do you want to include [insert emails]?” This occurs because these companies are trying to create systems that know you and are able to predict your desires when interacting with their system.   A plethora of material has been written on whether or not these actions by various technology companies are an invasion of privacy and whether or not they are useful to the market (knowing how the system works would more than likely creep you out, but numbers indicate that the actions are useful at least). There is, however, one more consideration that I would like to address concerning the continued use of virtual profiles for targeted ad70 

vertising and improved product use: what are the implications of living in a world rife with targeted ads? One immediate concern springs to my mind. If people are engaging in a world that barrages them exclusively with their interests and beliefs, do we not then run the risk of living in a world where people assume that everyone shares their beliefs? The dangers of such a world should be immediately apparent; a world that only displays self-interests can’t possibly be good for the global interconnectedness that we experience because of these newer technologies. It also would seem that it could become a detriment to respecting differing opinions, although at present there is no concrete data to support that hypothesis.   The one answer I may be able to provide is to the criticism leveled against this generation of youth in the form of the question, “Why are today’s youth so self-involved?” I think a fairly simple response would be that if a person has had the world designed for them exclusively, then how would they learn the value of taking the time to consider another opinion? •

Works Cited Beckett, Lois. "How Companies Have Assembled Political Profiles for Millions of Internet Users." N.p., 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. < how-companies-have-assembled-political-profiles-for-millionsof-internet-us>. “Consumer Data Privacy In A Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy.” N.p., Feb. 2012. Web. <www.>. Farnam, T.W. “Obama Has Aggressive Internet Strategy to Woo Supporters.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 09 Apr. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. < politics/obama-has-aggressive-internet-strategy-to-woo-supporters/2012/04/06/gIQAavB2zS_story.html>. Gross, Grant. “Opting out of Targeted Ads Too Hard, Privacy Advocates Say.” PC World. N.p., 3 June 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <>. “Key Terms Policies & Principles Google.” Key Terms Policies & Principles Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://www.>. Manjoo, Farhad. “The Uncanny Valley of Internet Advertising.” N.p., 2 Aug. 2012. Web. <>. Toruw, Jospeh, Michael X. Delli Carpini, Nora Draper, and Rowan Howard-Williams. “Americans Roundly Reject Tailored Political Advertising At A Time When Political Campaigns Are Embracing It.” Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania, July 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <>.

POWER TRIP AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO AVOIDING POWER ABUSE BY PAIGE FRALICK WHAT IS A POWER TRIP? Have you ever experienced a sensation where you felt like you were unstoppable? Have you witnessed someone who thought they were in complete control? They were most likely on a power trip. When you give someone a little bit of power, they can feel untouchable and tend to act like they are above you. So what do you do if you or a friend is out of control? This person can be someone you are close to, an acquaintance or even you, and you just don’t realize it yet. So, what is a power trip exactly? Well, if you were to look up the term “power trip” in the dictionary, (like I did) you would find: “Power trip: (slang) a self-aggrandizing action undertaken simply for the pleasure of exercising control over other people.” However, psychologists refer to this complex as the paradox of power.

WHERE WOULD YOU SEE A POWER TRIP? This type of behavior is found typically in an office or in a place where its own form of “government” is implemented. In a college setting, a person with a student government position or a resident advisor may seem to take this power off the deep-end in some people’s eyes, but most of the time they just are doing their job. The reason why they are mistaken for going on a “power trip” is because they won’t be malleable and cave into letting someone get away with breaking the rules just because they are friends. They are stronger than that. If they were on a power trip they would be writing up behavior, rejecting budgets, or turning in people they don’t like just because they can. In an office setting, a manager or boss may just dump all of their work on their secretary and blame someone under them if they made the mistake because they know they can get away with it. This is a real “power trip,” and it directly impacts so many peoples’ lives that the person who is “tripping” rarely acknowledges it. In this situation, someone needs to open their eyes because what would happen if that doesn’t change?


WHEN DO POWER TRIPS OCCUR? Typically, nice people are the easiest to corrupt. They want to please everyone—so if someone isn’t fixed 100% on their views, they can be quite malleable. People don’t corrupt other people, greed does. Others see this desire and play off of it to use others. This is why power is shared. Power can be very temperamental; human nature dictates everyone wants to be the last one standing. Someone who has never felt that rush can take it to the extreme.

HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE A POWER TRIP? If you think that you have a friend who is quite impulsive and has a lot of power, confront that person. If you think you can do a better job, run for that position. If you feel that you are losing control and have noticed you treat others differently or if your “friends” don’t want to hang out anymore, this could be a sign that you need to change. You may choose to give up that power because a relationship is worth more. However, if it is the other person behaving out of jealousy and not supporting you, they were never a true friend to begin with.

HOW DO YOU SAVE A FRIEND FROM “TRIPPING”? So, what happens when you find yourself in between this rock and a hard place? One should use some tough love. Call them out, but in a nice way. Don’t attack them—just use “I statements.” An example of an “I statement” generally looks like this: “I feel [this way] because [insert filler information here], and I interpreted this in this way because…” Communication is the most powerful weapon we have in any battle. It is what separates us from being beasts. A strong person can avoid a power trip. The best defense against a power trip is being able to identify one and knowing to resist it. Communication, strong morals, and self-control are the best weapons. Catch yourself before someone else does. •

WORKS CITED Lehrer, Jonah. “The Power Trip.” The Wall Street Journal (2010): n. pag. 14 Aug. 2010. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <http://online. SB1000142405274870440780457542556195268 9390.html>. < trip>. 72 

Letters x Impression: The Evolution of Journalism Over Time

By Jillian Fields

THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012â&#x20AC;&#x192; 73


n 1891, Oscar Wilde stated, “In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever.” The idea of journalism as the simple process of sharing news in a written form dates back to ancient times, with the first known newspaper, Acta Diurna, appearing in 59 b.c. Rome. Since their appearance, newspapers have been spreading the word all over the world. They possess the power to provide a person with the information they may need to know on current events, allowing the reader to become more informed and take action if they are so inclined. Truly, journalism influences and instigates many different forms of change in society. The Origins of the Newspaper Several of the first news publications can be found in the history of China. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries (late Han dynasty) a government-produced newssheet known as Tipao was published and distributed for government officials, as was the Kaiyun Za Bao which was handwritten on silk between the years 713 and 734 a.d. during the Tang Dynasty. The first reference to a privately published newssheet comes during the late Ming Dynasty in the year 1582. The Venetian government began to publish a monthly newspaper, Notizie scritte, in the year 1556 for the price of a gazetta (small coin) from which the term “gazette” is derived. Another Chinese newspaper with a long history is the Peking Gazette, also known as the Jing Bao. This newspaper started in the eighth century and continued publication for many years by the Imperial Court of China. The publication eventually switched to movable type in 1638, a model that other publications would soon follow.   The birth of the newspaper in the traditional meaning of the term is recognized typically as the birth of the publication Relation aller Fürnemmem und gedenckwürdigen Historien, which was printed in Strasbourg by Johan Carolus in 1605. Carolus had attempted to produce each issue by hand the year prior only to realize that it took too much time and switched to the use of the printing press. By October of 1605 he had petitioned the city council of Strasbourg for “protection against reprints from other printers,” bringing up what may have been the first copyright concerns (World Association of Newspapers). However, this publication was not, considered the first newspaper of modern Germany. That honor is given to the publication Avisa, published in Wolfenbüttel four years after. The Newspaper in America The first printing press in Colonial America arrived in 1638, but the first reporter arrived thirty years prior. Captain John Smith (yes, that John Smith) of the Jamestown settlement published a newsletter entitled Newes from Virginia. The first American newspaper was not published until 1690, when Benjamin Harris created the publication Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, which was published on a monthly basis in Boston. The paper was eventually shut down due to governmental concerns, and there was no attempt to restart another paper in Boston for 15 years. Nearly 30 years later, James Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s elder brother, began to publish the New England Courant. Franklin is the first to include literature alongside news.   Up until 1727, news publications only contained the news from their own city or town. The concept of a news correspon74 

dent was a new one—and by this time, the New England Weekly Journal had several reporting to it from neighboring communities. Benjamin Franklin remained in the newspaper business even after working on his brother’s publication, and became the primary driving force behind the Pennsylvania Gazette. By 1729, the gazette had the highest circulation rate in the colonies, printed the most pages, contained the most literary columns, and brought in the highest amount of income due to advertising. The newspaper’s success and popularity in the colonies steadily grew so that by the year 1750, there were 14 weekly papers in the six most populous colonies.   Skipping ahead to 1768, Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty spread news about the British to newspapers via a series of articles that appeared in New York Journal called Journal of Occurrences. This was the beginning of the newspaper’s part in the Revolutionary War. Merely eight years later, a newspaper was created in Boston entitled Massachusetts Spy. The publication openly supported the movement for independence and rebellion against the crown of England. This paper published an eyewitness account of the first battle of the Revolution as a way to spread the word of the movement. During the same year, the Declaration of Independence is penned. Many newspapers throughout the colonies reprinted Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense, written two years prior, and more than 20 of the existing publications printed an unabridged version of the Declaration of Independence within a month of its publication. In each case, the newspaper industry played a large role in raising awareness to contemporary issues and spreading information.   The newspapers remained an important source of information throughout the Revolutionary period. George Washington worried about the effect Loyalist news publications could have on the war and his troops just as much as sympathetic publications which were more eager to sell a story than preserve the confidentiality of military affairs. Similar concerns arose during the Civil War: after the union’s loss at the Battle of Bull Run due to newspapers in New York and Washington d.c. publishing the battle plans prior to the battle, President Lincoln threatened any reporters who gave away sensitive information with military justice. Journalism thus has influence even in matters of war.   The 1890s are well known for the boom in industry and immigration, leaving the period of “yellow journalism” on the outskirts of history. The term refers to sensationalist news stories published by newspapers of the time. “Yellow journalism” relied heavily upon melodrama and hyperbole to garner public interest and to drive sales. The term “yellow journalism” originates from a competition between two New York newspapers: the New York World owned by Joseph Pulitzer and the New York Journal owned by William Randolph Hearst. Pulitzer’s World ran a successful comic strip, “Hogan’s Alley” which included a character known as “the yellow kid.” Hearst managed to hire the illustrator away from the World to work for him at the Journal, thus gaining the yellow kid. Shortly afterwards Pulitzer managed to find another cartoonist who could imitate the style of “Hogan’s Alley,” causing the rivalry of the two publications to become a competition between the cartoons and a fight between the yellow kids.   Many historians believe that the Spanish-American war of 1898 was, at least in part, caused by the writings of journalists under the control of William Randolph Hearst in the New York Journal. Seeing a lucrative opportunity in the struggles of

In 1972, a magazine poll was conducted to determine who the most trusted person in America was. Reporter Walter Cronkite won for his coverage of the Vietnam War and President Kennedy's assasination. After his death in 2009, time magazine conducted another poll to determine who would take his place as most trusted news caster with the options of Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, Jon Stewart, and Brian Williams. The winner was Daily Show newscaster Jon Stewart, by a significant percentage.

Cuba, Hearst instructed his writers to craft articles about the hardships of Cuba that would appeal to the sympathetic nature in Americans. This belief gains its credence from an infamous telegram sent by Hearst to Frederick Remington, one of his correspondents in Cuba. Remington reported that there was not anything of note happening in which to write about, to which Hearst replied: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war” (Vance).   When the battleship Maine sank in the Havana Harbor, it was Hearst who indicated the Spanish, despite not having any evidence. His newspaper pointed the fingers and then asked for American retaliation, causing widespread public agreement, eventually leading to President McKinley declaring war on the Spanish. The Spanish-American war is recognized as the first press-driven war in American history, and Hearst was the major instigator.   The following decade brought out a new purpose in journalism: the investigative reporter. These reporters investigated societal facets in which they saw room for improvement. They were known as Muckrakers, a term derived from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt during his time in office. One of the most well known is Jacob Riis, a photographer rather than a writer, who went inside the tenements of New York in order to show through photographs how the lower class immigrants lived—in poverty and deplorable conditions. He published all of his work in a book entitled How the Other Half Lives. Ida Tarbell wrote a series of exposé pieces for McClure’s magazine entitled, “History of the Standard Oil Company,” which documented the questionable business practices that led to John D. Rockefeller’s rise to the top. Her pieces were published in a series which proved to be popular and profitable. Once other publications realized how profitable the exposés could be, they began to recruit Muckrakers.   Many topics were tackled: child labor, the workings of the stock market, and corruption within city governments to name a few. Some of these exposés had long lasting effects. David Graham Phillips created a movement which would eventually culminate in the passing of the seventeenth amendment with his series, “The Treason of the State.” Undoubtedly one of the most well known pieces of the movement is The Jungle by Upton

Sinclair. Sinclair’s look into the meat packing factories can be directly linked to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act. By the 1910s, public interest in the works of the Muckrakers had faded, although the effects of their work remains even today. The Digital Age There is no denying that the press is shifting to a more online presence. This can be attributed to many things, including the growth of the influence of the internet on every aspect of our lives. The presence of the physical newspaper is still significant, although diminishing: in 2007, there were 6,580 daily newspapers selling a total of 395 million copies a day worldwide. A New York Times article published in 2010 records statistics for the decrease in readership and revenue for 25 of the top newspapers in the country. The San Francisco Chronicle lost the most with a 22.7% decrease in their weekday sales. Of the top 25 newspapers in the country, 10 of them report a decline in weekly circulation greater than 10% and five report decreases in their Sunday sales in the double digits. The decline has been a trend for several years, the rate of which accelerated in 2007 and continues to increase as the recession continues. The economy is not solely to blame however—the internet has a part in it as well. The ease of availability of information from a variety of sources online is a crippling disadvantage to the traditional newspaper. The vast variety of news sources online is in large part due to the birth of blogging, wherein people anywhere in the world can share whatever news they like from their personal perspective. The opinions of bloggers, which appear through their perspective on various issues, are a large part of blogging. In one case which found its way to a federal courtroom, an investigative blogger was trying to use some of the protections for the journalist, as provided by the First Amendment.   The judge ruled that in order to qualify for those protections, a “journalist” must first fit these seven criteria: 1. Education in journalism. 2. Credentials or proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity. THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  75

3. Proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest. 4. Keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted. 5. Mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources. 6. Creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others. 7. Contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story. Under these rules, many of the bloggers that provide news to an audience should not be considered journalists at all. Yet there will always be people who are willing and eager to listen to them.   One theory for the reliance on bloggers for news is the partisan split in media. Often times a publication leans liberal or conservative. It is more difficult to find a non-biased or moderate publication than it is to search through the myriad of blogs to find a point of view that you sympathize with. Another theory is simply a shift in ideals. In 1972, a magazine poll was conducted to determine who the most trusted person in America was. Reporter Walter Cronkite won for his coverage of the Vietnam War and President Kennedy's assasination. After his death in 2009, time magazine conducted another poll to determine who would take his place as most trusted news caster with the options of Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, Jon Stewart, and Brian Williams. The winner was Daily Show newscaster Jon Stewart, by a significant percentage. One could argue that despite the fact that Stewart is primarily a satirist and comedian, everything he says is based upon a fact, regardless of how it is presented. Regardless of the arguments for and against, this likewise represents a shift in priorities.   Perhaps another attraction for the reader looking to be informed is the fact which lies at the heart of the differences between the traditional journalist and the blogger: “a blogger writes out of passion, out of an extreme interest for a particular topic,” while a journalist reports the facts on a topic which is current (Pirillo). These two distinctions are applicable for a news reporter, yet do not exactly cover all aspects of the journalism field. Columnists can select their topics and write with a bias in much the same way that a blogger can. The consistency between the two forms is the influence that the writer wields. A journalist can persuade someone to a point, institute social change, or even start a war. Perhaps the pen is not more powerful than the sword, but it is undoubtedly more influential. •

Works Cited “A Newspaper Timeline.” World Association of Newspapers. World Association of Newspapers. Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. <> Bliss, Jeffery C.. “Journalists and War.” Hover Institution. Stanford University. Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. <> Coursey, David. “You Be The Judge: Are Bloggers Journalists?.” Forbes. February, 2012. Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. <http://www.forbes. com/sites/davidcoursey/2012/01/02/you-be-the-judge-are-bloggersjournalists/> Hanson , Aprille. “Stop Relying on Bloggers for News.” Trans. Array America Now: Short Readings from Recent Periodicals. Robert Atwan. Ninth Edition. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 183-185. Print. “History of Newspapers.” Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. <> Infelise, Mario. “Roman Avvisi: Information and Politics in the Seventeenth Century.” Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2002. “Muckraker.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. < topic/395831/muckraker> “Muckrakers.” U.S. History: Pre-Columbian to the New Millenium. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. <> “Newspapers: 400 Years Young!.” World Association of Newspapers. World Association of Newspapers. Web. Accessed November 5, 2012. <> Pirillo, Chris. “Are Bloggers Journalists: Are Blogs New Journalism?.” Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. <> Plambeck, Joesph. “Newspaper Circulation Falls Nearly 9%.” New York Times April 26, 2010. Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. “The Spanish-American War .” Crucible of Empire. pbs. Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. < html> “Tracing the Story of Journalism in the United States.” The Write Site. Web. Accessed November 6, 2012. <> Vance, Jennifer. “Yellow Journalism.” A Brief History of Newspapers in America. Web. Accessed November 7, 2012. < projects/spring04/vance/yellowjournalism.html>




“Coffee is my best friend. I don’t h ave to worry about time man agement be cause I’ll be u p all n ight anyway. Yay, caffeine!”


“When I procrastin ate, I ta ke all the cash I h ave and use it as a bookmark to remind myse lf th at I’m poor, and I need to get good grades to graduate and get a job.”



“I li ke to watch other people do work and procrastin ate so I don’t fee l li ke I’m the only one screwin g arou nd on my laptop instead of workin g.”


“I always eat when I’m workin g be cause it keeps me from mu ltitaskin g on Facebook and such. I’m also really good at eatin g and readin g at the same time.”


“The sh ower is where I get all my best ideas. so when I’m stuck on a paper, I h op in the sh ower.” THE SYCAMORE / FALL 2012  83


Sector 7

A Short Story by Taylor Fehr

Clean up on Sector 7.

I repeat, clean up on Sector 7. All staff in the vicinity, please report to Sector 7 for clean up.

Thank you.



loud ding-dong sounded. “Clean up on Sector 7. I repeat, clean up on Sector 7. All staff in the vicinity, please report to Sector 7 for clean up. Thank you.” The female voice on the loud speaker was eerily polite as it announced the usual message.   Dr. Daniel Delaney walked slowly up the hallway towards room 21 in Sector 5. The loud speaker was inaudible when Dan shut the door behind him with a screechy thud. The concrete room looked dreary, except for the light coming from the patient’s room through the large, one-way glass mirror. Dan stepped up to the mirror and skimmed through the chart in his hands.   “Name: Gregory Stiles,” Dan read aloud. “Gender: Male. Estimated age: 23.” The concrete walls quietly echoed in response. “Various extrasensory tests completed. Other: Became mute in youth. Conclusions so far: Some extrasensory abilities present. Amount unknown. Cause is most likely his muteness. More testing required.” Dan paused as he observed Gregory through the glass. The walls seemed to glow from the white lights on the ceiling. Gregory was sitting in a metal chair at a table in the middle of the room. His head was tilted, aimlessly staring at one of the room’s corners.     Dan set the chart down on the table near the window and took a seat in a chair almost identical to the patient’s. Dan stared at Gregory’s face. “What are you thinking?” Dan whispered to himself. The screech of the concrete door made him jump a little.   A woman entered and stood next to Dan. “What’s your analysis, doctor? I’m eager to know what kinds of tests you have up your sleeve for this patient.” She smiled slightly.    “There’s no need to be so…giddy.” Dan disliked people like this woman. Julia Trach always tried to make friendly conversation with him and watched his every move. She seemed to enjoy putting Dan in this position even though he was her superior. She admired him so much that there was no way he could get away from her without making himself look bad.   “I’m sorry, doctor.” She straightened her glasses and looked through the one-way mirror at the patient.


  After a long pause, Dan shifted in his chair and handed the chart to Julia. “Administer the level 3 hearing test and the level 2 sense test for him.”   Julia eagerly grabbed the chart out of Dan’s hand. “Yes, doctor.” She bowed slightly and opened the door as quietly as she could. The loud speaker could be heard announcing the same message. “—I repeat, clean up on Sector 7. All staff in—” The door closed with a thud, beginning the silence once more. Dan leaned his head on his hands and continued observing the patient.     “What are those?” a voice said. Dan lifted his head slightly, still staring at the patient, whose eyes now seemed to be fixed on Dan through the glass and mouth slightly open. “I don’t know if I can handle another test. Who cares what abilities I have?!” Dan looked around the room as the voice continued. The source seemed to come from his head.   Dan got up from his seat, staring directly into the patient’s eyes. “What are you doing to me?” Dan asked in quiet frustration.   The patient’s head twitched a little. “Are you talking to me?” Dan heard the voice say.   “Who the hell else would be playing mind tricks? There’s only you and me here.”   The patient’s eyes became friendlier. “You and me. You: the one with my fate in hand. Me: the patient.” He looked down. “So dehumanizing.” He looked back up in Dan’s direction. “Please think of me as Gregory and not just one of your many patients, if you can even label us as that.”   The voice paused, and Dan started to pace around the concrete room. He had to stay calm. He’d been in this sector for three years already; he should be used to this kind of stuff ! He had to distance himself from the patients or he would go crazy like his predecessors. He needed to leave this room, but he had to keep an eye on Gregory—no, no, the patient. Where was Trach anyway? She was supposed to be administering tests!   “I can hear you pacing.” The voice echoed in Dan’s mind again, and he froze. He rubbed his eyes with his hands and took a deep breath. He sat back down and started staring at the

8 8

patient through the glass again. “But not just that; I hear a lot of things,” the voice continued. “There’s nothing to do in this depressing room, so I listen to the things around me.” The patient closed his eyes. “I hear footsteps. And talking. And breathing. But it’s hard to hear anything over the loud speaker. It stops sometimes but not for very long. Seems like Sector 7 always needs to be cleaned.” The voice paused. Dan’s heart rate sped up slightly as he thought about Sector 7. This was the closest he’d ever been to that place. He’d heard rumors about what went on there but from people who hadn’t been there themselves.     “I’m scared.” The voice sounded shaky. “I’m scared for my life. I shouldn’t be locked up in this place. I had a life before they threw me in here! You should know that best. You have seen the people here. Their lives rotting away, being treated like lab rats!” The patient leaned his head over the table and clenched his fists. “You people are just scared, scared that you’re going to die out, with us, the stronger ones, in power! It’s just a true fact of life that the most adaptable survive. We are adapting, but you are killing us off ! One by one! That’s why you have Sector 7! That’s why it needs to be cleaned every fucking hour! You probably didn’t even know. Humans are being killed under your nose! Yes, we are humans. We’re just a little different from you and lady doctor and all the other fucking people who work here. Would you kill lady doctor if you found out she had an ability? Let’s say she could see through lies, see who the fuck you really are. What would you do, huh?!” The patient jolted his head up, staring into Dan’s eyes as if he could see straight through the one-way mirror.   “Shut up!” Dan stood up quickly, slamming his hands on the table. “I don’t care about you or your lies!” He slammed his fists on the table again, breathing heavily with anger. He couldn’t stand for some imbecile bad-mouthing the job he’d dedicated so much to. He couldn’t stand liars either. But was the voice lying?   Just then, Trach entered the patient’s room with a small bag. Dan calmed his breathing a little and sat back down. Quietly, Trach turned the patient’s left arm, flicked his vein, and inserted a small syringe into the vein. She left with the small bag and soon entered the room Dan was in.


“Level 2 sense test in progress, doctor,” Trach said.   “Yes, thank you, Dr. Trach,” Dan said, never taking his eyes away from the patient. Trach also started observing the patient as they waited for his reaction to the drug.   “Dr. Trach?” Dan started.   “Yes, doctor?”   “This is a little out of the blue, but have you ever wondered what goes on at Sector 7?”   “Umm, well, I guess I have. That loud speaker never says a different message so it’s hard not to wonder.”   He paused. “If you were moved to Sector 7, would you accept the position?” He turned his head to see Trach’s expression. She seemed slightly uncomfortable, getting red in the face.   “Well, it does pay a little better, so, uh, maybe. But I really like working for you here in Sector 5. I’d stay here forever if you were working here.” She laughed nervously.   Dan’s expression was blank, but he could feel the frustration boiling. They both turned back towards the patient, who was collapsed on the floor. Trach gasped and ran out of the room. Dan quickly pushed himself up and saw Trach run into the patient’s room and check his pulse. She looked up at the one-way mirror and slowly shook her head.   Dan felt his heart race and blinked away the tears in his eyes. The patient—no, Gregory—had suffered for nothing. He clenched his fists, pressed the call button on the wall, and waited for an answer.   “Yes?” the voice on the other line said.    “Casualty in room 21 Sector 5,” Dan said grimly.   “We’re sending someone over.”   “Where will the body go?” Dan felt uneasy.   The voice paused. “Sector 7, of course. Don’t you know that already?”   Dan hung up on the call person and paused. Sweat accumulated on his forehead, and he sprinted for the door. Pulling it open with his remaining strength, he thrust himself at Gregory’s


door, tripping into Trach on the way in. Dan frantically looked around the room and grabbed Gregory’s dead body.   “Doctor! What are you doing?!” Trach asked anxiously. He ran out of the room carrying the body without answering her. He ran down the dimly lit, concrete hallways as fast as he could. He saw the signs pointing toward Sector 7 and followed. He didn’t know how long it would take to get there, but time was no issue.   After many hallways, he turned a corner and entered a big, dark, open space. He froze in front of it as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He stared in horror at the sight. There was an inground arena stained with blood. He walked a little closer and saw prison cell-like doors leading underground from the sides of the arena. He grew more frightened when he heard deep rumbles coming from underground and in the walls.   He heard footsteps behind him, jolted around towards to the noise, and was stabbed in the neck by a syringe. He collapsed to the ground, losing hold of Gregory’s body and his own consciousness.


  Dan woke up with his head on a metal table and sitting awkwardly in a metal chair. The cold of the metal was seeping through his skin. He tried lifting his head up and felt a large pang of pain. He yelled, and his head fell back on the table. He touched his head and felt some of his hair covered in blood. He started to panic. He couldn’t remember what had happened to him or what he was doing here. He heard the sound of a door slowly opening and a loud speaker message entering the room. “All staff in the vicinity, please report to Sector 7 for clea—” The door closed. He heard footsteps coming closer to him. He felt hands rubbing his shoulders and down his arms. He felt a breath in his ear and closed his eyes in terror.   “Don’t worry,” a female voice said. “I’ll make you feel all better. I am a doctor, of course.” •

Taylor is a Junior English Major with a concentration in Creative Writing.

Who’s Afraid of Female

Masculinity? By Theresa Mendez



f I told you that in this essay I would be examining one of Elizabeth Taylor’s most critically acclaimed roles, would you also expect my analysis to include an exploration of masculinity? (I’m hoping not). “Martha,” played by Taylor in the 1966 film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? exerts a more traditionally masculine control over her husband, “George.” The power dynamic between this married couple flips conventional expectations of gender roles: Martha is stubborn and assertive, using emasculation tactics to remind George of his submissive role in their marriage; George engages in verbal warfare with his wife, but largely accepts that he is not the “man” that she wants him to be. Through the use of emasculating language, sex, and a mutual game of make believe, Martha and George position themselves in opposition. Each waits until the other submits. In some important ways, Martha’s character represents gender theorist Judith Halberstam’s concept of “female masculinity.” However, to exhibit her own masculine style she must rely upon the embodied, male masculinity represented by both her father and husband.   Before I can discuss how George and Martha work out “who wears the pants” in their relationship, I must first unpack the idea of “female masculinity.” For Halberstam, masculinity is a disembodied concept, meaning it is not inherently tied to biological sex category. Now, by disembodied, I don’t mean to say that masculinity is floating around, air-borne. It’s not contagious. By exploring masculinity as disembodied, Halberstam suggests that it is a social construction. So while masculinity is not air-borne, it is also not restricted to the male body, meaning women can exhibit its characteristics. Since the field of gender studies is steeped in a history of social power relations, it is


important to note that “female masculinity is a personal ‘style,’ not a social dominance” (Beasley 2005). Clarifying the concept further, gender theorist Chris Beasley (2005) suggests:   In the context of Masculinity Studies, female masculinity represents the opportunity to escape from and/or reconfigure gender and sexuality power arrangements, rather than being merely a minority version of masculinity.   Since this conceptualization of masculinity lends itself well to individual style, I can discuss Martha’s character more so in terms of masculinity than femininity. Halberstam states that female masculinity is embodied in the sense that it provides a practical example of gender ambiguity. Since George and Martha spend a considerable amount of time in the film pointing out each others’ “gender deficiencies,” much of the film seems to exemplify Halberstam’s concept of gender ambiguity. However, George and Martha depend upon embodied masculinity to assert themselves…but I will get to that later.   A few scenes into the film it is clear that Martha likes to drink and George criticizes Martha’s determination to imbibe. She confronts him by stating, “Look sweetheart, I can drink you under any goddamn table you want, so don’t you worry about me.” She speaks to her own tolerance for alcohol, but in doing so she also confirms that this tolerance signifies that she is more masculine than her husband. Martha’s emasculating language toward George also appears in the couple’s humor. For example, as tension builds between the two and is exacerbated by the presence of their guests, Nick and Honey, George pulls out a rifle and points it at Martha’s head. While Nick and Honey are confused and revolted by the gesture, Martha can only laugh. The rifle fires an umbrella into Martha’s face. The two seem to

be sharing a joke, but Martha’s laugh indicates that she doesn’t take George’s attempts at overt masculinity seriously. She does not believe that he is masculine enough to exert force over her. The significance of a rifle that fires a farcical umbrella is highly symbolic of George and Martha’s sexual relationship. Since the rifle is tied to George’s masculinity (or lack thereof ) it further signifies his inability to “unload his gun,” so to speak.   An uncomfortable sexual tension builds between George and Martha throughout the film. Martha attempts to consummate this tension, but George denies her advances. Martha then chooses to focus her sexual energy on young, handsome Nick, the newest addition to the university biology department. At one point in the film, Nick and Martha “sneak” off to have sex. For Martha, being secretive is not a priority. She wants George to know that if his rifle is only going to shoot an umbrella, she’ll seek out men with properly working ammunition. (The irony here is that Nick is unable to maintain his erection during their encounter, prompting Martha to comment that all men are “flops”). Martha’s sexual assertion is an example of her masculine style, especially in comparison to both Nick’s and George’s inabilities to perform. Her sexual style (perhaps in a Freudian way—but I’m not really going there) is due in part to the power she derives from her father.   It is important here to point out how the university plays into Martha’s power. Martha’s father is the university president; George is a professor in the history department. Martha uses her father’s authority in the university to emasculate George and to gain control over the decisions made between them in the home. For example, as George protests to Martha’s invitation of guests, she reiterates, “Daddy said we should be nice to them,”

three times to make her point. When Nick and Honey arrive and reflect on the university party they’ve all come from, Martha explains, “Daddy knows how to run things,” while George simply mutters, “He’s a magnificent man” repeatedly.   This power also resonates between Martha and Nick. When George comments that there are easier things in life than being married to the daughter of the president, Martha looks directly at Nick and says, “For some men, it would be the chance of a lifetime.” Her statement has multiple meanings: she refers to career opportunities, but since she makes no attempt to hide her flirtation, she also alludes to the sexual possibilities. Her ability to invoke “Daddy’s” law allows her to emasculate her husband by constantly offering a male example that he can never embody. The “Daddy” character is further idealized for the viewer since we never see or hear him. His character exists completely within the dialogue of the other characters. While Martha seems to create her own masculine style, her reliance upon masculinity as power signifies that she is still tied to the idea of embodied masculinity.   Martha’s explanation of her position in this masculine role betrays some of the masculine style she displays throughout much of the film. After George calls her a monster, she is forced to defend herself by stating, “I’m loud and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody’s got to. But I am not a monster. I’m not.” One reading of this line is that once again, Martha succeeds in pointing out the ways in which George fails to be masculine. But the reason she gives for playing this role—“because somebody’s got to”—connotes force. Martha is masculine because she feels she is forced to be, not because she chooses to be. This line indicates she would be willing to hand


over the masculine duties to George—actually, she indicates throughout the film that she wants him to take the masculinity from her. She comments earlier in the film that she likes his anger best—but she is convinced that he cannot succeed at performing masculinity the way she has.   In addition to her desire to embody a more traditionally feminine role in their relationship, Martha’s approach to sex and her invocation of the “Daddy” figure signify her reliance upon embodied masculinity. Martha appears to seek sex to satiate her masculine-like sexual appetite. Still, the dynamic between Martha and George suggests that her use of extramarital sex is directed at George. In other words, instead of being concerned with her own sense of sexual satisfaction, Martha has affairs with young, attractive men—men who will emasculate George—to further point out his deficiency as a man. George is threatened by Nick from the moment he enters their home. Because of this, Martha relies upon the masculinity Nick embodies to undermine George’s. In a similar way, Martha’s constant echoing of “Daddy’s” various suggestions and remarks destabilize her masculine style. By invoking his power, rather than summoning her own, she relies on his embodied masculinity, to disempower her husband.   Martha’s desire to retreat to a more feminine corner, if only her husband would rise to masculinity, is never fully resolved in


the film. As the narrative unfolds, George and Martha reveal that they have been playing a game, one with structure and rules. During the film, Martha breaks a rule; she tells Honey about a son that Martha and George only pretend to have. This prompts George to take control, to rise to masculinity and end the game. In an intimate moment at the end of the film, George tells Martha that their son is dead. Martha is grief stricken, and appears lost without the rules of their game. It signifies a shift in the dynamic in their relationship. They both express fear at this new dynamic. It’s possible that George has won the game, and therefore will occupy the masculine role in their marriage. But it is just as possible that they will resort to their old ways. At the end of the film, masculinity is disembodied—even airborne— but it seems Martha and George will continue to be haunted by the power of embodied masculinity. •

References Beasley, Chris. 2005. “Queer(ing) Masculinities Studies: Female Masculinities—Halberstam” in Gender and Sexuality: Critical Theories, Critical Thinkers. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Pp. 231-240.

Theresa is a Senior Majoring in Sociology and Film & Media Studies.

“I’m loud and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody’s got to. But I am not a monster. I’m not.” —Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?


God vs. The Cannibals


by Robyn Moody

There is nothing wild here anymore. What hunger, what lust, what instinct they felt is now quiet. The Holy War has been waged, And the cannibals take up teacups and tableware in their bruised knuckles. Eyes cast downward to their singular portions. Cold, bloodless, and civilized. Thank God we got here in time. They danced on the shore spread with skulls, and all friends and foes were food. They feasted without decency; Used their claws like the animals do, and devoured man’s form As if God had not ordained His children for greater. But we humane bodies, we stopped the pulse of their blood religion, And every savage was saved. Now their dead lay inland. They make monuments to mourn because that is the way. No consumption taints the coming of God, And they are free in their eternal life. Now they know their Creator. There is no false idol to be found Of fruitful women whom they thought bore the earth. They see who gave them light and they are grateful for it. Now they kneel in prayer. Because it is not the sun or the earth or the womb that wrote the scripture, And it is not the place of man To be ungrateful to his Father. Now watch… The cannibals take the cross on their foreheads.  They take the sacrament on their bloodstained hearts. The take the Fall, the Commandments, and the Holy Word. They take all of this across their backs, And it is so much that they can no longer fight it. For His grace has filled them up so that not one of them will ever stand again.  And that is the power of our God.


Robyn is a Senior English Major with a concentration in Literature.






Why do we make an effort to raise domestic abuse awareness on campus when it barely makes a difference? Shouldn’t we use these resources/efforts to raise awareness off campus for more awareness?

Next semester I’m studying abroad, but I’m terrified of getting lost in the airport. What can I do to make sure I’m prepared?

My friends and I have fallen into different directions. One friend is especially constantly off and on and wants me to be the one who comes forward and say hello. Is this relationship worth continuing?

Sincerely, Concerned Campaigner Dear Big League Activist, While we may be a small community, we are still a community that can benefit from raising any amount of awareness. Even if we only reach one person, we’ve made a difference, no matter how small. As for your idea to put our resources and efforts to raise awareness off campus, go for it! Find those who have been impacted by raising awareness in our community and organize off-campus outreach! If this cause is important to you, go the distance to support it. William James, an American psychologist said this: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”


Sincerely, Infrequent Flyer Dear Mapless, Not to fear! The tsa is here! Lucky for you, airports have tons and tons of employees that know their way around the airport. If you get lost, look for a friendly person in a uniform and ask away! There are also lots of helpful signs that will guide you through, so look out for those. Going abroad is a great experience; don’t let this scare you away.

Sincerely, Friendly Behavior Dear Crossroads, Relationships change over time as life does take us in different directions. When faced with a rough patch in a relationship, you have to decide if that person is worth fighting for. If you feel you are giving more than you are receiving and you want to maintain the friendship, you should express this to your friend(s). Relationships require both parties’ efforts to make things work. If a friend isn’t willing to work on the relationship, you are right to consider moving on.




Too much to do with little time to do it around midterms. Running low on energy... What should I do? Coffee, drugs, cocaine?

Will my first semester of college be my easiest semester for my 4 years here?

I try really hard in all my classes, and my grades are still dreadful. What should I do?

Sincerely, Feeling Low Dear Stressed, We don’t often think of it this way, but caffeine is a drug. I would suggest prioritizing your schoolwork and making lists of goals to accomplish each day in preparation for your exams. Making sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep is important. You don’t (and shouldn’t) need to rely on drugs to succeed.

Sincerely, Freshman Dear Planning Ahead, The difficulty of a semester is subjective and differs for each student. Taking courses each semester that pull on your strengths and weaknesses will be a better balance compared to only taking courses that you find difficult. If you need help planning your schedule for the next few years, your advisor is a great person to consult.

Sincerely, Struggling Dear Aspiring Dean’s List-er, We have resources on campus that you can use to help improve your grades! First and foremost, if you are struggling with your classes, you should go to TA or office hours to ask questions and get help. Other resources can be found in the library, including Megan Riedl, Coordinator of Student Achievement, a hidden gem of our Wells College community, and our writing center staff, who can review your papers before you turn them in.



DEAR MINERVA, How do you compare yourself to your Greek counterpart Athena even though you are way more awesome? Sincerely, Curious Dear Goddess Grader, Well, it wouldn’t be classy of me to compare. After all, Athena and I certainly agree on the value of everything from wisdom to craftwork. However, she has always had a little trouble connecting to the kids. My statuesque form, on the other hand, graces the campuses of colleges and universities (including this fine establishment) throughout the world. I think that speaks for itself.




I am struggling with the decision on where to live my senior year. I am currently living off-campus (which I love), but I feel like I am missing such a massive part of my college experience. Should I move on-campus my senior year, even if I don’t especially like it?

Is a boyfriend abusive if he asks you to be somewhere at a certain time, you don’t come, and he gets angry?

How should I structure my free time so that I’m more productive?

Signed, Undecided Dear Place Puzzled, While living on-campus can give you a great sense of community with less responsibility, living off-campus prepares you for the rest of your life living in the real world. There are two ways to look at it. One, you could enjoy that last year of dorm life on-campus, or two, you could move on and have your own private place. Even if you live off-campus, you can still visit your friends on-campus. It up to you to decide which arrangement suits you best.

Sincerely, Confused Dear No Show, If you agree to be somewhere at a certain time, it is customary to comply or notify someone if you cannot make it. He may be justified in being angry, but no one is justified in hurting you. Abuse is defined as a pattern of coercive tactics including psychological, emotional, sexual, economic, or physical abuse used by one person to establish power and control over their partner. In your question, no abusive behaviors were described. If you are in fact in what you feel is an abusive relationship, there are resources available to help you. You can contact the Wells College Department of Campus Safety, the Office of Residence Life, or the Dean of Students Office.

Sincerely, Unfocused Dear Distracted, It might be difficult, but turn off the Internet when you don’t need it! Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr can be very enticing to visit instead of getting work done. Find a spot in the library, or your own spot on campus that is comfortable, and spend time there. You can even reward yourself with a certain amount of time to surf the Internet after accomplishing some of your work. Prioritizing your work to come first will help you to enjoy your free time more.






The Sycamore Fall 2012  
The Sycamore Fall 2012  

The Power Issue