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Students at Rutgers University are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to travel abroad, whether for extended periods of study, or shorter service-learning based trips. As leaders of such trips, we have seen firsthand how interactions with people of different cultures and ethnicities allows our students the opportunity to see the world and its contents, while enabling them to develop additional sets of values and views they can use throughout their lives. These positive effects, however, can be lessened, and miscommunication and conflict can arise, when students are not adequately prepared. With spring break travel around the corner, we offer this five-point list based on our own experiences that we hope will help students be better equipped for the challenges and opportunities offered through international travel.
When Fifty Shades of Grey was first released, so many people were excited by the idea of an erotic novel tailored for women. Many found the novel extremely sexually appealing without recognizing that there is a serious problem with Christian and Ana's sexual relationship. Christian Grey and Ana seem to fall in “love” in the novel, but Christian’s feelings are unclear. What is clear is that he loves violent sex. There is absolutely nothing wrong with bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism by nature –– it is a sexual fetish built upon trust where the “dominant partner” typically possesses the majority of the control and the “submissive partner” obeys them. This always includes safe words to indicate when a partner crosses a line that makes the other one uncomfortable, abruptly ending the action. After BDSM sex, there is also what is known as “after care,” where the two (or more) partners console each other, reestablishing that they care for and think of each other as equals. None of this is present in Fifty Shades of Grey.
When I read of three-parent in vitro fertilization (“IVF”), or any other form of reproductive technology, I shake my head. Initially, I wonder why, in a catastrophically warming world of 7 billion people, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually to manufacture more lives. Why isn’t this money used to develop sustainable energy and water treatment? What about preserving our remaining soil? How about dealing with malaria and other diseases that afflict millions? The answer is simple but unacceptable: more profit is made turning life into a commodity on behalf of the wealthy than is made serving the poor.
What’s the point of Black History Month? What’s the point of a whole month to make the token black kids squirm through “I Have A Dream?” What’s the point of learning about the same roughly twenty abolitionists and civil rights leaders year, after year, after year. Why save it all for a specific month, making it essentially separate, but equal? The emphasis on specific black education and empowerment during Black History Month not only perpetuates the racial divide, but subliminally implies that this month is for blacks only. At the end of the day, we need it the least.
Over winter break, I embarked on a trip that changed my entire perspective on life. For ten days, I travelled through Israel with a student organization called the David Project. We went from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. This was my first time traveling to the Middle East and I had no idea what to expect –– would everyone be riding on camels? Would there be bombs going off left and right? It turns out that my idea of what Israel would be like was completely wrong. Everyone had the latest cellphones and almost everyone spoke English and wore clothes just like mine. In Tel Aviv, I felt like I was in New York City, aside from the fact that all of the street signs and store banners were in Hebrew. Most importantly, I never felt afraid or unsafe. What I did feel was foolish for thinking that Israel would be a scary place.
In his recent op-ed “America Desperately Needs Constitutional Convention,” columnist Jose Sanchez makes some very questionable assertions about our founding document, the Constitution and our American system of governance. In disparaging the fact that our Constitution was written in 1787, calling it a “neo-medievalist” document, Sanchez cites Japan and France as other industrialized nations that have more recently written constitutions. Japan’s current 1947 constitution, left in place a hereditary monarchy dating back centuries before ours was even conceived. An Emperor, not elected by the people, being head of state simply because some distant ancestor claimed he had divine right seems exponentially more archaic than anything in our “neo-medievalist” Constitution. Furthermore, the Japanese constitution was a term of surrender imposed by the U.S. when Japan’s previous constitution had failed them and led to a military dictatorship. In the case of France, their most recent constitution dates back to 1958. Notice I say “most recent,” because they have had too many to even name in this newspaper! Since 1791, just four years after ours was written, the French have had over ten constitutions. French governments have collapsed, been taken over by both leftist and militarist coups, re-established and dis-established monarchies, and have even been controlled by a foreign power — Nazi Germany from 1940-1944. It’s hardly an example to follow. Meanwhile, our Constitution has provided for stability since 1789, the year it went into effect, with the only real threat of disunion and collapse being the illegal secession of eleven Southern states and the Civil War. Yet, even our bloody Civil War, which cost the lives of over 600,000 Americans, did not result in any collapse or decay. While Sanchez believes our Constitution dating back to 1787 isn’t “something to be proud of,” I think it’s a testament to political stability and indeed something all Americans should take pride in.
Do we, as Americans, hold the truths, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to be self-evident? These notions were presented by the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence, and ideally, they are the principles that this country was built on. But are these principles still relevant in the modern age –– Can they be transferred? And if they are relevant, are they values that modern day politicians strive to adhere to and support?
In December 2014, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority announced its plan to launch a University Pass (U-PASS) pilot program for Northeastern, Harvard and Tufts University. The U-PASS pilot would require a complete buy-in from one or more area universities to purchase monthly transit passes at a 50 percent discount for all of their students.
Almost exactly one year ago, The Daily Targum ran an op-ed by a student named Colleen Jolly that contained vulgar anti-Semitic statements. The mistake was rightly condemned and the Targum forthwith issued an apology and retraction. Shortly after, the president of Rutgers Hillel, Andrew Getraer, wrote an op-ed, which went further than condemning the Targum’s mistake. Getraer did not accept their apology. “It is hard to believe,” he wrote, “[that] you could only discern the bigotry of the piece in retrospect.” Instead, he wrote a list of demands on behalf of Rutgers Hillel, which included an overhaul of the Targum’s policies.
What was your New Year’s resolution? Was it to improve your grades? Maybe to lose weight? Or are you finally going to finish that book you were working on? Regardless, I’m sure those of you who haven’t given up already have been hard at work since day one. Well, so has our Republican-controlled Congress, and unfortunately, while you were focusing (or giving up) on your individual goals, they were working on their goals and have thus far succeeded. And at the top of their to-do list was the undermining of Social Security.
In his element, Robert L. Barchi, University president of Rutgers, has the cool demeanor of a business executive. He greeted me warmly, extending his hand to take mine, “Bob Barchi, and who are you?”
"Get involved” is one of the most universal pieces of advice a first-year student hears upon arriving on the banks of the old Raritan. Encouraged by peer mentors, academic advisers, and so on, students are called to “get involved” and invest their time and efforts into something, anything, along with the pursuit of a degree. Many of our peers strive for excellence in service and leadership not merely for the rewards of recognition, but also to challenge themselves and to contribute to a community or cause in which they passionately believe.
On Nov. 10, a group of Rutgers-New Brunswick doctoral students went for a scheduled meeting with Peter March, the newly appointed executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, intending to discuss the SAS’s executive decision to cut the number of teaching and graduate assistant lines assigned to departments for the 2014-2015 academic year. The meeting was to be between Dean March, SAS Executive Vice Dean James Masschaele, Dean of Humanities James Swenson, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences Rosanne Altshuler and three doctoral graduates — all of them international students and women.
On Monday, President Barack Obama proposed a new funding plan that would require police officers to wear body cameras and undergo special training in order to better help them interact with the minority communities they serve. The plan, for which the White House is requesting $263 million, comes in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri. Although this call for action seems like a sensible thing to do, the complexity of the issue surrounding police activities raises important questions as to the applicability of this new, proposed law. Why do we need police body cameras? Is this an appropriate response? What can we do to support or oppose it?
I am writing in response to the Dec. 3 opinion article in The Daily Targum titled, “US not doing enough to address issue of gun control.” It may surprise people to learn gun violence is not on the rise. According to the Justice Department, the rate of firearm violence in the United States was, in 2011, about a quarter of what it was 1990. You wouldn’t know it watching the news. Immediately in the wake of every new mass shooting, there is always a call for stricter gun control. Recently, there was the Marysville shooting in which one was killed and four wounded. This shooting actually resulted in the passing of legislation requiring universal background checks, due to which a person must submit to background checks every time he or she buys a gun as opposed to only the first. There are plenty of voices demanding even stricter legislation ranging from official registration of every firearm to complete bans. I believe these policies are ill-informed, reactionary and even dangerous. There is no sense or justice in restricting the gun rights of the average law-abiding citizen. What needs to change is our approach to mental health.
On Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, 28 lives were lost, including the lives of 20 children all under the age of 8 years old. On this infamous and terrible day, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with four guns on his person and proceeded to take the lives of 26 people, after already taking his mother’s life, before firing and killing himself. Across the country, people mourned the tragic loss of those innocent citizens, and as more details were released about the massacre, many people found themselves asking two questions: First, how was someone with the medical history of Lanza able to possess and use such dangerous firearms, and second, how can we prevent this from happening again?
Historically, the public has seen American college campuses as places of social activism and involvement. Whatever apathy exists outside university walls, students are expected to lead the way by being proactive in addressing the social and political ills of the day. With the invention of social media, the very definition of what it means to be “involved” has become muddied. While it has been useful in heralding the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the use of social media in the United States as a means of activism, I believe, has had the opposite effect. Rather than being a change agent, social media has been a tool for maintaining the status quo.
Last Sunday, a friend and I entered Alexander Library to catch up on work due the following week. When the clock struck 10 and library staff began to enforce the new policy requiring students to show identification, we refused to be identified, protesting a policy we saw as classist, exclusionary and unnecessary. More than an hour later, Rutgers University Police Department officers escorted us out of the library.
Recently, the Students for Shared Governance coalition began the Where RU Barchi campaign to protest that the administration, and specifically University President Robert L. Barchi, who is denying meetings with student groups. These groups are interested in addressing issues that affect the University across all three of its campuses — such as divestment or apparel sourcing — over which only Barchi can make decisions, as opposed to Chancellor Richard L. Edwards, who only deals with the New Brunswick campus. Both groups and the coalition were denied the ability to schedule meetings in person, by phone or through email, even after meeting with other administrators. So we took to the streets, because although the term “shared governance” is stated as part of Rutgers’ policy, it is not practiced. Students, faculty and staff are deliberately cut out of the changes made at this school. We would like to address some of the concerns prompting such an outspoken response by students.
Last Tuesday, Students for Justice in Palestine held a “die-In” at Brower Commons to commemorate 140 of the 501 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. While this event was meant to shed light on Israeli human rights abuses and honor the dead, students from Hillel and AEPi, who knew about the event in advance, set up a table in counter protest. Mid-ceremony, these students began to accuse these dead children, many of whom were under two years of age, of being “terrorists” or that “they were probably throwing rocks” (as if that justifies the murder of children). After these accusations, several Zionist students proceeded to dance in celebration over the dead children these activists were emulating. One Zionist student, according to several witnesses, even began to attempt to move a “dead” activist and proceeded to wave his foot in his face, provoking the activist to give him the middle finger. Following this incident, the Rutgers chapter of Rabbinical College of America propagandized this story, stating “Jewish students stood proud in support of Israel and peace, while Muslim students from SJP spread hate toward Israel and the local Jewish students.” For an organization affiliated with Hillel’s “Anti-Hate” campaign, there is an indescribable amount of hate being propagated from their membership. First and foremost, the people participating in the die-in were not all Muslim. I, a Puerto Rican atheist, was in attendance. But in addition, there were others of all creeds and religions — even several Jews came in solidarity to oppose the abhorrent murder of children carried out by the state of Israel. For RCA Rutgers to claim it represents all Jewish students and that SJP represents all Muslim students is not just ignorant, but anti-Semitic. Whether the Zionist counter protesters retained such diversity, as we did, on that day is unknown to me, since I never made the assumption that one must be Jewish to support a neo-colonial military occupation. These hateful stereotypes are unfounded because the struggle for national liberation is not a religious one — it is a social, political and economic struggle. It saddens me to think that I attend a university where one group of people’s ignorance toward another people is so prevalent that they not only wish death upon their youngest generations, but also celebrate it and dance to its thought.