The Collegian: 2012 Pieces

Pieces are in reverse chronological order.

December 4, 2012

Are you safe at night? Student safety at risk on campus

Broken emergency kiosks around campus are not repaired; not seen as issue by Public Safety

The blue light emergency phones scattered across campus have provided a sense of safety at Saint Mary’s for almost a decade, with the lights shining even through the rainiest of nights. The emergency phones allow users to contact public safety at the push of a button.However, throughout the semester, a few of these structures were revealed to be out of order.

Adán Tejada, the Chief of Public Safety at Saint Mary’s College, explained that the emergency phones have had difficulty withstanding to weather. The phones are checked once a month, and if a phone is out of order, the structure must be marked with a sign that indicates it is not functioning.

There are currently 19 phones out of service.

But while signs have been placed rather quickly, the repairs took quite some time. According to Tejada, this due largely to a lack of funding. Additionally, the ubiquitous presence of cell phones seems to have made the emergency phones less of a priority.

“It’s not as critical as it would have been ten years ago,” Tejada said, referring to the presence of emergency phones on campus. However, the chief does not believe that cell phones will replace the blue light system.

The blue light emergency phones were installed in 2003 under pressure of students who were upset with sexual assault cases on campus. Sharon Sobotta, the director of the Women’s Resource Center, was on campus at the time of their inception.

Sobotta supported the presence of the phones and noted that the emergency phones provide a sense of security, especially because many people in the community do not get good cell phone reception on campus. However, she did not think that they were the absolute solution to the issue of security.

“I don’t think a blue light guarantees safety,” Sobotta said. “I think it’s one extra mechanism we can have that could make people feel more safe and perhaps contribute a little bit to safety, but it’s not going to solve anything by any means.”

Gillian Cutshaw, the Coordinator of Sexual Assault Awareness, Outreach, and Education at the Women’s Resource Center, felt that the blue light phones were good for the community.

“If someone was being attacked or chased, they may not be able to get their phone out of their bag or their pocket and dial a phone number, but they might be able to hit a button that’s just automatically going to send help, so I think that’s a good reason to have them,” Cutshaw said.

Many students agreed that the phones were a good thing to have on campus, but expressed concern at the amount of time it has taken to address the issue.

“I find it super ironic that the out of order flier tells you to call public safety… how can you call public safety if you don’t have a phone?” third-year student Araceli Lopez asked.

Student Olivia Navarro agreed, as she herself does not own a cell phone. “If I felt uncomfortable, I wouldn’t be able to call public safety,” she said. “If I wasn’t with someone who had a cell phone, I would be out of luck.”

Another student, who is currently a junior and dealt with harassment issues in the past, was advised by public safety to hit the buttons of every phone in sight in order to alert them of the trajectory of the chase.

Now that the public is unsure of which blue light phones are working, this strategy is no longer effective.

This student was unhappy with the lack of immediate action around the emergency phone system. “It makes the students who feel safer with the lights feel like they’re being neglected and ignored,” the student said.

November 6, 2012

Changing Perceptions shares insight from LGBTQIA community

This past Wednesday, as various wigs, hats, and deep green ladyfingers were displayed across campus, the Women’s Resource Center hosted an event entitled Changing Perceptions: Stories from the LGBTQIA Community. The panel discussion, facilitated by student Emmett McIntyre, highlighted the unique experiences of Saint Mary’s students who identify as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Ally). McIntyre, who was also responsible for coordinating the event and gathering the panelists, was interested in this event because he noticed that discussions about the LGBTQIA experience almost always focused on the while males. According to McIntyre, the panel discussion allowed for “a more diverse look at the experience.”

Each panelist hailed from different years and different parts and pieces of the acronym. Keelia Murphy (’11), Eliot Jackson (’13), Aly Runke (’16), Sophia Anguilla (’15), and Michael Urbina (’14) shared their personal experiences around identity, stereotypes, family, and allies, as well as the various challenges and surprises that come along with being a member of the LGBTQIA community.

McIntyre kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists how they identified themselves, which proved to be a rather complex question.

“Why can’t I just be me? Why isn’t that okay?” sophomore panelist Sophia Anguilla asked after sharing her story.

Eliot Jackson, a senior, agreed. “I’m constantly defining my identity and my culture,” she said.

In regards to stereotypes, many panelists admitted that they sometimes played into stereotypes in order to gain legitimacy among their group. These stereotypes are often related to clothing and personal style.

“Sometimes I feel like I have to play into that stereotype in order to be identified as queer,” Keelia Murphy, a recent Saint Mary’s graduate, remarked.

“It’s like dressing to eat with your grandparents,” Eliot Jackson echoed. “Which is really weird.”

On a related note, family appeared to be valued among all of the panelists. Senior Eliot Jackson expressed her reservations toward having a family, though she would like to have one. “I have issues with bringing children into the world and knowing they are going to be scrutinized for who their parents are,” she explained.

First-year student Aly Runke kept her future plans rather broad. “I just want to have happiness,” she said. “I define family as people who, no matter what I do, will hug me at the end of the day.”

The panel also offered helpful insight for allies of the LGBTQIA community. Michael Urbina, representing the “Ally” part of the LGBTQIA experience, was a strong advocate for education. As for his reasons for becoming an ally, he cites his younger sister, an out lesbian, as his “huge source of inspiration.” Urbina explained, “The fact that equality doesn’t exist for everyone really irks me.”

Keelia Murphy echoed Urbina’s call for education among allies. “It’s so comforting when people already know, and when they’ve done their research,” she said. However, Murphy also noted that spaces for different groups should be respected and that “it’s okay to not always be included.”

Eliot Jackson highlighted the importance of all people understanding how to be a good ally, regardless of whether they fall in the LGBTQIA community or not. “Within your identity, you’re never gonna be able to encompass everything, so we’re all allies.”

Many attendees felt that the event lived up to its namesake, changing the perceptions of those who listened in on the discussion. Briana Foster, a sophomore student, appreciated the breadth of insight. “It definitely brought a new perception. I used to think it was only gay or lesbian,” she said. “There are so many different experiences. You can’t just put it in a box.”

October 16, 2012

Breast cancer documentary sparks discussion

In accordance with Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Intercultural Center screened the 2011 Canadian documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. this past Thursday. Directed by Léa Pool, the documentary screening illustrated the disconnect between the warm, friendly marketing of the pink ribbon against the vicious nature of the cancer. With 56,000 women dying from breast cancer every year, the disease is not to be taken lightly.

The documentary covers three main issues with ‘pink ribbon culture:’ the use of the pink ribbon for profit, the lack of significant progress made in breast cancer research, and the hidden struggles of people currently living with breast cancer. The film’s biggest issue appeared to be the overall look of the pink ribbon – according to Barbara Ehrenreich, an author and breast cancer survivor interviewed in the documentary, the pink ribbon was an attempt to make the disease “pretty, feminine and normal.”

Breast cancer ribbons were first created to spark critical thought around cancer prevention. Interestingly enough, the first breast cancer ribbon wasn’t even pink – it was a salmon-colored cloth ribbon created by 68-year-old Charlotte Haley, who had attached the salmon ribbon to cards that said, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” After the growing popularity of her ribbons, Haley was approached by magazines asking if they could use the symbol. She refused, as she felt such a move would focus more on the corporations’ bottom line as opposed to the interests of those affected by breast cancer.

In spite of this, the corporations decided to move forward – however their ribbons would not be salmon-colored, but pink.

“The effect of the whole pink ribbon culture was to drain and deflect the kind of militancy we had as women who were appalled to have a disease that was epidemic, yet we didn’t know the cause of,” said survivor Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich and other women interviewed in the documentary claimed that the days of protests have disappeared and been replaced with walks, runs, and skydiving.

Those in favor of the pink ribbon argue that the approach of past breast cancer movements was too angry, and that the pink ribbon provides a much-needed light in a topic that can be very dark. Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, stated in the film, “If people feel there is no hope, they will not participate in the long term.”

But while hope does enable people to continue on, some people feel that the pink ribbon movement can make people with breast cancer feel “alienated by the overly optimistic approach,” as Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philantrophy stated in an interview for the film.

The hour-and-a-half documentary spared no moment in criticizing the pink ribbon, but the film ended on a positive note, encouraging viewers to be critical of all pink products and reminding them that they had the power to create change once they speak up.

Breast Cancer Awareness month continues all through October.

September 25, 2012

Happy birthday, Occupy Wall Street

Movement created unification and political discussion

This past week, Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year birthday. Happy birthday, Ocuppy Wall Street. Happy birthday to you and your movement that attempts to address the economic inequality in our society today. I know, a lot of us haven’t seen you in a while, but I keep the lessons you taught me very close to my heart.

I can’t say much for Occupy Wall Street, but I can say a few words on our local Occupy movement in Oakland. However, it’s important to keep in mind that I’ve been to the encampment (back when there still was an encampment) only about a handful of times. I hardly consider myself an expert or an active demonstrator, but I can tell you why public demonstration matters.

The Occupy movement of a year ago caused a huge amount of ruckus in the media. “What are they doing? What is their message? Why don’t they go home and take a shower?” I also had questions, so I did what any curious mind would do – I decided to check it out for myself. During my first visit, I halfheartedly tried to invite other people to come with me, but not many were willing. So I went by myself. I grabbed a BART ticket and found myself a place on the concrete steps of the plaza facing Oakland City Hall.

I’m glad I decided to do it alone. I had a small group discussion with such a diverse group of people – some older folks, some college students, some people in their thirties. It was incredible seeing a group of strangers discuss the inequalities in society today. The encampment had an interfaith tent, a food station, a day care, a library. It was a beautiful display of people working together to provide for each other.

It wasn’t perfect, though. Rarely anything is. But there was discussion around that. Mind you, there was discussion on everything. There was discussion around the very use of the word “Occupy” – which makes sense, given its links to language related to the military and colonization. I lived for the discussion – it was so refreshing in a combative political world.

Others were not so kind. Public dissent in the media is always seen as this chaotic, uncontrollable, rowdy mess – not at all like the dialogue I saw at the plaza. That’s not to say that I never witnessed any mess: the evening of the shooting, the same day as Occupy Oakland’s one-month anniversary, I overheard many in the group arguing about a number of topics, from the use of religion to the message to send to the mainstream media.

The days of the encampment were an incredible and muddled time. It was a bold visual representation of the people who were not happy with the structural inequalities at play. It was a demonstration that felt permanent because its encampment seemed almost immovable. Demonstrations and protests are meant to disrupt and make people feel a little uncomfortable about their current state of being. Demonstrations are meant to inspire change.

If the public is unhappy, why should they just sit there and take it? Why should they relegate their free speech to certain zones, formats, and times of day?

Whether you agree with Occupy or not, its heyday allowed more people to talk about their general discontent (be it with the government or the movement) more openly.

Happy birthday, Occupy Wall Street. May you continue to help us think critically about the world around us.

September 25, 2012

Saint Mary’s students register to vote at voter registration drive

Students feel that it is an important year to vote and believe voting is a civic duty

This pas Thursday evening, Saint Mary’s students filed into Hagerty Lounge for a voter registration drive sponsored by the Campus Activities Board (CAB). CAB hosted the event as a way to promote participation in the upcoming presidential election.

Samantha Kelly, the Gaels on the Go Coordinator for CAB, highlighted the importance of voting. “A lot of students and young people don’t always vote,” she said. “By putting on this event, CAB is trying to help promote the voter population and voter turnout, especially for this big presidential race, because it’s very close.”

Students appeared to appreciate the event. “I just turned 18 this September, so I really wanted to vote in the next election,” said Gabriela Rocha, a first-year student. “I think it’s really nice how you guys had it here – it’s really convenient.”

Rocha, like many of the students at the event, felt that this was an important year to vote – but it should be the only reason. “I think regardless of the election, everyone should be voting,” she said. “I feel that it is a civic duty.”

However, Rocha went onto say that she hopes President Obama is re-elected. This hope served as her motivation to attend the voter registration drive.

Dylan Osborne, a junior, was present to inform students about the Democratic Pary. He too echoed the statements of others at the event, stressing the importance of registering to vote. “I think registration drives are really important, especially on college campuses like this because we’re the new generation,” he said.

A student from the Saint Mary’s Republican Club was slated to inform others about the other major political party, but the representative never arrived.

The event itself had a fair amount of traffic, but that’s not to say it went off without a hitch – a number os students were having trouble completing their registration cards. The main source of confusion appeared to be the address line, but it is arguably the most important section – whatever is written in that space determines what county/district-specific measures and officials the voter chooses from in all future ballots. While most students opted to register as a voter using their hometown address, others chose to register using the school address, thus placing themselves within Contra Costa County and under the 10th Congressional District.

This means, then, that the students who use the Saint Mary’s address will not only get to vote in the general election, but they will also get the opportunity to vote on measures that impact this community – just as those who register with their hometown address will get the opportunity to impact their hometown.

The even wrapped up in a little over an hour. Though the CAB-sponsored registration drive is over, there is still time to register to vote. Forms are available in the Post Office. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is October 22.

September 18, 2012

Film focuses on media’s portrayal of women

Miss Representation helps educate on the danger of stereotyping

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” states the tagline of the 2011 documentary Miss Representation. The documentary was screened for the Saint Mary’s community this past Thursday at the Intercultural Center. Miss Representation, directed and narrated by Jennifer Seibel Newsom, focuses on the issue of limited and negative portrayals of women in the media. The documentary, as indicated by its tagline, argues that the media portrayals of women affect the way in which women and girls see themselves and ultimately makes it difficult for them to pursue leadership roles.

As a fairly recent release, the documentary benefits from slick editing, up-to-date statistics, and interviews from socially relevant figures such as Rachel Maddow, Lisa Ling, Condoleeezza Rice, Rosario Dawson, and Dianne Feinstein. The documentary also interviews young girls and gets their input on what they see in the media. Sprinkled throughout Miss Representation are various clips and images from music videos, television shows, film, news segments, etc., that show the limited portrayal of women, which often ranges from the subservient sex object to the power-hungry man hater. These repesentations, as explained by the documentary, are extremely widespread and are often used in advertising.

The problematic propagation of the idea of the female as an undervalued and over-scrutinized being is the centerpiece of the documentary, and each example of the stereotype is explored in great depth. By the time the documentary ended, viewers at the Intercultural Center’s screening were eager to come up with solutions, as indicated by the post-screening discussion, which was led by the Women’s Resource Center’s Cillian Cutsaw, who serves at the Coordinator of Sexual Assault Awareness, Outreach, and Education.

Many at the screening said that simply pointing out the limited representations would help educate others on the dangers of the media’s continued stereotyping of women. A large number of the viewers in attendance agreed that media did have an effect of individuals in society.

“If you think about media, it’s really inescapable,” Cutshaw said. “In order to not be influenced by media, you’d have to live on a deserted island or something – it’s that pervasive.”

The issue of hyper-masculinity came up during the post-screening discussion as well. many of the men in the audience agreed that they too were expected to perform a certain way becaues of the media, and this can often be spotted in in advertising that tells men to be rugged, not to show emotion, and to devalue women. Both sides are expected to perform in certain roles, and those roles are limited. The influence of the media can be silent and pervasive, but Cutshaw points out that critically thinking about media portrayals can make all the difference.

“It’s important to notice what is designed to entrap you and what is designed to leave you out,” she said.

Through critical readings and discussions of the media – such as the screening this past Thursday – women can empower themselves to be something greater than what they see.

September 18, 2012

Classic film relates back to seminar course

Last Wednesday and Thursday in the Soda Center, the Collegiate Seminar program kicked off its fall semester events with a screening of the 1960 film Inherit the Wind. The movie, directed by Stanley Kramer, is based based on the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in which a high school science teacher named John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution in a public school. But while the film focuses largely on its own Monkey Trial, the characters of the film find themselves in conflicts that go beyond those in the courtroom.

At the start of the film, Bert Cates (Dick York), the high school teacher in the film, quickly finds that his trial will be affecting his love life when his fiancee Rachel Brown (Donna Anderson) demands that he throws out the case. Rachel herself is at odds with her father, Reverend Jeremiah Brown (Claude Akins), who proves to be incredibly zealous in opposing Bert’s belief in teaching evolution.

In addition, Bert’s defense lawyer, Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) finds himself in a battle with an old friend, as his old political buddy Matt Brady (Fredric March) is representing the prosecution. All the while, a journalist from the Baltimore Herald named E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) floats around making snide remarks and poking fun at Brady, but ultimately, as Drummond points out, the journalist is a lonely soul.

The end of the film (and the trial) is similar to that of the actual Scopes Trial. Cates is found guilty of breaking the law, but the fight is not over – not with a lawyer like Henry Drummond, who defends Cates’ actions of teaching evolution as a way to keep education open to all.

As a part of the Collegiate Seminar’s programming, the film provides an excellent link to the reading material of those in the fourth seminar, as students have just learned about Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Ultimately, the film itself advocates for the idea to keep education an open forum as opposed to an unchanging lecture – an idea that isn’t too far from the basis of seminar itself.

September 11, 2012

OPINION: The good, the bad, and the ugly chair speech

Eastwood’s speech confuses, hinders Republican party

Last week at the Republican National Convention, noted Hollywood actor, producer, and director Clint Eastwood delivered a rather odd speech to the audience at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Instead of addressing the thousands of Republican faithfuls filling the seats in the venue, Eastwood focused much of his attention on an empty chair he brought on stage with him. However, this was no ordinary chair. No, this was a chair that he claimed was seating President Barack Obama.

It was a strange act that lasted the majority of Eastwood’s twelve minute appearance on stage. The Dirty Harry actor put President Obama on trial for the number of unemployed people in the country, the delay in sending troops home, and other various pressing issues – as was expected. After all, this is a party convention and a platform that political parties now use as a very lengthy and expensive infomercial for their candidate. It’s not supposed to be particularly nice or forgiving to the competition.

However, I do believe that there is a way to criticize a person while still remaining respectful – and there was definitely a moment where Eastwood crossed that line. For me, that moment came when he turned to the chair as said, “…what do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that to himself.”

Really? I mean, fine, I get it. The party conventions of today no longer work to ultimately decide a party’s candidate for the presidency. These conventions are about making sure the right sound bite makes it onto all of the news outlets. These conventions are about selling the candidate to any undecided voters that may catch the brief one-hour coverage on the broadcast networks. I get it. So what if Clint Eastwood implied that his invisible Obama just told Mitt Romney to perform some sort of act on himself? So what?

Aside from the very obvious statement that he looked like a fool speaking to an empty piece of furniture, Eastwoods’s method of criticizing President Obama was not effective – especially when he claimed that Obama was telling him to shut up or to (and I use a euphemism here) take a hike. Yes, Eastwood is an entertainer. yes, conventions are mostly considered lighthearted affairs. But he shouldn’t have used his time to perform an ad-libbed pseudo-ventriloquist act in which the President of the United States would respond in such a flippant way.

There are other venues that would be better suited for Eastwood’s act. Political humor can be as brash as it wants to be on the late-night circuit, and there is a market for that, given the fact that it is election season.

It is, however, doubtful that any show would want to feature over ten minutes of Clint Eastwood talking to furniture. After all, late night comedy tends to make people laugh. I’m not so sure I can say the same for Clint Eastwood and his empty chair.

September 5, 2012

Saint Mary’s general education model shifts

College’s new core curriculum provides clear learning goals

The newest class of Gaels marks the first group of students that will graduate under the new core curriculum, which as been in the works for over six years. Prior to the class of 2016, the general education requirements remained largely unchanged for over a quarter of a century.

With the new core curriculum, the general education model at Saint Mary’s shifts from a focus on area requirements to instead a larger focus on learning outcomes. These learning goals range from the familiar concepts of critical thinking and shared inquiry to mathematical and scientific understanding, and finally to the social justice-centric goals of common good and community engagement. Each learning outcome belongs to three major groupings of student learning: Habits of Mind, Pathways to Knowledge, and Engaging the World.

But while the new core curriculum is worded differently that the general education requirements of the past, many components feel very familiar. For example, Seminar and writing composition course fall under the Habits of Mind grouping, while what was known as “area requirements” (such as courses in art, science, math, religious studies, etc.) fall under the Pathways to Knowledge group.

With these similarities, the new core curriculum expands and clarifies the goals of the general education requirement. But if the requirements are largely similar, why was there a need for a new core? Ellen Rigsby, faulty member and member of the Core Curriculum Implementation Committee explains, “We hadn’t examined the old curriculum in over twenty years. You have to keep curriculum relevant to what is going on in the world, and even if it’s just changing the wording, students have to know what it is they’re being asked to do… it’s about making the learning goals explicit and clear – not about changing things drastically.”

Additionally, the new core hopes to provide a more integrated and developmental experience for students. “There’s a story in the new cory that helps you go from freshman year to senior year to your career,” Rigsby states.

Aside from strengthening and clarifying the general education requirements, the new core also introduces the Engaging the World learning group, which includes service-learning and community-based research courses. Beth Hampson, Coordinator of Engaged Teaching & Learning at CILSA, is excited about more students becoming involved in the community and explains, “What used to be the experience of some now gets to be the experience of all.”

In order to meet the learning goals of the core curriculum, many courses under the previous area requirements had to be altered. Cynthia Ganote, faculty member and member of the Core Curriculum Implementation Committee, explains that some professors are modifying while others are developing all-new courses. “With the core curriculum, we pull together the best of Saint Mary’s and have our professors in dialogue, making sure it is the best learning experience for students as possible.”

With faculty and staff committed to establishing relevant, developmental, and integrated curriculum for all students across all majors, it seems that the best learning experience is already well underway.