BREAKING: Campus Pub Opening Possibly Delayed

11:20 a.m.: According to President Joseph Urgo, the opening of the campus pub, scheduled for tomorrow, may be delayed. Urgo said that it came to the attention of administration that Bon Appetit, the provider of food and alcohol for the pub, may not have the necessary liquor license to serve beer and wine as was initially planned. Urgo added that this “wasn’t for any lack of will”, but was an unfortunate oversight and something that Bon Appetit would have to work out. Urgo was unaware of the details of the situation, but said that currently Vice President of Finance Tom Botzman is in discussions with Bon Appetit.

Though the pub option may not open tomorrow as planned, it is still possible that the late night food component will open without beer or wine options, or that some sort of temporary liquor license can be procured, according to Urgo. The Point News will continue to update this story as events unfold.

6:06 p.m.: According to Botzman, Bon Appetit had a liquor license in the past, and have managed pubs on other campuses including Urgo’s own Hamilton College. He added that the discussion concerning the specifics of procuring an actual liquor license started in February, and that, “they had assured us that they would be able to get a license in time.” He further stated that administration was not informed of the fact that a liquor license would not be procured in time for the pub’s opening until late last Friday, not yesterday as previously reported.

Botzman said, “Part of it was that they were still working on getting the license…had we known there was a snag we would have liked to have had time to adjust.”

District Manager for Bon Appetit Dave Connelly said procuring the license, “turned out to be much more of an administrative and legal challenge than we’d anticipated.” According to Connelly, Bon Appetit first attempted to get their own liquor license, but after weighing the difficulties of that option decided to attempt to serve alcohol through a sister company. The logistics of this option, however, were similarly convoluted.

Connelly said, “It was only a week ago that it became clear to me that [getting the liquor license] wasn’t going to work out.” He added, “It’s certainly our doing, not the College,” and that although Bon Appetit was still working on getting the license they would likely not have it until next semester.

According to Botzman the pub will still open tomorrow as scheduled, and will offer late-night food and non-alcoholic drinks. He added in an email to the campus community that there may be one-day pub events that include beer and wine in the near future; according to Connelly, one-day alcohol permits are much easier to procure than permanent licenses. There will also be free non-alcohol drinks provided for those that come to the pub between tomorrow and Sunday.

Botzman said, “We were really excited about this, and I hope we will continue to be excited about it. It just won’t happen as smoothly and as easily as we’d hoped.”

Chick-fil-A Debate Continues

As the events continue to unfold over the Chick-fil-A debate, some tensions appear to have been lessened after a forum hosted by Professors Barbara Beliveau, Celia Rabinowitz, and  Sybol Anderson allowed students to vent their frustrations over the Daily Grind’s “Chick-fil-A Thursdays.”

Approximately 55 students, staff, and faculty members were present to hear more about boycotts, particularly this one, and to voice their opinions about the College’s values relating to this issue.

Chick-fil-A (CFA) has been reported to have donated to the Winshape Foundation; this foundation has in turn donated money to conservative movements against same-sex marriage.  Members of St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (STARS) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) have charged that by selling Chick-fil-A on campus, the College has been violating the “safe space” policy.

At the beginning of the forum, several members of STARS and SDS stated that this boycott was not a campaign against personal, political, and religious values, nor was it attempting to limit the consumer choices of their peers.

The audience was then given a quick breakdown about the history of boycotts and whether or not they are successful.  Professor Beliveau said boycotts are successful “if there is commitment and support” among a large group of people.

She gave historical examples of successful boycotts including the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. In 1955, an African American woman named Rosa Parks did not give up her seat to a white commuter on the Montgomery bus line.

Her arrest started one of the largest boycotts in American history, which only ended with the desegregation of the bus lines.

Rabinowitz then began a brief discussion about the College’s institutional values.  The values, which can be found on the College’s website, describe St. Mary’s as a place open to “diversity in all its form and social responsibility and civic-mindedness.”  The question that this boycott raises is whether or not the school selling Chick-fil-A goes against what the institution values.

Anderson then posed the question, “What does it mean to value diversity in all its form, social responsibility, and civic-mindedness?”  This question then lead into a discussion about whether or not Chick-fil-A should be sold on campus.

One student said, “[Chick-fil-A] can do whatever they want.”  This comment then brought many people to raise their hands to respond.  Many describe how they felt that Chick-fil-A violated the “safe space” policy which made them feel uncomfortable.

There was some discussion about bringing another vendor to campus to balance Chick-fil-A. However, several members of the community felt that keeping Chick-fil-A on campus would not solve the fundamental problem at hand.  One professor said it would only “skirt the main question.”

After the talk, Anderson described the dilemma and said, “we seem to have clarified what the crux of the issue is; that is, we have to decide as a community whether by maintaining our contract with CFA we compromise a set of our institutional values, in particular our commitments to diversity and social responsibility.”

As the forum came to a close, many remarked on the civility that was shown by all who participated.  One member of SDS was “glad we could have a dialogue.”There was also agreement that it was good that both sides were present to voice their concerns.

Anderson summed up both arguments by saying some members see “Chick-fil-A as encouraging the violation of human rights and [that the college] should end its contract with the company,” while others “do not see Chick-fil-A as implicated in human rights violations [and] see no problem with continuing to do business with them.”  Anderson continued, “that’s the dilemma we have to resolve.”

In the end, the dilemma remained unsolved.  However, many expressed hope that this could be how problems in the future would be resolved.  Senior Paul Sauchelli, of Students for a Democratic Society, said the forum will “set a future precedent for future discussions.”

 

Students Question Judaic Studies Endowment

The Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, a department that has eight full-time professors and fills a significant percentage of classes with visiting and part-time instructors, has recently taken a further blow from the financial crisis facing St. Mary’s.

The Ike Weiner Chair of Jewish Studies, an endowed position, will no longer be filled. Devorah Schoenfeld, the last professor to occupy the position, left the school in 2010.  In an email correspondence with junior Keith Colson, President Urgo said, “the endowment that has supported this faculty chair is not generating sufficient funds for it to continue at present.”

Endowed chairs are one way for private donors to support the college, as they are funded from an outside source and are not part of the college’s operating budget.  A private donor sets up an endowment fund, usually for some type of special or particular interest, which funds a position specializing in that area.

The Ike Weiner Chair of Jewish Studies was a position that the SMCM academic catalog describes as “established through the generous support of June Weiner Auerbach in honor of her father.

The Ike Weiner professor is to be a distinguished researcher with broad expertise in Judaic studies, an eminent scholar and gifted teacher who provides academic leadership, and is an individual capable of providing intellectual and cultural leadership in the region.”

If the endowment fund no longer provides enough money for this position, it would be yet another cost added onto the school’s already taxed operating budget where no such cost existed before.

For the Philosophy and Religious Studies department, this position helped to round out the course offerings to give Religious Studies students a good grounding in the three Abrahamic faiths.

With the position gone, Urgo wrote, “the Religious Studies Department may be able to place some of the courses in Judaic Studies into its course cycle, to be taught by other faculty members.”

Junior Keith Colson learned about the discontinuation of the chair from one of the visiting professors in the department. A Religious Studies major, he is concerned about the quality of education that the department will offer without the chair.

He says, “We are an already small department….You would not ask an astronomy professor to cover for a geology professor and expect their expertise in the one field to be sufficient to cover the other. Religious studies is no different.”  Keith also said he was worried that he had to find out about this position being discontinued from word of mouth, rather than from a school-wide announcement.

He said, “This really affects my education, and I would have liked to have heard someone address this.” Keith has been organizing an email-writing campaign to Urgo “to let him know that we care that this is happening….Concerned students can write an email to President Urgo to let him know this is something we care about.”

There are a number of other endowed chair positions at the College, according to the academic catalog, but the Judaic Studies endowed position is the most specific and specialized of these positions. The other positions, in contrast, deal more broadly with honoring faculty with achievements in the liberal arts and sciences.

 

St. Mary’s Hosts First Toughest Student Challenge

For two consecutive weekends, students participated in the St. Mary’s Toughest Student Challenge, a test of physical and mental strength that highlighted the importance of leadership and teamwork.

The event was run by senior Jean-Pierre “JP” Alfred, and aimed to transform the individual mentality of needing to win by transferring it towards group effort.

“We take marathons and turn them on their heads,” Alfred said. “We do marathon distances in packs. You can’t finish without the person to your left and right – it’s geared that way.”

Physically, the challenge involved flutter kicks and push-ups in the river, running 15-plus miles with bricks and carrying a two thousand pound log around campus.

However, the teams were also tested mentally with riddles. Students had to solve problems such as making a gurney out of logs and moving their heaviest member in a wheelbarrow with a flat tire with a light pole that could be no further than six inches away at all times.

“It’s all about mechanical thinking while stress is applied. It’s all mental.” Alfred added. “The first ten minutes of the challenge, you’re cold and wet. That eliminates the guys who think they want to be here, because once you put some of these guys in water, they quit. What you’re left with is the team, and at the end of it, the team comes together. Always.”

“We don’t care if you can run six minute miles. What we care about is leaders. Let’s see how you take the most broken, beat down individual that just doesn’t want to finish and make them finish. Its definitely all about leadership.”

Many of those who participated in the challenge took turns as leaders of the group, motivating and carrying their team through each obstacle. The challenge lasted for each team as long as it took for them to work together as one. The first class started at 10 p.m., and went until 5:30 a.m. the next morning.

“I was in a leadership position for a while,” sophomore Emily Burdeshaw said. “It didn’t strike me until later in the challenge that even as a leader you had to be a part of the team and assign subordinate positions. We had puzzles that the leader had to figure out; meanwhile the team was doing flutter kicks and bear-crawls, which is really painful. That was stressful. You definitely had to think on your feet.”

Students were encouraged to have water, a windbreaker, headlight, some type of “Under-Armour” garment, and a Camelbak. Safety was a priority during the challenge, and those that were underprepared or couldn’t safely complete the challenge were asked to quit. Nonetheless, the two-week event proved to be an unforgettable experience for those involved.

“It was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” Burdeshaw said. “You couldn’t be an individual – you had to be a part of the team. It was something we learned pretty quickly.

“The physical stuff was definitely hard, but the hardest part was keeping up the ‘we can do this’ attitude. A lot of the people I talked to on the team agreed: give us a month, and we’d definitely do it again.”

 

Programs Board Faces Difficult Controversy Over Firing Chair

The recent termination of junior Reid Levin from the position of Programs Board Coffeehouse Chair, ostensibly related to lackluster attendance at meetings, is leaving some students crying foul play.

According to Levin, the incident occurred Sunday, Feb. 20, when he was called into a meeting with Director of Campus Programming Jessica Harvey.

Levin said that Harvey confronted him at the meeting about missing two Programs Board meetings and not attending other Programs Board events (the latter not mandatory, but encouraged), which she said was grounds for his dismissal. Levin said, “essentially [Harvey told] me that I’d been kicked off of Programs Board.”

Levin said that, although he did miss two Programs Board meetings this semester, he notified Harvey both times of his absence and claimed that she said at the time that it was okay. Levin also said that he was not aware of the two meeting policy before his termination, and that although he had missed other Programs Board events, he rarely if ever saw other members of the Board at Coffeehouse.

Levin believes that there are no solid reasons for his termination and that the reasons for it are likely related to a personal issue with another member of the Board.

Junior Dave Gittes, who Levin said had “been involved with everything from the beginning”, added that Levin had attended peer mediation for the issue and that both he and Levin believed the issue was settled at its conclusion. However, Levin said that even after the mediation, he felt ostracized by the Board.

Harvey, however, gave a much different timeline of events. According to her, Reid was provided with the Programs Board Mission Statement, Goals and Expectations during the first week of last semester.

She added that she and Programs Board coordinator Clint Neill became concerned about the fact that Levin neglected to fill out a number of evaluation forms for Coffeehouse events and missed two meetings, a Coffeehouse, and a Programs Board mini-retreat on Jan. 29; she added that although he warned Harvey of his absences, he did so either immediately before or during events.

That following day, Harvey said she and Clint met with Levin to discuss his lack of attendance, but the situation did not improve and Levin missed a third meeting.

Additionally, though Levin said that many of these absences were the result of illness, Harvey claims that other members of Programs Board informed her that they saw Levin out at parties on days he claimed to be ill. She said, “I felt like he’d been lying to [Neill] and I the whole time.”

According to Harvey, this, combined with what she termed “consistently poor communication” regarding event planning and Levin’s inability to help at welcome-back events at the beginning of this semester, led to his termination.

She also said that his termination had nothing to do with any personal issues with the Board or its members.  “Although Reid held several excellent Coffeehouse programs,” she said, “there is a lot of behind the scenes work that Programs Board members must do in order to maintain their position on Programs Board.”

Complicating the matter further, a swarm of rumors began to surround the incident almost immediately after Levin’s termination. One of these, according to Levin, was that he quit Programs Board on his own volition.

Levin said that this is completely untrue, and that he has repeatedly tried to tell people that he was terminated, and did not quit. Levin said, “I essentially want people…to know that I still want to do Coffeehouse.” Harvey said she was unaware of the origins of these rumors, and said she had immediately informed all members of Programs Board of her decision (and her reasoning for it) shortly after making it.

More troubling, perhaps, are the rumors that Levin drained the Coffeehouse budget, causing the program to have to go on semi-hiatus during April. According to a Programs Board balance sheet provided by Levin, the Coffeehouse was allocated $5,500 for fiscal year 2010-2011.

Of that $5,500, Levin claims that $1,000 was spent prior to his knowledge by Harvey for the band Pearl and the Beard at the beginning of the school year. Levin used that money to book six bands, including Holy F**k, his most expensive band at $1,500. However, Levin said that the Holy F**k’s performance brought out some of the highest attendance in Coffeehouse history, and he believed the booking was justified as a result.

About $1,890 of the budget was left over at the end of last semester, and after the booking of three separate bands this year the budget still contained $490, with which Levin said he was “completely comfortable” completing the rest of the year’s Coffeehouse events. Harvey, however, pointed out that the stated budget was actually $100 less as a result of an unreported receipt for the reward gift card for AirBands.

Gittes is also upset about the Student Government Association’s (SGA) handling of the issue and the fact that Levin’s termination was not mentioned by Harvey at the SGA meeting the following Tuesday.

He said, “[Harvey] is required to discuss Programs Board activities; she did not. [It was] business as usual, which was the most perturbing part.” Gittes also said that he considered discussion he had witnessed on Facebook about Levin’s termination obscene and uncouth.

Harvey said that she did in fact report that the Board was looking for a new Publicity chair at the meeting, but did not mention Levin specifically because she felt uncomfortable doing so with him and his friends in attendance. She added that she believes in retrospect she should have done so.

Despite these issues, some students have stated that Levin’s actual work on Coffeehouse was exemplary. Gittes for example, pointed out that the Coffeehouse chair is only required to have one Coffeehouse a month; Levin had one every week, except in cases of inclement weather.

Dom Morris, in an unpublished editorial for The Point News, said, “I can honestly say that this year has held some of the best, and most well-put together Coffeehouse events that I have seen during my time at SMCM…I have watched Reid plan these events with great care and effort, I’ve watched him work hard to run the events, and most importantly, I’ve observed how much it meant to him.”

Harvey also said that Levin’s work, up to the current semester, was “phenomenal”, and added, “I’m really upset this had to happen.”

Harvey said that Coffeehouse will continue to run until the end of March with the Battle of the Bands and a concert for Invisible Children, but will be put on hiatus during April because of the large amount of other programs being offered around campus.

 

Nitze Scholar Discusses Social Media, Internet Influence in Politics

The internet has radically changed modern life in ways unimagined even a couple of years ago.  Over the last few months, the world has witness these radical changes in the form of revolution and social upheaval.  As a response to the recent uprisings in the Middle East, many have began to explore the role of social medial in the political sphere and how these cultures have use it for the advancement of their political agendas.

One person who has been exploring this topic closely is this year’s Nitze Senior Fellow, Nicholas Thompson.  Michael Taber, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, introduced Thompson, who is also the grandson of the late diplomat and Board of Trustee member Paul H. Nitze, to a crowd of approximately 60 students, staff, and community members.

While the topic and discussion remained serious, Thompson did spend some time joking around. The line “this is the largest group of people besides family reunions that can pronounce my grandfather’s name” received laughter from the audience.

As a senior editor at The New Yorker and a contributing editor at Bloomberg Television, Thompson has been studying the current crisis in the Middle East in great detail. He explained to the audience that an increase in technology would most likely lead to an increase of democracy and freedom.

By using examples like the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, Thompson described how the citizens of these countries used social media like Facebook and Twitter to organize themselves effectively.

The internet is becoming “the great liberalizer,” he said.  It allows people to find others who believe in the same causes. When people discover others who believe the same thing they do, it invokes a higher level of passion.  “You see support of your ideas by other people which then intensifies your own passions” said Thompson. “Once you see you are not alone, it is easier to become embolden by the additional support.”

The internet also has no “gate keeper;” therefore, governments no longer have control over information within any country.  Thompson explains that “By creating anonymous blogs, pages, and websites, the state no longer has a monopoly on information.”

Once information flows freely to the people, the government has a harder time upholding the veneer of the state.

However, Thompson then explored the reason and ways internet may actually harm the causes of revolutionaries.  “It is very easy to create the illusion of activism on the internet” said Thompson, “revolutions are started by those who have strong connections with others that they will be willing to die for.”

Even though a revolutionary group may have millions of followers, there is little tying these people together.  The internet causes people to work less and create weak connections amongst each other: two traits that usually lead to fail revolts.

Thompson also said conversations are  less developed and intelligent.  Since a person can hide behind their computer and anonymous name, they can say anything that pleases them.  This leads to arguments that spiral out of control as the passions of the participants overtake their reason.

The internet is also seen as a less serious forum for interaction.  “People who are on the internet for 10 hours are not looked highly upon,” said Thompson, “especially when they are on LOLcats.”

At the end of the talk, there was no answer about whether the internet is good or bad. Thompson concluded that he did not know. “The internet gives more power to the youth since they understand the new social tools of the day,” said Thompson.

“However, the internet makes us more tribal.” Since people read the articles and blogs that agree with them, they are more likely to only receive half the story or one side of the argument.

The talk was well received by those present.  It was “fascinating, deeply knowledgeable,” according to Julia Bates, who continued by saying that it will make her think about the new role of social media. Sophomore Marty McGowan seconded that comment by saying it was a “very informative talk, relative to the political movement of the day.”

There was also praise for Thompson and his speaking style.  “He was extraordinary well-spoken and delightful to listen to,” said first-year Claire Kortyna.

 

Film Brings Local Practice Under Scrutiny

On March 9, the Facing Fences project and the Campus Community Farm held a screening of Fresh, a film on agriculture and the food system in the U.S.

Fresh explained many of the problems pointed out by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the recent film Food, Inc., such as the dangers of monocultures, farms that lack biological diversity. However, the film focused on the ways some farmers address these problems.

Many farmers who attempt to combat this, such as Joel Salatin, focus on organic production with a diverse crop.  Salatin runs Polyface Farm in Virginia and raises chickens and cattle.  His farm, which he inherited from his father, has not used chemical fertilizer for 50 years; instead Salatin uses waste from his cattle and chickens to fertilize his crops and pastures.

Will Allen, Director of Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, similarly combats the current food system. He runs workshops in the urban farm, showing local community members how they can utilize vertical space and make compost in order to grow their own food.

As many farmers from the local community attended, a subsequent discussion led by Christine Bergmark from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Commission focused on local agriculture in St. Mary’s County. Bergmark pointed out that though Southern Maryland does not have industrial farms such as those pointed out in the film, 375,000 acres of farmland have been lost to development in the past decade.

As for local food on campus, senior Tess Wier, president of the Campus Community Farm, explained that the Farm has had difficulties developing a relationship with Bon Appetit due to insurance issues. Local farmer Brett Grohsgal, co-owner of Even’Star Farm, responded, “Your local Bon Appetit leaves everything to be desired.”

Grohsgal, who used to sell produce to the College’s branch of Bon Appetit, said that changes in management in the past few years led to many local farmers being “pushed out” from a relationship with the local Bon Appetit.

Even’Star currently sells produce to the Bon Appetit branch at American University, where Grohsgal said his experience has been nothing but positive. However, he said Bon Appetit at St. Mary’s has required local farmers to “jump through too many hoops” in order to maintain their contracts.

Grohsgal said one farmer was asked to obtain humane certification in order to continue selling his eggs; such a certification would have required him to build a roof over his 18 acre pasture, Grohsgal said.

“They have more words than actions,” said Grohsgal, referencing Bon Appetit’s mission to buy most of its food from local sources. He added that there are “so many local farmers trying” to sell produce to the College.

Students interested in purchasing local food produced in Southern Maryland can go to somarylandsogood.com in order to find local farmers’ markets or farms that participate in community-supported agriculture.

 

TROUT & MATH

As part of the Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium, American University mathematics professor Dan Kalman, father of St. Mary’s graduate Chris Kalman ’05, presented Province of Polynomia – Uncommon Excursions for the Seasoned Visitor on Feb. 28.

On March 9, Susquehanna University professor and St. Mary’s graduate Jonathan Niles brought the audience back to the United States with a discussion of trout-stream ecology in his lecture Riparian Forest and Stream Interactions: The Importance of Terrestrial Invertebrates to Brook Trout in Appalachian Streams.

Introduced by mathematics professor Alex Meadows, Kalman began his presentation with a discussion of roots and polynomials, intended for a mixed audience of students, faculty, and community members with varied understandings of Kalman’s field.

Creating a mathematical world known as “Polynomia” as a means of organizing his lecture, Kalman explained how polynomials have roots, or powers of one that satisfy the polynomial if they replace the variable “x”, usually when the polynomial is set to equal zero.

He showed the audience how to use such knowledge by solving any polynomial p(x), where p(x) was a polynomial with any degree of non-negative integer coefficients, simply by knowing what the polynomial would equal if “x” was replaced by one and what it would be if that solution also replaced “x”.

For those not math-savvy in the audience, Kalman showed that if an equation p(x) was modified so that “x” was replaced by “1/x”, the numbers in front of those variables would all switch in sequence once the equation was set up as a fraction, with the denominator being the highest-powered “x” variable.

“It’s not as applicable as a talk about trout,” said Kalman, foreshadowing the following week’s lecture with Niles, but nonetheless seemed to be an effective application of the concept.

Continuing with a discussion of curly roots to solve cubic polynomials, Newtonian identities, synthetic division to divide equations, binary powering as a means of representing functions, and Lill’s Method as an older, graphical method of solving a polynomial’s roots, Kalman concluded with an important point for all math and non-math venturers of Polynomia.

“There are many more Polynomia destinations,” he said. “I hope you come again soon.”

The following week, Niles continued the series with his discussion of a very different area of research: how the plant and animal life on the banks of streams have a major influence on the ecology of aquatic organisms. Introduced by biology professor Bob Paul as a former student of Paul’s Limnology class, Niles began with a discussion of what is a riparian forest.

“Most people think that ‘riparian’ refers to the long stretch [of land] on the side of the stream … but this is not the case,” said Niles, “It does run parallel, but also is dependent on the land up the slopes.  It is bidirectional.”

After previous research showed that the energy in streams on the west coast of the United States was not sufficient to support the large fish population, and that riparian organisms landing in the stream for fish consumption were taking up the energy requirements, Niles tested this idea with brook trout populations in Appalachian streams.

He prepared eight streams, four with 50 percent of the canopy around the streams cut and four with 90 percent of the canopy cut, with a uncut regions to serve as a control, to observe the change in diets of the brook trout over an almost one-month period. He did so by observing internal stomach contents via gastric lavage (flooding of the body with water to induce regurgitation).

Niles determined there was a higher amount of terrestrial biomass in trout from the uncut regions compared to the 90 percent cut regions, indicating the importance of riparian life on trout diets.

“Niles showed an interesting relationship between terrestrial invertebrates and the ecosystem,” said biology and biochemistry major Luke Trout, junior, “but there seemed to be a lot of variables that would make me question the validity of the experiment.”

The next NS&M lecture will be on March 23 by SUNY-Potsdam mathematics professor Joel Foisy.

 

Students Ask for Recognition in Film

On March 8, the Center for the Study of Democracy invited the students of St. Mary’s to Cole Cinema for a showing of the documentary Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth. The film chronicles the lives of five high school or post-high school students who have enough accolades and academic integrity to attend college, but cannot do so because they are illegal immigrants.

To preface the documentary, José Ballesteros, Associate Professor of Spanish, said that there are “ten-thousand students raised [in the U.S.] illegally who have a limited access to jobs and education” after they graduate from high school.

The showing of the film coincided with the Maryland General Assembly’s consideration of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. Presently, illegal immigrants who are accepted into state colleges must pay out-of-state tuition, even if they have lived in Maryland for years.

Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act would make illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children eligible for in-state tuition. The DREAM Act rejected by Congress last year would have made two years in college or two years in the military a step towards gaining citizenship.

Papers follows five students on their search for post-high school success. Monica is a giggly teenager who hopes to marry her boyfriend in the near future. However, threats of deportation to Guatemala make her worry about staying with him in the country she calls home.

Jorge is an outspoken young man who struggles with two minority statuses as an illegal Latino immigrant and a homosexual. Yo Sub is a Korean high school student and a National AP Scholar. All twelve colleges he applied to rejected his application because of his illegal status.

Simone, who moved to the U.S. from Jamaica as a child, is barred from attending college and takes dead-end jobs with meager pay–the only jobs employers are willing to give to an illegal immigrant. Juan overcomes his initial disinterest with school in order to fulfill his promise to his mother that he would earn a high school diploma. However, he wonders what is next for him after high school.

The documentary notes how these students do what the government tells them to: stay out of trouble, stay in school, and work hard. Their efforts go unrewarded; the government refuses to grant them access to citizenship, let alone a college education. The film notes that the federal government guarantees secondary education for illegal immigrants, but does not provide for these same students in their college careers.

The citizenship issue ties in with the DREAM Act because illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children have a harder time gaining citizenship than their parents. Undocumented immigrants usually ask for asylum from the government or get help from family members who already live in the country. Without these conditions, the citizenship process is very difficult to navigate.

Papers describes how immigrants built and shaped the United States economy from its earliest days—African slavery was a forced immigration that greatly fueled North and South Americas’ economies, and Irish and Chinese immigrants built railroads in the U.S. a few centuries later.

The film explains immigration history to show how the U.S., “a country of immigrants,” is so ironically unwelcoming and inflexible towards its new inhabitants.

The documentary ended hopefully, with undocumented students from all over the country staging a mock graduation in Washington, D.C. in support of the DREAM Act that was voted down in Congress. Four out of the five students interviewed in the film were attending or already graduated from college.

After the film, Ballesteros introduced the discussion panel: Anthony Colon,  a “foremost diversity advocate” and lawyer who brought educational reform to the Latino/a community; Elias Vlanton, whom Ballesteros described as “the most caring educator” he ever met, is a social studies teacher to immigrant students at Bladensburg High School in Prince George’s County; Angie Gutierrez, a junior at Bladensburg High School and an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, is also the president of her class and the first sophomore in her high school to earn a score of five on an Advanced Placement exam.

Vlanton began the discussion, saying that he “thought the film was very powerful.” He explained that the U.S. “wanted workers, and what [it] got was people” who are in need of basic human rights.

He reiterated the film’s notion that “everyone benefits from blue-collar workers,” and the disintegration of the DREAM Act would “suppress a vast chunk of the [U.S.] labor force.”

Gutierrez commented that she can not afford to pay out-of-state tuition at Maryland state universities, and found watching the film with her mother to be “very emotional.”

Colon, a Latino, began his reflection on the film by recalling a time when he was in Leonardtown, MD around 30 years ago and was told to walk on the opposite side of the street in order to avoid “trouble.”

He admits that the issue of undocumented immigration has “a lot of gray.”  However, he attributes the government’s unwillingness to promote the DREAM Act to “benign racism,” meaning unintentional racism that is not overtly malicious. Instead, it is shown in subtle ways like the hindrance of the DREAM Act or being told to walk on the opposite side of the street.

The DREAM Act under consideration in Maryland was recently approved by the Maryland State Senate on March 15 and the bill will soon move to the Maryland House of Delegates.

 

Traveling: Confidence With a Side of Nutella

One of the greatest opportunities studying abroad in Europe has given me is the ability to travel the world.  Traveling across the Atlantic to Europe is ridiculously expensive, but once already in Europe, getting around is simple.

Just last week, during Trinity’s week long break, I traveled to Paris, Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam for far less than I would have had I been traveling from the States.  Ryanair is a budget airline that allows me to get from Dublin to almost anywhere for less than thirty euro, and even to London for under ten (they do have strict carry-on restrictions and charges for checked bags, but it is definitely worth the sacrifice).

Trains in Europe are also very easy to use.  After flying to Paris, we rode the high-speed Thalys train to our destinations.  It is fast (obviously), convenient, and fairly priced.

Traveling abroad with friends instead of parents is a very liberating experience.  Before studying abroad, I had never planned a trip without my parents, and rarely even helped my parents when they were planning our family vacations.

For last week’s trip, I traveled with two other American girls also studying abroad at Trinity this semester.  We planned our flights, trains, and hostel reservations without the help of any parents and also managed to navigate non-English speaking countries without assistance.  This is something that I never thought I would be able to do.

Before this trip, I had never been to a non-English speaking country before, but now I am confident in my ability to survive in a city no matter the language or location.  Hand me a city and metro map, and I am good to go.  A brochure of tourist attractions is always helpful, too.

Traveling to four foreign cities in a week can be nerve-wracking, exhausting, and even terrifying at times, but in the end, it is all worth it.  I independently managed to navigate the Paris metro and its winding streets, with only a semester of French under my belt.

I managed to keep a cool head when we were stranded in Paris for a night with nowhere to sleep after realizing that we had arrived in the city too late to catch the airport shuttle.

I even successfully ordered a delicious plate of Belgian waffles doused in Nutella and whipped cream with a little bit of broken French and a lot of pointing.  I was nervous before leaving for this trip, but now I feel confident that I can travel anywhere.

While traveling, there is never time to take a break and relax one’s mind.  Break time is planning time, and if the planning is done, then that means it must be time to get that measly six hours of sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn the next day to beat all the tourist lines.

I always thought that spending a semester abroad would make me feel more confident and independent.  After my trip, I know this to be fact.  I would definitely recommend spending a semester abroad, especially if it means traveling, to anyone who wants a confidence boost.  I used to be worried about living on my own after college, but now I know that I will be able to handle any obstacle put in my way.