Jafar Not Aladdin’s Only Dark Side

Islamic Studies professor Dr. Betül Basaran discussed the mischaracterization of Arabs in Disney’s “Aladdin” with students. The movie was shown Wednesday, February 11 Cole Cinema as a part of The Other Side of Disney Movies series.

The movie, which originally debuted in 1992, quickly became a hit, bringing in over $217 Million in the US and more than $507 million worldwide. The movie takes place in fictitious, Middle Eastern city of Agrabah, where protagonist, Aladdin, fights for the city’s princess, Jasmine, as well as to prevent a plot conceived by the King’s Grand Vizier, Jafar, to become King himself.

Despite the popularity of the movie, Disney ended up releasing the movie with several changes after the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) boycotted the movie.

The Committee’s biggest concern with the movie was the first line of the movie’s opening song, which originally said, “Oh, I come from a land, From a faraway place, Where the caravan camels roam, Where they cut off your ear If they don’t like your face, It’s Barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

In the re-release of the movie, Disney dubbed the opening line to change it to say, “It’s flat and immense, and the heat is intense. It’s barbaric, but hey’ it’s home.” Although it’s an improvement, Marvin Wingfield of the ADC in a 1995 newsletter article said that “problems remain” with the movie.

Professor Basaran agreed. She pointed to the movie’s contrast of the “good guys,” Aladdin and Jasmine, as light skinned with no accent and the “bad guys” with darker skin, dirty clothes and heavy accents as “an unfair stereotype of dirty Arabs.”

Basaran went on to ask that “while some might brush it off as a cartoon, how many kids watched [Aladdin] and formed stereotypes? Doesn’t Disney have an obligation to do better?”

First-year Keith [last name withheld] agreed and said that, “until middle school, that’s what [he] thought Arab culture was.”

Senior Rawle Lucas points to Disney’s change of the location—from Baghdad, as was originally proposed, to Agrabah—as a sign that filmmakers did not intend for the cartoon to be taken as a serious cultural statement.

“They purposely did not portray the time period [or culture] seriously by taking it out of context,” Lucas said.

“That’s a perfectly valid argument, but the movies are a stepping stone to a larger conversation.” according to junior Sara Metz, who is the chair of the Program Board’s Multicultural Committee and organizer of The Other Side of Disney Movies Series.

Metz, who very much likes many of Disney’s movies, is concerned that when “people grow up watching these movies they are instilled with certain stereotypes.” It was this concern as well as the desire to “combine what people like with a discussion of the stereotypes portrayed” that inspired her to organize the series.

The next movie in the series will be “Hercules,” which will air Wednesday February 25th in Cole Cinema, and will be followed by a discussion with Linda Hall, Associate Professor of History. Other movies in the series will include “Mulan”, “Pocahontas” and “The Lion King.”

Professors Give Love Lines Talk

This year marks the return of the Love Lines talk that features a panel of professors answering any “love/sex” questions anonymously submitted by students.

Love lines was hosted by the First Response Team in the common room of Queen Anne and the panel included husband and wife, Professor Jennifer Cognard-Black (JCB), and Professor Andrew Cognard-Black (ACB). JCB and ACB ended up participating in the panel when JCB was asked by one of her students who is a part of the First Response Team. “One of the peer advocates is in my Women Word Literature course, and asked me if I would be willing to do the panel. Given that I had worked hard to see that sexual assault programming be supported on campus ever since I arrived at St. Mary’s, I definitely wanted to assist the Peer Advocate in any way I could,” said JCB.

ACB got involved, naturally through JCB. She asked him if he would be willing to participate due to the fact that the two of them used to give panels back in graduate school on issues that would again be brought up during Love Lines.

Originally the panel was meant to be made up of more faculty then just the Cognard-Blacks, however the faculty members who were asked decided that they would rather not appear on the panel. “ [When asked to do the panel] Andrew said ‘sure’; all other faculty said ‘no way’. So we wound up being the only two who said ‘okay.’” said JCB.

Love Lines ended up being a type of discussion group, with JCB and ACB sitting at the top and students forming a big circle around them. Members of the First Response team took turns pulling questions out of a box that had been set in the campus center. The questions ranged from sexual to relationship advice. JCB also thought that the questions were of a rather mixed variety. “I thought many were honest, some were unclear, and a few were silly or meant to be shocking,” she said.

When answering the questions ACB and JCB gave both personal and academic advice. ACB, a Professor of Sociology, would relate his field of study to some of the questions, and JCB a Professor of English would relate questions to novels that she has read or taught.

Because of the personal nature of the questions it is understandable that those participating in it would feel reserved or uncomfortable about answering questions. However, JCB and ACB tried to be as open as they possibly could. “ Our only “fear” we had was that we didn’t want to expound on something we didn’t know a lot about,” said JCB.

President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Asks for Increased Student Involvement

William Baker, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spoke at St. Mary’s on Thursday, February 12.  His lecture, titled, “Saving the Chesapeake Bay and Its Tributary Rivers: Will Science-Based Public Policy and the Rule of Law Prevail,” focused on how students and community members can make a difference in the race to save the Bay.

“The Chesapeake Bay is worthy of your efforts,” he said.  “It’s been called the crown jewel of the world’s estuaries.”

He began the talk by giving an overview of the structure of and the problems facing the Bay.  Although it covers a large area of land, he said, if scaled down to a length of two hundred meters, the Chesapeake Bay would have the thickness of a dime.

“It’s not really that big or that deep,” said Baker.  “It’s not that much water.”  At a normal scale, the average depth of the Bay is twenty-one feet.

During the second half of the lecture, Baker addressed what could be done to save the Bay.

“History may write that a well meaning but ultimately timid group lost the Chesapeake Bay,” he said, but emphasized that that doesn’t have to be the case.  “Let’s go out and write some history.  Let’s join the biggest fight our nation has ever seen.”

He discussed the methods that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation uses to “save the Bay,” such as education and restoration.

The lecture ended with a question and answer session, where Baker encouraged students and community members to write to Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s our duty as citizens, said Baker, to make sure the government keeps its promises.  “I don’t think we’re ever going to able to say that as citizens we won’t have to monitor the government.  We’ll have to be vigilant,” he said.

We want “an avalanche of letters” to be sent, he said.  Students should write, “in their own words to say why the federal government should put the Chesapeake Bay at a high priority.”  More information can be found on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website.

Baker also discussed the relationship between climate change and the Bay.

“The impact is tremendous,” he said.  When the water heats up, it holds less dissolved oxygen, which leads to the creation of dead zones.

Baker also praised St. Mary’s students for their environmental work.

“I’m not one to get impressed very easily,” he said.  “You all deserve a round of applause.  It’s unbelievable.”

“I think the lecture itself went really well, but its success will be determined by what we do,” said senior Marjorie Foley, who played a large role in organizing the event.  “Will himself said that he wants students to not ask what they can do, but to present their ideas.”

“His message was first that the Chesapeake Bay is still having serious problems because of the inability of the government to enforce existing laws.  The second theme was the role of students in this is to make the government accountable,” said professor Michael Cain, the head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the college.  “Their voice is needed in democracy — I think that was a very positive message.”

The lecture was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Sustainability Committee, the Nitze Scholars and Environmental Studies programs, Democracy Studies and the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

A related speaker, Dr. Gerald Winegrad, a former state senator and a current professor at the University of Maryland, will speak about the Bay on Saturday March 7 at 11 a.m.

Twin Oaks Communards Give Talk on Polyamory

Last week, members of Virginia communes Twin Oaks and Acorn came to St. Mary’s to talk to students about several cultural movements in which they engage.

On Monday, Feb. 16th they held a sharing circle about polyamory, an alternative relationship model to monogamy, and on Tuesday they held a workshop entitled “Honest Seduction.” The commune members, who refer to themselves as communards, also gave talks at classes throughout the week.
Twin Oaks is a community of around 100 adults (currently 93) that was founded in 1967, and is one of the largest secular communes in the country. Members of the community share work and operate with an internal cashless economy. According to Paul Blundell, a St. Mary’s alumnus who lives at the similar commune Acorn, each community member lives on around $5000 and has a comfortably middle-class existence. Blundell said that the communards “live a pretty standard existence,” with propane and electricity, a recording studio and other amenities. More can be learned from their website, twinoaks.org.

During the Honest Seduction workshop, a member of the audience asked if polyamory was possible. “Well, if it’s not possible then for 30+ years I’ve been doing something quite impossible,” answered Paxus Calta.

However, Calta said that they wanted to do a workshop without having to cover “crazy” relationship models. Calta is known for being an anti-nuclear power activist and for a pamphlet on polyamory he has written.

The workshop mostly covered three topics: disclosures, love letters and radical romance. Disclosures are important bits of information that you tell to the person in whom you are interested, like disclosing that you have an STD or emotional trauma in a way that you can bond more closely with the person whom you are telling. Radical romance is the idea that relationships can be consciously used as tools to better onesself. People already learn and grow from relationships, of course. “We believe you can do that in a more deliberate way,” said Angie Tupelo.

At the Polyamory Sharing Circle, students asked questions about the interesting love lives of the visitors. This was essentially about 18 people sitting around cramped in the Womyn’s center asking questions of the four visitors about their experiences about polyamory, and how such a relationship model might work.

“Polyamory is for me less of a defined thing and more of an anti-definition,” said Blundell. “You can write your own script for relationship models.”

Polyamory is not for the indolent. “Since I became polyamorous, I read way less books,” said Tupelo. “It takes a lot of time.”

The communards say they want students to know that their lives are wide open. Tupelo said that “there are all kinds of ways of doing things and I want to show [students] a way they probably haven’t thought of.”

Habitat for Humanity Plans Alternative Spring Break Service Trip to Greenville, Georgia

Members of Habitat for Humanity pose from left to right: (top row) Catherine Koch, Dana Mead, Jon Kallevang, Chris Rodkey, Katie Cain, Jen Slomski, Marc Hume, Katie Studholme, (front row): Adel Chergui, Sarah Hanley, Sara Childerston, Gina Nearing, Elizabeth Benge, and Monica Powell (Photo Submitted by Katie Cain_
Members of Habitat for Humanity pose from left to right: (top row) Catherine Koch, Dana Mead, Jon Kallevang, Chris Rodkey, Katie Cain, Jen Slomski, Marc Hume, Katie Studholme, (front row): Adel Chergui, Sarah Hanley, Sara Childerston, Gina Nearing, Elizabeth Benge, and Monica Powell (Photo Submitted by Katie Cain_

This spring break, the Habitat for Humanity club will be heading to Greenville, Georgia.

The club has gone on these trips for the last six years. Two years ago the club went to Alabama and last year they went to Greenville.

The purpose of the trip is to build a house for a family who qualifies due to the qualifications of Habitat.

“The main objective is to help Habitat for Humanity whose mission is to build houses for people in the mid-range who can’t afford houses,” said senior, Katie Cain, President of the Habitat chapter here on campus.

The spring break trip is a week long and sees the fifteen students and faculty advisor build one house.

“We start with the concrete foundation. We work everyday eight to four on the house by the end of the week we’re up to the roof and shingles,” said Cain.

The trip is planned mostly by the affiliate the group stays with, but the St. Mary’s chapter focuses on getting the students together here.

“We get registration packets from Habitat for Humanity as well as St. Mary’s forms. We put them together in a packet, and we send out all students e-mails,” said Cain.

Students who participate in the trip have all different levels of experience and have become involved in different ways. “My sister did the trip when she went here. She talked about how awesome it was and I got involved through her contacts with [then President] Megan Hickman,” said senior Jen Slomiski.

Another member, senior Monica Powell, stumbled into Habitat when she went on the trip last year.

“I went last year to Greenville. Prior to that I wasn’t really involved, but after that it inspired me to apply to be on the exec board, and I’m actually going to be co-President next year,” said Powell.

The members last year stayed in a grain silo and bonded with the community through community provided dinners.

“We choose to go back to Greenville this year because of the overwhelming southern hospitality,” said Cain. The group not only bonds through the meals, but also through the road trip down to Georgia and the time spent in the silo.

The members of the group want to stress that the trip is open to everyone and that experience levels should not stop anyone from applying.

“I wouldn’t let inexperience stop you; that’s what Habitat’s all about,” said Powell.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex is often a taboo subject to ask questions about. It’s the butt of lots of jokes, but honest inquiries into topics about sexuality are a little more difficult. That’s why Candace Daniels has put together the panel “Love Lines” for students to anonymously ask questions about sex to knowledgeable faculty members.

St. Mary’s Professors Jennifer Cognard-Black and Andrew Cognard-Black, and possibly one more faculty member, will answer questions that students wrote and put in a box at the Campus Center.

The event is scheduled to take place during Sexual Responsibility week, Feb 10th-13th.

Daniels said that she personally felt that knowing the answer to “weird questions about sex” would make one a better person.

Autumn Capers, a junior , said she hopes the panel goes “beyond the black and white picture of sex.” However, Daniels insists that there is no taboo subject the panel will shy away from. “No matter what the question, the panel will answer.”

So come on by for a frank discussion centered around a favorite campus-wide subject: sex.

Steny Hoyer Makes Surprise Appearance at St. Mary’s Political Event in D.C.

House Majority Leader and St. Mary’s Trustee Steny Hoyer made a surprise appearance at a recent St. Mary’s event where alumni, students, and professors from the Political Science department joined to discuss the presidential election.

“Steny Hoyer’s appearance was definitely special,” said junior Matt Schafle. “It’s not everyday that you get to talk with the House Majority Leader.”

Hoyer’s speech discussed the hope and change embodied by Obama’s election and urged young people to become involved in politics. “What an extraordinary time to be a young person in America,” said Hoyer.

“Barack Obama is unlike any politician I’ve ever seen,” he said, calling his election “affirmation in the greatness of our country.”

Outlining the path of the Democratic Party back to power, and the work ahead for the President-elect, Hoyer stated “the good news is we won, the bad news is – we won.” Hoyer discussed the difficulties facing the Democrats in pursuing goals such as national health care, restoring rights, improving education, and rebuilding international opinion of the US while maintaining a majority, but said he believes that “we are investing in our society.”

Although invited by the Alumni Office, Hoyer was unable to confirm his attendance at the event. “We did not hear from him that he was attending,” said Director of Alumni Relations and Planned Giving (and alumnus) David Sushinsky. “My guess is he couldn’t announce it before because of security reasons, but I don’t know that to be a fact. It was a great surprise.”

Professors Michael Cain, Todd Eberly, and Sahar Shafqat discussed the election, perceptions of the election abroad, and of the new administration and political realignment’s possibilities.

“The election touched all of us,” said Cain, the Chair of the Political Science department. “It went on a long time, but on election night a lot of feeling poured out across the nation.”

Eberly focused on putting the election in perspective; while “polls suggested an Obama victory, many were not confident enough to predict the outcome.” Eberly suggested that the reason for hesitation was related to history; “of 10,000 members of the House of Representatives, only 115 have been African-American. Out of thousands of senators, there have only been five and there are currently zero.”

Eberly emphasized Obama’s slim margins in seven swing-states that totaled nearly one hundred electoral votes, which were won by less than a million votes across the seven states.

Shafqat discussed the “massive joy”, and “the tremendous sense of catharsis” the election stimulated worldwide.

“The overseas reaction should not be underestimated,” she said. “The world is predisposed positively toward this 180 degree reversal from under Bush.”  However, she stressed that President Obama would face many foreign policy challenges, such as Pakistan. “Over the last eight years the US has squandered a lot of goodwill and soft power.”

Professors Shafqat and Cain also highlighted the current economic crisis and many situations seen as mishandled by Republicans that aided the Democrat victory and substantial gains in the House and Senate.

“The Sarah Palin pick, Hurricane Katrina, and [the continued occupation in] Iraq have turned public perception from unpopular to simply incompetent,” said Shafqat.

However, all three professors were reluctant to call the election a true realignment. “We won’t know if this was a realignment for several more election cycles,” said Eberly. Additionally, after gaining 10 Senate seats and 40 House seats in the last two election cycles, “it’s extremely likely the Democrats will lose some House seats in two years,” said Cain.

“I think the election of 2012 has already begun,” said Shafqat.

“Obama must be a consensus president,” added Eberly. “Obama’s victory shows how far we’ve come as a nation, but it also shows how far we still need to go.”

Five students and about 130 Alumni attended the discussion at the RFD Building on November 20. “Most of the attendees were recent graduates, namely within the past one to three years,” said College Republicans President Sara Metz.

“I think that the happy hour alumni event was more successful than your typical reunion,” said Schafle. “I feel that the attendance rate is better at something like a happy hour because people know what they are getting into when they decide to come, they’re looking forward to a good time.”

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Assmbles Iraqi Relief Kits

With the political administration of the United States changing before the eyes of the nation, many are still wondering what is to become of the War in Iraq.

2.8 million Iraqis have left their homes for safer locations within the country and have been displaced for as many as five years because of the terror of this war. These people have been living without adequate food, water, and bathing supplies.

To assist these Iraqis in need, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has been working with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a Christian services organization, to assemble and collect relief kits for the displaced Iraqis.

Zachary Cooke, a sophomore, was the leader of the project which took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 21. He and many other members of IVCF have been collecting items through tabling at the Campus Center and dormstorming.

Cooke learned about the Project while working with a Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community, over the summer.

The group was aimed toward peacemaking and social justice, and notified Cooke about the Project. He suggested the project to IVCF, who opened up the project to the St. Mary’s College campus.

As a result, IVCF collected a wide range of supplies from students. Items in the kits included shampoo, hairbrushes, bandages, toothpaste, powdered laundry detergent, soap and towels. IVCF has delivered the packages to the closest MCC drop-off location so that the items can be sent to the displaced people.

Monica Frantz, a senior who assisted with the Project, said, “I was impressed by how generous students were in giving items to the project…the Iraq Relief Project gives students the chance to begin to take action in an easy way.”

Jill Clemmer, also a senior who worked with the Project, added that “the Iraq Relief Project was one practical way to keep reminding myself that [students] can contribute in a positive way to people to who don’t currently have the basic material necessities to live.”

What the IVCF members appreciate most about this project is that it involves collecting practical supplies as opposed to money.

Frantz said, “Giving our extra things is a great way to start changing things…systems of injustice create situations which are easy to throw charity at… no amount of money will allow these refugees to return home.”

While the War is a touchy political issue for many students, IVCF hopes that students look past conservative and liberal beliefs to recognize the humanitarian issue at stake in Iraq.

Cooke said, “…what seems to be ignored is the fact that over a million Iraqis have died because of the war. There is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq… Yes, the war is a political issue but I believe we have a responsibility to help Iraqis because of our country’s involvement.”

If students are interested in further helping to fight this crisis in Iraq, they can still assemble kits independently and send them MCC.  For more information, go to http://www.mcc.org/iraqrelief/.

Beyond giving supplies, there is still more work to do in aiding Iraq.

Frantz said, “Becoming aware of the issues is the first step, giving money and things is a great second step, but we cannot stop there, we must consider why there are people living in refugee camps to begin with.”

Invisible Children Service Club Throws a Benefit Bash

The St. Mary’s band Half the Battle performs first at the Invisible Children Benefit Concert (Photos Submitted by Lexi Lygoumenos).
The St. Mary’s band Half the Battle performs first at the Invisible Children Benefit Concert (Photos Submitted by Lexi Lygoumenos).

With the recent benefit concert, collection bins across campus, a bake sale and a planned 5K run, the Invisible Children Service Club at St. Mary’s has had a busy year.

“Basically we seek to raise funds and awareness for the crisis in Uganda,” said Lexi Lygoumenos, club president and founder of the St. Mary’s chapter.  “This is like the largest humanitarian crisis to have happened for our generation, but most people don’t even know it’s going on.”

The benefit concert, held on a Friday, Nov. 7, was one way to raise awareness.

“We had actually begun planning for the benefit last semester,” said Alyssa Miller, the historian for the club.  “Initially, we had wanted to have a Battle of the Bands to raise money, but the event was changed to just a benefit concert.”

Since Lygoumenos, “used to plan shows in high school and book with a local booking agent,” she decided to bring her skills to the club.  “I’m a huge concert person,” she said.  The nationwide Invisible Children organization also uses music to raise funds.  “They have traveling tours…all across the country,” she said.

The concert was cosponsored by the Programs Board and the Invisible Children Service Committee.  Nicolleta Babera, the Special Events co-chair for the Programs Board, was the primary member involved.

[Nicolleta] and I basically made this our little pet project,” said Lygoumenos.

For the benefit, “We decided to get all on-campus groups,” said Lygoumenos.  The Nightingale A Capella, Half the Battle, Factorial, and Lady in the Street all performed.  In addition to the music, there were free t-shirts with a logo designed by one of the club member’s friends.  Between performances, clips of the latest videos were shown.

The concert went hand in hand with the screening of the latest Invisible Children movie, which was shown the night before.

Invisible Children members pose with their custom made t-shirts.
Invisible Children members pose with their custom made t-shirts.

“It was kind of an Invisible Children weekend,” said Lygoumenos.

Overall, the event was successful.  “With the merchandise sold by representatives from the national organization at both the concert and the movie screening the day before, we raised almost four hundred dollars that went directly to IC. In addition, from donations alone at the concert we raised over one hundred dollars,” said Miller.

Next up is the annual SMCM Service Run, a 5K that will be cosponsored by the Invisible Children service club with the Rotoract Club on campus.  Lygoumenos encourages all who are interested to contact her if they want to get involved with the organization.  “It is this unknown war,” she said.  “It has legitimately been going on for over thirty years.  Most of the children have no idea what it’s like to live outside of war.”

Underwire ‘Zine Gives Gender Issues a Lift

Junior Sarah Eargle is passionate about women’s issues.  The head of Feminists for United Sexual Equality (FUSE), Eargle has directed her passion into single-handedly bringing back a project that had long been discarded: Underwire.

Underwire is a zine that was started to bring issues of women, gender, and sexuality to light.  Seen as a creative outlet, it encourages students to be imaginative with gender issues and submit anything they create.  Submissions include, but aren’t limited to, poetry, essays, editorials, prose, photography, painting, drawing, mixed media, and sculptures.

“Underwire was born out of FUSE a couple of years ago, and then sort of disappeared for a while.  I really liked the concept and I wanted to “resurrect” it,” said Eargle.  She is currently editing and assembling the submissions for the next issue, due out in early December.

“I received about 50-70 submissions, and they were all really good,” said Eargle, “I just wish more men would have submitted.  It’s just as much a men’s issue as a women’s issue.”

Freshman Jessica O’Rear also picked up on the possibility of Underwire having a skewed audience when she said, “Unfortunately, I think it only reaches out to the demographic who are already aware of the issues at stake, and that is exactly why they’re drawn to the publication. Others don’t think there’s a problem and, therefore, ignore the zine. This is sad, but I find it to be true.”

Other students believe that Underwire can reach out to those who may not be interested in women, gender, and sexuality issues.  Freshman Johanna Galat, a member of FUSE, said, “People pick up magazines about things they aren’t interested in all the time just because they are something to read. I always pick up fundamentalist Christian pamphlets to look through even though I am not at all interested in being saved. So maybe it could change the minds of people who aren’t into feminism in the first place.”

Junior Stephanie Espinoza is a member of another program on campus designed to help women: the First Responder Network, a subcomponent of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program (SARP).  She agreed with Galat about Underwire: “With the fact that sexual issues like harassment are such touchy topics, it’s good to know that someone has the guts to tackle them. People don’t think gender is an issue anymore but it really is, so Underwire sounds like a good way to get that point across.”

Unfortunately, while most students think Underwire is a good idea, barely anyone knows about it.  When one student was asked what she thought of the zine, she responded, “What do I think about bras?”  This was not an uncommon reaction.

Another member of FUSE, junior Jessica Earlbeck said, “I just found out about Underwire this year through FUSE and honestly, it’s pathetic how unknown it is.  I’ve read it once, but briefly, and it seemed interesting. It did address some very deep and emotional topics, but it’s just not a good way to get the word out about women’s issues since it’s not read.”

So along with putting in the long hours of bringing the collection together, Eargle is also brainstorming publicity ideas for getting the word out about the project.  “I was thinking of maybe having an informal party when it comes out and everyone who had a submission published can bring their friends.”  Whatever she decides, it will undoubtedly be the beginning of a new success streak for Underwire.