Click here for figures — as obtained from College spokeswoman Stacy Schuster.
On Wednesday, March 30, Thomas Armbruster, State Department Diplomat-in-Residence for the Greater New York Area, joined Secret Service Special Agent James Haines and federal government intern Michael Stallone on a panel at The College of New Jersey entitled “Jobs in Federal Government.”
Following the discussion, Armbruster was asked for his take on WikiLeaks’ cablegate document trove, which included one of his own cables, and alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning’s treatment. He discussed both advantages and problems with the leaked State Dept. logs, but was starkly silent regarding the imprisoned Army Private.
Written by a TCNJ fraternity member and a TCNJ sorority member, who asked to remain anonymous.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose legacy has survived since 270 BCE, believed that he had the secret to attaining and maintaining happiness. While volumes of Epicurus’ works have been lost over the years, his philosophies continue to influence the collective consciousness today, guiding people like ourselves who want nothing more from life than to be happy. Current TCNJ students who find themselves unhappy here often join one of the College’s Greek organizations. Although it is not acknowledged overtly, many people believe joining will bring them a few steps closer to the happiness we all seek. We may shed light on the pros and cons of fraternalism by comparing and contrasting it with Epicureanism, a school of thought in which Greek life may find its roots.
I understand why tenure is such a sore point when it comes to discussing educational reform. In what sensible system would a dysfunctional cog be not only preserved but guaranteed repeated raises and benefits? How does anyone, no matter the system, advocate for the oiling and reoiling of outdated, ill-fitted pieces? How could one possibly argue for tenure, especially with so many “bad teachers” ruining our kids and the future of America as we know it?
A Michigan Institute for Social Research study found that education majors are the likeliest of any college demographic group to become more religious within six years of graduating high school. The institution determined religiosity based on rates of participation in religious services, as well as how important a role respondents said religion played in their lives.
On a campus that has long had a reputation for students who cared little about the world around them, calls for collective action against the powerful were met with excitement, respect, and admiration.
“The people who are not organized become serfs of those who are organized,” said Ralph Nader, author, activist, and former Green Party Presidential candidate, to great applause during a talk in Kendall Hall.
Reading the the Signal’s February 23 SFB column, I was excited to learn that Morgan Spurlock would be coming to campus this spring. According to the article, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker was coming to campus to screen an exclusive sneak preview of his latest work before a lecture and Q & A session. As per the paper’s typical standards and content, the SFB column discussed the the event’s total cost, $17,400, and published its tentative date, with the only pending constraint being “…approval from building operators.”
COLLEGE STATEMENT EXPECTED LATER TODAY.
Stay tuned for further details.
Three black College security personnel, who allege they are victims of racial discrimination and harassment perpetrated by white colleagues, have expanded on the details of their lawsuit in a court brief obtained by The Perspective.
The claim that abortion is “genocide” is rubbish. The term “genocide” was coined by an international lawyer and linguist named Raphael Lemkin in 1944. He combined the Greek root geno meaning race or tribe, with the Latin derivative cide which means to kill. He wanted a unique term to describe the Nazi’s systematic plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, which is the prototype of the phenomenon the term “genocide” is meant to describe.
Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished rights in the United States. However, it seems that many do not understand what it truly means, and why it is important.
It is not surprising that members of the campus community throw out the term “free speech” so liberally, when we see a person such as radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger claim violation of her freedom of speech when she felt public pressure after aggressively repeating racial epithets on the air.
College Republicans / Ann Coulter, December 2008 & February 2009
In the fall semester of 2008, the College Republicans decided to bring controversial political pundit, Ann Coulter, to speak in Kendall Hall. As expected, many on campus were disturbed by the College Republicans’ invitation of such a divisive and deeply offensive figure, as well as the event’s $22,800 price tag.
Angered students formed a movement against Coulter, and organized a walk-out protest during her February 18th lecture. They then proceeded to Brower Student Center to hold a rally, where students spoke openly about their opinions of current events, and Coulter herself.
The lecture quickly became a large campus controversy, and predictably, the topic of “free speech” and what constitutes a “free speech” issue arose. Many defenders of Coulter’s visit invoked the First Amendment when arguing against the movement.
TCNJ alumnus S. Lee Whitesell made a statement in opposition to the student movement: “I am not exactly sure what hate speech means or why it would not be protected by the First Amendment,” [The Signal – Opinion piece, March 4th]. Many College Republicans and other Coulter supporters echoed this sentiment, deriding the campus left for only supporting freedom of speech when it suits liberal interests.
However, many believed that this argument was irrational and reflected a lack of knowledge regarding the first amendment, as the campus left did defend Coulter’s right to express herself — and had no plans to prevent the lecture from taking place. Instead, they countered what they viewed as hate speech with a more productive and tolerant discussion.
The College of New Jersey
is violating your First Amendment right to
freedom of expression —
right now, even as you read this.
During the recent boil water advisory, I cowered in fear of what mysterious death-inducing microbes might be lurking in the innocuously clear water flowing readily from my faucet. My housemates and I threw huge pots of water on the stove and hoped for the best. Using boiled water to drink, wash dishes, and brush my teeth was extremely inconvenient — but it made me think about people who do not have access to clean water (let alone a running faucet) as a fact of life. Water has been declared a human right by the United Nations, and yet over a billion people lack access to clean water. It is staggering that so many live without one of life’s most basic necessities. Americans easily forget that the municipal water system we so readily take for granted would be considered an unthinkable luxury for a large proportion of the globe. While we should be thankful for what we have, it seems callous not to make an effort in assisting those who are so dramatically less fortunate.
Americans spend around $10 billion on bottled water every year. We are paying for water in a form that is not only environmentally irresponsible but also unnecessary health-wise. In most communities in the United States, municipal tap water is of the same quality as bottled water. For those not convinced, buying a water filter will further purify their tap water. Drinking Water for India, a Lawrenceville-based, student-run nonprofit, builds wells in Indian villages for $1,000 each, serving some of the 200 million in the country who do not have access to clean water. If instead of spending $10 billion on redundant water we shared this disposable income with those who actually are in dire need of water access, 200 million Indians’ water needs would be met — using only a one hundredth of the money we spend unnecessarily on bottled water.
*Please visit DrinkingWaterforIndia.org or find a member of TCNJ’s Amnesty International, or Water Watch to donate the dollar you were about to spend on a bottle of water to someone in genuine need.
BY ANYA SARETZKY
The time is 3 A.M., and you are stuck in front a glowing computer screen writing a last minute research paper. For the next few hours the Internet remains inoperable, and your nearly complete paper still lacks some very vital information that could be found nowhere else at that hour. Whether you are utilizing the research tools on Google Scholar or trying to de-stress on Facebook, the one thing you are probably using (or trying to avoid using) is the Internet. Now imagine the possibility of the College’s network tumbling down amidst an ill-fated attack by some students’ virus-infected computer.
This was far from an uncommon occurrence in previous years at the College, but starting in the fall of 2009, the number of incidents slowly decreased. The reason, according to the College’s Information Technology department, is SafeConnect.
The security program started in 2008 as a trial run for residents of Eickhoff Hall and took effect campus-wide the following fall; some oppose the application and the shroud of secrecy surrounding its operation on campus, while most ignore it as a nuisance. Two years after its installation, what has SafeConnect done for us, and what might it be doing without our knowledge?
To many TCNJ students, SafeConnect appears as a log-in page when accessing the Internet from campus, and in the form of a “policy key” application upon arriving on campus to ensure your anti-virus software and operating system are up to date.
Many students on campus have complained about receiving faulty messages demanding that they download and install the Policy Key, despite already having done so. “Half of the time I’ll log in and it’ll give me that message, and then three minutes and 50 refreshes later, it’ll tell me I’m behind a router or using a NAT device when I’m connected at the library via wireless and that I’m quarantined,” said Matthew Tom-Wolverton, a senior computer science major, who then concluded “and that’s when it works correctly.” This policy key is relatively innocuous, sitting in the background, ostensibly keeping an eye on the student to make sure they do not do anything TCNJ would not approve of.
When contacted to discuss the history and concerns surrounding the system, IT Security Manager for the College Alan Bowen declined to comment except to say, “The SafeConnect system provides electronic enforcement of the computing access agreement. The sophistication of network based attacks is increasing and by ensuring that our community meets a minimum standard of computer security everybody benefits.”
Class of 2010 computer science major, Rich Defrancisco, believes the goals of keeping campus virus-free and limiting file-sharing traffic are acceptable, but believes that the College is going about it in the wrong way. When asked what an acceptable alternative would be, he said, “Don’t make us run spyware on our own computers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with restricting our access in the closed community of campus, but I do think there is something wrong when the restrictions stop being on their hardware and start being on ours.”
Former TCNJ student Andrew Timmes had a much stronger reaction to SafeConnect’s perceived problems despite having graduated before the system was put into campus-wide use. In a public posting on Facebook, he said: “I’m highly opposed to the TCNJ-sanctioned spyware called SafeConnect. I understand that as students using a public service, we have to adhere to certain rules to utilize TCNJ’s infrastructure. I do not, however, agree with TCNJ’s method of enforcing said rules by infringing upon our privacy.”
Alan Bowen was contacted again to respond to these sentiments, but did not return emails.
So why do some students refer to SafeConnect as “spyware?” Wikipedia defines spyware as “a type of malware that is installed on computers and collects little bits of information at a time about users without their knowledge. The presence of spyware is typically hidden from the user, and can be difficult to detect.”
SafeConnect does not hide its presence, but it never announces itself as an icon in the system tray or an entry in the computer’s programs list. Only an ambiguous description is available on the College’s IT security webpage, where the College freely admits that the software surreptitiously collects information from users: “[TCNJ] username, IP address, MAC address, and security profile of your machine gathered from the state of your anti-virus software, operating system update settings, and any peer to peer file sharing applications.” Any information gathered will not be transmitted off campus, they assure us, but it is stored on-site for an undefined period of time. To date, no one has been charged as a result of this information, but it is unclear what purpose this gathered information does serve.
Impulse Point, LLC., manufacturer of SafeConnect, describes it on their site as “a more secure, reliable, and predictable IT network infrastructure that is easy and cost-effective to deploy and maintain.” Anne Torgler, Marketing Manager for Impulse Point, confirmed the software system operator’s ability to view information on students’ computers with the Policy Key installed, adding “an organization may also build custom policies based on the existence or non-existence of file types, registry settings, services, and processes on individual endpoint devices.” This essentially means that the College (our ‘system operator’ verifying file existence), can not only see exactly which programs are being run on our computers, but use this ability to identify and block any program or system configuration.
Despite the intentional vagueness from Bowen and lack of information on the College’s website, an employee of User Support Services who wishes to remain anonymous did comment on TCNJ’s SafeConnect capabilities, “SafeConnect has the ability to look at a list of processes, but they didn’t have it turned on until now.” File-sharing programs themselves are legal in the US, though they are often used to transmit copyrighted works —which is illegal. The College has made the decision to block entirely some prominent file-sharing technologies, such as Bittorrent, a popular method of distribution for updates to computer games, as well as for Linux, a free computer operating system, and infamously, DC++.
Torgler did specifically deny that SafeConnect has the ability to view web browser history or download history. The openness of Impulse Point’s staff came as a great surprise, as finding information from the various educational institutions implementing SafeConnect was difficult, although they did not explicitly decline to divulge any specific information as IT Manager of the College Alan Bowen did.
The ultimate goal of SafeConnect is admirable, but the College wields its position as a local monopoly of Internet service to enforce it. In an arena where multiple Internet Service Providers could compete, a provider using such invasive and secretive methods as the College is using on its residential students would most likely be forced out of business fast.
Unfortunately, residential students don’t have any easy alternatives to the Internet service that the College bundles with their tuition fee. While it is possible to get commercial broadband Internet access as a resident at the College, it is often more expensive and more complicated, and the College’s website is unclear whether or not it would even be possible to opt out of paying the Computer Access Fee.
The next time your computer wrongfully receives a frustrating quarantine message, or you are blocked from using an application that works perfectly fine at your home, you may recall that this is the price the College has deemed acceptable for a secure network on your behalf. What all residential students must decide is whether these incursions into their privacy are worth that security, and whether they trust the College to make that decision for them.
Recently, Impulse Point has announced a new version of SafeConnect that has improved support for mobile devices and video game systems. Whether this means that those devices will now be required to install some version of the Policy Key required on Windows and Macintosh computers is not immediately clear. It is also not clear if The College has already completed this update, or if it has any plans of doing so. The new update will also support an “emergency broadcast messaging” capability, and improves the ability of SafeConnect operators to manage and observe users’ information in real time.
BY MATT FLAMENBAUM
An overwhelming depression accompanies the end of Homecoming. Members of Greek life prefer to attribute this phenomenon to the return to normal life; but let’s be real, everyone knows it’s the startling lack of alcohol in their system.
Homecoming is an escape; everyone involved in this week of debauchery and mayhem is simply reliving his or her childhood.
On a fortunate whim in the summer of 2009, I brainstormed with a few politically-minded associates about what a progressive newsmagazine at TCNJ might look like, and behold – The Perspective was born. I should admit, though, that at its earliest inception, the publication was to be far narrower in scope than what it represents today. Originally intended to cover only the overtly political, The Perspective is now understood to provide a more holistic – and fundamentally different – take on the college experience.
In last month’s edition of The Perspective, I published a blurb which praised the Obama administration’s recent firm stance on Israeli settlement expansion. I did not explicitly criticize the State of Israel – but merely suggested the Obama administration’s relatively nuanced stance on Israel could have positive ramifications in the pursuit of Middle East peace.
After reading the quarter-page blurb, a key figure in the Jewish campus community believed he had adequate evidence to state, “There’s nothing worse than a self-hating Jew.”
In response to those who would label Jewish supporters of Obama’s Israel policy as “self-hating,” I would like to call your attention to a recent Haaretz poll. The poll, released on April 13, found that 73% of American Jews agree with Obama’s policy towards Israel – characterizing relations between Israel and the U.S. as “positive” or “very positive.” Do three out of four American Jews hate themselves?
I will not delve into the multitude of reasons why this individuals’ snarky comment about me is absurd, but will instead use it as an opportunity to elaborate on the message of last month’s blurb. Pejoratives like “self-hating Jew” or “anti-Semite” are representative of the exact issue I wished to address in the article.
Until it is acknowledged that an individual can oppose an Israeli government policy—which happens to be illegal under international law—and not be anti-Semitic, no substantive progress can be made in peace processes in the Middle East.
The dialogue surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is so crippled by taboo, it is impossible to hold any sort of meaningful discussion on the matter without being accused of either ignorance or hatred.
The blurb was intended to give credit to President Obama for not caving into the fear of being labeled an “anti-Semite” by some fringe hard-lined Zionists. I encourage others to follow suit, and not be afraid to stand openly against unjust Israeli policy.
Editor’s Note: Glenn Eisenberg is also known as Glenn Eisenblurb
I am seated cross-legged on a tapestry rug. There is a hole in my left sock. The hole serves as an escape route for my big toe. My big toe curls towards a discarded composition book with a bent cover. The book cover’s pho-marble surface catches the shadow of a hooka stem. The hooka stem snakes around a pensive circle of bodies. The bodies are wedges together in the cracks of a futon, a love seat that has seen better days, and two overstuffed arm chairs. Behind the furniture are four walls. The four walls carry art. Each art piece bleeds together at its respective edges, forming one overwhelming scene of rats, long-haired boys, trees, neon globs, and bears with halos.
The kaleidoscopic scene holds up the ceiling, which, at the moment, appears to be made of smoke.
This is not your typical college home. Nor is this your typical college gathering. Tonight I am a guest of the Hippie House, one of TCNJ’s little-known off campus residences. Members of the house are hosting one of their weekly get-togethers – a poetry reading. Etiquette is simple: come prepared to recite or listen. I plan on reading a passage from a book by Roland Barthes. Other selections on the itinerary include The Raw Shark Text, a journal entry entitled “Room 314” and an essay called “Good Noses.”
“Good Noses” is written by Philosophy major Steve Klett. Klett is one of the house’s current occupants. Klett moved into the house in August of 2008. Prior to August, Klett lived in the College’s dorms. When asked what prompted him to relocate, Klett states “I felt daft. I forget what that word means but it seems to fit. There comes a time in which the rooster needs to fly from the coop and the chick needs to leave the nest. I was, you know, looking for a room of my own, to quote Virginia Woolf.”
Klett occupies one bedroom. The remaining two tenants are Greg Letizia and Leandre Bourdot. Bourdot is a Fine Arts major. Her creations take up a large portion of the dwelling.
Presently, she sits in a corner, penning ink drawings for a bookmaking class. Bordot claims that becoming a part of the Hippie House has been both a hindrance and a source of stimulation for her work. Glancing around the tightly packed room, she confides, “There are mornings when everything together is inspiring and there are also mornings where everything plays off each other and becomes stagnant.”
As for Letizia, he has taken a leave of absence from the College.
Nevertheless, he remains an avid writer, often reciting typewriter compositions via a voice distortion box. Out of all of the occupants, Letizia is the most elusive of the bunch. I ask him what the credo of the house is. Maybe it is because of a recent screening of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but as Letizia speaks, he begins to resemble the smug, jargon-littered Caterpillar. Steam issuing from his nostrils, blue-tinted glasses perched on his nose, Letizia muses, “The essence of the place is the essence of the place and the goal is the goal. It is a place for I to be I.”
The overall ambiguous quality of the Hippie House is perhaps what attracts students to it. The crowd that frequents social events like Poetry Night range anywhere from five to eighteen people. Stationed amidst these individuals, I feel mellow and in same measure, completely absurd. Snippets of conversations filter into my ears. On the surface, topics are similar to that of most young people. Visitors tonight talk about:
(“That is completely convoluted in its contingency.”)
partying too hard,
(“Hey, I think I left my crown at your house the other night.”)
(“Could you hand me that singing bowl?”)
However, as illustrated, if you listen closely, discrepancies appear.
Ken Kesey, leader of the Merry Pranksters, asserted that “you are either on the bus or off the bus.” By coming to the house, I am choosing to embark on the ride. I believe it is for worthy reasons too. Some partial cynics (me included) may claim that sixties youth counterculture is officially dead, dissipated by the absolution of the political and social issues of its heyday.
Still, within the house there exists a smaller, equally valid resistance against the sameness of suburban college life. No one wears TCNJ sweats and Uggs. Of course, it wouldn’t be a problem if you did. Apparel choices are never judged.
In fact, clothing itself is considered optional.
A few week ago, College administrators finally disbanded the popular file-sharing program DC++, through which countless TCNJ students have happily uploaded and downloaded files for years. The death sentence closely followed the publication of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which quoted a current TCNJ student responsible for maintaining the “Hub,” as it is informally known.
The April 18 article, which referred to the Hub as a means of “illegal swapping of copyrighted media,” generated negative publicity for the College after it was posted on Slashdot.org, a popular technology news website.
Students who maintained the Hub this year allege that the College’s handling of the ensuing controversy has been sorely hypocritical. “Everyone in the Information Technology (IT) Department has known about the Hub for years,” said one of the program’s moderators, who asked to be identified by his alias, MrWhite. It was only after the College’s began to experience blowback from the Chronicle article that they decided to take action.
Nadine Stern, Vice President for Information Technology and Enrollment Services at TCNJ, initially told the Chronicle, “We’ve made the decision not to be detectives and not to look for it,” when asked about the presence of file-sharing on the campus network. Only four days later, however, her position changed drastically. In a sternly worded campus-wide email, she stated, “The College takes illegal file sharing seriously. Therefore, we will begin to take technological steps to block the DC++ application, and we will pursue disciplinary action as appropriate.”
The subject of that disciplinary action, a TCNJ senior who requested anonymity, said he received an email accusing him of copyright violation after the College’s IT team had traced the IP address of the Hub to his particular computer.
“The box was in my room,” said the former moderator, “but I don’t really think that constitutes any violation of copyright law.” He was summoned to meet with Ryan Farnkopf, Assistant Director of Student Conduct.
“‘The box is in your room,” Farnkopf reportedly said, “and files are being transferred through it.’” The moderator said he corrected him, responding, “No, no files were ever traveling through that computer. The computer is literally just a chat room where two people can connect directly to each other and share their files,” he explained.
The former moderator was accused of violating the College’s Computing Access Agreement, though he asserted that “nowhere in the Computing Access Agreement does it say anything specifically about file-sharing.”
Further, MrWhite said the Chronicle article “grossly distorted what the Hub is… They made it seem as if it’s like a big mysterious box, chock-full of copyrighted files that we all surreptitiously move around.” But in reality, he said, there is nothing inherently illegal about the Hub, which at its essence merely is a chat room through which users can access shared files on other computers throughout the campus network. “Because all file transfers are handled directly between the uploading and downloading computers,” he continued, “the Hub itself cannot see what files are being transferred. So there is no way for the Hub operator to know whether or not any users are using it for copyright infringement.”
Indignant, the anonymous senior said he knows of several individuals currently working for the College’s IT department who themselves actively used the Hub. And it was these same people who were apparently involved in locating the current moderator for disciplining. “It’s hypocritical that they’re going after a couple of students when full-time employees were using it,” he said.
He also said that some IT employees “spend so much time on the school computers playing video games” – in particular, Team Fortress 2 – which unlike the Hub represents an actual violation of the College’s Computing Access Agreement: “Use of College computing resources by College employees for personal use without the approval of the department in which the resource is located.”
The former moderator declined to participate in a formal disciplinary hearing, saying that it would have been a “waste of a day” because he felt he was preemptively deemed guilty. “I’m being used as a scapegoat,” he added.
Luckily, this debacle will not appear on any transcripts for the senior, but it will stay on his disciplinary record for about five years after he graduates.
We all know, cuts abound: money continues to be surreptitiously funneled away from public education reserves, putting desperate strain on K-12 school districts throughout the state, as well as on our own college. So where has all the aid gone? Yes, everything is being cut – ostensibly because New Jersey is trying to close an $11 billion budget deficit.
Troublesome economic times call for more careful prioritization of public funds, not aimless dismantling of any conceivable program. Education – an indispensable investment in the future – should be the last stock from which to divest.
In this spirit, a coalition of students, faculty, union leaders, college staff, and parents have joined to form FIGHT BACK TCNJ, an advocacy group aiming to build a democratic, grassroots, activist movement in defense of public education and in opposition to Governor Chris Christie’s budget cuts. Awareness, discussion and support is mediated largely through its interactive web site, FIGHTBACKTCNJ.org.
Their first major initiative was a “teach-in” on April 21, an educational event intended to increase awareness of ongoing class-oriented struggles that have culminated in Gov. Christie’s unprecedented withdrawal of state education funding.
Why care? To assume that everything will be accounted for would be naïve; to assume we can have no impact on the policy-making process is only more so. Having money is the only way to make our values correspond with concrete services and activities – whether we like or not, money is the privilege to do things.
Many of the College’s programs will inevitably have to go, and student groups face a voting process to determine what TCNJ can afford to keep. This may not be the worst of all consequences,and college students may not feel the full force of the financial burden now, but the old strategy of divide and conquer is at work.
The reality is that this burden is merely being paddled back and forth; right now high schools face the deepest cuts, but in years past higher education bore the brunt of the burden. Rather than disregard the severity and relevance of current cuts for K-12 schools and playing into the government’s stratagem, it is imperative that New Jerseyans unite to defend public education. A strong showing of elementary and secondary education majors attended the sessions, but they should not be the only ones to care about the welfare of the future. April 21 was an all-day kickoff of five sessions and an evening plenary designed to understand current budget woes within the context of a broader social narrative.
First session speaker, Trina Scordo, introduced us to the theoretical and historical basis for the existence of unions. I’ll admit I never allotted much thought to or care for unions. As far as I was concerned, they simply exist; you join a profession, you join the corresponding union – standard operating procedure. However, many people are rightfully suspicious of unions. Scordo addressed this distrust and how it came about when the bargaining process was formalized. In stuffing the working class into suits and setting them opposite the table from business officials, the working class should expect the unfortunate results – no concessions from higher-ups. Once union representatives enmesh themselves too deeply in the process, they become removed from the constituents they are supposed to represent.
But she asked us instead why, rather than being angry at government employees who receive good benefits and pensions, as Christie is encouraging the public to do, we don’t make demands and work for ourselves: for better education and better benefits? A striking point, she made. Truth is, we are tentative to make demands; the concept of “to each his due” comes under fire. What one deserves by right (as opposed to what one is entitled to by merit) conflicts with the individualism and capitalist ethic, which America holds by the claws. It is not something I could easily let go, but working from an agreed rather than decreed baseline is an attractive idea.
Students have the right to demand the highest quality teachers and professors; however, it is difficult to reform a system that does not take student complaints seriously. The session revealed the relevance of unions and how students can harness their voices. The process of how we are allowed to make change says just as much, if not more, about how much leverage we really have.
One of the second session pairs was a throwback to the 1960s: lessons from movements. One student brought up the hippie culture associated with the activism of which we tend to think – what came first, the culture or the reform? Second opinions emerged from faculty as to which historical organizations best represent the current situation and if they failed, how and why. Here’s an easy SparkNotes version: activism spreads when people who care about one issue are apt to see the struggles of another group. Every issue relates in some way to nearly every other issue, and the synergy created by individuals and groups working collaboratively makes for substantial accomplishments on all fronts. No lecture attendance necessary.
Students don’t have the power to shut anything down in order to prove a point, but they have always been the passion behind a tired work force that can do so. Even there we may be proving them wrong with recent high school walkouts – hello, empowerment.
Reactions are proof; Michael Drewniak, Gov. Christie’s press secretary, hoped to dismiss the walkouts as “motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever – and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey,” and said students “belong in the classroom.”
Governor Chris Christie was no more pleased: “The schools did a lousy job in really permitting…students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest.; they send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school.”
Drewniak wasn’t wrong, and said himself, “Students would be better served if they were given a full, impartial understanding of the problems that got us here in the first place.” Why are the details of the budget cuts, then, not more public than they are?
Gov. Christie has a point, students are sent to school to learn; but what drove scores of high school students to walk out on their classes? One might consider that they saw walkouts during the school day as more effective than before or after-school rallies. Regardless, having to demand an explanation for the budget cuts is as good as hiding it, and protesting in such a manner casts doubt on the willingness of school systems to listen.
Drewniak seemed to suspect students were motivated by a biased, narrow-minded understanding, and it feels that students have somehow been pitted against the rest of the state. Yet the 15 sheer scope of the budget crisis should be regarded as the real problem.
The remaining attendees gathered in the Social Science Atrium after dinner for a small but powerful rally cry to close the divide between students, faculty, and legislators. Nearing the end of the night, senior Matt Hoke made an interesting point: colleges and other institutions churn students out to replace the infrastructure of the country as we know it.
We as students are both customers and products of schools; then why are we paying so much money – money we have no power over – if the stability of the work world depends on us equally as we do on it?
The origin of unions may not appear relevant, yet as one of the last session speakers, Nagesh Rao, said, “You can’t take a snapshot of how things are today without looking at where things are and how they got there.” We may just be in the same predicament as those workers today. It may not be a comfortable thought, but there is a lesson to be learned: stagnant apathy is no way to work toward a better status quo.
I noticed during this finale, a few onlookers leaning over the second floor balcony with cool removal, crossed feet and suited, presumably for another event. I became aware of the disconnect, and it took me out of the teach-in’s warm enclave. I am sure that they only heard something about unions and students among the echoes of shouts. I am not even sure if the thought that the ensuing noise pertained to them, had even crossed their minds. Whatever your views, watch your allocation of funds, and you may be able to return to business as usual.
The Perspective editorial board interviewed both candidates for the SGA presidency about a week and a half before Olaniyi Solebo, the current Senator of Legal and Governmental Affairs, was handily elected to that office by a margin of 58% to 41%. We congratulate him on the victory, but we also issue this warning: unlike in the past, our elected officials will be held accountable for their action or inaction. Next year, Mr. Solebo will not receive a free ride from The Perspective.
On why he sought perhaps the most influential student position on campus, Solebo said, “It’s not because I have some vision of grandeur… it’s not for my ego, it’s not for my resumé. It’s simply because I think I’m the right person to fight the fights worth fighting.”
Whether he will truly “fight those fights” remains to be seen, and his rhetoric may prove to be empty campaign-speak. We contemplated issuing an endorsement prior to the election, but our Board could not come to a unified decision; both candidates, Solebo and Senator of Administration and Finance Brian Block, demonstrated an aptitude for navigating the process of student government, and both are by all accounts genuine in their desire to do well for our campus. But it was not clear to us that either individual was truly interested in transforming the SGA into something more than an unresponsive, hazily-defined institution to which most students feel no real connection.
“I have to say, that’s crap,” Block said when he was asked why so many perceive SGA as ineffectual and rather pointless. Nevertheless, he recognized that most of us have little idea of the body’s actual duties or functions. But he may have a point; we, as a student body, have some degree of responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the workings of our government. It is hard to find the motivation to do so, however, when that government seems to serve no real purpose other than to pad its members’ resumés. Whether this widespread perception is justified or not, it without question exists, which is itself a problem in need of a remedy.
As incoming president, Solebo must make it a top priority to explain in clear and relatable terms what the SGA actually does, and why students should be interested in its inner workings.
It should take steps to actually address student concerns in a meaningful way, rather than simply decree the occasional non-binding resolution. Especially with devastating budget cuts looming on the horizon, the SGA must become a fierce and proactive advocate for student interests, rather than a passive receptor of cues from the College administration. It should not shy away from addressing politically sensitive issues when doing so is in our best interests.
As a rising junior, Solebo may well serve two full terms as president, and thus has the ability to remake what our government apparatus is capable of accomplishing.
He certainly has the charisma and eloquence to enact real change, but he is also liable to fall into a familiar trap: becoming so insulated and accustomed to the power of the presidency that he loses sight of delivering for the campus.
Solebo made a number of campaign pledges during his interview with The Perspective, and next year we intend to hold him accountable for fulfilling them. “If you don’t know how something works for you,” Solebo said of SGA’s reputation, “how can it work for you?” He must take tangible and measurable steps to increase the legitimacy of the institution over which he now presides. Outreach does not mean putting up fliers or sending out Facebook messages. Outreach means establishing a genuine connection with students, addressing their concerns in a timely manner, and increasing transparency and accountability.
Racial Tension in the Campus Police
As a community advisor, Solebo said he maintains a cordial relationship with all the security personnel named in the lawsuit discussed in last month’s Perspective.
Out of a desire not to pre-judge the litigants, Solebo said he would essentially take a hands-off approach. But if the lawsuit goes to trial, as the plaintiffs’ lawyer predicted it would, Solebo must be more proactive in pushing the administration to discipline and perhaps remove those officers who are clearly responsible for perpetuating racial animosity within the force. Otherwise, the safety of our community may be compromised. Though he said he was “troubled” by the allegations of racism, actions from Solebo would speak much louder than words.
Transparency within SGA
There has long been speculation that the closed-door SGA election process leaves room for manipulation of votes, according to former members. Solebo promised to introduce legislation that would reform the penalties for “elections violations”; within the current system, candidates for election can lose votes based on their own personal violations of campus conduct codes, including minor alcohol infractions. This process lacks transparency and is inherently undemocratic, or as Solebo said, “disenfranchising.” “It’s not something that any legitimate organization should be practicing,” he said. There needs to be “more sunlight on those dark spots within SGA,” Solebo said, and he is in a perfect condition to do just that.
Drug and Alcohol policy
Solebo said he was opposed to the legalization of marijuana,
but in favor of reducing the drinking age to 18. Solebo should take proactive steps to ensure that drug and alcohol violations are handled on campus in a less draconian manner. Using his leverage, he should advocate that such violations be the lowest priority for law enforcement.
The Signal bailout
“It’s worrisome that part of the money I pay every year is going to bail out The Signal,” Solebo said. As a result of The Signal management’s financial indiscretions over the years, students are now forced to pay out of their own pockets to ensure that we continue to have a weekly newspaper.
However, this funding must come with strings attached. According to Brian Block, The Signal had been paying its employees before their own printing costs. With this infusion of money from our tuitions, Solebo must ensure that The Signal is managing its finances appropriately.
Sponsoring Political Speakers
Solebo was involved in controversy this year when he spearheaded efforts to bring both Newark mayor Cory Booker and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to campus. Though his efforts to heighten TCNJ’s prestige by inviting these prominent figures is admirable, Solebo must be more scrupulous in the procedure of doing so in the future. The Perspective reported that Booker accepted $11,000 from TCNJ for giving a speech that was essentially identical to one he delivered at Rider University the day before – without charge. Solebo must exhaust all possible avenues to bring speakers at as little cost as possible to students, especially with the dire financial predicament in which the College now finds itself. Further, SGA’s decision to bring Mike Huckabee to campus preempted efforts from both the College Republicans and Democrats to invite speakers of their own. In short, Solebo must make sure that the SGA is not overstepping its bounds.
To conclude, we congratulate Solebo on his victory; but with our congratulations also come high expectations. The Perspective intends to hold him and the SGA at large responsible for the duties they are entrusted with performing. We are optimistic about his tenure and hope to support the reformative measures he promised to introduce. Our student body president must be bold and assertive in his or her advocacy for TCNJ’s interests, and we will accept no less from the newly-elected Solebo.
When a contentious journalist and social critic spoke at the College in early March, few could have anticipated the reaction that would ensue. Ours is a decrepit, dying culture, Chris Hedges insisted, shackled by corporate titans who profit from our endless, gullible consumerism. Our infatuation with celebrity, lack of critical self-awareness, and blind deference to institutional structures have systemically lulled us into a complacent malaise, thereby allowing the privileged elite to maintain their tyrannical grip on power.
We are being fed illusions, Hedges charged, which serve only to distract us from what truly demands our attention, including economic injustice, political corruption, and imperialist conflict. The once mighty vessel that is America, Hedges prognosticated, is accelerating on its inevitable descent into watery oblivion.
It was no surprise that Brian Hackett began his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. by ripping into Barack Obama. “I would just like the president to know,” the fiery TCNJ senior declared, “these teleprompters are not on, and we’re all speaking off-the-cuff because we’re passionate about what we believe in!”
By M. POLIZZO
SFB recently retreated to an off-campus location, as they do every spring, to determine the following year’s SAF (Student Activities Fund) budget. This is the time when each club and organization (including SFB) is given their fiscal horoscope: requests of each group are voted on item-by-item; allotments are allotted; the lines are drawn. Ideally, respective budgets are proportional to group size, spending history, and the benefits derived through said groups.