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Krishnamurthy ’19: Out of touch should go out of style
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 05, 2016
“There’s nothing Republicans hate more than identity politics. It’s a long-standing conservative tradition: Way back in 2013, one Breitbart writer bemoaned , “Identity politics, as practiced by Democrats, is dehumanizing and horrible.” The irony, of course, is that Republicans are playing the exact same game. Just take the meaningless phrase “out-of-touch,” which has been enthusiastically co-opted by an emboldened American right. It’s appeared in virtually every conservative op-ed I’ve read since Nov. 8 — and it drives me bonkers. Out-of-touch is just a concealed way of telling non-whites, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals — anyone that disagrees with the Republican Party’s unpalatable ideological cocktail or is otherwise left disempowered by it — that their preferences, lived experiences and realities don’t matter and aren’t “in touch.” Those maddening three words, out-of-touch, arraign Democrats’ disconnect from the concerns of white, working-class people from the American heartland as if only their concerns are relevant to everyone else.
But, here’s a groundbreaking thought: What if it’s the white dudes, angry at everyone who doesn’t look like them, read the same holy book or share their own vision for America, who are out-of-touch? Truth is, I don’t see what’s so out-of-touch about the people who voted for Hillary Clinton — the college-educated, the urban dwellers, women, underrepresented minorities. Is it out-of-touch to pursue self-advancement in the form of a college degree — often paid for through student loans or working multiple shifts a week during the school year — or a career in the city? Is it out-of-touch to be a woman who is repulsed by President-Elect Donald Trump’s misogyny or a person of color fearful of Trump’s appeal as a “law-and-order” candidate? I don’t think so.
In fact, maybe the gleeful commentators over at Breitbart and The National Review have it all backwards; maybe it’s the regular employers of the phrase out-of-touch who are massively detached from the realities of the twenty-first century. In a modern economy, it’s patently out-of-touch to denounce higher education as elitist and to callously denounce the expertise of climate scientists as groundless blasphemy. And, in a multicultural society, it’s unforgivably out-of-touch to talk about Mexicans and Muslims in cruel terms and apply gross generalizations to vulnerable swaths of humanity. (The hypocrisy is mind-numbing: Just imagine, for a moment, the hell that Republicans would raise if Clinton, during a stump speech, claimed all white men must be psychopathic killers since the majority of mass shootings since 1982 have been perpetrated by white guys.)
Indeed, the only reason conservatives care about how out-of-touch young Democrats are in their enthusiastic embrace of political correctness and identity politics is because the white male monopoly on American-ness has encountered reinvigorated resistance. Of course, it’s only out-of-touch identity politics when the identities being preserved belong to gays, women or minorities. The acceptance of white nationalism, the restoration of white culture, the elevation of white supremacists to prominent posts in the White House — that basket of crazy is more reasonable, though. That’s just politics.
What makes the whole out-of-touch rubbish all the more infuriating is that white America maintains an unjust stranglehold on our country’s political outcomes in the form of the Electoral College, which redistributes political power to heartland states at the expense of more populous, more prosperous states. As Steven Johnson argues in The New York Times, blue states — with urban economies driven by diverse constituencies, advanced education and multicultural values — contribute more money to federal coffers than red states do, without receiving electoral representation proportional to their populations. The result is a new sort of “taxation without representation,” whereby progressive constituencies cross-subsidize the fiscal irresponsibility of their conservative counterparts but have substantially less say in the election of the U.S. president. Consider New Jersey – the greatest state in the Union and my home state. For every dollar New Jersey pays to the federal government, it receives 61 cents in federal benefits; Wyoming, on the other hand, receives $1.11 for each dollar contribution. Meanwhile, New Jersey has 15 times the population of Wyoming, but only about five times the votes in the Electoral College. 
The classic Republican retort to all this is that young liberals on liberal campuses in liberal coastal states cannot possibly understand the concerns of the “other half” of the country in the American Midwest. It’s true that I, born and raised in the suburbs of the northeast, don’t have any firsthand exposure to the struggles of a Texan cattle-rancher or an Idaho potato farmer. But the plagues of unemployment, opioid addiction and poverty are not unique to the white communities of the heartland. And further, the progressive prescription for these ills — increased federal spending in education and infrastructure, criminal justice reform and protections for minorities — are not antithetical to white interests. In fact, these policies are better at delivering prosperity than the Republican obsession with cutting taxes and regulations! That’s one reason why states like New Jersey, which has integrated itself successfully into the modern economy, are so wealthy, while states like Wyoming — still dependent on agriculture, still longing for the resurgence of manufacturing jobs that aren’t coming back — are not.
No matter the duplicitous politicking of extremist Republicans, though, I’m still hopeful. Trump’s election, as I’ve written before (“ Krishnamurthy ’19: A republic of hope,” Nov. 10), is by no means the apocalpyse. In reality, Republican portrayals of liberals as disconnected whiners reflect a crescendoing desperation on their part. Their well-oiled strategy of instigating white, rural fears of crime and irrelevance may have worked this year, but as their policies of bluster inevitably fail — as they have in the past — the nation will soon learn how out-of-order these out-of-touch fanatics truly are.
Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19 can be reached at . Please send responses to this op-ed to and other op-eds to .”

Brown researchers investigate birth of Appalachian mountains
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 02, 2016
“For university researchers, one of our country’s oldest geographical landmarks still provides insights into the past.
In a study funded by the National Science Foundation that was conducted between 2011 and 2014 and spanned hundreds of kilometers, researchers used data from seismic monitors to understand the process that formed the Appalachian Mountains.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, “there was a collision between the tectonic plate that contains what’s now North America … and the tectonic plate that contained what is now Africa and South America, which we call Gondwana,” said Karen Fischer, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences and one of the study’s lead authors. As the edges of the plates collided, one of them would have subducted, or slid underneath the other. Some time after, the continental crusts collided as well.
“When continental crusts collide, because both of the crusts are fairly buoyant, neither of them subducts,” Fischer said. The result is that both crusts buckle upwards, forming a mountain range — in this case, the Appalachians.
The researchers took advantage of data from a preexisting array of hundreds of seismometers and installed an additional 85 seismometers of their own in a setup of three dense lines stretching across Georgia and Florida. “The really cool thing about this was that the seismometers were only about five kilometers apart,” said Emily Hopper ScM’13 PhD’16, the other lead author of the study. This allowed the researchers to look into the crust with a very high resolution.
The researchers had already known “from the surface geology that in Georgia and Florida there are rocks that didn’t originate in North America. They came from Gondwana,” Hopper said. This chunk of Gondwanan crust was left behind as debris from the collision, and by studying it, the scientists were able to look at “a relatively well-preserved continental collision from 300 million years ago,” Hopper said.
The data revealed what Fischer described as a “shallow, dipping interface,” adding that “the rocks above (the boundary) are the rocks of Gondwana that were shoved up, and the rocks below it are the rocks of America.” While previous studies had interpreted this as a very steep incline, Fischer and Hopper’s study revealed a slope of less than 15 degrees.
The study’s methodology relied on vibrations from earthquakes that travelled through the Earth’s crust and hit the seismometers. “You can look at the shape and the timing of the waves to get at structures beneath the surface,” Hopper said. “It’s kind of like echolocation or sonar,” she added.
This type of inference is “related — but on a different scale — to what people do in the oil industry,” said Donald Forsyth, professor of geological sciences. Whereas oil companies look at small details, Fischer and Hopper investigated larger structures in the crust.
The waves generated by earthquakes come in different types and travel through the Earth differently. When one type of wave, called a shear wave, hits a boundary in the crust, it can be converted into a faster-moving compressional wave. “If you have a wave that didn’t convert at the boundary and a converted wave, then you can measure the time between those arrivals and convert that to depth,” Hopper said.
Some geologists had believed that the collision that formed the Appalachian Mountains was a strike-slip collision, in which the plates slide past each other. An example of this type of collision is “the San Andreas fault, … where (the tectonic plates) are basically just moving past each other, and the plate boundary is almost vertical,” Forsyth said. The study found that the collision was actually a thrust collision, in which one plate gently glides over the other.
This study changes the way geologists understand the formation of the Appalachian Mountains, and it shows that modern processes were similar to those shaping the earth millions of years ago. “Going back 300 million years in time, you don’t know how things have changed,” Hopper said. “One of the things they always teach you in Geo 101 is this process of uniformitarianism: the idea that the present is the key to the past.””

Schapiro ’19: Hall of Marty Noble’s automatics
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 02, 2016
“Two weeks ago, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — the BBWAA, or as I tend to refer to it, the BBWTF — released its Hall of Fame ballot. It will announce the inductees Jan. 18. Based on history, the voters will somehow screw it up.
On one level, the BBWAA’s awfulness is easily illustrated: It simply selects the wrong players. Alan Trammell, with a career 70.4 Wins Above Replacement is not in the Hall of Fame, while Phil Rizzuto, with 40.8, is. Jim Rice, who over his career amassed a .298/.352/.502 slash line, 47.4 WAR and 382 home runs, is in the Hall of Fame, while Fred McGriff and his .284/.377/.509, 52.4 WAR and 493 home runs are not. Keith Hernandez is not in the Hall of Fame, despite a career .384 on-base percentage, a 60.0 WAR and the greatest defense at first base of all time. And don’t get me started on Gil Hodges.
It may seem shocking that baseball writers — those who understand the game better than anyone (I speak sarcastically, as you’ll see) — could repeatedly fail so badly. But then, consider the people we’re talking about.
For instance, look at long-time voter Marty Noble. In 2015, Noble voted for only Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Jack Morris — out of a possible 10 votes — and defended his ballot in inane fashion: “The candidacies of Maddux and Glavine made this vote easy and enjoyable. … They’re automatic; there was no need for research or investigation. Morris never has approached automatic status, but he clearly deserves the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want 28 people entering the Hall at once, so I limited my checks on the ballot to three.”
Translated: Noble voted not with “research or investigation,” but rather, based on his emotions at the time. Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, apparently, were not “automatic,” whatever that means, and also did not “clearly deserve the benefit of the doubt.” I don’t know why Morris clearly did deserve it; maybe Noble found something in his research that explains it. Oh, wait. Also, somehow, voting for 10 people, even if all 10 deserve induction, could lead to “28 people entering the Hall,” so this practice should be avoided.
As another example, consider ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. Explaining his decision not to vote for Piazza on the 2015 ballot, Gomez didn’t even bother to offer false evidence of steroid use. Rather, he cited “suspicions” — bringing to mind our president-elect’s statement: “I’m speaking with myself, because I have a very good brain.” He then complemented his secretly sourced suspicions with an argument that was downright bizarre: “Yes, greatest offensive catcher in the history of the game. No doubt about that. But does that make you automatically included in the Hall of Fame? Because Mark McGwire is arguably the greatest home run-hitting first baseman of all time, and he’s not in. … Mike Piazza was a catcher because he couldn’t play anywhere else.”
To recap, Piazza, (admittedly!) the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history, does not belong in the Hall of Fame because Gomez has heard things, and also somehow because of Mark McGwire. The observation that he “was a catcher because he couldn’t play anywhere else” is especially strange. For one, Piazza was a net-positive defensive catcher. For another, catcher is the hardest position on the field to play. One might as well suggest that Einstein was a scientist because he wasn’t good at anything else.
All this to say what? That Hall of Fame voters are no longer the unparalleled baseball experts they once were, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they mangle this year’s ballot beyond belief.
Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, at the top of the ballot, will probably get in. This is good, though it’s long overdue. But multiple candidates on the ballot belong in the Hall of Fame and will likely receive far less than 50 percent of the vote.
For example, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker are both Hall of Fame-caliber players, with career WARs of 68.3 and 72.6, respectively. Martinez was a designated hitter, and Walker played at mile-high Coors Field; combined with their playing during the steroid era, this is likely why neither has been inducted. Neither is fair: DH is a valid position just like any other, and Walker can hardly help where he played.
But both of these cases are at least arguable. The case of Billy Wagner, I think, is not — and yet Wagner, this year, will likely receive less than 15 percent of the votes cast.
As a career closer, Billy Wagner compiled an ERA+ of 187. Rollie Fingers, in the Hall of Fame as a reliever, has a career ERA+ of 120. Trevor Hoffman’s is 141. In only his time as a reliever, Dennis Eckersley’s is 136; Hoyt Wilhelm’s is 147; Goose Gossage’s is 126; Bruce Sutter’s is 136. All are Hall of Fame relievers. Billy Wagner is vastly better than each.
So why isn’t Wagner a Hall of Famer? Honestly, who knows? Too few saves — a meaningless statistic? WAR too low, even though he beats Fingers and Sutter? Not enough innings pitched? High ERA, though his is better than those of Sutter, Eckersley, Gossage and Fingers?
It could be anything, but there’s no rational explanation. Rather, Billy Wagner receiving only 10.5 percent support in his first year on the ballot and looking like an extremely unlikely candidate for induction is merely representative of a larger, systemic problem. The BBWAA no longer votes coherently. The only criteria now used in determining whether a player is Hall of Fame material are the gut instincts of voters, which have proven wrong far too often.
James Schapiro ’19 can be reached at”

Faculty discuss ‘sanctuary campus’ petitions
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 02, 2016
“In the weeks following the presidential election of Donald Trump, campus has been fraught with discussions on immigration, the possibilities of a sanctuary campus and how best to support undocumented students and those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under the Trump administration.
Nov. 14, faculty and staff members sent a petition  urging the University to “investigate the possibility of our campus serving as a sanctuary for our students, our staff members and their family members who face imminent deportation.”
Naoko Shibusawa, associate professor of history and American studies and one of the authors of the petition, said that the idea arose while talking to students the day after the election. “I was trying to think about ways to deal with the hopelessness, about things that we could possibly do. And the undocumented immigrant students were the most vulnerable.”
Other faculty members quickly joined and helped her edit the draft of the petition, Shibusawa said. “What’s interesting about this is it was a bunch of people who were having this idea independently,” she added.
Immediately following, petitions written by students, graduate students and alums were circulated, as were demands listed by students involved in the Nov. 16 Our Campus student walkout .
President Christina Paxson P’19 and Provost Richard Locke responded to these petitions in a Nov. 16 op-ed in The Herald , stating that legal counsel had informed them that universities and colleges cannot “offer legal sanctuary from members of law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Still, they assured the community that the University would provide resources to assist students potentially facing deportation, such as undocumented students and students under the DACA program.
“While we wish we could offer absolute protection to members of our community who are threatened by possible changes in policy, it would be irresponsible to promise protections that we cannot legally deliver,” Paxson and Locke wrote.
“The message that they couldn’t wasn’t a message that people needed to hear at the time,” Shibusawa said.
Shibusawa said she was disappointed the University didn’t take the symbolic stand of declaring itself a sanctuary campus like Columbia , even though the policies the administration has put forth “don’t seem very different” from those of Columbia.
“I think they want to do everything they can, and … they’re sending the right message,” said Ross Cheit, professor of political science.
Days after stating that the University could not be a sanctuary campus in all the ways the various petitions suggested, Paxson signed a statement that called for the DACA program to be upheld and expanded .
“It symbolizes Brown University’s commitment to supporting undocumented students and DACA-mented students,” said Kevin Escudero, a postdoctoral fellow in American studies who is serving as a faculty mentor to undocumented and DACA-status students. Escudero hopes the statement will help students with DACA status “feel included and that their needs are at the forefront of what senior administration are thinking about,” he added.
While students on the “Our Campus Walkout” Facebook event page have criticized the administration for not adopting the term “sanctuary campus” like other universities, some faculty members said the policies adopted by the University are indicative of the phrase.
“Some campuses may choose to call themselves sanctuary campus, but others may be concerned with federal funding and political statements,” Escudero said, adding that the policies are what really matter.
Even though the policies the University is adopting are similar to those of campuses who call themselves sanctuaries, Shibusawa said she thinks the symbolic stand of naming the University a sanctuary is important. “Columbia gets to be a leader on this,” she said, adding, “Brown had an opportunity to be a leader on this as well and didn’t take it.”
Though Cheit signed the faculty and staff petition, he said he doesn’t think that becoming a sanctuary campus is legally possible — even for private universities. “I think it sounds like it means more than it can ultimately mean. We can’t become a sanctuary from U.S. law.”
“I think the first response is caution because universities have a lot of responsibilities they have to be aware of,” Shibusawa said. The fact that most individuals registered as Republicans voted for Trump indicates the likelihood that many University alums and donors also voted for him, she added.
A core set of policies that would make the University a “de facto sanctuary” would include safeguarding student information from federal immigration authorities, assuring non-compliance between campus security and immigration and customs enforcement agents and providing resources and protocols to best support and understand individuals who are undocumented, Escudero said.
Many faculty members plan to continue to push for policies that will support minority students under a potentially hostile Trump administration.
Escudero said he hopes discussions will continue in the framework of preexisting structures created by the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan in order to make the campus environment “one that is supportive and inclusive and that allows us to have conversations that can move things forward.”
“We have a ton of resources on campus, so it’s just identifying those resources that can help students,” Escudero said. As a faculty mentor to undocumented and DACA-status students, he will hold office hours for students concerned about their status and will train staff on how best to support the undocumented community, he added.
Cheit, Escudero and Shibusawa all expressed that the immediate reactions by students, faculty and staff members and alums need to be maintained if they are to be effective in protecting students facing potential immigration issues in the future.
“A walkout is a one-time sort of thing, but we have to have some kind of sustained presence,” Shibusawa said. “It doesn’t mean that we always have to be on the street, but being on the street is not a bad place to be.””

Mehta ’19 powers women’s basketball over Binghamton with career performance
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 01, 2016
“Heading into its weekend competition against Binghamton Sunday, the women’s basketball team was looking to end a three-game losing streak with a victory over the Bearcats (1-5). But as the halftime buzzer sounded, Brown (3-3) faced a four-point deficit, down 37-33.
Then point guard Shayna Mehta ’19 took over, scoring 19 points in the second half alone to carry the Bears’ offense in a convincing 83-72 victory. In total, Mehta netted a season-high and game-leading 29 points in the contest.
For her critical role in Brown’s success, as well as emerging leadership on the team, Mehta has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: What was going through your mind before the game?
Mehta: I just wanted to win the game since we had just lost three in a row. I thought it would be a good, close game since we won on a buzzer beater last year. Binghamton is a very good team and has had a tough preseason schedule. They beat the defending Ivy League champions, Penn, earlier this season, and that alone was a good reason to get pumped up for the game.
How were you feeling as the game progressed and you began to heat up?
Throughout the game, our team had really good energy, and we all had positive vibes. We had two very good practices during the week before the game, so I think we were all ready to play. After a pretty hard-fought first half with many lead changes, the second half seemed to open up for us. In the third quarter, my teammates were able to give me good looks at the basket, and I started becoming more aggressive and felt comfortable and confident. (Head Coach Sarah Behn) started to call out plays for me, and I was able to knock down some shots.
You scored a season-high 29 points. Could you reflect on the performance?
It’s no stat compared to Erika Steeves’ ’19 18 rebounds and 18 points. I was pleased that I was able to bring home a “W.”   But I feel Erika’s double-double and Taylor Will’s ’19 scoring and defense on Binghamton’s best player were the real key to our win. Our transition game really started to click in the second half, and we were able to go on a few runs that helped us pull away at the end. When we can run on teams, I think we are hard to beat. We have had a few games already (in which) we have scored over 80 points.
What is going well for the team so far, and what do you need to improve on the most?
The season is going well considering we are so young. The games we lost were all by very close margins, which makes me optimistic for the rest of the season. We are getting major contributions from many people on the team, and different people are stepping up and filling roles that we lost from last year. I think that we need to improve on playing games for the full 40 minutes. We often have really good halves, but we could improve on finishing the games out. If we improve on this, I think we will be a strong competitor in the Ivy League.
When did you start playing basketball, and what drew you to the sport?
I started playing basketball when I was about seven or eight years old. I fell in love with the game because it is just so much fun to play, and it is fast-paced and exciting. Also being from the Bay Area, watching the (Golden State) Warriors growing up helped spark my passion for the sport. 
What are some expectations that you have for the team?
A short-term expectation and goal is to win the Ocean State Tip-off Tournament this weekend hosted at Brown University. We play URI on Saturday, and then the winner — or loser — of the Bryant vs. PC game on Sunday. A season-ending goal is to make it into the Ivy League tournament and of course win.
There are no seniors currently on the roster. Who do you look toward for leadership?
Our junior Megan Reilly ’18 is our team captain, and she really has embraced the role and been a great leader for us this season. She sets a great example for us both on and off the court, and she is just a real fun person to be around.”

Meyer ’17: Paxson caught in the middle
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 01, 2016
“During the election, journalists wrote that covering President-Elect Donald Trump created a conflict between their obligations of accuracy and balance. Writing about the plain facts of the campaign seemed biased against Trump because he was so grossly unqualified. “If Trump is outside the frame of conventional political discourse, how far outside the frame of conventional coverage does th e media have to move?” Roger Cohen wondered in the New York Times. Most outlets eventually settled on honesty at the expense of neutrality, naming Trump as the fraud he was and is. They tried to print the truth even if that brought accusations of liberal bias. In September, covering the persistent birther myth, the Times used the word “lie” in a headline. From then on, they have used plain language to call out his deceits.
Universities face a similar dilemma. Trump puts intellectual diversity at odds with their other values of truth-seeking and inclusion. While many journalists rightly chose not to treat Trump with false equivalency, President Christina Paxson P’19 has stuck to neutral platitudes. “The last five days have seen the country and our campus comi ng to grips with the outcome of one of the most polarizing presidential election campaigns in memory. The tone, tenor and rhetoric of this election ran counter to our values as a community. No matter which candidate each of us supported, we must recognize that fully half of the voters in the country felt exactly the opposite of what we feel,” she wrote after the election. Her language implies that both candidates were responsible for the campaign’s tone, which is malarkey. Trump’s tenor ran counter to our values. Clinton’s largely ran with them (including her unappealing reliance on Wall Street donors).
If I wrote in this column that Mexican immigrants were rapists or if I belittled a disabled person, I would not get to write again. If I bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, I would be grabbed by a disciplinary committee. If I were accused of sexual assault by multiple women, I would (hopefully) get kicked out. If I denied climate science and refused to open a book, I would fail my classes. All of these behaviors are directly opposed to Brown’s institutional values. But when the culprit runs for president, he is sheltered by the venee r of political diversity. The student body isn’t a monolith, but we have recognized that Trump attacks Brown’s principles and its very role in society.
Why hasn’t Paxson followed the lead of Brown’s students and professors? Why could Columbia declare itself a sanctuary campus when we could not? We aren’t Paxson’s only or even primary constituency. First, she answers to her employers, the Corporation.
Depending on your perspective, the Corporation is composed of the leading members of American society or the new American oligarchy. Their personal interests are more conservative than those of Brown’s famously liberal student body. Former Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 P’18 has been listed as one of New York’s top Republican donors . Former Trustee Steven Cohen P’08 P’16, one of the University’s most prominent donors, gave generously to Chris Christie’s ill-fated campaign. My point here isn’t to vilify Republican donors or really rich people. It’s that there is a structural conflict between the student body and the school’s leadership. By definition, the standing and extreme wealth of most Corporation members means they benefit from the existing social status quo. Brown student activists are dedicated to upending it. Paxson sits in the middle, unwilling to confront either constituency.
The language of intellectual diversity allows Paxson and other administrators to avoid conflict with Trustees and conservative donors while expressing sympathy for students threatened by a Trump administration. But the result has been a series of watered-down emails in a time that calls for forceful words. When the president-elect makes a mockery of Brown’s community norms, Brown’s leader should say so. If the institution doesn’t have the confidence to advance its values into the outside world, then they are just playground rules.
For students, the lesson is that we can only expect so much from the school’s administration. Brown may feel like a progressive place, but its institutional structure is resistant to rapid or radical change. Students should look for steps that don’t require an administrator’s rubber stamp. Brown as an institution and Brown as a community are not the same thing. Students may not control the institution, but we have absolute ownership over the community.
Dan Meyer ’17 can be reached at .
Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to .”

Hu ’18: Stop tolerating sexual violence
by Brown Daily Herald
Dec 01, 2016
“This year, we watched our country condemn Brock Turner and then elect an alleged rapist for president in a span of less than six months. We made endless cracks about the absurdity of “Pussygate” and witnessed a confession of sexual assault be casually dismissed as “locker room talk” but forgot to fully consider the many women whose traumatic accounts were made light of as their attacker ascended to the presidency. We chastised Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey’s foolishness and lamented his role in threatening a political candidate’s credibility but forgot to condemn his inconsiderate victimization of the 15-year-old survivor at the center of it all. The issue of sexual assault has weaved its way through the public and political arenas, always lingering in the background as we consistently fail to sustain dialogue about it both on campus and in the country more broadly.
Our own school has had several cases of sexual assault come up in the past semester alone. In September, a U.S. District Court invalidated the ruling of a Brown disciplinary hearing, allowing the undergraduate found responsible for assault to return to campus. Two weeks later, news arrived of a former student suing both the University for mishandling her case and the student who allegedly spiked her drink. Then earlier this month, another woman filed a lawsuit against Brown and two deans   for violating Title IX, failing to promptly or effectively respond to her assault and ultimately neglecting to pursue disciplinary action against her assailants. I can recount incidents of campus assault at Brown throughout and even before my time as a student here, petitions to suspend assailants or demand disciplinary action against them and protests rallying around the cry #moneytalks. But this semester, we’ve seen a muted public response as these instances tragically continue, and the administration has failed to implement a specific plan to address the crisis. I worry that these issues have started to fall on deaf ears — that we’ve accepted this half-assed action as the status quo.
Time and time again, incidents of sexual assault ignite fiery community responses that quickly fizzle out, if they aren’t immediately shelved altogether. Public outcry, initially intense, often wanes as observers’ calls for justice give way to a toxic indifference to the eventual legal outcomes and sexual violence’s effects on our community. Those who actually sustain their concern start to see their cries fall on unsympathetic ears. The matter fades away, and as a survivor, you feel your pain and self-worth rendered ultimately inconsequential. Why do we keep allowing public dialogue to die out? Why do so many of us only act reactively, allowing these terrible incidents to keep happening? Why do we often forget our outrage and start the vicious cycle all over again?
Though the immediate violence of sexual assault occurs between the victim and the perpetrators, society shares the blame. We as a collective community are all also responsible. By doubting survivors’ accounts and hurt, by only offering an expensive, invasive and tedious judicial process that guarantees nothing, by victim blaming and offering insufficient support to survivors’ well-being and by failing to sustain dialogue about all these injustices, we cultivate a culture that allows these incidences to happen routinely. By tolerating this violence, we implicitly concede that this is okay, when this is far, far from okay.
Demanding justice isn’t as simple as seeking out the bad guys. Like so many other pervasive issues, it’s about holding ourselves accountable as responsible community members, which requires a sustained effort from us all. And that doesn’t mean invoking a sense of protection just because you’re the father of a daughter or the brother of a sister. It’s about the moral imperative to be a decent person and recognize that this terror and violence shouldn’t happen, period. None of us should be comfortable living in a society that tolerates this sort of invasive violence toward anyone. And it shouldn’t take extreme cases of sexual violence to incite our desire for justice. Guilt and anger are insufficient and unsustainable motivators; allowing them to primarily fuel our efforts will inevitably burn us out. We shouldn’t need to hear statistics and gruesome details as shock value in order to will ourselves to care, as we certainly have been prone to in the past. 
It is imperative that we remember this and take sustained actions. Our behavior must shift if we wish to build safer and more inclusive communities. So take extra care of your friends at parties and don’t be afraid to interfere. Educate yourself on how to support and respect survivors, learn to prioritize their voices and recognize how this violence disproportionately affects certain populations. Demand that our university hold itself accountable for not effectively dealing with cases of assault, respond to these situations with due process and provide resources and support for survivors. Through these actions, we can show that our communities, and nation at large, must confront and deal with this pervasive problem.
It is not easy to navigate the fallout of a sexual assault, since each case has its own complications and nuances. But that is all the more reason why we need to sustain an active dialogue, take accusations seriously and simply keep caring — there is no question about this. Justice isn’t some abstract ideal or a wordy court ruling — its pursuit starts with each of us and how willing we are to confront painful realities. 
Margaret Hu ’18 can be reached at .
Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to .”

Rodriguez offers message of inspiration, hope
by Brown Daily Herald
Nov 22, 2016
“In eager restlessness, students arranged themselves into a haphazard queue that wrapped around the sides of Salomon and spilled into Ruth Simmons Quadrangle more than an hour before the first words of Gina Rodriguez’s lecture, hosted by Brown Lecture Board this Monday night. The auditorium buzzed with excitement as ticket holders scrounged for every available seat.
“People seem to be really excited. Just walking around campus is exciting, overhearing so many conversations about this,” said Allison Schaefer ’17, vice president of marketing and public relations for Brown Lecture Board.
The anticipation reached new heights as Latino heritage series coordinator Lehidy Laura Frias ’17 took to the stage to introduce Rodriguez. Recalling when she first told her Papi that Rodriguez was coming to speak at Brown, he asked: “¿Qué ha hecho ella?” What has she done? What makes her special?
Frias described Rodriguez’s presence as a “strong, fearless Latina woman” in the acting industry. She has involved herself in the philanthropic community and works as an activist for first-generation students and members of the Latinx community. But what touched her Papi’s heart and roused emphatic cheers, whoops and clapping from the passionate audience was the touching phrase: “She looks like me.” The crowd roared as Rodriguez, alive with genuine gratitude, came out from the wings to embrace Frias.
Rodriguez began humbly: “I’m just like every single person in this room — just trying every day to be a better version of myself,” she said. She pondered aloud what she could offer the Brown community as a speaker, deciding that, as someone well versed in the realms of art and love, “I can only give you my truth.”
In genuine, raw conversation, Rodriguez went on to elucidate her perception of truth regarding self-love, resiliency and willpower. She reflected on her challenges in life: “I didn’t take the easy cruise line. I took the difficult one. I have a story. I survived it. I got through it. … I’m the hero of my story.”
Rodriguez gave credit to her family — her father, “the man who made me who I am. He has so much power inside me,” and her mother and her sisters, who “have supported (her) through this entire journey.”
“I have monsters around me. My mom is the reason why I don’t need to wear makeup to feel beautiful. She was all about accepting who she was.”
This journey to self-love began when Rodriguez was just 15 years old when her father was hospitalized and forced to stay home due to his health. As he became consumed by the messages of various motivational speakers, inspirational mantras influenced every aspect of Rodriguez’s life, she said. Even attempting to talk to her subconscious while she was supposedly asleep, her father would whisper, “You can be anything you want to be.” Each day, he would tell her to “Look in the mirror. Say that today’s going to be a great day. I can, and I will.”
“When I went to college, I got used to (the mantra),” Rodriguez said, as she continued to “find (her) yes” at New York University at the Tisch School of the Arts, despite her father’s doubts regarding her acceptance. “The only person stopping me is me. If I fail I can just try again, so eventually, I will.”
Today, as an actress in Hollywood, Rodriguez must continue to remind herself of her worth, she said, utilizing her father’s mantra among others, including “fear only exists between your two ears,” and “I am enough.”
“I was conditioned to believe I didn’t have a space in Hollywood,” she said. But, “I worked hard. I can act my ass off. I got an education. I’m ready to participate in the conversation. Nobody can stop me.”
“This journey of self-love is every single day,” Rodriguez added. It has “allowed me to start working on the fact that I deserved everything that I ever dreamed of, and this is what I have to give to you.” She noted her hopes for the Brown community: “I want that journey to start for you now. You must love yourself.”
Rodriguez’s dynamic authenticity and relaxed, casual air carried throughout her lecture.
She spoke openly about her bouts with failure and her nervousness regarding her “journey that scares the shit out of me” — a trip to Thailand during which she attempts to write a book. “I could fail. The book could suck. … I could disappoint. I could let down. But I’m going to try. I would way rather fail and try than not try at all.”
She reflected on her battles with student loans that she recently paid off. She relayed without inhibition her insecurities regarding her body image, her struggles with mental health and bouts of panic attacks and her thyroid disease.
“Being an actor and being brown and then someone telling you that you are never going to be super thin? I felt like I was cursed. … I just wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do.”
Yet she considered “what I wanted my life to look like every single day: … to be able to look in the mirror and not be afraid of my brown skin, especially now. This is my one journey.”
In the question-and-answer session, Rodriguez addressed students informally yet tackled the serious concerns they voiced with gravity. One student spoke out about her insecurities in proving to herself that she belongs at Brown and her fear of participating in class due to her “speaking in a particular way.” Rodriguez noted the student’s speech speech pattern and accent were “beautiful,” and encouraged the student to “make (herself) the hero of your story because your story is the only one you walk with.”
Rodriguez sat, stood, kneeled, twirled, kicked, trotted and sashayed around the stage, while weaving in and out of English and Spanish, out of serious, grave assertions and posits and amusing, often linguistically colorful short stories and witticisms. Rodriguez was earnest and thoughtful, yet she maintained her vivacious, bubbly, personable attitude and humorous character throughout her speech and in answering questions.
“You only get one life. You might as well go and fucking fly,” she said, as she laughed and mimed the flapping of a bird’s wings on stage.”

Editors’ Note
by Brown Daily Herald
Nov 21, 2016
“The Herald will not be publishing a paper for the rest of the week. We will resume printing Nov. 28. Until then, check for any breaking news updates online at Happy Thanksgiving!”
Kumar ’17: Human family
by Brown Daily Herald
Nov 21, 2016
““I’m terrified by the America we might wake up to after Election Day,” I wrote in a mid-September Facebook post in response to polls that put President-Elect Donald Trump ahead in Florida and Ohio. Of course, my worst fears came true Nov. 8, and I continue to grapple with this new political reality. In many ways, it really is frightening: plans for mass deportations, accounts of racial intimidation and the appointment of a white nationalist as chief strategist to the president-elect. After a brutal campaign that began in early 2015, my visions of life under a Clinton administration unraveled in the wee hours of Nov. 9. Now I’m left hoping that the country will remain intact over the next four years.
As I look ahead to the Thanksgiving holiday later this week, I am confronted with mixed emotions. I am excited to see my parents and sister, who are also disturbed by the election results and their implications for the future. But I am nervous about spending time with members of my extended family, some of whom undoubtedly voted for Trump. Will we discuss the election? How could we not? How will I find the energy to argue with them after expending so much in the weeks leading up to Nov. 8? Going home is usually an opportunity to rest and recharge during a brief break from the pressure of the semester, but might this five-day foray beyond the Brown bubble further contribute to my stress?
I am reminded of a Maya Angelou poem, “Human Family.” (You may have heard Angelou reading it in an iPhone commercial that aired during the Olympics this summer.) The poem concludes, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” This simple, rhythmic statement is undeniably true — science tells us so. And it has never been more relevant than at this very moment in time. If only we all shared the wisdom of this late, great American poet. We are all members of the human family, a cliche that Angelou elevated through honest poetry.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who, after the most divisive election in memory, demands that the heartbroken and horrified losers unify around a president-elect who has shown dangerous contempt for minorities, immigrants and women and in so doing has tarnished the country he represents. In the weeks and months ahead, it is more important than ever that we continue to challenge the hateful, unconstitutional rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration, as well as the Republican-controlled Congress whose speaker has shown support for Trump’s white nationalist chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Popular protests and sharp scrutiny of the president-elect by the media, government officials and civil society are absolutely necessary for the realization of the still-unattained ideal of a government that protects the rights of all people.
Keeping this in mind as I confront the intimidating prospect of discussing the election with my family, it is important to remember that people are not the candidates they voted for. If they voted for racist, sexist, xenophobic or homophobic reasons, then they should certainly be criticized. But many Trump supporters gravitated to him with different motivations, such as economic suffering or a sense of exclusion from the multicultural, progressive future President Barack Obama’s administration has been working to construct. In my view, not even these explanations — nothing, in fact — could justify voting for such a hateful, ill-qualified candidate. But this does not mean we have the luxury of cutting these people off from our political debates. To sever ties with unapologetic Trump supporters — a suggestion I have seen a couple of times on Facebook — would not be wise.
In politics, people are usually convinced that their own opinions are correct. So no matter how much you feel that the Constitution, morality, economics, good judgment and common decency are on your side, your opponent will be equally certain of their own superiority. To shout about how deplorable Trump supporters are or to stop talking to them, then, will do nothing to address the paralyzing polarization from which we are currently suffering. Stay angry, and stay motivated to effect change in our political system, but be smart about which tactic will be most persuasive with the person whose mind you’re trying to change. Yelling at your grandmother about how personally victimized by Trump you feel and then breaking down in tears might be an effective method. But it might not.
I regret not speaking directly with those family members whom I suspected would vote for Trump before the election. In a swing state that, like so many others, went red this year, maybe those difficult conversations could have made a difference if enough people like me had taken the risk of having them. We must never stop talking to one another because to do so would be to facilitate the continued deterioration of our society. The good news is that if we — people from both sides — approach these discussions from a place of love and empathy, we have nothing to fear. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when the president-elect and his cronies insist on maintaining their divisive tactics.
Before the conclusion of “Human Family,” Angelou writes, “In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.” As we rebuild after this gutting election and gather around the dining table to give thanks, let’s strive to remember this simple truth about all people. After all, without it, what else do we have? If only Angelou were still alive to offer us a fresh slice of her wisdom for dessert.
Nikhil Kumar ’17 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to .”

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