From the Editor’s Desk: Introducing Kellie Dietrich

Originally published in Issue 14, Fiftieth year of The Minstrel (April 25,2016). Click here to view the entire issue.

Hello.

It’s me.

Not the amazing Adele, but the (hopefully amazing) editor-in-chief of The Minstrel for the 2016-2017 academic year. I’m very excited and honored to accept the position.

Even though writing is my passion now, I used to hate it in elementary school until my fifth-grade teacher taught us the five-paragraph essay. Although the five-paragraph essay later became useless, it taught me how to structure and organize my writing, which is what I needed to excel as a writer.

I first became involved in journalism in high school by serving as a staff writer and entertainment editor. The great times I had there made me want to join The Minstrel as well.

I’ve been thinking about the opportunity of editor-in-chief since I was a shy freshman at DeSales and Dan Beck saw some editorial skills in me. Somehow between now and then, I became known as the “ruthless editor” on staff and known for my “Kellietorials.” (What can I say? I have a lot of opinions.)

During my time as a staff writer and features editor, I’ve learned a lot, and by interviewing fellow students, faculty and staff, I went outside my comfort zone and talked to people that I never would have spoken to. Although it was nerve-wracking at times, I love being able to share other people’s stories in my writing.

Along the way, I have made some great friendships as well. Our current editor-in-chief Adam Zielonka was one of my first friends on staff. He always believed in me and has really helped me grow as a journalist. We’re all going to miss him, but I know he will write amazing stories wherever he goes, and he’ll be rooting for us through the Minstrel editors GroupMe chat.

Will Edwards was another one of my first friends at DeSales (thank you, pod 7). And it is only fitting that he will be the managing editor for next year. The two of us will make a great team!

I also can’t wait for more chaos and laughs in The Minstrel office with Lauren Trumbull, Jaci Wendel and the rest of our editors.

I wish the best of luck to the graduating seniors – A&E and online editor Hutton Jackson, staff writers Erika Domingues, Alexa Manzo and Jaclyn Silvestri and photographers DJ McCauley and Nick Noverati.

With half a century of news down, I’m committed to improving The Minstrel and making it the best it can be next year. But for now, enjoy our current issue, which features the Marcon Lecture, the first graduating class of the DeSales Experience and other fantastic pieces that make me proud to be working alongside this talented group of friends and writers.

Peace, love & DeSales,

Kellie Dietrich
Features Editor

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DeSales Students Study Abroad Down Under in Sydney

Originally published in Issue 14, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (April 28, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue. 

Two months ago in February, summertime in Australia, the heat was scorching as three study- abroad students stepped off the plane to begin their semester of adventures.

As math majors, juniors Mary Orobono and Tina Tran had the options of studying abroad in either Ireland or Australia. They both chose Australia due to the gorgeous weather and to see what life is like down under. Junior sports and exercise science major Emily Williams chose to study abroad in Australia as well.

“Everything about the country intrigued me: the culture, the scenery, the accents and the food,” said Williams.

The three students are studying at the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), located on the main street in Sydney.

“UNDA is similar to DeSales being a small, Catholic college with a strong Catholic tradition,” said Tran. “The school system is different, though—my classes only meet once a week for three hours, and the campus is small, made up of different buildings woven into the city.”

Tina Tran, one of three DeSales students studying abroad, visits Sydney Harbour. Photo courtesy of Tina Tran

Tina Tran, one of three DeSales students studying abroad student, visits Sydney Harbour. Photo courtesy of Tina Tran.

“I went by myself and it was one of the best decisions [I made],” said Williams. “I made so many new friends and experienced so much. I definitely have to go back and explore the North Island of New Zealand.”

Before study abroad is over, Orobono, Tran and Williams all hope to visit, and possibly snorkel in, the Great Barrier Reef, which Tran adds may sadly disappear within the next 10 years.

With gorgeous views and events always going on in the city, it was easy for the students to adjust to life in Australia with only minor adjustments, such as looking right before crossing busy streets where pedestrians do not have the right of way.

Additionally, Orobono and Tran both mentioned how influential the U.S. is in Australia with the presidential election being a large topic of discussion.

“[People] always ask if I support Trump or Clinton,” said Orobono. “They are very interested about what is happening in America.”

While many are learning about America from Orobono, Tran and Williams, they are learning a lot from their study- abroad experience.

“Stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring the world is a great way to learn new things. You get to see different perspectives, and how other places in the world operate,” said Orobono.

The largest takeaway for Williams was independence, from paying rent to planning flights and making dinners.

“Being here definitely gave me insight to the future and dealing with the real world out on your own,” said Williams.

Overall, Australia has taught different life lessons to each student.

“This experience has exposed me to different cultures and taught me that there is always more to learn and discover. The world is a lot bigger than you think,” said Tran. “Also, I learned that it is good to slow down and enjoy life, and to do so doesn’t require much, like lying in the sun at the park for a nap.”

Tuition Increases by $1,500 for ’16-’17 Academic Year (DeSales)

Originally published in Issue 13, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (April 14, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.

Last month at the March meeting of the Board of Trustees, increases for the 2016-2017 academic year were approved. The most notable change is a raise in tuition from $32,00 to $33,500, a 4.69 percent increase.

Other changes in the budget include room and board options increasing by 2.4 percent, a lower raise than previous years, for an average cost of $12,300, and an increase in the technology fee to $200 per semester. The resident student life fee of $500 per semester will remain the same, which puts the average total cost for next year to $47,200, a 3.84 percent increase.

The process of creating the budget entails many meetings, details and consideration. It starts in October with a meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee, which has representatives from all parts of the university including faculty, staff, a representative from each of the five academic divisions and students (undergraduates, graduates, ACCESS). The undergraduate student who represents the council is the SGA Treasurer.

When considering tuition increase, the committee must look at what’s going on in the marketplace. This is done by benchmarking against DeSales’ higher education environment by looking at schools similar in recruiting, the athletic conference and master’s programs to see what other schools are charging for tuition.

“With the stated goal, which has been our strategic plan for the last two or three [years], we don’t want to be in the high end and we don’t want to be in the low end. We want to be right in the middle, just below the median benchmark,” said Director of Finance and Treasurer Michael Sweetana, who plays one of the largest roles in overseeing the budget process.

The benchmark is done to see how DeSales fits within that stated goal, and then the committee looks at what is going on inside the university, such as costs that need to be covered and future projects. Since the addition of the Upperclassmen Village, the extra infrastructure adds more space that needs to be maintained. Healthcare and liability insurance have also been on the rise due to Hurricane Sandy, snowstorms and other uncontrollable incidents.

The cost of living is increasing for employees as well, which is taken into consideration.

“We’re a very people- intensive business,” said Sweetana. “Salaries and benefits make up 40 percent of our operating costs.”

“We tend to pay our faculty better than a lot of our other competition does because we believe in putting our tuition money back into our program,” he added.

President Rev. Bernard O’Connor, OSFS also highlighted faculty pay in the letters mailed to parents and the e-mail versions sent to students.

“We spent more on faculty salaries than average but kept the total number of employees below average,” the letter read.

Ultimately, tuition costs are either rounded up or down to the nearest $500. The past few years students had the benefit of the tuition spike being rounded down to $1,000, but this year it was rounded up to $1,500.

Although students are seeing a raise in tuition, they probably won’t see one in their financial aid.

“We built two million dollars more of financial aid into our overall budget to cover our financial aid budget,” said Sweetana. “But realistically, once you get past your freshman year, it’s a lot harder to get changes in financial aid just because of how regulations work.”

However, once students enter their junior or senior year, the Federal Loan programs do increase, giving them the ability to borrow more money, so there is some degree of additional aid built into the system. Otherwise, financial aid usually only changes if there is a dramatic change in the family’s financial state.

In his letter, O’Connor also highlighted the value of higher education for students.

“And the truth is that on average the increased lifetime earnings arising from completing a college degree are equivalent to an investment that returns over 15 percent per year,” the letter read. “This is more than double the average return of the stock market over the last 60 years and a greater return than corporate bonds, gold or long-term government bonds. Clearly, the cost of a college degree does pay off.”

DeSales McFadden chat: Students learn from prisoners, art therapy

Originally published on The Minstrel, online (March 2,2016).

Our McFadden Chats return as features editor Kellie Dietrich speaks with Allison Krall and Erin O’Neill, two DeSales juniors who are interning with “The Journey Home” and practicing art therapy with female prisoners. Be sure to read the full feature by James Evans.

Video directed and filmed by Gabrielle Parisi and edited by Adam Zielonka.

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Recognizes Unique Needs of Injured Artists

Originally published on the  Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s blog (September 10, 2015).

dancer in rehab

Margo Ging assists a dancer in rehabilitation at Good Shepherd.

A dancer warms up with barre exercises and observes her form in the floor to ceiling mirrors. Nearby in the soundproof music room, a musician strums his guitar. These two performers have more in common than just a passion for the arts. They are both benefiting from the specialized care that is available at Good Shepherd’s Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center (PARC).

PARC first opened February 25, 2013 at Good Shepard Physical Therapy–Bethlehem, located on Eaton Avenue. Good Shepherd provides general orthopedic physical therapy for adults and children; however, they have a special niche for performing artists. The reason for this is performers are prone to serious injuries due to overusing muscles and repetitive movements.

“Much like high level athletes, dancers need to rehabilitate their injuries in a manner that is specific to the demands they will be placing on their bodies,” says Cathie Dara, PT, DPT, OCS, STC, a physical therapist and the site manager for Good Shepherd Physical Therapy–Bethlehem/Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center. In order for patients to receive the best possible care, PARC utilizes therapists who specialize in performing arts therapy.

“When a person comes in, whether a dancer or musician, they don’t want to be told they have to stop dancing or performing,” says Margo Ging, physical therapist assistant at PARC. As a dance instructor, choreographer, and former professional dancer, Ging understands that performing artists don’t want to stop doing what they love. The artists will do whatever it takes to continue performing, taking classes, and going to rehearsals.

“We really zone in on what they want to get back to doing,” says Ging. She explains that even though patients may look medically okay on paper, they might not be once they begin performing again. One of Ging’s patients sprained her ankle numerous times, which most likely means there is a correction that needs to be made. Although it may seem like a minor error, correcting it will keep the injury from recurring. “I’ll take her into the dance studio to see her technique and what was causing her to keep injuring her ankle,” says Ging.

musician receives therapy

A musician works with a physical therapist to recover from an injury.

Additionally, therapists work around patients’ hectic schedules that are full of performances, recitals, and classes. Types of treatment at PARC include orthopedic and hand therapy, pain management, Kinesio Taping® and splinting, and headache therapy.

“What I enjoy most about being a physical therapist is seeing the quality of life for my patients improve throughout the course of their treatment and knowing that I had a positive impact on their life and their well-being,” says Dara, “It is truly challenging and professionally satisfying to be able to return a musician or a dancer to their livelihood or their passion.”

For more information, visit www.GoodShepherdRehab.org/performingarts or call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422).

Disabilities Don’t Define Who People Are

Originally published on the  Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s blog (August 17, 2015).

One characteristic cannot sum up who anyone is and America has been making great strides in accepting people regardless of their race, sexual orientation and disability if they have one.

“It used to be that the disability made up the person, but now it’s just something that’s a part of them,” says Roseann Damico Schatkowski, who considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities. “Be kind to people who are different in any way. Try to make them feel welcome and that they belong in the society,” says Schatkowski as her positive energy and warm smile light up the room.

Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing at DeSales Theatre

Roseann Damico Schatkowski, Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1.

Schatkowski is the Director of Marketing & PR and the Playbill Advertising Representative for Act 1 Productions, DeSales University’s Performing Arts Company. About three years ago, DeSales began making accommodations for people with visual and hearing loss by having at least one open captioned (OC) and audio described (AD) performance for almost every production. Audio description utilizes headsets to provide a narrative during natural pauses in the performance, translating images for patrons who are visually impaired. With open captioning, audience members with hearing loss may view electronic text throughout the show, with lyrics, dialogue, and sound effects in real time. DeSales rents the OC screen and AD transmitters and receivers from the Lehigh Valley Arts Council for a small fee.

“[DeSales] wanted to give access to people who normally wouldn’t have the services,” explains Schatkowski. “The services have been around for a really long time and a lot of performing arts venues don’t take advantage of it.”

Open caption screen

Open captioning screen used for patrons with hearing loss.

Schatkowski has been around people with disabilities all of her life and growing up with a blind father has really shaped with the way she sees disabled people. Schatkowski recalls the lack of accommodation in the 70s and how people treated her dad. People would cut in front of him while he was waiting in line just because he couldn’t see. She also remembers going to the movies where he would ask, “What happened? What happened!” because it’s a very visual experience.

People with disabilities have the right to enjoy the same things people without them enjoy. Schatkowski believes that audio description is one step towards that goal. “They don’t have to miss what’s coming up next and their companion doesn’t have to worry about having to talk and explain to them what’s going on,” explains Schatkowski. “It opens up a whole new world for them.”

Schatkowski has a ten year old son, Matthew, who has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. He attends Lehigh Parkway Elementary where the staff and students have been wonderful and even provide him with physical therapy. “They don’t treat him like the kid in the wheelchair,” Schatkowski says happily.

Although there are still some prejudices and old-fashioned attitudes toward people with disabilities, perceptions are definitely changing. Restaurants, parks, and other public places are trying to be as welcoming and accommodating as possible. “We have finally started to see people for who they are and see through their disability,” says Schatkowski.

She is hopeful for more and more opportunities for people with disabilities. There are places Matthew can’t go like amusement parks or certain restaurants; however, he never complains about using a wheelchair. “He knows that if he wants to do something, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that we can go do it,” says Schatkowski.

Sensory tours for the blind

Visually impaired patrons explore props to gain a sensory experience before the show.

It is also important to remember that not every disability is visible. We can see wheelchairs and seeing eye dogs, but might not be able to spot people with autism or emotional disabilities.

In the future, Schatkowski would love for every arts organization in the Lehigh Valley to have accessible performances. Even though it is one more thing for organizations to do, they should take advantage of the services available because in the end, it is the right thing to do.

It brings joy to her that the majority of people who attend performances at DeSales are appreciative of the accessibility and also excited for the experience. “We’re shining a light on people’s daily lives,” says Schatkowski.

Trump Explained: Why He has So Many Supporters, and Why You Shouldn’t be One of Them

This article was originally published in Issue 9, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (February 18, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”

This Donald Trump quote appears on the cover of his 1989 book “Trump: The Game.” While many years have passed since this book was written, Trump’s attitude has remained the same toward winning and losing now that he’s a presidential candidate.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” said Trump when rallying at the Sioux Center in Iowa on Jan. 23.

Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Republican Primary Feb. 9 after  nishing second in the Iowa Caucus Feb. 1. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.
Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Republican Primary Feb. 9 after nishing second in the Iowa Caucus Feb. 1. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

While Trump did not shoot anyone, he did lose voters in Iowa, causing him to nish second among Republicans at the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucus, behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump regained his ego quickly at the New Hampshire Primary Feb. 9 by winning with 35.5 percent of Republican votes.

Considering Trump’s foul word choices and ridiculous statements, many Americans wonder how Trump is leading polls and winning primaries; however, many love his straightforward talk. Most Trump supporters are those who are fed up with the traditional candidates who run for office and who all seem essentially similar. Trump’s career has differentiated him from other politicians, and that may be what makes Trump speeches seem more authentic and promising to his supporters.

Trump is extremely pro-America, vowing to reform our immigration system, which he believes puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own. He wants a wall, paid for by Mexico, to separate Mexicans from Americans at the southern border. The world learned that barriers aren’t the answer with the Berlin Wall, which fell in 1989, but it seems Trump is ignoring history.

He also says he’ll protect American workers with tariffs on foreign competitors, specifically taxing imports from China. Contradicting his ideas that will protect workers, Trump wants to lower corporate tax rates in America in order to strengthen negotiation power.

America isn’t lacking power. What America needs is a thriving middle class that isn’t disappearing and a lower class that isn’t on the verge of poverty. Corporate taxes, along with those in the top percentile, should be raised while taxes for the middle and lower classes should be reduced in order to lessen the growing inequality gap.

Lastly, but most importantly, Trump has fear on his side: fear of radical Muslims, or Islamophobia. People are afraid of the Muslims who are in America now and of those who want to enter. Trump’s supporters have said you can’t tell the difference between good Muslims and bad ones, so they agree with his policies on increasing American security, including not letting them into America and possibly shutting down mosques.

Since the November terrorist attacks in Paris, hate crimes against Muslim-Americans have been on the rise. What many Americans don’t realize, though, is according to the FBI, 94 percent of terrorist attacks in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 were carried out by non-Muslims. Additionally, ISIS is not just targeting non-Islamic Americans, but anyone who opposes their goal for a radical Islamic state, which includes peaceful Muslims in the U.S., the Middle East and all over the world. Muslims are the number one victims of ISIS terror and have overwhelmingly negative views toward ISIS, but Americans are only focused on their own country’s safety.

Trump feeds into Islamophobia and suggests a law requiring Muslims to carry identification cards to display their faith. That’s strikingly similar to World War II, when the Nazis forced Jews to wear yellow Star of David badges. Also during this time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt placed Japanese-Americans in internment camps.

Targeting Jews and Japanese-Americans was not the answer then, and targeting Muslims now will not be the answer either.

Ultimately, Trump will make America repeat mistakes and set back history by decades. Let’s make America great again by not supporting Trump.

Despite Terror Attacks, DeSales Trips to Paris are Set for Spring

This article was originally published in Issue 7, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (December 10, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.

Tragedies in Paris, Beirut, Syria are more similar than they seem: citizens yearn for safety

In the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that left around 130 dead and 350 wounded, Paris, one of the most visited countries in the world, is eerily quiet. French citizens are shopping less and staying indoors to avoid concert halls and restaurants. Paris’ economy also relies heavily on tourism, which has been greatly affected during what is usually a busy time during the holiday season. Many tourists are cancelling their flights and hotel rooms are empty.

Some DeSales students canceled their reservations on the spring break trip to Paris, as well. Students on the trip will spend four days in Paris and two days in Geneva. Nick Luchko, director of student engagement and leadership, says some people have opted out of going due to the attacks.

“Students needed to talk to their parents about whether or not it’s right for them to go,” Luchko said.

There is still a sizeable number of students signed up for the trip, which remains scheduled. Students will travel following normal safety procedures and Luchko said he has scheduled many meetings with the students that cover safety during their trip.

Mourners in Paris gather during a civil service to remember the victims of the November attacks. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Mourners in Paris gather during a civil service to remember the victims of the November attacks. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“I do everything in my power to ensure students’ safety,” he said.

Additionally, students will be traveling to Paris in the World Crime and Justice class this spring. Brian MacDonald, director of external affairs, said he advises students to be more cautious and attentive when they are abroad. After the Paris attacks, he reached out to the students studying abroad in Europe, reminding them to be more vigilant than usual.

Many students, whether going to Paris this spring or not, are showing their support for Paris on social media by changing their profile picture to an overlay of the French flag. As the United States is supporting Paris just as Paris supported us after 9/11, it must not be forgotten that other, less developed countries need support too.

One day before the terrorist attacks in Paris, there was a double suicide bomber attack in Beirut, Lebanon, that the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for. This attack left around 40 dead and 200 wounded.

Although Paris has not seen an attack this detrimental in decades and Beirut has bombings more frequently than other countries, the bombings in Beirut are not any less serious. Stores and neighborhoods were destroyed and innocent lives lost.

Overall, Beirut did not see nearly as much support or attention as Paris did. One reason for this is Americans view Parisians as more similar to them because of their shared Western culture, so Americans empathize with them more while viewing conflict in the Middle East as a “norm.”

Another reason is over the course of the Syrian civil war, which has been occurring since 2011, four million Syrian refugees have left Syria and about one million of them are in Lebanon. Many opponents of migration are looking at the events in Paris and Beirut to argue that no more refugees should be allowed in; however, Syrians are not the enemy.

Mothers and children are fleeing from terrorism as the deadly war wages on between those who support President Bashar al-Assad and those who want a new government. Millions of children have been forced to quit school due to the crisis and many are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished or abused if they stay in Syria. With winter around the corner, refugees need food, water, clothes, shoes and heat more than ever, all basic needs for survival.

Since the war began, World Vision reports that more than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children, and one million have been wounded or permanently disabled. They also say it is the worst humanitarian crisis of all time, affecting over twelve million people. That’s more than the Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami combined. While this war seems like a world away, Syrian families wish for the same things the families from America, Beirut and Paris are wishing for while the world is in chaos: safety.

Social Media Lacks Authenticity in a World of Social Validation

Originally published in Issue 6, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 19, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.

“Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views and success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self- absorbed judgment.”

This quote is from Essena O’Neill’s last post on Instagram from Oct. 27. She says what we are all thinking and know to be true, but we are ultimately too afraid to admit. O’Neill is a typical nineteen-year-old girl from Australia, who also happens to be an “Instagram celebrity” with over half a million followers since she started the account at the age of twelve.

O’Neil decided to leave the so called “dream” behind by deleting thousands of pictures and changing her account name to “Social Media Is Not Real Life.” For the remaining photos, her captions were changed to show the lengths that were taken to actually get the pictures to meet society’s high standards of what it means to be beautiful. O’Neill looks effortless and confident in all her pictures, but looks can be deceiving of course.

Photo courtesy of Instagram/Essena O’Neil.
Photo courtesy of Instagram/Essena O’Neill.

One of O’Neill’s pictures, where she is wearing a bikini on the beach, is now captioned “NOT REAL LIFE- took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have not eaten all day. Would have yelled at my sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals.”

We need to stop judging people by numbers, most specifically ourselves. Is that girl really more beautiful than you because she has a hundred more likes? Is that guy actually more successful than you because he has more followers? And speaking of numbers, how many apps and filters were used in the editing process? And how many times did you think to yourself, “what if no one likes this?” or “is this worthy to post?”

O’Neill never intended to become famous on Instagram, but once she achieved a high number of followers, she quickly became obsessed with getting more and more. By receiving so much social fame, O’Neill was paid by companies to endorse their clothing. She gained money, but gave up an even larger cost: her self-esteem. Another picture of O’Neill in workout gear has the new caption “the only thing that made me feel good that day was this photo.”

This is an extremely dangerous mindset that O’Neill had. We see highlight reels of people’s lives thinking that everyone is out with friends and having literally the best time. Every post has to top the last one. But outside the picture, is reality. We actually aren’t that tan and our eyes aren’t that bright; that’s from editing and filters. Behind the fake laughs and posed shots, we are struggling with real world issues. We cry, we yell, we have bad days. We receive constant pressure to participate in social media, capture every fun thing we do into a tweet or picture and portray our ideal self, not our real self.

Another Instagram account that has been put to an end is “SocalityBarbie” with over 1.3 million followers. Darby Cisneros took photographs of a brunette hipster Barbie doll to mock Instagram trends and cliché hashtags. She was tired of everyone having the same pictures in the same places with the same captions. “What better way to make my point than with a mass-produced doll?” Cisneros asked in an interview with “Wired.”

After over a year of fame, Cisneros has revealed herself as the creator of the parody and says Socality Barbie’s work is done. Important issues were called into question, such as how people present themselves online, the crazy lengths they go to for the perfect picture and authenticity. Hopefully with accounts like “SocalityBarbie” and “Social Media Is Not Real Life,” people will be more aware of how ridiculous social media can be.

Some may argue social media connects you to thousands of people, but it’s not a genuine connection. Social media doesn’t connect people together. If you really wanted to stay in touch with someone, you would make an effort in person or through genuine phone calls. Liking someone’s post and favoriting a tweet doesn’t count as staying in touch. So let’s try having real quality time with someone and not be concerned about capturing the moment forever because let’s be honest, you don’t need a picture of the pumpkin patch every year you go.

I say this to all of you as a user of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat who is also affected by social approval just like O’Neill was. However, I realize that the photo and the person are different behind the Instagram filter. I hope our society starts to realize there are more important things in life than who’s doing what on social media.

I find it highly unlikely that Instagram will die out anytime soon, but think of a life with social media that didn’t go by numbers and ruin people’s self-esteem. O’Neill had similar thoughts, and because there is no site like this yet, she created a personal website Letsbegamechangers.com. She has blogs and videos about the reality behind her pictures and the truth behind how Instagram users are paid along with focusing on environmental issues, gender equality and inspirational Ted Talks of whom she considers game changers.

I leave you with another of O’Neill’s improved Instagram captions: “Happiness based on aesthetics will suffocate your potential here on earth.” Now go out and live your life authentically, instead of hashtagging it.

 

Stricter Gun Regulation Required in Light of Recent School Shootings

This article was originally published in Issue 4, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (October 22, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.

Terrorism. Mass shooting. Which sounds more threatening? Terrorism, of course. However, mass shootings claim the lives of thousands more Americans each year. They are a larger threat and little is being done to prevent them.

In response to the Roseburg, Ore. shooting at Umpqua Community College, President Obama challenged journalists to find out the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence versus terrorist attacks over the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 153,144 people were killed by homicide using firearms (excluding deaths by “legal intervention”) between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available. According to the Global Terrorism Database, an estimated 3,046 people died in terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014, but a majority of the deaths are from 9/11 attacks.

That’s an average of 11,780 homicide gun deaths and 219 terrorist deaths a year. Considering those numbers, think about what Obama said: “We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”

Americans expect high government response to and protection from terrorism, but even with the devastating Oregon shooting leaving nine dead, there were many protesters when Obama visited the victim’s families. The father of one girl, who was shot in the back and survived by playing dead, accused Obama of politicizing the tragedy and said he declined an offer to meet with the president. His daughter almost died by gunfire and he does not want gun control laws. Echoing Obama, how can that
be?

Chart courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Chart courtesy of Wikimedia Commons with data taken from http://www.gunpolicy.org.

A week after the Oregon shooting when Obama was visiting the families, there were two more shootings at American colleges. There was one dead and three wounded at Northern Arizona University and one dead at Texas Southern University. This has become a routine that America is numb to. There were three college shootings in October. Somehow mass shootings have become a norm, and America needs to realize they can be stopped.

Obama pointed out the government responds to weather disasters by improving community safety and highway deaths by fixing roads and enforcing seatbelt laws. Pew Research Center surveys reveal that most Americans support background checks, bans on assault-style weapons, bans on high-capacity ammunition clips, bans on online sales of ammunition and a federal database to track gun sales. Why is nothing being done on gun control?

According to UN data compiled by “The Guardian,” America has nearly six times the number of gun homicides as Canada, more than seven times more than Sweden and nearly 16 times more than Germany. When considering developed countries, America has the most gun violence in the world. A large reason for this is that America holds roughly 42 percent of the world’s privately owned firearms.

Other developed countries have seen huge successes by passing gun control laws. In 1996, after a man in Australia opened fire into a crowd killing 35 people and injuring 23, the country passed legislation that included banning certain types of firearms, such as automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. The government confiscated 650,000 of these guns through a gun buyback program where they purchased firearms from gun owners. They also established a registry of all guns owned in Australia and required a permit for all new gun purchases. Seven years after the legislation passed, Australia’s homicide gun rate dropped by about 42 percent and the suicide gun rate fell by 57 percent. Ultimately, fewer guns mean fewer deaths.

Obama repeatedly suggests that Congress is a major issue and urges voters to consider their views on guns when voting: “If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”