What You Need to Know About President Trump’s (Proposed) Education Budget

President Donald Trump’s pick for the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, just recently hit the 100th day milestone of her tenure in that position. Just like almost everything else in the Trump administration, her appointment, her words, and her actions have been controversial. Just last week, President Trump’s first full education budget was revealed, and it displayed both Trump and Devos’ desire to shrink the federal role in education and expand charter schools. For future teachers, for current families and children, and for you, the general population, a human being with a beating heart, this new budget should worry you.

President Trump’s Education Budget proposes cutting $10.6 billion in federal programs.

Under this proposal, 22 federal education programs would be eliminated. $1.2 billion for after school programs serving 1.6 million children would be eliminated. Let’s just take a second to fully understand the impact of after-school programs. Numerous studies and decades of research have showed that participation in after-school programs positively impact academic achievement, social and emotional development, prevention of risky behaviors, and health and wellness. Don’t believe me? Search this topic on any reputable academic journal and you will find the same answer. (And I made it a little easier for you: here is a link to the Harvard Family Research Project’s study on this topic). Additionally, after-school programs allow parents to work longer, or work in general, knowing that their children are safe and in a secure environment. After-school programs provide safe spaces for children residing in dangerous neighborhoods. In short, after-school programs offer a plethora of wide-ranging benefits for students, for families, and for society.

Perkins loans benefiting disabled students would be cut by $700 million. Teacher training will be cut by $2.1 billion. Additionally, according to budget documents obtained by the Washington Post, the Trump administration proposes to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which more than 400,000 students count on in being able to gain an education. Signed into law in 2007 by George W. Bush as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, this program offers those whose jobs benefit society (government and non-profit employees) the chance to have their student loans forgiven after ten years of on-time, income-based payments. Furthermore, the proposed budget shows cuts to federal work-study funds that help students work their way through college by $487 million.  The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which is a grant for undergraduate students with exceptional final need, would also be eliminated. Programs such as TRIO and Gear Up, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college, would also see nearly $200 million in cuts. For college students with children, this proposed budget eliminates all funding for Child Care Access Means Parents in School, which is a program that subsidizes campus-based day care for low-income parents earning a degree, and is often the only reason young parents can still be able to gain a higher education.

Increasing access to post-secondary education for everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, external situations, financial capabilities, or disabilities, should be a priority.  It is irrefutable that higher education leads to better health outcomes, higher earning potential, and lower unemployment rates. Not only does higher education benefit the individual, but it also benefits the broader society in general. Why would anyone want to take that away? The Milken Institute released a study that shows that higher education leads to a better regional economy. The report associates education with increases in real gross domestic product per capita and real wages, “linking the addition of one year in a worker’s average years of schooling to a 10.5-percent rise in a region’s real GDP per capita and a 8.4-percent rise in the region’s real wages. The regional jumps in GDP and wages grow even larger—to 17.4 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively—when applied to workers who already hold at least a high-school diploma” (A Master of Degrees: The Effect of Educational Attainment on Regional Economic Prosperity, 2013). With cuts to programs that help students both have access to school as well as stay in school, not only will the student suffer, but the nation itself will suffer.

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This proposed budget helps charters and religious schools, the direction that DeVos and Trump want America’s education future to be headed. The budget proposes taking $1 billion out of the federal government’s Title I funds, which allocates money for states to support education poor children, to instead pay for a new grant program that will give states incentives to fund privately-operated charters and religious schools.  $500 million will be provided for charter schools, which is over $50% of the current funding for charters, and $250 million will be proposed for grants that would pay for “pay for expanding and studying the impacts of vouchers for private and religious schools”.

This proposed budget for the future of our nation’s students and overall education is worrisome. The majority of the nation’s college students rely on grants, repayment programs, work-study, and loans to pave their way through college. And it’s not just paying for college that this administration’s proposed budget negatively affects, but also just gaining access to college. With severe cuts to teacher training, to after-school programs, and to public education, children will be negatively impacted. Education is the most powerful investment in our future, and today’s children are tomorrow’s future, so let us allocate our resources where they really matter.

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Unpopular Opinion: 13 Reasons Why (I’m Not a Fan)

*SPOILER ALERT*

 

Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Whya 2007 young adult novel that many of us read in middle school or high school, recently became a Netflix-adapted mini-series. Released as 13 episodes thus far, this series focuses on the death of Hanah Baker, and more specifically, on the events and the people that led to her suicide. 13 Reasons Why has already become the most tweeted-about show in its first week of airing, with more than 3.5 million tweets about the series. It has very quickly become Netflix’s most popular series. However, for me, while I completely understand that this show is made for entertainment, and I do applaud how the producers have highlighted many issues that kids, teenagers, and young adults deal with daily, I do have problems with the implications of both the plot and the actual adaptation of the show. Suicide is a very difficult topic to tackle without being reductive, but in my honest opinion, the Netflix adaptation of the topic absolutely did reduce what I believe was the original takeaway of Asher’s novel. With such a wide platform and an incredible amount of resources, Netflix fell short with how they presented this series.

Now, if you like me have both read the book and watched the show, you probably noted a lot of changes between the two. That is, as always, expected when books are adapted into movies or shows. However, when you read the book, and this holds true for any book, you have your own imagery and your own thoughts that, for the most part, stay in your head. Now, when a book is adapted for the purpose of reaching millions of viewers, something changes. You are now forced to watch the story unfold from a specific viewpoint that was created with a specific purpose and message in mind. And of course, you can disagree with what you see on the screen, and still have your own opinion about it, but you inherently allow the new perspective to enter your brain.

The immediate difference between the show and the book, and the one that I think caused me to think that 13 Reasons Why allows people to romanticize mental health and suicide is the time span of the story. In the novel, the entire story takes place basically in one night. Clay receives the tapes and immediately listens to all 13 sides. However, the show spans the story line over weeks, with each side getting its own hour-long episode. This gives the viewer two options: binge-watch all 13 episodes or take the time to get through the show, just as Clay does with the tapes. By allowing for the change in the time span of the story, viewers see Hannah just as much as they see Clay: they get somewhat of a dual narrative, but by doing so, I believe the actual message gets stretched very thin. Now, the viewer focuses on the questions: “Who is most to blame for Hannah’s death” or “Is Hannah telling the truth?” or even “Who wins the lawsuit?” That is not the point. That is so very far from the point. I even found myself wondering about some of those points, even if I already had read the book and had my already-developed opinion of most of the characters. But by creating a long, drawn-out show from Asher’s words, we learn full backstories and personalities of characters that we may have met fleetingly in Asher’s world. Or we think about the characters differently. For instance, in the novel, Jenny Kurtz is the driver who knocks over a stop sign, that causes someone to die. That someone doesn’t really factor in Clay’s life, and thus, in the reader’s life, in the novel. However, on the show, Jenny is Sheri, someone who likes Clay, and the person who dies, Jeff, has a much larger role in the TV show. This makes Clay feel even more like he needs revenge whilst listening to the tapes.

Revenge is not the point. But it becomes the point.

One of the main plots we follow on the show is the one where most of the people on the tapes want to keep Clay from hearing the tapes. We see Justin and his friends trying to bully Clay from talking about it. We see Jessica worrying about if Clay will release the tapes. And we see Clay recording Bryce’s confession, creating an entirely new tape, leaving an opening for another season. And as I have been following the tweets for this show, I can completely see that revenge has become the point for many of the viewers. There are hundreds of tweets expressing how “Jeff Atkins deserved better”, or even less of a point how “hot” Bryce or Jeff is or that viewers wish they had “someone as in love with them as Clay was with Hannah in their lives”. That is not the point. The point is to focus on suicide, on depression, and on mental health. It’s to talk about it and recognize that it is a problem. While this show has definitely spurred the conversation in this direction, how long will we really talk about? Let’s be honest. When we finish the show, will we tweet “I have such a new perspective on this topic. Let me learn more. Let me do something” or will we tweet “Can’t wait for season 2!!!!!!!”

Essentially, my point is that this adaptation of a book that struck me with its point-blank truthfulness failed to capture the truth of suicide on the main screen. Not once was depression even discussed, other that perhaps for all of five seconds in the scene where parents were taught about warning signs of suicide. Changing the way Hannah committed suicide and actually depicting it on screen may have occurred with the purpose of saying “Look at how brutal this is. There is nothing romantic about this. Do you want your mom to have to go through that?” and it is indeed very difficult to watch, but there had to be a better way to be “look-at-me” while still doing something for youth suicide prevention. For teens and even young viewers binge-watching this show, the graphic depiction of the suicide, followed by the continuation of the prior idea of revenge as Clay hands off the tapes to Mr. Porter, the wrong message can be presented. The message becomes: “Look at what everyone else made Hannah do. Look at how many people are to blame for her death”.

That logic is incorrect. None of the people discussed on the tapes forced Hannah to commit suicide. They were definitely a part of why Hannah felt the actions she needed to commit was necessary, but they are not the sole reason. Hannah is the reason Hannah committed suicide. Mental illness is the reason Hannah committed suicide. But mental illness is not discussed. Depression is not discussed. And these things are different for everyone: they look different on everyone. So the point isn’t that Hannah doesn’t seem to fit the traditional mental illness or depression symptoms. Everyone shows their battles in a different way. You cannot look at a person and understand what they are going through. So my problem is absolutely not with how Hannah is depicted. My problem is with how little the producers chose to do with the giant platform they have. The producers knew what audience this show would target. They knew the numbers they would reach, the lives they may have the ability to affect. So why is that they couldn’t put a simple PSA at the end of every episode with resources or information? Why couldn’t they provide links or interviews or any form of awareness and education on the topic of mental health? If their point was to adapt a novel about the reality of suicide, why was it so romanticized?

While I do think this show moves away from actually addressing mental health, depression, and suicide in the way that it should be addressed, I do think it did a terrific job in bringing to light the bullying present in today’s society. I was especially impressed that it did incorporate social media into the plot, which was obviously not prominent in Asher’s novel. Social media is a huge determinant in bullying, in emotional and mental health, and in self-esteem, so I was very glad to see it addressed on such a wide level. It is absolutely pivotal in why so many adolescents battle with depression, with negative self-esteem, with suicidal thoughts, or just a general feeling to be “anywhere but here”. So while the show does provide insight into the cultural world of teens and addresses situations that need to be discussed openly more (such as sexual assault), it trivializes and sensationalizes the main concern, opting to blame only the action’s of others for Hannah’s death, rather than recognizing the complexity of the entirety of one’s mental health.

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Amsterdam: Cycling Capital of the World

Sitting home during Spring Break, scrolling through my Instagram feed, all I saw was sand, sun, and piña coladas. It seemed like every single person I knew was in Cancun. And while yes, I was having massive FOMO, especially when looking outside my window to the massive pile-up of snow, there are so many other places to consider when planning Spring Break. I went to Amsterdam last summer, and it was a city that I immediately fell in love with. Rich with history, delicious food, and beautiful views, it is a great destination for Spring Break or honestly any time of the year when you have a a week to yourself. I especially wanted to highlight the cycling history of this city, so I hope you all learn something new today and add Amsterdam to your travel bucket list.

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When I first stepped into Amsterdam, I was scared for my life. Robbers? Criminals? Poisonous water? No. Not even close. I was terrified because of the bikers. Amsterdam is an extremely bicycling-friendly city, and there are more bikers than drivers, and at that time, it felt like more bikers than pedestrians as well. When crossing the street, I wasn’t worried about cars or buses; I was worried about getting hit by a biker. However, I quickly realized that Amsterdam had set up a great traffic system for bikers, drivers, and pedestrians to get to the same place, and my fears were alleviated.

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So how did Amsterdam become the cycling capital of the world? Well, it began with a need for change. At the start of the 20th century, with a growing economy in the post-war era, more and more people began to buy cars. However, with the growing traffic from the increase of cars in the densely populated neighborhoods of Amsterdam, traffic accidents became rampant. In 1971, more than 3,000 people were killed by cars, with 450 of them being children. These accidents led to protests for change.

Now, today there are about 250 miles of bicycle paths criss-crossing Amsterdam. Here are some more numbers about Amsterdam’s biking use:

Number of bikes 881,000
Number of kilometres cycled by Amsterdammers each day 2 million km
Percentage of Amsterdammers that cycle daily 58% older than 12
Number of pedal boats/canal bikes 120
Total length of cycle paths and bike lanes (Amsterdam Bicycle Network) 767km
Dedicated cycle paths 513km
Two-way cycle paths 275km
One-way cycle paths 236km
Bicycle shops 140
Bicycle parking spots around Amsterdam Central Station 10,000
Secured bicycle parking garages 25 (including 8 free bicycle garages)
Number of bicycle racks 200,000–225,000
Number of bicycle hire businesses 29

Biking is a huge part of life not only for Amsterdam, but for the entirety of the Netherlands itself. Trips from Amsterdam to Delft, Rotterdam, or the Hague can be taken just on two wheels alone. My parents did it when they were my age when they visited the Netherlands and it was really cool for me to bike the same paths my parents did decades ago.

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Overall, this city is extremely unique in the way they have made cars their guests. It is an experience like no other and it is so beautiful to just be able to bike from one end of the city to another, on the side of the beautiful canals, taking in the fresh air. Amsterdam was one of my favorite places I have traveled to and I highly recommend it for you to consider when planning your next trip.

 

Facts Matter. Our Planet Matters.

No matter what side you are on in any debate, on any topic, facts do matter. Whether you are against something or for something or if you have truly no opinion, it is still vital to know why you stand for a particular position. For me, understanding the reality behind climate change is essential, and that is what I want to bring to your attention today.

So what is climate change? As the phrase itself indicates, it is the process of temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and seasons (elements of climate) shifting. Monitoring climate change is important as it shapes natural ecosystems, which in turns, shapes us humans and the way we live. While some changes in the climate are expected, the current problem lies in the rate at which those changes have been progressing. The most important shift we are currently concerned with is the warming of the planet, known as global warming. According to Washington state’s Department of Ecology, “rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth and are causing wide-ranging impacts, including rising sea levels; melting snow and ice; more extreme heat events, fires and drought; and more extreme storms, rainfall and floods”. To better understand the shifts in not just the temperature, but also the climate as a whole, here is a visual indicating climate change trends in the U.S.A.

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On a broader level, here is how global warming is predicted to impact the entirety of the world:

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These trends are projected to not only continue but to also accelerate, and they will pose significant risks to both humans and to our planet. Global warming impacts our health, our agriculture, our freshwater supplies, our coastlines, and natural resources that are vital for the survival of the human race. But we’re not responsible for this, correct? This is an environmental problem, not a us problem, right? Wrong. Absolutely wrong. Humans are very much so responsible for climate change; just take a look at this visual explanation.

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To sum up some facts and numbers, let’s look at data provided by both NASA and the U.N. (this information is readily available on their websites).

  • The current warming rate of the planet is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.
  • Increased levels of greenhouse gases causes the Earth to warm in response.
  • Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Most of the warming of the earth’s surface occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.
  • The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
  • Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland has lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans.
And for you visual learners, here are some data-driven images that I believe hit the nail on the head:
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Let’s be the generation that recognizes climate change as a detrimental issue. It affects us today, it will affect us tomorrow, and it will continue shaping how we live on this planet. We survive as long as Mother Earth survives, so let’s remember that it is our responsibility to take steps to halt global warming.
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New Semester, Same Obsession

Hello fellow Scarlet Knights, welcome to a new semester! And as we all know, new semesters always equate to over-packed, stifling, “sure, please use my head as an elbow rest” Rutgers bus experiences. So while you find yourself packed in between complete strangers or straining to figure out proper footing so as not to fall over when the bus takes a sharp turn, enjoy this little piece of something I hold dearly to my heart (as you hold on dearly to that overhead pole).

You know how most people’s obsessions change constantly? Not mine, nope. I’m just always “Harry Potter”. The first shelf on my desk is ample proof of that.

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Since I first picked up the The Philosopher’s Stone when I was six years olds, to now, at the ripe, old age of 20, I am still constantly in awe at the magic this series has brought to both my life and countless other lives around the world. The books in themselves are just pure magic. When I picked up the first book, I didn’t read it. I inhaled it. And that followed suit for the rest of the series. When the last book came out, (of course I had it pre-ordered), I left the midnight book release party at my local Barnes & Noble, locked myself up in my bedroom and devoured every page until the world as I knew it ended. At least Harry’s world. But that’s where the real magic is, the Harry Potter series never truly ended. Not only does it live on through the movies, through the theme parks, through even everyone’s favorite A Very Potter Musical, but it also lives on through the millions of Potterheads who won’t let the world turn a blind eye to their love and appreciation for the boy who lived and his adventures. Whether that means those individuals selling handmade Harry Potter themed gifts and goods on Etsy, or opening up Harry Potter themed bars and restaurants, or actually starting competitive Quidditch leagues in their colleges, or just simply passing down the books to their children, to their friends, to their siblings, Harry Potter will never be just a passing trend.

Just look at Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Every October, this little town closes down entirely for a weekend and transforms itself into a world straight out of the Harry Potter books. It brings in Potters fans of all ages, providing everything from a Harry Potter pub crawl (that sells out within minutes) to film screenings to sorting hat demonstrations to Butterbeer and Pumpkin Pasties galore and even a Quidditch tournament. I was lucky enough to attend this past year with my friends and it was absolutely whimsical. It was also amazing to see people of literally all ages, from infants with lightning bolt scars drawn in on their foreheads to entire families, grandparents included, with witch hats and robes.

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So why is this series so popular? Why has Harry Potter sold over 450 million books? Why has it inspired two giant theme parks? Why is it that I can get on a train to Williamsburg, New York, and eat at a Harry Potter inspired pasta restaurant? Why is it that my little brother, who would’t even read the back of a granola bar box before I convinced him to read Harry Potter, now is an avid reader? It’s simply because it’s magical. And that word means something different to every reader. To me, growing up, it meant knowing that finding a home in books was not weird or nerdy, thanks to Hermione Granger, the first strong, female literary character I was ever exposed to. It meant valuing friendship and family, and realizing that blood does not restrict who you love. It meant being kind, being accepting, and always doing the right thing, no matter what. And it still means those things to me. I bet it means those things, and much more, to everyone else who has had the pleasure of reading this series. And if you still haven’t read Harry Potter, better late than never, right?

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Happy reading everyone, and happy spring semester!

It’s That Wonderful Time of the Year

Did you think I meant the holidays? Or perhaps winter break? Or maybe you thought I was talking about the last minute Hunger Games-style sport of finding parking at the mall? Unfortunately, before you make it to any of those, let’s talk about that other time of the year. You know, a little week we like to call FINALS.

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Oh yeah, that wonderful time of the year.

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So with these next two weeks upon us, remember to get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, and break up your work so you’re not trying to tackle everything all at once. I now want to share with you how I tackle finals week, and I promise I do much more than just look up and laugh at memes all day. (Or maybe I shouldn’t make promises I can’t keep?)

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Well first, I try to make sure I do not look like that meme pictured above. And to do that, I like to use Google Calendar to schedule out my exams, projects, and final papers so I can see when everything is due in a timely fashion. By having that calendar prepared, I can allocate which days I will study for what, and also block out chunks of a day for studying. So not only do I have a planned out deadline schedule, but I also make myself break down when and what I will be studying.

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The next thing I do is pick my study environment. This is a personal preference; everyone has their own environment that they perform their best in. For me, I work best in places that are not completely silent, however, I do not work well with people loudly chattering around me. That is why I prefer not to go to the popular libraries on campus (such as Alex) to study as you never know what group will be situated at the table right next to you. Rather, I go to to designated “quiet space” areas such as the computer labs or go to lesser-known libraries, such as Sage Library.

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The final method I have for tackling finals week is coffee. Plenty and plenty of coffee. Of course, I’m not saying you have to be a coffee-drinker to get through finals; that is entirely not true. Rather, find what energizes you and use it – whether it is listening to music while studying or rewarding yourself with a quick Facebook food recipe video after finishing a chapter. Don’t let finals make you think you have to give up the little pleasures in life; you just have to do everything in moderation. For many, getting up during a cram session to wait in line and buy coffee is a hassle – for me, it is an efficient study break. You have to get up and stretch your legs every once in a while and sometimes you have to take a break just for the sake of getting fresh air and a view that is not your textbook; so use that break to get food, to fill up your water bottle, or to send a “Kill Me” bitmoji to your group chat.

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So with that, I leave you to be the awesome, motivated, bright minds you are that will do awesome on their finals. You made it this far, what’s two more weeks?

 

Good luck and happy holidays everyone!

Topic to Think About: “Race is a Social Construct”

One of my favorite aspects of my major is the array of classes I get to take, and hence, the diversity of the topics. I am a public health major, and while my career goal is to work in Health Administration, which is also offered as a major here at Rutgers, I chose to stick with Public Health because of the broader scope of classes it offered. So not only do I get to take classes about disease rates and prevalence, and how health differs globally, but I also get to take classes such as Health Disparities, which shows how health outcomes vary incredibly with factors such as gender, education, and race. Interestingly, when my class discussed race, my professor showed us a video called Race: The Power of an Illusion (A documentary I highly recommend). Watching that video in class led me to doing some further online exploration of my own, and I thought it would be interesting to share with you the viewpoint that race is nothing but a social construct.

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While many hold the belief that race is a genetic/biological distinction, science actually proves the opposite. The Human Genome Project (HGP) conducted from 1990-2003 actually shows that there is more genetic/biological diversity within those of a certain racial group than between varying racial groups. Additionally, the American Anthropological Association on Race released the following statement on May 17, 1998:

“In the United States, both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic “racial” groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within “racial” groups than between them. In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical) expressions. Throughout history, whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species”.

From this perspective, race is race because we say it is; more so, because we use phenotypical differences as our basis for categorizing groups. But if you do not agree with this statement, try this quiz and see how well you can predict someone’s race just by looking at him/her. The answers might surprise you.

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So, if race is just a social construct, why do we have whole classes dedicated to studying its effects? Well, the answer is in the question itself. Since race has been a method of differentiation for centuries, this division between people actually results in differences in outcomes for a variety of factors. Race may be a social construct, but its implications and effects over years and years have allowed for a noticeable difference in groups such as the following:

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So, now that we know that genotype does not equal phenotype, how will that shape our words and beliefs going forward?

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National Geographic: The Changing Face of America

 

Healthy Mind, Healthy Life

October is coming to an end, and for most of you, that means looking forward to Halloween, to Thanksgiving break, and to giving up the last five-dollar bill in your wallet to a pumpkin spice latte. But for me, the end of October signifies deadlines, interviews, midterms upon midterms and general anxiety. Oh, and iced coffee. Lots and lots of iced coffee. (Surprisingly, I am not a believer of pumpkin spice).

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With “Halloweekend” around the corner, everyone is shopping for witch hats and gorilla masks, but if I want a scare, all I have to do is open my Google Calendar. While I would love to just relax, grab a bowl of popcorn and watch Halloweentown for the umpteenth time, I am instead knee-deep in textbooks and study guides, trying to juggle finishing homework while practicing interview skills, all while working part-time, conducting research, and taking a 20 credit course-load. And personally, no matter how many tasks I check off in my planner or how many events on my Google Calendar are marked as completed, I seem to have somehow created a black hole of never-ending assignments and obligations.

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Just like me, so many of you find yourselves balancing a hectic schedule almost every day of your week, and when midterms roll around, it seems almost impossible to get everything done. And that’s when the danger begins: lack of sleep, caffeine pills, trying to find shortcuts, and lying in a pool of your own anxieties and worries. So now, more than ever, it is vital to stress the importance of mental health.

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This bar graph (pictured above), pulled from College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health, a study conducted by Dana Crudo through the National Alliance on Mental Health shows the percentage of students/recent graduates who have suffered from some sort of mental illness while in school. The following statistic (pictured below) from USA TODAY illustrates a staggering percentage of college students who have felt common indicators of depression.

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Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on college campuses further shows that:

  • 25% of students have a diagnosable illness
  • 40% do not seek help
  • 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 50% have been so anxious they struggled in school

But this post isn’t about numbers or statistics; it is about learning of and using the endless resources available to you. Even if you do not suffer from depression or any other mental illness, but simply just feel overwhelmed, whether it be today, next week, or for a month sometime in the future, it is good to know what’s out there for you.

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From personal experience,  when I am completely overwhelmed, I do the absolute opposite of what I should be doing. Rather than starting at the same paragraph of a textbook for the 30th time, I get up, put a bookmark my spot in my textbook, and go put on an episode of Friends, play a quick game on my phone, or go bother my little brother. Sometimes, it’s best to get a little distracted and let yourself breathe for a few minutes. One time, I had the worst writer’s block. I was in my dorm, all my friends were gone for the weekend, and essentially, I had nothing distracting me nor were there any other assignments getting in the way of writing my paper – I just couldn’t do it. So, I cried. Then, after realizing my tears were not magical water droplets that would write a 10 page research paper for me, I left my dorm and walked to Starbucks. While coffee didn’t write my paper for me either, just that 45 minute change in my environment allowed me to focus and restrategize when I got back. And sometimes, looking at your work from a different perspective is exactly what you need.

Another resource I highly recommend is the Quiet Place Project; it sounds like exactly what it is. Here’s the link: http://thequietplaceproject.com/thequietplace

It’s also useful to know what resources are available on campus for you. Many of you might not feel comfortable sharing your worries with your friends or families, and in that case, just know that there are plenty of confidential services offered right outside your dorm or just a bus ride away.

  • CAPS (Rutgers’s Counseling, ADAP and Psychiatric Services) offers a free online screening for Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorder, Eating Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for students. It is completely anonymous.
  • CAPS offers a variety of information on topics from ADHD to relaxation exercises that can be accessed here. But if you wish to make an appointment or just speak to a staff member, they can be reached at 848-932-7884.
  • Scarlet Listeners is an excellent free & confidential student-run referral hotline for both the Rutgers community, and surrounding New Brunswick community as well. If you need to rant or listen to some words of encouragement or just need to get something off your mind, call them at 732-247-5555.
  • 24-hour emergency hotline (available after 5:00 pm and on weekends) at 732-235-5700

And some other useful websites and phone numbers, just so you know everything that is available to you are as follows:

Remember, there is nothing you have to face alone. You have an endless support system of friends, family members, and even your dog. And when none of those seem available to you, do not be afraid to reach out to any of the resources listed above. You do not have to compromise your sleep or your health for your schoolwork; and you absolutely shouldn’t. You are a trooper, you can do this, and when in doubt, reference Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation.

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No Prague-blems here!

Welcome back Rutgers! If you couldn’t tell by my attempt at a clever title, this week I’m going to be sharing with you highlights of my summer trip to Prague. For those of you who have never heard of Prague, let me introduce you to this gem of a city with a quick history lesson. Prague is the capital and the largest city in the Czech Republic, which once used to be a part of Czechoslovakia. A communist-ruled state in 1948 until 1989, Czechoslovakia split into what is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Currently, Prague is home to over 1.2 million people and hosts about 6 million tourists every year. I am so grateful to have been one of those 6 million this summer.

Prague is a beautiful, beautiful city. It is split into different areas, such as “Lesser Town”, “Prague Castle”, and “Old Town”, each with its own individual histories and marvels. My favorite part of Prague was definitely Old Town, which is home to many beautiful, rich-in-history buildings, most dating back to the 13th century. One attraction that this area is best known for is the Astronomical Clock. First installed in 1410, it is the oldest astronomical clock still operating today.  Every hour, the clock draws hundreds of tourists and locals alike as they all gather around to watch the changing of the hands to a new hour. I was actually able to climb to the top of the Clock Tower, and along the way, I received a little history lesson in what the four figures on the clock represent. From left to right in the following picture I took of the clock, the first figure is Vanity, the second figure represents Greed, the skeleton represents Death, and the final figure represents Lust and earthly pleasures. These representations were chosen based on the ideas that were despised most in the 13th century. On the hour, every hour, the skeleton rings the bell, and all of the other figures shake their heads, signifying that they are not yet ready to go.

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Another beauty of Old Town is the Charles Bridge. This bridge connects Old Town with the Prague Castle area and is over 2,000 feet long. Dispersed on both sides of the Charles Bridge are 30 baroque-style statues of various saints and patron saints. All along the bridge are vendors and street artists and performers that make the long walk entertaining…and expensive for your wallet! But my favorite part about the bridge was definitely the view of the city and the water. Hopefully, you can see what I’m talking about through this photo!

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And last but not least, the Prague Castle. Considered to be the largest ancient castle in the world, the entire Prague Castle complex is a sight for sore eyes. Consisting of multiple cathedrals, basilicas, quarters, and gardens, this castle compound took me quite a few hours to explore. The best part about the Prague Castle was the view. As it is situated pretty high up, you get to look down on the whole city from the castle gardens. And let me tell you, that view left me absolutely breathless.

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And with that, fellow Scarlet Knights, I now have to force myself to stop thinking of this beautiful city and start thinking about my 9 am Statistics class tomorrow morning. Have a great rest of the week and I can’t wait to share the rest of my summer travels with you guys!

 

 

Gov Ball 2016

With 90 degree weather and sunshine, summer is synonymous with music festivals. And last weekend, I went to my first one. Located on Randall’s Island in New York, The Governors Ball Music Festival, often referred to as Gov Ball, a multi-day festival filled with phenomenal musical guests, scrumptious food, and countless activities continued to prove itself as one of the East Coast’s best events. Since the first-ever Gov Ball in 2011 which featured a one-day lineup with only 13 musical guests, to now, in 2016, a three-day lineup with more musical acts and varieties in genres than countable, Gov Ball continues to suppress the expectations of the crowd. Just look for yourself at how much this festival has grown!

I attended on Saturday, which turned out to be a great decision, because on Sunday, dangerous weather conditions and heavy thunderstorms cancelled the entire day. Although even on Saturday,  I stood, danced, and sang through what felt like heavy rocks in liquid form pounding down on my head for hours, I found that it was absolutely worth it. Gov Ball basically turned into “Mud Ball” in the final hours, but there is nothing  like hearing your favorite band live while being 50 feet away from them, no matter the fact that you are absolutely drenched and on the verge of catching pneumonia.

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Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers mesmerizing the crowd with his talent.

Besides The Killers, I got to see quite a few singers that I love throughout the day, and it was such a unique experience. With just one ticket, I got to listen to a plethora of musicians, from different genres. I think that’s what makes this experience so unique–it does not cater to just one type of musical taste or one type of person. There is someone here for everyone, and even if there isn’t, I guarantee you will hear a band or vocalist you have never heard of before and instantly fall in love with their music.

Besides the music, there is so much to do. From photo booths to mini-golf to attending artist’s autograph sessions, there is not a single second you will be bored. And my personal favorite thing to do? EAT! There were dozens of food trucks catering everything from burgers to vegan ice cream to drinks in actual coconuts.

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Believe it or not, this is just a tiny portion of the park!

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With that, I hope you attend a music festival this summer or add going to one to your bucket list! I had such a fun time, as did, I’m sure, the thousands of others that attended!