Author: Joey Wilkerson

Campus Activism – Demonstration and Action

It is time to talk about campus activism. On November the 25th, the announcement was made that Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, would not be indicted. College students across the country spared no time in displaying their vexation as there have been no shortage of protests, sit-ins and walkouts. Students have taken to the quad with their hands up and have gathered inside and in front of administration buildings. Others have stiffly laid down on the ground of student activity centers while student leaders have taken to any available podium to deliver fiery soliloquies on the value of black lives. It appears the spirit of activism is alive on the college campus once again.

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While this generation has the Ferguson Decision to rally around, campus activism is nothing new. The 1960’s saw numerous protests in opposition to the Vietnam War while the late 2000’s saw student disapproval to the War in Iraq. While campus activism doesn’t necessarily have to be focused on worldwide or national issues (tuition increases always seem to spark at least a petition), this writer distinctly remembers the activities that took place on his campus in regards to Hurricane Katrina.

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In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina literally tore apart New Orleans. The issue that led Kanye West to declare that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” however, was the government’s lackluster response to the tragedy. As the Interfraternity Council president, I was part of a collation designed to provide aid to evacuees. These efforts started out wonderfully with a front page article in the September 13th, 2005 edition of the campus newspaper. 14 days later, the efforts all but stopped as the headline “Student Participation in Relief Efforts For Katrina Victims, Lower Than Group Expected” replaced the words of activism and calls to action that graced the cover just two weeks earlier. While attending rallies and providing sound bites were easy enough, campus interest began wane once the time for action came. By October there more effort was given to selecting Halloween costumes than participating in food drives.

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In no way is this article suggesting that demonstrations are frivolous. On the contrary, demonstrations are an extremely important tool in the process of “change”, as they are key for bringing attention to a situation. A student may not be aware of the fact that tuition is increasing until he passes by a group of protestors on the way to the student activity center and reads their signs or their leaflets. With social media being so engrained in our lives, many students become aware of issues online. However, while Twitter may be the new CNN, students must not let college activism die after 140 characters.

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While demonstration is important, it is only the first step. The real change comes once the TV and newspaper cameras have been shut off. If demonstration is where change begins, then action is where change happens. Now that you have the masses behind your cause, what action will you take to make real change? In the current Ferguson issue, there is a plethora of action that one can initiate. Perhaps action is working with local law enforcement to host a campus workshop where students can learn their rights and proper procedure when interacting with officers. Maybe action is you and your brothers or sisters volunteering as a peer mentors for younger students on the high school and middle school level. Then again, action could take the form of you and your dorm mates creating or participating in existing after-school activities to provide a safe environment for younger students to seek refuge in. Or perhaps action looks like something completely different than all of this. The point is, while demonstration serves as a great reactionary response, it is action that will continue to spread the message past the first 14 days and will ultimately lead to the change which one seeks.

 

College Friends in the Post College World

Attend any high school graduation ceremony across the country and you’re likely to observe the same scene; girls in tight embrace, the football team coming together for one last huddle, scores of students weeping. Instead of a scene of jubilation, many of these rituals resemble a wake as people realize that this is the death of many of their friendships. There may be a few best friends that attend the same university or a handful of delusional couples that swear their high school relationships can survive a freshman year of new guys and winking sorority girls, but most accept the reality that they will grow up and thus, grow apart.

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Though we may have a better hold on our emotions in our early twenties, the scenario remains the same. Post collegiate commencement, we will continue to grow. While the leap from high school to college mainly meant being in new surroundings, the growth that transpires after college graduation takes us somewhere much larger; the real world. Once in that real world, we migrate to many different places.

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Take for example, the case of my undergrad best friend and myself. Once outside the halls of higher education, we grew in two opposite directions. While I got married to a southern belle, sired a future sorority president and eased into domestic life at 31, she maintained the single persona, moving out of our home city and remaining a mainstay at happy hours and ladies nights any day of the week. Both lifestyles are suitable for each of us as there is no handbook on how a thirty year old is supposed to act, however the stumbling block appears when we talk on the phone. While I’m not really interested in “Oh my God, two of my exes were in the same bar at the same time last night and last night was Monday”, I’m sure she is less than excited by “I’m up to my arms in baby poop and statistics homework.” Things become even more convoluted when we are in person, as the idea of a fun night for one of us is to storm the college bar for $5 pitchers and cheese fries while the other would rather be tucked away in an art gallery for a local artist’s opening. I’ll allow you to guess who prefers what.

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The moral of the story is that while you and you’re college roomie may be as thick as thieves in the current, post college growth finds us all. In our institutional lives, personalities may be the bookends of the spectrum, but the bond is the school you call home. In the post graduate world, that bond disappears and the life blood of a friendship depends on common interest. Although there is not much one can do to stop the growth process, it is manageable. Just as there were different tables in the high school cafeteria (the jocks, the preppies, the theatre folk) so too are there tables in the post graduate world. Today when I wish to lament about my daughter’s struggle to sleep through the night, I look to my friends sitting at the “We Have Kids Your Kid’s Age, We Feel You Bro” table. When looking for companionship at football tailgate, I drift to the “No Kids, Just Career” table. Lastly, when I’m in a mood that makes me reminiscent of my days as an undergraduate, fraternity scoundrel, I dip to the “It’s Still 2003, Let’s Get Crunk” table, where I find my undergraduate best friend, with smile on her face and beer in her hand. You see reader, the trick to growing up isn’t how to keep from losing friends, it’s how to craft a three dimensional life where everything has its own, awesome place.

Fall Fashion For Fellas – The Tweed Blazer

fashion1.tifThere was always something about your British Literature professor that you found… debonair. The female students in class would swoon about his accent as he was a true Brit. While other professor’s offices were drab and devoid of personality, his featured personal artifacts from his many travels and had the scent of leather bound books and whiskey. The thing that particularly caught your attention was the odd looking blazer he’d wear as he taught about Kipling and Austen. It’s not that you were new to jackets; you certainly got good use of the navy blazer your dad bought you for the end of the year team dinner, as well as the seersucker you wore to Oaks. This jacket however, was something more; informal yet sophisticated. You discovered this soft, brown, herringbone patterned coat was a material called tweed. On some days your professor would dress it up by pairing it with slacks and a knit tie. Other days, he’d exploit the jacket’s relaxed side with jeans, an oxford and a sharp pair of brogues. Once you got your own, you’d follow some of your professor’s worldly cues but would also add a touch of youth to your ensembles. You received several looks when you donned it with your lacrosse hoodie. The girls on Greek row whispered and smiled in your direction the day you wore it over a striped rugby. You got labeled “philosophical” when you added a crew neck (with an oxford collar peeking out the top) and pocket square to the mix. Now, as you sit on the steps of the library with a book of poetry under your arm you have no intention of reading, you’re considering taking up a tobacco pipe.

Offensive Halloween Costumes, the Dos and Do Nots

Let’s talk about what may qualify as an offensive Halloween costume. I will tell you a personal experience to give you an idea what might be considered taking it too far.

In fall of 2010, I was firmly sitting atop of the world. I had pledged one of the best houses on campus, my female peers were staring to notice me, and like every other freshman on campus that October, I was eagerly anticipating my first college Halloween party. When we got to the affair, the drinks were flowing and the music was pumping as sexy nurses mingled with vampires. Of all of the costumes we saw that night, a handful of them stood out. There was one guy dressed as pimp and another dressed in orange prison attire as a convict. These costumes would be commonplace for a Halloween party with the exception of one little detail; the guys in the costumes painted their faces black. Two weeks, one very uncomfortable campus rally attended by seemingly every black student on campus and tons of bad press later, my fraternity found itself on a seven month suspension.

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Anytime a party calls for a costume, there is always a possibility that someone is going to do something offensive. While culturally insensitive costumes aren’t exactly a new concept, it is kind of baffling why in 2014, given all of the very public and very embarrassing incidents we have seen, students continue to offend. Yet, whether it’s the 2012 Mexican Party hosted by the Penn State Chi Os, the self-titled “Racist Rager” put on by Duke’s Kappa Sigma chapter in 2013 or the CMT vs. BET soiree presented by the Phi Deltas and Phi Sigs earlier this year at McDaniel College, it would seem that cultural insensitivity is alive and well. Perhaps I give people too much credit.offensive Halloween costume - 2

Trying to get to the root of these issues is difficult as there are many “excuses” and “explanations” given. There is the tried and true “I wasn’t trying to be offensive”, which in a lot of cases, I tend to believe. Call me naive, but I like to think my fellow man wouldn’t intentionally participate in harmful behavior. The problem with this excuse however, is that it is usually given in order to absolve one of any responsibility for their actions. However regardless of intention, the damage is still done.

offensive Halloween costume - 3There is also the “I did it to give my costume a sense of realism”. I’m almost sure that is what Dancing With The Stars’ Julianne Hough was shooting for when she donned black face to go along with the orange jumpsuit and bantu knots of her Crazy Eyes costume (from Orange is the New Black). This “attention to detail” is usually not warranted.

And let us not forget the “Come on dude, I’m just trying to joke around” crowd. You know them; they were the once who painted bullet wounds on their hoodies last year while holding a can of Arizona Ice Tea and a pack of Skittles. And thank goodness that we had these merry jokesters to help bring humor to the slaying of Trayvon Martin; I don’t know how I would have otherwise coped.

Halloween does not have to be a time of ignorance, hurt feelings and university sanctions. With the smallest bit of commonsense, a lot of these mishaps can be avoided. Because I know how much this blog just loves a good list, I present: The Number One Tip For Not Offending People This Halloween.

offensive Halloween costume -41. If your costume portrays a racial, ethnic, religious, LGBT or cultural stereotype, DO NOT WEAR IT. You will regret being the one who showed up in an offensive Halloween costume!

Have a happy Halloween y’all.

Classic College Cinema

With “sweater weather” on the horizon nothing is better (and cheaper) than skipping the movie theatre, inviting the significant other over to the dorm (within visitation hours of course), slightly burning a bag of popcorn and watching a movie. Whether you still stack DVDs to the ceiling or you are a total Netflicker, there are some classic films about “the four best years of your life” that every undergrad should go out of their way to watch. Here are a few of my “oldies but goodies.”

Animal House

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If you’re in a fraternity, then this is your Godfather. Though this is a film set in the 1960’s, many of the movie’s events are time honored college traditions; from the toga party to the random road trip. Fun fact; during filming, the actors portraying the Delta fraternity were encouraged to have rambunctious parities (resulting in a piano being stolen from the hotel lobby) to promote cast bonding. The Delta actors also harassed the actors portraying the Omega fraternity in order to fuel their onscreen rivalry.

 Best time to view: The beginning of pledge semester.


Roadtrip

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A cheating boyfriend on the east coast accidentally mails a videotape of his sexcapades to his girlfriend on the west coast. What is the logical next course of action? If you said getting your buddies together to go on a cross country excursion to intercept said tape while making a bunch of hilarious stops along the way, then this is the movie for you. When I came to college, this was one of the only DVDs I owned. Needless to say, it was viewed at great frequency. This movie is also proof that, at one time, Tom Green was actually funny.

Best time to view: Right before your weekend road trip to the party school one state over.


PCU

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This one is a little more obscure than the others on this list but it is an absolute cult classic. For many students, college is a time to take up a cause to be passionate and active about. PCU (Politically Correct University) humorously riffs on what happens when people take these causes a little too far.

Best time to view: Right before the silent, candlelight protest over the rising prices of chicken nuggets in the student union.


Revenge of the Nerds

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A quintessential 80’s movie, Revenge of the Nerds is a cautionary tale of what happens when you push people who are smarter than you too far. This film is pure fun as the war between jocks and nerds (before being a nerd was cool) spawns prank after hilarious prank.

Fun fact: Curtis Armstrong is the actor that provides to voice for the character “Snot” on the show American Dad. Snot is based upon a character from Revenge of the Nerds named “Booger”, also played by Armstrong.

Best time to view: After going pocket protector shopping.


Legally Blonde

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For the life of me, I can not remember which girlfriend talked me into seeing this; however I’m glad she did as this is easily the most inspirational film on the list. Underestimated by her jerk boyfriend, sorority president Elle, decides to one up him at his own game by gaining admittance in Harvard Law school. Despite starring the gorgeous Reese Wetherspoon and being hilarious, Legally Blonde carries the message that a girl can be beautiful, sociable and smart; excelling in one of the hardest collegiate program while being a master of the good old bend and snap.

Best time to view: When someone is telling you that “you can’t.