Urban Outlet in Full Swing: A Look at Their First Anniversary Showcase

By Maya Douglas

Hood College talent collective Urban Outlet is gearing up for their third showcase on Nov. 11.

Since its creation last semester, president of the club Christiana Morris, senior, has dedicated her time and energy to fostering a club that “embraces a wide variety of talents.”

The showcase has featured rappers, singers, poetry and audience engaged freestyle competitions. Attendees can look forward to comedy and a new competition called “Minute to Win It,” where participants compete in timed challenges, to be added to the line-up of this semester’s show.

“We’re really all about having fun, not just having talent,” said Morris. “We want to increase crowd participation to show we’re really appreciative of them.”

Another major addition to the Urban Outlet Is the Underground Dance Team, led by Kayla Coleman. According to Morris, a step team is also likely to be added to the collective.

“The audience can expect a lot of truth in this next show,” said Morris. Their show theme is “Alienation” and will feature pieces related to self-discovery and acceptance.

With the Urban Outlet, Morris hopes to spread a theme of community on campus. The club threw a “kickback” in Whitaker Commons called Freestyle Friday earlier this semester and attributed their success to the laid-back approach in its event marketing.

One of the most rewarding parts of the Urban Outlet is “watching people come out of their shell and step up to the plate” said Morris. “I’ve seen a lot of people change for positively since the start [of the club].”

This year’s show marks the anniversary of the first show, which also occurred on November 11 of last year.

Offensive Halloween Costumes: Is Your Costume Safe This Year?

By Kashif Masood

Halloween has arrived. For some college students, this means dressing up in their best costume and going to a costume party. Unfortunately, a few ruin the fun by wearing costumes that reinforce negative stereotypes. On October 29 of last year, the Sigma Tau Gamma national headquarters suspended its University of Central Arkansas chapter and expelled a student after he wore blackface to the fraternity’s Halloween party. Policy 55 prohibits creating “a hostile or offensive environment” in order to curb such behavior. However, in doing so, it also strips students of their free speech.

Think about it: How do you decide what’s offensive? Some of my classmates would point to last year’s Hood College Republican display. To students who want to censor hate speech: Where do you draw the line? Policy 55’s Bullying and Harassment clauses prohibits conduct that creates “a hostile or offensive environment” without using an objective, “reasonable person” standard.

In 2007, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a student was accused of racial harassment after reading a historical book involving the KKK. The picture of the Klansmen and burning crosses on the book’s cover offended some of his coworkers. This shows that an otherwise innocent behavior could be punishable if someone finds an obscure aspect of it offensive.

It’s not only innocent behavior that suffers from politically correct campus speech codes. Civil discourse can also take a blow. In 2015 at Wesleyan University, outraged students began “recycling” their student newspaper. In addition, they wanted it to lose its funding until the demands were met. The newspaper’s crime? Allowing an Army veteran student to publish an opinion article criticizing Black Lives Matter’s approach to activism. Instead of a civil discourse approach, some Wesleyan students censored opinions they didn’t like by destroying newspapers.

The mission of Hood is to provide “an education that empowers students to use their hearts, minds and hands to meet personal, professional and global challenges and to lead purposeful lives of responsibility, leadership, service and civic engagement.” This cannot happen if students constantly fear punishment for expressing an otherwise mainstream view. If students aren’t willing to engage with speech they don’t like, how do you expect them to use their minds to meet challenges?

As a private institution, Hood College is not legally bound by the First Amendment. However, Policy 55 states that “Hood College is committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression.” Hood is morally and contractually obligated to protect free speech.

Diving Down Under

By Nailah Russell

G’Day Hood College

Wow! Six weeks has already gone by and just like that, I’m halfway through my time in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my Hood family dearly, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having an absolutely amazing time.

My internship just keeps getting better and more challenging. Although I come back in the door huffing from a long day, nothing is more rewarding than knowing I was able to get someone the help they need in a dire situation.

Just the other week, I was faced with a pretty daunting test. A woman calling our line for the first time who only spoke Arabic called with an interpreter. Everything was fine until the line dropped our interpreter. In a panic the woman began to say the small amount of words she knew in English and was clearly distressed.

I knew exactly how to fix her problem, which is why my supervisor told me to do my best communicating in English before the company would need to spend money on an interpreter.

After grasping at what I thought would be my last hope by asking if any of the interns spoke Arabic (as we have quite a few who do) and getting no response, I struggled in English until I had to do what I was most afraid of: I was going to have to speak to her in Arabic. The last thing I wanted was for her to think I knew more than I did.

I bit the bullet, told her I only spoke a little bit of Arabic, and much to my surprise was able to communicate my message. I even answered a few more of her questions until the answers she needed became too complicated for my limited Arabic and her limited English. That’s when I forfeited and called the interpreter.

All was well, but I knew that I’d be telling that story to my Arabic-speaking friends when they returned the next week. (I also hope my Arabic-speaking friends at Hood and Dr. Wright are reading this and proud of me!)

After another week at RACS, I packed up and headed to Melbourne for my Spring Break. I gotta tell you guys, this city is off the hook! At first it seems quiet and underwhelming, especially for a lot of us Americans who are used to louder and busier cities. Sydney’s quite busy itself, but the volume is nowhere near that of D.C. or New York, and the city goes to bed eventually.

Wondering around at 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday for food and seeing no one around almost made my friends and I question if we would enjoy our time as much as students that ventured off to Fiji, New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef for their break.

The next day, we just realized that Melbourne still has all of the dynamic atmosphere and convenience of any other city, it’s just missing that dizzying rush everyone is always in in a city like Sydney or New York.

Before booking my trip, I had always heard Australians say Melbourne was the country’s fantastic little city with a European flare. Even though I’ve never been to Europe (hopefully someday though), I can see why.

After visiting the Shrine of Remembrance, a breathtaking World War I/II memorial, my three friends and I wandered the city. We passed the contemporary art museum and the immigrant museum which sits in a part of the city splashed with a row of Spanish flags billowing above the tram stops.

We ate delicious Malaysian food, shopped at a vintage thrift store, and got tidbits on how to reach Melbourne’s secret pubs and venues. We passed through Hosier and Rutledge Lane covered in graffiti and street art, found alleyway cafes and tucked away book stores, and shopping centers that opened into whole new worlds like we had just casually traversed Diagon Alley.

At night, we melted into more graffitied walls on AC/DC Lane to find a little pub with live soul music. Then, we headed over to Brunswick Street where we found heaven in a dimly lit snake path with little coves and live music to dance and sing to.

All of that happened the night before (technically the morning of) Friday the 13th, otherwise known as the day I became a meteor. That’s right folks. Ya girl made the decision to skydive over the Great Ocean Road, a scenic destination with beautiful pillars of rocks jutting out from the water like an audience to my daring and audacious stunt.

I was excited, but not truly nervous. Even as I sat in the lobby with two of my other crazy friends watching tutorials on how to land so as not to “remove” your ankle, I had yet to feel the tremble in my knees or the shake to my insides.

I got in my gear, hopped onto the plane, and with the three of us strapped to our instructors like newborn marsupials, we prepared to jump out over the earth at 12,000 feet. While my friends sang “Breaking Free” from High School Musical, I still felt calm, even as I looked out the window during our ascent.

In a split second, the door was snatched open, my friend Sam shut her eyes and turned away in fear, and she her instructor were gone in an instant.

Then, it happened.

My instructor inched me toward the edge and when I could only see lines of water and the bottom coast of the country, my stomach dropped into my shoes and almost took them directly off my feet.

Before I knew it, I was screaming as I was plummeting towards the earth, trying desperately to remember “legs up and hips forward.” I felt a tap on my shoulder and out went my hands. I was in full free fall, taking in the beautiful sight and hollering as my fight or flight senses tried to tell me I was going to die.

All the while, a go-pro camera lay straight on my face. As I carefully took in gulps of air, I gave some meme-worthy faces to the film. With a snap of the fingers, I was snatched back up for a moment and gazed around in suspension.

My instructor guided my over the stunning scenery and let me steer the parachute for a little until we landed. As Sam put it, I felt like “a million bucks.”

It was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had and 1000% recommend it.

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for this update. Stay tuned for more and good luck with the second half of your semester.

Cheers!

First-Year Read Author Speaks with Blue and Grey on Homegoing

By Laura Spencer

“Confidence is necessary,” shared newly published author and recipient of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” award during her First-Year Read visit at Hood.

Yaa Gyasi published her debut novel Homegoing in June 2016 and the First-Year Read committee selected it as this year’s book in the annual program.

First-Year Read allows incoming freshmen to share a connection through reading one book the summer before they begin their semester. The book is discussed from orientation up until the author visits the campus.

Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are from different villages in Ghana. The story follows seven generations of their descendants, and their emotional experiences of slavery.

Following through the generations in this novel allows readers to gain multiple perspectives on slavery, rather than focusing on a single period in history. “The structure allowed me to talk about the many ways in which we continue to be affected by the legacy of slavery,” Gyasi said.

In addition to the story capturing multiple generations of slavery, the story also contrasts the differences between slavery in transatlantic slave trade and slavery taking place in Ghana. Gyasi said it is important to “tell a full story” about slavery.

A 2009 trip to Ghana where she stood in dungeons in the Cape Coast Castle inspired her to write this novel, Gyasi said. There were extreme differences between the dungeons where slaves would have been kept in this castle and the upper levels of the castle.

“Read as much as possible,” Gyasi said. She encourages beginning writers to read “beyond what you can do.”

Since Gyasi’s debut novel has been published, she is unsure if there have been any changes in her writing. “I suppose each thing you write requires something new of you,” said Gyasi. “I can’t imagine any two books being the same stylistically.”

Dance Ensemble Auditions

By Elena Rowe

Dance, the art of moving one’s body to tell a story, can prove to be powerful. Many people enjoy watching different “stories” come alive through dance because of the beauty and passion of the performers. At Hood College, this description proves to be no different. Adaire Crabbe, a senior in the dance ensemble, has been dancing since her mother started taking her to dance classes at three years old. Along with two seniors, Holly Barnett and Dominique Byrd, she is one of the oldest members of the team.

In order to join the ensemble, there is an audition process. Auditions are held in Gambrill Gymnasium during the first week of school for two to three hours. Crabbe was surprised at how many freshmen joined the team this year since it usually consists of juniors and seniors.

Being on the team is not easy. There are a lot of practices, but that is the time where the team can perfect their skills and pull everyone’s ideas together.

“What I like about the team is that we all make up pieces; it’s not just one person making up everything which is something I appreciate.” says Crabbe. “With that being said, you can expect a few surprises from the team which will make it a great show.”

There have been trials as part of the process. Crabbe was injured between her sophomore and junior years, so she found it challenging to get back on the dance floor.

“It was very frustrating,” she said. “I had a huge brace on my knee but I was able to get through it. If I was not able to get the move right then at the practice, I guarantee I will have it [right] at the next practice”.

Even though it was very hard to get back out on stage and dance, she was able to accept the challenge, making her push harder and succeed.

Crabbe’s last show will be November 4, she is graduating in December. She could not go into any details about the performance because she wants the show to be a surprise, but she is excited to perform a solo. She wishes that the whole school would be able to come and support the performance, acknowledging that audiences in the past typically have been fairly small.

“I want people to recognize the dance ensemble because we work hard to perfect our skills and want to show what we have worked so hard to perfect,” she said.

The show will be held Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4 at 7:30 in the Hodson Auditorium.

Parking struggles continue at Hood

by Christie Wisniewski

Hood College introduced a new parking plan just in time for the 2017 fall semester, but some students are less than pleased. All members of the Hood community were required to obtain a parking sticker classifying themselves as faculty, commuter, or resident starting August 1. These stickers have rendered the original parking hangtags useless unless they include one of the new stickers.

 

In addition to the classification stickers, there are new parking designation signs around campus. Certain rows are labeled for residents, while others are for faculty, visitors, or commuters. Unfortunately, many students have found that this parking plan has worsened the already-difficult parking situation.

 

“It’s absolutely worse for everyone,” said Michelle Shedd, a commuter. “Not only is parking worse for commuters, but faculty are mad too…Literally no one benefits from the new parking structure.”

 

She went on to explain that some of her professors have given up trying to find a designated “faculty” spot and are now parking on side streets alongside students.

 

According to Dean Olivia White, the Department of Campus Safety assessed all of the spaces on campus, compiled data on the ratio of parking spaces needed per student, and determined parking space assignments from that data.

 

“Spaces were… assigned based on need and proximity to specific buildings,” she said. “For example, commuter students were allocated spaces near academic buildings and residential students were allocated spaces near resident halls.”

 

The parking plan was developed with the input of campus groups such as the SGA, Commuter Council, and Staff Council, and the final plan was approved by the Senior Team.

 

Trouble for commuters

Commuters seem to be having an especially hard time with the new parking plan and express exasperation that Hood doesn’t seem to keep their commuters in mind.

 

“I feel like Hood doesn’t care about their commuters,” said Natalie Kendall, a Hood senior and commuter. “There seem to be way more spots for residents and faculty than commuters.”

 

According to Kendall, the amount of spaces is just the tip of the iceberg for parking frustrations. She drives a large truck to school every day, and has found that parking spaces are too small to safely park a vehicle larger than a sedan. Her truck has already been backed into once this semester.

 

“I understand that we have limited room, but I feel like the residents…are getting special priority,” she said. “It would be smarter to designate more commuter parking closer to campus and resident parking farther away. Commuters have to drive to school every day and find a parking spot every day. Residents don’t have to move their cars at all unless they have to go somewhere. It just doesn’t make sense. Why do they get special treatment?”

 

Another commuter student, Bailey May, feels that not only is the parking inconvenient, it’s confusing. Certain lots aren’t wholly designated to faculty or students; sometimes there will be one or two rows of a whole lot designated to residents, then another row nearby designated to commuters, and some students find this hard to memorize.

 

In a reply to Kendall’s comment, May said “I second feeling uncared about as a commuter.”

 

In the beginning of the semester, a sewer line from Smith Hall broke, which required a pipe replacement. This work was completed in mid-September and all effected parking has been restored for use, but this construction caused an issue for many, including May who tripped in the construction zone and hairline fractured her foot.

 

The construction zone temporarily discontinued use of the parking spots behind Smith Hall, as well as some spaces that were affected by pipe replacement. Some construction equipment and trailers were stored in parking spaces as well, which drastically cut the number of available spaces.

 

Dean White commented that to date, there have been four or five parking complaints brought to the attention of Campus Safety, and all of those complaints were made by commuters who stated that there were not enough spaces for their use but ample spaces for residents and faculty/staff.

“In response, adjustments to the plan have been made to provide additional spaces for commuter students,” White said.

 

However, commuters aren’t the only ones who have a beef with parking. Residents, such as Emily Kefauver, find the new parking plan to be irritating.

 

Residents, alumni comment on issue

“I can tell you, it’s not much better for residents,” said Kefauver, who works off campus and has to move her car around several times a week, but can’t find resident spaces at the time she gets back from work.

 

“The only way I could possibly benefit from this new parking idea is if I get a parking spot in a resident spot and literally leave my car there for the next 3 months,” she said. “If I go to move it, I’ll have no options when I come back. Nearly the entire parking lot directly outside of my dorm is now designated to commuters, so I can barely even use that. I can’t even imagine having to commute every single day.”

 

Hood alumni recall the parking issue from their time at Hood, too. Both Nikki Frock, class of 2015, and CJ Blick, class of 2017, were commuters during their time at Hood.

 

“[Parking] was a huge, annoying issue as a commuter,” Frock recalled.

 

Blick struggled with Kendall’s problem as well. “Very few” spots in the commuter lot could accommodate her truck.

 

“The issue of available parking will not be solved with tickets,” Blick said. “Hood has outgrown her modest beginnings and is in need of a real solution. Perhaps students would benefit from a shuttle system providing access to downtown parking garages. Another possibility could be leasing some spots from the hospital garage for faculty.”

 

According to White, the spaces allotted to each category are as follows:

Commuters – 175

Residents – 225

Faculty/Staff – 149

Visitors – 13

Contractors – 9

General Parking – 45

 

There is some talk of adding more parking lots in the next few semesters. The Campus Master Plan includes new parking lots based on “anticipated construction projects,” according to White, who also mentioned that the Office of Campus Safety welcomes feedback on the current parking plan and will make adjustments as needed.

                                                                                                     

Letter to the Editor

From the New Director of Study Abroad 

Studying abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your academic career. In addition to fun and exciting travel, you will learn about other cultures, perhaps obtain proficiency in another language, gain invaluable experience in your field of study, develop confidence and self-sufficiency in the face of everyday challenges abroad, and broaden your perspectives on both the world and the United States. As someone who studied abroad twice as an undergraduate, I can attest to the transformative power of living in another country. It is one of the main reasons I became a German professor and why I facilitate student travel to Germany.  

But study abroad isn’t always easy. There are bureaucratic and financial hurdles to overcome. As the new Director of Study Abroad, I promise to assist you in navigating these hurdles. But as your fellow classmate Nailah Russell put it in her article, “A Girl Abroad: Off to Australia,” it’s your academic experience, so it’s your responsibility to be on top of requirements and deadlines.  

So what do you need to know to study abroad? First, every Hood student regardless of major can study abroad, but most programs do have a minimum GPA-requirement, ranging between a 2.5 and a 3.0. Some programs require proficiency in the language of the country, but there are many programs that don’t. For most students, the spring semester of their junior year is the optimal time to study abroad. 

What about financial aid? If you apply to a Hood-affiliated program, any financial aid you receive from Hood can be applied to tuition and fees, but not to other costs such as travel and room and board. If you receive federal or state aid, you can use these funds for room and board and miscellaneous expenses.  

Where can you study abroad? Just about anywhere. Can you picture yourself studying a language in Argentina, France, Spain, or Germany? Can you see yourself studying business in London, Sydney, or Shanghai? Can you imagine travelling to Dublin or Morocco to study political science and international relations? These are just a few of the exciting possibilities you can explore through Hood’s affiliated programs.     

Will your credits transfer? Yes, if you participate in a Hood-affiliated program. And yes, if you participate in a non-Hood-affiliated program and earn at least a C- or higher.  

When are the deadlines? Make sure you start the application process early so you can research scholarship opportunities and gather necessary documents. Most of our affiliated programs have application deadlines in early to mid-October. Scholarship deadlines vary. The Shirley Conner Hardinge scholarship, which is coordinated through my office, is due October 30 this fall for spring programs and February 28 for summer and fall 2018 programs.  

Who do you need to meet with? First, meet with me to identify the best program and to get started on the application process. Next, meet with your adviser to discuss your plans. Then go to the Registrar and pick up a Petition to Study Away/Study Abroad form. Set up a meeting with Susan Erb in the Financial Aid Office to discuss your financial aid options. Fill out the Petition to Study Away in consultation with your academic adviser and obtain the necessary signatures from the Registrar, Financial Aid, appropriate departmental chairs, and the Director of Study Abroad. Return the completed Petition to the Registrar’s Office. If you plan to do an internship abroad, you need to meet with Dr. Lisa Littlefield in the Career Center.       

I am excited to be the new Director of Study Abroad at Hood College. I welcome all students interested in study abroad to meet with me in my office in Tatem 220 to talk about short-term or longer study abroad opportunities. Just send me an email at pincikowski@hood.edu or call me at extension #3475, and we can set up a meeting. After we talk, who knows what adventures abroad await you. 

Dr. Scott Pincikowski             

What’s New in the Dining Hall

By Elena Rowe 

Dining halls are the “hub” of the college life where students can socialize, eat, and take a break during a long day of classes. While enjoying our food, we sometimes fail to realize that a lot of planning goes on behind the scenes in order for us to enjoy a meal.  

Jennifer Curtis, director of dining hall facilities, explained the process of Hood’s food preparation and the many changes that have occurred over the past few years. Curtis, who has worked at Hood for the past three and a half years, has made sure significant change has occurred.  

“For the most part, we are feeding students for four years and we are constantly trying to make [food items] different,” she said.   

With that being said, much feedback from students has allowed introduction of new food items as well as changes in how the food is served.  

Multiple changes have occurred under Curtis’ tenure. This includes the stir fry next to the grill in the regular serving line, and the introduction of the Delicious Destinations table which has been popular with students. With many students on campus, Curtis also wanted to incorporate more vegan or vegetarian dishes since some students cannot eat anything containing meat.  

A recent event that has become popular is “Dining With The Director,” a casual dinner in the seminar room where students can meet and share ideas with Curtis about improvements and potential changes to their dining hall. The next meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 12.  

Students are encouraged to express their ideas of any future changes at the dining hall. With these ideas and new changes, Curtis hopes to make students continually healthy and happy with college dining.  

Many students from various grade levels have different opinions on the food offered at Hood. Freshmen Khyja McCray, Breanna Brown and Ermia Jeanty feel that the food was good at the beginning of the school year but feel that some food items need more seasoning and the Delicious Destinations “islands” need more options that students can enjoy. In contrast, Khyja enjoys the meals from different cultures, “especially the Korean menu”, and the staff, who she finds friendly and attentive.  

“They always remember my name,” she remarked. 

Brown and Jeanty observe the dining hall is clean, inviting, and a good opportunity to meet new people every day.  

Sophomore Mackenzie Clark feels that while the food can be tasty sometimes, she feels that following a few suggestions can make a consistently positive dining experience for students. 

“One of the suggestions I have is to have a home-cooked meals suggestion box,” she said. “Students can put suggestions of what they are used to eating at home in the box and the dining staff  make it for everyone.” 

She also feels that kitchen staff shouldn’t make the same food items for both lunch and dinner. However, she enjoys the dessert items offered.  

Sophomore Tykera Pratt feels that food is decent and believes it is the same setup from last year. Junior Dorothy San  agrees. Since she was a commuter for her first two years, she didn’t come to the dining hall. Now, as a resident, she comes more often, enjoys the food options and feels that the dining hall has ample variety.   

Senior Baridakara Nwilene enjoys the breakfast and lunch options, but also feels the dining hall needs more options for Delicious Destinations. Generally, students seem to enjoy the dining hall and its food, but feel that a greater variety of options could improve the college dining experience. 

 

Free Speech at Hood

By Kashif Masood 

On campuses nationwide, incidents have ignited a debate about free speech and inclusion on campus. Calls for discipline have raised concerns about the state of free speech on campus. 

In an email response to a speech code request, the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) noted: “Although Hood is a private college and thus not legally bound by the First Amendment, it makes institutional promises that bind it morally and perhaps even contractually to protect free speech. Students reading these promises would reasonably expect that Hood will provide them with free speech rights commensurate with those of their peers at public institutions.” 

Policy 55 states that “Hood College is committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression. The College’s policy against discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct, and retaliation is not intended to stifle this freedom, nor will it be permitted to do so.” 

But FIRE is not satisfied. They criticize the Bullying and Harassment clauses for “mak[ing] punishable any mere ‘attempt to demean … or abuse another individual,’ which includes a great deal of speech that is protected under First Amendment standards…so a person’s subjective feeling about what expression is demeaning or abusive is enough to meet the standard.” FIRE also criticized the Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct clauses for “mak[ing] punishable any conduct which creates ‘a hostile or offensive environment’” without using an objective, reasonable person standard. FIRE recommended that these clauses be revised 

to match the Davis vs. Monroe (a May 24, 1999 Supreme Court case) harassment definition (“so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”) 

When Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion, Travis Eichelberger, was asked if such a revision would affect enforcement of Policy 55, he confidently expressed that “Policy 55 was revised in 2015, so the Board [of Trustees] must have been aware of that court case.” When asked what would be considered offensive, he said that they “focus on the perception of not feeling safe, targeted, not being supported. Also we look at intent.” When asked about Hood’s commitment to free speech, Eichelberger stressed that Hood is interested in dialogue, not censorship. He mentioned how several years ago, Newt Gingrich was allowed to speak on campus. Those protesting his appearance were allowed to do so peacefully. 

Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct, Matt Troutman, shares Eichelberger’s sentiment on dialogue instead of censorship. In an email response to an interview request, Troutman said, “ It is vital that Resident Assistants are affirming and welcoming to all students… I encourage RAs to bring their students to campus activities including events which promote diversity in thought, ethnicity, gender, etc…There are opportunities for RAs [Resident Assistants]] to notice when students are saying words or inappropriate jokes, or similar types of things which others would find offensive; these are teachable moments for students to learn  when the RA or their supervisor or another campus resource discusses the matter with them. Incidents which are larger in nature are sometimes handled in the judicial system (by  my office).” 

 

 

Hood Blazer Down Under

By Nailah Russell  

Well folks, I’m here! I’m settled, I don’t get lost as often and I can already hear 38% percent of the words in my head in an Australian accent.  

Ok…let’s back up. It’s been a minute since you guys last heard from me and quite a bit has happened.  

My first night in Australia was…exhausting. But what else is expected after almost 20+ hours of traveling?  

When we got here, they told us to stay up at least until 8 p.m. That way, we could avoid being wide awake at 4 a.m. Unfortunately, that was still happening to some people for about a week. Sydney’s time is 14 hours ahead of EST. So adjustment was no joke!  

The program technically started on Wednesday, August 23, but that was mainly orientation. Classes didn’t actually start until Tuesday, and we got Monday off to go to our internships and figure out our schedules for the rest of the semester.  

The Saturday of that week, we went to Barangaroo Reserve to attend an Aboriginal Cultural Workshop. Here we learned extensively about Aboriginal culture and history – much of it including the trauma that the people underwent during colonization.  

For those of you know me, you probably know that I’m a huge proponent of indigenous rights. One of the reasons that I chose to study in Australia was that I was interested in learning more about Aboriginal culture, history and the progression of their human rights. So, to hear about it in such detail was incredibly humbling and a peak of my academic career.  

There is something indescribable about listening to someone else’s history and how it has impacted them in their daily lives. Australia’s history of racism is quite recent, and unfortunately Aboriginal people still face rampant discrimination. In spite of that, I’ve met so many non-indigenous individuals who are dedicated to the truth and moving the country forward to ensure equality.  

As a matter of fact, Australian citizens are gearing up to vote for marriage equality. “Vote YES” ads and rainbow flags decorate the city. It really is amazing to observe a country’s social change as a visitor.  

Talking to the citizens is especially interesting because I’ve found so many people that are passionate about progressive social change.  

Mindsets like these have been especially apparent at my internship site.  

I intern at a nonprofit called Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS). The function of the organization commissions lawyers to represent and provide legal advice to refugees and people seeking asylum.  

They also file complaints to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because, unfortunately, Australia has appalling immigration policies.  

When refugees attempt to come here from countries in the South Pacific by boat, they are captured and detained in offshore prisons with countless human rights violations. Being able to work at such an organization is a great opportunity to make positive change.  

Most of my tasks consist of calling clients and answering phones, (which was daunting at first) and handling files. Though, recently, I’ve been working on some neat tasks.  

Currently, I’m doing research to substantiate client claims. Another lawyer had me help him go through the legal statement on one of the refugees and piece together his story to go before Australian Immigration.   

I’m hoping to help them in the near future put together complaints for the UNHCR.  

All of the people at RACS have been incredibly helpful and kind, and I absolutely love hearing their passion to improve conditions for refugees and other people meeting extraordinary disadvantage.  

Not only is everyone wonderful, but I’m noticing that the general culture is big on fraternity and -as the Aussies say- mateship. I think I know my coworkers better than most of the other Americans on my program. I’m really happy that I’m getting to make these international connections and friendships. Otherwise, why go abroad?  

These friends even checked up on me after my Saturday trip to the Blue Mountains, asking me if I got back safely and how I enjoyed the journey. It was a great feeling.  

But now I bet you’re also curious as to how the trip went…It was awesome! We first stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park where got to meet koalas, cuddly wallabies, friendly wombats, and snuggly kangaroos – I even got to feed a kangaroo that nuzzled my hand every time he chewed (I’m not fangirling at all). 

Then, we topped off the trip at the Blue Mountains, which I was super hyped for. We trailed down into one of the many rainforest pockets of the mountain range, hiked up intense stairs that were practically at 90 degree angles, and listened to the Aboriginal “Three Sisters” dreamtime/creation story.  

We also learned some neat survival skills. Given the vastness of the range and the density of the forest, getting lost is easy! So, we gave our best “CooWEE!” calls, bouncing our voices off the mountains and stretching our calls for help for miles. A handy skill that also doubles as a dope party trick. 

So far, I’m having an absolutely wonderful time here, and I have multiple Hood College offices to thank. But it has come to my attention that more students can make sure they get in on an experience like this because we now have a new study abroad coordinator. Congrats and welcome to our new Hood member! And good luck to our ambitious students who can now make sure they have an ultimate adventure.