My Tufts Daily Column (4/25): It’s Complicated…But Not Really

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Guys, so many feelings about all this, and updates on my role at the Daily. Know that even in this column, I was censored and threatened that my words wouldn’t see the light of…print…? For now just read and tell me what you think.

Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders It’s… complicated. But not really.

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013

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Question: How do you exist in this system without allowing it to consume you? How have I existed for four years at Tufts and in the Tufts Daily, and how will I exit both, not necessarily at peace but intact? By “complicating” — that is, questioning and assessing — them both, and always with a spoonful of salt.

This is my last column before the Commencement issue, and I want it known and marked that with this column, there is power in “the record,” in claiming space for language and experimentation, and I think I am outgrowing these three inches. But there is success — if this space for critique and voice was not open before, it’s open now. Please, fill this echoing void with consciousness, purpose and fun. A little fun.

You have probably never been to the Daily office. It is below Curtis Hall — down the driveway, next to the UGL office. Pop in sometime — the office is small and the walls are painted teal. This is where the editorials are discussed and written and the phone calls for additional sources go unanswered. This is where the writers and editors — all students, and none of them paid for their time and energy — work for upwards of 40 hours a week on end to inform a campus dialogue. The Daily has an institutional history, and it has been largely absent of brown folks, not for a lack of trying or interest. I was the first black managing editor of the Daily, and though I’ve been loved and cared for I feel I have been severely disrespected. I have watched and helped the Daily operate for four years, and I’ve worked alongside some of the strongest women I know. They came, saw and left. Why did they leave? Why did I stay?

I stayed because you deserve better. You deserve to read great articles about complex “issues” that don’t speak about you as a subject or topic in a policy report. I stayed because we require a prominent place at the table, not for representation but for respect and autonomy, because I have known too many women of color to take “medical leave,” their lives compromised after spending four years on this campus. How did we let that happen?

I stayed because some of the most opinionated people on this campus with the most to say literally cannot afford to pay the fee (time) because they are — you guessed it — already overbooked, overlooked or overwhelmed. I have lived in two worlds at once, and right-minded editors of semesters past — Alexa Sasanow, Gabrielle Hernandez, Bianca Blakesley, Amsie Hecht, Laina Piera, Annie Sloan and myself — have tried to make the Daily into a respectable house, though it is built on privilege and systematic supremacy of the “Tufts in general,” not “Tufts in ‘particular.’” Yes, my language is coded. No, “safe spaces” do not exist. Yes, you can break the code. Just try.

If you notice the impact my body has made in the Daily, know that our impact is there. I saw them trying to erase me, you and us and decided it was time to let them know. In the words of Kenya Moore, the queen of fan-induced shade-throwing showdowns, “Do not come for me unless I send for you.”

If you are brown and are interested in working at the Daily or, better yet, maintaining a literary and historical space of your own, tweet me so we can figure it out.

Now this is the hard part, letting go of the frustration and imagining and building a future beyond the scope and traumas that Tufts students, administrators and bystanders have enacted on its own community. We are moving from property and into personhood. Your silence will not protect you, but maybe we can find your voice. Yes, I just said that.

Dedicated to N., V. and K., and the great John Kelly, who, reminded me that we can be Christians and “radicals” at the same time.

My Tufts Daily column (4/11): Seeing through the optics of whiteness, a love letter to Black Tufts, and the erasure in “incidents”

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My Tufts Daily column, about Black people at Tufts, the white gaze, and the erasure in  “incidents”, complete with honesty (how refreshing!) Check back tonight about the process of writing this column, and more candid musings on the difficult miracle of, well, being. 

Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders

A truly purpose-driven love letter

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013

I have been truthful from the beginning about my not quite knowing what I am doing with this column, but I have not been completely honest with you for a while. I think with the first column I had an intent to be the “true Brionna,” but I wanted to welcome you (but not all of you, not every voyeuristic eye that’s consuming me as a Tufts black woman for my “story”) on the journey as I explored myself and this (ex?) plantation we call the Medford/Somerville campus (look up that Tufts history, the Royall House and Ten Hills Farm, and sit with it).

In the beginning, I wanted to feature and connect with the often institutionally neglected black population here, because I wanted to speak to you publically, in one place at one time and on the record. I wanted this column to be far-reaching, but it can’t be at once universal in its message and critical. Every week when I started to write with intent and purpose — to talk to you about greatest triumphs and the disturbing underbelly of the college experience and the difficult miracle of existing at Tufts — I could feel the sincerity draining from my words.

I became preoccupied with how I’d be perceived by the white oppositional gaze of Tufts and the high schoolers visiting the school, clutching the Daily and their visitor brochures as they shuffle around campus while someone walks backwards and spouts about pre-major advising and meal plans. I am having that “Simba, you have forgotten me” moment, and now I am in the middle of the part where Simba has all kinds of epiphanies.

Even though I do a lot with this oppressive language (English), I fear I haven’t been doing enough, because I haven’t been honest, and even now I can’t be, but I need this on the record.

I love you, black people at Tufts, even (especially!) strangers, and I smile and say “hi” because I know that some days we feel like we are disposable at Tufts, like we are numbers, counting and learning tools on which our administrators and classmates work out their personal and academic development. So I smile at you, so you know I see you, and the least I can do is acknowledge your presence, because being present here isn’t always easy or healthy.

I do not think that survival can be understated in this moment, on this Thursday, when I still live in Sunday night, when my friends and I were dispersed around campus and, collectively, our worlds stopped with an email that announced the white supremacist “graffiti” on campus in Bello Field. The email read as coolly as an announcement about parking closures due to snow. What followed — a plea that members of “our” community  “reach out to friends and colleagues in the Tufts community as sources of support and comfort” — said to me, “If your feelings are hurt, if you’re not safe leaving your house, if you’re having violent, real flashbacks and recalls of what this is, try to feel better even though there’s no black counselor at the Counseling and Mental Health Services to turn to, even if you needed to.” The “graffiti” on Tufts’ property is not an “incident.” An incident exists as a singular moment. This is just the most recent (or publicized) manifestation of a symptom of the disease of what exists.

With these 600 words, I wanted to make this space in this Daily, so you could see and know that you are here, lovingly made and remembered by me, on the “record.” But I have acted, at times, under a constant optic of whiteness and fear, and my friends and fellow survivors deserve better. So over the next couple of weeks, I am giving you — not all of you — my best, as much as I can.

My Tufts Daily column (3/28): Degrees of Separation

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Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders

Degrees of separation

 

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013

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What's gonna keep me warm at night? That's right. Those degrees.

When I was applying to colleges, none of my potentially first−generation college−bound friends had the nerve to entertain the thought of a gap year. I never thought critically about the prospect of volunteering on a political campaign or working full−time at an internship before delving into the overpriced pressure cooker that is higher education. “College is not an option; you will go to college,” my grandmother would say at the outset of any conversation we had about higher education.

A lifetime of being looked over and professionally punished for not having completed a college program had taught her that, while academic pursuits and interests were just dandy, college degrees breed opportunity, for better or for worse.

In my high school, the graduating seniors wrote their university acceptances on paper stars outside the college counselor’s office. I watched for weeks as stars were decked out with bubble letters of household name institutions and filled up like laundry lists of acceptances. I asked a student why he had not written anything down (as if he had to explain his decision−making), he said, “College isn’t for me.” I realized that I, like most of our peers, had assumed that the college would bring with it the promises of its magical symbolism. We had not taken into consideration the fact that so many of us truly are not “cut out” for endless lectures, rote memorization or academia.

But what about our peers, the foot soldiers who maintain that college isn’t the right option, and the strength it takes to actively reject the social flogging that comes along with actively deciding against college?

A great friend of mine inspired this column about the foot soldiers who opt out of college in pursuit of work, stability, discovery, duty or an unknown number of other quests and decisions and how they are judged without any regard to the internal work required to make such a decision. It is as monumental a choice to choose, at 18, an institution where you will live, study and be molded as it is to choose to be shaped in the “real world.”

Not until relatively recently in Western educational history did lawyers, doctors, journalists and architects pursue higher education to learn their trade instead of the usual route of apprenticeship. An added emphasis on “formal” education instead of vocational skill makes it easy to judge the individuals who choose not to go to college because they know that it’s not the only option.

The concept of a college education is extremely complex, way too intense for 600 words, and every day, it’s being further complicated, glorified and debunked by those inside and outside of the “ivory towers.” College degrees try to connote that a person has chosen one life path over another, aligned herself with another set of goals and expectations over another, and the parallel is to be drawn stiffly between those with degrees and those without who instead attend the school of life.

We are going to call these degrees of separation. Let us consider the self−knowledge (or −awareness, or a lack thereof) that it takes to do that and the people who are not in college because it was not for them, because it was not made for them. These spaces weren’t made with everyone in mind — we can be honest about that. From what is taught to which programs are funded and underfunded to how dissent is “managed,” it is clear. So when someone can break from that and know it’s not for them, that is why they are they judged, put down as “go−nowhere” people. They are seen this way because they refused to enter into situations that could do more harm than good, because they don’t subject themselves to these environments.

My Tufts Daily Column (3/7) — 73 Days, but who’s counting?

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Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders

73 Days — but who’s counting?

By

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013

Brionna Jimerson column

One of my best friends’ Twitter byline reads, “May 19, 2013, 11:30 a.m. in the J Field,” the time and place of his graduation ceremony. I think he is over the 76 Days celebration.

Anyway, last Sunday we celebrated the 76 Days Celebration after Blizzard Nemo pushed back the 100 Days Celebration to last Sunday’s less symbolically trendy date, and members of the class of 2013 (and some subversive and hungry 2014 kids) filled the Alumnae Lounge, dressed in the most semi of semi−formal and ready to mingle awkwardly with classmates. It felt like pre−frosh orientation all over again, except this time there were free Jumbo magnets, sunglasses, portfolios and muffulettas.

I did a couple of laps, talked to some acquaintances, gave awkward hugs to folks I haven’t interacted with since freshman year, stood around a table with my friends, made firm plans to get lunches and dinners (finally! No more “should!”) and watched the slideshow of photos that all looked the same. It took a while for the gravity of the moment to sink in — that in 76 days I would be referring to Tufts in the past tense, and my friend’s Twitter bio would come to fruition. While we are angst−ing it out over the next few stress−filled weeks, my friend is planning — at the ready and excited — to put Tufts in his rearview. But how did we get here?

The 76 Days Celebration probably had good intentions — an excuse to enact “tradition” and get us all feeling warm and cozy about our Tufts career, just in time for alumni giving, before we forget some of the emotional and physical trauma that accompanies growing as people in a foreign environment on our own. We were nostalgic for 2009 in that lounge, but tradition and the whole thing is making me feel claustrophobic, like there’s something expected of me, and unless I agree with all of the fluff I’m unworthy, when in reality I’ve worked my ass off, and it’s a celebratory time. I’m alive. We’re alive. Where is the dance floor?

I expect that I will feel more anxiety in the coming weeks than I felt in the whole of 2012. The countdown was initiated on the day I boarded the plane for pre−orientation in August 2009, and now I am coming out on the other side (yes, I have been in a portal−bubble for four years). The event may have been good in its intentions, but in my experience initiating countdowns brings with it the “should,” and we know how useful that is. But I don’t feel tethered to the Hill, the dining halls, the traditions; I’m ready to practice what I’ve been learning and to see what sticks. I’m ready to live on my own terms, sans a block schedule. Cue the claustrophobia.

When it’s “tradition” time, we don the brown and blue in the name of “community.” I think of my friends at Tufts, many of whom I’ve seen fall apart and shed themselves, only to come out stronger — and traumatized, to be honest — on the other side, ready to pack Tufts up and run for greener (and hopefully less steep) hills.

Between the celebrations, senior nights, senior dinners and other forced and inauthentic bonding moments, I’ve realized that so much time has lapsed between mindlessly wandering to the dining halls three or four times a day (remember when that was an option?) and now, fretting over projects, research, financial security and the simple things, like where the heck do we go from here? I motion for a collective nap and reassessment of life. Who’s with me?

http://www.tuftsdaily.com/features/brionna-jimerson-respect-your-elders-1.2815757#.UXa-vLXvvzx

My Tufts Daily Column (2/14) – A B.A. in “Minding my own Business”

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Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders

A B.A. in ‘Minding my own Business’

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

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Working on my Ph.D in My Business. The coursework is hell.

To date, I’ve named and claimed over 15 majors over the last four years. Now take a breath, and smile−−you are officially more decisive than I am. For about a week, I was a biology major, and then political science for upwards of a month. Somewhere between being a child development major and an International Literary and Visual Studies student, I was in engineering psychology, but I’d rather not talk about that part of my past. We will call those the “bad weeks.”

I went from one major to another for about three semesters−−but in secret, I had declared a psychology major in my freshman fall semester as a placeholder. During my sophomore spring, after earning decidedly average grades in every psychology class and realizing that I wasn’t as passionate about the field as I thought, I went to an associate dean, sobbing and riddled with uncertainty. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Not unlike most freshmen and sophomores (and juniors−−you know who you are), I was undefined, undeclared and insecure with my scholarly self.

After more trial and error than I care to admit to, I declared a major in American Studies, and I finally felt like I’d found my academic home. I nested in the basement of Eaton Hall and followed professors like Christina Sharpe, Sarah Sobieraj, and Jean Wu around campus like a lost academic puppy.

Considering Winter Storm Nemo: You’re walking knee−deep in snow (probably waist−deep for me!), with hundreds of companions on your left and right. Stay with me here, I’m a sucker for weather metaphors. The only road behind you is the one you’ve trudged−−and ahead of you untouched (academic and social) snow. Some folks have their next steps planned out, with freshly shoveled and salted gravel beneath their feet. And there I am−−without salt, shovel, sand or as much as a “Hey, kid! Go that way! There’s less ice that way!” So each maneuver is a virtual first, and that makes it all the more important and shaky as hell. Each step is the first one ventured, and I am being monitored from afar and compared to the steps of others. Cue the insecurity.

Still, most phone calls with my mother are reduced to a despondent pause, followed by a sigh of uncertainty on her end. Then it comes: “Brionna…what is your major again?” My mother knows this. She’s known for two years now, but each time she asks I can’t help but feel like she wishes I’d spontaneously change my academic direction toward something a bit more “marketable,” as she says. “I’m an American studies major, mum, with a focus on institutions and power in the US,” I tell her from rote. Another sigh. “What are you going to do with that?” Then there’s my answer, and her perplexed “Oh…what’s that mean?” I explain. Next, the contented “huh” before she politely moves on to the next topic of listless conversation. The silence between first generation students and their parents can be deafening.

I’m at the point where I want to say, “I’m going to do whatever I darn well please with my degree, thankyouverymuch.” While you don’t have to welcome the probing, I encourage you to find sound footing in your (un)chosen major. It’s just life, it’s only undergrad, it’s about realizing that you don’t have to sacrifice anything, you just can’t do everything at once. Worst−case scenario: you stalk professors via Twitter, and blindly enroll in each of their courses each semester. And that’s the worst that can happen.

http://www.tuftsdaily.com/features/brionna-jimerson-respect-your-elders-1.2810900#.USFBKaUqbQh

My First Tufts Daily Column: Respect Your Elders

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This semester should officially be known as my “Daily” semester: I’m working as Managing Editor, I’m writing for Arts/News (when I damn well feel like it, or when there’s an exceptionally amazing episode of Real Housewives on), and I’m  a Features columnist! Cue the daily Daily overload. My weekly Features column is called “Respect Your Elders” (because I’m all of 22 years old. I’m elder.), and chronicles my Tufts experience thus far with unsolicited advice, and delves into the significance of being a first generation college student. At the outset I was worried that writing such a personal and widely applicable column would be appropriating my life/story, but I’m confident that my target audience (read: Tufts students who rarely if ever see themselves, their experiences, concerns, or thoughts reflected in the Daily) will appreciate my efforts. My column comes out e very Thursday, check it out *here* and here)

Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders

Notes from a senior (active) citizen

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

BJ Column

Hi! I am Brionna, a senior at Tufts, and you are about to go on a semester−long adventure with me. I hope you brought your quest cap, and buckle up. It will be bumpy, it will be uncomfortable, but stay tuned in and keep reading — it will befan−freaking−tastic.

For starters, let’s discuss the purpose of this column. This column every Thursday will serve as a cautionary tale for some, a beacon of hope for others and a makeshift space for me (this is where it gets bumpy), but it’ll highlight and capture some of my musings on Tufts as a second−semester senior preparing to leave the Hill for greener, but perhaps equally steep, hills in the “real world.”

My time at Tufts has been peppered with bouts of activism, reflection, long nights at Tisch poring over something−or−other and midday naps that somehow turned into up−at−3−a.m.−rants, but it hasn’t been short of insight. So, let’s begin somewhere near the beginning.

I am a first−generation college student. What that means, for me, is that I am the first person in my family to attend college and I’m the closest to graduating of anyone in my family. As a result, much of my Tufts experience has been a very fly−by−the−seat−of−your−pants sort of adventure, with no road map, color−by−numbers or eight easy steps. Yes, I bought all of the “secret to surviving college” books pre−matriculation, and yes, I read them cover−to−cover. I have yet to encounter a (inexplicably) naked roommate, and being a “collegiette” for me doesn’t involve sorority life. I will be discussing and reviewing aspects and stories from my Tufts experience through the rearview mirror of my college career. We will go over how showers kept me going during sophomore year, the “major” question you field from your family (and other inane questions, like the equally maddening follow up, “What are you going to do with that degree?” We’ll discuss the degrees that nobody talks about — the MRS. and MR. degrees — and look into what it means to be an active citizen at Tufts, fighting a good fight even if it’s unpopular or misunderstood.

But let’s be clear. In May I am graduating with a B.A. in American studies, not a Ph.D. in the psychology of higher education (that is a thing), but my experiences and thoughts are still here, so that is that.

Over the years I’ve undulated between social groups, levels of activism and levels of academic engagement, but everything always comes back to that insipid Stephen Schwartz lyric from the musical “Wicked:” “There are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you crossed.” Therefore, that’s part of what this column is. It’s me looking at the bridges I’ve crossed in retrospect, bridges you’re probably coming up to on your walk through Tufts, and ones you’re dancing (or being dragged) across now. We’ll look at overcommitting, dreams deferred, G1 student life, liberal arts anxiety (I’m suffering from it now!), finding your genuine interests, activism, impact, the types of people you meet at Tufts and exactly what to do when nobody is answering your calls on a Thursday night. Because, let us face it, we have all been there. Right? Oh? Just me? Ok. I have invested myself, my heart, my joy and energy into this university, and now that I have a moment to reflect on it I want to share my musings with any lovely reader with five to 10 minutes to spare looking for a quick and interesting read. If at any point you have qualms, you know what to do — send an email or find me on campus. I’m five feet tall, so finding me shouldn’t be too hard. Challenge accepted? Ok, let’s go.

Recent article: Substance unsurprisingly lacking in “Real Housewives” reunion special

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Any excuse opportunity to turn my reality TV habit into writing is a welcome one! I’ve been into RHONY since season one, day one (for the record: Bethenny all the way). The season finale of season five left me wanting. In short: ‘meh’ and transparent. Even for RH standards. Is it the editing, or the ladies? 

Substance unsurprisingly lacking in ‘Real Housewives’ reunion episode

TV Review | 2.5 out of 5 stars

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012

Season five of “The Real Housewives of New York City” wrapped this Monday with Part II of the season’s reunion. This is an episode fans looked forward to, giddily anticipating half−hearted — or heartless — apologies, quick zingers and a parade of Louboutins and statement dresses. But this season’s reunion left us wanting more. It felt like the reluctant gathering it probably was, as none of the women seemed particularly interested in rehashing old problems or reopening wounds.

Boston Fashion Week: Merrily we flow along

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Thanks to the ever-impressive and talented photographer Justin McCallum, I found myself at Boston Fashion Week on a blustery September weekend! Long story short: the fashions. My god, the fashions.  For a full photospread, visit JumboSlice blog, and read below for my take on several of the weekend’s best shows! Did I MENTION THE FASHIONS?

Merrily we flow along at Boston Fashion Week

Collections by designers Yousif and Mendoza stood out

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012

Boston Fashion Week is not for the faint of heart. In the past few years, designers and show producers alike have upped the creative ante with an interesting mix of household name brands, Boston fashion titans and left-of-center fashion industry up-and-comers. This year’s shows featured surprisingly wearable pieces alongside artistic creations that could make even Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly crack a wince — or so we dare to dream. In particular, the Boston Fashion Week shows for Firas Yousif Originals and Sam Mendoza created an undeniable buzz both outside and inside the tent, due to their mix of ethereal pieces and shockingly approachable cuts that still managed to convey chic and whimsy.

Firas Yousif Originals, photo courtesy Justin McCallum

Firas Yousif Originals is a force in the Boston bridal gown scene and beyond, with “bridal,” “evening” and “flirty” couture collections. At Boston Fashion Week, Yousif capitalized on a sense of manufactured nostalgia that’s done well in the fashion scene for the last couple of seasons, with side bouffants, patterned textiles and 1950’s Vargas Girls-esques ilhouettes. Imagine what would happen if Paz de la Huerta’s character Lucy in “Boardwalk Empire” had a run-in with Christina Hendricks’ “Mad Men” persona and you’ll be in the ballpark.

Latest article: Africana Studies launches new major and minor

Journalism, Tufts Daily

Most of my friends, family members, acquaintances, strangers on campus, and the poor souls who follow me on Twitter know about the fairly-well documented struggle for an Africana Studies DEPARTMENT at Tufts. This struggle has morphed into a program, not a department. This documentation exists in the Daily, the Observer, and other outlets, but it lives on outside of the press, a documentation that has been firmly and indelibly printed on the bodies and minds of countless Tufts students and faculty, past and present. My musings on Africana Studies at Tufts is a topic more suited for my moleskin and not for this blog, but maybe someday soon I’ll be able to share it with the world. No, I’m not being melodramatic. Suffice it to say, it was a joy to be able to write this article for the Daily. After lots of back and forth with the editor, I’m at peace with the article, but this subject is a very intriguing and personal one to me. Let us regroup, and get back to work. -B 

Africana Studies launches new major and minor

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photo: Courtesy Sophia Wright

The Africana Studies program is finally a reality on the Hill this semester after years of negotiations, including a student-led march to Ballou Hall last November.

Following several years of negotiation between the student body and the administration, Tufts’ new Africana Studies program is settling into its first month on the Hill, complete with a new director, a set curriculum and student interest.

TV review: Tepid relationships, stereotypes hamper “Basketball Wives LA”

Journalism, Tufts Daily

Tepid relations, stereotypes hamper ‘Basketball Wives’

TV Review | 2 out of 5 stars

By Brionna Jimerson

 

Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In recent years, VH1 has begun to catch up to television’s endemic lifestyle−based reality shows by targeting a different demographic of status−conscious viewers. The cable station has produced shows like “Basketball Wives,” “Baseball Wives” (2011−12) and the much more tragic, less decipherable “Basketball Wives LA” with mixed and often disappointing results. Season two of Basketball Wives LA kicked off — or rather fell off — with a recap of the action from last season, which included backstabbing, heightened awareness of the cameras and a group of women searching for social belonging among their peers.

The show begins with Jackie Christie, wife of former NBA player Doug Christie, talking with her husband about her failed friendships with the other cast members. The self−appointed queen bee of the posse, she feels the other ladies should apologize to her for their accusations that she started last season’s drama. However, Jackie seems hesitant to actually give up her grudge, preferring to lament about it to anyone within earshot, like her husband and devoted friendSundy. Jackie says the women are jealous she has everything they want and that their drive is low.

We then learn that Laura Govan, sister of castmate Gloria Govan and girlfriend of former Orlando Magic player Gilbert Arenas, is back in Los Angeles after moving to Orlando, Fla. She confides that she hasn’t even spoken to her own sister in over a year, adding weight to the argument that when the show isn’t filming the women rarely confide in one another as friends, let alone as sisters. Gloria is in the midst of planning a dinner with the other castmates to sample recipes from her new cookbook. Yes, Ms. Govan is writing a cookbook, which seems to be the career path of choice for several celebreality stars, including the wildly successful Bettheny Frankel of “Real Housewives of New York” and the wildly tacky Teresa Guidice of “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Gallery review: MFA jewelry exhibit brings sparkle, like Beyonce. Or…Jordin Sparks.

Journalism, Tufts Daily

MFA jewelry exhibit brings sparkle to the Museum of Fine Arts

Exhibit shows jewelry’s importance and influence through history

By Brionna Jimerson

A south German rosary from the mid-17th century, bequest of William Arnold Buffum.

“Jewels, Gems and Treasures: Ancient to Modern,” curated by Yvonne Markowitz of the Museum of Fine Arts, is a study in the appreciation and significance of various jewels and precious pieces over time. Spanning centuries and six continents, the show features studio jewelry, diamonds once belonging to film legend Joan Crawford and a suite owned by Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as 17th−century south German rosaries and a Nubian crystal pendant dating back to 712 B.C. The exhibit calls into question the multiple functions of jewelry, and it displays pieces that range from the protective to the decorative.

First (print!) article of the semester! Interview with Provost David Harris

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New university provost David Harris brings experience, fresh ideas to the Hill

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 09:09

Provost David Harris sat down with the Daily to discuss his history at Cornell and his future at Tufts.

As a sociologist, dean, Obama administration advisor and the interim head of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center, new Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris has a past steeped in administrative experience that he says will inform and benefit the work ahead of him at Tufts.

Harris’ appointment, the result of extensive and prolonged efforts of a Tufts search committee, follows former Provost JamshedBharucha’s departure in March 2011 and the temporary appointment of interim Vice Provost Peggy Newell soon after.

It is one of several major administrative changes Tufts has made in the last few years including the arrival of University President Anthony Monaco in 2011.

The university provost is the chief academic officer at Tufts.

In this position, Harris will represent the academic side of the university in all meetings at the senior level.

The university’s deans report to the provost, as do the vice provost and associate provost.

Harris’ responsibilities include overseeing the organizational structure of the Tufts curriculum and the overall academic growth of the university – areas to which he hopes to bring an interdisciplinary approach.

“I’m heavily involved in interdisciplinary [education] not because it’s the cool thing to do, but because it’s required to answer critical questions you want to answer,” he said.

Updates!

#BooksMyJobGaveMe Podcast, Journalism, Tufts Daily

Alright, last year. Let’s go.

Updates: School has begun *cue the Scream 2-esque freakouts and fear*, I’m still a News editor, but my primary focus is execing New Media. So far, so good! Once I get into my academic groove I’ll be able to focus intensely on NM, and The Daily.

Check out JumboSlice, the blog for The Tufts Daily! We’re doing big things over there! Latest post:

This weekend in Davis Square

by BRIONNA JIMERSON on SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

This weekend, don’t let your fun begin and end at Fall Ball! Take time to explore the newest arrivals in Davis Square, while you still have time to spare! Whether it’s for a study break or a full-blown adventure, get to know Davis on a more intimate level, and you’ll find the Square has much more to offer besides the T station and CVS.

iyo1

iYo Cafe

The latest in self-serve yogurt, the locally-owned iYo Cafe’ is a double hitter, serving yogurt AND espresso that some Tufts students can only describe as “addictive in the most beautiful way.” The establishment has been open for just over a month, but already has built up significant foot traffic in the Somerville community. Clyde Swarsden, a Somerville native and high school student, said he ventures into Davis at least twice a week for “a two-fer: brain freeze and caffeine fix!” 234 Elm Street, 617-688-2407

pburro

The Painted Burro Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar

Amidst the microbrewery craft beers and seemingly endless stream of creative tapas and small plates in Davis, The Painted Burro is a welcome change from the usual Tex-Mex style fare. Yes, they serve empanadas. Yes, the on-tap margaritas already have a cult-like following of Somerville and Cambridge folks who head to The Painted Burro after 5 pm, like clockwork. But The Painted Burro’s  Mexican beer and tequila selection is sure to convert even the most staunch Jose Cuervo devotee! The restaurant features an ever-evolving menu of Latin American options that transcend the expected mainstays, and includes inventive flavors like  the “pork ‘conchinta’, a pork and spicy citrus achiote served with pineapple and serrano salsa. Check out The Painted Burro for brunch or dinner! Open for brunch from 11am- 2pm, open daily from 5pm-1am. 219 Elm Street, for reservations call 617-776-0005

adamfalafal

Amsterdam Falafelshop

Finally! A grab-and-go restaurant to give Anna’s Taqueria a run for its money! Amsterdam arrived in Davis over the summer, and since has been making the rounds with the lunch crowd, and those seeking nourishment (a la Moe’s) just before the bars close. For just under $7.00, you can be the proud (though temporary!) owner of a falafel pita that’s bursting forth with your choice of fresh veggies, hummus, and tender falafel balls. Not to mention they serve traditional Belgian style ‘frites’ (french fries) with delectable sauces like curry ketchup and garlic cream. Why are you still reading this? Go NOW! 248 Elm Street., 617-764-3334

 

punjabigrill

Punjabi Grill

Punjabi is one of the newest arrivals to Davis, having only a couple of weeks under its belt. But this Pakistani and Indian cuisine restaurant’s spectacular lunch buffet is bound to make Punjabi a mainstay in Davis. The Bihari chicken was a big hit for Somerville resident and Punjabi enthusiast Rusty Gershwin, who “has carved out a small monthly budget for Punjabi, it’s just that good!”  Punjabi’s Pakistani selection is perhaps the best in Boston, to date. With dishes served up in both Indian and Pakistani culinary style, you’ll be hard pressed to find a flavor that’s not at once challenging and delicious. 236 Elm Street, 617-718-1599

The Davis Flea, Sundays, 10am-4pm

Davis Flea

No matter your class year, the Davis Flea may be a new sight for you, and it’s definitely one worth seeing! A weekly market that began in earnest this summer, The Davis Flea features vendors from the area, selling their wares both old and new, at remarkably low prices. Being hip has never been this easy! Buy some vintage-inspired jewelry, antique flatware (there’s a stall for those), fresh produce, or just peruse the vendors’ wares for whatever catches your eye. 52 Holland Street

Photos by Jodi Bosin / The Tufts Daily

Latest Article: Game of Thrones season 2 premiere review!

#BooksMyJobGaveMe Podcast, Journalism, Tufts Daily

Adam Cohen and I tag-teamed this article! We’re both GoT fans (I am now, thanks to him and his father’s subscription to HBOGo). For the season premiere, we decided to write a review for the Tufts Daily. Unfortunately, the article didn’t run in time (we wrote it last week), and since a new episode aired last nigt, we reviewed both episodes! If you’re not into Game of Thrones (yet),  you’re missing something wonderful! I hadn’t heard of the show or the books prior to Cohen going on and on and ON about it, and I was one of those people who confused “Watch the Throne” (Kanye West and Jay-Z’s studio album) with the show. Both are wonderful pieces of creative adaption. Both are available for free online through sketchy means. I’ll leave the parallels there. Enjoy the review.

*****I’ve included photos and small diagrams to help you along the way, dear reader, if you’re unfamiliar with the show’s plot!*****

‘Game of Thrones’ makes long-awaited return

TV Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012

After many long months, “Game of Thrones” fans have seen their beloved show return on HBO. Let the memes begin.

The first episode of the second season primarily set up what was to come and focused more heavily on character development and intrigue than on the action viewers saw in last season’s concluding episodes. For starters, new characters abound in the second season, the most important being Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), brother of the late King. In the period of civil war that Westeros is now plunged into, where every man thinks he’s a king, Stannisis throwing in his lot. Viewers know very little about him aside from his kingly ambitions and his belief in a new god, the Lord of Light.

Stannis Baratheon and his ginger wench..er…witch.

The audience also has to bear witness to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the late King’s “son” and effective monarch, becoming an even more insufferable brat than he was before. Unfortunately, his character remains one-dimensional, shifting only between apparent and hidden rage. He remains one of the least interesting characters in the entire show, though arguably the most powerful.

Fortunately, Joffrey’s lack of emotional range has made Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), his mother and queen, a comparatively deep character. Cersei begins to shift away from her cold and calculating persona and develops much more emotional depth. Without spoiling anything,: Cersei slaps her son after he calls her out on the rumors circulating about his lineage. He responds by threatening to kill her, and you can see for the first time that she has genuine fear in her eyes. It’s moments like this, when the veneer of a tough-as-nails harpy breaks and viewers see the scared woman within, that demonstrate Headey’s acting prowess.

King Joffrey. Douche extraordinaire.

Another interesting character, and one who has developed more than any other throughout the show, is Daenarys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke), the Khaleesi (queen) of a horde of roving nomads. When Daenarys was traded to her husband Khal Drogo by her brother Viserys in the first season, she was weak, scared and hesitant to step into the role of queen. After the death of her husband, she comes into her own as the leader of her Khalasar (traveling caravan of the Dothraki people). Clarke paints an image of a formidable queen of men who is prepared to fight for her people.

By season  two, Daenarys is fluent in Dothraki, a language she struggled to learn during season one, and she is asserting herself over what remains of her broken Khalasar. Of all the characters in the show, Daenarys has the promise to be the most intriguing.

Daenerys Targaryen - daenerys-targaryen photo

Daenerys Targaryen. I don’t think she’s gonna share that horse heart.

Of course, where would we be without the Stark family, the ruling family of Winterfell? The dramatic end of the last season set the Starks on the warpath after the patriarch and hand of the king, Eddard (Ned) Stark (Sean Bean), was put to death by Joffrey. Besides the more active members — the mother Catelyn, son Robb and bastard child Jon Snow — we don’t know much of the family. Robb (Richard Madden) is now struggling with the death of his father and rallying the northern kingdoms to battle the Lannister clan for its murder of Ned. Robb, considered the “king in the North,” is intimidated but effective with his newfound responsibilities.  He is clearly intended to serve as a counter-point to Joffrey. Where Joffrey is ignorant and petulant, Robb is clever and avoids ]becoming drunk on power in the way Joffrey has.

Bran, another member of the Stark family, looks like he will play a substantial role as well. He has started having dreams of being a wolf and has been forced into the position of Lord of Winterfell in Robb’s absence, all at the tender age of 10.

The season’s second episode, which aired last night, reaffirmed our suspicions: plenty is going down in Westeros. Sex abounds on land and sea after taking a backseat to plot in the season premier. The Lannisters in King’s Landing are at odds over Joffrey’s highly dubious decisions on the throne: Cersei tries to defend him, and Tyrion actively tries to undermine him.

This season has begun feeling more like the first, in that every episode ends with the fate of one character hanging in the balance. In episode one it was Arya, one of the Starks’ daughters, and this time it was Jon Snow. The interactions between the Lannisters are becoming the foundations of the episodes, as their decisions are becoming the focal points for the interactions of the other characters.

Arya Stark, daughter of Ned Stark, escaped King’s Landing after her father was killed, to travel back to Winterfell with the Night’s Watch army.

If the second season of “Game of Thrones” delivers on the promise of its first episodes, it could exceed the quality of its first season. One of the strengths of “Game of Thrones” is the ease with which an individual unfamiliar with the show’s origins as a novel can follow the action and plot without feeling like an outsider. Viewers can expect Daenarysto rally her Khalasar, Stannis to make an invasion and follow A after her escape from King’s Landing. Though the opening episode didn’t push the plot very far, instead introducing new characters with still unknown motives and reaffirming a scramble for power that threatens to uproot the entire civilization, the second has us rolling into another season sure to keep its audience captivated.

Latest Article: Mass. legislature to consider paid sick days for employees

#BooksMyJobGaveMe Podcast, Journalism, Tufts Daily

This article was incredibly enjoyable to write, believe it or not! I attended the rally (cited in the article). I’m usually not one for large gatherings like protests, etc, but it was a wonderful experience, hearign the pov’s of strangers, and being challenged. Challenge is sometimes necessary. Anyway, on with the article!

**I’m not allowed to use photos from the Tufts Daily article as they appear online and in print, so most of the photos on this blog from here on will either be my own, or be credited in the caption**

Mass. legislature to consider paid sick days for employees

Published: Friday, April 6, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 07:04

An act that would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers may become law in coming weeks.

 The Labor and Workforce Development Committee of the Massachusetts State Senate in mid-March supported the Earned Paid Sick Time Act which would grant paid sick leave to Massachusetts employees.

The act would provide a minimum of seven paid sick days to all non-seasonal Massachusetts workers, according to Steve Crawford, a representative from the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, a group that advocates for paid sick days for workers statewide.

With public political support from both Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), the act has the potential to become law in the coming weeks.

If only it were this simple…(courtesy of jennicatron.tv)

The goal of the bill, according to its literature, is to require businesses in Massachusetts to provide employees with paid sick leave based on the number of hours they have worked, regardless of part-time or full-time employment. Such a bill does not cover seasonal employees, according to Jehlen.

Vice President of Tufts Human Resources Kathe Cronin. said it is unclear whether the act would apply to temporary and student employees.

“Much legislation regarding employment does not [apply to temporary and student] employees; an example of that would be the federal Family [and] Medical Leave Act, which applies to full time ‘regular’ employees only,” Cronin told the Daily in an email. “Tufts current sick time policies for regular staff employees is already richer than what is being proposed in the bill, and we would continue offering these benefits.”

“Tufts believes in the benefit of paid sick time and offers very good paid sick time benefits to staff employees; this practice has been in effect for many, many years,” she added.

According to the Tufts Employee Handbook, after three months of employment, non-exempt employees are eligible for 13 paid sick days per year, with a total of 91 hours each year. Exempt employees are eligible for up to six months of paid sick days. Non-exempt employees, according to the handbook, are paid on an hourly basis with eligibility for overtime pay, whereas exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis, without overtime potential.

According to the proposed bill, businesses with more than ten employees are required to allow each employee one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a cap at 56 hours annually. Employees of business with staffs of six to ten also earns one hour per 30 hours worked, and a business with less than six employees would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid leave annually.

“I think Tufts students would benefit from knowing that the person cooking at a restaurant isn’t coughing into the soup,” Jehlen told the Daily.

Jehlen pointed out that, given the employment demographic of the individuals who would be affected by the bill, supporting it is necessary.

“It’s a public health issue,” she said. “Most of the affected individuals are low-wage workers in human resources, food services, retail. People who don’t get paid sick days go to work sick.”

The original bill was proposed to the Labor and Workforce Development Committee in the Senate in January 2011 with Jehlen’s approval and assistance, and then was agreed upon by the House of Representatives. In July, it was heard by the joint branches, and the new draft was assembled in the House last month.

Jehlen explained that the version of the bill currently in front of committees is a pared down version of previous editions and the result of the work of countless individuals and research.

“We’ve been talking about these things and whittling them down,” Jehlen said.

Courtesy of sickdaythemovie.com

“I’ve been working on the issue of paid leave for twenty years, and this is the closest we’ve come, and the least we asked for,” Jehlen said, noting that the bill was filed for the first time a year and a half ago. “There are lots of people on the outside who want paid sick days. There are many organizations, co-sponsorships, chairmen.”

MPLC is one such organization, with union councils and branches among its membership organizations, including the Greater Boston Labor Council. On March 27, activists and allies rallied outside the statehouse in Boston to create more public awareness for the bill and garner public support. Economists praising the bill’s necessity and ingenuity, alongside laborers and local political figures, came out in support of the bill.

According to Crawford, the next step for the bill’s creation into law is its success with the Healthcare Financing Committee in senate.

“If it passes, it goes to the Ways and Means Committee, then to the floor of the house,” Crawford said.

Maria Colón, a Boston-area children’s worker, was among those in attendance at the rally. Colón detailed the many cases of illness she has witnessed, often the result of contamination.

Colón told the Daily that, in years past, she was fired from a position as a short-order cook because she came in sick to work one day. Her place of employment did not offer sick days for regular employees.

“The claims of the bill are legitimate,” she said. “This needs to be law.”

Latest Article: Fletcher Professor Nasr named dean at Johns Hopkins

Journalism, Tufts Daily

Fletcher professor Nasr named dean at Johns Hopkins

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 17:04

Fletcher School Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr will leave Tufts after this semester to become dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.

Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Stephen Bosworth last week announced to the Fletcher community that Fletcher School Professor of International Politics Vali Nasr will leave Tufts to become dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in July.

Prof. Vali Nasr, courtesy of khalije-fars.com

Nasr joined the faculty of the Fletcher School in 2007. He is associate director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies and is a member of the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Policy Advisory Board. He recently served on the Provost Search Committee, which selected Cornell University sociologist and associate dean David Harris as Tufts’ next provost.

“For all of us at Fletcher, the following news is bittersweet,” Bosworth said in his email sent to the Fletcher community. “As both a Fletcher and Tufts alumnus, as well as one of the School’s most respected faculty members, Professor Nasr has made enormous contributions to the University. His professional accomplishments have long been — and continue to be — a source of institutional and personal pride.”

At SAIS, Nasr will be partially responsible for the curriculum, faculty, fundraising and operation of the school, according to Director of Communications at Johns Hopkins University Dennis O’Shea.

“Our administration is excited and our students are excited, especially that he has connections to people who are making and ushering policy in governments across the world,” O’Shea told the Daily.

Nasr graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts in 1983 with a degree in international relations and earned a master’s degree in international economics and Middle East studies from the Fletcher School the following year. He later received a Ph.D. in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nasr said his knowledge of Tufts and higher education will help him understand the role he will be occupying.

“The experiences I’ve had at Tufts — working with the students, working in government — it’s all in preparation for taking on this challenge,” Nasr said. “I saw Tufts and Fletcher as an undergrad. The office provides me with the opportunity to put into practice the way I envision global and international education, and my perception of challenges in today’s world, and I’m looking to address this from the other end.”

Nasr will succeed Jessica Einhorn, who is retiring after 10 years as SAIS dean.

The search process for a new dean of SAIS began last October, according to O’Shea. The executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates helped facilitate the search.

“Someone nominated me for the SAIS job, the firm got in touch and the process of vetting went from there,” Nasr said. “I wanted to understand what was their vision, what they were looking for, if it was a good fit.”

The process became more intense and serious in January, and from there, details fell into place quickly, according to Nasr.

Nasr became acquainted with the current dean through previous meetings, and his relations to SAIS are extensive in the professional arena.

“Over the years, I’ve known students who went to SAIS, SAIS alumni I met when I worked at the state department, and there are many faculty I know as colleagues,” Nasr said. “Most of the individuals I met and learned about through the process.”

“SAIS offered the unique opportunity to get involved in management of a great institution,” he added. “In size, it’s a sister institution to Fletcher, the schools are close in tier profile, [and they] focus on international and global affairs.”

O’Shea said that as an academic and a practitioner of foreign policy, Nasr is very qualified for the position.

“When he visited SAIS last week, the people meeting him for the first time were taken with him and impressed,” O’Shea said. “Basically, he has the full package — academics, policy, and person.”

The Fletcher School

Nasr said he does not know how the Fletcher School plans on filling his position as professor.

“I’ll miss [Tufts] tremendously; it’s been rewarding being here,” Nasr said.

Latest article: Jumbo Janitor Alliance hosts discussion forum

Journalism, Tufts Daily

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 08:03

 

The Tufts Daily Jumbo Janitor Alliance (JJA) last night hosted a discussion forum with members of the Tufts janitorial staff, the union representatives and students to discuss workers’ rights and their role at the university.

Jumbo Janitor Alliance (JJA) last night organized and hosted a discussion forum with members of the Tufts janitorial staff, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representatives and students to discuss workers’ rights and what they believe to be a lack of transparency in the Tufts administration’s dealings with sub-contracted workers.

Tufts’ janitorial staff is provided by UGL Unnico instead of being hired directly by the university.

The panel included Paula Castillo, a UGL Unnico employee who works in both Bendetson Hall and West Hall, Mike Sylvester, a SEIUhigher education organizer in Boston with Local 615, CarlosAramayo (LA ’96), who works as an organizing director for hotel and restaurant unions with Unite Here, and Sergio Duenas, the SEIULocal 615 representative for Tufts janitors. The event was facilitated by Liam Walsh-Mellett, co-chair of JJA.

Most of the evening’s discussion focused on institutional response to organizing efforts and the compartmentalization of workers as members of the Tufts community.

Using Duenas as an interpreter, Castillo shared some of her experiences as a janitorial employee working under three different subcontractors — OneSource, then ABM Industries Incorporated and now UGL Unnico — since the beginning of her time at Tufts.

“I don’t know why [the sub-contractors for janitorial services] are changing so often,” she said. “I want to send a message to the students — [the janitorial staff] do the best we can.”

Castillo said she wishes the university would hire its janitors directly.

The university changed its lMedford/Somerville campus cleaning services provider last September from ABMIndustries to UGL Unnico, a shift that elicited a strong student reaction and staff response on the behalf of janitors, resulting in a protest outside of Ballou Hall in October. Protesters brought administrative attention to the responses of workers under UGL Unnico, who claimed that dozens of available positions had been vacated and not subsequently filled.

According to Castillo, following the fall 2011 shift from ABM to UGL Unnico, janitorial employees have added more responsibilities to their workloads, while their pay and positions often stay the same or decrease without forewarning.

“Right now we don’t even have cleaning supplies,” he said. “We do the work as we can … the best we can. There are many things this company doesn’t want to resolve.”

“We sometimes believe that people working for the institutions directly can get more job security, benefits and things like that. Right now, it’s mostly about respect and dignity,” Duenas said. “Right now, we’re trying to get Unnico to treat workers respectfully.”

“There are some people working 29 hours a week, and they don’t have health insurance, vacation or sick days,” Castillo said.

Duenas continued to outline the process of the switch from ABM to UGL Unnico, with employees filling out a new employment application and going through the hiring process again.

“About 60 of those workers didn’t pass the hiring process,” Duenas said.

Employees who were unable to provide necessary documentation or information, for whatever reason, were terminated, according to Duenas.

When Aramayo attended Tufts in the mid-1990s, the university did not use outside contractors for its janitorial crew.

“Contractors are an easy scapegoat for the university,” Alexa Sasanow, co-chair of JJA, said. “If the workers are employed by Tufts, no one else is to blame.”

Aramayo commented on the anti-union rhetoric often surrounding unionizing efforts at Tufts and its peer institutions in this respect, including claims about social and institutional structures in higher education.

The minute we stand up, they go insane,” he said. “Any time in any corporation when workers try to stand up and say ‘I want to be treated with more dignity,’ corporate groups go to extremes to stop it.”

“It’s true in general and especially in private higher education — they say one thing when it comes to workers in other countries, and they say something different when people are organizing on campus,” he added. “Tufts doesn’t want there to be union for janitors. They don’t want to respect the people who clean the floors. I think it’s structural. They look at the bottom line — it costs more for a union than not [having a union].”

Sasanow, a junior, explained how the students have been engaging with labor policy and action since the early 1990s, beginning with the Student Labor Action Movement, which became JJA in 2007. The community-building aspects of JJA organize soccer games with members of the labor force and bring coffee to UGL Unnico night-shift workers weekly.

“It’s important that students act as stakeholders — the university can’t work without our tuition. Students should be a part of the decision-making process,” Sasanow said.

She explained a sense of elitism and entitlement she observes on the Medford/Somerville campus with respect to the cleaning staff.

“People will puke everywhere and say ‘It’s the janitor’s job to clean it up,’” she said. “It’s disrespectful. Subcontracting distances the workers from the university through indirect employment. Because of that, they’re not seen as members of the Tufts community.”

“I’d love for the administration to interact with the people they employ indirectly,” Walsh-Mellett, a sophomore, said. “It’s important that people who are employed know who their employers are.”

Latest article: Tufts launches Office Intercultural and Social Identities Program

Journalism, Tufts Daily

This article was interesting to write, a good study in objectivity.

I’ll come back to share my opinions soon.

Is “separating” oneself from a story even possible? Aren’t stories, isn’t news inherently biased? How do I wear my “caps” simultaneously, or will my views “poison” the story? Is it poisoning, or healing? BAH! Anyway, I’m happy with this story. It’s on the long side, and I’ll reflect privately in my journal (not my blog!), but I’ll come back to share my opinions after a bit. Perhaps during spring break?

 

Anyway, here you go!

http://www.tuftsdaily.com/news/new-office-of-intercultural-and-social-identities-programs-launched-1.2714404#.T14NOTFun3w

New Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Programs launched

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Monday, March 12, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 12, 2012 08:03

The Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Programs  (ISIP) was launched on Friday as a space for students to gain awareness and respect for racial, ethnic and identity diversity on campus, explore their own identities and confront social concerns on campus.

Goals of the Office of ISIP “We’re working under the guiding principle that says diversity and inclusion are inherent strengths for academic excellence and not problems to be resolved,” Director of the Office of ISIP and Africana Center Director Katrina Moore told the Daily in an interview.

Moore said the office is working to strengthen diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for students to think critically about who they are and how their identities impact their experiences at Tufts.

“We’re trying to create a campus that respects all students and [works to build] a campus community that is inclusive and make sure everyone has equal participation,” Moore said. “There are some students more aligned with their religious or ethnic identity, but they still need to have support and feel they are equal participants on the campus.”

The Office of ISIP is focused on ensuring inclusion for undergraduate and graduate students, particularly those from historically marginalized groups, according to  Moore.

Student ambassador to the Office of ISIP Genesis Garcia shared her insight on the significance of investigating the meaning of “historically marginalized groups” and “inclusion” in an interview during Friday’s launch day events in the Mayer Campus

Center break-out sessions with ISIP student ambassadors.

“By inclusive, it means that there are a lot of identity groups on campus, and people have had radically different experiences and needs at Tufts,” Garcia, a freshman, said.

“We automatically associate groups of people of color as historically marginalized. [That] almost every identity group — based on religion, race, ability — has been historically marginalized is news for some people,” she said. “And in order for everyone to know, steps must be taken for those who don’t know. I don’t want this to be just another diversity initiative [that] we talk about and nothing gets done.”

The title of the office, Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger-Sweeney told the audience at the “A Focus on Tufts” dinner event on the launch day, was repeatedly reworked to make it more encompassing of social and cultural experiences.

Moore included among the goals of the Office of ISIP creating a resource directory, an organized “road map” of resources available on campus to help students navigate the  services and opportunities at Tufts.

“The road map is a sort of  ‘what do I do if …’ resource, to make sure students are supported, and know what’s available on campus,” Ikenna Acholonu, graduate assistant and program coordinator of the Office of ISIP, said.

“There are many times when students don’t understand the function of the Provost’s Office, or when they need to go to the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). We want students to know where to go to address their concerns,” Moore said.

The Office of ISIP is establishing itself as a direct line of communication between students and administrators, through the support and joint efforts of student ambassadors, a faculty working group, the directors of the Group of Six centers  — the Asian American Center, the International Center, the Africana Center, the Women’s Center, the Latino Center and the LGBT Center — and Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies John Barker, according to Moore.

“With ISIP, there is a direct link to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, so the data we’re collecting has a direct route to decision-makers,” Moore said.

Creation of the Office of ISIP

The Office of ISIP began its planning phases in fall 2011, with Moore as the director, at the order of Berger-Sweeney. She had seen a similar program implemented at Wellesley College, where she served as associate dean before coming to Tufts.

According to Moore, adequate qualitative research conducted at other institutions informed the creation of the Office ofISIP at Tufts, along with Berger-Sweeney’s history as Wellesley College.

A report prepared by consultants for Wellesley College concerning multicultural programming aided the creation of such a program at Tufts.

“The consultants found that many institutions had independent houses that reflected singular elements of identity, but these houses did not address the needs of students with complex identities,” Moore told the Daily in an email. “Since the report was research-based and comprehensive, the dean was very well-prepared to address similar issues when she arrived at Tufts.”

According to Moore, Berger-Sweeney spent her second semester at Tufts — Spring 2011 — speaking with students in sororities and fraternities, the Asian American, Africana and Latino Centers, theLGBT Center and the Women’s Center, and reportedly found that her assessment of the Tufts student body mimicked what she had heard at Wellesley.

Afterward, Berger-Sweeney concluded that the issues investigated in the consultants’ report were not just applicable to Wellesley but also had broader applicability to an institution such as Tufts.

Moore explained in the email that the Group of Six leaders continued to research similar programs in higher education and worked to express the particular needs and specific concerns at Tufts to develop the mission and programming for the Office of ISIP.

Moore foresees her dual involvement at the Office of ISIP and the Africana Center as complimentary assets.

“I’m here [at the Africana Center] on a daily basis, [hearing] about experiences students are having,” she said in an interview. “That helps to inform some of the areas that need to be focused on.”

Moore clarified that the Group of Six centers will not disappear to make way for the Office of ISIP. Rather, Moore expressed plans to make the Office of ISIP a focal point for university-wide events addressing racial, ethnic and identity diversity.

“There are lots of events that have to do with inclusion and diversity. Unless you’re a part of that, you know it and otherwise, it may not feel there’s a lot going on on campus.”

To this extent, according to Moore, the Office of ISIP is currently working with Tuftslife for the creation of an event category for cultural identities-related events.

“Just like you can click and find out sports events, you can click and find out what cultural events are,” Moore said.

Launch and Student Ambassadors

Included in the Friday launch events were the student ambassadors’ presentation of their “Say Hello” Campaign Project, small discussions with the Office of ISIP ambassadors in the Mayer Campus Center and dinner and table discussions Friday evening.

The “Say Hello” Campaign has the goal of raising the awareness of all students of the impact of actions and words — even something as simple as saying hello — on another student’s daily life, according to Moore.

“The whole notion around the “Say Hello” campaign is that it’s a way for us to think about how we can do a small simple thing and start to interact with each other more,” Moore said.

Evening table discussions included a preview of the “A Focus on Tufts Initiative” discussion series.

“The series of focus groups is to help create counter-stories, stories that combat issues of racism, classism and other-isms,'” Acholonu said. “With these focus groups, we will compile qualitative data, so that administrators and policy-makers will be able to make decisions based on the information we give them.”

Acholonu added that the “A Focus on Tufts” discussions would be a large part of the Office of ISIP’s programming initiatives.  Future programming initiatives spearheaded by the Office of ISIP will also include the “A Look Within” Series, in which graduate students and professors will showcase their research to build relationships between students and faculty, and the “Your Voice Matters” Conversation Cafe, an opportunity for students to participate in small-group conversations concerning the Tufts community.

The role of the ten student ambassadors recruited to work with the Office of ISIP is to assist with the marketing of the Office of ISIP, serve as a liaison with Tufts student groups and the wider Tufts community, receive social justice and facilitation training and organize programs and initiatives planned by the Office of ISIP to ensure student input in programming, according to an email sent to students nominated by the director of fraternity and sorority affairs, Athletics directors, and Group of Six leaders.

“The activities in the Campus Center are an opportunity for students to hear about the [student ambassador] program,” Moore said. Moore mentioned the possibility of the role of ambassador becoming an application-based role next semester, with potential for work-study wages, as an on-campus job.

“I was thrilled to receive the email,” student ambassador KathrynSelcraig, a sophomore, said during the launch day break-out session event. “I want to be a part of this because having a broader conversation and dialogue about learning differences in people [and] structures of privilege [can] create a more inclusive environment.”

Student Response

Immediately after its inception, the Office of ISIP came under fire from students. Garcia assured students that the office is actively working to address their concerns.

“I’ve heard so many people saying things about ISIP — negative things, positive things, things they don’t know aboutISIP. Whether negative or positive, the only way I can make change is to know what is wrong, what’s missing,” Garcia said.

“There are many assumptions about it already. If you know what’s wrong, there are people in this program who are trying to address this problem. To automatically throw in [the] gutter, I don’t see how that makes any change,” she added.

Acholonu encouraged students to offer feedback for the office, rather than dismiss it entirely.

Cecilia Flores, a senior, attended the launch dinner and remains unclear of the exact purpose of the Office of ISIP and its functionality in the Tufts community.

“We talked [at the launch dinner] about how Tufts has a lot of resources, but how different students have different access. I know from first-hand experience that marginalized students do not have the same access to resources at Tufts and are affected by a lot of issues,” Flores said in an interview with the Daily, citing hate speech and KeithAblow’s statements at a lecture in the fall and how the lack of response left transgender students vulnerable, stigmatized and targeted. “I feel like the ISIP could be doing a much better job incorporating student leaders. The burden cannot be on the students but we need to have power and direction within this push because we are the ones that are affected.”

“We’re trying to gather as much input and feedback as possible,” Acholonu said.  “I want students to know that their voice matters to us, regardless of who they are or what they have to say … Through our connection to aspects of the administration, change can occur, if the students try to engage with the programs and speak their minds.”

 

Latest Article: Dr. Cornel West at Tufts (in other news: I died)

#BooksMyJobGaveMe Podcast, Journalism, Tufts Daily

So.

Dr. Cornel West. With his controversial politics and black church-infused rhetoric, it seems that everyone has an opinion on Dr. West and his political and social agenda. What does one do when face-to-face with the Good Doctor, with upwacrds of 20 minutes to spare?

Interview? check.

Video interview? check.

Talk politics and whatnot, shooting the breeze? check.

Hug? check.

Pray? double check.

DR. WEST GIVES ME A SHOUTOUT DURING HIS SPEECH?? WHAAAAAAAH???

The  video portion of the pre-lecture interview will be up soon. Meeting Dr. West was phenomenal, and I’m so grateful to God that Dr. West has kept his spiritual self close to his political self. He is unapologetic, and his body is on the line.

Now for the article! Photo slideshow at the end!

West offers critique of democracy, power structures

By Briona Jimerson

Well-known scholar and activist Cornel West analyzed current political structures and the plight of working class individuals in a lecture last night in a packed Cohen Auditorium.

Well-known scholar, activist and advocate for global and domestic civil rights Cornel West, who is a professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, addressed a packed Cohen Auditorium in a lecture last night with a message calling for critical personal and social analysis, emphasizing the significance of the plight of working class individuals in advocating for democratic and social reform.

West’s lecture was part of the Faculty Progressive Caucus’s American Democracy in Crisis Series and was made possible largely through his academic and personal relationship with Tufts Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Jerry Meldon, according to James Glaser, Dean of Undergraduate Education for Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

“He’s very outspoken, he has a great sense of right and wrong and isn’t afraid to speak truth to power,” Meldon told the Daily.

The Tufts Diversity Fund, the Peace and Justice Studies program, the Africana Center, the Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Program, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office for Campus Life co-sponsored the lecture.

West began his lecture with an air of comfortable familiarity and lightheartedness, expressing his desire to unsettle Tufts students in their political and social beliefs in order to incite academic and social change in students.

“I hope I say something that unsettles you, unnerves you,” he said.

During the lecture, West challenged attendees to confront their own location in the democratic process and to learn to “die” — that is, to shrug off preconceived notions of others and themselves in an effort to renew their own expansion capabilities.

Dr. West speaking backstage with an attendee

“Democracies must be reborn continually,” he said. “It’s a process of critically examining yourself. It’s about learning how to die. When you ‘die,’ you let go of assumption or prejudice or prejudgment, that’s a form of death, and you don’t grow without that kind of death.”

West critiqued and analyzed current political structures, including public political offices, and their involvement, or lack thereof, in assisting and advocating on the behalf of the working class and poor demographic groups in the United States.

“When I talk about democracy, I always begin with those catching hell, the wretched of the earth,” he said, referring to members of historically and socially “marginalized” groups based on class, race and often history.

“What does American democracy look like from the vantage point of indigenous brothers and sisters?” West asked.

“World War I has been going on since 1492,” he continued, prompting applause from the audience.

He acknowledged the high crime, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and incarceration rates among individuals living on Native American reservations in the United States.

“With these 312 [Native American] reservations, there is very little visibility in public discourse,” he said. “And our indigenous brothers and sisters don’t have to be in the room for us to be sensitive to their suffering. They’re as precious or priceless as anyone else.”

West expressed his excitement about the younger generation’s involvement in the Occupy movement. He has personally participated in several Occupations.

“When you have a deep compassion for suffering, you can’t stand there being treated unfairly, unjustly,” he said. “That’s the kind of fire we need among the younger generation. That’s why I get excited by [the] Occupy movement.”

His forthcoming work, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto,” aims to discuss the different faces of poverty.

Bringing the truth, Dr. Cornel West (photo by me)

“As long as we see only black and brown, it’ll be difficult,” he said.

In closing, West reminded the audience that fights for justice and equality, while often appearing insurmountable, are long-term ventures contingent on lifetime dedication that continues into post-graduate life.

“The question is, how rigorous, how robust and how much courage will students have after they graduate? How courageous will you be?” he said.

“You’ve got to be a long distance runner,” he added. “Many are happy to ‘break the glass ceiling’, but what about those in the basement? That’s the kind of sensibility required to be a person in the long run … It’s about action and an intellectual, moral, and spiritual collective.”

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I’m going to post my “full” article up tomorrow or Saturday. How do you cut down thousands of words into a bitesized snapshot, that moves and educates people with the force of those thousands of words?  That’s the art of it.

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Journalism 101: E-style profile writing? Anyone? Anyone?

#BooksMyJobGaveMe Podcast, Journalism, The New York Observer, Tufts Daily

I give credit where credit is due.

During my summer at The Observer, I was able to watch a true editor, team-builder, innovator, and manager work. Under Elizabeth Spiers, the editor-in-chief at The Observer, I began to understand the importance of creating a team of people, and learning from the best.

*aaand scene on the Elizabeth worship*

Every so often, she’d invite a guest to speak with the writing staff–a close (and wildly successful) friend in the industry, an insider, etc. One day, she brought Priscilla Painton, a reporter and editor at Time in the late 80’s, to speak with the staff about “getting the story, and more specifically, the art of the profile.

Behold: the E-curve profile.

Did anyone else know about this? Has anyone else learned about this? I’ve ‘profiled’ my friends before, in creative writing exercises, but it would always become an incoherent ranting on their childhood, or consist of sweeping generalizations about this or that. Long story short, the E-curve changed m life. Well, it changed my style of writing. So yes, my life.e bas

The basics:

  • You begin with the inner part of the e (always lowercase): the ‘–‘ section. That’s where you introduce your subject. A vignette, perhaps. A small snapshot into something larger. A distinctive trait, some notable quirk. Something to make the reader want to keep reading, and find out what built this person, what makes her or him tick, and why should anyone care? Some writers express this with an introduction into the beginning of the interview (BUT NOT NEARLY AS SUCKY AS THE FOLLOWING): “After selecting a corner table at the overpriced coffee shop, one sequestered away near the samovar, I waited patiently for interesting person x to arrive at our scheduled meeting place. I watched as she stepped out of a cab, one Louboutin-clad foot before the other, and scuttled in 6-inch heels toward the coffee shop, her shiny brown skin catching the light in the crook of her arm as she paid the driver with a twenty-dollar bill.”
^^I swear, I’ve read profiles that seem to go on and on and on at nauseum about the mode of the subject’s arrival, initial assumptions, etc, only to “get around to” the point after a page or two.And that’s okay. That’s a specific style of writing, to introduce the subject. But like all good things (and descriptive paragraphs) it must come to an end. It’s just incredibly frustrating when it seems like a writer is hiding behind flowery language and descriptors, instead of ‘getting to the point’.  And what’s the point, more often than not? Sometimes, it’s not to ‘dig deep’ into the life of some socialite or celebrity or another, but an excuse to make a casual but all too carefully crafted mention of their latest project and rehash her or his latest breakup, relationship, or life circumstance (let’s be honest, that’s why they’re on the cover of whatever magazine anyway). But not Painton’s work. She calls. She interviews. She types and transcribes and jots down little mentions and notes, and creates as holistic and purposeful (read PURPOSEFUL) a portrait of the individual.
  • The second part of the ‘e’ (and the profile) is unwinding the story. This is where journalism comes in handy. What story are you telling? To whom are you telling it? What’s the purpose, who is the audience, and why should they care are key questions at this juncture. The ‘flat part’ of the ‘e’ is to introduce them as real people, the detailed aspects that follow is the action. In the words of Ms.  Painton , “action is the center of all journalism.” This is where we get to the meat and potatoes, so to speak, and upturn some earth. Make it as shallow or deep as you want (or as your publication or word count calls), but make it your own, and have integrity.

So, here I am, a student journalist hungry for a profile. My latest foray, the Cookie Guy article, began something like that. In the heat of the editing room, it was reassembled to be more fitting of “Daily style”: I forgot, while writing it, all about “Daily style”. I’ll post the unedited (gasp!) version of the original article/ profile tomorrow, and go through to edit it myself. Online. In the public sphere. In front of everyone (or no one…?).

E is for elephant,

B