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"We'll always have Paris."

“We’ll always have Paris.”

129 murdered in Paris on November 13th, 43 killed in Lebanon one day earlier, and hundreds more killed since the beginning of 2015 – all these deaths were at the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS. As the dead were mourned and awareness of the bloodshed spread, the Islamic state only gained more power world-wide.

Yesterday, SIPA hosted a panel called “ISIS after Paris” which discussed ISIS’s ever growing influence despite the western world’s plans to contain it. Although the panelists were all very knowledgeable about the subject, the discussion stayed fairly broad and hypothetical.

What were the conclusions of the panel?



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img November 18, 20152:04 pmimg 1 Comments

John Lennon said it first; "A working class hero is something to be"

John Lennon said it first; “A working class hero is something to be”

On the evening of November 17th, Schermerhorn’s typically spooky vibe was replaced with that of strongly opinionated women ready to discuss a heavily loaded question: is feminism Jewish? A panel comprised of Michelle Goldberg, Vivian Gornick, and Catha Pollitt deliberated on the topic before an audience of about twenty women, most of them elderly. Although the discussion was supposed to be led by Goldberg, the audience members pitched their own questions as they came to mind.

There are two correct answers to the question at hand; the first of which is no, feminism is not Jewish. Gornick strongly defended the secularity of the second-wave feminism movement, claiming that there was no feminism in the history of Jewish life until our generation. She believes that the feminism movement belonged to women, not Jews. This movement, along with the labor movement and other 20th century revolutions, was entirely secular. Gornick expanded on this, claiming, “the labor movement was not Jewish. It was Italian, Irish, it was the working class!” A lot of women in the audience reacted negatively to her point and vocalized their disagreement. One yelled, “a lot of those immigrants in the unions were Jews, it’s okay to admit that Jewishness had some impact on the labor movement, and the feminism movement, too!” Gornick believes that growing up as a girl, an immigrant, and a part of the working class all contributed to her outlook during the revolution, but not being Jewish.

Could the answer be yes, too?



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img November 13, 20157:08 pmimg 0 Comments

The work in question

The work in question

The first thing I noticed when walking into the East Gallery of Buell Hall (which I learned was also the Maison Francaise upon looking up the venue) was just how many people had packed into the room. I knew The Meursault Investigation, named after the book which was to be discussed that night, was going to draw a crowd, but I wasn’t expecting almost every glass chair (much fancier than any chairs I’ve seen Columbia roll out in the past) to be filled filled.

After exchanging my CUID for a pair of headphones, which allowed us non-French speakers to listen to a live translation of the book discussion and Q&A, I sat down and played around with the volume settings. I could hear a smattering of English in the room, but most of the conversations occurring around me were in French. A faint scent of tobacco hung in the still air as we waited for Kamel Daoud, author of the award winning novel, to take his seat on stage.

Daoud’s novel, for those unfamiliar with the name Meursault, is a response to Albert Camus’ famed 1942 existentialist novel, The Stranger. In The Stranger, a French man in colonial Algeria, identified only as Meursault, essentially kills an Arab in cold blood. The novel is told in first person perspective, following Meursault through his love life, interactions with his neighbours, the killing of the Arab, and his subsequent criminal trial.

More after the break!



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img October 16, 20153:15 pmimg 0 Comments

Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

In this LectureHop, Staff Writer Nadra Rahman puts on her politics hat and attends a talk at Lehman Auditorium with several important guests who came to speak about Central America’s social and political world.

In introducing the symposium (titled “The surge: Politics, violence, and children in Central America and Mexico”), Professor José Moya noted that the recently publicized issue of unaccompanied minors’ migration in Central America is particularly timely because of the “real refugee crisis” occurring all over the world. According to Professor Moya, the crisis is one that has existed for a long time, but has come to the forefront now “not because the intensity of suffering has increased, but because the richest countries are now affected”.

The first two speakers contextualized the “surge” of unaccompanied minors crossing Central and North American borders in 2014, speaking about the “Northern Triangle” made up of the three Central American countries that produce the most immigrants: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These countries have seen the most migration, but they are also the ones most affected by migration.

Gun violence, domestic violence, and deepening poverty are the major factors that have pushed citizens out of the Northern Triangle. Father José Idiáquez, Rector at the Universidad Centro Americana, described the deaths of six Jesuit priests and the constant presence of gangs, death, and kidnapping. He said the “population lives in terror,” and often children left behind by their emigrating parents find themselves sexually and physically abused.

In describing the consequences of migration in these societies, Idiáquez said that, on a familial level, effects can include depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and a loss of identity, particularly when families are uprooted from their homes or scattered. On a socio-cultural level, there is a widespread rejection of religious and familial customs in favor of European and American ones (English, for example, is preferred to Spanish).

Read more about the lecture after the jump!



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img October 10, 20154:32 pmimg 9 Comments

Gary Johnson lookin' hot back in 2012

Gary Johnson lookin’ hot back in 2012

Daily Editor Betsy Ladyzhets braved the wilds of the free market for a talk with Gary Johnson, libertarian candidate for President and apparently very fit for a sexagenarian.

When the president of the Columbia Libertarians introduced Gary Johnson last night, she described him as a man who believes in “liberalism in its truest sense.” This might sound strange, considering Gary Johnson was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 (and is likely to be the Libertarian candidate again in 2016.) However, throughout his talk, which was cosponsored by the Columbia Libertarians and Columbia Voting Week, Mr. Johnson proved that his standpoints and ideas are much more liberal than one might expect, and explained the flaws he sees in America’s current two-party system.

Mr. Johnson started by talking about himself and his family and their accomplishments. He mentioned that he and his fiancée (of seven years) are both competitive bikers, even at the ages of 62 and 63 respectively. He mentioned that he achieved his lifelong dream of climbing the highest mountain on each continent. He said that he had paid for everything he owned since the age of seventeen (including his entire college tuition, which was about 200 dollars a semester.) And finally, he told us that he believes the hardest thing a person can do is fire someone – but that he still believes firing people is crucial to keeping a business running effectively.

“We elect a whole bunch of people who have never hired and fired,” Mr. Johnson went on to say – thus effectively segueing into the topic of government and the main body of his talk.

Mr. Johnson talked about his own political experience, which comes from one position: that of governor of New Mexico, which he held for two terms. He paid for his campaign himself, up until the primaries, at which point the bulk of his funding came from individual contributions.

During his time as governor, Mr. Johnson didn’t add a penny to the state’s taxes, reduced the number of state employees while not firing anyone, and vetoed more bills than all of the other governors in the country. Most of those bills, he claimed, were related to unnecessary spending and unnecessary regulation. “One of my favorite bills that I vetoed,” he said, “was a dog and cat bill that required pet stores to exercise dogs and cats a certain number of times per week.”

Keep reading for more libertarianism



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img October 09, 20157:31 pmimg 1 Comments

Democracy: simple in theory, complicated in practice, man.

Democracy: simple in theory, way more complicated in practice, man.

Yesterday, the Columbia School of Journalism hosted a two-hour long discussion on “The American Dream” in the context of modern democracy — a broad topic of conversation that could cover anything from immigration to belonging. Wooed by the prospect of knowledgeable speakers, open debate, and free lunch, Staff Writer Asya Sagnak dutifully skipped a midterm revision session to check it out.

“Awakening Our Democracy” was the first installation in a new conversation series on the race, ethnicity, and justice issues at the forefront of America’s consciousness. Held in Pulitzer Hall, the event featured a wide array of speakers from different backgrounds: TED Fellow and vocal Muslim-American comedian Negin Farsad, Columbia University Assistant Professor Van C. Tran, and Dream Action Coalition Co-Director Cesar Vargas, with Al Jazeera analyst Duarte Geraldino serving as curator. Although the title of the lecture prioritized democracy, the speakers were very clearly focused on current attitudes towards immigration — how have they evolved with time? How does language impact our point of view? Armed with personal experiences of injustice, they provided us with an understanding of not only different forms of oppression but also different strategies to combat that oppression in our day-to-day lives.

Farsad started the discussion with a simple statement: “So… guess who just crushed the MTA?” Her excitement was clearly uncontainable, and she waved her arms around her head as she elaborated on the federal lawsuit she had recently won against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As an avid “social justice comedian” (a term Farsad uses to label those like herself who seek political action through the use of satire), Farsad tried to counter Islamophobic subway advertisements by creating her own series of satirical response advertisements that aimed to normalize the word “Muslim” in American society. The day they were scheduled to go up, the MTA banned “political viewpoint messages” and rejected her proposal. Farsad sued over violation of her First Amendment freedoms.

“They proved our point,” she explained. “Our ads were meant to be about how everyday messages could be politicised or made violent just through the inclusion of the word “Muslim.” Examples of Farsad’s ads include posters saying The Ugly Truth About Muslims: They Make Great Frittata Recipes! and Fact: Muslims Invented Justin Timberlake. She went on to clarify: “Funny stuff, dirt bag comedian stuff – nothing charged. Either that, or I’ve missed some sort of recent food scandal, and frittatas are now a hot button political issue.”

More on the American Dream next.



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Richard Wright

Richard Wright

On Friday afternoon, the Heyman Center Workshops with CRPS Workshop Series presented a lecture featuring Dr. Tommie Shelby discussing Richard Wright and the Westernization of the world. We sent new Bwogger Juliet Larsen to check out the lecture.

On an otherwise sleepy Friday afternoon on campus, Schermerhorn was buzzing with graduate students and professors alike, gathered for an intense two-hour discussion about race, religion, and Wright.

The event began with a presentation by Dr. Tommie Shelby, author best known for We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity, and professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University. Discussing his paper, “Richard Wright: Realizing the Promise of the West,” Dr. Shelby examined controversial African-American author Richard Wright’s most famous works (including Uncle Tom’s Children and Black Boy), a

nd their relation to the worldwide Westernization of non-Western culture. Joining Professor Shelby were Columbia’s own Professor Robert Gooding-Williams, Professor of African-American Studies, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor Josef Sorett, Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies and the Associate Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

Shelby opened his lecture with one of his paper’s key points,that Africans and people of African descent were forced to assimilate to Western culture “in a very rapid fashion…as opposed to evolving over many centuries.” As an expert in religious studies, Professor Sorett offered commentary on the state of religion during Wright’s time and included his observations of Wright’s religious philosophy. Sorett explained that while Wright considered himself as as philosopher of religion and psychology, he developed a “greater ambivalence” towards religion over time, eventually “calling on writers to replace preachers.”
Regarding the Jim Crow Laws that prompted Wright to begin writing, Shelby respectfully stated that he didn’t “want to be overstepping my bounds,” but that he believed Wright did not want African-American people to “be passive and submit in undignified ways.”

Another point discussed in the lecture was the mystery of Wright’s influences. Despite drawing comparisons to Sartre and Nietzsche, and even explicitly citing Nietzsche as one of his inspirations, Wright does not mention any other Black thinkers as his influences, leaving room for controversy as a Black philosopher himself.

See what questions and critiques the audience had next.



img April 15, 20153:48 pmimg 0 Comments

The panel

The panel

Yesterday evening, Barnard hosted an intimate panel in the Diana Event Oval called “Beauty and Aging.” We sent Cosmo Craver Courtney Couillard to hear what President Debora Spar and her fellow panelists had to say about the biting issue all women face at some point in their life.

Having spoken intensively in her writing about women’s relationship with beauty, President Spar moderated last night’s event on the topic of beauty and aging. The panel also featured the following leading women in the beauty fields: Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, Joanna Coles; Founder and CEO of Women One, Dayle Haddon; Cosmetic Dermatologist, Dr. Rhoda Narins BC ’62; and the author of “The Beauty Myth,” Naomi Wolf.

To begin, President Spar explained the relevance of having this conversation about beauty and aging at Barnard College. As the college has coined the term “bold, beautiful, Barnard women,” President Spar shared she has received flack for referring to Barnard students as ‘beautiful.’ However, President Spar defended the slogan as most Barnard women are indeed beautiful, and the term ‘beautiful’ should be considered in a diverse way. She then went on to point out the struggle women face between being proclaimed feminists while also falling victim to the beauty standards of society. President Spar even joked, “wrinkles are illegal in the borough of Manhattan.” However, she challenged the panel as well as the crowd to consider what relationship feminism has with beauty, and whether a woman’s attempt at making herself look beautiful should be considered a product of her society or a liberating, personal choice.

But how do we handle beauty and aging?



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img April 11, 201511:30 amimg 0 Comments

Down the rabbit hole

Down the rabbit hole

Ever wanted to explore the origins of the friend(s) you keep in your desk drawer? Well, you missed the main event, but doge of the dildo Lili Brown has captured the main thrust.

“I wonder how many times I can use the word ‘came’ tonight”

GS Alliance hosted a talk with GS Advising Dean RJ Jenkins on Thursday night that covered a topic unconventional to Dean talks on an unconventional form of a furry little rabbit. Dean Jenkins, given his expertise in Victorian poetry, presented a pictorial history of vibrator technology (and we hear the rabbit vibrators are the best these days), which primarily (and surprisingly) took off during the close-legged time of Victorian Europe.

He began by showing the trailer to a well-casted film called Hysteria, but we didn’t have the sound to accompany it in Schermerhorn 467. The technical difficulties enhanced the intention of showing the trailer; the faces tell it all and I promise it’s funnier Charlie Chaplin style. The “hysterical true story” is both Hollywood and historically true and proves Dean Jenkins’ association with vibrator technology and the Victorian age. But we’ll get to that point in the chronology later.

“If you don’t know what a double dildo is, google it”


We can do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel

First things first, one of ancient civilization’s less-discussed contributions to modern society was sex toys. “People have always liked to have sex,” and shaking up the situation with a stone-age dildo wasn’t uncommon. The ancients used what materials were available to them, for the double dildo pictured is made 100% of jade. Such a high-class toy today would only seem proper for really quality porn or for artistic display in Hugh Hefner’s mansion.

A question asked at the end of presentation clarified the intended use of these early sexual technologies. The placard (covered by a head in the photo) claims that the double-dildo was exclusive to use “by lesbians,” but Dean Jenkins clarified that sexual relations were divided rigidly into two camps during “the dawn of time:” reproductive and pleasurable. Heterosexual activity served the reproductive purpose, and homosexual activity served the pleasurable purpose, which doesn’t just limit lesbians to the use of the double-dildo. As he said, google it.

Hysteria: “You might as well make getting to Jane’s house a little bit of a situation”

The accessibility of vibrator technology and use that we know today stems from its medicalization and industrialization that came with the Victorian age. These bourgeoisie men were obsessed with inventions, which matched with the change in medical discourse during this time. Many upper-class women were diagnosed with hysteria to categorize their “over-sensitivity” and “emotional variability” into a medical term, and this mysterious disease for a mysterious gender accrued a variety of probable remedies.

What came next?? (heh)



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img April 07, 20159:05 amimg 1 Comments

Macaulay serving face for Bwog

Alastair Macaulay serving face for Bwog

In keeping with the theme of making our baby Bwoggers cover events they have no contextual knowledge of, we sent our Sunday daily editor to Monday night’s roundtable discussion of dance criticism at Barnard titled “Team Dance: The Dance Critics of the New York Time.” Mason Amelotte shares his thoughts below.

I entered the unfamiliar Julius S. Held auditorium approximately thirty minutes prior to the scheduled start time of the discussion (a critic of critics is always early), and was greeted by at least sixty panel-goers over the age of 60, not including the three or four other undergrads in attendance with me. I’m still unsure of these undergrads, though. I often found myself pondering the questions, “Are they grandmas?? Or just art students going through a vintage phase??” After the initial confusion of thinking I had accidentally stumbled into an assisted living facility had worn off, I made my way through the geriatric section towards the back of the room where I took my seat.

The panel consisted of Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic of The New York Times, as well as three freelance dance critics for the newspaper: Gia Kourlas, Brian Seibert, and Siobhan Burke, both an alumnus of and current dance lecturer at Barnard College. Lynn Garafola, who serves as the co-chair of Barnard’s dance department, led the panel. Outside of Barnard, Garafola is a well-known dance critic and historian. The discussion itself lasted a little under 75 minutes and was followed by a brief Q&A session.

The discussion opened with each member of the panel describing their background and how they got into dance criticism as an occupation. With the exception of Macaulay, each critic had grown up practicing some form of dance, from modern style to tap and ballet to Irish step. Macaulay described his obsession with “letter writing” as a child, an obsession that led him to write about dance for fashion/gossip magazines before eventually being introduced to Mary Clarke, then editor of Dancing Times.

Read about the New York Times’ unusual stylistic rules after the jump!



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img April 01, 201511:16 amimg 2 Comments

Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs

Yesterday, Internal Editor and scientific savant Britt Fossum headed to Hamilton to listen to Columbia’s resident boss Jeffrey Sachs talk ethics and universities.

Yesterday evening was the first talk in a new series hosted by the Masters Program in Bioethics at Columbia titled “What is a Moral University in the 21st Century?” The speaker was none other than Jeffrey Sachs: economist, professor, and opponent of the university-as-business model that is all too prevalent. According to him, moral discourse is just not as normal as it should be. Many problems brought up during the daily functioning of Columbia should be regarded as moral issues as well as economic or social issues: fossil fuel divestment, sexual misconduct, plagiarism and academic property rights, admissions, and issues of free speech.

Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and was an economics professor at Harvard and so focused his argument on moral issues in these two fields—the need for fossil fuel divestment and the legitimacy of professors taking on private consulting jobs with Wall Street. He spoke against the dominant position of the day which he defines as a libertarian one with the University governed only by the board of trustees and state and market law. Morality needs to be pushed past this “web of contractual obligations.”

There are four types of moral problem facing a modern university according to Sachs: those of daily life and interpersonal relationships, of academic research, how teachers should impart moral knowledge to students, and the role of the University in a global context. Sachs elaborated further on this last (most complicated) issue by giving examples: this is the realm of morality that should govern Columbia’s decisions on use of the endowment, development in Manhattanville, accepting donations, and allowing outside employers for professors and departments.

Sachs speaks out against the Harvard president and more after the jump!



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img March 25, 201511:05 amimg 0 Comments

he stares into your soul

Professor Tom Kent

Bwog’s Sports Editor and amateur Russian Ross Chapman hit up Professor Thomas Kent’s lecture at the Harriman Institute’s 12th floor offices in the International Affairs Building yesterday morning to hear the reporter and Russian scholar present “Decoding the Soviet Press.” As it turns out, the newspapers and radio of the time were way more that “just propoaganda.”

While some people just stumbled into 1219 IAB for the six trays of free Indian food at lunchtime, the room was pretty packed regardless to listen to the usual round of Monday lectures. Tom Kent is an adjunct professor at the School of Journalism and holds a number of posts with the Associated Press. He showed up today to talk about his specialty in Soviet media, which he credits to his six years as an AP correspondent in Moscow. Professor Kent wanted to debunk the idea that the Soviet press was all propaganda. “Once you get past the turgid writing” of the official sources, he said, there’s a lot to be found that exposes day-to-day and political issues in the Soviet Union.

The structuring of the Soviet press varied as the leaders did. Lenin considered himself a journalist and saw no problem with being simultaneously in charge of the government and the media. He said that the Soviet press “is a collective organizer of the country,” as it all espoused certain thoughts and worked towards certain goals. Contrarily, he referred to western media as “the depot of ideas,” a useless warehouse where ideas were stashed without purpose.  In this era, the press was, as Kent called it, “a guardian and cheerleader” for the ideals of the country. But once Stalin took over, everything became stricter. There was a mood of fear among editors, and one piece that could be construed as anti-Soviet could have untold consequences. This continued until Khrushchev took over and “the Thaw” began in 1956, but returned with Brezhnev in 1964. This was a “stolid, gray period” for the Soviet media, where it felt like everything was “just getting by.”

Now, the media largely served two purposes. It informed and propagandized the public while also serving as a means of intraparty communication. A popular means of propaganda was presenting failure as something good. Professor Kent used the example of “Fish Day,” a new once-a-week plan from leading Soviet doctors to feed everyone fish for medical benefits. Of course, the real reason was that the country was having well-documented meat shortages. The newspapers also pulled quotes from even the smallest tabloids in foreign countries to create whatever international appearance they wanted, such as unity in support of Brezhnev. Actual problems would be relegated to the back pages, but Kent didn’t think everything that deserves the front page in America would fit in the USSR. A plane crash, for instance, “in Soviet proportions,” is nothing compared to the still recent losses of war, and most people in the country didn’t always want to hear about crises. Of course we’ll see some media practice as confusing or wrong if we view it from 40 years and 5,000 miles away.

“The Truth about Untruth” after the jump



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img March 24, 20153:09 pmimg 1 Comments


thinkin’ about how philosophy and literature will inevitably spar for eternity :/

Tuesday Daily Editor/ultimate renaissance woman Briana Bursten put her incredibly extensive knowledge of philosophy and literature to the test when she attended a lecture entitled “The Ancient Quarrel: Philosophy and Literature” on Monday night. So who cares if she only took one intro philosophy class last semester and now calls herself “Yung Aristotle”? Who cares if she only skimmed read select passages of the Odyssey during her First Year English class? This girl is BACK and ready to share her academic mastery with all of you plebeians Bwog readers. Bow down, bitches. 

Barnard alumna and former Assistant Professor Rebecca Goldstein returned to her alma mater on Monday night to give a lecture detailing the convoluted relationship that philosophy and literature share. As she took the podium in the Diana Oval, Goldstein gave her personal history regarding her academic career at Barnard and her professional evolution from philosopher to novelist. Though the lecture began a bit after its set start time at 7pm, it became clear that this talk would be an excellent addition to the alumni lecture series commemorating Barnard’s 125th anniversary.

But we’re only getting started!



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img March 12, 201511:16 amimg 0 Comments

I sure wouldn't

Would you turn down Ebola advice from a face like this?

While he usually lives by the motto, “ball is life,” Bwog’s Ross Chapman hopped over to a lecture about Ebola and beyond, and reported back. 

A group of experts, mostly Columbians, gathered in the Satow Room yesterday to hold a panel on the ethical responsibilities and questions that arise when responding to a crisis. Using Ebola as a case study, the doctors and policymakers discussed the perceived incompatibilities between capitalism and the public health agenda, autonomy and the greater good, and science and politics. The panel was headed by Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute, and included Jeff Schlegelmilch, a managing director at the same Center; Arturo Brito, a deputy commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Health; and Robert Klitzman, a director of several ethics programs at Columbia.

While it was arranged as a panel, it felt more like each speaker delivered their own ideas for twenty minutes, with a little interaction saved for the very end. Irwin Redlener spoke first with the aid of a few Powerpoint slides. He posed a lot of questions without many answers. Are there crisis situations where we can call for reduced standards of care? Where should we allocate our scarce resources? And who prioritizes certain lives over others? Redlener focused more on these issues, which other speakers would address further. He believes that disaster is inevitable, and so prevention cannot be used as a complete replacement to response. He ended his speech by noting that “no decision is a decision” in a crisis. Decisions imply thought beforehand, and it’s impossible to do that in a crisis unless there was adequate planning in years prior.

Nex, Robert Klitzman put out the idea that disasters are often unanticipated consequences of technological advancement. Epidemic diseases spread the way they do today because of our complex transportation infrastructure, for example. He then moved on to talk about the politics of fear. At what point do we quarantine people, and how necessary is it, really? He remarked that fear makes governors press for medical response to something like Ebola “for the public health,” but that same reasoning can’t make some states mandate vaccines for children. Part of this fear is media coverage, which, when it comes to disease crises, often mongers fear for domestic but not international causes. Most interestingly, he called for a better social scientific approach to disease response. Anthropological studies are necessary to know how people will react to treatment. Cultural barriers can make people think that pills will give them disease, and lingual issues can make populations believe that experimental, 30% effectiveness treatments is a cure-all. This is all to say, there’s more to epidemics than just the disease itself.

More speeches and discussion after the jump



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img February 27, 20154:03 pmimg 0 Comments

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine, a poet and professor at Pomona College, was one of the speakers at Tuesday’s presentation

Whether it’s attending drunken FroSci lectures or showing up to Tunisian talks, Bwog loves to learn in the classroom and beyond. We sent Poetry Professional Briana Bursten to check out Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah. Read about her evening of learning and listening below!

A genuine feeling of reverence was evident as individuals from various ages and backgrounds crowded the Schapiro Center’s Davis Auditorium this past Tuesday for Justice Poetry: Readings and Discussion with Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Messiah. The evening of sharing and dialogue began with opening remarks from Barnard Associate English Professor Monica Miller. Miller explained that each poet would read pieces that thematically center on issues of justice, and that readings were encouraged to be broken up by anecdotes and explanations by the poets themselves.

The first poet was Claudia Rankine, a graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Columbia and a current English professor at Pomona College. Rankine is the author of multiple collections of poetry, and she spoke with sincerity as she read three pieces from her latest book, entitled Citizen. Rankine’s attention towards racial issues and current injustices was particularly evident through her anecdotes, which were inserted between her readings. One of my favorite stories that Rankine shared had to do with a discussion that she had with one of her friends during a walk through their California neighborhood. Rankine spoke of a time when she asked this friend when she has “felt the most white.” Her friend told her of experiences on the East Coast when taking public transportation and how every time she boarded a subway or a train, there would almost always be a black man with an empty seat next to him. Rankine explained that her friend would always “feel the most white” when she consciously made the choice to take this seat. This anecdote was followed by the Rankine’s final reading of the night— an incredibly powerful poem about the symbolism of this “empty seat.” Rankine remained seated on stage while the two other poets shared their work.

Dawn Lundy Martin and Messiah Ramkissoon after the jump!

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