Bursting the Baldwin Bubble

December 2016

39%. That’s 228 of our 584 students who are not white. This statistic is proudly displayed on our website as a beacon for prospective families, a place where we boast about our ability to draw students not only from other counties but from other states. Baldwin is a safe haven, a picturesque sanctuary for learning and growth, away from the -isms and -phobias that plague the rest of society. Once you pass through those gates for the first time, we claim, you check your bags at the door and are now liberated to learn and think for yourself. Well, just how freely can we think? According to our website and copious marketing materials, the Baldwin mind knows no bounds. But those 228 students would beg to differ.

How would they describe their experience at Baldwin? Sophomore Da’Naira Dent ‘19 noted, “hidden discrimination.” Her classmate Niara Johnson ‘19 elaborated, saying that, “As a student of color, I am not guaranteed the respect, justice, and protection that I deserve in the way that my white counterparts are.” This can take many forms. Often times students of color aren’t afforded the same benefit of the doubt as their peers. Savannah Sanford ‘19 also added, “We feel that our problems or fears may not be as prioritized as those of a non minority student.” Why is this happening? We’re a school with numerous affinity groups that host events dedicated to creating dialogue around the issues that the minorities in our community face, so shouldn’t that translate into a broader sense of unity in our community? Well, it turns out that there’s more of a disconnect than an outsider looking in would expect.

Yes, we do have discussions, and meetings, and movie nights, but how far can the messages that come from these events reach? Do they only speak to the insular and affirmative parts of the community? Any attempt to create a productive conversation about controversial topics, particularly about race, by the administration is undermined by the perceived need to remain bipartisan. This noncommittal attitude only affirms the privileges of majority students and further alienates minorities.

According to Johnson, the assembly held the day after the presidential election is an example of a time when, in an attempt to support everyone, the administration isolated the students who really needed the comforting. As she said, “It demeaned the feelings of those who actually attended the assembly (those who were really distraught, numb, and overwhelmed with emotion), and deflected away from the real issue: how the result of the election may very well put minorities and marginalized groups (such as women, LGBTQ+, Muslims, and undocumented individuals) in danger.” Dent agreed, continuing, “I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to be told just get over something that could so greatly impact the futures of the girls, their loved ones, and the nation as a whole, especially by someone who can’t relate to your situation.”

Baldwin is a passionate advocate for supporting fellow females, and now is a time that we need that unity more than ever. Life goes on while we’re sheltered behind our iron gates from eight to three, and it’s unrealistic to expect for students to enter school each day with a clean emotional slate, unaffected by the more troubling aspects of our society. What needs to be done?

Sanford believes that “there should be a mandatory Monday assembly on the topic of race as well as other lunch discussions.” Dent said that “[the Administration] should understand and respect the issues that we bring to them instead of dismissing them.” Johnson agreed with her classmates, concluding that “it would be somewhat comforting to see that the Administration was there to actually stand behind us people of color and instead of speaking over us, understand what we have to bring to the table, why we have to say what we say, and what they can do as people in positions of power to benefit us so that we can equate to our fellow white students.”

Baldwin prides itself on being at the forefront of educating the next generation of forward thinkers, but its students will not reach that if we continue only to address issues in which we know our thoughts will be echoed by our classmates.  It’s easy to talk about feminism under the guise of difficult conversation when we attended an all-girls school where everyone shares the experience of being a woman. Less than half of our student body is anything other than white, which makes their experiences and narratives even more deserving of amplification moving forward. In the words of Johnson, “Progressing is about crossing barriers of discomfort; you can never understand the perspective of an oppressed classmate if you are not willing to admit how you impact that oppression (as an oppressor/as a bystander), what that impact means, and how you can use your privilege effectively.”




The Baldwin Plague

November 2016

The beautiful sounds of harmonies pour from the mouths of the Baldwin Maskers as they rehearse for the fall musical, Sister Act, but suddenly, the song is garbled with the sound of a girl coughing, then another, then another. The Baldwin Plague is spreading, and no one is safe.

The Baldwin Plague struck the Baldwin Upper School fiercely this autumn. In fact, when 118 Upper School students answered questions in a survey, 75% of students came forward as victims of the Baldwin Plague. The Baldwin Plague can be defined as an illness that is longer than a 24 hour bug, leaving the victim feeling as though she had been hit by a bus, then had her sinuses clogged for an eternity and her face rubbed raw from excessive tissue usage, along with a trailing cough that lasts long after the victim has been afflicted. It comes in a variety of forms, anything ranging from the common cold to pneumonia and bronchitis, but in the eyes of a Baldwin girl, it is simply the Baldwin Plague.

So how do these three illnesses, varying in the specificity of their symptoms, lengths of affliction, and treatment methods, all become synonymous in the minds of Baldwin girls? It hardly has anything to do with the actual illnesses themselves but more to do with the chain of events that occurs long after the illness has passed on to the next student.

By missing even one day of school, a Baldwin girl could miss anywhere between two and a half to five hours of classes, depending on her schedule for that day. That means two and a half to five hours of notes, debates, and discussions that could never be replicated by visiting a teacher during g-block.

Lily Barnes ‘17 stated her issue with illness at Baldwin, saying, “If I missed school, I would have missed a lot of notes, and I would have gotten really far behind. I don’t worry too much about missing tests because they are easier to make up.”

The problem isn’t missing tests for two reasons. For one, some Baldwin students don’t miss their tests just because they are sick. The survey reported that out of 118 students, 15% came to school while they were sick just to take a test, and that doesn’t even include the students who come and do not have a test on the day of their illness. The other reason that tests aren’t a problem is simply because they’re easy to make up. You pick a time and place and go.

Lily Barnes pointed out that students get behind in schoolwork, not because of homework, but because they simply feel as though they cannot miss class itself. 52% of the students who responded to the survey said that they had to come in because they could not miss a single day of note-taking.

This becomes a problem for the community. An epidemic, if you will. A plague. Instead of resting and getting better, Baldwin girls are coming into school, sharing their germsand working just as hard as normal. This doesn’t even include the students who came into school because they needed to attend their sports game or sing and dance through a few hours of rehearsal, pushing their bodies harder than ever, even when their bodies need nothing more than a cup of hot tea and a nap.

According to Ms. Jones, the nurse at Baldwin, the common cold can be contagious anywhere between 5-7 days and begins to be contagious the day before the afflicted begins to see symptoms. She recommends that “students and teachers stay home when they are sick. Most people don’t stay home for a week when they have a cold, but if you have a frequent cough and copious secretions, it’s best to stay home to avoid spreading the virus and get the rest you need if you are sick.” However, this proves to be very difficult for the very reasons stated above.

It’s easy to see that like so many other articles in The Hourglass, this article also boils down to one common concept: stress. Madison Sanders ‘17 summarized the issue at the heart of the Baldwin Plague when she stated, “It says a lot about the culture of our school environment… The fact that students feel the need to come into school, even when they are afflicted with veritable illnesses, signifies that this environment of academically motivated people has gone too far; it has reached the brink where extreme productivity and high quality learning turns into extreme unproductivity and lower quality learning for all.”

Baldwin girls combat this issue in the only way they know how: to work, work, work,  in the hopes of maintaining their grades and keeping up with their extracurriculars. Besides that, the girls don’t have much leniency. While 11% of girls answered that they were given ample time to make up their missing work, 34% felt as though “for the most part” they had enough time, and 33%, one third of the surveyed population, admitted that they did not have enough time at all (The remaining 22% of students surveyed reported nonapplicable).

Baldwin girls want to do well; they want to succeed. But when a teenage girl can’t take a day off because she’s sick, much less an entire Upper School of them, the gravity of this situation is revealed. Roya Alidjani ‘17 concluded: “If you are contagious and/or your sickness has a name, stay home.”




Petition on Hair Color

April/May 2016

Being a new student at The Baldwin School, I have felt very welcomed into the community and have been embraced into its loving ways and traditions. Additionally, I have been able to take advantage of the support and resources provided for me. While this new experience is unfolding in front of my eyes, I will continue to adapt. As many people do, I love Baldwin. However, as there are merits, there are also flaws. Fixing these flaws can allow Baldwin to become a superior institution.

To me, the most notable issue of this growing community is the lack of student individuality. The students are not allowed to dye their hair any color that is not natural. This limits students from being able to explore themselves and therefore prevents them from defining who they are. As children grow and adapt to society, they learn how to establish wrong from right with the support of those around them.

The administration may argue that allowing for unnatural hair color could lead to Baldwin being judged. Although some believe that unnatural hair dying is “hipster,” it is an important lesson for the children who decide to dye their hair that there are consequences to their actions. When the children are able to dye their hair using unnatural colors, they will soon realize both the benefits and the consequences of their decision.

By Baldwin having this rule, one can infer that the School believes in the widely spread stereotype against unnatural hair colors. This stereotype defines someone who has unnaturally dyed hair as “rebellious.” When people believe this, they are wrong because realistically it is just a color.

Baldwin enforcing this rule is not justified because the rule is being based off of how they want the children enrolled in their school to appear, but why should this matter if it doesn’t affect how they learn and act? Enforcing this rule is prejudice because The Baldwin School does not have any real reason to ban unnatural hair dying other than the belief of others. If Baldwin lifted the ban on unnatural hair colors, visitors could see first-hand that the school believes that its students can choose to define themselves in different ways, rather than conforming to one set image. We should remove this unnecessary restriction because it supports discrimination against color variety and could even lead to more students applying to the Baldwin School.

The Baldwin School’s confidence is based off of its high leveled academics and its widely ranged diversity. The administration believes if students are allowed to dye their hair any color that they will be judged. So now the question is, if Baldwin is so confident then why should they fear judgement? Baldwin’s 2015-2016 student handbook states, “We are committed to honoring the individual in our community where all members respect and celebrate the diversity of our families, faculty, administration, and staff,” but if this is true, then why isn’t the school allowing students to be different?

Not only is this restriction contradicting Baldwin’s diversity, but there is also the possibility of endangering students’ mental health and self confidence. Psychology Today states, “well kept hair gives us the external appearance of being well managed and it can contribute to feeling that way internally.” If you don’t like the color of your hair and want it a certain color in order to feel confident, then how can you feel confident while attending The Baldwin School? Confidence in appearance could result in better grades. This is because having self confidence inspires confidence in general, and this confidence motivates students to raise their hand in class, do their homework, and even participate in extracurricular activities.




Microaggressions

April/May 2016

Similar to the assembly held by Black Student Union on Monday, April 5, 2016 on microaggressions, schools around the country have been taking the time to educate and raise awareness about microaggressions and their detrimental effects on students.

As defined by Dictionary.com, a microaggression is “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” Coined by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce as a way to verbalize the indirectly racist remarks towards people of color, the term microaggression has expanded to refer to offensive remarks towards many different groups of people.

On March 23, 2016, a survey on microaggressions in the Baldwin community was sent out to the Upper School. The responses of 80 students were recorded. The students were asked the following questions: (1) “Have you personally experienced a microaggression at Baldwin?” (2) “Have you experienced a microaggression based on: race, gender, sexual orientation, political orientation, religious affiliation, or appearance?” (3) “Have you ever witnessed another student experience a microaggression at Baldwin?” (4) “Have you ever addressed a microaggression at Baldwin?” (5) “Do you believe microaggressions are a problem that need to be remedied at Baldwin?” (6) “Do you believe Baldwin educates enough about microaggressions?” (7) “If you think that there is a problem with microaggressions at Baldwin, what solutions would you propose the school institute?”

When asked if they had ever experienced a microaggression at Baldwin, 74% of the students answered “yes.” The students were then given possible categories in which a microaggression could have been perceived, and they were asked if they had ever experienced a microaggression targeted at one of these facets. 65% of the students polled had encountered a microaggression directed at them regarding race, 16% regarding gender, 7% regarding sexual orientation, 28% regarding political orientation, 32% regarding religious affiliation, and 49% regarding appearance.

86% of respondents have witnessed another person at Baldwin being the victim of a microaggression, but only 44% have ever addressed a microaggression. Approximately 62% of girls claimed microaggressions are a problem at the Baldwin School, and 73% of the entire Upper School recorded that Baldwin does not do enough to educate students on microaggressions. Multiple students proposed the solution of discussing microaggressions more often at Baldwin to raise awareness and providing education on how to defend against these attacks.

The March survey revealed that microaggressions present themselves in the Baldwin community in many different forms. While the survey shows racial microaggressions as the majority offense, microaggressions regarding all of the listed options are still substantial in the Upper School. Accordingly, approximately ¾ of the students surveyed determined that Baldwin does not do enough to remedy or educate about microaggressions.




Students React to Restrictions on Leadership

April/May 2016

Every few years, there are new rules put into place at Baldwin regarding academics, athletics, clubs, and leadership positions. This past year has been the first year that the rule regarding the limitation of two leadership positions has been put in the handbook. The handbook states, “students may hold no more than two elected positions of any kind (including clubs). No student may hold two major offices: class officers/student senate/service league/athletic association/arts league/head of yearbook/head of lamplighters.” This rule, or perhaps the reasoning behind it, is subject to debate. Some think it fair, and others do not.

Along with this topic comes an argument as to whether students should be permitted to run for any leadership position they would like, while still responsibly balancing academics, athletics, and other clubs. In a poll sent to the entire Upper School, 33 people responded. 60.6% said that it is fair to be limited to two leadership positions, while 39.4% said it is not.

Some argue that this rule is reasonable. “It makes sure leadership positions aren’t controlled by a single person or a small group of people,” an anonymous respondent said. The survey revealed that this rule allows others, who would not otherwise think to run, a chance to be in the spotlight and perhaps successfully obtain a leadership position as the candidate field narrows.  It may allow for the student government and large club groups to consist of a wider variety of people. Some would argue it allows for more diversity among the student government as the limitation forces students to choose carefully to run for the positions about which they are most passionate, allowing others an opportunity to lead without having a concern as to whether they are “popular” enough to be considered for the position for which they are more than qualified.

Others believe it to be unfair and discouraging not to let capable girls handle as many opportunities as they wish to take on. “People should be able to be as involved as they wish to be. Being a head of multiple clubs while holding a position as a class officer should be permitted.  If you are capable of holding more than one position, why shouldn’t you have the opportunity to?” an anonymous student said. Students expressed that they considered fellow members of the student body sufficiently responsible and competent to hold as many leadership positions as they wish, and if they want to be more involved with school than others, then they should not be punished for it.

“For people who genuinely like to lead and organize events, [limiting the number of leadership roles a student can hold] is very restricting. Although the administration thinks it gives people more opportunities, it really doesn’t. People who want to lead take the initiative and find a position. No one benefits from this. I understand Baldwin wants all of us to lead, but some people are very okay with being in the background and forcing them into a leadership position, in my opinion, only hinders their growth,” an anonymous student said.

Some expressed concern that the rule restricts leaders from doing what they love and sometimes puts more pressure on the ones who do not wish to be involved. Given the number of opportunities Baldwin girls are given, finding a leadership position that is not taken is not hard.  If one wishes to lead, she has to find a position and not worry about the others who already hold a few more. If students wish to be more involved, then they have many options on how to stay active and lead the student body in some form.




An Open Letter to All College Applicants

April/May 2016

Millions of students apply to colleges and universities each year. Not all of them will attend their first choice. But all applicants do have one common thread: stress.

I was one of those seniors, nervous, anxious, scared of college admissions. That was, until April.

Like many applicants, I had my heart set on one institution. In my eyes, the school was perfect. Size, location, people…. you name it. I spent all of high school working to achieve that perfect transcript, years studying for that standardized test, and months working on those college essays.

Beyond academics, I captained three varsity sports, was elected head of multiple school clubs, volunteered with local organizations, and held a summer job.

I applied early, demonstrating to the school that they were my first choice and that I desperately wanted to attend for the next four years.

I was rejected.

Crushed. That is really the only way to describe my emotions following that rejection letter. The admissions office had single handedly crushed both my collegiate dreams and my confidence. “If this school doesn’t want me, why would any other school?” I remember thinking.

And while I knew my friends and family were only trying to help, their advice was frustrating:

“It will all work out…” – Not helpful. For all they knew, I would be rejected from every school I was applying to.

“Everything happens for a reason…” – But what if that is just simply not true?

However, there was one piece of advice that resonated with me:

“Why would you want to attend a school that does not want you?”

At first, that annoyed me. I still saw the school as a perfect fit – it was where I wanted to spend my college years. But the more I thought about it, the more research I did, I discovered aspects of the school that I did not love — hated, even.

College admissions have become so competitive, and students are told they need a perfect application in order to be considered seriously. But what is the perfect application? A 4.0 GPA? Strong extracurriculars? Amazing essays? No one knows the ideal formula.

Rarely is a student accepted to every institution she applies to. Every admissions office is different, looking for different features from different applications.

My point is that students should not tweak and adjust their application into something that does not remotely resemble themselves in an effort to produce a “perfect” application.

Because when you are accepted, you will know that the school wants you for you. Love the school that loves you. Take deep breaths, and trust that great things await you.




Don’t Do it for the Vine (or the Instagram, Tweet, or Status Update)

March 2016

On January 17, 2014, Madison Holleran woke up in her dorm room and went to class, just like every other girl in her freshman class. She was running track at the University of Pennsylvania and was a bright student. That evening, she went for a walk in Rittenhouse Square and took some pictures for her Instagram to share with her friends at home in New Jersey. Half an hour after she posted a nice picture of Christmas lights, she jumped to her death off the top of a parking garage. She was only 19.

In 2016, our lives are ruled by social media. What we do and how we are presented is dictated strongly by our online profiles, but more often than not, the lives we show to others are far from reality. To Madison’s friends that were away at other colleges, her death came as a shock. To their knowledge, she was happy at Penn and had a bright future ahead of her. That’s the conclusion one would draw from her pictures with dozens of friends at parties, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Her parents were aware that she was struggling with depression and urged her to take some time off of school or consider transferring somewhere else where she would be happier, but she resisted. She assumed that if she just ignored her sadness and pretended like she was doing well, then eventually it would become the truth. All she saw was the success of her friends on social media, adding shame to her struggle. This eventually led her to the conclusion that her life would never look like those of her friends, prompting her to end it.

The projection of a more perfect version of one’s life onto social media, as in Madison’s case, is reflective of our society’s hesitance to address mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are both on the rise in teenagers, and the college admissions process is becoming increasingly competitive as teens push themselves to take on as many extracurriculars as possible. All accomplishments can immediately be presented to one’s friends and followers with the push of a button. No one shares their bad grades or lost games, giving the impression that they don’t happen.

Similarly, with the lack of conversation about mental health issues, many are under the impression that they are something to be ashamed of or do not exist. Because the effects of poor mental health often don’t show physically, mental illness is treated with less legitimacy than physical illness, perpetuating the stigma that surrounds it.

Without meaningful conversation about mental illness and how to understand and treat it, nothing will ever change. More people like Maddison, who have their entire lives ahead of them, will suffer, believing that there is something incurably wrong with them. It’s clear that social media isn’t going away any time soon, so while we might embrace the perfectionist culture, we also need to make it clear that Instagram isn’t reality and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Acknowledging that it’s natural to struggle and that absolute perfection is unachieveable is the first step to removing the stigma around mental health. 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and to act like a condition that affects that many people doesn’t exist is senseless and wrong.

To prepare for a future that will continue to be defined by the term “over-share,” we need to emphasize that it’s easy to exaggerate success in one small photo frame. Without that, the number of young people suffering from depression will only continue to climb, and millions of people won’t live to see the light at the end of the tunnel.




Coping with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

March 2016

As many Baldwin girls know, there are numerous destructive ways to cope with stress: nail biting, binge eating, chain smoking, etc. I have a disorder called Trichotillomania, where when I’m stressed, tired, or sometimes just bored, I obsessively, compulsively pull out my hair. I remember the exact moment when I plucked out the first follicle during a late night in February of sophomore year. I started with my eyelashes, then a few months later, when I had no eyelashes left, I moved on to thicker and better things: my eyebrows.

Prior to now, I’ve told five people about my disorder. Needless to say, it’s not something that I share with just anyone. I’m embarrassed by it. It makes me feel weak, ugly, and defeated. However, I’m choosing to come clean publicly for the first time for a number of reasons:

As one therapeutic method for losing this disorder, I’m hoping that if I’ve confessed to the whole school, I’ll feel compelled to do you all proud and graduate with all of my facial hair in the correct places.

I’m also hoping at least one person will find some solidarity with me. Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB) are a lot more common than you’d think. As I mentioned, compulsive nail biting falls under this category. So does compulsive skin picking. However, the most frustrating aspect of trich, I think, is how foreign of a concept it is to most people. For example, nail biting isn’t usually perceived as a disorder. It’s almost accepted as an inevitable childhood habit. Hair pulling doesn’t have the same luxury. Recall “eyebrows on fleek,” “lash blasting” mascara, and Megan Fox: eyebrows and lashes are a current cosmetic obsession of American pop culture. I don’t think I have to go into much more detail about the root of my self consciousness regarding my suspiciously two-dimensional “brows.”

I wanted to impart some advice to those of you who suffer from a BFRB and have yet to find a solution. I’m going on three years with Trichotillomania, and I’ve nearly exhausted every coping method in the book, including hypnosis. Here are some that have worked for me:

 

  1. Put Band-Aids on your fingertips. This makes it hard to pull on tiny hairs, pick skin, and bite nails.
  2. Break your focus. If I catch myself fixating on the hairs that seem out of place and that are begging to be pulled, I’ll do something productive. I’ll pack my lunch, clean the kitchen (my mom loves that one), or do my laundry. It doesn’t have to take a long time; it’s simply anything that will make me get up and that will distract me for a few minutes.
  3. Visualize your progress through a sticker chart. This one is my favorite. Each day that you go without giving in to your urge, put a sticker on a calendar. I use a Lisa Frank sticker book. As a visual learner, I find this method effective because I like to see how much of the calendar I’ve filled with polar bears and ice cream cones, and the trends of when I wasn’t so successful are clearly evident.
  4. Establish a confidante. You can’t fight a disorder by yourself. Find someone who will consistently support you and who will hold you accountable for when they notice you’re slipping.

 

I go through ups and downs with trich. A few weeks ago, I slept over at a friend’s house with about ten other girls, and I felt confident enough in the growth of my eyebrows to wash my face before bed and leave the next morning without augmenting my appearance. On the other end of the spectrum, my inspiration for writing this article was a particularly bad night and a history paper that left me nearly “bald,” as I call it.

I’ve promised myself that I’ll wear mascara to prom this year. To clarify: I’ve promised myself that come prom, my eyelashes will be both long and abundant enough that I’ll be capable of applying mascara to them. I think the most vital reminder to give yourself is that relapses are inevitable, but so is progress. Keep moving forward.




Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

March 2016

Fashion is not just the clothing we wear everyday, but an outlet for expression. The fashion industry is constantly looking for new trends, often ignoring whether or not these trends are politically incorrect. The way people dress sends a far greater message than they might imagine.

In the fashion world, cultural appropriation has become a prevalent issue. Several different fashion companies, for example Urban Outfitters, have incorporated religious or ethnic elements into their clothing lines. Urban Outfitters launched a “Navajo” line, consisting of several shirts and bags inspired by the Native American tribe. The company exploited the Navajo Nation’s culture in order to create a fashion forward line and reel in a profit.

According to Teen Vogue, the Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters in 2012 for years of exploitation, and now they are patiently waiting to reach a settlement. The Navajo Nation could receive millions of dollars from this case in the coming months. Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters argues that their line was released several years before the Navajo Nation reacted, making it culturally acceptable.

Moreover, Urban Outfitters also designed a shirt titled the “Jewish Star” because it had the Star of David on the left hand pocket. This t-shirt resembled the stars that Jewish people had to sew on to their clothing during the Holocaust. Jews were forced to wear these stars to symbolize their religion and identify themselves as outcasts, putting them into a position of embarrassment and exclusion. The “Jewish Star” t-shirt mocked Jews and belittled their harsh experience in the Holocaust.

Many consumers buy these articles of clothing without understanding their hidden meaning. This gives fashion companies the opportunity to exploit shoppers. However, it is important for buyers to comprehend the significance of the words or designs written on clothing, rather than focus on being fashion forward. In addition, fashion companies should not design clothing that incorporates religious or cultural aspects without knowing the history behind them.

The fact that Urban Outfitters produced several articles of clothing that were completely offensive to Jews and the Navajo Nation suggests the severity of this issue. The fashion industry seems to stop at nothing to find outlets for commercial success. Fashion companies need to focus more on the impact that their lines might have on society and less on potential sales.
While not only disrespecting cultures and religions, the fashion industry makes these stolen cultural styles trendy. For example, some brands have created Native American headdresses without understanding their cultural importance. Likewise, some people even sport chopsticks in their hair, which actually serve as utensils, not hair accessories.

It is easy for people to feed into trends when the fashion industry attempts to dictate what is in and out of style. However, these cultural designs should never be appropriated by fashion companies for the purpose of financial gain. The fashion industry trivializes elements of certain cultures by marketing these trends and spreading false images of the purpose of accessories.




Could Armed Personnel be the Solution to Security Concerns on Campus?

March 2016

Guns and schools are seldom associated with one another, yet when they are it is typically under tragic and disastrous circumstances such as the devastating 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary or more recently, the February 9th shooting at a Michigan high school, both of which claimed numerous innocent lives in places of education. Since Sandy Hook alone, there have been a reported 143 school shootings in the United States according to The Washington Post. Could guns in proper possession, however, be the solution to eradicating school shootings?

The presence of unarmed security guards on school campuses across the United States is a pattern which is consistent with the security policies at Baldwin, where a team of unarmed guards serve as the school’s primary security force. In a survey conducted among 72 Baldwin Upper School students, the usefulness of Baldwin’s security entourage in the event of a security emergency, specifically one with guns involved, was questioned by 51% of respondents. On the topic of Baldwin’s security guards, Head of School Sally Powell states, “They are available to help and protect us all should an emergency arise,” and continues to explain that Baldwin security maintains connections with both the Lower Merion authorities and other Baldwin community members, creating a necessary safety support network for the school.

Baldwin’s Director of Facilities and Operations, Mr. Michael Locurcio, who oversees security matters, reassures that Baldwin is working tirelessly to provide the community with the safest possible school setting. Recently, Baldwin was visited by the Lower Merion police department to discuss an “active shooter” scenario with all staff. Tactics mentioned at this meeting included school lockdowns, shelter in place, and campus evacuations. Still, many Baldwin students have stated that they would not necessarily feel safe in the event of an emergency even if these strategies were performed perfectly according to plan, using terms like “freak out” to describe their reactions. Mr. Locurcio  goes on to highlight the importance of Baldwin’s uniformed security, explaining, “Security, with the support of our maintenance personnel, keeps a watchful eye on who enters our campus as well as suspicious vehicles or activity. In addition, Baldwin currently utilizes fob activated door locks on all of our exterior doors.  These doors can be locked down all at once in the event of an emergency.”

Still, not every member of Baldwin’s Upper School community is completely convinced by Baldwin’s current security system. In a survey conducted among 72 Upper School students, half of the respondents stated that they would feel somewhat safe or safe in the event of a Baldwin security emergency, with the other fifty percent expressing that they are uncertain or would lean towards the unsafe spectrum.

When asked, however, whether they would feel safer learning on a campus with armed personnel, the results were significantly less balanced, with 40% of the survey respondents stating that they would feel more safe with armed guards present on Baldwin’s campus and only about 22% expressed concern that this addition would make the campus an unsafe learning environment. 38% remained unsure, possibly due to the lack of attention towards the topic of armed personnel at schools nationwide.

A similar pattern takes place at most schools where shootings occur: authorities are unable to terminate the attack before fatalities and injuries ensue, as they encounter a myriad of obstacles in attempting to control the area. A story different than most other school shooting devastations, however, occurred at the Appalachian School of Law in 2002, and while the event itself may be outdated, it can teach today’s community a valuable and lifesaving lesson. As a result of a student open-firing, three were killed and three more were injured, yet armed law students present on the site of the shooting were able to detain the shooter and force him to surrender even before use of their weapons became necessary.

Sharzad Shojaian ‘18 states, “I think that the campus would be a lot safer if armed security guards were present, as we would be able to resist an attacker and decrease the fatalities in the event of an attack.” Could the presence of armed security guards or other personnel with the thorough qualifications and training on campus make Baldwin security better suited to protect the community in the event of a gun-violence attack, an instance where practically the only adequate response to imminently halt the attack would be guns themselves, the only tactic which police and other forces use to stop shootings?

Armed personnel at Baldwin could also make the campus less susceptible to an attack. Under the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, unauthorized individuals are prohibited to bear arms in areas classified as school zones (elementary and secondary public, private, and parochial schools) even if they otherwise have a conceal carry permit. Shooters, therefore, can typically avoid resistance by another armed individual as their victims will have little ability to quickly defend themselves. It has been speculated by many major publications and news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN, that the Gun-Free School Zones Act is the reason why school shootings are so prominent.

While Baldwin students statistically are in favor of armed personnel, some students expressed concern, as guns, which are generally viewed as objects of violence, simply do not fit into the equation for a safe space for learning for some. Sanjana Friedman ‘17 states, “I detest the idea of guns entering any place of learning, and I don’t believe that armed guards would make me any safer.” A similar sentiment is expressed by Audrey Senior ‘18, “We should not a have a legally armed guard. Having guns on our campus would make me feel far less safe.”

Instituting armed security guards as a part of Baldwin’s community, according to Mrs. Powell, “Would involve a comprehensive investigation into the pros and cons of each circumstance,” referring to both the presence and absence of armed guards. Mrs. Powell goes on to say, “This discussion would involve administrators, trustees and, likely, an external security advisor.” Fortunately, thus far Baldwin’s dedicated security team has been able to protect the school and also work to handle some of the more everyday security matters, such as Baldwin’s ID card program and the locking of the doors.




Legalizing Rape on Private Property

March 2016

On February 16th, 2015, an American blogger named Roosh V. posted to his website an article entitled “How To Stop Rape.” Far from being actually about stopping rape, the article soon became the stuff of worldwide internet controversy and had one main idea: the way to stop rape is to make it legal on private property.

Roosh, real name Daryush Valizadeh, is a pickup artist, writer, and blogger. He has written a series of books on how to pick up women in different countries and is the owner of a website called “Return of Kings,” which he describes as a blog for “heterosexual, masculine men.” He believes that men and women should follow stereotypical gender roles in relationships, that men should be masculine, work out, and be in charge, and that women should be feminine and subservient. He calls this phenomenon “neomasculinity,” which he defines as combining “traditional beliefs, masculinity, and animal biology into one ideological system. It aims to aid men living in Westernized nations that lack qualities such as classical virtue, masculinity in males, femininity in females, and objectivity, especially concerning beauty ideals and human behavior.” It was no surprise to any of his followers when the “How To Stop Rape” article and the controversial ideas it came with appeared on his blog.

Roosh’s idea is that rape is the fault of the victim, and by making rape legal on private property, women would become scared and would subsequently arm themselves to prevent an attack. According to Roosh, women have become too nonchalant about rape. He thinks that the reason it keeps happening is because women don’t do enough to protect themselves. If women know that rape is legal on private property, they’ll carry pepper spray or a pocket knife, effectively preventing rape from happening. Roosh’s article has received worldwide news attention. Many people were angry and disgusted, but an alarmingly large amount of people were in agreement with Roosh. Roosh himself commented on how his following had grown since the piece started receiving attention.

Roosh’s article is anti-feminist, anti-women, and just plain disturbing: “I also read that men must be taught not to rape, which means that they are all born with the capability to rape and have zero instinct to know that taking a woman with violence is improper. Thankfully, a man only has to be told the phrase ‘rape is bad’ at some point after puberty by an overweight feminist to definitively stop his future brutal and bloody rape career.”

In an interesting turn of events, Roosh recently added a disclaimer to his article that reads: “Note: The following article was published as a satirical thought experiment. It’s conclusion is not to be taken literally.” This disclaimer, in addition to being grammatically incorrect, was added very recently, almost a full year after the article was originally published. Only after immense media attention did Roosh put up the disclaimer. A link is attached that leads to a page entitled “Everything You Wanted To Know About Roosh But Were Afraid To Ask.” The questions on the page are mostly about his article, and he is continuing to say that it was satire and was not meant to be taken seriously. According to his Q&A, he is not a rapist. The article was meant as a joke, and he does not support rape in any way. He is simply being “used as a target so that you [the questioner] can expend your rage on me instead of other entities that are genuinely hurting your standard of living.”

However, this recent disclaimer didn’t stop his international followers from planning meetups all around the world, including one in Philadelphia scheduled for February 6, 2016. According to the website (which has now been scrubbed of all information regarding the meeting), the meetup was cancelled because Roosh could “no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend.” Bold words coming from a man who posted a “satirical” article about making rape legal on private property.
Roosh’s problems don’t stop there. In addition to being highly misogynistic, Roosh dislikes anyone other than straight, cis, masculine men. He requests that women and homosexual men do not visit his website, and on his Q&A page, he posted the following answer to a question accusing him of lying about the rape article being satire: “A man right now can claim he’s a woman and everyone is supposed to immediately call him a ‘she,’ even though he’s still biologically male, but when another man claims that an article that came from his brain using his own words had a certain intention, he’s a ‘liar.’”

Roosh is trying hard to brush aside his media scandal, but the blog speaks for itself. All the information gathered for this article is directly from his own writings on his own website. He has many more articles, including gems like “The Most Reliable Way To Tell If A Girl Is A Slut” and the ever charming “8 Things American Women Must Do To Make Themselves More Attractive For Men.” If you are interested in reading about how “Women who own iPhones Lose the Ability to Love,” this is the website for you.

Despite everything, Roosh has a large following, and after the scandal, it’s bigger than ever. It’s incredible how someone so blatantly discriminatory towards so many people has so many fans of his work. There are young people out there who read this and think to themselves, “Maybe rape isn’t a bad thing.” There are rapists who read that article and feel validation for what they’ve done. So, in response, I leave you with this: Rape is never the fault of the victim. Surprise, Roosh! Rape is the fault of the rapist. It also isn’t an issue specific to men raping women. Men can be raped, and women can be rapists. And no part of it is ok. So how do we stop rape? There are many ways and many answers, but I know one thing for certain, “making rape legal” isn’t one of them.




Yes Means Yes… Or Does It?

January/February 2016

Sexual consent has arrived. All across the country, in courtrooms, universities, and bedrooms, no one can seem to decide what exactly it means. Tradition (meaning the vast majority of state laws and college codes defining consent up until the past few years) holds that consent encompasses any activity not blocked by a fervent, “no!” or a hard shove.

Recent years, however, have seen this “no means no” ideology give way to a new concept known as “affirmative consent.” This idea, according to a 2014 California law that typifies it, holds instead that consent must include an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” In other words, the presence of “yes” replaces the absence of “no” as the minimum requirement for consent.

A quick online search attests to the breadth of reactions provoked by laws such as the California one. To be sure, affirmative consent has a myriad of supporters. Ezra Klein, a columnist for the Washington Post, called “yes means yes” laws a “necessary change” when interviewed in Conor Friedersdorf’s October 2014 piece in The Atlantic, “An Appalling Case for Affirmative-Consent Laws.” Others, however, like TIME Magazine guest columnist Cathy Young in her August 2014 op-ed “Campus Rape: The Problem With ‘Yes Means Yes,’” rail against affirmative consent laws as unfair in their demands of participants. To those like Young, such laws represent institutional attempts to “dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding how the state should, if at all, govern consent, the issue continues to noisily assert itself across the country. Dare to mention the word in a room full of people, and you might hear a cacophony of key words: Steubenville, fraternities, dragged mattresses, and “failed journalism” at Rolling Stone. You might hear of incompetent college administrators, of callous judges, and of people who “drank too much” or “wore too little.”

In the midst of this flurry of opinions and emotion lies the heart of the matter, or the question that underpins any discussion on the merits or shortcomings of ‘yes means yes’: what on earth is sexual consent?

Taken at face value, it seems a simple question. Consent is an agreement wherein both parties want to ‘do’ (or, one could argue, feel indifferent towards) whatever activity is taking place. But add in some complicators, and the question becomes far more nuanced.

What if someone is drunk? What if someone says “yes” initially, but then says “no”? What if someone says “no” initially, only to change his or her mind after having been coerced by a partner? Where does body language come into play? Does consent always need to be explicitly granted?

These questions, as do most of similar gravity, yield few obvious answers. Responses might vary from person to person, and can come with caveats: “if they know each other,” “if they both knew what they signed up for,” or innumerable variants. Nonetheless, they are questions worth talking about, for critical thinking and candid debate yield invaluable knowledge about how we and others see the world.

Following that conviction, a survey intended to collect data on students’ opinions about sexual consent was recently sent out to the Upper School. In the survey, respondents were presented with a myriad of scenarios involving different conditions. They were asked to indicate whether or not consent could be “understood or assumed,” or select “other” and fill in a different answer. The form was sent to the four different grades individually, so as best to assess how students of different ages react to and assess the same scenario. Around 70 responses, almost evenly distributed across grade levels, were received. Answer trends varied from class to class.

When asked in the first scenario to assess the presence or absence of consent in a situation wherein, “a person repeatedly expresses enthusiastic interest in engaging in sexual activity with her partner, but changes her mind before the activity begins [and] also expresses this change of decision to her partner before the activity begins,” 56% of freshmen surveyed said that consent could be understood or assumed in that situation, compared to 20% of sophomores, 31% of juniors, and 0% of seniors.

The answers followed a somewhat similar pattern when respondents were asked to assess another situation where consent had been rescinded during the activity. Here, 44% of freshmen, 33% of sophomores, 37% of juniors, and 18% of seniors thought that consent could be understood or assumed.

The survey also asked about students’ opinions regarding inebriated consent, an issue that has received more attention as laws like the California one, which demand “conscious” consent, gain momentum. Indeed, many sexuality educators like Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, an author and co-founding editor of the American Journal of Sexuality Education, suggest that people avoid inebriated sexual activity of any kind.

“Have a good time, flirt and enjoy yourself — but when in doubt, wait until both people aren’t drunk or even buzzed to do anything sexual together. Not to quote Robin Thicke or anything, but if the lines are blurred even slightly, that’s a sign you should hold off,” said Dr. Schroeder, when asked about the topic of consent and alcohol.

Students had a different take on the issue, however, when asked to evaluate a scenario wherein “a person goes to a college party and drinks just enough that she feels ‘buzzed’ (i.e. lightheaded, giddy/talkative, lowered inhibitions)” and then expresses “enthusiastic interest in engaging in sexual activity with a partner.” Here, 44% of freshmen, 47% of sophomores, 74% of juniors, and 55% of seniors decided that consent could be understood or assumed.

The answers changed appreciably when the scenario shifted so that the participant was not merely “buzzed” but “visibly drunk (i.e. slurring speech, staggering, mental confusion).” In this case, 38% of freshmen, 13% of sophomores, 5% of juniors, and 18% of seniors thought that consent could be understood or assumed.

These differences, though they may seem minute, matter; for some, the difference between “buzzed” and “visibly drunk” make the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness, and thus the difference between consensual and nonconsensual sexual activity.

Thoughts also varied when respondents were asked to share their opinions on the California law and whether or not they would change it in any way. One sophomore, who opted to remain anonymous, commented that she “would add that consent does not…have to be explicitly verbal, as [it] can be understood.” On the other hand, Maddy Carré ‘16 stated that she would “include that the absence of a ‘yes’ inarguably indicates ‘no’ and is considered rape.”

The respondents also provided varied insight when asked about who, judges, lawmakers, the people engaged in the activity, or some other party, should determine consent. One junior, who also opted for anonymity, stated that “the definition of consent should be reached in the most democratic way possible: everyone provided with a voice and a vote.” Ravyn Johnson-White ‘16 responded that the “people who engage in the activity [should determine the definition of consent] because they are the ones who are actually participating.”

Overall, the survey yielded fewer conclusive answers than further questions. This makes sense; consent is an amorphous and personal topic. For some, like author of the book For Goodness Sex and teacher of a 12th grade “Sex and Society” class at the Friends’ Central School, Al Vernacchio, consent “isn’t just a moment, it’s a process.”

“It must be continually checked, re-established, and reaffirmed in any sexual interaction. Just because someone consented to one moment or one sexual act doesn’t mean that anything that follows is OK,” said Mr. Vernacchio, when asked about one thing that he wished all high schoolers knew about consent.

Others, like the aforementioned anonymous sophomore, regard consent as an unspoken or understood agreement between two parties that know their and their partner’s needs. Others may have a different understanding of the term. What matters, however, are not these nuances in belief. What matters is that we have candid and diverse discussions about consent, where people feel safe to explore their own opinions and those of others. Only then will we be able to answer the question, “What is sexual consent?” for ourselves.

To learn more about the survey sent out to the Upper School and see detailed data, go to www.hourglassnewspaper.com.