THE GIT ON TUCKER MAX

BY R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM DECEMBER:

After reading excerpts from his website, I can fully understand why there are members of our community who are offended by Tucker Max’s language and attitudes. But whatever my judgment, it would be inappropriate for me, as president, to overturn the decisions of SFB and CUB. It has long been our practice at TCNJ to allow CUB to use its funds, which are generated by student fees, to attract speakers of their choice to campus. My interceding in this decision would be an undermining of the governance system that we prize on this campus, a governance system that values students as real partners in leading the institution. The decision to invite Tucker Max is CUB’s alone and it would not have been censorship had they decided NOT to invite him, but it would be censorship for me to substitute my judgment for theirs and bar him from campus. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable, for those members of the community who are offended by Tucker Max’s attitudes and language to express their feelings, as long as that expression takes a constructive and non-violent form.”

R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN is the president of the College

THE GIT ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

BY R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM DECEMBER:

“I am always supportive of our students’ right and responsibility to express their political opinions, regardless of the issue under discussion or the stance they may take. Specifically, in regard to the “Freedom of religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act” (S1967/A2978), I believe the question to be considered by the legislature is one of equality and civil rights.”

R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN is the president of the College

TCNJ ACTIVISM RECAP: FALL ’09

BY GLENN EISENBERG

Last semester was an undeniably exciting one for activists at the College of New Jersey. We organized a panel on healthcare reform, took sixty students to Washington DC for a 200,000 person march for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) equality, hosted discussions on the War in Afghanistan, counter-demonstrated homophobic street preachers, and organized many other events.

However, some activists on campus have begun to feel cast aside by some of their more radical classmates—who have, intentionally or not, belittled the efforts of their peers. Continue reading “TCNJ ACTIVISM RECAP: FALL ’09”

REPORT FROM THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

BY THOMAS LITTLE, ALTERNATE STUDENT TRUSTEE

Report from the Trustees Disclaimer: The information in this article is subject to change without notice. If you have any questions, please contact the Alternate Student Trustee at little8@tcnj.edu; NOT the Student Government Association.

Development of the Campus Town. Over the past few years the College has been in the process of designing a Campus Town. Now, we can start informing the students about our plans for this project. The goal would be to have a mix of residential and commercial development near the College to give students a reason to stay on campus. That would mean the town would have some student housing, but it would contain stores and other businesses like a Barnes and Noble, or a Gold’s Gym. We hired consultants to do an initial review of Carlton Ave. and Pennington Rd. as potential sites for this Campus Town.

After a preliminary review, we determined the creation of a Campus Town on Carlton Ave. would be difficult due to the wetlands surrounding the area. Carlton Ave. would also be too distant from the College to attract successful business. Therefore we think Pennington Rd. would be a suitable place for a Campus Town. We envisioned a Campus Town near Loser Hall. That’s right, this development would be near the entrance of the College. Another reason for this Campus Town was giving the citizens of Ewing a reason to visit our college whether for shopping or entertainment. We’re still deciding if TCNJ wants to be the primary developer for this project. Thanks to the NJ Stimulus Act that was passed this summer, we could enter into public/private partnerships with private developers so we could attract more established business while still maintaining control over what stores we would accept for the Campus Town. We only have a limited amount of time to take advantage of this, but were still in the process of analyzing our current options.

Alumni Giving Campaign. Despite our high rakings in several publications like Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, we still have a very small endowment for a state college. Aside from a lack of state funding, there’s also the problem of alumni giving. Too many students, both current and the former, do not donate to the College for many reasons. Some alumni had a poor experience during their time here, or in the case of the balls, there’s no mechanism for students to provide feedback on the College’s decision-making process for its activities. Either way the college recognized these problems and the Trustees spent a great deal of time in researching this problem.

In an effort to increase Alumni giving for the College, the Trustees discussed several options for addressing the problem. This will be approached in two ways. For current alumni, they should be awarded for contributing to the college. This could be done in several ways; one of which could be providing a book on those that not only contributed, but also what they donated to instead of putting it all on a web page. Other ideas include inviting alumni to campus, or having them meet current students to get their perspective on the College. For current students, we will be encouraging our class officers (freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior class councils) to participate in several activities for fundraising such as going to alumni meetings, or promoting student travel. Of course, we don’t always have the best ideas. If you would like to participate in this endeavor or explain why you may or may not plan to donate to the college contact us at little8@tcnj.edu.

Preparing for a New Governor. One of the big discussions during the retreat was the arrival of a new governor in Chris Christie. The funding of higher education has always been a problem for New Jersey. Tuition for state colleges is the second highest in the nation due to a lack of funding and the state’s failure to pay for mandated costs, especially labor contracts. Support for TCNJ is no different. In 1999, financial support from the state was about 53% of TCNJ’s revenue, but in 2008 state support was about 37%. Obviously, the lack of funding has a trickle down effect on everything we do from providing financial aid to expanding our capacity and resources for students. It shouldn’t be surprising that our state ranks first nationally in loss of college-bound students (close to 30,000 annually), which leads to a loss of about six billion per year in terms of revenue for the state.

What do we expect from our new governor? We don’t expect an increase in funding; in fact, the likely scenario is that we’ll face more cuts in funding. Our goal will be to encourage the state to maintain the current funding instead of cutting it. Where there is common ground is Christie acknowledging the need to fund higher education, and one of his proposals was the reinstatement of the Outstanding Student Recruitment Program (OSRP). Our advocacy isn’t limited to the governor. The legislature will be our main focus because the College is battling an image problem of being a wasteful spender even though we don’t receive that much money from the state. Everyone agreed that we must continue to foster relationships with our lawmakers by inviting them to campus, or having students testify in front of the Budget Committee on behalf of the college. Either way, we are expecting a productive and cordial relationship with our new governor.

Note from Mr. Little: “Want to get involved in our lobbying efforts? Sign up for the New Jersey College Promise Action Network; a database of over 3600 members committed to advocating for New Jersey’s nine state colleges. The website is www.njcollegepromise.com.”

CREATIONISM: THEORY OR MYTHOLOGY?

BY PAUL SOON, TCNJ PROTESTANT BIBLE FELLOWSHIP OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Before the average reader reads the title and brands this article as some fairy tale written by some hick from the woods, please consider the appropriate background. Contrary to popular belief, all Cre­ationists are not logically-impaired, reason-deprived, brainwashed zombies. We’re academics. So before you brand me as someone not familiar with the scientific method or empirical studies, keep in mind that I am actually a biology major. Or if you prefer to preclude Cre­ationism as an antiquated philosophical system, please keep in mind that I am also a philosophy major. The point is not to flaunt creden­tials, but to illustrate the most important point about Creationism or naturalism (the idea that life arose out of only natural causes without divine intervention), that people in both camps are intelligent, ana­lytical, but far too often perilously closed-minded. The most impor­tant thing is to approach both sides with an open-minded, scientific mindset, forsaking the burning urge to label our opponents. I write this piece partially as a student of biology, partially as a student of philosophy, partially as a theologian, but most importantly as a fel­low TCNJ student.

So first of all, as an unashamed Creationist I do not pretend that evolution has no evidence, nor do I think that all who believe in evolution are close-minded God-haters. As a student of biology I am well acquainted with many of the arguments for evolution and admit they can be convincing. However, in my opinion they are not enough. Two broad camps exist in this debate: Evolution vs. Creationism. However, more broadly, the camps of Naturalism vs. God-believing are created. Above all my intellectual might, I believe in Creationism because I believe that the Word of God is true. This is where your adrenaline pumps up and the temptation to brand this article as the work of a Bible-thumper shoots up precipitously. So don’t worry – I’m a science student too. Above any science, above any philosophy, above any popular fad of man­kind I believe that God holds the truth. Even before any scientific or philosophical argument, I confidently reject naturalism on the simple self-evident assumption that humanity is more than just chemicals. It is something sacred. Some might take exception to that statement, and I will accept arguments on one condition: That you are a strict vegan. Anyone who is not a strict vegan will­ingly accepts the assumption that our lives are worth more than any other quantitative life. If you believe in evolution you must reconcile the idea that humans are different than other life with the idea that, well, we’re no different from other life. If you believe in evolution you must accept that humans are nothing more than very advanced animals, nothing more than the most finely-tuned genetically regulated product of nature. You must accept that hu­manity has no intrinsic rights or value above that which is granted by evolution.

That proposition leads to some serious problems.  One is the problem of the normativity of ethics.  Normative ethics supposes that ethics has the power to deem whether acts are wrong or right.  If ethics are not normative then it can be said that murder results in death, but it cannot be said that murder is wrong.  I don’t know about you, but I believe that murder is intrinsically wrong.  If you believe that humans are the products of evolution you must find a convincing entity that has the authority to administer right and wrong.  We can do this with various philosophical theories but these can run into problems.  Utilitarianism has no need for God.  Yet philosophical theories of ethics that do not rely on God run into problems, such as “Why should we listen to your system of right and wrong?” Utilitarianism itself creates certain ethical dilemmas such as, it is okay to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend as long as they don’t find out, it doesn’t hurt your relationship, and total happiness is increased.  Now I believe that most of you would believe cheating is inherently bad (what I mean is that if you found out that your significant other was cheating on you would feel deeply hurt and feel wronged.)  Now as someone who would prefer not getting cheated on (as I am sure you are as well) I believe in a normative, objective system of ethics.  Evolution has no rules save one.  Survival of the fittest.  Sounds altruistic to you, no?  Actually I can think of few things less altruistic than survival of the fittest. It appears rather intuitive that evolution by survival of the fittest would preclude the existence of morality as we know it, a morality where sacrificing for others is praised and being selfish is denounced. So how then could a normative objective ethical theory evolve through evolution?  I believe that an ethical theory that is the product of evolving from survival of the fittest to be a system most bereft of any morals at all. But some scientists have proposed a system where altruism may have been introduced through evolution. This is where I will finally turn to science.

Evolution is the selection of traits that give a population reproductive advantage. So if a new trait is introduced into a population of organisms it can be ether beneficial, neutral, or deleterious to the reproduction of the population. So if some organism exhibits a trait that gives them an advantage they survive, reproduce and pass on their traits.  Evolutionists surmise that because altruism is beneficial to a population it was selected for and not against.  Possible, perhaps.  But how does this work?  If one has a trait which causes them to be self-sacrificial (altruistic) it may be good for the population if they sacrifice their life for the good of the population, but how does that sacrificial individual pass on their traits if they are well, dead.  Doesn’t work too good.  The only way that altruistic traits could be selected for if evolution somehow knew that those traits were good and thoughtfully selected them.  Any science teacher worth their salt will say that evolution doesn’t know anything, it has no mind!  But I have several times sat through class hearing the teacher proclaim, “It’s remarkable, it’s as if evolution knew this would be beneficial!”  This is one of my major gripes about evolution.  There is considerable circumstantial evidence that organisms may have evolved from each other.  However, scientists have no clue how it happened, just that it appears to have happened.

Take for example, sexual reproduction.  Asexual reproduction is easy, clean, and pretty safe.  You live so why not make more of you.  Most bacteria utilize asexual reproduction.  Sexual reproduction is a totally different beast.  Sexual reproduction is risky (might not have mates!), costly (more energy used than asexual), and dangerous (deadly if you’re eaten!).  Now we know that sexual reproduction is an essential component of evolution, in that it increases genetic variation.   But how did sexual reproduction arise?  As aforementioned, the world of sexual reproduction can be a scary thing! (I’m talking about microscopic organisms and the origin of sexual reproduction, not humans, although I’m sure it might also ring true to us geeks who are awkward with the opposite sex).  In early organisms sexually reproduction should have been selected against.  Yes, it’s useful for future explanations but who would know that?  The only explanation is that somehow evolution knew that sexual reproduction would be useful in the future and made the sacrifices to create it.  But evolution doesn’t know anything!

One more example, and this one isn’t just one I created.  Creationists call it irreducible complexity.  The basic premise is this: all organisms, even to the simplest cellular level, are extraordinarily complex.  Without getting into the specifics (that’s the pain of biology majors), the idea is that things are so amazingly complex that if just one thing went wrong the entire organism might die.  There is only one right way for biological complexes to work, but billions of wrong ways.  Irreducible complexity states that in light of the aforementioned statements, it seems exceedingly unlikely and probably impossible for evolution to create such complex structures.  Take for example the origin of life.  “Simple” life is really, really, complex.  For basic life, DNA, RNA, proteins, nucleotides, and thousands of enzymes are needed.  Each protein is coded for by thousands of “letters” of DNA.  If only four or five of those letters are incorrect, the protein would almost certainly be doomed.  So how in the world could primordial soup somehow create such stunning complexity?  Most likely it can’t. Evolution must have somehow known what complexity to make.

Evolution works best (or in my opinion at all) if it is directed by some all knowing being. If you believe in evolution you must exhibit remarkable faith in the possible explanations of how certain things evolve. Evolution must be a powerful force indeed if it can know how to direct organisms’ evolution and has the power and creativity to craft complex structures out of nothing. So if you believe that evolution is so powerful and so wise, then I think that it makes perfect sense for evolution to be your God. You must have faith that evolution is so knowledgeable as to create us.

LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY

The light seeping in through the blinds, the slam of car doors sounding the start of the workday, and the soft patter of my housemates’ drowsy, dragging footsteps downstairs signify the end of my nights.

Nighttime lends itself to a certain quiet, a certain clearness that the day just doesn’t have for me. While others are happy to crawl into a cozy bed at an hour close to midnight and far from dawn, I am content and revitalized by the prospect of the long stretch of time ahead. I’ve always attributed these vampiric tendencies to some innate interest in the under-working of a city and its inhabitants, a fascination with the pun-ridden “darker side of things.” (This has been my excuse for years, anyway, whenever someone sees me stumble out of bed just as the sun is going down.) The isolation that I often find at night is also just more conducive for work—it’s a lot easier to hunker down and write an essay or a story when no one is awake to provide me with a distraction that I would undoubtedly welcome more often than not. But still, it is disconcerting at times to realize that everyone else is in my house is waking up as I’m trying to get to sleep, and it’s often frustrat­ing that everyone is going to sleep when I’m done with my obligations and raring to go.

I look to other creative minds for consolation; Karl Marx, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kafka all worked during the night. Some­times I think of these people as the clock ticks away towards morning and wonder if they felt the same way, if they needed the backdrop of darkness to illuminate their work, if they fished something out of that dense expanse of night and twisted and chiseled it into some­thing for themselves. There are no pretenses once the sun goes down; the bright, orderly appearance of the day is gone.

Night owl Frank Loesser, the American songwriter best known for his scores to Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, simply and eloquently captures a certain feeling that all night-dwellers can relate to:

My time of day is the dark time

A couple of deals before dawn

When the street belongs to the cop

And the janitor with the mop

And the grocery clerks are all gone.

The nighttime is an intimate setting; it is occupied by few, and few want to regularly occupy it. Loesser conveys the tone of this sparsely populated time of night and describes a reclaiming of sorts. Whether by choice or by neces­sity, the night owls are taking their share of the world around them; part of the 24-hour cycle is theirs, too. This “dark time” is Loesser’s time of day.

Perhaps this feeling of simultaneous singularity—of being lone and inde­pendent against the vastness of the night along with the unity of being in the company of the few others who occupy the day’s darker side—is what makes the night so appealing, especially for artists. This duality parallels the artist’s mindset; the ultimate goal of any creative thinker is to be a unique individual (and distinct from the rest of the artsy hipsters). Yet at the same time, artists need a sense of community, a feeling of common purpose and connection with like-minded people. Achieving a balance between these two sentiments is difficult, but the night allows some momentary harmony.

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks illustrates this balance. Hopper depicts three customers and a worker in a late-night diner. It is an evocative piece, one that conjures up a lot of feelings at once. The bright, fluorescent-lit interior of the diner appears as a haven, a beacon in the dark, sleeping street surround­ing it. The customers, the last remnants of the city’s unsleeping world, have gathered here and are brought together by their common seclusion. They are at once isolated and united.

But this concept of the night as an artistic equilibrium is not just a specula­tion; science also comes into play. Recent studies have shown that night owls are simply just more likely to be creative thinkers. Although a full explana­tion has yet to be formulated, researchers say that this could be the result of an adaptation to living outside the norm. In short, it may not always be the creative mentality that causes an inclination towards nighttime. In fact, the inclination towards nighttime might be what causes a creative mentality. “Be­ing in a situation which diverges from conventional habit—nocturnal types often experience this situation—may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions,” wrote psychologists Marina Giampietro and G.M. Cavallera in their February 2007 study, “Morning and Evening Types and Creative Thinking.” (This can be found in the psychology journal, Personality and Individual Differences.)

Hans Van Dongen, an associate research pro­fessor at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, has also contributed important findings towards the study of biology-based sleep preferences. He and his colleagues discovered that a small group of brain cells (suprachiasmatic nuclei, for any biopsychology students), sends sig­nals to the body that synchronize our sleeping patterns with the time of day. For “evening types, their “biological clock” is essentially set two hours later, and for “morning types,” two hours behind. This internal clock may be partially determined by genetics.

The science of sleep is intriguing, no doubt, and also provides a legitimate-sounding excuse for a lot of us late-risers, but for graveyard shift workers, this research may be meaningless. Although we may not associate the waitress taking our bleary order at 3 a.m. with the typical idea of a nighthawk—the test-cramming college kid, the drunk, or the starving artist painting into the wee small hours—she is more immersed in the undertow of society, that un­conventional society of the night, than any of us. The number of graveyard shift workers has been steadily increasing over the years. While the night shift was originally reserved for security guards, bakers, factory workers, etc., it has now come to include a wider array of positions, like computer programmers, technical support workers, and health care workers.

To work nights is to inhabit another world entirely—a Bizarro World, the day turned upside-down. Tracy Niece may be a familiar face to many of you; she works nights at Parkside Diner, usually from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and sometimes 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Niece has a full head of blonde hair and such a droll, relaxed way of talking that she may first strike you as aloof. You soon realize, however, that her manner has no edge to it; she is just unaffected.

“[Working the night shift] is hard to get used to at first,” Niece said, “and then when you get home you don’t wanna sleep.” Niece said that her schedule is completely turned around, but she must adjust on her days off. Niece has an eight-year son, which makes napping impossible. “Sometimes you stay up for days,” she said. Niece spoke about the people who came in during the night—as expected, a lot of drunk and high people stumble into the diner for a post-party snack. She was lighthearted as she related this, suggesting that they were easy targets for selling pricier menu items. “Yeah, you want some pork chops?” she laughed.

Other night workers also frequent the establishment—doctors, correction of­ficers, nurses, etc. One is likely to encounter an eclectic mix of people going to Parkside late at night; the clientele is a diverse bunch, spanning a wide range of ages, races, and demeanors. And the closer one gets to dawn, the more likely one is to encounter an older crowd, presumably the retired, settling down for breakfast. It is a modern day Nighthawks, a sundry crowd of drunks, insomniacs, and early-risers, all brought together for one reason or another at a small, well-lit diner in Trenton. The romantic ideal of the night owl is hard to shake, but Niece provides us with a more sobering perspective. When asked if she had any last comments, she simply replied, “Don’t work the graveyard shift.”

The hours after midnight are both expansive in their possibilities and limited in their practicality. For some, they signify neither, and represent only a neces­sity of living—the graveyard shift is not a popular one, and most people take night shifts due to the lack of competition and better chances of employment.

I write this now as the sun is rising. Pulling back the blinds, I see neighbors heading to work, a garbage truck rumbling down the street, and birds lighting on the telephone wire. It’s a new day, and I’m not even done with the old one yet. Staying awake through the night allows for a strange mixture of observa­tions—you see the day, you see the night, you see the night give way to day again; the whole metaphor-ridden cycle of the world is before you. Van Gogh once said, “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” Closing my blinds again against the glare of the early-morning sun and crawling into bed, I have to agree.

FIVE GOOD MINUTES WITH DON JUAN

Beginning his collegiate career in 2002, Donald Tharp is currently pursuing a double major in philoso­phy and psychology.

During a four year leave of absence from TCNJ, Tharp found work as a field hand and yard boy for a construction company. The South Jersey native then worked his way “into the office” as a junior estima­tor, eventually becoming a project manager for small jobs, and finally earning the big bucks as an assis­tant project manager for multi-million dollar projects. Now 25, he returned to TCNJ in the spring of 2008.

Tharp sat down with The Perspective for five good — nay, great — minutes.

 

What’s your full name?

Donald Burton Tharp, Jr. — better known as Donny, Don Juan, Old-Timer, and Blue.

If you wanted people to know one thing about you, what would it be?

It’s never too late.

How do you approach living life?

If something bad can happen, it probably will happen, so it’s not about avoiding it, it’s about overcoming it, learning from it, and coming out stronger.

What are your initial thoughts about this last decade?

It’s amazing how relative time is. And though at moments, it seems to creep by — but in retrospect, it’s gone in an instant.

How will the 2000s be remembered?

Two steps forward, one step back… I believe there’s been prog­ress. That’s a net gain of one step. But pessimists will always see the negative — what’s that gonna do for you?

What did you do over winter break?

Finished up working on my loft… should be able to move in shortly after finals. I look forward to living on my own again.

Who did you do over winter break?

My girlfriend of four years, and probably wifey, sooner rather than later.

Where do you see yourself in 2015 or 2020?

By then, hopefully back at this school as either a philosophy or psychology professor. I’d want to create a hybrid of the two.

You’re speaking to the people of the future. What are your most insightful words of wisdom?

What you know as fact now has a good chance of being fic­tion later. Never stop questioning why and how. Never stop seeking knowledge.

Other than R. Barbara Gitenstein, who is your fa­vorite Lion or Lioness and why?

Any of the faculty in the philosophy department. They’re un­der-appreciated and seem to not care less about it.

Who is your least favorite Lion or Lioness, and why?

The Sodexo people who charged me $7.80 for a Sunday brunch.

What’s currently spinning in your iTunes?

“Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood.

Shout-out time. Go.

To all the interesting characters and brilliant young minds wandering around this campus… this world is ours, shitty as it may seem at times. If change is inevitable, and it is the fruit of our hands, never let anyone tell us that that change cannot or will not be for the better.