A Farewell To Arms

On a fortunate whim in the summer of 2009, I brainstormed with a few politically-minded associates about what a progressive newsmagazine at TCNJ might look like, and behold – The Perspective was born. I should admit, though, that at its earliest inception, the publication was to be far narrower in scope than what it represents today. Originally intended to cover only the overtly political, The Perspective is now understood to provide a more holistic – and fundamentally different – take on the college experience. Continue reading “A Farewell To Arms”

Factory Girl Talk

Think of Girl Talk—the stage name of mash-up mastermind Greg Gillis—as modern music’s Andy Warhol. Both are ardent recycle-ists: Warhol turned soup cans into Fine Art; Girl Talk turns other artists’ songs into his own. Both are willing to undermine an ideal of authenticity: Warhol would let people impersonate and even sign for him if he didn’t want to show up at a gallery; Girl Talk makes almost no original sounds of his own, yet he puts his name on his mash-up albums. But most importantly, both are firmly rooted Pop artists, and yet both consistently question what it means to be Pop.

Part of this means that both artists allow for multiple interpretations: some say Warhol was fully embracing low-brow Americana, like Brillo Boxes, while others say he was ridiculing it, using repetition to emphasize absurdity. Similarly, it’s easy to understand Girl Talk on many levels: is he celebrating all pop music, or is he juxtaposing lesser works with unimpeachable songs for implicit criticism?

But of course Girl Talk, like Warhol, is much more than a series of simple juxtapositions. Gillis has declined to offer any central or guiding theme in any of his work, except to say that he is a “pop music enthusiast.” Instead, each of his songs is not only original, but also unique in message. Some of his sampling is pure celebration of good pop music from many eras (as in “Smash Your Head,” the instant classic of Night Ripper, with Notorious BIG’s “Juicy” over Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”). This includes bringing yesterday’s hits to younger listeners, reminding older listeners of forgotten gems, and allowing everyone to relish in universally beloved hits. In fact, Gillis admits, “It’s important that you can recognize all the elements. The whole basis of the music is that people have these emotional attachments to these songs—whether they love it or hate it. Being able to manipulate that is a really easy way to connect with people.” *

Yet, in complete contrast, some of his songs are subliminally political, almost neutering chauvinist rappers by giving them “emasculating” backgrounds (as in Feed the Animals’ “No Pause,” in which Eminem’s club-sex rant is made silly in front of Yael Naim’s “New Soul”). Still other songs work in a different way, elevating the banal, crude, or more lowbrow in pop to the level of more critically hailed works, by giving them new background beats, or removing vocals, or repeating lyrical loops over and over. But all of his music does serve one mission: the exploration of new pop possibilities, by making music that amounts to much more than the sum of its parts.

What makes Girl Talk great, though, is expressed not in words in phrases, but in dance. With entirely sampled, diverse material, he has made cohesive albums that bring genres — and people — together. He makes commercial music cool, and he makes cool music commercial. Because his music is simultaneously so rhythmic and capricious, people who like “My Humps” and people who like The Band can find something to listen to and agree on, especially with crossovers like Jackson 5 rippling throughout.
*(From an interview with Pitchfork.com)


In last month’s edition of The Perspective, I published a blurb which praised the Obama administration’s recent firm stance on Israeli settlement expansion. I did not explicitly criticize the State of Israel – but merely suggested the Obama administration’s relatively nuanced stance on Israel could have positive ramifications in the pursuit of Middle East peace.

After reading the quarter-page blurb, a key figure in the Jewish campus community believed he had adequate evidence to state, “There’s nothing worse than a self-hating Jew.”

In response to those who would label Jewish supporters of Obama’s Israel policy as “self-hating,” I would like to call your attention to a recent Haaretz poll. The poll, released on April 13, found that 73% of American Jews agree with Obama’s policy towards Israel – characterizing relations between Israel and the U.S. as “positive” or “very positive.” Do three out of four American Jews hate themselves?

I will not delve into the multitude of reasons why this individuals’ snarky comment about me is absurd, but will instead use it as an opportunity to elaborate on the message of last month’s blurb. Pejoratives like “self-hating Jew” or “anti-Semite” are representative of the exact issue I wished to address in the article.

Until it is acknowledged that an individual can oppose an Israeli government policy—which happens to be illegal under international law—and not be anti-Semitic, no substantive progress can be made in peace processes in the Middle East.

The dialogue surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is so crippled by taboo, it is impossible to hold any sort of meaningful discussion on the matter without being accused of either ignorance or hatred.

The blurb was intended to give credit to President Obama for not caving into the fear of being labeled an “anti-Semite” by some fringe hard-lined Zionists. I encourage others to follow suit, and not be afraid to stand openly against unjust Israeli policy.

Editor’s Note: Glenn Eisenberg is also known as Glenn Eisenblurb

Hippie House

I am seated cross-legged on a tapestry rug. There is a hole in my left sock. The hole serves as an escape route for my big toe. My big toe curls towards a discarded composition book with a bent cover. The book cover’s pho-marble surface catches the shadow of a hooka stem. The hooka stem snakes around a pensive circle of bodies. The bodies are wedges together in the cracks of a futon, a love seat that has seen better days, and two overstuffed arm chairs. Behind the furniture are four walls. The four walls carry art. Each art piece bleeds together at its respective edges, forming one overwhelming scene of rats, long-haired boys, trees, neon globs, and bears with halos.

The kaleidoscopic scene holds up the ceiling, which, at the moment, appears to be made of smoke.

This is not your typical college home. Nor is this your typical college gathering. Tonight I am a guest of the Hippie House, one of TCNJ’s little-known off campus residences. Members of the house are hosting one of their weekly get-togethers – a poetry reading. Etiquette is simple: come prepared to recite or listen. I plan on reading a passage from a book by Roland Barthes. Other selections on the itinerary include The Raw Shark Text, a journal entry entitled “Room 314” and an essay called “Good Noses.”

“Good Noses” is written by Philosophy major Steve Klett. Klett is one of the house’s current occupants. Klett moved into the house in August of 2008. Prior to August, Klett lived in the College’s dorms. When asked what prompted him to relocate, Klett states “I felt daft. I forget what that word means but it seems to fit. There comes a time in which the rooster needs to fly from the coop and the chick needs to leave the nest. I was, you know, looking for a room of my own, to quote Virginia Woolf.”

Klett occupies one bedroom. The remaining two tenants are Greg Letizia and Leandre Bourdot. Bourdot is a Fine Arts major. Her creations take up a large portion of the dwelling.
Presently, she sits in a corner, penning ink drawings for a bookmaking class. Bordot claims that becoming a part of the Hippie House has been both a hindrance and a source of stimulation for her work. Glancing around the tightly packed room, she confides, “There are mornings when everything together is inspiring and there are also mornings where everything plays off each other and becomes stagnant.”
As for Letizia, he has taken a leave of absence from the College.

Nevertheless, he remains an avid writer, often reciting typewriter compositions via a voice distortion box. Out of all of the occupants, Letizia is the most elusive of the bunch. I ask him what the credo of the house is. Maybe it is because of a recent screening of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but as Letizia speaks, he begins to resemble the smug, jargon-littered Caterpillar. Steam issuing from his nostrils, blue-tinted glasses perched on his nose, Letizia muses, “The essence of the place is the essence of the place and the goal is the goal. It is a place for I to be I.”

The overall ambiguous quality of the Hippie House is perhaps what attracts students to it. The crowd that frequents social events like Poetry Night range anywhere from five to eighteen people. Stationed amidst these individuals, I feel mellow and in same measure, completely absurd. Snippets of conversations filter into my ears. On the surface, topics are similar to that of most young people. Visitors tonight talk about:
(“That is completely convoluted in its contingency.”)
partying too hard,
(“Hey, I think I left my crown at your house the other night.”)
and music.
(“Could you hand me that singing bowl?”)
However, as illustrated, if you listen closely, discrepancies appear.

Ken Kesey, leader of the Merry Pranksters, asserted that “you are either on the bus or off the bus.” By coming to the house, I am choosing to embark on the ride. I believe it is for worthy reasons too. Some partial cynics (me included) may claim that sixties youth counterculture is officially dead, dissipated by the absolution of the political and social issues of its heyday.

Still, within the house there exists a smaller, equally valid resistance against the sameness of suburban college life. No one wears TCNJ sweats and Uggs. Of course, it wouldn’t be a problem if you did. Apparel choices are never judged.

In fact, clothing itself is considered optional.

Breaking News: No Free Will!

Wednesday, International Union of Sociochemistry representative Daryl Wayne announced that free will is merely an illusion. The president of the renown organization urged the public to remain calm, adding that people need not panic if they find they cannot control their response to this scientific breakthrough.

“Thoughts,” Wayne declared at the annual conference,“are simply chemical reactions in our brains, and humans have been acting out a predetermined chain of sociochemical events since they first came to be.”

According to the New Jersey State Police, since Wednesday’s announcement, incidents of criminal activity and tomfoolery have sharply risen.

“I was just walking down the street, when a man approached me, tore off his pants, and began to jump up and down in a humping motion,” one anonymous woman informed The Perspective. Reports also indicate that the man was saying “unntz unntz unntz” as he harassed at least a dozen other Ewing citizens late Wednesday evening.

Witness Sarah Smith incredulously added that there was no camera crew. Neither Johnny Knoxville nor Bam Margera could be reached for comment.

Riots have also broken out on two different fronts.

One group of demonstrators has formed near the entrance of the International Union of Sociochemistry headquarters in Trenton touting WWJD gear and signs reading messages such as “Helaman 14:30,” “Free My Will,” and “Your Mom is Predetermined”; one participant’s sign read caustically, “Did You Predetermine This, Asshole?”

One woman, incensed by the implications this news has on the existence of a Judeo-Christian God, captured the crowd’s sentiments with a pointed question, “Without free will where does peoples’ accountability go? What does this mean for good and evil?”

The other party of protesters, described as donning tie-dyed shirts and smelling of marijuana, has begun peaceful protests in front of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Perspective reporter on the field has reported rally cries such as, “Hell no, we can’t go!” and “Together we stand; together we fight; we have no choice but to demand our rights!”

One young man at the rally told our correspondent, “I knew I wasn’t to blame for my unemployment and drug habits; if we don’t have control over our actions, we shouldn’t be forced to suffer from their consequences.”
Others at the gathering demanded that relatives or loved ones be set free from jail, reasoning that, without free will, the prisoners couldn’t be blamed for their actions—they were merely victims of circumstance.

When asked about how he planned to respond to the International Union of Sociochemistry’s statement, which effectively decreed all human behavior inculpable, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder maintained that law will continue to be enforced as usual; Holder cited his own lack of volition as reason for deciding so.

As of now, the fate of mankind is uncertain: with doubt cast upon the existence of God and peoples’ newfound immunity to blame, some are desperately grasping at the straws of morality, seeking out the few morsels left untouched by this pivotal discovery. Based on the current rate of society’s disintegration, some sociologists project that by late 2012, society as we know it will collapse upon itself.

The Demise of DC++ (?)


A few week ago, College administrators finally disbanded the popular file-sharing program DC++, through which countless TCNJ students have happily uploaded and downloaded files for years. The death sentence closely followed the publication of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which quoted a current TCNJ student responsible for maintaining the “Hub,” as it is informally known.

The April 18 article, which referred to the Hub as a means of “illegal swapping of copyrighted media,” generated negative publicity for the College after it was posted on Slashdot.org, a popular technology news website.

Students who maintained the Hub this year allege that the College’s handling of the ensuing controversy has been sorely hypocritical. “Everyone in the Information Technology (IT) Department has known about the Hub for years,” said one of the program’s moderators, who asked to be identified by his alias, MrWhite. It was only after the College’s began to experience blowback from the Chronicle article that they decided to take action.

Nadine Stern, Vice President for Information Technology and Enrollment Services at TCNJ, initially told the Chronicle, “We’ve made the decision not to be detectives and not to look for it,” when asked about the presence of file-sharing on the campus network. Only four days later, however, her position changed drastically. In a sternly worded campus-wide email, she stated, “The College takes illegal file sharing seriously. Therefore, we will begin to take technological steps to block the DC++ application, and we will pursue disciplinary action as appropriate.”

The subject of that disciplinary action, a TCNJ senior who requested anonymity, said he received an email accusing him of copyright violation after the College’s IT team had traced the IP address of the Hub to his particular computer.

“The box was in my room,” said the former moderator, “but I don’t really think that constitutes any violation of copyright law.” He was summoned to meet with Ryan Farnkopf, Assistant Director of Student Conduct.

“‘The box is in your room,” Farnkopf reportedly said, “and files are being transferred through it.’” The moderator said he corrected him, responding, “No, no files were ever traveling through that computer. The computer is literally just a chat room where two people can connect directly to each other and share their files,” he explained.

The former moderator was accused of violating the College’s Computing Access Agreement, though he asserted that “nowhere in the Computing Access Agreement does it say anything specifically about file-sharing.”

Further, MrWhite said the Chronicle article “grossly distorted what the Hub is… They made it seem as if it’s like a big mysterious box, chock-full of copyrighted files that we all surreptitiously move around.” But in reality, he said, there is nothing inherently illegal about the Hub, which at its essence merely is a chat room through which users can access shared files on other computers throughout the campus network. “Because all file transfers are handled directly between the uploading and downloading computers,” he continued, “the Hub itself cannot see what files are being transferred. So there is no way for the Hub operator to know whether or not any users are using it for copyright infringement.”

Indignant, the anonymous senior said he knows of several individuals currently working for the College’s IT department who themselves actively used the Hub. And it was these same people who were apparently involved in locating the current moderator for disciplining. “It’s hypocritical that they’re going after a couple of students when full-time employees were using it,” he said.

He also said that some IT employees “spend so much time on the school computers playing video games” – in particular, Team Fortress 2 – which unlike the Hub represents an actual violation of the College’s Computing Access Agreement: “Use of College computing resources by College employees for personal use without the approval of the department in which the resource is located.”

The former moderator declined to participate in a formal disciplinary hearing, saying that it would have been a “waste of a day” because he felt he was preemptively deemed guilty. “I’m being used as a scapegoat,” he added.

Luckily, this debacle will not appear on any transcripts for the senior, but it will stay on his disciplinary record for about five years after he graduates.


We all know, cuts abound: money continues to be surreptitiously funneled away from public education reserves, putting desperate strain on K-12 school districts throughout the state, as well as on our own college. So where has all the aid gone? Yes, everything is being cut – ostensibly because New Jersey is trying to close an $11 billion budget deficit.

Troublesome economic times call for more careful prioritization of public funds, not aimless dismantling of any conceivable program. Education – an indispensable investment in the future – should be the last stock from which to divest.

In this spirit, a coalition of students, faculty, union leaders, college staff, and parents have joined to form FIGHT BACK TCNJ, an advocacy group aiming to build a democratic, grassroots, activist movement in defense of public education and in opposition to Governor Chris Christie’s budget cuts. Awareness, discussion and support is mediated largely through its interactive web site, FIGHTBACKTCNJ.org.

Their first major initiative was a “teach-in” on April 21, an educational event intended to increase awareness of ongoing class-oriented struggles that have culminated in Gov. Christie’s unprecedented withdrawal of state education funding.

Why care? To assume that everything will be accounted for would be naïve; to assume we can have no impact on the policy-making process is only more so. Having money is the only way to make our values correspond with concrete services and activities – whether we like or not, money is the privilege to do things.

Many of the College’s programs will inevitably have to go, and student groups face a voting process to determine what TCNJ can afford to keep. This may not be the worst of all consequences,and college students may not feel the full force of the financial burden now, but the old strategy of divide and conquer is at work.

The reality is that this burden is merely being paddled back and forth; right now high schools face the deepest cuts, but in years past higher education bore the brunt of the burden. Rather than disregard the severity and relevance of current cuts for K-12 schools and playing into the government’s stratagem, it is imperative that New Jerseyans unite to defend public education. A strong showing of elementary and secondary education majors attended the sessions, but they should not be the only ones to care about the welfare of the future. April 21 was an all-day kickoff of five sessions and an evening plenary designed to understand current budget woes within the context of a broader social narrative.

First session speaker, Trina Scordo, introduced us to the theoretical and historical basis for the existence of unions. I’ll admit I never allotted much thought to or care for unions. As far as I was concerned, they simply exist; you join a profession, you join the corresponding union – standard operating procedure. However, many people are rightfully suspicious of unions. Scordo addressed this distrust and how it came about when the bargaining process was formalized. In stuffing the working class into suits and setting them opposite the table from business officials, the working class should expect the unfortunate results – no concessions from higher-ups. Once union representatives enmesh themselves too deeply in the process, they become removed from the constituents they are supposed to represent.

But she asked us instead why, rather than being angry at government employees who receive good benefits and pensions, as Christie is encouraging the public to do, we don’t make demands and work for ourselves: for better education and better benefits? A striking point, she made. Truth is, we are tentative to make demands; the concept of “to each his due” comes under fire. What one deserves by right (as opposed to what one is entitled to by merit) conflicts with the individualism and capitalist ethic, which America holds by the claws. It is not something I could easily let go, but working from an agreed rather than decreed baseline is an attractive idea.

Students have the right to demand the highest quality teachers and professors; however, it is difficult to reform a system that does not take student complaints seriously. The session revealed the relevance of unions and how students can harness their voices. The process of how we are allowed to make change says just as much, if not more, about how much leverage we really have.

One of the second session pairs was a throwback to the 1960s: lessons from movements. One student brought up the hippie culture associated with the activism of which we tend to think – what came first, the culture or the reform? Second opinions emerged from faculty as to which historical organizations best represent the current situation and if they failed, how and why. Here’s an easy SparkNotes version: activism spreads when people who care about one issue are apt to see the struggles of another group. Every issue relates in some way to nearly every other issue, and the synergy created by individuals and groups working collaboratively makes for substantial accomplishments on all fronts. No lecture attendance necessary.

Students don’t have the power to shut anything down in order to prove a point, but they have always been the passion behind a tired work force that can do so. Even there we may be proving them wrong with recent high school walkouts – hello, empowerment.

Reactions are proof; Michael Drewniak, Gov. Christie’s press secretary, hoped to dismiss the walkouts as “motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever – and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey,” and said students “belong in the classroom.”

Governor Chris Christie was no more pleased: “The schools did a lousy job in really permitting…students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest.; they send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school.”

Drewniak wasn’t wrong, and said himself, “Students would be better served if they were given a full, impartial understanding of the problems that got us here in the first place.” Why are the details of the budget cuts, then, not more public than they are?

Gov. Christie has a point, students are sent to school to learn; but what drove scores of high school students to walk out on their classes? One might consider that they saw walkouts during the school day as more effective than before or after-school rallies. Regardless, having to demand an explanation for the budget cuts is as good as hiding it, and protesting in such a manner casts doubt on the willingness of school systems to listen.

Drewniak seemed to suspect students were motivated by a biased, narrow-minded understanding, and it feels that students have somehow been pitted against the rest of the state. Yet the 15 sheer scope of the budget crisis should be regarded as the real problem.

The remaining attendees gathered in the Social Science Atrium after dinner for a small but powerful rally cry to close the divide between students, faculty, and legislators. Nearing the end of the night, senior Matt Hoke made an interesting point: colleges and other institutions churn students out to replace the infrastructure of the country as we know it.

We as students are both customers and products of schools; then why are we paying so much money – money we have no power over – if the stability of the work world depends on us equally as we do on it?

The origin of unions may not appear relevant, yet as one of the last session speakers, Nagesh Rao, said, “You can’t take a snapshot of how things are today without looking at where things are and how they got there.” We may just be in the same predicament as those workers today. It may not be a comfortable thought, but there is a lesson to be learned: stagnant apathy is no way to work toward a better status quo.

I noticed during this finale, a few onlookers leaning over the second floor balcony with cool removal, crossed feet and suited, presumably for another event. I became aware of the disconnect, and it took me out of the teach-in’s warm enclave. I am sure that they only heard something about unions and students among the echoes of shouts. I am not even sure if the thought that the ensuing noise pertained to them, had even crossed their minds. Whatever your views, watch your allocation of funds, and you may be able to return to business as usual.

Trial and Error: A Solution Four Thousand Years in the Making

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls.”
–Thomas Paine

Having written so on the eve of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine was right – those were times that tried men’s souls. Nevertheless, when you consider the almighty, objectively infallible bigger picture, his words are misleading. Peoples’ souls have always been tried; they’re being tried right now. All of the times are the times that try men’s souls.

The astounding fact of the matter is that, in this modern age, we’re not so much being tried by a callous and indecisive nature – we’re being tried by our own embittered and faltering peers.

So if you should still desire happiness, gender-neutral reader, you would do well to go live in a box. Best to be alone in the truest sense – sitting blindfolded, with earplugs in, duct tape over your mouth, and naught but your pulse to play with.

Of course, that’s just the ideal solution – it’s fairly impractical, when you get right down to the heart of it. If ever you had to remove the duct tape – and you would have to – it would more than likely flay your skin. The earplugs would chafe your ear canals. The blindfold would keep you from seeing the time. Your box would eventually rot away, and then what would you do? Get another box? Nice boxes are not so easy to come by.

The more pragmatic solution – on pain of death, we should stop smiling. We’re already on our way.

If you take even a cursory glance at human history, it would soon become clear that, while we have had our momentary successes, on the whole, we have not gotten along all too well – in fact, success itself has been at times the very instrument of our undoing. At the risk of belaboring Aesop’s fable, as a species, we are wolves; as individuals, we are wolves in poorly tailored, unconvincing
sheep costumes.

You’re a wolf, and I’m a wolf. We both know it, but neither of us will admit it. So we dance until one of us eats the other, only to realize that sheep costumes don’t make wolf meat taste like flanks of lamb. We are shrewd and unhappy rogues.

But it’s not all bad.

A closer look at human history will reveal a stark dichotomy.
Compared to the present, the past is a lame piece of soggy bread. We’re good – at least compared to the thousands of years of brutal butchery, artless oppression, and spilled milk. Trying times indeed.

Apparently, then, we’ve done something right. Regardless of what atrocities have happened in the past, then, this gives us a definitive solution to the problem of strife: Stay the course.

In the interest of tomorrow, keep your jollies to yourself.

We ought to continue to stigmatize and ignore our peers – their friendliness must only be a front for poison and guile. We should persist in provoking drama, fanning the flames with an acid breath, watching the sparks catch. Indeed, lets judge away; the world is our domain to define, discriminate, denounce. Let no man, woman, or child be safe from our cold and arbitrary antagonisms. Melodrama, the plague of the prosperous, must ferment and burst out as an inflammatory plague, turning social life political. Bitchiness must continue to break life down into a fetid mire of stagnant sludge.

We must take everything with the utmost Siberian seriousness, asserting beliefs as positive truths, opinions as facts; no mistake is forgivable, no transgression forgettable.

More than anything, heed the following:
It is imperative that we take everything personally. It’s raining on our parade; poor drainage was put in place by cosmic forces to unmake our hubris in some small way. We should all just go lay facedown in the mud.

Let us not smile too much, lest we change our strategy and ruin our good fortune.

Let us not laugh too much, lest we enjoy life too much to continue the struggle.

Let us continue, ultimately, to be wolves.

But then, there are some who would joy to see a world recreated from only the bones of this one: their world would be a beautiful sphere of ornamented cubicles, each cradling a peaceful package of one – one person, content in isolation, satisfied in solitude, soaking in the balmy darkness, absolved of everything emotional. An intemperate light would no longer betray our faults, reveal the dust of our imperfect existences. Nothing need be said, written, or thought. This is the ideal solution – living in a box. But it’s bullshit.

We’re social creatures. It will never work.

Nevertheless, it’s altogether senseless to expect each other to be reasonable, let alone sympathetic to our peers; we are obviously incapable, and, more often than not, our beliefs dictate that we be unflinching, unmovable, unshakeable in our foolishness. At the least, we have proven ourselves unwilling. So let us continue to live alone among the masses.

One can feel the stony and lifeless glances of others. It brings a refreshing chill to the soul – a relief from the heated drama elsewhere. Apathy and escapism cushion the hardest, sharpest beds of reality. One can sense the transitory nature of our laughter. It is a wheeze in company of laughter at its best.

Unlike Thomas Paine, we are not in the midst of a political
revolution, but we might here and now revolutionize the idea of revolution. We shall protect the status quo from aberrant developments and stay the course.

In the interest of tomorrow, keep your jollies to yourself.

This Land is My Land!

Arizona’s recent passage of a new law that enables police officers to act as immigration control agents has sparked racially charged activism and debate around the country about who has the right to exist on this land. However, despite arguments over the constitutionality or cost-benefits of the law, very little has been said about the root causes of human migration. If the proponents of this bill truly want to halt undocumented immigration, it will not be through a law criminalizing movement; they need to critically examine the effects of foreign policy, particularly the economic policies between the United States and Mexico that leave many Mexicans no better option than to make the dangerous trek into the American Southwest.

Recent global adherence to free-market capitalism has not led to the prosperity of all people, as promised. In fact, the opposite has occurred–in countries with weaker economies, the dismantling of borders and opening of markets to foreign investment and ownership by way of lowered or absent tariffs effectively killed domestic businesses which cannot compete with large multinational corporations.

Mexican farmers who are unable to offer prices lower than American and Canadian agro-corporations are forced out of agriculture and aren’t able to move to another sector. Mexican peasants and working class, increasingly unemployed as foreign industry’s advantageous position outcompetes domestic industry, are forced to contribute to the plight of their countrymen as they buy the cheaper, foreign produced products and foodstuffs. In Mexico, where there is now little opportunity for work or sustainable wages, those negatively affected by free-market economics move into the ranks of the permanently unemployed, many times in rapidly urbanizing areas, or to the migratory life of a seasonal worker. Or they attempt the move to America where there exists some semblance of an opportunity to carve out a life for themselves.

Despite Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s assessment of the Arizona bill, which he says will “open the door to racial discrimination,” he has not addressed the conditions or unequal trade agreements like NAFTA that leave Mexican citizens little choice but to emigrate. Mexican immigration to the U.S. would seriously halt if opportunity within their homeland existed for impoverished people, but under the present conditions, the development of a viable Mexican economic infrastructure is hampered by competition with the U.S. and Canada as established by free-market economics and structural adjustment policies. Both the U.S. and Canada could work to dismantle free-market agreements like NAFTA, but why would they if they benefit from the terms of the agreement? The daily comforts and low prices American and Canadian citizens enjoy come at a heavy price – one that is implicitly Third World, and in this case Mexican.

If we seek a considerate response to immigration, we as United States citizens need to look at the effects of our actions on people around the world. We cannot allow jingoistic, anti-immigrant Americans to monopolize the debate about immigration around “protecting what is ours” or “keeping this an English-speaking country.” I don’t feel most Mexicans are enthusiastic about leaving their families and native homeland to travel to a country where they will experience language barriers, social segregation, and in most cases little job security and illegally low wages. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the plight of these courageous people because they’re willing to work for cheap; that’s monstrously inhumane and casts Mexicans as more important as workers than they are as human beings.

What is necessary is a disavowal of privilege from First World nations to dictate the terms of other nation’s economies. When we can begin to identify as human beings–and not along borders of socially constructed nationalities–we can begin to acknowledge that we are all members of the human race deserved of equal treatment and opportunity, regardless of our country of origin.

We need to critically examine the effects of free-market economic policies disseminated by the U.S. abroad and understand that all of us, through our purchasing power and democratic right to demand action by our government, are part of the process contributing to undocumented immigration.

SGA Presidential Election '10

Solebo, right, and Brian Block

The Perspective editorial board interviewed both candidates for the SGA presidency about a week and a half before Olaniyi Solebo, the current Senator of Legal and Governmental Affairs, was handily elected to that office by a margin of 58% to 41%. We congratulate him on the victory, but we also issue this warning: unlike in the past, our elected officials will be held accountable for their action or inaction. Next year, Mr. Solebo will not receive a free ride from The Perspective.

On why he sought perhaps the most influential student position on campus, Solebo said, “It’s not because I have some vision of grandeur… it’s not for my ego, it’s not for my resumé. It’s simply because I think I’m the right person to fight the fights worth fighting.”

Whether he will truly “fight those fights” remains to be seen, and his rhetoric may prove to be empty campaign-speak. We contemplated issuing an endorsement prior to the election, but our Board could not come to a unified decision; both candidates, Solebo and Senator of Administration and Finance Brian Block, demonstrated an aptitude for navigating the process of student government, and both are by all accounts genuine in their desire to do well for our campus. But it was not clear to us that either individual was truly interested in transforming the SGA into something more than an unresponsive, hazily-defined institution to which most students feel no real connection.

“I have to say, that’s crap,” Block said when he was asked why so many perceive SGA as ineffectual and rather pointless. Nevertheless, he recognized that most of us have little idea of the body’s actual duties or functions. But he may have a point; we, as a student body, have some degree of responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the workings of our government. It is hard to find the motivation to do so, however, when that government seems to serve no real purpose other than to pad its members’ resumés. Whether this widespread perception is justified or not, it without question exists, which is itself a problem in need of a remedy.

As incoming president, Solebo must make it a top priority to explain in clear and relatable terms what the SGA actually does, and why students should be interested in its inner workings.

It should take steps to actually address student concerns in a meaningful way, rather than simply decree the occasional non-binding resolution. Especially with devastating budget cuts looming on the horizon, the SGA must become a fierce and proactive advocate for student interests, rather than a passive receptor of cues from the College administration. It should not shy away from addressing politically sensitive issues when doing so is in our best interests.

As a rising junior, Solebo may well serve two full terms as president, and thus has the ability to remake what our government apparatus is capable of accomplishing.

He certainly has the charisma and eloquence to enact real change, but he is also liable to fall into a familiar trap: becoming so insulated and accustomed to the power of the presidency that he loses sight of delivering for the campus.

Solebo made a number of campaign pledges during his interview with The Perspective, and next year we intend to hold him accountable for fulfilling them. “If you don’t know how something works for you,” Solebo said of SGA’s reputation, “how can it work for you?” He must take tangible and measurable steps to increase the legitimacy of the institution over which he now presides. Outreach does not mean putting up fliers or sending out Facebook messages. Outreach means establishing a genuine connection with students, addressing their concerns in a timely manner, and increasing transparency and accountability.

Solebo and Vice President-elect Cory Dwyer

Racial Tension in the Campus Police
As a community advisor, Solebo said he maintains a cordial relationship with all the security personnel named in the lawsuit discussed in last month’s Perspective.

Out of a desire not to pre-judge the litigants, Solebo said he would essentially take a hands-off approach. But if the lawsuit goes to trial, as the plaintiffs’ lawyer predicted it would, Solebo must be more proactive in pushing the administration to discipline and perhaps remove those officers who are clearly responsible for perpetuating racial animosity within the force. Otherwise, the safety of our community may be compromised. Though he said he was “troubled” by the allegations of racism, actions from Solebo would speak much louder than words.

Transparency within SGA
There has long been speculation that the closed-door SGA election process leaves room for manipulation of votes, according to former members. Solebo promised to introduce legislation that would reform the penalties for “elections violations”; within the current system, candidates for election can lose votes based on their own personal violations of campus conduct codes, including minor alcohol infractions. This process lacks transparency and is inherently undemocratic, or as Solebo said, “disenfranchising.” “It’s not something that any legitimate organization should be practicing,” he said. There needs to be “more sunlight on those dark spots within SGA,” Solebo said, and he is in a perfect condition to do just that.

Drug and Alcohol policy
Solebo said he was opposed to the legalization of marijuana,
but in favor of reducing the drinking age to 18. Solebo should take proactive steps to ensure that drug and alcohol violations are handled on campus in a less draconian manner. Using his leverage, he should advocate that such violations be the lowest priority for law enforcement.

The Signal bailout
“It’s worrisome that part of the money I pay every year is going to bail out The Signal,” Solebo said. As a result of The Signal management’s financial indiscretions over the years, students are now forced to pay out of their own pockets to ensure that we continue to have a weekly newspaper.

However, this funding must come with strings attached. According to Brian Block, The Signal had been paying its employees before their own printing costs. With this infusion of money from our tuitions, Solebo must ensure that The Signal is managing its finances appropriately.

Sponsoring Political Speakers
Solebo was involved in controversy this year when he spearheaded efforts to bring both Newark mayor Cory Booker and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to campus. Though his efforts to heighten TCNJ’s prestige by inviting these prominent figures is admirable, Solebo must be more scrupulous in the procedure of doing so in the future. The Perspective reported that Booker accepted $11,000 from TCNJ for giving a speech that was essentially identical to one he delivered at Rider University the day before – without charge. Solebo must exhaust all possible avenues to bring speakers at as little cost as possible to students, especially with the dire financial predicament in which the College now finds itself. Further, SGA’s decision to bring Mike Huckabee to campus preempted efforts from both the College Republicans and Democrats to invite speakers of their own. In short, Solebo must make sure that the SGA is not overstepping its bounds.

To conclude, we congratulate Solebo on his victory; but with our congratulations also come high expectations. The Perspective intends to hold him and the SGA at large responsible for the duties they are entrusted with performing. We are optimistic about his tenure and hope to support the reformative measures he promised to introduce. Our student body president must be bold and assertive in his or her advocacy for TCNJ’s interests, and we will accept no less from the newly-elected Solebo.