People Are People, Women Are Too…

Sexual harassment is nothing new. In fact, in modern culture it has even become celebrated. It is not out of the norm to see advertisements completely unrelated to sex contain the bosoms or buttocks of women. It has been in popular belief that most female harassment and suppression happens in small towns and underdeveloped countries where women have little to no voice or representation. This, however, is false. It has been most likely for harassment to take place in developed communities, on the streets and on the subway.

Tatyanna Fazlalizadeh, Northeastern’s new artist-in-residence, from Brooklyn, New York has had enough of the injustice and started an art series in 2012 to advocate and speak out for women worldwide who have been muffled. She is an illustrator/painter whose work has become recognized but noted organizations such as “Stop Street Harassment”, an organization that started as a mere blog in 2008.

From Monday, Oct. 6 through Wednesday, Oct. 8th, Fazlaizadeh led discussions, interdisplinary discussions and even graced the walls of Norhteastern with her captivating portraits of women and their personal thoughts on gender-based harassment. Captions such as, “Harassing women is not amusing,” “I am not public space,” “My outfit is not an invitation,” and the most noted, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” lined the brick walls.

“ I wanted to talk about my experiences with street harassment,” Fazlalizadeh states, in her video which is available on the STWTS website. All genders were present at the block party. Jessica Patterson, bystander at the block party said, “ I’m entirely grateful to be a part of the Northeastern community, where we can speak out for what we believe.”  Many other bystanders and participants had very enthusiatic and appreciative thougts, which were shared via twitter with tags including, #NURespect, #CAMD, # STWTS, and # HeForShe. Many of their thoughts can still be found via twitter if searched with those given tags.
The presence of Artist-in-Resident Fazlaizadeh has without doubt shook up the NEU community, in a aspiring way. If Fazlaizadeh has done one thing it is re-ignite. Sometimes people grow quite numb to harassment and choose to just deal. One thing is for sure, if a majority of people nationwide continue to keep quiet, NEU students will not be a part of that segment.

Hunger Rises on College Campuses

College students often struggle financially. Hunger is rising on college campuses as tuition goes up and as more low-income students enroll they are finding it difficult to pay back their loans.  Massachusetts is known for it’s prestigious colleges and universities, urban campuses, and dense culture. One thing that Massachusetts isn’t known for is the large amount of college students that rely on government assistance for basic needs.

“ I tried applying for SNAP my sophomore year of college but the process was so tedious, said DeVonte Roach, a senior Berklee College Music student, originally from Ohio.

” It was worth it though, said Roach. ”  “ I was eligible for instant cash assistance and at the time, I really needed it.”

It has become increasingly difficult with the rise in need of government assistance that college students are seen as less of a priority. Financial aid officer, Mona Daly, at Northeastern University, says that numerous students come in to have official Department of Transitional Assistance paperwork filled out and then return again because information was missing or they need to access more student financial information.

Amber McClean, 27 year old college graduate of American International College, originally from Leeds, England, said, “ I was in the states for 4 years before applying for food stamps, said Mclean.” “Part of the reason I didn’t apply when I truly needed it was because I was frightened they’d deport me, my student visa was nearly finished.”

Amber believes that food assistance for college students should be easily accessible because those who truly are in need are not applying, but, when they do, they are sent to the bottom of the list. She also believes that the Massachusetts Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) should not be difficult to utilize.

“I believe if the services are needed it can be quick, simple, and swift for the process to be completed, it may take a day or so but as food is a necessity it is to my knowledge that these benefits are given in good time to those who are eligible. In regards, to college students seeking these benefits, a process more accessible, such as internet application, and interview processing through Skype, I’m sure, would be much appreciated due to the time and commitment being a fulltime student requires, said McClean.”

According to Richard O’Connor, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, at  American International College, a students financial aid package is suppose to include a meal plan for on campus residents and for off campus residents it is up to them to budget their aid accordingly.

“Every semester there are students complaining about their unfair meal plans or their need for more aid in order to feed and shelter themselves, said O’Connor.” “There is only so much we can do.”

Because of the rise of hunger on college campuses and the lack of financial aid and resources students all over the country have been seeking other alternatives. In Massachusetts, SNAP is the first option for residents. However, the college culture in Massachusetts is saturated with tons of international students who may not have the right connections, paperwork, or patients. These students are turning to food pantries.

In 2014, The  Dartmouth Bible Church opened their first ever food pantry in hopes to support the students who choose to pay tuition instead of paying for their own food.

“Hunger, strife, starvation, and stress are real things on a college campus, said Roach.” “ I know a handful of female students who trade sex for money so that they can pay their tuition and have some kind of money to live on, it’s sad but true.”

It is not a secret college students in Massachusetts are  hungry. In Massachusetts alone, 29 public campuses have pantries that exist and in full use operated by students. Many other campuses that do not have pantries offer meal vouchers for those who express extreme need and can prove their need.

UMass officials reported that there is a known 140 enrollees, mostly graduate students, who receive food from off- campus local run pantries. Out of the 140 enrollees, most of these students live off-campus and commute.

For international college students, food pantries are not always their first option.

“I considered going to a food pantry but was hesitant at first, said McClean.” “When I did go,there was a limited amount of food you could take and I needed a US Citizen with me.” “The process was distasteful and time consuming.”

It isn’t known for sure if the effectiveness and ease of access of the SNAP program will improve for college students or if more food pantries will be popping up in the New England area. One thing’s for sure, Massachusetts students will continue to go hungry and it will be up to them and the community to figure it out.

Blue Chalk

Blue Chalk is a digital media company  that is comprised with passionate individuals from dissimilar backgrounds with a common belief  in the power of nonfiction visual storytelling. The power four who jumpstarted this company, only a year ago, all decided to change directions midway in their careers. Greg Moyer, Pam Huling, Rob Finch, and Lisa Jamhoury all wanted to work for the “right company” according to Jamhoury.

Blue Chalk does not have one particular medium and Jamhoury was adamant in emphasizing this. This creative team is a marriage of multiple mediums. Jamhoury stated that it is because of this and their “go-getter” attitude that has contributed to their success. “The ability to roll with the punches is one of the integral parts of our ethos,” Jamhoury said.

Jamhoury shared a little anecdotal story of herself, her partners, and  some of Blue Chalk’s acclaimed work with the audience.The first piece,First Sight:Sonia and Anita, and the last piece, Journey to Extraordinary: The Creeekmores, left the audience tears, literally, however, they were informative, thought provoking, and served a greater purpose of connectivity.

Jamhoury ended her presentation by giving feedback to two media innovation students on their final pieces of the semester. Her story of how her team spawned and how she found her calling in nonfiction storytelling was, indeed, inspirational. Jamhoury presentation on her and her companies journey is a great testament to living for what you’re passionate about, pursuing relentlessly, and sharing it with the world.

Photo Credit: Blue Chalk, Images Grabbed from Website

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The Impact of Social Media on Artists, Journalists, and the Music Industry

Devonte Singer is a vocalist and a fourth year student who is attending Berklee College of Music where he is studying music business. He shared what it was that got him interested in music, “I was asked to sing at my grandmother’s funeral, at first I was apprehensive,” he said. “I had never sung in front of anyone. I rapped occasionally but it wasn’t serious. But, the amount of joy and release I felt when actually singing was indescribable and I knew I had to do this for the rest of my life—-I was 12.” Singer has received much recent notoriety and success through social media.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at today as, a recording artist, if it weren’t for my consistent presence in social media, such as Facebook, Soundcloud, and Instagram,” Singer said. “Even if you’re an artist making top quality records, most people won’t take notice unless you have a following or if you’re ‘liked’.” “The fixation with social media has made way for plenty of 24 hour artists and I’m doing everything in my power to not fall into that category.”

 Singer’s interests do not end at singing. He prides himself in understanding all aspects of music, including business and self-marketing. “Enrolling at the Berklee College of Music was just the beginning. It has opened doors to entertainment, the business and amount of discipline it takes to be successful in such a hot and cold industry. Berklee has giving me options and tools to foster my own brand,” Singer explains.

It is important in this age of entertainment to not only be talented but to be knowledgeable of your craft and adaptable. The effects of social media can be seen in various mediums of entertainment and if you’re not ‘in the know’ it is less likely you will stay relevant.

Leon C. Janikian, associate professor and director of music industry at Northeastern University, has been in the music industry for over 30 years as a professional musician and recording engineer. He agrees that the music industry has changed immensely; however, not necessarily for the worse.

“It’s interesting, a lot of aspects of the music products industry are up, while the recording music industry is flat or down,” Janikian said. Janikian agrees that the habits of music consumers have changed drastically. Millennials have different desires and most don’t include getting to know the artists, intimately, that they are listening to. They want to click, enjoy, and move on to the next. This does not only apply to the music industry. Even in the journalism realm, people are attracted to this type of click and consume culture.

Starr Nathan, is entertainment journalist and production assistant at BET entertainment, she is passionate about reporting the, “juice,” as she phrased it. Since working for BET as a production assistant Nathan has launched her own entertainment company called StarrPower Entertainment. As young entrepreneur, reporter, and journalist, she knows the importance of social media.

“I like social because you’re able to interact with people who are connecting to your product or brand,” Nathan said. “Social media is my hub, it’s how I feed information to my audience and stay connected.

Nathan utilizes reputable sources that also participate in social media platforms like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. Social media is a new common denominator in almost everything these days, especially with self-promoters, entertainers and even journalists.

It can be said that if you are an entertainer or up-and-coming public figure and your social media immersion isn’t obvious and active— you’re doomed. Singer and Nathan are similar in the way they personally control their social media and are frequently interacting with their followers. Share, share, share, that word is pivotal to both of these passion pursuers and they both agreed that if their not sharing their work they are failing themselves and their fans.

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Photo Credit for Featured Image: Trulia.com

Lows and Highs of Higher Education, What is it worth?

“19.9 million students were enrolled in colleges and universities in 2013, compared to 13.5 million in 1990, 7.9 million in 1970, and 2.7 million in 1949,” according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2013 report. With the increase of enrollment naturally comes an increase of national student loan debt, increase competition in the work place and even a possible financial crisis similar to that of the subprime mortgage crisis.

It is no secret that the standard model of higher education has changed. Higher education has definitely evolved. Students, educators, and administrators will agree that the affordability of a degree is not reasonable.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Wiley, Seattle Times

Many will argue that the degree they have earned is not worth the debt especially given the amount time, post graduation, the student spends paying for it. Others will add that the education system as a whole has lost sight of their purpose and integrity.

The desire to receive a higher education and the inability for individuals to personally finance there schooling has provided a toxic and self-serving lending cycle that is discouraging to college graduates and seen as an easy “come up” opportunity for those looking to manipulate the system for their short financial advantage; individuals and corporations alike.

“I hate this system, I feel trapped in this endless cycle of debt, payment, debt, payment, and even if I’m doing great in my courses—that’s not good enough, DeVonte Roach said.

Photo Credit: Strike Debt Jacobin

If I have a balance on my school account at the end of the semester, my hard work accounts for nothing, they hold your transcript hostage,” Roach adds.

“This higher education system feels like a joke most times. I find it hard to take a lot of the students I go to school with seriously. Some classmates of mine have confessed to simply attending college because of the financial aid they can receive,” Derrick F. James said.

“At my past community college and even now at my state college, students will enroll in the minimum amount of courses, take out loans that exceed the amount owed, and get a cash refund from the school, then B.S the rest of the semester. I guess they figure they have to pay it back anyway,” James said.

Do students who participate in these types of acts understand the burden they are placing on themselves and taxpayers? It is not just the students; financial institutions are taking part in this new founded higher education scheme.

Furthermore, do all college students feel this much disgust and dissatisfaction towards the higher education system? There are others who are not as jaded; educators and, of course, the Department of Education and even some current students will adamantly claim that a four year degree is invaluable.

If the higher education system can casually be summed up as a cash cow now, does that mean that the influx of students entering higher educational institutions are less likely to succeed or less apt to produce higher rate material in their studies? Are today’s college students productive members of their societies and school communities or has their aptitude declined with the incline of student admittance?

According to Dan Kennedy, associate professor and interim director at Northeastern University, “The students were good in the past and they are good now. Every year the school will say ‘these are the best students we’ve had’.” Kennedy believes that there is not a noticeable shift in student’s performance and that he does not have to water down his instruction for a different level of students.

“The only difference I’ve noticed in the time that I’ve been teaching is that the small number of unqualified applicants that were seeping through the cracks of admission in the past, they are simply not getting in anymore,” Kennedy added.

Kennedy’s statement holds true. Northeastern University’s Fall 2013 acceptance rate was 32.3% and is viewed as one of the most selective schools in the northeast, according to U.S News’ annual college and university report. The acceptance rate hasn’t skewed noticeably in Fall of 2014. Northeastern has not relaxed their standards at all, if anything they have raised them, not officially, but they are accepting students with high quality benchmarks in comparison to past years. The mean SAT score for admitted students in 2014 raised from 1400 to 1421, according to the admissions office.

Public universities and some private, like Northeastern University, have not succumbed entirely to the temptation to open their doors to just anyone who can write a decent letter of intent, get government funding and private loans. However, the same cannot be said about some of the private for-profit institutions in the New England area.

It has been known for some time that private, for-profit institutions are essentially a college set up by stockholders and investors and ran by companies. Degrees from for-profit institutions have also been known to be more expensive than a standard bachelors degree and even valued less in most cases. They have been in the news more than ever lately and scrutinized for their foul practices.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, NACAC, reports that: “Investigations by the federal government, media, and States Attorneys General ​have revealed countless instances of unscrupulous for-profit colleges (particularly those that are run by large, publicly-traded companies), engaging in deceptive, aggressive and manipulative tactics to enroll as many students as possible, without regard for their potential for success or ability to afford tuition, in an effort to maximize profits.”

In other words, these for-profit schools are not concerned with the benchmarks of the student they are admitting. Their number one objective is acceptance numbers, which equate to cash in the bank for their investors, regardless of the student’s ability to afford the schooling. ITT Educational Services Inc. is one particular entity that is under the scope and with good reason. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently sued the company for abusing the billions of government dollars extracted from students—in most cases by students who were pressured to take out loans.

Not every college student is being taken advantage of by these type of crooked schools, however, many prospective college student have become turned off by for-profit schools and hyper paranoid about every dime they are borrowing to finance their education. For-profit schools, within the last decade, have certainly gave the pursuit of a higher education a poor name. More than a handful of current graduate students confess that if they could be successful and financially stable without a college degree—they would not be in school.

There will always be drawbacks in pursuing a higher degree. Higher education has almost become synonymous, this day and age, with debt. However, perhaps it is worth it. Perhaps, it is not simply about the status or one expensive piece of paper but also the experience—the ride.

It is in popular belief that a college education means more employment options and that all college graduates will make more money. However, according to the Department of Labor in 2012, 1 in 3 college graduates had a job that required a high school diploma or less.

Photo Credit: junctrebellion.wordpress.com

In supporting that finding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 44% of recent graduates were underemployed in 2012. Are these numbers associated with the college graduates inability to showcase their skill, are they inadequate for the position, or is it the competition—now that the bachelor degree’s value is diluted?

That can be hard to hear, diluted degrees and ill-equipped college graduates. However, that is the reality.

Eric Gorski, of the Huffington Post, wrote specifically on the issue of underprepared college graduates. In his research, he found that on a study of 2,300 undergraduates, “…45% of students show no significant improvements in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.” That is a serious issue and reflects the larger issue of the United States Higher Education system and its’ priorities, previously stated.

Lindsay McCluskey, recent graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst, supports Gorski’s findings. McCluskey explains, “There is less personal attention in the classroom, fewer tenure-track positions, and more classes are being taught by teaching assistants and in some cases undergraduate students, obviously, that has an impact on our learning and the experience we get in college.” “We are viewed as consumers instead of students.”

Will Moore, Northeastern University graduate student, has a similar sentiment, “I think the US should fundamentally rethink and retool its approach to higher ed.” “…We should be emulating nations like Norway, where higher education is free for all students.  The result is that their populace is highly educated and, being unburdened by debt, possesses economic agency, which benefits the country as a whole.  Contrast that with the system in place in the US, in which the increasing costs associated with higher education can be a barrier to education.”

It is clear, most students are not pleased with their experiences and most employees are not impressed with the output of graduates from the U.S. Higher Education system. All of these statistics don’t account for everyone and the dissatisfied students will admit to their college experiences being financially painful but socially rewarding, as well as, beneficial for their interpersonal skills and overall growth.

College provides a platform to network with peers with similar and dissimilar interests and fields. Harvard Business School estimated that 65% to 85% of employment acquired by their alumni was by networking within social groups, clubs, teams, job fairs, and even remaining connected to their internship or co-op affiliates.

80% of college’s graduates have completed some type of internship of co-op before entering the job market. 90% of students attending Northeastern University will have completed some form of internship before completing their undergraduate studies. It is evident that college is no easy feat, however, with the invaluable experiences students are destine to experience—perhaps the financial weight is worth it.

Even after comparing data until your eyes bleed, it can be said that the value of the degree depends on the individual not the degree alone. If prospective college students are equipped with the pertinent information to make an informed decision on their higher education they would be just fine—but that is an ideal scenario and most students or returning students are not.

The U.S Higher Education System’s faults and neglect are becoming more noticeable and apparent. At this point, if a degree or the college experience is a vital key to your personal growth or careers goals—it’s up to you to define it’s worth. It is also up to you, the student, to eek out as much worth from it—regardless of its cost and commitment.