A reflection on entertainment media as a career path

Commentary

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header image: Mohamed Hassan via PxHere

I’m scared.

I’m scared because this is my last commentary article with the Collegian as an undergrad. I’m scared because in two weeks I’ll be a journalist out in the field with a B.A. in Mass Media and Communication and I still have no idea what I want to write about.

My whole life I have made entertainment media my hobby. I played soccer in the day and I’d come home and play “Smash Bros.” with my teammates, I’d go to school and wait all day to get home and watch a few hours of Cartoon Network, I’d play music and use what I learned about music theory to appreciate the score of a new movie that I saw and above all, no matter what I did from my childhood to now, I always knew that no matter how stressful my day-to-day life got, or how invested I got in my courses and different interests, that when I got home at the end of the day I was firing up a gaming console or putting a Blu-Ray in the tray, and that was my time away from the world.

The conversation that our entertainment is an escape from modern problems and that we take to these fictional worlds so we don’t have to deal with ours is well trod ground. But, I find myself in a particular place where I have a unique discussion to be a part of.

Learning journalism in high school, and exposing myself to the field of communication, production, word mills, internships and online publication in college, I can confidently say that I’m ready to enter into the field of journalism and write. During my time with the Collegian, I started writing as an Arts and Entertainment writer, doing movie and game reviews during my first year, incorporating my hobby with my writing skills. 

After that, I took over as editor of the Arts and Entertainment section for two years, writing thousands of words and dozens of pieces on entertainment media, the industries that produce them and the ways that entertainment is a part of our media and cultural landscapes. 

Then, when I took over as editor-in-chief, I continued to be immersed in the journalism landscape and learn how to manage, edit and work in a newsroom. Through my schooling, I learned how to more effectively cover topics like current events, politics, social justice, personal features, local news and more, and I branched far out from just writing movie reviews. 

I will be doing one year of graduate school here at La Salle University, so I have the time, but I have a decision to make: Do I enter the traditional news media market and enjoy more job security, a more defined pipeline and the ability to write about and describe important events that will help others become educated and informed, or do I go down the path of entertainment journalism, driving forward my passion for movies and games through reviews, industry breakdowns, interviews with internal members of the community and write for a crowd that also wants to be informed and keep up, but for their hobbies and love of escapism?

I’ve always considered the field of entertainment to be a hobby, but I am so deeply connected to it and I know its inner workings. I could make it a career. But, first of all, I feel this overwhelming stigma that entertainment is considered a less-than field by an ignorant majority, that by being in it, you are wasting your life, and you aren’t contributing to society. Second, if I was to ignore this feeling and accept that these people are wrong, I’m also concerned that by making entertainment a career, I would have to lose it as a hobby. At what point does watching a movie for work stop being fun and start being stressful? If I have to review a long video game before an embargo period, would I really enjoy it? These questions are a secondary barrier to my decision.

I still have this decision to make, but I also feel like 1. This stigma is not true and that there is a way for me to move past it and 2. There is a way for me to appreciate entertainment in my career without losing it as a hobby. To help me with this decision, I went and talked to some of my friends and mentors here at La Salle who have a lot sharper opinion at this time. After hearing from them, I hope I will be able to better inform my decision, and I hope anyone reading these interviews will take away what they need to hear if they are in a similar situation to myself.

Dr. Mark Lashley, communication professor, television critic and media researcher

I have taken three entertainment related courses with Dr. Mark Lashley during my time at La Salle: Media Criticism, Prestige TV and TV Comedy, the latter two of which I took as honors electives, showing how much thought, research, writing and analysis went into the courses. When I started having these thoughts about my own career, I couldn’t think of anyone better to come to at La Salle than Lashley.

“I got the sense pretty early that media, even purely entertainment media, have a lot to teach us about how society works, what we value and how we see ourselves,” said Lashley. This is how I have always identified with media, often being drawn to both the silly escapes from reality as well as the deep reflections of how we act as human beings.

“I often joke when I teach TV and film classes that I’m going to try to ruin the things we enjoy by over-analyzing the process and the messages in our favorite shows and movies, but the truth is that being a critical reader of media can really add to the enjoyment of it in a lot of ways. Knowing what a creator is trying to say, what methods they’re using to say it, and how we as the audience negotiate a meaning from that, helps us reckon with the power of messages and how stories are told,” he continued.

When I asked Lashley about my concerns regarding entertainment becoming work rather than a hobby in his own life, he said, “it is somewhat of a ‘job’ to keep up with the culture, but there are definitely way worse ways to spend one’s time.”

“I get that making entertainment isn’t typically a lifesaving, or even profit-generating, way of life. But the arts are important,” said Lashley, “we tend to argue a lot about different forms of entertainment, and negotiate their meanings, which I think is a testament to how much value we give these texts and how much meaning we find in them.” 

On the subject of entertainment criticism and journalism, where I may find myself, Lashely had this to say, “I think creating is valuable, but I think criticism is valuable, too. The problem here is that its value is diminishing in the journalism world, where outlets have reduced the amount of criticism they publish, and generally pay writers and freelances less than even a decade ago. That being said, having smart, informed people engaging in discourse can help audiences understand the themes and messages embedded in media, and can champion great, worthwhile art that might not otherwise reach the mainstream.”

“The world is always going to need entertainment,” concluded Lashley, and I couldn’t agree more. Being able to think, escape, wonder and get excited is such a necessary part of all of our lives and I cannot see a world where these things just up and left.

Audrey Walker, senior criminal justice student, future Pepperdine law student

A singer and member of the Masque of La Salle, Walker said that she has been intrigued by the music industry for years, but chose to study the legal system in college both for career fulfillment and for financial prospects. She recently committed to Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and says that she will be pursuing entertainment law, working with musicians and other artists in the courtroom.

“I wasn’t originally planning on going into entertainment law, but when I realized I could marry my two interests in one career, I realized that it would be the most fulfilling area of practice for me,” said Walker.

“People have been participating in and going to watch performing arts since ancient times. I’ve always thought that there’s something intrinsically human about performances, and they contribute to a very universal, human society;” said Walker, “when the pandemic hit, concerts and other live shows were the first things to go, and I remember how distressed everyone seemed over that.”

I asked Walker how she felt those in entertainment adjacent fields can contribute to society. She said, “Because entertainment is an integral part of society as well as a reflection of society, people who work in entertainment in any way absolutely contribute to the progression of society. The entertainment industry doesn’t just respond to societal desires, it also creates and influences them.”

Jonathan Colella, senior communication major, La Salle TV host

Jon Colella is a friend of mine that I met and learned a lot from through the com department, us bonding over the fact that we are some of the few entertainment minded students in a department filled with sports journalists. He is an excellent creative writer, writing multiple scripts and plays for student organizations along with co-hosting La Salle TV’s entertainment media and industry show, “Backstage Pass.”

I asked Colella where he is in his career search, and he said, “Right now my philosophy is ‘Do whatever you can, when you can.’ Entertainment is hard, and I’m certainly not going to be picky going into it. I’ve played with the idea of making YouTube video reviews of video games, not necessarily for the purpose of becoming YouTube famous but really as a way to keep myself sharp and to attune my own craft for myself. I love reviewing entertainment media as I feel like I have a lot to say about most things because I’ve consumed so much, so I like trying to make fair reviews of products while attempting to be funny.”

On the subject of the stigma against media jobs, Colella had this to say “Not all art is entertainment media, but all entertainment media is art. In every single thing created for us there is something to take from it, intentional or not. There is always a message, always a story, always information. Even if there isn’t a message, that’s still a message. It’s just how these things work. I don’t consume media with the intention of distraction myself from a sh*tty life. I consume media with the intention of gaining something, anything, from it.”

“Entertainers are the heavy hitters of cultural identity and I feel like anybody who says entertainers are worthless are probably really boring… Everyone is important in a lot of weird ways you wouldn’t expect. So while entertainment doesn’t seem essential to humanity, it surely is,” he continued.

Colella said that during his time with “Backstage Pass,” he has heard many horror stories from the entertainment industry, but because he is so passionate about it, this does not discourage him. “Your career and passion is a very important decision to make, so it wouldn’t be fair to yourself to have someone else make that decision for you. If you want to pursue entertainment, even after you hear every terrible thing, and still decide you want to, then you should.”

Nolen Kelly, senior communication major, Collegian arts and entertainment editor

I can guarantee that if it wasn’t for our long, and often arduous, discussions and arguments over entertainment media, that Nolen Kelly and I never would have bonded the way we did, now working together on the newspaper and living together. Kelly has a deep knowledge of the film and television industry and all aspects that make up the properties that he watches. From mise-en-scene to lighting to shoot site, he knows it all, and that is why I chose him to become one of the editors for arts and entertainment when the time came.

“I’ve always lived my life trying to be good at the things that make me happy and chasing them and for me right now: that’s writing. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to write either creatively or journalistically and in my senior year here I managed to do both at the same time, so I could see myself doing either or both, hopefully, professionally,” said Kelly.

I asked Kelly what he thought about the modern media landscape and if he thought entertainment was more of a distraction or an important facet of life. “Entertainment can both push and halt the progression of society, in my opinion. You get your boundary pushers who do so well they move beyond entertainment and move into important or thoughtful commentary. There are also those who are only there for distraction purposes. I think both kind of need to exist together for popular culture and society to realize what they need to move on from or gravitate more towards.”

Reflecting on his time as a writer and editor for arts and entertainment in the Collegian, Kelly said, “If anything, being a part of the Collegian has cemented that all I ever want to do in life is to be in the entertainment industry. I could write original plays, movie reviews, community movie discussions, original scripts and/or fun rant pieces forever. The feeling of creating something with words and knowing someone out there is watching and enjoying what I made is enough motivation for me to make more.”

Reflection

What I have determined is that anyone that has any interest in pursuing entertainment in any way as a career, whether that be an actor, writer, production crew member, journalist, lawyer, advertiser or anything in between, should, because it is a really important industry that helps people around the world both escape as well as explore. Yes, escapism is important, and I would never say that someone is wasting their time by consuming media, but it is also a thought tool that can help people feel emotions, learn and become more in touch with the human experience over all. It is a beautiful thing that can be provided to us in a multitude of ways, and it truly is an important part of what makes us who we are.

I’m still uncertain about my future as an entertainment journalist, as I truly do love writing about news and politics and featuring important perspectives through written word that evokes understanding and emotion. And, as Lashley said, media criticism certainly does not seem like a well paid field. But, my superficial concerns regarding it now are alleviated, and I hope that going through this short reflection with me helped you feel more confident about your career choices, your media habits or your pairing of hobby and career in any field.

Let me know if you are or have been in a similar situation, and if you have any advice for a budding maybe-entertainment journalist, by emailing me at JDEiseman1@gmail.com.

La Salle’s troubling lack of counseling services for fifth-year students

Uncategorized

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

La Salle boasts multiple 5-year programs. But they don’t offer free counseling services to students in their fifth year. Why?

Many students in their fifth, and final, year of their program — whether that be Communication Sciences and Disorders, Secondary Education or Social Work, to name a few — also attend La Salle for their undergrad. In other words, these students are used to utilizing services such as the counseling and health centers as means to cope with their ever-stressful lives in both academia and the workforce. Some of them build profound and valuable relationships with their counselors, meeting with them on a weekly basis.

These students continue paying tuition, obviously, and they also continue paying the university fee and student activities fee — but once they officially enter their fifth year, they can’t see their counselor anymore. Now, if their counselor has a private practice, they have to pay out-of-pocket to continue maintaining their mental health. If their counselor doesn’t have a private practice, students are met with a dead end. 

According to Thervo, an average therapy session in Philadelphia costs between $60-$120 per session. Say a student meets weekly with their counselor throughout the school year; based on two 16 week-long semesters, that rounds out to $1,920 to $3,840 spent out of pocket on therapy per year. For many of my out-of-state friends, their insurance won’t cover a dime of therapy costs. I don’t know a single college student who could manage that extra cost on top of everything we already pay to this university. 

So why doesn’t La Salle offer the same counseling and wellness services to its fifth year students that it does to its undergraduates? In September of 2018, La Salle received “a three-year Garret Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Systems Administration, worth over $300,000.” Those three years have passed, and I’m unclear on exactly how La Salle utilized this grant. I have researched and read the plans published by La Salle and the grant manager from 2017 and 2018, but I have yet to find any updates on the program since then.

All of that information on the grant is only supplementary to my point: that La Salle provides no public reason as to why fifth year students cannot access student counseling or wellness services. Instead, they tell students who utilize these services throughout their undergrad, “Good luck! We won’t be helping you anymore.” Or, at least, that’s the impression that one of the students entering her fifth year of the Communication Sciences and Disorders program is under. “I still pay all my fees; I’m actually paying more now than I ever have for school. I pay $1,050 per credit and for some reason, I can’t keep seeing my counselor. It’s beyond frustrating.”

And she’s right, it is beyond frustrating because it’s a liability. Is it really in La Salle’s best interest to not offer free counseling and wellness services to its overworked and underpaid (if at all) graduate students? Another student entering her final year of the five year Communication Sciences and Disorders program showed me her current balance. $9,450 in tuition for 9 credits, plus a $285 “general university fee.” What is that “general” fee going toward, if not a service to help manage depression, anxiety and all the stress that comes with being in an accelerated program?

On Sunday, May 1, I worked my last ever event as a tour guide. Before the admitted students arrived to submit their deposit and commit to La Salle University, my fellow ACEs and I went around the quad, putting up signs with various fun facts about our school. One of the signs reads, “La Salle offers multiple five-year programs.” But what we don’t tell incoming students is that we can’t offer them free counseling services during that rigorous fifth year for their mental wellbeing. We don’t tell them that they’ll reach their final year, feeling more overworked and exhausted than they’ve likely ever felt in their entire life, and that they’ll have to work that out on their own.

Why not?

Movie season: Favorite foreign language films (and TV shows)

Arts & Entertainment

Alina Snopkowski, Editor

Header Image: N2TShop

Happy Foreign Language Awareness Week, La Salle! In the same thread as Nolen Kelly’s past articles about favorite movies from Valentine’s Day or Christmas, here’s a small collection of some foreign-language movies and TV shows that you guys thought were pretty great.

Sarah Liszewski, ‘22: Skam (Norway) and Elite (Spain)

“Skam” is a romantic dramedy that follows friends from Hartvig Nissens school in Oslo. The story deals with very real issues that high schoolers face such as self-esteem, eating disorders, mental health, self care and sexuality. Some American critics have dubbed it the “Norwegian Euphoria” and the comparisons are apt. “Elite” is set in a similar world, albeit with a much more serious tone. The story follows three teenagers from working-class families as they clash with the overly-wealthy students of a bougie private school. The drama from these cultures repelling each other leads to a murder, the central conflict for the series.

“I like ‘Skam’ because it focuses on different characters every season and shows points of view that normal shows wouldn’t. ‘Elite’ is a blend of everything in one show: murder, mystery, love, revenge, and basically every theme you can think of.”

Jake Eiseman, ‘22: Los Espookys (Chile)

“Los Espookys” is a dry comedy series from HBO co-created by comedian Ana Fabrega and “Saturday Night Live” alums Fred Armisen and Julio Torres. The show follows a troop of creatives that travel around an unnamed South American nation putting on horror shows and displays. Their skills as crafting haunted houses take them far and wide, and the plot is bizarre enough that they get wrapped up in crimes, politics and even alien experiments during the show’s single season.

“Los Espookys is one of the funniest series I’ve ever seen. It plays with the tropes of comedy and horror, which is unique in itself. But, it also does it from the perspective of some of the weirdest characters I’ve ever seen. The jokes are just as bizarre as they are unsettling and every episode just keeps getting more crazy. Highly recommend.”

Danielle O’Brien, ‘24: “True Beauty” (South Korea)

In the traditional “K-Drama” style, “True Beauty” is a one season show that tells a contained romance story and covers a lot of ground in its 16-episode run. “True Beauty” follows a high schooler who changes her visual style dramatically after experimenting with online makeup tutorials. The swooning of classmates and disapproval of others is where the comedy of the series comes in, but the story is rather dramatic as it deals with issues of self-image and beauty standards. 

“It’s based on a webtoon series about a girl who ‘transforms’ into the most sought after girl in school, but her secret is that she looks totally different without it. The actors in the drama are so good, I recommend it!”

Nolen Kelly, ‘22: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (China)

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” has surpassed cult status in the U.S. over the last two decades, becoming a classic piece of martial arts fantasy that fans go back to for its over-the-top action and impressive choreography. The film is credited with spawning dozens of imitative works since its release, with the martial arts genre changing dramatically due to the cinematography and narrative style of the movie. While it is at times a cheesy martial arts movie, there is a special element about it that can’t be attained by its imitators.

“Fantastic characters, an amazing story, wild fight scenes, a great love story, gorgeous camerawork and visually striking settings make this one of the most unforgettable movies I have ever seen that I will recommend to anyone any time.”

Others’ Favorites

Anthony Pantalone, ‘23, thinks the French film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is “a fantastic slow burn” and has “an ending that stays with you long after the film ends.” 

Enrique Carrasco, ‘24, likes the Japanese series “Attack on Titan” because of the intense and well-animated action sequences. 

Gregory Shannon, ‘22, likes the South Korean film “Parasite” and the animated movie “Spirited Away” from Japan. He says “both are visually stunning and the story is just great. It’s hard to find flaws within these two movies.” 

David O’Brien, ‘24, thinks the 1966 Czechoslovakian film “Daisies” is really funny, and Keri Marable, ‘23, is a fan of the French series “Miraculous Ladybug” because it’s about a “magical girl with cute transformations and fun powers.”

Ciara Ledgard, ‘22, likes the Spanish show “Cable Girls” (“Las Chicas del Cable”) because it takes place in the 1920s and 1930s and it involves mystery and drama. 

Meghan Cain, ‘22, is fond of the Swedish show “Quicksand” because of its great storyline and ending. 

My personal favorite at the moment is the German series “Dark,” which is a really great mix of a lot of really bad things: scandals, murder, affairs and nuclear waste. Plus time travel, which I usually don’t like, and history, which I always like.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a response. I hope you found a couple shows or movies that piqued your interest. Foreign Language Awareness Week is just beginning — today (Tuesday) from 12:30 – 2:00 is the food fair in the Hayman lobby, and there’s all sorts of other interesting presentations and events going on the rest of the week, all listed here.

Where the war in Ukraine might be going and how the war could impact Philadelphia

Commentary

Mark Thomas, Professor of political science

Header Image: phillyhistory.org

As the war in Ukraine enters its fourth week, the lingering questions are whether the Russia-Ukraine War could expand into a war between NATO and Russia; and, if it did expand, could a NATO-Russia war escalate into a nuclear war. But more poignant and salient is how could a nuclear exchange between Russia, the U.S. and its NATO allies impact Philadelphia and the surrounding area. 

To the first point of whether the Russia-Ukraine war could expand into a NATO-Russia war, Dr. Mitchell Orenstein, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has contended such a war is unlikely. Such thinking is either delusional or wishful thinking. There are three possible outcomes for the current war in Ukraine: 1) The war becomes a quagmire for Russian forces and remains confined to Ukraine; 2) Russian forces turn the tide of war and gain control of Ukraine or 3) Russian forces withdraw either completely, or, more likely partially, enough to create a land bridge between the Donbas to the Crimean Peninsula. Of the three possible scenarios, only the third, e.g. a Russian withdrawal, excludes the possibility of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. Scenario one likely will entail Russian bombardment of NATO and NATO member-state logistics-supply routes from the west to the east. In the second scenario, buoyed by its success in Ukraine, Russia invades southern Lithuania based on its geo-strategic need to (re)establish a land-bridge between Russia and Kaliningrad, the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Fleet and of the Russian Army’s Kaliningrad Military District. Scenario three, which may not occur immediately but is surely a matter of when, not a matter of if, could also include incursions into Latvia and Lithuania so Russian can regain control of the Baltic Sea, where it has one of three warm-water ports, the other two at Sevastopol (Crimea) on the Black Sea, and Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast.   

In either the first or second scenario, NATO has two options: Respond with sanctions, essentially appeasing Russia for its new aggression or resort to the tried-and-true logic of nuclear deterrence and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Given NATO’s Article 5 commitments and the risk of losing its credibility of defending democracy as well as national sovereignty if it does not respond militarily; and given Putin’s mindset; and basic tactical tenets of Russian military doctrine, NATO must respond and the prospect of nuclear war becomes more likely than even in the most tense days of the Cold War, minus the strategic miscalculations which almost led to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) and Able Archer (1983). 

So, what is the likelihood Philadelphia will suffer during a nuclear war? First, we must distinguish between the two types of nuclear attacks: a counter-force strike and a counter-value strike. A counter-force strike is one in which the attacker seeks to destroy the opponent’s ability to wage war, both conventional and nuclear. A counter-value strike is one in which the attacker targets the civilian population in an attempt to eliminate the popular will to wage war.  Given many counter-strike targets are often collocated to highly populated areas, the difference between a counter-strike and counter-value attacks blurs considerably. 

In any case, for better or worse, Philadelphia is likely not high on the Russian nuclear target list.  Why for the worse? To be ranked high on the target list, a location has to have either a significant military presence, or a technological or industrial base which contributes substantially to the national defense. Due to poor decisions by federal, state and local officials over the past several years, Philadelphia has neither. That is the good news insofar as Philadelphia will likely not be hit by a nuclear warhead in a counter-force strike.

The fact that Philadelphia is not a counter-force strike target belies the fact that destruction of property is the least of the types of damage which nuclear weapons cause. Given its central location between New York and Washington, its close proximity to significant military bases and logistics hubs in outlying areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and its general proximity to one of three of the U.S. government’s major underground continuity of operations sites, all of which are viable counter-strike targets, depending on whether or not the Russians want to allow the U.S. leadership to survive after the first strike so they can stop the war, Philadelphia will mostly likely suffer from the two most deadly and most long-lasting sources of death and mayhem following a nuclear strike. The most well-known of the two is radiation poisoning, which will decimate plant and animal life across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey depending on the wind direction and whether the nuclear fallout reaches the jet stream. 

The third type of damage is the technology-killing effect of the high energy electro-magnetic pulses (EMP) which a nuclear blast emits. Such an after-effect only requires a single well-placed strike or a high enough altitude blast. With one such blast, either close to any city within a 500-mile radius of Philadelphia will disable any appliance or device which does not rely on vacuum-tube technologies, or which is hardened against EMP, making them into high-cost paper-weights. In layperson’s language, the EMPs will knock out all devices upon which U.S. society and economy depends to do its day-to-day functioning: computers, cell phones and I.T. networks will fail, with the catastrophic ripple effects across any sector of the U.S. critical infrastructure which relies on digital technology. Briefly, there is not a single sector of society which does not rely on digital technologies. The EMP will essentially disable the emergency service sector, the communications sector, the financial sector, the commercial facilities sector, the transportation sector and the agriculture and farming sector. A single, low-radiation nuclear blast would essentially catapult Philadelphia from the 21st Century to the 17th Century. 

Is such a scenario avoidable? Yes, as long politicians remember the Cold War tenets of MAD, despite a successful pre-emptive counter-force strike, the other side still retains sufficient capability to destroy countervalue targets in retaliation. The crazy logic behind MAD is what many believed deterred Russia and the U.S. from launching nuclear weapons during the tensest days of the Cold War.  It is also the fear of NATO escalating the war and respecting its Article 5 commitments which could end the conflict now.  First, it would give Russian leaders a moment of pause to consider the consequences of Putin’s aggression.  Second, a critical tenet of Russian military doctrine is protecting the Russian homeland from destruction, a tenet to which the Russian military leaders and intelligence leaders have closely abided since 1953. The last Russian leader who placed the Russian homeland at risk was Nikita Khrushchev, whom the Russian generals and intelligence chiefs, in collaboration with Communist Party leaders, e.g. Brezhnev, quietly removed from power. I think Putin is catching a cold. Perhaps a bad case of COVID-19 is in his near future.

On Barbershops

Commentary

David O’Brien, Editor

Header image: Today I Found Out

I entered the barbershop at 11:00 a.m. There was one customer and three barbers. After entering I approached the nearest barber and requested a haircut. She responded by prompting me, “Do you have an appointment?” I, of course, did not because it was 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and clearly not prime time for people to need a haircut. “No,” I responded, “but I can come back another time if you guys are busy.” The barber responded, “Ugh, I guess I have time for you.” Instead of receiving a smile and a thank you for being a valued customer, I was given a grunt and an eye roll.

There is no reason for barbers to require appointments, especially when no one is there. I understand the idea of reserving your appointment, or calling in advance to inform them you are on the way. I understand calling in advance to make sure they have the capabilities of fulfilling someone’s desire for a haircut. However, I do not understand this idea that everyone should have an appointment when they get an incredibly simplistic haircut. I get my hair buzzed on the sides and trimmed on the top and go to the barber in the morning. There is no need for me to call in advance. 

It’s not like going to a doctor’s or lawyer’s office where the reasoning behind going is personal and individualistic, thus you need to provide information in advance so the doctor knows what to expect. A barber is just cutting hair, it should be first come first serve with appointments optional. They shouldn’t be required anywhere. I shouldn’t be ridiculed for entering a barbershop without an appointment. I shouldn’t have to call in advance to book a time for me to have to make awful small-talk with someone I see once a month. Barbershops should have an appointment situation based on the restaurant-structure rather than the doctor-structure. You should make reservations, you should call in advance in case it’s busy, you shouldn’t need an appointment to get some stuff cut off the top of your head.

You look so stupid with your mask on your chin

Commentary

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

Header image: Olmsted Medical Center

Make a decision: mask or no mask? I’m going to leave the science up to the public health experts and virologists; I’m not interested in making a case for masks (even though I will continue to wear mine until the data shows that I don’t have to). Why am I not interested in making that case? Because everyone is getting unique information. There is no guarantee that I am reading the same news as my neighbor, and doesn’t that fact take away from its legitimacy as news? We lack a shared reality these days, and when we’ve got a killer virus on our hands, that fact is terrifying. But that’s not why I’m writing; that’s fodder for a later article.

The purpose of this article is to ask my fellow Lasallians to make a choice. If you’re going to wear a mask, wear it properly; otherwise, what’s the point? I’m trying to understand. Everything we do and wear sends a message, and the message sent by wearing your mask around your chin is that you don’t, in that moment, care to avoid contracting an airborne virus. I can understand wearing a mask properly and then pulling it down on your chin to eat or drink, or when you’re struggling to communicate and you really need the added clarification provided by seeing your mouth. But why walk around, why teach a class with your mask around your chin? I genuinely don’t understand.

It can’t be a form of “virtue signaling,” to use a buzzer term as of late. It can’t be, because what virtue are you trying to communicate? People who choose not to wear masks may look at those who do as sheep; as people who lack the values of personal liberty that so dutifully reinforce our social, political and economic fabrics. Some people who choose not to wear masks look at those who do as performative and over-reactive. Some people who choose to wear masks (in spite of the university saying we don’t have to) view those who don’t as pig-headed and selfish. Individual liberty and the collective good. Those are the virtues at conflict.

But wearing it around your chin? Pick a side. Do you believe you and the community are safe enough without the added barrier provided by masks, or do you believe we have to keep this up indefinitely? Pick a side, make a decision. Your mask is doing nothing for you on your chin, except for prompting me to write this article.

Why you should doodle more

Commentary

Eliabeth McLaughlin, Editor

When was the last time you translated a thought into an object? An abstract idea into a tangible good? When was the last time you doodled? I hope the answer isn’t elementary school, or even last week — in my ideal world, the answer is as recent as yesterday. Contrary to popular belief, doodling should not be reserved for those with innate artistic talent. If we all doodled more, the world would be a happier place.

Think about it: we all used to (or some of us still do) doodle in the margins of our notebooks or on scrap pieces of paper. We used to draw little stick figures, houses, dogs and misshapen faces with no regard for proportions. Put in other words, we used to have more fun. That’s what I keep thinking as I round out my college career, about how I used to have so much fun as a kid, doing kid things like playing on the playground and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Well, duh, Liz, of course kids have more fun… you’re an Adult with Real Responsibilities looming in the past, present and future. But I refuse to accept that we can’t hold onto our childlike wonder as we age. What better way to do that than to make crappy little doodles in the margins?

One thing I always hear from non-artists is some variation of, “I wish I could do that.” My answer? Same. You think I was born able to write calligraphy? Looking back on my childhood sketchbooks, it’s clear to me that my skills are mine because I was relentless in their pursuit, not because of some natural-born talent. (I’ll admit that this natural ability does come into play, but I think to a much smaller degree than one might believe.)

But my other answer to that quip is as follows: “Who cares?” The day I realized art doesn’t have to be good to be worth making, my entire perspective opened up. Once I broadened my outlook to one that validates crappy art, I started having way more fun. Let me give an example. I mainly use Strathmore 5.5” x 8.5” Mixed Media sketchbooks, and have been regularly doing so for about two years now. Prior to that, all my drawings were on loose leaf or in random notebooks. Anyway, once I committed to this format, I had this unwritten rule with myself that I couldn’t let any page go to waste. I had to finish the sketchbook in order, from front to back, not letting any page fall victim to crappy art.

Little did I know, that is a terrible way to approach art. Over time, I began realizing that I preferred to draw on the right hand page, so I began filling books by only ever drawing on the right hand page. And when I needed to, I’d use the left hand side to doodle or practice or gauge proportions; basically, to mess around. Or, I’d use the left side to provide context to the drawing on the right. Once I finished the sketchbook this way, I’d go back to any blank left hand pages and make more art. And perhaps the most important acquired element of my drawing process? My designated doodling page.

My doodle page where I experiment.

An example of a sketchbook page with context on the left.

An example of a sketchbook page with context on the left.

An example of a page where I didn’t care how it looked. I was curious as to how other people drew circles so I had my roommates draw circles.

One day, I realized that my arbitrary rule that I had to make every page count was counterintuitive and downright stupid. By prohibiting myself from doodling, I was negatively impacting the quality of my oeuvre. This doodling page, always the last one in my book, allows me to experiment with different colors and mediums; to see if I can draw a face that looks half decent or not (the answer is usually no… I’ve kind of let anatomy fall by the wayside. Oops.). My doodling page eliminates (some of) the anxiety and pressure associated with wanting to make good art.

After all, isn’t that why you don’t doodle? Because you don’t think it’ll look good? Well, yeah, with that attitude, you’re probably right. But so what? The act of doodling is worth as much as, if not more, than the end result. It’s therapy. A lot of my art is word-based. For example, when I’m anxious, I’ll write my thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style in my black sketchbook. Sometimes I’ll alternate marker colors with each line, other times I’ll try to write as illegible as possible, a la graffiti hand style.

Lots of times, these doodles never see the light of day again, and that’s okay. Art doesn’t always have to be shared or evaluated. If that were true, then it would mean that art is only worth anything when someone else’s eyes are on it. It would negate the many benefits of the process of art-making itself. Having made both kinds of art, the kind to be seen (and worn) and the kind that hides in the corner of my closet, never to be viewed by anyone but me… I can definitively say that art is still worth making even when it doesn’t look good; even when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. At the end of the day, I’m convinced no artist actually knows what they’re doing. They just look like they do.

And at the end of the day, I hope you doodle more. I can’t tell you what you’ll get out of it because that’s subjective and unique to each individual. Maybe you’ll hate it. That’s cool, too. At least you can say you made something, not out of nothing but out of yourself. Think about it, it’s so simple but so amazing to me: you can just have a thought and then translate that thought onto a piece of paper using a bunch of markers and crayons?! I hope you read that in your inner child’s voice; they have way more fun, anyway. And, lastly, please send me your doodles, if you want. I would love to see what you create.

Experiencing misogyny as a female student leader

Commentary

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

Header Image: Philosophy Talk

I’m no stranger to positions of leadership, which is a good thing. What’s not so good is that I’m also no stranger to my leadership being questioned, undervalued and undermined by virtue of my being female. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of my peers respect my guidance and opinions, but the truth of the matter is this: being taken seriously as a leader and a woman is one of the trickiest balancing acts I’ve ever encountered. The fact that I have to qualify that first statement with the disarming notion that it’s not all men who evaluate my leadership through a misogynistic lens is part of the problem, but it’s worth mentioning. Why?

Because although I have encountered sexism in my various leadership positions, I’ve also encountered overwhelming support in identifying and tackling said inequality. So before I get into my gripes, thank you to everyone who has supported me. Truly. You’re all part of the solution. And now, onto the problem.

As I mentioned before, I’m familiar with various leadership positions, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll zero in on the one to which I devote most of my time: La Salle Mock Trial Association (LMTA). To be clear, I am not zeroing in on this activity because it represents an isolated instance of misogyny in my life; rather, it serves as a useful illustration that can be extended far beyond the scope of mock trial. In other words, there is no need to attack or discard LMTA as a sexist institution, it’s not; I’m simply making observations that apply to other instances of female leadership.

I have been consumed by mock trial since fifth grade, and have formally competed on teams throughout high school and college. I truly wouldn’t be who I am without this activity. Each year, I have competed on the most competitive team offered by the organization. Back in the day, I was a much more timid attorney who had yet to fully realize the power of her voice and presence, and I’ve come a long way.

And I shouldn’t have to argue for my right to be respected by enumerating the various awards I’ve earned over the years, but perhaps it’ll provide some ethos to my argument. The American Mock Trial Association recognizes the top attorneys and witnesses at each tournament. I don’t keep track of how many I’ve won because, well, I don’t really care about those kinds of things. I care about performing well; any awards are borderline superfluous to me. (Not to mention that the awards themselves are gavels and, to be honest, a girl can only accrue so many gavels before it gets a little out of hand.)

You would think that the fact that I’ve won awards (as both attorney and witness) at all but one tournament I’ve competed in for the past three years would prompt any misogynist to respect me even just marginally more. These awards are data-driven, determined by the judges’ rankings on each ballot. But for some reason, even the data doesn’t seem to convince the most dedicated misogynists. And that’s frustrating.

As I stated before, mock trial is the activity to which I devote most of my time; it is essentially a third major at this point. I am not ashamed to admit I spend more time on mock trial than some of my classes (all of us do, we’re literally the biggest nerds ever). This is all to say I’ve invested a lot in this activity; I’ve been tournament director, president and captain. And still, the simple fact that I am a woman seems to affect others’ perception of me. Again, not all people; most of my teammates respect my contributions to the team. But why not all?

I can’t answer that, I’m not misogynistic. But I can discuss specific oddities that perhaps lead to an answer; oddities that I’ve experienced firsthand over the years. For example, I started scoring better when I started wearing glasses in trial. In the fall of my sophomore year, I developed this pesky eye condition that precluded me from wearing contacts; since then, I’ve worn glasses quite often. Perhaps they make me seem more competent or intelligent? By extension, I also wear less makeup. If you knew me in high school or freshman year, you’d expect my eyelids to be sponsored by Anastasia Beverly Hills any day of the week. As my use of makeup diminished, so too did my perceived femininity.

It seems that femininity and scores in trial have an inverse relationship. It seems that when I present myself in less feminine ways, people tend to take me more seriously. This isn’t a hunch — it’s evident in the data.

So that’s enough on physical appearance with respect to misogyny. What about communication? I’ve noticed that, around some men, us women have to be careful so as to not insult their intelligence. When advocating for ourselves, we mustn’t dare to broach territory that suggests they are in the wrong. We have to mince words and consider egos in ways that, it seems, men do not. Sometimes, we even have to go as far as convincing a misogynistic person that they were the one who came up with some great idea. It’s like an idea conceived by a woman carries less weight than if it were borne by a man. As a woman who witnesses her fellow women come up with intelligent ideas all the time, this observation is beyond frustrating.

Again, nothing I speak of here is exclusively endemic to LMTA — I love leading this organization and have confidence in myself to identify and correct misogynistic behavior using the tools I’ve developed over years of experience. I also have confidence in my peers to help me help us; LMTA will always have a special place in my heart. 

These are problems endemic to being a woman in leadership. Being a female leader means constant self-awareness and concern for others. It means watching your tone and curating your clothes so that those who evaluate your body have as little to judge as possible. It means minding your Ps and Qs and being careful to not step on anybody’s toes too much, or you’ll run the risk of being called a b***h. Being a female leader feels like constantly having to prove that you are good enough.

Here’s a message to all my fellow female leaders, aspiring and current: don’t listen to the noise. As women, we’re already particularly adept at listening; it’s part of the ancestral job description, in my opinion. Listening is our power. So continue doing that for those who call you their president, captain or whatever your title may be. But don’t listen to the noise. Don’t listen to shallow, empty jabs at your competence. Remember that your femaleness does not preclude you from being an effective leader. It’s quite the contrary, actually: being a woman makes you an extraordinarily effective leader!

It’s no secret that leadership positions have long been dominated by men, and LMTA is no exception — as far as I’m aware, I’m only the second female president and “A team” captain in its history. Mock trial has taken up a significant portion of my time for many years now; I am who I am because of this activity. As my time with it draws to a close, I reflect on my gratitude for every second of it, misogyny and all. Experiencing misogyny seems to be a very unfortunate but inevitable part of life as a woman. In a weird way, thank you to the misogynists for challenging me to identify their problematic perspectives and exceed their expectations of me. Believe it or not, in doubting my capabilities, you’ve given me the chance to prove you wrong, time and time again.

To all my fellow women in leadership, keep proving them wrong. Have these conversations with your peers. Misogyny is an uncomfortable topic of conversation that needs to be broached in order to eliminate it. Keep advocating for yourself, you have so much more power than you might be led to believe.

Opinion: The United States should not be shocked by Russia’s planned invasion of Ukraine

international politics, Politics

Andrew Plunket, Staff

Header Image: BNN Bloomberg

After recent reports that Russian troops have been authorized to invade Ukraine by military officials, the world waits in anticipation. While Russian forces continue to mobilize upon Ukraine’s border, Western leaders, including President Joseph Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have levied sharp criticism against Vladimir Putin’s aggressive maneuvers. In fact, in a press conference last week, Biden boldly exclaimed, “if Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice … the United States and our Allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well.” Yet, as news continues to permeate the media landscape about Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, one thing remains crystal clear: the United States and its allies should not be surprised by recent displays of Russian aggression.

Since Putin’s rise to power in the early 2000s, Russia has demonstrated that it is not a reliable international partner. Its blatant interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and other democratic staples within the Western world, continual attacks upon fundamental principles of human rights like the right to free speech and attempts to subvert international resolutions have proven that a Putin-led Russia is not to be trusted. Putin’s distinctive Machiavellian-style politics has replaced the pursuit of peace with the attainment of power and global prestige as the main goal of Russian foreign policy. The established norms do not matter for Putin; rather, total control manifested through military campaigns and propaganda is the only matter of chief importance. 

In his endless pursuit of power, Putin has single-handedly isolated Russia from the international community and has transformed a once emerging center of Eastern democracy into an unrecognizable stronghold of authoritarianism. As this crisis continues to worsen, it is evident that the days of SALT treaties, perestroika, glasnost, and good-faith negotiation have far passed.

 It remains bewildering, therefore, as to why Western leaders, particularly those within the U.S., continue to be surprised at Russian efforts to expand its influence. In observing the remarks made by Western leaders about the proposed invasion, sentiments of shock, vague threats, and disappointment seem to characterize most of the West’s formal press releases, statements, and speeches. Putin has demonstrated time and time again that he is not to be trusted, and yet, the West’s only response has involved measly economic sanctions and condescending finger-wagging. For example, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, the Western world replied with sanctions, empty promises, and lengthy speeches, thus ignoring the plethora of international transgressions committed by the Russian state. It is clear that Russia is unwilling to cooperate with international law. And, until measures of democracy are restored within the nation and its despotic leader is replaced, Western leaders must recognize that diplomatic pleas for peace will only fall upon deaf ears.

 Moreover, in addition to the dangers posed by Putin’s rule, the U.S. must recognize that its own pattern of brutal imperialism and cultural hegemony is directly responsible for Russia’s aggression. Although the U.S. likes to model itself as a picturesque beacon of democracy, an in-depth study of its history reveals that it has consistently abused human rights, unjustly invaded foreign nations/territories, and exercised soft power through propaganda, censure, and “big stick” diplomacy. It is the ultimate hypocrisy that the U.S. so strongly protests the Russian occupation when, just a few months ago, it ended a twenty-year invasion of Afghanistan. 

Additionally, U.S. occupations in Latin America and East Asia further point to its natural proclivity towards violence as a means to secure power. Therefore, the U.S. cannot be surprised that other nations attempt to imitate its own strategy. If the U.S. can invade Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nation-states without much international backlash, why would Russia not do the same thing? The American sense of moral superiority must end. The U.S. has set an extraordinarily dangerous precedent of imperialism, and now that Russia is seemingly set upon the same path, it condemns its actions. The U.S. must not pretend to be ignorant about the causes of this crisis. It is a direct result of American imperialism, and thus, the U.S. must accept this crucial fact if any solution is to be attained.

 Of course, in order to secure peace and liberty for future generations, diplomacy still must be triumphed as the primary solution. Russia currently maintains the second-largest military behind the United States and is still an integral component in the political structure of Europe/Asia. However, the time for big stick diplomacy and coercive politics is over. Displays of strength will not solve this crisis; if they did, then Russia would have already won the day. If real progress is to be achieved, transparency, empathy and a commitment to preserving peace must replace the current machismo-style diplomacy which has characterized the crisis thus far. Until these goals are pursued, it seems that our darkest days lie ahead.

The difference between $300 and $600k

Commentary

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Editor

Header image: collegeconsensus.com

La Salle’s highest-paid employee doesn’t even work here anymore. In the spring of 2018, La Salle fired Dr. John Giannini, the former head coach of the men’s basketball team. Still, thanks to the fine print in his contract, La Salle has been paying his salary each year since his dismissal. According to the university’s IRS 990 form from 2020, he was paid at least $603,217, not including “other compensation.”

And on Jan. 7 of this year, La Salle charged a late fee to my account, clocking in at $150. And, of course, they had to charge me interest on that late fee, to the tune of $10.88. Fast forward to Feb. 7 — I was charged yet another late fee (+ interest). Dear La Salle: if I wasn’t able to make the base payment without any late fees back in January, what makes you think I’m suddenly in the financial position to shell out an additional (and I believe arbitrarily-determined) $321.76?

For brevity and simplicity, let’s round that out to $300. $300 in my pocket goes toward groceries and bills and occasionally funding my small business. But my two main concerns as a college student right now are food and shelter. And La Salle’s biggest expense is… paying someone they fired four years ago? It doesn’t match up.

At this point, perhaps you’re thinking, “Liz, do you have a job?” Yes, I did, in admissions. And then the university laid me off at the start of my senior year. Something about “not having it in the budget.” I’m glad Giannini is in the budget, though! Especially given La Salle’s dwindling admissions numbers, it is of the utmost importance that we lay off our student recruiters, right? Wrong. It’s no secret that La Salle is struggling, from both a financial perspective as well as an admissions perspective. So this is my question to the university: how do you justify laying off your budget workers — all of whom are very effective recruiters — while still wasting money elsewhere? I’m not a lawyer, I can’t pretend that I know the terms of Giannini’s contract — but has the university even explored getting out of it somehow? Or, did the university maybe consider not firing him back in 2018…at least get some labor out of him if you’re going to have to pay him regardless? Or was the performance of the basketball team the most important criteria in their decision-making?

I don’t know how the university makes its decisions, but I can say that after nearly four years here, I do know that they prioritize two key areas: its men’s basketball team and its business school. Everything else, I’ve learned, isn’t nearly as important as those two stalwarts. This isn’t an article interested in slandering the business school. Given the high job placement rates that come out of Founders’ Hall, La Salle is getting a really high return on investment on that front. My qualms lie with the team whose record is 40-65 (.381) since coach Ashley Howard was brought on.

My motivation for writing this article didn’t grow out of my personal, unique frustration with the university’s financial decisions; it grew out of the collective. All of my peers are beyond frustrated with the manners in which La Salle goes about squeezing money out of its students, only to turn around and spend it in foolish ways. If the basketball program was better, maybe this would be a different article, or maybe it wouldn’t even be written at all.

But, the fact of the matter is this: Giannini gets $600k while La Salle’s own students struggle to make ends meet. A man who hasn’t worked here for four years gets a yearly salary while student workers get laid off. La Salle’s admission numbers continue to drop to alarmingly low levels while the university focuses its efforts on a team with a bad record. Perhaps the worst part? My peers reading this article lose more and more faith each day in their university to make sound financial decisions. I love La Salle; I always have and always will. But allowing students to lose confidence in the very institution to which they entrust not only their education but also the trajectories of their careers is bad policy. And it doesn’t take a finance major to know that paying Giannini without receiving any services from him is bad practice; it’s bad for the financial statements and even worse for student morale.

Luckily, Financial Aid was able to waive one of my two late fees. I’m still trying to come up with the extra $160 that would otherwise go toward PECO, PGW or rent. I’ll figure it out. I just hope La Salle does, too.