Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ethnically offensive or pure entertainment?

Each week, Professor Ric Calabrese invites a guest to speak and discuss their culture and heritage with our Global Communications class. This evening, an international studies teacher spoke with us about her Italian roots. Throughout the discussion, the class asked questions, and one of possibly the most interesting inquiries came from Brian Hahn. "My international partner students are from Saudi Arabia," he explained, "and when I tell them I live in Cicero, they instantly think, 'Oh! That's where the Mob is, right? Gangsters and stuff?' So, what do you think of that TV show, The Sopranos, and its implications of Italians?"

Our guest responded that she adamantly disliked that show, "because it's like a cartoon. Every person on that show is a total character. You got the funny mob guy, the crazy mob guy, the mob guy's wife; the people are so extreme and it's all a joke. My brother works in Hollywood and he loves that show, but I don't."

Some students agreed that it was overly stereotypical; others insisted, "well it's entertainment and a brilliant show."

What do you think? I never watched that program, nor am I Italian, so I cannot speak on that matter.

Are there any television shows, movies, or other media forms that irritate or offend you and your personal culture that other people find hilarious?

I'm Zambian, and there are not many (if any) programs that particularly showcase African culture, but I can say that Eddie Murphy's Coming to America was ridiculous.

"Oh, but that's a hilarious movie!" You exclaim.

Well, my parents both have Zambian accents, and Eddie Murphy's rendition of a Zanzibar (or wherever the hell he was from) accent was weak and not believable. I speak in what most would consider a traditional Midwest American English accent (I wouldn't go so far as to call it Chicagoan, though), and I can do a WAY better African accent than Eddie Murphy was paid millions to do.

And sure, the concepts in the movie were a joke, but still perpetuated the silly stereotypes that non-Africans have about the continent and its diverse, rich countries and cultures. And no, Africans will not rejoice that they're rich if you give them a nickel.

I know many of the "prestigious" black American icons (Oprah, Bill Cosby) despised Dave Chappelle's show on Comedy Central. He played characters such as "Tyrone Biggums: Crackhead" ...

...made fun of black people drinking generic Kool-Aid consisting of sugar, water and food coloring, "A lot of black people don't know about grape juice. Cause they had 'grape drink.' It's not the same formula. There ain't no vitamins in that stuff! What's juice? I want drink! Sugar, water, and of course, purple."

He also played off every stereotype one could think of. "You people? What you mean,'YOU PEOPLE?'"

I (still) love that show.

I don't think it has much to do with the fact that I am African, but I do like how I can relate to and understand the hilarity of black American life. He also unpacked the knapsack of white privilege in many of his sketches, portraying race relations as they are, for the most part, in America today. Also, it was a black man making the jokes, not Amos 'n' Andy.

Is there anything on TV or in the movies that annoys or offends you or your heritage?


Tonight, my fellow DU students....Joe Nava and Lisa Wieczorek....and I filmed our first ever WCGR News show. The show was an over all success. I wish DU had or own TV station so that my friends, peers and fellow Dominican students would be able to view our newscasts on a campus TV station. Unfortunately, only Concordia students will see us on their cable network. While DU students will be able to view us via the website...which will come at a later date.. I really hope that the administration at Dominican will seriously CONSIDER adding a MEDIA development program IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

CU's media equipment is SERIOUSLY out of date and I feel that DU should invest money in a news station. Writers for the STAR are not all journalism majors. I believe that many students, irregardless of their declared major, would be interested in a DU News/TV STATION. Please consider this, blog readers, as it is something very dear to me. I feel that this should be taken seriously by the deans as they may have some input as to whether or not DU will have a potential media center.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Incidences in Power: Just between friends

Recently in Power Hall, there were slightly different messages containing racial slurs on the same dry erase board (i.e. one message was erased and another one was written on the board, etc.) outside on someone's door. The resident who lived in that room was contacted, according to Trudi Goggin, Dean of Students. While the initial impression was that the resident was being targeted, the person told Goggin that it was between him and friends. Because the issue was different from the graffiti incident in late September (where no one has been held accountable), a university-wide email has not been sent like with the graffiti incident.

Goggin told the resident that anything posted in a public area (i.e. outside one's door where it is viewable by anyone walking down the hallway) should not offend, injure or harass anyone who sees it. Anyone who sees an offensive message will not know the story behind it...that it was just something between friends. So, this is a cautionary lesson for residents: watch what you write.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Vote Unless...

I received an email Tuesday from one of the RAs on my floor about a video that we [residents on her floor] should look at. Everyone should look at it though, so I'll provide the link below. It is a "Get out and vote" video basically, but with a number of celebrities participating in the video. It's about a 5 minute public service announcement starting out with celebrities saying you shouldn't vote, don't bother...but then it switches around and tells the viewer that "you should vote if you care about this issue, etc." The PSA also reminds people that they have to register to vote and that they should get their friends to vote as well.

Here's the link:
Five Friends Vote (Uncensored)

Also, Resident Student Association sent out an email regarding voter registration information.

Judy Collins?

Sorry if I'm ignorant, but who is Judy Collins? Is this someone that students at Dominican really want to see? I would think that a college campus would want to cater to maybe...the college-aged audience? But then again, I'm sure there's a lot of students who wouldn't know who the Rolling Stones are if they were coming here, so maybe I'm just underestimating Judy Collins' popularity. Anyway, if you're interested check out MyDu for more info.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Dominican Admission Process

Dominican's homepage features an online application and visitation for potential students called "Discover Dominican." I had recently heard of a "Discover Dominican" event that is to take place on November 8, so I decided to reflect a little more on the new process of admissions and on how I came to visit Dominican the first time.

This program is apparently catered towards groups of 10 or less, with visiting students being able to access all sorts of online material for the university, including an application for the event and for admission. This approach to courting prospective students must be a new method they instituted recently. Four years ago, the only way the Admissions department was able to persuade me to visit the university was by repeatedly calling my home and then later switching to letters promising fairly large sums of financial aid. As an average high school slacker, I was flattered that a university wanted anything to do with me and seemed genuinely interested in having me visit the campus personally to soak up the atmosphere and get a feel for Dominican. This was part of the reason why I took the plunge and went with Dominican.

I remember when I first visited Dominican, it was only my parents and myself visiting that day. We were shuffled around campus, I sat in with a class while my parents talked figures with the Admissions people, and they took some notes on my interests so they could figure out how to get me to attend Dominican. And they seemed very interested in figuring out an arrangement that would benefit me. They were looking out for my future before I even made any decisions or told them I was even impressed with things. It was this hands-on and extremely personal process that made me feel like I was wanted somewhere; like these people who were trying to get to know me were interested in things other than getting my tuition money.

While it seems that the Admissions process at Dominican is still fairly personalized, I think other than going to big group orientations and tours, prospective students should be curious to visit on their own or with parents, not as just another name in a special group designed to entice students to the institution. It just seems to me like Dominican should focus more on the individuals in this process. I'm sure these groups probably help a lot of prospective students and make them feel like they're a part of something great and present opportunities to meet people. But I'm willing to bet that if a prospective student were to go through the personalized meetings and visitations, they'd feel more comfortable with the whole situation. Making the decision on a college is a HUGE step and a major life decision that effectively influences everything else in one's life. I'm also willing to bet that these anxious high school juniors and seniors would feel a lot more comfortable with a personalized admission process: no group visitations, seminars, meet and greets, etc. I know that feeling like I was more of an individual than just a name was the major thing that brought me to Dominican. Getting to have one-on-one meetings with Admissions staff and faculty members made me truly feel like an adult out in the world at last, able to make my own decisions, and individual ones at that; no group influence or tacky admission programs to make me feel like someone was holding my hand through everything.

While I'm sure that these personalized experiences are a big part of the admission process, I think that Dominican should seek out the students, instead of simply having them fill out applications and read information on admission web pages. The personal experience is what makes going to Dominican such a positive experience, and I believe that by starting off students on such a path from the very beginning, prospective students can get a great taste of the full experience that awaits them once they come to Dominican.

The opposite of Missing White Woman Syndrome

Amy reported earlier this week that English Language Schools student Trang Nguyen has been missing for nearly a week.

As Amy stated, the schoolwide email from Jessica McKinnon (a name I've never heard in my Dominican career--anyone know who she is?) had the subject line of "Update."

Update? Yeah, no.

That was the first most had heard of the situation. Sure, "foul play wasn't suspected," but come on. For someone who lives on campus, this incident could pose a security threat to other students in the area. I don't think it matters that she's "not an official Dominican student;" someone who attends classes on our campus is a part of the student body.

If we had been notified of this promptly, in those first crucial 48 hours after a person goes missing, perhaps she would have been found by now. Beyond that, the chances of recovering the person steeply fall, but of course there are exceptions.

Call me Devil's Advocate if you will, but I can't help but wonder if this is another case of the opposite of what has been dubbed "Missing White Woman Syndrome." MWWS refers to the disproportionate media attention given to white women who go missing in contrast to people of color. Jon Benet Ramsey? Chandra Levy? Natalee Holloway, anyone?

What about prisoners of war? Most people recognize the name of Jessica Lynch, but what about Shoshana Johnson or Lori Piestewa? The black and Native American (respectively) single mothers received basically no coverage (even though they were ambushed in the same attack!), and even Lynch herself criticized the disproportionate positive discrimination in regard to her media coverage.

Getty Images

What if the Trang Nguyen was a 20-something blonde who lived in the Priory?

I'm just throwing that idea out there, but ultimately I believe the university should be more responsible in reporting such serious incidences.

Monday, October 13, 2008

SGA...Slacking Government Awareness

So, guess what? SGA is still not doing their job effectively. In fact, we're almost half way done with this semester and SGA still has announcements on Campus News stating that they're in dire need for senators. Well, SGA, maybe if you actually got yourslef out there and tried to elevate your presence on campus, people would care.

For the last issue of the paper, I was responsible for taking care of Student Voices. The question was: What do you think SGA is doing for the student body?

Can I just tell you that I asked probably 20 different students that question. 13 of the 20 replied with, "Ummm, what's SGA?" or "I don't know what SGA is." The other seven people laughed at the question and uniquely answered with pretty much, "SGA does nothing!" One student even got very upset and stated that "SGA is a bunch of garbage. It's a bunch of individuals who think they have power but really don't." This anonymous person went on and on and on and some of his statement had to be censored.

I find it sad that in such a small school where everybody pretty much hears a little bit of everything, like it is in high school, no one had anything positive to say about the SGA. My best friend is a member of SGA. I've asked her what's their deal and she doesn't even know. My first post on SGA reflected my concern and frustration. Sadly, I still feel the same way. How about you? What do you think SGA does for the student body? Why do you think they still are in need of 2 Senior Senators, 1 Junior Senator and 2 Sophomore Senators?

Instead of the Student Government Association, I'm redefining SGA on this blog as SLACKING GOVERNMENT AWARENESS.

Thank you.

Columbus Day Parade

Freshmen Angela Mastromauro walks to the parade.

Ferrari is very famous Italian brand of car!

Giulia Tolitano watches the parade in Columbus attire.

Seniors Mike Ariano and Cristian Alaimo share inside jokes before the parade.

One of the many floats in the parade!

Carla and Claudia Capobianco take a break from playing calcio to smile for the camera.

CIAO members show their pride!

On October 13, 2008, CIAO walked in the Christopher Columbus Day Parade. It is an annual event and everyone is welcomed to participate!

CIAO (Italian Club) had a very busy weekend! Here are pictures from the Chicago Fire soccer game on Sunday, October 12, 2008 at Toyota Park.

Fire fans show their spirit!

The start of the game!

Dominican students Plamen Pamukov, Rosa Andreuccetti, Mariangela Pezzella, and Paolo Cosentino watch the game.

ELS student goes missing, DU students remain out of the loop

Last Tuesday, ELS student Trang Nguyen went missing. By the end of the week, River Forest Police guessed that there was no foul play involved, and Dominican did not notify the student body.

On Sunday, ABC covered the story:

Trang Nguyen, 20, has only been in this country since August 31st. She from Vietnam and speaks very little English.
Nguyen is taking an English study program that meets at Dominican University. She stays in housing at Concordia University.
The missing woman was last seen Tuesday when she told some classmates she needed to go get something from her dorm room, but she hasn't been seen since. Her friends and relatives are handing out fliers with her photo hoping someone will recognize her.
"We're just completely flabbergasted as to what's happened to her. we're really worried for her safety," said Andre Elstrom, cousin.
She was last seen wearing a gray zip up jacket, jeans and black shoes, carrying a pink bag. Anyone with information on her disappearance is urged to call the River Forest police.

As you can see, the article above is very open ended. Many parents saw this story and when they called their sons and daughters about it, the Dominican students knew nothing. A few of my friends asked their RA's and their RA's knew nothing. The Dominican administration made absolutely no effort, at first, to let the student body know what was going on. Because of this, rumors were everywhere, everyone was scared, nothing was confirmed and no one quite knew what was going on. Shame on you, Dominican administration.

Finally, today an e-mail was sent out to the Dominican faculty and student body titled "Update on Missing Girl". First of all, it isn't an update if they haven't addressed it before.

The e-mail went on to say, "The ELS program has a long-standing contractual agreement to rent office and classroom space at the university’s Priory Campus. Ms. Nguyen is not a student at Dominican University or Concordia University."

For a school that is constantly patting itself on the back for being 'community based', I'm just not feeling that type of warmth with this issue.

"I may not have known this girl," said junior Griselda Feliciano, "but she is still apart of my community, even if she wasn't a Dominican student. If a Concordia or Trinity student went missing, I would want to know that too. We are all in the same community."

It's a shame the administrators don't seem to feel the same way.

"I am really upset about the way our school handled this issue," continued Griselda. "There may not be a cause for concern, but because there is a slight chance that this is indeed a safety issue, we deserve to know."

Griselda went on to talk about how she works at the front desk and how many students go on runs and leave their keys and IDs at the front desk. She voiced her concern for these it best to be out at 4 a.m. with no identification?
"People don't think to be smart because they feel safe here," she said. "Because this might have been a safety issue, even a 'hey-we-care-about-you-so-be-careful" e-mail would have been nice."

"Besides," she added, "It was on the news. People are obviously going to find out. We should not have been the last ones to know about this."

Taste of Latin America Update

Here are a few pictures that I took at OLA's Taste of Latin America.

OLA President Ashley Martinez collects money from people who attended the event. $5 got you a plate of food, dessert and a drink.

From the moment the event started until the food was all gone, crowds surrounded the tables to fill their plates with the homemade food.

OLA members junior Miguel Granados Jr. and sophomore Lisbet Salinas hungrily dig in.

My plate of tostadas.

Overall, the event was very successful.
A lot of people showed up and the food was delicious.

Dominican Videos Page: Is the University Making the Most of it?

Dominican recently started a new videos page about two weeks ago. And it seems the site has already been relegated to the backburner for DU web projects.

As mentioned in my last post on this little innovation, the page features a few brief news videos posted to a web page for all to access. Although this is a revolutionary effort on the part of the university to give outsiders and insiders a glimpse of all Dominican has to offer, it appears the site has already fallen into disuse by those responsible for its creation.

The page has not been updated since I last posted about it nearly two weeks ago. Now, I may be expecting too much of this new institution, but I thought it was actually going to be regularly updated with short news stories and videos documenting lectures, student activities and other happenings on campus, sort of like an occasional Internet-only version of your garden variety TV news features. But there are still the same videos of Lund Gill Chair Stephen Kinzer's recent lectures and a couple of features portraying different events and occurrences on campus that took place in late August and early September. There have been improvements made since the site's initial start up, most notably each video receiving its own individual page. However, I couldn't figure out how to even get to the videos page; I had to follow my link from my previous post. It turns out the page is located on the Dominican homepage instead of somewhere where students are likely to access it, such as the myDU portal.

This seems a little silly to me. Frankly, I'm not surprised; it seems many websites started by individuals at Dominican fall by the wayside and are updated a few times when just starting out before being left to forever clutter the internet with outdated and/or irrelevant information. I think this opportunity is something that's not being realized to its fullest potential. This videos page could not only give the University some much-needed publicity if organized and promoted accordingly, but could also give students a resource for information about what's going on around campus. Event organizers always lament about a lack of attendance at on-campus events, but perhaps organizers could make use of this page and could advertise events or give students a "heads-up" about things they otherwise might not have thought twice about. This resource shouldn't be something completely controlled by the Marketing and Communications Department; it should be a resource the entire community can use to promote, inform or even educate their fellow Dominicans.

After all the hassle...

I recently got a new laptop and the McAfee Antivirus Software that came with it expired this past Saturday (10/11). I went home over the weekend and installed this antivirus software recommended to me (Avira) and I paid for a year's subscription (for better protection). It worked fine until I came back on campus Sunday night and found out that only McAfee, Symantec, Norton or AVG are recognized as valid antivirus programs (in order to use your computer in the residence halls).

Now, I knew the only real solution was to uninstall the antivirus I took the effort to pay for and install Symantec which is provided free by DU. I know this since I've had Symantec in previous years at Dominican. But I didn't want to jump into action and uninstall an antivirus program I paid for. Though it wasn't much compared to other antivirus programs that overprice; I hate paying for something and not being able to use it.

It turns out that I was right in my assumption (after getting it checked out today) - I needed to uninstall Avira and download Symantec. But once I graduate from Dominican, I'm going back to Avira since my impression is that Symantec is only available for free for students (and the rest of the DU community). The lesson: don't bother trying to install antivirus software that isn't on the list of Dominican's accepted antivirus programs. I'm still unhappy about it, but at least the solution was simple.

Concordia University's Television Station

As you may or may not know, I will be working as a television news reporter within the next year...keep your fingers crossed! Over the summer, I worked at NBC5, composed a reporter reel/resume tape and had the best experiences ever. Now, while I'm in my senior year, I feel like I still need to be getting on-camera time so that everything I learned will stay fresh for when I'm out in the real world.

In order to keep getting that practice, I'm involved with Concordia University's television station. I'm in the process of putting a package on students' election reactions but it's a matter of time until it aires because my editor is a busy football player. I am also, along with my blog buddy Joe, setting up a weekly news show which will premiere Thursday....or Friday.

When I attended the meeting last week, I was completely shocked to find that more than half the students were from Dominican. Isn't that a little upsetting to any of you? I mean more of our peers are interested in getting broadcast experience than the students that have it at their fingertips. Susan Ericsson, the advisor for the media group, is a former DU professor and told me she doesn't think that DU is in the process of even thinking about new media opportunities for students.

I find this upsetting and actually somewhat offensive. If they can expand for science majors, why not expand for journalism, communication or even theatre majors? Our careers are just as important as those of other majors. If pre-med students can get HANDS ON experience dissecting a cadaver, then why can't we get HANDS ON experience with media??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Isn't it Strange?

Since last year, I've realized that my classes have become increasingly intertwined. By this I mean that the subject matter in most of my classes, no matter what the subject, always seems to line up.

For example, last week my senior seminar class had a discussion about narratives and how they're essential to the nature of human life. I won't go into detail here as it was a pretty lengthy and complex discussion, but it was a fascinating concept that I had never really given much thought. Later that night, as I was preparing a Blackboard online post for my History 300 class, I came upon a passage in the text I was quoting from discussing narratives. The narrative concepts discussed in the history text closely mirrored those of my seminar class from earlier that evening. I was once again surprised by how well my classes' subject matters had lined up again. That is to say, I was very well prepared for my History 300 discussion the next day. I had never thought that those two classes, a liberal arts seminar and a class about the methodology of studying history, would be entirely on the same page simultaneously.

This "lining up" trend has become increasingly common throughout my years at Dominican. I know this essentially what a college-level course of study is supposed to accomplish, but I had never really considered that my advisers would be able to perfectly sync up my classes so that everything would tie together so well, with the same exact topics being discussed in two or more very different courses in the same day or week. Sometimes this seems to happen constantly for weeks on end; it feels as if I'm in one massive course, with class periods spread out over several days, subjects and instructors, yet still I feel like I'm learning one larger concept.