Scotlight: Mahi Lal

Maggie Dougherty

Viewpoints Editor

 

Viewpoints Editor Maggie Dougherty ’21 sits down with Mahi Lal ’22 to discuss her recent scholarship, the concept of the gaze and her leadership in creating a new club to support women and gender minorities in economics. 

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi! My name is Mahi Lal. I am a Junior economics major with a minor in math from Kolkata, India. On campus, I work as a Resident Assistant, Teaching Assistant and a Research Assistant. I also love being a part of the South Asia Committee and I participate in the Culture Show every year. 

You were recently selected out of over 800 students who applied for a scholarship, right? 

Yes, there were a total of four Flywire Charitable Foundation scholarships – two in the area of global health and medicine and the other two for social justice. This was the first scholarship I had come across that was open to international students. And I, along with three other students from across the globe, won.

How did you apply?

Over the summer, I received an email about academic scholarships from the Flywire Charitable Foundation. Having been involved in social entrepreneurship and social equity since high school and for a year here at the College through Local and Global Social Entrepreneurship Programs, I chose to apply for the Social Justice Scholarship that required me to write a one-page essay about myself, the hurdles I had overcome to pursue my studies and what I hoped to achieve with my education in the realm of social work. I filled out the application on Flywire’s website and submitted my essay!   

What did you write about for your essay? What did that mean to you?

The concept I explored quite a bit was that of the gaze, which I like to define as a certain kind of prolonged look you experience when you are born with a vulnerability (the opposite of privilege). Everyone gets gazed at, and as a woman of color and an international student, I have grown accustomed to it. Being in classrooms, feeling like an outsider, it became very clear to me that the gaze is not just a perception. It is an unspoken but active interaction between a privileged and a vulnerable person in which the former looks down upon the latter, rendering them inferior. This then has costly repercussions.Hence, I wrote about the importance of recognizing the gaze and gaining the confidence to gaze right back.

Writing about my personal experiences with the gaze meant a lot to me because I finally felt comfortable being heard. Winning the scholarship has given me the confidence that my voice is worth being heard.

Did you write about any past work or research experiences in your essay? 

I did. I was working for the Rights and Resources Initiative as part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship Program this summer. The project involved examining the livelihoods of India’s indigenous people, tribal communities and Afrodescendants through the lens of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA), the most important Indian forest legislation, that recognizes people’s rights — collective or individual — to their own land. The FRA was a result of the historic struggle of marginalized people. Discrimination against them has been more overt than a gaze, but at the core, the two have the same reasons — the us versus them mentality, the dominant versus vulnerable reality. On a micro-level, there was discrimination even within indigenous people on the basis of caste and gender, affecting their bargaining power and livelihoods. The key is to make models that cater to those who are winning at losing and by doing that, my team (Maggie Dougherty ’21, Mekdes Shiferaw ’22 and I) could truly be a part of the change-making process for the most vulnerable groups of the society.

You and I are currently in the process of founding a new club here on campus. Can you tell our readers about that?

We are in the process of founding a much-needed club in the Department of Economics – Wooster Women and Gender Minorities in Economics (WWGME). In a highly male-dominated space such as the Economics department, something that my female and gender minority majors or minors and I shared in common was this feeling of not belonging. Most of these economics majors were double majors indicating that they were not comfortable in this space or felt that their needs were not met just by the economics department. Intersectionally speaking, even within female economics majors, I felt like an outsider because these spaces were predominantly white.

I believe that this club will provide a safe and comfortable space for women like me. With the recent increase in representation in both gender and race in the department, students are already feeling more comfortable. This club will further provide an escape and solidarity to not only those who feel left out, outside of classes, but also to everyone who has a very narrow view of economics. Heterodox economics, including feminist theory, is equally relevant in today’s world and we choose to focus on such topics.

For those reading, how do you pronounce WWGME?

Wig-Me <3

What do you hope the club will be able to do and offer students? One of my favorite trips outside campus was with Dr. Long and Dr. Krause to the Cleveland Federal Reserve as a part of the Women in Economics program. It was a group of smart, strong and brilliant women that attended this program where successful women in different spheres of Economics spoke. Being with so many like-minded women also gave me the idea of a club like WWGME. We would like to go to more events like this along with graduation panels and other programs designed specifically for the main purpose of WWGME – to uplift the voices of women and gender minorities in the field of economics; to provide opportunities for educational and professional development; to support success in career planning and placement; to promote a safe space and community; to elevate female, non-binary, and other gender-minority students as leaders in the field of economics.

 Why are you excited about it?

Economics holds a very special place in my heart. In my three years at the College, I have made some brilliant friends in economics and working alongside them to make WWGME a reality and then a success is something I am the most excited about. It was in conversations with them that the conception of WWGME took place. It is definitely our baby and we can’t wait to introduce it to everyone.

Who else has been involved in creating WWGME?

I cannot thank our senior economics women, Maggie Dougherty, Nasua Labi ’21 and Rita Chiboub ’21, who have taken upon themselves to get this club chartered (fingers crossed!) before they graduate. They have done so despite realizing that they would be involved with the club for a fairly short time period. Without their help, this would have remained an idea. Along with the seniors, many of my friends from the department have devoted their time with the application and constitution. Their interest and dedication is a testament to the importance and necessity of such a club.

Our advisors, Dr. Krause, Dr. Long and Dr. Tian, did not hesitate for a single moment to hop on this journey with us once we told them about the idea. They have been instrumental in helping us talk through the logistics, dividing roles amongst themselves and potential programming ideas.

Last but not the least, Julia Zimmer has been incredibly receptive of our ideas for WWGME. She has helped us improve our application and we look forward to working closely with her throughout this process.

Washington Football changes controversial name

Geoffrey Allen

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: This article contains reference to violence and racism.

There is no doubt that the tragic death of George Floyd took the world by storm. The Black Lives Matter Movement has truly made a breakthrough in bringing about significant change in media, local towns, and even sports teams. But no sports team has been in the public eye in the wake of this movement more than the Washington Football Team, which up until this summer was known as the “Washington Redskins.” The team had been under intense pressure to change their name in light of the United States’ long history of racism against Indigenous Americans. While some might say this was just an effort to be part of a trendy social justice movement, this was part of a much longer, 87-year history.

While today we think of the name ‘Redskins’ as being associated with Washington D.C., this was not always the case. The name stemmed from the Boston Braves. The team chose to rename itself as the ‘Boston Redskins,’ along with the face of a Native American of unknown descent on their logo, in 1933. Four years later the team would be relocated to Washington D.C., becoming the infamous team we know today. Public activism against the team’s brand did not fully develop until 1972, when a group of Native American leaders requested the removal of the racist lyric “scalp em” in the team’s fight song; this request was honored.

Although this request was approved, changing the name itself would prove to be much more challenging. In 1992, a public petition was sent to the United States government demanding federal action against the name, which was eventually denied. In the same decade, the current owner, Daniel Snyder, would buy the team. Similar to the first, a petition was filed to the U.S. patent and trademark office in 2006 and was also denied. In 2013, Daniel Snyder commented on the anti-name sentiment, stating, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.” This statement would become notoriously controversial.

The debate over the name intensified this summer after the incident on May 25th, 2020 when an unarmed Black man, George Floyd was suffocated to death by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What would follow was a wave of demonstrations, unrest, and demand for change against racial injustices and police brutality. The call for action would not only be limited to that of people of African American descent, but rather all people who identify as people of color, including Native Americans. 

With reinforced pressure against the team, investors on July 1, with $620 to their name, intervened by garnering the attention of companies such as Nike, Pepsi and FedEx with a request to withhold their sponsorships for the Washington team. Two days later, FedEx, which owned a portion of Washington’s stadium formally requested the team to drop the ‘Redskins’ name and logo. Nike also removed ‘Washington Redskins’ gear from their website to which the team replied that it would review the name. On July 13, owner Daniel Snyder and the team formally stated that Washington would divorce itself from the ‘Redskins’ name and the racially charged imagery. While tentatively dubbed as the ‘Washington Football Team,’ a new name will be decided in the future when it is agreed upon and trademarked. Later in July, new uniforms and an updated roster in the popular Madden video game was added in preparation for the new season.

Since then, the team has settled into the season with a somewhat steady start. Under Coach Ron Rivera, the team went 27-17 against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 13, but lost 15-30 against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. They are expected to compete against The Cleveland Browns next Sunday. The Washington Team has an interesting season ahead as they play football in closed doors this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, you can visit the NFL website or watch their games on various streaming platforms. 

Tenet is Nolan’s most ambitious film yet

Colin Tobin

Contributing Writer

 

Tenet is the latest movie by writer and director Christopher Nolan. The film stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh. It follows a character only known as “The Protagonist” as he explores the world of espionage and is tasked with saving the world from a new technology that can manipulate time. I’m going to try to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers.

Christopher Nolan might be the most ambitious blockbuster filmmaker working today, and Tenet certainly reflects that. I’m not the biggest Nolan fan, but I respect how he makes these visually stunning, mind-bending experiences. That being said, I think this is probably the most ambitious project of his career. The action set-pieces are extremely well-directed and perfectly choreographed. From what I’ve read, there was no green screen use and barely any visual effects shots, which is extremely impressive considering the scale of some of the scenes. The production team also bought and blew up a real 747 airplane, reflecting their commitment to realism. Nolan even consulted with a theoretical physicist to try to make the story as close to theoretically possible as he could. The numerous moving pieces in the movie are handled well, in general, and it’s very well-paced for being two and a half hours long. The way that time is used in the plot is something that I’ve never seen before. The entire cast is great. John D. Washington further proves himself as a leading man and Kenneth Branagh’s acting is over-the-top in the best way possible. In the absence of Hans Zimmer, Ludwig Göransson’s score stands out and drives the energy of each scene.

Where the film lacks is in its character development. The biggest thing we learn about the characters is that Debicki’s character has a son she cares about. I can’t say that I really cared about anyone, but I think Nolan was aiming for a plot-driven movie. If you’re familiar with Nolan’s other work, like Inception, Interstellar, and Memento, you know how confusing his plots can be. Tenet blows these films out of the water in comparison. I’ve seen this movie twice so far and I think I understand only about 80% of what happened. To me, Nolan can trip over his own feet in his writing and things just aren’t clear on screen. Some helpful details are hidden in a line or two, then it moves on and expects you to catch up. Taking on a project like this likely means there are going to be a good bit of plot holes, and Tenet is no exception, but there is nothing that invalidates the overarching plot. To fully understand it, you need to rewatch it at least two or three times.

This was my first trip back to an actual movie theater in about six months, and things have obviously changed in how things operate. From what I could tell, the theater was very safe and cleaned often. There were hand sanitizing stations in the halls and wipes to use to clean your seat to ensure that it was germ-free. The four total people in the theater, including myself, wore masks the entire time and the experience honestly wasn’t much different than normal.

Tenet is a great way to welcome back the theatrical experience. The visuals and intriguing ambition make up for the lackluster characters and puzzle-box of a plot. Despite being in the bottom half of Nolan’s filmography for me personally and giving me a headache, I still had a good time.

Polarization has human consequences

Alexander Cohen

Contributing Writer

 

Polarization is an unfortunate phenomenon. In today’s polarized political climate, I find it important to comment on the nature of polarization in an effort to help stave it off. Have you ever thought about how we justify various policies? Should we keep children locked in cages or is that going too far to curb undocumented immigration? Should women have a choice, or should we follow God’s word and preserve the right to life for that collection of cells and soul? Should we make the possession and sale of firearms illegal or do we have a civic duty to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government? 

No matter where you stand on these issues and many others, it is generally accepted among our society that we need justification for the opinions we undoubtedly have regarding them. For example, “Undocumented immigration is a legitimate problem and needs to be stopped; it is a woman’s body and therefore, a woman’s choice; so on and so forth.” But I’d like you to go further than justification. It was one of Immanuel Kant’s most contested arguments in his moral philosophy that the will to perform an action is just as important as the action itself for one to be considered morally culpable. Our justificatory reason(s) for one position or another tends to rely on various schools of thought, methodologies and interpretations. “I own a gun, because it’s my right as an American citizen; abortion is wrong because it goes against my beliefs as a Christian.” This is insufficient. To be clear, a stance premised entirely on one’s justification for that stance is dangerous, misguided in its intentions, shortsighted in its objectives and is wholly incomplete in its application. 

When it comes to policies that affect people’s lives, we need to think about the consequences at least as much as we think about our reasons for believing whatever it is we believe. When two people have a political disagreement, it is likely that the disagreement is due to different methodologies used to approach the same problem. And what makes polarization so natural in this type of disagreement is that the reasons one uses to justify their position — “abortion goes against my religious beliefs” or “gun violence in metropolitan America warrants more anti-gun legislation” — are not seen as justificatory reasons by the opposing party. Put simply, divergent methodologies yield divergent sets of beliefs. What needs to be done, then, to avoid such polemic and cyclical disagreement? How can we as a society depolarize if our beliefs cannot be understood as rationally justified by those with whom we disagree, and vice versa? 

Think about the consequences. How do the laws in this country affect its citizens? I am not so much interested in why you believe what you believe; I care about how it affects people’s lived realities. What is there to show for “tough-on-crime,” retributive justice legislation or the policies enacted in the name of the War on Terror? Are people’s lives better because of these policies, or have certain groups of people been marginalized, silenced, ignored and harmed or killed because of the principled stands we took and didn’t fully think through?

 

College details various voting options

Savannah Sima

Staff Writer

 

On Sept. 15, Chair of the Communication Studies Department Denise Bostdorff sent an email detailing options for students to cast their votes this election. Bostdorff explained two options — registering in the student’s hometown or registering in Wooster — and clarified the methods students can choose from in case they decide to register in Wooster.

“Students may choose to register and vote back home because of an interest in local issues there,” Bostdorff mentioned in her email. “If you do so, you either will need to vote in person (if home is very nearby) or vote absentee, in which case we recommend that you request and return your absentee ballot two weeks ahead of the deadlines, given potential issues with postal delivery.” Students are able to check their local Board of Elections (BOE) for deadlines pertinent to registration and absentee voting. 

To register to vote in Wooster, people will need an Ohio driver’s license with a local address or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Bostdorff added, “If you were previously registered to vote and moved into a new residence hall, you need to change your address or re-register.” The email also clarified that “a student’s address on campus is the street address of your residence hall [or] campus house.” 

Moreover, students, faculty and staff will be able to register to vote at the Lowry Center. The tabling hours are: Monday 12:30-2 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m., Tuesday 12:30-2 p.m., Wednesday 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m., Thursday 12:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and Friday 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m.

The three methods students can choose in case they decide to register to vote in Wooster are: requesting an absentee ballot, voting in-person before the election and voting in-person on Election Day.

Students are able to request absentee ballots and return them to the BOE either by mail or by placing it in the drop box outside of Wooster’s BOE on 200 Vanover St. Absentee ballots can be requested online once the voter’s registration has been processed.

Bostdorff stressed the importance of following the directions on the ballot and envelope so as to ensure your vote is counted. These ballots must be postmarked at least one day before the election on Nov. 3. In order to achieve this, Bostdorff recommends mailing ballots by Thursday, Oct. 22 or bringing them to the BOE no later than Tuesday, Nov. 3. Bostdorff continued, “In Ohio, only a close relative is legally permitted to drop off a ballot for someone else. This option is a safe one for students concerned about COVID-19 or for our students who may feel vulnerable going to the polls in the current political climate; it is also convenient. Absentee ballots will be sent starting Oct. 6.”

The second option is voting in-person. Bostdorff urged the students who have decided to vote in person to vote early at the BOE, specifically between Oct. 6 and Nov. 2. “Voting early in person avoids the uncertainty of the mail,” Bostdorff said. “You just need to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number in order to vote early. The complete schedule for early voting can be found on the [Ohio Secretary of State website].”

The third option is the most traditional in-person voting option, which is to physically go to your polling place on Election Day on Nov. 3. “If you do so, you will need to provide a utility bill letter as a form of I.D., which the College will provide,” Bostdorff said.

However, voting in person this year comes with several challenges. “Voting on Election Day can seem more special to some students, and, if you vote successfully, your vote will be counted,” Bostdorff mentioned before highlighting some obstacles. “The disadvantages are that the campus is divided into three different precincts, with locales subject to change due to COVID-19 and the need for poll workers this year.”

She continued, “In addition, some concerns exist about possible voter intimidation at the polls in this highly contentious year. Finally, you have to be sure that your class and work schedule will permit enough time to get to the polls and back, so convenience might be an issue.”

Challenges also persist in other methods of voting. “[Another challenge is] the uncertainty of mail delivery for students who are requesting and returning absentee ballots,” Bostdorff commented. “For that reason, we recommend that students who are already registered to vote at their correct address request an absentee ballot as soon as possible and mail the completed ballot by Oct. 22 so that it is postmarked well in advance of the Nov. 2 deadline. Alternatively, students here on campus can return their completed absentee ballot to the lock box outside the Wayne County Board of Elections at 200 Vanover St.” 

Another recurring challenge is that students have relatively little to no experience voting. “The process is new and can seem a bit intimidating … and [hence] more complicated for students,” Bostdorff said. “For example, students need to register by using the street address of the dorm where they reside, not their Lowry mailing address and, if they have moved, they need to complete a change of address for their registration.” 

Halen Gifford ’21, campus election engagement intern,  also expressed her concern regarding the challenges.

“Aside from COVID-19, we face a lot of the same challenges that we do every year,” Gifford said. “Many Americans are met with barriers when it comes to registering to vote and engaging in elections due to systematic voter suppression. This definitely includes college students. I have heard firsthand from members of the BOE that they do not want Wooster students voting in Wayne County. And while there is an argument to be made about us only being temporary residents, this is still our home for four years and it is often most accessible for students to vote in the physical location that they live. We always just have to make sure that we communicate to students that they have every right to vote in Wooster and then support them in doing so.” 

Gifford added, “Honestly, it is hard to think of other challenges since so much of the work we have been doing this semester has been problem-solving due to COVID-19. Election engagement takes a lot of planning and certainty, which is very hard to ensure at this time. Bostdorff and I have been working with staff, faculty and administrators to try and make sure that students can access the resources they need while also balancing their safety.”

For additional resources and help, students can check out the Student Voting website, www.wooster.edu/offices/dean-of-students/voting/. Both Bostdorff and Gifford also urged students to reach out to their emails, dbostdorff@wooster.edu and hgifford21@wooster.edu, regarding questions about voting this year. The Campus Election Engagement Project is also hosting  two “Walk to Vote” events on Saturday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 31, to encourage students to walk with friends to the polls to vote.

ICE abuses reveal priorities of white feminism

Annays Yacamán

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: This article contains reference to violence against people with uteruses and people of color, human rights abuses, and forced sterilization. 

On Sept. 15, 2020, the first day of Latinx Heritage Month, the people of the United States were forced to reckon with another violation of human rights by The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as this country’s long history of eugenics. A whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, revealed that at least 20 women were forcibly given hysterectomies at a privately funded ICE detention facility in Irwin, Georgia. 

Immigrants in detention centers have faced a lack of COVID-19 protections for months, including risk of sexual assault, lack of sanitation, a repulsive lack of access to legal representation and lack of medical treatment that in the past has led to death. Wooten courageously spoke up for these migrant women. They confided in her, telling her that they had been given hysterectomies against their own will. Wooten was asked by a patient if the doctor was “the uterus collector.” 

She also described experiences of people filling out paperwork to get medical help, but instead having their documents shredded by ICE personnel, the horrible lack of sanitation during COVID-19 and stories of medical personnel telling people who were detained that nothing was wrong with them. Women were asked to sign paperwork that was in English, even though they only spoke Spanish. They were not given a Spanish translator, even though those are easier to come by in the United States (in comparison to other indigenous languages).

However, when it came to hysterectomies, the doctor was eager to perform them. One of the women — once released — went to another medical professional who told her this procedure wasn’t necessary. Another woman only found out that she was scheduled for a surgery because a nurse told her that she had a surgery scheduled for the following week, leaving her shocked.

Forced sterilization is genocide. Our people are undergoing senseless and harmful procedures, yet many are surprised. They are ripping our children away at the border and ripping any possibility of having children from women’s uteruses. Why are we surprised, though? The United States has a long history with the sterilization of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. From the assault on people with disabilities and mental health issues to the Jim Crow era where Black women and immigrants were targets of forced sterilization as a part of the United States’ campaign of racism and xenophobia, these cruelties have long been present in the United States.

Between 2006 and 2010, California prisons conducted an estimated 150 coerced hysterectomies. California was known for performing these due to their history of anti-Asian and anti-Mexican hysterectomies. These federally funded forced sterilization programs were present in 32 states in the 20th century. By the 1970s, it was estimated that a third of all women in Puerto Rico had undergone sterilization procedures as a means of population control. It is estimated that between 1970 and 1976, 25-50 percent of all Native American women were forcibly sterilized. 

So, I ask the question again, why are we surprised? I find it ironic that just three days after the news of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke, white women rushed social media to ask, “What will happen to my reproductive rights?” Should this not have been asked decades before when Black, Brown and Indigenous women were being stripped of their reproductive autonomy? Aren’t we only free once we are all free? Or is it true that white feminism is just another tool of white supremacy?

Sources: https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/immigration-detention-conditions

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/21/unwanted-hysterectomy-allegations-ice-georgia-immigration

https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/unwanted-sterilization-and-eugenics-programs-in-the-united-states/

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