Category Archives: Viewpoints

The Disenchantment of Reality

Matthew Prill

Contributing Writer

 

Your phone buzzes angrily—it’s the fire alarm option that you picked last night in order to give you that extra oomph to boost you out of your slumber. It’s Tuesday morning, early. Or is it Wednesday? It doesn’t matter, because to you every day feels the same—the same muted shade of gray that blends one day into the next with the stroke of a paintbrush. It is the same for everyone. Whether your time is spent in a uniform office cubicle, subject to the ugly haze of fluorescent lights suspended overhead, or in the classroom, whose four walls envelop you in an abyss of homogeneity, you are overwhelmed by the drabness that life has bestowed upon you. To combat this repetitive nature and daily minutiae, you look forward to the coming weeks when you will sip mimosas on the glistening sands of the beach, purging yourself of the desolation that has come to characterize your life. Or perhaps you are anxious for the weekend, when the stress of classes and homework is resolved, and offset by the blaring sound emanating from speakers underneath an ocean of vibrancy. You think to yourself that all of your problems will whisper away once you are embraced by the sea breeze and the pulsating mass of the party.

And for a minute they do—you become enchanted with life again through the very act of escaping it, devoid of the drudgery that plagued you. That is, until you return from your place in the clouds, grounded by the reality that you once again must frequent your shackling routine. When you cannot wait for the next weekend, the next vacation, the next break in the succession, you turn to more rapid methods of accelerated freedom to release you from your prison of nothingness. You are liberated by the glinting luminescence of your phone, whose constant presence burns a hole in your pocket, the icons of its applications tempting you to lose yourself in a swirl of fabrication. Or maybe instead you are freed by immersion through a screen that comforts you with a reality more appealing than your own, spinning fantastical tales that pacify your emptiness. Even if you are aware of your slavery to fiction, there is nothing that you are able to do in order to end it. You have become addicted to this fantasy, delirious with the glee of evading daily life’s repetition, and you utilize any format—media, respite, substances—to satisfy your craving. Perhaps if our reality were different you would not be reliant on the warmth of delusion. But it is not. Since the beginning of your existence, you have been viewed as an extension of capital. You have been reared to become another student, teacher, lawyer, janitor, accountant, nurse, truck driver, another worker that is grasped by commercialization. Instead of living for what life itself is, you view it through the lens of what it could be, what it needs to be. You have never lived solely to live, or existed merely to exist. You have only existed as a singular facet of an irrevocable society that objectifies you, that molds you into something external from yourself. You are no longer yourself, but rather what society has constructed you to be: another speck of an ant slaving itself away for a queen that gives you nothing in return.

You wish that you could enjoy life, but the perpetual alienation that defines it does not allow you. So you wait for the coming weeks when you will sip mimosas on the glistening sands of the beach, purging yourself of the desolation that has come to characterize your life.

Being a Black Woman in a Predominantly White Institution

Byera Kashangaki

Contributing Writers

 

I come from a country that is predominantly Black. I am from Kenya, a country in the Eastern part of Africa. I have never felt like an outsider because everyone I was surrounded by looked like me and spoke like me. Race has always been an afterthought for me and I have always seen people for more than their skin color. I was raised to see people as human beings, not pigments of color. My grandmother from my father’s side is white and my grandfather was Black, which makes my dad biracial—what we call “point five” in Kenya. Whenever I explain my ethnicity to people their jaws drop at the fact that my grandmother is white. I have never really understood why; to me she is my grandmother, not a white woman. The dynamics of race in Kenya are different because when people find out you have white blood, they start to associate you with whiteness; for my dad especially, they would call him “mzungu” which means “white” in Swahili. The case is slightly different for me because I am not as fair-skinned as my father. 

Coming to the United States has created a shift in perspective for me. In this country, you are Black despite any single drop of whiteness you may have. I now see myself as a Black woman living in a country that places me at the very bottom of the social and racial hierarchy. I have come into a country that sees me for my skin color, a society built on the premise of race. At the College of Wooster I have felt what it means to be Black in a predominantly white space. Not just being Black but being Black and African. I have learned to become more comfortable in my skin by engaging with fellow Black women on campus. The African Student Union has been an excellent support system for me because I have met wonderful and uplifting women from across the continent. It helps to have people with similar experiences around you, people who can relate to your Blackness.  

My Blackness has taught me that I may never be attractive towards other races. I have learned that I may never fully relate to people from other races, and that is okay. I have sat at tables with white people where my Blackness is evident because I do not relate to their conversation, but I have come to realize that there is nothing wrong with that. The whole point of studying abroad is to experience the diversity of culture and perspective, which I have come to appreciate during my short time here at the College. 

 

Free Speech On Campus: Reconsidering Wooster’s Bias Related Harassment Policy

Bobby Ramkissoon

Dylynn Lasky

Contributing Writers

 

The state of free speech in higher education is a topic of discussion that has always occupied national attention. In recent years, incidents of free speech violations on campuses have proliferated across the country, as has the debate over the nature and extent of the problem. The College of Wooster occupies a unique space in this debate insofar as we are a private institution and thus not legally bound to the First Amendment. 

Any criticisms of the College’s treatment of free speech can only be to point out internal contradictions as external concerns can be largely ignored (or acknowledged) through administrative discretion. In reviewing The Scot’s Key such contradictions arise as the College promises the “robust protection of freedom of expression and inquiry” and “the right to speak freely” while maintaining several policies that directly infringe on these promises. 

In the interest of time, this article will focus exclusively on the College’s “Bias Related Harassment Policy” as it is the most concerning yet quickly rectifiable. The policy states that peer hostile-environment harassment is any conduct that is “sufficiently severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive.” This formulation is in accordance with the Supreme Court of the United States decision Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. In this decision, Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor defined harassment in an educational setting as conduct that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.” However, Wooster’s policy makes an almost negligible distinction. Instead of utilizing the conjunction “and,” the College opted for the disjunction “or.” 

Under the conjunctive list determined in Davis, all conditions are required for certain conduct to be considered harassment: severe and pervasive and objectively offensive. The “and” signals that severity or pervasiveness alone does not warrant administrative action. Such is the case in the well-known constitutional phrases “cruel and unusual punishment” (U.S. Const. amend. VIII) as well as “necessary and proper” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 3.). Alternatively, under Wooster’s disjunctive list, at least one of the three conditions is required, but one (or more) of the three satisfies the requirement. That is, the conduct must only be severe or pervasive, or objectively offensive to be punishable. 

The use of this disjunctive “or” threatens free speech on campus in that it could be abused to suppress unfavorable speech that would otherwise not rise to the level of harassment under First Amendment standards. This could include subjectively offensive jokes stated with enough frequency, which lack both severity and objective offensiveness. 

The impetus for the College’s distinction from Davis is likely rooted in a legitimate concern for creating a more inclusive campus environment. However, this concern need not come at the expense of free speech. As The Scot’s Key rightfully acknowledges, the right to speak freely is also an integral part of enabling an inclusive campus environment. The College should strive to emphasize its commitment to free speech with the same vigor it does other campus concerns. 

For the reasons stated above, we respectfully urge The College of Wooster to revise its “Bias Harassment Policy” to require conduct to be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to warrant administrative punishment.

Navigating Wooster: A Runner’s Perspective

Geoffrey Allen

Viewpoints Co-Editor

 

The time is 7:30 am. You waited for this moment. Yesterday your friends were wondering why you couldn’t make it to the Friday party, but you told them because tomorrow is Saturday. You know every Saturday you have to go on a long run. You must venture where not many of your classmates have ventured before: the city of Wooster.

As a runner,  there are days that I am alone, allowing me to have time to reflect. But in Wooster, the experience is different from where I live. Unlike my perfect and privileged hometown, Wooster is a city that tells a story of beauty, ugliness, and many things in between. It’s easy to poke fun at the town life beyond our campus by using stereotypes such as “hillbillies” and “trumpies,” yet when I transport myself with my legs I see a more complicated story. Yet, most students at the College who have been here for at least a year in-person know of this, and so can anyone who simply Googles Wooster. Truthfully, I don’t think this newer part of town represents all of Wooster. 

I always find environmental clues to the other side of Wooster through the long runs on those early Saturdays. I find that Wooster, like many cities at one time, was a bustling industrial site for factory work. There, I traverse with my trainer shoes in what could appear to be a ghost town with abandoned tracks and run down buildings. I would consider such a trip an expedition through an abandoned site if it weren’t for the fact that it’s not entirely desolate. Still, new businesses have sprung in the area including the Wooster Brush company and Fritos not far behind the relics of the old. It just makes me wonder, will these buildings remain in use before they join the capitalist relics of old?

One route that also tells me more about the town of Wooster than my time studying is interestingly, not exactly in Wooster. In what is dubbed, the “Flatlands” is exactly what an non-Ohioan, such as myself, would come to expect the state to be —endless fields of grass and farms on the outskirts of the city. Venturing here offered me the sights of isolated farming homes, tall stalks of corn, the usual MAGA flags from the previous year’s election, and most interestingly – oil drilling and “fracking.” These terms are something alien to my East Coast perception of the midwest where the only place I heard of these terms is through cautious documentaries like “Gaslands”. On a long run, it’s just another piece of the landscape, despite the known environmental issues that it brings. Despite these odd observations, I still find beauty in the sun, and the endless fields of green out here which you don’t see in Wooster. It’s a quieter and more breathtaking space and experience.

So, how do adventures help give insight to the average student at the College of Wooster? I’d say first and foremost that we must turn our attention to the purpose of our college: being a liberal arts college. No, I don’t mean to wage a crusade against the conservative majority population. Instead, I ask to use our holistic skills and abilities and apply it to better understanding our city like we do our College. My two-and-a-half years here have shown me that I have more to learn about the place we live in beyond our protective shells of campus life. Sure, there are many obstacles to this such as placing safety first, the fear of catcalling, or even worse, but we can always try in our own ways. It’s what makes our ‘Woo.’

 

To Be On The Outside Always Looking In

Malachi Mungoshi

Viewpoints Co-Editor

 

As an international student, traveling during a pandemic was very difficult to do. I know that every individual’s experience is different, but there are certain commonalities to be found:  TSA checkpoints, immigration documents, visa interviews, being away from home, etc. This is a mammoth of a task, and to add onto all of that, we then have to assimilate to a brand new environment, sometimes even a new culture and ways of doing certain things and interacting with fellow students. The last thing anyone would need in this situation is to feel alienated in any way. So then why do we find ourselves having to apply for an Ohio State ID in order to be correctly identified to enter The Underground (the UG) for events? This feels like a form of discrimination, and an unfair and unnecessary process. All over the world, passports are seen as a much more trusted and valid form of documentation than state IDs. People fake IDs all the time. While I understand that the school is not deciding to enforce this of their own volition, the problem that I, among a variety of my friends have is that the school has not given us much support in terms of applying for these required forms of identification beyond a few steps in a document. Most students are not able to pay the required amount, or to get themselves to and from the desired locations off campus for this process to be undertaken.  The International Students Services (ISS),  should ideally be looking for ways to help students fill out these forms and get transport from the school, as it is no fault of our own that we do not have Ohio State IDs. We shouldn’t have to feel like we are alienated from the rest of the students and not able to enjoy something as simple as a Bingo Night or a dance event, regardless of whether or not alcohol is being served. The school has to do better in how they treat their students in general, but it is very hard to feel like an outsider and be treated as one too. 

When the Staff is Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Marc Dehoorne

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: mentions of sexual assault.

I have massive respect for faculty and administrative staff involved with Student Life. Some jobs are innately more difficult than others, and college students can be rather difficult to deal with at times. Staff like Carly Jones and Marjorie Shamp have incredibly difficult jobs and very little assistance to effectively assume the full responsibilities of their stations. That being said, my experience with [one member of staff] from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities was ostracizing and has permanently changed my perspective of how staff see their student body. 

I was cited for violating quiet hours, neglecting to discourage underage and dangerous drinking behavior and hosting an unregistered event on the night of Sept. 8. My fellow housemates and I admitted to the violations and accepted all consequences that were to come our way. At the end of our meeting, [the staff member in question] verbally asserted that based on our meeting, [they] did not think it necessary for any member of our house to enroll in an alcohol safety and responsibilities course. It seemed as if we had nothing to fear. Two days after our hearing, I was the sole member of my house to be issued any formal punishment. While I fully anticipated having consequences for my involvement in the merrymaking, I did not expect to be singled-out by the school. To be clear, I am not the only member of my house who is over 21. During our hearing, [the staff member] articulated an Ohio state law which pertains to alcohol-related social events. The law states that the owners of any property become responsible for all individuals consuming alcohol on said property. By issuing me exclusive punishment for the actions of my house, [they] implied that I am the owner of the estate. I never thought I would have to say this, but I do not own any property at The College of Wooster. I pay for room and board to use a room in a program house. Eight other people live in my program house, and they reside in Lewis House on their own volition. I was not responsible for their choice of residence and should not be held responsible for their actions. I am not a parent; I am a student.

 Some of the residents of Lewis House are members of the lacrosse team. During our interview, [the staff member] commented on the involvement of my housemates on the team stating, “You are some upstanding individuals!” This comment, coupled with my exclusive punishment, made me feel that the actions of [this staff member] were nothing but personal. [Their] behavior was unprofessional. I will not be held solely responsible for the actions of an entire house. I submitted an appeal to this decision. What is strange is that the rest of my housemates received their punishments (which were equal to mine in every facet) only after my appeal; that is, my housemates received their punishments a full 96 hours after I was issued mine. The original case presented involved the entirety of Lewis House, specifically, “The gentlemen of Lewis House.” The names of all the Lewis House residents (save one) were involved in the same case, and somehow we still received unclear signals from the administration. [The staff member’s] inability to handle a single case properly should be an indicator of [their] ineptitude for handling [their] professional responsibilities in this role.

During my conduct hearing, [the staff member] highlighted statements within a security report filed by the officer that shut down our party at Lewis House. Major details within the report (specifically pertaining to party population and our response to the Campus Safety Officer) were identified by the members of my house to be demonstrably false. The report specifically states that the officer saw about 150 people at the property upon arrival, and when he told people to leave, only five students did so. In truth, no more than 80 students came to Lewis House during the course of the entire night. Additionally, before the Campus Safety Officer stepped out of their vehicle, about half of the students at Lewis House who were attending the party fled the scene. Even though I was inebriated at this point in the party, watching five people leave a party is considerably different than the mass exodus of people I witnessed leave the property of Lewis House. It is impossible even for an inebriated individual to mistake around 40 people for five. When this was pointed out during our conduct hearing, zero consideration was given to our account of the events. It seemed to me that [the staff member] took the security report as gospel and predetermined our guilt before our hearing. There is a greater issue here involving how Campus Safety is regulated when reporting their interactions with students, but the fact that there are zero consequences for Safety Officers making false claims as a result of stretching the truth is incredibly dangerous to us students. Their word is gospel to some people in administrative positions, and we the students directly suffer consequences from the malpractice of our authority figures. We, as the student body of Wooster, should not have to defend the basis of fact. I am fortunate that I am a straight, white male. I cannot imagine what might have occurred to me if I was a member of the LGBTQ+, QTPOC or ethnic minority demographics on campus.  

Our ability to socialize with our peers has certainly been mitigated. While we have plenty of opportunity to interact with our peers in-class, we are more than students. We are multidimensional individuals whose aggregate experiences create beautifully complex individuals that constitute the student body of The College of Wooster. That is what KEPT me at this school – my peers are the reason I have stayed and why I love this school. It’s just ironic to see the administration advertise this place as a utopia for “Independents Minds Working Together” and then expect us to be reduced to academic machines. I know people here, like me, love to learn, but most of our learning happens outside the classroom. There are no books about how to be an adult. We have to learn through experience, our successes and our failures. Socialization is the primary catalyst to understanding our peers. Infringing on our opportunities to socialize results in a disconnected student body. The College of Wooster is supposed to be a place for safe learning and the sharing of ideas, but that can’t happen effectively when student-to-student interactions are limited exclusively to the classroom. I would very much love to see this campus hate-free, but reducing our social opportunities directly mitigates our ability to understand our fellow students.  

There is a more sinister issue here, however. As part of [their] professional responsibilities in this role, [the staff member] is also responsible for hearing cases of sexual assault on campus. Obviously, our safety as students around alcohol is important, but so is the safety of students around other students. It is disgusting to see majority of [this staff member’s] resources be allocated toward cracking down on alcohol consumption when there are still so many cases of sexual assault occurring on campus. Last time I checked, it was not illegal for people to party. Why, then, is partying met with more resistance and punishment than the literal crime of rape? Having to be in the same geographic location (or even classroom) as one’s rapist is an incredibly stressful and unhealthy predicament. In events like this, students will never feel safe and certainly will not continue to go to a school that doesn’t implement consequences for literal criminals.  [The staff member] certainly pushes [their] personal agenda onto the student body without regard to the visceral trauma caused during events of sexual assault. I personally believe major changes are required considering the station of [this staff member] in such an important role within our campus community