To the young man who I sent away from my booth at family weekend:
I was running the College of Engineering’s “Engineering Design” outreach, where we ask people to make bridges out of two pieces of paper with no fasteners, and then ask them to do it again when the constraints change. It can be a surprisingly difficult challenge for some people – to get two pieces of 8”x11” paper to span 13”. The optimum age group for this task seems to be 10-13 year olds. Younger kids have trouble with some of the motor skills needed to make a bridge as elegant as they imagine, and some of the adults have trouble imagining something that works without tape. But that’s part of the point – iteration is key to successful engineering design – so it was not surprising that you and your friend thought the task would be easy but were surprised to still be working at it even after the child at the next station finished. Particularly since the beers you brought to my table and the rate of speech from your mouth indicated that perhaps you were experiencing some regression in your motor skills as well. Nevertheless, I was happy to let you have a go at our challenge.
You got a bonus that no one else who was bridge building got. You got to see me angry. Let me tell you how special that is. My students and colleagues might tell you that I can be cranky, that I can complain, but a vanishingly small fraction of them would tell you they’d seen me angry. You’d almost certainly have to go into the alumni rolls to find a student would could remember that. But within ~6 minutes of acquaintance, you got me there. And do you remember how? You asked what had been the most successful bridge and I told you about an impressive one that had been made a little bit earlier. And you then turned to your friend and in a voice plenty loud enough for the table to hear, referred to the (unknown to you) builder of that successful bridge as a “faggot.”
You seemed genuinely surprised when I sent you away from my table at that point, and even more surprised when your assurances that you were “just kidding” didn’t change my mind. I was luminously angry, so I did not have sufficient command of rhetoric to explain what you had just done. Allow me to tell you now.
Let’s say for a moment that you had chosen a more neutral insult for the person who bested you at paper bridge building. That doesn’t fix things much. You were insulting one of my students. She may not have been there to hear it, but that doesn’t matter. You don’t do that in my presence and get away with it.
You were using crude language in the presence of children.
You were using crude language in the presence of adults with whom you were not personally acquainted. I would hope in both cases your parents raised you better than that.
You were, perhaps, sufficiently full of beer that the brakes that otherwise would have stopped you using such language one foot away from someone who’s name tag says “Associate Dean” had come off. You have failed to realize that there are some levels of inebriation that you should choose to keep in company of those engaged in like pursuits, rather than bring into the Family Weekend tent.
The ease with which that came out of your mouth implies that you expected and understood that those you converse with would hear this as an insult. I’m insulted that you even thought I might be part of that group.
And finally, you implied by your particular choice of language, that to be gay is to be less of a person. That it was ok for you to fail at a task at which six year olds succeed more rapidly as long as that person, the person who could do this better than you, doesn’t happen to be a heterosexual (one assumes) like yourself. The sheer irrelevance. The sheer arrogance. The sheer thoughtless of your speech is what moved me to order you out of my area. Take your hateful language, and get away from the College of Engineering activity. Get out of the Family Weekend tent. And while you’re at it, take your attitude off of my campus.
Professor, Chemical Engineering Associate Dean of Engineering
To the editor,
I would like to clarify some of the information from last week’s editorial concerning social events at Summit House. First, it is important to note that Summit House is simply the name of the building in which Fran’s House, the LGBT and ally affinity housing program, resides. Therefore, the discussion should be focused on Fran’s House hosting social events in Summit House. Second, the editorial claimed that Fran’s House had recently been granted the ability to host registers. This is simply not true. The groundwork for this idea originated from reading the student handbook and seeing what events we could hold within the confines of the rules. Last year’s version of the handbook (this year’s version has, to my knowledge, not yet been printed) states “A social event held in a University-owned facility must be registered by completing a space reservation form from the Events Management Office … in addition a Social Event Registration Form (SERF) must be completed and submitted to secure the approval of the appropriate Dean.” Summit House is a University-owned building, making us eligible to apply for such an event.
Having said this, I would like to make it clear that Fran’s House is strictly in the planning phases of this undertaking with the goal of hosting one nonalcoholic social event this semester to serve as a foundation for the possibility of hosting an alcoholic event in the spring semester. Finally, although the editorial referred to these social events as registers, I would like to clarify that Fran’s House does not aim to emulate Greek organization registers. Our goal is to create an alternative social space for members of the entire University
community (both Greek and independent) for those who seek an additional option to Greek social events. Since The Bucknellian’s release last week, I have received a lot of student support (from both Greek and independent individuals) in this endeavor and I am very hopeful for the precedent that these events may set.
Kate Albertini ’14
House Leader, Fran’s House
To whom it may concern:
In addition to the original decision by Geisinger Medical Center to run an advertisement for liposuction, I am disappointed in the interpretation of the backlash as offered by the editorial entitled “The material included in The Bucknellian should not have to be censored” (Feb. 13, 2013). I am also surprised and slightly disappointed that no one else has written a Letter to the Editor about this, given the reaction it caused.
I have no doubt that The Bucknellian did not knowingly intend to offend anyone or promote our culture’s obsession with thinness by allowing an advertisement offering women an invasive surgical procedure to get the best possible Spring Break body–that is to say, a thin one. Regardless of intent, running the advertisement did exactly that.
I say women because, while men are also explicitly and implicitly told that they should look a certain way, women are targeted by advertisements, magazines and other media significantly more often than men. When men do not fit this ideal, the level of criticism received is nowhere near the level of ridicule faced by women. No woman is immune from critique, and women of color receive even more of this criticism because judgment of their bodies is still strongly rooted in racist stereotypes.
It is not necessarily our fault that we patrol women’s bodies. We have been socialized into the belief that the bigger you are the less worthy you are as a scholar, teacher, parent or person. This belief is one of the pillars of sexism in our patriarchal society. Women are disgusted by their own fat and others’ because we have internalized that message due to years of inundation. The only solution to falling out of favor with society is to obsessively exercise, surgically alter our bodies and starve ourselves. Even when we have reached the “ultimate beach body” we are still not good enough to escape criticism. The conversation shifts from what we must to do to have that beach body to what we absolutely cannot do under any circumstances so we do not lose that beach body. The diet and cosmetic surgery industries rely upon those sexist, societally-enforced fears of being fat and ugly to thrive.
(Pro tip: the best beach body is the body you have. I don’t remember who said that, and I couldn’t find the source because the first 10 pages of search results are all for fitness regimens or crash diets or surgery. Another version of how to get a “beach body:” Go to the beach. Repeat.)
I will offer the Editorial Board some more critical thinking to challenge their assertion that its placement proves its intent was harmless.
Media does not exist in a vacuum. Everything we see and hear informs our beliefs and ideals about the world in which we live. If there were no outside influences on our thinking, it might be logical to assume that a person–generally a woman–who is seeking liposuction is doing so because she would like to change something about her body. Since this is not true, a more critical lens must be employed. Body image is influenced by media telling women that they are ugly or unattractive without the use of thousands of beauty products. These messages can cause a woman who was not insecure about her body to grow to hate it and consider liposuction. For relevant comedic relief, I would suggest watching a satire commercial from BBC’s 2006 show “That Mitchell and Webb Look” highlighting the sexism in advertising. The commentary is this: “Women: You’re leaking, aging, hairy, overweight and everything hurts. And your children’s clothes are filthy. For God’s sake, sort yourself out … Men: Shave and get drunk, because you’re already brilliant.”
In all seriousness, if there was no outside influence on the way we view our bodies, would things like liposuction exist in the first place? I would wager not.
The placement of the liposuction advertisement next to those for the bar and cheesesteak is a result of layout and formatting guides. It exists in the same location because that is where the advertisements go on that page, and those three happened to fit there together. It is not “proof” that there is no sexism behind the liposuction advertisement; it is nothing more than a convenient excuse.
There is a thought-provoking sticker on my adviser’s door of a quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti that reads “It is no measure of health to be well–adjusted to a sick society.”
Justifying the ability or right to run an advertisement promoting invasive surgery as a technique to fit into our society’s narrow definitions of “healthy” or “attractive” by our favorite “you’ll see it in the real world” assertion misses the point that “the real world” (of which we are already a part) is wildly problematic and we should strive to resist it rather than perpetuate it. It is not censorship to ask you to vet your advertisements, regardless of the origins of that request. You do not publish articles or advertisements with racist or homophobic content without expecting backlash; I am surprised at the apparent shock that an advertisement for liposuction would also receive backlash on account that it does, in fact, perpetuate sexist ideals of “acceptable” women’s bodies. I understand that the paper is funded by money brought in from these advertisements, but setting a moral standard to which to hold your advertisers would bring more respect to The Bucknellian. Being asked to not promote or perpetuate sexist ideals isn’t being censored, it’s simply asking for accountability.
A wise man once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I ask you to be proactive in that change and help counteract problematic media on campus in the hopes that Bucknell can shift away from its current obsession with thinness and move toward a less destructive attitude of health at every size.
Alyssa Gockley ’13
Women’s & Gender Studies
To the editor:
For The Bucknellian to compare lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students with members of a fraternity or sorority is misguided. For The Bucknellian to compare Fran’s House (one small building housing just over 10 students and in existence for one academic year) with more than 20 fraternities and sororities (part of campus since 1855 and with membership including 50 percent of sophomores, juniors and seniors) is unfair. To conflate Fran’s House and FLAG&BT, as The Bucknellian appears to do in this editorial, is misleading. If you would like to discuss issues related to coming out, gender identity or other LGBT topics, please consider contacting the Office of LGBT Awareness.
Fran’s House Advisor
To the editor:
I am disappointed by the misrepresentation and critique of the LGBT community in the previous two issues of The Bucknellian. While there are excellent points in each article that capture aspects of the lived experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, these points are minimized within articles that portray caricatures, reinforce stereotypes and employ the very heteronormativity you decry. It is to be noted that both articles are opinion pieces, but many of the opinions are misinformed, under-researched and often contradictory.
In the Sept. 28 edition’s “Sleeping Around” column, the author, who utilizes a closet him/her/hirself with a pseudonym, defines “the closet” as an experience exclusive to queer men–negating the women and people of diverse genders who should be central when discussing this common experience of our community. The author further intones that any man who has sexual contact with another man will obviously construct his identity as gay–not queer, bisexual, pansexual, MSM, straight or other various labels one may use to connect with those of similar experiences or shared histories. Before offering very sound advice to allow people the space to come to terms with their own sexualities, the author engages in egregious stereotyping. Stereotyping based on the clothing one wears, the music one listens to or if someone has ever been in a sexual situation with another “dude” is not only harmful to those within the LGBT community, but reinforces notions of what is appropriate gendered behavior and polices those behaviors for anyone who is not or does not consider themselves gay.
“The proverbial closet” also fails to recognize that “coming out” is a life-long process, not the singular, albeit extraordinary, step of disclosing one’s sexuality to another person for the first time. For someone whose job title includes the well-recognized acronym LGBT, I am still forced to consider whether or not to come out every single day. When I enter a new space or a space with new people, I need to decide whether I will be safe and comfortable before I speak, act or touch my partner, all because of the assumptions that are articulated and perpetuated in “Sleeping Around.”
This notion of safety and comfort is critical when considering the editorial published on Oct. 5. For members of the LGBT community, there is much of campus that is not considered safe. Even if thought of as safe by isolated individuals within our community, Bucknell is not a space where one is generally comfortable holding a partner’s hand walking across campus or taking a same-gender date to a party. FLAG&BT meetings, Fran’s House and, hopefully, the Office of LGBT Awareness are spaces on campus where LGBT students know they, as individuals, and their desires will truly be celebrated. These are a sample of the very limited number of spaces on campus where a queer culture is learned, practiced and welcomed. The critique that these queer spaces should be made more comfortable for straight people is to deny the very impact of heterosexual privilege critiqued within the editorial. Lacking understanding of queer culture and privilege is what is truly to blame for how “efforts … lack effectiveness.” Those who are straight must analyze their own privilege and their discomfort in spaces where their experience is decentralized. There are many resources and individuals on campus who would be willing to engage in conversation about how this discomfort is experienced and how to move through those feelings towards engaging with the LGBT community as an ally.
The commentary regarding how some of these spaces exclude members of the community they should serve reflects a reality we recognize and acknowledge. This examination offers room where these organizations can grow. The diversity within the LGBT community is vast, and a handful of spaces aren’t likely to have the capacity to serve the social, cultural, political, developmental and personal needs of the entire community. That doesn’t mean each of these spaces can’t and shouldn’t do better. This is an important conversation, and it should be central to the assessment of these spaces and considered in the structure of leadership and the decisions that are made. It should be noted that these are small communities and therefore the possibility for significant change is incredibly tangible, if those who feel marginalized challenge themselves to continue engaging with the organizations in meaningful ways.
The Bucknellian, while a decent model for recording what has happened, is perhaps not the most effective forum for affecting change. Dialogue in this medium is disjointed as it spans editions and the editorial board has discretion over what makes it to print. I encourage anyone who would like to deepen their understanding of the LGBT community or the concepts in this letter to engage in LGBT events or visit the Office of LGBT Awareness. Conversations within and across communities are critical and ultimately processing feelings of discomfort is important to not only accepting difference, but developing a campus where there can be a celebration of difference.
Director, Office of LGBT Awareness
To the Editor:
To the Editor:
I have read your “Sleeping Around” column both this week and last. You might expect an old man like me to express shock that “The Bucknellian” would print this kind of stuff. But I would rather share with you some different reactions.
1) The column this week, like last week’s, is badly written: juvenile, vulgar, at best of middle school level.
2) Politically liberal friends of mine who live in the area pointed out last week’s column to me and asked: “Would you want to spend $50,000 a year to send your son or daughter to a school whose student paper prints this kind of stuff”? I could only reply that the student paper in the large university I taught in for 35 years was printing “that kind of stuff” in the 1970’s, but that at that time I thought of Bucknell as being a place with “more class.”
3) I recently saw a temple in India where the “hickies” and other physical traces described by your writer had been sculpted on the female body around the year 1000 A.D. Nothing new under the sun, is there?
4) The fact that your writer is anonymous takes away 99% of the reader’s interest in your column. How can a reader be interested in such an account of activities when you can’t see the anatomy of the person performing such…”strong suctions”? or even seeing her hickey?
5) You are calling your column “a commentary on sex, love, and relationships in college.” Why not give us a searing, devouring, love story the next time…A story that last for more than a weekend? Maybe 2 weekends?
6) You write: “All submissions are for the columnist’s eyes only.” Why? Ms. Lace, are you afraid? Is the writer afraid? Are you both ashamed?
Hoping “The Bucknellian” will show more class…and style the next time,
To the Editor:
I hope you are well. On behalf of the coaching staff and student-athletes at Bucknell I would like to express our appreciation for the coverage you provide our athletics teams in the Bucknellian.
I have been fortunate to work at some great universities. At each school the student newspaper would vary how their athletics coverage was handled. I can say without reservation that the quality of reporting, the factual information the editorial efficiency and the program support that The Bucknellian exhibits is outstanding in comparison to other student newspapers.
I guess it goes with all of the other things about this place. People make the place. The young men and women in our athletic programs work so hard to do things the right way. The support of your newspaper and the support of the student population is greatly appreciated by all.
We appreciate what you do and thank you for your effort in maintaining a quality production.
Head Football Coach
To the Editor:
I have been reading the “Sleeping Around” column for the past three weeks and have found it trivial, juvenile, vulgar and badly written. For a time I thought this opinion due to my age: I am no longer a sexagenarian but a septuagenarian.
I asked a graduating senior, a good writer and a good friend, what he thought. He said: “Only The Bucknellian could make a sex column so boring.”
I rest my case. Thank God the semester is almost over.
Paul Archambault (Ret. Guest Faculty)