Colleges afraid of budget transparency; students ask why

Columbia College Chicago students stage a sit-in.

According to The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, the average tuition, fees, room and board for a private nonprofit four-year school is a whopping $42,419 for the 2014-2015 school year, a 10% increase from 2009-2010. Assuming nothing changes in the next four years, a current college freshman will have to pay $169,676 on average for an undergraduate degree and no one seems to know why.

Those financially crippled by private higher education are slowly beginning to close their wallets and open their mouths.

The New York Times recently ran an article regarding tuition hikes asserting “a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.”

Columbia College Chicago is just one of many private liberal arts schools across the nation whose administration may be capitalizing off of their students’ loans. Next semester, tuition and class sizes will rise and courses, student jobs and scholarships will be cut as part of a newly implemented “strategic plan”.

On May 1st, while the president of Columbia College Chicago sat quietly in his office, students protested for a response to concerns about the strategic plan, demanding budget transparency. The president did not respond, the issues weren’t addressed, and the #saveColumbia coalition vowed to stage more protests and social media outcry until they are met with answers.

A former Student Government President tried their best to work with administration, but was met with difficulty after successfully capping annual tuition increases at 3.3%.

“There is a lack of communication and a lack of information on who to communicate to,” she said. “Our college’s president is seen as the guy who can solve all the problems when in reality he should be raising money and doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with the day to day.”

Despite the questionable power of the president, students sat outside his office from 11am to 11pm, originally denied further access to food or water outside of what they had stashed in their backpacks. Eventually students were able to convince the guards to let their friends slip boxes of food and water bottles through a cracked door in the stairwell. Security threatened to call the police and press charges for trespassing, and protestors were promptly escorted out of the building at 11pm.

Afterwards, it was implied by administration that many students didn’t support the movement, although the stairwells and first floor of the building were filled with supporters. Funded by the college, the school’s journalists failed to report this.

The people nearly arrested were active students in their fields of study, not angst-driven half-adults. To afford tuition, one student had to sell her car and another works full time, picking up classes when he’s able.

Tori Torres, a former Musical Theatre student at Columbia College Chicago, is already $40,000 in debt after one year of enrollment, and she has to repeat a year since her credits won’t transfer.

“The college certainly made promises that they couldn’t keep about the quality of their programs. They made it seem much more prestigious than it actually is, and I never would have paid for such mediocrity. When I first heard of the high drop out rate, my professors assured me it was due to students not being passionate enough to stay. As it turns out, they’re the smart ones for escaping,” Torres explained.

Torres, like many others, are left wondering why their tuition is rising and drawing parallels toward the increasing administrative roles. This is not an issue of politics, but one of consumer rights. Students should be able to know exactly what they are paying for and spending records should be made public. Ingredients are listed on packaged foods so that the buyer is aware of what they are putting in their bodies, so why shouldn’t a similar measure by required for colleges? Consumers should be given access to the components of their education upfront and shouldn’t be shamed for demanding so.

“For starters, it would certainly be nice to be more in the loop per say when it comes to decision making, especially when those decisions are directly tied to our grossly inflated tuition dollars,” said Corey Cole, a senior Business and Entrepreneurship student. “We have a right to know exactly what we are paying for with regard to the school and its expenses.”

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Book Review: Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika T. Wurth

Calley Nelson's Book Review of Crazy Horse's Girlfriend by Erika T. Worth

Erika T. Wurth creates a coming-of-age story that is both gritty and complex in her debut novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend. Set in an impoverished town outside of Denver during the ‘90s, the 16-year-old protagonist, Margaritte, is on a mission. If she can make enough money before she turns 18, she will have the means to seek happiness and stability somewhere away from home. Every night Margaritte sneaks out of her bedroom window at night to sell pot at parties with her cousin. To make matters worse, she has to tell her boyfriend she’s pregnant. Will she be able to get out of her hometown with a child? Should she get an abortion? What will her family think? Will her dad disown her… or worse? Margaritte balances the cumulative weight of these questions as she tries to navigate her daily life without letting anyone in on her secret.

The title, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, is a nod toward the Native American war hero, Crazy Horse, implying that Margaritte is also in the midst of conflict, the unlikely protagonist in a “Hero’s Story” structure. But it’s not just Magaritte who is figuratively at war, it’s everyone in town. Most young adult novels fall short of realism, romanticizing youth in an unfair way, where white rich kids go to boarding school and discover their true potential while one character falls off the rails. This book is not like that- there is a sense of relatability here. Even the characters that aren’t as important to the main plot are dealt their own dose of problems, whether it’s exploring sexual orientation, racism, co-dependence, substance abuse, or teenage pregnancy.

Erika T. Worth’s prose is simple and callous. She’s not afraid to sling swear words or uncomfortable situations at her characters in an effort to write about one of the most unsentimental teenage existences in YA history. Being set in the “‘90s”, the novel also serves as a period piece, where cellphones are non-existent, heroin is popular, and mixtapes are king. Adults, especially millennials, are sure to find this novel relatable. Wurth’s characters wear wife beaters from Wal-Mart, listen to Christian Metal and lick the Dorito dust off their fingers. They aren’t overtly sophisticated by any means, and even Mike, Margaritte’s boyfriend who seems to have a picturesque house and family, is not as refined as he appears. Adolescence is not fantasized and this novel does not evoke the mythical “glory days” of being a highschooler, in fact, it turns that stereotype completely on its head.

Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend deals with alcoholism in a way that most young adult novels avoid.

“I wondered why Mom had married Dad. She had told me once that she’d gotten pregnant with me while she was finishing up her teacher’s certification in Denver and after that, he proposed. But that she loved him. That she definitely loved him. She told me about watching Mel Brooks movies together and other artsy stuff like that, about dancing with him by the gulf on a pier in Texas, where her family was from, about how shy and quiet he was. How he held her and told her that she was home on their wedding night. How he drank and though it seemed like he drank a lot, it hadn’t seemed like too much until later, much later, when he began to hit her after I was born.”

Here, alcoholism is treated as a complex issue- Margaritte’s father is not treated as an inherently “bad” person. Wurth may be making less of a statement about the complexities of addiction and more of a statement on the depths of human nature. It is unclear how much of the novel is autobiographical (Wurth being a Native American living outside of Denver), but interpretation and Wurth’s intentions aside, her characters are the people in your neighborhood, your acquaintances, and your family.

Despite each character’s blatant faults, there’s always something frustratingly humanizing about each character that transcends their shortcomings. These characters may be lost somewhere in the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, but they are not lost at heart. There is a softness and tenderness to each, in a way that is not unlike Bonnie Jo Campbell’s characters in American Salvage and less like John Green’s idealized teenagers in Looking for Alaska. Wurth has accomplished a feat that most young adult authors wish that they could- she has realistically portrayed the teenage experience.

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The most awkward Q&A ever with Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon's awkward Q&A at the Music Box Theater, Chicago

Everyone understates themselves. Everyone wants to be someone else. Even your idols.

That was the take away from attending a Q&A with Kim Gordon at The Music Box Theater, an event sponsored by the Chicago Humanities Festival. The event was sold out, the front half of the venue packed with journalists. Kim had just released her memoir Girl in a Band, following a sticky break up with her band mate and husband of almost 30 years, detailing the bands build and break. I was expecting to see Kim as a triumphant and ambitious artist and woman, post Sonic Youth and post husband. That wasn’t quite the case.

Sitting on stage in a leather jacket and jeans, Kim Gordon, the former bass player, lyricist, singer and co-founder of Sonic Youth, awkwardly answered the interviewer’s questions, as if she were surprised that she was onstage it all. It was unclear whether the interviewer had read the memoir, or if she knew who Kim was before that night, and she kept mentioning how she hoped that the interview would get less awkward as the conversation went on. It didn’t.

“When you are taking a selfie, do you try to look bad ass or sexy?” The interviewer asked.

The audience was silent as Kim thought about this for a second. Not inexperienced with the press, she was probably ranging around for something tactful to say.

“Uh, there are things I don’t care about as much as some people,” she said, kind of chuckling.

The crowd echoed her, laughing in response, and then there was silence again, until the interviewer realized that Kim wasn’t going to continue talking.

She nodded and shuffled her notes.

Pulling strings, the interviewer asked another half-researched question that didn’t apply much to Kim as an artist.

“So what do you think about the 90s?”

“Uh, I don’t know? As an era? I guess it was kind of underwhelming.”

What did these questions have to do anything with Kim’s book or career? Had the interviewer not seen the trending Ask Her More Campaign? I was outraged.

I was hoping to hear about the process behind her visual art. I wanted to know about her upcoming art exhibits.  I wanted to ask her about the controversial comment she made about Lana Del Rey’s feminism (or lack there of). I wanted to ask her what Sonic Youth album she was most proud of. I wanted to know about the future of Body/Head and her other projects.

If there was anyone I idolized more as a teenager, it was Kim Gordon. She gave me the permission to pick up a guitar. She gave me the permission to create what I wanted to. She was one of the first female performers who inspired me to play, write, and sing free of conventional forms. Because of Kim, I realized that I didn’t have to be a classically trained musician, writer or artist. Writing and playing became enough for me, regardless if I had an audience for it, or if someone thought it was “good” or “bad”.

So to hear that Kim didn’t think of herself as a musician really got me thinking.

Towards the end of the event, I was able to ask her a question about how she handled criticism.

“I don’t deal with it very well,” she said. “[In regards to writing Girl in a Band] I thought, I’m just going to do it. Of course I really thought about who I would offend, but I didn’t want to over think it. It was just my story.”

What can we really do as artists except for that? Maybe it’s just a matter of taste- some interviewers and audiences are going to connect to certain media and subjects and some won’t. Disinterest is the most subtle and distracting form of criticism, and Kim Gordon handled it with an admirable amount of humility and grace.

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Allow Darker Backdrops in US Passport Photos for People With Albinism

Help end the legal discrimination of people with albinism.


My boyfriend has albinism, meaning that his hair and skin are lighter than mine and his vision is significantly worse. Because of his albinism, he was recently denied a U.S. passport. The Bureau of Consular Affairs said his complexion in his passport photo didn’t contrast enough with the required white backdrop. In order to obtain a valid passport photo it was recommended that he wear dark, heavy makeup so that his face would stand out. This may not seem like a big deal, but think about it this way:

A black man wants to go overseas so he applies for his passport, sending in all of the necessary documents along with his photo only to be denied one. “Your face doesn’t contrast enough with the black backdrop,” they explain. “Just buy some pale makeup and get your picture retaken.”

That would be ridiculous, right? This is essentially what happened to my boyfriend this weekend because he was deemed too pale. The same thing happened to his sister a few years ago. She had to retake her passport photo three times before her makeup was dark enough for the state department to be able to authorize her a passport. Last week, Corey put on heavy makeup for his retake, but it might be a couple more tries before the department approves his photo.


A little about albinism.

People with albinism have an absence of pigment in their skin, hair, and eyes. Albinism is an inherited trait, caused by genes that are unable to create melanin. One in 17,000people in the US have some form of albinism. Most people with albinism are visually impaired and have extremely sensitive skin. To learn more about albinism visit Noah: The National Association for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.

This weekend, I will be contacting the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs directly regarding the progress that’s been made on this petition. I plan to pull several of the comments I received from people across the United States who, like Corey, have faced discrimination because of their skin color.

By signing and sharing this petition, you will help in the implementation of an alternative backdrop for passport photos. You will be letting the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs know that they are unintentionally discriminating against Corey and other people with albinism. With dark backdrops, people with albinism won’t have to apply ridiculous amounts of dark makeup in order to get their passports.albinism

Let the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs know that discrimination of any kind is never okay.

I just promoted this petition in order to expand its visibility beyond my social circle. That being said, I cannot thank you all enough for your overwhelming support and eagerness to spread the petition around! If you have any suggestions going forward, please leave a comment below or contact me directly. I’m proud to say that we’ve reached over 1,000 supporters in one week. I hope, that by the end of this month, I’ll have gathered enough signatures to encourage the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs to make an incremental (but crucial) change to their passport policies. Thanks again for your help!

coreycorey colealbinism

How you can help:

Here are a couple links that you can quickly copy and share on your social media:

Allow Darker Backdrops in US Passport Photos for People With Albinism:

Promote and Support this Important Petition!

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Black Friday at Walmart Brings More than Deals

Many of you have probably noticed that stores are opening earlier than ever for the craziest display of consumerism in America. Many praise this change as a solution to the aggression and injuries that plagues many stores’ workers and customers during the scramble for holiday deals. There is, however, a significant backlash against this decision made by many of the stores. With Walmart’s deals beginning at 6pm on Thanksgiving, many labor activists state that the “Black Friday” craze has gone too far.

While to many Walmart is known for its unbeatable deals, it is known to others for its poor working conditions and pay of employees. The superstore has maintained its low wages across the board by arguing that it is necessary to keep wages down if the consumers want the same lower prices. And while this seems like a reasonable argument, it is not the case.

Business Insider crunched the numbers for its article “Here’s How Much A Wal-Mart Pay Increase Would Cost Shoppers Per Trip” and found that the increase from federal minimum wage to a living wage of $12.50 per hour, would only raise total consumers costs about $12 per year or $0.46 per trip. This small change shows that the increase of wages is wholly possible, but until Walmart feels the push from within, they can and will continue to deny that the increase is necessary.

Walmart has been staunchly anti-union from its conception and continually busts any unions and organizing interests in their company. This year with the start of Black Friday deals on Thursday evening, many unions and workers have had enough. They say that pulling more workers away from they families on Thanksgiving highlights the disregard that Walmart management has for its employees. Calling for a change, the UAW has called on support from many other unions and labor oriented groups for support. While some workers have already organized strikes at their stores, a superpower like Walmart will need to see a nation push for unionizing and change in order to feel the pressure necessary to cause a change.


Protesters in Vista, CA

By organizing picket lines and protests all across the country, the main goal was to educate shoppers about the struggles of the workers who serve them and to reach out to workers about the possibilities that unionizing could bring to them. Because Black Friday brings out many more consumers and workers, the message has the chance to really make an impact. If Walmart begins to feel the pressure from these protests, change may be closer than expected. For now, we can only hope that this Black Friday shoppers left with more than carts full of low-priced goods and workers left with new feelings of determination to change their workplace.

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4 ways to support the black lives matter movement in the wake of the Ferguson ruling

On November 25th, a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was caught jaywalking with a friend in Ferguson, Missouri this August. Since the ruling, many americans have voiced their frustration with the racism still deeply ingrained in today’s law enforcement. As a result, non-violent protests have cropped up in almost every major US city in support of Michael Brown and his family as well as the black community. Here are a few things we can do to support the Ferguson community and collectively end racism because, even though it should go without saying, black lives matter.

1. Comment and Unfriend

Social media is a breeding ground for heated conversation and debate, but racism is never socially acceptable. If you find a comment offensive, say so. If you are uncomfortable with this and would rather take a more non-confrontational approach, simply unfriend or unfollow. Chances are, they will privately message you wanting to know why you unfriended them, so be prepared and don’t shy away from telling them exactly why you wanted to remove their ignorant comments from your feed.

2. Donate to Ferguson Public Library

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 10.03.01 PM

The Ferguson Public Library has already received almost $200,000 in funding over the past 2 days. Despite the Ferguson public school system closing, the library remained open the day before Thanksgiving. Through their Facebook Page, they’ve been a reassuring voice in the midst of anguish, posting contact information for counseling services and information on learning how to file insurance claims for businesses damaged in the riots.

You can still donate…

Online through Paypal.

Directly via post:

Ferguson Municipal Public Library
35 North Florissant Road
Ferguson, Missouri 63135

Or by selecting a book from the library’s wishlist at  Powell’s.

3. Follow Black Lives Matter on Facebook and donate to the BlackLivesMatter Bay Area Legal Fund.

donate black lives matter

4. Send Your Support to the Brown Family through the NAACP

Unfortunately, the Brown family will be going through this holiday season without their son. The NAACP has a form where you can express your condolences and support for them during this difficult time. Even though the death of Michael Brown has become a national concern, he had family behind him and a life ahead of him that was tragically cut short.

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The Bitches Aren’t Back

served by bitches

We’ve pledged not to be the interns whose veins of professional existence are determined by how readily we fill the palms of our offices with hot paper cups of overpriced coffee. We may appreciate baristas for their amazing milk foaming skills, but it is not our mission to establish a first name basis with the staff of Starbucks. We may consider ourselves poised and capable people, but we will not try to balance drink holders over our heads for the shaky promise of a full time job. We may be young, but we are determined to use our minds for something more than remembering who ordered the skinny-french-vanilla-latte and who wanted the black coffee with sugar.

That being said, we are happy to be Not Your Coffee Bitch. Our mission statement back in 2012 was “to raise awareness of political and cultural issues important to American young adults.” These words still apply 100%. That being said, drop us a comment or two regarding any of our articles or topics that get you thinking. We have our strong opinions and we know that you have yours.

Not Your Coffee Bitch is currently in the process of reassembling a reliable, thought-provoking team of writers who are interested in analyzing current events and politics on a weekly basis. If you would like to be a part of our team, please email Calley Nelson at and tell us about why you’ve refused to be a coffee bitch. Follow us on Twitter @NYCoffeebitch if you haven’t already.

Jokes aside- thank you for your interest and support! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Have You Seen Taken?

In less than a month, this coffee bitch will be on a plane headed for Belgium, where I will live, and study for a year. One of my biggest pet peeves that I have dealt with for my pending exchange (besides sitting at the door like a puppy every time the mail comes in vain hopes that my visa will be wedged in-between grocery store coupons),  is the one question that is asked when I mention my exchange. I don’t know if you can handle a question this deep, coffeebitches, not to mention something this original.

The conversation goes like this:

Person: So you’re going to Belgium?

Me: Yeah, I can’t wait!

Person: Have you ever seen Taken? Watch out…

I guess I should feel special that so many strangers are concerned about my well being abroad, however, this pisses me off like no other. Part of the reason why this sly comment bothers me, is that I have never seen anyone try and use this to scare male exchange students, just us ladies. It’s almost like they expect every young woman that goes abroad to be sold into sex slavery.

I feel like people are more concerned about me going over seas because I’m a woman, and that is just fucking uncalled for. When I was going to be sent to Brazil instead of Belgium, my own father, who raised me to take care of my self, told me that it was no place for a young lady. What the hell?!

This just in world, female travelers are not porcelain dolls that spend the whole trip smothered in packing peanuts,  left to stay at the resort. There is nothing on an adventure that your gender, male or female, should inhibit you from experiencing. Life is too short to let assholes try to scare you out of an experience that may only come around once in a lifetime. What are we going to let people scare us out of doing next, going to the store, going to work, voting? I don’t think so! Stand up and live your life to the fullest.

If you’re smart, you will have a safe and fun trip abroad. Keep tabs on your passport, and wallet. Don’t take opened drinks from strangers. Most importantly, please make sure to learn key phrases in the native language, people will be more willing to help and accept you if you make an attempt at speaking their language, it shows respect for their culture.

What I’m trying to get at is, please, please, don’t let petty people try to crush your wanderlust with fear.

Two Vetoes

NPR recently ran an article highlighting the unusually low amount of vetoes President Obama has issued during his time in office.

Speaking more specifically, President Obama has used the presidential power of the veto only two times during his over 4 years in office thus far.

The article goes into detail about the reasons for this number being so low, but in this post I really just want to highlight how meaningful “two vetoes” really is.

“Two” doesn’t seem like particularly significant number, that is until you compare it to other modern presidents. For example, Reagan used his power of the veto 78 times during the 1980s, while Bill Clinton used this power 37 times during his time in office.

At this point some of you may object saying “Hold on, that’s not really a fair comparison! Reagan and Clinton both had 2 terms and used the veto more frequently in their second term!” which is a fair objection to make, however even ol’ George H.W. pulled out his trusty veto pen 44 times during his single term in office.

If modern comparisons doesn’t make “two vetoes” significant, here’s some historical context: every president since Martin Van Buren, who served as our president almost 175 years ago has vetoed more legislation than President Obama (with the exception of those that did not complete a full term in office)

Now, it’s important as a matter of journalistic and personal integrity for me to admit that you could have received any information I just told you from the article I talked about, however, I’m not sure even the writer of that article understands the significance of having the least amount of vetoes since Van Buren.

Allow me to explain.

You see, while Van Buren doesn’t really stick out in most Americans’ minds as being an particularly consequential president, he really and truly is an important milestone in American political history. What’s significant about Van Buren you may ask? Well, Martin Van Buren was the last president to hold the traditionalist view of the veto, the view held by the presidents of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

What I mean by the traditionalist view is simply this: from George Washington up until Andrew Jackson presidents long had the view that the presidential veto was a constitutional power meant only to uphold the Constitution. In other words, it was their way of shutting down legislation that they believed to be unconstitutional.

Now in all technicality the Constitution doesn’t concretely lay out the justification a president can use for a veto. In fact, the words “presidential veto” don’t appear once in the United States Constitution, the clause the power comes from simply states:

“Every Order, Resolution, or Vote … shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.”

– United States Constitution, Article One, Section 6

There is no statement as to what constitutes a “valid” veto. However for decades most people viewed the veto as the presidential last resort to unconstitutional legislation (at least until the Supreme Court sets things straight)

That is until Andrew Jackson revolutionized how we see the presidential veto in 1832.

You see, one of the biggest debates in American politics in the 19th century was whether the United States should have a national bank. It was essentially the Healthcare debate of its time.

Critics of the establishment of a United States National Bank cried that it was unconstitutional, until the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Congress was constitutionally allowed to establish a national bank under the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819.

However did that close off debate? To answer that question, let me ask another, did critics of Obamacare quiet down after the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional?

And Andrew Jackson was the leader of these critics of the National Bank, and it is one of the biggest issues that he ran on when he ran for the presidency in 1828.

So when the Charter for the 2nd Bank of the United States came up from renewal in 1832 and Congress renewed it, Jackson found his chance to shut it down.

On July 10th, 1832 Andrew Jackson issued his veto to the renewal of the Charter of the 2nd Bank of the United States.

He made no claims of vetoing it on constitutional grounds, after all, the SCOTUS had already ruled the bank constitutional over a decade earlier, he made it very clear it was on political grounds.

This veto was revolutionary in how it shaped American politics, the power of the presidency, and the view of the veto. In essence, Andrew Jackson inaugurated the modern veto.

So what does all this have to do with Martin Van Buren and Obama’s “two vetoes”?

Martin Van Buren was Andrew Jackson’s successor. That’s why.

And unlike Jackson, Van Buren subscribed to to the traditionalist view of the presidential veto, perhaps the last of the presidents to do so.

This is where you might expect me to come out with “Until Obama”, but that’s not true. The NPR article I keep mentioning lists several reasons for why President Obama has used the veto so little. I’m also not going to pass judgement on whether the Obama administration’s non obstructionist attitude is a good or bad thing.

I will however say this: when NPR highlights President Obama’s use of less vetoes than any president since Martin Van Buren, they’re actually highlighting that President Obama has used the veto less times than any president in the history of the modern presidential veto other than Van Buren.

That’s why “two vetoes” is significant.