Author Archives: Calley Nelson

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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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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This Just In

A radical leftist terror group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, which killed a Turkish guard and wounded a television journalist.

In a statement on its website, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, or DHKP-C, said “E. Alisan Sanli has become a martyr after accomplishing the action on the American Embassy in Ankara.”

The governor’s office on Saturday confirmed his identity through for forensic testing.

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Guns for Hands

Photo credit: Paul Tong

Photo credit: Paul Tong

Since the tragedy in Newtown, the NRA has been- literally and figuratively- up in arms. They recently aired an advertisement issuing a stand-up-and-fight mantra following their press conference. Their solution to mass shootings of the young and defenseless? Put weapons into the hands of supervisors. The Whitehouse children have armed guards, so why shouldn’t the remainder of young Americans? In a general, idealistic sense, this proposal seems rational. If an armed person were to enter a classroom, a teacher would simply pull an AK-47 from their cabinet.

Putting guns into teacher’s cabinets is similar to the nuclear arms race. If implemented cautiously, it could in theory work, having a stockpile against a stock pile. But, a mentally insane person is not going to rationalize shooting children in the first place, let alone thinking “OH, well now since schoolteachers have guns too, I probably shouldn’t enter the school with a gun unless I want to get the first bullet.” Arming teachers will not dissuade the mentally insane from entering schools with guns because doing so isn’t a rational act in the first place.

Can every teacher, coach and supervisor be trusted with a gun? Personally, there are quite a few people holding these occupations who I wouldn’t trust with a gun. There would need to be some state issued training. Teachers couldn’t simply be handed guns if they didn’t know how to use them. But even if they did, there is also a question of an instructor’s mental sanity. So not only would schools be required to provide a shooting course for their teachers or professors, but also a mental background check of sorts. Even then, who is to say that school shootings from within wouldn’t occur? Do you give the principal the biggest gun? Like the nuclear arms race, creating weaponry is only perpetuating mass destruction.

The next problem facing gun control and mental sanity is how to determine whether someone is stable enough to own a gun. If I was once an alcoholic, if I suffered from extreme anxiety or depression, would I be mentally sane enough to own a gun? Would this defer me from having a job within a school system since I would be unable to brandish a gun? Mental sanity may be the next question. If so, the mentally ill may be the new communists. The fight on gun control may be coined America’s second cold war.

I am one of many Americans who have had a friend who has been a victim of a senseless shooting or suicide. Restricting arms is a serious and personal issue for many. You cannot simply fight senseless violence with more violence. Even the NRA cannot argue that someone mentally or emotionally unstable has a right to hold or own a gun.

The only completely logical way of dissuading massacres such as in Virginia Tech, Chardon, Newtown and Colorado (just to name a few in recent years), is to tighten gun control, which the government and congress are in the midst of. There are currently eight out of 23 executive actions involving mental sanity as well. The question is whether the blame falls upon the weapon or the person pulling the trigger. In my opinion, both must be blamed and restricted in order to dissuade such horrific events to continue across America.

The Huffington Post Article :

NRA Press Conference:

NRA Advertisement:

NRA use to support gun control (Photo Credit) :

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Does Democracy Still Work in America?

Alan Wolfe asks, “Does American democracy still work?” The consensus of his book is that it does, but not in respect to the ideal liberalism that the country was founded upon.  This is the question that Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College, set out to answer on the front cover. Wolfe asserts, with Fareed Zakaria as reference, that a democratic nation is not necessarily a liberal one. Liberalism, by definition, is fundamentally the idea that the government should be as non-intrusive as possible, holding a respect for pluralism, individualism and law. But, a democratic nation can vote for intrusion and disrespect. Yes, democracy is absolutely prevalent in America, yet it is not fulfilling liberalistic qualities, because American sentiment to government and politics has changed.

While Americans are consistently less politically active, politicians are decidedly more ideologically driven, creating a state of conflict in government based primarily on emotional sentiment to private lifestyles. Because of this, Americans are less informed, and find themselves turned off by politics all together. What is most compelling about Wolfe’s analysis is that politicians want this so that they can pass their agendas under the noses of a public that doesn’t give two shits about what happens to our country because they have been led to believe they have no affect on it.

Wolfe’s purpose of writing his book was to mobilize Americans to become interested in and educated on current affairs in order to shape the country they want by choosing representatives that signify their philosophies. He urges Americans to become active in their government and be a part of Democracy to create the country that they are proud to represent and live in. 

At Not Your Coffee Bitch, we aim to answer to this battle cry.

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Success: Cosi Responds to Energy Efficiency


Late last month, I posted regarding COSI, a renowned Science Center in Columbus, Ohio. I urged them to look into energy efficiency and conservation involving their lighting system. Here is the response I received:

Dear Calley-

Thank you for your suggestions regarding lighting in our Adventure exhibition. We are always trying to improve the experience for our guests at COSI, so I have passed your information along to our exhibition design team for consideration. If they have questions I am certain they will be in touch.

Thanks again!

Chuck Clark
Director of Guest Relations
614.228.2674 x2420


Thank you for furthering and supporting this important cause.

Check out the letter I sent here:


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