Category Archives: Activism

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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Allow Darker Backdrops in US Passport Photos for People With Albinism

Help end the legal discrimination of people with albinism.

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.

albinism

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: http://ow.ly/Fy5ay

Promote and Support this Important Petition! http://ow.ly/Fy5u8

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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

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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!

Sincerely,
Chuck Clark
Director of Guest Relations
614.228.2674 x2420
cclark@mail.cosi.org

—-

Thank you for furthering and supporting this important cause.

Check out the letter I sent here: https://notyourcoffeebitch.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/activism-in-action-bitch-fights-for-a-more-energy-efficent-museum/

-CN

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activism in action: bitch fights for a more energy efficent museum

If you feel strongly about this cause, please copy and paste this memo on http://www.cosi.org/contact-usand feel free to add your name.

It will take only a couple seconds of your time and will ensure COSI takes this memo seriously.

Excited, as always,

– CN

To: COSI Columbus

11/26/2012

Memo: You can revamp the “Adventure” exhibit with more efficient lighting

Attachment: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121115152659.htm St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. “Scientists discover ways to optimize light sources for vision: Tuning lighting devices could save billions.” ScienceDaily, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

Sources: http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/stories/2010/07/12/daily6.html

Seven years ago, the beloved “Adventure” exhibit at your interactive science museum was closed down to the dismay of many families because of the lack of funding. Allegedly, the lighting for the exhibit was costly. Although the attraction has recently been re-opened, it might be a good idea to look into different lighting technology to ensure that it remains.

There is a new technology in lighting, somewhat similar to florescent in the sense that it flickers very fast, in fact faster, than florescent lighting. But this flickering in new lighting technique actually resonates with the human brain, creating the most pleasing experience for onlookers with the most efficiency. By implementing temporal lighting to your old exploration/adventure exhibit, you could be a pioneer in using a system that may end up, as the article title states, saving America billions of dollars, as well as saving crucial tax funds for your museum.

It turns out these faster flickers are not only more cost effective, but also very pleasing to the human eye. For this reason, you might also be able to draw more people to re-visit the exhibit. If people feel as though they are learning, viewing something aesthetically pleasing, and becoming a part of history by witnessing the future of technology, you will have customers running back through the doors. Membership could soar.

If all goes well and COSI saves money from the new lighting, it may be a good idea to expand exhibit by exhibit, slowly implementing new lighting. This way, the cost and construction would be gradual and most cost effective. From pursuing temporal lighting first in the “Adventure” exhibit, COSI may be pursuing a step in advancing as a renowned science center by channeling the advancement philosophy of the museum into it’s technology.

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