Monday, January 23, 2017

Music as the Language of the Heart and Savior of Speech: A Review of WALKABOUT by Isabelle Sasso




A French writer and romantic poet, Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869), once said, “Music is the language of the heart; it commences where speech ends” (par. 2). Imagine Lamartine’s statement and how it applies to film. Picture the average film critic. He/she watches a film and analyzes the camera shots, the costumes, the actors and actresses, and most importantly, the dialogue and film script. Most film critics may also pay attention to the musical score, but only after they have looked through the script. In his 1971 film Walkabout, Nicolas Roeg challenges the traditional assumption that a film should be centered on its script. Edward Bond, the screenwriter for Walkabout, wrote a script that was only 14 pages long. One might question where audience members are supposed to draw the meaning of the film from if there is so little dialogue. If Lamartine was alive today and saw Roeg’s film, he and I would argue the answer is heard in John Barry’s musical score.



Through the wistful and eerie melodies of Barry’s compositions, Walkabout tells the story of a young girl, played by Jenny Agutter, and her loss of childhood innocence during her “walkabout” in the Australian outback. In the words of Agutter herself, “John Barry’s score evokes perfectly a sense of childhood yearning, a time gone forever” (Agutter 7). Additionally, the titles of Barry’s compositions offer further support for the events that occur in the film that ultimately lead to the death of the girl’s adolescence. The songs communicate to the audience the film’s meaning through eliciting many different emotions and moods. Courtesy of the City of Prague Philharmonic and conductor Nic Raine, many of the musical elements can be analyzed to help with a deeper understanding of the way the compositions contribute to the film’s overall meaning.



The young girl in this film, only 14 years old, has to cope with the suicide of her insane father, and look after her younger brother as they are stranded and struggling to survive in the Australian outback. John Barry’s titles for songs coincide with the events that occur throughout the movie. For example, when the two siblings are stranded by their father after he shoots at his son, puts a gun to his head and lights their car on fire, Barry includes a song with a fitting title: “Stranded.” This piece incorporates a melody in the lower range of the flute, paired with jarring phrases coming from the horn section. It also brings in short passages from the Stockhausen chorus. There are open chords within the different voices that spark a sense of wonder and confusion among the audience which match many of the same feelings that the two siblings are experiencing. There is also a winding, stirring melody within the upper string section and on vibes—with both hard and soft mallets—that gives the audience a sense of tension and urgency. It plays after the father commits suicide and the girl grabs items from their picnic while trying to distract her brother from this dreadful sight. In this scene, the girl is forced to take control of the situation and make split-second decisions. This is the first moment we see her assuming a more responsible, “grown-up” role, since she protects her brother from seeing their dead father next to a car engulfed in flames. She then further assures him when he asks questions. For example, when he asks, “Do you know where you’re going?,” she responds, “Yes, of course” (Roeg 00:17).


As the film progresses, the girl is seen as more of a caretaker for her little brother. When they decide to settle down for the night, she tries to stay strong for her brother. She avoids his constant questioning, like “It’s getting dark, isn’t it?” In response to the statement that they may stay in the outback all night, the boy says, “But we didn’t bring any blankets.” His older sister refuses to admit defeat and show how scared and unsure she may be in this situation, so she responds “I don’t think I’m quite tired yet” (Roeg 00:13). When they finally start to sleep, Barry includes a very unique song, “Night in the Outback.” In this, there are instruments, specifically the flute, that mimic some of the animals in the outback. There are passages when the flute is heard flutter tonguing, and it sounds like a flying insect. The vibes also have a short, creeping melody that is quiet and heard periodically, as if an animal or being is softly walking through the shadows of the outback. Also in this composition, the Stockhausen melodies travel in half steps, where the music sounds like it is building, creating yet again, a sense of tension and uneasiness as the two siblings are seen sleeping alone in the outback. The scene that Barry’s music sets along with Roeg’s camera shots of the girl throwing the can down the rocks, and the close-ups of each of the siblings faces while in the dark outback conveys to the audience the ability of the girl to simultaneously adapt to a different environment and look after her brother.



Further into the movie, the two siblings are shown walking through the outback, in the scorching sun, past wide open spaces and over huge sand dunes. In this montage, Barry plays “Survival Test” and “The Journey,” where many triumphant, yet melancholy, horn melodies can be heard. What is also remarkable about this song is the combination of African drums and busy background music in the melodic instruments. This rhythmic ostinato within sections of this piece conveys a sense of determination among the two siblings to get back to civilization as they blindly navigate the outback. This will to return home is especially seen within the girl. She urges her little brother to keep walking and opts to give him piggy-back rides when he complains of being tired. The bustling instruments in the background, I believe, serve as a symbol of her unending thoughts and worries related to reaching civilization again. Throughout the movie, even when the two siblings meet the Aboriginal boy, the girl is consistently adamant about finding a way back home. She even goes so far as to reject an emotional or sexual relationship with the boy, so that, when the time comes, she can swiftly exit the outback and re-assimilate into the “cultured” world without worrying what she has left behind.



This brings me to another one of Barry’s works. This key composition plays during a defining moment for the girl. In John Kenneth Muir’s critique of Walkabout, he references the “unspoken—and forbidden—romantic love,” the Aboriginal boy develops for the girl (Muir par. 13). The Aborigine boy approaches the girl while she is shirtless and performs a fertility dance, or dance of courtship. Barry’s music, “The Deserted Settlement/The Final Dance,” plays behind the dance, which lasts overnight. There are many minor intervals in the beginning, which then lead into a mesmerizing flute solo. As the song progresses, it is difficult to tell what time signature the piece is in. There are two competing melodies happening, and it is unclear which is supposed to be dominant. Additionally, there is a didgeridoo in the background playing a floating melody.



I took this competition of melodies and the didgeridoo as showing the difference in Aboriginal and English culture, and how the girl is not mature enough to appreciate a culture different from hers. The girl is confused, and possibly frightened, as to why the boy has his face painted and is performing this very long dance outside the abandoned house they are in. Here, she gets an even more intimate experience with the Aboriginal culture. While she is baffled by the boy’s actions, what she does after the dance, subtly shows her appreciation of the boy. As Muir states, “when the lovestruck Aborigine launches into a courtship dance before the English girl, she coolly and silently rejects him,” which leads to his suicide (Muir par. 14). As the two siblings find the boy hanging from a tree, the girl kindly brushes off an insect from his chest, and they continue on their way to the road they had heard about in pursuit of civilized beings. This act of brushing away the bug is small, but compared to when she was constantly rejecting the boy before his death, her action shows some maturity and appreciation for him and his culture. This reentry into the civil world may seem abrupt because the siblings leave the Aboriginal boy hanging from a tree and don’t seem to give it a second thought. However, years later, Roeg shows us the girl reflecting back on her experience.




As the girl, now much more grown up and a married woman, has a conversation with her businessman husband who has just come home from work, her thoughts wander back to her time in the outback. The film cuts to a scene where she is seen with the Aboriginal boy, and her younger brother; they are all swimming. They appear very content, and have meaningful, yet playful interactions with each other. As the girl thinks back to a time where her life was much simpler and she was blissfully innocent, John Barry’s main musical theme for Walkabout is played. The melody in the strings and winds cascades over the rich chords in the low brass and the dinky, neat harpsichord chord progression. This main theme beautifully captures the nostalgic feeling that the girl experiences as she looks back on the time the trio swam together. The huge interval jumps and non-linear pattern that Barry chooses for the melody furthers Roeg’s point that the girl’s experience on her walkabout was the start of her losing her innocence. As the main theme plays yet again, for the third or fourth time since the beginning of the movie, the audience can conclude that Barry and Roeg want to reinforce this childhood yearning through repetition of this theme.



John Barry’s score plays a crucial in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, since much of the meaning of the film cannot, alone, be drawn from the sparse dialogue. Only through a close analysis of Barry’s compositions, in part with Bond’s storyline and Roeg’s purposeful style, does the audience understand that the film is about a loss of the girl’s innocence on her walkabout. Barry’s music conveys those nostalgic and yearning feelings for childhood through artful orchestration, and hypnotic melodies that push and pull the audience’s emotions. Additionally, the angelic voices of Stockhausen remind both the characters in the film and the viewers that the film deals with the issue of the death of a girl’s adolescence; a meaning that is bigger than the script and is obtained from much more than actors reciting words written on paper.



Works Cited

Agutter, Jenny. "Walkabout." Jenny Agutter: Memories of Walkabout. Jenny Agutter, 21 Sept.    2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

"Alphonse De Lamartine." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Muir, John Kenneth. "John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV" :            CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Walkabout (1971). Blogger.com, 15 Jan. 2011. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

"Music Quotes and Sayings." Music Quotes and Sayings. Quote Garden, 05 Mar. 2016. Web. 09

Mar. 2016.

Ruhlmann, William. "AllMusic Review." AllMusic. AllMusic, 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Roeg, Nicolas. Walkabout. Perf. Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, and Luc Roeg. Twentieth Century Fox, 1971. Film.

"Soundtracks." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

"Walkabout." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.

"WALKABOUT." YouTube. YouTube: City of Prague Philharmonic, 08 Nov. 2014. Web. 06     Mar. 2016.

"Walkabout | Research (1971)." YouTube. YouTube: Avid Films, 10 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Feb.       2016.



Musical Terminology for the Musically Uneducated: An “if-needed” Supplement to “Music as the Language of the Heart and Savior of Speech”

Open chords: The structure of chords depends on the style of music—i.e. jazz or classical—but the basic form is the root of the chord (do), the third (mi), and the fifth (sol), and sometimes the seventh or ninth if you’re playing jazz. Basic open chords may consist of just the root and fifth, leaving an uneasy and empty feeling when heard.

Upper string section: constitutes the first and second violin, and it could be argued the violas (but in the music world, everyone hates on the viola.)

Vibes: The vibraphone. It is a percussion instrument with two rows of metal bars each tuned and set to a specific pitch. It is set up much like a piano, and when hit with mallets, creates a vibrating sound.

Hard vs. Soft mallets: Hard mallets have a much “harder” or more alarming timber, since they are typically made of out hard materials like hard plastic, or wood. Soft mallets are also used on vibraphones or marimbas, and have a much “softer” tone. They usually are made out of rubber or other soft materials that will bounce easily on the metal and vibrate well.

Flutter tonguing: Typically used by flute players, it is an act of blowing air as normal when playing, but instead of tonguing normally, the musician “rolls” their R’s or flutters their tongue. Barry most likely uses this technique so that is creates an illusion of a flying insect.

Half steps: A half steps constitutes, for example, moving from a white key to a black key on the piano, or moving up from a C to a C# or down that way. A half step is also heard in the Jaws theme.

Ostinato: a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical style (i.e. same rhythm, voice or pitch.)

Minor: Opposite of major; these intervals and keys are not pleasant sounding. They sound crunchy, tense, or sad.

Time signature: Tells the meter the song is in (triple or duple), and how many beats per measure there are. A time signature is set up like a fraction; the top number tells how many beats are in each measure, and the bottom number tells what kind of note gets the beat. For example, common time or 4/4 time, means that there are 4 beats in every measure, and the quarter note gets the beat.

Harpsichord: An instrument that is almost like a piano, but when a key is pressed, a string is plucked. It creates this very harsh tone. This instrument was used a lot in the Baroque period (approx. 1600-1750). 

Interval: An interval refers to the amount of distance between notes. If we look at a scale, the distance between the first note of the scale and the last note is an octave (a Perfect 8th). The distance between the first and second note is a 2nd, between the first and fifth note would be a 5th, between the first and seventh note would be a 7th, and so on and so forth. Intervals come in the form of perfect (unisons, fifths and octaves), major and minor, or augmented (the distance made bigger between the notes) or diminished (the distance made smaller between notes).

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Career Development for Undergraduates: A Genius-Bar Idea by Hannah Goodman





To many, the sole purpose of coming to college is to get an education with the intent of applying those skills in the real world. For some, entering post-secondary education is an opportunity to explore many different opportunities and fields that they may pursue in the future, while others, like myself, begin college knowing exactly what they plan to achieve. An issue that often presents itself is the lack of real-world experience and internship opportunities for certain fields of study. After talking to many professors and trusted adults, I declared myself as a double major in Criminology and Psychology with the hopes of being provided the best pathway toward a career with the FBI. Even so, Hofstra does not offer any internships with the Bureau, let alone anything similar in nature. It is not just an issue that is present at Hofstra, but at universities all over.   

           

While there are many goals to accomplish in college, some are much more beneficial than others. In the short time that I have been at Hofstra, I have noticed a significant lack of internship opportunities to gain real world experience. Although the Lawrence Herbert School of Communications, along with those students on the pre-med track, are given abundant options to gain hands-on experience as part of their college experience, it seems to me that they are among the only ones. It is of utmost importance that students are fully exposed to the realities of the career that they have dedicated their time and money to for the next four years. Without the chance to go into the field and learn first-hand how life will be following the pursuit of their major, students will be more vulnerable to the harsh truths of the world once it is far too late to shift gears in a timely and effective manner. As a result of unrealistic assumptions, students frequently become entrapped in a field that they no longer wish to pursue post-graduation. After going through the entire college experience, it is not likely that these students would have the motivation---or financial ability---to start from scratch in a new field of study. 



Another issue that may arise for students wishing to pursue a field with few directly related educational opportunities is information presented in an ineffective way. As explained by Paulo Freire in “The Banking Concept of Education,” “It turns them [the students] into ‘containers,’ into ‘receptacles’ to be ‘filled’ by the teachers” (Freire, Par. 4). This statement directly correlates with the main ideas elaborated on throughout the entire piece, expressing the detrimental effects of many current teaching methods. Freire explains that many instructors simply deposit information in the students, shoving it down their throats and expecting regurgitation come test time.  By doing so, it has been found that the content is not actually learned, for when the student “vomits” the materials up on test day, the knowledge leaves the student as well. The classroom, in many scenarios, has become a monarchy in which the instructor’s knowledge overpowers the thoughts of everyone else, regardless of their quality. Instead of being talked at, it has been shown to be much more effective to be talked to in such a way that true conversation occurs.  Freire cites the importance of inventing and reinventing one’s beliefs, along with expressing one’s freedom, which I believe to be strongly contradictory with the banking concept of education. Without the freedom to express one’s own views and to have true dialogue, the margin for self-improvement and growth shrinks significantly.

In Roksa and Arum’s “Life After College,” they report that in 2010, college graduates faced an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, the highest rate on record, and just one of the many challenges faced by young people.  When evaluating the 925 graduates who were a part of their study of how effectively college graduates transition into adult life, they found that academic engagement and growth during college was a significant factor in the future success of the young graduates. In addition to studying students’ academic engagement, the researchers used the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), which evaluates complex reasoning, critical thinking, and writing skills. Ultimately, the study revealed that those students who exhibited substantial levels of intellectual commitment, active participation, and progression throughout their time in college were those who adjusted into the real world in a much steadier fashion (Roksa and Arum, Par. 11).



These results further support the idea that the education system most commonly used is not necessarily the best option. Due to the organization of class materials and how they are taught, it has become significantly harder to comprehend the information being fed to the pupils.  Although it may seem effective at a first glance, it is a shorthand effect that is masked by incorrectly portrayed test scores. While this has become a much more significant problem in schools all over, there are many approaches to fix this overlooked dilemma that the current, and future, generations of students are burdened by. To help prevent this group of aspiring young adults from wasting precious resources, colleges and universities could provide greater opportunities to ensure that the students’ presumed interest and dedication to a field aligns with the reality of that field. With such opportunities, students would be able to change course well before it is too late to begin the entire process again. There is a simple solution that could be presented for students interested in gaining first-hand knowledge, regardless of their field of study. I think of it as a “genius bar” of mentors: a central, online portal where all interested students can go to browse, make connections with alumni and other professionals in related fields, and expand horizons in order to gain experience and greater understanding in a hands-on fashion.



Yes, while there are already internship programs here at Hofstra, they are not all equal. For example, the communications and pre-med programs are known to provide an abundance of real-world opportunities for students who display interest. I spoke with a sophomore, Harvin Singh, who has some personal insight on the pre-med side of Hofstra’s internship opportunities. After graduating high school at the age of 17 in his home of India, Harvin attended the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, followed by two semesters at Fordham University, before finding himself here at Hofstra. Harvin, who has already achieved so much at the ripe age of 21, told me that he believes Hofstra offers loads of opportunities for students on a pre-med track.  “They have really good placement events every two months” (Singh). During his sophomore year after transferring to Hofstra, Harvin was offered two separate internships with Northwell Health System, both of which he now regrets turning down.  On the other end of the spectrum, there are students at Hofstra, myself included, who have been desperately looking for internships and other opportunities to gain field experience that seemingly do not exist for our fields of interest.




If my proposal was brought to fruition, it would not rely on school administration to deal with students seeking these outside internships; instead, the mentors who would be choosing to take interns under their wing. With this genius bar of mentors and professionals in the New York City region and beyond (think alumni in far-flung areas) who are willing to further expand the knowledge and experience of dedicated young individuals, many doors would be opened to an endless array of options.  In the genius bar, one would be able to search the database by using tags related to the field of pursuit. 


So, for instance, if I were utilizing the genius bar to find a mentor, and my goal was to become an FBI Special Agent, I would look for tags of FBI, Law, Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Cyber Security, National Security, and Fraud, among others.  This way, it would be easy to sort through different people and options without being overwhelmed by useless information.  Mentors would not necessarily need to be in close proximity to the school due to the ability to communicate via video chats and social networking sites.  A mentor and student could be in contact with one another throughout the course of the school year and then work together in the field of choice over the summer. With such a program, students could explore the actuality of the job they plan to pursue, while still having the option of changing their minds before they no longer have any reasonable choices left. Students would no longer have to concern themselves that their expectations may actually be misconceptions if they have the ability to find out the answers on their own.  Additionally, the university could set up regular opportunities for students and professors or alumni to connect outside of the classroom through round table discussions and auditing of classes. 



It is so important for students to learn in a positive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their opinions and are able to gain solid insight into their future if they take a particular path. Through real interactions and experiential learning, rather than simply hearing lectures from the front of a hall, students’ capacity to absorb material increases greatly, widening their margin for future success. There is also much value in making and sustaining outside connections, for they can be used down the road when looking for guidance, references, and employment. Another aspect of the genius bar would be exposure to listings of other opportunities that may not seem directly correlated with one’s interests, but could have a positive effect. For example, the genius bar could also offer connections with non-profit organizations, volunteer opportunities, groups that work with underserved children and families, and other indirect ways to gain exposure to the field of interest.



With greater opportunities for hands-on learning, students will be able to experience real-world situations in order to decide whether that field is or is not for them. By doing so while still in college, changing one’s mind does not necessarily have to put a damper on the student's education. The mentoring genius bar and lists of organizations that correspond with certain areas of study will be a great way to expose students to opportunities they may not have thought of, or have been able to attain otherwise. Hopefully, with the creation of this database, the issue of graduating college and transitioning into the real world only to discover your dislike toward your field will significantly decrease, creating a more effective education system for all those who are interested.





Works Cited


Arum, Richard, and Josipa Roksa. "Life after College: The Challenging Transitions of the Academically Adrift Cohort." Change Magazine. Taylor & Francis Group, n.d. Web.

Freire, Paulo. “The Banking Concept of Education” Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Singh, Harvin. Conversation. 12/13/16

Monday, January 9, 2017

Amethyst and Amnesty: Rethinking Drinking in the University by Benny Gottwald


In life, as it is in Greek myth, drunkenness is dangerous. This is common knowledge. That being said, convincing anyone who enjoys drinking to renounce alcohol on those terms alone would be a pointless endeavor. Most people understand the lethality of alcohol and choose to responsibly, sensibly imbibe. This understanding, however, doesn’t simply appear out of nowhere; it is learned.

Much of it is learned in college, where roughly half of all alcohol consumption is done by underage students (Stephenson). Going to parties and drinking is a popular weekend activity; one could argue it is a staple of college life. Despite the apparent danger and illegality of underage drinking, most of us do it anyway. This was also the case in Ancient Greece, and the Greeks had their own cultural way of warding off alcohol’s dangerous effects. Today, the most frightening part of drinking, for young people, is our limited experience. When incidents do occur, inexperienced party-goers are forced to learn their limits the hard way. Young drinkers, unknowing of their tolerance to alcohol, often place themselves in this situation while their peers panic and nervously contemplate what to do next.

Hofstra has a policy in place to ensure that next decision is wise. It’s called “medical amnesty.” It aims to “ensure that those individuals who require assistance for themselves or a friend who may have consumed excessive alcohol or drugs will turn to the appropriate personnel to seek emergency medical assistance without fear of reprisal for doing so” (Hofstra University). The policy’s greatest strength is not only about getting students the help they need; it is about dispelling the apprehension that most bystanders feel in the face of punishment. It morally transcends the law, prioritizing the health and safety of students instead. Every Hofstra student should be aware of this policy. Whether we choose to drink or not, realizing the benefits of medical amnesty guides us towards a greater understanding of our university’s perspective on drinking. Medical amnesty teaches us how to best navigate the culture of college partying, both as bystanders and as active participants. It defends us from the lethality of booze, and from our fear of punishment which far too often prevents us from calling for help.

The ancient Greeks had their own defense against drunkenness. The myth begins with the god of wine and revelry, Dionysus, who one day spots a beautiful young maiden walking by herself. In his drunkenness, the god decides to pursue her, intending to use his heavenly wine to ease her into his company. Little did he know, however, that the young girl was walking to pray at the temple of Artemis, Greek goddess of chastity. Seeing Dionysus approach, the girl prayed to her goddess, begging for her help to remain chaste. In response, Artemis swiftly transformed the maiden into a white crystal, protecting her. In awe of the girl’s chastity, and as a tribute to Artemis, Dionysus poured his ambrosial wine over the white crystal, turning it to a deep purple. The maiden’s name was Amethyst, and the precious purple gem draws its name from her. Ancient Greeks were fond of amethyst; they crazily believed the stone could protect them from drunkenness. Amethysts were carried by party-goers and goblets were often embezzled with the gorgeous stones in the hopes that they might shield their owner from a long night of vomiting.

While modern science can disprove the amethyst as an antidote to drunkenness, it cannot dispel its sentiment. Those who enjoy drinking, should they go too far, need a system in place that better guarantees their safety and, if necessary, offers them a much-needed learning opportunity. Medical Amnesty is that system, and Hofstra’s Department of Public Safety officers are the gems which guarantee its effectiveness. Author Jade Chu, in her piece “Public Safety Saves Lives,” writes, “Even though we have a strict rule with no alcohol on campus, Public Safety will never get you in trouble for something like this, or tell your parents. Their job is to make sure that you get the help you need” (Chu). Public safety officers are firm but friendly, even in situations that call upon medical amnesty. When we truly understand the everyday goal of Public Safety officers—to ensure the safety of all students—our urge to fear them disappears.

I experienced this phenomenon firsthand one night in late September, when a good friend of mine drank more than he could handle and had become terribly sick. Sitting next to him on the curb outside our residence hall, I tried my best to reassure him that he was going to be alright. My efforts alone were not enough to quiet his mind, which was no doubt scared and disillusioned. When he finally tilted his head up from the ground, he looked at me and said “I wouldn’t blame you for calling Public Safety.” I did as he said, and an officer was quick to arrive. He was comforting to my friend, who anxiously asked if he would get in trouble for his situation. The officer kindly replied, “Nobody’s in trouble here. Don’t worry.” As we sat waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I asked him, “So, do you get these kinds of calls often?” He snickered. “All the time,” he said. “It’s what we do.” That night I discovered how hugely influential a simple change of attitude can be, and how brave students can become as soon as their fear of punishment is lifted.

Several weeks later, in my interview with Bob McDonald, I discovered that every member of the Public Safety staff is as benevolent as the officer I had met that September night. I had the opportunity of talking with Mr. McDonald, Associate Director of Public Safety, about medical amnesty and Public Safety’s practice of it. “There’s been a change,” he told me, “not so much of attitude, but of services.” His enlightening explanation of the department’s role, in handling alcohol or drug related incidents, described Public Safety as a “conduit.” Public Safety officers are the first responders to any incident, of course, but they are also the effective conduits through which distressed students receive the services and care they need. “If you see it, call it.” He continued, “You don’t have to worry about repercussions. I think students do want to help other students, and the fact that there is amnesty means there’s no stigma attached to it” (McDonald). Public Safety, and the medical amnesty policy, make the safety of students their top priority, and it sends a positive, progressive message.

This approach—alleviating risk of punishment in return for the safety of students—was not originally Hofstra’s idea. While this university has gracefully implemented the policy, medical amnesty has been on the minds of university presidents ever since 2008, when John McCardell had an idea. As the President Emeritus of Middlebury College, McCardell was preparing to speak at a meeting of the Annapolis Group, comprised of 120 college and university presidents, when he and several of his colleagues from within the group sparked a debate surrounding the effects of the current drinking age. Their conversation was centered around the “culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’—often conducted off-campus” and recognized that “alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students” (Amethyst Initiative).

McCardell’s conversation expanded in size as his colleagues within the Annapolis Group began gravitating towards his idea of rethinking university attitudes towards drinking. Instead of vehemently enforcing the current law so frequently circumvented by students (at off-campus parties or with fake ID’s), McCardell’s idea was to reexamine the traditional disciplinary approach to college drinking. His movement became known as The Amethyst Initiative, and fellow presidents who participated in the discussion became its signatories. Today the initiative has 136 signatories, and while Hofstra is not yet on the list, it certainly echoes the sentiments of the Amethyst Initiative in its attitude towards alcohol. The morals that underpin these policies and conversations indicate huge progress on the part of colleges and universities. Today the topic of conversation is less often about the law, and more often about the safety of all students.

As university students ourselves, it’s important that we listen in on these conversations as best we can; the decisions vested in our university’s administration determine our freedom and our safety. The ancient Greeks had no method for testing their defense against drunkenness; their cultural explanation for its importance, the story of Dionysus and Amethyst, was a strong enough basis for their belief in the purple stone’s powers. As college students in the 21st century, we should take a valuable lesson from the drinking culture of ancient Greece: strengthening our belief in the things that protect us will only make us safer. Let’s create a culture that reveres Public Safety officers as the guardians they are, and let’s share our stories of their kindness and dedication. They have been there for us in our time of need, and they have fostered experiences that only help us grow. If we can boast that “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” we can also admit that learning to live without danger is wisdom stronger than strength itself.


Works Cited
Amethyst Initiative. "Statement." The Amethyst Initiative. Choose Responsibility, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.
Braid, Fara. "History and Legend of Amethyst." International Gem Society. IGS, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
Chu, Jade. "Public Safety Saves Lives: The Essential University Service." Taking Giant Steps. Giant Steps Press, 14 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Hofstra University. "Policy on Alcohol, Illegal, and Other Controlled Substances." Community Standards. Hofstra University, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.
McDonald, Robert K. Personal interview. 07 Nov. 2016.
Stephenson, Steve. "Prevalence of Underage Drinking." Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. JH Bloomberg School of Public Health, July 2011. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Crystal Gayle Is Candy Land: Sweet Inspiration at the Writing Center by Elaanie Jackson


Author Elaanie Jackson

Some in the college game never know how to “use the tools in their toolbox” (KP). When it comes to freshmen especially, it seems they are not always aware of the many blessings and opportunities bestowed upon them. I know this because I am one of those freshmen. Although there are so many services provided at Hofstra, all helpful in one way or another, one all too misunderstood and overlooked by me had been the Writing Center. I would not have gone had it not been required, yet I found out that this is the place to be. It became my go-to zone to discuss topical ideas and develop persuasion strategies, not just in any single essay but in how I approach writing as a whole.

Seeing how my first impression was a bit of a burn, one would think I would list all the reasons one’s feet should never touch the Writing Center floor, but first impressions are like heating up a bag of popcorn. Sometimes one puts the bag in the microwave and gets perfect popcorn back. At other times, one puts that popcorn in for too long or too short and it comes out burned or unpopped. This was true of my first ever experience with the Writing Center, that is, I managed to both burn some popcorn while other kernels remained unpopped. Although I brought an essay I had already written, I had not really considered its strengths or weaknesses nor in what ways it wasn’t what I really wanted to say. Not knowing what I wanted set the stage for an unproductive session, a distracted tutor and my own disgruntled mood. However, word spread in class the next day about a certain tutor at the Writing Center who was really manifesting the heart of the service and who could “help you connect your writing voice with your actual voice” (Seay). Since this is my goal in writing, I made an appointment with this tutor, and this time I had a most life-changing experience.

Crystal "Candy" Gayle

Every kernel popped and not a single one burned when I sat down with Crystal Gayle! For openers, she was so intrigued with what I brought to the essay. While talking at length about the strengths my draft already possessed and then analyzing specifics that could improve it even more, the hour flew right by. It was a complete three-sixty from my first encounter. It turns out that who she is and what she represents has helped me turn in to who I am at my best as a writer and as a human being. Adopting the nickname “Candy” from her sister, Crystal comes straight from one of New York City’s finest boroughs: Brooklyn. She has so many different sides to her that greatly contribute to the amazing woman she is today: a driven, passionate, dedicated, sweet but tough cookie. Daughter to an immigrant mother, she understands what it means to be fearless. “That’s me: throw anything at me and I’ll survive” (Gayle). When interviewing her, I thought of the line from The Way of the Sword: “True strength is keeping everything together when everyone expects you to fall apart” (Bradford). Crystal is the definition of keeping it together. From John Jay College of Criminal Justice for her Bachelors in Political Science, to Queens College for her Masters, to right here at Hofstra University for her Juris Doctorate, she has pushed through any and all obstacles. She told me, “I’ve always been about law. Everything I’ve done, all of the schooling, it’s all just a means to an end” (Gayle). Her passion to help others adds something truly amazing to the Writing Center that is its real heart: someone whose only game is to get others to be the best player they can be.

That’s when I realized Crystal’s middle name ought to be clear as in Crystal Clear. The range of knowledge she has gained from life as well as her three degrees really helps a young writer like myself when siting face-to-face with her. Her intelligence not only reassures; she brings focus, candor, confidence, empathy, advocacy. She told me, “I want people to come and relax and not be scared. I’m in school, I know the game” (Gayle). Students do not do well when ruled by the fear of the written assignment, and one symptom of this fear is to treat the Writing Center as a grammar correction service. Crystal said, “Students are conditioned into thinking that their only problem is grammar when that isn’t the only thing” (Gayle). Fortunately, for the misinformed Crystal’s Socratic method can help students see the larger picture by first owning their own voice and their own ideas. Her client-centered approach is true skillful means; she doesn’t give me the answer to my problem so much as challenge me into solving it with her help. According to my peer in class, “Crystal is very sweet, and made me feel comfortable. She genuinely wants to help and proved to be supportive in helping me brainstorm ways to journal on the blog posts” (Boretsky). The epitome of a service provider, “Candy” exemplifies why one should give the Writing Center a chance.

On subsequent visits there, I discovered that her colleagues share the same end goal: to help us achieve maximum success. My own increased empowerment as a writer has caused me to stop being afraid to use the services one’s “pay-rents” (KP) are putting their money towards. It is ludicrous to have so many advantages and go all four years without employing a single one. I also realized that it is up to me to direct the tutoring session, to seek out the tutors who can help me the most and to not fold up my tent at the first sign of discouragement. One might have a bad experience today and a remarkable one tomorrow. First impressions are a lot, but it is salient for one to remember that things may at times go wrong. Often wrong is merely the prelude to the kind of metamorphic session that Crystal offered me for she opened my eyes to a whole new world of composing an essay. The Writing Center is the place where words and ideas become a picture, and where pictures become a thousand words. If one never explores the opportunities one possesses, one will never fully know or better oneself. Like Crystal, I am prepared to take a chance, live on the edge and try something I would never have thought to do before. Now, when approaching professionals for help---whether a professor, tutor or administrator---I ask: What kind of Candy are we talking about?




Works Cited

Borestsky, Monica, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)
Bradford, Chris, The Way of the Sword, (August 7, 2008)
Gayle, Crystal, WC Interview, (October 31, 2016)
Gordon, Kirpal, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)
Seay, Charlotte, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)