Colleen Whiting

Colleen is a junior intern and Political Science major at DePauw from Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Super Bowl happened last month, but the media still has not quieted down over Beyoncé’s half time performance, particularly the debut of her new song, “Formation.” For those who haven’t seen the music video or her Super Bowl performance, it is unlike anything the singer has done to date. It was culturally provocative, emotional, highly stimulating and an reminder of where Beyoncé came from. From Beyonce on top of a sinking police car in what seems to be New Orleans to her riding around in an old convertable with her hair in braids, the images leave little doubt in the viewers mind that Beyonce is black.

In the music video, released a day before her Super Bowl performance, Beyonce takes on all African-American stereotypes and does so in her own way. Beyoncé and Jay- Z, her husband, have been publicly quiet on the racial conflicts of the past few years, including the Black Lives Matter movement. But the couple has taken a more public role in racial dialogues. Beyonce’s “Formation” in combination with Jay-Z’s business Tidal donating $1.5 million to the Black Lives Matter program makes their position on these issues fairly clear.

Original Artwork by Kathryn Ryan

When you arrive on DePauw’s campus, or any college campus for that matter, it is assumed that within your next three summers, an internship will occur. Usually students utilize internships to break into an industry they want to pursue post-graduation or to test the waters to see if they like that type of work. But it appears that our work culture mandates that in order to be successful later in life, students must work as interns, even if that means that you work for free or for very little money.

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“A Ride in the Pope Mobile” by Raffele Esposito is licensed under CC BY­NC­SA 2.0 (via Flickr)Learn More

Since the issue rose to prominence, the Catholic Church has deemed abortions immoral and worthy of instant excommunication. For those non-Catholics, excommunication is getting kicked out of the Catholic Church and barred from re-joining unless a bishop lifts the excommunication. Excommunication usually occurs after committing a grave sin, so in the case of abortion, the murder of an unborn.

Pope Francis, the current pontiff of the Catholic Church, announced on Tuesday that as part of his “year of mercy”, he is granting all local priests the ability to lift the excommunications placed on women who for one reason or another got an abortion.  In his letter he said, “absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

This immense decision holds a lot of ethical implications for old-school Catholics as well as a newer generation of Catholics. For many people of my grandparents’ generation, abortion is not something that should be 1) talked about or 2) done at all under any circumstances.  Yet for people in Generation Y, abortion is discussed less as an ethical issue and more of an issue of ownership over your own body.

Regardless of my personal beliefs about the topic of abortion, I applaud Pope Francis for making the Catholic Church less harsh and judgmental. The Catholic Church has not always been a champion of inclusion. With strong beliefs on many “hot topics” these days like gay rights, abortion and divorce, people are turned off from Catholicism. But is a church’s job to try and include everyone? Isn’t that why we have millions of different faiths today? Do people have a problem with the Catholic Church’s views because of its long history or because of its strong views?

My preferred version of the Catholic Church is one where kindness and acceptance are stronger than those of judgment and strict adherence to the rules.

Scotland by Moyan Brenn CC BY 2.0

Four and half months ago, I left Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America for the bonnie land of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. With only eight weeks of my semester long adventure left, I can say that I did not expect to run into any ethical dilemmas while abroad. Yet being in another country has forced me to encounter more than I did back home.

At the Eiffel Tower, London Eye, or the Opera House in Vienna, you are expected to act like a tourist. Taking photos, oohing and ahhing, talking loudly, and blatantly acting like a tourist are not abnormal behaviors to locals because they are facilitating your tourist experience. But when you are in a small restaurant in Prague, is it disrespectful to do the same? As a tourist, should you change behavior based on your situation? Is ethical tourism even a possibility and what does it look like? One of the things that I struggle with is how to be respectful of other cultures while trying to experience them in a short amount of time. This internal battle between wanting to take my photos and then not wanting to offend those who live there has marked my traveling.

Another stamp of my travels is the amount of other tourists who seem not to care about the local culture in the least. From chanting “USA” in a Dublin bar to singing loudly on a tour bus with 35 other people on it, I have been shocked by how little concern some tourists show for the people around them. I love my country, I love my hometown, and I love my school; but I did not go abroad to talk about that love across the pond. Instead, I went abroad to learn something new about myself in a different place and to try and grow. This is not to say that I am not a tourist, but its hard to embrace a culture and truly immerse yourself it in when you are just there to snapchat or pose in front of a monument. Traveling should be about discovering parts of your soul in another place and setting, not how many likes you can get on an Instagram. As a 21 year old, its pretty hard to not care about social media, but making a conscious effort to take in the culture has given me more happiness than hitting 200 likes has. I wonder if travelling ethically means we have to give up a little part of who we were back home in order to fully participate in the present.

Being abroad has made me miss Greencastle, Indiana more than anyone should ever miss a small Indiana town, but I have loved every minute of this journey. They say that adventure is good for the soul, and I would have to agree. But adventuring for a couple days at a time does present the dilemma of how to do so respectfully. From the people in my program to the trips that I have been on, cross-culture communication has become a part of my daily life. The ideas of cross-culture communication and cultural sensitivity expand beyond my abroad experience and those experiences of the other DePauw University students abroad this semester. International communities exist both in governments, like the UN, or in industries, like NATO or OPEC. Cultural sensitivity and figuring out how to communicate across boundaries should be at the core of these organizations, and yet, that is not exactly what we see in practice. How does that change? Or should it change? How can individuals and communities work on interacting with each other in a more respectful manner? Does this topic even matter?

The West-Wednesday-Ferguson Protest by SocialJusticeSeeker812 (CC BY 2.0)

As the Ferguson trial unfolded these past few weeks, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what the great men who built our country foresaw. When they wrote the Constitution, edited the Bill of Rights and boldly sent out the Declaration of Independence, their world was much different from ours. Many of them believed in the benefit of slavery, didn’t see women as strong-minded individuals and they had to live by candlelight. Although these men lived in a different time period, I would like to believe that their core values of liberty, individual rights, and equality would lead them to embrace the societal changes in the 21st century. So as racism climbs back into the spotlight as a national issue, it makes me think:  How would they want us as Americans to process this trial?

Ferguson brings to light some of the ugly aspects of our judicial system. How juries and courts can make decisions that seem crazy to many Americans, how racism can sometimes unfortunately play a role in those decisions and how a family’s loss can be used as a dinner table topic at Thanksgiving are all things that this trial has made newsworthy. As ugly as this trial was, it has also been beautiful. For me, the Ferguson story has told me that people still care about one another, regardless of race, and that America is not perfect nor will she ever be. We are not a utopia, we are not flowing with milk and honey like the Promised Land; instead, we are changing and actively attempting to be better.  I am thankful for a country where change is okay and citizens have the right to express their displeasure with the government or the judicial system.

When thinking about Ferguson and its impact, I think it’s a good reflective moment for our campus. How can we change in light of the loss of a life? How can DePauw, as a microcosm of the real world, reflect the changes that we want to see in America?  Can we have meaningful discussions about these topics? Our campus is changing and that means something different for every individual. While it’s easy to get swept away in the drama and excitement of Ferguson, I challenge DePauw students to internally think about what this trial means to them and for other students to be okay with the idea that these meanings might differ.  Maybe take the time to intentionally listen to another’s story and instead of judging them for not understanding your point of view, be willing to accept that individual experiences cannot be right or wrong.  Although our student body is diverse in many ways, we all call Greencastle, Indiana home for nine months of the year, we all get late night food from the Hub sometimes, we all spend long nights in Julian or Roy writing papers or studying for tests and we all sometimes get awestruck by how pretty East College is when lit up at night. It is these small everyday similarities that unite our campus and what we should focus on illuminating in discussions.

What happens when the "yaks" get personal?

Image Credit: YikYakApp.Com

By now, every DePauw student has heard of the mobile app Yik Yak, a social media app that lets users post anonymous thoughts and they can only see the “yaks” posted within their area. It was created at a small liberal arts school much like DePauw, with a student population much like DePauw’s, by two college students who wanted a way for students to connect.

I agree that Yik Yak provides a space for students to say things that they wouldn’t normally. Sometimes those things are funny. But are we trading hilarity for bullying? Yik Yak gives bullies the agency to hide behind their iPhone screens. Some of these yaks posted on the DePauw feed are mean, vulgar, pointed and (most of the time) untrue. Some of these “yaks” are funny even though they are mean. Most of them are not meant in a truly malicious way, but how are we supposed to cultivate a campus climate of acceptance and accountability. Granted the only truly criminal activity that has occurred on the DePauw Yik Yak is the theft of the Longden Hall sign, but my concerns about this social media app reach far beyond the boundaries of East College. How are we as a society supposed to tell children not to bully when we do it ourselves? It might be different because it’s behind a screen, but words hurt deeper than any action can. Personally, I have seen the effects of bullying at my own high school and it’s scary.

Can we as a campus feel okay letting stereotypes and hurtful jokes become the norm and allow the perpetrators to be anonymous? Most of Yik Yak is funny but what about those few “yaks” that aren’t?

Saltire by Stephengg- [CC-BY-2.0]

Today, Scotland has a monumental decision to make: stay a part of Great Britain or break away and become its own sovereign country. Since last winter, both the Scottish and British Parliament have discussed this historical referendum that would end a relationship spanning 307 years. Besides the idea that there could be a new country in less than 24 hours, the push for Scottish independence reveals a deep cleavage in Great Britain that I believe reflects a global divide. The Scottish people got tired of watching the privileged few in power make decisions that did not benefit them; but, instead of complaining about it, they acted. If Scotland, a relatively peaceful country, feels oppressed by its government, how many other people feel that way about their government? Problems with governments differ throughout the world but they all have roots in the idea that the people in power will deliver political goods. Will the Scottish referendum spark a push for independence or regime change in other European countries? Will we see a similar phenomenon like the Arab Spring but in Western countries, specifically Ireland and Wales?

Neil Irwin from the New York Times says, “Power is not a right; it is a responsibility” and I whole-heartedly agree. Since 2010, the British Parliament has been making decisions that do not align with Scottish views such as expanded welfare programs and green energy. Four years of political decisions spurred the referendum, which would give Scotland sovereignty, but what else would it give Scotland? Scotland would receive the burden of figuring out how to sustain an economy, for one, as well as the burden of untangling 307 years of shared history and identity. Has the reign of the political elites ended in Great Britain? Does this mean that Wales and Ireland will break away next? What does this mean for the pound or the military for that matter? What will businesses do–stay in Scotland or flee to England and vice versa? Is oil a stable enough commodity to build the Scottish economy off of? Will Great Britain leave the EU because of this? Irwin closes his piece saying, “And so the results will ripple through world capitals from Athens to Washington: People don’t think the way things are going is good enough, and votes are getting angry enough to want to do something about it”. But are things so bad for Scotland that they will risk the political insecurity of forming their own country?

Today, Former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife of 38 year, Maureen, were convicted of 14 counts of conspiracy, bribery, extortion and other related charges that point to a scheme to sell the Governor of Virginia’s office which McDonnell held up until January of this year. Evidence shows that the McDonnell’s accepted over $177,000 in gifts and cash from dietary supplement executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr. A key part of contention for the defendant and the prosecutor was whether or not the McDonnell’s took these gifts with the intent of selling the office. According to Virginia ethics law, they were not prohibited from taking $120,000 in undocumented loans or the gifts like Armani dresses, Rolex watches or a check to pay for their daughter’s wedding.  This raises an interesting point in my eyes: why isn’t this illegal? Is it because the money was not used for anything state related?  Ethics laws should be in place to punish those who abuse their power- so why do they not apply in the McDonnell case?

Despite these charges, McDonnell argues that he gave Mr. Williams “the bare, basic, routine access to government and nothing more” (Gabriel 2).  Evidence shows that the McDonnell’s used Mr. Williams as a personal bank; they would borrow money whenever they needed too. Is this ethically sound? I wonder if Bob and Maureen McDonnell had been ordinary citizens who borrowed money and accepted gifts from a friend if 14 charges against them would still exist. This is not the first political scandal of the year; “Bridge gate” concerning Chris Christie occurred in late January and made American question his moral character as well. Does the American public deserve to demand a higher moral character from our elected officials?  Or should we allow them to slip up morally sometimes?

Find the full article concerning Former Gov. Bob McDonnell here.