LSAT Fails to Assess Students’ True Abilities: Emphasis on Unnecessary Skills Holds Students Back

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


A hand holding a gavel over a table.
The LSAT does not accurately test the necessary skills for law school and the professional field. Photo courtesy of Brianna Coletti ’21/The Cowl.

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

All Tasmanian Wombats are endowed with an abnormally productive pituitary gland, reliant on a hyperactive mitochondrial orchestration involving myriad proteins… What is the “main idea” of this passage?

Sifting through such gibberish at one’s rickety library desk, the hour is far closer to sunrise than sunset. This is a typical night of Law School Admission Test (LSAT) studying, scrambling for those few, precious points that determine where I can attend law school.

Hours of arranging six stray cats into acceptable sequences, ensuring Daisy doesn’t have to suffer the indignity of sitting next to Sue! Evenings spent deciphering the “main idea” of a riveting account on nematodes’ central nervous systems, or what “necessary assumption” the author’s case depends on.

As Providence College’s seniors race to pad their law school applications, pouring time and money into the LSAT, it is important to consider the questions: is this time well spent? Are you reinforcing skills essential to success in law school, and is the test sorting you into a school that matches your ability?

“Of course,” claimed the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), administers of the test. Dividing a dozen daffodils into three pots is vital for one’s success as a lawyer, as these logic games demonstrate one’s “analytical reasoning.”

A gifted logic gamer both understands the nuances in complex rules and can make “deductions on this information,” just as lawyers do daily with byzantine legal codes.

Similarly, a candidate’s law school success depends on becoming masters of the test’s “Logical Reasoning” and “Reading Comprehension” sections.

Contrary to the LSAC’s grand assertions, their LSAT is not a useful determinant for success in law school. Rather, it is merely a bizarre, arbitrary hurdle for applicants to overcome, siphoning time away from activities that really do bolster legal skills.

According to research published in the Social Science Research Network, the LSAT is an “overvalued predictor” of success, urging that it “predicts more weakly” than one’s undergraduate GPA, “college quality,” “work experience,” and a candidate’s major.

Shockingly, four hours on a Saturday is not as predictive as the four years’ worth of hard work that goes into your college GPA. All of the nights spent cramming for exams, struggling to master elaborate texts, and constructing argumentative papers infuse students with critical reasoning skills.

In fact, a student with a high GPA and low LSAT score is more likely to succeed than one with outstanding LSAT scores and a miserable GPA.

Making matters worse, conquering this “overvalued predictor” is both time-consuming and expensive, according to secondary education expert Caroline Kitchener of the Atlantic.

Since the exam’s “Logic Games” section tests “a completely new set of skills” from undergraduate coursework, it is near impossible to learn skimming through a cheap prep-book.

Faced with a test that amounts to 50 percent of one’s application, aspiring lawyers spend an average of $950 to $1,600 on an 80 hour LSAT prep class, with some shelling out an additional $150 an hour for a tutor.

Moreover, many students confessed to Kitchener that the LSAT forced them to quit jobs, desperate for time to learn the exam’s Sodoku-esque puzzles.

For those struggling to make ends meet, this immense cost can be an insurmountable barrier, crippling their chances of attending law school. Why should bright, yet cash-strapped, applicants have to decide between sorting imaginary puppies and earning money for rent?

Aiming to fill their halls with capable law students, law schools should encourage students to focus on work that does improve skills.

Reward students for the hours spent in the library, grinding out papers, and prepping for exams. Prize the applicant who rose the ranks of student government, ran a club, or scored an internship downtown. Not the one who can quickly put seven puppies in order.

Break the Cycle of Addiction: Learn to Live Without Your Phone

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


People holding their phones.
Excessive phone usage takes a toll on our social interactions. Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/The Cowl.

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

Walking around campus, students’ heads are down with their eyes glued to screens, and  accidentally running into other students on the way to class is all too common. Calls to family members disrupt the peace of the quiet zone in the library. It is clear that our phones have become an integral part of our daily routines, but at what point do they begin to damage our health?

Millions of Americans struggle to escape the addictive pull of their phones. 2,167 times a day, Americans glance down at their smartphones, and 46 percent feel “they couldn’t live without” their devices, according to the Washington Post.

After “30 seconds without stimulation,” said Andrew Martin to the Chicago Tribune, “[I] have this twitch to reach for my cellphone,” feeling the effects of what researchers call “cell phone withdrawal.”

A 2016 Common Sense Media poll discovered that over 50 percent of the nation’s youth feels addicted, with a quarter claiming they use their device “almost constantly.”

However, cell phone addiction is not a mere distraction. Rather, it bears a grave mental health cost. Anxiety, apathy, and depression are all ugly marks of addiction’s emotional toll.

As tempting as it is to pick up your ringing iPhone, it will damage your well-being. Limit screen time, decline disruptive push button notifications, and let the call go to voicemail.

In the years following the the launch of the iPhone, psychologists like Jeane Ranke have warned the Atlantic that smartphones are only contributing to already skyrocketing depression rates, calling it the “the worst mental health crisis in decades.”

Since 2010, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “severe depression” rates among teenage girls have risen by 58 percent, with suicide rates also rising by a troubling 65 percent. Similar research highlights an all-time high in feelings of loneliness.

Research reported in the Atlantic demonstrates a direct correlation between cell phone use and depression rates.

Out of all eighth graders in the U.S., the highest users are 56 percent more likely to feel blue than non-users, and are 27 percent more likely to develop clinical depression. Amongst the nation’s college students, studies find that Facebook users become sadder the longer they are logged on.

Furthermore, these studies find a correlation between usage and suicide. If one uses a cell phone more than three hours a day, they are 35 percent more likely to develop a “suicide plan.”

Even worse, 48 percent of five hour-a-day or more users have harbored suicidal thoughts, whereas only 28 percent of one hour-a-day users suffered similar thoughts.

Smartphones also siphon users’ attention away from daily chores and activities. Excessive phone use further distracts struggling users from potential relief in friendships, hobbies, dating, jobs, and more.

Focusing on the particularly addicted group of young adults, Ranke’s studies show the time-drain is quantifiable.

The average time spent hanging out with friends has slipped from two hours to one hour in less than a decade, coupled with a staggering 40 percent drop in the amount of teens who spend time with friends daily since 2000.

While it is impossible to definitively prove that cell phones are causing these frightening mental health outcomes, the evidence of a correlation is tangible. Americans’ mental health has steadily worsened since smartphones first came to the shelves, hefting a heavy emotional toll onto citizens’ shoulders.

Avoiding this emotional toll is a matter of lowering the risk of addiction and learning to spend time without your phone by your side.

Tangents and Tirades

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon last Monday. Photo courtesy of Charles Krupa/AP Images.

Technology Allows Socialization

Walking around campus between classes, you can often see a sea of students, heads down, staring at the lighted screens of their smartphones. Images like this are often used in newspapers and magazines to bemoan the disconnectedness of life in the Internet age. Writers often lament the way that young people are constantly on their phones instead of speaking to the people around them.

But what you cannot see when you look at this scene is all of the socializing that people are actually doing through technology.

The world has never been more open or accessible than it is right now.  It can be just as easy to talk to a person halfway across the globe as it is to talk to somebody in the building next to you. As someone who went abroad and made friends in different countries, being able to have a normal conversation on an instant messaging platform instead of waiting weeks and weeks to exchange physical letters is an amazing thing.

It is true that there definitely are ways to mindlessly waste time on your phone,  but there were plenty of ways to do that before the advent of technology as well.

While that person staring at their phone or computer screen might not be talking to the stranger sitting next to them, they could be engaged in just as meaningful a conversation with someone on the other side of that screen.

-Taylor Godfrey ’19

 

Bathroom Buddy Storms Boston Marathon

While spectators and runners alike were taken aback by the horrendous weather conditions of this Monday’s 122nd running of the Boston Marathon, what was even more surprising was the sportsmanship and teamwork displayed by one elite American runner.

Over an hour into the race, 34-year- old Desiree Linden made the surprising decision to wait and be the essential bathroom buddy to American teammate Shalane Flanagan, after Flanagan abruptly stopped to use a port-a-potty.

While the two runners had been seen communicating throughout the early miles of the race, this bold choice to stop running and join her teammate embodied the kind of sportsmanship and teamwork that typifies the spirit of the Boston Marathon. Even though Linden had told news reporters she chose to wait, believing she too would soon fall back in the race, she provided invaluable support to Flanagan, helping her catch up to the lead pack.

The support and dedication Linden demonstrated to her teammate and to the sport of running ultimately allowed her to push forward in the race, becoming the first American woman in 33 years to win the marathon.

The magnitude of this kind of feat should not be understated. With 25 of the leading elite male and female runners not able to finish this year’s race, Linden sustained extreme mental and physical toughness in the face of unpredictable conditions throughout the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston. Yet beyond this toughness, Linden’s choice to fulfill the role of bathroom buddy to Flanagan exemplified the importance of teamwork and solidarity that lies at the heart of the Boston Marathon.

-Sarah Kelley ’18

 

Teach-In: Great Event, Terrible Name

Glancing at the rows of white-clothed tables in ’64 Hall, students were noticeably absent from the “Teach-in” on April 9. Aiming for a young crowd filled with open minds and differing perspectives, the organizers instead received scores of middle-aged faculty, all agreeing and nodding their heads to one platitude after another.

If event organizers want a serious discussion infused with a true diversity of opinions, the event’s name needs to change. Not only does the name “Teach-in” confuse what the event actually entails, the word “teach” frightens those skeptical that the event is truly a discussion. Billed as a true dialogue, perhaps more than a spattering of perspectives will enlighten discussion, allowing a fundamentally good idea to reach its full potential.

Knowing nothing besides the name of the event, I had no idea what to expect filing into ’64 Hall. Fixating on the word “teach,” I assumed an hour of lectures lay in front of me, with the thought never crossing my mind that I would have to say a word. Yet the actual event format was the total opposite of what the poor marketing implies. It truly was a free-wielding discussion, serving as a venue for people to speak their minds and have assumptions challenged. While the largely uniform audience suffered from monotony, the potential exists! Why not bill the event as what it is: a discussion?

Similarly, if the goal of the event is to welcome new voices into a cloistered discussion, selling it as a “teaching” event deters those skeptical of social justice. In fact, it plays into the opposition’s fears, as paranoia distorts the word “teach” into “indoctrinate.” Cognizant of skepticism across the political spectrum, event organizers should assuage these fears, not pour gasoline on the fire.

-Nicholas Moran ’19

Space Crunch: PC Needs More Study Spaces

by The Cowl Editor


Campus


Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/The Cowl

 

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

Reading on a leather chair in front of a crackling fire, no study-spot on campus trumps the Fiondella Great Room. Far from the crowded echo-chamber that is Phillip’s Memorial Library, the Great Room is dead silent and comfortably furnished. One time, when the library closed, security office let students stay until the early morning hours.

Unfortunately, school events in rooms like the Great Room force studiers out of their favorite campus spot, with few alternatives. Now, I waste precious time wandering through the library’s back halls, trying to find one last open desk. Echoes blare over the library bookshelves, distracting studiers in the “Quiet Zone” with sounds of chatting, cell phone  ring-tones, and unmentionable ongoings in the bathroom. Paying attention in the chaos of college dorms is near impossible, as is trying to drown out the never-ending John Hughes soundtrack blaring from Slavin’s speakers.

Trapped in a rickety desk in the library’s back halls, students need more alternative study spaces. Far from the “shared usage” space that administration claims, rooms like the Great Room have devolved into pure event halls, with only sporadic time for students. Of course, as professors host visitors to our campus, groups need spacious and presentable spaces to hold events, but it should not be at the expense of displaced students. When faced with a space crunch, Providence College should provide alternative study spots for its students.

Representatives from the Office of College Events, 25 Live Central Reservations, and Student Activities have noticed a rise in requests for event space in recent years. With more events competing for the same amount of space, the administration claims to have taken steps to preserve study time for students in event areas. However, it has become clear that these measures are hollow, unenforceable, and simply rhetoric.

For instance, the administration claims to reserve the Great Room for academic events and year-ending club events, forcing clubs and student organizations to use other rooms for weekly meetings. Yet this has done nothing to free time for studiers.

Daily, the room is filled with events that force out studiers, regardless of the fact that they are “academic events” rather than club meetings. In fact, administration admits that small club events occasionally commandeer the space without formal approval, further muddying the reservation issue.

Similarly, administration claims to reserve study time in the Great Room and Moore lounges, yet these reservations’ terms render them toothless. According to the administration, it would be “too strong” to say that these reservations “forbid” events during these study times, rather, they “encourage” events to respect study hours. Yet if events are not forbidden during study hours, how can administration claim to set aside time for studiers in these “shared usage spaces?” Should studiers plug their ears in the Great Room’s corner, trying to drown out a lecturer’s talk on Stoic philosophy?

Fortunately, Student Congress members Ben Harper ’18 and Lexi Lima ’20 introduced “A Recommendation Regarding Study Space Reform” last December. This measure “recommended” that the Ruane and Aquinas Lounge, and the Great Room “cannot be reserved” for events after 8 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday. As admirable as the recommendation is, it remains just a recommendation, totally unenforceable. In fact, administration made it clear that this measure has not completed the “process for those recommendations to be considered and adopted campus wide.”

Additionally, the administration requires event holders to request their spaces to be cleaned and cleared immediately, allowing studiers and even classes to enjoy them afterward. All too often, these spaces are not cleaned properly after events, as rows of chairs, projectors, and aging food sometimes fill the Great Room. Overfilled with waste and plastic chairs, how are students supposed to use these “shared usage” spaces? Of course, students may enjoy the cheese platter that a speaking event forgot, but left overnight, ants also enjoy the provolone!

Furthermore, just as studiers struggle to find a comfortable spot, event planners also are faced with few options. As professor Dr. Colin Jaundrill of the history department noted, “there are only so many rooms on campus that can both accommodate a large audience and allow PC to put its best foot forward” with events. Spacious lecture halls and “other similarly-size spaces” fill up quickly, leaving the “welcoming” Great Room as one of the few options that “demonstrates a modicum of respect for our guests.”

Similarly, history professor Dr. Jennifer Illuzzi stated that the room was “not easy to get,” as event planners clamor to reserve “the nice… [Great Room] in the ‘signature’ building for the humanities.” In fact, with “quiet studiers” dominating the room in the morning and events at night, Illuzzi noted that the ‘round the clock use prevents people from using the space as “a collaborative… group space,” where professors can meet with students.

Faced with weeklong waitlists and an overflowed library, the College needs to provide more study spaces. As interesting speakers and enlightening events come to campus, studiers cannot be forgotten in the fray. No longer should students have to resort to a messy dorm room desk, or search the back halls of the library for one more desk. PC, place study hour limits with teeth, ensure that studiers can actually share these “shared usage” spots, and expand studying hours; your students’ GPAs will thank you.

Tangents and Tirades

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Under the Kardashian Spell

The Kardashian-Jenner family has managed to break the internet—again.

On Feb. 1, Kylie Jenner and rapper Travis Scott announced the birth of their first daughter, Stormi Webster, in an 11-minute-long YouTube video titled, “To Our Daughter.” But why do people care so much?

Maybe it is because Jenner’s pregnancy was never officially confirmed by the family, despite heavy media speculation.

Perhaps it is because people were able to see how loyal, supportive, and enthusiastic Travis Scott has been throughout Jenner’s pregnancy (how sweet, right?).

Or maybe it is because people are fascinated by Stormi’s name (“Stormi” with an “I,” not Stormy with a “Y”). Yet why do we care so much? They are just people, right?

Well, maybe people are so infatuated with the Kardashian-Jenner family because they just seem so unrealistic. Remember when Kim cried over losing her diamond earring and Kourtney had to remind her, “Kim, there’s people that are dying?”

But, still, so what?

While there’s no singular reason as to why the Kardashian-Jenners are so infatuating as a whole, you simply cannot deny the amount of power and influence they have on society.

Nevertheless, why do we care if Kylie Jenner had a baby or if Kim Kardashian was married for 72 days?

If anyone has figured out how to break the infectious Kardashian-Jenner spell, please explain.

-Katherine Torok ’20

 

No More Stressful Saturday Nights

Once sunlight begins to fade on a Saturday night, only a few pockets of light brighten up Phillips Memorial Library. Motion sensors begin to shut out the lights in empty areas, leaving lone light bulbs shining over the remaining students like stage-lights. Only the sound of clattering keyboards echoes through the library halls, as students race to finish papers before the dreaded midnight deadline.

Walking back to their dorms after writing a small paper, the irony begins to set in. Their Sunday and Monday nights are free, and they do not even have that class until Tuesday! Frustratingly, had the deadline been the start of class, they could have spread out the work over the three days. Saturday night could have been relaxing. Instead it was spent nervously racing to meet the deadline in the dimly lit library.

Exhausted from a week of lectures and readings, burnout is at its worst on Saturday. Eyeing a break from the workweek, weary students typing in the library are not doing their best work, nor will they feel recharged for the next week, as the workweek seemingly never ends. Yet by moving the deadline to class-time, rested students will have an energy boost and craft better assignments.

-Nicholas Moran ’19

 

Shaky Stage Set for PC Dancers

Dancing on elevated surfaces is great, but not in front of Providence College alumni, students, and families.

Friday’s Friarcon festivities offered guests some great food, a beer garden, live music, and a wonderful showcase of student performances.

A number of campus dance groups performed, including PC Step, Dance Company, Dance Club, Irish Step Club, and Motherland Dance.

Performing in and of itself can be nerve-wracking, but dancing on a semi-precarious mobile stage is particularly daunting. The first reason is because no matter how solid the structure, one cannot help but think that landing the first leap is going to result in mass destruction.

The nature of a raised platform is to have space underneath it, space for students in matching outfits to fall through and onto the floor.

Secondly, the stage might be sturdy, but it is still mobile. It is hard to suppress that creeping paranoia telling you that the whole situation is on wheels and going to roll out of control.

Thirdly, mobile stages are always smaller than you think they are. If choreography involves leaps and rolls, or, God forbid, aerial stunts, you are in trouble.

You will not be fully dancing the choreography, and if you are, you are doomed to trip over the speakers, fly off the stage, and land on the unsuspecting crowd below.

At least the Friarcon stage was one continuous platform; many events have featured stages made up of multiple smaller platforms questionably connected to one another.

The Friarcon stage was a step in the right direction, but an end to the small, shaky, raised platforms altogether would be best.

-Lela Biggus ’18

Are Video Games Really Just Games?

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


video game controller
photo courtesy of unsplash

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

As America wakes up to news of yet another senseless mass killing, an outraged media sets its sights on the killer’s video game shelves.

Glossing over complex issues like mental health treatment and gun culture, journalists like Fox and Friends anchor Steve Doocey condemn violent games like Grand Theft Auto V and Mortal Kombat. Gunning down innocents in the virtual streets of Los Santos is supposedly a dry run for violent crime in real life, intensifying gamers’ blood lust and aggression.

After all, the Sandy Hook shooter played violent video games into the early hours of the morning, as did the Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech shooters. Surely there is a causal link, right?

While op-eds criticizing video games still litter America’s newspapers, there is little evidence causally linking violent video games to mass shootings. In reality, this is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation.

Yes, journalists are correct in noticing that these heinous criminals often play violent games, but the American Psychological Association reports that 90 percent of American children play video games, and 85 percent of those games are violent. With the vast majority of America’s youth playing these games, is it surprising that violent youth play them too? After all, finding a copy of Grand Theft Auto in an American youth’s bedroom is just as ubiquitous as a pair of blue jeans or an iPhone.

Millions of peaceful and productive youth enjoy violent games, and numerous studies have failed to prove that these youths are damaging their mental health.

After Western Michigan University researcher Whitney DeCamp examined 6,587 Delaware schoolchildren, he concluded that that violent games, “no matter how bloody, did not predict violent behavior.” Rather, gender and family abuse issues were far better indicators of violence.

Similarly, researchers at the University of York failed to find a link between violent virtual acts and aggression in real life. After having test subjects play violent warfare games, the researchers quizzed the subjects with word association puzzles, expecting the violent gamers to choose “more violent word associations.”

This would show that virtual violence makes it “easier to use [violence] in real life,” as it becomes less taboo in the gamer’s mind. Instead, there was no difference between the control and test groups, even when the researchers exposed testees to more graphically violent games.

With a mounting body of research casting doubt on the popular theory, 238 scholars have urged the American Psychological Association to abandon “outdated and problematic statements on video game violence.”

Many of these researchers have noted that violent crime has fallen amongst America’s youth, despite the meteoric rise of the video game industry.

In fact, there is a measurable dip in real life crime after popular violent video games are released, as research in the Southern Economic Journal suggests. Ironically, Stetson University professor Christopher Ferguson argued that violent games “keep [youth] off the streets and out of trouble!”

Similarly problematic for the theory, other nations consume significantly more violent games than the United States while suffering much less violent crime.

According to the Washington Post, America’s video game spending per capita lags behind eight other nations, yet the U.S. leads in percentage of gun-deaths. While the world’s leader in video game consumption, the Netherlands, suffers less than .5 gun deaths per 100,000, the U.S. has six times more at three per 100,000. After years of debate over causation, these figures put even a correlation in doubt.

The next time a breaking news alert rumbles on your phone, be weary of the pundit who supposedly discovered the sole cause of any crisis.

Seeking a boost on social media, a pundit will lazily notice something that correlates with a crisis, and then rally anxious citizens into a frenzy against it. Instead of solving the problem, the frenzy only distracts from actual solutions, prolonging the nation’s pain and suffering.

Always look for evidence that something is actually causing the problem, not just happening at the same time!

Not Just Your Grandfather’s Problem: Get the Flu Shot!

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


A syringe.
Photo courtesy of ProProfs.

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

Waking up to pins and needles poking at his throat, Minneapolis middle schooler Grant LaMontagne assumed he had a sore throat. Yet as the hours ticked by, it was getting harder and harder to breathe.

Five days later, LaMontagne was gasping for air in the back of an ambulance, with “vinelike threads of mucus” filling his lungs and constricting his breath. Immediately, doctors inserted an oxygen tube into the young boy’s neck as a “lung bypass machine” fed him oxygen that his pneumonia-stricken “lungs could not.”

As doctors and nurses ran about around them, LaMontagne’s parents were dumbfounded. “We just cried …and talk[ed]…[about]what was happening,” a distraught Mrs. LaMontagne told the Washington Post. “It all happened so fast… he’s a healthy boy… he’s never had any major illnesses.”

While LaMontagne survived his encounter with this year’s H3N2 flu epidemic, millions of Americans are contracting what the New York Times called the most “intense… [outbreak] since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.” This year’s flu is more serious than ever before, and is a cause for major health alarm.

Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned that “we’ll expect something around” 34 million flu-struck Americans, 710,000 flu hospitalizations, 56,000 deaths, and over 148 pediatric deaths. 49 out of the 50 states have reported “widespread flu activity,” including the Rhode Island Department of Health, which has reported 11 “flu related” fatalities so far.

To make matters worse, federal officials warned the Washington Post that the number of flu patients is “rising sharply,” as Dr. Jernigan cautioned that we are only “halfway” through the season.

Facing mounting flu-cases, health services are becoming overwhelmed. California hospitals have begun to treat the ill in outdoor tents, Tamiflu and flu vaccines are becoming scarce, and bed shortages even forced a Chicago hospital to leave victims in “ambulances idling outside the hospital.”

It is important for Providence College students to know that it is not just the elderly and little children filling those beds. All too often, college students assume the flu is just a problem for their grandparents and little cousins. The National Foundation of Infectious Diseases even reported that only up to 8-39 percent of college students get vaccinated, forcing colleges to throw away expired vaccines. “I hate getting poked with needles,” a student told NBC, “flu vaccinations just don’t seem like a necessity. I’m young and healthy. Even if I get it again, my body will fight it off within two days.”

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. While the flu may not necessarily put a college student’s life in jeopardy, it will make his or her week miserable and does have serious heath consequences.

Dr. Libby Caruso told NBC that a typical flu-struck student can miss “a week or more of classes,” and are left shivering from chills in their tight dorm room beds. Noses clogged and drenched in a fever sweat, sick students are certainly not enjoying a relaxing break from class.

Even worse, they can infect droves of other students. With students huddled in small dorm halls, grabbing silverware from small buckets at the dining hall, and using public restrooms, one case can multiply to 25 in a heartbeat. For instance, Ohio State University is struggling to contain a H3N2 outbreak that has infected 23 students, and outbreaks are forcing high schools in Texas and Florida to cancel school days.

As America reels from this historic flu season, there are ways to protect yourself. A simple flu shot reduces your risk by 40 percent according to the CDC, and frequent hand washing can help stymie the spread of this horrific outbreak.

Above all, if you feel sick, stay in your room. Take an absence from class, stay away from Raymond Dining Hall, relax and watch Netflix. All it takes is one encounter to spark an outbreak. A sick student touches a doorknob and leaves germs, dozens of others touch it, they eat, get sick, and suddenly H3N2 has reared its ugly head at PC. Get the shot, and protect yourself, your friends, and PC.

Tangents and Tirades

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Graphic of hands holding up signs with the Twitter logo on them.
Graphic courtesy of The Horizons Tracker.

Be Open to Learning

In light of Dr. Bernice A. King’s address last week, in which she advised students to be open-minded, it is important that we continue to educate ourselves as a community.

Last Friday, January 19, a panel of Providence College professors spoke about their research regarding diversity and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Due to the large audience that attended Dr. King’s speech, one would expect there to be a crowd of intrigued students at last Friday’s forum. However, this was not the case. In fact, the assembly was primarily composed of faculty members.

While an event at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon might not draw the largest group, the topics that were discussed are pertinent to the current campus environment.

The panel was a fitting way to close the College’s MLK Convocation week. The professors who spoke explained the influence that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on their own lives, as well as the psychology that explicates interracial tensions.

The best way to contribute to the solution of an issue is to educate oneself about the problem. While sitting in a room listening to professors talk might not seem like much of a resolution, it is one step in undertaking the concern for diversity on our campus.

Attending events such as the Humanities Forum are beneficial in that they help us to better understand the problem and encourage us to listen to other perspectives.

-Hannah Paxton ’19

 

In Search of Truth on Social Media

Once a “breaking news” alert rumbles on a person’s phone, the starting pistol blares in the race to get the most likes on social media. Instead of carefully thinking about issues and considering other arguments, people flood their newsfeeds with their gut reactions.

In a blur of tweets, all gray area is buried under a mound of extreme and hasty posts. Things either “suck” or are “awesome,” people are either “evil” or “heroes,” and all nuance gets ridiculed with dislikes from the mob.  Surrounded by over-the-top rhetoric, people join in the chorus in order to fit in, without independently thinking about the issue. After all, liking a movie that “sucks” or a politician that is “evil” does not get likes, as people chip away at their individuality to seem “right” on Facebook.

Worst of all, this flood of gut reactions distorts reality. These baseless accusations and blatant lies hide the facts, serving as a “bodyguard of lies” as Winston Churchill infamously warned. Even with gravely serious news events like October’s Las Vegas shooting, uninformed posters blurted out wild conspiracy theories without a shred of evidence, simply to get likes.

In a matter of seconds, posters blamed a fictitious “Samir Al-Hajeed” who supposedly attacked the country festival in the name of ISIS, a radical leftist named “Geary Danley” who sought revenge against conservative country music fans for the 2016 election, and even the federal government. As baseless as these claims were, thousands retweeted without thinking.

When the next breaking news alert rumbles, think before you post. Become informed, consider different arguments, and carefully consider the evidence and logic of people’s claims. Instead of having grieving families sift through conspiracy theories blaming the Illuminati and New World Order, wait until the facts arrive.

-Nicholas Moran ’19

 

It is Time to Fix FixIt

After two years of living in traditional dorm housing and a semester abroad, this spring semester I was excited to finally experience one of the joys of upperclassmen housing: a private bathroom. To go from sharing a communal bathroom with thirty of your closest friends to only four feels like a dream come true—if the bathroom actually works, that is.

Moving into my apartment only to find that the plumbing was not in working order and that now, over a week later, the issue still has not been resolved, points to a real problem in the way that maintenance concerns are being handled.

I know that the Office of Residence Life is very busy and has perhaps the hardest job on this campus—coordinating effective housing for thousands of students is not easy—but it is not acceptable for an apartment’s singular bathroom to be continually out of working order with no reprieve in sight.

At this point, I have exhausted all of my resources. My roommates and I have sent multiple emails, made calls, and even visited the Residence Life office in person. All I have left is one desperate plea.

The way that maintenance issues are prioritized and then fixed must be adjusted. If not for me, then for anyone else whose dreams of apartment-style living have been crushed and who are forced to run down to the basement of their building every morning in their pajamas just to use a working restroom.

-Taylor Godfrey ’19

Amtrak System is Failing Its Customers

by The Cowl Editor


Editorials


Amtrak 321 at Providence.
                                      Amtrak 321 at Providence/Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

by Nicholas Moran ’19

Opinion Staff

Sprinting down the concrete steps of Providence’s Amtrak station, I glanced nervously at my wristwatch. 12:02, two minutes after my train to Newark, NJ was scheduled to leave. Quickly, I burst through the steel doors, only to be greeted by empty tracks. As always, the train was late, leaving hundreds of holiday travelers shivering in the cavernous wind tunnel that is Providence Station.

Once the train arrived forty minutes later, the frustration only intensified. Our train crawled through Southern Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, frequently stopping in the wilderness due to delays. To make matters worth, the train’s Wifi took ages to load webpages like ESPN, let alone stream Netlix, intensifying the mind-numbing boredom.

Frustrated, I looked out the window at I-95’s holiday traffic jam, watching cars, barely cracking 35 mph, seemingly fly past our stalled train. Surprisingly, I envied them; at least they were moving!

As Providence College students pack for the long trip home for Christmas break, America’s failing Amtrak train service only makes the dreaded holiday commute worse. Aging trains and battered tracks are left in abject disrepair, as the New York Times notes that Amtrak is facing a whopping “$28 billion backlog of repairs needed to modernize” technology that has been rotting away since the Nixon Administration.

These aging tracks were responsible for 41% of Amtrak’s 178 derailments from 2010-2016, leaving dozens of Americans killed in avoidable accidents. As Americas train system lays in ruin, the federal government refused to meet Amtrak’s request for $1.8 billion in 2016 funding, only providing $1.4 billion. None of this is acceptable, as the Federal Government must dramatically increase funding to launch Amtrak into the 21st century. Once the nation that invented the continental railroad, Americans should not have to meekly accept one of the worst train systems in the developed world.

Especially frustrating, America’s “high speed” Acela Express service would not even be considered a high-speed rail by most European governments. According to the Boston Globe, the American Acela can reach only 100 mph and averages 68.89 mph, and in some curved parts of the track can only reach a measly 25 mph.

Across the Atlantic, France’s ultra-high speed TGV to Geneva, Switzerland averages 164.21 mph. In fact, the Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Dutch high-speed trains all travel significantly faster than their American counterpart, proving that American citizens do not have to timidly accept this status quo.

Even ridden Spain, embroiled in sectionalist infighting, provides a better train service than the world’s largest economic power. As Politico describes, European Union nations collectively spent 36 billion Euros on trains in 2014, dwarfing American funding.

Unfortunately, the sheer magnitude of Amtrak’s problems makes real improvement exceedingly difficult. Even an ambitious $2.45 billion project to modernize the Acela service by 2021 barely scratches the surface, and Amtrak’s Executive Vice President for Business Development, Stephen Gardner, admitted this to Business Insider. 

When asked if the roughly $2 billion would put an end to the constant delays, Gardner replied “No,” as it will only be enough for aesthetic changes, minor enhancem[ents] to the ride quality,” improved WiFi, and it will “permit a little more capacity.”

Worst of all, Amtrak will not be able to speed up America’s relatively sluggish trains, as our rusting tracks are simply too outdated to support true high speed trains. Amtrak would need to “straighten out” unnecessary curves that force trains to slow down, and “create enough track capacity to be able to go considerably faster than what we do today.” Unfortunately, Gardner lamented that this would be a “multi-billion dollar, decades long” commitment, something the Federal Government’s meager funding cannot come close to satisfying.

Lagging behind European and Asian powers, America’s Amtrak system is failing its 31 million annual customers. Far from the ornate glass ceilings and marbled walls of the original New York Penn Station, America’s train stations have devolved into subterranean, concrete jungles. Now travelers sit on graffitied benches, listening to the monotone PA speaker announce delay after delay.

Tangents and Tirades

by The Cowl Editor


Opinion


Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in the Netflix series, Stranger Things.
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Is Thanksgiving Really a Break?

With bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95 stretching endlessly into the horizon, last year’s Thanksgiving break was already off to a poor start. A symphony of car horns and angry New York drivers blared outside my car window, yet home was still hours away.

Once I pulled into my driveway, my jam-packed backpack slammed into the side of my car’s trunk, living proof that rest was a ways away. Instead of rushing inside to spend time with my family, I hauled my backpack to my room, plopping a mountain of books and papers onto my desk.

After spending a little time relaxing with my family, it was back to my desk, typing away at a paper that should have never been assigned. So much for a “break” from the busy semester.

With finals week fast approaching and semester burnout setting in with a vengeance, homesick freshmen and overworked upperclassmen deserve a real Thanksgiving break.

Yet every semester, a few well-meaning professors assign plenty of work over the holiday, trapping students at their desks. In fact, this especially hurts students who live far away from Rhode Island, as many have not seen their family and hometown friends since August.

Let students escape the onslaught of papers and exams for a weekend. Let them enjoy food, family, and Thanksgiving football.

-Nicholas Moran ’19

 

Eleven Thrives in Chapter Seven

Fans of the popular Netflix original series Stranger Things binge-watched the second season faster than you could say, “Justice for Barb.”  The nine-episode arc, which was released on Oct. 27, received rave reviews from fans and critics alike.  Eighties references and Steve Harrington’s hair aside, one episode is highly disputed by viewers.  The episode “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister,” explores the character of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her relationship with Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), another girl with supernatural powers.

Some critics have called the episode a “filler” as it neglects other established story lines to focus solely on Eleven and Kali. While the episode’s relationship with the rest of the season is questionable, it is important in Eleven’s development as a strong female character. The Duffer Brothers, the creators, writers, directors, and producers of the show, have defended their choice, saying it was necessary for the storyline of Eleven: “Eleven is trying to figure out where she belongs in this world…Basically, it’s her looking for a home.”

Despite significant progress, women still often have one-dimensional roles in the media. Chapter seven allows viewers to see Eleven’s dynamic nature as she shifts from a naïve “freak” to a heroine with morals, flaws, and a self- assured strength.  This transformation is a great example of a female character who is not static.

Likewise, it shows how a girl can be the driving force of a compelling storyline.  Additionally, the distancing of Eleven from her usual male companions helps to illustrate the point that a female character can evolve without the help of men.  Although it might seem random, chapter seven shows another step in the right direction for women on television.

-Gabrielle Bianco ’21

 

PC Needs More Art

I am going to take us a few weeks back for a second and talk about Calabria Plaza. Do you realize that this is really the only work of art around the Providence College campus we have on display, besides religious statues?

It is time for a change. PC should be a community that celebrates all kinds of art. It is clear that we are a Dominican campus, but other art forms should be represented in some way. It is time for us to have a statue of a strong independent woman who reflects our beliefs and is on the right side of history, such as Rosa Parks.

This really could be an opportunity to express different cultures, beliefs, and values that bring our campus closer together. Beyond statues, paintings and murals are also great forms of artistic expression.

We have walls filled with black and white photos of our basketball players, hockey players, and many other sports teams. Even though this expresses our strong school spirit, there is more to life than that!

There are plenty of paintings and statues in both Harkins and Ruane, and it would be great to see this kind of art all over campus.

How about we do a mural of our current students to celebrate togetherness and community?

These are only a few ideas that could go a long way in showcasing the arts, while also celebrating Friartown. We are currently making so many changes to our campus, and I think this should be added to the agenda. Sorry to add more to your to-do list, PC.

-McKenzie Tavella 18