Campus News

North Carolina support for President Trump declines as first 100 days in office comes to a close

by Mariah Posey | April 28, 2017

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Graphic by Elon University.

With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days coming to a close, North Carolina support for the president and his administration has seen a considerable decline according to a recent Elon Poll conducted April 18-21. By conducting a live-caller, dual frame survey of 506 registered North Carolina voters, the poll found that 51 percent of people disapprove of the president’s current handling of his presidency despite 56 percent believing his actions match up with his campaign promises.

42 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency and seven percent remain in the middle ground. Despite initial widespread usNorth Carolina support during the election period, now 49 percent say Trump is doing “a worse job as president than President Obama.”

Jason Husser, director of Elon Poll, said that although presidents usually experience strong support during the beginning of their terms, Trump’s presidency is different. He added that the level of support Trump has seen in his first 100 days both for himself and in his key policies is “as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion polling.”

“Trump’s difficulty in presidential approval likely comes from two sources: his rhetorical and policy decisions, which he has control over, and a divisive polarized and dysfunctional political environment that makes it hard for any incoming president to function,” Husser said.

Emily Mitch, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at Elon University, said that she’s not surprised by the decline in support based on the president’s inability to follow through on his promises.

“As someone who works in education, that’s where I tend to gravitate more to education myself about what’s been going on in that sphere,” Mitch said. “I think some of the work with Betsy Devos and that department is particularly disappointing to me, like the student loan stuff that’s been going on. I’m not wishing that things would happen particularly, but wishing that things that have happened did not happen.”

Like Mitch, senior Darius Moore also sees disparity in the Trump administration’s handling of education policies as well as other huge issues his team has promised to tackle.

“There’s been a lot of lack of attention to detail and a lot of big ideas about what he and his team want to change in regard to the Affordable Care Act, yesterday net neutrality, the public education system,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of big ideas thrown out but no sort of plan of action. I think people have very little trust in him because it’s a lot of talk right now. In these past 100 days, it’s been a lot of impulsive, ‘I just want to get a rise out of people and see what happens,’ instead of letting things pan out slowly and see what happens.”

Sheyenne Michelizzi, program assistant at the Provost Office, said that although she has never been favorable of the president, she is more devastated than before he took office and can’t tell whether he has a strong stance either for or against any particular issue.

“What I would like to see from him is more humility and any kind of thought towards the greater good of the citizens,” Michelizzi said.

 

‘We Make It Our Own’: BSU 2017 Fashion Show reminds audience to live happily and unafraid in their own skin

Multimedia reporting by Mariah Posey | April 23, 2017

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Since 1986, the Black Student Union (BSU) — previously known as the Black Cultural Society — has been putting on a fashion show that places Elon University students of color at the forefront. This year on Saturday April 22 at 7:30p.m. in McKinnon, sophomore Kenneth Brown, special events coordinator for the Center for Race Ethnicity Diversity Education, wanted the show to deliver a message beyond fashion. He wanted both the models and the audience to feel empowered in their skin, and chose to base the stylings off of the popular 1987 black sitcom “A Different World.”

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Models stand together at the end of the show and receive a standing ovation.

“I wanted to allow them to see a different world,” Brown said. “A world in which we make it our own despite the things that make it seem like it’s not for us. I hope people learn that black people, we’re here. We’re trying to make a difference because this is our world, too.”

Aside from the fun elements of preppy clothing and dynamic struts across the stage, the show included several powerful segments. One in particular featured a song by Vince Staples entitled “Hands Up.” As the song repeated, “Put your hands in the air,” the models each lined up fighting the urge of their hands to give in to the requests. By the end of the struggle, their hands succeeded in their position of surrender.

Another powerful segment — which focused on business and business casual attire — devoted a portion to “black girl magic” and showed the models making confident strides down the stage, each making sure to give supportive high fives to one another as they crossed paths.

“My favorite part was the black girl magic,” said sophomore Kristin Wiggins. “No one ever talks about black girls, only about black men.”

 

For Wiggins and others in the crowd, it was refreshing to see support from multiple perspectives.

But the show didn’t stop at powerful statements. BSU staff sophomores Janay Tyson and Lana Logan also presented a $250 check to the Positive Attitude Youth Center in Burlington, North Carolina for their meaningful work with children and young adults. Tyson said that after having volunteered there and seeing the impact the center had, she realized their work was “amazing” wanted to help give back.

“Sometimes you do this work and it doesn’t get noticed,” she said.

For Brown, amongst the different things he hoped the show would accomplish, he most wanted for it to be a presentation of resilience.

“The largest portion of our history was dark and we weren’t very happy,” Brown said. “I wanted to showcase our happiness. I want people to take away that this our world and we make it our own.”

Elon University faculty engage in panel discussing the implications of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | April 12, 2017

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Panel members left to right: Kaye Usry, Jason Kirk, Baris Kesgin, Haya Ajjan.

U.S. media coverage took an unexpected turn last week when news broke that President Donald Trump authorized a missile strike against the Assad-regime airbase. Trump said his actions were in response to the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, but some feel the strike was a policy reversal for the president who campaigned on staying out of conflict.

To initiate discussion and clear up lingering questions regarding the strike and its implications, members of Elon University faculty engaged in a panel Wednesday, April 11 at 4:15p.m. in Moseley 215. Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science and policy studies, said as unfortunate as the events going on in Syria are, they need to be talked about. In moderating the panel, she aimed to provide context on the situation by discussing the humanitarian aspect as well as geopolitics and strategy, foreign policy and domestic relations under the Trump administration.

Ajjan pull“My family and I were actually glued to the TV,” said Haya Ajjan, associate professor of management information systems, speaking of when news broke last Thursday night. Just two days before on Tuesday, news coverage focused on the chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 100 people. Many blamed President Bashar al-Assad and his government, considering it a war crime against his own people.

“I looked over at my husband and actually he was crying,” Ajjan said, recalling the night she first heard about the chemical attack. “We both had tears in our eyes. We cried for the more than 5,000 soles that had died. I wondered, how many babies would be orphaned today?”

Although Ajjan is unsure of the impact Trump’s strike will have on war, she said she thinks it sent an important message.

“In the past three years, we Syrians have witnessed a lot of loss,” she said. “Assad and Putin are under the belief that they could do whatever they want, as they have for years, and no one can stop them.”

What the Trump administration proved with the missile strike she said, though controversial, is that these “atrocities are no longer tolerated.”

But the problem arises in analyzing how suddenly the decision to authorize the strike was made, leaving room for uncertainty in regard to the future direction of the president’s administration.

“As faculty, as Americans, as non-Americans, we’d all be forgiven for being pretty confused,” said Jason Kirk, associate professor of political science and policy studies. “It is an extraordinary shift in the vision of Trump’s presidency, in his goals for the world.”

Kirk added, “It feels like Trump made [what he considered to be] a good decision based off what looked good to him, and those who approved based it on last week. Period.”

Kirk said it’s important to keep in mind that there is often disorganization in the early days of any administration, but feels that what the Trump administration has demonstrated so far is “extraordinary disorganization in the White House.” Part of that, he says, is due to Trump’s shortcomings with staffing members of his team.

“It’s very difficult to conduct foreign policy when you’re missing layers of bureaucracy,” he said. “People who know things about places. Government and leadership requires that.”

Later, he added, “I don’t know how much to ascribe strategy to it versus just they didn’t expect to win the presidency. And they didn’t really plan for a lot of this. They didn’t plan for the White House Easter egg hunt. They didn’t do a lot of things and I think time will tell.”

According to Baris Kesgin, associate professor of political science, the Trump administration has failed at giving consistent signaling as to their course of action.

“Even the congress at this point is not knowledgeable of the Syrian game plan,” he said. “That is unfortunate.”

Though it’s clear that Trump was trying to send a message, it’s unclear of what that message is for certain. Trump felt that Assad crossed the line by waging a chemical attack on his people, but Kirk wonders if that “line” has been definitely laid out enough for the U.S. strike to have accomplished its goal. He says that confusion may only lead to more strife.

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This map shows how populated different parts of Syria are with individual forces of power.

“The stakes are too high,” Kirk said. “There’s an international audience to this. If people are confused by what Trump means by this, if Assad doesn’t know what lines not to transgress going forward, then he’ll either decide it doesn’t matter or he’s left in a position to continue to test the U.S. to figure out where these lines might lie.”

As foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict continues to grow, discussion around it becomes fuzzier. According to Ajjan, as the years have progressed, the plan for finding a military solution to ending war in Syria has become less and less clear.

“We used to have a plan in 2012 and in 2013, but now there are too many players on the ground,” she said.

Though Trump has taken an action he believes will prove that the U.S. won’t stand for abuse and suffering, his questionable long-term motives and haste in decision-making leaves much to be speculated.

Kirk acknowledged that there’s really no way for Americans to fully grasp how the president plans to handle foreign policy going forward, but is confident that it will one day come out.

“Part of the nice quality of having such a chaotic early administration is people are eventually going to write books about this stuff,” Kirk said. “They’re going to be tripping over each other to tell us what’s going on. We’ll just have to wait a few years.”

‘WORK HARD NOW AND PLAY LATER’: PHOTOJOURNALIST AL DRAGO VISITS ELON TO SPEAK ON NETWORKING UP THE LADDER

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 31, 2017

Al Drago is a photojournalist and class of ’15 Elon alumni. He is based in Washington, D.C. covering all things politics and currently works for the NYT as a contract press photographer for President Donald Trump. He visited journalism professor Janna Anderson’s class this Friday to talk about his experience at Elon and networking.

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Al Drago in Philadelphia at a Hillary Clinton event in 2015 taken by one of his friends that he shared on Facebook.

Al Drago has been working since he was 16-years-old and by the age of 17, had daily bylines. It was a family trip to Boston more than 10 years ago that provided the 2015 Elon University journalism alumni with his first photography experience. Now, after delving into photography and journalism in high school as well at Elon, he works as a contract press photographer for The New York Times covering all things politics.

During the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, he traveled with the then-president as a pool photographer covering the transition, the inauguration and first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s term. Currently, he and two other selected photographers are responsible for following the president everywhere he goes.

This Friday March 31, Drago revisited Elon to speak and share his wisdom on branding and networking to other journalism students.

Drago's Top 8When Drago was a student at Elon, he knew that internships were key. To remain focused on them, he made a piece of paper listing the different publications he could potentially work at ranking them on the level of achievability. He knew that he could work at The Burlington Times-News easily, but at the top level he listed the ones that were his dream jobs: The New York Times and the Washington Post.

“I knew I was going to work there someday,” Drago said. “And now I am.”

He didn’t know how it would happen, but something he had learned from journalism professor Janna Anderson stuck with him: if you want to be at the top, start out on top.

“You can advance your career in the first five years out of college more than you can in the 15 years after college,” he said. “Then, when you’re 30 you can have your cushion job and relax and go to Ibiza.”

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Al Drago speaking during his presentation.

Drago kept his career goals at the forefront of his college career spending most days outside of class and in the community shooting real stories with real people.

“My Elon experience was based around the journalism I did, the journalism I committed,” he said. “And it was great because I got a four-year archive.”

He hit the ground running joining on-campus news organizations such as The Pendulum and Elon Local News, but knew outside experience was everything.

Some advice an editor gave him was, “You’re not going to get hired off of shooting on campus because it’s a bunch of 18 to 20-year-olds and that’s not what the real world looks like.”

“I started networking day one and cold-emailed editors,” Drago said. “Of course I said I want to work for you but also, ‘I love your photos. What camera settings did you use? Hey, these are the photos I took this month.’”

Eventually, editors took notice of his work and noticed that he was improving.

“I ferociously worked,” he said. “I knew what I wanted so I worked non-stop.”

Ultimately, his drive to work and ability to put himself out there got him hired at The New Times doing what he loves for a living at the age of 24. His multiple internships at the Durham Herald-Sun, Burlington Times-News, Raleigh News & Observer and the Baltimore Sun set him apart and gave him the opportunity to continue developing new skills.

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring journalists is to put yourself out there and “know your worth.”

Find his Twitter and Instagram here.

 

Live Blog: Daniel Gilbert speaks on the science of happiness at Elon University’s Spring Convocation

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 30, 2017

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2017 Spring Convocation program

Social psychologist and writer Daniel Gilbert has achieved multiple successes throughout his career: a TED Talk which remains one of the 15 most-popular of all time, his book  “Stumbling on Happiness” that spent six months on The New York Times bestseller list, and the 2010 award-winning PBS television series “This Emotional Life” that he co-wrote which was watched by more than 10 million people. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Gilbert has guested on a number of popular shows including “20/20” and “The Colbert Report,” but today he’s the popular guest at Elon University for its March 30 Spring Convocation at 3:30 p.m. in Alumni Memorial Gym.

Stay tuned below for live updates from the event with the most recent updates  appearing at the top.


4:29 p.m. President Lambert thanks Gilbert for speaking.

“Class of 2017, I don’t want this talk to prevent you from creating class of 2047, however.”

4:28 p.m. “What makes humans happy is a scientific fact. Instead of turning to our mothers, we should be turning to science.”

4:26 p.m. “Marriage, money and children. That’s what my mom told me was the recipe to happiness. Was she lying?”

Gilbert says she was basically correct, but happiness for everyone is different because no one is average.

4:23 p.m. “The view of human happiness that I have presented is the view from outer space . . . It might not apply to you.”

4:17 p.m. Gilbert says children have been shown to reduce happiness, especially within mothers because they do most of the work.

4:14 p.m. Gilbert recommends two of the best ways to spend money:

  • Experiences, because you can’t compare personal experiences to other people’s experiences like you can with material items.
  • On other people

“The people who bought something for mom or sis or maybe your favorite professor are happier.”

4:12 p.m. “When people are resting, people are about as happy as they are at their miserable jobs. People aren’t happy when they’re resting because their mind wanders to things they’d rather be doing.”

4:11 p.m. “It turns out that the way people spend money is incorrect.”

4:10 p.m. Gilbert says money does lead to happiness, but not sustainably.

“The first dollar you earn improves your happiness a lot,” he says, but the “amount of happiness money can buy levels off” over time.

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A chart shown during Gilbert’s presentation showing the difference between men and women in happiness response to divorce.

4:07 p.m. Gilbert explains how men do better than women after divorce. He offers some advice: “If your husband says he’s leaving you, kill him.”

4:05 p.m. Gilbert says marriage is great investment for your happiness, as it ensures at least 15-25 more years of happiness.

4:01 p.m. “Marriage causes happiness. Married people are happier than single people.”

4:00 p.m. Gilbert asks the audience how many believe marriage causes happiness.

“Okay, so none of the young people. That’s basically 0%. And I think I saw someone raise her husband’s hand.”

3:58 p.m. Gilbert’s mother, Doris Gilbert, gave him three steps to happiness when he was younger:

  1. Find a nice girl to settle down with.
  2. Make money. “‘It would be good if you were comfortable,'” she told him. “She didn’t mean my shoes. She meant move out of the house and not be on our dime.”
  3. Have children.

“In every human culture, moms basically tell their kids some version of this.”

3:56 p.m. There are scientific measures of happiness such as electromyography or EMG which analyzes human facial reactions, but Gilbert says that best approach is the “AP-Q” method — asking people questions.

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One of the ads shown during Gilbert’s childhood promoting happiness.

3:53 p.m. Gilbert speaks on how the many theories of happiness are wrong.

“None of their theories are based on evidence. Luckily, scientists have gotten into the happiness business. Can we use the rules of science to figure out what makes people happy?”

3:50 p.m. Gilbert speaks on the unrealistic idea of happiness our ancestors had: “Happiness is what happens when you get what you want and that never happens in this lifetime on Earth.”

He continued, “Guess what? People who have everything they want aren’t any happier than the rest of us.”

3:49 p.m. “I’ve come here today to answer the world’s oldest questions: what is the secret to happiness? It’s not a secret and it’s not the world’s oldest question. It’s actually the world’s newest question.”

3:48 p.m. Gilbert responds to his introduction.

“I don’t want to stop there,” he said. “In fact I want to hear it again and then we can all go have drinks. That was the nicest introduction I’ve had.”

3:45 p.m Associate Professor of Psychology India Johnson introduces Gilbert. She thanks Gilbert for providing her the inspiration to start her journey to social psychology for his unconventional path.

3:44 p.m. “Dr. Gilbert welcome to Elon University. Your research on happiness relays two of our main points here . . . no matter our age we always have more to learn.” – President Lambert

3:39 p.m. “Higher education matters in terms of jobs, overall wellbeing, and joy in your life.” – President Lambert.

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President Leo Lambert speaking at the beginning of spring convocation.

3:35 p.m. Joel Harter, associate chaplain for Protestant Life; Jessica Waldman, director of Jewish Life at Hillell;  President Leo Lambert; India Johnson, assistant professor of psychology and Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce professor of psychology at Harvard University, take the stage.

3:29 p.m. Michel Delalande’s “Festival Prelude” plays to initiate the Academic Procession while Elon University faculty and staff along with students to be honored begin filing in.

 

‘The History of Stepping’ shows how using the body as an instrument is a powerful tool in uniting a culture

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 27, 2017

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Panel members left to right: Janaé Williams, Anthony Chatman, William Henderson, Delaney Hinnant, Jessica Womak, Chris Blair.

Behind the powerful style of dance linked to African American culture and the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council Greek organizations is a powerful history that transcends centuries. What began as a means of survival for South African gold miners during the 19th century has become a unifying art form for an entire culture.

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Photo by therealafrican.com

In the 1880s during the Apartheid in South Africa, oppressive laws and harsh working conditions restricted the freedoms miners had. With dark work environments and forbiddance to speak with one other, the miners were left to find an alternative. Their solution involved the few things they could actually rely on: their bodies, gumboots and rhythm. Through slapping their boots, stomping their feet and rattling their shackles, they created beats and a strong form of communication called “Gumboot dancing.”

Eventually, the style of communication morphed into a style of dance called “stepping” that landed on Howard University’s campus in the 1920s. Through the decades, it continued to evolve incorporating vocal expressions. It has since weaved its way into the proud histories of NPHC Greek organizations.

In order to educate the students of Elon University on how stepping became a signature of black Greek organizations, NPHC hosted “The History of Stepping” this Monday March 27 in Moseley 215 at 5:30 p.m.

According to junior Janaé Williams, one of the panelists and member of the Xi Omicron chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, both stepping and strolling are linked to NPHC organizations but differ in their purposes.

“In stepping you use your body as the instrument in which you communicate a message whereas in strolling, you’re not so much an instrument but you’re moving in ways that are the same as the other members of your organization,” Williams said. “That’s why strolling is usually done in a line to perform unity between the brotherhood of sisterhood of your organization. Stepping doesn’t necessarily have to be in a line as long as your synchronized and making the same beats also making one sound.”

But although the organizations are known for their precise steps, it is not the forefront of their brotherhoods and sisterhoods according to senior Chris Blair, a member of the Sigma Mu chapter of Omega Psi Phi. He said servicing the community is what they most take pride in.

“We service the community and the people around us,” Blair said. “Each and every organization prides themselves off of service. It’s not about just looking good within each other, it’s about trying to help build the community. That’s what all of the fraternities and sororities were built off of. That’s how they were founded and that’s what they strive to do.”

Journalist and New York Times’ best-selling author Kevin Maurer speaks on the thrill of war reporting

by Mariah Posey | March 15, 2017

kevin-maurerReporting on war is risky and rewarding, but not every journalist is able or willing to do it. But for Kevin Maurer, a freelance journalist and co-author of New York Times’ best-seller, “No Easy Day,” the opportunity to report on war felt like something he was meant to do.

After landing a job at the Fayetteville Observer in January 2003, a little over a year after the September 11 attacks, the chance to report overseas quickly fell into place. By early March the same year, he was reporting in Iraq.

“As a young reporter, the war was the story,” Maurer said. “It was the one story I felt like I had to cover somehow.”

He spent the next eight years between Iraq and Afghanistan working on numerous stories. He realized that he enjoyed being in the midst of all the chaos, always anxious to return after getting back to the states.

“It’s weird in that you go a couple times and there’s a romance to it,” he said. “There’s something to being over there in that situation. I only find that it gets stressful after the fact.”

Maurer found that living as an embed, he gradually became a part of the unit. But that connection made it nearly impossible for him to get the full story. So according to him, he never tried to.

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Graphic by Mariah Posey

Instead, he said his reporting “tries to put a human face” to the soldiers he was writing about.

“That’s the other dangerous side of being an embed,” he explained. “You’ve gotta continue to make sure you’re doing your job even though you’re starting to like these guys.”

Though that relationship can be easily blurred, Maurer stressed the importance of transparency between a reporter and his sources.

“Sources aren’t your friends,” he said. “They’re your eyes and ears. You do everything you can not to burn them, but they’re not your buddies and you can’t treat them as such.”

Vince Beiser delivers talk on how he worked against the grain and uncovered the global war on sand

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | Feb. 27, 2017

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Vince Beiser shows how much U.S. Sand and Gravel Production has increased over the years.

By chance, the story that would gain support from the Pulitzer Center and lead him to writing a book on the same topic was one that was only stumbled upon by the award-winning journalist. When Vince Beiser discovered his story on sand, he proved that great journalists are ones who read and follow through.

“I do a lot of international stuff so I just read a lot of off-beat publications and I just stumbled across this study about the sand mafias in India,” Beiser said. “Come to find out in India, it’s a huge story. Every single day there’s some story in the India Press about sand mafias.”

Luckily for him, the pitching process was a simple one due to his established rapport with Wired magazine and his editor.

“They know me and I know them, and it makes the whole process a lot easier,” he said. “Wired is so picky. They don’t assign many stories. I just crossed my fingers and they said yes.”

Since then, Beiser has been cracking away at his on-going project on the deadly war over sand while taking on a number of smaller freelancing jobs along the way. During his career, he has travelled to India, Dubai, China and all of the United States completing in-depth reporting and has written for esteemed publications such as Wired, The New York Times and The Atlantic.

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Photo by Vince Beiser | Sand dredgers in Poyang Lake by Hamashu village.

Sand is more than grains of rock

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Vince Beiser explains how sand is used in the construction of buildings and cities.

According to Beiser, sand is the most important solid substance in the world. It makes up our concrete, windows, computer chips, phone screens and more.

“It’s the literal foundation of modern civilization,” Beiser said.

It’s all “just sand,” but Beiser said the urban boom is depleting sand worldwide with constant growing city populations. Riverbeds are being destroyed to gather enough sand to support the infrastructure of numerous buildings. Lake Poyang for example, China’s biggest freshwater lake and the world’s biggest sand mine, has 30 times more the amount of sand being scooped out than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers.

Although there are some ways sand can be recycled, Beiser said there isn’t much to be done on a large scale to substitute its use.

“Just the sheer mass we’re talking about, there’s just nothing else on this planet we have that much of,” Beiser said.
beiser-pullBecause of the immense damage being done, governments all over the world are trying to control sand mining. But where there is law and order, there is crime. There has been a rise in illegal sand mining as well as the formation of sand mafias, leaving some unfortunate souls murdered over the valuable resource.

According to Beiser, this lifestyle is bound to be short-lived.

“This whole model of living we have in America is just not sustainable,” he said. “We’re running out of oil, we’re running out of water, we’re running out of fish. We’re just consuming too much.

“We’re just eating this whole planet.”

The American example has also rubbed off on other countries. According to Beiser, with an insanely large and increasing global population, there will never be enough to go around.

“The entire developing world is growing and becoming richer and they want to live like we do, and who can blame them?” he said. “There just isn’t enough stuff on the planet for everyone to live that way.”

The art of freelancing, writing in-depth and self-promotion

Beiser said freelancing “has never been an easy way to make a living,” especially when doing substantive journalism. But it’s still his source of income. Although he said it’s reporting the issues that concern him, he also has to look for different ways to sell it.

“Part of being a freelancer and part of being a journalist is you’ve got to self-promote,” he said. “I’ve got my own little list of radio hosts and TV bookers.”

With enterprise stories such as the ones Beiser takes on, there can sometimes be a competitive nature present. While following his story in India, he bumped into a guy from The New York Times who happened to also be working on a sand story. He knew he had to beiser-tipspick up the pace somehow if he wanted get his out first. Within about three week’s time, he was able to write the story based on the information he had compiled so far and post the story on the web two months before it was meant to be published.

“That one I actually did in a big hurry,” he said.

As a freelance journalist, Beiser explained the challenges faced when trying to determine where to start with finding sources.

“Because I kind of jump from topic to topic, I don’t really build a network of sources like a beat reporter does,” he said.

He suggested reading other stories that have been done involving a particular topic and finding the activists related to them.

“Once you poke your head into that thing, whatever it is, they know the other people to talk to,” Beiser said.

While scoping out the right people to talk to can be difficult, Beiser said that actually sitting down to write everything is typically less stressful. Though he used to overwhelm himself by going over everything before starting to write, he learned that making a bare bones draft and building from there was the best way to begin.

“By the time I’m done all my reporting, I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head of how the story’s going to go,” he said. “I literally go through all my notes and plug stuff in.”

Polar Extremes: Elon Community Connections Panel discusses the effects of America’s two-party system

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 22, 2017

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Photo by Mariah Posey | Moderator and panel members (left to right) Naeemah Clark, John Hood, Carrie Eaves, Chris Fitzsimon.

Regardless of political standing, questions regarding the current state of American politics stump many people. Is it fair? Is it what the Founding Fathers envisioned? When thinking about the results of the last election and how Americans are voting, Carrie Eaves, assistant professor of political science, says she learned we are “extraordinarily polarized” under the two-party system. She described what took place as a “social phenomenon.”

“We did see — and continue to see — because our political debate is so charged, people are hesitant [to voice their opinions],” Eaves said. “It makes it a lot harder to have those discussions.”

To create a safe space for that conversation, Elon University in collaboration with the Burlington Times-News presented a panel themed “The Role of Government and the Future of the Traditional Two-Party Political System” Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in McKinnon Hall. It was the second installment of their Community Connections forum series, aimed at initiating thoughtful dialogue surrounding the contemporary political environment.

The event ran as a Q&A session where both moderator Naeemah Clark and audience members were free to pose questions regarding government and panel members took turns responding.

Q: What role did third-party candidates play in the election?

Although third parties don’t have a strong history of winning elections, Bernie Sanders (who ran independent during the 2017 election) received more votes than third parties usually get according to John Hood, political commentator and president of the John William Pope Foundation. When Republican leaning voters weren’t sold on Trump and democratic voters lost fervor their candidates, they turned to Sanders.

According to Hood, third parties begin to underperform when they gear their campaigns towards appealing to crowds that are firmly for another party instead of the people who will likely vote for them.

Regarding presidency, Eaves didn’t see room for a third party to win anytime soon.

“The bar is set by the two existing parties, intentionally very high,” she commented.

Hood agreed that the likelihood of a presidential win for a third party was slim, but maintained that they could have a significant effect on politics.

“I think we’re going to see three parties actively competing for presidency [in the future],” Hood said.

Q: Does the Republican party now sign off on Trump’s ideas?

Associate Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark, moderator of the event, identified President Donald Trump as “a third party candidate who was smart enough to join the Republican party.” Afterwards, she posed a question regarding what a future Republican party will look like.

Hood said he didn’t believe Republicans had a singular party anymore.

“I think it’s the Republican parties,” he said, referring to them as the grassroots republicans, capitol hill republicans and Trump republicans. He described the three parties as three wrestlers in a ring.

“One hasn’t thrown the other to the ground yet,” he said.

But Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch, disagreed that there were Republican parties and said rather, that Trump was appealing to the other two.

Q: What is the role of the government and different political parties in a non-election year?

Until it became a political liability in the 90s, Hood said that senators used to live in Washington and have families and churches there. They went to church with Democrats. Because that doesn’t really happen anymore, the opportunity for mature verbal exchange is limited.

“That reduces the social ties that allows people to argue with each other without bickering with each other,” Hood said.

Because of this, Hood says the two political parties are more ideologically sorted than they used to be. But Eaves believes it’s the job of the people send them back if they don’t serve our needs.

Q: How is Twitter and the trope of mainstream media changing our democracy? 

People are too able to block out ideas that don’t align with the ones they already perceive to be true according to Hood.

“The internet allows us to cocoon ourselves in our own little worlds,” he said. “People will simply read more and more things that reinforce their preconceived notions.”

The problem with that, Eaves said, is that “people just take in that information and don’t even realize their consuming it.”

Furthermore, the overload of sources gets mixed into the conversation according to Fitzsimon.

“Obviously with the internet, all you need is a webcam and a microphone and you’re a news source,” Fitzsimon said. “We’ve gotten to a point where that’s a part of the debate somehow.”

Q: Would it be better devolve power away from the national government? 

According to Eaves, there’s no clear answer from the Constitution regarding how much power states should have and that laws only work to confuse and muddle them further. But she thinks that giving the power back to the states to determine elections wouldn’t work.

“Some states are very solidly red and solidly blue,” she said. “Other states are pretty evenly split … so devolving power back to here wouldn’t really solve that problem”

Fitzsimon also agrees that giving states too much power could be problematic.

“Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of geographic entities bumped up against each other,” he said.

Q: Is the new protest system sustainable? 

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Photo by Mariah Posey | John Hood responds to a question asked by moderator Naeemah Clark.

Clark commented on the new protest system that was emerging as of the latest election and asked whether or not it could last the next four years. According to Hood, its redundancy would eventually lead to apathy.

 “We see it all the time,” Hood said. “Every week there’s a new protest. ‘What’s the cause this week?’ I’m not so sure it’s a trend that’s going to continue in its current powerful form.”

Eaves agreed that four years was a long time to sustain the protests, but recognized their power when they lead more progressive actions.

“One of the things I was intrigued by with the Women’s March is that after the Women’s March, the next few days they held conferences to train women how to run for office,” Eaves said. “So instead, giving people tools to put these things into action and step out and attempt to run and serve … Those sort of kernels and seeds that are being planted, we could see those effects in two to four years down that road.”

What’s left unsaid

Amongst the many topics brought up — the role of third-party candidates, the impact of the internet on the election, protest culture— Fitzsimon was most amazed by the one discussion that was missing from the conversation.

“Imagine if I would’ve sat here four years ago and said, ‘Guess what’s going to happen in the election?” Fitzsimon said. “Russia is going to break the law, commit felonies, steal private information and publish it to try to influence our election to elect one candidate or not. You guys would have thought I was out of my mind and you would have said, ‘That would be the biggest story in politics ever and it’ll cause a dramatic national investigation and we’ll have all this huge uproar in America about it.’ It hasn’t even come up tonight.’

“That’s amazing to me if you really stop and think about what that means for our democracy and our republic and our future … It’s unbelievable to me.”

“I’m starting to think this audience is really full of Russian agents,” Hood said.

Fitzsimon nodded before responding. “They might be,” he said.

The world’s deadliest terror group is also the most uncovered — Elon University Boko Haram Panel

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 15, 2017

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We know of ISIS, of Al Qaeda, of the attacks in Paris, of the crisis in Aleppo. But what about the massive tragedy that’s been going on since 2009, caused by what the Global Terrorism Index considers to be the deadliest terror group of the world: Boko Haram? In order to initiate necessary conversation surrounding the massive terror group’s impact, the Elon Politics Forum (EPF) hosted a panel Wednesday, Feb. 15 7-8p.m. in the McBride Gathering Space in partnership with Elon African Society.

The panel answered a series of critical questions: what can regional governments and United Nations do to promote female equality; how does the country go about achieving economic equality; what do we tell those persecuted because of Boko Haram? However, amongst these, one question in particular stood out and set the tone for what the major takeaway of the event would be.

“Why aren’t international terrorists like Boko Haram being covered on an international level?” asked sophomore Thomas Armooh, moderator of the event. It was one of the few questions that evoked a passionate response out of each of the panelists.

Expanding our worldly outlook

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Photo by Mariah Posey | Boko Haram panel members: (left to right) Bridget Smith, Dr. Ariela Marcus-Sells, David Olatidoye, Muhammad Musah.

“There’s this perception that ISIS and Al Qaeda might come here and hurt Americans … but Boko Haram is focused on first Nigeria and then Africa,” said senior panelist Bridget Smith. Because there’s no direct threat to America, she explained, “They’re easy to discount. They’re easy to dismiss.”

But that dismissal is exactly the problem according to senior panelist Muhammad Musa, who says that in order to see real change, “international cooperation is essential.” As a reporter stationed in Lagos, Nigeria for eight months, Musah was closer to Boko Haram’s threat than most will ever be. He constantly covered the mass killings and wrote headlines like, “14 Murdered in Bomb Blast,” but says even he recognized the apathy around him.

Because the people of Lagos felt distant from the terror going on just north of them, they lacked consideration. When people aren’t connected, Musah said, they don’t care. For him, that is why the educational aspect of Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram is so important.

Education is important, but so is money

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Photo by Mariah Posey | Senior Prateek Patel introduces topic and panel members

“There has to be an effort to talk to these Islamic teachers and tell them that it’s important to take away any radicalization in teaching,” he said.

One of the issues brought up in the panel was the lack of enforced education in Nigeria and how it perpetuates the negative impact of Boko Haram by ostracizing girls who are kidnapped by them. Because these girls are often raped and end up having the children of Boko Haram members, they are distrusted and rejected. Their infiltration has become so regular that even the government can’t decipher who’s a part of the terrorist organization and who’s not.

“Although education may lead to stability, it does not lead to jobs,” Marcus-Sells said.

Often, Nigerians feel immense financial pressure and view joining Boko Haram as a quick way to get paid. Musah seconded her statement adding that, “In a country like Nigeria, if you’re not connected to power you’re not going to touch money. So you going to school is a waste of your time.”

Marcus-Sells asked why a parent would risk their source of money to send their kids through years of schooling.

“If you don’t have an answer to that question, then none of these initiatives will ever work,” she said. “It almost feels like a disservice to have them spend four years getting that education for nothing to come out of it … In order for there to be that education, there needs to be employment.”

Elon’s Role

When asked what role students can play in aiding Nigeria’s cause, Marcus-Sells advised that whenever we have the means to give, to do so in a way that goes directly to the people in need. According to her, local organizations are more effective than larger ones such as the American Red Cross.

“If you can bypass the large aid organizations and go directly to the people already there … that can be really helpful,” she said.

She encouraged students to take the initiative to further educate themselves on foreign affairs, especially in countries like Africa and post the news that they find.

“For every negative article you post, post three positive ones,” she said. “People assume that all the things happening in Africa are terrible [and] they get exhausted because we all get exhausted by sadness.”

Lastly, she advised to not get caught up in the pressure to act on a large scale.

“My advice to students on all levels,” Marcus-Sells said, “[is] if you think smaller you might actually have a larger impact.”