Open Letter To The USF President On Conservative Extremism On Campus

Open Letter To The USF President On Conservative Extremism On Campus

Our campus should not be encouraging hate.
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Dear USF President Judy Genshaft,

I write to you on behalf of us members of the USF community who feel as strongly about the subject as I do. I will begin by saying that this is not a petty complaint, I love being a student at the University of South Florida. The faculty and staff are unlike any other professors I've had at other institutions. And the passion and genuine love for the school that I and the student body possess is truly one of a kind. There is no other thing I would rather be than a USF Bull.

It is because of my love for this school that I would like to address the growing issue of extremist conservative groups that have congregated and harassed students on the USF property. In the recent months, there have been two groups in particular that have harassed and attacked students over their beliefs in an aggressive manner. These groups have established grounds in front of the two busiest places on campus, the library and Cooper Hall, and have gotten more hostile to students in the recent weeks. In an institution who's goal is to promote a safe and fun learning environment, I feel that these groups are hazardous to the students and faculty.

The first group I would like to address is a radical Christian organization that gathers on the lawn between the library and Cooper Hall once a month. To begin with, I am in full support of the First Amendment, in which we are granted the right to the freedoms of religion and expression. I am not complaining about all religious groups, as that there are several religious organizations who gather at USF to peacefully and respectfully spread the word of their beliefs and conversate with the faculty and students. This particular group, however, has not taken this approach. This extremist Christian group gathers with large posters to warn and condemn students that they will be going to Hell if they participate in actions that are but not limited to homosexuality, premarital sex, recreational alcohol consumption, and not abiding by the rules or acknowledging the existence the Christian God. Not only are some of these actions common among college students, but this group specifically targets members of minority religions and the LGBT community.

This past week, a man speaking on behalf of the extremist group proceeded to call all of the female students "whores" and said that they "should not be spreading their legs to every frat boy and lesbian who walks by them." The man also began to attack a Muslim student after he began to defend his religion. The bigot from the church group began insulting the Muslim student by saying that his religion promotes terrorism and rape. The extremist also asked the Muslim student if he was a terrorist or if he supported ISIS, then he also continued to mock his foregin accent. The University of South Florida is comprised of a large amount of foreign students and professors from different cultures, as well as a diverse local student and staff population. I feel that it is not fair to those who do not believe or participate in Christianity to be persecuted for their beliefs. And as a member of the LGBT community, many of us already face harsh criticism for our lifestyle choices in public, and for some, at home. In a place that many of call our second home, there is no excuse for students and faculty to feel attacked or that they should hide who they truly are in fear of groups like these.

The second group I will address is a Pro-Life organization who recently made an appearance the Wednesday following Spring Break. The Pro-Life group, who appeared on International Women's Day, gathered on the lawn in between the library and Cooper Hall. The Pro-Life organization set up massive graphic photographs of dismembered fetuses as the result of late-term abortion operations; images that were so graphic and disturbing, that they should not have been advertised in such a public area. The group also had photos demonizing women who chose to have abortions, including their personal information such as their names, pictures, and dates they supposedly had this procedure. The organization members then proceeded to hand out flyers with these graphic images and wanted to engage in conversations with students and staff about abortion. In my personal experience with this group, after I respectfully declined to engage in a conversation with a man from this organization, the man continued to follow and harass me and ask why I did not want to conversate with him and repeatedly said, "I just want to talk about abortion." It wasn't until I firmly told him no and to stay away from me that the man from the Pro-Life group walked away. Throughout the day, I've heard several complaints from predominantly female students who have had similar interactions with this group. Though I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions on such a controversial subject, no person should ever have to be harassed or exposed to graphic images if they do not choose to. The Pro-Life organization did nothing but upset and make the students and faculty feel uncomfortable with their straw man argument.

The University of South Florida praises themselves to be a community that is accepting and celebrates diversity among their faculty and students. Following the implementation of President Donald Trump's travel ban, USF issued a statement to their faculty and students saying that they will not tolerate hate on their campuses. However, actions speak much louder than words. And the lack of intervention between USF and these extremist organizations leads me to question how genuine the school's statements about safety and diversity truly are. If the University of South Florida does care about the safety and wellbeing of their faculty and students, then they should not allow these extremist groups to gather on their property. While I share a deep love and passion for this school, it is because of these extremist groups that I cannot truly feel proud to be a USF Bull.

Sincerely,

Ashley R. Schiedenhelm

p.s.

For those who are reading this letter and want to see USF stop these hate groups from congregating on their campuses, please sign the petition on the blue link provided to show your support for this cause. The more signatures added, the more recognition we will receive from President Judy Genshaft. https://www.change.org/p/university-of-south-flori...

Cover Image Credit: Ministry of Sound

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I'm An Art Major, But I Hate My Art

It's a little harder than macaroni necklaces now.
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I walk up to pin my homework on the drawing studio wall. As I fumble with the push pin while my fellow students scramble around me trying to find space for their own work, I notice the sheer amount of push pin holes in this wall. I wonder exactly how many students have put their work up in this room, whether they worked tirelessly all week on the piece or just put it together 45 minutes before class.

I wonder if they’ve felt the same as I do, unsatisfied with this week's work and hoping for better results next time.

I roll my eyes at myself for getting distracted and squeeze my piece in between two amazing drawings from my fellow classmates. I already see flaws I should’ve covered up in my piece. God, I think, the professor’s not going to be happy with me. Everyone else in this class is so great at what they do. I hoped for at least one person to be worse than me this week, but I’ve never felt like more of an amateur in my life.

There is a difference in hating your work or feeling like an amateur as a fine arts major rather than a math or science major. If you mess up an equation or experiment, the answer you wrote is wrong. There is no arguing over it, you just need to try again or get a point off your test.

In an art class, there is no "wrong," but there is "bad," and it is so easy to be bad.

Being told that you are incorrect is very different than having an awkward 20 seconds of “ehhh” while your professor tries to pick out something they can comment on without completely tearing the assignment to shreds. I’ve often said I’m an art major because I can’t do anything else, and while that is a (slight) exaggeration, feeling that your work is unsatisfactory in a creative field makes you feel like, for lack of better term, a total loser.

Even so, I believe that if you are the smartest person in the room, you should leave that room as fast as you can. The last thing I want to be is the best in the class because then I don’t have room to learn. I am in college to get a degree, but I am also here to learn and get better at my craft, and without struggling I would just be bored. Because of that, I am thankful for being upset with myself. I see too many fine arts majors think they are too good for critiques, and I never want to be like that.

I have so far to go, and I couldn’t be happier.
Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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Dual-Enrollment Is WAY Better Than Taking Those AP Courses, For Several Reasons

Because colleges won't always accept your AP credits.
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In high school, you probably had the option to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses — which are basically considered "college-level" courses. The hope is, if you pass your AP exam (with a certain score) at the end of the school year, you will not have to take that same class in college (i.e. AP English is equivalent to an English Composition course). Students tend to seem more marketable if they take AP classes in high school — sometimes multiple at a time. Honestly, it's not worth it and here's why.

I visited 22 colleges. Twenty-two. I was on a hunt for the perfect nursing program. During my junior year of high school, I wasn't doing well in a course, so my guidance counselor suggested dropping the course and enrolling in a local, community college course (this is called "dual enrollment"). I was VERY hesitant at first. I liked my friends in the class and didn't know how I felt about taking the course at a college. What if I didn't have a good professor? What if I hated the class? What if I didn't pass? Will I seem like a loser if I drop out of our class?

I gave it some thought and ended up dropping the course (which I was failing) and signed up for the community college class over the summer. It was about a twenty-minute commute, two days a week for three hours a day (sounds awful but it wasn't at all) over the summer.

The community-college class far exceeded my expectations. I loved it! The introductory course had a research component and required a research paper. The class surprised me because,

1. I ended up falling in love with the course and college,

2. I loved my professor (who wrote me a letter of recommendation), and

3. I earned an A and it boosted my GPA!

When colleges re-calculate your GPA during the admissions process, they count other college credits to be (usually) higher than any AP credit.

Here are some more MAJOR benefits to choosing dual-enrollment in high school:

1. You get the fundamentals of college down

You get an idea of how college works and what to expect after graduating high school. Dual enrollment tremendously prepares you for a four-year college.

2. You know which credits will be accepted by four-year colleges

Every college website has a transfer credit section. There's usually a link (on the institution's website) where you can type in the college you want to transfer credits to and it will give you a precise list of what WILL be accepted to the other institution. Many colleges claim they "may accept AP credits," but there's no guarantee. I saw so many friends of mine become infuriated when their college didn't accept the AP credits they promised they would. Every credit I took at the community college was accepted to my current university.

3. Better school schedule

You usually have a time-block in your high school schedule where you can leave high school during the day to go to the college to attend class or go to the library to study.

4. You get the basic classes out of the way

You don't have to take the basics everyone else takes freshman year of college (i.e. English composition I and II, intro to biology/chemistry/physics/communications, etc.). You can jump right into more upper-level courses (and potentially graduate early).

5. It will likely cost less than what you'll pay at a four-year institution

I've noticed course fees are MUCH less at community college. Also, many four-year colleges allow you to take up to 18 credits per semester (i.e. six, three-credit courses) but they still charge you for the maximum number of credits you can possibly take. Therefore, if you aren't taking all six classes...you're getting ripped off.

6. Nearly all college courses are one semester

AP classes are two semesters and often meet every day. Why overwork yourself for an entire year to POSSIBLY get AP credit?

7. College is structured better

You know your schedule from day one of class. I've never seen any AP teacher have a syllabus ready on the first day of class.

8. Your classes double-dip!

You're getting credit in both high school AND college for every course.

The only downfall to taking the college class was that I needed to pay for the course out-of-pocket. However, MANY community colleges have different financial aid for students. For example, the community college I attended gave any person of color a free college course if they were considered to be living in poverty (household income of around $30k or less per year). If you were adopted through the Department of Social Services or are Native American, you were also eligible for a tuition waiver. There are so many resources — you just need to do some research.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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