By Jennifer Huang
From the Vietnam War protests to the Civil Rights Movement, many political movements and counter-cultures have begun on college campuses. Arguably, though, the most widespread college counter-culture has been the emergence of meme groups in colleges across the U.S. While not necessarily political or social in nature (In fact, they normally just ridicule testing policies and poke fun at students with certain majors), memes are an extremely prevalent part of college life, a relatable way for students to connect, make humorous jabs at other schools, and laugh over relatable content.
But is it possible for memes to go too far?
According to Harvard, yes. In April 2017, a group of students admitted to Harvard were discovered messaging inappropriate memes joking about sexual assault, the Holocaust, child murders, and lynching, among other things, in a chat titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” Upon discovering the contents of the chat, Harvard rescinded the admissions of ten applicants, justifying its decision with a reminder that “Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”
This decision comes at the crux of the free speech debate on campus. With the recent demand for safe spaces, the riots at UC Berkeley against alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, UChicago’s unwavering defense of free discussion, Harvard’s decision adds another voice to the heated debate. With the radical right believing that their ways of life and points of views are being increasingly demonized by “liberal media” and “libtards”, convinced that the world is stacked against them, the free speech debate was already heated and controversial. Harvard added fuel to the flames.
As a staunch liberal, I’m always predisposed to agree with actions against racism and sexual assault. But even conservatives shouldn’t complain, and here’s why.
As a private institution, Harvard has the right to make its own admissions decisions, and choose its students. Conservatives, who believe in very little government involvement (except in cases of big business and religion), should be happy that this private college was able to make its own decisions. After all, if diversity policies in the workplace are so detrimental, and corporations should be “free to hire without regulation”, then why not colleges as well? Just as conservatives believe a corporation should judge “solely on merit,” so Harvard judges on merit as well: And they happen to value “honesty, maturity, and moral character.”
These students’ memes violated Harvard’s tenets: They lacked moral character, making fun of genocide and racial violence, child abuse and sexual assault, exploiting real victims for their own laughs. They lacked maturity, not understanding the serious implications behind death and abuse, believing that their fun trumped real-world implications. They may have even lacked honesty, lying on their applications to fit Harvard’s “diversity and acceptance” clause.
Beyond the obvious horror of the memes themselves, Harvard realized that the students wouldn’t be a good fit on campus. They might provoke fights, make it literally unsafe for other students, hinder others’ studies. This decision was has implications beyond just “free speech”–College is a community of individuals who are supposed to engage in educational discussion, but having students with twisted humor on campus would have been counterproductive to that goal.
Hopefully, Harvard will set a precedent for other students: That jokes ridiculing serious events will not be tolerated on their campus, or any campus. Whatever you may think about free speech, contextualize it to the institution and its community. Think before you start laughing about deaths from drone strikes and the Holocaust.
Real memes are supposed to be good-humored content and a way for the disenfranchised Z-Generation to relate and communicate their stresses with each other through a short, funny venue. Let’s not give memes a bad name, and let our fun be corrupted by disrespectful people. Keep our memes meme-ingful.
By: Jennifer Huang
POTUS. Businessman. Media mogul. Corrupt salesman. Loser of the popular vote. Liar.
No matter what you think of Donald Trump, there’s one thing he’s undeniably good at: deflection.
In primary debates, he avoided his dirty track record by mercilessly shitting on his opponents. In presidential debates, he eluded scandal with “alternative fact”, leaving fact checkers aghast when he labeled concrete reality as mere interpretation. And now, as president, he is taking advantage of the media’s profit hunger and its need for “shiny titles” to distract the American people from what’s really going on behind the closed doors of the White House administration.
To be fair, Trump isn’t intentionally using Russia as his distraction, but it certainly is facilitating the passage of his policies through Congress. With the media focused on his Twitter mishaps and his past track record, and the people meme-ing his use of “covfefe”, Trump has established a culture wherein media fights over stories covering his simple gaffes, and ignores the alarming changes being passed through Congress as we speak.
Mr. Trump is the media’s perfect fixation: easy to criticize with his strange speech habits and penchant for dumb mistakes in public settings. The Russia investigation is certainly (Fitting? Disastrous? Distracting? Dire? Bad?) for Trump, and yet the (single-focus?) focus is “shiny news,” with a catchy title, attention-grabbing for the common citizen.
While the media and the American people have been fixated on Trump’s Russia scandal and the power struggles in “TrumpCare”, Congress has forced some terrifying bills onto the floor, including a proposal to cut the EPA and a de-funding of Planned Parenthood, all of which received less coverage than Trump’s description of his chocolate cake.
Trump is the face of the Republican party, but nothing more. And while the American people may cringe and laugh at his silly mistakes or be outraged by the scandal in Russia, their Congress is destroying our country under the radar. Maybe Trump has said a few things that go against the Republican platform, or blatantly lied about his political record. But it’s all vastly outweighed by the Republican Congress’s free reign.
Donald Trump: POTUS, liar, media fixation. A distraction.
By Jennifer Huang
The infamous United slogan touts that its passengers will “fly the friendly skies,” its informative video flaunts its diversity and acceptance for international cultures, and yet its actions illustrate that neither claim is true.
Using money to fuel its well-glossed corporate engine and profit to steer its way through the unfriendly clouds of public opinion, United is just one part of a trend of shameless corporate greed and corporate refusal to take ownership of misdeeds.
On April 9th, 2017, Asian American Dr. David Dao was violently dragged off a United plane by Chicago police force, suffering a concussion, broken nose, and two lost teeth, and illustrating a growing revival of corporate exploitation in the U.S.
The incident began when United, having realized they needed to transport four extra crew members, offered to pay passengers to give up their seats on an overbooked flight. When no one volunteered, the airline selected people at random, ultimately choosing Dao. The doctor claimed he had patients to see the next morning and repeatedly refused to leave the plane; as a result, local police were called to enforce his removal. Several passengers recorded the ensuing struggle, sharing videos of the doctor being physically assaulted and screaming “just kill me” as he is dragged down the aisle by officers.
The Dao case, from the initial choice to remove the passengers to the company’s excessive reaction, screams “profit hungry” and “greedy corporation”. United’s decision to make room for the crew indicates its disregard for its passengers’ satisfaction and comfort, a blatant injustice against those who already paid for their tickets, in favor of maximizing profits on their next flight. Similarly, the company’s decision to “cap” its payment for volunteers and remove customers by forced selection instead must have been motivated by the thought that the company would operate at a loss if it raised the price to “volunteer” even higher.
The most glaring case of the airline’s avarice is showcased by CEO Oscar Munoz’s refusal to admit any wrongdoing until the company’s stocks plummeted by approximately $800 million the next day. Rather than apologizing for customer mutilation, Munoz’s initial reaction was to demonize Dao by digging up his old criminal records.
What’s even more frightening is that United’s behavior is not an outlier. Companies frequently engage and actively battle customers in the “public relations fight.” The famous McDonald’s lawsuit, in which an old lady sued the billion-dollar company after receiving third-degree burns from hot coffee and a massive healthcare bill, has been twisted and filtered through a corporate lens to portray the victim as the whiny, avaricious demon and the company as the moral defendant; large corporations, who can’t afford to lose business and public glory, bury the real stories to raise their profits.
There is, however, one piece of particularly uplifting news for the exploited or morally concerned customers out there: Public relations is a consumer-directed battle, and while no one listens to a single angry customer, an army of outraged customers can make all the difference. As shown by the Dr. Dao scenario, a dissatisfied public can wield strength in numbers, and even force a profit-mongering CEO to apologize.
Of course, companies will always be profit-driven – it’s embedded into their very nature and ingrained into our capitalist culture – and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn a few extra dollars (or millions of dollars), as long as it remains civil and beneficial. United crossed the line when it condoned violence against a paying customer.
In any case, the friendly skies look friendlier without United’s blatant misdemeanor. But how friendly can the skies truly be when their only visitors are ruthless companies and bloodied customers?
by: Jennifer Huang
The issue of the rising debt has been plaguing America since the onset of 1990s: U.S. debt now totals $19.9 trillion, a startling figure that is equal to 432% of annual GDP. Recent statistics have shown that “$8.3 trillion in liabilities… are not accounted for in the publicly held national debt”. Medicare are Social Security funds are running a startling $76.4 trillion short of promised amounts; this shortfall equates to 90% of all assets in America.
The brunt of the debt, however, is felt by the young generation. With such high expenditures on interest payments, increasing amounts of money are being cut from investment on infrastructure and education, which are two crucial factors of long-term growth. Even more threatening is the fact that interest payments on the debt are almost certain to increase: With the baby boomer generation on the verge of retirement, Social Security and Medicare payments will continue to increase.
Yet, Washington, which controls and determines the level of debt, has done nothing in face of impending doom. Politicians serve at the pleasure of their constituents, and constituents serve at the pleasure of themselves. Baby boomers, as the largest group that will ever benefit from entitlements, are also the age cohort with the most political power. Notorious as the most "entitled" generation in American history, baby boomers have either unknowingly or willingly neglected the growth of future generations in favor of their immediate comfort. Their monopoly in Washington bounds politicians as their puppets; no politician wants to get elected out of office for defying the baby boomer monopoly. As a result, Washington has implemented tax cuts and spending increases to increase popularity amongst constituents, rather than exercising fiscal caution: The result is an even faster growth of debt; coupled with persistent entitlements and a culture of instant gratification, it's unlikely that America will ever reverse its path to economic doom.
Like most difficult issues, there is no “quick fix.” The young generation currently holds minimal political power – many of us are not old enough to vote – yet we can take small steps to resolve these issues. Perhaps the greatest tool at our disposal is education, and we can harness its power in two different ways: First, we can educate others on the threat posed by the debt burden, portraying it as a vital issue that people can’t ignore. Second, we can educate ourselves, to increase our future levels of productivity and use our human capital to ensure that we do not shoulder the entirety of this debt. However, as with most issues, we must also tackle the root cause: Future generations should implement political reform, entitlement reform, and allocate fixed amounts of the budget to investment in the future.
The debt burden is large, but so is the potential of our upcoming generation. We must throw off the burden and live, debt-free, into the future.