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September 16, 2014 - Image 4

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Page 4 -- Tuesday, September 16, 2014

7
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The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com

Page4 -TuedaySepembr16,201 Th Mihiga Daly micigadaiyco

0

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com
MEGAN MCDONALD
PETER SHAHIN and DANIEL WANG KATIE BURKE
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
i w our differencs

Creating a new CAPS

don't like airports. Airports make me
uncomfortable. Airports make me really
uncomfortable. I worry about forgetting
my passport, or tickets,
or losing baggage, and
planes crashing, and
flying into comically bad
storms, or having a drunk
pilot (thank you for that,
Denzel Washington).
Mostly, airports make
me uncomfortable because
it's a space that makes me HAYA
hyper-aware. At any given ALFARHAN
moment, I'm worried
about looking suspicious,
making sure I'm speaking perfect English
instead of Arabic, and looking as friendly as
possible. Mostly, what makes airports uncom-
fortable for me is having to try to compose
myself in a way that puts strangers at ease.
Up until very recently, I used the same
strategy in most of my discussion-based
classes. Instead of speaking my mind, I would
censor myself, make a bland contribution, and
leave the class with a mind full of statements
I should've made instead. Until it finally
dawned on me that comfort has no place in
the classroom. When a classroom discussion is
comfortable, nothing real is being said.
Inanefforttomakestudentsfeelincludedand
safe, most professors who teach "challenging"
material often shut down discussions in
class once one student hints that s/he feels
uncomfortable. This practice is detrimental
to the learning environment. Race, gender,
religion, sexuality and politics should never
be comfortable. Students should be able to feel
safe to share their narratives and opinions in
class. Students should feel respected. Students
can even feel insulted. Students should not
feel comfortable.
Professors need to recognize that there
should be a distinction between feeling "safe"
and feeling comfortable. Often, people use
them interchangeably, and that needs to be
stopped if classrooms are aspiring to become
progressive spaces. Ifnstudents are forced out
of their comfort zone, they'll initially feel
uncomfortable, but eventually that discomfort
will trigger a need for exchange. They'll start

attempting to question their discomfort, their
opinion, and deconstruct their views, leading
to valuable discourse.
When safety and comfort are equated, it
reinforces pre-existing privilege dynamics.
When white students refuse to force
themselves to ponder the input of their fellow
students of color during discussions on race,
it's because their privilege affords them that
comfort. When male students proclaim that
their female classmates are exaggerating, it's
because they're not ready to acknowledge a
narrative that questions their privilege.
When privileged individuals are unwilling
to interrogate their internalized biases
because it makes them uncomfortable, it
forces students with marginalized identities
to trigger themselves emotionally to make a
point. Privileged comfort comes at the cost of
triggeringmarginalizedstudents.Studentswho
trigger themselves do so because these topics
consume their lives and a lack of discourse in
class is genuinely painful for them. These are
often topics that they're constantly thinking,
analyzing and being plagued by.
Yes, professors should be able to facilitate
their class discussions better, but it's
also students' responsibility to engage
wholeheartedly. They should be receptive to
narrativesthatthreatentheirviewofthe world.
They should welcome it. They should sit with
their discomfort.
It's in spaces that trigger discomfort for me
that I've learned deeper truths about myself.
It's in those spaces I've come to understand the
struggles of others and worked to understand
my role in the equation. It's in uncomfortable
exchanges and conversations that I've been
able to evolve asa person.
Discomfort is not fun, but it will make you
a less shitty person. It will make you relearn
things, teach you compassion, and yes, it
might even make you realize some pretty
painful truths. When you make the choice
to be comfortable, you're making the choice
to accept what you've been taught about
yourself and your role in the world with
no questions.
-Haya Alfarhan can be reached
at hsf@umich.edu.

y freshman year, I was
depressed about life
and in a situation that
required imme-
diate psychologi-
cal services.
Now, don't ask
me why I wasn't
happy. I guess I,
like many stu-
dents, take off my
Supergirl "M" DEVIN
costume when EGGERT
I get home and
return not to my
alter ego, Kara Zor-El, but back to a
nerdy school girl who forgets she can
fly. Regardless, after a long delay of
procrastination due to stigma and
fear, I had finally buckled down the
courage to make an appointment
at the University's Counseling and
Psychological Services, also known
as CAPS.
The CAPS receptionist gave me
two pathway options.Iwasfaced with
a decision: Become a crisis - a psy-
chiatric emergency, with loud police
sirens and a bill high enough to match .
my instability. Or wait a month for
an appointment.
Was this a joke?
I can't deal with a go left sign if
you're Van Gogh and go rightif you're
Blair Waldorf and your date turned
you down last Saturday. I can't wait
until the end of the month. I can't
even make it through the day. But, I'm
not at the point where I need to be on
"Grey's Anatomy" or talk to Doctor
Who in the ER about why I'm feeling
like I'm dying. So instead of pickinga
side, I hid in my dorm room between
classes and cried miserably.
But, tears can fuel your drive
sometimes, ifyou can learn to turn the
switch. And that's what I did.
Being a powerhouse, I didn't
give up. I self-proclaimed my own
solution to the problem of backed-up
psychological appointments. "There
will be a CAPS on North Campus.
Not only will there be a CAPS, there
will be a CAPS, SAPAC and Trotter-
type building all in Pierpont." Come,
victimized people of the North, we
shall lead a rebellion riding our slower-
than-snails buses down the streets of
Central CampusAnnArbor!
I don't want one person on

campus to be alone like I was.
Of course, this movement didn't
come in the form of caped crusaders
or a medieval army shouting QUEEN
OF THE NORTH! Itcame in the form
of long comment cards and advocacy
meetings with grinning bureaucrats
graciously answering, "That sounds
like an excellent idea - let me do
absolutely nothing about it."
Four years later, no longer a
freshman but a budding Daily
columnist, I secured an interview
with the CAPS Director Todd Sevig,
for Student Suicide Awareness week.
I had finally leveraged myself for my
one-minute elevator pitch to change
CAPS as we know it.
I waited in the same CAPS front
room I, had been in many times
before filling out bubbled evaluation
sheets to test my sanity. I nervously
smoothed out my button-down shirt
and checked to make sure my voice
recorder worked.
Meanwhile, a dark-haired, quiet
guy, whom I had already projected
my own story on, entered the CAPS
waiting room. Knowing how the
journey of CAPS had gone for so
many of my friends and me, I listened
closer, waiting for the warm and
smiling receptionist to unintention-
ally turn away his hesitant request
for help ...
"OK, I'll go _
ahead and set
you up with a But, te
consultation
appointment," . fuel yo1
the reception- m
ist replied. "I'll SOmetim
get you a meet- can lear
ing within the
next one to three the S1
days."
What? My

a student comes in asking for an
appointment, they will get an initial
consultation appointment within one
to three days. Now, our crisis option
for students will still be available,
but the reality is, we've listened to
students and most prefer setting up
an appointment."
What? A department on campus
that is actually receptive to
student feedback?
"What we, as a staff, listened to
was this critique that the wait for
CAPS was too long. We overhauled
the old system in response. We had
to completely change our mindset,"
Sevig said.
Sevig talked about a promotion of
centralized efficiency, small changes
addingup to suitable big changes and
went over a newly created "draft"
flowchart with me.
Centralized efficiency? He had
found my kryptonite ... And a
flow chart?
OMG it was too much to handle.
In response to my North Campus
woes, Sevig agreed.
"CAPS has just initiated a new
embedded counseling system this
year within the school systems
on North Campus," Sevig said.
"Currently we have a staff member in
every school on North. It's too early
to tell, but so far it has been well-

ars can
ur drive
tes, ifyou
An to turn
witch.

received."
Well, let me
tell you, after
fighting an
uphill battle in
terms of getting
prompt psycho-
logical services
for my fellow
students, I could
not be more
pleased with the

a
I

head turned around.
"How's tomorrow?"
What kind of world amIliving in?
Just then, the director of CAPS
came into the waiting room to
shake my hand and lead me to
his office.
"The wait time used to fluctuate
from one to three weeks and that
was what was uncomfortable," Sevig
explained. "And to be honest, it was
uncomfortableforstaffaswell. We're
abolishing that whole concept. When

CAPS team's response to the need
for faster services. The director of
CAPS asked me to encourage anyone
who does utilize any type of service
at CAPS to give feedback, because it
has been invaluable in the process. I
feel like I can hang my cape on this
issue, though.
Congrats, CAPS, that was a big
win for you in my comic book.
-Devin Eggert can be reached.
at deeggert@umich.edu.

MEKAREM ELJAMAL I
Identity as a Michigan student

1

The esquina caliente

Jf you're a kid or an unemployed twenty-
something living in Havana, to you the
corner of 23rd and G Street isthe "esquina
caliente," or the hot corner.
It's populated by skaters
using second hand boards
brought over by Canadians,
drug dealers selling tiny
bags of marijuana tied up
with floss, kids, young and
old, looking to befriend
tourists and foreign stu- ABBY
dents. The corner is a meet- TASKIER
ing spot, an important site
for creative expression,
and yet, the corner is a
microcosm of Cuba - a nation from which its
citizens can't escape.
As a foreign student at the University of
Havana, Ielected to take a class on the political
economy of socialism. My Cuban friend said
he'd teach me everythingI'd need to know about
Cuba'spoliticaleconomy- it's"nadamas,ynada
menos que tremenda mierda."Nothingmore and
nothing less than tremendous shit. Those born
after the Cuban Revolution ended in 1959 didn't
choose for their livelihoods to be dictated by
the transition towards perfect socialism, a false
concept. Or that the word transition, aword the
Cubans are governedby, is merely a justification
for forcing their contribution to an economy
that leaves only the tourists they're swindling
happy. They're trapped in an experiment they
never wished to be a part of, one drawn up in the
philosopher Karl Marx's mind.
The Cubans feast on the funds that trickle
in from foreign pockets as a result of persistent
economnic instability and social immobility.
Through the tourist and sex tourist industries,
Cuba's economy makes a significant portion
of its revenue, not including the money that's
absorbed by the Cuban sharks. The men and
women alike who prey on the naivet6 of dopey
foreigners are called sharks or "tiburones."
Living there for a significant amount of time,
I learned to mine through the clumps of salsa
dancing tiburones, though I'd been assured
that there weren'tmany diamonds inthe rough.
However, with little time, it became obvious
that being overly skeptical leads to dull results,
and within a matter of days I found my own
tibur6n, as so many foreign students do in their
efforts for cultural immersion.
Alberto, el diablo of Cuba, as he was pro-
claimed, was my Cuban boyfriend and way in to
Cuban society. "El Diablo" was written on the

top ofhis left forearmin thick, inky, black letters,
re-affirming his nickname for the general public.
He walked with a lack of urgency, and sported
the same t-shirt almost every day - black with a
picture of white skeleton bones. In exchange for
a deepened cultural experience, it was expected
that I'd pay for his food, drinks and sometimes
even household items he and his family couldn't
afford. He'd begme tolendhim money for some-
thing "urgent,"the only time urgency meant any-
thing to him, and would return the next day with
no money and abrand new material possession, in
one instance, a gold watch. In return for my coin,
I was plunged into the depths of society - taken
to underground art events that protested against
the Castros, late night discussions with counter-
revolutionaries over Cuban tobacco.
As time rolled on our feelings further devel-
oped, despite my inner reserve, into much deep-
er sense of caring. Paradoxically, the amount
we mutually exploited each other deepened
as well. We became entangled within a power.
dynamic I never could have imagined being a
part of, one that left me with constant pangs of
that American, white guilt. If I felt uncomfort-
able providing him with more money, he'd tell
me the story of his father's abandonment when
he fled to the U.S. All of his grievances were wor-
thy of complaints. He was minimally educated,
practically imprisoned on this island of despera-
tion and regardless of my nominal financial help
continued tobe stuck ina system that cared little
about his individual needs. But did that warrant
his manipulation of me? And at the end of the
semester, when he ran off with my phone and no
goodbye, were his theft and deception justifiable?
It's an incredibly difficult question to answer,
whether or not someone's situation can justify
morally corrupt actions. But what I believe to
be important in answering this is whether
or not I as a privileged American can impose
judgment on apoor and oppressed Cuban. The
imposition of judgment is dangerous, as people
from different backgrounds and opportunities
tend to impose their judgment on those who
have committed crimes, both petty and seri-
ous. Maybe it's a system that causes someone to
defy your morally acceptable chart. Or maybe
it's something else less obvious: a destructive
family situation, mental illness, etc. Regardless,
while Alberto continues to linger on the esqui-
na caliente waiting for new foreigners and their
phones, I'll try hard not to blame him.
-Abby Taskier can be reached
at ataskier@umich.edu.

People spend the whole summer
preparing for their first days at Mich-
igan. They've got everything fortheir
dorm, books for their classes, plenty
of nerves in their stomachs and the
words of tour guides, old friends and
University administrators running
through their minds. But quite often
there are some lessons that they've
never been told. Last year, I was the
student lugging all those unneeded
books up to my dorm. My heart filled
with the excitement of the unknown
that was college. People told me what
to bring for the dorm and what books
I would actually need to buy, but
no one ever said a word about the
mindset I would need to bring to get
through this year.
It is perfectly okay not to be
proud of this school
It's great that people are able to
love this school as much as they do,
but it is not a requirement to have
that same enthusiasm. My fresh-
man year put me firmly in the cat-
egory of students who bleed red,
not maize and blue. And I am quite
okay with that.
I go to the University of Michigan,
which is very different from being
a Michigan Wolverine. I've said it
before and I will say it again: Michi-
gan has a long way to go before I will
ever claim the identity of a Michi-
gan Wolverine without it dripping
in sarcasm.
While I'm now comfortable with
being a student at Michigan without
that enthusiastic Michigan pride, I
spent my first semester here either
making up excuse after excuse for
why I don't feel like part of the Mich-
igan community everyone speaks
so highly of, or pretending that my
love for this school runs just as deep
as "everyone else." Those first four
months of school were consumed by
telling myself these feelings of isola-
tion were not due to the multitude of

issues that plague this institution;
no, it was my fault, I wasn't doing
college "right."
It took me too long to realize that
it wasn't me doing college "wrong"
that made me stand on the outside
as everyone else cheered themselves
hoarse with each "It's great to be a
Michigan Wolverine." My experi-
ences led me to this conclusion, and
that conclusion is perfectly fine. Your
experiences will bring you to your
own conclusions. Maybe you will
bleed maize and blue, maybe not. The
only thing you need to do is honor
whatever conclusion you come to.
Question your professors
I remember coming into orien-
tation with people having told me
that Professor X was just brilliant,
and to listen to and absorb every
word that came out of his mouth.
Don't get me wrong, Michigan
has talented professors, but none
of them are gods. Professors say
some messed up things and need to
be held accountable for it. So even
though your friend said to bask in
the glory of this professor's bril-
liance, take your time and actu-
ally listen to what is being said. You
aren't at this school to regurgitate
what your professors say; you're
here to learn how to think critically
and draw your own conclusions. So
start with your professors. Why did
they choose to start the semester
rattling off their many degrees or
showing you a clip of themselves
on MSNBC? Just as they ask you for
an explanation of your opinions, be
critical of what they say, how they
say it, who is saying it, etc.
Forget a significant amount of
what you learned on tours and at
orientation
Once second semester came
around and navigating my way
around tour groups started to
become part of my daily routine, I

couldn't help but roll my eyes and
recall how the University I was told
about at orientation and on tours
is vastly different from the one I
experiended. Just remember the
intention behind orientation and
campus tours; they are meant to get
you onto campus and then keep you
here for the next four years.
Respect the changes that come
from this year
I am far from the same person
I was last September. And I have
lost many friends because of it.
These changes aren't to be feared.
Embrace them. Critique them. In
the same sense that your experi-
ences will bring about changes in
yourself, don't expect your friends
to return home the same.
Allow yourself to. ignore
what you "should" be doing and
instead do what you want.
Some of the best memories I have
are from days when I put college
as a distant second to the people
who have supported me. Forget
the paper due in two days and go
to a friend's event; stay up until 6
a.m. talking, dancing, eating; then
repeat this the next day with late
night runs to sweet shops and phil-
osophical discussions lasting until
4 a.m. We all need these moments
to just be and enjoy the people we
have found. College is stressful.
The deadlines, expectations and
stupidity of people will get to you,
so these moments when you com-
pletely ignore your "responsibili-
ties" will not only serve you well,
but will also fulfill your responsi-
bility to yourself as an individual.
Michigan in Color is the Daily's
opinion section designated as a space
for and by students of color at the
University of Michigan. To contribute
your voice or find out more about MiC,
e-mail michiganincolor@umich.edu.

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Barry Belmont, David Harris, Rachel John, Nivedita Karki,
Jacob Karafa, Jordyn Kay, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald,
Victoria Noble, Melissa Scholke, Michael Schramm,
Matthew Seligman, Paul Sherman, Allison Raeck, Linh Vu,
Meher Walia, Mary Kate Winn, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
I f

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