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September 04, 2018 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
Fall 2018 — 7C

An homage to
freshman year

Coming to college, everyone
echoed a similar mantra: “Cherish
every moment, you only have one
freshman year.” In the weeks
before I finally left for Ann Arbor,
I was wrought with anxiety and
of going to college and leaving
everything I knew behind. After
unpacking my dorm room and
hugging my parents goodbye, I
knew, very rationally, that I was
turning a new page in my life.
Adulting, growing up, maturing ―
however you want to frame it ― I was
heading down a new path in my life.
With two weeks of the school
year remaining, I get a little choked
up every time I think about leaving
the University of Michigan, a place
that has truly become my new
home. Looking back at my first few
weeks to my last, the contrast is
humorous. I want to pay homage to
the parts of my freshman year at the
University that made it so special.
My first few weeks of class, I
had to use the Google Maps app to
get from building to building. Being
both directionally challenged and in
a whole new environment is quite
possibly the worst combination.
Sadly, Maps wasn’t able to lead me to
shortcuts, no matter how advanced
the newest update may appear.
First semester, I had to walk
from South Quad Resident Hall to
the School of Public Health three
times a week. For those of you who
are geographically savvy, this is
typically a 15-minute walk, but for
the first three weeks of classes, it
took me almost exactly 20 minutes
to get to class. Maps was like my
baby blanket, and I was too scared to
go in any other direction other than
where Siri directed me. Eventually,
when heading to class with a friend
one day, she looked at me wildly
when I told her I had never cut
through the Diag. Like, literally,
I had never walked through the

Diag to get to class. Finally being
able to understand the intersecting
paths around the emblematic ‘M’
on the Diag was a life-changing
One fundamental part of the
University’s character is the people
that you meet here. I know, not
everyone is great; it’s not a perfect
place. But coming to this school, I
never could have fathomed what
it was like to be surrounded by
so many smart, passionate and
competitive spirit to the University
that challenges each student to
become the best they can be. And
believe me, there were, are and will
be so many times where I will sigh
in frustration that I am the dumbest
person on campus. But having
the opportunity to learn in an
academically rigorous environment
surrounded by peers who foster
ambition and achievement is an
unparalleled experience. No matter
how hard the classes may seem,
your classmates, professors and the
campus environment are teaching
students to grow and achieve more
than they have believed.
Another fundamental part is the
school spirit and our glorious game
days. To be completely transparent,
I am not a football person, but I love
U-M game days with all of my heart.
There is something so incredible
dressed in maize and blue, singing
“Hail to the Victors” and willing
a win out of our team. Win or lose,
there is always unprecedented pride
toward our team and our school.
The student body feels as one unit,
united by the spirit of the University
of Michigan.
Don’t take your freshman year for
granted. Of course, it will be hard,
and the University won’t feel like
home with the snap of your fingers.
But hold tight to the little moments,
cut through the Diag and sing “Hail
to the Victors” like it’s the last game
day of your senior year.


Environmental “slack-tivism” in 2018

It’s 2018 and this year we
celebrated the 48th anniversary
of Earth Day, a global day of
protection. It also marks day zero
of the Environmental Protection
Agency “strengthening” the quality
of science it uses to write new
environmental rules, a decision
made by EPA Administrator Scott
Pruitt. “Strengthening” in this
case means narrowing the scope of
science available to the EPA to only
findings that are reproducible and
authentic, which may potentially
violate the EPA’s pledge to use the
best available science.
Recently, I was reminded by
a CNN push notification that the
health of my environment, as
well as the integrity of my right
to take action, is deteriorating.
I immediately felt there was no
legitimate way for me to express my
disdain for political decisions like

this one. After reading, I interrupted
trance so she could commiserate
with me in anger about the article.
“Wow,” she sighed, “you should
share that article on Facebook.”
This is “slacktivism,” or the
watered-down support for an issue
that requires only the most minimal
effort, such as expressing opinions
on social media. This is how our
generation takes action. Is it true
that millennial Wolverines are
lazily riding a ski lift up the activism
mountain, while generations before
us trekked and trudged to reach the
top of it? It is possible we come off
as [COPY: confusing, maybe should
say “it is possible we appear to them
to be”] the pre-cooked meals in
the freezer section of Kroger that
require minimal effort to enjoy –
just two minutes of “labor.” We are
to past generations of activists as
EasyBib is to handwriting an APA-
style reference.
Activists across the world gather
annually on Earth Day in an attempt

to harness the power necessary to
keep the passion alive and stand up
against environmental injustice. But
what classifies as standing up for the
Earth? Standing up for the Earth in
2018 is quite different than it was in
1970, especially on the University
of Michigan campus – but how
“Slacktivism” on our campus,
unfortunately, casts a shadow on
our school’s unparalleled legacy of
student-driven action. In March
1970, U-M students organized a
four-day-long series of events that
revolved around taking action
served as a precursor to the first
Earth Day just one month later.
was degrading nationwide; the
Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so
polluted that it ignited and Santa
Barbara was suffering after a
massive oil spill. Locally, the Huron
River’s wildlife populations were
dropping like flies because its flies
The 1970 teach-in let
students take action in a way
that had never been done
before. Young adults our age
attended conferences hosted
by politicians in an attempt
to gain perspective on the
issues. They enrolled in the
brand new environmental
law major and walked along
the Huron River to protest
its deterioration. They took
sledgehammers to a vehicle
in the Diag that was facing
a “trial and execution” for
its pollution crime. They
visited a former Ann Arbor
Coca-Cola bottling plant
and dropped off thousands
of cans that were, at the
time, non-returnable. They
then picked up that mess of
cans with their own hands.
Our generation has a
slightly different way of
expressing disgust for the
state of the environment
and its policies, as shown
by my friend’s suggestion to

Facebook “share” the Pruitt article.
We use our own two hands to type
of consciousness onto Facebook,
letting the world know our true
opinions about who is responsible
for polluting what, and how John
Appleseed should be paying for its
clean-up. We retweet digs at Pruitt
that criticize his tactics, question
his motives, and press for answers
about the future of the EPA.
However, we need to start doing the
action ourselves — the criticizing,
the questioning and the pressing for
We’ve picked a bad time for
action to shift to inaction, for
correspondence with state senators
to turn into retweets and Facebook
shares. I say “bad time” because
as a country, we exist in quite a
Just this past year, humans’ actions
resulted in the inability to coexist
with certain species and a climate
disaster in Puerto Rico. The U.S.
was one of the only countries to
withdraw from the Paris agreement
and remove itself from the pact to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Not to worry — if all feels hopeless
and degradation seems inevitable,
sustainability website, and explore
the huge progress the University
has made to better the Earth and
work toward our 2025 campus
goals. We’ve already succeeded in
applying 40 percent less chemicals
to the green of our campus, but we
need to focus on recycling to reduce
waste sent to landfills and walking
or busing to class to reduce our
carbon footprint.
April 22, 2018 has come and
gone, sweeping like a whirlwind
over our country and hitting Ann
Arbor especially hard. The 48th
anniversary of Earth Day should
reminder to wake up and smell the
roses, both figuratively and literally.
We are now in the same position as
the 1970 U-M undergraduates that
spoke up for what they believed in
and inspired a national movement.
Wardrobe Malfunction, Sarah Neff can be reached at sane@umich.edu


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