• Fiji party part of a larger problem

    I know what you’re thinking: “Great, another piece about Fiji and their party.” And you’re right. But hear me out. 

    I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not advocating indifference or apathy. I just recognize that Fiji’s party is part of a larger problem that exists within many social structures at tons of universities across the country. Fiji may have had suggestive decorations, but all the people who showed up in costumes went along with it. Fiji’s “western” theme — or “Border Patrol” (whichever you prefer) — is one of infinite questionable things that happen behind closed doors and off campus. The fact that students go along with things like this without the slightest apprehension is just as big an issue as Fiji’s decision to throw the party in the first place. Propagating an environment where parties like this are tolerated is a direct result of the student body at UT as a whole, not just Fiji. 

    Fiji’s goal in throwing its “western” party wasn’t to offend people — at least, not from where I’m sitting. The fraternity's party was just another of the many theme parties that are a staple here at UT, complete with active and consenting participants (see: sombreros and moomoos). The concept of dressing up to get messed up is one I’ve become familiar with since coming to UT, and it’s one that I don’t believe will be going anywhere — people like costumes and decorations too much to wave goodbye to them just yet. If a line was crossed, it was because it has been a thousand times before, without the tiniest sense of remorse. So Fiji got caught. Let’s take a step back, think about the source of the issue and move on.  

    Yes, Fiji’s lack of foresight is precisely what people are citing as the basis for their anger, and understandably so. But if we intend to call Fiji out for their carelessness, which, for the record, is not much of a surprise considering the culture of partying at UT, we might as well call the rest of the University out while we’re at it.  

    This past week’s drama is less a reflection of Fiji’s values than a painful reminder of the priorities of this University’s partygoers. If the news of this past week upset you, that’s fine. If you’re questioning why the choices of a few students are still newsworthy, that’s fine too. Either way, let's make a pact to move forward with progressive and purposeful decisions instead of pigeonholing certain institutions. 

    Berkeley is an associate editor.  

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  • Vaccination exemptions should be rescinded

    Marty Qureshi of the University Health Center holds up a vial of the Meningitis vaccine. The Texas Legislature recently passed a law requiring all students to be vaccinated against meningitis, not just those living on campus.
    Marty Qureshi of the University Health Center holds up a vial of the Meningitis vaccine. The Texas Legislature recently passed a law requiring all students to be vaccinated against meningitis, not just those living on campus.

    Despite the numerous coincidences, the year is not 1960. Politicians in Alabama are posturing any way they can to stand in the courthouse door, Harper Lee is writing again and — most importantly — deadly diseases such as the measles are on the rebound.

    For the past few weeks, the all-but-eradicated but easily preventable virus has had a resurgence in the United States. The Washington Post reported Monday that a total of 119 people have been affected in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Many of those affected have been infants and toddlers who are too young to receive immunizations. The outbreak is thought to have originated in Southern California, specifically among the children of parents philosophically opposed to vaccinations. These objections can stem from religious dogma — the sect of Christian Science, for example, is opposed to vaccines as well as modern medicine — but usually are a result of a totally imaginary belief that vaccines can have harmful effects on their recipients.

    While Texas has thankfully not hosted any transmission of the virus, the number of students unvaccinated is startlingly high. The Austin American-Statesman noted recently that more than 48 percent of the students at the Austin Waldorf School are unvaccinated. The Texan examined the issue as well and found that, among University students, only international students must prove vaccination histories.

    Thankfully, some government officials are beginning to take note and offer common sense solutions. State Representative Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, recently proposed a bill that would rescind both religious and philosophical opt-outs for vaccines when it comes to public school students. Only two other states, Mississippi and West Virginia, currently have laws that tough.

    Personal choice and parental rights over their children are compelling sound bites, but the issue of vaccinations is somewhat unique. In addition to putting one's children in harm's way, parents who believe in the quackery of the anti-vaccination movement put others' children at risk. Very young children and individuals with autoimmune disorders often cannot be safely vaccinated, thus their well-being relies upon herd immunity from an otherwise covered population.

    Villalba is right to bring action toward this very real public health issue. Hopefully, reasonable Texans will come down on his side and not on the side of anti-science charlatans.

    Horwitz is the Senior Associate Editor.

  • When studying abroad, immerse yourself

    The way we have approached international education since the advent of online resources has been quite formulaic, an issue tackled by Jeremi Suri in his most recent column. Our “distant classrooms,” Suri says, have fostered a culture of easy access and entertainment. When we study abroad, we do exactly that — we study abroad and we party abroad. This is the disadvantage of the comforts of our access. It is also one of being American. When we travel abroad, it is very likely that we will encounter the same clothing, music and language as we do at home. We come home with a maturity developed from keeping track of our own passports and navigating a new city, an underwhelming feat.

    When I interned abroad in Peru, it amazed me that both Chan Chan, ancient ruins that are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a McDonald’s were equidistant from my host home. It was easy to avoid speaking Spanish as long as I stayed with the other interns, but that got boring after a while. Eventually, I started talking to the people sitting next to me on the bus to work every day. I met souvenir vendors, lawyers, journalists, teachers and traveling artists who performed to pay their way across the country. Each person taught me something different; each gave me a piece of the city I was living in. I stayed on my bus a little longer than I was supposed to. I explored the city – even the places that weren’t listed on TripAdvisor.   

    One of the best ways to feel closer to the city is to learn the language. Had I not spoken Spanish, it would have been much more difficult to learn about the people and things around me. Speaking to someone in their own language is also a bonding experience. The more Spanish I learned, the more included I felt in conversations with my Peruvian friends.

    The best advice I got before I left for Peru was this: Don’t let your experience be a passive one. Engage in a new mindset. The most important asset to your experience will be the people you connect with. The more you understand the people around you, the more you’ll understand a life outside of your own. Ask questions, be engaged, stay off your phone and just don’t buy a data plan for your semester abroad.

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

  • McRaven not afraid to confront governor, legislature

    At the beginning of this year, William McRaven, a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy, became the next chancellor of the University of Texas system. He succeeded Francisco Cigarroa, a longtime surgeon who had served in the position for five years. Already, McRaven has taken steps to positively distinguish himself from his predecessor. Namely, his few weeks in office have already been filled with confrontations against state government officials, namely in an attempt to allow the system campuses — especially this one — to retain autonomy against an overbearing and micromanaging legislature.

    First, in the wake of news that the Texas Senate had all-but-assured passage of the so-called "Campus Carry" bill, which would allow for concealed handgun license holders to bring their guns to college, McRaven was firm in his opposition to the asinine proposal. No sane person could allege that McRaven, a career military officer who led the famous operation to kill Osama bin Laden, is anti-gun; he's just pro-common sense.

    "There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds," McRaven wrote in a letter sent to Governor Greg Abbott and others. "I feel that the presence of concealed weapons will make a campus a less-safe environment."

    But it's not just issues of public safety. On Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported that McRaven, in an interview with Tribune CEO Evan Smith, iterated his steadfast support for the Texas Dream act, which allows for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition to public universities. The law, which was passed nearly unanimously by the legislature and signed by then-Governor Rick Perry in 2001, is in jeopardy after both Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have set their sights on it.

    "My job is to help educate the young men and women of Texas," McRaven told Smith during the interview. "If we have been doing that for these undocumented students for, at a minimum, the past three years as they’ve made it through high school, and in many cases since they were in elementary school, I think it’s appropriate to continue to educate them."

    The current leadership in Texas, specifically Abbott and Patrick, are confessed enemies of local control, be it in municipal regulations or how a university runs things on campus. Thankfully, in McRaven, this university has a chancellor willing to stand up to the madness.

    Horwitz is  the Senior Associate Editor.

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