Losing a Title?

Well, the current administration has one thing that’s convenient for me: there always seems like new things to talk about. And by talk about, I mean critique.

The latest news coming from the White House is specifically involving the Department of Education, where Betsy DeVos has announced her intentions to rescind current Title IX guidelines.

So what does this mean, especially for college students? Most of us are lucky enough to only know the name “Title IX” from the required online courses every semester. Or going to a freshman orientation and watching the same viral video comparing sexual assault to drinking tea. If it were me, the only thing I would change about our current system to make the online training much more inclusive, but that’s beside the point.

Title IX is the key to identifying and condemning sexual harassment and assault. It is a broad tool enforcing equality not only for male and female athletes, but also for all students, including transgender and parenting students. Rather than allowing crimes to occur without a true means of legal consequence, now the process for reporting sexual assault is much more transparent.

But based on DeVos’s views, these rights are not a priority. Their funding is not necessary, translating to say that students’ safety and well-being is not necessary. If we want to get down to the simplest of terms, let’s look back at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our human need for growth and knowledge, or self-actualization, is the very point of the pyramid. We psychologically are not prepared to meet that need if our more basic ones are not met, and one of the most important of those is safety and security. If we cannot walk across campus and attend classes without always feeling on-edge, we really shouldn’t even be pursuing an education, not without somebody taking action.

While DeVos’s decision would not immediately go into effect for every public university in the country, the mentality she presents will inevitably trickle down to individual communities and university administrations. If the head of our nation’s education doesn’t find Title IX important, then why should we?

We would be putting our students’ health at risk. Sexual assault is much more than a drunken encounter, a scenario we can just push under a rug and pretend that it isn’t there. The short- and long-term effects of sexual assault can harm a victim’s mind and body. Besides the risk of potentially contracting STDs or becoming pregnant, the mental health concerns can endure for even longer. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety are all very common in survivors. They might even resort to coping mechanisms like substance abuse and self-harm to release their negative emotions.

I hesitate using the word “victim” in this scenario because as someone who has luckily never experienced this trauma, I think the strength and resilience required to keep moving forward past the experience and reporting the crime speaks volumes. If student rights are cut back, what justice are we serving these individuals? The progress that we’ve made to bring greater awareness to this growing issue is at stake. We cannot afford to move backwards.

The Department of Justice reports a quarter of undergraduate females will face some fork of sexual assault. The ACLU says only five percent of campus rape cases are actually reported. Many programs and assumptions we make about sexual assault is female-oriented, which makes sense with the overwhelming majority of statistics, but we leave men and transgender people out of the loop. These demographics probably face the most pressure to remain silent due to the stigma surrounding such reports. They fear not having others believe them when we assume men are known to be more dominated, more sexual.

My focus thus far has been on college campuses just because it’s such a frequent concern, but Title IX affects all levels of education. From elementary school to post-graduate programs, we have the right to call out any sex-based discrimination. Every school must have a Title IX policy and coordinator on staff to ensure this right. We must informed of our right and receive information as to how to handle and report sex discrimination. We deserve to know that information and to have it easily accessible. Especially for someone overwhelmed and distraught over a traumatic experience, chances are if they don’t know what to do from there, how often do you think they’ll hunt it out?

Sure, the actual number of instances of campus sexual assault have dropped over recent years, but that doesn’t mean that we understand it any better, or that our work is done. I see the progress as encouragement to keep doing what we’re doing. Education doesn’t occur in a bubble or vacuum, but in an environment we as citizens must make safe for all. To think of creating more ignorance surrounding sex discrimination, especially in the world of academia…it is simply contradictory.

We cannot stay silent. We must speak up for ourselves and everyone, letting our government and schools know what we the people want and need. A pursuit of happiness and knowledge is not possible without basic security.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Stuck in the Middle

Do you ever feel like you’re going about your day, being productive in your work, but feeling like you’re…off? That the work you’re doing isn’t engaging you like you think it should? That if you weren’t required to do a certain task, you’d be off doing something completely different?

Because that’s where I’m at right now. And it’s a place that I have to be in, unfortunately, and I know I’m not alone in that. I think anybody in their educational career have at least one (or probably many) time(s) where you’re asking, “What is the point? I’m not interested in this. This doesn’t feel relevant to me.”

Whether it’s taking a required math class you despise, applying for a job you know you wouldn’t like, or scheduling a yearly doctor’s appointment when your health is a-okay, there are those moments where we look at the grand scheme of our lives and wonder why all of these seemingly minute details, ones that seem to not serve you, really matter. Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and energy always trying to better ourselves, fuel our passions, and make the most of what we have and are? That’s certainly the message drilled into our heads: no moment is guaranteed. Life is precious. You only live once.

Here’s my current example. I am in the midst of my second to last semester of my undergraduate career. The only classes I have left to graduate are those that are required for my Mass Communication major. As my mind has changed to recenter my focus on what I truly love and feel passionate about, I have felt very drained from taking classes about social research, writing for digital and broadcast media, and media law and ethics. Especially when I have a religion class that resonates with me so much more, going from that to all of my other classes is no comparison. I sit in the classroom just thinking, “This is so minuscule. How truly productive is this? I could be doing -insert other things here- instead.”

When you struggle to find that purpose in the seemingly dull, tiresome tasks, they just become even more strenuous. Our perspectives turn those tasks into mountains to climb every day, continually becoming steeper. If we can’t find a purpose, then it’s virtually impossible to find a motivation.

It’s easy to say, just find the reason you’re doing it in the first place and then you’ll be set, but if only life were that easy. Rarely can we just snap ourselves into a new head space and suddenly see the world with fresh eyes. Especially in the mundane tasks, classes and responsibilities, the reason you might see in going or doing what you need to do, doesn’t necessarily change your attitude toward it. Sure, you’re paying to be in class and you need to take these classes to graduate, but in the present moment? Fifty minutes is dragging on for what feels like hours.

So instead of taking a robotic approach to switching motivation on and off, be gentle and gradual with yourself. Practice mindfulness in becoming aware of your body, position and circumstances, putting more thought into what you’re doing instead of daydreaming about other “more exciting” things. Even just a single reason to go, even if that is to see a friend or silently criticize the relevance of a topic (which, in my case, has been my go-to reason), can ease you into a different perspective.

Cliche, I know, but we are truly so blessed, so when in doubt, find gratitude in whatever you’re dreading because chances are, there are people vying for such an opportunity. Like the ability to receive an education. Or have access to certain resources. Or just any little luxuries that we don’t think about when we’re finding every little detail to complain about.

Because maybe yes, right now, this less enjoyable task isn’t of end-all importance. But in the grand scheme, if it fits into your goals, then it’s a necessary step to take. I have the goal of graduating from college with solid grades in three years, and by taking the classes I am now, I will be able to achieve that. Even if I look back and cannot remember a single detail of what was discussed in those classes, I can be proud knowing that I did it, despite my reservations about it at the time. Same goes for graduating high school, or taking care of mental health, or going through eating disorder recovery.

Everything is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t very obvious. Heck, it can be downright frustrating and defeating thinking you might be wasting your time on something. Accept your current emotions, but know that you’re in the right place at the right time. There’s a purpose, obvious or not, for everything. The lesson you learn from it might not be listed on the syllabus. And at the end of the day, be proud of how far you’ve come, where you are right now, and where you’re going.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Piling Up

It’s that time of the semester when the initial classes of getting in routine pass and the real work sets in. Unfortunately, every class seems to decide the same exact day to kick it into high-gear and throw every task out at once.

Even with a slightly lighter schedule than I’ve had in previous seasons, last week I had a weak moment of feeling defeated. Already so drained of energy before everything even started. Knowing the responsibilities that lie ahead and all of life’s current circumstances, I felt that sudden urge to drop everything and seek refuge, a quiet day or week to not think about anything.

‘Tis the life of a college student, or really any student or person. We all have those moments when we feel like we’re at our breaking point, even if we know deep down that we’re fully capable of managing it all.

The earth just keeps turning, and we just keep waking up every morning and doing what we need to, even if the day prior we were practically in the fetal position and wanting nothing of it. Sure, it seems like we just “toughen up” and make things happen, but what really is the nudge that oils the machine to maintain a smooth operation?

I don’t use the machine analogy for kicks. I do think we do expect ourselves to constantly be to the task, and I honestly feel guilty if I’m not. Especially with all the health stuff going on with me, it’s been difficult to be fully there in every single aspect of my life, and that alone can make me panic.

But everybody can reach that point, for any reason. It’s human. It’s normal. And that’s okay, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for that. It’s like keeping a secret everyone already knows. It’s okay to need rest, even if that means specifically scheduling it into your day. It’s okay to say no if you need a breather.

Being overly stressed can be a blessing in disguise. It can feel like that slap in the face to bring you back to reality instead of routine. You can then truly evaluate your priorities and make time for what matters to you most. And if what you’re doing is only what is most important, there’s always time for it. When we add in the extra responsibilities and get caught up with certain people or situations that fluster us, that’s when the stress is real.

There’s a difference between productive stress and negative stress. Productive stress comes from experiences that test our limits, that may scare us or intimidate us in the moment, but we ultimately know we will learn and grow from them. Negative stress is the extra junk that rattles us, makes us on edge or completely exhausts us. It drains us of life and ourselves. 

We cannot function fully without replenishing that lost energy because let’s face it, the negative stress is inevitable. So take the time for self-care. Surround yourself with the energy and people and ideas that remind you of your humanity, your spirit. We’re not those robots; our new battery is not one on a shelf, but one from rest and time.

So if you too are in a stressful period, student or not, healthy or not, devote your time and energy to your priorities first, starting with your well-being and branching out from there. I wish I was an expert just so I wouldn’t have to be in a constant juggling act, but if it gives me inspiration now for others, then at least it will be worth it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie