Take Back the Night

On Tuesday, April 8th I attended Take Back the Night, an open forum event on campus where students can speak to the community about their experiences regarding sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Hundreds of students attended this event to show their support for those sharing their stories, and dozens of students  also stood up and spoke to the community about their experiences as victims, survivors, or advocates of sexual abuse or violence. Though I also attended this event last year as a freshman, it was not until this year that I truly realized the importance of holding this event on our campus. Take Back the Night is immensely important for UR students not only because it provides an opportunity for students to speak their mind and share their stories, but also because it reminds our campus community that sexual abuse, sexual violence, and rape, exist among our community itself as well. It is often easy to disregard issues such as rape and sexual violence by telling yourself that UR’s campus is safe, and since nothing has ever happened to you or any of your friends it must not be happening to anyone else on campus either; I’m certainly guilty of thinking this way, as I know many other students on campus are as well. However, Take Back the Night reminds the entire community that rape and sexual abuse are prevalent on our campus and therefore pertinent to our individual lives as well as our communal environment as well.

Jepson Symposium

I found the Jepson Symposium really interesting, and I learned a lot from visiting the various different stations. At the Jepson Symposium, Jepson students presented their thesis, both honors and not, to any person who stopped by their station. There were many different kinds of theses at the Symposium, but the majority seemed to focus on challenges facing minority members of the United States — with some others focusing on groups, such as women, that have may not be minorities, but are still discriminated against. It was a simultaneously depressing and uplifting experience. It was another reminder of the many, many problems impacting some of the minorities in this country – but also uplifting, as it at least shows that people today are working to try to fix these issues. There were many important issues that stuck out to me, but the one that stuck out to me the most was a thesis done by Jackson Taylor. In the thesis, he outlined many of the health care problems facing young immigrant women in the city of Richmond. He broke this issue up into many different parts, and focused on the many different aspects that lead the women he was working with to experience problems obtaining the proper healthcare. For example, one of the issues Jackson Taylor was looking at was what level the women he worked with could speak English. Not being able to speak English could drastically alter the care received by an individual, and would naturally be a large hurdle for these women to overcome in order to achieve even satisfactory healthcare. While Taylor’s data was drawn from far to small of a sample size to be representative of the issues facing young immigrant women in Richmond, his data did show that an inability to communicate effectively across language barriers to be a large problem. Additionally, Jackson found that cultural problems were a significant factor in immigrant women receiving proper health care. In many cultures around the world women are taught to be remain quiet, and not “bother” the men with their problems. This obviously has a huge impact on the health of these women, as they will tend to ignore sickness or pain for as long as possible. As a result, by the time they contact a health care service they are sick enough that they may require more aid than they can afford – or that they can travel too. It is not uncommon to find family placed above all else in cultures around the globe, and I have actually spoken with sick people form other cultures who were choosing to die with their family instead of risking getting help and dying without their family. This symposium, and Jackson Taylor’s thesis, really opened my eyes to some of the most challenging aspects of leadership – working with other cultures and values. There were many issues that Taylor found that could be fixed to promote better health care, but there are some issues that are not as easily changed. Chief amongst these is how do you work with people from cultures that promote ideas differently than your own? In our culture, education is highly valued — but this dedication to formalized schooling is not universal.  For example, I have worked with a culture in Australia that values family so much that almost none of the students make it past the first semester of the first year of a boarding school, as they cannot stand to be away from their family and tribe for so long. The government even offers to drive hours and hours to come get them, and then fly them to the school at no charge – but it does not matter to the people with these values. Even though they know that this lack of western education means essentially living off of almost no money and having access to almost no Western jobs, they are happy with that — as long as it means that they have their family close by. It took me a while working with this culture to feel fully at home with it, and I had to change my leadership style greatly while living with them. I think leaders also have to be extremely careful when working with these different cultures, as sex roles can vary greatly between cultures. For example, the tribe I was in was split into many different sub sections, and most of the girls over the age of thirteen were not allowed to speak with me because of their subsections — and none were supposed to make eye contact with me. I think understanding all of these cultural differences is key to being an effective leader, and that when working with different cultures it is important to be careful.

Diamond’s Reasoning for the Fall of Civilizations

In Diamond’s novel Collapse, Diamond categorizes three reasons as to why seemingly strong civilizations can soon begin to crumble. These societies may either fail to foresee a problem before it becomes an issue, fail to perceive the problem when it does in fact arrive, or fail to attempt to solve the issue once it has been identified. After examining the examples he provides under each context, the issue of global warming especially stood out to me as it involves a dangerous problem that our current society is attempting to combat. Diamond explains that people easily become skeptical of whether or not global warming is in fact real as it tends to have a slow trend with various fluctuations, otherwise known as having a “creeping normalcy.” Due to this long period of time, individuals do not see or experience the sudden effects of global warming and often dismiss its dangerous costs.

However, failure to address this potentially life-endangering issue is something that our society cannot ignore forever. While we personally may not witness its impact, our future children and certainly their children will experience the effects of our ignorance to global warming. Individuals tend to use “rational behavior” or advance their selfish interests while ignoring the harm to others. The potential for profits often clouds an individual’s judgment. While some societies may not realize their destruction, I feel that it is inexcusable to be aware of a problem negatively affecting our society and continuing to ignore the consequences.

-Danielle DiPretoro

Romanov Lecture

I found this lecture really interesting, as I had never thought of the importance of names with anywhere near the depth that this lecturer brought up.  I had always known that names in various cultures could describe lineage or family profession, but I thought that would more or less be the extent of names.  The lecturer showed me how mistaken I was.  The lecturer had these incredible graphs that showed the name usage across the ancient Islamic world, and showed how many different things you could learn from one person’s name.  More interestingly, he showed the audience how to analyze each part of the name – and what it could tell you.  At one point he showed the audience an Islamic name from the middle ages that was over half a page long. From that name, I learned about what tribe he was from, what clan within the tribe, from whom he was descendent, where he lived, where his family was from, what his job was, and what his place in the social hierarchy was. This blew me away, as it seemed more like a biography than a name.  This would have been an incredibly important tool, as it would instantly allow people to judge the proper way to behave with each other based off this type of information.  One of the most interesting things to me was that the people in the community got to decide part of a person’s name. So if a person living in Cairo claims to be from Mecca, but his grandfather was the last one in his family to be born in Mecca and the person has never been to Mecca – then the community could say that a person is not really from Mecca, they are from Cairo.  I think the lecturer made a lot of really interesting points, and I have already begun to examine names more closely.

This lecture was really interesting to me, because not only did I learn more about names – I learned more about leadership in the Middle East.   A person’s background information is so important that it is literally the first thing that a person in the Middle East finds out about the person they are talking with.  I can understand the family name, tribal, and clan aspects, as it clearly sets a social hierarchy, but I would have never imagined that where the family is from is considered to be very important as well.  It seems apparent that family status is a huge factor in interpersonal relationships, and that would be key for any leader to understand.  A leader could use this type of knowledge to their advantage in multiple ways, such as by partnering people from the same tribe together – as this shared background and culture means that in all likelihood the people will work well together.   They could also use their knowledge to ensure that tribes with negative or hostile views towards each other do not get thrust together – and in the process saving much bloodshed.  Additionally, the names of people would give a leader valuable information about the migratory movements of their people, such as whether their population was becoming more urban or rural – and focus on the appropriate area.  It is a really useful thing to keep in mind while studying the vital people in the history of Islam, and I would guess that there will be more one or two instance of trying to claim a heritage or tribal connection in order to climb through the ranks.

Take Back the Night

On Tuesday April 8th I attended Take Back the Night in the forum. I had not been to this event before, so I did not know what to expect. I had heard from many people that it is a very powerful event and widely attended on campus. Take Back the Night is an open discussion on the forum about sexual assault and sexual violence. Anyone can stand up and share something with the group whether it was a personal story, voicing their support, or any other commentary. Since coming to college I have been much more aware about the possibility of sexual violence occurring around me.  I believe that this open forum type of discussion about this type of topic is very beneficial for the entire campus.

I was impressed by the strength that the individuals had who stepped up to the microphone to share their story. As I listened to these stories I was moved. The power of hearing these types of stories from the mouth of the person who experienced it rather than just reading about it or being told about it had a real effect on me. What I also gained from this forum was the importance of standing up when someone needs help. As a student in the leadership school we are all learning the importance of leadership and what it means to be a leader. In this forum every person who spoke was a leader sharing a piece of themselves with everyone. As for the rest of the community we must take this and learn from it and look out for one another.

God Loves Uganda

Last week I viewed the screening of “God Loves Uganda”. I had heard some previous notions about the affairs in Uganda, but wasn’t very knowledgeable of what was going on. After viewing it, it became more evident to me of how U.S. relations and the evangelicals that are sent over there impact a nation like Uganda. The film followed the movement of IHOP (international house of prayer) and their involvement in Uganda as well as showing the perspectives by local Ugandan religious leaders. It was eye opening because it showed how the word of a white man, and the influences of the U.S. can have a huge impact on a third world country such as Uganda.

I thought it was very interesting how they followed  one evangelical, who they noted would have no impact in America, however Ugandans were in full support of his views and wanted to internalize some of his alterior motives, mainly an abolishment of LGBT movement in Uganda. This thought mainly gained the interest of Ugandan government and has a massed support of the population. This causes much violence and unrest in Uganda. Also the film follows a group of young adults who go to proselytize Ugandans into Christians, however they don’t entirely understand the consequences and impacts that they are having on the Ugandan people. An interesting juxtaposition is when the two Ugandans try to speak about God and not many people listen to their message, and inversely, when the evangelicals are stopped to get food from the road vendors and Ugandans flock to them to listen to what they say, as the evangelicals speak out of their van. The film to me, put the evangelicals in a very condescending position. While their motives may be pure, the way at which they go about speaking of Christianity was very brash. Once they enter the town where they go to a couple Ugandans outside a hut and say “will you accept Jesus Christ as your savior” e.t.c. it put them in a condescending position because they believe  that the Ugandans don’t know any better and therefore are saving them, when in reality the evangelists don’t understand the culture of the Ugandans.

This film really opened my eyes to see the power that the U.S. and an organization like IHOP  can have in a country like Uganda. It’d be interesting to trade point of views with a Ugandan for a day to see how I’d react to an evangelist trying to speak to me. In America we are secure of our religious beliefs and free to believe whatever we choose, so that’s why when a Jehovah’s Witness comes to talk to us we don’t pay much attention to what they say, however if we were in a position like Uganda, would we believe what an evangelist would say?

Thoughts on God Loves Uganda

Last week, I attended the film screening of God Loves Uganda, a film about the role of the American Christian community, specifically evangelicals, in the African country of Uganda. The film pointed a firm finger at the involvement of American evangelicals in Uganda. It certainly appears that Americans conservatives have meddled heavily in Ugandan affairs, offering money and support to those who are willing to spread their message.

The film implied that since American evangelicals are fighting a losing battle at home, they have turned to Uganda to spread their message. In addition to spreading messages of Christianity, however, they also have an underlying political agenda–in the most relevant form, to pass anti-gay legislation in Ugandan parliament. Certainly, the film suggested that their efforts are succeeding–the extreme vitriol spouting from many Ugandans indicated the depth of their distaste for LGBTQ folks. Yet, not only have the American evangelicals whipped up support for anti-gay legislation, but they have also created an environment where hate and violence against LGBTQ persons is tolerated and even occasionally encouraged.

To me, this film underscored the power that individuals, acting as leaders, can have on huge numbers of people. Specifically, it terrifies me that one group, acting in isolation, can incite people to hate others. Granted, history and psychology are littered with examples of how this is possible. Take, for example, Zimbardo. Although he doesn’t address it directly, he does imply that his own actions and implicit encouragement incited the guards to hate the prisoners.

The same type of encouragement applies in Uganda. The situational leadership provided through American missionaries seems to have effectively incited hateful opinions towards the LGBTQ community. In a sense, it seems like a sort of “intellectual imperialism,” since it appears that American ideas are being pushed onto Ugandans. The counter-argument, however, is that the Americans are simply stating their opinion–they are not forcing Ugandans to listen or believe their words. Thus, the question remains: Do the actions of American evangelicals represent a form of free speech or an act of imperialism. It might be a bit of both. In any case, these actions have created an environment that poses a direct threat to a vulnerable community. That itself raises an ethical question over the actions of these evangelicals.

Take Back the Night

I’ve always believed that there is nothing more disheartening than watching a woman cry and not being able to do anything about it; “Take Back the Night” confirmed that belief. Attending this open forum was both terrifying and comforting. Rape culture in University life is all too common with very little punishment. Watching my fellow students, some of them I even knew, walk up to a mic and share their stories really makes the issue of sexual assault very real and personal. Until attending this event last year and this year I always viewed sexual assault as something that happened but would never ever personally effect me. Unfortunately I was wrong. Last year my friend was drugged at a party and I watched as she started to lose physical control of her body and kept slipping down to the floor. Thankfully I was with her and was able to help her out of the party, but had I not been there it is very possible that something might have happened that ruined her life. It is clear that there is some flaw in the leadership of this school, or University policy, in general because this is an issue that should have an answer. I would love to see the day that sexual assault in college becomes all but a memory but I do not see that happening soon. There must be some kind of change in the policy towards sexual assault and that needs to stem from University and National leadership. Hopefully something can be done soon because the last thing I want is to see another one of my closest friends the way I did last year.

God Loves Uganda

I attended the showing of God Loves Uganda last Monday. I went into it without knowing what the movie was about, but I walked away knowing quite a bit about the current state of politics and religion in Uganda and the relations the U.S. and Uganda. I thought that it was really informative, especially given that it was a short movie, at under one and a half hours. It was good that it tried to show the perspectives of both sides, the American Evangelical Christians, and the Ugandans who support gay rights, although it definitely do this in the best possible way. You certainly couldn’t argue that the movie makers portrayed each side in equal ways.

The movie was rather fallacious in the way it portrayed some issues and groups. There are tons of Christian charities and churches operating in Uganda, enough so that they are relied upon for support by a good deal of communities. And of course some of these groups make efforts to evangelize Ugandans. The International House of Prayer was shown in both America and abroad, and while their goals and actions are certainly paternalistic, it’s questionable whether they are the ones causing violence against homosexual and pro-gay rights people in Uganda. It’s one thing to be against gay rights, and a whole other thing to brutally kill people for supporting gay rights. And even if one or a group of Evangelicals are spurring the violence, it cannot be blamed on all the Evangelicals that are there. That’s the major issue I have with the movie; I don’t recall seeing anything that indicates the IHOP missionaries (And yes, they actually used that acronym themselves) were inciting violence. Although it is definitely possible that they have done so, it simply wasn’t shown.

Regardless of the unquestionably (and possibly unfairly) negative portrayal of IHOP, I agree with the point of view of the filmmakers for the most part. The treatment of homosexuals and those that are pro-gay rights in Uganda is horrendous, and it’s an untenable situation in long term. It seems likely that at least some of the Evangelicals are worsening the situation, given the sometimes harmful rhetoric they repeat ad nauseum.

Take Back the Night

Last year, I had no idea what Take Back the Night was even about until I passed by the forum on my way back from the library the night it was held. I was only able to catch the last speaker that night, and wished that I could have been there earlier to show support like everyone else in attendance.

This year, I was able to stay in the forum longer and was able to hear a variety of different stories, and each was extremely emotional and moving. It is scary to think about how easy it is to assume that sexual assault doesn’t happen very much on campus, since we don’t usually see it happening. Going to Take Back the Night really opened my eyes about the prevalence of sexual assault on and off campus. I believe that Take Back the Night is an extremely important event that allows students to not only express their personal stories and receive support from such a larger audience, but it also helps those in the audience to be more aware of the reality of assault on campus.

As fellow UR students (and human beings for that matter), we must all take the initiative to act if we do see actions that seem like they could lead to a situation of sexual assault. We must be leaders in preventing sexual assault and rape and looking out for one another. The first step in prevention is awareness of the situation, and I believe Take Back the Night provides this awareness. I admire those who spoke and everyone who came out to show support, as both are obviously emotionally taxing and require a lot of strength and bravery. This is definitely an event that Richmond should continue as I feel that it is a great way for students to express their stories, show support, and realize that we must all work together to prevent sexual assault.