Monday, November 9, 2015

News Briefs 11.9.15

I am more despondent than ever. I am not alone in this.

For the past few months, I have been navigating the perilous land of PhD applications and the processes surrounding the application.

I am a proud student of Brooklyn College, and I am also an adult who returned to school in an effort to secure my future and provide for my children. Along the way, I discovered a passion for academia. I love the uplifting energy surrounding the hallowed halls of learning, and the spirit of knowledge that settles over one's soul as they drift through the halls of Boylan, Ingersoll, Roosevelt, James, Whitehead, and the library. I admired the professors' ability to elucidate even the most arcane and strange texts, and make them understandable and interesting to the average undergraduate. I aspire to achieve the level of eloquence and intelligence I read in the articles and books penned by the professoriate at Brooklyn College.

However, as I go about the dealings of applying to graduate school, I feel as though CUNY as done many of my fellow adult students a grave disservice.

We are completely unprepared for graduate school admissions process.

Students who are able to attend school during the day benefit from a wide range of targeted marketing, on-campus club possibilities, and the one thing that night students lack to a severe degree:
tenured faculty.

While I learned a great deal from my adjunct lecturers, they haven't the time, financial inclination or resources, or access that tenured lecturers enjoy. They are constantly struggling to juggle the weight of near-impoverishment, pressure to publish, and the inability to complete basic actions such as writing letters of recommendations for students because they can't even secure the proper stationary.
Their time is limited, and their stress levels are through the roof. We live in NYC, and these professors, all of whom have a graduate degree, and many with doctorates are making what is equivalent to barely above minimum wage. As CUNY knows, living below the poverty line is a real problem.  Although it seems as though they don't consider their lecturers--and by extension their adult students--as valuable as other areas of expenditure.

It wasn't until my youngest entered school full-time, (Thanks, Mayor DiBlasio!!) that I was able to attend school during the day. I was immediately surrounded by things I never heard even whispers of at night; scholarships, GRE application procedures, letters of intent, teachers who meet with their students to review their work to improve their grades, classes at the library, classes that go on field trips, professors with the time to answer emails! It was a whole new world! Here I am, a student, a senior, learning about scholarships for the first time. I was learning about letters of intent for graduate school applications, and the need to essentially stalk professors in your desired program so that you can mention them by name and article in said letter. It was eye-opening.

Then, the axe fell like the sword of Damocles through all of my grades, studying, and honest intentions. Two of the three professors I would ask for letters of recommendation are no longer employed by CUNY. I can't even find them. Asking around I know that one of the professors left to teach high school, and the other into the private sector. They both left due to the financial strain that adjunction placed on them. These were great professors with much potential. They are smart and kind and everything that a college should look for in a lecturer, but they're no more. At least, not here. So I'm in a quandary. I knew so little of the PhD application process going into my senior year that I've missed a lot. Deadlines, tests, the burden of the application fees, the waiting. I am forced to extend my senior year by a semester--or two--just to complete it all.

It has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, and hives when I consider my future. Because, like it or not, this is the path I chose. The career I want, and I'm terrified.


* * *
A Whale Of A Tale

I love discoveries. 

Of any kind really. It can be on a personal level (such as discovering you have a lineage with the woman who helped invent the microwave or finding 10 dollars in your pocket), it can be on a cultural level (such as discovering a church underwater) and it can be on a scientific level. 

As you might have realized by my past news brief, I am both fascinated and terrified of the ocean and its inhabitants. I have seen manatees in the lake near my house in Puerto Rico while I was paddle boarding. My heart was beating because of their beauty and because they are after all GIANT FISH! Although I really wanted to dive in and swim with them, I didn't, I was a little terrified even though they are sweet and beautiful animals. However, I had a dream about them that night in which every time I touched them they purred like cats. 

But I digress. I'm not here to talk about manatees but about a discovery that scientists made of whales that might have lived before MOBY DICK was published (1851). Yes, the bowhead whale can live up to 200 years or more. Which means that it has survived times when whale killings were rampant. That's pretty amazing, no?

One way they discovered this was by finding an arrow shaped fragment lodged in the neck of a bowhead whale found in the shores of Alaska. This fragment dated back to around 1880, which means that the whale was alive during Victorian times. Isn't this crazy?! The whale lived for a century with an arrow encrusted in its back! It is one of the oldest living mammals on the planet.

Recently, biologist and photographer, Paul Nicklen, was able to take a picture of a 50-foot long bowhead whale. 

I understand why he gets emotional. Global warming can lead to a whole destruction of an ecosystem on the ocean. That means that even the most resilient of whales are in danger. Not only because of global warming but also because of industrialization - mainly, oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight. 

Here's hoping that this is not the case. That the ecosystems will survive. That the hotness of these November days will make us realize that this years El Niño effect  is one to be alarmed by. That change has to happen and it has to happen now. Because either we realize it or not, the change in ecosystem affects all of us. 

And besides, wouldn't it be cool if 200 years from now, they discover a bowhead whale that not only survived global warming but also lived during the invention of the iPhone? 

Me thinks - yes.


Bloody Hell!

 So I don't keep it a secret that I really enjoy donating blood, and because I'm donating tomorrow it's been very on my mind. I'm a professional at filling out the preliminary form, the one that asks if you've shared heroin needles recently or if you've had an array of ridiculous and infectious diseases - or if you're a man who likes men

In the past year or so, there's been a movement toward slackening the laws against gay men donating blood. This isn't saying much. Since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's, the fear of transmitting HIV caused the ban on donating blood at all as a gay man. Recently, there has been talk of changing this ban to be a more lenient set of restrictions. Even France has recently gotten in on it.

But I have a problem with these new rules.

I understand the fears rampant when HIV first came to the forefront of common knowledge. It was scary; it wasn't understood; it was everywhere. But now we have more knowledge about HIV and how it can be spread, and this increase in understanding doesn't show at blood drives. The new proposed regulation is that you can donate blood if you're a gay man - as long as you haven't been sexually active in a year. Otherwise, you're still screwed. You're allowed to look, but if you want to save lives, you can't touch!

Are you kidding me?

The part that really ruffles my feathers is that scientifically, this is devoid of logic. As put in this article, "restrictions on donors were written when H.I.V. testing was slower and less refined. Today, some tests can detect the virus in blood as little as nine days after infection." I would understand the need to have proof of being HIV-free in order to give blood; in fact, being that HIV is not just a "gay" disease, I think maybe everyone should have to give proof of being tested in order to donate blood. But the fact that those in power think asking year-long celibacy to be considered as a blood donor is ridiculous. Science has caught up; why haven't we?


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