Student Panel Shines at Second Annual Activism Symposium

By Deirdre Fanzo

From left to right, Professor Jessica Yood, Lucero Luna Miranda, Zoe Fanzo, Arlinda Mulosmanaj, and Nicholas Santiago presenting at the Activism in Academia symposium. Photo courtesy of Hardik Yadav. 

Lucero Luna Miranda, an undocumented student at Lehman, told her audience that she is not afraid to be herself—not anymore. Miranda was one of four Lehman students who interwove personal narrative with academic writing and research in their presentations at the second annual Activism in Academia symposium, held on Feb. 23 at The CUNY Grad Center. Organized by Lehman English professors Olivia Moy and Dhipinder Walia, the event featured professors from across the country speaking on such panels as “Structural Insurrections in Composition and Rhetoric,” “On-Campus Activism: Protest and Performance,” and “Activist Archives and Histories.” 

The highlight of the symposium was the third panel, entitled “Visibility through Scholarship: Undocumented and Underrepresented Voices,” and composed of four Lehman students. Professor Walia stated that this panel “illustrated the way academic interests come from what is not happening in the classroom. Often, the classroom provides the theoretical approaches and sites of study…but students intersect these spaces with their own questions [and hypotheses].” Along with Miranda, Zoe Fanzo, Arlinda Mulosmanaj, and Nicholas Santiago presented their respective research to a room full of academics. (Full disclosure: Zoe is print producer and web designer of the Meridian as well as the author’s sister.) Topics ranged from DACA and DREAMers, LGBT activism on college campuses, to poetry and literature as a form of activism, and digital rhetoric and first-year composition. 

Miranda discussed the idea of a model minority, whose members are stereotyped as being quiet, intelligent, and soft-spoken. She said that while that used to be what she aimed to achieve, she is now outspoken in her efforts to challenge an unfair governmental administration and advocate for DREAMers and other undocumented citizens. 

Fanzo’s research found similar issues with academic administrations. Her discussion focused on the lack of LGBTQ+ visibility and activism on college campuses. She found that a lack of assistance from conservative college administrations has led to a lack of queer activism. Fanzo expressed hope that Lehman’s current president, José Luis Cruz, will advocate for queer students and LGBTQ+ activism on campus.

Arlinda Mulosmanaj’s research included the translation and analysis of poems by her grandfather, Hysen Mulosmanaj, a prominent Albanian poet and activist. His poetry was important in uniting those forced into exile in communist Albania, highlighting the immense activist power that poetry and literature can contain. 

Nicholas Santiago focused on digital rhetoric and first-year composition in his presentation, discussing that the introduction of digitalized platforms into composition classes would provide a familiar format in which students can more easily express their personal narratives, and then develop these narratives into more academic writing. 

Hardik Yadav, an English major at Lehman, told the Meridian “The panel was identity-driven,” noting that non-English majors Miranda and Fanzo discussed fighting “irresponsible administrations,” while “Arlinda and Nicholas, both English Honors Program students, found writing to be their weapon.” He added, “It fascinates me to no end how quickly their transformation into leaders happens behind the mic.”

Lehman Students Find Self-Expression in Bold Hair Colors

By Deirdre Fanzo

Dyed hair and the positive feedback it draws from others can greatly increase people’s confidence and self-esteem, argues Masey White in USA Today College. While a conservative viewpoint might tie colorful hair to a lack of professionalism, today’s reality is that dyed hair is an expression of personality that does not detract from a person’s work ethic. “My expression of my individuality is not something that affects my work ethic or skills,” White asserts. This notion is clearly shared by many members of the Lehman community, who use colorful hair to express themselves.

Hayong Lau photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. All photographs by Deirdre Fanzo.

Business Administration major Hayong Lau dyes her hair a soft purple, almost periwinkle color. She told the Meridian that her hair color expresses that she is “just crazy and I don’t care.” She added, “I just want to have fun.”

Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph photographed in Lehman’s Music Building Cafeteria. 

Jasmine Joseph is an English and Africana Studies double major, whose hair is currently a deep, vibrant shade of red. She says she wants the color of her hair to express that “I just don’t care about what other people think.”

Waverliey Torres photographed in the Lehman College Underground Radio club room.

Waverliery Torres is a biology major and a member of the Lehman College Underground Radio. Her hair resembles the sunset and is a colorful combination of orange, blonde, and pink. Torres stated, “I’m a very artistic person… I enjoy color combinations. I don’t think hair should be boring…I believe your hair should be a creative outlet.”

Abirami Rajeev photographed during an overnight class trip to the Washington DC area. 

Math major Abirami Rajeev told the Meridian that she has dyed her hair many different colors. Right now, it is a dark green shade. Abi stated that she originally started dying her hair because she desired something that was “a little different. Now, it’s more expressing my general state of mind.” She added, “I associate green with nature and serenity and it’s a part of my life I’m trying to get more in touch with. Plus, I just love the color green.”

Lehman College Mourns the Loss of Yoryi Dume

By Deirdre Fanzo

Students and faculty write their final thoughts to Yoryi on a board dedicated to his memory. Picture courtesy of the Office of Prestigious Awards. 

On the afternoon of Jan. 31st, Joseph Magdaleno notified the Lehman community via email that Yoryi Dume, a senior at Lehman, had passed away over the winter break. The email did not disclose a cause of death. This news came as a terrible shock to students and faculty members, many of whom had forged close relationships with the young scholar. 

“The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.” 

- Hilliary Frank, a Lehman chemistry major

Dume entered Lehman in the fall semester of 2014 as a member of the Lehman Scholar’s Program, a demanding program that requires its students to take on a rigorous course load and maintain a high GPA. Dume was an enthusiastic student who had no trouble with these requirements. He approached his studies with determination and set the bar high for the other students in his classes. 

Dume spent much of his time in Lehman’s Office of Prestigious Awards (OPA) where, according to its director, Professor Augustine, “he was a very good mentor to many people. Yoryi was like everybody’s big brother. He had big dreams.” It was under Augustine’s mentorship that Dume applied for his very first scholarship, which he was ultimately awarded. Dume had hoped to attend Duke University for graduate school where he would have continued to pursue an education in Latin American Studies. 

Dume also spent time studying abroad in Brazil. He fostered a great love for Latin American Studies, and his time in Brazil allowed him to celebrate this passion. According to Augustine, “Travel was where [Yoryi] found his happiest moments.” 

Memorial service for Yoryi Dume. Picture courtesy of Jennifer Mackenzie.

On Feb. 1, faculty and students gathered in the OPA for a memorial for Dume. The following day, a separate memorial service was held in the Student Life Building. In the OPA, those who had gathered wrote letters to Dume, which were placed in a box that now holds a place of honor in the office. His professors and peers also shared thoughts, memories, and anecdotes of their times together with him, and there was not a dry eye in the room. 

Students Helina Owusu-Sekyere, a biology major, and Hilliary Frank, a chemistry major, knew Dume closely through time spent together at the OPA. Owusu-Sekyere said he “was a wonderful person. He was very determined.” Frank and Augustine both emphasized that “he was always there for you.” Frank added, “The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.” 

‘Dark and Stormy Night’ Puts a Gothic Twist on Contemporary Art

By Deirdre Fanzo

From left to right, the portraits “Yoko Sato, 1968-1999;” “Tasia Brown 1982-2012;” and “James Otis Purdy, 1914-2009” by Heide Hatry. Photo by Deirdre Fanzo.

“Gothic sensibility sends shivers down the spine,” reads the text at the entrance to the latest exhibit at Lehman’s art gallery. “It is the essence of foreboding, never going out of style, just as it unveils the eternal moments of human dread.” The exhibit, “Dark and Stormy Night, Gothic Influence in Contemporary Art,” opened on Oct. 28 and features 34 artists who skillfully manage to capture the Gothic essence in contemporary works of art. 

The show foregrounds several prominent Gothic themes. The idea of a dark and stormy night is well represented in four photographs from a series entitled “I’m Made of Rain” by Isabelle Menin. These photos present an eerie, almost surreal, Gothic atmosphere. So do statues and paintings of tall, ornate, angular towers and cathedrals found throughout the exhibit, along with depictions of women shrouded in mystery. 

Among these conventional Gothic themes are a few surprising works of art. A series of portraits in black and white by Heide Hatry entitled “Yoko Sato, 1968-1999,” “Tasia Brown 1982-2012,” and “James Otis Purdy, 1914-2009” appears, on the surface, to be nothing more than a few paintings of smiling people. Another painting featured in the gallery, “Poe Crossing the Concourse,” by Daniel Hauben, portrays an urban cityscape in bright and beautiful colors. Both of these installations require a careful eye to find the Gothic within them. According to the label beside the portraits, the materials used to create them were the human ashes of the very people being depicted. The urban cityscape reveals a scene outside Poe Park in the Bronx, and in the corner of the painting, a rendering of Edgar Allan Poe himself can be seen crossing the street. The pieces are incredibly macabre and suggest the notion of life--or perhaps still-life--after death. 

The only installation that truly feels out of place is a three-dimensional tower installed as the centerpiece in one section of the gallery. It is pink and frilly, and while it could be interpreted as a Gothic commentary on the notion of contemporary femininity, this reading is difficult to determine and is one I am not entirely confident about. 

Overall, the most interesting thing about “Dark and Stormy Night” is the presence of many different interpretations of what contemporary Gothic looks like. Several pieces depict Gothic themes in highly contemporary mediums, like digital photography, while others show contemporary scenes with the addition of Gothic elements. This exhibit is stunning, absorbing, and in some instances, morbid. I would highly recommend viewing ‘Dark and Stormy Night’ before it closes on Feb. 10, 2018. 

‘Twin Peaks:’ Still a Damn Fine Cup of Joe---and Hot

By Deirdre Fanzo

Title card from “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“I’ll see you again in 25 years,” said Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) to Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in a bizarre dream shared between the two characters. The ominous phrase kept fans of “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch and Mark Frost’s cult television series, hoping she was right. 

Now Palmer’s words have proven true. The show returned in May of 2017, airing Sunday nights on Showtime at 9 p.m. Directed in its entirety by David Lynch, “The Return” has a far darker vibe than the original run. 

As computer science major Carlos Perez put it, “it’s a completely different show with a completely different tone.” 

When “Twin Peaks” originally ran on ABC on Thursday nights in 1990-91, it was a quirky combination of paranormal detective mystery and soap opera. The plot followed Special Agent Dale Cooper on his investigation into the murder of local sweetheart Laura Palmer. There were funny scenes, touching moments, bizarre happenings, and an abundance of donuts, black coffee, and cherry pie. But as Agent Cooper uncovered Palmer’s dark secrets, the darker side of the town was revealed as well. 

With the inclusion of alternate dimensions, malevolent spirits, and doppelgangers, the show presented to its audience something entirely new that paved the way for future programs like “The X-Files,” “Fringe,” and “Stranger Things.” But in 1991, network producers ordered Lynch and Frost to do what they had never intended---to reveal Palmer’s killer. Ratings plummeted after the big reveal and the show was cancelled, leaving angry viewers with a cliffhanger that seemed as though it would never be resolved. 

Then, in 2014, Lynch and Frost were picked up by Showtime and given a platform to bring back their cult sensation in the form of “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Running “The Return” on Showtime allowed Lynch and Frost to bring in darker and scarier elements this time around. MacLachlan returns to the series as the show’s forerunner, this time taking on two different roles---the separate sides of Cooper. The show follows both Cooper’s horrifying and evil doppelganger, known as Mr. C, and the good, but infantile, Dougie Jones, who, unbeknownst to him, is actually the benevolent Dale Cooper. 

There are moments where the show meanders. While Jones is funny, there are moments where his presence is excruciating. Cooper was the heart of “Twin Peaks” when it originally ran, and in “The Return,” the audience sits through roughly 15 hours of the clueless Jones before the true Cooper returns. When he does return, though, it is incredibly satisfying. This plot evolution makes it clear that the title “The Return” has two meanings---the return of the show itself and the return of Special Agent Dale Cooper.

True to the style of David Lynch, more questions are asked before the season comes to a close. “Part 17” can be considered the true ending of the season, while “Part 18” feels more like an epilogue, which ends on another confounding cliffhanger. Since a fourth season has not yet been confirmed, audiences can only hope that the show doesn’t end for good on yet another suspenseful shocker. 

Hurricanes Hit US as White House Keeps Pushing Climate Change Denial

By Deirdre Fanzo

From left to right, Hurricanes Katia, Irma, and Jose. Photo courtesy of CHIPS Magazine.

On Oct. 23, Nicaragua announced it would join the Paris Agreement, a global pact to combat climate change, leaving the U.S. and Syria as the lone holdouts from the accord. The statement came five weeks after the Trump administration reaffirmed it would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a decision first announced in June. Over this five-week period, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands and much of the mainland U.S. were struck by a series of record-breaking storms. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have caused billions of dollars in damage, and wreaked havoc on the lives of residents in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and many nations in Central America. Despite this devastation, the Trump administration continues to vehemently deny the existence of climate change, further isolating the U.S. from global efforts to address it. 

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris climate accord “Brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.” This collaboration amongst countries was designed to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and seek clean power sources to prevent global temperatures from increasing to dangerous levels. In April 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed this accord. However, in June 2017, Trump declared his intention to rescind this decision on the grounds that it “disadvantages the United States.” However, many analysts argue that one underlying reason for his move was his administration’s very public climate change denial, and the political leverage this affords it with certain constituents.

Rabab AlAjmi, an environmental science and political science double major at Lehman, emphasized the political and economic factors behind Trump’s decision. “Countries run by capitalism...have pretty much swept [climate change] under the rug,” she said. This is precisely what Trump’s administration is doing.

“We need to take responsibility [for the planet] and think beyond our pocketbooks and our net worth.” 

– Stefan Becker, Vice Provost for Academic Programs

It is in the administration’s best interest to deny climate change, as they have a history of mutual gain with corporate energy giants. Indeed, prior to assuming his current role, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the largest multinational oil and gas corporations in the world. ExxonMobil, under Tillerson, “gave $1.8 million this election cycle.” Trump himself owned stocks in the Dakota Access Pipeline, and though he sold them after his election, the investment reflects his values. According to the Washington Post, “three politicians Trump has appointed to relevant Cabinet positions have taken in large campaign contributions from the energy sector.” Policies supported by the climate agreement, as well as confirming the existence of climate change, would almost certainly limit industry profits---the capital gains of the current administration. 

The administration’s denial of climate change, however, flies in the face of scientific consensus. “Man-made climate change is a concept that is accepted by 97 percent of scientists today,” AlAjmi said.

Indeed, the recent tight cluster of deadly hurricanes---Harvey, a Category 4 storm when it hit Texas on Aug. 25, and Irma, between Category 3 and Category 4 when it wreaked havoc in the Virgin Islands and Florida---is a “textbook case for what you would expect under climate change scenarios,” Stefan Becker, vice provost for academic programs at Lehman, told the Meridian. Harvey was considered the strongest hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Irma usurped this title soon afterward, followed by Hurricane Maria, which caused great devastation in Puerto Rico and is regarded as the strongest hurricane of 2017 thus far. 

In light of the evidence, Becker called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord “unbelievable” and “reckless.” He added, “We need to take responsibility [for the planet] and think beyond our pocketbooks and our net worth.”