Nine Apps to Help You Ace Student Life

By Deirra Francis Stevenson

Students rely on their smartphones. Photo courtesy of jeshoots.com.

In just seven years, access to digital devices has risen substantially, with 77 percent of Americans using smart phones in 2017, according to a Pew Research Center report, up from just 35 percent in 2011. Smartphone use is nearly universal among younger adults, the report adds, with 92 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds now owning one. We asked Lehman students what apps they find indispensible to navigate their lives both on and off campus. 

Dropbox, an all-purpose storage and transfer app, syncs your files to its cloud the moment they’re uploaded, as well as all future changes. “Dropbox is a great way to transfer files to others,” says Lehman student John Rodriguez. “If you forget your phone or document at home, it’s in the cloud and can easily be accessed through an internet connection.” The versatile app serves a variety of devices from Windows desktop to Mac laptop and Android phone. 

During those long nights when you’re stuck on an online quiz or a hard to answer textbook question, Quizlet makes relentless studying a little less overwhelming. Whether it’s robotics or Shakespeare, this flashcard app is a lifesaver, helping students with both studying for tests and homework assignments. 

LinkedIn is a networking platform for working professionals. It lets you create an account and upload your resume to showcase your skills and job training.  “Instead of just saving connections you’ve met throughout your professional life, actively engage with contacts by liking, sharing, and commenting on their activity,” states Time.com.

Banking mobile apps, Zelle and Venmo, come in handy when students have limited time to find the bank of their choice. Zelle is easy to use because of its three choices: send, request, and split money. However, if the recipient doesn’t already have Zelle it will become a task to activate the sending option, though most banks do offer it. Venmo likewise can be used to split a bill, pay back friends, or purchase products and services. The app is free if you send money from your Venmo balance, debit card or bank account, while a 3 percent fee is added for credit cards. Receiving money and making purchases, however, is free. 

Whether you attend college far from home or around the block, safety can be a major concern. An app that makes friends and family as well as students feel safer is SafeTrek, an emergency signaling app. If you feel in danger and there is either no time to make a phone call or you don’t know your exact location, you can open SafeTrek, depress and hold a button, and if you don’t enter a pin number in 10 seconds, the app sends your location and an alarm signal to the police. Jashera Nalls, an Africana Studies major at Lehman who walks to the bus station late nights after class, told the Meridian, “I take precautions such as talking on the phone with my dad and carrying pepper spray. What about if something happens and my dad can’t get to me fast enough? An App that has a buddy system until I’m home would be great.” 

For students running late or just looking for alternatives to public transportation, Uber and Lyft are convenient solutions. “The option to share rides makes the cost lower than an already reasonable price,” says Lehman student Jocelyn Carson. “You have the option of sharing a ride with another passenger whose destination is along your route.  I use Lyft for my early Saturday class when trains aren’t running their usual schedule.”

The everyday challenges of student life can take a toll. To help students relieve stress, psychologists and educators created a mindfulness meditation app called Smiling Mind. It’s a great energizer bunny for the mind that helps users create a balance between mental health and their studies. “It helps that this app is free,” says Lehman film major Shanese Latiya. “I listen to it during in the morning after my alarm wakes me up or during a crowded train ride in the day. In this day and age people are consumed with social media first thing in the morning, but for me, Smiling Mind helps to focus on living my best life rather than what others are doing.” 

Lehman Students Challenge Colorism in the Entertainment Industry

By Deirra Francis

Rutina Wesley speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Colorism limits opportunities for women of color in film and TV, and Lehman students won’t stand for it. “Roles for younger women of lighter skin tone typecast [them] as this sex symbol,” Lehman student, filmmaker and actress Valerie Baptist told the Meridian, while darker-skinned women, are “strategically” sidelined as “the handy-dandy sidekick, a darker-toned woman dumbed down in her beauty by the makeup artist in order not to outshine.”

Dr. Mark Christian, chair of Africana studies and cultural theorist, agreed. “There is a double standard within the entertainment industry. Black men are sex symbols while black women of darker skin tone aren’t.” On the other hand, he added, “Black women of lighter skin tone are portrayed as the top of the pyramid hierarchy of the group--high-class, sexy and smart.”

“The only way to represent people of color is to have more directors of color.” 

- Octavia Maybabk, Lehman sociology major

In the face of this discrimination, Lehman students who aspire to make their careers in the entertainment industry feel frustrated. Denied the opportunity to show their talent on the basis of their skin color, many now aspire to change these double standards. 

Christian noted that colorism is nothing new. “The prejudices people have attached to skin tones stem from the deep-rooted racism in our history. On top of the after-effects of slavery, we have been bombarded with images on television and film of this stereotype.” 

These racist portrayals date back to the beginning of mass advertising--and they haven’t changed much. In the 1920s, an ad for the N.K. Fairbank Company featured a white child asking a black child, “why doesn’t your mamma wash you with Fairy soap?” Almost a hundred years later, a Dove ad released Oct. 9, 2017 showed a black woman removing her brown shirt to reveal a white woman underneath in a lighter shirt. Likewise, SheaMoisture commercials supposedly celebrate diversity but manage to exclude representation of a big part of their darker-skinned base clientele who have “kinky” hair texture, featuring mainly women with straight or fine hair. 

Christian pointed out that within the entertainment industry, this discrimination has privileged women who look “ethnically ambiguous--people with an off-white skin tone who appear to be of mixed race. The more we tune into our favorite shows and movies,” he said, “the more variety of black women we see. However, the ugly face of colorism continues to resurface.” 

This shows up in the way that many productions cast ethnically ambiguous women in the role of black women, perpetuating a stereotype. Notoriously, in 2012, Zoe Saldana was casted as Nina Simone in the movie “Nina.” A prosthetic nose and dark makeup were applied to Saldana, but the Latina actress still failed to resemble the appearance of the legend. This distortion shows how black women are excluded even from playing themselves.

In mid-July, the star of the hit TV show “Everybody Hates Chris,” Iman Hakim, tweeted “so I’m not even being considered to audition for a role because I am ‘too dark.’” 

This chronic discrimination has drawn widespread demands for a change from viewers and actors alike. Many Lehman students told the Meridian they see a shift in social values taking place. “I definitely think people are talking about it more,” said Lehman alumna Nadia Floyd ’17. “I do think progress is being made, not only in the entertainment industry. On television we’re seeing the emergence of dark-skinned black girls. This discourse is occurring in classrooms even more, not only amongst black students but Latino (non-gender specific) students have spoken up about it as well.” Floyd, who wrote her English honors thesis on colorism and patriarchy, said, “It’s refreshing to see this! We still have a way to go, of course, but yeah, there has been a growing cultural awareness towards colorism.” 

A Lehman panel on “Colorism in Africa and the African Diaspora” that took place on Nov. 9 in the Lovinger Theatre inspired many in the audience to demand change. 

Lehman student Erachie Brown pointed out that access to social media can also help anti-racist messages reach millions of people, so the tools now exist to debunk the negative connotations assigned to darker-skinned African-American women. “The knowledge we’ve gained in production helps us to create our own platform of film and series that we are interested in watching,” Brown explained. “Our position is to cast the Taraji P. Hensons, Tiffany Hadishes, Nicole Beharies, and Rutina Wesleys of the world.”

Other Lehman students noted that some directors are already making waves in the entertainment industry with their positive representations of black women, citing Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, and Issa Raye as examples. Duvernay is the first Black woman both to win the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance for her featured film “Middle of Nowhere” and to be nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary “13th.” She was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for best Director for the movie “Selma” in 2014. Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, executive producer for shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” Raye follows in their footsteps as a director, writer, and actress creating the webseries “Awkward Black Girl’ which later turned into the hit HBO show “Insecure.” 

Octavia Maybabk, an African sociology student at Lehman said change is needed and a new generation of directors is key. “The only way to represent people of color is to have more directors of color,” she said.