Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nothing to do at NCC? Think again

Nothing to do at Nassau?  That's what a new NCC student told me she'd heard from a friend (from another school) about campus life. 

"My friend says people are nice at Nassau," she said, "but nothing very interesting happens here."

When I heard this, I had to wonder.

I had to wonder if my student's friend knew about the 70+ clubs (including a student government, student newspaper, photography club, ski club, creative writing club, jazz club, debate club, anime club, breakdancing club, computer graphics club, fitness club, and parent's club) that were active on campus this past year. 

I had to wonder if she knew about NCC's Intramurals program, which ran more than fifteen activities (racquetball, dodgeball, handball, basketball, etc.) in 2012-2013.

Or about Nassau's seventeen athletic teams, including a wrestling team that won a national championship, a tennis team that won a regional championship, and a lacrosse team that played for the NJCAA title.  

Did my student's friend know about this past year's Theatre/Dance Department  productions: "Intimate Apparel," "SubUrbia," "Hairspray," "The Comedy of Errors," and "The Emperor's New Clothes" (a children's musical)--ALL featuring NCC students?

Did she know about the high-profile people, like Sapphire, Rosie Perez, Common, Soledad O'Brien, Ralph Nader, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who have spoken on campus over the years? 

Did she know that Pulitzer-Prize author Sonia Nazario spoke here in March as part of the First-Year Experience program?  Or that the cultural program featured sociologist Michael Dyson talking about Hip Hop and social justice, Republican leader George P. Bush talking about Washington politics, and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel speaking about gun violence?

I'll bet not. 

I'll bet she also didn't know that NCC's Art students displayed their work in the campus art gallery this spring, that Fashion students showed off original designs in the annual fashion show, that student musicians gave concerts on campus, that members of the Debate Club participated in (and won!) national competitions, and that students had their own news and music shows on the campus radio station. 

And finally, did she know about the important service projects NCC students take part in: food and clothing drives, prom boutiques,  environmental  cleanups,  fundraisers for disaster victims, health fairs, human rights campaigns, and homeless outreach?   

Nothing very interesting happens at NCC? 

For the record: No matter what your tastes or interests, there's PLENTY of campus life here.  And there will be plenty more activities this fall and spring.

Come see for yourself. 

                                  "Hairspray," spring 2013 production at NCC
                                                                                                                       (NCC Vignette)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Stretching

So now that the semester is over, what's next for you?

Maybe some good summer reading, a couple of museum visits, or a quick catch-up on the rest of the world?  

How about learning more about that topic you found interesting in History or Bio or International Business this semester?  Or picking up that camera you've been meaning to look at or that guitar you used to play?

Just because it's summer and school is out, that's no excuse to stop reading, thinking, learning, and discovering.  In fact, summer may be the best time of all to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with something that will inform and inspire you. 

Why do this? 

Two reasons mainly.

1)     More than ever, the world belongs to those who know more than just what they've been "required" to learn.  The most successful people work at becoming (and staying) informed; they understand that knowledge, whatever form it takes, can pay dividends in their careers.

2)     Your life will be infinitely richer and more interesting--and more fun--if you can stay curious about the world.  Your desire to KNOW will make good days great and bad ones bearable. And you'll never be at a loss for something to think about.

So if you're wondering what to do with yourself this summer, try stretching: read a novel, visit someplace interesting, keep up on the news, see one of those films your Communications prof talked about.  Be more knowledgeable come September than you are right now. 

That doesn't mean you can't lie on the beach or watch TV or hang out with friends.  Just make sure the switch on your mind stays in the "On" position. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An Ad that Speaks Volumes

Not being a major league consumer, I don't pay much attention to ads, even those that are clever and entertaining. 

But once in a while an ad comes along that does more than just push a product.  Now and then an advertisement contains a message that's pretty thoughtful and that deserves a "way to go" from the public.

One such ad, produced by the Dove company, has been talked about lately in both print and online media.  The ad is titled "Real Beauty" and it's about women's perceptions of their appearance.  The ad features several women who are asked to describe themselves to an artist who, working behind a curtain, draws a sketch based on their descriptions.  Later on, the same artist produces a second sketch, one based on another person's description of the same woman. 

The results are revealing:  In each instance, the second description (as reflected in the sketches) is much more flattering than the subject's description of herself.  

The troublesome thing about the ad, of course, is that it never really takes on the real issue: a culture that's obsessed with beauty, especially in women.  If the ad had proclaimed something really revolutionary, like "We worry far too much about appearance," it would have truly broken new ground, especially coming from a giant of the beauty industry.   

But still, the Dove ad is okay: it seems to be telling women to give themselves a break when it comes to stressing over their cheeks, hair, eyes, skin, and other features.  Its message: "You're prettier than you think.  Don't be so self critical."

Some still might take issue with the advertisement's attempt to sidestep the "Does-beauty-really-matter" question, but to me, the ad delivers a positive message.  Far too many women--college-age women in particular--beat themselves up for being imperfect in the looks department.  Men also criticize their own appearance sometimes, but they're not nearly so harsh or relentless as women, whose inner critic often drives them to unhealthy diets, unnecessary surgeries, and extreme makeovers.

So if the Dove ad (below) makes a few young women go easy on themselves (and maybe be happier), it's done a good thing and deserves a shout-out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Michelle Schimel at NCC

(Note: "What's Up, NCC?" periodically publishes the writing of NCC students, including members of the Vignette, the campus newspaper, about issues in the news.  In the story below, Janelle Clausen, the newspaper's features editor, reports on "Ending Gun Violence," the title of an April 18 talk at the college by New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.  Ms. Clausen's article originally appeared in the Vignette.)

               Gun Control Debate Comes to Nassau

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel raises awareness about gun violence and tries to answer citizens' concerns

Since Newtown, "gun control" has been on the lips of many politicians, and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) was not the exception at NCC last Thursday, nor has she ever been.

Nearly 100 Nassau residents and members of the college community flooded the 11th floor of the Tower through security screenings to hear the assemblywoman's take on gun violence and voice their concerns.

Schimel has been a long-time advocate for reducing gun violence, serving on the Board of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence for nearly 20 years before becoming the co-chair of the bipartisan New York Chapter of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns in 2011.  She was also involved in the drafting of the NYSAFE Act, the first assault weapons ban in New York State in 2000, and other measures.

Schimel presented gun violence statistics, stating the importance of reducing these instances.  In comparison to other peer industrialized nations, the United States ranked as "the most armed nation" and arguably one of the most violent.

"We should be embarrassed," she declared.  "We've got 30,000 murders versus our closest number, 173.  It's quite a difference, isn't it?"

Paired with this, according to Schimel, is $40 billion a year in costs from gun injuries "on the public dole." She said that she'd much rather invest that money in other things such as education and healthcare.

Schimel said that the gun culture is here to stay because of how profitable it is, but called for regulations to try to curb the violence.  Having spoken with Governor Cuomo and state police, she said that she was expecting facts that would prove that the laws work.  She dismissed the idea that the government aimed to take guns, as they're a viable means of defense.

Among one of the regulations in place was the recent passage of the NYSAFE Act, which Schimel claims to have been part of.  The NYSAFE Act, often called the "Gun Control Act," was signed into law in February.  Schimel described it as an attempt to keep guns out of the hands "of people who shouldn't have guns," such as the "violent mentally ill, people with restraining orders, children, and past felons."  It also set limits on the amount of rounds a person could carry.  She didn't understand why it took 13 years to pass, but was confident that the pending NRA lawsuit against it wouldn't stand due to the Heller decision.

Schimel was critical of the recent failure of Congress to pass background checks described as "the middle ground."

"I was hoping that yesterday in Washington there would be middle ground, background checks, not even universal!" she said. "Dead.  Done. Now what?"

Schimel cited that 90% of the people (the "silent majority") supported such measures, and said that they need to speak up.  "Who," she questioned, "are politicians hearing from?"

In the question and answer session that followed, Nassau residents and members of the college raised their concerns about gun control and the latest legislation.  Despite [cultural program coordinator] Phyllis Kurland's calls to keep inquiries below two minutes, many warranted more complex answers than the time allotted.

Among the concerns were the seven round capacity limits not excluded for retired officers, health records, usage of other weapons, rifle registry, sales issues, and how it is hurting law-abiding citizens.

NCC faculty member Paul Pilipshen raised concerns regarding the safety of his wife from the round limitations and the right to choose.  "Why do you want to make my wife less safe?" he asked.

Schimel responded that nearly everything is regulated and firearms should be no exception.  To conclude, she stated, "If she can't take down her perp in seven rounds, that's a concern too."

Before long, mentions of the Second Amendment spurred people from their seats to get on line to ask questions.

NCC resident Ray, a competitive shooter, saw issues with the rifle registry, pasing down weapons to his son, and the apparent necessity to get rid of a lot of magazines despite the fact that they're not hurting anyone.  The issue was personal on both sides, but momentarily brought Schimel to silence.

"What do you recommend I tell my kids when I can't leave them my rifles that I've shot competitively for twenty years?" he asked.

After Kurland cut their debate short so others could step up, NCC student Julius Schultz raised a comparison point between the weapons used in crimes.  While Schimel did not have the statistics, it came down to a question of lethality.

"Ironically, the same day the Newtown shooting happened . .  in China there was a man who . . . stood at the door and was stabbing people," she said.  "Horrible, horrible.  But by the same token, everyone survived those stabbings."

NCC resident Steve came up with statistics and felt that the SAFE Act was targeting law-abiding citizens, thus meaning that the laws would not do anything to curb crime.  Schimel and his conversation quickly dissolved into interruptions against one another.

"Criminals and madmen don't have to follow the law . . . by definition that's what makes them madmen," he said.  "They will do nothing to stop the next mass murder."

"So we shouldn't have laws?" she said rhetorically in the exchange.

While most of those stepping up were critical of the gun control propositions, NCC Professor Marcia McNair wondered why nobody was raising their voices in favor of stricter measures, particularly at this debate.

"Why do you think it's so difficult to galvanize the silent majority who is for gun control?" McNair asked.

Schimel asked the audience if this was the first time people actively participated politically on this issue.  She also stated that this is a single issue for some, so more time could be dedicated by those particularly passionate.  The gun lobby has the ability to rally their base.

"Most of the constituencies have other things they think about," she said.

Schimel acknowledged and praised the right to peaceful assembly, however, and claimed to have "walked among them." She felt that "the opportunity for discourse" was valuable.  She said that people should never feel "scared of anyone."

After the formal session, Schimel spoke with some of those in attendance.  When asked about the debates that ensued, Schimel said that she welcomed the competition.

"It would be boring if there wasn't opposition," she said.

                                                                                                                              --Janelle Clausen
                                                                                     Vignette, April 26, 2013                             

Friday, May 3, 2013

NCC's Creative Spirits

Just ask any artist:  Finding inspiration is never easy.  And even after one has found it--in an idea, a thought, a line, an image, a lyric, a word, a story fragment--it takes time, energy, thought, patience, determination, and sweat to turn that "moment" into a work of art. 

It also takes guts to put one's work out there for others to experience and evaluate.  Who knows what the response will be?  Not everyone wants to take that risk.    

Yet this spring almost fifty NCC students did just that.  As participants in NCC 101's Creativity Competition, they submitted poetry, short stories, essays, paintings, sculpture, photographs, performances, and other creative works, each reflecting the artist's perspective on the competition's "Journeys" theme.

Their submissions were inspiring.  Each had much to recommend it.  And together, they gave judges, all NCC faculty, a most difficult task: deciding winners.

But after much deliberation, here are judges' decisions:

Writing - Andrew Ojeda (first place); Rob Casaburi (second place); D. Zhu (third place).

Visual Art - Blaine Garde (first place); James Blotiau (second place); Carolina Congdon (third place).

Performance - Chris Sanchez (first place); Eren Polat (second place); Ana Maria Rico (third place)

Many of the Creativity Competition's entries can be seen in the first-floor cases in the College Center.  Visual Art winners be seen below.  Other winning entries can be viewed at ncc.edu/studentlife/first_year_experience/creative_competition.shtml

To all who entered, thanks for sharing your talents with the campus.  In my book you're all winners--and an inspiration to everyone. 

Visual Art
                                                      First Place - Blaine Garde


Second Place - James Blotiau

                                                      Third Place - Carolina Congdon