Private Prison

By Dylan Campbell

After demands from the CUNY Divest Club for CUNY’s 2014 stock holdings, students are shocked and confused to see private prison corporations listed among the holdings.

Since the war on drugs resulted in stricter drug laws and increased the incarceration rate, private prisons have been profiting and stirring up controversy. Despite the national debate on facility standards and prison quotas, the institution is profitable, persuading an array of companies and institutions to invest, even colleges.

After the Columbia University invested 10 percent of their endowment in the prison industry, the CUNY Divest Club, a club that fights “the prison industrial complex and ultimately the oppression of brown and black people,” pushed to know CUNY’s holdings and issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry that resulted in the document being released and their holdings to become transparent.

The push for information did not go without a struggle, “These investments are so unknown to students because they don’t publicize the data,” said Nancy Uddin, a core club member. “We had to tediously urge CUNY to reveal the investments after months of waiting for the FOIA results.”

The release revealed multiple investments including a $13,300 investment in Correction Corporations of America (CCA), a company that designs, builds and manages prisons, jails and detention centers; an $8,400 investment in The GEO Group, which similarly designs, constructs, and operates prisons and community reentry services; a $4,600 investment in Aramark, a company that profits from selling food to privately run prisons; and a $248,900 investment in G4S, a company that provides security services as well as training for youths and safety programs to private prisons.

These companies were all part of an almost pre-packaged investment, Russell 3000 Index Fund, chosen by Cambridge Associates. “CUNY’s investments do not involve individual stock purchases, but rather purchases in funds that hold basket of stocks,” explained Michael Arena, University Director for Communications and Marketing for CUNY. “For example, one of the funds reflects the holdings of the Russell 3000, an index fund that is passively managed,” he continued, “As of Sept. 30, 2014, G4S represented 0.1% of CUNY’s investment pool. GEO represented 0.003% of the CUNY investment pool.”

Though what CUNY emphasizes as small aspects of the investment, the private penal companies, has caused some controversy, the Russell 3000 investment had profited. “Nearly $2.5 million in earnings from the university’s investment pool in 2014 went to fund scholarships for deserving students at CUNY colleges,” said Michael Arena as he explained the benefits of the investment. “These scholarships are a vital part of the CUNY Value, which combines federal Pell, state TAP, CUNY aid, including the scholarship funding [from the investments], the American Opportunity Tax Credit and low tuition to enable nearly seven of ten full time undergraduates to attend tuition free.”

The Divest Club is appalled that a University with a 53 percent minority population would reach out to such a hindering influence, but saw this as a catalyst to push on with their fight.
“The team was not surprised to find out CUNY invested so heavily in G4S, CCA and GEO group,” said Uddin. “The FOIA reaffirmed our need for resistance. It was a small victory on our part to receive factual evidence that our campaign is needed.”

Some students felt outraged like Fernando Garcia, Political Science major, saying that the investment was “hypocritical and counterintuitive.”
The CUNY Divest club doesn’t condemn CUNY though. “Yes, CUNY invested in private prisons but it’s simply to make a profit,” said Uddin. “Unfortunately, in the capitalist society that exists, institutions of higher learning devalue prisoners and consider money over the lives of black and brown folks.”

Many students agreed. “I like that CUNY is utilizing the funds for something positive that will benefit CUNY students and allow those who are unable to afford college to have a chance at building their future and obtaining a career,” said Jessica Gervacio, a Fine Arts major. “So I don’t mind that the profits are being made off investments, which hold shares in prisons because it is benefiting a community that could end up in prison.”
The problem doesn’t lie only in the investment but in the lack of transparency. Though students understood and recognized the business aspect, they rejected the disconnect.

Students were upset they were left in the dark in the mess of investments, with little information on private prisons and CUNY investment policy.
“Yeah, the investment in prisons doesn’t sound like a pretty idea, or a good one. But if you give people a chance to explain themselves, shed some light on the situation so the public doesn’t jump to any conclusions, it would make things, maybe not better, but easier to deal with,” said Alex Mendez, a freshman at Brooklyn College.

For a lot of students, questions arose: Does scholarship money make it okay? How much support is too much support? Is it our right to know?

Dog Corp pt.2

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Social Comparisons and Self-Esteem

By Eboná Mais

imageAt Duane Reade two young women, in their early twenties flip through the glossy pages of Marie Claire and Elle magazine. As they wait in line they pick up and place back several magazines, showing each other the beautiful gowns, smiling celebrities and pouting models on nearly every page. This picture perfect world only exists within beauty magazines, yet somehow it has become the standard and socially accepted guide for what a woman is and what she has the capability to be.

From Kim Kardashian to Katy Perry, women are constantly being pinned up against each other. “Who’s more beautiful? Who wore the dress better? Who does the world like better?” These are all actual questions beauty and fashion magazines ask and poll readers to answer, yet they advocate female unity and love for oneself in all its flawed glory. It seems that somewhere the mission of serving women with a platform to enjoy and share the life, love, knowledge and experience of other women has been given up nearly entirely. We hate Kim Kardashian, but pick up everything with her face on it. We’ve become the victims and the perpetrators.

Brittany Jones doesn’t buy magazines, but she reads them. The 23-year-old likes to skim through them while she waits in line at a store like Duane Reade or Key Foods. Jones does this often if something on the cover catches her eye. “It’s not always a [celebrity], sometimes it’s just the articles” says the aspiring business woman, before going on to say, “Rihanna thinks she can wear whatever she wants,” and putting that particular magazine down. She reaches for another and reads some of the cover stories out loud: “How I lost 100 pounds and became a total player” and “How to make your crush drool.” She chuckles and turns toward her friend, “I know how to make a guy drool,” she says then turns away from the magazine stand entirely. Her friend, Nia, continues to laugh and says “They will really do and say anything to sell a magazine these days.”

And she’s absolutely correct. It costs to sell print these, a lot more than people care to spend on a frivolous thing that will be out-of-date in a week. Headlines have to be eye-catching, pictures have to be overly photoshopped or absurdly unattractive , exaggerated statements have to be placed in all caps, bold writing with exclamation marks to wrap it off. Because then maybe all the fabrication will seem true.

“Perfectionist makeup.” “A more beautiful you.” “No more ugly dark spots.” “Be a better you.” These are slogans from current makeup and fashion advertisements that you’ll find in your typical magazine. Yet, the ultimate effect of viewing these ads are socially, emotionally and physically negative. Women don’t feel as though they can actually look Gisele Bündchen or Beyoncé, they feel as though they’re reminded they don’t look as good in comparison.

“I’d kill for a shape like that,” she says Kadiya Boswell pointing to a picture of Nicki Minaj, “I want more curves, but I can’t afford it.” She flips a page then sighed loudly, “Ugh, she’s so pretty, I hate her.” She talking about actress Lauren London. She explains that she does not actually hate her, but instead admires her. “Hate” is just a term she uses when she sees a good picture of her, “It’s sounds dumb, I know” she says.

“The media—magazines, TV, films, advertising, music videos—not only emphasize that female self-worth should be based on appearance, but present a powerful cultural ideal of female beauty that is becoming increasingly unattainable” says Daniel Clay, Vivian L. Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar in “Body Image and Self-Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors.”

The study was done to see if body satisfaction and social compassion with media models had an effect of young women. Their findings stated, “it seems reasonable to theorize that increasing awareness and internalization of sociocultural attitudes toward appearance, and increasing social comparison with media models, may help to explain the decline in body satisfaction and self-esteem typically observed during early to middle adolescence among girls in Western cultures.” That means yes, media in its unrealistic attempt to push perfection as the norm has negatively affected young women into thinking critically about themselves.

Jones has a membership at Planet Fitness, which she visits several nights a week, and does aerial yoga once a week, religiously. She’s also thought about investing in a waist trainer. She insists that it’s not insecurity, but the realization that, “You can always look better.” This is the very media-induced mindset that has made the makeup and skincare business a billion dollar industry.

“Perfectionist makeup.” “A more beautiful you.” “No more ugly dark spots.” “Be a better you.” When asked how can you be a better you, Nia responds, “I thought that was what you was doing going back to school.” But this ad states it’s by investing in flawless foundation. The slogans from makeup and fashion advertisements are subliminal messaging. You can only hide for so long before you become a person that doesn’t care about their looks. On a Tumblr blog dedicated awkward and embarrassing interview moments one confession reads, “On a job interview I was asked if I hadn’t had the chance to put on makeup [that morning] or if I just didn’t care about my appearance.” We live in a society where women are judged on their worthiness by their decision to wear makeup on a job interview, but a male news anchor Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit for an entire year (in protest of the double standard between female and male journalists) and no one noticed.

Yet, the ultimate effect of viewing these beauty ads and fashion magazines are more than just unfortunate stories that you can laugh at later or envious comments directed at celebrities that seem to have it all; it’s the socially, emotionally and physically distorted women that truly believe they are incomplete as they are. These pictures that showcase beautiful models, performers and actresses, looking like perfect specimens does not empower.

But then again it all makes sense. People that love their freckles and speech makes don’t spend money on creams and concealers, but low self-esteem is very lucrative.

“Many reports show that women who are insecure about their bodies are more likely to buy beauty products, new clothes, and diet aids. It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth more than $100 billion per year…,” writes Genevieve Morse for the Socialist Alternative.

This industry has become huge off of pinning the world’s most physically attractive models, singers and actresses against the working, studying, growing females that already have or have had problems with their self esteem. Showing teenage girls and young women in their early twenties that they aren’t their best selves is detrimental to the self-confidence and health of the people viewing the ads, seeing that it’s not their face or body plastered across every magazine and poster admired by many.

“Instead of women working together to fight against this, the beauty industry creates competition between women. Women learn to compare themselves with other women, and to compete with them for male attention,” says documentarian Jean Kilbourne. This is why Kim Kardashian is the most hated-loved woman on the planet, as were other socialites before her. She fulfills an unrealistic standard of beauty that is flaunted to the mainstream public as necessary to be attractive. When you don’t look like this “beauty” at all, you feel attacked and intimidated, and so you react with the same emotion towards the individual that is the basis of this bias. But Kim Kardashian never said she was physical perfection, we did.

Ironically, it’s the same magazines that profess women need to love themselves “as God made them” that offer tips and tricks to help them look better and thinner and more like the women in the magazines. They falsely declare female empowerment like Seventeen magazines “Body Peace Pledge”, which has young women pledge to love and accept their selves in all there flawed glory. It seems like a great action for the Americas largest “teenage” publication, though if you turn a couple pages a beauty guru will show you step-by-step demonstrations of ways to get eyes like Selena Gomez or lips like Kylie Jenner.

By showing a shiny ad with a gorgeous subject alongside their merchandise, people don’t see what they could look like, they only see what they don’t look like—what makes them imperfect, but this is old news. “Ads for beauty products make women feel worse about themselves—falls squarely into the category of duh, along with “Clumsy Kids Less Popular” and “Eating Healthfully and Exercising Is Good For You,” writes beauty blogger Autumn Whitefield-Madrano.

So why haven’t we stopped it?

Because we’re its biggest pushers. South Park did an episode on the media’s pressure to attain extreme beauty, then the social media peer pressure to at least keep up with the people around you.

“Growing up, I didn’t like one thing about myself. No matter what compliments I received from family or friends I only heard criticisms, I only saw flaws,” Star Wiley said. She would read magazines her mother brought home from work. “All I did was dream about looking like one of those models. I guess my only consolation was that I wasn’t the only person that didn’t look like one.” says the 23-year-old student. “I don’t blame Glamour and Vogue because at the time it was the only thing I had, but looking back all I really had was hopes of being anyone except me, a feeling that these magazines sort of intensified.”

Wiley admits that even now she sets some of her body goals by attaining the features of others. “By summer I want hair like this person, a stomach like her, a butt like another,” she laughs, “It seems so silly to make my desired look the physical features of some total stranger. They don’t even look like that.”

And that’s very true, as the leaked ads and photo shoots of celebrities will demonstrate clearly. Still, it’s more then their beauty, it’s essentially who they are: a famous person, admired by millions, on the cover a national magazine.

“That why most girls want to be the models and singers. It’s because they’re confident and famous, not just beautiful. So yeah, if you put Beyoncé’s face on something and say that she likes it, people will want to buy it because it will make them feel as though they have something in common with Beyoncé,” says NYU Alum Alyssa Evers. What makes this tactic of using a pretty face to sell products to an insecure person even worse is that the person only ends up feeling worse when said product doesn’t make them look or feel like Beyoncé.

Loving yourself is not something you can learn from a ten-step guide or a decision to lose winter weight. It’s ignoring the glossy pictures that tell you being imperfect is fixable, when it’s your flaws that make you the beautiful person you are.

“As you mature you realize that it’s okay to be you, sometimes it’s even great to be you,” says Jones. Then she chuckles and says “because really, nobody’s Beyoncé.”

Are your goals out of reach or have you just not stretched yourself far enough?

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By Marleny Rodriguez

Tall, skinny, long beautiful flowing hair, 5 feet 9 inches with the body measurement of 34’24’34’ is what society shows as the ideal woman, the Victoria Secret model. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to get to know Natalia Poveda, a striking 23-year-old girl. She is not does not fit the requirements of a Victoria Secret angel, but she does fit into the category of what a real woman is

Poveda is currently employed full-time at a tax office firm, where she has been for about two years. She originally planned on going to school for general psychology, but later changed her mind to get her emergency medical technician (EMT) certification instead. After tax season, she is planning to obtain that EMT certification. Determined right? Yes, she has the brains, but wait, there is more to her story.

What is more dangerous than an intelligent woman? A woman that has both beauty and brains. Poveda has taken part in several beauty pageants since 2011. She is currently part of Swing Promotions modeling agency. She has been doing fashion shows, photo shoots and video shoots. It was no surprise to find out she is also the queen representative of her country, Ecuador.

At first glance it is easy to get distracted with this focused and determined woman. She gives the sense of this powerful, independent and unbreakable individual.

Want a challenge? Work out with her for 40 minutes and you will be begging to rest. Her physical appearance is very important to her. Key point to her modeling career are constant exercises and a balanced diet. She describes herself as a “caring, loving and strong woman.” What motivates her to work is her father. He worked her whole life and always looked out for her family and she wants to be able to repay him and give him the gift of being able to stop working and enjoy the rest of his life.

When I told Poveda that she seems to be living life to the fullest, she said to me while looking deep into my eyes almost making me see into her soul, “I am a survivor.”

Last year, at such a young age and in the middle of the best time in her life Poveda’s magical world fell apart. She was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis. This disease does not have a cure and it is rare among young people. One out of 20,000 to 30,000 people have it. Without treatment people with this disease can die within months.

Poveda went to the hospital where she was misdiagnosed with pneumonia. She had to come back the next day because she was coughing blood and could not walk. Unsure about her condition, several tests were done, but this time she was in a room isolated from everyone else. Weeks after, “I woke up with millions of tube down my throat and my nose, I could not talk because the tubes were what was helping me breath.” One of her lungs was full with blood which was going to the other lung causing the need for emergent treatment.

Unfortunately, the treatments were not working for her and more blood kept going over to her other lung. They kept increasing the doses and “it was a matter of time, they didn’t know what to do with me anymore.” On Sept. 25, a month after being in the hospital they took the tubes out. She got back into her normal life at a very slow rate. She had to get back her strength in her legs and slowly was able to walk and talk again.

Poveda has had few negative reactions to new medications like sinus and stomach infection, as well as joint issues. Again, she was unable to walk for a week. Every day it was a different joint that was swollen and it was extremely painful. When I asked her about her faith she said, “I kind of was losing faith and that was probably the lowest I ever been in my entire life. I was saying, if my time is now, then take me, but take me now.” However, that was a brief thought that went away after the doctor switched her medications. Everything got better and since then, she hasn’t have any reactions and blood work have been improving.

Throw me to the wolves and I’ll return leading the pack. To this warrior, giving up was never an option. The love she has for life is bigger than the struggle she was facing. “Struggle is just temporary and so is happiness, so you have to enjoy everything, because everything passes even if it’s good or bad. So you cannot take anything for granted. That’s the way to live,” she said.

No matter what is thrown at Natalia she is able to handle it.

She is forever trying to progress as an individual and having this disease doesn’t hold her back. It may complicate things but it doesn’t stop her. Things have never come easy for her. Since both of her parents are deaf, she always had to work harder than everyone else. She was forced to grow up quicker. Sign language is her first language. She is unable to pick up the phone and talk to them, they have to either text or face time. Where some people might feel sorry for this, she considers their condition to be a blessing. The fact that her parent are not able to hear is the reason why she is so family oriented and why they are so united and have so much love and communication with each other.

Challenges for Natalia are a part of life and her condition is just another challenge that she is defeating.

When you are falling, your family is the one that will give you a hand, and when you survive, they are the first ones to jump and smile, but when you give up and lose the battle against any disease, it can really affect your loved one’s life.

You don’t have to go through life being a victim, and even though you face disappointment and tough times, you have to know within yourself that no matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, you are going to make it. Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, a day, a month or even a year. But eventually it will succeed and something else will take its place. If you quit, however, it will last forever.

Poveda said, “Find something that you love and concentrated on it, like in my case I love life, I love people. I want to see people happy, I want to see people loving each other. Be happy, be positive and never give up on anything.”

Poveda has definitely found a purpose in her life. Now, she has thousands of reasons why to cheer to life. Among one of those reasons is her boyfriend, Isaiah Bolanos, who has been her support system through this hard path of life. He knew about her diagnosis when they started talking over the phone. He did his research about what the disease does and what it might trigger. Then he became her personal trainer, he is in charge of her diet and exercises.

Not surprisingly, he trains her equally as hard as the rest of this clients. He doesn’t baby anyone. When you baby a condition you are only making a weak area in yourself, he said. “That is like when you see a crippled person and you do nice things because they are crippled and if you feel sorry for them. That’s not good, they are still humans, they are still alive. They don’t want sympathy, they just want to be treated equally.” With so much passion he describes her as “beautiful inside and out, strong, and just amazing.”
Love is what keeps him by her side since the beginning, when everything was all-colorful but especially when the light seem to disappear at the end of her tunnel. While speaking to him, I couldn’t stop thinking how strong their relationship is. It is based on pure love but beyond that on support, communication, admiration, respect for each other and trust. Distance has never been an excuse for these two love birds and what is distance to somebody who’s worthy?

Their love story began through social media. She lives in Connecticut and he lives in New Jersey. They share mutual interest and even though they have different point of views that is how they complement each other. She has completely changed the way he views life. This journey next to Natalia has made him stronger and is preparing him for the next challenges that may come his way. “I’m here to make her stronger, not weaker, so while she is going through this, I’m only here to help her get passed this and adapt into a new, better Natalia, whether she was diagnosed or not, whether I met her this way.”

We need to stop looking at love as an object, not something to obtain, not a noun. Look at it as a verb, something to do and something to constantly act on. A dream works the same way. It is easier to look at a dream as something way off in the distance, to make excuses, to play the victim or to give up, instead of fighting. Poveda’s dream was to survive, to be able to live, to walk, to have her own family and to help her family. There were no obstacles too hard or too far that could stop her. Being diagnosed with Wegener’s doesn’t define her, being a determined woman and a survivor does.

She believes we have to fail, in order to rise. We are all dying, but if you are not chasing your dream, you are already dead. So this is the question: What is it that you are really dying to do? If you know the answer, fantastic, but if you don’t know the answer, don’t go sleep tonight without answering that question. Don’t wait until Sunday to answer that question. There’s nothing more important in your life than figuring that out, cause when you do figure that out then, when you go to sleep, you’ll sleep like a kid again, because then you will be going to sleep not to dream, but with a dream, and waking one with one. Sweet dreams.

Resume vs. Reality

It’s not lying, it’s enhancing the truth.

Honestly, honesty is for newspapers, not resumes. Your future employer wants to hear that you performed sufficient money saving tactics at your last job, not that you purposely left work early for a week and called out sick every Friday.  #everytimeIcalloutIsavemyjobmoney

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