Welcome to Le Monde!

Le Monde, the Honors College's magazine, is a review of happenings both in the Honors College and at the university. We cover a diverse array of topics from student-related issues to the finest eateries in the city. Please email vculemonde@gmail.com for submissions or other questions.

 

Dear Abby

By Abby Reasor

 

 

Dear Abby,

 

My online classes are making me hate my computer! How do I maintain a healthy relationship with my screen?

 

From a Zonked Zoom Student

 

You can’t spend every waking moment glued to your laptop -- you’ll be more burnt out than a VCUarts skater boy. When you take a break from work, don’t mindlessly scroll through Instagram. That’s just a smaller screen! Take a little walk outside to see something that isn’t digital. Maybe there will even be a cute dog! If you just need to consume online content, listen to some music or a podcast. 

Buy some blue light glasses! They filter out the harsh light that your computer screen produces, reducing the strain on your eyes. I’m often a skeptic when it comes to products like this, so I’m not here to sell you essential oils or herbal supplements. However, I believe in the headache-reducing power of my blue-light glasses. You can grab a pair for under $15 online, and you can make a fashion statement. You’ll be protected and stylish.

Don’t get all of your textbooks online. Keep Virginia Book Company in business -- rent a printed version if possible. Looking at physical pages is great for a change of scenery. There’s something nice about flipping physical pages, don’t you think? Highlighting with a marker feels a lot more legit than clicking to highlight the text. Similarly, write down your notes in a notebook instead of typing them on the computer. Handwriting is better for memorization, and it keeps you from staring at that glowing box. 

Your eyes will thank you for setting a few boundaries with your computer. While your Weekly Screen Time Report may still be embarrassing, it could be worse. At least you aren’t stuck wearing a mask in a lecture hall. 

 

From Abby



Honors Course Spotlight: VCU Votes

Combining collaboration, creativity, and student engagement to increase voter turnout.

By Taya Coates

VCU Votes Logo [View Image]

 

The VCU Votes logo.

 

With an intense presidential election looming, politics is understandably at the forefront of most of our minds. Normally, the walkways near Cabell library and the University Student Commons would be lined with voter registration tables. Like everything else this year, the lack of in-person opportunities affects the way Rams get involved. 

This deficiency of events could decrease the number of active voters on campus and damage VCU’s reputation as one of the best colleges for student voting. The VCU Votes course could not have come at a more perfect time. The course strives to increase voter awareness with VCU students on social media, serving as the perfect substitute for the usual approach.

 

According to the course list, “VCU Votes is a special topics class in which undergraduate students explore the theory and practice of social media in political communication – especially in the context of the 2020 presidential election”. The class offers so much more to students beyond the description. Lectures cover everything from voter suppression to social media campaign strategies. Assignments are not centered around tests, rather focused on the team effort of running an assigned VCU Votes social media page. 

 

As a member of the Instagram team, I have greatly enjoyed working at the intersection of graphic design and social media campaigning. There is a ton of room for creativity and my amazing team is always generating new ways to get our peers engaged.

 

A collage of social media posts from VCU Votes’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media accounts. [View Image]A collage of social media posts from VCU Votes’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media accounts. [View Image]

A collage of social media posts from VCU Votes’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media accounts.

 

The VCU Votes class expands into the larger network of staff and the VCU Votes Student Coalition. The organization works to serve as a resource for students and help them get to the polls. The organization is making quite a splash on campus, racking up features on many campus outlets like VCU News, local outlets like NBC 12, and even receiving a nod from President Rao on Twitter.

 

This timely course provides students with the perfect platform to express their passion for creating a civically engaged campus. While the main goal is to educate, the great thing about social media accounts is that they are a two-way street. The conversation aspect allows students to express what matters most to them and ask questions. Creating educated student voters is important because the four years spent at college is the perfect time to create a habit of voting. Most college freshmen just reached the age requirement to vote, and if the habit is established early and reinforced for years on end, they will graduate as citizens who can go out in their respective communities and increase voter turnout.


If you are passionate about voting, VCU Votes may be the perfect class for you! Keep an eye out for the course in upcoming semesters and follow @vcuvotes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates!

VCU's New Safety and Wellbeing Model

By Shea Wenzler

 

In the midst of riots in response to police brutality and calls to abolish VCU PD, President Michael Rao announced some changes to VCU’s policing.  These transitions involve moving from policing the community to a more equitable and holistic system in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the students and citizens that the department serves.  The university aims to accomplish this goal through a five point plan consisting of the following: establishing a civilian oversight and advisory function, workforce realignment, fair and impartial policing, transparent metrics, and community feedback.  What does this new commitment mean for the VCU Police Department and the VCU community?

 

Civilian Oversight and Advisory Function

In President Rao’s announcement, he stresses that the oversight for campus safety is civilian, with VCU police officers falling under the jurisdiction of VCU Human Resources and safety being coordinated by the vice president of administration.  However, the new safety model now includes a civilian advisory committee, to help oversee and review VCU’s safety and wellness activities. Students can directly share their opinions on the committee and the new safety model by submitting this Google Form, or emailing safetymodel@vcu.edu

 

Workforce Realignment

In roles that do not require police officers, VCU has now replaced officers with unsworn and unarmed safety and mental health professionals.  Also, whereas students used to have to call VCU PD if they were experiencing a mental health emergency, they can now call University Counseling Services.  While these moves may prove vital in reducing the amount of police encounters that result in the use of force, the university has made it  unclear as to what specific situations they will deploy safety and mental health professionals in place of police officers. 

 

Fair and Impartial Policing

President Rao’s announcement states that VCU has and will continue to implement policies and training to encourage fair and equitable treatment of all members of the community.  Examples of these include implicit bias awareness training and participation in the One Mind Campaign, to improve police responses to people suffering from mental illness. It is worth noting that the baseline implicit bias awareness class for recruits and patrol officers offered by Fair and Impartial Policing is only 8 hours long. Mental Health First Aid training courses sponsored by the One Mind Campaign are also only 8 hours. Based on President Rao’s announcement and the VCU Police Department’s website, it is unclear whether officers are expected to attend these classes multiple times, or if  they only need to complete the classes once. 

 

Transparent Metrics

VCU currently tracks and releases performance data through safety reports and crime logs which can be found on the VCU Police website. Currently, the university is developing a public safety dashboard which will include officer complaints, department use of force and resolution, random body worn video camera reviews, and excessive use of force complaints.  This dashboard is not currently available to the public. 

 

Community Feedback

Students can currently give feedback on the new VCU Safety model through the VCU Police website, the LiveSafe mobile app, by submitting this Google Form, or by emailing safetymodel@vcu.edu

 

Only time will tell if the changes to VCU’s policing has the administration’s desired effect.  There is clear evidence that the university is attempting to change it’s police department for the better.  However, everybody involved could benefit from increased transparency and clarity about what policies will be used in specific situations, and how debiasing and mental health training works for VCU police officers.



Honors Freshmen Housing

By Kaitlyn Fulmore

 

I applied to the VCU honors college one day before the deadline.

Even before Covid-19, my life was a mess, and I had no idea what I wanted to do in college. My friend, who was at the time an honors freshman at VCU, texted me the day before asking if I had applied. I hadn’t.

“Why should I?” I asked.

“Well, you get your own dorm and bathroom.”

I was sold.

 

As Covid-19 began to shut down businesses and schools, I still held on to a hope that we would have a normal fall semester. However, as VCU shut down and converted the Honors College into a location for hospital overflow, worries about having the dorm ready for freshmen in the fall grew. 

 

On June 17th, the Honors College Housing sent out an email informing freshmen that the Honors College would be used to “house low acuity patients”. Freshmen who were originally planning to stay in the Honors dorm were given the option to stay home, stay in Gladding Residence Center (GRC), or stay at the Graduate Hotel (which was later changed to Cary and Belvidere). These new housing options did not have the option for living alone, and honors students previously looking forward to a single dorm would now have to decide if they wanted to live with a roommate. In a poll completed by 50 honors freshmen, 58% said that one of the main reasons they applied to the Honors College was for the single dorm provided.

 

“One of the most appealing things about the Honors College to me was the dorm, so it [not having the option for the honors single dorm] was a little disappointing. My mom had told me that ‘oh you’re going to have a lot of roommate horror stories if you don’t get this, you don’t want that,’” freshman Claire Darcy, who opted to stay home for the Fall semester, said.

 

With honors students now being divided between home, GRC, and Cary and Belvidere, many freshmen feel like the advertised  Honors College community is harder to be a part of, whether it be because of the mainly Zoom communication, the physical separation, or the honors classes not being in one place. 

 

“For me personally it’s been a lot harder to connect to everything when it’s all through Zoom. You feel less present then you would if you were doing things in person, or meeting face to face other members of the honors community. Obviously I know a few people around the hall, but I don't really feel like I’m in this big Honors College community,” freshman Arbi Abazi, who is staying in GRC, said.

 

Some members, however, are grateful for this unique experience.

 

“I probably would have just been extremely lonely [in the Honors College]. Having a roommate is actually pretty great, and being in Cary and Belvidere actually facilitates that even better, because we have our own rooms. We have our own space, but we also have a common area,” freshman Fabian Fontanez said.

 

The honors dorm was not the only part of the Honors College community that freshmen were looking forward to. Students were also looking forward to the smaller (in person) class sizes and engagement events.

 

“I thought those would probably be like the most helpful aspects of the Honors College, because they give you more opportunities to discover interesting things and get to know your professors,” Arbi said.

 

Although freshman year isn’t at all how we expected it to be, I and other Honors freshmen are hopeful for the future. Getting involved with other honors programs, like Honors Student Executive Board, has made me feel like I’m in the honors community. Virtual zooms aren't the same as in person connections, but it also makes every club much more available- with the ability to attend meetings at any location possible now. 

 

“I'm starting to find the positives of staying at home, like I didn’t have to leave my pets behind, I can have candles in my room, I don’t have to pay for a meal plan. I’m hoping to have [the Honors College] experiences next year or in the spring,” Claire said.




 

How Should Disruptive Parties be Addressed?

By Malina Gavris

 

Since the start of the semester, there have been at least 265 on campus cases of coronavirus according to the VCU COVID-19 Dashboard. 253 of these have been student cases. Although VCU’s infection rate is lower than other Virginia schools, such as JMU’s (which surpassed 1,000 cases), the coronavirus still poses a great danger to campus life. To promote safety, VCU leadership has called for a plethora of regulations which include: wearing face masks in common areas, upholding physical distancing, and limiting gatherings to a max of ten people. Despite the rules, it’s college, and a lot of students really haven’t been listening. 

 

Every day, talks and rumours about parties circulate around the student body. These parties and rowdy gatherings are happening on and off campus and are particularly prevalent amongst freshmen. On August 26, VCU’s Public Health Advisory announced that eight students who tested positive for COVID-19 had recently attended a party. Even though VCU has issued a statement saying that “Students hosting parties or other personal gatherings on or off-campus with more than 10 people are subject to interim suspension,” the party scene is still very much alive and a clear issue. 

 

The problem now shifts to how these disruptive parties should be addressed by other students. Many people are faced with the dilemma of whether to snitch or not snitch. It’s the wellbeing of the campus versus the consequences for partygoers, some of which may be friends or peers. The question of whether or not to call the police on partiers is also up for debate. 

 

When it comes to large parties during COVID, freshman Sahara Sriraman states that “I think that college parties right now are the most inconsiderate and frankly idiotic idea ever. The fact that people are willing to risk their lives and other people’s lives in order to get a few hours of fun is beyond me”. Sriraman notes that it is difficult to monitor all student events but thinks that “The students at these parties should be reprimanded. It could be like a 3 strikes thing: the first time is a warning, the second time is some kind of punishment, and the third time is being sent home. It might seem severe but I don’t think this issue should be taken lightly, especially when people’s lives are on the line.”

 

Some sort of reprimand for partygoers seems to be the consensus, and junior Kali Delay thinks that fines could be a good idea to implement. However, when it comes to students alerting the police, Delay stresses that “In regards to calling the police, I think that puts certain students too much at risk. I agree that there should be some form of punishment in regards to fines, but I think it’d be much better for everyone’s safety if these issues were addressed by CDC response teams rather than local law enforcement (who don’t even follow COVID guidelines themselves).” 

 

Concerns about police involvement are definitely viable, especially given the recent protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police brutality It may be wiser for students to contact an RA or a school official if they need to report a party. 

 

Overall, college life during the pandemic is tough. It’s definitely hard to resist the allure of parties, especially when it comes to students who are new on campus, and have been subjected to a socially distant summer. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember why social distancing regulations were put in place. As Delay explains, “We may not be the highest age demographic in fatalities, but it doesn’t mean we’re immune, or that it hasn’t already permanently altered hundreds of thousands of lives.” The best thing for all VCU students to do is to avoid large gatherings, follow the advised regulations, and to responsibly report instances of safety violations to the proper school authorities. 



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