The Current Summer 20

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What people have been afraid

of through the generations



Educators discuss the continuing

teacher shortage

221 W. Saginaw St., Lansing, MI 48933

Phone: 517.203.0123 Fax: 517.203.3334


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VP Media Planning & Buying

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Art Director

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Web Manager

Kyle Dowling


Leah Wright, Emily Hobrla, Abigail Scott

Sydney Wilson, Elizabeth Carter, Aaron Applebey

John Castro, Katherine Marchlewski, Joey Warren


Emma Kolakowski, Kathryn De Vries, Sierra Jezuit

Rachel Gignac, Sara Gilson, Shelby Smith

Tristan Tanner, Nicole Glynn, Sophie Schmidt

Jaclyn Krizanic, Sarah Haggart



By Sydney Wilson

Dear reader,

Thank you for being here, reading this issue of The Current. No matter how you came by

our magazine, or whether or not you meant to, we hope you put it down feeling more

knowledgeable about the world we live in than you did when you picked it up.

They say that knowledge is power, after all. And we mean to empower.

This issue’s journey to your hands was tumultuous, to put it mildly. The Current is a rather recent

creation, with a still-settling identity, which leaves us in the incredible, if somewhat intimidating,

position of having limitless possibility at the cost of any solid ground or certainty. We’re figuring

ourselves out, issue by issue, determining what our values are, what we believe in and how we

can best serve you, the readers. This issue, like many others to come, strives to understand those

different from us, be responsibly cognizant of their unique strengths and struggles and ensure

that nobody is ignored or glossed over in our collective understanding of the world.

So go forth with your new knowledge, your new power, and use it for good. Thank you

for reading.

With hope,

Sydney Wilson

Social Media

Sara Gilson, Sarah Haggart, Nicole Glynn,

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Katherine Marchlewski, John Castro,

Tristan Tanner, Sophie Schmidt, Shelby Smith

Sydney Wilson is a junior double-majoring in

professional & public writing and English, and

wants to spend her professional career as an

editor, helping authors make their stories the best

they can possibly be. Outside of school, she enjoys

trail running, reading, listening to music, and

watching youtube tutorials for projects she’ll never do.


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Woman Behind the Camera

A spotlight on Alexandra Hidalgo


Doing It All: The Student

Parent Perspective

What it’s like to be a full-time

student and a parent



Serving Up a Livable Wage

A look at how servers are paid


Undervalued and Overworked

Educators discuss the continuing

teacher shortage

Man Overboard!

How women and

non-binary improvisers

created a space of their own

Homelessness in the

Greater Lansing Area

How individuals are tackling an

overwhelming problem


Language in the 21st Century

How institutions are evolving to

accommodate the change


Book Clubs in the Digital Era

A look at how technology

is changing book clubs


Generation Fear

What people have been afraid

of through the generations


04 SPRING 2020




By Katherine Marchlewski

For women of color, it is no small feat to

break into the male-dominated film industry.

As a genre, documentaries may be ahead

of narrative film regarding diversity behind

the scenes, but barriers still obscure the

path for minorities, particularly women

of color. Fortunately, some women have

not been defeated by these seemingly

unconquerable obstacles and have fought

their way into the industry. One example is

Venezuelan native Alexandra Hidalgo. She

is currently a faculty member at Michigan

State University in the department of

Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures,

who makes feminist documentaries and

video essays. Initially, Hidalgo had a

different plan for her future, but her destiny

was to uplift the suppressed voices of

hundreds of people and help tell their truths.

Her history with filmmaking is challenging

and complex, but nothing has or will stand

in her way of pursuing this path.

Growing up, Hidalgo never imagined she

would be a filmmaker, because she never

knew women could be filmmakers. As a

child, her main exposure to women in film

was the beautiful ones seen on screen.

She didn’t see women behind the camera.

In fact, her first encounter with a female

director was in college when her friend,

Patricia Perez, asked Hidalgo to act in

one of her films. Even after that, Hidalgo

did not yet have an understanding of film

technology — which was different before

the arrival of digital filmmaking — or

any history with filmmaking. So, despite

admiring Perez’s work and way with

storytelling, Hidalgo did not make her own

connection with filmmaking until she was

working on her PhD.

Hidalgo comes from a long line of writers.

As a child, she wanted to continue that

familial legacy. Upon entering the workforce,

she was a fiction writer before moving

on to academia. Within academia, she

realized she had a greater desire to be

creative and needed an artistic edge to her

work. So, she leaned toward filmmaking.

Hidalgo envisioned a way to blend film and

scholarly production together in a way that

satisfied her inner artist.

Hidalgo is a documentarian. When

she chose this genre, she was thinking

practically, believing she could succeed

the best here because of the clear link

between documentaries and rhetoric,

which was the focus of her PhD. Looking

back, she realized that not only did it make

sense from a professional standpoint, but

it was a perfect fit for her personality and

interests. Since her adolescence, Hidalgo

loved photographing and filming the world

around her with her mother’s camcorder.

Though she might not have been aware of

it when she chose this path, Hidalgo was

always a documentarian at heart.

One of the first challenges she faced

was not attending film school. Instead,

she taught herself and learned from her

collaborators, but without film school she

missed the chance to make key connections

within the industry. She made up for

this through her creation of agnès films

— her digital publication that supports

women filmmakers through reviews, essays,

interviews and more.

Hidalgo faced issues with funding her films

as well. Hidalgo states that a key barrier

for women is low funding after film school.

Older white men tend to have the money in

the film industry, and they see themselves

reflected in aspiring male filmmakers, not

their female counterparts. This consequently

creates a stronger inclination for these men

to hire and support other men, leaving

women out of the equation. One way

Hidalgo counters this is by learning to

create at a lower cost.

Her most recent project, “The Weeping

Season,” marks the first time she’s worked


with an outside editor, Cristina Carrasco.

Otherwise, with her husband serving as

her cinematographer, Hidalgo directed,

produced and edited all her previous work

herself. Hidalgo mentioned that in the

beginning, a new filmmaker might have to

“adapt to the realities of funding and find

ways of still getting your work done, which

often means you have to take on some of

the roles that would usually go to others.”

This can always change though, as Hidalgo

now loves working with Carrasco and is

hoping to find ways to fund collaboration

for her future films.

She’s also overcome barriers by learning

to argue for the value of her voice and

why the unique experiences she offers are

important. A strong piece of advice Hidalgo

likes to offer others in difficult positions

is to “fight for your project. Believe in

it, send it out and tell everyone about it.

Anytime it goes into a festival, make it to

the festival and show up. Be there standing

by your film. … Make sure people see it.”

It is a long and difficult process, but it is

important for a filmmaker to be their own

proponent and believe in their art. Hidalgo

has always supported and advocated for

her creations and is now an accomplished,

award-winning filmmaker. Her film,“Teta:

A Nursing Mother Tells Her Story,” has

been an official selection to 27 film festivals

in 13 countries, and it has received eight

film festival awards, including Best Short

Documentary Film at Jaipur International

Film Festival in India, South Film and Arts

Academy Film Festival in Chile, and Five

Continents International Film Festival

in Venezuela.

Hidalgo’s audience fluctuates based on

the content of her films. Her 2014 feature

“Vanishing Borders” is meant for immigrant

women, where her 2017 short “Teta” is

designed for pregnant women. Regardless

of her intended primary audience, she

always hopes that her films will sincerely

touch secondary audiences too. While her

audience can encompass a wide range of

people, her themes stay consistent.

Hidalgo mentioned three key themes across

her work: personal experiences of women,

06 SUMMER 2020

cultural hybridity and love. She chose these

because of their complexity and relation

to her personal experiences. A significant

component of Hidalgo’s work is feminism,

given that she is a feminist filmmaker. She

wants to help women’s voices be heard

around the world. Though films have

featured diverse stories, they are too often

created by people not from those diverse

backgrounds. Films featuring diverse stories

have been told, but not through the eyes

of those whom the story actually belongs

to. Hidalgo understands the necessity of

these stories to be accurately told by

members of those communities who have

the agency to share their experiences. She

is a part of making this hope for change

a reality by exploring underrepresented

stories and learning ways to tell them. She

also explores how navigating different

cultures affects life and belonging because

Hidalgo herself is a member of two distinct

cultures: Venezuela and the United States.

She is intrigued by how cultural hybridity

impacts people’s lives, including her own,

and the lessons that can be learned from

these intersections, especially for those who

might not share her multicultural experience.

Finally, Hidalgo processes the love she

gives and receives from others through

her work. Her subtitle for her production

company, Sabana Grande Productions, is

“Feminist Films for a Kinder World.” Her

films tell heartfelt and often intimate stories

so viewers can appreciate the personal

struggles faced by individuals.

Hidalgo says, “If you see the humanity in

somebody else, and what they go through,

it is a lot harder to hate them. If you can’t

hate others, it is a lot harder to hurt them.”

She hopes her work reveals people’s

humanity and evokes kindness and

empathy from viewers.

One of Hidalgo’s greatest strengths

is her experience of cultures and an

understanding of how they work together.

Her time living in Venezuela and the U.S.

gives her a very unique background and

allows her to bring a fresh perspective to

her films. Her navigation and keen insight

of different cultures and how they interact

give her films a certain depth that is rare in

the industry, though it should not be. She

tells stories that need to be heard but are

intermittently shared in mainstream media.

Hidalgo is also purposeful in who she

hires. She prefers to hire diverse crews who

can enrich her projects with their personal

experiences. These relationships extend

beyond crewmembers and filmmaking.

Hidalgo builds strong friendships with her

crewmembers and strives to connect with

the human behind the employee.

Hidalgo has similar relationships with the

Michigan State University students who

work with her on agnès films. She enjoys

working with undergraduate students

because they are immensely enthusiastic

and interested in the work. She also

enjoys the multi-generational aspect of

working with young adults and learning

new ways to reach audiences. Similar to

her crewmembers, her relationships with

her students transcend school, and she

loves to see how their careers evolve after

graduation. A key goal of agnès films is to

give students opportunities to prepare them

for finding a satisfying and creative job.

The film industry still struggles with diversity

and representation, but advancements are

always being made, especially with the

aid of new technology giving marginalized

voices a new platform. Progress is slow but

not invisible. Even though the road is tough,

people like Alexandra Hidalgo are helping

to create a world where the absence of

representation no longer exists. As a child,

Hidalgo wanted to be a writer, actor and

teacher, and through time and hard work

she found success in work that involves

storytelling and that often places her in front

of and behind the camera. Hidalgo has

found her passion and is actively using it in

filmmaking to make a difference.

To support her and her amazing work, visit

her website alexandrahidalgo.com and


Katherine Marchlewski is currently a junior

studying professional writing with a focus

on editing and publishing, and minoring in

film studies. After graduating, she hopes to

find a career related to editing and publishing,

ideally with fiction novels. In her spare time,

she enjoys reading, watching movies and scouring Pinterest.




By Elizabeth Carter

My days don’t start with an alarm but

with a sound alert from the baby monitor.

While I make my morning coffee, I also

make a morning bottle. I have not one

but two backpacks — one filled with

textbooks, notebooks and my laptop, and

the other with diapers, toys and squeezable

applesauce pouches. I do my homework

while my toddler naps in two hour frenzies,

attempting to walk the fine line between

keeping up with my homework and giving

my son my full attention while he is awake.

I simultaneously hold two of the most

difficult positions in life: full-time student

and full-time mother.

Getting pregnant at 22 was not part of

the “plan.” I was accepted into Michigan

State University only one month prior and

had finally picked the career that was

right for me. Not one friend my age had

children. I felt like I had nobody to turn to

for advice about going to college or having

a newborn. My fiance immediately jumped

on board with whatever I wanted to do.

It took weeks of painstaking deliberation

to try to figure out which path we wanted

our lives to take. We revealed our secret

to some close friends and family and received

unwavering support in whatever we decided

and finally chose the path to parenthood.

08 SUMMER 2020

While I was confident that my family and

friends had my back, I felt like I didn’t fit in

with other mothers I knew. I worked with

stay-at-home mothers at the YMCA, and

when it came to my fellow students, none of

them had children. That is, until I met Shelby

Hooper, one of my fiance’s coworkers. She

was also an MSU student and mother, and

she understood the feeling of not entirely

belonging in either the motherhood or

student communities.

“I was too young and not involved

enough to fit in with the ‘mom crowd,’

and didn’t have time for study groups or

extracurricular activities like students.

My only friends were my work friends,”

said Hooper.

According to a study done by the Institute

for Women’s Policy Research, 4.8 million

college students in the United States are

raising children, a figure that more than

doubled between 1999 and 2012. This

data can be broken down between the

types of educational institutions parents

are attending. About 2.1 million student

parents attend a two-year college, 1.1

million attend four-year public or private

universities and 1.2 million attend for-profit

institutions. The study also notes that women

make up a disproportionate 71 percent

of all student parents, and approximately

2.1 million students are single mothers.

Although the numbers seem large, within

the small bubble of one’s own university,

that number is much smaller. As reported by

MSU’s Student Parent Resource Center, only

1-3 percent of the overall MSU population

are student parents.

During my pregnancy, Hooper was the only

other student parent I knew. It wasn’t until

the semester after my son’s birth that I met

Mackenzie Reilly, a 25-year-old animal

science major, whose son was born only

two months after mine. She also understood

the estrangement student parents felt from

the two communities.

“Very rarely do I come across someone

who knows what I am going through. I get

judged by both communities a lot. I don’t

have a lot of interaction with other moms

since I am always using my down time to

stay on top of my classes. As far as the

student community goes, I don’t really

feel like I have a connection with many

students on campus,” said Reilly. “I am

unable to attend club meetings and any

outside activities other than class unless

I were to bring my son along with me,

and that usually just ends up with people

staring at me. I am unable to go out of state

or travel the world on internships and

volunteering opportunities. It gets lonely

when not many people understand it all.”

Finding a give-and-take is something

student parents struggle with every day.

We only have so much time between

work and school, and sometimes we have

to choose between reading the books

our child thrusts at us and finishing our

homework on time. We become worried

about things like missing important

milestones in our childrens’ lives or making

our children feel like we don’t want to be

around them when we choose schoolwork

over playtime.

10 SUMMER 2020

Brittany Duba had her son at age 25, just

weeks before starting a grueling threeyear

program at Lansing Community

College. Duba had to find a good balance

between motherhood and studenthood, and

sometimes that was a struggle.

“I struggled with ‘mom guilt’ when I had to

leave for long periods of time and not see

my son nearly as much as I wanted to,” said

Duba. “I also had to stop breastfeeding

quite early because it was hard to balance

with long classes as well as the hour-long

drive I had between school and home, so

that made me feel really guilty, as well as

added expense.”

For Hooper, it wasn’t about balancing time

but balancing emotions.

“I had to take time away from my family

to get good grades and graduate,” said

Hooper. “I had to stop feeling guilty

because I was spending more time at

school and work than I was with my infant.

I had to stop feeling guilty for something

that was necessary to move forward.”

Being a student parent comes with

challenges that most students never have

to consider, such as childcare, doctor’s

appointments, proper child development,

extra expenses for diapers, formula and

middle-of-the-night wake-ups. Our days

are long, busy and exhausting.

For Reilly, her day starts well before the

sun is up.

“A typical day for me is waking up at 5:30

a.m., getting my school supplies and my

son’s diaper bag out to my car and starting

my car to allow it to warm up for him,” said

Reilly. “I go inside and get myself ready.

I then proceed to get some milk in his

sippy cup before I wake him up and grab

a diaper, a sweatshirt for him and some

slippers. We leave around 6:30 a.m., and

I make a 20-minute drive from our house in

Mason to his daycare in Dansville to drop

him off. I then drive 30 minutes to campus,

where I park in the commuter lot and wait

for the bus to come get me and take me to

my 8 a.m. class. I have some hour breaks

in-between certain classes and will go sit in

my car and catch up on homework. I then

proceed to go to work after my last class is

done. I get out of work at 5 p.m. when the

office closes and ride the bus back to my

car, where I go straight to daycare and

pick him up because they close at 6 p.m.

We go home, and I make him dinner and

play with him in-between trying to get some

homework done before I take him off to bed

at 9 p.m.”

Reilly’s day sounds like a normal day to me,

a mother with a son the same age as hers

and an MSU commuter, but to countless

students, this day is filled with experiences

they may not have for years.

While it is true that we face struggles

students without children can scarcely

fathom, we also possess an extra incentive

to be successful that they don’t have. Duba

used the love she has for her son to stay

motivated and push through to graduation.

“I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ who got

pregnant and dropped out of school,” she

said. “I wanted to be ‘that girl’ who had

a baby during the hardest school year of

her life and came out on top! I also wanted

to do it for my son. I wanted him to know

that if his mama can finish college with a

newborn, then he can do anything he sets

his mind to.”

Not every student parent has the privilege

of unconditional support from friends and

family that allows us to be able to go to

college. Some student parents are forced

to drop out due to a lack of resources.

Luckily for MSU student parents, there is

help available. The Student Parent Resource

Center, or SPRC, opened in 2015 and offers

a variety of services for student parents

on MSU’s campus. These services include

consultations to assess individual families

and their support needs, grants for paying

for pre-finals childcare, summer camp,

emergency backup childcare, a diaper

drive that the office holds for families who

need it, sponsoring educational workshops

and community events and advocacy

and awareness of student parents

throughout campus.

SPRC’s director, Kimberly Steed-Page,

believes that the SPRC is important for

student parents because “it serves as an

advocacy point for their needs as students

and parents. The center is a place where

student parents can come to ask questions

about anything, if we don’t know the

answer, we will find it for them. We serve

their whole family, care about them and

believe all students can be successful

at MSU.”

Steed-Page estimates that the SPRC has

provided some type of resource or support

to over 300 MSU student parents and their

families since they opened in 2015.

While Brittany Duba, Mackenzie Reilly,

Shelby Hooper, myself and every other

student parent out there may sometimes

feel overwhelmed or like they are failing,

it’s important to remember that we are not

alone. There are other student parents like

us out there, and we can find support in

each other. Even though our journey to

graduation may be longer and harder than

the traditional student’s, we all can agree

that we couldn’t imagine our lives without

our children. Reilly put it best when she said:

“I love my child more than I could’ve ever

fathomed and I’m here every day showing

up and proving to him, myself and all of

those people who said I couldn’t do it, that

I’ll create a better life for the both of us no

matter what.”

Elizabeth Carter is a professional writing

senior who enjoys developmental and

copy editing, grant writing, and social

media management. After graduation, she

plans to pursue a career in political writing,

and possibly work on a campaign. When

she is not reading, writing or cross-stitching, she is spending

time with her husband and two-year-old son.



By John Castro

Serving, waiting — whatever term gets

thrown around — the duty of ensuring

restaurant attendees get their food hot and

their drinks cold is a restaurant tradition.

Serving is common across all 50 states and

most industrialized countries as servers put

on their aprons and uniforms to tackle the

masses day after day. But what is the pay like

for individuals in these roles? Servers in some

states earn $2.13 an hour, while Michigan

servers can bank on at least $3.67, according

to the U.S. Department of Labor. What exactly

12 SUMMER 2020

do these food-carrying attendants do for

this wage?

Picture this: a server approaches your table

with a smile and takes your order. This server

notes any allergies and substitutions without

question before grabbing your drinks. The

drinks arrive, and off the server goes to

the next table as the night picks up. The

restaurant becomes a hot spot for food

coming out late, customers handing out

complaints and Aunt Sally pedalling around

a purse full of suspiciously old coupons. This

is merely the tip of the iceberg in their duties.

Gina Tress, a Michigan-born server attending

the University of Alabama, can attest to these

seemingly glaring obstacles. Tress has been

serving since she was old enough to work.

Despite facing these issues, however, Tress

wants to provide excellent service to her patrons.

“Eating out is a time for people to relax and

enjoy time with loved ones. It’s fulfilling being

able to wait on clients and do everything in

my power to make them feel important and

catered to,” says Tress.

While the server’s patrons dine, they may

wipe tables or run food out for other servers.

They may go about their cleaning duties,

engaging in multiple activities behind

the scenes but still managing to run back

at the beck and call of all those needing

refills on their lemon waters. At the end of the

meal, the bill comes and hesitant glances are

exchanged. Customers are required to pay

the full amount, but what is expected as far as

the tip goes?

Tipping in the United States is considered

common courtesy and, traditionally, a way

to reward or punish the server for their level

of work. According to Consumer Reports,

it’s a safe bet to leave at least a 20 percent

gratuity. Is this enough for servers to earn

a living?

“My only wage is around two dollars an

hour, usually making up to 15-16 dollars an

hour [in tips], 30 at most [in tips] depending

on the day. If you work hard, you make more

money,” says Tress.

Many servers hold this mindset and do

make a livable wage. If tips don’t cut it, the

restaurant is required to pay the server the

federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour.

Unfortunately, some establishments force

their servers to pool and divy up their tips.

For servers, wages are unpredictable and

unstable — in the U.S. at least. Tress has had

people walk out on their bills or leave $100

tips on $20 orders.

Europe ditched tipping around the time it

gained popularity stateside. In fact, it’s almost

an insult to tip in some European countries.

Tips and gratuities are factored into the pay

servers receive, and this allows countries

such as Spain and England to forgo the

practice entirely. Many foreign servers can

earn a livable wage and make upwards of

20€ ($21.83 USD) an hour. This is a wildly

different approach to compensating servers

than what is found in the States.

Daria Sukharchuk gathered several first hand

accounts from European servers on their

experiences in her article, “How Do Waiters

Work and Get Paid in Big European Cities,”

originally posted on the online news outlet

Medium. An anonymous server from Spain

weighed in on his serving experience in one

of these first hand accounts.

“I work six days a week, nine hours a day.

Many of my friends think I’ve got a nice

job, easy and fun. Others don’t understand

how you can spend a whole day serving

people and not sitting down. I get 1000€

($1,091.85 in the U.S.) a month, without tips,

and that is enough to rent a flat. Santiago is

not expensive,” he writes.

Aurelia, from Switzerland, echoes her fellow

server’s sentiments.

“One week I work five nights, and another it

will be one. Every shift lasts six to eight hours.

I earn enough to pay for my rent and food —

and I’m happy with my salary, which is higher

than in the Eurozone — about 20€ per hour,”

she says. “I’ve had several part-time jobs:

babysitting, teaching Italian… but I like this

one most.”

The act of tipping itself has existed in the

United States since the 1800s, Rachel

Greenspan states in Time magazine’s “‘It’s

the Legacy of Slavery’: Here’s the Troubling

History Behind Tipping Practices in the

U.S.” The white upper-class borrowed the

custom from the serfs of medieval times.

When the Civil War ended the slave trade

officially in Southern states, this left a lot

of black Americans in low-paying positions

like serving.

These black Americans were not paid for

their work, Greenspan explains. Instead, they

were tipped. This custom was to scam them

out of getting an actual paycheck, causing

them instead to rely on the wealthy for their

livelihoods, as they did under slavery. The

U.S. has since adjusted the tipping ritual to fit

the needs of modern restaurants. However, it

raises the question whether this dated tradition

is morally or economically correct.

So why do we still tip? PBS NewsHour

Weekend covers this in their piece, “Why Do

We Tip?” Within, writers Melanie Saltzman

and Saskia de Melker sit down with Cornell

University professor and serving expert

Michael Lynn to chat about this. Lynn quickly


informs them that tipping is not usually

motivated by a desire to reward good service.

Instead, the price of the bill and where the

tipping occurs is more important.

“When we ask people how much they

tipped and how they would rate the quality

of the service, less than four percent of the

differences in tips left by different dining

parties can be explained by their ratings

of service quality,” says Lynn.

Areas with more outgoing, extroverted

patrons are more inclined to tip, Lynn states.

Tress found herself noticing this in her own

serving as she receives less tips in Alabama

than when she served in Michigan. Lynn

is also quick to say that tipping culture

in the U.S. is not on its way out anytime

soon. Despite the controversial past and

the questionable wage instability, some

U.S. servers are quite happy with the tipping

system established in America, believing the

European way is not the best way.

14 SUMMER 2020

Yet, serving wages can vary even in the

United States. Wages dip and peak from state

to state. Dave, a server residing in Hawaii,

makes $9 an hour plus tips. This server has

over 10 years of experience, 15 in the food

industry, and wouldn’t change much about

the way servers are paid. When asked if he

would prefer a wage similar to servers across

the pond, he was unsure.

“[Receiving a] higher wage over tipping? I

don’t know. I’d say no. The benefit of tipping

is it motivates and drives. It’s fun knowing that

the energy you put in most often dictates the

tips coming back,” he says. “Tipping in the

U.S. is interesting. The restaurant pays a small

wage and the guest is left to cover the rest.

You’re somewhat renting [commercial] space

from the restaurant.”

Even when servers are on top of their game

and performing to the best of their abilities,

they aren’t guaranteed a 20 percent tip on

every bill. Instead, these servers’ livelihoods

are always endangered by a system that can

provide days of great rewards and slumps

of lacking customer compensation. This fact

holds true regardless of the callouses covering

the palms of servers’ hands or the blisters on

their feet.

How, then, can we ensure hardworking

individuals get the compensation they

deserve? For servers like Tress, there is no

straightforward answer.

“I think we just need to educate people on

how tipping gives servers an incentive to

provide excellent service so that everyone

follows that 20 percent suggestion,” she says.

“You could have restaurants put 20 percent

gratuity on a bill. I know some servers would

like a normal wage, but it’s hard to tell when

it’s based on performance.”

Despite all this, servers still endure the chaotic

multitasking, the long nights and the patrons

that leave 10 percent on an overly expensive

bill. With all the duties they partake in behind

the scenes, one can argue servers maintain

the shiny, smiling exterior restaurants portray

to their customers. So the next time you go out

to eat, make sure you leave the nice waiters

who endure the mishaps of the restaurant

industry at least 20 percent. Their lives are in

your pockets.

John Castro is a professional and public

writing senior with a tendency to write long

and melodramatic works of fiction he knows

no one but his mother will read. He plans

to apply his knowledge to social media

management, content strategy and the

candlelit hours that follow in which he finishes that inevitable

first novel. You can find him on Instagram posting trashy

poetry under the unnecessarily long username:




By Deidre Davis, MSUFCU Chief Marketing Officer

When you are ready to start shopping

for a car, it is important to take time

to find a vehicle that is both affordable

and well-suited to your needs. Ask

yourself these questions before

buying a car:

What type of car can I afford?

A good rule of thumb to follow is to

spend no more than 10% to 15% of

your monthly household income on

all of the cars you have. This figure

should include:

All monthly loan payments

Fuel costs

Insurance on all vehicles

Maintenance costs

Should I buy or lease?

The decision to purchase or lease a

new or used car depends on each

individual’s financial situation and what

he or she wants when financing a car.

Buying new: This usually requires

higher monthly payments, but, you

own the vehicle once it’s paid it off.

New cars also come with factory

warranties, extended warranty options,

and maintenance and roadside

assistance packages that may include

free services. Also, keep in mind that

a new car loses value as soon as it is

driven off the dealership lot.

Buying used: You may be able to

get the most car for your money if you

buy one used because the value often

has already depreciated. However,

you’ll likely have a shorter warranty

period, if one exists at all, and may

have more repairs than you would

with a new car.

Leasing: You may get a newer car

with a lower monthly payment with

a lease, but you will have mileage

limitations, and you will not own the

car at the end of the lease. However,

lease agreements limit how many

miles you can drive, meaning you will

be charged for each mile you drive

over your limit. You also need to pay

close attention to other lease terms to

avoid hefty penalties.

MSUFCU offers low auto loan rates

for new and used vehicles, and you

can get approved in as few as 10

minutes. We make buying even easier

with a ReadyLoan Check — a blank

check valid up to your preapproved

loan amount. As soon as you find a

car, fill out the check and hand it to

the seller. The Credit Union also offers

leasing options through partnerships

with area dealerships. With rates low

right now, it might be the perfect

time to find a new car.


“Each year, though,

I feel like more is

expected from me

and the stress

level seems to

increase, rather

than decrease. “


16 SUMMER 2020




By Emily Hobrla

Education is one of the most profitable

industries in the world right now, yet the field

is struggling to fill positions on the front lines.

While textbook companies excel and online

learning platforms thrive, the individuals who

are face-to-face with students every day

face a much bleaker outlook. The teaching

occupation is experiencing an increasing

shortage so severe it’s becoming a crisis in

public K-12 schools nationwide.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a

nonpartisan nonprofit research organization,

defines the teacher shortage as “the inability

to staff vacancies at current wages with

individuals qualified to teach in the fields

needed.” This means that schools are either

understaffed or starting to fill vacancies with

underqualified teachers. In addition, the

shortage is not equal in all school districts,

as the nonprofit educational research group

the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) found that

“in 2017, two-thirds of principals in highpoverty

schools left positions vacant or hired

less-qualified teachers. Less than half of their

counterparts in schools with fewer lowerincome

students did so.” This inequality further

disadvantages kids from low-income schools

very early on in their lives.

The EPI references multiple factors for the

teacher shortage, the main one being low

pay. Teachers’ wages are not affected by

inflation; instead, wages are determined by

the district’s salary schedule, which is outlined

every few years in their contract and one of

the main reasons for the disproportionately

low salaries. Public schools are funded by

income and property taxes, so in wealthier

areas schools receive more funding.

Additionally, the pay schedule for teachers in

most districts is based on experience in years,

which means that experienced teachers get

paid more. It also means that newer teachers

are less expensive for the district to hire,

which incentivizes them to hire newer and

thus more inexperienced teachers. This often

results in lower-income school districts hiring

inexperienced teachers because they cannot

afford to hire more qualified ones — and

again, students in lower-income areas then

receive lower-quality education compared to

their peers in higher-income areas.


In addition to salary, the EPI also listed

stress, lack of community support, limited

autonomy and increasing standards as factors

contributing to the teacher shortage. The EPI

notes that a new priority in schools is not just

hiring teachers but retaining them, too, which

is difficult due to the aforementioned factors.

The National Center for Education Statistics

(NCES) notes that “among public school

teachers with 1-3 years of experience,

7 percent left teaching in 2012-13.”

Many of these other factors are best

represented by the account of someone with

experience in the field. The Current spoke

to three teachers to hear their takes on the

teacher shortage:

Barb* is a retired teacher who taught

elementary, middle and high school students

in rural Michigan.

18 SUMMER 2020

Eric* is a current teacher at a Lansing

elementary school.

Charli* is a recent MSU College of Education

graduate who now teaches at a Lansing

elementary school.

*(Note: Names have been changed for

privacy, and interviews have been edited

for clarity.)

Q: Do you notice the effects of the teacher

shortage in your own school?

Barb: We had to operate with substitutes in

several areas: two of our four special-ed jobs

were staffed with subs my entire last year. [...]

We had large classes, 32-35 in some cases.

My colleague was part-time special ed and

had close to double the legal caseload

of students.

Eric: I don’t notice it so much, as I’m cloistered

in my classroom teaching my appointed set of

students. I’ve heard from time to time that there

was only a small pool of applicants for this

position or that position. There have been a

couple of times when a position went unfilled

for a while (particularly special ed) while we

tried to find a qualified candidate. . . I notice

more, however, the effects of the shortage of

reliable substitute teachers in my school… and

have for several years. This is more a factor of

what our district is willing to pay for a rather

unrewarding job than a comment on the size

of the pool.

Charli: I haven’t noticed the effects in my

own school, but there are multiple classrooms

overloaded due to lack of funding and

space to hire new teachers. Finding a qualified

teaching assistant is also a problem due to funds.

Growing class sizes are a concern and a

noticeable mark of the teacher shortage. The

teachers’ frustration with larger class sizes has

scientific merit, says University of California

Berkeley’s Goldman School of Policy. Their

analysis of multiple class size studies found

that “an average student assigned to the

smallest classes had a reading score nearly

8 percent higher than students in the mediumsized

classes. The smaller-class students, on

average, achieved 9 percent higher math

scores. Students in smaller classes who

completed high school were more likely to

take college-entrance exams than students

assigned to medium or large classes. The

effects are even stronger for minority and

less affluent students.” In a smaller class

size teachers are able to give students more

individualized instruction, gauging and

improving their understanding. A point raised

by multiple teachers is that the shortage of

teachers also extends to substitute teachers.

Nationwide, substitute teachers are scarce,

especially long-term subs. Michigan news

organization Bridge MI discusses a recent

survey by the Michigan Applied Public

Policy Research and the Institute for Public

Policy and Social Research, which found

that “86 percent of Michigan school district

administrators said the supply of short-term

substitute teachers has decreased in the last

five years.” Bridge MI also writes: “That

same survey found that almost two-thirds of

traditional school districts (64 percent) that

responded to the survey have classrooms for

which they can’t find substitute teachers at

least ‘several times a week.’” The study also

noted when schools cannot get a substitute

teacher to fill in for a sick teacher, “schools

must scramble to fill those classrooms with

existing staff — typically with teachers who

give up their planning periods (a time when

they plan lessons and grade papers) and

school administrators, creating a ripple

effect throughout the building.” One teacher

said that their school’s protocol for when a

substitute teacher cannot be found is to divide

up the kids from that teacher’s classroom to

the other classrooms in the grade level. With

classrooms already at capacity, having an

absent teacher and sub can disrupt a whole

day of learning.

Q: What are some of the factors that you think

are contributing to the teacher shortage?

Barb: Teachers are demoralized. I worked

in a district with a lot of kids who struggled

behaviourally. There were kids in every

classroom who were wildly disruptive — I

mean screaming, running around the room

lunging with scissors, flipping over tables and

pulling down posters. You can imagine how

hard it was to teach. Every day I had students

who shouted out, interrupted, etc. and had

full-time one-on-one aides who interacted

(often loudly) to try and subdue them. It

was very disruptive — kids definitely found

that more interesting than learning colors

in Spanish. The extreme behavior of kids now

forced into regular-ed classes is making the

job less teaching — which most of us went

into the field to do — and much more about

discipline, struggling for student engagement

etc. Yet our evaluations were heavily based

on test scores and achievement.

Eric: Low wages, low autonomy, low respect,

high accountability, high class sizes and

public bashing.

Charli: Pay is definitely a huge factor that

contributes to the teacher shortage. Many

high school graduates are choosing other

career paths because of the low salary. The

expectations and heavy workload placed

on teachers does not match up with the low

salary, and that alone turns many people away.

Q: How has the field of teaching changed

over time in ways you have seen at work?

Barb: When I started in 1987, we had a lot

more freedom to design classes and lessons.

Now we have very rigid content standards. In

theory, this is good, and it should guarantee

that kids in Michigan all receive exactly the

same content. In reality, the content standards

must have been written by folks who never set

foot in a public school.

Eric: Even more standardized testing, more

data-analysis of student outcomes, less

freedom for teachers in terms of curricular

decisions, more students at the elementary

level who get away with “minimal-or-no

consequences” for kicking, hitting, biting,

spitting on or yelling at teachers or throwing,

breaking, upending, destroying classroom

supplies, materials or fixtures.

Charli: I have only been teaching for three

years, so I don’t have much to compare

to. Each year, though, I feel like more is


expected from me and the stress level seems

to increase, rather than decrease. I work

with many veteran teachers and the biggest

complaint is they feel as if they aren’t treated

as professionals. Administrators are constantly

checking to see if our room has standards

posted, if we are following our daily schedule

and if our lesson plans are up to par. Teachers

want to be trusted to do their job, not feel like

admin is constantly out to catch what we are

doing wrong.

Teacher autonomy is diminishing with the

standardization of public education, which

has been on a continuous upward trend,

with notable legislature No Child Left Behind

coming into effect in 2002. Repealed in

2015, this 13 year-long policy introduced

national standards in education, which overall

increased test scores. Teachers’ concerns,

however, are that standardized education

20 SUMMER 2020

like that outlined by No Child Left Behind

prioritizes “teaching to the test,” meaning that

memorization and single-method solutions are

taught and emphasis on problem solving skills

and real world application is missing. With

school administrations being held to strict

national standards, many teachers, as Charli

mentioned, feel like they are being scrutinized

with no room for error. A 2018 Gallup poll

found that “46 percent of teachers report

high daily stress,” which the education

blog The Graide Network notes is the same

percentage of daily stress reported by nurses.

The number of expectations placed on

teachers is increasing, and the pay and

respect that teachers receive is not. The

NCES compared today’s teachers’ salaries

with salaries in the past. “In constant (i.e.

inflation-adjusted) dollars, the average salary

for teachers was 2 percent lower in 2016-

17 than in 1990-91.” Along with the low

pay within the profession, the EPI discusses

that there exists a kind of “teacher pay gap”

compared to other professions. NCES says

that “when adjusting only for inflation, the

researchers found that teachers, compared

to other college graduates, are paid nearly

$350 less per week in salary in 2017, or 23

percent less.”

With this in mind, it is understandable why

many undergraduate students consider

pursuing alternative career paths. Bridge MI

states that “enrollment in Michigan teacher

prep programs dropped 70 percent in eight

years (2011-2017) Bridge MI also reported

on teacher opinion: “In a 2019 survey, only

25 percent of Michigan teachers said they’d

recommend the profession to young people

considering a career in education. One in

eight in that same survey said they were

considering leaving teaching”.

Q: What can the public do to help teachers?

Barb: Respect your child’s teachers. Support

their efforts. Help your child study at home,

read with them, make sure your child gets

enough sleep and comes to school alert and

able to focus. Pay attention to the lawmakers

who make the punitive laws now driving

folks out of the field, starting with the teacher

evaluation laws. Pass laws that address

every child’s right to learn and quit making it

somehow wrong to worry about the

high achievers.

Eric: Trust them, support them, listen to them.

Hold education as important in the home.

Read with their kids. Interact with their kids.

Play board and card games with their kids.

Provide interesting experiences for their kids.

Travel with their kids. Visit museums with their

kids. Spend time outside with their kids. Limit

electronics usage for their kids. Encourage

healthy eating habits for their kids. Maintain

regular, reasonable bedtimes for their kids.

Ensure regular school attendance for their

kids. Make sure that school isn’t the only

place where their kids are expected to work

hard and learn.

Charli: I think being informed on what is

happening in the education world is the best

way to help teachers. You can show support

by staying up to date on events, fundraisers, etc.

It is clear that substantial change is needed

in the teaching profession. Themes of feeling

undervalued and overworked permeate

teachers’ stories. To make change, awareness

of how teachers are treated, as well as

support from parents, administrators and

eventually lawmakers, is imperative. Currently,

the Trump-appointed Secretary of Education,

Betsey DeVos, has a political stance that

is clearly anti-teacher. Elementary school

teacher and NEA president Lily Eskelsen

García says DeVos will be “the first secretary

of education with zero experience with

public schools. She has never worked in a

public school. She has never been a teacher,

a school administrator, nor served on any

public board of education. She didn’t even

attend public schools or send her children to

public schools.” With a history of the DeVos

family family funding privatization efforts of

public schools and passing legislation that

limits collective bargaining rights of teachers,

teacher support is needed more than ever.

A 2018 USA Today poll shows that the

majority of the public supports public school

teachers: “three-quarters (73 percent) of

Americans say that growing up, a teacher

made a significant, positive impact on their

life. [...] Three-quarters (76 percent) say that

they approve of teachers in their local public

school district, and 61 percent approve of

their local school district leadership. Twothirds

of Americans support public school

teachers’ right to strike. A majority (59

percent) of Americans do not believe that

public school teachers are compensated

fairly and 78 percent agree that teachers

spend too much of their own money on

school supplies.”

Finally, The Current would like to share some

of Charli’s advice for prospective teachers:

“Make sure teaching is something you

absolutely want to do. It is a lot of work and

you have to be passionate about it because

there is a lot that goes into our job each and

every day. Despite the heavy workload, it is

one of the most rewarding careers out there

and you meet so many amazing people and

touch so many lives.”

Emily Hobrla; @emilyhobrla; is a senior

studying professional writing with a focus

in editing and publishing. She loves making

new friends in the PW major and beyond,

and is excited to contribute to The Current

with writing and editing work. Outside of

school, her interests include fashion, tennis and squirrel watching.





By Aaron Applebey

On a snowy February afternoon, as

Michigan State University students trudged

along the cracked sidewalks three stories

below, the fourteen cast members of Man

Overboard flung imaginary swords at one

anothers’ heads. Hearty grunts, yelps and

laughs filled the circle of performers as

they settled onto a singular wavelength.

A group mind

Breaking from their warm-up, seven of the

women and non-binary improvisers began

a longform set — a series of short scenes.

The remaining teammates watched from

seats on the studio floor, sandwiched

between humming radiators. Scenes

involved a young woman admitting to

a love affair with a vampire, classmates

fervently discussing the banned “The

Grapes of Wrath” with its sexy final page

and a mother’s secret leather room.

Every subsequent beat of the longform

rhymed with the previous as the members

discovered a mutually accepted thread of

comedic spontaneity.

“It’s raw, human connection,” reflected

Claire Wilcher, the graduate student

director of Man Overboard. “You don’t

have a script. It’s the ultimate practice in trust.”

Unlike the other two improv teams on

campus, After School Special and Roial

Improv, Man Overboard is a space

exclusively for women and non-binary

performers. The improv comedy scene

in East Lansing has not shied away from

exclusivity. After School Special, formally

known as Second Stage Improv, prioritizes

theater majors in its semesterly auditioning.

After School Special performs in monthly

shows that student leader Brandon Drap

say “bring a certain … theatricality” to the

MSU comedy scene. Across Auditorium

Road in Snyder-Phillips Hall, the longest

running team on campus, Roial Improv,

offers a playful sibling-like comedy space

for non-arts majors.

Man Overboard began in December

of 2018, when undergraduates Sarah

Wietecha, Abby Byrne and Jess Black

approached Second City alumna and MSU

Theater Department faculty member Sarah

Hendrickson with their idea for an allwomen-and-non-binary

team. Separately,

longtime improviser Claire Wilcher had

also approached Hendrickson.

Wilcher was freshly off coordinating Gal

Pal, the seven-year-running women’s

comedy festival in Indianapolis held

22 SUMMER 2020

“ [Man Overboard

provides] a place where

you can come and play

and be creative without

being graded or being


Claire Wilcher,

Man Overboard Director

annually with sold-out crowds. Excited

by the prospect of a complementary

comedy space, Wilcher offered to lend

a helpful hand wherever she could. So,

over jimmies and sweet potato fries, the

five women — Wietecha, Byrne, Black,

Hendrickson and Wilcher — sat down in

Hendrickson’s living room to construct a

framework for their new group.

They started from a no-holds-barred, let’spretend-everyone’s-interested


and by February of 2019, the team held

its first open practices for any woman or

non-binary individual to attend. Theater

experience was nonessential.

“We wanted a space where we felt like

we could create and expand outside of

being these four or five different archetypes

and stereotypes,” junior Sarah Wietecha

said. “Also just find[ing] some leadership

because there wasn’t a lot of female

leadership in the improv community

at the time.”

This entrepreneurial mentality was

not exactly new to the MSU Theater

Department — creating artistic opportunity

for oneself is strongly encouraged — and

neither was building theatrical spaces

favoring one particular identity group.

According to professor Bill Vincent and

confirmed by MSU Theater’s Head of

Acting, Rob Roznowski, playwright Edward

Albee himself stopped an all-male cast

reimagining of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia

Woolf” from premiering back in the 1970s.

But with no angry Albee — very much a

dead person — standing in their way, Man

Overboard could rehearse within the

infrastructure of the Theater Department as

an alternative space. They could create a

room that was simultaneously focused and


Because a majority of the members are

involved in departmental productions, at

times, Man Overboard rehearsals can be

cut short. Performers “can at least get an

hour of warm-up time, of game time, of

improv time, before they go off into their

rehearsal,” said Wilcher. “We had to walk

a fine line between what people could

give and how much people wanted to give

knowing these two things were going to be

very different.”

Partly, the team is a reaction to how

women and LGBTQ+ performers felt

the need to adapt themselves when in a

heteronormative or male-driven comedy


environment. “There was definitely more of

a push to be the person who was dominant

in a scene,” said senior Abby Byrne of her

experiences on Second Stage Improv in the

fall of 2018. “You had to really have that

historically masculine energy in order to be

successful. You had to be the one to step off

the back line and … be the one to lay down

the law essentially. If you didn’t, the guys

were gonna assume it was their say that

would drive everything.”

“I’m glad they have their own space,”

added sophomore Harley Harris, a trans

man improvising with After School Special.

Not only does he not feel excluded, he

understands Man Overboard’s desire for

a space of their own. To Harris, his nonnormative

identity extends a unique counter

24 SUMMER 2020

perspective within the team: “When we get

a suggestion, like Ronald Reagan, the first

thing I think of is, ‘Oh! He’s the one who

caused the AIDS crisis in America!’ That’s

the first thing I think of, which necessarily a

straight person would not think.”

Code switching into the mainstream boysclub

mentality can become routine for

student performers with non-normative

identity. In male-driven spaces there can

be formidable pressure in having to feign

ultra-confidence in oneself as an incoming

freshman or sophomore. “[Femaleidentifying

students] didn’t feel like they

could fail,” said Hendrickson. “Failing is

necessary because you have to try all the

things and know you can jump without a

net and learn from the experiences.”

Wilcher points out that traditionally in

a mixed-gendered space, a femaleidentifying

improviser may be “a completely

different improviser in a room full of women

than they will in a room full of men.” A

male space, whether welcoming or not,

can feel overpowering, stifling the creative

exploration of non-normative members.

“[In] every scene, I [became] an object for

sex,” Wietecha said of her dynamic with

a particularly problematic improviser. “I

was a person that they had a crush on, they

wanted to make out with, they wanted

to have sex with, they wanted to marry

— there were no in-betweens.” Wietecha

realized after the fact how routine the

behavior had become.

In Man Overboard, members are able

to find strength within their perspectives.

An open dialogue is normalized entirely.

Performers freely use commonalities and

differences to comedic effect if they so

choose. “I have to think there’s value in

getting out of that room where women

are not only the majority, but they’re the

only ones there,” said Wilcher. “There’s

importance in that.”

The group signifies a cultural progression

on MSU’s campus. For the first time, the

burgeoning variety of improv comedy

spaces can more clearly resemble a

microcosm of the wider comedy scene. In

Chicago, a city where comedic performers

often move to hone their craft, there is a

lack of incentive to remain with a team that

makes a performer uncomfortable when

another team rehearses in a theater a bus

stop away.

Former Roial Improv co-director and

teaching assistant to Hendrickson, Simon

Tessmer, is now in his second year of

performing comedy in Chicago. While

comparing MSU’s improv scene to

Chicago’s, Tessmer said, “There are as

many if not more people doing improv

here as … the entire student population of

Michigan State. It’s an incredibly massive

scene that has layers. It’s a generationally

built infrastructure. For decades and

decades and decades, people have been

doing this work.”

Improv at MSU simply does not share the

same infrastructural luxury. The scene has

made progress, but the reality of academia,

student responsibilities, and a four-year

turnover impede opportunity to maintain a

sustained audience within the community.

“If you have a young, dispersed scene,

your audience can never get used to it,”

said Wilcher. Forming a community around

improv becomes an uphill battle when

theater spaces are in high demand and

most college improvisers perform once a month.

Tessmer went on to speak of the fondness

he had for his time in the MSU improv

scene but felt the tension of limited

comedy performance options. “There’s a

tremendous social pressure that comes with

doing improv, especially if you want to be

accepted in a group,” Tessmer said. “You

feel like you have to look okay with things

you’re not okay with. And that’s something

men have to be aware of.”

This is to say, of course, there is a certain

nuance. Male-driven comedy spaces are not

in-and-of-themselves toxic or problematic.

More so, young people are not always

steadily equipped with the language or

experiences to call out micro-aggressive

behaviors and mindsets. Problematic

behaviors can become an accepted social

norm especially when the options for

alternative comedy spaces are limited.

Now in their second year as a team, the

performers of Man Overboard find comfort

in their approach to comedy. It is an

environment created and led by thoughtful

women and non-binary leaders in

which improvisers can follow whatever

comedic impulse they have nestled within

themselves. “[Man Overboard provides]

a place where you can come and play

and be creative without being graded or

judged,” Wilcher concluded.

Man Overboard, on Monday afternoons,

will offer a rehearsal in which women and

non-binary performers are able to sidestep

the mindset of needing to be perfect

improvisers. They can be weird and they

can stumble because there is no pressure to

prove to anyone else they are worthy

of doing comedy.

They just are.

Aaron Applebey is a media and information

senior with minors in public relations, film

making and LGBTQ+ studies. In their free

time, Aaron maintains a passion for creative

writing, performing comedy and watching

movies. Follow @ajapplebey across the

socials for chaotic midwest ramblings.


26 SUMMER 2020



By Sydney Wilson

Four hundred and seventy six people

were homeless in Ingham County in

2019. When the scope widens to all of

Michigan, the number went up to 8,575 —

just counting one random night in January.

Zoom out even more to the United States,

and the number rockets to over half a

million — again, just on any given night.

For those who don’t face this issue every

day, reminders of it stir up feelings of

shame, helplessness and frustration: how

could a single person hope to combat

such a deeply rooted and pervasive

problem? Even though people suffering from

homelessness are in front of us every day,

the problem feels untouchable to most…

but not to all.

Overwhelmed would-be allies in the fight

against housing instability don’t need to

look far to find inspiration and a place

to start. People are chipping away at the

problem wherever they can, helping those

who have the most need. From spoken word

stories to TARDIS-shaped food pantries to

street-level health care, there are plenty of

people in the Greater Lansing area who are

fighting against this Goliath of a crisis.

In order to understand exactly what

these people are fighting against, a few

misconceptions and misunderstandings

about homelessness need to be cleared up.

The National Coalition for the Homeless

(NCH) says that there are three types of

homelessness: chronic, transitional and

episodic. People who are chronically

homeless depend on shelters as a longterm

solution to housing, as opposed to an

emergency arrangement. According to the

NCH, these people are “likely to be older,

and consist of the ‘hardcore unemployed,’

often suffering from disabilities and

substance abuse problems.” However,

despite chronic homelessness being what

comes to mind when most people hear the

word “homeless,” this type of homelessness

is far less common than the transitional type.

Transitional homelessness is what happens

when a person enters the shelter system

for a short time before transitioning to

more stable housing. Usually, these people

are young and in a state of precarious

housing stability, becoming homeless when

a terrible event causes them to become

homeless until they can recover. This type

of homelessness generally has a high

turnover rate, which accounts for its high

percentage of the homeless population.

Finally, there are the episodically homeless,

meaning those who are in and out of the

shelter system frequently. It is common

for episodically homeless people to be

chronically unemployed, have substance

abuse issues and suffer from poor mental

and/or physical health. Shockingly, young

people are more likely to suffer from episodic

homelessness than any other age group.

Many assume that a person becomes

homeless because of unemployment,

substance abuse or mental illness, but in

reality there are many other factors that

contribute to homelessness. The NCH lists

the following as possible factors: a lack

of affordable housing, the limited scale

of housing assistance programs, lack of

affordable health care, domestic violence,

mental illness and addiction. In many

cases, it comes down to poverty; since rent

is often one of the highest bills people have

to pay, it is the first to be sacrificed for other

necessities such as health care, childcare,

food, weather-appropriate clothing and

education. Thus, says the NCH, “If you

are poor, you are essentially an illness,

an accident or a paycheck away from

living on the streets.”

Knowing this, necessities such as food,

medicine, sanitary items and warm clothing

can make the difference for a transitionally

or episodically homeless person by easing

their financial strain enough that they can


afford stable housing again. For this reason,

these donations are the most requested

by many homeless shelters and other

organizations that assist those suffering from

housing instability.

In the Greater Lansing area, Punks with

Lunch Lansing works to distribute these

items to people who are homeless every

other Saturday in Reutter Park. Punks with

Lunch Lansing began in September 2017,

spearheaded by Julia Anne Miller. She was

inspired by the West Oakland Punks with

Lunch program, and decided to open a

local chapter in Lansing. According to their

website, Punks with Lunch is “a guerrilla

not-for-profit organization providing food

and other necessities to people in need

within our community.”

In addition to distributing food, clothes

and sanitary products, Punks with Lunch

is working on providing laundry coupons

and bus tokens. Last year they finished their

street pantry project — building a fivefoot

tall “mobile food bank” designed

to look like the TARDIS from BBC’s hit

sci-fi show Doctor Who. The TARDIS

is on Michigan Avenue in front of the

28 SUMMER 2020

Everybody Reads bookstore with easy

access for anybody to donate or take from.

Further east, people at Michigan State

University are using the university’s plethora

of resources to tackle the problem on a

different level than individual donation

and community-based volunteer work.

One notable example is the Spartan

Street Medicine (SSM) program, started

in June 2017 by osteopathic medical

student Brianne Feldpausch. SSM works

on “bridging the gap in healthcare for our

homeless community members in Lansing,

Michigan,” going out to talk to those

suffering from homelessness on their own

terms and fostering trusting relationships.

SSM’s focus is on providing health care with

trust, empathy and respect; an experience

that those suffering from homelessness

don’t always get in traditional offices. SSM

provides services including treating medical

conditions, educating people about their

health and providing needed donations.

SSM also worked with students in the

department of Writing, Rhetoric and

American Cultures at Michigan State.

Together, they developed a visual guide

to basic diabetes care to attach to care

packages during their clinics. SSM

explained the challenge to the students,

who then came up with different ideas for

not only displaying the complex information

in a simple, clear manner, but presenting

this information on a donateable item,

such as a bag or tupperware, that was

weatherproof and useful.

Also within the WRAC department,

professor Benjamin Lauren is fighting the

stigma around homelessness by amplifying

stories. In the summer of 2018, Dr. Lauren

collaborated with the Michigan Coalition

Against Homelessnes to begin a project

to “help reduce the social stigma of

homelessness by changing hearts and

minds,” said Lauren. Together they’ve

created a speaker’s bureau to serve

as a platform for people suffering from

homelessness to tell their stories. Lauren

then works with associate professor Mark

Sullivan in the College of Music and

Rebecca Tegtmeyer in the Department of

Art, Art History and Design to record these

stories to create spoken word compositions.

Lauren says, “I think the best case scenario

is that it would help people to understand

that homelessness can happen to anyone,

and that there is a housing crisis going on

in this country that needs to be addressed.

The survivors I worked with said as much

in each of their stories.” Lauren also hopes

that these stories will inspire those who are

currently struggling with housing insecurity.

Lauren also works to fight homelessness

within Michigan State University itself.

Working with associate professor Stuart

Blythe in WRAC and Kim Steed-Page,

Director of the Student Parent Resource

Center, they had public presentations and

discussions with other MSU faculty and

staff. They conducted research and came to

a dismal conclusion: many students at MSU

also struggled to get basic needs like food

and housing.

Blythe said, “We studied it, and realized

that more students than you’d think were

having problems… having enough money

to buy food, and eating ramen every

night, [they] might have short-term housing

problems, may get kicked out of their home

or they may get a landlord kicking them

out because they didn’t pay rent, so people

who were maybe sleeping in a car. Then of

course mental health, people dealing with

depression. It’s happening more often than

we think, and we thought, ‘MSU needs to

respond, somehow.’”

This team is working to create a visual,

potentially an online portal, where students

can go to find resources and support for

these basic needs. “We’re at the phase

where we think there are a number of things

we can do to make it easier for students

who run into problems to get some sort of

support,” says Blythe, “but we don’t know

what those solutions would look like.”

So what can the average person do against

such a huge systemic problem as housing

instability? Much more than you might

think. Donating supplies to Punks With

Lunch, stocking the TARDIS food pantry,

donating old camping gear or using events

like Moosejaw’s gear swap and REI’s

garage sale to get cheap gear to donate.

Volunteering, donating money and knitting

hats and scarves for those without shelter in

the cold months. Whatever you can do.

“It depends on what the average Joe or

Jane has available. You sort of have to look

for what you can do where you are,” says

Blythe. “If that means volunteering once a

month at a shelter, or working for Meals

on Wheels... it’s gonna depend on every

person, and even what you’re good at, too.

It could be giving some money, could be

knitting scarves for the winter… find your

way to pitch in.”

If even these ways of helping aren’t viable,

every person can help fight against the

stigma and mental avoidance of the

homelessness crisis. Dr. Lauren says:

“Don’t ignore someone when you see

them sleeping on the street. Question your

assumptions about what you think you know

about the homeless. Ask people if they need

help and if they are okay. Donate items to

shelters, especially toiletries and toys. Talk to

your legislators about the housing crisis. There

is a lot that can be done just in the ways we

react to and interact with each other.”

Sydney Wilson is a junior double majoring in

professional and public writing and English, and

wants to spend her professional career as an

editor, helping authors make their stories the best

they can possibly be. Outside of school, she enjoys

trail running, reading, listening to music and

watching Youtube tutorials for projects she’ll never do.







30 SUMMER 2020



By Leah Wright

The English language appears to be regulated

— spelling tests appear in classrooms as

young as first grade, and then we learn

where to put commas, semicolons, hyphens.

We learn the correct ways to string together

sentences, what order the words go in to

make sense. Entire manuals are dedicated

to the way language is used in genres like

journalism or science.

But there are dialects that change from region

to region, and slang terms that are specific to

those dialects and communities. New words

are added to the dictionary every year with

new definitions. And still, institutionalized

and prestigious “correct grammar” is taught

to be respected and looked up to. So, when

language starts to change, how do the

rules change?

Dr. Kate Fedewa is an academic specialist

in the department of Writing, Rhetoric, and

American Cultures and has been teaching

at Michigan State University since 2011. Her

research lies primarily in historical versions of

English, and she is a professor mainly in the

professional and public writing program.

“All aspects of language are subject to

change,” Fedewa said. “Language is

constantly evolving, so any part of language,

whether it’s the meanings of words or how

they’re used grammatically, can shift over time.”

One of the biggest factors that gets language

to change is the importance of the word. The

word “they,” for example, has evolved in

recent years from a way to refer to a group of

people to a gender-neutral pronoun. “They”

is an important word to a lot of people and

carries so much weight because it correlates

with individual identity.

Also, the frequency of a word often leads its

definitions to shift. Especially internet-related

words that catch on quickly like “follow,”

“timeline,” “tag” and “catfish” develop

definitions that have very little to do with the

previous meaning.

“The more commonly a word is used, it tends

to be more stable,” Fedewa said. “Words

that are used a lot sometimes have a large

semantic range; the possibilities of meaning

get bigger and bigger. Because they get

used all the time, but in slightly different


context over and over again. The word just

keeps expanding. Words like ‘good,’ or

‘wicked’ or ‘sick’ — these words get used all

the time and they just continue to get bigger in

terms of what they can refer to.”

One of the biggest variations in language

comes from spoken dialects and accents.

Words and phrases develop regionally,

and the people of those certain communities

become familiar and often protective over

them – like “pop” vs. “soda,” or “y’all” vs.

“you guys.”

“Dialects were historically only regional

because people were speaking them and not

writing them down,” Fedewa said. “And when

you start writing things, they begin to get more


Grace Rau is a junior studying professional

and public writing, and works in the Writing

Center at MSU. In order to interview and

prepare to work in the Writing Center, she

took a three-credit class in the fall of 2019


32 SUMMER 2020

“We all had to take a class, a semester long

Writing Center theory,” Rau said. “One of

the things we touched on was not correcting

others’ dialects. We focused a lot on African

American Vernacular English, as well as the

southern accent because that’s kind of its

own dialect, too. But we really focused

on AAVE because it’s much more of an

oppressed dialect. [AAVE] has rules, it has

a grammar system – it’s just as complex

as standard English.”

While many students and professors are

learning and accepting dialects and different

grammar rules, older generations who took

grammar courses and grew up being taught

that standard American English was the

only way to sound professional can have

a hard time understanding why different

dialects should be regarded as so.

“It seems to be a really hard thing for people

to see,” Rau said. “My mom is a language

teacher, and I’m trying to teach her about this

stuff, and she can’t wrap her head around

it. Because some people have this idea that

standard English is the right thing to use

because there are rules and don’t see that

other dialects have just as many rules and

complex systems.”

Part of this gap in understanding is largely

due to social media and the Internet. People

express opinions and ideas in their own

voices, and this language can travel quickly

and reach a large group of people around

the globe.

“One of the weird things about the Internet is

that especially in informal spaces like Twitter,

Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram, even texting,

language is being used almost as if we were

going back to an oral form of language and

communication instead of a written one,”

Fedewa said. “Like how punctuation works

in texting, for example. We don’t really use

it in text messages, just like we don’t speak

punctuation orally.”

While kids on the Internet nowadays grew

up texting “lol” and “omg” to their friends,

older generations grew up writing letters

with no character limit and no need to

shorten phrases. And now, some people

are, accidently or not, saying “lol” or “omg”

out loud; a language that was designed to

fit entirely online is now seeping into oral

vocabulary. So, while texting has significantly

changed the language game, the Internet has

definitely exacerbated the change in certain

viral slang terms as well.

“We can see each other’s culture more now

that it’s on the Internet because so many

people have access to it,” Rau said. “So, 50

years ago, our parents and grandparents

probably weren’t exposed to so many dialects

on the level we are today with social media.

Unless they had friends in that community, it

was probably hard to even learn about them.

And now people on Twitter or Instagram are

expressing thoughts and opinions in their

own voices, so it’s easy for the mainstream

Internet to adopt those things. But then it

becomes problematic when [white people]

are not punished or looked down upon for

using those terms, like the people of those

communities and cultures often are.”

In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a

commencement speech at Oberlin College

titled “Remaining Awake through a Great

Revolution.” Although the word “woke” made

a rise again in the 21st century, it dates back

to the ’60s in the Civil Rights Movement.

“Woke” then drifted away from just being

past tense of the word “wake,” and became

a Black activist watch word in the 2010s,

following the Ferguson unrest. It was added

to the dictionary in 2017 as an adjective

to describe someone “alert to injustice in

society, especially racism.” According to

Abas Mirzaei in an article published in The

Conversation on Sept. 8, 2019, by Sept.

2016, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” had

been tweeted more than 30 million times.

The phrase “stay woke” became a symbol

of movement and activism, being used not

only in movements like #BlackLivesMatter,

but also the #MeToo movement, and the

#NoBanNoWall movement.

But the height of “woke” on the Internet as

a positive, activist term was soon met with

overuse, jokes and ultimately appropriation

by the mainstream Internet. The word was

taken by the mainstream (white) internet

and warped into a joking hashtag for meme

tweets. A simple Twitter search now shows

“#staywoke” after things that have nothing to

do with social activism or injustice.

This appropriation of language happens

constantly. Words and phrases like “bae,” “on

fleek,” and “bruh” were terms that originated

in AAVE. It has historically been looked down

on when native speakers of AAVE speak

them, but it’s seen as hip or cool for white

people to use them in conversation. In an

article published in Splinter on Jan. 8, 2016,

Charles Pulliam-Moore explains how there’s a

certain sadness to the word “woke” losing its

meaning — for a while, it was a legitimately

powerful word for the Black community,

reminding people to be aware of racism in

times of injustice.

“It’s the responsibility of editors and people

in institutionalized positions first to be aware

appropriation of language is something

that happens,” Fedewa said. “When we

record language, especially when we record

language and then edit it to fit a particular

style or reflect a particular dialect, when

we do that, we have to think about the

communities that are affected. Then on top of

all of that we have to pay attention to who the

author is, that they have the right to speak in

their own voice and write in their own voice.

And that audiences should have the ability to

hear things written or spoken in dialects that

they’re comfortable with, too.”

According to Publisher’s Weekly in 2016,

about 80% of the publishing field identifies as

white, and presumably grew up learning and

speaking standardized American English.

“We need to be aware of this, because as the

nature of being editors we are participating

in an industry that has privileged one dialect

over many others,” Fedewa said. “Are we

recognizing that and responding to it in a

way that is ethical and helpful, or are we

perpetuating things that aren’t good?”

But like all industries, the field of editing and

publishing is working towards change. We

Need Diverse Books is a non-profit and a

grassroots organization of children’s book

lovers that advocates for essential changes

in the publishing industry to produce and

promote literature that reflects and honors

the lives of all young people. And recently,

#OwnVoices has developed as a hashtag

on Twitter (a vital social media platform in the

field of publishing), used to recommend books

about diverse characters that have been written

by authors from that same diverse group.

“People in the field of editing and publishing

have to be aware of these kinds of things

because language is a perpetration of

power,” Rau said. “A lot of people obviously

in our society aren’t even aware of that. And

I think that people who really love language

are excited about dialects and would like

to learn more about them and hear more of

them. It’s important to acknowledge we’re

using our power by being in this field and

using standard American English, and it’s

important to be aware of all other great

authors who might not be using the dialect

we’re familiar with.”

Leah Wright is a senior studying professional

writing and English with a concentration

in creative writing. She is pursuing a career

in editing and publishing but hopes to

eventually become a published novelist.

When she isn’t in class, she can most likely

be found spinning flags with various color guards, but she also

enjoys listening to Bruce Springsteen and reading good books.


34 SUMMER 2020



By Abigail Scott

For as long as books have existed, there

have been people gathering to discuss them.

Where these discussions happen have always

varied, from libraries, bookstores and living

rooms to most recently, digital spaces. No

matter where or how people are gathering

to talk about books, the number of those

participating in book clubs is on the rise

despite concerns about the decline of reading

in our digital era. According to the New York

Post, it is estimated that more than 5 million

Americans belong to a book club.

The history of book clubs in America is

uniquely linked to women wanting to create

a place where they could voice their own

thoughts and opinions. According to the

Minnpost, the first “literature circle” recorded

in the United States was founded in 1634

by Anna Hutchinson, a Puritan settler. Here,

women gathered to discuss sermons and

the Bible. While Hutchinson’s group was

eventually banned by suspicious Puritan

males, these gatherings served as a beginning

to the tradition of women getting together to

analyze and talk about books.

Margaret Fuller founded the first bookstore

sponsored club in Boston in 1840, and by

the turn of the century, women’s literary

societies were thriving. While women were

often excluded from intellectual gatherings

and most colleges and universities until

the mid-nineteenth century, participating

in these groups forged an accessible way

for women to engage in discussions about

literary discourse. The modern book club that

is most recognized today started during the

1980s, when discount chain bookstores made

books more widely available. This diminished

the need for the popular mail-order book

clubs that began when Harry Scherman, an

American publisher, created the Book-ofthe-Month

Club in 1926.

Rose Lanczynski, a retired bank manager,

spoke of the rising popularity of book clubs

during the 80s. Lanczynski said, “I’ve always

loved books. I can’t remember a time when

books weren’t an essential part of my life.

Book clubs seemed like they were popping

up at a lot of public libraries at this time as

this setting seemed like the perfect place to

discuss literature with others.” However, as

a mother to young children during this time,

Lanczynski felt as though she was left out of

this movement. She added:

“When I finally found a book club in the area

that I could join, I couldn’t find time to attend

a meeting. I was working full time and had

young children. While I had a strong desire to

talk about books with others, actually going to

a book club meeting seemed impossible.”

Perhaps the most well-known book club

began in September 1996, which helped

bring the open discussion of books to more

people than ever before. On September

17th, 1996, Oprah Winfrey announced that

“The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn

Mitchard, a debut novelist at the time,

would be her book club’s first selection on

live television. Calling it one of her all-time

favorite moments on television, Winfrey

sparked a surge of reading and discussion not

only among her viewers but throughout the

United States.

It seemed as though the books that received

Oprah’s sticker on the front of its cover

jumped to the bestselling list, even those

that had been published over fifty years

ago, including Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,”

which was first published in 1877. The

Oprah Effect has resulted in the sales, across

seventy book titles, to total around 55 million

copies, according to Al Greco, a marketing

professor at Fordham University. While not

all of the picks have been without validated

controversy, such as the February 2020 pick

“American Dirt,” the authors still have Oprah

to thank for publicity.

While Oprah Winfrey’s book club may be

one of the most influential, the rise of digital

book clubs have helped make them even


more accessible and has given the traditional

book club an update. Despite critics thinking

that book clubs would experience a decline

with the increasing use of social media, this

has seemed to have the opposite impact.

Avid book lovers are embracing the concept

of bringing the conversation about the books

they are reading to social media.

Digital book clubs have created a space for

readers around the globe to interact with

not only one another but also authors while

discussing books with a diverse community.

They are flourishing on social media platforms

like Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads,

where users are able to interact with each

other by leaving comments on posts or taking

part in a discussion board. Celebrities have

taken a particular interest in creating book

clubs on Instagram, where they use their large

following to inspire their audience with new

36 SUMMER 2020

reading suggestions and encourage them to

talk about the book in post comments. In late

2015, Vogue went as far as calling Instagram

the new Oprah’s Book Club.

Reese Witherspooon was one of the first

celebrities to embrace Instagram as a medium

for an online book club when she created

Hello Sunshine in July of 2017. Witherspoon

chose “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia

Owens, a debut novel written by an author

whose name was not known to many, to

be the book club’s next reading venture in

September of 2018. When this book had first

been published, it had a print run of 27,500

copies. After being selected to become a

part of Witherspoon’s book club, it has since

sold over 1.4 million print units, according

to NPD Bookscan. This particular title went

from being a book known by few to one that

people couldn’t seem to get enough of as it

found itself at the top of the New York Times

bestseller list for 52 weeks.

While not every novel that has been

selected by Witherspoon’s book club has

jumped to the top of selling charts or

a bestseller like “Where the Crawdads

Sing,” many of the selections have had

respectable successes, according to Vox.

Other celebrities, such as Emma Roberts,

Andrew Luck, Albert Rosende and Jenna

Bush Hager have followed in pursuit by

creating successful Instagram book clubs.

The book suggestions that are made in posts

easily reach their thousands of followers,

encourage book discussions in the comment

sections and create a sense of online community.

In many ways, digital book clubs allude to the

tradition of book clubs and how they started

by giving voices to those who needed it.

More are choosing to read books written by

women and people of color. In Hager’s book

club, which started in May of 2019, 11 out

of the 12 selections were written by female

authors and six of them were written by

women of color.

Celebrity book clubs aren’t the only ones

bringing awareness to different voices though.

More book clubs are springing up that focus

on bringing women’s and people of color’s

stories to the forefront. Book clubs like the

Badass Women’s Book Club and the For

Colored Girls Book Club, both housed on

Instagram, are curating a digital space to

celebrate diverse storytelling, which hasn’t

always been emphasized in the past.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits about

digital book clubs is that they have paved

the way for the discussion of books to be

more accessible. Whereas before, those who

haven’t been able to commit to attending

meetings in person or perhaps didn’t want

to interact face-to-face were left out.

Lanczynski said that had digital book clubs

existed when her children were still young

and she couldn’t find the time to attend

meetings, she wouldn’t have missed out on

participating in something she would have

genuinely enjoyed. She could have been

able to become a part of the conversation.

Rhett Thompson, a current medical school

student, has been able to participate in an

online book club on Goodreads despite his

workload. Thompson stated, “Realistically, it

would be too hard to meet up in a physical

location on top of reading for my own

enjoyment with all of the schoolwork I have

to do, and my schedule. Digital book clubs

have given me a place where I can engage

in online discussion.” While Thomspon

acknowledges that he would enjoy being

able to talk about these things in person, the

book club he is a part of, where they just

finished reading “Beloved” by Toni Morrison,

has helped him think about things outside of

medical school. He added, “Reading serves

as a form of escape for a lot of people, myself

included, so taking part in an online book

club has allowed for that.”

The restorative power of reading isn’t likely to

be forgotten anytime soon, despite being in

a digital era where new technologies, apps

and social media platforms are being created

every day. If anything, readers are expecting

to be exposed to new ways of experiencing

reading thanks to digital technologies. The

image of book clubs existing in living rooms,

bookstores and libraries has broadened in

recent years to include digital spaces, where

more voices are able to participate in diverse

literary discussion. With the advent of social

media, the classic book club has been given

an update and one that will carry on the long

standing tradition of reading.

Abigail Scott is a senior double majoring in

English and professional writing. Upon

graduation she hopes to pursue a career in the

communications field, but eventually she plans

on publishing her own book. Outside of class

and work, Abigail can be found reading, writing

poetry and her senior thesis or Irish dancing.



By Joey Warren

When I first started writing this article, I had

to do a lot of research on the boundaries

of generations and the events that took

place within those boundaries. At the time,

I assumed that those events would only

strongly affect those who were born in those

generations and would only partially affect

those from other generations. I was wrong.

People claim ownership of large generational

events (e.g. war or social movements) in

an attempt to somehow prove they had it

worse than the generations before or after

them, but the aftermath of an event can rock

generations long after it took place. This

brawl over who had it worse creates hostility

between generations when we should be

coming together instead. Ultimately, we have

all been affected by the events of the past

and the present. As I researched and talked

to people, I learned that events cannot and

should not belong to only one generation.

The time spans that define generations

are themselves not set in stone, and they

often change depending on what website

you visit or which historian you ask. Also,

people born at the beginning or end of these

generations might feel like they belong or

relate more to the one before or after them.

It’s all very subjective, which is why much of

what is presented in this article could also be

considered subjective.

I had to limit myself to only looking at

American generations and how they were

affected by events. There was simply too

much history to examine, and I couldn’t

possibly cover everything from America here,

either. Therefore, this article investigates only

American Generations, going forth with the

knowledge that even those boundaries are

fragile and subjective. Every generation and

individual person has gone through some

kind of traumatic experience at some point,

whether it was caused by a world event or a

personal one.

In order to gain a more complete

understanding of generations, I had to talk

to a variety of people from as many

generations as I could. My time was spent

digging into the experiences of these people

and learning about what they feared and

how that affected not only them, but

everyone around them.

While interviewing and talking to people

from older generations such as the Baby

Boomers or even those who were born

within the Silent Generation, an interesting

theme appeared. When asked what they

were afraid of, they often replied simply

with “nothing.” For example, when I spoke

to ex-Army medic Woody Baird about

what his fears were during his time in the

service, he simply gave me an odd look

as though it were preposterous that he

would fear anything. I received the same

response from several veterans that I talked

to. They didn’t want to talk about their fears —

they wanted to talk about how great the past

had been. My primary suspicion is that the

trauma that they faced was either something

that they genuinely forgot as a form of

self-preservation, or they just didn’t want to

remember what had happened in any capacity.

This response is the opposite of the response

I got from Generation X, those born between

1965-1979, Millennials, born 1980-1995,

and Gen Z, born 1996-present. They were

more than willing to give me a list of every

fear they had ever felt in their lives. In today’s

world, society considers therapy and mental

health an important part of our lives, but this

is a relatively new thing. People from older

generations were horrified at the idea of

having to go to a therapist or psychiatrist;

the stigma around it was a powerful

deterrent. Admitting you went to therapy

was considered shameful amongst your

community. Their silence about their mental

health and their fears reflect how much of that

they have brought with them into the present,

despite the more mental-health-conscious

environment that currently exists in America.

The Greatest Generation, who were born

around 1910 to 1924, and Baby Boomers

both carried the weight of history-changing

wars in very different ways. World War II

shook the world to its core in 1939. Every

child grew up knowing that WWII happened,


“ The Greatest


who were born

around 1910

to 1924, and

Baby Boomers

both carried the

weight of history-changing

wars in very

different ways.“

and many were even introduced to the

harrowing images that came with/from it —

most memorably, the images of emaciated

Jewish prisoners from concentration camps

located in Nazi Germany territory. There were

also the horrors that American troops faced in

Japanese concentration camps.

For example, Gunnar Sacson was 24 when

he became a prisoner of war (POW) in

Yokohama, Japan. He was a survivor of the

Bataan Death March in 1942. His POW

diary offers glimpses into his experiences and

the troubles he faced. Sacson and his fellow

prisoners were often underfed and ill due to

lack of nutrition and poor conditions. Over

a year into his imprisonment, Sacson wrote,

“Three years ago today[,] I was called into

the army. Never realized then that I would

ever be in this predicament. A living hell.”

Sacson came home after the liberation of the

Philippines, then he married a woman named

Thelma Hodges and seemed to go on to live

a normal life.

40 SUMMER 2020

However, this normalcy after facing a living

nightmare for three years of his life demands

the question: how did he move on? That

kind of trauma has to stay with you unless

you tamp it down, romanticize the past

and pretend it didn’t happen. These are

things we’ll never be able to know about

Sacson, but it’s important to acknowledge

his experiences as he recorded them in his

diary. We can’t know exactly how Sacson

felt, but we do know how WWII and combat

veterans in general behaved after the war.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and

night terrors are common amongst those

who served. Veterans are easily startled or

triggered by visuals, sounds and even smells.

To have to live your life always feeling like

you’re on your toes is an exhausting and

horrifying experience.

While the Vietnam war was incredibly

different both in the way it was fought and

in the way it affected people, it also had

a massive impact on those who served

and indeed on much of American society.

Ann Weinacker recalls the horror she felt

at the stories her then-husband, Charles

Weinacker, would tell her while he was in

the Navy Reserves stationed in Vietnam. Ann

remembers what he said in one of his letters:

“He and his team were out there on the river

one day, and there was a group of people

passing them in the river. Someone in his

boat thought they were Viet-cong. Guerrilla

warfare wasn’t uncommon at that time, so the

man threw a grenade in the boat. Turns out

it was only a Vietnamese family. That really

stuck with Charles, even if he didn’t act like

it.” Her husband eventually came home, but

the war changed him, as it did many others.

Ann recalls that Charles wasn’t very nurturing

before he left, but when he came back, he

could be openly mean and malicious at

times. His change in behavior led him to lose

his wife and eventually the rest of his family.

Charles’ ex-wife, her daughters and their

children have not contacted him for eight

years. Charles lost his family to his demons.

Romanticizing the past is common among

several generations, not just older ones

such as Baby Boomers and the Greatest

Generation. There are several articles and

videos online of early Millennials, who were

kids of the early 1990s, talking about the

great snacks they ate, the amazing children’s

TV shows they watched and the toys that

they played with, but they don’t talk about the

impact that Columbine had on their feelings

of security while they were at school.

The 1999 Columbine shooting ushered in

an era in which school shootings and gun

violence became routine. Other school

shootings, such as the ones at Santana High

School in 2001 and University of Arizona

in 2002, solidified it as a terrifying norm.

Some school districts installed metal detectors

at the doors and implemented rules to

prevent students from bringing restricted and

dangerous items into the building. Today, the

worry still continues. Safe Life Defense now

makes a product called backpack armor, a

bulletproof insert for your backpack. Children

today are being sent to school with body

armor for protection, or sometimes they’re

being homeschooled in an attempt to avoid

the danger entirely. According to Fox News

writer Caleb Parke, “as school shootings

continue to make national headlines, parents

fearful of the next mass killer are pulling

their kids out of schools in growing numbers,

according to home education groups. Some

parents are temporarily leaving careers

to home-school their children, fearing that

dropping their kids off at school could

potentially place them in danger.”

While specific events can and have caused

fears for specific generations, there is one

fear that seems consistent across many

generations. Fear of failure is one theme that

really stands out among Baby Boomers, Gen

X and Gen Z. While the Great Depression

faded within the lifetime of those born in the

Silent Generation, the damage of what took

place during it was passed on to the Baby

Boomers. An obsession with financial stability

lingered. Arthur Woznick, born in 1929, grew

up in a small, crumbling farm house without

floors. Lard sandwiches were normal fare

in the Woznick household. When Woznick

grew up, married and had children, he made

a point to always provide for his family,

even to the detriment of his relationship with

them. He worked six days a week at General

Motors, often clocking overtime. He wasn’t

home as much as he could have been, but

he was determined to keep his family solidly

upper-middle class. His behavior left an

impression on his children. They too grew

up to feel like they needed to be successful

and try and provide for their family in the

best way possible.

Many Baby Boomers took this kind of work

ethic and drive into their later lives. Sally

Kane wrote an article for “The Balance

Careers,” describing Baby Boomers as

“extremely hardworking and motivated

by position, perks and prestige. Baby

Boomers relish long work weeks and

define themselves by their professional

accomplishments.” She goes on to say

that “since they sacrificed a great deal

to get where they are in their career,

this workaholic generation believes that

Generation X and Generation Y should pay

their dues and conform to a culture

of overwork.”

For Gen X, the 1990s was a time of relaxation

and relative economic stability, but with

that ease came the desire for more material

wealth. People didn’t just strive to have

nice homes and food for their families —

they wanted to prove their success through

material goods, and this concept was pushed

onto the young people of that era. According

to Michigan State University history major

Mick Landstra, “success and economic

prosperity surrounded them. Greed was

good, and you were nothing if you didn’t

materially stack up.” For young people in

Gen X, that kind of pressure wasn’t what they

wanted, and the pushback against capitalism

and consumerism created generational

tension with their predecessors.

Gen Z’s fear of failure also stems from the

expectations of the past. They suffer with

expectations like owning homes, having

children and having economic success while

also being in charge of trying to save the

world. The climate crisis seems to be one of

the biggest defining fears for those in Gen

Z. No longer is it a weird hippie thing to

recycle, use reusable bags and reduce your

waste, but an everyday necessity for those

trying to keep the planet alive. In a New

Republic article, Emily Atkin furthers this point

by saying, “We’re losing our ability to grow

… food. All the coral in the ocean is literally

dying. We’re killing all the … animals. The

ground is randomly exploding and opening

up giant mystery sinkholes that probably

contain ancient … diseases? We’re causing

air pollution that will kill as many people as

25 Holocausts.” Some people in younger

generations are choosing not to have children

due to their fear of what will happen to the

planet. This fear not only affects them now,

but could affect the population in the future.

Gen Z’s, and in fact many other generation’s,

fear of failure, also stems from this need to

grow up too quickly. The draft for Vietnam

pulled 18-year-old boys from their schooling

and daily lives to push them into a war.

These were children that had to learn on the

spot how to grow up and face the very real

dangers of the world. Even today, people

are becoming activists at younger ages

and fighting for causes they believe in like


gun control, the climate crisis and LGBTQ+

visibility. While it’s fantastic to see young

people taking on these roles and fighting for

what they believe in, it feels uncomfortable

knowing that they felt they had to step into

those roles at such a young age because the

generations that came before failed them.

Where is the balance between allowing our

young people to have a hand in shaping their

world and the tragedy of allowing them to

give up their childhood to try and protect

their futures?

Gen X can relate to Gen Z with their fears

of failure. In fact, it seems that Gen X is the

oldest generation that is actively supportive

of those that are activists and are fighting for

a better future, but again, is it fair to ask such

young people to take the reins on this issue?

Allowing someone to be a part of the mission

for a better future is different than placing

all the responsibilities on their shoulders,

especially such young shoulders.

42 SUMMER 2020

Climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg was

only 16-years-old when she spoke out at the

U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York

City, saying, “My message is that we’ll be

watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t

be up here. I should be back in school on the

other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us

young people for hope. How dare you. You

have stolen my dreams and my childhood

with your empty words.” Thunberg is

missing school and sacrificing much of her

childhood to go to these events and give

her powerful speeches, and while they are

moving, it is important to ask why this has

fallen upon the shoulders of someone so young.

It would be unfair for any generation to

attempt to truly claim events like the Civil

Rights Movement, LGBTQ+ Rights Movement

or even the Women’s Rights Movements.

There are major dates associated with them,

but the suffering and resistance of each of

these groups is something that has happened

long before and after these dates. These

kinds of movements, movements for the rights

of people who were forced to be silent, are

ones that we may all share in. Sexism, racism

and homophobia are things that people still

deal with today. It is 2020 and we have

had only one president of color and there

has never been a female president or, to our

knowledge, a president who was a member

of the LGBTQ+ community. That is not

a coincidence.

The 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court

case was historic in that it struck down

laws that banned interracial marriage.

While this case took place in Gen X’s time,

it can’t belong solely to them. The court’s

ruling doesn’t erase the fight that happened

before the court case or even the battle that

took place after so those who loved each

other could marry despite the color of their

skin. The Stonewall riots in 1969, where

members of the LGBTQ+ community fought

back against police raids at the Stonewall

Inn in New York City, took place within the

bounds of Gen X, but the movement carried

on until the Millenials and Gen Z were able

to see Massachusetts legalize gay marriage

in 2004 and 11 years later Gen Z was

able to see it legalized in all 50 states. In

1920, the Greatest Generation saw the 19th

Amendment grant white women the right to

vote, but that doesn’t change the fact that

women of color still couldn’t vote until the

Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, and

even today we can still see how women are

systematically underpaid.

No one is above fear. It’s something that

affects or has affected everyone at some

point in their lives, even if they choose to

try and forget their fears. However, to be

scared is to be shaped by your own mind.

You can choose to hide from the pain of

what happened to you and others, or you

can embrace and learn from and use it to

relate to the people around you. The trauma

from historical events within generations

fundamentally changes who people are, and

often people are ignorant of the fears that

others faced in the past. People growing up

in days after a crisis were affected in different

ways than those who were coming-of-age

or adults. Fear is not something special or

unique to one generation. The kinds of fears

and terrors they faced are sometimes unique

to their experiences and time period, but

the aftermath can still be felt by everyone.

If generations would stop fighting over who

is correct, who had it worse in their youth

or who has the best answers to the world’s

problems, then they could begin working

together to build a generation with less fear.

Joey Warren is a senior in professional and

public writing. When not studying, you can find

her watching Netflix in her pajamas,

advocating for women and LGBTQ youth or

taking pictures of the squirrels on campus.

You can follow her on Instagram @jortay_ole.







xa.cal.msu.edu wrac.msu.edu/p2w twitter: @msuwrac


44 SUMMER 2020

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