What’s the deal with tipping?

img_4856 by Steph Holton

Unless you want to look like a jerk, you can’t not tip. But after some thought and research into the matter, I feel that our cultural compulsion to leave gratuities for services rendered is perhaps a more sinister institution than we believe.

Tipping at full-service restaurants is a standard 15%, while tipping hairdressers, tattoo artists, drivers, and innumerable others “isn’t expected but is highly appreciated.” The American consumer likes to believe that leaving a tip is an act of kindness for a job well done, but studies show that the amount of a tip rarely has anything to do with the quality of service provided and often depends on factors of race, age and sex. The practice of tipping in restaurants can create both unnecessary competition between waitstaff, and a rather large wage disparity between front and back of house workers. Psychologically, tipping is a way for consumers to assert dominance over a server, and also to flaunt social status.

The no-tipping movement is struggling, however, because it is a financially risky stance for a restaurant to take: Consumers have shown they’d rather tip than be charged a service fee. I’m not suggesting anyone stop tipping when they go out to eat or get a haircut. At this point, it’s part of our social contract. But I am suggesting we all question the tradition, because like many other institutions in our country, just because that’s the way it’s been doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way it should be.

Smile for the Running Community

img_4856 by Steph Holton

I’m an avid runner. I have been since my high school Driver’s Ed instructor (also the cross country coach) convinced me to sign up, despite the fact that I couldn’t go more than a mile without thinking I was going to keel over right there on the course. And I definitely would not have stuck it out that first season, or the two more that I ran after that, if not for the incredible encouragement of not just my own team, but of the entire community that surrounds high school competitive running.  

When I moved to Portland, I almost immediately fell in with the Campus Rec running club, Running Around Portland, and gained several running buddies who share my enthusiasm for the sport. I’ve often lamented to them, however, that the experience of running in the city is lacking the kind of support from other runners that is so prevalent in high school. With the alive and well running culture in Portland, I’d expect there to be more “hey there’s” and “keep it ups” between passing runners on the waterfront.

I recently was running down Springwater Corridor along the east side of the Willamette, a popular route for runners and cyclists, and passed a woman taking the trail at brisk walk but clearly out to enjoy the day more than anything. As I passed, she made a point to smile at me and say “good morning,” and honestly, it made my day. Since then, I’ve made a more concerted effort to smile when I pass other runners, and usually, they smile back. It’s a small thing, but it’s already made me feel closer to the Portland pedestrian community. 

Mountains, Forests, or Shores: Just Explore

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Recently, a friend from high school invited me on short notice to camp at Glacier National Park in Montana. Despite the anxiety I felt just thinking about how much I had to get ready in only a couple days, I said yes. That decision turned into a highlight of my summer.

Since it was short notice, it was too late to reserve a campsite, so we left Idaho early in the morning to try and snag a first-come site for our stay. Amazingly, and on the Fourth of July no less, we managed to claim a spot. From there, we did several day hikes around the park to Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, and Logan Pass. The views were unbeatable, but my favorite part was when we saw arguably the most elusive creature other than Bigfoot—a wolverine.

My trip to Glacier National Park made me crave more adventures. As a freshman, I was still figuring out how much time I needed to devote to my classes and was always worrying about falling behind. There were several places I wanted to visit during my first year at PSU that I never did, like Crater Lake, Mount Hood, and Tamolitch Blue Pool. Now I know I could easily spare a couple weekends to explore Oregon. After all, there’s no time like when you’re young with good knees to go adventuring. If I could see a wolverine on my first trip to Glacier National Park, who knows what (or who…(Bigfoot)) I’ll see next.

Women & Apologies

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By: Sara Kirkpatrick 

Did you know women have more connectability between the left and right brain? This biological skill has naturally armed women with the ultimate advantage of engaging both sides of the brain: the analytical left and the creative right brain — amazing!

However, as this skill offers many social advantages, it also increases sensitivity to emotions and in turn creates an increased need to apologize, sometimes in situations where an apology is not necessary. This has been notably detrimental for women professionals in today’s workforce.

After viewing a YouTube video on this phenomenon in my summer Business Ethics (BA385) course, I found myself constantly falling victim to the phrase, “I’m sorry.” However, most of my alleged “infractions” for which I apologized were not infractions at all, they were merely apologies for simply going about my business in ways that were absolutely necessary. Whether it is taking a seat in class a few seconds before someone else was hoping to sit down, asking a necessary question of a colleague or peer who had the answer or carrying out other similar tasks and functions that allow me to successfully get through the day, I had subconsciously equipped myself with a canned apology waiting breathlessly to be delivered.

As women and young professionals who will soon be entering, or who are already in the workplace, we need to acknowledge this issue and eliminate our impulsive need to apologize. If we do not eliminate this subconscious affliction, it may impact our future employment opportunities. We could place ourselves at risk by not being taken seriously, or even worse, we could become overlooked by employers for an opening in a company or for a promotion to a managerial role.

Rather than falling victim to this rising issue, let’s embrace it! I encourage all of my PSU female peers to insert the #SorryNotSorry trend into their daily thoughts, interactions, and lifestyle. Let’s use it as a way to empower and solidify our future roles within the workplace of today!

Race: An Open Letter to American Elementary Schools

img_4856 by Steph Holton

Almost everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten, to paraphrase Robert Fulghum. Kindergarten was when I learned to share, play fair, and to wonder unapologetically. But there was one lesson I didn’t learn until I was 18 years old and starting a degree in anthropology here at Portland State – a lesson that, three years later, I’m still upset I didn’t learn earlier.

The lesson was this: Race is not a biological reality.

Today, we’re lucky enough to not only have an impressive archaeological record containing fossils of our ancestors reaching back millions of years, but also to have the capability to sequence entire human genomes. These databases of knowledge support the model of human evolution beginning with humans in Africa 200,000 years ago and migrating into Europe around 60,000 years ago. Change in skin pigmentation was a result of the increasingly limited UV radiation those migrants were exposed to, and was merely a surface-level change – both phenotypically and genotypically. Because it was an adaptation to different environments, loss of pigmentation occurred at varying levels.

This history of early man means two big things for modern man: 1) The range in human skin color we see today only started evolving in the last fourth of our history! 2) There’s no biological way to validate racial categories, because human variation exists on a spectrum, with no places to draw distinct divisions between populations.

Race is very much a social reality. In no way do I intend to take away from its cultural significance. But it is a much too common misconception that there is more than a social justification for dividing humanity into discrete units. We need to celebrate the remarkable phenotypic and cultural diversity among us. But, now more than ever, we should also be taking Robert Fulghum’s advice to “hold hands and stick together” – by recognizing and teaching that we’re more alike than different.

A couple of great TED Talks on this topic are Nina Jablonski’s “Skin color is an illusion” and Spencer Wells’ “A family tree for humanity.”

Long Distance Friends

When I chose to go out of state for college, I realized I would be pretty far from home – specifically 1,355.6 miles away. I was excited for the adventure of a new city, for finding my niche, and most of all for it not being in 115 degrees Fahrenheit on any given summer day. However, one aspect that I did not fully think through was just how far I would be from my best friend.13327342_10204472701376747_137003542457597024_n Vivian and I went to the same high school in Gilbert, Arizona, and our similar interests and love for Mac Demarco and Ezra Koenig brought us together. The rest is essentially history. Vivian stayed in Arizona after graduating while I moved to the great Pacific Northwest.

My first year away consisted of a lot of facetime calls complaining about my rain-soaked sneakers, texts about current happenings in our lives, and lengthy phone calls discussing details, no matter how small, of our everyday lives. The facetimes, texts, and phone calls made possible by modern technology definitely helped our friendship stay close despite the distance that keeps us apart.

Our friendship is still going strong, but being long-distance BFFs is definitely challenging at times. Those 1,355.6 miles don’t seem to exist while texting, but the IMG_1162birthdays and special occasions that are missed suck, but it does make the ones where we are able to be there for each other that much more special.

It’s now my second, almost third, year in Portland and being so far away from family and friends has not gotten any easier, but it has made my time away from school that much more exciting. (Also who doesn’t need a reason for vacation?)

Do The Math: Get A Tutor

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Not too long ago, I thought I was good at math. For some reason, it just always clicked with me and because of this, I chose to minor in math. Then I started Calculus III—and nothing was clicking. During the lectures, I stared blankly at whatever new theorem the instructor was scribbling on the board, thinking, “I’ll get it later.” When I clearly wasn’t getting it, my inner narration changed to a constant, “What the hell is going on?”

After the first homework assignment, I realized if I wanted a great grade in the course, I’d need to put effort into it. At first, I was hesitant to try out the free tutoring services offered by PSU. I was embarrassed for needing help—especially in a subject I’ve provided tutoring for in the past

My determination to do well trumped the shame I felt at seeking help. I visited both the Learning Center located on the second floor of the PSU Library, and the Tutoring Table in the third floor atrium of Neuberger Hall. The Learning Center provides free drop-in tutoring for several different subjects. The tutoring table in Neuberger Hall is all about math.

After I’d put the time in to see a couple different tutors, math began to make sense again. I could sit through the lectures, and despite continuing to leave confused most of the time, I’d think, ‘It’s ok—you won’t fail this class!

Ultimately, Calculus III has taught me more about overcoming my fear of getting help than about infinite series. Below are the links to the resources I turned to and vouch for 100%. After all, it’s because of these tutors I was able to ace my first Calc III exam.

NH Math Tutor Schedule

Learning Center’s tutoring schedule