chronicles u of c

Stop Praising the University of Chicago

edit 12By Jesse Turner

This week,  University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison sent a letter to incoming freshmen saying that the university does not support “so-called trigger warnings” and “safe spaces, where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” This is not a welcoming or inclusive letter.

Trigger/content warnings are not meant to warn people that differing opinions are meant to be shared. I have never seen a trigger warning used in this manner, despite many people’s beliefs that my generation is so weak that we can’t handle hearing an opinion even slightly different than our own. On social media, I have come across trigger and content warnings informing the reader that the following content will discuss things like abuse, suicide, sexual assault, and police brutality. I have never seen the content warning, “I am about to share a conservative opinion.” So stop believing trigger warnings are useless and a sign of weakness.

One of my professors at PSU used a very helpful trigger warning in her syllabus. She informed us that in a class about death, we would specifically be discussing Death with Dignity, suicide, and dying in low-income and marginalized communities. In no way was she saying, “Here’s what we will discuss so don’t take this class.” She was saying, “Here’s exactly what we will discuss, so proceed with caution and take time to prepare and take care of yourselves.” That’s what trigger warnings are. They are a cautionary step, not the end to a conversation. Yes, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are both integral and important. But why does someone else’s freedom of speech mean that I have to listen to and read every story and conversation about rape and child abuse that comes across my timeline? Am I really stifling your freedom of expression because for my own sanity I don’t want to read another story about Brock Turner getting away with only 3 months in prison?

Not wanting to hear about sexual assault and abuse constantly doesn’t make you weak, it makes you healthy. Stop praising the University of Chicago for not caring about the mental health of their students and instead taking a hurtful and deeply misinformed approach to content warnings and safe spaces.

chronicles fat acceptance

What it’s like Being a Fat Girl

edit 12  By Jesse Turner

At almost 200 pounds, I am fat. I don’t call myself fat as an insult, I call myself fat because it is the reality of the way I look and the body I maneuver the world in. I am what feminist writer Roxane Gay calls “Lane Bryant Fat.” This means I am overweight but can still reasonably find clothes that fit me. However, as much as I have worked to accept the size that I am, I also call myself fat so I don’t have to hear other people call me fat. If I know I’m fat, I take the edge away from people who would use “fat” as an insult.

A lot of people would think I should not be OK with being overweight because I am not the “good kind of fat.” I don’t have a thyroid condition, and I am not actively working to lose weight. I like eating, and I don’t make a lot of time to exercise. When I get off work, I would rather take a nap than go to the gym.

Now, there are precautionary measures I take to make my thunderous size as minimally shocking to myself and others. I am sure to include pictures of my body on my Tinder so I don’t get the grimace from guys who didn’t realize I was fat when I first meet them. I only wear crop tops if I haven’t eaten in the last five hours so my stomach doesn’t especially stick out. I would hate to offend someone with something as unsightly as a stomach full of food. I psych myself up for at least 24 hours before I go out to bars, as being the “fat friend” requires especially steely nerves.

What I find weirdly troubling is that instead of using fat as an insult, I have noticed that some men like to point out my size, claim “thick girls” as their fetish, and expect me to take it as a compliment. Recently I had a guy online tell me “You’re very beautiful I’m sure you are told otherwise from…ostentatious people who don’t know what a real woman looks like.” First of all, real woman? I’m not a real woman, I’m actually a bundle of limbs sewn together and packed with straw. Second, I know you thought you were doing a good deed, but you’re not noble or brave because you find a fat girl attractive. Telling me that I should grateful for your compliments because most people would be insulting me is a slap in my fat face.

 

chronicles welcome to oregon

Here’s How Little I Know about Portland

By Jesse Turner

We all know Portland is white. Very white. I am white. I grew up in a very white neighborhood and went to some of, if not the, whitest public schools in Portland. And for years I was told that Portland was “politely racist.” None of us are openly racist, because different races live in different worlds. There’s no opportunity to be “openly racist” as a white person because you rarely ever encounter a non-white person. I didn’t learn until I was in college that black people were not legally allowed in Oregon under the state constitution until 1926 when the clause was finally repealed.

I now work in the juvenile correctional system, which means I work with a lot of young men who claim gang affiliation. I will now tell you just how white I am and admit that the other day I googled, “gangs in Portland” because although I had heard of several gangs in conversation with the youth I work with, I knew nothing of their history, nor could I keep them all straight. I grew up in Portland, I have lived here for 21 years, and a few days ago was the first time I had ever heard of Lil’ Smurf or Kerby Blocc or vice nights. Because I live in a completely different world. Gangs have only recently become a part of my reality, and only because I work with people who are a part of them.

I also work at a residential home for formerly incarcerated young men. One of the housemates, one who is gang affiliated, was recently arrested for armed robbery and because he is 19, he will go to prison. This person is Latino and so is the man he was arrested with. Their mugshots are featured on the Oregon Live article about their arrest. And I am not exaggerating when I say that every public comment on the article is race-related, the vast majority of which are negative. The top comment is “Jeez, Maybe Trump is right….” Another person says “this is why we need Trump to build the wall.” Scroll a little further down and you read “Dreamers. They’re just here to work.” A couple people call out these racist comments and they are bombarded with comments of being too “sensitive” and needing a “safe-space,” the argument of people with no empathy.

These are internet trolls and likely not an accurate representation of the whole of Portland. But I would encourage you to question the nature of “Portland Polite” when it comes to race. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

chronicles trump

I Got Fired, Now What?

edit 12By Jesse Turner

For the first time in my life, I got “fired.” I put “fired” in quotation marks because it wasn’t an official firing. It was a volunteer practicum position and I was offered a different, more restricted position for this term but was told that I could no longer continue in the position I had been doing for the last ten weeks. I was told I was causing too many disruptions, enough that the practicum had to end immediately.

I don’t want to go into the details of the firing (maybe dismissal is a better word) but I will tell you that I cried on my drive home, barely restraining myself from crying in front of my supervisor. I felt as though I had lost part of myself in losing that position. I tie my work ethic so centrally to who I am. I take pride in the fact that I work two jobs while going to school full time. I take pride in my exhaustion. I brag about my transformation from a lazy, self-pitying person to someone who has tried her best to take control of my future. Getting fired does not fit into my personal narrative.

This was my first placement in the specific field of study I want to work in. What do I do now? This is the field I want to spend the rest of my life in. Sure, I can study it in a classroom, but maybe I’m truly not good enough. My supervisor told me that he understood my behavior did not come from a place of malicious intent and that with more experience, I would do much better. I cling to his statement because it feels like all I have. This position was so draining, it consumed my waking hours and still I loved it. I miss it.

Now I am in a new practicum position, in a different youth correctional facility. I had my period of mourning but then was forced to take my love for my previous position and work to get a new one. In this position I have met young, incarcerated men who face rejection every day, rejection that is often worse than my own, and yet they continue to persevere. One young man earned his high school diploma, associate’s degree, and two bachelor’s degrees in five years under incarceration. There is no better kick in the pants than seeing people accomplishing more in lockup than you are on the outs. So getting fired is not all bad. It was a hard experience and one I will feel the sting of for a while. But I have to take it as a bump in the road, a learning experience, and not the end. I love this field too much to be done with it now.

chronicles featured image

What I Learned from Lockup

By Jesse Turner

For the final project for my Youth Work class, I made a board game. I called it, “The Game of Life in Juvie.” This term I have been interning at an all-male juvenile correctional facility. One of the ways the youth and I pass the time is by playing card games and board games. “The Game of Life” is one of the games we have played several times, and because going to prison is not an option in that game, I find it a sadly ironic one to play. I watch each youth choose to go to college, start a family, and pick a career with the highest salary.

I made my board game as similar as I could to the original. Instead of a job, each player picks the crime which sent them to juvie. Instead of advancing through the life stages, players must advance through the point-and-level system that the facility uses so they can gain more privileges and eventually get out. I tried to make the game as unwinnable as possible. When asked if I would share this game with the youth on my unit, I said, “Absolutely not.” For one, I wouldn’t be allowed to bring in contraband. But really I would never show it to them because the youth already know how horrible life in juvie is. I wouldn’t want them to think I was reducing their situation to something trivial. That’s not how I meant for this game to be taken. I wanted it to express how often many of the hardships that happen to the youth on my unit are out of their control and simply left to chance.

Many youth on my unit have shared with me their goals for when they get out. Most of them express desires to continue school, get jobs, and start families in front of staff. But around other youth, they are much more honest. The two biggest plans I hear about are to get as high as possible and to get tattoos for the gangs they affiliate with. I come from a place of incredible privilege, and many of the youth react to what I say as empty rhetoric. But I keep telling them I want them to do better on the outs. I don’t know who will listen, but I do know that the Oregon Youth Authority has a 65% recidivism rate. This is not the first time in juvie for most of these youth. And the sad truth is it probably will not be the last.

 

chronicles food pantry

How You Can Help Fight Hunger on Campus

By Jesse Turner

The ASPSU Student Food Pantry is an amazing resource for students who are experiencing hunger or economic hardships. The Food Pantry is a free resource for students to pick up non-perishable food items throughout the school week. The pantry is located in Smith Student Union, room 325, and is open Monday through Friday, 12pm to 2pm. All of the food items come from the Oregon Food Bank.

Unfortunately, hunger is more of an issue in our community than the Food Pantry can accommodate. This term’s pantry intern is in one of my classes and she said that PSU is allowed to take up to 10,000 pounds of food from the Oregon Food Bank. However, the amount of food they can actually take depends on the vehicles that show up for haul food. The pantry does not have a designated van or truck and it all depends on staff members and volunteers with vehicles. She said that often they are only able to take around 2,000 pounds. One day, all of the food in the pantry was gone within 40 minutes. The pantry also does not have a refrigerator, making other staple but perishable food items impossible to hold.

The Food Pantry needs drivers. If you have a vehicle, even a small one, please consider volunteering to take food from the OFB to campus. The amount of food they can haul directly relates to how many people they can feed. No one in our community should go hungry. Please contact the Food Pantry coordinator at pantry@pdx.edu for further information.

hillcrest

First Impressions: A Look Inside “Baby Jail”

edit 12   By Jesse Turner

They live behind a 20-foot fence and locked doors. They must ask permission to go to the bathroom, use nail clippers, and even get up from their chairs. They get transported in handcuffs. And yet all of them are legally classified as youth.

I am completing an internship at the Hillcrest Juvenile Correctional Facility on a unit with 14 males, ages 14 to 18. It is labeled the “Special Needs Unit,” which includes a wide array of developmental, emotional, and learning disabilities. Some are sex offenders. Some are gang members. One has taken two lives.

On my first day, before I met any of the youth, my supervisor warned me that this unit was notoriously bad with interns. She said they would say crude, sexist, disturbing things to me. She even made a point of showing me one teenager’s mugshot and warned me that he had gotten obsessed with female staff members before. I was terrified.

Soon after these sinister warnings, the youth got back from class and had free time on the unit. I sat back, observed, and waited for my first terrible encounter. But that never happened. Most of them ignored me, but those who spoke to me asked my name, introduced themselves, and shook my hand. They were perfectly polite. A few of them invited me to play cards with them. On my first shift, I played blackjack for four hours, getting to know the youth and asking them questions about their lives.

They each have had seemingly insurmountable difficulties, whether with their families, their communities, or their own mental health. They have been in and out of treatment and detention centers. Many have been homeless and runaways. A lot of the youth have no dependable guardian in their life, having been abandoned or abused by their parents. It makes a lot of sense that some of them have responded with crime and violence. They are some of the most resilient people I have ever met.

I understand that the staff’s warnings were for my own safety, but none of the youth have lived up to these terrifying impressions, for which I am shocked and grateful.