Posted in Community, New Perspectives

Remembering History: Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Center

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As a secondary social studies education major, history has always been a topic of fascination to me. History gives us all a chance to learn from what went right in society, what went wrong, and how we can continue to learn from one another. Today, if there is one thing I learned, it’s how we each have a chance to turn a world of hate into love.

With Central Michigan University’s Residence Life program, Resident Assistants, Multicultural Advisors, and residents got the chance to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. This excursion is meant to help us all learn something new about the world, about social justice issues in society and the past, and the experience helps us relate what happened to how it affects the world today.

The day started off by being broken up into touring groups as Central Michigan University had a really big group there overall. Our tour guide sat us down in front of the memorial pictured above her and explained the meaning behind it. All of the countries affected by the Holocaust are named up on the memorial. However, these are the countries that had people die in the Holocaust whether they were Jewish, had a disability, LGBTQ+, and more. The numbers of people that died were reflected under the country names.

In addition to this, there were a list of the concentration camps next to the countries overall. A lot of the names, I have heard of before from visiting other museums. But what caught my eye in the middle of this area was an eternal flame: a flame that never goes out to keep the memory of the affected alive. The tour guide explained that many people believe for a soul to die, it dies twice. The first time is when a person actually dies. The second time is when the last person to have memories with the person dies. This is why the flame is kept lit because it is important for history’s sake and because of this event that we do not forget the people who went through such tragedies. So, we make sure we keep their souls alive and in our memory.

From here, the tour guide walked us through the historical exhibit where we learned about the history of Judaism. We learned how this religion was one of the first ones to have a monotheistic God, which means one god. What this did was create anti-semitism for years as people saw the Jewish religion as a disgrace, or as the “different” religion. Eventually, this inspired the events of the Holocaust.

After this, we learned about the history of Adolf Hitler along with the uprising of the Nazi Party in Germany. We learned of the Nazi agenda, which consisted of three things: To create a superior race of Germans with blonde hair and blue eyes, to exterminate all of the Jewish people, and to expand as much as possible to be the dominant society. However, what we saw is that Hitler along with other officials changed policies one step at a time, making subtle changes in the ways that people thought, and changes in the way that people viewed the Jewish people. Hitler even said once that by using the press as an enemy, it could be easy to lie to big groups of people and make change. We learned how even though Hitler had an agenda, it took a group of people to make it happen. This is where things started to get emotional.

At this point, we learned about how the Jewish people were treated in these camps. From being worked to death, to marching to death, and even being sent to death camps to die right away, over six million people were exterminated from the Holocaust. What put this into more perspective is when we walked into this room with a very narrow path, and six video screens. The tour guide told us that if the images were too disturbing, we could come down to the end of the hallway with her. You see, General Eisenhower went into Europe to these concentration camps. He decided if you were not there, you could not understand it. That is why he and his crew decided to record what they saw with videos: and these videos came up on the screens.

The dead bodies of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust kept playing on one screen to another. Bodies piled on top of one another, bodies so skinny that their bones were easy to see, bodies that had eyes out of the socket holes. The only thing I could do along with everyone else is look in shock and disbelief. Eventually, after moments of silence and shock, we continued on. This was one of the most scarring things I have ever seen and I still have the images in my head.

From here, we learned about the end of the war. The Nuremberg trials occurred with only a dozen people being sentenced to death. There were a total of twenty two people tried at this time as well, but not too much more from there. But one of the most surprising things I found out is that after the war, Holocaust survivors were helped out to be rehabilitated back into society. At this point, there was a huge increase in babies born. The reason why is because at this point, love had gotten so many people through the tragedies they faced. This was something I did not hear much about, but it made me happy to know that love was a catalyst to helping so many people to survive by giving them something to live for as they endured horrible conditions.

Finally, we looked over to our left to see a video screen along with a clock. The number on this clock was over 100 million or so. Every nineteen seconds, this huge number went up by one as every nineteen seconds, someone dies from genocide around the world. This huge number was a number of all the genocides committed since the end of the Holocaust. The fact that this number is such a high rate overall shocked me along with everyone else. Even after such a tragic event, hatred still occurs in the world today.

At the end of all of this, we got to hear about the Holocaust from a different perspective: The perspective of a survivor. She stood at the front of an auditorium as we all walked in. Her name was Rae and she kept on asking us what our majors were, intrigued to hear more about each one and to see the diversity in the room. After we all sat down, she began to share her story. When the war began in 1939, the Germans evacuated her family from Poland and moved them over to the U.S.S.R, which made them refugees. At one point, the Russians essentially imprisoned her family and others to an area in northern Russia where the family everyday had to complete different labor tasks. Eventually, they returned to Poland when the war ended, but they realized all of their family from Poland was practically dead and did not have much to offer. The family made the decision to try and flee over to the United States in 1946. However, tensions were still high, making it hard for the family to escape. They had to sneak over boarders illegally to attempt this. However, during one of the trips, her parents were killed, leaving her and her siblings (four others) to be orphans as they escaped to America. Finally, they made it to Detroit in 1948. She then told us about her family today and how many of them graduated college including herself, she showed us her siblings later on in life, and she talked about her late husband who was also a Holocaust survivor. She told us so much about her life, we all could not help but stand and clap for her at the end thanking her for her time and the opportunity to hear from here.

One big thing that she told us at the end is that America provided her the opportunity to work hard in life and essentially gave her a chance to be successful. She also mentioned that in some ways, America has gotten better about things, but has gotten worse about things. The biggest pieces of advice she gave us were the following: 1. Do not be afraid to work hard. And 2. Choose to spread love over hate in this world.

This leads me to reflect on the bigger piece of things: what could I walk away and say I learned overall? What stuck with me most? From this, I would have to say the meaning of empathy, as well as the difference between privilege and oppression in society.

In regards to empathy, it was amazing to hear about the history of the Holocaust from more of an emotional view with some facts incorporated. None of us knew what it was like to go through such horrific experiences in life. However, the stories shared, the imagery, and the intentionality with everything in this museum made us feel empathy for all of the people who were affected by tragedy in life.

If there is one idea I want you all to take away from this, it is the following right here: the difference between privilege and oppression. Privilege is a special right or advantage available to a group of people in society. An example of this could be a privilege of being part of a majority religion, being part of a wealthier class, etc. Now compare this with oppression. Oppression is the prolonged cruel or unjust treatment towards other people based off of traits or privileges. Essentially, there is a bridge between privilege and oppression. When people notice their privilege in society, they can oppress others and hurt other people because not all people have the same advantages, or privileges, in life. This brings up a huge moral to all of this: We all need to take a look at who we are, what we believe, how we operate, and need to choose to spread love over hate.

Events like this one in life are tragic to even think about. I still cannot even fathom some of things I saw or heard about. However, instead of being a bystander in life and not do anything when others are being oppressed, go up to the oppressed individual and show them empathy. Let them know you are there for them to help them, love them, and be with them even when the world is not. This is something I hope you all can take away from reading this today: Choose to love other hate.

This is how we can stop these events from happening again…

 

-Michael Greco

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Posted in Community

Higher Education Ethics: Graduation Rates Versus Diversity

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Photo created by Jeff Parker, Florida Today (2008)

Two-year and four-year college institutions may have different layouts in regards to student goals, operations, and staffing. However, if one thing is the same, it is the idea that for college students today, the dream to graduate “on-time,” or within two to four years depending on the program, is not held entirely true in society today. Financials, coursework, and even success rates for students passing classes are the dependent factors that lead to a plethora of added expenses, stress, and more time. At times, one has to wonder if this focus on these topics are the fault of college students or the fault of the Universities themselves. Kasia Kovacs of Inside Higher Ed, wrote an article titled “The State of Undergraduate Education,” which looks to see where the main ethical issues are located in regards to this dilemma.

According to Kovacs, millennials are taking the opportunities that colleges present seriously as “90% of millennials who graduate from high school attend college within eight years” (Kovacs, 2016) with retrospect to the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education. However, a much smaller portion of students successfully complete college with the statistics being much more miniscule than the first one displayed. The Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education further discussed the fact that “only 40% of students complete a bachelor’s degree in four years and 60% graduate in six years” (Kovacs, 2016). What’s even more staggering is the idea that at two year colleges, “29% of students graduate in three years” (Kovacs, 2016), which shows there is a problem going on all across the board for colleges and Universities.

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The official logo for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, which directly supports the “Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education”

One must wonder whether the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education has enough credit and sustainability to report all of this information. To give background, this commision was formed in November of 2015 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences with a $2.2 million funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. One of the first things the Commision did before finding these statistics was try and understand the current state of undergraduate students, which can be seen in their report titled “The Primer on the College Student Journey.” This report involved looking at “the numbers of everything from college preparedness to student loans and providing some analysis” (Kovacs, 2016). After looking at this report compiled with the report involving the state of undergraduates, there were a couple of important ethical issues that were pointed out for higher education officials to look at.

First, diversity played a huge factor as to whether students finish on time or not. According to the recent report from “The State of Undergraduate Education,” women had more bachelor’s degree than men with a comparison of 50% to 41% (Kovacs, 2016). In addition, socioeconomic status had a major impact on graduating time as well as stress as 60% of college students take out loans as of 2012 while this number was only at 50% in 2000. If students did not graduate, 29% of those students defaulted on their loans versus 9% defaulting if they graduate college. Finally, one of the more shocking statistics involved race and ethnicity. According to the report, 75% of Asian students earned an associate degree or higher, which was much higher than white students (54%), black students (31%), and hispanic students (27%) overall (Kovacs, 2016). When people look at diversity in society, it is hard to argue that everyone is the same. This in itself presents the overall ethical issues involving diversity in society. Unfortunately, people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and races have different opportunities not only because of the socialization that has occurred in society, but because of the opportunities and focuses for people of different backgrounds in society. These numbers should be higher and more equal for all types of students, which makes one pose the following question: “What can colleges and Universities do to change these numbers and statistics?”

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Information from the American Enterprise Institute, 2016

In addition, socioeconomic status played a major role in students either graduating later, or even not at all. Essentially, if a student receives a lower income under $30,000 in regards to dependency of family or independence overall, most of these students will receive “tuition subsidies that actually cover the entire cost of their tuition and fees” (Kovacs, 2016). However, many students who are of lower socioeconomic status are not aware of these opportunities, which makes them opt out of going to college. As Kovacs puts it, “all they see is the sticker price, an expensive prospect.” This issue shows that Universities need to put a larger emphasis on financial help for students who are applying to attend college. Higher education settings focus too much on the amount of income received, or the amount tuition needs to be, versus what resources are there for students that need it. Success rates are directly correlated to this concept. This shows that professionals in the field need to look at more of the ethics behind cash flow in the respect of helping students rather than helping the school solely.

As a student affairs/higher education professional, this will continue to be a struggle as college costs continue to increase and certain programs become more scarce because of budgeting, government funding, or various other factors. Professionals need to think of effective ways to reach out to students in regards to programming, recruitment, and education overall to help make all students see the opportunities that are available to obtaining a cheaper college education. With less stress and more of a focus as to what is required of students, students will be able to graduate on time, and deal with less stress in the process.

 

Works Cited:

Kovacs, K. (2016, September 22). More people enroll in college even with rising price tag, report finds. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/22/more-people-enroll-college-even-rising-price-tag-report-finds

Posted in Community

Mental Health Treatment on College Campuses

 

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Tyler Kingkade of the Huffington Post writes that from 2009 all the way through 2015, reports of mental health concerns have been on the rise for college students in regards to anxiety, depression, and social anxiety. Although the need for services has steadily increased, Kingkade talks about how many campuses are experiencing understaffed departments to help address these concerns. The main reasoning for this is because of the budgeting factors that happen on a college campus, and also because of universities putting their priorities into other resources. Kingkade’s article not only displays factual evidence that supports these trends, but also brings a self interest in regards to how college officials can act as more of helping resources for students.

To begin with, one of the most interesting points brought up was the fact that out of 100,736 college students nationwide, “20% of students seeking mental health treatments are taking up about half of all campus counseling center appointments” (Kingkade, 2016). The information was based off of a study conducted by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University. This statistic is one that comes across as surprising for numerous reasons. First of all, this shows that students are addressing more of their own mental health issues heads on by seeking out help. Although these numbers can be slightly different overall nationwide, it does show that many students are utilizing the many benefits the counseling centers have to offer. In addition, this displays the idea that college can be a stressful time for students not only because of the numerous life changes that go along with it, but also because this is the first time in numerous student’s lives that they are learning how to adjust to a new environment. These numbers show that students are trying to maintain proper self-care by utilizing campus resources and assistance.

Another interesting idea from the article that needs to be considered in regards to mental health is the idea about “a growing conversation about burnout in college” (Kingkade, 2016). Burnout can be caused from numerous aspects including, but not limited to, students being over involved in campus activities, students positive and negative experiences with academics, association with drama between peers, and even the recreational use of alcohol and drugs. One major effect that can display college burnout is a lack of sleep. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, “one in eight student clients said sleep was a problem for them, a rate that is 30% higher than those who are needing help for alcohol, and almost three times the rate of students who needed help from counseling centers to overcome drug abuse” (Kingkade, 2016). One factor that needs to be considered with this is how students are utilizing their time management skills in school, as well as how students utilize self-care in their own retrospects. When a student does not retain the proper hours of sleep or feels lacking in mental state, the effects on students can be drastic overall.

Finally, one major component that needs to be considered in this article involves numerous campuses and their main focuses. According to Ben Locke, executive director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, many universities based their budgeting off of “some kind of historical calculation of the number of students enrolled and previous rate of students requesting appointments” (Kingkade, 2016). This shows how many universities are essentially looking into the past to guide the future of a college program or service. College campuses need to reform how budgeting systems work not only because of the need for mental health services across the nation, but also because looking back to the past does not always create efficiency for a university.

Overall, people can look at each of these factors and offer various solutions to help with the situation. The main aspect that needs to be considered through all of this is how successful is an institution being in helping students with current needs. By looking at the increasing needs of students, a university can be more proactive to help with the increasing number of mental health cases with students within the United States, and possibly the world.

 

Works Cited

 

Kingkade, T. (2016, January 13). The Number Of College Students Seeking Mental Health

Treatment Is Growing Rapidly. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from Mental Health Treatment On College Campuses