It’s Time For Student Organizers To Get The Goods

For college students across our state, the last few months have been rough. As many schools abruptly backtracked on their promises of in-person classes this fall, it was clear that pandemic life was far from over. While many fraternities foolishly decided it was business as usual, many of us had their hopes deflated. However, what many did not expect is that the shutdown would be far, far worse than just online classes and no (safe) parties. Over at Michigan, students tested for COVID-19 were forced to quarantine in apartments with virtually no supplies. More than 100 RAs declared that the conditions were unsafe. And while it would be easy to jeer at our normal axis of evil for being well, shit, this goes far beyond students’ usual issues with uncaring administrators. This was the University of Michigan putting their students’ safety and wellbeing in the direct line of fire.

The conditions at UM were so dire that on September 7th, the Graduate Employees Organization voted to strike. They demanded stronger COVID-19 remote work policies, as well as a 50% defunding of the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) into community policing measures. The latter is ambitious for any campus, but now is the time to push for it, especially with Black Lives Matter protests still lingering from the summer.

UM reacted to these demands with open hostility. After the GEO struck down their initial settlement, the administration moved forward with an injunction against the union. Given the options to either end the strike or risk millions of dollars in damages and the potential dissolution of their own organization, the GEO settled. The strike was over.

Now that the dust has settled, what can we make of this on our end? It’s not as if we don’t have things to protest over: last month, MSU RHS furloughed around 700 student workers with only around two weeks’ notice. Soon after, the Spartan Solidarity Network released a petition and a list of demands, but neither have led to any change in the university’s policy. Besides this, tuition fees have gone largely unchanged, even as COVID shuts everything down to a crawl. Now is the time to either crack open the endowment or find some other way to relieve students in need of a stipend. As it stands, MSU remains fully committed to stiffing the most valuable members of its community.

It’s helpful to remember that our organizations are far from powerless. Earlier this year, the MSU Graduate Employees’ Union (aided by hundreds of professors and ASMSU) took a firm stance against Stephen Hsu, the then-Vice President for Research and Innovation who had been called out for supporting scientific racism, sexism, and eugenics, among other issues. After nine days of pressure on the administration, President Stanley asked him to resign and he returned to his tenured professor position. That isn’t as sexy as, say, Hsu being fired and falling off the face of the earth, but it is a case of a successful campaign waged primarily by student organizers against MSU administration. Saying the words “general strike” could be too soon. It could also be a great act of hubris, given that the university could be as willing to play hardball with students as UM was. But I still reckon that there is the potential for something great to happen if student orgs can converge for real action on campus.

COVID-19 currently shows no sign of letting up. For as long as it continues, universities across the country are bound to make more decisions that put the livelihoods of their students in jeopardy. The lesson of the UM action is that the forces behind these decisions are strong, but also that the GEO and organizations alongside it were willing to throw down to preserve the rights of their students. This is a lesson that student organizers need to internalize as hard as they possibly can. If the opportunity arises, we need to be as ready as possible to seize it.

-L. Niño

Who Is The Holmes Hall RA?: O. Justice, Where Art Thou?

Editor’s Note: We regret to inform you that The Evening Look’s Holmes Hall correspondent O. Justice has found Jesus and now lends his extensive investigative talents to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. L. Squirrel has temporarily taken up the quest to discover the elusive Holmes Hall in his stead. This is the story of how we lost Justice. We eagerly await his return.

Read the first installment of the Holmes Hall series here.

Dark, wet, and dreary. The perfect weather. With my trenchcoat collar popped and a black bowler hat atop my head, I retain complete anonymity. I am one with the night, only visible by the smoky light of my vintage Woodrow Wilson pipe, custom-engraved with “Black Lives Matter”. I can stealthily drift across the campus of this mysterious institution, rivaling Sisyphus in my devotion to duty. The drizzling rain makes it easier to escape from the clutching grasps of the diabolical swine who roam these forsaken lands. They seek to muzzle me, to cover my mouth and suppress my speech by force. But I will not be silenced. As a wise man once stated, they merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. And men of the darkness do not wear masks.

The weather reminds me of a similar night many moons ago. The night when I became a pariah. But I was not searching for the place that currently occupies my every waking moment. I was searching for a person. I was searching for the foundational scholar of this column and the quest it entails — Justice himself. He had been missing for almost sixteen hours. He left at dawn that morning, stumbling half-naked off the second-floor balcony of our offices and proclaiming a breakthrough in the case. It was the second-to-last time I would ever see my friend. 

I knew something was terribly wrong when the clock struck eleven. He never missed an opportunity to lay back in the moldy reclining chair stolen from his grandmother’s estate sale, throw back some gin & tonic, and accuse Jimmy Kimmel of war crimes. His absence from this nightly ritual was a grim sign indeed. I set off immediately, searching for the obvious signs: a trail of discarded mini bottles of Fireball or the scent of cocaine cut with Annie’s white cheddar mac n’ cheese powder. I picked up a trail that took me in circles around a large, circular brick building, finally concluding by the statue of a man dribbling a basketball in shorts that revealed a disconcertingly large bulge. Perplexed, I wondered if it was indicative of a larger health issue. Fearing that all was lost, my attention was suddenly drawn to the gray-roofed quadrilateral complex to my east.

The building was surrounded by flashing lights, blinding me with their suddenness in my pitch-black surroundings. I had seen nothing like that since a forgotten day in Budapest many years ago. I walked up to the building, sneaking past the driverless cars to take a look inside. Peering through the foggy glass, I saw Justice for the last time. He was magnificent, riding a Zamboni in circles around the ice as he tossed popcorn at imaginary spectators, a Taiwanese flag draped from his shoulders. A field of broken glass littered the rink and a gigantic container of industrial lubricant lay sideways, spilling its contents into the west net. It was an ethereal sight, but it disappeared before I could truly comprehend its brilliance. A cadre of armed men swooped down from the rafters, tackling Justice to the ice. I turned away, unable to watch the scene unfolding before me. Justice may be blind, but I can see clearly now. The rain is gone. I can see all the obstacles in my way. They told us that Justice was put into rehab. They told us he was doing well; he discovered the Bible from some missionaries and was moving to Utah. But I know the truth.

You may have gotten my friend. Converted him to your coffee-less hullabaloo, filling another page in your binders full of men. But know this, o’ faithless guardians of Holmes Hall. I am coming. I will not cease. I am homeless, untethered to this mortal realm. And so I fear not the reaper as I throw glass at stone houses. And I will tear down the gates that guard this modern-day Forbidden City, unleashing its many gifts upon the world. I just have to find it first.

– L. Squirrel

Mr. Stanley, Tear Down The Frats

Congratulations for making it this far into the year, Spartans! And double congratulations to the upperclassmen and freshmen savvy enough to grab a last-second sublease. When Mister Doctor Professor Samuel Leonard Stanley Jr. M.D. canceled in-person classes and sent home most on-campus students, our lingering hope of a somewhat normal semester was finally put to rest. However, one campus institution won’t be going anywhere: fraternities and sororities.

Continue reading Mr. Stanley, Tear Down The Frats

Education Apps are a Disease

Going into my freshman year at MSU, I thought I was aware of all the ways that colleges can take extra money on top of tuition. Textbooks? I rented them, unless I was forced to buy a new edition. Blue Books? Bummed them from my friends or Student Services. I was going to be the one college student who was Aware of the System.

Then the education technology showed up.

Continue reading Education Apps are a Disease

There Goes The Last Great American Late Night

After Mr. Dr. President Sir Samuel L. Stanley Jr MD, DDS, Esq.’s decision to kick MSU online this fall, we’re all still dealing with the fallout. Off-campus apartments have been swarmed with freshmen who desperately want to socialize after five months of being trapped in their homes with their parents. I can’t say I blame them.

Continue reading There Goes The Last Great American Late Night

The Day Dantonio Disappeared

In the year of our lord 2015, Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans had their final truly great season together (2017 was a good year for MSU too, but we’ll get to that later). These Spartans went 11-1 in the regular season, losing only to unranked Nebraska and securing the win against the hated Michigan Wolverines off of some infamous trouble with the snap.

After plowing through the rest of their schedule and defeating Iowa in the Big Ten championship match, the Spartans were ranked no. 3. On December 31st, these Spartans, with the collective momentum of a near-perfect season and the wind at their backs, faced off with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff.  

And they got broken in half, 38-0.

Continue reading The Day Dantonio Disappeared

The Two Hundred Million Dollar Man

On October 11, 2019, I was walking back from a regrettable purchase at The Rally House when my phone buzzed. I checked it and saw that The Evening Look had received a message through our contact form. At that point, we had been growing for nine months, so receiving an email was far from unusual. What was unusual was who sent it: Corey Washington, Director of Analytics at MSU’s Office of Research and Innovation. He wanted to invite us onto Manifold, a podcast he co-hosted with then-Vice President for Research and Innovation Stephen Hsu. Washington and Hsu were interested in how the “campus culture wars” of recent years have manifested in recent years and thought we could offer some valuable insight. L. Squirrel and I accepted this invitation, and our interview, recorded on October 15, was featured as part of a “bonus” episode of Manifold along with a separate interview they conducted with Sergei and Derek of The Morning Watch.

As L. Squirrel and I sat for our interview (brutally cut for time because Washington and Hsu repeatedly got into debates amongst themselves), it was obvious to us that Hsu was the more conservative of the two, although much of what led us to that conclusion is missing from the published version of our conversation. However, we failed a spot check on Hsu’s exact beliefs. We failed to realize that an Academic Boomer like Hsu wouldn’t place wild takes on his barren Twitter, but instead that he’d do it old school. We’re talking Blogspot.com, baby!

Just over eight months later, MSU president Samuel Stanley requested Hsu’s resignation from his role at the OVPRI, which Hsu accepted with a little bit of grumbling. How did Hsu fall from successful podcast host and renowned research genius, known for securing $200 million more per year in research expenditures for MSU compared the amount before his tenure, to merely a tenured physics professor in that short span? 

Continue reading The Two Hundred Million Dollar Man

Abolish The Senate

You might know the House of Lords- I mean, the United States Senate, for currently being in recess despite not passing any COVID relief measures since March, for not impeaching the president earlier this year (yes, that really was just February), and for generally refusing to do anything of value. Sure, all of those things are Mitch McConnell’s fault, but it is also because the senate is a backwards, undemocratic dumpster fire. And it should be abolished.

Continue reading Abolish The Senate

Renee Richer Wants To Bring Science, Maturity To The State House

Back in April, we featured Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), representative for Michigan’s 108th state House district, in an article entitled “The Weirdest Guy In The House.” We expected the article to reach our normal audience of bored James Madison students at MSU. Instead, it reached LaFave himself, who posted about it several times to prove that he was not mad and even selectively quoted it in his Twitter bio as if it was not an article making fun of him. 

This sort of childish behavior is something you expect from say, a student blog, not an elected official. Fortunately, voters in District 108 have a much better choice. We had the honor to sit down over Zoom with Dr. Renee Richer (D-Gladstone), the candidate running against him this November, and we’re proud to say that we came away with a better understanding of what a good representative for the district sounds like.

Continue reading Renee Richer Wants To Bring Science, Maturity To The State House

For Whom The Cube Freezes

Meltdown May passed us in name, but fear not: June brought a new cavalcade of embarrassing public spectacles for once-beloved public figures. But while JK Rowling burnt the rest of her goodwill away by tripling down on her transphobia, another man sought to co-opt the clout of the recent Black Lives Matter unrest to tarnish his reputation even further. That man happens to be Ice Cube, notorious rapper and kids’ movie actor. Ice Cube has never been a stranger to controversy in his rap career (in many cases for good), but lapsed into embarrassment during a moment where he couldn’t seem to put down his phone. Some of the stuff coming out of his feed was just kind of ridiculous: foot fetish content disguised as Black Israelite imagery, claims that Olmec stone heads labeled “Olmec Statue” originate from Ethiopia, false claims that the Simpsons predicted Trump, and images of Trump in Joker paint (as well as some legitimately pointed political imagery, to be fair). The final nail in the coffin, however, came when Ice Cube cited an antisemitic (and frighteningly obtuse) simulation theory involving Zionist control of reality. The wounds are still fresh from the recent murders of George Floyd et al, and this provocation read as even more pathetic in that light.

Ice Cube isn’t the first public figure to use an activist pretense for grift or self-sabotage. Singer Erykah Badu disappointed many when she came out as an R. Kelly apologist, someone who had already attempted to co-opt black power imagery to defend against credible sexual assault and human trafficking allegations. The recent memory of many white celebrities not getting the hint from the ‘Imagine’ video and producing something even more embarrassing also illuminates a desire to suck up some of the movement’s oxygen. This isn’t just celebrities trying to performatively seize upon the movement’s popularity for woke points, either — it also has a lot to do with centrists trying to bend the movement towards them. This grift has even extended into the antiracism reading lists that are popular right now. Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, one of the most popular books among newly woke Twitter liberals, has used her clout to monetize diversity training (in deeply flawed models), something that’s bound to become an increasingly successful tactic in the near future. This isn’t so much a failing of the movement as much as an indication of the blatant cynicism of those who co-opt it for their own enrichment.

Likewise, it’s easy to form parasocial relationships with people who we perceive as activists. The Internet in late capitalism has erased many barriers between communication, which is undoubtedly a net good in countless social scenarios: There are examples, like rapper Noname’s online Book Club, of celebrities attempting to use their platforms to genuinely educate people. But for every one of these instances, there are several of public figures using their alignments for clout or worse. A good example of this cynical approach is writer Shaun King. King has often taken advantage of his position as a self-appointed leader of BLM to grift his way into a sea of consistently failing projects that have now jeopardized his goodwill with virtually all of his former allies. The most glaring example of this came with the collapse of his plan to rebuild Frederick Douglass’s North Star newspaper, which led to many funding concerns and outright lies about the treatment of employees. It’s now gotten so obvious that some of the biggest BLM advocacy networks have actively advised people not to donate to him.

Does that mean that there is no one in the movement to trust? Far from it. Across the country, BLM movements with boots on the ground have begun to form strong coalitions to bring home the goods. Using Detroit as an example, most of the actual work on the ground has been through organizations that organize over Facebook. Despite using an internet-based platform, it hasn’t devolved into performatism and has remained strictly rooted in the direct action that’s been going on in the street. It has leaders, but nothing close to self-declared ubermensch sucking away traffic from the core issues of the movement.

Dave Chappelle once struck a nerve by asking whether or not we really want to hear from Ja Rule in a time of crisis and unrest. In his recent YouTube special 8:46, he brought this back to specifically say that his voice does not matter in comparison to the masses in a world where every major city is in uproar. This isn’t to say that we should scorn solidarity from public figures – rather that we need to move beyond them. Whatever happens, in this movement or the next, it should happen with or without blue checks chiming in. 

Support Black Lives Matter here.

-L. Niño