How to Achieve Your Goals for 2017

How to Achieve Your Goals for 2017

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If you’re like most Americans, you probably made some New Year’s resolutions. According to a report from NBC, some of the most popular ones are getting healthier, getting organized, and learning new hobbies…but most are forgotten about after a few weeks. For a lot of people, they start with unrealistic resolutions, don’t know how to manage their time and then give up easily.

Goal setting

I know how frustrating it is to set a goal and then completely give up on it. Fortunately, I think that keeping these three tips in mind can help you achieve whatever resolutions you’ve made for yourself this year.

  1. Focus. To make sure your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen. Moreover, make sure that your goals are SMART:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

  1. Momentum. Goal setting is an ongoing activity. Make reminders in your phone or planner to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain the same over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

  1. Bloom. One of my favorite quotes is, “Learn to bloom where you are planted. Even if you find yourself planted under some concrete at the moment, look for the crack in the concrete to find your way out.”

And finally, don’t give up and no matter how fast or slow your progress is, make sure you take the time to celebrate the little victories! By utilizing these tips, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals in the new year.

 

College Kids Don’t Understand the First Amendment, Hate It Anyway

College Kids Don’t Understand the First Amendment, Hate It Anyway

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Last spring, I wrote about college students hating free speech. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to explain why 22 percent of college students believe that “colleges should prohibit biased or offensive speech in the furtherance of a positive learning environment.” Students are done a disservice when administrators promote “safe spaces” and systems to report microaggressions for situations where students face speech they don’t like or can’t handle.

the_worst_thing_about_censorship-4ea871c-introBut now, I think that that 22% of American students just don’t understand the freedoms protected by the First Amendment – and they hate it because it’s the cool thing to do.

If you haven’t seen the news coverage, countless protests have taken place around the country that are, essentially, against free speech. The irony abounds.

Most recently, Jake Goldberg, a Tufts University sophomore, proposing a sweeping free speech resolution to the campus community, was viciously attacked and maligned on social media by peers who suggest he’s only lobbying for free speech so he can be free to say racist and oppressive things. This is often the tactic taken by those looking to limit freedom. They take the most vile example to become the argument that those advocating for freedom are fighting for.

Tufts University has some of the most restrictive free speech policies in the country, and Goldberg’s resolution calls for an end to campus anti-free speech rules. These rules include vague administrative provisos that crack down on the “use of nicknames,” “hurtful words,” “bias-fueled jokes,” “comments on an individual’s body or appearance,” “innuendos of a sexual nature,” and “gender bias.”

Goldberg created the resolution on behalf of a new organization he co-created called Students Advocating for Students. But many students reacted to the resolution in fits of online rage. Using social media and campus email, students called him every NSFW/K name imaginable.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

How can these students not understand the concept of free speech, and how it’s protected by the First Amendment, when they immediately “peacefully assemble,” or protest, when they’re met with ideas that they don’t like?

In an age where censorship is running rampant on college campuses, students need to realize that it’s their freedom that is at stake – the freedom to say, write and think what they want.

Who’s On Your Short List?

Who’s On Your Short List?

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American industrialist and businessman, J. Paul Getty, wrote in his book, “How to Be Rich,” that:

“…it has always been my contention that an individual who can be relied upon to be himself and to be honest unto himself can be relied upon in every other way.”

TeamworkAs one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, Getty’s soundbites about living richly are definitely something to take to heart.

In the full year I’ve been outside the comforts of university life, I’ve learned more about the importance of reliability than I ever thought I would. At first, I learned how to rely on myself and my own skills when I moved a few hundred miles away from my family. Then, I learned to rely on those around me, which helped me create a new support system. Now, I work each and every day to be someone that others can rely on.

It is my hope that I’m on many “short lists.” Meaning, if a friend, family member, or co-worker had something important they needed help with, that I would be on their short list of people to call.

For example, I received a phone call from a college friend that I haven’t seen since graduation. She was in the Indianapolis area and wanted to know if she could potentially stay with me in case she was too tired to make the long drive home after a few meetings. I was  humbled that she thought of me – during my undergraduate years, I tried my very best to make sure that those around me knew that I could be someone who they could depend on.

Sometimes though, I drop the ball – I’m only human. We all are.

But even if people that occasionally drop the ball are honest with themselves and with others, as Getty mentions, it makes a difference.

I unfortunately can count on more than two hands (and two feet) the number of times I have encountered those who appear to be reliable, but end up doing more harm than they do good.

Even worse are those who use outlets like social media to gloat about how they used their time and talents “for good” without realizing how badly they set back the team, group, or project.

There was a saying that became popular during my last year in college:

“When I die, I hope [class project group member] lowers me into my grave so that they can let me down one last time.”

Although it’s hilarious (and morbid), think about it.

Do your actions make others want you on their short list? Or are you just going through the motions?

Don’t Just Depend On A Piece Of Paper

Don’t Just Depend On A Piece Of Paper

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This week, I participated in a panel discussion for new students beginning their college careers at my alma mater, Ball State University. I shared my experiences on campus, talked about leadership, how to find the right job after graduation, and what I am doing now with The Advocates for Self-Government with the Class of 2021 C.L.A.S.S. participants.

Ball StateDuring the Q and A portion of the panel, a student asked if earning my degree was more important than the professional experience I gained by completing internships during undergrad.

This is what I told him:

I wouldn’t be where I am professionally without the networking I did as an undergrad. Networking led to internships which led to my professional career. However, the journalism, history, graphic design, and political science classes I took gave me the technical skills I needed to succeed in professional clubs and internships.

In other words, I don’t think that it is important for students to depend on a piece of paper alone. A degree in a subject that one is truly passionate about is great – but it’s not the be-all and end-all of your education.

I have friends that never earned a college degree but have incredibly successful careers. I have other friends that have multiple degrees and are stuck in jobs that make them miserable.

My advice to college students is to take advantage of every single opportunity this upcoming school year and throughout your college career.

Do your best in your classes and ask for help when you need it. If there is a professional club on campus that is relevant to your major, attend a few meetings. If your department is hosting an alumni mixer, GO, and introduce yourself to professionals. Ask for their business cards and keep in touch.

One of my favorite quotes comes from actress Tina Fey:

“Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.”

College is where you’re supposed to take risks, learn, and GROW personally and professionally.

Now, get out there and grow.

Be Your Own Advocate

Be Your Own Advocate

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I have the unique experience of sharing the same alma mater as my parents. I grew up hearing stories about how things were when they were at school, the friends they made, and the professors who helped shaped their worldviews. When it was my turn to attend college, I remember my parents making a lot of comments about how different my experience was going to be from theirs. And as a recent graduate, I agree.

AdvocateThe ‘culture’ of college campuses has changed greatly since my parents were in school. Recent events at Mizzou, Yale University, and Occidental College have garnered national attention. Moreover, the way that college administrators have reacted to those events have shown how they are contributing to the creation of, in my opinion, the most coddled generation.

I think one of the most important aspects of growing into adulthood is learning how to handle one’s self professionally.

During my undergraduate years, I had multiple classmates with difficulties discussing issues or grievances with professors, faculty, and other students. Rather than confronting the issue in an adult way, they would often take to social media to complain, would involve a department head when it was unnecessary…or would have their parents take care of it.

I think that there are some very extreme situations in academics when it’s important to rely on others for help.

But when the issues at hand can be resolved in a short, face-to-face conversation, it’s important to rely on one’s self. My advice to incoming freshmen is simple: be your own advocate.

Nothing is going to boost confidence more than learning how to stand up for one’s self. Life lessons like this one can transcend the majority of material in a classroom and can help in the workplace, too.

College is a time of growth. Do you want to take an active role in that growth or do you want to take a backseat and let someone else drive?

 

Fear Shouldn’t Dictate Action

Fear Shouldn’t Dictate Action

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In the last year, dozens of student protests on college campuses have called for everything from supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement to demanding that school administrators address microaggressions on campus. From Mizzou to Yale University and Occidental College, these
demands have garnered national attention.

ClevelandBut one of the most recent incidents that happened on a college campus? A “safe space” that was provided by Case Western Reserve University in order to “assist those psychologically or physically traumatized by the prospect of Republicans being in Cleveland and giving speeches,” that hardly anyone utilized.

Located a few miles from where the Republican National Convention was held, the university made a statement in The Daily, that the private school’s Social Justice Institute “will host a ‘safe space’” in the basement of Crawford Hall for the duration of the convention.

“After extensive consultation among our leadership team and discussions in last week’s open forums, we have decided that the university will reduce its on-campus operations significantly from Monday, July 18, through the close of the convention Thursday, July 21,” the statement explained.

Classes were cancelled or moved off campus. Essentially, faculty, staff, and students were told to take the week off. The statement also reminded students that University Counseling Services would “continue to offer walk-in services for students who want to talk with someone about their concerns related to recent events and/or the upcoming convention.”

According to The College Fix, Case Western closed down most of that week because it allowed hundreds of police officers to stay in their residence halls for the duration of the RNC. (And that made a few groups very unhappy.)

“Recent events” in the university’s statement must have referred to the number of altercations between police officers and civilians this summer. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas have had this country on edge. Protests leading up to and during the Republican National Convention were expected to be large and violent, but according to The Washington Post, they were small and uneventful.

It’s understandable that the university wanted to look out for the safety of faculty, staff, and students. But as an institution of higher education, isn’t it important to teach young people that fear should never win or dictate action?

Instead of using current events as a teachable moment, the “better safe than sorry” mentality only succeeded in drawing attention away from what was really important for students – their education.

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

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For the last year, I’ve written more than a dozen articles about free speech on college campuses. From safe spaces, to microaggression reporting systems, and multiple campus protests that received national attention, it is clear that our nation’s universities are doing its students a disservice when administrators create nonsensical consequences for forms of speech that they don’t like.

UCAlthough it seems like the First Amendment is a fading part of campus life, there is hope, and a few simple ways to safeguard free speech at colleges and universities.

On Tuesday, a professor at the University of Chicago wrote an opinion piece for RealClearPolitics, outlining a five-point plan for reversing the trend of restricting potentially offensive speech.

In it, Charles Lipson argues that free speech on college campuses is on the verge of becoming extinct, and that administrators are largely to blame for the increased censorship.

“Today, dean-of-students offices are devoted to comforting delicate snowflakes and soothing their feelings. If that means stamping out others’ speech, too bad.”

His solution? It starts with communication at all levels. Step one, he says, is to make sure that the board of trustees “demands to know if free speech is protected on their campuses, in principle and in practice.” Then, he says that university presidents and top administrators should be held accountable for those results.

Second, he says that college acceptance letters should stress that, “our school believes in free speech, open debate, and diverse opinions. You will hear different views on controversial topics. You are urged to read, write, and develop your own views, but you may not suppress others.”

Lipson points out that students who are afraid of intellectual challenges should go to school elsewhere.

Third, he argues that one administrator should be appointed strictly to monitor free speech activities and to make sure that open debate happens on campus. Next, he demands that, “student affairs offices stop suppressing basic academic freedoms and start supporting them.” Lipson mentions that the office of student affairs shouldn’t exist to shield students from uncomfortable ideas or to suppress their speech.

Finally, Lipson wants students to know that they have every right to protest peacefully, but they have no right to disrupt others, and they will be punished if they do. He expresses that administrators who “coddle rabble-rousers” often ignore their corrosive effects.

Similarly, administrators at Gettysburg College created a new speech policy in April, which stresses the college’s commitment to free expression – even when forms of expression are seen as offensive. This comes after some student groups became upset about pro-life posters on campus.

The policy reads in part:

“Any effort by members of the College community to limit openness in this academic community is a matter of serious concern and militates against the freedom of expression and the discovery of truth. Each member of the community is therefore free to express their point of view on, or opposition to, any issue of public interest within reasonable restrictions of time, place and manner. Each member of the community is also expected to help guarantee the ability of other community members to express themselves freely. No group or individual has the right to interfere with the legitimate activity of other authorized persons and groups as interference with expression compromises the College’s goal of creating an environment where issues can be openly discussed.”

Although some of the steps proposed may seem small, they could do wonders for free speech on college campuses if implemented by administrators.

UC at San Diego Sued to Enforce First Amendment Rights

UC at San Diego Sued to Enforce First Amendment Rights

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Last week, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit claiming the University of California at San Diego and the Associated Students Council defunded student organizations in retaliation for a controversial article published by a satirical paper, The Koala.

KoalaThe student paper, which has been published at UCSD since 1982, made fun of politically correct or “PC” culture last November in an article entitled, “UCSD Unveils News Dangerous Space on Campus.”

It mocked the use of “safe spaces,” repeatedly used the “N-word,” and mentioned the opening of a “dangerous space” to accommodate “individuals who do not like feeling safe…continuing the university’s theme of inclusion and equality.”

In a 22-3 vote on Nov. 18, the student government association eliminated funding for all 13 active student-funded media outlets on campus. Gabe Cohen, editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper The Koala, known for its vulgar shock-value humor, said his publication is being targeted specifically.

The council’s vote came the same day UC San Diego administrators posted an online denouncement of The Koala as “profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking and cruel.”

Cohen criticized the budget cut, calling it as “thinly veiled censorship” aimed at The Koala in particular. He pointed out that The Koala’s $3,000 annual budget makes up a small portion of the total student government budget — less than one percent.

“The decision sends a dangerous message to the campus, which is essentially, ‘If we don’t like what you’re saying, we’ll do everything we can to shut you up, even if that means harming innocents in the process,’” he said. “A.S. hoped this would make us go bow down and go away, but in reality they challenged a belligerent drunk to a fist fight.”

So far, The Koala has raised $1,000 in addition to securing advertising contracts, Cohen said, adding that San Diego State University’s chapter of the publication draws its funding solely from ad revenues, “proving it is not impossible to run without school funding,” he said.

Now, with help from the ACLU, Koala staffers hope to overturn the cut by taking legal action.

The ACLU’s legal filing quotes extensively from the Bias Incident Report Forms, submitted to the college by students offended by The Koala’s article.

“[The publication] propagates insensitive mindsets with its sexist and racist comments masked under cruel humor,” one complaint said. “Screen works to make sure that there is no propagation of these attitudes.”

Another complaint demanded the university “immediately take the initiative to end any hate speech, actions or crimes that offend any groups represented on this campus.”

The Bias Response Incident Reports apparently prompted action, with one administrator noting, “we do not typically receive so many reports regarding single issue.” The student government responded by ending funding for all printed student media, even though it continues to pay for other forms of speech like forums and events with speakers.

The ACLU argues that “however offensive or outrageous it may have been, the article remains protected speech on topical issues of public concern, including but not necessarily limited to the nature, purpose, and appropriateness of trigger warnings and safe spaces on college and university campuses.”

Cohen agrees.

“Part of attending a university is learning through considering opinions and voices that differ from your own, which you might not agree with,” he said. “Cutting funding to print media is a slippery step in the direction of anti-intellectualism and paternalism that should have no place on this campus.”

A motion for a preliminary injunction will be heard in federal court on July 18, 2016.

Elkhart, Indiana Thrives Despite Obama Administration’s Policies

On Wednesday, President Obama returned to my hometown, Elkhart, Indiana. It was the first city he visited after becoming president in 2009 during the middle of the Great Recession. The “RV Capital of the World,” our county’s unemployment rate jumped to 18.9 percent – the highest in the country. Now, the administration views Elkhart as a symbol of America’s recovery.

I was a sophomore in high school at the time and the majority of my friends had parents who had been laid off or who were underemployed. Everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, struggled.

I remember in that first speech at Concord Community High School, an optimistic president promised that under his administration, we would be able to rise above our current struggles. Jobs would be created, everyone would have healthcare, and we would reinvest in our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

Following that visit, Obama urged Congress to pass an $800 billion economic stimulus package to keep the nation from slipping further into a recession that “we may be unable to reverse.” Elkhart was pushed to diversify its industry and promised millions of dollars of grants to jump start an electric car industry, specifically. With a $39.2 million federal grant, officials at Navistar Inc.predicted they could create 700 jobs.

But, it never came to fruition.

South Main StreetIn 2012, I had the opportunity to interview Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary, about what else was going to be done by the administration to aid Elkhart County. He touted that we [Elkhart] should be, “proud of the current unemployment rate.”

At that time, the unemployment rate was around 10 percent.

Currently, Elkhart County is in a better place than it was in 2009. The unemployment rate is around 4 percent, but it is delusional to attribute this growth to the empty promises of our current administration.

Promises and policies like cleaner air and water, universal healthcare, and higher wages were said to have contributed to some of Elkhart’s successes during Wednesday’s PBS town hall, even though this administration has polluted the Animas River, severely worsened the national debt, and is rewarding states for Affordable Care Act exchange failures.

Despite all of the government waste and abuse, Elkhart has thrived. But, how?

Elkhart County is home to some of the most hard-working, dedicated, and determined people that I have ever met. When times got tough, I saw families (including my own), reinvent their businesses and take a chance on a wavering economy. The community put the economy first and made shopping local a priority.

Knowing that education could help us solve our community’s long-term problems, I saw students study harder – my graduating class was the first to earn more than $1 million in scholarships (mainly from private institutions.)

Elkhart County is living proof that the American dream still exists: you just have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work when your government won’t.

A Rough Week for Free Speech – Fraternity Edition

A Rough Week for Free Speech – Fraternity Edition

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It’s been a rough few weeks for free speech on college campuses with regard to Greek Life. In two separate instances at Illinois colleges, fraternities came under fire for…hurting feelings.

PaintMembers of the Millikan University chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon will no longer be allowed to wear face and body paint at recruitment events according to Nicki Rowlett, Assistant Director of Inclusion and Student Engagement.

Face paint is “cultural appropriation,” according to a student complaint last year.

In her email to the TKE president, Rowlett states:

“Members of [Tau Kappa Epsilon] are prohibited from wearing black and red paint, wigs/and or clothing items that mimic or depict an ethnicity or culture. Failure to comply with the expectation will result in immediate removal from the event, and additional student conduct sanctions.”

At Northwestern University, fraternities apologized for hanging anti-sexual assault banners on their houses after feminists on campus got offended.

Northwestern’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) soon “faced criticism over the banners,” with some students saying they were “in poor taste due to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in fraternities,” while others argued that simply putting up banners was not enough to stop sexual assault and doing so was offensive.

Banners featuring statements like, “This is everyone’s problem” and “(fraternity name) supports survivors,” had been hung on the houses for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which was in April. Students were so upset with these banners that the IFC issued a public apology:

“We recognize now how this campaign may have been emotionally triggering for survivors, and we want to make a deep, genuine apology for anyone that may have been affected,” the board said in the statement. “This was not our intent, but it is our fault for not being cognizant enough and not considering how it might affect others in our community.”

Because of these criticisms, the IFC announced plans to create a four-year sexual assault education program.

Both universities involved are private and should do what they want, of course. But, where will the “harsh consequences for feelings sake,” end?

No one at Millikan owns the colors blue, red, or black. And the only “appropriation” they were doing was of themselves – it’s the fraternity’s tradition. Will administrators start banning face paint at school sporting events, pep rallies, and activity fairs?

And why are students at Northwestern so upset about fraternities showing their support for victims of sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Outraged students claim that these banners were in poor taste, but according to the Northwestern Annual Security Report, there were only three rapes reported on the Evanston campus in 2014. (And the report doesn’t say if those crimes were committed by fraternity members or not.)

Regardless of a student’s’ affiliation in Greek Life or not, ALL students are done a disservice when administrators and others create these nonsensical consequences when they are faced with forms of speech they don’t like.