Friday, July 6, 2012

Civility and Righteousness

My morning today was just like the rest, so I'll skip straight to when class started.

The cases we studied today, centered around civil rights. We went over all of the most famous and prominent Supreme Court Decisions concerning treatment of African-Americans: Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, and both of the Brown v. the Board of Education cases. It's sad to see how terribly we used to address issues of equality.

At lunch, I attended a college admissions talk, centered around Columbia University. A Columbia admissions officer went over what Columbia and many other schools are looking for in a student. To be honest, I didn't hear anything new. I wanted to do a community service project at lunch today, but this was all that was available.

The second half of class was spent watching a movie. It was a documentary about how civil rights codes like the Geneva Convention were violated, directly following 9/11. The amount of evidence that places like Guantanamo Bay used torture techniques is staggering.

I spent most of my time after class sitting outside. I was working on a poem about my thoughts on NYC. I performed this at the Open Mic Night on campus, later that evening.

I'm sorry that my blog is so brief this time, but we are doing a lot tomorrow, and I have to wake up early.

The City That Does Not Rest

Today in class, everyone contributed less than usual to the discussion. I'm not sure about everyone else, but speaking for myself I can tell you that I stayed up really late at night trying to work on my research paper for the class and by the next morning, I was absolutely exhausted. It wasn't that I did not know what to say or did not know about the specifics about the reading, because I did. Similarly, it wasn't like I did not contribute at all, I still contributed quite a lot and eagerly raised my hand many times throughout our discussion. Although it was still quite a bit of contribution to the discussion, it was just not as much as I typically did every other day. To be honest, I was just so exhausted and a lot of times, the other students in the class had already said the points right before I had the chance to say them aloud. Regardless, I'm planning to rest and catch up on my sleep tonight in preparation for the big days that await me. In a city that does not rest, today shall be the day I catch up (or at least try to catch up) on the sleep that I've been deprived of lately. I can ensure you this upcoming week will be a successful week
Aside from the first session, Aurea and I headed back to the dining halls for lunch but we only stayed for 15 minutes. I had to sacrifice my lunch to attend an amdissions talk with one of the admission officers at Columbia University. I love the university so much that I considered the talk a priority over the importance of my lunch meal. I'm actually really glad I went because the information exchanged in the presentation was really important to me and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the admission officers currently there. She had such a nice personality! It was really an honor to meet her today, I enojoyed her company a lot.

The talk lasted all day and then followed session two, dinner, and confidential talks with Mrs.L. I was actually planning not to go anywhere so maybe I can go somewhere sunday, but instead I decided I needed a break from all the work around m me so I to do something more relaxing rtoday. I decide tvisit there because I thought it would be more engaging in terms of communication bases. Overall, I did have a relaxing day and I did enjoy the trip. So you can say the outcome of my day was in the end successful.

Top of the Rock and Democracy

My morning  back fell into my usual routine, there wasn't even a fire alarm to spice things up.  

Once again, it was Jeffrey teaching the morning class. The central theme of today were the rights established by the 14th and 13th Amendments, which guaranteed basic civil rights and equal protection for all US citizens. Cases such as Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Fergurson, and Brown v. Board dealt with the central issue of whether segregation and discrimination were considered unconstitutional under either Amendment. 

It was interesting to see the to see how biased the Prosecution's arguments; they were obviously fueled by racism and bigotry rather than valid legal arguments. They even went as far as to dehumanize African-Americans by refusing to acknowledge their citizenship. The job of these justices is to fairly interpret the Constitution and use said interpretations to solve legal issues without allowing their bias to get in the way.

During lunch, Columbia hosted a information seminar. I found the Columbian admissions process to be very similar to that of the other Ivy Leagues; they expect students to achieve the best grades possible in the highest level courses available, to partake in extracurricular, and to present their personal statement in a way that easily and effectively captures their personalty. Besides the infamous Columbia swimming test, there wasn't much presented information that was particularly unique to Columbia, which was somewhat disappointing. However, I was able to get a few things out of the seminar, as hearing the admissions officer talk about how they were looking for more original personal statements gave me a few ideas of how I wanted to write and present my own. Some of the ideas I came up with included a third-person story format as well as an essay on how my childhood inspirations and aspirations helped my grow up into I am today. 

The afternoon class, which was taught by both Luke and Jeffery, was spent watching the documentary Torture and Democracy. The documentary was about the constitutionality and ethics of torture conducted by the United States, specifically the torture cases associated Guantanamo Bay detention camp after the events of 9/11. The film brought upon a somber mood and a disgusted reaction from the class, as well as a very controversial question--can extreme methods torture be justified by the prospect of national security?  The class was unable to reach a definite answers; some, including myself, were so adamant about the illegality of torture that cannot be overlooked while others argued that the lives and safety the nation outweighed those of suspected detainees. The question was soon followed by similar rhetorical questions such as, such as whether one could make the conscious decision to kill one person if it meant preserving the lives of many others. 

After class came our usual meeting with Mrs. L. Today's meeting was the same as usual. We went over our plans for tomorrow, which include trips to NYU's campus and the 9/11 memorial, as well as a dinner with Vassar alumni. We decided that we'll leave at 9:45 tomorrow morning, in order to meet Mrs. L in time for our 11:30 tour of NYU. 

When the meeting was over, Lucas, Morvarid, Brittany, and I decided to take a trip to the Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock. For those who don't know, the Top of the Rock is refers to the gorgeous view of  New York City that can be seen from a top of the Rockefeller Center's 70 stories. We left at 6:30 PM, in order to be able to see the City's landscape during sunset. Before entering the Rockefeller Center, we made a quick visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral located a few blocks away from the Center. The inside of church was very beautiful, but I was unable to take any pictures due to a malfunction with my camera. Luckily, I was able to fix it while inside the Rockefeller Center. 

On the Center's 69th and 70th floor observation decks where were able to see what looked like the entirety of midtown Manhattan. 

The City That Never Sleeps, indeed.

Civil Rights and Emotional Thoughts

After an early morning breakfast and quick review of my notes before class, I decided to brush off the defeat from yesterday and start anew. I knew that I couldn't let the loss in the debate phase me and that I needed to move on.

The morning started off with a review and discussion of the cases read last night, which all dealt with civil rights. The cases were all very saddening but also angering. The amount of contradiction in the cases was just appalling.
  • Dred Scott v. Sanford - Dred Scott sought to win his freedom because he claimed he had been emancipated since he had been taken to live on free land (Illinois). Scott temporarily won freedom but then later lost it when his previous owner wanted him back. After suing and trying to win his freedom again, the Supreme Court decided that Scott wasn't even considered a citizen since he was an African-American slave. He lost the case.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (Separate but equal) - The Supreme Court adapted the constitution to support racial discrimination. Florida was the first state to adapt "Jim Crow" laws, and other Southern states soon quickly followed. Honor Plessy, who was 1/8 African-American, sat in the "White Only" section of a passenger car on a train. He was then arrested and convicted but later fought this in court. Justice Brown rejected Plessy's claim that Jim Crow laws violated the 13th and 14th amendment.
  • Brown v. Board of Education (Separate but not equal) - Mr. Brown was angry that his nine-year-old daughter Linda had to walk a mile across railroad tracks to attend an all-African-American school instead of being able to attend a Caucasian school nearby. Linda applied to the Caucasian school but was rejected because she was African-American. Earl Warren because Chief Justice during this case and expressed his conviction that racially segregated schools denied African-Americans their 14th amendment rights. The Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" in terms of schools in the South was unconstitutional.
After the morning session I got a quick lunch before heading with majority of our cohort to the Columbia Admissions Talk in Lerner Auditorium. I was hoping for more personal information about Columbia's admission process, but the talk fell flat. An admissions officer gave general and simplistic information about the admission's process. They then released Columbia's supplement questions, but those can be easily found online. All in all it was rather disappointing.

The afternoon session of class was very interesting. I was happy to get my quiz back from yesterday and found that I received a score of 11/10! We then watched a 90 minute film which captivated me from beginning to end.
  • Torturing Democracy - The 9/11 attacks frightened and angered all of America. Two weeks after the attacks, Vice President Dick Chaney formed the War Counsel, which launched legal attacks against the Middle East. Any Arab was at risk to being turned in as a terrorist. American soldiers gathered up detainees and tortured them, relentlessly screaming and insulting them. It turned out a large percentage of detainees were shepherds and no evidence or guilty had been found in them, but the Americans would not stop. None of the detainees were protected by war laws, and interrogation camps were similar to Stalin camps. Detainees even had leashes put around their necks and were treated like dogs, some came very close to death during interrogation, and the water-boarding technique was horrifying. The movie was very riveting but at some points in the film I was completely ashamed at America.
When class was over, we had a meeting with Ms. L, which was nice. Then I got a quick dinner before getting dressed to go to my first Broadway play! I saw War Horse, which was absolutely amazing. I am so glad I went. The suspense, sound effects, and acting was riveting and I was so honored to be there.

(From left to right): Kristen, Chiara, and myself
Seating group!
Inside Broadway
War Horse poster

I Can't Help but Wait

Who knew anticipation could be so nerve-wrecking? Or I’m just that impatient, according to my little sister. Let me explain. Last night I was informed about the AP scores being mailed out; a few of my friends actually received theirs. So now I am waiting, patiently of course, for my own scores to arrive. Although, calling one’s little sister twice at 6 AM and 9 AM to ask for the arrival of mail may be pushing it. Anyway, onto my day.

I awoke at my usual time of 8 AM to take a quick shower and change into fresh clothes. I headed down to breakfast and sat myself down quickly to review last night’s reading; the article was quite long and confusing, so I made sure to reread and highlight a few extra lines to understand the material better.

I left the breakfast table a little earlier than expected to review more in class before our discussion began. The document we read was an assessment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s court packing incident. FDR wanted to expand the size of the court, or later on replace a few justices, due to his New Deal programs. The Supreme Court’s justices during FDR’s presidency was comprised of four conservatives, three liberals, and two neutrals. FDR, being a liberal, saw this composition of justices as an obstacle towards the New Deal programs. Laws such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act and Wagner Act were later seen as unconstitutional. What I liked about this article was the unbiased side the writer had for FDR; the past articles we’ve read had an underlying sympathy for the presidents but this document laid out the details and actions of FDR.

After class ended, we rushed to the dining hall to get food before the Columbia undergraduate admissions talk. So after a quick lunch we hurried down to Lerner Hall for the lecture. The admissions talk gave me a better idea of what I would be facing when applying for Columbia University; the supplements portion was the most informative for me. Unfortunately I had to leave a little earlier to grab my needed materials for my second session at Butler Library.

Once I grabbed my materials, I headed up to a more secluded area of the library to get some work down. Sadly, my anticipation came back and I could not concentrate on my readings. My anxiety of knowing my AP scores would not abate.

So after a somewhat productive session on my research paper, I headed to the usual meeting spot with Ms. L and the other cohorts. Today we finalized our plans for the weekend. Tomorrow we will be going to an information session at NYU, Ground Zero Memorial, and then our dinner with Vassar alumni. Then for Sunday we will be going to Chinatown and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Once we finished our meeting, our individual sessions began. Adrianne went first for quite a period of time before I finally went up. Ms. L and I talked about how I felt about everything, the program, the people, the group, and the experience. Ms. L can read people like a book; she noticed my standoffish disposition at times and understood that I liked my space. I prefer to be completely alone at times to reflect on matters at hand and I haven’t had the opportunity here while in New York. It’s okay, I’ll eventually find a time to think about everything without any distractions.

Instead of going with a group to the top of Rockefeller Center, I decided to stay in. I need to do my research paper before I get too behind. And my AP scores have yet to arrive, so my wait will continue till tomorrow…