The Caltech Diversity Center has begun a lecture series on campus called “food for thought,” where, as you may have guessed if you know any college students, they bribe students with food to convince them to listen to amazing speakers on interesting topics (you might think that amazing speakers and interesting topics alone would be enough to entice Caltech students away from their homework, but you would be surprised). This weekend, the CCD hosted a talk by Caltech English professor Dr. Jennifer Jahner, on the topic of “The Politics of Protest.” The CCD catered the event with our local and beloved Mexican food truck, Ernie’s.
The talk began with an introduction to the vocabulary of protest, specifically the delineation between violent and non-violent action. We then talked about different types of non-violent action, as described very well by this list of over one hundred examples.
Dr. Jahner described a few instances of non-violent action taken recently, that we had all seen in the news (and also participated in: many people who attended this lecture had recently been in the Women’s March or in protests at LAX against the immigration ban).
Dr. Jahner also led a discussion about public reaction to nonviolent protest, specifically our individual reactions to observing protest. As an example, she asked us to reflect on our reactions to seeing Black Lives Matter protestors over the past few years. She then compared our reactions to reactions to the Civil Rights Movement, and discussed how public perception of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s was very negative towards the nonviolent sit-ins, marches, and even the Freedom Riders (across the country, not just in the South), while Americans believed the marchers and riders were being too confrontational. She brought up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” as the best explanation for why nonviolent action is so necessary.
All in all it was an amazing and eye-opening talk, and I’m looking forward to attending more events in this series. I’m so glad there is a group on campus (the CCD) leading discussions on big issues like this.
One of the most exciting aspects of college life is the freedom that students enjoy when living on their own. When most students think about college life, one of the first things that comes to mind is Greek life, with the many sororities and fraternities on campuses across the country. While Caltech does not have Greek life, per se, we do have a unique housing system, similar to that of Hogwarts. There are eight houses and one residence on campus: Avery, Blacker, Dabney, Fleming, Lloyd, Page, Ricketts, Ruddock, and the Bechtel Residence. Each of the houses has its own unique culture, character, and traditions. I am a member of Ruddock House!
This past year was so different than most of us could have ever imagined. Living in “the virtual school year” posed a plethora of challenges, but at the same time, it opened the door to new possibilities. As a society, we learned how to better operate in a virtual world, and as individuals, we had time for new endeavors. For myself, this meant taking the leap of faith to move away from home and live with some fellow Techers. While I had already had the experience of moving away from home and coming to live in the Caltech houses, this was quite different. Instead of living in organized student residences with hundreds of other students, a meal plan, and tons of support resources, I was about to go live with just 5 other people (some of which I did not know super well) and we had to find and manage our own housing, food, and necessities.
My favorite part about Caltech is the Houses! The easiest way to describe them is as Hogwarts houses: each has their own personality and group of people and the first thing you do at Caltech is go through a “sorting” process. The people are what makes the Houses at Caltech so great. As a frosh, it’s amazing to be able to come in and immediately have a group of 100+ people to support you. Because the Houses have students from every grade, you make friends with upperclassmen and can ask for help on tons of things like: