Editorials

Add/Drop/Swap at Emory University is a failing, antiquated system. That was the case this time last where, when the Wheel published an editorial saying so. It remains true today.  The point of Add/Drop/Swap, a period of time to pick classes before enrollment, is for students to ensure that their schedules meet their requirements and choices for the rest of the semester. In the spring, this period is interrupted, as it must be, by the celebration of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., which means students only attend one Monday/Wednesday class to receive a syllabus. They are then forced to enroll without any substantive class exposure. An extreme example is Introduction to Fiction Writing, a Monday-only class, in which students can enroll but have no opportunity to sit down for the course before Add/Drop/Swap ends. Currently, Add/Drop/Swap does not meet the needs of the student body.

Add/Drop/Swap allows students to test out new professors or different departments without enrolling in the class for the rest of the semester. But when that test does not involve any tangible sources such as adequate Course Atlas information or a portal to access previous course syllabi, Add/Drop/Swap is truly a matter of chance and probability. College Dean Michael A. Elliott sympathized with this particular frustration.“We’ve struggled with how to disseminate this information, he said in an interview, “[The] Course Atlas and OPUS can only contain so much information but yet, more detail is obviously better.”

Financial aid award distribution can justify maintaining Add/Drop/Swap in its current form; certain funds cannot be distributed until this enrollment period ends. However, that does not excuse the lack of a comprehensive process for assessing a course prior to enrollment.

In the past, there was a system for students called LearnLink that served as an informational database for Emory course offerings. LearnLink provided a means of helpfully assessing professors in a way that would aid students during Add/Drop/Swap, but was taken down before BlackBoard was introduced. Students can no longer utilize the database.

According to Elliott, the best way for students to propose a policy change would be through College Council and the Student Government Association (SGA). College Council has already tried to fix this problem by creating a database to which students upload syllabi on OrgSync. This site however has empty folders for certain majors and is a poorly marketed alternative to a simple solution. Allowing qualified students on the Calendar Committee, an administrative group responsible for all changes to the academic calendar, would address the disparity between student concern and administrative reform. This solution would address the problem by going straight to the people responsible for the scheduling, instead of having to work through student government.

The Emory student body has a responsibility to organize desired change. The student body should address the current failure of the Add/Drop/Swap system by persistently contacting the Registrar, deans and faculty members. They must know that students are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until the current system is updated to an acceptable standard.

With the inauguration of President Trump drawing near, highlighting the role of facts in the countless upcoming policy debates is crucial.

The press has traditionally parsed truth from fiction in presenting their findings to the American people. It is often said that a free press strengthens the government’s civic accountability. A free press, however, means little if the American people do not trust it.

Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. A 2016 Gallup study made it clear that news organizations have been losing trust. The most visible manifestation of this trend is the dramatic rise in fake news: a threat to the nation’s public discourse regarding important political issues. With fraudulent stories like the Pope endorsing Trump going viral, the American public has become susceptible to misinformation.

Though media organizations have their share of blame, Trump’s actions contributed to the diminishment of public trust in America’s mainstream press. He has routinely berated and dismissed those institutions that break from his view of reality or have the gall to run a story he views as unfavorable towards him. For example, during his campaign, Trump revoked the press credentials of reputable media outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and The Huffington Post.   

Central to the mission of Emory is finding and spreading truth; the seal of the University consists of a crossed torch and trumpet which represent knowledge and its proclamation, respectively. Faculty, staff, students and alumni of Emory ought to combat fake news by perpetuating truth.

Each member of our community ought to stay loyal to this mantle by subscribing to those newspapers — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal — which have proven themselves trustworthy sources. These papers are not perfect, but each maintains a long history of ethically reporting news on the national level. Students are more than capable of accessing these news sources given complimentary or subsidized subscriptions Emory offers.  

While members of our community should be free to read other news sources, we should remain vigilant and critical of publications that favor sensationalism over the truth. Moreover, our community’s efforts to eliminate fake news must be an active one. We must proactively elevate the truth and weed out everything else.

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. 

On Dec. 5 and 6, the student body will vote on proposed amendments to the Honor Code. The changes, if ratified by a simple majority, will apply only to the College.

After reviewing the proposed changes to the Honor Code, the Editorial Board has voted to support the amendments, but we have concerns with the implementation of the voting process as well as the enactment of some of the amendments.  

Firstly, the Editorial Board recommends that the Honor Council modify the current all-or-nothing voting system in which students must either accept or reject all of the the proposed amendments. The ballot should instead be presented on an amendment-by-amendment basis so that students might determine which individual proposals are in their best interest.

One of the most significant and necessary additions to the Honor Code is a clause forbidding the use of electronic devices during testing. If a student is seen using a cellphone or other prohibited electronic device during a test or exam, the professor may tell the student to put the device away, and the Honor Council would then later investigate the event. However, the clause also states that the student must be allowed to finish their assessment, ensuring that he or she will not be penalized with an incomplete exam grade if found innocent. By providing a clearly stated policy on the use of technology, the Honor Council is removing all ambiguity and preventing students from committing an offense of which they were previously unaware. With the prevalence of smartphones, smartwatches and the like, a clear policy banning the use of devices during testing is a necessity.

The proposed article three gives the Honor Council and dean the power to revoke a diploma after a student has graduated. While the Editorial Board recognizes the need to protect Emory’s academic reputation — and consequently, the credibility of an Emory degree — the finer details of the procedure warrant close inspection.

The procedure lacks a statute of limitations, enabling the College to revoke a degree regardless of the time elapsed since a student’s graduation. This could potentially allow the College to stifle free speech by graduates who should no longer be under Emory’s punitive jurisdiction, as well as conceal the College’s past failures in upholding a standard of academic integrity.

Though we believe the dean, upon the recommendation of the Honor Council,  should have the power to revoke a student’s degree in highly publicized and extreme cases, the lack of specificity in the current provision does not protect students from being unfairly treated or targeted. The Honor Code should exist to protect students’ rights to a fair and timely disciplinary process and the integrity of their education while also holding the necessary power to protect the integrity of an Emory degree.

For future amendments to the Honor Code, the Editorial Board suggests a double jeopardy clause that protects students from being tried more than once for the same infraction, and encourages the Honor Council to establish a minimum number of votes from the student body required to ratify an amendment.

While merely voting “yes” or “no” on the collective amendments simplifies the voting process, the Editorial Board questions why students do not have the ability to vote on each individual clause. Just as the Editorial Board has different opinions concerning each amendment, so too, presumably, would students. With this amendment, since it requires a ratification in full, we believe that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and students should vote “yes”.  

Fostering a culture of academic integrity that benefits both the College and students requires participation from every member of the Emory community. To prevent students from unintentionally violating the new Code and facing consequences for seemingly minor actions, we urge students and those who advise them — professors, PACE instructors, the Office of Undergraduate Education, Orientation Leaders, Residential Life staff — to familiarize themselves with the current Honor Code and its proposed changes, and emphasize its severity and importance. Most importantly, we remind administrators that preserving the University’s reputation should never be prioritized over the best interests of students and alumni.

Despite our criticisms, the Editorial Board believes the proposed changes to the Honor Code are overall necessary and practical. The amendments modernize the Honor Code, while increasing its efficiency and we urge students to vote in favor of the proposed changes.  

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. 

This presidential election has been like a New York City subway brawl between a drunkard and a sober albeit crazy person. Someone will eventually call the cops, but in the meantime everyone takes out their phones to live tweet this mess.

This summer, my parents and I watched the absurdity unfold at the GOP Convention like it was Saturday Night Live. But somewhere between the actress with the avocado farm and an unhinged Rudy Giuliani, I realized that my parents weren’t laughing with me anymore. They were contemplating the words, “Make America great again.” They were muttering “yes” at the mention of enforcing immigration laws.

It’s no surprise that Trump supporters are largely white Republicans in the Midwest. But my parents are first-generation Chinese immigrants who have lived in New York City for two decades. They have been registered Democrats for as long as they’ve been able to vote, casting their first votes as Americans for Obama in 2008. Yet as the Obama administration comes to an end, my parents  find themselves disenchanted by the Democratic Party and wary of Hillary Clinton, who, among other actions in support of naturalizing illegal immigrants, plans to defend Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “Why should illegal immigrants be allowed to stay? What have we worked for then?” my mom retorted when I asked her why she was considering voting for Trump.

Thirty years ago, my parents were granted student visas, eventually obtaining permanent residency until they finally traded in their tattered, red passports for stiff, blue ones. The American Dream was their opportunity to earn success through hard work. Though they have always believed that the values of the Democratic Party most closely aligned with their own, they began to question whether or not the Democratic Party’s American Dream reflects their idea of it. Can a party that advocates for granting amnesty to illegal immigrants still value the hard-earned citizenship of legal immigrants?

Though they dismissed everything else he said as insane, Trump’s determination to eliminate those who do not legally earn United States citizenship struck a chord with my parents. Amidst controversial comments regarding women and leading chants demanding to lock up Clinton, something in Trump’s attitude toward illegal immigration reflects my parents’ pride in being legal immigrants. “It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us,” Trump said. The notion of being chosen resonates with my parents, the only ones out of their siblings to attend college, let alone receive graduate degrees in the United States. Having stood out academically in a country where education is of utmost cultural importance, they perceive their admittance into the United States as both the ultimate recognition of past and indicator of future success.

It’s easy to understand why white Americans identify with Trump’s stance on illegal immigration. The fear of losing privilege only pertains to the privileged. Yet my parents do not relate to the country-clubbing, old-money politicians that once represented the Republican Party. While Trump is no doubt a rich man, he is not a politician. He is a businessman who has built an empire (at least in name) that could only have existed in a capitalist society. To my parents who’d never dreamed of the possibilities of capitalism while growing up in China, Trump embodies the American Dream.

My parents’ agreement with Trump’s stance on immigration expresses their desire to exercise the same privilege that white, middle-class Americans possess. While they may not have been born with it, they believe that if the American Dream is alive and well, they have earned it. It is not unfathomable that my father, who works six days a week and on holidays, feels a sense of comfort when Trump claims that he intends to protect the economic stability of legal immigrants by restricting undocumented immigration. Whether or not this is true, and whether or not Trump really is an embodiment of the American Dream, is unimportant. What matters is that he represents it for people such as my parents, who are looking for a reason to believe in it.

Katlyn Huang is College junior from New York City, New York. 

To nobody’s surprise, the three presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were relatively light on policy ideas and substantive dialogue. While myriad issues face our country that deserve serious discussion, the two most unpopular presidential candidates in recent history seemed content to drag the discourse down to the lowest common denominator, hurling zingers about everything from allegations of sexual misconduct to foreign interference in the election. Between all the shouting, interruptions and “gotcha” moments, one important issue escaped mention almost entirely during the debates. A total of zero questions were asked about climate change, and the entire topic received only a passing mention by each candidate over the course of three debates. Any viewer could be forgiven for believing that Trump’s tax returns were a much larger issue than climate change, as they were discussed multiple times at length in every debate.

Unfortunately, American media and politicians have chosen to ignore the issue of climate change at precisely the wrong time. This past September, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere failed to fall below 400 parts per million (ppm) at their typical annual low for the first time since recordings began in 1958. By looking at data from ice cores, scientists have determined that carbon dioxide levels have in fact never been this high in the past 800,000 years, and have increased an astounding 43 percent from pre-industrial levels. While this data point has escaped attention thus far from the presidential candidates and American people, it has serious consequences for the future of our country and planet.

Since the beginning of human civilization, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have ranged from approximately 180 to 280 ppm, only spiking to 400 ppm in the past century. While this means carbon dioxide is only around .04 percent of our atmosphere, small changes in its concentration are incredibly important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, with every small increase in atmospheric concentration trapping a large amount of additional heat. Since the human-emitted carbon dioxide has few natural mechanisms for removal, it can linger for hundreds of thousands of years, preventing more heat from escaping and continually raising Earth’s temperature.

We are already beginning to see the effects of this. Global temperatures have risen over 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit from their 1951-1980 baseline, the most rapid increase in recorded history. This is most pronounced in polar regions, which have seen warming up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit. As ice melts from landmasses such as Greenland and Antarctica, the sea level has already risen four to eight inches.

The real trouble, however, will come in the future. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization convened by the United Nations to aggregate scientific research on the subject, released its fifth report. The study identified four potential future pathways, with projected future temperatures based on different levels of carbon dioxide emissions. The most optimistic pathway assumes an emissions decrease beginning in 2020 and a net-zero emissions planet by 2100. This would lead to a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which would “only” cause sea levels to rise two meters. The worst-case scenario, involving a business-as usual-approach with no emissions cuts, could cause a temperature increase of up to eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. This would commit the world to a seven-meter sea level rise, a level that would flood most coastal cities. As stated in the IPCC report, this would mean “severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction [and] large risks to global and regional food security.”

With these widespread negative impacts predicted, action is needed to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change. World leaders last attempted to address the problem in 2015, when 192 countries at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference signed the Paris Agreement, agreeing to emissions cuts to keep temperatures from rising more than four degrees Fahrenheit. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to cut emissions from coal power plants, one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. However, 24 states are suing to block implementation, throwing the U.S.’s commitment to meeting its climate obligations into doubt.

Despite the seriousness of the issue and large policy debates currently taking place, climate change has been notably absent from the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump’s website contains no mention of the subject and calls for an increase in oil drilling, perhaps not surprising for a candidate who once dismissed global warming as a Chinese hoax. Clinton’s plan mostly consists of a continuation of the current Obama administration’s policy, which is currently mired in court battles and relies on individual states to take action. Neither approach is sufficient for combating what is likely the greatest threat to our country and planet. Actions such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade plan, which would pass on the true cost of carbon emissions to the biggest polluters, are necessary to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. Bold actions such as these require bold leadership capable of overcoming political obstacles and demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment and resolve to protecting our environment to the world.

Thus far, both Clinton and Trump have fallen short. The two top candidates for our nation’s highest office have shown the American public that reviving past controversies and slinging personal attacks are more compelling topics than putting forward a genuine plan to fight rising temperatures. This country deserves better. The next four years will be a critical time for climate policy, both in working to mitigate the consequences and adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures. America needs a president who is willing to stand up to energy interests, bought-off politicians and most of all, public apathy. Actions we take now can prevent catastrophic impacts, from economic and environmental to social. We, as American voters, must demand answers from our candidates on their ideas and solutions to one of the country’s most pressing problems. The arguably most important issue to the future of our world should not be allowed to become the least discussed one on the campaign trail.

Andrew Kliewer is a College freshman from Dallas, Texas. 

Dear Hillary:

This debate was a rough one, but, in my opinion, it wasn’t rough for you. I want to go through the debate and tell you about how I, a newly self-proclaimed nasty woman, reacted to some of the more controversial moments.

First, I think we should start with Donald Trump declining to promise that he would accept the results of the election “if he lost.” I know that you, on the other hand, will respect the will of the people and that no matter what happens, you won’t keep us in suspense like he has done when he said that he would wait to tell us if he would accept the election outcome. I am scared of this refusal — flat-out terrified of the ramifications if he doesn’t accept defeat. I would hate for you to have to deal with that backlash, because we live in a democracy, and the potential leader of a democracy should agree with the basic mechanics of a democracy. If he wins, we will have to live with the fact that our leader doesn’t agree with the government which he leads. This is just one reason that I am with you.

When asked about his policy on immigration, Trump stated that he would build the infamous wall and figure out a plan retroactively, instead of preparing an actual immigration plan ahead of time. You, Hillary, have your plans laid out like a blueprint for everyone to see. It is comforting to know that you have a plan, unlike your opponent, who is fixated on his wall. He berated you for wanting to give amnesty to the immigrants who are already here and who have lives and families from whom they would be torn if deported, which is what Trump seemingly wants. He disagreed when you said you didn’t want to break up families and wanted to protect those working for America. Even if he disagrees with your plan, at least you have one! Presidents must plan — it is simply a fact.

The next aspect is the debacle with Putin and Puppets. When you made a well-planned, intelligent comment about Putin’s influence on this election, Trump fired back, calling you a puppet. But let’s be clear about one thing, you are too strong and independent to be a puppet. Trump denies that Putin is his best friend, and whatever his friendship status with Putin is, I am afraid of a potential president having affiliations with Putin at all. Yet Hillary, even through the puppet accusations, you stayed calm and collected. You didn’t let his blatant offenses and his attempt at manipulation affect you. You are stronger than he.

The main point I wanted to discuss is Trump denying the allegations of sexual assault against him. The way that Trump treats women is appalling. Whether it is his hideous discussion of women and sexual assault or his lack of respect for women in general, it is terrifying. The scariest part is that he thinks he respects women. His actions and words are in no way respectful to women. But Hillary, you know this. You know women and how to respect them, partially because you are a woman and partially because you are just a respectful person in general. Look how you treat Trump in these presidential debates! You don’t yell at him or call him names. You act respectfully. I know I won’t have to fear how you treat people. Hillary, watching you stand up for yourself and your beliefs has inspired me beyond what I thought imaginable. The way you stay so calm, so collected, is inspiring to every woman who has been interrupted or belittled. You are the ultimate role model. While watching the debate, I was struck by how poised you were. I was struck by how strong you were. I was not, however, struck by how nasty you were.

Yes, the ‘nasty woman’ comment will go down in history. Trump called you this to disparage you and to offend you, but your followers and I have twisted his words into something with a positive connotation. Women are reclaiming the phrase “nasty woman.” Do you know why? You’re not nasty, or at least not in the way Trump intended the word. Nasty is now a new word. Nasty now means empowered, intelligent, strong, poised and presidential. I aspire to be as “nasty” as you. I hope your House is as White as your pantsuit, because you’ve earned it. I am proud to say that I, a fellow nasty woman, am with you.

Annie Cohen is College freshman from New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Courtesy of Flickr

First of all, you have to understand that I don’t use any social media. That isn’t some political or aesthetic statement; it’s just a wise idea for me not to have access to the internet like that. But, what it means is that I get news several weeks late. The most extreme case of this happened my freshman year, when I learned there had been a shutdown of Congress from Stephen Colbert’s end-of-the-year clips, as I struggled to stay moving on the WoodPEC elliptical. That particular moment of dry-heaving and bewilderment mixing together was also my reaction to responses on my first op-ed for The Emory Wheel, brought to my attention by my roommate before I complained about the lack of onions in the fridge.

What surprised me about reactions to my article was not that the humor fell flat, or that I could have more visibly criticized the price inflation on campus, but general concern by the Emory body that a student was this upset about food. What I had utilized as – what I thought of as – standard metaphors were apparently the objects around which many students orbited. From the three comments that I read on my roommate’s phone before my fat fingers tabbed out of his Facebook app, I found that students were more concerned with my usage of the word “fascism” and how I didn’t understand how appetizing pimento cheese is than my article’s implication of college depression and toxic obsession.  Before I go any further, I want to say something important: pimento cheese is one of my personal top-15 cheeses — it just isn’t the cheese I prefer at 1 a.m. while possibly inebriated. Learn to mix your drinks and food properly.

While my last piece was in the style of a Woody Allen character, my dietary monologues are not that extreme. But I thought people would “get” it, you know? If the particular food metaphor in my previous piece did not work, were these students similarly confused regarding the ending of Pixar movie Ratatouille?  I spent the weekend thinking about this, taking the time to enjoy the fresh fall breeze next to hissing, copulating, defecating geese in Lullwater Park, because this was the closest way to simulate online comments. Who was I to believe that there were students at a top-ranking university who lacked basic reading skills, and were possibly going into debt without understanding metaphors used in such books as The Giving Tree and A Very Hungry Caterpillar? That obviously can’t be it.

So what does this mean? Why is it that every time someone says something at Emory, someone is going to pop up and disagree? I know Philosophy 110 (Introduction to Logic) is crowded, but there can’t be that many students playing devil’s advocate to study. What prompts the immediate backlash? As I stared into the eyes of this particularly petulant goose, whose hissing gave way to frightful squawking at my advance, I understood.

I’d like to say that I understand this thing, this movement covering our age group. This isn’t just millennials — this is a thing that coats everyone during their time in college. I want to call that thing the Powers that Be, but I already used that to define Emory, so I’ll just talk about what the thing is doing to us. It’s taking hold of us, each and every student at Emory, at every school, in every walk of life. It’s telling you that to make it out of here alive, you’re going to need to build a mask that you wear at all times. You build this mask out of parts that fit together: collegiate sports, writing clubs, Greek life, cultural organizations, art scene, thespians or even doing none of those. You’re never taught this, but you know it’s going to be easier if you just wear the best-formed mask you can build, keep it glued to your face and define yourself with it. Despite Emory being the place to “find yourself,” you’ve got to wear this mask if you’re going to be recognized.

I may not know much, but I pay attention on campus. In my four years here, I’ve seen everyone forming their masks with different rates of success and speed. I don’t at all judge people for doing it, because I understand what’s at stake. When you’re a student amassing debt, throttling you into a direction you’re not even sure is the right one for your life, feeling like you’ve only got one chance to make something of yourself, you learn to wear that mask tightly, because you know it works, and because you know it protects you. The more you commit to wearing this mask, doing your clubs, talking to your people, hanging out at your spots, you feel less and less like this world is going to take everything from you — you feel like you’ve found a home.

So I get why people don’t read, because the mask has to stay on tightly, and because you’ve got to say the right things in the right order to make sense to everyone else. Maybe what I said in my last piece didn’t make sense to everyone, so I’m going to say it without the food puns. Are you ready? Here it is:

In my four years at Emory, the closest friends I have made have come from the most different of backgrounds and ideas. They’ve tried me. Oh god, have those different opinions bothered me, but they belong to friends whom I trust with my entire life. I remember the moment we met each other on campus, between classes and over coffee, wearing masks to get through the day. When I took off my mask, they did, too, and we smiled at each other. I’m telling you that it’s okay to take off the mask, that you need to breathe. There will be all the time in the world to wear that mask to your office every day, so spend this precious time here at Emory stretching out of the comfort and into the variety of it all. You are not your mask, you are more, you must reach beyond yourself and challenge and develop the identity you’re still growing into.

Zachary Issenberg is a College senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Courtesy of Flickr

If Americans learned one thing from last week’s debate, it is that both candidates are so demonstrably and manifestly unfit to be president. That being said, the following will not be a definite prescription for our current electoral illness; rather, it will diagnose the present situation and, later, prescribe a course for all disenchanted and disappointed voters to take in the face of our current political quagmire.

In the last debate, Americans were presented with Trump, a lifelong Democrat masquerading as a Republican this past year, whose policies are a mix of nationalistic protectionism, strongman authoritarianism and an inarticulate hodgepodge of isolationism and hawkishness. On the other hand, Americans were faced with a serial flip-flopper who, after holding relatively moderate positions her entire political life, has lurched far to the left to mollify the radical, socialist base of her party. Though obviously more experienced in government than her opponent, Hillary Clinton’s amassment of scandals raises serious questions about her capability to govern and lead effectively, while this past summer’s email scandal forces voters to doubt the former secretary of state’s commitment to national security.

Putting policy aside, why would it be wise to elect a serial philanderer, who habitually brags about his sexual conquests? What American would have their child look up to a man who openly mocks the disabled, insinuates publicly that women are hostile during their periods, claims he would date his own daughter and, most abhorrently, jokes about sexually assaulting women? Similarly, Clinton’s aforementioned habit of reversing constantly her position on nearly every issue epitomizes the insincerity and selfish opportunism we normally attribute to politicians. Both candidates are wholly unprincipled and have shown a proclivity to revise their policy preferences when it becomes politically convenient. At this point, I concede that Clinton is less prone to overt displays of mockery and subtle discrimination that have become commonplace on Donald Trump’s campaign. However, Clinton’s flippancy in the wake of the Benghazi hearings and her suspect and felonious behavior connected with her email scandal both point toward less-than-admirable aspects of her character.

To further expound on the candidates’ deficiencies in policy, it is important to point out that neither have advocated a traditionally conservative agenda. Trump, though the Republican nominee, has adopted and promulgated a strange brew of nationalism, populism and statism. Clinton has embraced the progressive, Bernie Sanders wing of her party alongside the traditional Democratic views on the military.With President Obama on pace to becoming the “first U.S. president in history to have never presided over a full year of growth averaging at least 3 percent,” one would expect the candidates to craft bold, proven approaches to improving the declining growth and household incomes. Yet, in this respect, both presidential candidates have failed the American people. Trump’s promising tax plan is essentially negated with his punitive tariff rates that will not only surely raise prices on everyday goods, but that have, historically, caused countries to retaliate reciprocally, causing bitter trade wars, to which some scholars have attributed the Great Depression. Clinton’s plan further adds onto the Obama administration’s punitive tax policies on earners, and has been estimated to lower after-tax incomes by .9 percent and reduce government revenues. No candidate, however, has proposed a holistically fiscally conservative policy that embraces the proven growth present in low-tax, low-regulation and free-trading economies.

With respect to our constitutional liberties as citizens, both candidates agree in denying due process and gun ownership to citizens on the verifiably flawed no-fly lists. Trump suggested opening up libel laws to sue publications that write “negative and horrible” articles.  Also, Trump’s insistence that the election is rigged, and that he will only accept its results if he wins, seriously damages our country’s essential and universally accepted practice of peaceful transfers of power. Clinton has opposed and excoriated states that wish to implement Religious Freedom Restoration Acts to allow businesses to operate within their First Amendment rights. Clinton, like most Democrats, also wishes to set limits on the political speech guarantees outlined in Citizens United v. FEC.   

Even considering the flaws and shortcomings of these candidates, nothing has been more disappointing than the lack of substance in this election, the last debate illustrative of a frustrating campaign season. The year 2016 was supposed to be a decisive one in our nation’s history, where Americans rallied against the political insider class and promoted bold and thoughtful policy solutions to our country’s ills. Instead, however, our two major party candidates are a former secretary of state who has a government insider for 30 years and her previous billionaire donor, who now purports to be advocating for the little guy.

I am not one to say that America is doomed after this election; we have overcome much worse as a nation and our republic is equipped to withstand the disasters of a Trump or Clinton presidency. Yet, I can offer no reasonable prescription to this particular electorate problem. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have proven to be incapable to carve out meaningful support and are similarly prone to verbal missteps on the campaign trail. There is simply no choice for president that will make this country better off. What every American should do, however, is vote their conscious up and down the ballot, paying close to attention to Congressional and state elections. And, from now on, apply a standard of morality, honesty, thoughtfulness and seriousness to each and every candidate that asks for your vote.

At the end of the day, Clinton and Trump may have won their party’s nominations and one of them will be president, but, in turn, liberty has lost, the Constitution has lost and Americans looking to meaningfully change our country’s course have lost, too.

Elias Neibart is a College freshman from Morristown, New Jersey

Courtesy of Flickr

Last February, conservative America lost its most celebrated jurist. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in his sleep while on a hunting retreat with the exclusive Order of St. Hubertus. He was 79 years old. Over the course of his 30-year tenure on the nation’s highest court, Scalia established himself as a champion of the political right, armed with a meticulous brand of legal reasoning, a penchant for silver-tongued rhetorical flair and a burning desire to demonstrate to all that he’s running roughly 50 years behind the rest of the country. His portfolio of decisions, amassed over three decades, serve as a model for strict constitutional originalism — a judicial philosophy that seeks to interpret the Constitution exactly as the Framers would have in the 18th century.

To say that Scalia’s unexpected passing set Washington ablaze would be an understatement that borders on irresponsible. President Obama’s efforts to fill this now-vacant seat have been met with unprecedented obstructionism led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with nominee Merrick Garland sitting in limbo for a record 216 days (and counting). McConnell’s repeated assertion that the next president will fill the vacancy in accordance with the will of the American people is about as genuine as Joe Biden’s hair. This has nothing to do with democratic values. GOP leadership is terrified about the future of the Court, and all things considered, they very much should be.

An uninformed observer walks into a room with the remaining eight Supreme Court justices — there’s a nine-out-of-10 chance that they mistake it for a South Florida bingo hall or a bridge club meeting. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83. Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80. Justice Stephen Breyer is 78. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas are both approaching 70. The next president will decisively determine the direction of the court for the next 20 to 40 years, likely filling anywhere from two to four spots (including that left behind by Scalia). The Court’s current balance is precarious — Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsburg all vote consistently liberal on controversial issues, while Alito and Thomas remain the only strong conservative voices on the bench. Kennedy is a known swing vote. This truly is the GOP’s last stand on contentious issues like abortion and marriage equality.

Finally confronted in the second debate about the oft-neglected campaign issue, Donald Trump made a concerted effort to mention the late justice when asked what qualities he would prioritize in a judicial nominee.

“I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia … [I am looking for] people that respect the Constitution of the United States,” he explained to a crowd of undecided voters. At face value, this makes sense. It seems perfectly logical for the Republican presidential nominee to praise a man touted as one of most influential and brilliant conservative legal minds of our time; however, ever the patron saint of mixed messages, Trump fails to align his judicial priorities with those touted by his campaign apparatus.

In the most general of terms, Trump is a populist. Upon close examination, one will find that Scalia is anything but. He is not a figure that looks after the interests of the everyman, as Trump claims that his administration would do above all else. In reality, Scalia is a testament to why strict originalism is a completely absurd philosophy — he is a man with an antiquated take on what it means to “respect the Constitution,” as well as a history of bananas statements, many of which would not resonate with the average American in the slightest. Everything that follows henceforth is a 100 percent real thing that was written by a Supreme Court justice in the 21st century. Seriously.

On homosexuality (keep in mind: Trump insists he is “much better for the gays”): Scalia carved out a niche as the most profoundly homophobic justice on the Roberts Court, though not without stiff competition from some of his peers. In the landmark 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, one that struck down a state ban on homosexual sex, Scalia authored a fiery dissent asserting that the Texas ban was no different from any other law that prohibits “immoral and unacceptable” sexual behavior, including polygamy, adult incest, bestiality, prostitution and child pornography. Scalia’s dissent in the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide was as backward as that of Lawrence. In it, he writes, “when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases.” For the sake of my word count, I’m not going to even try to touch that; pre-Civil War notions of moral purity aren’t ones of which we should be particularly proud.

On women’s rights (remember: “nobody respects women more” than The Donald): Scalia’s legacy is one pockmarked by a repeated refusal to extend 14th Amendment protections to women in cases of gender discrimination— because that’s not what the founders would have envisioned. In a 2011 interview in California Lawyer, the Scalia explained, “The only issue is whether [the 14th Amendment] prohibits [sex discrimination]. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.” This is a striking example of originalism at its absolute best (or worst, if you possess any shred of rationality).

On minority protections (a community to which Trump’s pitch was “what do you have to lose?”): In the Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the conservative bloc virtually gutted the Voting Rights Act, striking down a key provision that requires localities with a history of racially-charged disenfranchisement to preclear any changes to election practices or procedures with the federal government. The Court asserted that the formula used to determine which districts would be subject to the preclearance requirement was based on outdated data and needed revitalizing — a benign contention relative to Scalia’s claim that the Voting Rights Act was a “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.” Bananas. Totally bananas.

On the issue of affirmative action, Scalia opted to bypass the standard conservative jurist line of reasoning — that the government should stay out of the business of racial classification — and instead kick things up a notch. In an interview concerning the affirmative action program at the University of Texas, Scalia explained that “it does not benefit African-Americans to — to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well… [Most of the black scientists] in this country come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re — that they’re being pushed ahead in — in classes that are too — too fast for them.” Good stuff.

The panoply of half-baked and misguided beliefs that this so-called “thought leader” has peddled over the last 30 years should be an affront to the basic sensibilities of any member of the electorate, not just those with a differing partisan ideology. Scalia was not a defender of the Constitution — he was one of the last remaining bulwarks against a changing electorate. He was a guardian and impenetrable bastion of 19th-century juro-political vestiges. His approach to legal interpretation was not just dangerous, it was lazy, his analysis the judicial equivalent of forgetting to buy a good friend a birthday gift, and then signing your name at the bottom of someone else’s card. There are a number of conservative jurists in this country that truly do seek to ensure that the law is fairly applied to all Americans, but Scalia was certainly not one of them.

I dissent.

Matthew Ribel is a College sophomore from Chantilly, Virginia