The ‘ME’ Generation Gets Proactive about Social Media Habits

Social Media Meme

Ah, social media. Not a day goes by where we are not constantly checking our news feeds for status updates or new photo posts, despite various studies and news reports that correlate social media use with lowered self-esteem. Like most millennials, Marist students as a whole can’t live without social media, but are still very much aware of its downsides and some have even gone on social media cleanses, so to speak.

Kelly Stohr, a sophomore, initially stood up for millennials and their frequent use of social media. “For our generation, it’s less bothersome. It’s part of our society, it’s a part of our life every day, and it’s unavoidable. I believe that it’s more bothersome for those who grew up in a different generation.”

Even though she was quick to defend social media, Stohr also pointed out its drawbacks and reflected on something her friend went through online. “Someone called him out on a certain part of his lifestyle, I believe it was on Facebook, and that was kind of alarming. It kind of made me realize how easy it is to be bullied on social media. It’s one of the downsides to using it.”

Senior Abby Prowant believes that the media tends to exaggerate social media’s negative impact on society, but there is some truth to what they say. 

TED Talk on one man’s year-long social media sabbatical

“Although I would say that the effects are not as negative as the media says they are, there are times when it’s too much and I need a break. But generally, it helps me. I like that it helps me stay informed.”

Stohr mentioned that she took a complete break from social media over the summer. “I kind of decided that I would sort of separate myself from it, lay back and just enjoy nature,” she explained. “And it was freeing, being way from it all, not hearing my phone buzzing all the time. I did it for a month, and when I went back I realized how much I missed it.”

Sophomore Ariana Held says that she often takes short breaks from social media, especially during the summer. “It becomes stressful trying to keep up with everyone and when I start comparing myself to other people,” she explains. In the summertime, she says “it seems like everyone is doing fun activities and I’m working.”

She describes the breaks as “a refreshing experience because I stop comparing myself to what everyone else is doing and it gives me a chance to focus on myself.

A Storify on the “Can’t Live With or Without” Mentality of Social Media

Senior Alex Spiess does not find social media to be particularly stressful,  referring to it as a “form of entertainment.” He especially likes scrolling through photos on social media, claiming that “people can relate to images. They like seeing photos, they like looking at videos.”

Stohr and junior Jamie Durso also enjoy looking at apps like Instagram as budding photographers, with the latter stating that “the appeal of Instagram is simply that it is a great place for me to share my photos, with friends, classmates, family members, and other people. I love taking photos and documenting my adventures, so it’s nice to have a place where I can edit them and keep them together.”

While some touted the benefits of posting photos online as a tool for expressing oneself, many female students were open about their negative experiences scrolling through photos on social media. Sophomore Alyssa Hogancamp says that looking at photos on Facebook is generally more stressful for her than looking at people’s status updates. “Photos say a lot that a status can’t,” she demurs. Lili Yurch, also a sophomore, agrees with Hogancamp, stating that “no matter what the photos are of, it’s hard not to compare them with some aspect of your life. Whether it’s how you looked or what you did over the weekend, a lot of the times you’re like ‘damn, I wish I looked like that’ or ‘damn, I wish I went to a party like that.’”

Prowant recalled a recent incident where she stumbled upon pictures of a friend at a party without her. Of the experience, she says, “it was upsetting to see pictures of him with friends having a good time. I just got mad and deleted his number after I saw the photos.” 

Alyssa Pitonzo, a junior, says that “looking at people’s pictures either Facebook Ariel Mememakes you feel left out or like you’re missing out on something.” Another concern for her when looking at photos is the possibility of stumbling upon an ex-boyfriend with a new girlfriend, she says. All of these concerns made her decide to cancel her Instagram account a year ago briefly, and while she called the experience, “pretty nice,” she also reported feeling “a little disconnected.”

Fellow juniors Kerry Coughlin and Colleen Lampe also talked about how this feeling of being left out caused them to take breaks from certain social media sites for a period of time.

“I deleted my Snapchat for a period of time and felt extremely relieved not knowing what my friends were doing 24/7. I did not miss it at all,” says Coughlin. “I took the break because I felt as though I was overexposed.  I did not want to reveal every aspect of my life over a social media platform.”

Lampe took her break from social media back in high school. “I had deleted my Facebook for a few days and it was definitely a weird experience for me. I never realized how much I was addicted to it because I was constantly thinking about it.” Social Media Meme 2

Coughlin also states that social media has become addicting for her, and that “they are distracting and make time pass in an abnormal way.” She has considered deleting either her Instagram or Twitter accounts as well but has “yet to act on it.”

Yurch describes herself as “a little less wired then some other people my age,” especially nowadays. She often shares posts from other websites more on Facebook than posts any original content such as status updates and photos. “I really don’t care that much about seeing what other people are up to,” she proclaims. “Over the years I feel like I’ve learned how to ignore some stuff and just not care about it.”

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Students Can Indulge in Fine Dining Thanks to Biannual Hudson Valley Event

Official Logo for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week taken from Website

Official Logo for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week taken from Website

Marist students may not be too aware of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, but it’s a local institution that has been offering fine dining at affordable prices twice a year since 1998. The event is currently going on until November 15, but students at Marist can get in on the action until then with ten choices that have plenty of delicious options for students to enjoy, according to Kelly Seiz, Editorial Assistant of the magazine that presents the event each year, Valley Table:

  • Kitchen Sink Food and Drink (Eclectic): This Beacon-based restaurant prides itself in its farm-to-table style cuisine, with a wide
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    Kitchen Sink Food and Drink

    variety of different choices for everyone. All of the food is locally sourced from owner Brian Arnoff’s family farm. Their specialized menu for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week provides a three-course meal for dinner only, for every day except Monday. Options for the meal include the Parsnip and Celery Root Soup as the starter course (with the Charred Broccoli Salad as an option for vegetarians), the Cauliflower

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    Seasonal Panna Cotta, Courtesy of Yelp! User Lillian Lin

    Faux Risotto as the entree and either Seasonal Panna Cotta or an assortment of cookies and truffles for dessert.

  • Terrapin (New American): Remodeled from a rundown church in Rhinebeck, Terrapin has consistently been voted the Best Restaurant in Dutchess County by Hudson Valley Magazine for five years. You have the option of ordering either a two-course meal for $24.95 or a three-course meal for $29.95. Danielle, the restaurant manager, says that the menu features meals that are all mainstays at the restaurant and portions are not downsized, unlike in other usual HVRW participants. Her picks for college students include the Guinness Braised Lamb Shank topped with Garlic Chips and the Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Alaskan Salmon with Tomatillo Sauce. “These are definitely not things you will find on a college campus,” she exclaims.
  • Shadows (New American): A Poughkeepsie mainstay, Shadows on
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    Shadows on the Hudson

    the Hudson has varied options for Restaurant Week this time around, including Butternut Squash Risotto, Pumpkin Tortellini, Cauliflower Chowder and Swedish Almond Cake. Manager Seamus Quigley says via email that Shadows “is an avenue to explore cuisine that students might otherwise steer away from, thus broadening their horizons and comfort level in navigating menus and cuisine at finer restaurants.”

  • Cosimo’s (Italian): This chain has a location right across from Marist, and for this Restaurant Week, Cosimo’s in Poughkeepsie is offering entrees for whatever suits your fancy. There is a pizza, pasta, salad, meat and seafood option featured on each menu. The dessert menu options are especially interesting and innovative; they include the Acorn Hill Farmstead Ricotta Cheese Cake and the James Cinnamon Ice Cream. If you have not had the opportunity to explore Cosimo’s yet, you can take a quick stroll across the street to indulge in the restaurant’s fine Italian dining. 
  • Al Fresco (Italian): Located on Main Street in the town
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    Al Fresco

    of Fishkill, this rustic place combines the old and the new with its unique take on Italian cuisine. There are great options on both the lunch and dinner menus, according to one of its employees Susan Amy. Amongst the lunch menu entrees, Amy recommends the Pollo alla Graziano, or a pan seared chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, garlic and figs served with soft polenta. As for the dinner entrees, the Risotto alla Zucca is the meal du jour; a pumpkin risotto tossed with shrimp and scallops.

  • Cinnamon (Indian): For those of you who are in the mood to step out of your comfort zone, Cinnamon might be the place for you. Based in Rhinebeck, Cinnamon offers a unique, gourmet-style take on traditional Indian cuisine. People who may not be too familiar with Indian cuisine can get a crash course by choosing an appetizer, entree and dessert on their own and not from a pre-selected menu. Also, if you go on a Friday, you can hear exciting live music for free!
  • Ole Savannah (American Traditional): A Southern-style restaurant and bar might be an unusual choice for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, but Ole Savannah (located on the riverfront in Kingston) puts a unique and creative twist to traditional Southern cooking. Their Restaurant Week appetizer (or “first bite”) options attest to their brand of cuisine. You can try either Belgium Endive and Pear Salad or Pork Occo Busso. The entree options include Traditional Fish and Chips as well as Fleisher’s Grass-fed Sirloin Steak. There is only one dessert option, the succulent Local Red Apple and Vanilla Cake.
  • Queen City Bistro (New American): This Main Street hidden gem specializes in “small plate dining” along with an excellent selection of craft beers and specialty cocktails for the 21 and over crowd.
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    Queen City Bistro

    Queen City Bistro is offering a five-course meal this time around to stand out from the competition, with ten options to choose from including a Poached Pear and Arugula Salad, Rigatoni Bolognese, and House-made Pumpkin Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Crumble. The restaurant also stands out because of their various vegetarian and gluten-free options.

  • Bluestone Bistro (New American): I happened to pay a visit to this particular eatery myself, which is located in the IBM Plaza right off of Route 9 here in Poughkeepsie! The menu has an wide assortment of options, which generally remain the same for both
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    S’mores Pie, Courtesy of Yelp!

    lunch and dinner with the exception of the Pan Seared Arctic Char replacing the Flatbread Pizza on the list of entrees for dinner. I was personally a fan of their Campanelle Pasta as well as their S’mores Pie, the latter of which was one of the dessert options on the lunch menu. The bistro has only been open for a year, which is another exciting reason to check it out.

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    Campanelle Pasta, Courtesy of Yelp!

If you are interested in eating at any of the other Restaurant Week participants, here’s the website with complete information on each of the restaurants involved this time around. Happy Fine Dining!

Making the most of college life when you don’t live on campus

Seamus Hartt, a sophomore at Marist, is one of many commuter students who has expressed frustration at the difficulty of having a proper social life on campus.

“I feel less like a member of the Marist community, and more like a cog in their bureaucratic machine,” he says. “It’s difficult to meet people when you sit next to them silently in class, then leave and don’t see them until your next class period.” Despite this, Marist has made efforts to help commuter students make connections even amidst their hectic schedules.

Each year, 50 commuters join the Marist student body in the fall semester, followed by 40 commuters in the spring. The commuter student body encompasses a few different types of people: students who have lived in the area their whole life, adult students, students who commute from New York City and (in some cases) students who live in the Residence Inn.

A typical day in the life of a commuter requires a lot of pre-planning, according to Dakota Swanson, a junior: “You always have to plan slightly ahead which can take some of the spontaneity out of college life. We have to plan our schedules around traffic flow, parking, classes, and work too.”

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Courtesy of Mia Scalan’s Pinterest Page Entitled “College Memes”

Daily life as a commuter is a little bit different for those who do not have a car of their own, yet still just as rigid. Freshman Althea Bresnahan says that she gets “driven in, so I pretty much go to class, sit around during my break and either do work, watch something on my laptop.”

Junior Patrick Talvi is the President of the Commuter Student Council, where commuters have to opportunity to gather every Wednesday during Activity Hour in the Student Commons lounge and mingle with each other. Talvi explained, “when freshman arrive on campus, they have the other residents in their dorms to create a family with. Commuters should not be any different; Commuter Student Council should be the family they create.”

It can be difficult to get all the commuter students in one room together “because commuters are trying to take on new responsibilities here at Marist while having all the same old responsibilities at home [but] I just want to get as many commuters involved on campus as possible so that they can have a more normalized college experience,” Talvi added.

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Commuters mingling last year during the Opening Barbecue event

Swanson describes the commuter student population as being “on the outside. Unless you are really outgoing, it will be hard to make connections that last long.” Senior Devin Encalada agrees, saying, “we don’t have a connection with most of the college campus or college experience because we aren’t there 24/7, [so] we don’t have the same college experience they do.”

One of the many reasons why this seems to be such a struggle is the fact that most clubs on campus meet at 9 or 10 PM, which is not a convenient time for most commuters. “If you live close to an hour away…there’s going to be a disconnect between your campus life and home/social life,” said Swanson. He adds that the other students “don’t have to worry as much about gas or maintaining a car [and they] don’t have to worry about being home at a certain time as they don’t have parents waiting for them.”

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Commuters hanging out on the Walkway on the Hudson in 2014

Someone else who works tirelessly to make sure that the commuter students fit in on campus is Colin McCann, the Associate Director of First Year Programs & Leadership Development. His work with the commuter students often starts with an individual meeting in the beginning of freshman year. McCann said that the individual meeting “allows me to explain, in detail, the opportunities available to all commuting students that could help them become more connected to the Marist campus community.” McCann also tries to host programs throughout the year (such as the Thanksgiving dinner and End-of-the-Year barbecue) to unite the commuters even further.

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Photo of Colin McCann Taken from Marist Website

Commuters do have representation in student government on campus, with two commuter senators typically in the SGA Senate. This year, however, only one of those positions is filled. Hakim Cunningham—a senior—is the sole representative of the commuter student body this time around.

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Hakim Cunningham, currently the only Commuter Senator in SGA

Of being the only commuter senator thus far, Cunningham said, “it’s a disservice to our community because we aren’t getting representation…It would serve us well to have another senator to work with to make the experience for us commuters better; to brainstorm ideas for improvement of our status and involvement on the campus.” In spite of this, Cunningham remains optimistic, describing himself as “a fighter.”

How local colleges fight sexual assault on and off campus

Within the last year, the issue of campus rape has become a pressing issue in the news as a result of alleged cases in Columbia University and UVA (which was later refuted publicly). It has been estimated that 1 in 5 young women are raped during their freshman year alone. This has caused colleges across the U.S. to take action combatting sexual assault on campus, including Marist. Other local colleges have joined the fight as well, and appear to be doing more combatting this issue than Marist.

“I would definitely say that we could do a much better job about dressing sexual assault on campus. A lot of my friends that go to other schools have lots of talks and discussion groups about sexual assault, consent and those types of things,” explains junior Elizabeth Gassman. “There are a few events [that deal with the issue of sexual assault] on campus but it doesn’t feel like its enough to really spark change.”

The Health and Wellness Center at Marist, where Students can go in time of crisis

The Health and Wellness Center at Marist, where Students can go in time of crisis

Gassman wrote an article on Marist’s “It’s On Us” campaign last year for the Circle, which was a series of PSAs that aired last year on YouTube involving student athletes on campus as well as members of SGA and MCTV. The purpose of the campaign was to debunk myths about sexual assault and encourage students to take action on the issue any way they can. The campaign emerged after an alleged incident on campus back in February. 

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Local activist details his colorful life for Marist students

To say Jay Blotcher has led an interesting life is quite the understatement.

Blotcher is the Puerto Rican and Eastern European adopted son of Conservative Jewish parents and is also openly gay. His struggles with both his ethnic and sexual identity were the subject of an enlightening discussion held on Thursday in the Student Center.

Blotcher works as a writer, publicist and activist for the LGBT community and currently lives in Ulster County with his husband Brook. His work began in New York City during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as an active member of ACT UP, a popular organization dedicated to fighting the epidemic worldwide. 

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Blotcher Speaking, Photo Credit Goes to Kelly Stohr

Blotcher’s struggles with his ethnic, religious and sexual identity began in a suburb outside of Boston as the adopted child of two Conservative Jewish parents. As a child, Blotcher dreamed of being white and felt confused by the fact that he did not look like the rest of his family. “Why not be a WASP? Kids liked them more,” he explained during his speech. He also explained that Massachusetts at the time had tough adoption laws, so he was never fully aware of his backstory.

While working as a rock music writer in Queens, a woman by the name of Valerie reached out to him and explained that he was the product of a one-night stand between her and former Baltimore Oriole Arnie Portocarrero. He immediately started to reach out to his father, and his first contact was his half-brother, who claimed that he did not know Portocarerro either. Blotcher never actually got to meet his father, as he eventually passed away, but tries to imagine what life would have been like if he were to be raised by his baseball-playing father.

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Image of Arnie Portocarerro, Courtesy of Findagrave.com

During a conversation he had with me after his speech, Blotcher exclaimed, “This is all speculation, but I will cop to the stereotype and say that yes, baseball players are macho. My father was probably macho, and what the hell would he do with a gay son!?” He adds, “I didn’t have any sports talent either, so if I were to be raised by him, I can imagine the level of disappointment that he would radiate upon realizing that his son didn’t have any sports talent.”

Blotcher came out officially as a freshman at Syracuse University, but started experimenting with his sexuality during his time at his high school’s drama club. He pretended to date girls, but secretly harbored feelings for boys. Regarding his sexual identity, he said in the speech that he “always knew” and “never needed to search for it.” However, he also said that he “worked a long time to get society to accept who I was, and for I to accept who I was.”

He believes that people for years felt a need to keep their homosexuality private because “what they were trying to say that we are living in a homophobic society and I know that sharing my personal life as being gay is going to hurt me, but wouldn’t everybody be open about their lives if they knew there weren’t going to be any repercussions?”

Being a member of the drama club also prepared him for his future career as an activist. “The thing about ACT UP was that a lot of what they did was street theatre, which means that we actually had these events that involved dramatization on the streets, so I guess you could say that a part of me learned the appreciation of creating these spectacles in high school that I could later apply to my activism,” he told me.

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Official Logo for ACT UP, Courtesy of Wikipedia Page

Blotcher and his partner made history in 2004 as one of 24 homosexual couples who were married by the mayor of New Paltz during what were known as the “New Paltz Weddings.”  “I took [the wedding] very seriously. I considered it a badge of pride,” he says.

I Now Pronounce You Husband and Husband, A Documentary on the “New Paltz Weddings” That Blotcher Appeared In

The Director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs Iris Ruiz-Grech collaborated with Spanish professor Dr. Patricia Ferrer to bring Blotcher to Marist. Ruiz-Grech believes that his speech was “important for all college age students who are constantly questioning if what they were taught the first 17-19 years of life is what they want to continue to believe and practice.”

She goes on to say that with Blotcher’s speech, she “saw an opportunity for students to see that questioning their cultural, religious and sexual orientation identity is nothing new and that there are many others who go through the same issues.”

Students who attended the event were moved by Blotcher’s story. “I thought it was incredibly moving,” says sophomore Cara Sebert. “It was in a totally different direction than I thought it was going to be.” Junior Bryanna Adams adds, “I think it was a really great event to have and it’s nice to hear about other people’s experiences and what they’ve gone through.”

This event was sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Affairs and the Subcommittee on LGBTQ Issues of the Marist Diversity Council.

Local farmers thrive in spite of drought

In the last two months out here in the Hudson Valley, it seems like we have not seen the rain in forever.

The ground over at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Jct., NY

The ground over at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction

While the drought out here does not appear to be as abysmal as in California, it has still been a burden for many, namely farmers. We reached out to local farmers in the area to see if they could weigh in on this recent weather phenomenon, and while all of them seem to be keeping their crops alive in spite of the lack of rain, most admit that (to quote Luke Bryan) rain is a good thing.

Many farmers are irrigating their land using various methods to keep their regular crops alive. Beth Dykeman, who runs Dykeman Farm in Pawling along with her husband Wright, describes how they irrigated their land every month this year using irrigating ponds that were installed by Wright’s father. “They help because you don’t have to worry about wells,” she explains. She added that she leaves all the irrigating to her husband, who typically starts around 6:00 a.m. and goes until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.

Amongst the many kinds of crops that are grown at Dykeman Farm, the sweet corn appears to be getting the most tender, loving care according to the farm co-owner. “It gets watered four times a day!” she exclaims. She doesn’t believe that the crops turn out any differently because of the irrigation, but “rain does a much better job than we can at irrigating. You have to irrigate or your production is going to be down.”

Norman Grieg, owner of Grieg Farm in Red Hook, says of irrigation methods: “It’s effective, [but] it’s just a slower way to get water on the ground.”

Ray McEnroe, who runs the McEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton alongside his brother Eric, uses an overhead wheel for the purposes of irrigation on his farmland, but says that the “lack of rain has certainly affected [the farm’s] crops.” “I don’t plan on growing things much larger than September 20,” he claims.

Over at Tantillo’s Farm in Gardiner, co-owner Beverly Tantillo has not had the best luck with her farm’s irrigation system. “Our irrigation system needs work,” she claims matter-of-factly. “Our veggies and apples need the most work.” Still, business has not slowed down one bit at this farm. “We sell out by morning [each day], no problem,” she says. “We have been extremely busy lately.”

In fact, business has generally been great across the board for each of the local farms out here in the Hudson Valley. Many farmers do not believe that the drought has affected the sale of their products, even though it has clearly affected production.

Jay Armour of Four Winds Farm in Gardiner believes that while the record heat this year did not cause a downturn in business for their products, he says that it is a far cry from when the farm had their best business year last year, calling it “an exceptional year.” He chalks that up to the fact that last year’s summer was far milder than most, which allowed for more people to come out to buy some of the products being sold each weekend since the temperature “never really got up to the 90s.”

During Cody Creek Farm’s first year on the farmer’s market circuit, farmers have been feeling the pressure to churn out sufficient supply as a drought-fueled summer season comes to a close. “We have been using overhead sprinklers so far,” says Vivian Beatrice, who’s new to the farm. “We’re looking to get a drip installed at some point, but that might not come into play until next year.”

Still, Beatrice is thankful that what has been happening out in the Hudson Valley is nothing like the extreme drought in California. “I’m not sure if you know what’s going on in California,” she remarks, “but there is no real mechanism for checking irrigation in California. People there are relying on fracking water to grow their crops and there are no real background checks to see what’s in the water.”

The farmers out in the Hudson Valley continue to hold on, thankful that summer is coming to end and grateful that the area does not have it as badly as out west.