Thistles and Thorns

At the close of every year, The Tartan reassesses the year’s events. We present here a list of the people and happenings that are worthy of recognition. Thistles go to people and events that had a positive effect on the campus community; thorns go to those that have negatively impacted the campus.

A thistle to Carnegie Mellon for hosting 26 Tulane students who were displaced after Hurricane Katrina. Going away to college is stressful enough without environmental catastrophes, and we’re proud that CMU was able to lend a helping hand to some of Katrina’s victims. It’s telling of our hospitality that after spending a semester here, many Tulane students wanted to stay.

A black and gold thistle to the Stillers for showing us that for once, there’s something that can bring us all together.

A thorn to Facebook users for ever thinking that it was a private site. Listen, fellas: If you’re really surprised when your RA busts you for red-cupping it in 73 photos your friends posted, then we’re not even sure how you got here.

A thistle to CMU sports teams for doing us proud. With men’s basketball having the best season in the history of the school, we have reason to cheer.

A thorn to Student Senate for consistent incompetence. Senators should be passionate and knowledgeable, but this year they were uncommunicative and uninformed. When Optimus Prime, Mao Yisheng, and readme became serious write-in candidates, we knew that this year’s student government was really one big joke.

A thistle to Faculty Senate and members of the administration who took a stand against neo-conservative activist David Horowitz’s egregious Academic Bill of Rights (ABR). In particular, we commend professor Michael Chemers for writing the Faculty Senate resolution that formally protested the ABR and paved the way for the Faculty Senate to make that protest public.

A thistle to the Activities Board (AB) and its chair, Andrew Moore, for not giving in to the sensationalism that arose after AB showed Pirates. Sexual matters have become American media’s “most likely to hype” topic, and we’re proud that both AB and Moore did not let a few Puritans interfere with a popular campus tradition.

An especially prickly thorn to KDKA’s Marty Griffin for his coverage of Pirates. All Griffin managed to do was “uncover” was a campus tradition, sensationalize the story, and get his facts wrong. If “over 3000” people showed up to watch it (during three showings in an auditorium that seats 400), then how can the majority of the 5000-person student body be offended by it?

A thistle to Carnegie Mellon’s green practices. We are consistently ranked among the top 25 campuses for recycling, and all of our newest buildings are LEED-certified. When it comes to environmentalism, CMU leads by example.

A thistle to Computing Services for the new printing system. While we think the quotas themselves are unfair, the new kiosk system and pop-up printing from anywhere are outstanding improvements for both users and trees.

A thorn to the administrative powers that be for doing nothing to make up for the loss of the Drill Deck as a performance and practice space. Worse, plans for a new exercise/dance space in the Highlander Café were scrapped in favor of adding another dining facility. Existing rehearsal spaces are already constantly overbooked, and now it will only get worse.

A thistle to the Oakland Review, which after a brief hiatus and a slightly problematic first year back in 2005, has returned with a bigger staff and a greater commitment to quality. We’re pleased to see the publication rise from non-existent two years ago to the great read it is today.

We would give a thorn to JFC for their failure to appropriately distribute money among student organizations on campus, but we misallocated it to another, less deserving group.

A thistle, two sides, and a drink to the newly combined Housing and Dining Services. Even though we feel entitled to complain perpetually about campus food, we must admit that it’s finally getting better. We’re glad somebody finally had the spine to stand up to Parkhurst and push for quality.

Even though they fell to Stanford in the final DARPA Grand Challenge, a thistle goes to Red Whittaker’s Red Team Racing for driving CMU into the national spotlight as a leader in technical innovation. Now if only he could fix the chronic paper jam in the Morewood Gardens cluster.

A thistle to special-interest first-year housing at Carnegie Mellon. Places such as Forbes House and Global Studies House have fostered meaningful first-year communities built around scholarship and intellectual discourse, and are a proud addition to campus.

A thorn to Student Affairs for letting two deposed fraternities return to their newly renovated houses on the Quad next year. Reportedly, millions have gone into these two houses. While we understand all buildings should eventually be renovated, these two delinquent fraternities got the express fix despite bad behavior.

A 100-foot-tall thorn goes to Jill Kraus, the CMU trustee who donated “Walking to the Sky” and the Kraus Campo. Do we really have to accept every steaming pile of art that Kraus thrusts at us? We’re sorry if President Cohon says differently, madam, but these eyesores just aren’t welcome.

A thistle to Mack Scogin Merrill Elam, the architecture firm in charge of the new Gates Center. Scogin has visited the CMU campus monthly (sometimes weekly) to make sure his firm is taking every possible aspect of our campus into account. If only Jill Kraus could follow his example!

Despite sub-par PR, a thistle (and applause) to the School of Drama for a smashing season, including the first amateur production of Urinetown (rated by many critics as better than the Broadway production) and a performance of Nathan the Wise simulcast to our colleagues in Qatar. Drama at CMU is making a significant contribution to our “global university.”

A thorn to the planners of the Beaux Arts Ball. If you want to treat students of legal drinking age like criminals, completely botch the slate of entertainers at one of the venues, serve nothing but pretzels, and water down a grand campus tradition into something lame, at least don’t charge $40 a ticket.

The thorn to this year’s student government elections is pointed mostly toward Student Senate, for failing to even appoint an elections committee on time. Every deadline was bungled: All three candidate teams seemed to forget that they should probably get their platforms in before, say, the night before elections began. Like maybe two weeks before, when they were due.

A preemptive thistle to whoever first climbs “Walking to the Sky.” We know someone will do it eventually, and whoever you are, you have our admiration. How’s the view from up there?