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 Sean and Adi for getting things done in a shortened period of time following elections issues last year. As SBP and SBVP, respectively, they increased visibility and transparency on campus, and not just for wasting thousands of dollars on a poorly planned campus bike program.

A thorn to the consideration of a +/– grading system for undergraduates, which would worsen the already stressful environment at Carnegie Mellon.

A thistle to PiKA and SDC for keeping the world of Buggy on its toes by breaking the 20-year-old course record at this year’s Sweepstakes races. With a 2:04.35 and a 2:04.50, respectively, both organizations far surpassed SPIRIT’s standing 2:08.20 set in 1988. Faster times and more exciting races mean more people coming to campus to support the university’s traditions.

A thorn to Lunar Gala for not representing our student body by objectifying both women and men in this year’s “Karma” production. We don’t all favor brawn over brains.

A thistle to Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama for organizing against the odds and getting our campus active in the election. With nowhere to campaign but on foot around campus, this group of activists helped broadcast the fact that our students are anything but apathetic.

A thorn to the campus community for failing to note the intricacies of the Healthy Campus 2010 initiative by focusing all their energies on the issue of smoking. A healthy campus is so much more than a campus with designated smoking areas (or none at all), and students should see this.

A thistle to the university for attracting such speakers as Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Jeff Bezos. Gates made Carnegie Mellon one of only five of his final tour stops, Gore rarely gives commencement speeches, and Bezos — the founder of — is an important figure in computer science. Sure, maybe it’s ’cause Gates is going to be immortalized on our campus anyway, but it’s not like he didn’t earn it.

A thorn to shoddy rating systems that assess colleges and universities nationwide. When the quantity of alumni making donations, rather than the actual donations amassed, is used to rank schools against each other, it’s never clear who is actually on top academically.

A thistle to computer science professors Randy Pausch and Luis von Ahn for bringing computer science and Carnegie Mellon into the national spotlight. We are proud to see members of one of our most prestigious departments reaching out to people of all backgrounds.

A thorn to SIS (Student Information System) for crashing when students needed it. We want an online system that, instead of being outsourced and outdated, is as well-designed as the work we know our own students can create.

A thistle to the School of Drama for pushing traditional boundaries with an entirely African-American cast to put on the Pittsburgh-based play, The Piano Lesson.

A thorn to Facebook for becoming more like MySpace with trashy applications like crude bumper stickers and pointless surveys, and, recently, the implementation of an instant messaging service for Facebook users. Facebook should stick to its roots as a unique social-networking site for college students, and not try to appease the masses who yearn for the chance to see which Disney princess they are most like.

A thistle to Entropy+ for a successful revamping. With a more accessible layout, varied products like vegan and organic foods, and the ability of students to use DineX to pay for groceries, the new store is a vast improvement over the cramped aisles, disorganization, and lacking product selection of its predecessor. Still, we wish we didn’t have to pay upwards of $7 for a box of cereal at the new location.

A thorn to Housing Services for dramatically incrementing the fees for campus housing lock-outs and lost ID cards. Students are poor enough; they do not need to worry about paying $25 for a missing ID or an initially free charge incrementing by $5 every time they find themselves locked out.

A thistle to Housing Services for providing more on-campus spaces for Carnegie Mellon’s newest students by taking the steps to turn Mudge, Boss, and Scobell into first-year housing. First-years benefit the most from dorms close to campus, which encourage them to be active in classes and social activities.

A thorn to Housing for overlooking the importance of being able to support great ideas: While ensuring all first-years get on-campus housing (as opposed to lodging in the Wyndham) is a positive change, doing that before erecting new dorms hurt the chances of current first-years finding housing.

A thistle to Pennsylvania for playing a key role in this year’s presidential elections. Last week’s Democratic Primary attracted national attention, preceded by weeks of buildup that brought both Clinton and Obama to Pittsburgh. The state may never be as noteworthy during elections as Florida — but hey, that’s probably a good thing.

A thorn to the city of Pittsburgh for falling apart so badly that water main breaks become a common event. We don’t like it when the Cut floods.

A thistle to Dining Services for keeping up with the Joneses. Evgefstos! is a delicious vegetarian feast, and we recognize their effort to offer more Kosher foods, more vegetarian-friendly options, and cage-free eggs on campus.

A thorn to the university for not consoling potential victims of the California wildfires last October. With roughly 5 percent of our undergraduate student body being from the state, these students — as well as the rest of the campus community — deserved more of a formal outreach in the wake of this national tragedy.

A thistle to the Elections Board for a smooth elections process this past April. The timely results will allow the newly elected student leaders to have all summer to plan for a successful year in office.

A thorn to the numerous bomb threats that jaded our campus early last semester. Bomb scare evacuations should not be a regular part of campus life.

A thistle to MayurSASA and Bhangra troupe Chak De for November’s extremely successful Bhangra in the Burgh event. We look forward to watching the contest, now in its first year, grow into a beloved university tradition.

A thorn to the Office of Undergraduate Research for selecting students to participate in Odyssey based more on their QPAs rather than their extracurricular achievements. We’re all for the 3.3-QPA student who’s a leader in a cultural group and active on a magazine staff over the 3.95-QPA student with no hobbies and a calculator for a best friend.

A thistle to the University Library and student government for recognizing the late-night needs of the student body and implementing the first ever 24/5 library hours on our campus for next year.

A thorn to the economy for experiencing such a “slowdown” that we believe it has actually stopped. College students are being hit hard with smaller academic loans and more expensive costs of education. It seems likely that economic stimulus checks given out by the government are not going to send people out to shopping malls but rather to groceries stores and gas stations. At least it looks like the oil industry will make it through unharmed. Phew.

A thistle to the Activities Board for an all-around successful year. From The Roots to Broken Social Scene, xkcd’s Randall Munroe to The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones, and even to a classier readme, we applaud AB’s efforts.

A thorn to Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and his exorbitant alcohol tax, hitting hard the pockets of those with the least money to throw around. If we’re buying a $9 margarita at Mad Mex, we really can’t afford that extra 10 percent taxation. Prohibition would be better. Well, at least cheaper.

A thistle to the men’s track and field team for winning the UAA championships for the second year in a row. The group took first among the seven participating teams at the University of Chicago-hosted event. Hey, if you’re not going to be here to push Buggy, at least you’re winning elsewhere.