Thistles & Thorns

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

A thistle to the Carnival Committee and all who actively participated in organizing a memorable 100th Spring Carnival. This year’s Spring Carnival was complete with some of the best booths we’ve seen in years and not one, but two, artists for the Carnival Concert.

A thorn to the individual who cut off the arm of the child statue of “Walking to the Sky.” Although the sculpture is often regarded negatively by the student body, it is still a centerpiece visual of the university, and one that should be respected and remain completely intact.

A thistle to first-year economics and statistics double major and Senate sergeant at arms Vaasavi Unnava and Student Senate for a successful “The First Lectures” series. These lectures provided great insight from graduating seniors about finding one’s footing at Carnegie Mellon and served to help redefine success at the university.

A thorn to Russia for its human rights violations, in regard to the current debacle in Crimea and discrimination in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

A thistle to the states of Colorado and Washington for legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana, generating additional tax income from a drug already in regular use. Progressive drug policies have the potential to raise millions in state revenues and decrease imprisonment for drug possession.

A thorn to the Boy Scouts of America for reinforcing their ban on LGBTQ leaders and volunteers even as they finally conceded to public pressure to allow openly gay youth to join. Equal rights cannot be compromised upon, and a compromise in favor of further discrimination is hypocrisy at the highest level.

A thistle to sophomore civil and environmental engineering major Angela Ng and Project Smile for spearheading the Mindfulness Room, a space for students to relax and think introspectively and a place of respite within the confines of stressful academia. While the room is still underused, it exists for a worthy cause.

A thorn to the academic audit, which remains woefully outdated while other online tools such as Student Information Online and Andrew Webmail are making big strides toward user-friendly access.

A thorn to the state of Pennsylvania for allowing the rampant use of hydraulic fracking. The fracking process is connected with numerous environmental hazards such as contaminated drinking water supplies and is used to drill for non-renewable and emissions-generating fuel.

A thistle to Carnegie Mellon Dining Services’s expanded and improved dining options this year, from the healthy menu options at the Underground to the extended Entropy+ hours, among other positive changes.

A thorn to Carnegie Mellon’s Career Center for moving into the West Wing residence. West Wing is one of the most coveted dorm buildings on campus, and will now lose available rooms due to the career center relocation.

A thistle to this year’s runners in the Boston Marathon for returning to the course in record numbers after last year’s bombings, honoring all those who died or were injured during last year’s race.

A thorn to the United States Congress for the government shutdown last fall. The fact that partisan politics were allowed to overcome good governing is disgraceful.

A thistle to the incoming student government executives — in particular, Student Body President Elect Ian Glasner and Student Body Vice President Elect Shalini Ray. They ran on a strong platform of targeting student unity and improving campus policies, and we expect good things from them over the course of their term.

A thorn to Carnegie Mellon for receiving a Title IX complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union in response to a student’s complaint that the university allegedly failed to protect her from an abusive ex-girlfriend.

A thistle to the overturning of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court. This victory was a major one for the equal treatment of all marriages under federal law as well as the freedom to marry, propelling state moves toward same-sex marriage legalization across the nation.

A thorn to the Supreme Court for striking down limits of aggregate campaign contributions. Speech should not have measurable units and citizens’ jobs should not determine the amount of speech they have.

A thistle to Nelson Mandela — his work as a leader in South Africa led to the end of apartheid and the development of a stable democracy. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1993 and as an elder statesman he worked to combat poverty and HIV/AIDS. May he rest in peace.

A thorn to the National Security Agency for not only overstepping its bounds of surveillance and data collection, but also for failing to inform the public of many of these practices.

A thistle to current student government executives, especially Student Body President Lindsay MacGillivray and Student Body Vice President Ian Glasner. They led Carnegie Mellon well throughout the past year, and The Tartan thanks them for their service.

A thorn to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in August 2013. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime, and its use against civilians is especially horrific.

A thistle to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, and New Mexico, as well as judicial victories in favor of marriage equality in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, and Michigan. This encouraging forward momentum is unlikely to slow anytime soon.

A thorn to the Simon Initiative for covering too broad a scope in its goals, and for still being unclear as to how it will go about its vague goal of “solving the mystery of human learning.”

A thistle to State Senator Wendy Davis (D—Texas) for her 11-hour filibuster to combat a controversial anti-abortion bill, that would severely limit abortion services all across Texas.

A thorn to the violence against political protestors in Egypt. The increase in violence in July and August of 2013 saw hundreds of innocent people killed, and such destructiveness should not be tolerated.

A thistle to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who has been far more transparent in his governing than former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and has shown a strong commitment to growing and developing this city.

A thorn to Arizona’s proposed religious freedom bill. Though the bill was vetoed due to national outrage, it encouraged other conservative states to take similar measures which could be used to defend discrimination against LGBT clientele by businesses and other public services.

A thistle to the Andrew Webmail update last summer from SquirrelMail — a flawed and outdated format — to Google mail.