Forum

Students must overcome effects of CMU Bubble

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As excited as we may be to welcome our friends back to campus, we know what lies ahead: long nights, busy days, and stressful interactions. Rest is one of the first things to disappear from our routines, but even before sleep there is one more thing we sacrifice: our connection to the outside world.

“The CMU Bubble,” as it is known occurs when we shroud ourselves in the campus community. The news is something many of us get notifications about on our smartphones, and which we only acknowledge for a moment before continuing to scroll, checking our Facebook notifications and replying to emails.

There are two current stories in particular which I believe merit further consideration and discussion. First, the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. feel brutally anachronistic. Law enforcement officers in riot gear and protesters assaulted with tear gas seem too outrageous to be real, particularly in the American Midwest of 2014. The militaristic, racially charged reaction of local officials has led to national controversy and outrage. The situation in Ferguson must be watched closely, as it connotes a complicated and troubling historical precedent.

A second news item of note is Brandon Stanton’s world tour with the United Nations. Stanton, the photographer behind popular blog and best-selling book Humans of New York, is taking his work outside of the city, conducting interviews and telling stories through his pictures globally. Stanton shows the human element of places like Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose people are so often skewed and simplified in Western media portrayals.

Stanton is known for pairing stunning portraits with funny, poignant, or deeply personal quotes from his subjects. The use of personal narratives puts these events into context, such as the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine since May, or the nearby threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — which has been classified as a terrorist organization by the United Nations — in Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel. Interviews with Syrian refugees in Jordan or Iraqi residents fleeing ISIS offer a starker and more developed picture of these conflicts than typical media coverage.

Both Ferguson and the HONY tour relate to such significant issues in the world today, yet neither is being discussed enough on campus. Who can blame us? Our lives are hectic. The world beyond campus is a distant place, usually unrelated to our stresses and fears. Will another failed cease-fire along the Gaza Strip have any effect on my calculus final? Not particularly. Still, nonchalance is troubling. If we attend Carnegie Mellon to pursue our passions — to put our hearts in the work — then we should be equally passionate about applying our education to real-world issues.