Thistles & Thorns

At the close of every school 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 and the world at large; thorns go to those that have negatively impacted the community.

A thistle to the people who organized or participated in Black Lives Matter marches and die-ins across the country and at Carnegie Mellon. There are serious systemic issues with policing in this country that need to be exposed and talked about honestly, and it was great to see Carnegie Mellon adding its voice to that discussion.

A thorn to Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) for handing over research that cracked Tor, revealing the identities of thousands of internet users who were attempting to remain anonymous. As an institution on the cutting edge of technological development, Carnegie Mellon as a whole and SEI specifically are helping shape the future of the Internet. They should be working to preserve the freedom of the Internet and defend user privacy.

A thistle to Vaasavi Unnava for being elected Student Body President with Aaron Gutierrez as Student Body Vice President. The campus will be relying on them for leadership in the upcoming year.

A thorn to Mitch McConnell for waiting less than an hour after President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court Justice to reject him as a candidate. He clearly did not even bother considering Garland’s qualifications, and instead used this important process to win points in petty partisan squabbles. Garland is a moderate and well-qualified candidate that deserves the respect of a proper vetting process.

A thistle to all of the booth building organizations for overcoming the challenges of the relocation of Carnival. The College of Fine Arts parking lot is on a slope and very unlike the flat terrain of the Morewood Gardens parking lot, but the organizations adjusted gracefully to bring us the Carnival experience we all know and love.

A thorn to the water main under Forbes Avenue for breaking and shutting down the road so all the cars were funneled onto Fifth Avenue, resulting in such chaotic traffic that a student’s foot got run over. The steady stream of pedestrians across Fifth deserves better defense from motor vehicles in these trying times.

A thistle to the water main under Forbes for liberating pedestrians from the tyranny of the motor vehicle. Forbes was much easier to cross for a few blissful weeks as students rushed to class.

A thorn to American media consumers for thinking Al Jazeera was a terrorist organization for so long that Al Jazeera America was driven offline. Our culture of fear and Islamophobia has become so pervasive that people cannot tell a well-respected journalistic organization from a terrorist cell. Fueled by ignorance, this fear will become self-perpetuating unless we listen to a range of different media outlets and perspectives.

A thistle to The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for The Panama Papers, a global effort of more than 400 journalists to expose the off-shore holdings of world leaders. In a similar vein, a thistle to BuzzFeed for its recent investigative pieces on everything from match fixing to for-profit foster care.

A thorn to Overheard at Carnegie Mellon, once a place for light-hearted Carnegie Mellon themed fun, for descending into vitriolic comments and petty bickering. The page used to be a place to laugh together about the silly quirks of our community, but it is no longer serving its purpose.

A thistle to the Carnegie Mellon construction team for finishing the renovations on both the Cohon Center and Scott Hall. These new additions provide much needed facilities to campus and are yet another sign of our university’s rapid development in recent years.

A thorn to whoever unlawfully removed the beloved cardboard cutout of David Tepper from Posner Hall. It’s probably serving as excellent nice dorm room decor, though.

A thistle to Scott Hall specifically for providing a home for the Biomedical Engineering department, along with Nano Fabrication and the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. With new laboratories and a cleanroom facility, the building will help our STEM departments continue to excel. Not to mention it connects Porter, Roberts, Hamerschlag, and Wean Halls, giving students a way to avoid the rain and cold for even longer as they rush between classes.

A thorn to Snapchat for marking 4/20 with a Bob Marley filter that reduced an iconic singer to a symbol for weed using a lens that basically amounted to digital blackface. The lens showed a stupefying lack of historical awareness on the part of Snapchat. In a nation with a long and painful history surrounding blackface, both individuals and companies should do their research before making light of it.
A thistle to Hillary Clinton for visiting our campus on her presidential primary circuit. Her visit was a great way for students to engage with politics, be it by cheering in the crowd at the rally or chanting protest slogans outside with a papier-mâché Bernie Sanders. It’s incredibly important to engage young voters in the election process since we are the future of America’s democracy.

A thorn to the Mississippi and North Carolina legislators for passing such blatant and aggressive anti-LGBT+ legislation that the British government published a travel warning to LGBT+ people visiting the states. It is troubling to live in a country where local governments so brazenly approve of discrimination.

A thistle to Governor Tom Wolf for making Pennsylvania the 26th state to legalize medical marajuana, and not letting decades of stigma get in the way of medical research.

A thorn to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey for failing to uphold his duty to represent his constituents and instead getting ensnared in petty Washington politics. His attempt to block the moderate Supreme Court justice candidate President Obama nominated from being approved represents a betrayal of his constituents and his constitutional duties.

A thistle to the Market District Giant Eagle for extending its hours back to midnight. The later hours are much more convenient for students who want the comfort or cost effectiveness of a home cooked meal.

A thorn to the recent construction for making campus noisy and difficult to navigate this year. While progress is great, the current group of students definitely got the short end of the stick with the renovations. Students will find a beautiful, bulldozer free Mall when they return in the fall, but will have to keep listening to the jackhammer choir in the Morewood parking lot for quite some time.

A thistle to The Underground for also extending its hours, in this case to 2 a.m., to compensate for the closure of Skibo. Milkshakes, greasy fries, and excessive amounts of melted cheese at midnight are a staple of the undergraduate college experience, and The Underground ensured that this year’s first-years didn’t miss out on it.

A thorn to Donald Trump, for the plethora of reasons that have been addressed in these pages throughout the year.

A thistle to our readership for seeing us through another great year at The Tartan.