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 White House Frontiers Conference for celebrating scientific achievements nationwide and honoring Carnegie Mellon’s tradition of being at the forefront of scientific development, while giving students reasons to brag about President Obama taking over the Cohon Center (CC). The campus felt like something out of a science fiction movie that day, which was right in line with the boundary-pushing research and discoveries that were talked about at the conference.

A thorn to the government’s efforts to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), overlooking the numerous benefits that artistic experience can give citizens. The NEA offers grants for writers, musicians, theater performers, visual artists, and other creators, and makes sure that all Americans can at some point be touched by artistic expression. Without it, we can only imagine how much creativity in the country will suffer.

A thistle to the Academy for recognizing the cultural importance of Moonlight, a film dealing with the struggles of being a young African-American gay man, despite the initial popularity and attention heaped upon the Hollywood-glorifying La La Land. The brief mix-up had many concerned that the Oscars would once again go with the “safe” choice, but they instead highlighted a message that has the potential to make a meaningful difference.

A thorn to “Hidden Fences”, the nonexistent movie that was brought up again and again on the red carpet, because apparently, if you have more than one African-American-centric film nominated for an Oscar they start to blend together.

A thistle to Adele for acknowledging Lemonade’s cultural importance and Beyonce’s success despite the overwhelming institutional racism of the Grammys and music industry. Both have repeatedly failed to recognize the achievements of people of color, but Adele gracefully drew attention to Beyonce’s accomplishments with the move of an aware ally.

A thorn to the Grammys for failing to acknowledge the importance and relevance of Lemonade. This isn’t the first time that the Grammys have been criticized for racism and prejudice, and more and more people are growing tired of the way the achievements of people of color are overlooked.

A thistle to all of the organizations that brought us the incredibly talented Laverne Cox. Thank you to Activities Board, CMU Allies, Residential Education, the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, Student Dormitory Council, Student Senate, Division of Student Affairs, and the Graduate Student Assembly. It was an honor for our campus to the be recipient of such a powerful, personable, and inspiring speech by such an accomplished actress.

A thorn to Donald Trump as a person, a concept, and worst of all, a president. He lacks the experience, the qualifications, and the temperament to perform the job with any semblance of authority. Also, a thorn to all of the states that normally lean Democratic, and yet for some reason voted for Trump in the election.

A thistle to those who participated in women’s marches and science marches across the country and the world, showing the government that gender equality and scientific knowledge are not issues that can be ignored. Our president may try to encourage certain views, but we don’t have to share them, and we don’t have to let him risk our futures.

A thorn for Trump’s cabinet, which includes people like Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, Scott Pruitt, and others who are laughably unfit for their positions. Unfortunately, despite his promise to “drain the swamp,” the people he brought in to help lead the country were largely donors and party supporters more concerned with their own interests than the vulnerable Americans they are supposed to be serving.

A thistle for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council. White Supremacists have no place advising the president on the security of the entire country, particularly ones with no experience in foreign policy, and it was a relief that other leaders eventually came around to that sentiment.

A thorn to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the water boil advisory that limited the available water on campus.

A thistle to the CC Expansion, the Tata Consultancy Services, and the Tepper Quad for adding additional spaces for students to pursue higher learning on an already well-sized campus.

A thorn to the ever-popular candidate No Confidence dominating the Student Senate election votes, resulting in mass confusion and a second Student Senate election.

A thistle to Chipotle for filling the universal need for a quick burrito close to campus — and for reminding us just how badly we wish El Gallo de Oro was Chipotle.

A thorn to the Carnival comedian showcase, which was sparsely attended thanks to a subpar time slot and some rather offensive stand-up sets.

A thistle to Carnegie Mellon winning first place in the 77th William Lowell Putnam Competition after placing in the top five for six consecutive years. A special shout out to MCS math majors, junior Joshua Brakensiek and seniors Thomas Swayze and Samuel Zbarsky for being named Putnam Fellows.

A thorn to the loss of Skibo Cafe and the unparalleled greasy foods which, at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday, are much more satisfying than the fresh ABP sandwich that takes a century to be made.

A thistle to California for finally becoming drought-free after more than five years of struggling to distribute enough water for its inhabitants.

A thorn to California’s reservoirs, which are evidently not equipped to deal with the return of water to the state with the end of the drought.

A thistle to the ski and snowboarding team for their accomplishment in making it to nationals and for becoming a more prominent organization.

A thorn to the the two-factor ID and Duo Push notifications, for having confusing instructions and unclear guidelines, and for making it impossible for anyone who loses their phone to access any school website. There’s something to be said for accounts that are more secure, but there’s also something to be said for student sanity, and that is definitely suffering as a result.

A thistle to the Carnegie Mellon University administration for refusing to enforce Trump’s travel ban, and to the university’s commitment to diversity and global understanding. They stood by the members of our campus community who come from far away to learn, and made it clear that such unconstitutional restrictions are not okay by those trying to make the country a better place.

A thorn to the unfortunately Carnival rain for delaying the opening of booth. At the same time, props to the many dedicated members of numerous organizations who persevered and made the annual event successful in the end, despite the setback.

A thistle to our readers for trusting us to keep them up-to-date about important news on the campus and beyond. Thanks for another great year!