STUDENTS DISCUSS HOPES FOR AMERICAN DREAM

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by Dominic Gwinn, Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch 

As part of its American Dream: Reconsidered conference, and in conjunction with the Roosevelt College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Council, Roosevelt students expressed their views in a discussion, “Millennials and the American Dream.”

The students presented a short film showcasing recent graduates and current students expressing their own personal views on the American Dream before holding a panel discussion in which several students talked about their paths to success in school and life, as well as their own perspective on what the American Dream means to the Millennial generation.

Students covered issues such as the differences between their own goals and that of previous generations, the value and importance of money, perceived roadblocks, limitations, and how their own ideas on the American Dream have changed.

Junior Political science major and Vice Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Council, Becca Wojciki, felt the panel had not only a positive effect on students in attendance, but herself as well.

“I honestly always looked at the american dream very pessimistically because I study politics and a lot of social justice issues,” said Wojciki. “I think today I’ve realized we can all have our own definition of the American Dream, and it doesn’t always have to fall under parameters of wealth, or education, or success.”

Bonnie Gunzenhauser, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, praised the work of the students who volunteered their time to plan and execute the panel which took many hours of work over the past several months.

“I’m very proud of the CASSAC students who put on this panel,” said Dean Gunzenhauser. “They really came up with the idea, did all of the outreach, edited the footage. We provided them with a little infrastructure and support, but this is the only student led panel part of the conference. The American Dream is about the future, so it’s important we hear from the students who are our future.”

Maggie O’Connell, a freshman psychology major, attended the panel and reflected positively about the potential for millennials to shape the future.

“I haven’t really thought of my own American Dream,” O’Connell admits. “ It made me think about what mine would be, and the different individual aspects of what my American Dream is going to turn out to be.”

Student Body President Nathan Stoll led the panel as well as edited the film which highlighted numerous students from across Roosevelt’s diverse population in discussing their dreams and aspirations. Stoll expressed great satisfaction in the outcome of both the film and the panel, and hoped that students, faculty and community members understand that the millennial generation’s interest in solving today’s pressing social justice issues.

“I hope people take from this panel that millennials have an interest in working to find the problems that exist within the idea of the American Dream and working towards ensuring that changes. We can work towards broadening the opportunities that exist for people so that they have a chance to achieve whatever their version of the American Dream is,” Stoll said. “I hope that people realize the millennial generation…is not just going to sit with the way that the American Dream is.”

CONTROVERSIAL SILICON VALLEY VENTURE CAPITALIST SPEAKS AT CONFERENCE

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By Dominic Gwinn, Staff Reporter

Peter Thiel, co-founder of the internet payment system, Paypal, addressed an audience of students, faculty and alumni during Roosevelt University’s first ever American Dream: Reconsidered conference. The controversial businessman was joined by Roosevelt philosophy professor and director of the Montesquieu Forum for the Study of Civic Life, Stuart Warner, for a conversation about globalization, technology and progress sponsored by the Jack Miller Center.

Thiel expressed his views on a number of subjects ranging from globalization, the obsessive personalities prevalent in Silicon Valley, American exceptionalism, student debt, as well as a critique of collegiate institutions.

“Globalization tells people the lie that they will get to rule the world,” commented Thiel. “It’s this really big place, and it’s really exciting because you get to rule the world, you just have to live in New York and then you get to rule the world. Once you get to New York it turns out that a lot of people have been told that lie.”

Thiel lamented the concept of exceptionalism inherent within the American Dream, stating that the idea will more likely foster an attitude of laziness rather than one of successful innovation and progress.

“In the past there’s more opportunity and more freedom to do more things,” Thiel opined about the American Dream. “It can very easily flip to something where it becomes, we’re exceptional so we don’t need to do anything…[then] they’re exceptionally convinced that they’re exceptional, which may make them exceptionally unexceptional.”

In a brief comment to The Torch, Roosevelt President Ali Malekzadeh, stated that Thiel had, “interesting opinions,” and that, as a successful businessman, the university was, “glad to have him here.”

Nineteen year-old sophomore and computer science major, Drew Wilson, offered praise for Thiel’s criticisms.

“It was honestly amazing,” Wilson beamed. “He said a lot of things that I agreed with, a lot of things that I think needed to be said. It was definitely a worthwhile experience.”

During a lengthy statement on the state of colleges and student debt, Thiel likened the current state of higher education to insurance, insisting that college has become less of a investment in the future and more of purchased commodity that aids students in avoiding the pitfalls of society.

“So, even if it’s not a great investment it’s still important to our insurance,” stated Thiel. “It’s why parents take up so much money to send their kids on take up so much institutional debt. Whenever we’re spending this much on insurance I think we should be asking the underlying question, why have the cracks in our society gotten so big that the people are spending more and more on insurance? That would be a good question to ask, and it gets obscured by education.”

Thiel concluded that college, in his view, had become a club of exclusivity, and that most institutions maintain growth by purposefully keeping enrollment numbers low, thereby increasing demand at elite institutions.

“What they really are is like a Studio 54 nightclub with an enormous line of people outside waiting to get in,” Thiel joked. “That’s what a college looks like, and that’s where you get an insurance policy. It’s when you conflate a college with an insurance policy I think you end up with some really rash decisions.”

Sophomore Charlie Sell, a 19 year-old Psychology major, enjoyed the presentation. “I thought it was fantastic. I really thought that the way Professor Warner engaged the interview with Peter Thiel was very well done. I thought a lot of the topics discussed were really crucial to a lot of things going on in our country and the world today.”

Not everyone was entirely pleased with Thiel’s comments though. Psychology major Essyl Ghim, a 30 year-old senior, felt that Thiel’s beliefs about technology were ill informed from historical context.

“I think it’s always important to hear it from another angle because it broadens the way you think,” said Ghim upon reflection. “I’ll definitely have more things to talk about when people bring up globalism.”

Earlier this summer Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention where he expressed support for the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, and called for a relaxation of government regulations to foster the growth of private industries, a sentiment echoed several times throughout the conversation.