Fountain: In my rainbow class, a palpable air of mourning

The following post originally appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times under the byline of John W. Fountain on 11/11/2016. John Fountain was Dominic’s professor at Roosevelt University in 2016, and is a regular columnist for the Sun-Times.

On the morning after, I wore black. Black turtleneck. My professorial black suede jacket. Black slacks. Wine shoes for a spray of color — a ray of hope.

I was in mourning. Not for the loss we will all suffer for having now elected a sexist bigot to be leader of the Free World. Mourning for those who ultimately will live to regret it as this country is whisked into a whirlwind of born-again hate and the campaign promises turn up empty. For “we” gon’ be all right.

But inside my classrooms at Roosevelt University this week, the air was palpably somber. A journalism class that resembles a rainbow — Latina, white, black, a student from Ukraine, straight, gay — we are America.

Usually optimistic, some students were reduced to tears — angry, fearful, dismayed — over the democratic elections that yielded President-elect Donald J. Trump.

While not in my lesson plan, circumstance demanded we discuss the matter at hand. Some could. Some could not.

Tears flowed.

“I couldn’t help but notice today was not a good day for you. …Intended to speak with you after class, but you left before I could,” I later wrote to one student. “Hope all is well.”

“I’m OK,” my student Dominic Gwinn wrote back days later. “I was reeling from the results of the election and what that means for me as a journalist, as a student, and as a young white male who has worked so tirelessly to abolish the kind of thinking that is unfortunately so pervasive. Injustices were seemingly validated. I’ve always known that they still existed. But their prevalence in modern society made me physically ill.

“I stayed up all night co-hosting an election party for my internship, and I was the last soul trying to maintain hope and optimism until everyone left in tears. When I finally got home, I turned on some music and I wept alone like a child. …I tried to breathe, but my lungs knew only deep heavy sobs.

“Is this what people wanted? Did they not remember the wars, the economic catastrophe, the racial and sexual bigotry, state-sanctioned torture, domestic spying, environmental destruction of just 10 years ago?

“Are they ignorant? Or do they just not care? Do they just not know how much work was done in the town they — with disdain and loathing — call ‘the Swamp?’

“They deride the lot of residents who sacrifice their own votes to live in a city where their job is to help people all over the world.

“And the people who work tirelessly in windowless rooms to make sure tomorrow is, at the very least, not as bad as yesterday, are simply nothing more than cogs in a machine that needed to be dismantled?

“There’s no plan to fix anything or rebuild, just the false promise that everything will be better after it’s all destroyed.

“It was like being stabbed. The fresh wound pours warm blood, soaking everything it touches. With trembling hands, and jaw agape, cool air rushed toward the hole in my chest, and the pain began to sink in…

“Eight years ago, I stood out on the Mall one cold, blustery day, to see a man tell us all: That we’d won the fight, but our battle had just begun. There would be losses, and there would be setbacks. But we couldn’t stop now. Not yet…

“I’m a journalist, and there’s a story to tell.”

I told Dominic and other students that in the words of Kendrick Lamar: “We gon’ be all right.” That I am encouraged simply because of who they are: Our best hope.

Not just a ray but a rainbow.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

ROOSEVELT HOSTS PRE-DEBATE POLITICAL DISCUSSION

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Students at the pre-debate discussion. Photo by Dominic Gwinn

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

Before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off for their final debate, Roosevelt’s department of Women’s and Gender Studies hosted a discussion featuring the Chair of Roosevelt’s Political Science department, David Faris.

More than a dozen students attended the discussion moderated by Women’s and Gender Studies Director Marjorie Jolles, with topics being discussed ranging from third party candidates, the electoral college, gerrymandering, and the national popular vote initiative.

“I thought it was interesting,” said 20 year-old Rachel Hunter, an international student from the U.K. “You can only hear so much about it at home, but to really be here in America, I never realized how insane the process is for the American people. I feel like I’m much more prepared to talk about things now.”

Faris, supported by Jolles and Associate Professor of Political Science Bethany Barratt, helped students discuss the why certain states matter more than others during a presidential election, why some states are called, “red” or “blue,” as well as some of the topics that were never addressed in the previous debates, like climate change. The presidential electoral process and the Electoral College were also detailed for students unfamiliar with the inner workings of the presidential electoral process, as well a popular alternatives to the College, such as the National Popular Vote Initiative.

“I was honored to take part in the WGS pre-debate election discussion,” Faris commented to the Torch. “The students asked sharp, important questions, and we had a freewheeling, open-ended discussion that represents the best of what democracy has to offer. I also enjoyed meeting students from different majors, and the opportunity to chat with them about important issues. I had a blast.”

“We’re glad people came out to listen,” commented 21 year-old Anna McColgan, a senior in majoring in Social Justice. “It’s important to talk about these things.”

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.