By Sinead HuntRead More »
By Sinead HuntRead More »
By Sinead Hunt
To most of my peers, Scrubs represents an entirely forgettable, one-dimensional sitcom from the early 2000s. But given that it was the first sitcom I had ever laid my eyes upon, it’s no wonder that my pubescent self found the show invariably hilarious and the characters unwaveringly winning—after all, I had nothing to compare it to. Recently, for reasons relating entirely to indolence, I decided to go back and watch Scrubs in its entirety to see if it still holds up.Read More »
By Sinead Hunt
Though I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered Gilmore Girls, I can recall how immediately entranced I was by the world that Amy Sherman-Palladino had so lovingly and deliberately crafted. At the time, I was a first-semester freshman in college, struggling to make friends, assimilate to college life and keep my head above water academically. Upon arriving on campus, I found it difficult to reconcile my preconceived notions of what college would be like with the realities I encountered.
By Sinead Hunt
Whether you’re the type of person who starts celebrating Christmas at midnight on November 1st, or if you prefer to abstain from celebration until Thanksgiving has passed, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than Christmas in New York City. Read More »
by Sinead Hunt
If you’re anything like me, these past few weeks have been characterized by an unrelenting barrage of exams, papers and deadlines, with no discernable finish line in the foreseeable future. Your celebration over the completion of one assignment is almost certain to be overshadowed by yet another looming deadline, as this semester’s midterm season drags on. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by school work, internships, and the overall pressure to succeed, then you too have felt the effect of Barnard/Columbia’s toxic “stress culture.”
In light of recent events, including an ill-conceived “time management calculator” recently circulated within the Columbia Buy Sell Memes page, you would have to be living under a rock to have never heard the term “stress culture.” As the term has become firmly ingrained in the lexicon of Barnard/Columbia students, there have been numerous attempts by the administration to deal with this insidious pandemic. From limiting the number of credits students can take to expanding access to mental health services, members of the community, including students, faculty and administrators are all struggling to discover a panacea for stress culture.z
No place better embodies Columbia’s stress culture than Butler Library. On Sunday nights, Butler’s atmosphere is perfectly dismal, the intimidating silence punctuated only by the furious clacking of student’s typing. While Butler’s formidable presence is expected, however, even the social spaces on campus have been co-opted as oppressively silent study spaces.
Who should be held accountable for this school’s pernicious stress culture? While I acquiesce that there are many things the administration could be doing to mitigate stress culture, it is equally important to consider what we as students could be doing right now to foster a healthier, less stressful environment.
After my first semester at college, I was struck by the story of an evolutionary biologist by the name of William Muir. In an effort to better understand the relationship between competition and productivity, Muir set out to measure the productivity of chickens. He separated his hens into two distinct groups, the first of which being a collection of simply “average” chickens. The second group was a carefully selected cross-section of the most productive chickens, also known as “super chickens.” Each generation, Muir selected only the best egg-layers to place into this elite flock. After six generations, Muir examined the egg production of both groups.
The results of Muir’s experiment were shocking. If egg-laying is a heritable trait, then simple evolutionary biology dictates that the latter of the two flocks, the group of “super chickens,” should have been more productive than their average counterparts. However, contrary to expectation, it was the average flock that thrived, increasing egg production by 160%. And what about the super chickens?
They pecked one another to death.
Muir found that the individually productive chickens had achieved their success at the expense of their neighbors, suppressing their peers’ egg-laying so as to maximize their own. The intense competition among these super chickens, rather than increasing productivity, actually led to the demise of their flock.
The results of this study resonated with me on a personal level. From the moment I arrived on campus, I knew that the vast majority of my classmates had been at the top of their class in high school, and came to college with one simple objective: to succeed. In other words, we are all super chickens, willing to do whatever it takes to maximize our own productivity, even if it comes at the expense of our neighbors. At this point, I could regale you with countless stories of times where my classmates and even my friends reified this toxic ethos of competition through both words and actions. From my best friend who only agreed to share her notes with me “because the class isn’t curved,” to the classmates who made me feel ashamed of a 96, stress culture is ultimately perpetuated by us, the students. While the administration certainly needs to make a concerted effort to address this culture of competition, we, the students, too must critically examine our inordinate emphasis on success. As long as we normalize unhealthy practices in the name of academic success, we are complicit in the further perpetuation of an unhealthy stress culture that is bad for all members of our community.
By Sinead Hunt
This semester, in a dual attempt to a) become a much more well-rounded student and b) fulfill Barnard’s “Thinking About Social Difference” requirement, I enrolled in “Introduction to Sociology: The Social World.” Although it is still early in the semester, this class has already managed to challenge my most fundamental conception of my identity.
As an economics major, I’m used to grappling with difficult mathematical concepts, to stripping people of their humanity and viewing them as the mere sum of their economic transactions. If economics is cold and calculating, then sociology is the diametric opposite. In order to understand the forces that drive individual human behaviors, sociologists fully integrate themselves into people’s daily lives. They infiltrate churches and schools, hospitals and boardrooms, camouflaging themselves in order to produce writing that is both academic and intimate.
This week, as part of our examination of the development of the self, we studied the work of George Herbert Mead, who is best known for his theory that a person’s identity is developed through their social interactions. At first I was rather resistant to Mead’s idea of identity formation through “social experiences and activities,” mostly because I have always tended to avoid social interactions. However, one thing I have learned thus far is that regardless of whether or not you subscribe to certain social norms, they nonetheless govern your life. Just because I was an anti-social preschooler doesn’t mean that I am the rare exception to Mead’s theory. Even as a four year-old, my fierce independence was fueled by the self-aggrandizing delusion that I was somehow above my peers, above my teachers, and most of all, above the patronizing institution of pre-K.
Mead believed that play is integral to children’s formation of identity, as it allows children to take on different roles, thereby adopting the perspective of others. I remember distinctly that one day I was playing with a friend of mine, Amanda, when she imperiously announced that she would play the role of a princess and I her servant. I still remember bitterly choking down tears as
I began to feel an acrid mixture of rage and resentment. I also remember feeling unbridled glee when I turned the tables on Amanda by channeling my pent up feelings of injustice into revenge. Play allowed me to experience of wide range of perspectives, all from the comfort the comfort of my home.
Mead posits that at a certain point, children’s conception of “self” is transformed by what he refers to as the “generalized other.” This is to say, when you are a very young child, your sense of self is predicated upon how your family members and caretakers perceive you. As you move out into the world, however, and begin to interact with those outside of your family circle, your identity is increasing influenced by how you think others perceive you. Your sense of self is increasingly predicated upon what you believe society expects of you.
In class, our professor asked us one simple question: “Who do you think you are?” She instructed us to summarize our identity in one word and write it down in our notebooks. As those around me diligently obeyed her directive, I couldn’t help but pause. The first thing I thought to write was “smart.” For about as long as I can remember, I have identified as “smart,” predicating not only self-worth, but the very essence of my sense of self upon my intelligence. When I was very young, I had no conception of my own intelligence or abilities. I felt no ambition, no desire to achieve, no impulse to prove myself to anyone: I simply just existed. Mostly I was content on fulfilling my own preschool version of hedonistic desires, which mostly consisted of fruit snacks.
It wasn’t until second or third grade that I began to internalize what my teachers thought of me. My teachers expected me to achieve, so in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, I began to achieve at high levels. My mother once recounted to me a horrifying story about her coming home, only to discover that nine-year-old me was stressing about an upcoming state science exam. When she asked me why I felt so anxious, I responded that I had heard the teachers talking about me, and they had expressed a certainty that I would get a perfect score. Suddenly, I felt not only an obligation to perform well, but to perform perfectly. My intelligence, my achievement and my sense of self became inextricably and dangerously linked.
The moral of the story? Sociology will fuck you up.
New Yorker Cartoon linked here
Edited by Ruby Samuels
By Sinead Hunt
For Barnard students, March can be an especially stressful time of year. The prospect of looming midterms strikes fear into the hearts of many students. First-years, in particular, can feel overwhelmed, as we are not yet acclimated to the demands of college. When it comes to midterms, many students employ a variety of different tactics and strategies to achieve success. While some students rely on their meticulous notes to carry them through this stressful period, others may desperately plead to a higher deity to spare their GPA. Whatever method you employ while studying for midterms, however, it is important to practice self-care.