Editorial

Editorial

Editorial: Role of a Newspaper

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In September 2011, the Pew Research Center published a study that explored the role of newspapers in communities.  Participants in the study were asked questions like, “If your local newspaper no longer existed, would that have a major impact, a minor impact, or no impact on your ability to keep up with information and news about your local community?” Not surprisingly, 69% of Americans believe the death of their local newspaper would have no impact, or only a minor impact, on their ability to get local information. In fact, younger adults, people aged 18-29, were more unconcerned with the death of newspapers than any other age group. However, when the same participants were queried about specific local topics, newspapers ranked in the top most important sources for information.  Even among young adults, newspapers were seen as an important source of analysis and news of key local issues.

The Babson Free Press prides itself as a source for local information and discussion of topics that are important to the Babson community. The staff of the Free Press provide objective news stories and analytical feature articles, while also disseminating opinions through Opinionated Editorials or Op-Ed commentary. Op-Eds are not the voice of the paper and are written by any community member without aggressive censorship. In recent years, the Free Press has sparked dialogue about the Diversity and Inclusion petition, residence life suite policy, Babson Global’s controversial expansion to Saudi Arabia, the presidential election and the SGA’s finance policies through Op-Ed’s and features.

This editorial is our way of reminding our readers that the Free Press is a medium for discussion and dialogue, and is never meant to attack or target. Embracing and recognizing differing opinions is a paramount part of our culture, even if you do not necessarily agree with those stances. In an age when so many refuse to hear the other side, mediums like newspapers continue challenging perceptions. Whether it be in life, on social media, or through newspapers, the Free Press encourages its readers to take rational stances while considering opposing views as well.

For more details about Op-Ed submissions, please email freepress@babson.edu.

Chartwells receptive to feedback, logistically challenged

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Food service has probably been the most important issue on the minds of students in recent years at Babson College. The overwhelming outcry against Sodexo and the overall dining experience were finally heard last year when Dean of Student Affairs Larry Ward headed the search for a new service provider.

Communication by Dean Ward’s team was exceptional, as students understood every step in the transition to Chartwells. There were high hopes going into the year, and a month into the semester we can start to see how things are playing out.

Many times, Chartwells administrationhave voiced their commitment to additional options, quality and responding to feedback. In a meeting with campus leaders, the head chef and regional manager of Chartwells both asked for continual feedback from the student body.

They emphasized that unless students speak out, they don’t know what is going wrong. They also stressed that they want to maintain the quality of food throughout the year, an issue of concern due to Sodexo’s quality slumps near the end of semesters.

Undeniably, Trim and Reynolds’appear and feel cleaner and more pleasant; there are additional options, especially for dinner; and the new administration seems open to and ready for feedback.

There has not been a significant enough change in the quality of the food to make an overarching statement, but there seems to be more seasoning and more creative
fare.

Currently, problems seem logistic, such as long lines and dealing with large events, which is a goodsign. These are all operational issues that can be fixed easily and don’t necessarily indicate bad trends that will continue.

Chartwells is still hitting its stride, but their most important accomplishment that they should be lauded for is their willingness to listen and improve.

Using their texting feedback system, students get responses and see results. Managers can always be found on the floor and encourage feedback. They are opening up conversation with the community on how to improve, and seem to be taking these suggestions to heart. In response to student feedback, Chartwells brought back to-go cups, which initially they removed, as well as adding new condiments and a wider variety of teas.

We are definitely moving in the right direction, but we have to recognize that we will not become a five star dining establishment.

If you have a problem with your dining experience, voice it, and we will see how Chartwells’ responds. Lines are definitely an issue that we hope gets solved soon, and Chartwells has voiced their willingness to combat them. So far, trends are promising, and we are excited to see where Chartwells and Babson Dining go from here.

“Slouching towards sustainability:” Current sustainability efforts are commendable—but more can be done

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In 2006, former President of Babson College Leonard A. Schlesinger signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), acknowledging the destructive effect of global warming and committing to reducing the environmental impact of Babson College. Since that time, Babson College has created and implemented a compelling action plan to become climate neutral by 2050.

The plan commits the college to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in 2015, 50% in 2020, 70% in 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, compared to a baseline set in 2005. Huge steps have already been made that should be recognized. Babson provides 5% of its electricity through wind power, changed fuel sources from oil to natural gas, drastically decreasing emissions, and efficient construction and lighting has allowed Babson to cut energy use by 7.1%. Due to these measures, Babson has already achieved a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 levels.

Other achievements include implementing sustainability into curricula, reducing food waste by 80% on campus, installing hydration stations to encourage reusable water bottle use, installing electric vehicle charging stations, and encouraging more environmentally friendly food practices through a community garden, a community supported agriculture partnership, and the food sustainability organization Food Sol.

Babson also uses the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), described as “a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability” by the Sustainability Office. STARS ranking is based upon four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. According to the STARS framework, Babson has a Gold ranking, one below the top ranking of Platinum.

“This an all-encompassing effort to cut back our carbon emissions, meaning that we’re looking to improve everything from running charging stations for electric vehicles to sourcing dining hall food from suppliers with good environmental practices. While this is a huge task, and [while] we’re well on our way to reaching our goal, there are some small colleges that have already become carbon neutral, such as Colby College in Maine,” Andrew Lidington, Vice President of Undergraduate Relations for the Babson Energy and Environmental Club, said.

While Babson College has made significant steps towards a sustainable future, the pace of improvement is slowing. Obvious and substantial changes, such as changing fuel sources from oil to natural gas, have significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly and effectively, but as Babson takes more steps towards climate neutrality, greater and greater investment has to be put forth in order to achieve the same result. It is a lot easier to build residence halls and classrooms with strict environmental regulations than it is to install solar panels or wind turbines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have already taken the easy steps; now it gets hard.

While significant steps have been taken to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, some sustainability practices have been overlooked. All new buildings on campus such as Park Manor South, West and Central, are ranked LEED Silver by the US Green Building Council. The ranking is based on a variety of sustainable construction practices such as insulation, energy and water efficiency, and materials used. “The heating, cooling and lighting all reach a certain level of efficiency, and only environmentally-friendly construction materials are used. Thus, we’re still improving our long-term environmental impact,” Lidington said.

However, LEED certifications have faced some crit- icism. Numerous reports has debunked the validity of LEED certification in terms of energy savings. At Oberlin College, Professor John Scofield reports that there is “no evidence that LEED certification has collectively lowered either site or source energy for office buildings.”

Still, some opportunities for greater sustainability were missed when building the new Park Manor buildings. These opportunities were probably overlooked because the buildings will be remodeled before the 2050 deadline for climate neutrality.

While the Sustainability Office and Babson Administration have made huge steps towards achieving climate neutrality and creating a more environmentally friendly campus, some measures have yet to be implemented. It is hard to question the intentions of the dedicated and hardworking Sustainability Office. Babson administration should be looking at the costs to our planet and our future college instead of focusing on today’s expenditures.

“I hope this positive momentum continues to grow, and maybe we’ll start to see Babson nationally ranked for both entrepreneurship and sustainability,” Lidington said.

“The winter of students’ discontent:” Events at Yale and Mizzou beg deeper discussion

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It should not have to be said that every student deserves to feel safe on their campus. Nor should it have to be said that racism, systematic or otherwise, is alive in modern-day America.

These truths are comforting, insomuch as we can all agree on them. Little else in the current national debate affords such luxury. The recent protests at Yale and Mizzou blend a complicated history of injustice, recent social trends, freedom of speech, and education, all set against the ugly backdrop of discrimination.

At Yale, it all began with an email from the school’s Intercultural Affairs Council that requested students not wear offensive or “culturally appropriative” Halloween costumes. Erika Christakis, a professor and Associate Master (akin to an Area Director), responded to this email among her living area, pushing back: “If you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

“Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity – to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?” she asks.

This email led to widespread protests, clashes with the media, and calls for resignation. “We simply ask that our existences not be invalidated on campus,” Yale students stated in an open letter signed by over one thousand students, alumni, and others.

And yet, as Conor Friedersdorf responds expertly in The Atlantic: “This notion that one’s existence can be invalidated by a fellow 18-year-old donning an offensive costume is perhaps the most disempowering notion aired at Yale.”

No matter your views on the events at Yale, contrast them with Mizzou, where a Yik Yak post stated, “I’m going to stand my ground and shoot every black person I see,” where an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism wrote that she “[has] been called the n-word too many times to count,” and where students woke up one morning to cotton balls scattered with odious intent across the Black Culture Center’s lawn.

This is all to say that to conflate Yale with Mizzou is wildly unjust. On one hand, we have an overblown reaction to an email—a textbook example of what The Atlantic calls “catastrophizing.” There are surely racial problems at Yale, but addressing a polite, well-intentioned email with such a display is nothing short of shameful.

The Mizzou protesters, although not perfect in the own right, are at the very least easier to sympathize with. The details of the school’s racism are horrific; one can understand why these students feel unsafe on their campus.

Still, “not perfect” bears investigation. It would be dishonest to ignore the behavior of protestors on both sides. At Mizzou, they shoved a student photographer. Separately, a communications professor called for “muscle” to remove another student journalist. At Yale, activists screamed profanities at professors and spit on conference attendees.

It is difficult to see what students had to gain from treating the media so poorly, or how the media might tell an authentic story—as the protesters accuse them of failing to do—if they are blocked from access.

Clearly, the issue is far from one-sided. An email from the Student Government Association, signed “#InSolidaritywithMizzou, Your SGA,” may have obscured the variety of opinions among the Babson student body.

Certainly, many stand steadfastly with the protesters. 94 members of the Babson community dressed in black and posed for a photo in show of support; countless others posted a viral message on social media: “To the students of color at Mizzou. We, student allies at Babson College, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, the world is watching.”

But others feel differently. “Orwellian” is the way one student described the protesters’ censorship of any dissenting viewpoint. “It just seems disingenuous,” said another, to pretend like posting on social media, which requires little effort, equates to true support.

In the end, progress cannot come without calm, reasoned discussion. Protesters are right and wrong; administrators are right and wrong; the media is right and wrong. Babson, with its wonderful diversity, is rich with opportunity for debate and understanding.

“We have a right to be offensive,” Princeton student Beni Snow declared in the Daily Princetonian. And we do.

“Systematic injustice…is very much a reality for a lot of students of color,” Babson student Victoria Bills (’16) said. And it is.

“Talk to each other,” Christakis’ email urged. And we must.

Babson Global restructuring is necessary

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Mention Babson Global to the average student, and you’ll hear one consistent response: “Babson what?”

Babson Global has operated for years without the knowledge of Babson’s most important community segment, its students. This mystery alone is cause for concern. Add in divided faculty opinion and its investment in repressive nations, and it becomes clear that Babson Global is in need of a change.

In April, faculty voted on a referendum requesting the Board of Trustees change “the name and associated logo to one that clearly separate Babson College from Babson Global…and [change] the current structure of Babson Global and its relationships to the college.” 98 faculty voted in favor, with 36 opposed and nine abstaining.

Yet faculty opinion is more nuanced than the raw numbers capture. Some vehemently oppose the project; others support the original goal, but are skeptical of certain aspects; still others support the program in its entirety. Taking note of faculty feedback, administration established the College Integration Working Group and the Legal Financial Working Group to work over the summer and study ways of restructuring Babson Global.

And restructuring is unquestionably needed.

“The important point is we are not creating a branch campus,” Babson Global CEO Shahid Ansari, referring to the Saudi Arabian project, said in a 2013 interview. Yet while the campus as a whole will not hold the Babson name, it will feature the Babson Global Entrepreneurial Leadership Center. A January 2014 e-mail to staff from the Office of the President describes “important step[s] forward in our efforts to support the establishment of a new entrepreneurship-focus college in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” including meetings with the Saudi Minister of Higher Education.


It is important to note that Babson Global started, and continues to operate, with good intentions. But the corporation must align with Babson College’s core values.

Saudi Arabia is infamous on the world stage for its human rights violations. The Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report describes the country’s conditions. “Saudi Arabia continued in 2014 to try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities. Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued. As in past years, authorities subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention.”

It is hard to reconcile these human rights violations with Babson’s core values. Actions speak louder than words, and Babson cannot justify investment in such an oppressive nation, no matter the opportunity for income. Education is important for progress, and money is important for education, but it is impossible to ignore Saudi Arabia’s status as one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Like any college, much of Babson’s value to its students comes from its brand. Affiliation with Saudi Arabia, if widely publicized, could only detract from the College’s image. Changing Babson Global’s identity to separate it from Babson College would therefore protect students’ investments in the community.

Yet while a name change may aid its image, Babson Global’s true ties to the College cannot be so easily dissolved. “Babson Global, Inc was formed…exclusively to perform internationally and to carry out certain educational purposes of, and otherwise advance and support the educational objectives of Babson College,” according to the company’s IRS Form 990, a return for tax-exempt non-profits. Despite its independent legal status, the corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Babson College, and was established to further the College’s own goals. A mere name change would obscure, rather than address, the initiative’s problems.

It is important to note that Babson Global started, and continues to operate, with good intentions. Establishing another revenue stream for the College by spreading entrepreneurship education globally makes sense. But the corporation must align with Babson College’s core values. By investing in Saudi Arabia, Babson is helping to enable the nation’s activities.

“Many faculty have made [Babson College] their life’s work, so they feel that if the institution does things that perhaps do not represent them well, they want to be heard. And in this instance they were,” Professor Fritz Fleischmann, a member of the Babson Global Faculty Oversight Committee, said.

One of the summer committees, the Legal Financial Working Group, acknowledged in its report that “fulfilling the Saudi and Indonesia contractual obligations is a necessity.” This is true; the College can’t back out of contracts. Yet it begs the question: Why we were involved in Saudi Arabia in the first place?

No matter what happens, greater transparency is needed. The vast majority of Babson students, the veritable core of the institution, do not know that Babson Global even exists, never mind understand its various involvements. While the Saudi Arabian investment is a prominent example, there are others. The Babson Global website is thin on concrete information, and its scattershot initiatives are difficult to track. Information should be made more readily available to students, parents, faculty, and alumni. And if these community members don’t agree with Babson Global’s doings, it shouldn’t exist.