The Heart of Campus

By Caleb McCoy 

North Park campus boasts many salient features ranging from the iconic brick of Old Main to the ivy crawling up Caroline Hall to the new gleaming steel and glass of the Johnson center. Yet all these features are eclipsed by the simple beauty of the North Branch of the Chicago River, the greatest feature of our campus.

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Now, I know what you are thinking. Yes, I’m aware that it often stinks like dead fish.  Yes, I’m aware that the bottom of the river, even on the clearest days, remains imperceptible through the murk. Yes, I’m aware that if you set any part of your body in the river, it will surely become covered  in scarlet polka dots. Yet, the North Branch remains North Park campus’ most sublime feature. Why? Simply, because our small stretch of the river connects us to a wider world.

 

Spanning 155 miles, the Chicago River system begins its journey several miles north of campus in the suburb of Morton Grove. Here three tributaries—the West Fork, Middle Fork, and Skokie River—converge in Watersmeet Woods, marking the beginning of the North Branch. The river continues its journey south east, rambling through a series of golf courses and forest preserves until it passes through Labagh Woods on Foster Avenue. Its is here that the river begins to snake behind houses and apartment buildings in the neighborhood of Albany Park.

 

North Park’s little strip of the river begins at the Kimball bridge, meandering along  Kiwanis Trail and forming a boundary between Von Steuben high school and NPU campus. After passing the foot bridge on the corner of Carmen and Spaulding, the river rolls past Caroline Hall and Carlson tower, under Kedzie Avenue, and past Holmgren field until it reaches River Park. Here, the river’s path though our campus ends as it pours over the dam, joining its forces with the North Shore Channel headed due south from Evanston.

With the added force of the NSC, the river widens and the current quickens. Eventually, the river meets another fork downtown at Wolf Point, where an influx of water from Lake Michigan sends the river southwest. The Chicago river rolls down the South Branch through the Sanitary and Shipping Canal river, and eventually into the Mississippi. In this way, North Park campus accounts for just one short chapter in the river’s long journey to the sea.

 

With the river’s presence here also comes a host of creatures that call this area home. Robins, cardinals, and black capped chickadees flit from branch to branch in the ironwood and London Plane trees that drink deep from the flowing river. Mallard ducks and Canadian geese drift downstream atop the river’s surface. Green and blue herons fish the shallows around the dam. At night, one can spot scavengers like opossum, raccoons, and even coyote as they dart through the prairie grasses that line the river’s banks. These plants and animals remind us that we inhabit an extra-human world: a world filled with an abundance of creatures living in their own unique way.

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The next time you pass over the bridge, pause for a moment at the midpoint. Listen carefully. You may hear the most soothing sound I know—the bubbling laughter of the river as it glides gently over the stones beneath the bridge. Remember that water flowing underneath your feet is on a journey that started a few miles north of here and won’t end until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Look around. See the squirrels darting about the treetops and the duck nesting in the prairie grass. Remember you belong to a beautiful world—one shared with an array of diverse organisms. They, like us, call this river home.

Unite to End Rape Culture

By Jorie Dybcio  Behind closed doors lie identities stripped and dignities broken. Behind closed doors lie gender-less humans seeking justice. Closing those doors is an entire community turning a blind eye to the existence of rape culture on North Park campus. However, for the week of April 11–15, North Parkers decided to open the doors proudly. Criticism had nothing on the three students heading the North Park Unites movement: Sam Van Pykeren, Rachel Boge and Carmi Mueller.

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The week began with pads being pasted around campus. They read “Imagine if people were as disgusted with rape as they were with periods” followed by statistics portraying the severity of assault. For example, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men are victim to sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Dean of students and Title IX coordinator, Elizabeth Fedec, says that "the administration was aware they would be posting pads and statistics around campus" and the senior team leadership was similarly informed. Fedec also met with the three student leaders several times prior to the event, discussing plans and providing guidance for raising awareness.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, sheets were hung around campus with powerful images and phrases. These actions to raise awareness were approved by administration prior to their occurrence. For the most part, the art was well-received by students. However, a few reactions proved the point they desired to make: students getting more upset by strong imagery than the fact of sexual assault being a dark reality on our campus.

Not all were entirely behind the movement, as campus security had an issue with this form of awareness. In the midst of decorating campus on Monday, the student leaders were approached by security and asked not to put the pads up due to the arrival of major donors. Boge recalls being asked by an officer to "avoid certain buildings ... because these 'important' people on campus did not need to see this." In an interview, Head of Security Dan Gooris said "We're behind you ... but out of courtesy to the development office to stay away from that day." Registration for new students was also happening on the same day, with Gooris recalling he would have preferred another day for the awareness event to occur. This push back from security was echoed by several students as well.

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Boge says that the response to Sexual Assault Awareness week surprised her. "The beginning of the week made me see people for who they really are, not how I wanted to see them. Many people think sexual assault is wrong but their actions reflected misogyny," she says. With sexual assault being a serious and controversial topic, this sort of backlash was to be expected, and it opened many pockets of conversation.

Predominantly these conversations took place over social media, causing comments and intentions to be received negatively by some—expression is difficult to perceive behind a screen. Regardless of how people were affected by the Facebook posts, it got the campus talking, which is the first step to diminishing rape culture on campus.

Many of these incidents were reconciled through conversation and assembly on Thursday and Friday. Thursday was a time to dissect the week’s events and discuss what changes need to be seen within the North Park community. The night was intended as a time to make posters for the rally on Friday and watch The Hunting Ground, which is a documentary highlighting the mishandling of sexual assault cases on college campuses. It also was a safe space for a healthy reflection on the week thus far and how the movement was to continue.

It was time of bonding for North Park students in which they could share their feelings, stories and ideas for the movement. It also became an overview of what the movement was to look like in the future, not only through a change in culture but also policy. Van Pykeren, Boge and Mueller displayed their desire for legislation over the course of the week’s activism.

The legislation put forth by students includes a reform for how interim measures function on campus. During a Title IX investigation, interim measures are taken to protect the victim from the person they are making a claim against. If claims aren't substantiated by those measures then they are not active during the appeal process. The goal is for the victim to have protection from the moment the claim is made.

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In addition, the legislation aims to reform education of sexual assault on campus. Currently, before entering a first semester at North Park, students are required to take an online course on sexual assault, but most students decide to rush through it. Then, the first week there's normally a skit or a video using humor and tea metaphors. Instead of using such humor to seemingly underplay the seriousness of rape, this legislation wants to increase the education surrounding Title IX, especially for student leaders.

According to the student leaders, the legislation also addresses emergency services and counseling. The only time to get support on campus is during the typical 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. health services. However, rape doesn’t fit a schedule. It is an epidemic that requires 24-hour emergency service, as well as STI checks and rape kits, which is a prominent reproductive rights issue in itself. These are not available at North Park, however, local healthcare providers such as the Swedish Covenant ER do offer these services.

These changes would be revolutionary for North Park and would make the campus a model of how universities should approach Title IX cases. While the legislation will be huge for administration and their power to make a change, that doesn’t mean the perpetuation of rape culture will altogether disappear in the North Park community. The legislation has yet to be submitted to administration.

On Friday, students and staff came together to make their voices heard through chants, poetry and storytelling. The rally on the compass had a turnout of about fifty students and staff. This was the first time North Park students have publicly come together to share their stance on sexual assault, and the first opportunity for many students to publicly declare themselves as survivors.

North Park’s distinct unity as a campus has never been more obvious as people of all groups came together to end rape culture. At the start of the week, the North Park community as a whole wasn’t actively aware that rape culture was perpetuating itself on our campus; as many students claim, they didn’t even think it was an issue. Boge says, “even though there were students who seemed like they didn’t want to be involved in the movement a change of heart was noticed by the end of the week.”

The momentum from the Unite movement on campus will hopefully continue to radiate respect, support and reform in the lives of North Park students. Boge wants everyone to know this: "You have the power to use your voice. Momentum from this week will continue to come from a community walking alongside our voices. It is incredibly difficult but we all have the ability to change something." Everyone on campus has much to learn from the Unite movement, and to recognize their ability to contribute to the revolution.

Hello Steve & Daniella

By Sam Bruns  npu_spctrm_apr2016-116

Earlier this month, Junior Steve Smrt was elected president of North Park’s Student Government Administration (SGA) in a landslide victory. Smrt, along with his Vice President Daniela Mansour, has begun hastily preparing for the next school year. A team of students is being assembled for their executive committee while the elects brainstorm new events and policies that will be presented to the student body.

The two are indeed an interesting pair. Only in her freshman year, Mansour has already made a big impact in the SGA, joining several committees and being the biggest proponent for a new student parking lot, which North Park Administration has now approved. She takes great pride in who she is as a young woman: Syrian, Christian, and a voice for the commuter population. Whatever Mansour has not already done in her first year as a student, Smrt has done in three. He’s a Golden Apple Scholar, an RA, a writing advisor, a former student athlete and will begin student teaching in the fall.

Smrt and Mansour reflect the changing nature of North Park’s undergraduate population, and I had the pleasure of speaking to the two of them about their plans, the role of student government and where North Park community begins.

Samuel Bruns: You guys won! Now what?

Steve Smrt: Where to begin? I think obviously our first task is getting our own house in order. I’ve been in contact with the reps and will be in contact with the senators to make sure that they are ready to get the ball rolling. Daniela and I are holding interviews for our executive committee positions. So secretary, treasurer, chief justice and communications director.

SB: With those positions in mind, what drove the two of you to run together?

Daniella Mansour: Well, I wanted to continue in student government, but I didn’t know in what position. So, as a senator I felt that there was this kind of line between the executive committee and senators this year that I didn’t want. When Steve was like “I’m running for president” and asked if I wanted to run with him I thought we’d be a great team together.

SS: And in regards to the senate I think change can be made, but it takes at least two people who have served in the senate and know how the senate works. In regards to choosing Daniela, I think she’s a very qualified candidate. I surprised a lot of people by choosing an underclassman, but she’s very qualified. She and I are both very different, but can work together very well. Daniela, as a commuter would you say that up to this point commuters have or have not been fairly represented?

DM: I think this year it was better represented because it was something I worked for and the commuter club president worked for it. They were represented better then I think they’d been in the past.

SS: To help answer this question, I think historically in SGA is that commuters haven’t been represented. It’s something that I and Issac Bauer [the current Vice President of SGA] have joked about is that the election used to be a Covenant beauty pageant. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but at the same time you had a very small group of people on campus who were very tight as a whole. So one thing I’ll be very passionate about this year is working along side those people that want to be involved but almost don’t know how to be.

SB: So then, what are those passions you want to use next year? If Daniela wants to speak for commuters, then what about you, Steve?

SS: The people that have an apathetic view of being involved at North Park. Apathy toward having a student or apathy towards school pride. Involvement should be both on campus and in our community and within our city. North Park now has a larger commuter population. A lot of them come to school, take classes and go home. There isn’t that big of a sense of community, and I think that’s where the Student Union would help. We want to build a community and make places, and not just let people become content in their little groups.

Cultural Film Fests

By Maddie Gombis  In accordance with North Park’s desire for students to engage the city as their classroom, Dr. Robert Hostetter offers a class during which he uses Chicago film festivals as a teaching tool. Throughout the summer, students have the opportunity to attend the Chicago International Film Series, work with Dr. Hostetter at the Chicago Cultural Center downtown, and discover the importance of film festivals and international film to our understanding of others.

As a communications class, the 10-week long hybrid program requires students to meet at the Chicago Cultural Center for class discussion. Dr. Hostetter asks that students attend festivals such as the Chicago International Film Series, the 14th African Diaspora Film Festival, the 22nd Black Harvest International Film Festival and the 13th Annual Screenings Program. On top of viewing at least ten films among these festivals, students will engage texts that will allow them to draw connections and understand the cultural significance of each film.

The 14th African Diaspora Film Festival, which takes place on June 12-18, presents a range of Black independent films from across the globe in an effort to provide viewers with a diverse mix of “foreign, independent, classic and urban films representing the global Black experience,” according to Facets.com.

The Gene Siskel Film Center hosts the 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, which features Chicago premieres of films that tell the stories of African-American and African diasporic experiences. According to their website, they wish to show works that raise questions and touch on issues that relate to the global Black experience.

The festival that is central to the class is the Chicago International Film Festival Summer Screening Program. According to Timeout.com, this free weekly screening program exhibits a wide range on “international award winners spanning different styles and genres.”

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The primary goal of this class is to use Chicago as a “‘classroom’ to discover intercultural points of view, the interplay of gender, class and ethnicity, exile or diaspora experience, national cinemas, international co-productions, transnational cinema, and the cultural importance of film festivals,” Dr. Hostetter’s syllabus says. He wants students to explore and question the importance of film festivals in our culture and how they “develop intercultural awareness and understanding.”

Historically, Chicago has been a beacon of hope and "home" for immigrants finding a place in America, but by the same token, it has been a place of unrest as cultures clash and fail to make peace. Attending film festivals that show a wide variety of experiential accounts allows viewers—most notably North Park students—to begin engaging in a multicultural dialogue.

Most importantly, the prominence of film festivals that deal with the black, African and African-American experience is crucial to engaging and understanding a part of the city that most North Park students rarely dare to enter. The South Side gets a bad rap for its stereotypical gang violence, but it is such an integral part of Chicago's history as an immigrant-built city.

Not only does this Chicago Film Festival class work in tandem with the Chicago Intensive to truly make the city a classroom for North Parkers, but it also works to further the “intercultural” facet of North Park’s values. Whether or not students choose to be thoughtful about their intercultural experience, they will take away a multitude of stories from the myriad immigrants that built Chicago and have inhabited it since.