Tag Archives: op-ed

why is this school literally macklemore

I remember the first full-price clothing item I ever bought. No discounts. No coupon. It was my first semester at Wesleyan, and I had to get a black dress for my WesWinds concert. My mom and I had gone to Zara to check their overwhelmingly black aesthetic, and I found a black dress with a lace top. I thought it was the perfect dress until I checked the price tag. $50. We both knew that we would have to wait forever for that dress to go on sale, and I didn’t own an appropriate dress for my concert, which was quickly approaching.

My mom gave me a look and said hadi, which translates into a bunch of things in English. It can mean come on, let’s, but in this situation, it meant, we’re going to ignore the price because this is a pretty dress. Screw it, let’s buy it. It also meant, let’s do this quickly before my wallet changes its mind.

For most of my life, I’ve been much more accustomed to hand-me-downs and clearance rack finds than full-price fashions and expensive trends. Growing up, my favorite outfit was a sequined denim jumpsuit that had been passed down to me. This was, in retrospect, absolutely ridiculous and marginally over-the-top for a pre-teen to wear, but it was special to me. Our hand-me-down system was cross-continental: my friend’s mom would pass down her daughter’s clothes to me, where I would get some use out of it, and then those clothes were packed away to be brought to my cousins in Turkey, where the cascade of hand-me-downs began again: starting with one of the middle cousins, to the one slightly younger, to the second-cousin-twice-removed-or-what-we-just-call-cousin down the line. As long as it was in wearable condition, it was passed down.

Upon one of my visits back home, I saw one of my cousins wearing a dress that I remember wearing in elementary school: white, with some red, orange, and yellow flowers scattered along the hem and waistline. It was one of my favorite dresses; now, it had been passed down two bodies before reaching my cousin’s closet.

The topic of clothing within a low-income family is complex: a web of societal standards of dress combined with financial barriers. I had learned quickly that my mom and I could not afford regular-priced clothing, so our trips to the Gap consisted of darting toward the sale section, calculating sales tax on each item, never crossing the line between clearance and regular-priced, avoiding lusting over a dress that we couldn’t afford. My wardrobe’s guiding logic was out of season: we bought summer clothes in the winter when it went on sale and winter clothes at the beginning of summer, estimating how much I would grow in the meantime. On the few occasions my mom and I went through the in-season section, we would take a mental note on the clothes we would wait to go on clearance, eventually buying them a few months later. This was our process; we waited for coupons, for credit card rewards, for the hand-me-downs supplementing my needs in the meantime.

Nussenbaum ’12 Urges You To “Move Where You Can Matter,” Including Maybe Detroit

Move over, “Michael S. Roth ’78”—the Huffington Post has a new Wesleyan representative in town, and it’s Max Nussenbaum ’12. Sometimes known for his “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” cameo (phenomenal audition video included) and his desperate attempts to get Sylvie Stein ’12 to go to prom with him, Nussenbaum has spent the last eight months or so in Detroit, working for Are You a Human as part of Venture for America’s inaugural class. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to tell your Wesleyan friends and Wesleyan friends’ parents that you’re moving to Detroit after graduation, Nussenbaum’s compelling recent Huff Post piece, “Move Where You Can Matter,” is worth a look—as it is for anyone who’s ever felt the urge to resist the gravitational pull of the Wesleyan-Brooklyn Alumni Industrial Complex:

I talk to a guy who’s spending his next year volunteering in a Nigerian slum, and he asks me why I’d ever move somewhere as downtrodden as Detroit. Everyone makes the same dismayed face, asks the same incredulous question: “Why would you go… there?”

And “there” wasn’t just Detroit. At Wesleyan, my alma matter — like at most elite schools — “there” was anywhere that wasn’t a select handful of high-profile cities: the Bostons and New Yorks, the D.C.’s and L.A.’s. We were a cohort raised with tunnel vision, a graduating class who couldn’t find Ohio on a map and who thought “Oklahoma City” was an oxymoron. Don’t get me wrong, I was more than guilty of this myself: I heard Venture for America talk about underserved parts of the country and my first thought was Queens — you know, since everyone was moving to Brooklyn.

Footman ’09 on Unpaid Internships, Labor Exploitation

Debate: is it time for the unpaid intern to rise up?

Most students leave their unpaid internships with a few bullet points on a resume, maybe a letter of recommendation—standard mementos from a few months spent running errands or exploring the sensual world of data entry. Not so for Alex Footman ’09, who emerged from his internship on the set of Black Swan with an open class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures and national media coverage. Not bad for a lowly intern, eh?

We reported on the lawsuit in November, when NPR picked up the story. The gist of it is simple: Footman, an aspiring filmmaker, claims that his six-month internship with Black Swan was nothing more than unpaid labor (preparing coffee, taking lunch orders, running errors); that “it was not a learning experience” or one that advanced his career in any way; and that Fox Searchlight had broken minimum wage and overtime laws by using unpaid interns without providing any educational value in return. (Labor laws presently permit employers to hire unpaid interns as long as they provide a reasonably valuable educational experience in return.)

So he’s suing not only to be paid for the hours he worked, but also to prevent Fox Searchlight from using intern labor in the future.

That about brings us to this week, when Footman penned a New York Times op-ed arguing for increased government regulation of unpaid internships and active enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act. “The expectation that interns can regulate this practice,” Footman claims, “is absurd.” They have, after all, neither the work experience nor the legal expertise to rail against a system that’s exploiting them: