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Why K-pop Idols and BTS Should Support BLM

Aanandi Murlidharan

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Seven K-pop men with various colors of hair, and various jackets and plaid shirts sit on a turquoise monkey bar set in a turquoise background.
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The murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has forced not only American, but the entire world to confront police brutality and the systematic racism against African Americans. Many individuals have taken to social media to post information regarding this topic using the Black Lives Matter hashtag on their posts, such as the #blackouttuesday, to draw awareness to and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Several K-pop stars, including Eric Nam, BM from Kard, Mark Tuan from Got7, and many others, also took to their social media pages to support the movement. Most notably, the chart-busting superstars, BTS, donated one million dollars to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Prior to their donation, K-pop fans, or as they are more commonly known, K-pop stans, took to Twitter to urge BTS to donate and use their platform to speak out about the movement. These K-pop stans often faced backlash from other K-pop stans, who believed BTS and other K-pop artists did not have a responsibility to speak out towards the movement. Fans who stated otherwise were bombarded with a variety of counter-arguments which claimed that the police brutality was that “an American issue” or “K-pop artists did not have to publicly express their stance on the issue.”

Some also stated that the artists themselves were not to be blamed for not speaking up, but instead were blamed for the “strictness of their management.” However, these counter-arguments are not valid. The Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality are not just “American issues.” 

K-pop idols openly expressing their support towards the BLM movement is necessary due to the highly influential role black culture has played in the music, dance, and fashion of the K-pop industry. 

These are three aspects of the K-pop industry that have been influenced greatly by black culture:  

1. Music

Hip-hop, a genre that roots from black culture, has heavily influenced the music of the K-pop industry. In fact, Seo Taji and Boys, the group that paved the way for K-pop as we know it, was heavily influenced by Hip-hop and RNB. Within every K-pop group, there are always two to three rappers. Thus, almost every K-pop song includes multiple rap verses. Within K-pop albums, there are even tracks that solely feature the “rap line,” or rappers, of the group. 

The influence of black culture and black artists on K-pop is not merely an observation that fans have made regarding the industry. During a live broadcast with fans, RM mentioned that the song “Intro: Singularity” falls into the Neo-Soul genre. Additionally, in interviews, such as one with the Hollywood Reporter, BTS mentioned that some of the artists who inspired them as children were Nas, Usher, TI, and Jay-Z. BTS is not the only group that claimed inspiration from artists. SM Entertainment’s supergroup, NCT, was asked by Apple Music K-pop to contribute to a playlist called NCT Influences

Each member contributed a song that made them dream of becoming an artist. Four of the members included songs by Michael Jackson, Jorja Smith, Usher, and Stevie Wonder. While two of the 127 NCT members have come out in support for the BLM movements, there has still been no official statement in support of the movement. 

Within the K-pop industry, there are also two major sub-genres: K-RNB and K-Hip-hop. Notable artists of these genres include Hoody, Crush, and Jay Park, who was the first Asian American to be signed to JayZ’s ROC Nation. Once again, while these artists produce original music, as the name of the genre suggests, the roots of their music lie in black music culture. 

Many of these artists have more freedom due to the fact that their companies are less strict and portray less of the pristine, clean-cut image of their counterparts in mainstream K-pop. However, still, with the exception of a few K-RNB artists such as Jay Park, LOCO, and Crush, very few K-RNB stars have come out in support of the BLM movement. Zico, a former member of Block B and current hit rap star, has not yet posted a single message that supports the BLM movement despite having once rapped the following line in the song “Bermuda Triangle”: “We’re yellow people, but I got black soul.”

2. Dance

Choreography is one of the most defining features of the K-pop industry. Once a music video is released, idol groups typically perform impressive live performances with their epic choreography. Fans then take the time to learn choreography and often create cover dances. A few colleges even have K-pop dance clubs where they learn and perform these songs. 

However, just as K-pop music is influenced by black culture, a great amount of the choreography is also influenced by black culture. Seo Taji and Boys heavily used breakdancing, which was originally founded in the 70s by black youth in Bronx, New York. A more recent example of black culture’s influence on K-pop choreography is apparent in PENTAGON’S hit song, “Shine.” The song went viral within the K-pop community due to an iconic dance move during the chorus, which clearly drew inspiration from ZaeHD and CEO’s viral dance to BlocBoy JB’s “Shoot.” 

Their dance was released in 2017, and Shine was released in 2018. This move was also used by Blackpink’s “older brother group,” WINNER, in their track, “Everyday“. This music video even included black back-up dancers, but their company has still refused to make any public comment regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.

3. Fashion

Black culture is an integral part of K-pop fashion. There have been many examples of black cultural appreciation regarding the fashion within the K-pop industry. For example, much of the clothing and accessories worn in K-pop music videos are inspired by streetwear, a style of clothing that has roots within black fashion culture. 

In BTS’s hit video, Mic Drop, they sported bucket hats, puffy jackets, and track pants similar to the 1970s b-boy style. Similarly, girl group G-Idle also wore streetwear-inspired outfits in their video, Uh-oh

A notable example of this was apparent in supergroup EXO’s song, “Ko Ko Bop.” This song was released in the summer of 2017. The concept of the song was a summer bop using tropical beats, synths, and a catchy electric beat drop. The members looked dashing in their Hawaiian button-downs, but there was one look that caused a surge of controversy. Kai, the main dancer and center of the group, wore dreadlocks in his hair. This look was not something that was limited to the music video. 

EXO’s style team continued to style Kai’s hair in this fashion throughout the rest of the promotions. There was no official apology given by SM entertainment, Kai’s company. In fact, they continued to use this style on other artists within the company, such as NCT member Winwin in their hit song, “Limitless.” SM Entertainment is not the only company that has used dreadlocks as a style statement. Other big companies, such as JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment (yes, Blackpink), and Big Hit Entertainment (yes, BTS), have used dreads as a style statement. 

Dreads are not the only form of black cultural appropriation within K-pop. CL, who was the leader of YG Entertainment’s girl group 2NE1, wore grills and gold chains in her 2013 single “Baddest Female.” She also enlisted the help of the New Zealand-based ReQuest dance crew for another solo release, “Hello Bitches.” While none of the women from ReQuest who appeared in CL’s video were black, that didn’t preclude the attention given to the tanned skin, cornrows, and twerking.

K-pop, the industry that has taken the world by storm, would not exist without the influence of black culture. The industry has used the black music culture to its advantage through cultural appreciation as well as cultural appropriation.

Therefore, it is their responsibility to support a movement that affects the people who created the music and culture they idolize and profit from.

“Many artists and people around the world get so much inspiration by black culture and music including me. We have a duty to respect every race,” said K-RNB artist, Crush.

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Is Rate My Professors Worth the Hassle? 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It

Emily Bevacqua

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When it comes to choosing classes, students often turn to Rate My Professors to learn more about which professors and courses to take. However, with lack of accurate information and biased opinions, Rate My Professors isn’t as helpful as students think. 

Class schedules are the bane of a college student’s existence. Creating a perfect one is impossible and picking professors is a gamble. Unless students can see the future, they won’t know if a class is going to be interesting or if the teaching style is going to be boring.

Students have to create backup schedules and sometimes even backups to the backup schedule. It’s unpredictable. The only way to get some insight into the process is by doing research.

There are a couple of ways students can guess at how a class will be. First, universities provide descriptions of courses, and departments post more specific information on their own websites. This usually helps students decide if the material will be interesting and something they want to learn.

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The other way to gain perspective on a class is through other students. Turning to friends who have had the professor or taken the specific course before can be useful. However, with large universities, a friend may not have even heard of the one in question. So, students then turn to the “trusty” old site, Rate My Professors

Rate My Professors is a website where anonymous users post reviews on professors and their courses so that others can gain insight. People have been using this site for over a decade, ranking quality and difficulty of the class on a scale of five with a brief explanation. 

The problem with this site is that it’s really inaccurate. Relying solely on this information is a mistake. Students shouldn’t trust Rate My Professors, and here’s why:

1. Posts are outdated.

Sometimes, users haven’t posted about a professor in years. Julia Keefer from New York University has 6 ratings, the newest from 2010. Similarly, Michael Himes from Boston College hasn’t been rated since 2011.

These professors still teach at the universities yet they are being judged by opinions from ten years ago. Teaching styles, material, and people change over the years. It is inaccurate to trust opinions that are so old.

2.Opinions are the extremes.

When someone posts a review on a restaurant, they either loved it or had the worst dinner of their life. The same goes for Rate My Professors. Alan Fridlund from the University of California Santa Barbara is, as one student puts it, “a divisive professor. Some people love his humor and passion for the subject while others hate his politics.”

His ratings are all over the place. Some give him a 4.0 to 5.0 quality rating while others give him 3.0 or even a 1.0. They say he is a “Very funny guy, [and] makes what he talks about seem very interesting.”

However, a student also said, “I found many things he said to be quite inaccurate in his lectures. His Republican viewpoints often collided with his teachings, and he misinformed so many students.” With drastic viewpoints, Fridlund seems questionable. Which review should potential students for his classes trust?

3.Few ratings give good (or bad) overall reviews.

With any collection of data, the more input, the better the conclusion. Professors can have hundreds of ratings, which provides a more accurate judgment, but they can also have as few as three or less.

Cameron Myler from New York University has one rating, which happens to be a good one. This gives Myler an overall quality of 5.0. However her fellow colleague Jing Yang, also has one rating that gives her an overall quality of 3.0.

4.Professors have no reviews or a page.

Some professors don’t have any reviews at all, as is the case for Lisa Samuel from New York University. There are also times where they do not even have a page on the site, like Elena Kalodner-Martin from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This can make students jump to the conclusion that the professor is new to the school and lacks experience, which can deter them from taking the class.

5.The course isn’t reviewed.

Specific courses oftentimes don’t have any reviews, but the professor is rated on others. Judging them based on a different class is jumping to conclusions. They may teach a 100 level course in a completely different way than an upper-level one.

6.Users don’t provide details.

Students can be lazy. They want to help other college kids, but they don’t want to put in too much effort. Descriptions on Rate My Professors can be very short. For Harold Peterson from Boston College, his three reviews say, “Best professor ever,” one is blank, and, “Very easy. Don’t take anyone else for Principles of Economics.” Judging Peterson based on those few words is unfair.

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If students are going to use Rate My Professors, they have to look beyond the site. They shouldn’t trust these anonymous opinions alone. University websites provide professors’ profiles through faculty directories. This gives more information on their qualifications, accomplishments, and personality.

Students can also ask classmates that they’ve worked with before. Asking others within a major, increases the likelihood that they have taken the course or had the professor. Alternatively, students can post in Facebook groups to see what other peers who’ve recently taken classes with the professor have to say. 

In the end, picking a professor is still a guessing game. Thankfully, the Add/Drop period at the beginning of the semester allows students to change their mind after attending the class a few times. It’s okay to change a schedule once the semester begins. Students have to be happy with their courses in order to gain the most from them and keep a healthy mind.

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Are Ethical Fashion Brands the Solution for a Better World?

Anna Anderson

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A close-up view of a rack filled with several pieces of clothing on white hangers at a thrift store.
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Fast fashion brands have grown in popularity for their low-cost clothing and convenient accessibility online. However, these brands bring about major consequences in the world. From maltreatment of workers to heavy environmental damage. 

First, the workers in the fast fashion industry are often underpaid and overworked. Some are abused and must work in poor conditions, such as overseas. Human beings should not have to undergo this brutal treatment or face such exploitation. Instead, they should be paid fair labor wages for their hard work, time, and efforts.

In addition to this, fast fashion heavily contributes to the pollution of our water. After fast fashion brands manufacture clothes made of synthetic fabrics, consumers buy them and wash them. Every time someone washes these materials, it leads to polyester pollution.

Since the water inside washing machines, which is now contaminated with microfibers from these synthetic fabrics, streams into fresh bodies of water, a large portion of wildlife actually ingest these unhealthy and inorganic fabrics.

Another impact on the environment is excessive waste. These fast fashion companies produce clothing in bulk, leading to more than what is necessary.

If people don’t buy all of the excess inventory, then it goes to waste. The clothing made of synthetic fabrics is incinerated or goes to landfills and never decomposes. 

Lastly, the fashion industry is responsible for 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Fast fashion also uses up 79 billion cubic meters of fresh water every year. All of these factors are destroying the Earth’s ecosystem.

These effects make it important for all of us to do our part in decreasing our consumption of the industry. Thankfully, there are many ways to address the problems above.

First, you can do research on different brands with the help of the internet. You can find out if your go-to stores are actually the perpetrators of workplace abuse and stop shopping there, and research brands that are kind and caring towards their employees. 

With more research, you can also look for organic and vegan brands. Their fabrics, which most likely consist of organic cotton, won’t do as much damage to the Earth. There are hundreds of these stores out there, and with online shopping, it’s easy to buy from them. 

Another environmentally friendly option is shopping at thrift stores. They sell gently used clothing that isn’t ready to be thrown away. If you live in a big city, there are many thrift stores you can visit. There are also online thrift stores such as ThredUP, Poshmark, and Depop.

When thrifting, you can find unique and vintage items that can’t be found elsewhere. This can upgrade your closet significantly. 

In a similar vein, you can rent or borrow clothes online. Apps like My Wardrobe Hq enables people to borrow clothes from each other. An American company called Rent the Runway allows people to use designer clothes for events. These clothing methods lead to less fast fashion consumption and less clothing waste. 

Sometimes, you won’t want an item anymore even if it is still in good quality to wear. Instead of throwing it away, you can give it to someone who wants it. Decrease waste by donating your old clothes to charity or taking them to thrift stores. 

You can decrease water waste by washing your clothes less often. This puts less fibers into the environment and keeps your clothes in better shape. Fewer washes mean less damage to your clothes. It’s also the perfect excuse for less laundry and fewer chores to do. 

All the ways above can be integrated into your lifestyle and shopping habits. The shift doesn’t have to be overnight but can happen in waves. Every action counts and leads toward a better world. We can all do something to decrease our support for fast fashion and shop more sustainably. With these ethical fashion practices, we can make a huge difference.

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How the pandemic will contribute to negative social-emotional development

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One man with dark hair and one man with brown hair both wearing grey T shirts and  black masks standing in front of a  red wall filled with  clear saran wrap.
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During this pandemic, students across the country have lamented their lack of social interactions, missed their friends, and developed new hobbies to fill their days. The assumption has always been that COVID-19 quarantine is temporary.

Soon, students will be back on campus and the social scene they’ve been missing for the past several months will roar back to life. But by the time life does get back to “normal,” they may have missed out on something much more permanent: growing up. 

Usually, when we think of social-emotional development, we think of babies learning to decode facial expressions or to play with other kids their age. But in actuality, we continue to grow and develop emotionally our entire lives, and one of the most pivotal moments in that development is during college.

This kind of development is another perhaps unavoidable casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone, from kindergartners to college students, has been pulled from their development and left stagnant in safe and unchallenging social isolation.

For college-age people, this is the period of your life where you are supposed to finally grow up. You might learn to live alone or make friends independent of your family. But throughout you have an institution that, if it’s doing its job right, provides you with a little safety net should you fail. 

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The social-emotional development college students gain is hard to measure but incredibly important. It helps students thrive in a non-academic setting, fostering healthy relationships and learning to independently manage themselves.

There are few other times in students’ lives where they can learn to build that network of support around themselves, knowing that they still have an institution to fall back on. 

During this pandemic, many students came back home, their fellow students scattering across the country and the world. One consequence of returning to a childhood home is the risk of reverting back to high school years and lifestyles. In college, many students develop their personalities and new responsibilities that may be stripped away upon returning home.

Social worker, Claire Lerner, wrote in Psychology Today that noticeable regression in children during times of stress is very common, particularly in the time of COVID-19 where stress seems to permeate the air. Even as someone who is technically an adult, when students aren’t in an environment that promotes growth, then it’s all the easier to backslide or at the very least, remain stagnant.

And social-emotional development isn’t just a meaningless phrase—it can have real importance both academically and professionally. One famous study in the Journal of Counseling & Development found that emotional growth was a better indicator of students persisting (not dropping out) than just academic success.

Students who are well-adjusted are able to cope with the stress of academics and social situations in college, and presumably, the real world better than students who merely get good grades and test scores. 

According to another study in the Social Innovations Journal, the real value of a college degree is not necessarily just knowledge actively gained, but in the emotional intelligence and maturity achieved.

David Castro and Cynthia Clyde, the authors of the study, wrote that college is really about learning soft skills, not just technical expertise that is often more job-specific. With school going virtual, students are missing out on the opportunity to develop many of the skills they pointed out like, “communication, negotiation, the ability to work in teams and team-building itself.”

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As long as social distancing and isolation continue, students will continue to miss out on deeply important social connections and moments of emotional growth. As more and more universities unveil their plans for fall, it looks like fall will be a new edition of “Zoom school” for students around the country.

The only way for schools to safely reopen is if this virus is stopped in its tracks, and this seems to be quite a challenge for the United States as is has so far, failed to do so. Face-to-face interactions are priceless and an essential part of the college experience. Social distancing is not just about missing your friends—it’s also about losing the chance to transition naturally into adulthood.

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