Vote Early, Vote Once

Tl;dr: Deadlines for voter registration and absentee ballot requests are fast approaching. If you are not registered to vote by October 4th or if you do not request a ballot by October 13th, it may be too late.  

Excited to participate in the upcoming election cycle, but not sure how to start? Confused about if you are currently registered to vote, or how you can vote without having to travel back to your polling place? We can help you, but the deadlines are sooner than you think. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Register to Vote

The easiest way to register to vote or check if you are registered to vote is by using vote.org. If you are not registered to vote, this website can help you register online (if your state supports that) or by mail. Depending on your state, you will need either a driver’s license or a social security number to register.

While it’s up to you to determine whether it makes the most sense to register to vote in your home state rather than using your Olin address, consider the impact that your vote would have in your home community (school board, state senate, etc.). Policy in your hometown will likely have a more direct impact on you and your family than legislation in Needham will. 

  1. Get Access to a Ballot

If you are currently located in the town or city in which you are registered to vote, you may have the opportunity to vote in person. Many states allow for in-person early voting and are implementing COVID specific procedures to make day-of voting safe. 

If you are voting by mail, you will need to request a ballot from your local election office. If you are currently residing anywhere that is not your home address, you will need to send in an absentee ballot request form. You can use the absentee ballot request form on vote.org: https://www.vote.org/absentee-ballot/. It will provide state-specific instructions, and in many cases you will need to mail the absentee ballot to your home city or town. You can then follow up with your town or city clerk to ensure that they are sending you an official ballot.

  1. Return that Absentee Ballot

This step only applies to you if you are voting by mail.  

Once you have received your absentee ballot in the mail, fill it out according to the instructions provided. Pay special attention to where to sign your ballot and sign as closely to the signature on your ID as possible. Also double-check what postage you need and be sure to mail it in on time. Note some states (such as Arkansas) require you to send in a copy of your ID alongside your ballot, so check to see if you need to take any extra steps.

We’ll be holding office hours over the next few weeks and are also available by email. We would love to help you with any of these steps and/or help answer any general voting-related questions. 

Meet President Gilda Barabino!

Welcome to the September issue, and the first, of the 2020-2021 academic school year! I hope you all have had a chance to settle into your new places for the fall semester.

This article comes from a collaboration with the Marketing and Communications department, who reached out to me about interviewing President Barabino, who became president of Olin College on July 1, 2020. I want to thank President Barabino for taking the time to meet with me, as well as Anne-Marie from MarCom for guiding me through the process and polishing the questions and interview with me.

Thank you as well to the students who submitted questions for this interview (and also told me what you want from FS this fall) and to my wonderful editors, Anusha Datar and Dianna Sims (and also to Mark Goldwater, who’s a consultant)!

This interview happened through Zoom on a Monday, August 17, morning at 9 a.m. Thankfully, the call was recorded and transcribed. This interview has been edited for length and in some cases clarity. Let’s get started!

Serna: How has this stay-at-home period been like for you? What’s something positive that’s come with it?

President Barabino: Staying at home has actually meant a lot of Zoom meetings. But the one thing that I think has been a benefit of [having] Zoom meetings [is that] it enables you to bring a broad range of participants from different locations who may not have otherwise been able to gather at the same time.

One exciting opportunity was the Ask Me Anything [AMA] evening. We were all spread out in remote locations; we would not have been able to gather that way ordinarily since we weren’t able to be on campus. Zoom allowed us to do that, and it was a great opportunity to get to know members of the community and for members of the community to get to know me.

Serna: What’s something you are looking forward to this semester?

President Barabino: What I’m looking forward to the most is actually the start of the new academic year. There’s been so much anticipation of taking on the presidency and being the academic leader, and there’s something about the excitement of the fall, the newness of the academic year and the new semester. There’s an excitement around renewal that you just can’t escape. That’s the most exciting thing for me, and [also] to get to know more of the community in a deeper way.

 Has the assigned reading been shared with everyone?

Serna: I believe it’s The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.

President Barabino: Yes, I picked it! I’m excited for us to have something that we as a community can read together and discuss together, as just an additional way to get to know each other.

Serna: How exciting is it going to be? How would you convince others to read this?

President Barabino: To me, there’s something we can learn about people, the people who we know or would like to get to know better, if there’s something we can learn about one another by having a shared reading experience. I think the fun is in the sharing and learning. We’ll see, when we actually get an opportunity to talk about it.

Serna: We’re planning a convocation, and I don’t know if you know, but we’re planning on having you talk during this. And I think knowing what you have to say about it will make reading the book worth it.

President Barabino: People want to know one another as one individual to another. They want to know about your life, about your experiences. It turns out, usually, there’s something about someone’s experience that you can tap into: “That happened to me too.” Even if it’s not the same thing, there are similarities that people bond over. Humans like to connect; that’s why we want to be on campus together. That’s why we want to connect even if it has to be on Zoom.

Serna: No one would be Zooming if we didn’t care.

President Barabino: That’s right.

Serna: Tell us more about being a tempered radical. I saw your interview with WGBH where you said, “One who is radical and trying to be a change and has an understanding of working in the system. Creating change within.”

President Barabino: So, part of what that concept means in addition to that: If you think about “tempered” in the sense of a metal becoming tougher from alternately being heated up and cooled down – if you’re a tempered radical, maybe in a certain setting you increase the heat, you push harder, you put on more pressure. There could be, in certain situations, certain contexts [where] it makes sense to cool down, back off a bit — having a sense of when and how to be more forceful or not, to speak up more or not. It’s the tempering that allows you, hopefully, to be more effective, because different situations call for different kinds of reactions. If you want to be effective, it may be that one time is a time for screaming loudly and other times not so much because you wouldn’t be heard.

Knowing when and how to use that voice, knowing when and how to have agency — I think that’s the broader concept of being a tempered radical. And to do that, you have to be in a system. How can you stand on the outside looking in and have an impact? You have to be a part of the system you are trying to change.

Serna: Do you want to share an experience?

President Barabino: Part of my experience is, when going into a new environment, and and observing or experiencing things that are unfair, being able to call it out. If I didn’t call it out, I’d lose the opportunity to make a difference, because it would go unseen. [It’s about] knowing when and how to do that.

So [here’s] one of the things I have done in the past: If I’m in a situation and I’m the only woman or woman of color, and I know there are reasons why women or women of color are not being afforded the same opportunities as others, then I will call that out and say, “Here’s the reason why you are not having more people who come from certain backgrounds participating.” Drawing attention to it will, hopefully, give people an opportunity to come up with some strategies that can make a difference.

I’ll give you a concrete example. I was an associate chair for graduate studies in the biomedical department at Georgia Tech, and the graduate student population did not have a lot of diversity in terms of underrepresented minorities or even women. So when I became an associate chair, I looked at the data. I looked at where we were recruiting. I looked at how we were actually carrying out our selection process, and asked questions about what we could change so that we would actually yield a more diverse population in [both] the applications and those that we accepted. So it’s really being there in that system and actually calling it out when you see it. After I got involved, the very next class that came in was the most diverse class that the department had ever accepted.

Serna: What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career that almost made you give up, but you pushed through and realized what you could have missed? [question submitted by Dianna Simms]

President Barabino: I don’t think that there is any one thing. I would point to something that is a long-standing obstacle: persistent and ingrained biases. They are persistent within people, within organizations, within institutions, [and they] tend to — when acted upon by people —advantage some and disadvantage others. It’s even harder because it’s harder to see it, name it, call it out, and act on it, but it is there. So these biases that are ingrained become part of people’s thinking — people who are in power and set rules and practices that advantage some and disadvantage others. 

That, I think, is the kind of obstacle that is the worst, because it is persistent and it is ingrained. And it can hold talent back; it can hold certain people back. Part of what I’ve done is to really stand for what is equitable and fair, so that opportunities are equitably distributed.

Serna: I really appreciate your response and I totally see where it’s coming from. Like … [Makes a fist.]

President Barabino: And people don’t usually talk about it. People don’t typically talk about more deeply rooted biases that effect access to opportunities.

Serna: A part of that … I think it took me a solid two to three years of college to be like, “Wait, wait a second, what is happening here?” Once you figure it out, who do you tell? You just have to — at least for me, as I feel like my mom has been trying to tell me my whole life — you have to slowly swallow it and know you are swimming against the current, even though I never accepted that until I was actually pushed back by the water. Then I was like, “Oh gosh, my mom was right.”

President Barabino: See, it’s true, and the important thing is to know it, understand it — do not internalize it, and don’t let it keep you down. Because I think a lot of it is our mindset and how we look at things, like if you let people tell you [that you] are lesser than and then believe it. I’m not letting anyone tell me that.

Serna: I mean, it’s hard when the entire room is telling you, at least in my experience.

President Barabino: I think knowing that it exists is helpful. What I did, knowing that, [is] I started researching organizational behavior, personal and organizational dynamics, because I thought, “Okay, wait, so people act a certain way, and what I need to do is understand how people act in what context so that I can be in a position to navigate those situations, because it’s all about people in the end and how one human interacts with another human.” I thought, “Huh, I need to better understand how this works. So that when I see a particular type of  behavior, I am in a better position to protect myself from biases or speak up on the biases, a better position to handle it, and not let it derail me.” Because it’s easy to get derailed. So I don’t let other people’s expectations [take over]. If someone’s saying, “I don’t think you can do this because you’re a Black woman,” well, I’m not going to buy that. That’s ridiculous. So I think if we understand that and understand what’s motivating sometimes — when someone is driven to put a person down, because they’re trying to push themselves up — we can overcome that and in fact we can all pull one another up. That makes more sense to me.

Serna: I’m going to be bold and assume you’ve made mistakes that make you cringe. A step you shouldn’t have taken or a step you did. How did (or do) you cope with the feeling of knowing you’ve been wrong and can’t change it?

President Barabino: The older we get, the more we learn to handle mistakes, because we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to have mishaps; we’re going to say something the wrong way; we’re going to do something we wish we hadn’t done. For me, the ones that I usually worry about the most, honestly, because I’m really a people person, [are] how I made someone else feel or how I helped someone else or not. That really bothers me — if I wasn’t at my best to help someone else be at their best.

So if I said something that I could’ve said better, or maybe I shouldn’t have said it at all. I really do rethink those things. What I try to do is learn from it. I make a note, I really do, a note to self: “That didn’t go so well. You could’ve handled that differently.” I think about if the situation presents itself again, how can I better try and understand the other person. When people are having interactions and it’s not going so well, we’re very quick as human beings to say, “It’s your fault, not mine. I’m not doing anything wrong.” I have tried to own my piece of the situation — that has sort of helped me through the cringe moments.

Because I’ll own up. I’ll tell somebody I made a mistake. I think we have to be willing to admit to our mistakes and then try to do better the next time.

That was a good question.

Serna: In case you didn’t have a good response, I was thinking about the story that you had lost your test tubes and months of research, when you were on the subway and someone bumped into you.

President Barabino: It was depressing. It was like, I was like, “Okay. Start over.” It was crushing. [She laughs for a long time.]

Serna: I laugh a little at your optimism, looking back at it and being like, “It was so depressing and crushing, but okay, start over,” with a big smile on your face. That’s so good.

President Barabino: I think that has been my attitude for everything: “Alright, pick yourself up.” What are you going to do? Wallow in self-pity? It doesn’t fix anything.

Serna: But it feels so good.

President Barabino: [She laughs again for a while.] Right? You can allow yourself a certain amount of it, but not too much of it.

Serna: You get to treat yourself a little.

President Barabino: That’s so right. So I actually try to remind myself that every mistake, literally, you can learn from it. You might not see it right away, but eventually you may see how you can learn from that previous experience. Like it’s all bringing us toward some greater good later, even if we don’t see it right away.

Serna: Okay. I will take that to heart. 

Given your long history with biomedical engineering, do you plan to change or revive Olin’s bio-engineering program? In my opinion, it is a degree that hasn’t really been developed nearly as much as the others, and I wonder how it might change in the future. [question submitted by a student]

President Barabino: Yeah, I think that’s an easy one for me. It’s part of my passion. It’s part of what I’ve done my entire career. I look forward to enhancing what we do here in that space. And I will work with people, with students, with faculty, with outside potential partners like companies, to say, okay, what is it we can do at Olin to enhance our capacity, our learning, our teaching, and our contribution in the biomedical engineering space? And it will be fun! [Big smile.] There’s plenty to do. Yes, I plan on working on that. 

Serna: Do you have words of advice for those who feel lonely?

President Barabino: It’s important to identify if those feelings of loneliness suggest something bigger and more serious, perhaps the first signs of depression, in which case I encourage anyone in that situation to seek professional guidance and counseling. But if you’re asking about the kind of loneliness that can occur when a students is away from home for the first time then I would say look at ways to not be isolated and to focus on something positive. Things like reaching out to another person, or thinking about something that makes you feel happy and that makes you feel energized. It could be exercise. It can be really just thinking about how to use some alone time productively, just to get in sync with good thoughts. Think about the good things that have happened. Think about good things that [you] have contributed or things that [you want] to do.

I like music. I think music is a good pick-me-up. And reading or just doing … something. Sometimes if you get too isolated, too lost in thoughts, the act of moving, dancing, exercising or all of the above can serve as a oick me up. Of course, it’s always helpful if one person can find another person to connect with.

And let’s not forget the power of laughter which is therapeutic in its own right.

Serna: Do you have any words of advice or hope for people living off campus? As you might know, this is the first time that a majority of Oliners are living off campus.

President Barabino: My advice is, no matter what situation they find themselves in, to make the most of it. What [can] you do in that environment that makes the most of that environment? How do you connect with one another in that environment? How do you take it seriously? … Listen to science and be connected to each other. We’re Oliners; we think creatively. We can figure out how to do those things that keep everyone safe and help everyone feel connected. That would be my advice. But again, make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. 

Serna: What about people living on campus?

President Barabino: In the same vein, like that way of “Here’s the environment I’m in — how do I best use this particular setting and take advantage of it while being mindful and serious and following the science and what we know. Just being smart about how we behave. Be smart about our interactions and our decisions in thinking not just about ourselves but [about] other people as well. So I think that whether you’re on campus or not, those are some really important things that people should be thinking about. 

Serna: Why did you choose to do the research you’ve done?

President Barabino: I was very purposeful in the research that I chose to pursue. I was interested in applying engineering to medical applications, and I was interested specifically in investigating a disease that impacts underserved communities, underrepresented communities, and health disparity populations (or those who don’t have the same level of access). I picked sickle cell disease because it disproportionately affects African Americans and I wanted to make a difference, in a way that makes people’s lives better by treating a medical condition. That was my real motivation to use engineering to study and solve medical problems. And I’m still active in that work to this day.

Serna: Do you plan to carry it over to Olin?

President Barabino: I won’t have a research lab at Olin, but I will be collaborating with others who are still doing this type of work.

Serna: So it would be external?

President Barabino: Yes, I would continue the work through external collaborations.

Serna: Would you want your own lab space at Olin?

President Barabino: At some point. I won’t necessarily want a dedicated space just for me, but I would love to participate and collaborate in spaces that already exist here by working with others. One of the things that’s fun for me is the ability to work with faculty and students on education and research on all sorts of topics. I’m looking to expand the areas that I’m working in. It’s rich here. There’s so much to pick from.

Serna: What’s your favorite type of ice cream? [question submitted by a student]

President Barabino: Chocolate.

Serna: What’s your favorite type of dessert? Cake, pie, ice cream? [She got really excited about dining hall ice cream when I mentioned the different flavors.]

President Barabino: I like all of them. Cake and pie with ice cream. If I had to pick one, I would choose ice cream.

Serna: What’s a question you wish I asked?

President Barabino: I saw that question, and I don’t know. I thought the questions were so wide-ranging and pretty thorough. I don’t know what else you could have asked right now. I thought it was pretty good. And it was fun! You’re a pretty good interviewer. Most times, interviewers don’t always know how to make their interviewees feel comfortable.

We should do more interviews. So that we all get to know one another. I just love getting to know students in particular because I learn so much from students. I see myself as a lifelong learner. Part of why I went into education, higher education in particular, is that I wanted to be in an environment where I was surrounded by youth and people who were excited to learn — people who bring new ideas to the table and fresh energy. That kind of energy helps energize those of us who’ve been at it for a while. New students bring the new energy we all need. The start of the academic year brings that.

We’re off into the new year. Come along for the journey!

May Compliments Corner

We have such an awesome community and I’m so glad that these compliments can highlight and celebrate that. Hope you enjoy! 

Hi Evan! Thank you for being such a wonderful person to lean on when I need someone to talk to. Thank you for always being supportive of me and letting me bounce my thoughts off of you. You’re such a good soul. I know you’ll go far :)

Hannah is a magical human who manages to cheer me up whenever I see her! This is true both in the everyday, and especially when I’m sad and need a shoulder to lean on. Thank you, Hannah.

Diego Alvarez is the first Oliner I ever met, and he made me feel, and still makes me feel, welcome and accepted at Olin. He can also spin fire like no tomorrow, and I will always aspire to that level of awesome.

Kyle Combes is such a gentle soul. He makes me feel loved and listened to, and continues to bring me joy whenever I see his face, even if it is over video chat and not in person.

Evan New-Schmidt is one of my favorite people. I think he really embodies what it means to be an Oliner: He is a very capable engineer, but also cares deeply about the community, always seems to have time for the wacky shenanigans that just scream ‘Olin’. He’s a super genuine and kind person and I find him very inspiring

Lucky is probably the strongest person that I know. He is the embodiment of work hard, play hard, and whenever things get tough, Lucky always steps up to the plate and doesn’t give up until the job is done, and I respect that so much

Rachel Won is a people person, and she’s just so passionate about… everything. Truly inspiring.

Kian, I cherish every REEEEEEEEE you’ve shared with me

Anna has such a great energy to her! Also 10/10 good barber

To my partner in all sorts of things: thank you for being you. You are incredible.

Anil is super hard-working, technically experienced, patient, and has been a great mentor and role model for me. Thanks for all you’ve done for me and the formula team <3

Has there ever been as smart and perceptive an Oliner as Ava?  I doubt it.

I cannot fathom how Caitrin does all the things she does, and at such a high level.  I want to be Caitrin when I grow up.

Mark Somerville is The Real Deal.  Seriously, people, I cannot fathom an Olin without him.  We are so, so lucky for his leadership.  (Never leave us, Mark!)

WAY TO GO Presidential Search team!  You ROCK!

Sharon Breitbart is the most unsung hero of Olin.  No one here appreciates her enough, but I DO!  Thank you for your amazingness, Sharon!

ERD?  Best of the best.

Carlos, thank you for being a fantastic friend, I appreciate you so much

No one knows what Lauren Taaffe does, but the whole college would fall apart without her.  Thank you, Lauren!!!

Sarah Spence Adams totally gets it.  All of it.

Thank you to Jon Adler for totally having our backs through all this messiness.  What would Olin be without you?!

Libby is a goddess nerd.

Rob and Jean – you have been so supportive of students during this time while still providing engaging class time. I always look forward to six microbes class <3

Prisha Sadhwani is such a kind-hearted and warm human, who’s always looking out for her friends, even mid-pandemic :)

Carlos, thank you for stepping up so hard when the class of ’22 needed you. I know you had all your own personal stresses to, and everything you did was way beyond the scope of the position you signed up for, but your energy never faltered, and you worked so selflessly hard, which I appreciate endlessly.

Erhardt, you inspire me every day. I think you’ve helped me find purpose and guidance and I’m so immensely grateful to you. I hope that I can be even a little bit like you!

William Derksen is very cute

Meg Ku – you impress me with all the crazy amazing things you accomplish, keep it up girl!

Micah has the best hair, always

Sam Daitzman, you bring me so much joy. Thanks for being my frienddd <3

Sam Young is an absolute legend

Who can? Emma Pan

Kristin I miss u so much <3 love you, even (and especially when) you’re being sassy

Jordan, thank you for all the free hug Fridays. You give the best hugs!

Dylan — your thoughtfulness and amazing ability to listen always makes me feel at home around you

Blake: you have a great sense of humor, and you always make me feel comfortable being who I am

Emma W, you’re such a wholesome kind of crazy!

Dhara: you have such a big heart I love you

AT, I’m so lucky that you are in my life!! I love how wacky you keep things and I love vegetable charades and worm-y karaoke! Can’t wait until we are back together in person!

Thank you to Olin administration for caring about everyone’s mental health as well as physical

Emily T. has been amazing as a MechSolids professor and I appreciate her daughter’s guest lectures

Katie Goldstein is such a bright and radiant person

I miss hanging out and laughing with George

Skye’s zoom backgrounds always make me laugh

Shreya. That’s it that’s the compliment no explanation needed

Jasmine never fails to make me laugh

Anusha absolutely killed it as SG president and we all love and have so much appreciation for her

I’m always so happy to see when Kristtiya sends a video to the class groupchat

Maya A. is a kind and passionate soul that inspires me

Anil is a dope MechSolids NINJA that I really appreciate

Shirin is a caring and loving person

Reid is a pun god

Anya is always super cheerful and makes me happy to be around

Meg Ku you’re such an amazing and kind hearted person! I’m so happy and honored to be your friend

Nathan W – your determination and hard work inspires me all of the time!

Elias you never fail to make others smile!

Lynn Stein – thank you for being such a guiding light for me and so many people in our community. I appreciate you endlessly!

Reid you’re such a wonderful soul, always caring for everyone with infinite patience 

annie chu – you’re honestly such a badass and an incredibly hard worker

Maal! You’re such a endlessly sweet person, and also just have such an amazing aesthetic please teach me

Thank you to everyone who wrote kind words to me about this and in the form. I appreciate you so much and my heart is so happy!! Thank you thank you thank you!

            — Maia

Thank You, Olin

I’ll keep this short and sweet because it’s hard to write. I’ll be honest, I sat down to write a couple times before I teared up and had to stop.

Four years ago during Candidates’ Weekend, I caught a glimpse of Olin’s close, supportive community. Two weeks ago, I was reminded of it again. In a difficult time of rapid change and transition, we all came together. 

Faculty and staff worked quickly to keep our campus safe and make the transition a smooth one. End-of-the-year concerts and events were organized and held in a matter of days. On Thursday, seniors who were suddenly unsure of when our graduation would be were met with a ceremony as wonderful, if not more, than the one planned for May. 

Take it not just from me but from these anonymous messages of thanks as well:

“Big thanks to all of the teams that have scrambled to support Olin’s rapid changes over the past week, including facilities, dining, IT, student affairs, etc.”

“To Mark and the rest of the Academic Life leadership team: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the tone you’ve set for our AL meetings: the caring, the pragmatism, the openness. We’re so lucky to have you!”

“Thank you to everyone who helped pull [Fauxmencement] together. Thank you to everyone who set up the event, to everyone who made hats and tassels, to everyone who wrote kind messages in chalk and made the sea of bubbles to walk through. Thanks to all the speakers for pulling something together last minute. Every bit of it was beautiful, because it came from the love and care of the community. I almost hope we don’t have a real commencement — there’s no way it could be better than what you made it.”

“Thank you to those involved with the Presidential Search. An extra big thank you to Anupama Krishnan and Niyi Owolabi for committing their time to it. I am extremely excited for the positive changes a new president may bring to us in light of all that is happening currently. So thank you to those that made this happen and to our President-Elect Dr. Gilda Barabino for committing to Olin. An extra thank you to Anusha Datar for hosting a Zoom call to experience this event together as well.”

“Thank you to all the students, staff, faculty, (everyone really) for putting together those last events to send us home properly. It really felt like a proper good-bye. Thank you to all of those who have made events to stay together and have provided ways that we can. I am grateful to have the opportunity now to have better means to interact with the students who were away as we stay together. Your efforts have reminded me of why I chose Olin and why I am so grateful that I did. To the seniors, I will miss you all and I am thankful for the part you played and will continue to play in my life. You have made it all the better.”

Even now, in the awkward move to online classes, you all have shown that Olin’s community can never be contained to just five (and a half) buildings. 

On the Soleimani Assassination

Before Olin and a significant portion of the world shut down due to this pandemic, this is what I was going to preface this article with:

International relations and foreign policy aren’t things we talk about often at Olin. The average American doesn’t live with the consequences of US foreign policy, however the majority of the world’s population does. The Vietnamese, the Chilean, the Turkish and the Greek felt them during the Cold War, just as the Syrians, Yemenis and Iraqis do today. I think it’s important to learn about international relations, and their direct ramifications on people’s lives. This is why I chose to do an AHS Capstone in communicating the recent developments in the Middle East related to international relations to the Olin community. With this project, I hope to start a conversation about international relations, different countries’ foreign policies and their impact on the lives of regular people, especially for those that live in the Middle East.

I wrote the following piece after I got messages from friends over Winter Break, asking if I knew anything about the “Iran situation” – referring to the Soleimani assassination. I didn’t at the time, therefore I spent the better part of January and February researching and writing about it. The following is what I have to say about the “Iran situation”. 

———————————————————————————————————————

On the Soleimani Assassination

On January 3, a US drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport killed Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’ elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of Iranian troops in Iraq (Cohen). US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the attack was deterrent in nature, citing an intelligence report on Soleimani’s intentions of an attack on four US embassies in the region, and an overall threat of Iranian aggression on American interests and allies in the region (Stracqualursi). I argue that the U.S. administration’s decision to kill Soleimani was ineffective in addressing the Iranian threat and was primarily a product of the blind pursuit of “maximum pressure” policy on Iran.

“Maximum pressure” is the brainchild of the famous Iran-hawk and former National Security Adviser under Trump, John Bolton, who argued that the only way to prevent Iran from expanding their sphere of influence in the region and from producing nuclear weapons is to pressure them through financial, political and military means. The goal of the policy is to force Iran to the negotiating table with the US on the US’ terms, on topics ranging from nuclear enrichment, Iran’s involvement in the many conflicts in the Middle East, to their role in the Palestine-Israel conflict. As part of this policy, the US previously pulled out from the “Iran nuclear deal” – officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA – citing its weakness in supporting American interests. The U.S. also re-imposed sanctions amounting up to $100 billion, which had been previously lifted following Iran’s compliance with JCPOA (Bakeer). 

Qasem Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force – which is IRGC’s military branch that operates outside of Iran to protect the regime’s interests abroad through intelligence and unconventional military operations. Throughout his tenure, he built a strong network of proxy militia groups across the Middle East – which allowed him to coordinate Iran’s military involvement in the region, thereby expanding Iran’s sphere of influence against the Saudi regime. After an Iranian rocket attack on an Iraqi military base had killed an American contractor and a group of Hezbollah (Iran-backed) supporters had stormed the US embassy in Baghdad in late December, 2019, the tensions between the US and Iran had risen significantly (Makki).

In the presence of high tensions and an alleged threat to US personnel in the region, killing Soleimani not only promoted Iran and their allies in the region to retaliate against US troops and personnel, it was ineffective in addressing the real threat that Soleimani posed to American interests: the network of proxies he had established. While one could argue that these networks rely on personal relationships between Soleimani and his proxies, removing the head of an organization is seldom effective in disrupting their operations. In fact, following the attack, Iran promptly hit US bases in the region and went as far as leaving their air space open – treating the civilian traffic as a shield from further US retaliation – and downed a Ukrainian airliner, showing that the hit only aggravated the regime in threatening American personnel and interests in the region (Lampert). 

Since then, the Iranian aggression towards the US seems so unaffected by the drone strike that some government officials reportedly admit that “the killing of General Suleimani has not — as some had hoped — led Iran and its proxies to think twice about fomenting violence inside Iraq and elsewhere (Mazzetti)”, further confirming the futility of the assassination in preventing further Iranian attacks. One could argue that the attack was a successful preemptive attack based on the intelligence report Pompeo and many other senior White House officials cited. After all, a threat to US embassies in the region and a central figure to Iran’s operations in the region was killed; however the process to the assassination decision left many doubtful of the conclusiveness of the report and the cited imminent threat. Prior to the assassination, the administration circumvented a necessary meeting with the Gang of Eight – a group of high-ranking members of the Congress are informed on classified intelligence matters – before authorizing the strike, preventing any input from crucial leaders of the government (Stracqualursi). Given the skepticism voiced by several members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the lack of evidence for Pompeo’s claims (Chiacu), it isn’t difficult to distinguish this attack as a blind pursuit of their “maximum pressure” policy, rather than a preemptive strike to alleviate a threat on US personnel and an effort to prevent further military confrontation with Iran.

Soleimani was a dangerous individual. He built a loyal network of proxies and militia groups across the Middle East, and posed significant risk to US interests, such as reinforcing Iran’s regional hegemony and threatening the US and its allies through his proxies. He was paramount for Iran’s numerous military involvements and humanitarian atrocities in the region, including the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Yemen and the ensuing refugee crisis. The US needs to take action against Iran’s growing destructive influence in the region, but this type of dogmatic implementation of the “maximum pressure” policy is reckless and unlikely to be successful.

Bibliography: https://tinyurl.com/u9mrmsk

Coronavirus Corner

A roundup of resources to help you stay informed, take care of yourself and others, and take breaks from the news when you need them.

Stay Informed

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to have an up-to-date and comprehensive COVID-19 section on its website.
  • The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center includes an interactive map.
  • This Podcast Will Kill You has released a six-epsiode series, “Anatomy of a Pandemic: COVID-19.” The show is co-hosted by two epidemiologists/disease ecologists.

Stay Home

  • Continue to avoid or limit contact with anyone outside your household.
  • Limit or avoid unnecessary trips out.
  • Help Flatten the Curve.

Take Care

Take a Break

Stay Connected

Got questions or suggestions for the Wellness Office? Share them here.

It’s Financial Literacy Month. Are You Angry?

“It seems like this whole system was invented to screw over poor people, but you have to participate or else you’ll get screwed, too.”

I’ve never been prouder of an Oliner than when I heard this come out of one of their mouths during a HOPES (Helping Oliners Plan Economic Success) session about credit scores. We’d been discussing how credit functions in American society: When we need to pay for things most of us can’t afford on our own (a car, a house, a college education, etc.), we must borrow that money from someone else (i.e., a lender). But the lender will only let us borrow their money if they think we’re likely to pay it back later, plus interest. So they’ll only lend to those of us who have already proved in the past that we’re able to do this. This history is what makes up our credit score. 

Yes, it’s often that simple: A good credit score gives us access to cheap credit for the things we want and need. With no or poor credit, however, the lender will either deny us or charge a higher interest rate, making it harder to finance that car to get to work, that house that’s likely to appreciate in value over time, or that degree that will increase our earning power. The fact that someone is already financially vulnerable makes it more difficult to take the steps needed to find their footing. 

Sometimes people we’re not asking for money, like landlords or employers, can even use our credit history as a factor in deciding whether or not to rent to us or employ us. 

And this is just one way that the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. 

All I could say to the student was, “You’re absolutely right.”

I think my answer may have surprised them. After all, it’s both my job and my passion to help students develop lifelong financial skills. Just because Jerry Goss (Olin’s Financial Wellness Ambassador) and I are personal finance nerds, however, doesn’t mean we buy into the financial systems and industries on which financial wellness is built.  

Beyond credit scores, there are countless ways in which these systems perpetuate inequality. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a global emergency in itself, but it’s also exposing and exacerbating the deep cracks that permeate our society. For example, people in poverty are more likely to:

  • Lose their jobs as industries are forced to either suspend operations or implement radical changes
  • Own small businesses that will not survive an economic recession
  • Continue going to work if they exhibit symptoms because they don’t have paid sick leave
  • Live without health insurance, or be at risk of losing coverage if they get laid off
  • Go without essential supplies that others are stocking up on because they live paycheck-to-paycheck, don’t have space to store them, etc. 
  • Rely on public transit where social distancing is more difficult
  • Feed their families with WIC-approved foods (WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), which may be unavailable during times of crisis as people stock up on staple ingredients 
  • Depend on school or work for meals 
  • Lack appropriate technology at home to continue their work or education
  • Exist without the protection of an emergency fund in times of financial hardship
  • Have their utilities shut off if they can’t pay their bills (as you can imagine, it’s hard to wash your hands without water or work from home without internet)
  • Serve as primary caretakers for older family members, so they can’t keep them safe by social distancing
  • Get evicted if they can’t pay their rent
  • Experience escalation of an abusive home situation they can’t afford to leave, given that the resources that might normally provide some respite (work, school, religious organizations, etc.) are unavailable
  • Fall victim to predatory financial scams that prey on desperate people
  • Face barriers to accessing mental health treatment in a time of heightened stress and anxiety 
  • Be shamed by others for their predicament 

And much, much more. Far more than I can list. Far more than my own privilege allows me to be aware of.

If this makes you angry, it should. It makes me angry. 

So here’s the thing: Yes, I want Oliners to develop practical personal finance knowledge and skills. I want to help you learn what you need to know about budgeting, credit, and so on to survive (and hopefully thrive) in today’s world, a world in which financial stability is both crucial and fleeting. As they tell you on airplanes, you must put on your own mask before you can help others. 

At the same time, however, I want you to fight for others to have the same opportunity. This isn’t about getting rich. It’s about waking up in the morning not having to worry about whether you can afford to be a person. This is what one outcome of financial wellness can be if we want it to. 

And I think it’s you specifically, as Oliners, who are needed in this arena. Don’t leave this in the hands of the folks on Wall Street, in business school, and in political office. We need people like you to be angry, to be compassionate, and to imagine how things could be different (not just during an economic crisis, but afterwards, too). We need people to think and act like Oliners. 

So yes, April is Financial Literacy Month. And we’re still having it! Because in many ways, I feel it’s more important than ever. Hope to see you at our events on the Zoom machine.

April Compliments Corner

Hello! Times have been super wacky and rough as of late for many of us, and I wanted to compile compliments from the community to bring some smiles to all of us who are physical distancing (with social closeness). Hope you enjoy! 

To submit compliments for next month, visit https://forms.gle/gm1VfwtUXseKDK4w7

Arwen, you’re such a cool person! You’re such a sweet human being and you’re such a style icon!!!

Utsav is someone I’d sit down and chill with any day 

Micah Reid is an amazing painter

Jessie Potter is the biggest sweet heart

I wish I was closer to Cali because she seems like such a fun person to hang out with 

Katie TT is adorable 

Casey M spreads so much kindness and positivity with everything he does! He truly brightens our community. 

Meg Ku: Thank you for being such a go getter and wonderful human, especially during the fauxmencement prep!

Katie B is beyond generous and truly cares for other people! She also has an amazing sense of humor. 

Ever is one of my favorite humans. He is so cheerful and really inspires me is so many ways! 

Rick Miller is incredible!!! I love the impact he’s made on the nature of the Olin community- I will miss having him as our President! 

I love Cassandra’s chipper and helpful attitude! 

Luis never fails to put a smile on my face with his INCREDIBLE sense of humor and his undeniable kindness. 

Riya is an incredible person! She does so much for other people, and always manages to have time to listen to you if you need it. 

Shreya, you are such a force to be reckoned with. I’m so glad I got to know you better this semester!

Mary you are so encouraging and compassionate!

Emma Pan, you are always so welcoming.

Andrew M, I appreciate your positivity and your drive to share happiness with all.

Sam D., thank you for always being an advocate and resource for our community. You are so loved.  

Dhara, you are kind, hilarious and wacky. I’m so glad we got to know each other more this semester and I am so excited have more great times! 

Annie, you are incredible and make my heart so happy all the time. I’m so grateful to be your friend 

To the entire Olin community: thank you for being supportive, funny, and generally wholesome!

Callan, Mckenzie, and Maggie are the most incredible people and put so much thought, love, and care into the library! It’s been amazing to see what the library has grown into with them, and I always love talking with them. They’re all so cool! 

Meg you are one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known!

To my faculty colleagues, who took less than 24 hours to frame opportunities (alongside the problems).  Your strength and optimism are contagious and appreciated.

To the guy who lived across the hall– you are caring, funny and awesome in so many ways. I miss seeing you all the time!

Thank you, second floor lounge, for being so tolerant of my excessive alcohol consumption

They know who I am

Anya, Anusha, and Alison are the backbone of Olin College

Hadleigh, you were so incredibly hard-working & patient as you not only folded so so many origami hats, but taught people too along the way, spreading the joy of the activity :) Thank you for being awesome!!

Jeff Goldenson, I’m really so sad to see you go :(  Thank you so much for all the wonderful wacky time in the Greenhouse you gave to us students, and through the highs and lows, always caring about all of us above anything else. 

Anusha! Your leadership has really been constantly inspiring to me, but you have really gone above and beyond to support the student body and be their advocate in these last few weeks. Thank you for being such a wonderful person, and continuing to work hard to help all of us, I know everyone really appreciates you.

Adva has such a kind spirit. Her speech at Fauxmencement made me sob. Thank you for being a part of our community, Adva. 

I find it so impressive how much Miranda reads. I just want to say thank you for your book review emails and that you’re awesome.

Riya, you’re such a sweet and caring person and I’m so lucky to have experienced so much of your kindness!

Meg you’re the best roommate ever!!!

Your Partner in Crime

Annie Tor, bless your soul. You’re so sweet and kind and make everyone around you smile.

Nathan you’re so awesome at flying planes

Colin Snow your bread is the world’s best 

the president search committee did a wonderful job and it seems like our president elect is well put together. definitely the person we need at the moment during all of this turbulence 

Amazing work by MarCom and IT on the Next President website!

Katie Gosbee, you are so awesome!

Olivia Seitelman, thank you for being such an amazing human being.

Meagan R. your the bestest writing ninja this semester!

Dunk man you play some mean jazz

To the faculty – thank you so so so much for making the transition to online learning as simple as possible. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to run a Olin class from Zoom and we really appreciate all the effort.

Class of ’22, thank you for making me smile :D

Kevin and Himanshu and the Dining Hall staff, we miss you so much!!! Thank you for all you’ve done for us.

Kate Mackowiak can make anyone laugh and feel completely at home when they are around her.

Simrun Mutha has an infectious laugh, brilliant smile, and killer dance moves.

Prisha Sadhwani is gorgeous inside and out, an amazing baker, and truly cares about her friends and family.

Nathan Faber gives the best hugs, and is a great unicycler.

Owen Dray is a kind human who always helps others but asks nothing in return.

Isabel Serrato has a kind soul and is hillarious on the sodium stage.

NOAH D’SOUZA PLAYS A REALLY GOOD INKLING! IT’S SO SATISFYING TO LOSE TO!

jerrito

Caitlin Kantor is the best hype-woman around, and always makes everyone around her feel accepted.

Emily + the NINJAs have been amazing for MechSolids and they’ve made the transition to O(n)lin(e) a lot easier 

Shreya is just great as usual 

Jonathan, I don’t think you could begin to imagine how amazing you are and how glad I am that you are in my life. I’m constantly impressed by you and admire you so so much. Still not sure how you know the perfect things to say when I’m feeling down, but thanks for always being your thoughtful, genuine, wonderful self. 

Sam Young bringing back houseparty makes me happy. Love that chaotic energy

Julia Chomowicz is a great teammate and amazingly compassionate.

Katie Rollauer is an example of a staff member who cares deeply about the Olin community. I appreciate her kindness and openness.

Zhenya is hands-down the most thoughtful, loving, inspiring, and genuine human being I have had the honor of knowing. She cares so deeply for others and the love she shows for others inspires me to be more reflective and intentional as I go about each and every day. I hope to be even half the person she is one day.

Matt Brucker is such a stylish, sweet, sincere, and kind human being!

Student Affairs and Resources Team – there are now words for your amazingness!

Rae-Anne

HK Rho is a radiant, loving, strong, genuine, hilarious human being who lights up every room she is in.

David Freedman is one of the most sweet, thoughtful, genuine, and loving human beings I have ever known. I learn so much from his example and brings a special joy to every room he is in. He is a wonderful listener and cares so deeply about those around him.

Chris Lee (the student) is so genuine, hilarious, and passionate. He cares deeply for his friends through advice or laughter. He is a wonderful listener and an incredible friend. 

Kristtiya Guerra is such a wonderful human being who cares so deeply for her friends. She never fails to make those around her double over with laughter. She is sweet, sympathetic, and brave.

Richard Gao is one of the funniest and honest people I have known. He is gentle, sympathetic, and warm. He cares so much about those around him and is wonderful listener. 

Kyle Bertram is such a caring and genuine human being. She is a wonderful, kind role model for me who I admire greatly.

The Dining Hall staff makes me feel so loved while being so far from home. They feel like my family and I am so appreciative of their hard work. Olin wouldn’t be Olin without each and every one of them.

Riya Aggarwal cares so deeply for those around her and is a true friend. She is very sweet, thoughtful, and an amazing listener.

Adva is such a radiant, caring, lovely, beautiful inside and out human being. She is honest and hilarious and understanding without fail.

Jon Stolk is one of the most thoughtful, inspiring, and genuine people I have ever known. He is an amazing listener and cares so much for those around him. He brings joy to every room he is in and I learn so much from his example.

The class of 2022 is my forever family- and  I mean family in the deepest, truest sense. Thank you all for being so loving and unique and accepting me. I miss and love you all more and more every day. I can’t wait for the next 2 with y’all <3 

The POE 2019 teaching team brought so much joy and honest help and care to my life. Thank you for your love.

Sam Michalka is such a wonderful wonderful wonderful human being who I learn so much from every day. Sam cares so much for the human beings around them as an exceptional teacher. They shine a light in every room and are a true inspiration to me.

Katie Goldstein is such a genuine, caring person who really listens to those around her. She has helped teach me what really matters in life and how to be a better friend to everyone around me. She is radiant and beautiful inside and out.

Daniela Faas is such a wonderful, strong role model to me. She cares so deeply for those around her and is a wonderful human being and teacher.

Ben Ziemann is such a warm, gentle, passionate, and caring individual. I look up to his example and Olin will not be Olin without him.

Vicky McDermott- I can’t but smile just reading her name. I look up to Vicky so much and Olin won’t be Olin without her. There are so many words I can use to describe her: kind, hilarious, genuine, caring, warm, gentle, sweet, radiant, and beautiful inside and out. I spent a while trying to find a good quote to describe Vicky and liked Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart”. You’ll be in my heart always, Vicky <3

Sophie Schaffer is such a warm, radiant, hilarious individual. She made me feel at home while so far from home and I will miss her so so much. 

Himanshu is such a caring, radiant individual. He makes everyone smile without fail and really cares when asking how someone is doing.  

Carlos Godinez is such a radiant, hilarious, and kind human being. He is a wonderful listener and never fails to make me smile on a tough day.

Olin students – this has been hard and you have been overwhelmingly amazing. Thank you and we look forward to seeing your faces again soon!

Rae-Anne & the StAR Team

Mason Grabowski has beautiful hair when he lets it loose!

Sam Kaplan has the best beard on campus, hands down. If you disagree, I still think it’s still high ranking. 

Your uncle SIBB

Julia Benton, you are sweet, hilarious and a total joy to be around! I love that you’re my friend!

marion madanguit is hilarious has an insanely good sense of direction while blindfolded!

Michael Remley is such a refreshing person to be around

Elias we love you as a ModSim NINJA!

M+K

Nathan Shuster has mad board game skillz

To everyone who wrote me kind things in the form and over email about this section (including the person who said “Don’t not publish this compliment just because it’s about you!”), thank you so much for your kind words. My heart is so unimaginably happy ❤️

– Maia

Horoscopes from a Sober Contributor

I would usually use this section to describe upcoming astrological events and try to provide some insight regarding what the future might hold. I genuinely believe that astrology is the best tool we have by which to make sense of the present and meaningfully consider the future, and I think it’s at its most useful in times of deep uncertainty where other, less scrutinized models seem to fail. Regardless, the nature of current events made doing a standard analysis of the cosmos and reporting out accordingly in a public setting feel out of touch at best. Hopefully, I will soon return to writing rigorous, scientific horoscopes. I’m too much of a coward to do that right now.


If you must know, the sun is currently in Aries, and it will enter Taurus on April 20th. There will be a full moon in Libra on April 7th (it’ll be a supermoon!) and a new moon in Taurus on April 22nd. Pluto will enter retrograde on April 25th in Capricorn. I’ll admit I’m pretty nervous about the Pluto retrograde, but other than feel free to interpret this information as you’d like and feel free to contact me if you’d like to talk about astrology and interpretations. 

In the meantime, here are some less scientifically-determined food-related suggestions I would recommend for each sign to enjoy if they can acquire them in a safe way.

Pisces (Feb. 19–Mar. 20): If you can get to a store that sells fun novelty items, find whatever seems the most wack and exciting, purchase it, and consume it. 

Aries (Mar. 21–Apr. 19): There’s nothing wrong with adding more hot sauce to your daily diet.

Taurus (Apr. 20–May 20): Recreate the Olin Dining Hall experience and make a smoothie using whatever you can find wherever you are staying. No blender? Get creative!

Gemini (May 21–June 21): Usually supporting local businesses means getting takeout from a small place in your neighborhood, but it’s also okay to patronize a fast food chain if you’re looking for something specific. 

Cancer (June 22–July 22):  Canadian factories are working through the night to keep kraft mac and cheese on store shelves. You might as well go enjoy some dorm-room comfort food.  

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22): Spending hours carefully preparing overdressed breakfast foods so that you can photograph them is certainly allowed, 

Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22): Consider freezing milk, as a treat. Or freezing literally anything else.

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 23): It’s okay to eat that microwave popcorn that you tossed in your backpack while trying to clean out your room a few weeks ago. Maybe put some pepper or olive oil or something on it though. 

Scorpio (Oct. 24–Nov. 21): Have you tried these protein powder recipes yet?

Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21): Looking for an adventure? Pour some black beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, and other taco fixings into a bag of chips and you’ll get walking tacos, a midwest classic (apparently). 

Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19): You’re probably trying to stay healthy – consider making some nice vegan carrot hot dogs to spice things up!

Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18): Get something caffeine! Whether it’s instant coffee or those chocolate covered espresso beans, do what you need to do.