We recently went to Towson University to speak with Matthew Heimbach, the founder of a group that advocates for “persons of European heritage.” We also met the students who want him off campus… or at least muzzled. ‘White Student Union’ is a documentary about race, class, and self-righteous college students yelling at each other.
Matthew Heimbach insists he’s not a racist. This comes as a surprise to his fellow students at Towson University, in the suburbs of Baltimore, where Matthew has formed a group called the White Student Union that advocates for “persons of European heritage”—what most of us call “white people.” It also comes as a surprise to the African American students who feel targeted by the night patrols the senior history major began conducting in March. The patrols target supposed “black predators,” Matthew wrote on the WSU’s website, citing (among others) a case in which an African American man pulled out a knife and his penis, and wagged both at a co-ed couple who were copulating in a parking garage. “White Southern men,” he wrote, “have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people.”
Also surprised by Matthew’s claim that he’s not a racist is Duane Davis. “You are a fat, racist little bitch,” the scrappy, dreadlocked man told Matthew one sunny Tuesday this April. There was a rally going on, organized by the Student Government Association and the Black Student Union. In a field behind Duane and Matthew, about 100 students protested the White Student Union by reading unity-themed slam poetry from a microphone. When Matthew showed up on the edge of the crowd, a dozen protesters had come to confront him. Down the façade of a parking garage, a banner unfurled reading, wsu gtfo (translation: White Student Union Get the Fuck Out).
“There’s no need to insult me,” Matthew told Duane, who looked one wrong reply away from punching the 21-year-old.
Matthew has the look of someone who’s been bullied his whole life: he puffs out his chest to hide an abundant belly, wears unfashionable drugstore spectacles, and on this day sported what vaguely resembled a Morrissey T-shirt.
“Who is that on your shirt?” Duane said, jabbing Matthew in the chest. The onlookers leaned in to hear the answer.
“Ian Smith,” Matthew said, before rattling off the biography of the former prime minister of Rhodesia, a white supremacist who resisted efforts to end white rule there in the 60s. “He’s one of my heroes.”
A svelte woman in a dashiki interrupted. “If you were dying and needed a heart transplant,” she asked, “would you accept one from a black person?”
Yesterday morning, 50 students at Cooper Union in New York, took over their university president’s office. They promise to remain until he resigns.
The occupation is the latest battle in a war to keep Cooper Union free. Cooper Union is one of the only colleges in America that doesn’t charge tuition. But on April 23, Chairman of the Board Mark Epstein announced that, starting in 2014, the college would cost students $20,000 a year. That’s a 2 zillion percent increase. It was, according to protesters and students, a betrayal of the principles on which Cooper Union was built.
“Education should be as free as air or water,” the school’s founder, industrialist Peter Cooper, once procliamed. Cooper was the most progressive of the robber barons, a simple-living abolitionist Unitarian who invented Jell-O. He founded his university to provide an education to cash-strapped geniuses of both sexes. He positioned it where Bowery meets Broadway, as a geographic nod to class transcendence—where the upper and lower classes collide.
Since 1859, Cooper Union has been free. Cooper’s original endowment is supplemented by donors, alumni, and, most crucially, rent from the land under the Chrysler Building, located 39 blocks away.
Growing up in New York, I viewed Cooper Union through the filter of legend. Because it was free, it took only the best.
My friend Zak Smith, a Cooper art graduate who went on to exhibit in the Whitney Biennial, told me via text: “The great schools in the US are all too often just places that make rich families richer. Cooper Union was the exception.” Smith comes from a working-class family, but thanks to a free education at Cooper, he landed a Yale scholarship for his master’s degree and later became a world-renowned contemporary painter. “Not anymore. If it wasn’t for Cooper, people like me wouldn’t get to be artists.”
Partying in Panama City Beach - Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers
An overview of the eight-week period of spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida, when hundreds of thousands of students take over the usually sleepy beach town. We talk to the mayor, the chief of police, the owner of the largest club in the United States, and an evangelical street preacher who protests spring breakers with a bullhorn and says that “Spring break is just another excuse for people to sin.”
There’s nothing fundamentally offensive, really, about the new Odd Future Stone Wash Pajama Zubaz uniforms that adidas rolled out on Thursday in preparation for the NCAA tournament later this month. Aesthetically, maybe, there are some things to disagree with—the color-schemes apparently based on flavors Gatorade invented, like “Frost Cascade Crash”; the shorts that resemble something a Jacksonville-area steroid dealer might’ve worn in 1991; the Notre Dame uniform, which looks like a Shamrock Shake with a tall dude trapped inside it. These are reasonable things to notice and take issue with, although it’s useful to remember that these uniforms were made with that purpose in mind—ruffling people square enough to care about college basketball uniforms, and ruffling them into using the word “adidas” if at all possible. This has worked—I’ve now done it twice in this column, and did it elsewhere yesterday—although it would have worked less well if there was anything else to talk about in sports right now. So, mission accomplished. Remind me to tell you about adidas’s patented ClimaCool Zones, an exciting new fabric technology that might well solve forever whatever pseudo-problem it purports to address, for all I know.
There’s a certain baseline squickiness to non-stories like this, which are essentially and inescapably re-heated press releases served with a side salad of Hot Take. It helps (if that’s the word) that these uniforms are undeniably something-a-skateboarding-cartoon-dinosaur-would-wear gaudy and legitimately strange. But the conversation they generate is mostly crypto-promotional noise. It’s familiar, too—think of those popular videos that get posted to every traffic-seeking site on the web along with a couple paragraphs about how stupid this video-meme is; think of the branded factoids and drowsily re-reported press releases that are the stock in trade of the widely loathed ESPN Brand Enthusiast Darren Rovell. These things are forgettable spurts of spume generated by the internet’s relentless, affectless churn. It’s hard to know what percentage of the web consists of ostentatiously and unapologetically content-free content like this, but it’s a two-digit number that probably starts with a seven or an eight and ends with a LeAnn Rimes upskirt.
I’m not as much of a fan of the nerdier-than-thou webcomic XKCD as I used to be, but this one-panel strip has stuck with me:
It gets at something that not many fans or commenters like to admit—sports are only personal because we make them personal. There’s nothing inherently heartwarming or heroic about a bunch of men competing for arbitrary achievements on ritualistically demarcated fields and courts. If you like, you can take a step back and view athletes and statistics and win-production machines: “Tom Brady is my favorite football player because he accumulated 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns while only accumulating 8 interceptions. This positively affected the Patriots’ win-loss record, and the Patriots are the favored team of the geographic region in which I came of age.”
But of course athletes, like Dungeons & Dragons characters, are not just collections of numbers—they require backstories to get our attention. The most common athlete backstory is the Upstanding Young Man. Upstanding Young Men have high Charisma scores and generally Lawful Good alignments. They’re married or in long-term relationships, usually to a high school or college sweetheart; they either don’t drink or don’t drink too much; they Inspire Their Teammates and have Leadership Qualities; occasionally their lives may be Touched by Tragedy, in which case they are even more Upstanding for having Overcome Obstacles (almost all successful athletes have Overcome Obstacles, otherwise there’s not much that can be written about them).
Until yesterday, Manti Te’o, the star linebacker at Notre Dame, was an Upstanding Young Man among Upstanding Young Men. He was a Mormon (no danger of him Succumbing to Temptation!), he had Leadership Qualities out the wazoo, and his life had been Touched by Tragedy thanks to the death of both his grandmother and his saintly girlfriend. He still played in a game when he could have gone to his girlfriend’s funeral and intercepted two passes in a Notre Dame win—talk about Overcoming Obstacles!
The short version of the story is that Lennay Kekua, the saintly girlfriend who loved Manti with all her heart and died with his name on her lips and inspired him to etc. etc., never existed. She was a hoax, an invention of some malicious people who (Notre Dame and Manti say) fooled a naïve—and potentially no longer all that Upstanding—kid for reasons that are yet to be revealed.
I don’t even have a sense of how to position college in the Girl Experience because a) I literally don’t remember it—not a single class, what I did, what I looked like, or what I learned—even though I have an honors degree in politics. (Quite aside from the really intense full-time graduate work I did in getting way fucking high, that is weird, right?) And b) college is very much like ‘family’ in that the meaningful corollaries of experience between girls that we can talk about here, while we chew gum and daisy-chain the wrappers, is just too bound up in so many other traditions, experiences, and standards that there’s less of a wayin to the whole, common thing of ‘THIS IS COLLEGE.’ We don’t even call it ‘college’ in Canada, even though it’s just as letterman jackets and sweatpantsy here, we call it ‘university,’ just like Daddy does. This necessitates a different Girl News approach than, say, blowjobs, because no matter your personal context, where you come from, whatever, a blowjob will always be a blowjob (unless, like, Norwegians do them really weird? WHOAH, DO YOU?), like, we all use our thumb-pads to deal with jizz spill-off. And c) because college no longer seems like a singular, mandated, teensploitation-ready experience of familiar tropes for whoever is in, like, the top three-quarters of the socioeconomic spectrum or got good grades in high school or gives even a tiny baby shit about doing what you’re supposed to do or has parents that make you go. Now college, like fucking everything, is less of an assumed rite of passage and more of an economic transaction colored by Sex Terror and debt and date rape (OK that’s pretty 90s, when we thought ‘college’ meant ‘date rape’ and ‘date rape’ didn’t mean ‘everywhere all the time’). Do you know what I mean? Not to dive into the nostalgics this early, but when I was little college meant something mythic and Skull and Bonesy and forever, where I’d wear certain things (brown Prada boots; navy blue tights; tweed skirts, button-downs; reasonable ponytails) and come out so much smarter, and now that I’m a degenerate grownie college seems, like, just an enormous Visa bill you accrued when you were drunk. Is it still even fun? Email me.
Let’s start here since I do have some kind of memory of tripping balls in downtown Toronto in the winter without a coat on, which would be consistent with the facts of my college experience, and hallucinating that the thin red strings in weed were floating out of the baggie and onto my eyeballs, criss-crossing their broad white plains in the mirror like lonely backroads. And what I do remember, synesthetically, about college, is being very wet and cold and dirty most of the time, which is why I will go for a brisk walk when someone so much as rolls a joint, because my sense memory starts to transmute into just being fucking freezing and uncomfortable and getting terrible grades and knowing so many things that I couldn’t bring myself to say because what if I didn’t know them in the right waaaaay? This is very frownyface.
I am just totally opposed to the idea of college roommates because surely having a stranger sleeping across a room from you when you are at what has to be the most vulnerable time in your whole life will undermine your personality forever because you can’t fucking even masturbate??? Y’alls should totally contact Human Rights Watch about this.
Power structures are wildly different in a college setting than in high school in that the most important girl is a little hedgehog from some shit town where she was Max Fisher But Worse. Ugh, and she’s always real smug and doesn’t know that she’s not cool, or that her coolness taps out at the top of the nerd pyramid? BUT DOESN’T CARE? Anyway the point is that professors are still not allowed to fuck you, but are a little bit more allowed than in high school, but you will be commensurately that much less interested. Wait, is sex in college boring?
How to Pay Your Student Loans Without Actually Paying Them
There are two rhetorical positions commonly adopted when addressing the topic of student loans, one held by those with robust monthly incomes, the other championed by magical thinkers whose earning powers border on the anemic. Try to guess which is which:
1) “You shouldn’t have gotten into so much debt in the first place if you didn’t have a responsible plan to pay it off. Quit complaining and get to work.”
2) “Student loans exploit children by luring them with the promise of non-existent careers into borrowing inconceivable sums. The system is broken; defaulting counts as civil disobedience.”
If you’re partial to the first of these arguments, then you should stop reading this immediately and go hang out in your bathtub full of gold-plated caviar (or whatever it is you people do), but if you’re listing towards the latter position, then it only stands to reason that you should get out of your student loan debt as quickly and painlessly as possible. And there are actually ways to do that. Check it out
For a lot of people the act of “fisting” is truly NBD. I’ve done it so many times that I don’t even have to carry a purse anymore, but apparently college students at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec wanted to learn more about it so the queer kids hopped to and organized an instructional evening on campus called Take Five: The Pleasures of Fisting, taught by sex blogger, polyamorist, and kink historian Andrea Zanin. We obviously couldn’t resist making the most out of a potentially awkward and emotionally vulnerable situation such as this, and dispatched two students to attend the thing and then report back on what went down. Here’s what they had to say.
People have certain expectations when they spend $15 million and four years of their lives getting a degree. It’s understandable. What would be the point in going if you weren’t expecting to get a career out of it? But the good jobs are few and far between and competition for them is fiercer than ever. That’s why IF you get a job when you graduate, it will probably be shit. Especially if you studied one of these subjects.
Being a philosopher hasn’t been a real thing for hundreds of years, so it was a pretty unrealistic aspiration, wasn’t it? Get used to smoking yourself into a stupor and staying in your underwear all day long because your painfully high opinion of yourself since you graduated makes you pretty much unemployable.