Matt’s Traditional American Values: Goodbye, Vanderbilt

Between 2012 and 2014, I visited roughly 30 colleges and universities, applied to 16 and chose Vanderbilt as the place that would best fit my needs and wants in a school.  One factor in my search was the political climate of the different campuses. When I say that, however, I do not necessarily mean that I needed a right-wing echo chamber. If that were my goal, I would have exclusively looked at known conservative schools or state schools in deeply red states.  I was mostly looking for a healthy political climate where conservative views would be heard and respected on campus.

When I arrived at Vanderbilt in 2014, I definitely felt that Vanderbilt lived up to that goal.  I had often heard it said that Vanderbilt was the “most conservative top 20 university” (or various iterations of that concept), and I definitely do think that was accurate four years ago.  My freshman seminar class was essentially on Obamacare, and half of the class was opposed to the bill. According to AnchorLink membership, the College Republicans (VCR) were several times larger than the College Democrats; additionally, VCR was far more active on campus and far more universally conservative than it is today.  Conservative perspectives were generally respected. I would certainly say that a majority of the people I met my freshman year leaned to the right. Conservative speakers were brought to campus, both by the administration and by student groups. Groups on the left were certainly still active too– the Vanderbilt Feminists were particularly active that year– but, most of all, there was a strong sense of open dialogue and exchange of ideas on campus.

Even then, there were worrying signs.  The Hustler used the cover page of its print edition to endorse the “No on 1” campaign (opposition to a pro-life ballot initiative).  As a Vanderbilt student who regularly campaigned for “Yes on 1” in my free time, I felt that the “campus elites,” as I would come to call them, were completely ignoring my perspective.  The bigger turning point, however, was the 2016 presidential election. In the primary season, I was supporting Senator Marco Rubio and was on the executive board of the Vanderbilt Students for Rubio.  I actually found it really easy to find students who supported Rubio, and I often wonder if Vanderbilt would still be the traditional center-right Vanderbilt had someone like Rubio, a very conservative Republican, but one whose rhetoric could have appealed to college students, won the Republican nomination.  

Following President Trump’s nomination, the political climate on campus changed entirely.  When I debated a left-wing activist on social issues two weeks before the election, I now know there was a room full of students watching a live stream and jeering me and my values.  I do think that former VSG President Ariana Fowler (who was very vocal in her support for Hillary Clinton in 2016) was a major driving force behind the sudden liberal turn of the campus, as she allowed student government’s role to switch from issues of campus life to being a mouthpiece for the left-wing agenda.

An undoubted truth about this is that the left became far more mobilized and active.  When VSG passed a “sanctuary campus” resolution, they did so under pressure from about 50 loud “social justice warriors” who all organized to go to the VSG meeting.  Initially, the perceived change in the campus climate was just the result of the left being far louder and more active than the right. However, the eventual result of the left being more vocal than the right and student organizations and the administration starting to bring in far more leftist speakers than right-leaning ones was that undecided or moderate students only heard one perspective.  Any view makes sense if you do not hear arguments against it, so the median Vanderbilt student started to drift far to the left.

As of this writing, the College Democrats outnumber the College Republicans by a ratio of 3:2 on AnchorLink.  Compare that to four years ago, when VCR was more than twice as large as its Democratic counterpart. I have seen changes first-hand that go far beyond raw membership totals.  If membership being down were the only issue for VCR, I would not be nearly this concerned about their future. It is not nearly as active as it was in 2014, when we had at least one GBM a month plus plenty more opportunities for activism.  Nor is it as conservative as it was when I first got involved, and today it largely ignores social issues.

Following losing an election for VCR president largely because I was viewed as too conservative and too vocal on social issues, I started a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, which is affiliated with Young America’s Foundation.  It was a real struggle to get the group really off the ground, and it eventually pretty much fizzled out (after hosting a few successful events) due to a lack of organic interest. I admit that I was not the greatest recruiter or the greatest with administrative tasks, but I was so passionate about what I was doing and I really hope that someone reading this will be able to resurrect Vanderbilt’s YAF chapter, as they do great work on all sorts of campuses.  

I am optimistic that there is still a latent conservative movement on campus.  Relatively frequently, students I do not even know quietly come up to me and tell me they agreed with something I said.  Even if we are not 50% or more anymore, we might still be 30%. I have tried (and largely failed) to organize that sizeable minority and mobilize us, but I hope and pray that there is someone on this campus who will take up the torch of standing up for what is right.

The post Matt’s Traditional American Values: Goodbye, Vanderbilt appeared first on Vanderbilt Hustler.

Space Jam: Inferno

At first glance, Venus seems like the very definition of a death world. It might as well be Earth’s evil twin; despite being almost the same size as Earth’s, the Venusian surface is, on average, twice as hot as a kitchen oven, enough to melt lead. The air itself is carbon dioxide and peppered with clouds of sulfuric acid. The life expectancy for human spacecraft that have landed on the surface of Venus can be measured in minutes, if even that. So it might be tempting to write Venus off as a hellscape that is worth fearing but unworthy of any other attention.

But, as usual, the truth is rather more complex.

It is true that Venus’s surface air temperature is a staggering ninety times that of Earth. This is the equivalent of the pressure a full kilometer underwater. Without protection, a human would be crushed instantly. But in the Venusian atmosphere, just as in Earth’s oceans, the pressure loosens as one rises from the depths. Indeed, high above the surface, in the Venusian equivalent of the mesosphere, the otherwise fatally oppressive atmosphere thins to a survivable air pressure. This is why serious suggestions have been made that Venus’s upper atmosphere is suitable for human settlement–where humans would live in floating “cloud cities.”

Even more profound, it has been suggested that Venus could have life of its own, floating amongst the sulfuric acid heights. While it may seem odd that life could exist in an atmosphere filled to the brim with a brew of toxins, those chemicals are only toxins by the standards of recognizable Earth life– and, even on Earth, so-called “extremophile” microorganisms are known to thrive in such places as the farthest depths of the ocean, inside active volcanoes and even outside the atmosphere.

Furthermore, while Venus may also be an inferno today, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this was not always true. The current bone-searing temperature has less to do with Venus’s closer position to the Sun and more to do with the rampant greenhouse effect caused by heat being trapped within the thick carbon dioxide of the planet’s atmosphere– a stark extreme of what may happen on Earth if humans continue to pollute the air.

Before any of this happened, at least hundreds of millions of years ago, Venus may not have been terribly different from Earth. Its atmosphere may have been thinner and far more habitable– and Venus might have even had water, creating the perfect combination for life on what was, truly, Earth’s twin.

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Matt’s Traditional American Values: In defense of my pro-life rhetoric

A recent article in the Vanderbilt Political Review criticized me by name for my rhetoric on abortion, calling me “aggressive in [my] beliefs” and claiming that I was scaring others from the pro-life movement.  That criticism is so misguided and could not be further from the truth. In fact, if I did not frequently, strongly and boldly speak out against abortion, I would view myself as complicit in the greatest human rights violation of our lifetimes.

60 million Americans have been aborted in the 45 years since Roe v. Wade.  That averages out to more than 1.3 million abortions per year, or 3,650 abortions every day.  For perspective, 2,977 innocent people died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.  So, over the last 45 years, we have seen the equivalent of another 9/11 occuring every day in this country in the form of abortion.  The total of 60 million deaths is the equivalent of the entire undergraduate student body of Vanderbilt dying nearly 9000 times.  Or, in other terms, it would be equivalent to the entire population of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Wisconsin all dying.  The stakes on this issue are so high that it is a moral imperative to do everything possible to fight to end it once and for all.

If saying that 60 million Americans should have been legally protected from dying is extremist, then call me an extremist.  If saying that it’s murder to end the life of a separate person, with his or her own DNA, is extremist, then call me an extremist.  And, if saying that said murder is still murder regardless of the circumstances in which the baby’s life began is extremist, then call me an extremist again.  

Of course, the pro-life movement needs to offer women resources.  We do that through pregnancy resource centers, which help assist women in times of crisis pregnancies and give them real options that will respect both lives.  Even supporters of abortion and opponents of giving women real choices recognize the power of crisis pregnancy centers, which they acknowledge outnumber abortion providers three-to-one.  But, it is also necessary to show people the dark side of abortion, or even shock them with its horrors.  That’s why I also believe there is a place for things like showing pictures of aborted babies or displaying a cross for every baby killed by abortion in this country this year.  In the year I led Vanderbilt Students for Life, we were as visible as I have ever seen the group on this campus and demonstrated to actually show students facts about Planned Parenthood taken directly from their annual report.  I know that fighting for life makes enemies, but it is my moral duty to fight until the day I die to see the end of abortion not only in the United States, but in the entire world.

The post Matt’s Traditional American Values: In defense of my pro-life rhetoric appeared first on Vanderbilt Hustler.

Happiest and Healthiest: A beginner’s guide to loving running

As someone with a background in dance, running was the enemy for a large chunk of my life. Although I tolerated it for the year I played soccer (poorly) when I was very young, running was on the whole something I dreaded. As I grew older, my distaste for it grew alongside me, as well as the unfortunate requirement to run even more. To this day, the thought of running “the mile” in gym class as part of our state-mandated fitness assessment terrifies me — even though I now happily log miles on a regular basis.

This is a common thread that I have traced through many friends’ experiences. We used to hate running, faking sick or simply disappearing in a bathroom stall to avoid the threat of the track, but now we actually pay money to run races. As with many cities, I feel that there is a bit of a running craze in Nashville — head to Centennial on a sunny day, and you might feel out of place if you’re not happily panting and sweating with the rest of them. So, what should you do if you really want to enjoy running, but for the time being, you really, really hate it?

  1. Figure out if it’s actually running that you hate.

Yes, this is a bit of an odd first step, but I found that thinking about this point helped me tremendously in getting over my running aversion. Quite obviously, running is a tough cardio workout, and it’s that heart-pounding, short-of-breath feeling that most of us tend to dislike because, quite honestly, it’s uncomfortable. If your body isn’t used to this feeling, it really wants to escape it by simply not running anymore. I was puzzled by this idea because through dance, I was no stranger to cardio. In fact, I craved that feeling of exhaustion after giving a performance my all, so #1 wasn’t the problem for me. For others, it might be the cardio alone that’s pushing you away. Try cycling, swimming or even Zumba classes and see if they are as uncomfortable to you as running. If the answer is yes, the solution is simply building a stronger heart and upping your oxygen binding capacity, which you can achieve through any type of cardio you’d like. Then, you’re off to the races.

2. Assess your pacing — no one but you should care how fast you’re going.

If you’re like me and you don’t think it’s necessarily the cardio that’s causing the problem, you might want to take a look at your strategy while logging miles. As someone who learned to like (not even love) running just a few years ago, I remember how important it is to encourage yourself to keep proper pacing, and how easy it is to just go full steam ahead. The beginning of a run feels incredibly liberating — nothing hurts yet, nothing is itchy or sweaty, and it’s just air rushing past you and into your lungs. But forcing yourself to start slowly until you become an expert in your body’s limits is key. Pace yourself and run for time, not for distance. See how long you can keep a comfortable pace, then try keeping that pace a little longer next time.

3. Assess your technique.

A lot of running is just momentum — convincing yourself to get started is often the hardest part. However, it’s important to actively maintain that momentum the whole way, or else you’re quite literally wasting energy and making the whole workout harder. Try to minimize any motion that isn’t forward and backward. That means not allowing your shoulders/torso to twist and not letting your arms/feet cross your centerline or flail to the side.

4. Assess your mindset — never run for punishment.

From my own experience, I’ve found that running is likely the most widely abused form of exercise. The logic is certainly there. It’s convenient and cheap — you only need your body and the space to move. It’s cardio, which means it’s guaranteed fat-burning, and you probably have a device that supposedly tells you how many calories you burned. You could technically do it forever, or however long you’re able to push yourself. And finally, my personal favorite, distance running is supposed to just make you “lean” and “toned” — no bulk, guaranteed! It’s incredibly important to be mindful of these damaging ideas and to push them out of your mind as quickly as you can. No workout should ever be used as a socially acceptable way to inflict self-harm, period. No amount of food or hurtful comments or low test scores warrant you pushing yourself to be miserable. Approach running happily and in celebration of what your body can do, and it will be kind to you in return.

5. On second thought, don’t run.

If after all of the above you still can’t stand the thought of nothing but you and the pavement for miles and miles, that is perfectly okay. I firmly believe that running isn’t for everyone, just like barre, or spin, or boxing isn’t for everyone. Repeatedly forcing yourself to do something you don’t love is no way to achieve the lifestyle you’re striving for. Additionally, running puts a lot of stress on your joints, and if you might get hurt, shouldn’t it be while doing something you actually enjoy? Find your fit your own way, and that will be more satisfying than all of the race bibs you could ever own.

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