College Students Process Bin Laden’s Death on Facebook


A screenshot of updates as people continue to post about Bin Laden's death.


May 9, 2011

The quiet in the library was punctuated here and there with the click of laptop keys as students worked on papers due Monday morning. Lindsay Strasser, a sophomore at NYU, was sitting at a table with her sorority sisters when one of them looked up from her cell phone and said, “Osama bin Laden is dead.”

“Everyone at my table thought it was a joke,” recalled Ms. Strasser. “It was so random. We kept working , no one said anything about it. About five minutes later, another girl at a different table who had her headphones in, said, ‘Huh, Osama bin Laden died.’ Apparently she’d read it on Facebook. So at this point, I logged onto Facebook, and I started noticing different friends from home and NYU had statuses popping up saying that Bin Laden had died. And another of my friends said that Obama was supposed to be on air in about a half an hour.”

This is how many students first heard about Bin Laden’s death, via text message or on the internet. The result was news that spread like wildfire. Ms. Strasser was one of many who heard about the content of the President Obama’s speech in rumor form before he gave it.

Ms. Strasser and her sisters gathered around a laptop to watch a live stream of the president’s announcement before going back to work and occasionally checking on the online community. “It was cool seeing Facebook explode with statuses. Because there were a lot of funny posts that night. I realized how funny my friends could be.

According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the Washington Post, 21 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 heard about Bin Laden’s death online, 14 percent of that on social networking sites. This is part of an ongoing trend in which 65 percent of young people list the internet as their primary source of news, double the percentage of 2007. More and more, news is being passed around online on websites like Twitter and Facebook. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center reported that the top theme in response to Bin Laden’s death on these two websites was humor.

Responses like, “R.I.P. Osama bin Laden- the World Champion of hide-and-seek,” populated Facebook’s News Feed. Humor, traditionally offensive in a case like this, thrived on twitter and Facebook because of the focus on saying something witty or entertaining for your friends to ‘like’.

Around this time an alleged quote from Martin Luther King Jr. made its way around the web through various social networking sites. The sentiment was noble, the wording was perfect. Too perfect. After more than nine thousand hits on Google and a viral following on Twitter, it came out that the quote had been misattributed through a series of posting and repostings. Is it any wonder that few people first trusted the news about Bin Laden’s death after seeing it on Facebook?

There is no doubt that social media creates an avenue for expression that is faster, more opinionated, and full of mediated content.

Sonia Weiser, a photojournalism student at NYU, felt that in some cases it comes down to trying to feel connected. “People in our generation who wouldn’t necessarily care, now that they have an outlet, they feel like they have to show that they care. Now that people have a way to express it, they want to show they’re aware of what’s going on in the world,” she said.

Ms. Weiser was in her room paging through a magazine when her friend saw the news on Facebook. “Everyone was so happy when he died. Everyone’s statuses were funny. People were making jokes about it,” she said, adding, “I had to grapple with why they were celebrating.”

Ms. Wesier said she felt that Bin Laden was so far removed from daily life that his death meant very little. Despite the throngs of college students at Ground Zero, there were some who echoed her ambivalence.

Elyssa Cherry, a sophomore at Texas Tech, said that she had mostly forgotten about Bin Laden until she heard the news. “[Sept. 11] doesn’t cross your mind every day. It is not something I think of when I get up in the morning. So it shook that up and made me realize that this happened as a kid and now I’m an adult. It was more astonishment at how times and the world have changed in the last 10 years,” she said.

However, she was skeptical about the impact of his death after growing up in a world at war. “It’s not going to change overall daily life.”

Chelsea McAuly, a freshman at Lamar University, was working on the conclusion to a paper about September 11, when she found out. She immediately updated her Facebook to reflect the irony. “It was odd that I was literally typing my paper when Obama’s announcement came on,” she said. But as far as her personal response to the news, she was not as enthusiastic. “My paper was about 9/11 but not about Al Qaeda or the terrorism behind the tragic event. So, I was feeling proud of our government and the Navy seals on the mission, but not much else.”

Jon Hecht, a freshman at NYU, felt that the response of jubilation among his generation was because of the new connection forged by the technological age. “We feel things together in a way that is incomparable to anything before now,” he said.

His essay on the matter discusses how America has been waiting for a moment to celebrate this newfound power to connect, ever since we saw the influence it could have in places like Egypt and Tunisia. We have been waiting for something that we can come together for, to spread the news and the emotional high all at once.

This then, is a defining moment for Americans not because of how it has changed them necessarily, but because it is a reflection of their desires as a nation touched by post 9/11 patriotism and cynicism.

“We need something good,” he said.


Scanty Financial Aid Clouds College Experience for International Students

It is that time of the year again when college campuses around the nation are swarmed with eager prospective students while parents squirm about the cost of an undergraduate education. For American students, the possibility of financial aid is crucial as the price of undergraduate education is expected to continue rising. At least 60 percent of American students are expected to receive financial aid, with an average of $9,100, according to the US department of Education.  But for international students, thoughts about the future are not ameliorated by the hope of federal aid as few colleges offer financial aid to international students. Reports by The Institute for International Education show that about 80 percent of international students can expect to pay their tuition from their own funds, and many of them might not even be able to get a job in the United States after they have finished their studies.

“I feel somewhat limited in the things I will be able to do, if the job situation doesn’t get better. To study in the U.S you need a lot of aid and it’s really hard, coming from a country where the exchange rate is ridiculous,” said Tiffany Arnold, a Jamaican student and freshman at Amherst College. Many worry that finances poured into an American undergraduate education might not pay off as much as they are expected to. For the 2008–09 academic years, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,283 at public institutions and $31,233 at private institutions, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Between 1998–99 and 2008–09, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 32 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 24 percent. For international students, the cost of undergraduate education is enveloped by fears of the lack jobs after attaining an undergraduate degree in an increasingly competitive US job market. Those fears are reinforced by the lack of scholarships and financial aid given to international students and a disturbing unemployment rate in America, which remains at 9.2 percent.

Furthermore, non immigrant  students are not eligible for employment in federal work-study positions because of the visas they carry, strictly limiting both the kind and the amount of work that students can do in the United States.

“Sometimes I question if it’s even really worth it,” admits Isabel Gutierrez, a Brazilian student at NYU who is forced to pay full tuition. “We can’t get scholarships; I can’t even get a part-time job at the pizza place because they won’t work with my visa.”

Some international students worry about how not getting work experience while in the US because of visas will affect their careers. “Finding jobs is a very hard process since I am currently running under F-1 Visa now and will need another visa later,” said Wonjun Hong, a finance student at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “A lot of the internship opportunities I want are restricted to American students.”

International students have to face the strong possibility that upon attaining their degrees, they will have to return home, where they might have better luck finding jobs. This possibility raises another question; is the U.S doing harm to itself by literally creating intellectual talents and resources for other countries? As Obama’s state of the union address pointed out “As soon as they [international students] obtain advanced degrees, we [The United States] send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.”

The job creation challenge that the government faces is worsened by missed opportunities to invest in international students. A large amount of international students come from countries that are strong competitors in technology, an area Obama identified as crucial to the future of the American job market. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, India, China, and South Korea were the top three countries of origin for international students studying in the U.S. in 2007-08, accounting for half of the international student population. In addition to those numbers, nearly half of all international students who were enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions in 2007-08 studied in either the field of business and management, engineering, and math and computer sciences.  Many of those students will return home when they fail to find jobs in the U.S, creating “sputnik” phenomenon in their countries and not contributing to the very nation that educated them.

Smoke and Mirrors

By: Elan Bird

Last month, Columbia University prohibited smoking within 20 feet of its buildings, and last week, the CUNY schools voted to prohibit smoking on all of the 23 campuses.
It seems a university-wide trend of smoking bans is taking form, but where is NYU in all of this?

According to the New York University Smoke Free Campus Policy, “Smoking is prohibited at all times on the University campus, including in all of its buildings, residence halls and their grounds, clinics, laboratories, classrooms, private offices, balconies, plazas, vestibules, loading docks, and on any other campus property.”

However, many students are unaware of this policy’s existence and implications. “Nobody takes it seriously,” said NYU freshman EJ Han, standing outside of Weinstein residence hall, having a smoke, “There are so many smokers at NYU, and nobody obeys it.”

No one from the NYU Office of Compliance was available for comment, but according to the policy, “Members of the NYU community alleged to be smoking in University facilities or on University property in violation of this policy may be subject to disciplinary action through the applicable process.” It does not say what such disciplinary action entails.

Some students have never even heard of the policy, enacted on September 01, 2010. “As a non-smoker talking, I think that it’s a good policy, and if it could be enforced in the sense that people knew about it, that would be good,” NYU sophomore Madeline Trachtenberg said, “However, the issue is that I haven’t heard of it, this is the first time I’m hearing it. If they really want it to be a policy, they should make it a policy and enforce it.”

Sophomore Elizabeth George agrees. “I’ve never encountered the security guards trying to enforce it. Never at Third North last year, and never at Gramercy,” she said, “People literally walk a step outside of the building and smoke.”

Perched outside of Bobst, NYU sophomore Alex Lebeis explained, “I consider myself a considerate smoker. When I’m walking or outside I try to stay near people who are also smoking.” And 20-year-old New York Film Academy student, Rodrigo Alvistur, fully aware of his own school’s policy, casually regards it. “We’re just not allowed to smoke within 50 feet [of buildings],” he said, “People don’t have an issue. We just go to Union Square and smoke there.”

But with the newly passed anti-smoking bill, Rodrigo and his friends will no longer have this option, for smokers will soon be prohibited from congregating in any public places; In a statement released last Wednesday Mayor Bloomberg announced, “By voting to prohibit smoking in all 1,700 City parks and 14 miles of beaches, the City Council will help us protect more New Yorkers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.”

Does this mean the end for the smoking culture of New York City, and its thousands of participating students? “I think the whole policy is unenforceable,” said Lebeis, “the level of surveillance that would be necessary to enforce it would be impossible and wasteful.”

To Blaze or Not to Blaze: The Student’s Predicament

By Sami Riley

Many students at New York University take advantage of the cultural opportunities that living in Manhattan offers: seeing a play, visiting a museum, enjoying nightlife. However a growing number of students are participating in elicit activities that are landing them in trouble. According to campus crime statistics, in 2009 there were 610 drug related referrals for university disciplinary action at NYU.

The NYU Policies on Substance Abuse states that “New York University views the abuse of alcohol and legal drugs and the use of illicit drugs as being antithetical to the pursuit of educational excellence and the realization of one’s full potential as a student and member of this community.” However, it appears that not all students agree with this objective.

An anonymous sophomore at NYU explained, “Smoking [marijuana] is just a part of the culture here. It’s hard to find a party where somebody isn’t blazing. Plus, it’s just fun a lot of the time.”

This introduces a common thought amongst drug users at NYU: using out of sheer boredom. NYU is located in New York City, debatably the most entertaining city in the world. And yet, some, like this anonymous NYU junior, are using because they claim to simply not have anything better to do. “I wasn’t doing much else after classes, so I would smoke up. There was a time when I would smoke [marijuana] close to every day. I had been caught by an R.A. and still did it. Then I realized I wasn’t doing much else with my life. Since then I’ve tried to cut back a lot.”

Some student organizations are attempting to offer alternatives to the party scene. Stevo Concepcion, president of the Adventist Christian Club at NYU, explained that many Friday and Saturday nights they offer movies, games, substance-free parties, and many other alternatives. But this only appeals to a certain fraction of the student population that is willing to identify itself with a religious group. For others, they are faced on their own with the timeless question: To smoke or not to smoke.

New York University attempts to do its part to ensure students are discouraged from choosing the former. Resident Assistant Madelin Rosario frequently warns her residents of the repercussions of being caught with illicit drugs. These consequences range from having to take a substance class to actual legal action, involving arrest and charges. Flyers adorning the walls of NYU dorms and student health centers attempt to educate students of the hazards of partaking in these activities. With this, it appears that NYU’s strategy falls between education and scare tactics. And student’s decisions fall between boredom and quiet hours.

Is God at NYU?

Students of Korea Campus Crusade for Christ gather for Large Group on a Tuesday evening for a time of worship and praise. The song speaks of surrender to a God the average person at NYU may question.

By K

New York University is appealing for a variety of reasons. It offers both an invaluable education and an unequaled experience of city life to its students. But apart from its academic prestige and privileged location, NYU has a reputation of being a secular institution, where religious lifestyles fall behind the shades of a grand façade.

Given that faith is an unpopular topic of discussion amongst college students, it may come as a surprise that out of 430 clubs on campus, there are 41 religious groups, out of which 18 are Christian. Because of the thriving religious Christian community, in 2006 NYU formally recognized the chaplains who had previously worked with the clubs on a volunteer basis.

“There’s been a steady growth of Christian clubs each year,” said Stephen Polniaszek, currently the Program Administrator for Ethics and Spiritual Initiatives at the Office of Student Activities of NYU.

According to Mr. Polniaszek, students no longer identify as Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, or any other mainstream denomination as was the case in the 70’s. They are looking to express themselves beyond these concrete labels. Despite this trend, students attending NYU still face struggles as a result of their Christian faith.

“In a campus like this, where intellectualism is highly regarded, and where atheism is endorsed, it’s hard to stand firm in who I am,” said Tracy Moore flatly, an NYU sophomore part of a multi ethnic group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

NYU boasts itself as a place where young minds are enabled the freedom to feed their various passions and propensities. But the Christian community here voices their passion for God behind walls of reservation, only amongst other Christians who can understand them, in fear of silent persecution by the rest of their peers.

“It’s not normal to share my faith with others,” said sophomore Barney Gan, involved in Korea Campus Crusade for Christ. “It becomes uncomfortable when the topic is brought up in conversations. It doesn’t feel right to bring this discomfort to my friends.”

“They avoid the subject of God and become uneasy,” said Jacobi Hollingshed, a sophomore at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “Maybe it’s because they feel something beyond themselves that they can’t control.”

But the way people perceive them because of their faith is the least of the worries of the Christians on campus today. What these young believers desire to achieve is beyond the ordinary purposes and goals of the average NYU student.

“The way I live as a Christian will hopefully send out a message of love,” said Moore with a smile directed toward the world, it seemed. “Christianity has a stigma attached to it—that it’s full of judgment towards others. I don’t want to draw lines of separation, but erase them. We’re all human.”