An open letter to the men of Boston

Dear Men of Boston –
For the most part, I don’ t have a problem with you. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life we pass by each other on the streets, smile, nod our heads in acknowledgment and move on.

That isn’t the case for everyone. I’m lucky. This is my only interaction on the streets. For my female friends, this isn’t the case at all.

At least once a week, a female friend of mine takes to Facebook with a similar situation – being cat called, gawked and/or physically touched by random men on the streets.

Let me run down a list of things to never do when you see a woman walking down the street –

  1. Call her Baby, Sweetie or Doll.
  2. Talk about her body.
  3. Stare at her body.
  4. Call her body hot or phat or anything, actually.
  5. Touch her, grab her or put your arm around her.
  6. Whistle at her.
  7. Mention her clothing.
  8. Ask her where she’s going.
  9. Ask her her name.

It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing, how they’re smiling or how attractive you think they are. It doesn’t matter if you’re drunk or sober, just joking or being serious. There is no look, no expression, no eye contact, no mini-skirt from anyone that warrants you harassing them.

If you are so unlucky to be near me when you do this to another person, you can expect all 6’3 of my awkward self is going to come down on you like a ton of awkward, angry bricks. I may not be physically imposing, but you can bet I’m going to be in your face like a ridiculous and angry honey badger.

It’s time we start calling this behavior out. Let men know it’s not okay to demean and harrass women. Tell perpetrators it’s wrong and why it’s wrong.

And if you don’t think this is a problem in our city, I suggest asking your female friends, co-workers and family members if they’ve ever felt victimized while walking down city streets. The stories of street harassment are as disgusting as they are eye-opening.

If you want to know how you can help, I suggest visiting Hollaback!, an organization devoted to stopping street harassment. And when you’re done doing that, I suggest you saying something when you see and hear it on the street.

It’s time to be an active voice. I hope you join me.
Jason

 

Advertisements
An open letter to the men of Boston

Unravelling the Tank Top Convention

Last night, I was lucky enough to spend time with friends and colleagues. We gathered together at a nearby restaurant and took our spot on the 2nd floor lounge. That’s where we first saw them.

It started with one guy, wearing shorts and a tank top. Not unusual on a hot day, but odd considering the venue. Further perplexing was his demeanor – he walked around the lounge as if he was an employee, but an emmployee who is clearly not adhering to dress code.

Tank Top Guy disappeared for a bit… repearing wearing a different tank top, continuing on his weird trek around the lounge. His friends would disappear and reappear, also having changed into different tank tops.

After a bit, Original Tank Top Guy disappeared and reappeared wearing what can be best described as a tank top, skinny shiny black pants, dress socks and sandals. It made no sense.

These guys walked around a restaurant, occassionally looked in a giant box full of tank tops, changed clothes, put on bedazzled high top sneakers and then all abruptly left. They left before anyone of us could find out what was happening. They left before we had an answer to our greatest question – “Are you a part of a Tank Top Convention?”

Is this important? No, not at all. But it does illustrate a point.

We all have Tank Top Conventions in our life. There are all things that happen that we don’t understand and we’ll never have answers to.

We can make up our own answers: they were back up dancers for a drag queen OR they were on vacation from the Netherlands and having a fashion show OR they were trying on outfits for a Lady Gaga concert OR they were practicing for their vacation to the Jersey Shore.

We live in a world where we expect answers. Sometimes we don’t get them. We’ll never get them. We’ll never know why certain things happen (ie. the entire run of the show Lost).

I’ll never know why dude was wearing a tank top, dress socks and sandals… but I have to be okay with that.

It’s time to learn it’s okay to have unanswered questions. 

 

Unravelling the Tank Top Convention

Stumbling through veganism

Well, that’s that.
A week of veganism is in the books and I survived.

Me, the king of bacon and steak frites, lover of ice cream and red dye #40 survived a week of being vegan.

It wasn’t always easy. To prove a point, I ate most of my meals in dining facilities of the college I work at (Emerson College, for those of you who haven’t picked up on that yet). There were good days and bad.

Day #1 on my own was good. I was in control.

Day #2 in the main dining hall was good. Options were limited, but I was okay.

But then, there was Day #3 where we tried to eat in an auxiliary dining unit (“The Max”). Upon arrival for breakfast, it was clear that this would be a difficult day. We had the option of a banana or an apple. Nothing was vegan. Nothing in the grab and go was vegan. There was chance for cross contamination at nearly every station. There were no options for me to eat here.

If I lived in this building and had to eat here, I would be out of my mind angry. I would be so frustrated. And truthfully, I stayed as true to the experiment as I could… so I went pretty hungry on Wednesday/Day #3.

That’s when it happened. I was hungry. I was irritable. I was difficult. I found myself unable to articulate by the end of the night.

If a student is hungry, how can you expect them to learn? How can you expect them to be successful in a high stress environment?

Yes, you’ll say that my body was adjusting to veganism… but how many students decide to take up a difficult diet with little research. Anything I knew I found by googling or asking friends. There was no literature to assist a student looking to maintain a diet like this.

Luckily, Day #4 was back in the dining hall. I knew I would be okay (despite having basically the same meals that I had two days prior), but I still wasn’t getting the caloric intake my body required. I still wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed. It impacted my stomach, my wellness, my temperament and other areas.

But, I finished out with style on my own on Day #5 and have been slowly integrating dairy and meat into my diet. I skipped meat totally on Saturday and had some on Sunday.

It’s a life choice I can’t sustain, but it’s something I can partially integrate. I could easily maintain a Meatless Monday, or a Vegan Tuesday. My cravings for candy is substantially less.

 

I did learn a lot. Here are some takeaways –

Today’s college students don’t advocate for their own dietary needs. When they don’t see options for their diets, do they introduce themselves to a dining manager and see about a fix? For the most part, no. They just complain to administration or a family member. If a dining manager knew, they could assist in a meaningful way. All of the dining managers I met would love to interact with students in this way.

Today’s college students don’t have the variety needed for sustainable dietary restriction. If they’re going to be successful at a vegan lifestyle, it isn’t fair to force them to have the same rice/noodle bowl for lunch and dinner every day.

Cross contamination is and will always be a problem. Students aren’t thoughtful. They’ll stick a butter knife in a container of peanut butter, tainting it with dairy and making it non-vegan. They’re not being malicious, they’re just being thoughtless.

When you’re in a small space (like Emerson), its hard to have separate grills/fry stations, which creates cross-contamination. Some of the auxiliary units don’t have the spatial capacity to have a vegan or kosher station. They’ll never have the capacity.

Chances are the dining administration at your college would be willing to listen to your feedback and concern… just like the team at Emerson Dining. They were wonderful dining companions last week and took a great interest in this project. I’m so happy to see them engaging and can’t wait to see what they do with it. It will certainly better our entire community.

 

That said, I need a milkshake. And a maple bacon donut.

Stumbling through veganism

Post-It Project 2014

Friends know my office window has had a certain amount of character for the last two years.

In 2012, I found myself at a loss on the last day before the holiday break. With little ability to work (no one, and I mean no one, was working that day), I found myself in a creative space. This was the result.

IMG_20111222_161054

In the event you aren’t a child of the 80s (or a big geek), you may not recognize him or his distinctive art style.

His name is Link and he’s the hero from The Legend of Zelda games. For those of you still not following along, he’s from a Nintendo game that came out in the 80s.  You may also not recognize it, but he is completely made out of Post-It Notes.

IMG_20121221_143739

In 2013, I made the decision to replace Link with a new creation. And again, on the last day before the holiday break, this was born.

In the event you don’t recognize this guy, his name is Cheep-Cheep and he’s the fish from Super Mario Bros. Sometimes he was flying out of the water and sometimes he was swimming happily in the underwater levels. No matter, he was always out to get Mario. And still, he was made out of Post-It Notes.

So this year, there was a certain level of pressure to top by past two Post-It Note creations. I’m happy to unveil the Post-It Project for 2014.

IMG_20140108_151713

Yeah, to the average eye it’s a blank window of Post-It Notes. But there’s a catch… It’s not just a blank window overlooking an alley. It’s an interactive project that I officially invite you to take part in helping me create.

After a day and a few meeting with students, this is what it looked like: 

IMG_20140109_160820

What’s different? Notes.

I’m inviting students, faculty and staff to write notes to each other… notes of inspiration and positivity. Notes of self-worth and value. Notes written by your peers because they believe in you.

If at any time, someone needs a pick-me-up or a moment of inspiration, they’re welcome to stop by and take a note. No questions asked.

If they take a note, I’m asking they replace their note with a new Post-It in a different color. As the year progresses, the wall will grow and change, flowing with positivity and light. I consider it my first foray into an art instillation.

If you’re ever in the area, I hope you swing by, say hello and leave a note for someone. Or, if you need it, you stop by and take a note. It’s time to spread some light.

Post-It Project 2014

Slowing it down

In January 2013, I loudly proclaimed this to be the year of #Slow.

Deciding on my OneWord 2013 wasn’t something I did carelessly. This was a thoughtful, deliberate (and I might I add, SLOW) process. I wanted the right word to guide me, to give me direction and to give me a reason to pause. My OneWord was something I felt I had earned. After years of work to get where I am now, I deserved to move slowly.

#Slow it was, and #slow it wasn’t.

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! I’ve been in Boston long enough to know my job, my city and myself. I should slow down and enjoy it.”

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! Because I’ve decided things are going to be slow and peaceful, that they’ll just be that way.”

Foolish Jason thought – “OH! Since I want to reflect on how I got to this place in my life, everyone else will let me do it.”

These things were categorically false.

Just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean outside forces won’t hamper your efforts. I’m not saying I failed to live up to my OneWord, but I don’t think I fully grasped the reality of what it meant to be #slow. I naively thought others would help me do this. Because I put it out there in the world (and painted on a canvas that has sat on my desk), the world would let this happen with ease.

So, on my last day of work of 2013, I think about how I moved… sometimes slowly, sometimes running so fast I lost my breath. There were times I enjoyed where I was, but there were times I was forced to run faster than anyone else in the same vicinity. It was a year of fast and slow, a year that pushed me beyond my emotional and physical limits.

For the next 11 days, I plan on being very slow, spending time with my friends and family. I’ve got 11 days left to be slow. Let’s be slow together.

Here’s to a wonderful 2013.

Slowing it down

Help us tell a story

April 15 started out as an interesting day. By noon, I had already talked to The Barefoot Contessa on the phone (no really, it was a weird morning), did a ton of work for our end of the year leadership banquet and had been tracking one of my student leaders as she ran the Boston Marathon. I was thrilled to see her cross the finish line.

Within hours, all of us in the city had been shaken to the core. Things were rearranged and altered.

In the coming days, students, faculty and staff across the city of Boston reacted with a swift and sure hand, despite our general unease and confusion. We reacted with care, compassion and creativity. We reacted in the best way we could to help each other.

Today, three staff members from three Boston-area institutions want to tell this story. I want to share how three Emerson students started a movement called Boston Strong and in turn, started a healing and grieving process none of us expected. My friend Gordon wants to share how Boston University altered and evolved an admissions event by using social media when the city was on lockdown. My friend Amma wants to share how students at her college made their response expectations loud and clear.

The three of us want to present at Austin’s South by Southwest EDU. To do it, we need you to log on to their site and vote for us.

Take a few minutes and register at the SXSW PanelPicker and give us a comment and an upvote.

We want to share this story. It’s a story worth sharing.

Besides, you should just click on this because Robin Thicke wants you to do it.

Listen to Robin Thicke.

Help us tell a story

Born This Way

It’s nice working at a college where we don’t fear the results of the annual Princeton Review.

When I worked at a large SEC institution, we dreaded the results. There would inevitably be some reference to binge drinking, promiscuous sex and a guaranteed top 10 finish in Best Party Schools. We’d then be forced to beef up our programming efforts in a belief that would change the results for the next year. It never worked.

Life at Emerson is different. For the second time in as many years, we’ve been named the most LGBT friendly college in the country.

What is interesting is you won’t find administrators waiting for the ranking, nor will you find an official response to it. It’s not that we don’t care. We were just born this way.

I know… that’s a silly response, but it’s true. While we’re incredibly proud of this title, it’s not something we set out to achieve. Our goal is to be as accepting and caring to every student as possible, to treat each student with the respect and dignity they deserve, to embrace the identity of every student. This filters down to the hiring of faculty and staff, to the policies and procedures that govern us and the admission of students. We don’t try… we just do.

We don’t have a dirge of LGBT-focused programming. Our LGBT student group, while strong, isn’t a force on campus as compared to other orgs.

What we have is a group of students, faculty and staff who care. We integrate LGBT issues into classes, programs and events. We seek out ways to be inclusive and accepting. We embrace all of our populations. From the beginning of a student’s career in the Admissions Office to the eventual step of becoming a part of Alumni Relations, this is a priority – not because it makes us buzz-worthy, but because its the right thing to do.

Seven years ago, at the SEC school earlier referenced, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs told me I acted too gay and I needed to tone my gay down so I wouldn’t offend the normal students. It was humiliating and devastating.

Today I hold my head up with immense pride… pride that I call an institution home that embraces all students, that respects human worth and fights to spread this message. Even if we don’t brag about it.

Born This Way