You gotta rock the nap

Leave a comment

Outside the Box, a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch, copyright 2015

At the start of each semester, I give an empty schedule to the students in our classes. I ask them to fill in their commitments during the week. Classes. Work. Athletic practices and games. Clubs. Service organizations. Allegheny students embrace the college’s mantra of unusual combinations and that can lead to packed schedules. As a professor, I like to have an idea of what the students are balancing as they take on a deadline-driven journalism class.

When I arrived at Allegheny, I plunged into my new job. It wasn’t long before I decided to track my time to determine where it was going. I took the same empty schedule that I give the students and I filled in one each day. I devised a color-coded system to discover how I spent my time.

I chose red for work and colored all the blocks of time I dedicated to work activities, including lectures, meetings, grading, class preparation and advising the student journalists at The Campus.

Green marked activities such as cleaning, shopping, swimming and yoga: things that I consider necessary to healthy living. I chose blue for moments of true relaxation: reading a book, going for a walk, getting a pedicure. I tracked my time for a semester.

Warning, warning. Danger Will Robinson. My daily colored charts felt like a fire alarm, screaming red. My cousin would call me. “Are you having a blue day?” Translation: Are you taking time for yourself? No. Blue was missing in action.

As an Associated Press photographer, I covered major league sports, murders, Microsoft, forest fires and trials. I would sometimes have competing deadlines in different time zones around the globe.

When I covered a New York Yankees v. Mariners home game, for example, I’d sit in a well on the third base line, by the visiting team’s dugout. I’d need a photo of the Yankees’ pitcher from the top of the first for clients in New York. I’d shoot it, pull the card, download the photos and edit, all while keeping an eye on the game, talking to editors in New York and watching for foul balls. I’d caption the photo and transmit. Then I’d photograph Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle’s leadoff batter and rookie sensation from Japan. The media in Japan were hungry for images of Ichiro. I enjoyed the challenge and I rocked the coverage.

As a journalist, I learned to maximize time. If I had a spare minute, I found a way to use it. I carried this skill with me from Afghanistan to Allegheny, hence the hemorrhaging schedule.

The students keep busy schedules, too; however, I discovered they also mark time in their schedules to eat, work out and sleep. No matter how much work they have, the students make time for themselves. They take care of themselves.

When I’m on a story or a deadline, I can forgo food and sleep to finish. On a major story, I can work round-the-clock for days. In the past, I considered my ability to power through, tough it out it, a point of pride. Over time, this deprivation becomes a habit, a destructive one.

Athletes understand the power of rest. After a tough workout, the body needs time to repair and recover. If an athlete doesn’t allow for down time, the mind and body eventually pay for it. Concentration suffers. Injuries occur. An illness invades. The same applies to journalists.

In The Campus newsroom, the students take breaks. They extoll the virtues of a nap.

A nap? Sleeping in the middle of the day? Ridiculous.

Students have told me if they have a spare 15 to 20 minutes or an hour, they’ll take a nap. If I have any spare time, I’ll find something to fill it. I’ll grade papers, write a letter, answer emails.

This semester I’m following the students’ lead. I make sure I make time for lunch. When I have a bit of down time, I take a short nap. It’s not ridiculous. It’s remarkable. The short break and rest are restorative.

Last Thursday night, I met with The Campus student editors. They didn’t have a paper to publish before fall break, so we had scheduled time for an extensive critique of the latest issue. A number of students on staff are athletes who are usually coming from or going to a practice or workout on publication night. Meaghan Wilby, science/international editor, plays basketball. Chloe Kedziora, junior features editor, plays lacrosse. Joe Tingley, news editor, is a distance swimmer on the swimming and diving team.

After the meeting, I chatted with Joe, who also plays violin in the orchestra and writes regular blog posts for Allegheny Gator Blogs. I told him I had enjoyed reading his recent posts, which are thoughtful and personal. I mentioned that I’d started taking the occasional nap, something I’d learned from the students.

Even with his packed schedule, Joe finds time for nap each day—20 minutes is ideal.

“You gotta rock the nap,” he said.

Indeed. You gotta rock the nap.

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Reporters at The Campus learning to be respected not loved

1 Comment

Outside the Box

a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch

copyright 2015

Each semester, I show the movie, All the President’s Men, in news writing class. It’s the story of two Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who uncover illegal activities in the Nixon administration.

Their reporting led to the arrest of White House officials and the president’s resignation.

Their editor, Ben Bradlee, who died last year, stuck with the story and the reporters, despite threats and intimidation from powerful government officials.

Journalism is not a popularity contest. In pursuing facts, journalists frequently come under fire, literally and metaphorically. Organizations, governments and individuals often blame the messenger.

Or kill the messenger, as in the beheadings of journalists: the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl in 2002 to the recent murders of Japanese and American journalists by members of the self-declared Islamic State.

The students at The Campus at Allegheny College have already experienced some of the harassment, threats and scorn that professional journalists encounter.

In my two and half years at Allegheny, The Campus kiosks that display the newspapers have been vandalized multiple times. Newspapers, a kiosk and distribution racks have been stolen. A student spit on a student journalist walking to class in the aftermath of one unpopular, yet accurate story. After that story, students entered the newsroom and tossed it while a student journalist had 9-1-1 on speed dial. Once, the threats against a student journalist were so egregious that the students’ parents were going to remove the student from campus and I alerted campus security.

Last semester, the administration asked The Campus staff to remove a story from its website. The story and quotes were accurate. The editors cited journalistic integrity and the law in their refusal to remove the story. This semester, the staff received another takedown demand, from a student, along with threats of legal action.

In each instance, the students and I have the opportunity to learn from these situations. We review the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. We consult with the Student Press Law Center. The students respond with professionalism and thoughtfulness, often in the face of tough pressures and uncivil accusations and language.

As a matter of policy, the paper runs corrections when there are factual errors and the staff corrects the errors online, making note of the updated text. The student journalists also encourage dis to write a letter to the editor or an opinion piece to express their views.

Each challenge also offers a chance to raise awareness and educate people about the rights and responsibilities of the press and its journalists.

The Campus staff has been accused of slander. Slander is verbal defamation, so a print story cannot be slanderous. They’ve been accused of libel. Libel is the publication—in words, photos, pictures or symbols—of false statements of fact that harm another’s reputation, according to the Student Press Law Center. Stealing newspapers is considered prior restraint under the law. Forcing a journalist to take down a story without cause is also prior restraint and censorship.

The students understand the risks of standing on principle. They risk losing funding. They risk the scorn of their peers, professors and administrators. They risk threats and intimidation. As most journalists do during their careers.

On Saturday, I watched the movie Selma in Shafer Auditorium.

Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of a free press and the role it plays in our democracy. When President Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t enact voting rights legislation, King took action. In Selma.

In the film, he said he wanted the events to be on the front page of the newspaper when it hit the president’s desk each morning.

When the protesters began the march across Edward Mettus Bridge, reporters, photographers, broadcasters and TV cameras were waiting. The journalists documented the police brutality and unwarranted violence against people asserting their rights to peaceful protest and assembly.

In one scene, the actor portraying New York Times reporter Ray Reed calls in the details of the story from a phone booth, the tear gas dissipating in the air.

In the film, King and his aides note that the pictures were going around the world. That the NBC broadcast would reach 70 million homes.

With Selma and the war in Vietnam, journalists brought the news, the violence and the injustice into the living rooms and kitchens of Americans across the country. Confronted with the facts and images, citizens could no longer sit on the sidelines or feign ignorance. The press coverage of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement galvanized Americans who took action and helped change the course of history.

As in All the Presidents Men and Selma, journalists shine a light in dark places. They bear witness. They record and report stories—at times at great risk.

There is a big difference between professional journalists and The Campus staff. At The Campus, the journalists are students. They are learning. They deserve the same rights of all students at Allegheny: the right to learn in a safe and civil environment.

Allegheny College has a new minor: journalism in the public interest. Public interest is a crucial component of the minor—and all journalism. The student journalists are learning and striving to practice journalism in the public interest.

They will make mistakes, as we all do. They realize they may lose funds, friends and favor in the course of their work. They have shown they will not sacrifice their self-respect nor will they compromise the paper’s integrity. They take great pride in their service to the campus and Meadville communities.

This year at Allegheny, we celebrate the college’s bicentennial and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. On March 6-7, 2015, Allegheny hosts a journalism conference, “Honoring Ida: Celebrating the Legacies of Ida Tarbell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.”

More than a century before Selma and Watergate, these women were also threatened and maligned in the course of their work. And their journalism—their pursuit and publication of the facts—also changed the course of history.

No woman on The Campus staff is yet the next Ida Tarbell or Ida B. Wells-Barnett. One day.

No man on the staff is yet the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. One day.

The late Ben Bradlee said it well.

“We’ve got a lot of jobs to do but one of them is not be loved. We don’t have to be loved. We have to be respected, I think.”

To learn more, about journalism ethics and law, visit: www.spj.org; www.splc.org

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

Giving hearts and lives to bear witness

Leave a comment

Outside the Box, a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch, copyright 2014

When students arrive for their news writing final, they learn the name of the person they’ll write about. They have a few minutes for research before they interview the subject of their profile. They write their stories and file them on deadline. The three-hour exam is a legitimate, real-time test of their journalism skills.

This year David Gilkey joined the class via Skype from Florida, where he was on assignment. Gilkey is photojournalist and video editor at National Public Radio, who has covered a broad range of stories, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The students peppered Gilkey with questions about his background, career and his personal life. They focused on his recent coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Wait a minute. Hold on, Gilkey said, at one point in the interview. The students watched as he removed his earphones. He paused, looked up toward the ceiling for a moment, then put the earphones back and returned to the interview.

Was that breaking news or a phone call? I asked. A phone call with news, Gilkey replied.

Gilkey completed the interview and gave the students his email address and responded to questions they had during their final. He stayed in contact with the students for the full three hours.

After 45 minutes, most of the students broke away to begin writing their stories. I opened my computer and read that Michel du Cille, a Washington Post photojournalist, had died of an apparent heart attack in Liberia at the age of 58.

I must have gasped or blurted something. A student looked up. Are you OK, Professor Hatch?

Yes, thanks. Focus on your work. I’ll explain after the exam.

I sent Gilkey a text.

He told me that the call he’d taken during the students’ interview was from Nikki Kahn, du Cille’s wife, also a Washington Post photojournalist, telling him that his friend and colleague had died.

All the students hit their 10 p.m. deadline. A number stayed late and read du Cille’s obituary posted online. We discussed his work and commitment to it.

Du Cille had received three Pulitzer Prizes for his photography, two while at The Miami Herald and one at The Washington Post. He was known for his compassion and his big heart.

“He was renowned among journalists for his ability to look inside a crisis and find enduring portraits of sorrow, dignity and perseverance” wrote Post reporter Matt Schudel.

Most recently, du Cille had focused on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where he had covered the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s.

In an article in the Post in October, du Cille wrote about his experiences.

“Sometimes, the harshness of a gruesome scene simply cannot be sanitized…But I believe that the world must see the horrible and dehumanizing effects of Ebola. The story must be told; so one moves around with tender care, gingerly, without extreme intrusion.”

On Sunday night, my phone dinged with a message from JR Ancheta, a friend and former student. We’d worked together in Afghanistan.

Happy Solstice.

He sent a message with a photo of a surfer silhouetted against a lavender sky tinged with flamingo pink clouds. Returning to shore, the surfer had his board tucked under his arm, the water a band of brightness and sparkles around him.

JR was at his family home in Sitka, Alaska, when he noticed the light. He grabbed his camera and dashed to the water’s edge.

JR had been through some tough times lately. Making the dash for sunset light, photographing the twilight moment reminded him of the joy and reverence he has for photography—and the beauty that surrounds us.

It’s really easy to get stuck, JR said. The world is full of nastiness, muckiness, ugliness. We forget to see. Forget to look. Forget to find beauty.

Looking. Seeing. Finding those little snippets of beauty everywhere. Photographers find beauty in the nastiness and muckiness.

It’s a gift, JR said.

Then he surprised me with a gift.

“Thank you for teaching me to watch the sunsets—and the sunrises,” JR said.

My first column this year was about Dave Martin, an Associated Press photographer, who died on the job, at 59, of an apparent heart attack. In April, I wrote about another AP photographer, Anja Niedringhaus, assassinated in Afghanistan. She was 48. And, in my last column of 2014, I remember Michel du Cille, who died covering a story and people he cared deeply about.

Photojournalists and journalists know the risks and accept the dangers of covering a some stories. We open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering and the beauty in our world. We witness and return to bear witness.

To quote Michel du Cille: “This is what we do.”

We give our hearts—and sometimes our lives.

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/columns/giving-hearts-and-lives-to-bear-witness/article_180de8f2-8d59-11e4-b1f4-0f9521438772.html

 

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

Fare well to Kazi, who sees each person he encounters

Leave a comment

 

Outside the Box, a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch, copyright 2014

Not long after I arrived in Meadville, I was feeling worlds away from my family and friends. At a table outside the Pampered Palate, I noticed two men talking. I heard the lilt of Africa in their words. My heart sang.

Steve Onyeiwu and Kazi Joshua were sharing a meal and conversation when I popped in front of them.

Hello. I’m Cheryl Hatch. I’m new here. I’ll be teaching journalism at Allegheny College.

I barely stopped to take a breath in my enthusiasm to make new friends.

Where are you from?

At the college, I have since been chastised for asking this question; however, as a military brat, a journalist and a relentlessly curious traveler, I love to hear people’s stories of their origins and journeys.

I explained that I had lived and worked in Africa. Allegheny professors, Steve said he was from Nigeria; Kazi, Malawi.

As students finished their finals this week, Kazi spent his final days at Allegheny. He accepted the “newly created position of associate dean for intercultural affairs and chief diversity officer” at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, according to a story in The Pioneer, the weekly student-run newspaper.

When I had lunch with Kazi recently, he told me he remembered well that day in the fall of 2012. He said I was having lunch with the editor of The Campus, our student newspaper. He already knew a bit about me from conversations at the college.

It turns out Kazi collects and cherishes stories, just as I do.

Kazi is easy to spot on campus with his high energy and bow tie. He calls me Professor Hatch and he addresses students with honorific titles and respect. Mr. Hailsham. Ms. Mauroni.

Students, faculty and staff call him Kazi.

His full given name is Kazipuralimba. I asked Kazi once what it meant.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Indeed.

When the going got tough, I went to Kazi.

As a new faculty member and the adviser to The Campus, I welcomed his advice. Kazi is a wise man—with the instincts of a journalist.

I would pass Kazi’s former office on the third floor of the Campus Center, usually on my way to or from The Campus newsroom.

I’d wave and say hello. Often, Kazi would invite me to sit and talk. He’d turn his chair and lean in to listen as I shared a challenge or hurt. Stories of students who were troubled, harassed or struggling. Stories of my own troubles.

Kazi always made time for me, as he did for countless students and colleagues in his five years at Allegheny. Our talks were not always about challenges and setbacks. We talked about life, current events, matters of the heart and spirit.

I would leave Kazi’s office and presence feeling uplifted. I always felt heard.

Kazi is a skilled listener.

In meetings, at speeches, in the classroom, Kazi’s quiet presence was felt. He would sit in silence and listen, profoundly.

At the end of a discussion or near the end of a meeting, Kazi would summarize what he’d heard and then ask a thoughtful and thought-provoking question.

Like the best journalists, Kazi is not afraid to ask the tough questions.

I remember when Sheryl Stolberg, a reporter for The New York Times, spoke at Ford Chapel as part of Allegheny’s Year of Civil Rights in the fall of 2013. After she had fielded numerous questions, Kazi stood. As was his practice, Kazi had let the students have the floor first. I will go from memory now since I don’t have my notes with me.

Kazi asked her about the media’s coverage of President Barack Obama. He asked if she felt racism played a part in the way journalists reported on America’s first black president.

I believe many in the audience had that question on their minds, maybe on the tip of their tongues. No one had dared to stand and ask it. Kazi did.

I felt a deep respect for Kazi in that moment. To me, he demonstrates the qualities that are imperative for a journalist—and human being. He listens carefully. He risks asking the tough questions that may yield unpopular and hard answers. Or may encourage resolution and results.

Kazi is a gentle man, a man of faith. He spoke with passion in the classroom—and on occasion from the pulpit in Ford Chapel. A colleague called him a brother and soldier for social justice.

I consider Kazi my brother, a fellow journalist and storyteller.

In South Africa, there’s a Zulu greeting, sawubona, which translates as “I see you.”

Kazi sees me. Just as he sees each person he encounters.

He took the time to sit with me and listen. He asked about my mother and father many times as they passed through their health crises these past two years. He sat with me as I weathered my hurts. He asked about my health—and my heart.

These past weeks, Allegheny students, staff and faculty offered Kazi fond remembrances, celebrations and farewells. Whitman waits to embrace him.

I am happy Kazi has found a place where he will be cherished and respected. And I am sad to see him go.

Fare well, my dear friend. I see you. Thank you for seeing me.

 

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/columns/fare-well-to-kazi-who-sees-each-person-he-encounters/article_703177d4-866e-11e4-bf45-77df09ba2756.html

The Campus journalists courageous in face of their own fears

Leave a comment

Outside the Box, a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch

copyright 2014

Last Wednesday afternoon, a news story broke on campus: professor Kirk Nesset had been charged with one count of obtaining and one count of distributing child pornography. Students learned the news through social media: Yik Yak, Twitter, Facebook. Some broke the news to their professors.

Like many students, members of The Campus newspaper staff knew within less than an hour of the first news reports. Unlike their fellow students, the student journalists would be covering the story.

As the adviser to the paper, I communicated with the editors first by text and then by phone. I told them that they needed to report the story themselves and get the facts firsthand. They could not rely on other news sources or swirling speculation and gossip.

I advised them that they could not tweet, post or print anything until they had seen and read the federal court documents with their own eyes. They needed to contact the college administrators for comment.

And they had to go to Nesset’s house and ask if he had any comment, if he wanted to share his side of the story. Neither student who decided to go to Nesset’s house had had him as a professor.

The sun was slipping low behind the trees when an editor and photographer knocked on Nesset’s front door just after 6 p.m. last Wednesday.

He opened the door. They asked if he wanted to comment on the story of his arrest. He said he wouldn’t. They asked if he intended to resign, as a campus administrator had told them earlier. He said he didn’t know and he was in talks with the provost. The students observed that his trademark flip-flops were outside the front door and he was holding his dog while he spoke.

The students are the only journalists who knocked on his door to talk with him, according to Nesset.

The next morning, just after sunrise, I knocked on Nesset’s door. I brought him baked goods. I told him that I had not come as a journalist. I responded as a human being, concerned for his mental and physical wellbeing. He’d been publicly exposed and exiled from his community. I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone.

He told me that The Campus students had been respectful. He said that his house and garage had been egged.

Later that day, last Thursday, the faculty voted to cancel classes and give students and all members of the campus community a time to pause, reflect, grieve and express their emotions, including outrage and anger.

As I listened to comments on campus, I had images in my mind from an old black-and-white movie where villagers grabbed pitchforks and torches and drove Frankenstein from their community. I thought of The Scarlet Letter and Lord of the Flies.

In a meeting in Shafer Auditorium on Friday, I stood in front of a microphone and shared my thoughts.

Kirk Nesset is my friend. He has been kind to me. As a journalist, I am bound to a code of conduct that charges me to be fair and balanced. As a human being, I choose to reserve judgment until I know the whole story.

The FBI affidavit states that he waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he downloaded thousands of files. We don’t know the circumstances under which he waived his rights and admitted wrongdoing.

We know he’s been charged with a crime. He has not been convicted in a court of law. By law, we are innocent until proven guilty. Until the story hits the media. Then a person becomes guilty until proven innocent.

It’s the mob mentality that concerns and unnerves me, the ease and ferocity with which a community can turn against one of its own. As a journalist, I have covered conflict in the Middle East and Africa. I have witnessed what can happen when people turn on one another.

The fabric of civility and community can be so fragile and unravel quickly and violently.

A few people on campus noted that I couldn’t understand the anger and outrage because I wasn’t a mother. As if being a human being weren’t enough. I understand fear and pain.

Others asked if I weren’t afraid. Afraid? Afraid of speaking up.

I am a visiting professor. People believe I might be afraid of losing my job.

I am an educator at a liberal arts college. And I am a journalist. If I am afraid of speaking up, afraid of losing my job for speaking up, then I am not doing my job.

As I told those gathered in the Friday meeting, as I’ve told journalism students on numerous occasions, journalists are truth seekers. We shine a light in dark places and shed light on the facts. It’s not an easy job or a popular one. And it’s a vital one for our communities and democracy.

My journalist colleagues have been following The Campus newspaper staff’s reporting. I had two journalists visiting campus last week when the story broke. Both admitted that they hate covering such difficult stories. Journalists have to keep their personal feelings and biases at bay. They don’t want to knock on the door. It’s one of the worst things journalists have to do. And yet they do it. Just as the students did.

I am proud of the student journalists who volunteer for The Campus newspaper. They have demonstrated a commitment to the standards of journalism: balance, fairness, accuracy. They understand the responsibilities and role of the media on campus and in society.

They have chosen to report and publish when remaining silent is too often the norm.

They have been courageous in the face of their own fears.

http://alleghenycampus.com

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/article_ed0a9d66-5014-11e4-8a7b-47007d079dd6.html

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

 

 

College is the place to dare–not worry about every grade

Leave a comment

Outside the Box

By Cheryl Hatch/Copyright 2014

Writer’s note: I am a journalist in academia, a woman who has traveled among many cultures. I live outside the box and I like it — and I want to share my perspective with you every Thursday.

I hate grading.

At the end of each semester, I am required to submit grades for the students in our journalism classes. As a professor, I hate grades. As a student, I cherished them, worshipped them.

OK. Hate is not the right word though I do love the succinct lilt and assonance in the sentence. Worship is the right word.

And there’s my problem with grades. We’ve created a system that creates students that revere grades. Some students believe those grades measure their accomplishments and determine their value, their worth.

They don’t. You are not your grade.

Don’t get me wrong. I never met an A I didn’t like. I am, and always have been, a straight-A student. Heck, I even like saying it. I’m proud of it.

And, my constant pursuit of perfection cost me dearly at times in my life. I was well into my double-degree program and cruising for an ugly crash before a professor pointed out that it would be impossible to earn 100 percent on 100 percent of my work.

A 90 is still an A, he said. A-minus, I countered. I was uncomfortable with the concept. Do less than my best? That was impossible.

In high school, I had friends whose parents would buy them a car when they got A’s on their report cards. I knew one student whose dad bought him a car for a single A. I worked as a grill cook and waitress to earn the money to buy my first car and pay for insurance and gas.

A’s were expected in our house, not rewarded.

Once I came home with a C on a quiz. Not an exam, a quiz. Dad was not happy. What’s the problem? That’s average, Dad. Not average for you, he said.

Point taken. Not average for you etched in my psyche.

I understand the system. Back then, I needed those A’s for scholarships, to prove I was worth an investment.

Years later, I created a scholarship named in honor of my parents at my undergraduate alma mater. The scholarship is awarded to someone with high hopes, not a high grade-point average. Someone who wants to explore the world. Who believes in public service. Someone with big dreams and the big, tender heart needed to go the distance in pursuit of them.

As an A student, I know the grade does not always reflect the student’s effort or learning. I often earned A’s without breaking a sweat, until I encountered a computer science programming class.

I failed the first exam. I was confounded. I studied like I’d never studied before. Humbled but determined, I tackled the preparation for the next exam. I studied. Did the exercises. Met with a tutor. I got a 35. Yes, out of 100. That definitely did not compute. I remember thinking I could have thrown a dart at the empty circles on the answer sheet and produced a better score.

I like and excel at languages — French, Arabic, Russian — not Pascal. I did my best in that class and my grades said I failed. I failed to earn an A. I earned a C.

When I sit down to calculate a student’s final grade, there are tangibles I can assess. Meeting a deadline. Using The Associated Press style correctly. Hitting the word count. Getting a variety of quotes. Effective transitions.

I also consider intangible, vitally important accomplishments. Did the student do the work? Did he learn from his mistakes and improve? Did she push herself? Did he go outside his comfort zone? Did she risk failing?

When I was an adolescent, my dad gave me a quote by Theodore Roosevelt from a speech he gave April 23, 1910, at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

I give it to students in our classes now. I add “woman” and “she” when I read it aloud.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

These words are also etched in my psyche. I love the idea of daring greatly. Since I was young, I have never wanted to be someone who has known neither victory nor defeat. (Yes, defeat is a drag.)

I want students to know that they are not their grades. In pursuit of that A and the illusion of perfection, they might be tempted to play it safe. By avoiding failure — or worse — being ashamed of it, they risk missing the deep and valuable lessons they might learn from stumbling.

I do not like to fail. And I am not afraid of failing.

These many years later, I can still taste that C in my first and only computer science class. I do not like that C and I prize that C. I learned a lot in that class. I don’t like computer science. It would have led to a great career — not for me.

College is the place to dare greatly. Figure out who you are and what you want. What you like and don’t like. Find your voice and your path.

Can I live with that C? Yes. That’s the point. I can live with the grade.

It was not the end of the world. It was the beginning of a whole new world and a great adventure.

http://www.meadvilletribune.com/opinion/x1667052278/College-is-the-place-to-dare-not-worry-about-every-grade

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

Recent uprising gives Egypt hope for the future

Leave a comment

Outside the Box

a weekly column by Cheryl Hatch

copyright 2014

As a young girl, I dreamed of visiting the land of the Pyramids.

Mighty Isis was my favorite comic book heroine. On my teenage bedroom walls, posters that featured ancient Egyptian tomb paintings with Nefretari and Isis flanked my Led Zeppelin poster. I was fascinated with the art, religion, history and mythology of ancient Egypt.

In graduate school in France, I studied Egyptology with experts in the field.

After graduation, I earned an internship at an English language monthly magazine in Cairo. My childhood dreams were coming true.

I stepped off the plane in Egypt and quickly realized I knew nothing about the modern country and its culture.

On my first night in the hotel that would be my temporary home, a colleague came to welcome me. Three men burst into the room and escorted my guest to the lobby. I was a single woman and I was not allowed to have men in my room, the interlopers told me. They publicly chastised me and called me a prostitute.

Ahlan wa sahlan fi Misr. Welcome in Egypt.

I learned the men were members of the mukhabarat, the secret police. I would have many encounters with them during my three years in Egypt.

As a foreigner and journalist, I was under surveillance. My phone was tapped; my movements were monitored. I became adept at identifying the plain-clothed mukhabarat, who often followed me.

On one assignment, I accompanied a reporter from Reuters, the British news agency, to cover a press conference announced by a Muslim sheikh in a town outside of Cairo. The sheikh was rumored to be both abroad and under house arrest in Egypt. It was a good story.

We were stopped on the road outside the oasis town. The police asked for our documents and refused to answer our questions. My colleague handed over her British passport; I kept mine. Once they had her passport, they told her that she could not legally proceed.

I got out of the car and starting walking.

Where are you going? I’m walking to the press conference.

By this time, the police forced my colleague into a vehicle. I had a choice: leave her, or go with her and abandon the press conference.

I went with her; I still did not relinquish my passport. The men took us to a small building in the middle of the desert in the middle of nowhere and stuck us in a room with two metal chairs and a beat-up desk.

Am I under arrest? No.

Then I’m free to leave. No.

I want to call the American embassy. No.

I was not under arrest. I was being held against my will. I had no rights.

Ahlan wa sahlan fi Misr.

Hours later, they released us. They had successfully blocked us—and other reporters we later learned—from attending the press conference.

They told us to go back to Cairo. We didn’t. We were bound to determine if the sheikh was indeed in the country and under house arrest. We spent the night in town. A secret policeman followed our every move on his tiny motorcycle. He wore a fake leather jacket and a long, white scarf that trailed behind him. He sat in a corner of the restaurant where we ate dinner, hiding in plain sight.

The next day we went to the mosque we’d heard the sheikh attended.

As we waited, the mukhabarat gathered at a distance on all sides of the dirt road. As soon as the sheikh crossed toward the mosque, the secret police pounced. They dragged me in one direction and my colleague in another, lifting us off the ground. I resented being manhandled and resisted. Resistance is futile, as the “Star Trek” saying goes.

They roughed us up and sent us on our way again. We left. We had the story.

Twenty years later, I was in Alaska when the events began in Tahrir Square two years ago. As a journalist, I longed to return to Egypt, to witness and document the historic uprising as the people who packed the square for weeks demanded an end to the rule of Hosni Mubarak, who’d been president since 1981.

In this case, resistance was not futile. Through social media and solidarity, the crowds held against the authorities. The vice president announced that Mubarak resigned on Feb. 11, 2011.

Last semester, a young woman came to my office and asked to join our news writing class. Her name is Reem Abou Elenain and she is a Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant from Alexandria, Egypt.

The class is full, I told her. She expressed her enthusiasm for learning about journalism and news writing. I could put you on a waiting list in case a spot opens, I offered.

She wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I told her she had the qualities of a journalist: passion and persistence. I added her to the class roster. She brought fresh perspectives of American news coverage of events in the Middle East. She now writes columns and works as an editor at The Campus, the student newspaper.

Reem was in Egypt when the revolution began on Jan. 25, 2011.

Before the revolution, Reem said people were terrified and without hope. They felt watched.

“I didn’t feel that Egypt was my country,” Reem said. “Other people owned it through corruption and monopoly.”

“When the revolution happened, it was the happiest moment in my life,” Reem said. “I was screaming from my heart and it was never too loud. We united as a people. It was beautiful. As women, our voices were loud and heard.”

“We removed the most powerful and corrupt person,” Reem said, referring to Mubarak

Now Reem believes there’s a future for her and her country.

“Now it’s mine. I love it. There is hope.”

This Thursday, Feb. 13, Reem is bringing the Academy Award-nominated documentary, “The Square,” to Allegheny College. I couldn’t be in Tahrir Square in February 2011; I will be in Quigley Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Ahlan wa sahlan.

Cheryl Hatch is a writer, photojournalist and visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest at Allegheny College.

###

Older Entries