Live From Law School

Hi there everyone!

I wanted to give you all a little blurb about my first month of law school. I’m starting week four with a bang-or rather, with a really horrendous cold! Because of the attendance policies of law school, I was able to miss one class this morning, but showed up for my afternoon class. Honestly, I’m not sure it was helpful to me, but my name was on the attendance roster, and that’s a start. Now, I’ve been very good about medicating-I’ve got some serious DayQuil/Advil action going on, and I’ve been hydrating and other self-care recommendations. But I didn’t come here to talk about my cold!

What they tell you: Law school is hard-in a different way than undergrad. It’s supposed to stretch you as a human being and make you think like a lawyer. It will prove useful in all facets of your life, not just the ones that you would think. It will make you more annoying to be around, because you’ll analyze everything. It will force you to work on yourself in and out of the classroom.

What they don’t tell you: You will think about quitting every day for what feels like forever. You will feel completely worthless. You will hate the amount of homework you have. You will debate changing your life, settling for a career that is “kinda” what you want.

And then you’ll get out of the first two weeks and realize that this is something you can handle-it was all just an adjustment period, testing the unfathomably steep learning curve. And you’ll grow accustomed to the labor intensive study patterns, the crappy food plans and the weird cravings for comfort food in the middle of the night. You’ll discover a coping pattern for mornings-which usually require copious amounts of caffeine. You might even discover that you like mornings (I think that day is still a long way off for me, but we’ll get there).

Law school is this weird place where you bring a hundred people and on the first day you’re all strangers, but by the second week you have a core of friends who know everything about each other. You spend all day every day with those same people and suddenly you have friends that you respect, trust and celebrate with-even though you have no idea who they were before.

I came to law school thinking I was a good student. I have decent grades from both high school and undergrad. I thought I knew who I was, what I stood for and believed and that this would just be a quick two or three years of teaching me the requisite knowledge to become a legal professional. Read: this was a means to an end. And if I made friends, that would be great. If I managed to find people that I could enjoy coffee with-who also shared my passion, great. But if none of those things occurred, I would not be upset. 

My first month here has been, well, eye opening. I’m a good student-but I was not a good law student before. Now, I understand the change I needed to make. I’ve found that in the last few weeks, I’ve discovered more about myself than I have since my freshman year of high school. I have a new perspective and it shifts slightly every day, as I learn more. And friends? I have a group of them-5 people in fact, who I believe are the foundation for the best years of education of my life.

Life isn’t all about the expectation. You can plan and plan and in the end, it may not be the way you thought it would. And that was the biggest lesson of all. That no matter how much I thought I knew, how much I planned, some things are just gonna happen-without your permission. Your job isn’t to fight it, but to adapt.

Lawyered.

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The Department of Anthropology

Today’s post is just an appreciation post. For people who don’t see me often, this will not mean anything to you. But it does to me. I’m sad because at the end of the week, I have to leave my job. It’s a work study position and because I’m graduating, I’m no longer eligible to be there. And so, today is my dedication to that.

When I applied to work for my department, I was terrified. I needed a job, I thought I was going to have to go back to fast food and be miserable for the rest of my time in Columbus. I was terrified because I didn’t know my way around campus, I didn’t know anyone in that office and I had no idea if they’d like me. I remember a young woman talking to me in a cheerful, sing-song voice, being introduced to the stern looking keeper of things and information and being introduced to the fiscal officer who appeared strict and dauntingly professional. And as I said “hello” in what I can only assume was the most pathetically timid voice I could, I was employed. I would meet my coworkers-a young man with an inviting smile and a knack for forgetting things and a young lady who had the most infectious laughter and a great eye for scarves. She intimidated me because she got on so well with my new boss. A few weeks later, we gained a sassy newcomer with the coolest hair I’d ever seen.

How silly that all seems now.

Although I thought that I had only applied for a job, what I applied for was a position as a member of a reliable, close-knit family. And that’s why it breaks my heart to let it go.

My boss has the most impeccable taste in clothes. And not only that, she believes the best in everyone. She’s willing to start each day on a completely new page-no matter what. She laughs everything off, offers advice as sincere as any person can and she goes out of her way to help people. She has this thing for fountain pens and it’s hilariously superb. No matter how many times we worked on her desk, it was always filled with work-not because she was lazy, but because people know how great she is, so they give her more. I’ll miss the way she always gets coffee and baked regular Lays-because they never carry barbeque, and the way that no matter how crappy her day may be, she always has time for you.

The keeper of things? She’s the biggest nerd I’ll ever meet-and I mean that with the utmost respect and awe. We chat about books, politics, television, you name it. She completely understands what I’m talking about when I discuss farm life, she’s wicked busy and even though at first I thought she hated me, it turns out that she’s been on my side since day one. Her phone ringer is usually something from Star Wars (or Doctor Who) and if you can do it yourself-she can do it better (that’s not her saying it, I’m telling you so that you know). She’s got that Italian sass (which is hilarious) and she inspires me so much. We laugh about preparing for the zombie apocalypse while we run, she has a Harry Potter Christmas tree, she shows her dogs and is hands down the most interesting person I will ever know. She calls me “mini-RBG” and not once has she made me feel like I’m just young and naive. I’ll miss the way she keeps me on my toes, shares her popcorn with me and reminds me that I can absolutely be myself and help other people-no changes necessary.

If I ever thought that my enjoyment of the undead and the fact that my husband and I spent our honeymoon watching Game of Thrones could lead me to being on someone’s good side, I doubt it would have been the good side of our fiscal officer. He works so hard-and his attention to detail is on another level entirely. His granddaughter is adorable, and you can absolutely tell that he has a heart of gold-dedicated to just her. He always listens intently to my stories of field dressing the deer we hit with our car, no matter how many times I laugh about it and he makes me feel like I’m at least moderately funny. He’s absolutely always reliable, he always finds a way to make things work and even though we don’t interact as much as the others, I know that if I were ever in trouble, he’d be the first person I asked for help. I’ll miss the way he hates spoilers, so I have to edit out my reviews of the shows and the way he’s loyal to a fault.

I didn’t know the guy work study long, but he was a gentle soul. And I hope he does well in his life.

The scarf-clad work study and I greet each other each time we work as each other’s “favorite person”. We snap each other (on Snapchat) and she still absolutely has a great taste in accessories. The thing is though, when I met her, I thought she was super affluent-because of the scarves. She’s one of the only people I’ve met since I moved to the capital that knows about Liberty’s Kids and Sagwa and PBS Kids television-hallmarks of the parental types who didn’t pay for cable because it was a waste of money. Her laughter, as I mentioned is super infectious, but it’s also sincere. And I love that-because so often there are reasons to forget how to be sincere. She’ll still be there in the fall, and I hope that I can stop by some time-because she makes my day so festive. Plus, she totally sang Happy Birthday to me in Swedish-and we all need to have a friend like that.

The newest coworker is (hooray!) going to have a baby in the fall, and I think that that makes me some bizarre form of fairy god-aunt, but titles schmitles. Her hair still rocks, even though she totally cut it all off. When she first came in, I was told that she was shy and that was about it. I’m here to tell you, that is a lie (thank goodness our snaps aren’t public-we’re a riot). We usually don’t end up working together, but when we do-not much work gets done because we are chatting and getting into trouble (probably), but everyone knows that we’ll get everything done along the way. She shares my delight of all things Tim Burton and she convinces me that it’s a great idea to order lunch so she doesn’t feel alone. We also absolutely will be running for president/vice president some day and it’ll be the most epic thing humanity has ever seen.

There are, as with any family, the extended members-the janitor lady who is always exceptionally nice-so we save her donuts and brownies and cake. She’s so nice and she even called to let us know that she’d be away for a few days because she sprained her hand. There’s the tech guy who has more fun hanging out with us than he does other tech guys, so we pull up a chair and listen to him talk about deli meat, life in Upper Arlington and crazy news about life in general. And of course, a host of faculty that will forever hold my favor.

I know that I was only there a short time, and that I have no reason to be so attached-but I am. They’ve been the support, the driving factor behind not flaming out of the big city. Any time I have a problem-with life, school or in general-I know that they can help. And I think that’s what family is. I can only hope that I may be so luck as to find a similar set up in law school, but I can’t hope for anything better, because my Anthropology family is the best there will ever be.

So I won’t say goodbye, because families don’t do that. I’ll just say that the next time I see them, I’ll be a lawyer/social worker and I’ll be ready to take on the world-just like each of them prepared me to do. I’ll miss them, I’ll think about them often, and I’ll carry this honor of having shared my time with them with me.

Single Digits

So if you follow me on instagram, I’ve been doing a daily photo with #HowIMetMyGraduation. I try to take pictures of things that sum up my day, mean something to me, or otherwise spark my interest. And Because I’m now officially just 9 days away from finishing my degree, I wanted to do something (probably hard) fun. I’m going to describe my undergrad degree using all 26 letters of the English alphabet. So uhm, here goes nothing.

A. Anthropology-my major. I focus on Cultural Anthropology, because I like to people watch.

B. Biology-This is what I spent two years of my degree majoring in. Because I was afraid of change.

C. Clergy-I am not only a wedding planner, I can officiate marriages too.

D. Diversity-I became Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Diversity for the micronation of Flandrensis

E. Education-which included the Calculus sequence, Chemistry, Psychology, Social Work and Political Science.

F. Fat-I gained some, but learned that my worth wasn’t a number.

G. GISHWHES-I learned how to cross the line between comfort and adventure.

H. Highway driving and conquering the fear.

I. Impair-we went through 4 (5?) cars in undergrad.

J. Journal-I started bullet journalling as a way to manage my symptoms.

K. Knick Knacks-I had to downsize 5 times since starting undergrad-for moving purposes.

L. Liberal-as in, I got liberally involved in politics.

M. Marriage-I got married in a classroom on campus just about 3 years ago.

N. Novels-I’ve started MANY, finished few.

O. Ohio State-this is where I’ve gotten my degree from.

P. Phlebotomy-I got my national certification by going to 2 colleges at once for a while.

Q. Queer-because I learned that it’s okay not to fit a gender binary-or even a standard array of sexuality.

R. Religion-I changed religions in college: from southern baptist/nondenominational Christian to earth worshipping pagan/hoodoo.

S. Subway-my first job. Followed by Rural King, Giant Eagle, and OSU.

T. Tattoo-I knew I wanted one, and for graduation, I finally got it.

U. Unhappy-I spent a long time being unhappy, because I lived in the shadow of the expectations of others before finding myself.

V. Victim-or rather, how to become a survivor of sexual assault.

W. Washburn-this is where I’ll be going to get my JDMSW (Law Degree and Masters in Social Work) in a little over 100 days.

X. Xenial-by definition, accepting-especially of strangers and foreigners.

Y. Youth-I’ve been in college the entirety of my early-mid twenties, and will be there until I’m nearly 30.

Z. Zombies? Zodiac? Zenith-meaning the most important moment, which for me is coming quickly.

 

Well, that wasn’t so bad:)

We’ll speak soon.

M.

Tick Tock

A lot of balls are up in the air right now. I’m waiting for colleges, I’m waiting for graduation (23 days!), I’m waiting. And that’s okay. Because while I wait, I’m putting my time to good use. Obviously I’m still doing classwork (and there’s a fair amount of it) but I’m also doing a little investigating, a little snooping. And it all stemmed from classwork, so in the end-is it really that bad?

I watched a documentary on college campus assaults and since I go to an INCREDIBLY large university (second largest in the US by enrollment numbers), I thought perhaps I should learn a little bit more about the rates on my campus. Turns out, that is an incredibly deep rabbit hole that I am only just beginning to flesh out. While I am doing so, I’m coming to a lot of really confrontational data, some of which I think can be remedied pretty easily. For instance, the search menthod of the daily crime log (as mandated by the Clery Act) could be easier to navigate-by searching for type of crime (such as body violation, or sex crimes) instead of searching for crimes by name (I searched “sexual” crimes and the list did NOT include rape, stalking, domestic violence or menacing). But there are still questions I have about the number of crimes. For example. I was made aware of a menacing account that took place on Wednesday (April 5) but there is no record of it on the daily crime log (which is against the law). There are reports of “administrative information”-what does that mean? There are records of “refusing to cooperate”-what does that mean, and in what context does a person “refuse”? There are a couple names that come up repeatedly (perps) over a span of a couple years, for sexual crimes-why? What qualifies as “unfounded”? What does “ill-aided” mean? Why are cases from 2001 still pending? What’s the difference between pending and active? Why does 9-1-1 redirect to campus police instead of CPD? What is being done about the locations which have been “hotspots” for sex crimes for over a decade?

I’m still in the really early stages, as I said. I’m having trouble locating the older annual safety reports, as they have been removed from online. Which means that once I compile my questions, I’ll be taking a trip down to campus security to have them explain to me what’s going on (or as much as I can convince them to anyway). I don’t know that I have anything to find, but if I find something, I need to make sure I understand what it is that I actually find. Bottom line: I don’t know if there’s anything to find, but if there is, it’s gonna be huge.

I’m not trying to make waves-I’m trying to make changes. Because here’s my thoughts.

I would rather have problems be presented up front, with solutions and options than have problems swept under the rug. I want to know the faults of a process, rather than be blissfully ignorant. I am entitled (gasp) under the law (Title IX) to equal access to safe education. If information is withheld that would otherwise hinder my safety, or access to education-that is against the law. Universities know that. Title IX issues are a BIG deal-especially right now. Do I expect to find a problem? I hope not. Will I actively pursue action if I do? Absolutely.

First thing’s first. I’m going to collect all the data I have access to and check the reports against the annual safety report. If the numbers match, then I will focus on the question si have above (and more). If the numbers don’t, the real investigation begins. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have a vendetta against the college school system (student loans are a different story) but I do have a vendetta against rape culture. Fair and safe is the only way to progress. And even as I wait to begin my life as a rape culture smashing DA, I can do my part.

Because as I learned recently, it isn’t entirely the fault of the patriarchal laws that govern our country. It isn’t entirely the fault of the judges who see “potential” in rapists and “blame” in victims. Rape cases don’t go to court because there aren’t enough DAs (District Attorney) who will take the cases. That news hit me like a rubber bullet. The very thing I want in life is the one thing we have a dire need for, and is something I must wait to see happen.

In the meantime, I’ve applied to the spring program, and I altered my application a little. I’ve decided that it will be in my best interest to get a dual degree. So I applied for a JD/MSW, allowing me to both practice law and be a licensed social worker. I need to be able to combat this on all levels-and if spending an extra year in education is what it takes, then I will absolutely do so. I want to use everything I’ve got to make the world a better place. Focus on religious minorities. Focus on LGBTQ+. Focus on nonbinary genders. Focus on men and women. Focus on justice. And I will.

Because I know I can make a difference. I just have to believe.

Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

Helpless? Hopeless? Hapless?

It is time, good people, for a rant. The source of this rant is?

The oppression of the poor, through the lenses of college students.

It’s something I know quite a bit about, and I think more people are going to need to get an idea soon-especially with the political situation.

There’s a food bank set up for the students at my university.

Each semester, I spend about $300 on textbooks as a social science student. My husband spends $400-$600. And there’s some math coming up, but no worries, I’ll help. I have insurance through my dad, but let’s assume it’s negligent here-because I have to pay more out of pocket than they cover. I have student loans (gasp!). And we’re going to get personal about that too. I work at the university, with work study money. That means I can work UP TO 20 hours a week-so long as my total amount of work study money is more than I have worked. I get $3000 a year, which equals roughly 9 hours a week available. I typically work throughout the summer at whatever job will hire me, but obviously it’s part time.

A little word though, before we begin. I cannot speak for everybody. These experiences are my own. I know that some people will take a different path here-and that’s OKAY. I just want you to get a rough idea of how a midwestern student with decent grades faces the realities of the financial aid system. I’m doing this in response to Betsy DeVos, and her unawareness at how it works. I’m going to break different areas up by header and then wrap it all up in a summary-I find that to be a little more helpful than just assaulting you with information.

Books

I started college officially January 2012. That was back when OSU was on quarters (meaning 3 regular sessions per year) and now we’re on semesters (meaning 2 regular sessions a year). That means I’ve had 12 sessions (I believe). Each of those sessions, as I mentioned, I pay roughly $300 in books. 300*12=$3600 in books. For my husband, it’s 500*12=$6000 (I just took the average cost. So together, we have paid almost $10,000 in books (and yes, we shop around for deals). PLUS-you have to pay for online access codes to your homework. Per course, that’s $60-$130.

To give you an idea of what the problem with that is, I have a recent event for you. We (Ben and I) were looking to make a little money to cover some purchases for the apartment. The only thing we have in large quantities are books. So we packaged up everything we had. This includes text books, books I picked up at the bookstore for pleasure reading, books we had from forever. Everything we could (minus the ones we need for this semester) was loaded into boxes. I looked at what Amazon would give me and then we hauled everything down to Half Price Books. Let me emphasize this. We took something like $8500 of merchandise to a resale place. And what do you think we got in payment?

$230. (And yes, that’s about what Amazon wanted to pay us.)

For the readers who are blown away by this, 230 dollars is approximately 2.7% of 8500. And that’s the most we could get. So we took it and made do-because what else are we gonna do?

Student Loan Payments

Ah student loans. The bane of so many people’s existence. I have 2 kinds: Sallie Mae and Federal. My Sallie Mae payment will be $670 a month and my federal will be $455 a month (according to http://www.aie.org-I’ll let you know what they really are when I start making the payments after law school). And that brings up a good point-these numbers are ONLY for my undergraduate degree, under the assumption that it will take me 10 years to pay everything off. So I will need to put aside almost $1200 per month just for student loan payments. Yikes!

Acceptance fees/loans for law school

Wherever I end up going to law school, I will need to pay a seat deposit (acceptance fee) of at least $250. That’s something I have planned for, and am well aware of. But when I enter law school, I will also have to pay money to take out my loans, and campus fees on top of my tuition. I also am aware of that. But it does not chance the fact that I will have to pay my own way to move to law school and then pay them to allow me to pay them (yes, you read that right) so I can go there. One of my schools has a fee of $910.

And since we’re talking about law school-let me fill you in on the application process. In order to apply for law school, you have to take the LSAT. It costs $17 per time you take it. And then, you have to order your college transcripts ($20). You also have to purchase the system they use to compile your application ($180). Then you have to pay for them to assemble your application per school ($30) and you have to pay an application fee per school ($30-$110). And this is true if you apply to one school or a hundred. I applied for the fee waiver (thankfully) so my costs were slightly different. But none of this includes test prep, which can be very expensive very fast.

working

As I said, I work part time. I use the money to add to my very small reserve of uh-oh money. I can make up to $1500 a semester. And that’s grand-my job is awesome, I enjoy it a lot. It’s just not a bunch of money. So there’s that. And yes, I am fully capable of getting a job. But I don’t live on campus and my husband has class 5 days a week, and we have a dog at home. So I could, yes, work over the weekend-this is true. But none of this accounts for homework time. As I mentioned above, I totally work during summer. That’s a no brainer. This summer will be tricky becuase of moving to law school, but we’ll see.

Oh-and I’m not allowed to work the first year of law school. It’s a law school thing.

apartment

My apartment is what it is. I pay gobs of money to live in a place where crime is low. I pay for safety and I know that. What I also pay for is a private electric company that charges me way too much for electric ($200 a month) and a door that sticks, gaps in the door that let cold air in, leaky outlets and a fridge that doesn’t stay closed. Also, they sent out an email saying that they wouldn’t salt the parking areas until it got really bad becuase they “like to watch it accumulate”. 

health care/insurance

As I mentioned, I have health insurance through my dad. That is all thanks to the ACA. And I know that. If I am hardcore screwed, I have options. It may take everything I have to pay that money, but I have options-ish. For example, last fall I went to the urgent care because of an ear infection which burst my eardrum. I paid $200 after insurance for the visit and another $100 for the medication. If the ACA is taken away, so is my insurance. As of right now, I go to the doctor if I have nothing else I can do. Because my health is a luxury I cannot afford. I have not been to the gyno in 3 years. I have not gotten my booster shots. I have not been able to go to the dentist in a great many years. I had to pay out of pocket for my glasses ($300 for exam and frames).

conclusion: What poor actually looks like

So there’s been a lot of disjointed information that’s come at you today. Let me provide a little structure for you.

I’m a first gen college student. My parents are hardworking farmers/pressman. I didn’t have my education paid for by my family (apart from $1000 my dad saved up and I am so grateful for). I pay $25,539 per year for my education. I’ve been in school for 5 years. Do some multiplication-you’ll see why I’m concerned about student loans. My apartment situation is paid for (in part) by the loans my husband and I take out. What we can cover with summer work is obviously done that way to alleviate needing to take out more loans. I have a credit card that I use for emergencies only and pay it off as soon as I get it. This is where I put my health care expenses, if I have any. And trust me, I try not to. Bills are still going to be there when I graduate from law school. And the $1700 a month we pay for everything, in addition to the $2000 a month for both my and my husband’s student loans terrifies me. It really does.

Not being able to afford regular doctor’s visits because of money is something that weighs on your brain a little. It makes you feel a little less than human. Being forced to choose between access to your homework and fresh food does things to your brain, makes you feel unvalued.

So when I said there’s a food bank on campus that’s for students, are you really so surprised? Because it’s not just food that we need. It’s so much more than that.

And that is why I cannot stand by and accept that our country’s education might be left in the hands of someone who has never even interacted with the financial aid system. I’ve only hit the big points-and not even all of them. Because none of this included the daily struggles, the weighing of options, the constant demands of time management, social and academic obligations, extra curricular activities or other facets. But maybe you see the reason why so many people with college degrees feel a little jilted at the system that was supposed to help us.

IMADTTO: The Conclusion

Hi folks.

Last night I received word on the President’s Prize, the project I’ve poured my heart and soul into for these past few months. I set out to combat rape culture on college campuses and in the end, it was decided that my project (for whatever reason) was not up to the level that my university wanted and therefore was rejected. I spent last night at somewhat of a loss. I believed in my project, it was the very first thing I put my whole self into and I received a very short “There were so many wonderful applicants, but unfortunately you will not be continuing on.” email and I debated what to do as my next step.

I decided that I wanted to share what I’d done with you all, so that you might know what I’d spent so much time working on, but also to use as a way to put some accountability on my university. I hope they do incorporate some of my ideas-because my pride is far less important than the safety of women everywhere. But if these ideas come into use, I hope they put them to action with as much devotion as I would have-because for them it’s just policy, for me it’s an entire life’s worth of passion. I’m only going to put the second round project proposal, because it is the most complete-but there were many other drafts, and additional pieces of work that needed to be included in the process of review.

I invite critiques and thoughts-because, as I said, this is something I’m devoting my whole life to-and am applying to law school for- so making this project better and better can only help me enact it in the courtroom.

I have to deal with losses as a lawyer, with grace and humility. I don’t want to lose, nor do I like it, but I am human and it very well may happen. I’m doing the best I can to plug forward, shake it off and carry on. My pride is wounded, but my compassion and drive are not. (Oh, and I changed the logo colors to Sexual Assault Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness colors-a change I am very happy with.)

tl;dr: I’m placing my project proposal on my blog so that I can use it as a platform to save the world in a different route: my own self.

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell President’s Prize Project Statement

IMaDtTO Logo for Future.png
Project Title: IMADTTO (I Made A Difference To That One)

Problem Statement:

          Rape culture on college campuses is a social pandemic which needs to be addressed and eradicated. There are three target areas that I seek to focus on as key elements in the fight against rape culture: prevention, prosecution of crime and response to survivors. These elements are broken into sections of action that IMADTTO addresses as research, outreach, education and advocacy.

I maintain a blog on WordPress which, to the best of my abilities, I use to further stories of perceived injustices-focusing on rape culture. I use the critical thinking skills I have cultivated to seek out the legislation, proposed bills and the stories themselves so that I may present the facts. I also use that blog to discuss ideas for the improvement of society in respect to rape culture. I have opened the conversation to my readers and subscribers to tell me their ideas and stories. Since I have done so, it has been made abundantly clear to me that survivors of sexual assault desire to have their stories heard by someone who shows them respect and believes them at face value.

I have been approached by friends I have known for years, by family members and by complete strangers alike and asked if I could just listen to them. Among their stories, a vein of similarity popped up repeatedly: the need for gender inclusive education (whereby the message of body safety and awareness was given to all young adults), the need for a safe space to talk about their experiences and the need to be believed. It is these three suggestions from which IMADTTO came into existence, and will excel. The stark need for a program like IMADTTO is highlighted by the cases of Brock Allen Turner (Stanford University) and the Steubenville rape in 2012.

This project will positively affect everyone. The students are the target audience-both at a collegiate and high school level. By increasing body positivity and safety, young adults will be prepared to enter a world where they understand their rights, are fully capable of protecting themselves and are aware of what resources are available to them should they encounter an unsafe situation. On a slightly larger scale, this project will be beneficial to the parents of college-aged children by giving them the peace of mind that their children will be attending a college which is prepared to protect its students.

Ohio State will benefit from admissions increases, emerging as a leader in student safety and body positivity. Ohio State will serve as the role model for how rape culture on college campuses can be combatted. This commitment ripples through the national and global level, because Ohio State is rich in diversity and what student learn while attending will provide them the opportunity to be ambassadors to their home states and countries.

Project Outline and Timeline:

IMADTTO operates at four specific sections: research, outreach, education and advocacy. For each of these sections, individual tasks have been allocated. The research section will initiate the project. A survey will be created to assess potential problem areas on campus, the individual’s knowledge of available resources for the issue of sexual assault, responses to stigma and pop culture rape culture, as well as gauge their interest in a support group for survivors of sexual assault. This survey will serve as the basis for my own research (in accordance with IRB). This section will also include creating a compendium of resources available across the state to be used as part of the education and outreach sections. The research conducted in this section will be used to present at the latter two conferences I will attend.
Education will focus on the themes of body safety and body positivity. Under this category, a website and mobile application will be created in order to disseminate the information gathered in the “Research”. This will include a map of the areas deemed “issue” (that is to say, where students felt needed extra precaution when using) areas, the compendium of resources, links to news articles and legislation about sexual assault and rape culture, as well as important information such as basic self-defense tips. This information will be dispersed at twenty-five (25) high schools, as well as talks at each of the five (5) branch campuses, plus main campus. How to duplicate this project at other universities will be made available on the website as well.
The capstone for this section is the introduction of a sexual assault learning module in the Freshman Survey course, and a discussion for the parents at Freshman Orientation. The learning module will be a condensed, statistical exploration of rape culture and sexual assault that will be inserted into the pre-existing Freshman Survey course. The Freshman Orientation discussion with parents will be an introduction to the ways in which Ohio State is looking out for its students, including how a perpetrator will be dealt with. This creates accountability between Ohio State and the parents to ensure that all students are protected and informed.
Outreach focuses on publications. A newsletter featuring words of hope, self-care, the stories of survivors, and thoughts from professionals (such as nurses, social workers and police officers) will be created and distributed in both print and virtual format. This newsletter will also include progress reports for IMADTTO, as a way of holding the project accountable and also informing the general public about the successes of the project. Three books will be created, as conversation starters: one children’s picture book, one middle grade book and one young adult book. These books will focus on the theme of body positivity and inclusiveness at age appropriate levels.
Advocacy will take on a sustainable entity of its own. Small groups (of about 4-6 people) of survivors will come together to create support systems and lasting friendships during their time at Ohio State. These groups will serve as a type of “first line of defense” for survivors including-but-not-limited-to encouragement, providing escorts for the other members of their group to and from activities, get well cards, providing meals or support on “trigger” days (days in which the individual may suffer from the memory of a traumatic event). These groups will be for morale boosting purposes, but also provide a basic level of support by other people who understand the necessity of the group. There will also be collaboration with local law enforcement and politicians to promote an Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, modeled after the National Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which was passed just this year.
Apart from the support group, this project will be, essentially, a networking and structural one. In order for IMADTTO to become functional, I must prepare the foundations of each section (the survey, the website, the newsletter, educational materials) and use those to further the project. As the foundations are completed, the project will require assistance and guidance from both curriculum advisors and orientation organizers (for the survey course and orientation discussion) as well as the cooperation and coordination efforts between myself and the leadership of the schools which I will be presenting at. Once this is accomplished, the project becomes more self-sufficient. The course work and discussion materials will be available, as will the publications, finalizing the third tier. The research presentations head off the final leg of the project, support groups will form and be self-managing.
Achievements to date include the information gathered from my blog, in which the basis of this project has come into formation. The compendium of resources has been started, but is at a national level, compiled into an alphabetized list. This is a fantastic starting point, and will be made available on the website. I would like to make an Ohio-specific list for IMADTTO. I am also currently working to complete general IRB (Institutional Review Board) modules so that I can begin the project immediately.
There are several project goals over the course of the year. Within the first three months (July through September) the survey will be created and dispersed, data compiled, presentation materials created, website and newsletter created, and branch campus visits scheduled. In months four to six (October through December) will focus on the publications as well as drafting the Freshman Survey module and the Freshman Orientation discussion. The support groups will also be organized and commence in this time frame. The third quarter (January through March) goals are completing and publishing the children and middle grade books, speaking at the high schools and working with law enforcement and legislators to draft and propose the survivor bill. The final three months (April through June) will be centered on enacting the learning module, the orientation discussion and ensuring that IMADTTO has impacted the university in a positive way. Instructions will be created for those wishing to continue the support groups, newsletter and website (or final arrangements made). A research paper will be produced (and presented), and the young adult chapter book will be made available for purchase.
There is nothing about this project which will take more than 12 months to achieve, however, there are some items which will require ongoing effort. The Freshman Survey learning module, the Freshman Orientation parental discussion and the support groups will be the lasting sectors of IMADTTO, in the event that no one continues the newsletter and regular website upkeep. For the learning module, this will be in the hands of the faculty and staff who teach the survey course, as well as the curriculum advisors. The parent discussion will be in the control of the directors of orientation. The support groups will either end at the discretion of the individual groups, or will be in the control of Sexuality and Civility Empowerment.
I will measure the success of IMADTTO based on both quantifiable markers and abstract ones. The successful creation of educational materials, the website and the completion of the goals listed above will serve as indicators for the overall success. I will also view success based on the level of reach which the project will have. The introduction of the survivor bill and the implementation of discussions about changing rape culture and making sexual assault survivors less stigmatized, while a little more abstract, are no less important.

Budget Description:

In total, this project will require $48,469. This money will be utilized for marketing, data collection, producing educational materials and dispersing information. No external funding is required. Marketing will involve “swag”, or promotional materials to be distributed to the schools I visit, as well as at various times throughout the academic year. These items will include the link to the website, resource compendium and other valuable information. Data collection will include the cost of running the survey through Survey Monkey. This will also include the price of maintaining the website and domain name (if not included in the university’s page) and mobile application costs. Producing the educational materials includes printing handouts, producing the newsletter in print form and also startup costs for the books. Funds to sustain the project, as well as scholarships for the creation of artwork for the children’s book and mobile application design. A budget for travel is included not only to ensure transportation to the schools I intend to visit, but also to three conferences given by professionals for the sole purpose of combatting rape culture in their various professions. It is at these conferences that this project’s findings will be presented.
These financial resources directly affect achieving the project goals by ensuring the conception and implementation of the project itself. Without the research aspect, this project cannot fully address the concerns of the Ohio State population. Without the education aspect, IMADTTO cannot affect prevention of sexual assaults (or knowledge of availability of resources). Without the outreach aspect, no one will know what IMADTTO’s purpose is, what is being done and how to start the discussion about sexual assault. Without the advocacy aspect, no actual change will occur. Students will have to navigate the justice system alone, Ohio might not have a survivor bill of rights, law enforcement will not know which areas students feel unsafe in. By attending the conferences I have selected, I will be able to bring the knowledge of other professionals from a variety of backgrounds to Ohio State to continually make the information I have gathered both useful, timely and culturally relevant.

Additional Information:

Although I am not the only one to think of addressing the issue of sexual assault and rape culture, I do not believe there is a program which mirrors IMADTTO in its breadth and the way it is broken down. Of the programs which exist in the state of Ohio, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio and Sexuality and Civility Empowerment will be the resources I utilize most as I take on this project. Along with this, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network will be paramount to the successful accumulation of knowledge.
The marketing sector of this project will be taken care of both in person and through social media. I have a decent following on various social media platforms, and by utilizing the power and prestige of the university, I can access a vast database of networking moments through other students and faculty and staff. The in person marketing will come from meeting with students at their schools and at Ohio State’s Welcome Week.
In order for this project to be successful, each and every one of my interactions will be a form of partnership. Because I will have access to an entire university of staff and faculty who have insights into things I may not, such as research they’ve done over a specific facet of my project, the scope of my ideals will be far less limited. My faculty mentor will be the discerning rod for any questions I may have. From procedural decisions to research methods and write-up questions, I will use my mentor not as a crutch to lean on, but as a net to capture the things I might miss because of inexperience.
Apart from financial and networking assistance, all I require is a place to set up my work and internet access. This ideally takes the form of an office, so that I may organize my work in such a manner that causes maximum efficiency. I would also require a place (such as Sexuality and Civility Empowerment) for the support groups to meet if they so choose to do so on campus.
As with any project, there will be challenges. I anticipate that my own limitations in technology will be an issue, as will recruitment in the early stages of the project. As for the technological issues, I have designed a scholarship for the mobile application so that I can both give back to the university, but also so that I can devote my time to the website. Should there be problems beyond that, I am not too proud to ask for assistance and get my hands dirty! As for recruitment, I have set aside money in the budget for a reward for participants. There will be a raffle (for those who choose to enter) of 20-$50 gift cards. Any unforeseen problems will be handled with care and patience, and with the help of my faculty advisor.
I started down this path because of my own personal outrage at court cases like those involving Ke$ha, rapist Brock Turner and the Steubenville rape. In those stories I saw human beings who, like me, had had their bodily autonomy fractured and I saw the incredible strength of the survivors. It is with all of this in mind that I submit this project statement, in hopes that I might be the leader that my time at Ohio State has prepared me to be.
This project is more than just an opportunity to be the change I want to see in the world. It is the springboard I will use to further my career goals and ambitions. With graduation pending, I am applying to law schools around the country. It is a degree in criminal law which will afford me the honor of upholding justice and running for District Attorney. As District Attorney, I will continue the work I humbly began with my blog: fostering awareness and open dialogue between peoples of different backgrounds. I carry this one piece of truth with me each day, as both the inspiration for my passions, and also as the compass with which I make my decisions:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.)