Mount Hood

The Disney Company’s recent controversy

The company that brought you the “happiest place on Earth” is worse than you thought

Camille Lenning | Entertainment Editor

 

Contact the author at howlentertainment@wou.edu

We’ve all enjoyed a Disney movie or two. How could we not? They own everything from Star Wars to Marvel to Pixar, and cornered the market on fairytale princesses. Disney is everywhere, and that’s the problem.

The company has faced numerous controversies since its founding in 1923 by Walt and his brother Roy O. Disney. Allegations of perpetuating harmful stereotypes, sexism and even plagiarism have plagued the company for decades. Most recently, the actions of the company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, in the case of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act has thrown the company into further scandal. 

The bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on March 28. If it remains unchallenged until July 1, it will ban elementary classrooms from having discussions about LGBTQ+ issues and gender expression. 

Disney World dominates Florida’s economy by bringing in billions per year in tourism, so the corporation’s political power is unmatched in the state. With this in mind, supporters of the Disney Company expected to hear a denouncement of the bill when it passed in the Florida Senate on March 8. Disney was vocal about making strides in producing more diverse entertainment, so surely they would disapprove of this seemingly anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

Yet the company made no public response, and only passed internal memos to shareholders informing them of the situation. That was, at least, until public outcry forced their hand. On March 11, Chapek released a statement apologizing for their silence, saying he and the company now understood the detrimental effects the bill could have, and that they were “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review.”

Disney so far has kept up with that promise. However, their existing contributions to the Florida GOP this quarter, totaling $125,000, remain as a glaring reminder that Chapek and the Disney Company seem to only adhere to progressive values when they’re forced to. 

Similarly, in 2020, the same year they released such works as “Out” — a short film about a boy coming out to his parents — individuals within Disney donated $10,500,030 to the America First Action super PAC, which backed the Donald Trump campaign in the election. While the company made donations to Democratic campaigns as well, the amount was far less substantial. 

The fact that Disney higher ups were funding these Republican campaigns and interest groups at all is telling of where the company really stands. While they are slowly introducing diverse characters in their shows and movies, they support politicians who intend to limit how LGBTQ+ people are represented in real life. 

It’s important to remain informed of the decisions the Disney Company makes. They play a bigger role in our lives than many realize. Their political contributions alone can greatly affect who we see on the ballot, and their power in Florida, a prominent battleground state, cannot be ignored. 

That being said, you are not a bad person if you watch Disney movies. What the multi-billion dollar corporation does with their money isn’t your fault. They have a monopoly on entertainment, and we as consumers should not be faulted for existing in the system they created.

In defense of zoos

Sam Dunaway

Sam Dunaway | News Editor

Oftentimes, zoos and aquariums are perceived as businesses that capture and exploit animals for personal gain. But if you look closer into the actions taken by these institutions, you will find that zoos and aquariums can be extremely beneficial in their conservation efforts and public education, as well as providing excellent care to their animals.

First of all, it should be emphasized that not all zoos are created equal. Yes, there are zoos that have very little credibility and low standards of animal care. But these aren’t the zoos I’m focusing on right now. The institutions that I’m talking about are the 214 zoos and aquariums across the United States that have an accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This accreditation means that the institution provides top quality animal care, emphasizes education, and funds conservation and research efforts to benefit wild species.

When you walk into a zoo or aquarium, a large percentage of the animals you see can’t be released into the wild. Whether it be that they were born under human care, imprinted on humans, have injuries or don’t have the necessary survival skills to succeed in the wild, they are deemed by the federal government as non-releasable. They are animals that need a permanent place to call home. Many people think that the animals are ripped from the wild to be put into a cage, but the majority of the time, that isn’t the case.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums requires a high level of animal care for their accredited institutions. Every single detail including the quality of the water, the amount of shade available for the animals, and the physical groupings of the animals are monitored. Medical records for every single animal are maintained and they receive regular veterinary check-ups. In addition, animals are given daily mental stimulation in the form of enrichment. This can include direct training with a keeper, physical objects for the animal to interact with, or stimulating the other senses with music or essential oils. The behavior of the animals is monitored to ensure that they’re not stressed out, fatigued, or aggressive.

On a personal note, I worked at an AZA accredited institution, and the lengths staff would go to ensure the well-being of the animals was incredible. If a fish dropped out of a food bucket onto the floor, it was unusable because it could’ve accumulated bacteria. The social hierarchy of the animals was constantly being monitored and the grouping of the animals changed to reduce stress. Animals in the touch-tank are at a constant rotation to ensure that the experience isn’t what you see in “Finding Dory.” I’ve never seen so much work and passion be put into the well-being of an animal.

In addition, zoos and aquariums put money into helping wild species. According to the AZA website, $216 million is put into conservation projects every single year. There are currently 115 reintroduction programs, and more than 40 of these are for threatened or endangered species. Animals such as the Arabian Oryx, the California Condor, the Bellinger River Turtle, and the Amur Leopard were saved from extinction by zoos and aquariums.

And lastly, one of the most important things zoos and aquariums provide is education. Without education and awareness, the decline of animal species around the globe will continue. Even if you don’t watch a presentation or read the signage, meaningful connections you have with the animals and the zoo itself can transform into positive changes. It can encourage kids to have more empathy towards the animals and people around them. It can encourage adults to invest in that reusable water bottle that they haven’t purchased yet. An AZA study found that 54 percent of individuals surveyed commented on their increased awareness of the role that they play in conservation after visiting an AZA facility. Knowledge and awareness lead to positive change.

It’s unlikely that I’m going to change every opinion you have about zoos and aquariums in this article. But if you are concerned about animal welfare, there are a number of ways that you can help. Volunteer at Chintimini Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation facility just outside of Corvallis. Join the Green Team on campus and get involved in sustainable changes at Western. Buy a few reusable shopping bags instead of using plastic or paper ones. The same goes with reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and even metal straws. There are several ways that you can make a positive change in the environment if you are concerned about animal welfare.

Visit aza.org to learn more about the impact of zoos and aquariums.

Contact the author at sedunaway13@wou.edu

What are your pronouns?

By: Keith Mathew
Photo Editor

Students or members of Western’s community have most likely heard the query, “what are your pronouns?” Students may immediately respond, some may freeze in confusion. The question is referring to whether a person uses he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs or any number of other options.

In my social circles asking for pronouns is a typical thing to ask, but for some it may be a weird question. In an effort to create inclusivity for trans individuals, the asking of pronouns has become a common occurrence in most LGBTQ+ spaces, however, we must remember not everyone knows what it means.

For those that do not know, pronouns are what are used in place of a thing, in this case a name. I use the pronouns he/him/his or they/them/theirs. Even though I am a cisgender male I accept they/them/theirs because it is a way to move towards gender inclusivity and gender neutrality.

A lot of the time, pronouns “match” the gender of the individual but not always. For example, a woman can use she/her/hers most of the time but that does not mean other pronouns cannot be used. A person who is neither a man or a woman can use they/them/theirs or the lesser known xe/xem/xir, however, like in all cases the individual can choose whatever pronouns they want.

Using correct pronouns is important in all cases because it makes the person feel respected and it avoids misgendering. Assuming people’s pronouns based on looks can also lead to misgendering. Misgendering is the misuse of a person’s pronouns. This typically happens to trans people because they may not have the typical “look” of their gender.

Misgendering is like when two siblings where the parents use the wrong name for each child. When the wrong name is called often the child will be upset because they were not called the correct name. That is what misgendering feels like, except worse.

From stories trans people have told me, asking for pronouns is one of the best questions they can be asked. Asking shows caring and interest into wanting to know the person and to be respectful of them. Messing up on pronouns shouldn’t be a big deal though; the best thing to do is to not make a scene and just correct yourself.

Pronouns are becoming a more popular topic to talk about and are being more involved in schools, like here at Western. Knowing the uses of personal pronouns and why they are important can get you far. Hopefully people will become more understanding and observant to pronoun use and no more will you be frozen in confusion when asked, “what are your pronouns?”

Contact the author: kmathew14@wou.edu

Opinion: Call me C–T — the stigma behind the “worst” word

Hannah Greene  | Sports Editor

Content Warning: This is an opinion piece that contains “sensitive content” and the opinion of one womxn. Reclaiming such a word is the choice of each individual, and it is their decision on whether to identify with this word. In the interest of the topic, the word from here on will be used without censoring. 

Cunt. Say the word in your head, how does that feel? And again… This time say it out loud. Feels like a bad word, right? — that’s because our society has built a stigma around the word cunt. 

In the beginning cunt was considered a good word, representing empowerment and liberation among womxn and was used throughout history around the world. From Ptah-Hotep, an Egyptian vizier, a high official in Muslim countries, who had written cunt, “k’at,” meaning “the body of her,” giving the power of the word to womxn — to the Hindu goddess Kunthi, pronounced “kunti,” who was the Mother to many gods, one of the most respected characters in the Mahabharata, and to this day a common baby name.

In the past, the use of the word cunt was given to womxn and mothers with the highest regard — unlike today where the word is barely spoken and is considered vulgar and, by some, the worst word in the English language, considered an insult or crude way to describe womxn’s genitalia.

Moving into the Middle Ages, we have the wonderful Christian clergymen to thank for banishing the idea of womxn’s empowered bodies and preaching the idea that womxn’s genitals were a source of “unspeakable evil” — ending womxn’s freedom of expression around sexuality and power, and the creation of the redefined word that must not be spoken… cunt. 

Because of these vernacular changes, most people refer to womxn’s genitals as ‘vagina’ (even though that is just the inside of the vulva, what we see “down there”), and generally speaking this may not seem particularly bad. However — the Latin roots behind the word vagina literally translates to “sword sheath.” Not misogynistic whatsoever, right? Wrong. Why is such a sacred place on a born female’s body named specifically in reference to where a penis goes during penis/vagina sex? Why do we womxn have to use a word for our own body part that encompasses the protection of a sword, a penis? Because men rule our world and have chipped away at the empowerment, rights and independence of womxn for a long time. Thank you, men and Christianity.

It’s time we, womxn, take back this word and reclaim it as the powerful word it is, using its truth, respecting its meaning and taking the next step in defining our own bodies so that no one else can make the rules. Cunt embraces the entire female as a whole, including but not limited to, our genitalia, the vulva, labia, clitoris, vagina — accounting for her power and her pleasure. Cunt is not a bad word, cunt is a word that was taken away from us to soften our blows and our value in this world. 

Cunt belongs to all womxn, it is our word, it represents our power and strength, it honors Hindu goddess Kunthi — and represents our freedom to do as we choose with our own f—-ng cunts.

Contact the author at hgreene18@wou.edu

 Stipends: Academic Prowess or Institutional Abuse

Written by Entertainment Editor Gretchen Sims

Stipends — if this is your first time hearing this term, consider yourself lucky — are a set paycheck, once per month, that institutions typically dish out to compensate some on-campus jobs. This often includes student-body leadership positions, students that run the school radio, newspaper, websites, literary magazines, or even residential assistants.

However, there is a dark, often unspoken, side to this seemingly innocent method of compensation. Stipends do not acknowledge minimum wage standards. Because these positions are deemed “educational” or “club-like” in function, institutions tell students that they should feel lucky to be paid at all. 

Getting paid to do what you love or getting experience in your ideal field does not mean that there is less actual work going into it. The compensation should reflect this in a university setting, but at Western, it does not.

Stipends include a fixed monthly payment for services — a “Western Howl” section editor’s is $580, but it also includes a fixed hourly rate — a Howl editor’s is 15 hours per week. We can not work any less or our pay will be docked, but we also can not get paid above those 15 hours. So let’s do some math. $580 divided by 60 hours per month is $9.667. That is how much an editor makes per hour. 

Not that bad? The “Western Howl” is understaffed. That being said, editors are still expected to put in the same amount of work as a fully manned paper. An editor might average about 25 hours a week — sometimes more — chasing stories, conducting interviews and sitting in on editors’ meetings, production nights and pitches. Now let’s do that math — 25 hours per week at $580 per month is approximately $5.8 per hour.

Still thinking we should feel lucky to get paid? With an average of 17 credits on each editor’s plate and a job that takes an additional 25 hours of our time, there is little to no wiggle room in our schedules — not to mention the student athletes on our team who do not receive scholarships for their services. Because of this, many editors are forced to take a second job to make ends meet. 

If a college can expect every student to pay tens of thousands of dollars and consistently deal with upticks in tuition, can’t we be expected to be paid a living wage? If us being paid fairly is not in your budget, then how do you think our bank accounts can handle tuition?

So why don’t you just get a different job? I cannot. As a future journalist, it is imperative that I have this experience in my resume. That’s the catch-22. They get you by offering a paid position that you need to get hired out of college, but fail to warn you of the fiscal consequences.

Didn’t you know your pay before coming onto the Howl? No. Western’s Human Resources is very hush-hush about wages. I knew about the stipend hours through word of mouth, but I assumed that since it is creative and intellectual work that it would at least pay minimum wage like other mundane jobs around campus.

In fact, an associate of the “Western Howl” reached out to Justin Sunada, Western’s Handshake operator, asking specifically about wages for the Howl and he had this to say, 

“I believe they (the “Western Howl” wages) are at or a little above minimum wage.” 

This clearly demonstrates that the faculty and administrators are either unaware of the stipend, or improperly informing students. 

There are other club-like jobs offered around campus that operate on a stipend system, or one very similar. Many student workers that assume these positions are frustrated by the lack of pay and minimum/maximum hourly requirements. 

Associated Students of Western Oregon University (ASWOU), Western’s student body government, has a payment method similar to the Howl’s stipend system. However, unlike Howl editors, ASWOU members are paid $13.50 per hour — although their hours vary depending on their position.

Western’s Residential Assistants are only stipended $100 per month despite being “on duty” 24/7 — although they are compensated room and board and have a provided meal plan. 

However, on the other hand, if you are looking for a job on campus, one of the most popular places of employment is Campus Dining. A student initially hired onto the Campus Dining team is offered minimum wage with no experience or skill set necessary. 

This is particularly frustrating because frequently stipended jobs — Student Media, ASWOU and RAs — require intensive training, knowledge and skill. 

All jobs that are stipended, across the board, should be getting adequately compensated for our work. However, Student Media, and the “Western Howl” in particular, should be compensated more for the work we do. Being qualified to work on a newspaper is no easy feat, and the work we put into bettering ourselves and the rest of our team to produce clean, concise and truthful content, would never get paid less than or minimum wage outside of an educational environment.

Western would look bad, in light of other institutions, if the “Western Howl” did not exist. So why can’t enough care be taken to compensate our understaffed team — at least meeting minimum wage requirements for our stipended hours?

Don’t get me wrong, working on the “Western Howl” has been one of the best things about my college experience — the people are fantastic and we are doing what we love. Just educate yourself and ask intentional questions if the job you are applying for is stipended. 



Contact the author at howlentertainment@mail.wou.edu



Opinion: Cancer is never the patient’s fault

It’s your fault you got cancer”: the blame game that never ends

Mirella Barrera-Betancourt | Staff Writer

Contact the author at howlstaffwriter@wou.edu

I’m sixteen years old, enjoying a fat slice of cake when my dad says, “Stop eating so much junk food. This is why you got cancer in the first place.” 

The topic of cancer brings clear images and ideas about the typical cancer patient; what they look like, how they act and how they feel. This includes the stereotypical image often depicted in the media; of a sad and bald child in a hospital gown. 

While this image may not be far from actual reality, it has widely misrepresented the day-to-day experience behind having cancer. As a result, cancer patients are left in the dust, forced to take the blows caused by this exposure of distorted ideas.

For example, when people hear the word “cancer,” one of the first things they might think of are risk factors, and what they can do to prevent them. They might say, “I can never get cancer. I eat healthy and work out.” Consequently, they begin to act as if they know what’s best for you. After all, if they can dictate their own lifestyles, why shouldn’t they have a say in ours?

When you have cancer, you suddenly become this person who deserves to die because you neglected to apply sunscreen, or because you smoke, or didn’t eat enough vegetables. 

In my case, the constant remarks became so ingrained in my mind that I eventually believed them. I blamed myself for being a picky eater and having a fast metabolism, even when such things were outside of my control. When there wasn’t anything left to blame myself for, I blamed my parents. My dad for working in agriculture and exposing me to all types of harmful chemicals; my mom for not being there for me as a child and making sure I ate. Lastly, I blamed God. 

I guess I just wanted so badly to have a definite answer for my diagnosis that I eventually began to believe everyone and everything they said. We, cancer patients and cancer survivors, want a sense of closure, so we try to find blame within anything and anyone we can think of, whether that be our parents, God or ourselves. In my case, it took years to come to terms with the fact that I may never actually receive an answer because there might not even be one: cancer can happen randomly. You can have every risk factor and never get cancer and you can have zero risk factors and still get cancer. Cancer rarely develops in predictable ways.

Before making a snide remark to a cancer patient or cancer survivor, I suggest you go online and inform yourself through some reliable sources. Know the impact your words have. Cancer patients are also human and your thoughtless comments hurt.

Discussing the importance of mental health at Western

Western professor Lars Söderlund on acknowledging students’ mental health

Mirella Barrera Betancourt | Staff Writer

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses common among university students have emerged at an increasingly large rate in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent survey conducted on college students by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, 50% who participated chose mental health as a potential reason for poor academic performance. 

With some universities experiencing a lack of easy and accessible mental health care, college professors are now more than ever having to act as gatekeepers to students’ mental health. However, faculty are rarely trained for such scenarios. Thus, the question becomes: what can university faculty members and educators possibly do to help tend to students’ mental and emotional health needs? 

At Western, professors approach mental health in different ways. Many, if not most, include a few links to university and campus resource centers in their syllabus, with some falling under disability accommodations. Some professors are also open with their own struggles, teaching students that it is important not to shy away from the topic of mental health.

Western professor and chair of English department Lars Söderlund, Ph.D., takes it one step further and advocates for students to ask for assignment extensions when necessary. He acknowledges that deadlines don’t always reflect instances of real life situations and wants to be sensitive to that. 

“The courage it takes to ask for an extension is, I think, important for professors to reward when it’s possible and when they have enough time,” Söderlund said.

Oftentimes, students have a negative perception that college professors are clueless or ignorant to their students’ mental well-being. Söderlund argues that this is not usually the case. 

“In a lot of cases, students are going through a lot and professors are going to understand that too,” Söderlund said, “so while it’s important not to expect extensions, I think it’s always good to ask.”

Most professors at Western have even tailored their grading to accomodate students struggling with social anxiety disorders, removing participation points as part of the grading criteria. Even those that do require participation are willing to make the time and effort to work with students to come up with something that works for them. “A lot of professors are more lenient than you think,” Söderlund added.

Of course, many professors are often burdened with the task of feeling the need to “fix” students’ problems, and Söderlund is no exception. Upon asking how he would go about helping a student dealing with emotional and mental drawbacks, Söderlund said, “My first reaction would be ‘Okay, this person is in stress, how can I fix it?’” 

Söderlund went on to explain the importance of validation — the act of affirmation that a person or their feelings are valid and understandable. He said that professors seeing themselves as a supportive role for the student and having an “I’m here to help, but you know best” mindset could greatly assist students in distress. 

For those students struggling with managing feelings of depression, anxiety or loneliness, Söderlund recommended reaching out to the many resources the Western campus and the cities of Monmouth and Independence offer. He also mentioned the existence of suicide and mental health helplines, which include the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and the Polk County Mental Health helpline 503-623-9289. They, too, are resources available for students 24/7. 

Söderlund highly advocates for putting in the time to find the right therapist — a process that may take weeks or even months — and acknowledging when a certain type of therapy is not working. And if those feelings start to negatively impact academic performance, Söderlund advises students to take it up with their professors to see if they can come to a consensus regarding participation and class work. A way to do so, according to Söderlund, is by reaching out during office hours or by appointment to ensure a timely and successful meetup. This way, everyone can make the best of their situations.

If students are in need of psychological or mental help, the Student Health and Counseling Center on the Western campus is available for virtual and in person appointments from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. Students are also encouraged to join support groups and workshops. For more information, go to the SHCC website, wou.edu/health.

Contact the author at staffwriter@thewesternhowl.com