Film: “Unfriended” Illuminates the Lonely Side of Social Media

Story by Kyle August, Reporter

“Unfriended” turns ordinary social media interactions into terrifying en- counters. In the horror/thriller, teenager Blaire Lily receives a Skype message from her classmate Laura Barns. Blaire dismisses the message as a cruel prank because Laura commit- ted suicide a year ago after someone anonymously posted a mortifying video of her.

However, it soon becomes clear that the message is no prank and that whoever is responsible wants revenge. The rules are simple: cooperate or die.

The entire film is seen from Blaire’s perspective, or rather her laptop screen. The audience watches as she instant messages her boyfriend, checks Facebook, and Skype chats with her classmates, all while frantically reacting to the mysterious force.

The film, directed by Levan Gabriadze, has the same grainy, real-time approach as the 1999 horror thriller “The Blair Witch Project.”

The chatroom frame approach may seem weak, or even anticlimactic, but Gabriadze’s use of this technique takes these relatable, routine actions and effectively turns them into panic and terror.

As Blaire and her friends are haunted by the vengeful stalker, their own dark secrets begin to surface, pitting them against each other.

The funny, stereotypical characters take the edge off Unfriended, but the kill scenes are not for the faint of heart. This jolting film will make you think twice about cyberbullying, and you may never use a blender again.

In our increasingly connected world, it’s downright effortless for bullies to harass their targets via email, instant messaging, texting and social media. Posting hurtful messages online, or circulating embarrassing photos or videos have led many teens to suicide.

Courtesy picture of Bazeleus company and Blumhouse productions

Tech: Will Consumers Get Wound Up Over New Apple Watch?

Story by Shannon Mullery, Reporter

Apple’s newest product, Apple Watch, has many loyal Apple fans eagerly awaiting its release.

The watch features a touch screen face on which users can access the Internet, make calls and send texts. Although the watch is available for preorder, it remains to be seen if it will be as popular as other Apple innovations.

“I know it’s a really good product. I have the iPad, the Mac and the iPhone,” Carol Hernandez, a 46-year- old kinesiology major, said. “But I feel the watch is too small. I probably won’t get one. I really just use my phone [to tell time].”

Like Hernandez, many wonder why they should purchase another product that does more of the same.

According to Apple, the watch lets users do familiar things more quickly and conveniently. The device also offers special, exclusive features.

A new app allows watch users to send small pictures they sketch to other watches. Users can also connect with each other by sending their recorded heart rate to other watches just by placing two fingers on the screen.

Alysia Cordinez, a 27-year-old,pre-med major, said that although the product is clever and may offer more versatility, she will probably just upgrade to the iPhone 6.

Watch prices range from $350 to $17,000. It comes in a variety of finishes, including aluminum, stainless steel and 18-karat gold.

With more than 20 models, Apple seems to be seeking mass appeal. But with a release date scheduled for Apr. 24, the jury is still out on whether the Apple Watch will become the new standard in personal communication.

Courtesy picture of Apple

Campus Org Profile: Phi Theta Kappa

Story by Shannon Mullery, Reporter

At the beginning of each semester, college students receive invitaions via mail, e-mail and word of mouth to join a multitude of clubs, groups and fraternities or sororities. One that students at ACC receive is a little yellow invitation in the mail for a group called Phi Theta Kappa.

While some students, understandably, have the impression that this organization is a fraternity or sorority, it is actually an honors society that extends to community colleges everywhere in the United States, as well as internationally.

“I like to say we’re more geek than Greek,” Daniel Chitty, ACC’s Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter Presi- dent said. “But I’m not gonna say it’s not at all social, because we do like to have a good time.”

Each chapter of Phi Theta Kappa is very unique. At ACC, the Alpha Gamma Pi chapter focuses on community service, academics, and some research activity. Students with 12-23 hours and a 3.5 GPA, 24-45 hours and a 3.4 GPA, or over 46 hours and a 3.25 GPA all qualify to apply for membership.

Students also need to be enrolled in at least six credit hours the semester they join, and have a declared major. Bronze members only need to attend a new member orientation meeting, and pay the membership meetings. Silver members can expect some active involvement, and gold members should expect to devote a fair amount of their time to the organization.

Shortly after joining Phi Theta Kappa in the fall of 2011, Chitty volunteered to fill in for a campus vice president, who had stepped down in the organization. He moved up quickly, becoming Phi Theta Kappa’s international president in Apr. of 2013.

“Campaigning for the office and holding the office are two very different experiences. Win or lose, you always grow from the campaign experience,” Chitty said. Joining Phi Theta Kappa has not changed his long-term goals, which include getting accepted into dental school, but it has helped him broaden his perspective.

“I feel like it has helped to prepare me much better than any classroom could to enter into a much more professional realm.” Chitty will be attending the School of Dentistry at the UT Health and Science Center in San Antonio next year.

Queer Writing Goes Mainstream in ACC Curriculum

Story by Stefanie Ventura, Reporter

ACC has welcomed queer writing into its honors program.

This semester, for the first time, the college offered ENGL 1302 – Composition II “Queer Writing: Stories By & About LGBTQ People.”

The course is designed to show the importance of fiction for the LGBTQ community as a political tool, historical reference and healing experience. The class also focuses on queer identity within society.

“I am a self-identified queer woman who happens to be married to a man. It’s confusing to some people. In fact, the word queer confuses a lot of people,”

Professor Louisa Spaventa, who designed and teaches the class, said. “Major universities and institutions use that word as kind of umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. It’s sometimes just used as a shortcut.”

As the LGBTQ community becomes more visible and a more prevalent part of our literacy, there is a high demand for literature that shares the experience of these diverse lives.

Spaventa said the course is more of a collaborative learning experience, where everyone sits in a circle and participates. The main focus is on the discussions and identifying certain issues in the story.

“It’s one of my favorite subjects,” Christina O’Donnell, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance club at ACC, said. “I wanted a different kind of outlook, and I thought the topic would be really interesting and intriguing for me to read about.”

Also enrolled in the class, Katya Marcelle Garcia said her biggest motivation was the new and different perspectives she’s gained of her peers.

“I think it is very important for people to be able to relate to each other on different levels even if you haven’t been through the same things,” Garcia said. Acceptance by peers and society make up the majority of issues addressed in class.

“Some are just coming to terms with their gender and sex identity,” professor Spaventa said. “Some are just working on healing themselves from years of bigotry. They face violence — especially transgender women.”

Professor Spaventa explains that most of the discrimination trans students face happens out of sight.

“A lot of the violence happens in the restrooms because somebody notices somebody else is not like them and it can be nerve wrecking,” Spaventa said.

Class member David Oberparleiter was optimistic in his outlook for young members of the LGBTQ community.

“I know it’s tough, it was tough for me. So I’ll say just hang in there it gets better.”

New Perspectives Shed Light on Old Stereotypes

Story by Kyle August, Reporter

Increased scrutiny of Islam and Muslim culture have caused unease for both Muslims and non Muslims in America as many struggle with issues of identity and acceptance

Many American Muslims are frustrated.

The events of 9/11 and the actions of extremist groups have brought Islam and Muslim culture under fire.

Stereotypes abound, and some non Muslims seem to question whether a person can be both Muslim and a patriotic American.

During Texas Capitol Muslim Day on Jan. 29, protesters yelled insults at Muslims participating in the rally. House Rep. Molly White, left an Israeli flag on her desk and instructed her staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and proclaim allegiance to America.

“There is absolutely no conflict between being an American and a Muslim,” Fahim Idais, an Arabic and Math professor at ACC, said. “Being an American is a nationality, and I’m proud of that. Being a Muslim is a religion, and I’m proud of that. America is about freedom of religion.”

Idais said that he is disappointed with the extremes portrayed in the media and the perceptions of Muslims that result.

Psychology major Jeremy Winters said he often thinks of 9/11 before cultural tradition when he sees a woman wearing a hijab (the traditional head covering worn by Muslim women). Although cultural tradition comes to mind, Winters said he knows very little about what the hijab symbolizes.

While she has never experienced blatant discrimination, ACC Journalism major Manal El Haj said that people are often reluctant to approach her.

“It’s like they don’t know how to act around me. Maybe they think I don’t speak English.”

El Haj recently started wearing a hijab in public. She said that negative views of women who wear the hijab are based on misconception.

“They’re looked upon like they’re oppressed, when really it’s 100% their choice,” El Haj said.

She pointed out that Muslim women are not the only women to wear head coverings. Women of many religions and cultures have at one time covered their heads – the Virgin Mary included.

“Protecting my modesty makes me feel more like a woman. I am not an object,” El Haj said.

Perception is often a matter of per- spective. Maria Moreno, an early childhood education major, said that after living in Morocco for four-and- a-half years, her view of Muslims is not dictated by what she sees in the media.

“If I didn’t go to Morocco I would be prejudice,” Moreno said. “I know that wherever I go, I will find extremists, and not just Muslims. They can be Christians, Catholics — it doesn’t matter what religion.”

Explosions and violence tend to capture the media’s attention more than peaceful coexistence. The actions of groups like ISIS give the impression that Islam is a violent religion and often color public opinion.

“ISIS is a terrorist group, and honestly, I don’t even know what they represent. They do not represent Islam and they definitely do not represent me as a Muslim.” El Haj said.

“I’m a proud American, and I’m a hell of a lot bigger Texan than a lot of people here”, El Haj said. “The beautiful thing about America is that we’re a melting pot. That’s the beauty of living here.”

Brides’ Commitment Outshines Conflict

For better and for worse, in sickness and in health, devoted couple focus on health and family as the issue of same-sex marriage engages Texans in social debate

Story by Ryan Fontenette-Mitchell, Reporter

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant’s relationship is more than a sensational news blurb.

Before becoming the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Texas, the two shared a 30-year relationship.

Goodfriend and Bryant met during their undergraduate program at the University of North Carolina.

“I’ve always considered Suzanne my life partner and she feels the same way,” Goodfriend said.

The couple’s relationship has seen many developments over the years including the adoption of two daughters.

Dawn Goodfriend, 18, and Ting Goodfriend, 13, are biological sisters and were adopted from China. Both girls came to United States when they were about 2-years- old. Dawn arrived in 1999 and Ting arrived in 2003.

“I really cannot describe what it is like to travel to China and finally — after the paperwork, the waiting, and having a little tiny picture — to finally have the human being you have been waiting for placed in your hands and under your care,” Goodfriend said.

As in any relationship, happy times are tempered by trials.

Goodfriend was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer last May. Although the couple had considered marriage over the past 30 years, the cancer diagnosis created a new sense of urgency to get married. Bryant and Goodfriend felt it was important to have protections in place that would give Bryant rights to the couple’s children if Goodfriend died. They then filed for a Texas marriage license.

The court order granting their marriage license was directed specifically to Goodfriend and Bryant because of Goodfriend’s cancer.

Responses of the marriage varied, but were mostly favorable, Goodfriend said.

“Our mailman man left us a card with two wedding rings saying congrats and about time,” Goodfriend said.

“I would love to see [same sex marriage] become more acceptable in our society,” ACC mass communications major Megan Hall said. “I believe discrimination against same-sex marriage is unfair. Society needs to be more open minded to change nowadays.”

The marriage also generated disapproval.

“The reason I don’t support the marriage is because of my religious views,” John Thomas Baize, radiation therapist major, said. ”I wouldn’t call it a marriage. A marriage is between a man and woman.”

The varying public reactions and media attention taught the couple the importance of having a good sense of humor. Goodfriend said millennials are more accept- ing of same-sex marriage and hopes that in the future it won’t be an issue.

Hours after Goodfriend and Bryant received their marriage license, Texas Attorney General declared the license void. However, Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir holds the license as valid.

Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether gay marriage bans nationwide are unconstitutional.

With media attention waning, the couple would like to finally go on their honeymoon.

Goodfriend said that she is six months away from her last chemotherapy treatment and that everything looks good so far.

Courtesy picture of The Austin American Satesmen

Boards Members Settle In

Chloe Kwak, Reporter

New ACC board of trustees members Mark Williams and Gigi Edwards Bryant have had several months to settle into their new roles.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the community college world,” Williams, a University of Texas graduate, said.

Gigi Edwards Bryant is a sixth generation Austinite.

“I am most excited about the fact that we all have a shared mission for the college, students, staff and education. Everyone has great passion,” Bryant said.

Williams was elected to Place 1 in the Novemeber 2014 elections, and Bryant was elected to Place 2 in a runoff election in December 2014 elections.

Both trustees’ terms end in 2020.