Who Has the Right to Clean Drinking Water?

When does clean water become a privilege rather than a right-

Story By: Madeline Baker

About a month ago, in the midst of the chaos of exams and three days before I was scheduled to go home, my mother sent me a text that read “No clean drinking water here, not sure when it will be resolved.” I wasn’t really surprised by this message, as contaminated drinking water isn’t out of the ordinary where I live. Corpus Christi, Texas, where I was born and raised, sits on the coastal part of the state, and is littered with refineries as you move inland. My hometown had undergone water boil advisories in the past, mostly due to an excess of chlorine in the water or something related to the pH levels. After reading my mom’s text, however, I decided to dig a little further and see what the issue was this time. The first result of my Google search was an article on NPR.org. “NPR,” I thought, “shit just got real.” This wasn’t just another water boil advisory, this was a complete ban on tap water for the entire 300,000 residents of Corpus Christi. The city council warned everyone not to drink, shower, cook, or wash dishes using the tap water. The contaminant in the water was more potent and harmful than anything that could simply be boiled out of the water.

I kept my eye on the situation over the next few days. I wanted to know what had contaminated our water and who was responsible for such a catastrophe. It was soon revealed that a man-made chemical called Indulin AA-86 had contaminated the water. Our local news channel described it as “an asphalt emulsifier that is corrosive to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract and can cause damage to internal organs.” Investigators eventually determined that the source of the issue was a leaking backwater drainage system of a refinery owned by the Texas oil and gas giant, Valero. As I mentioned before, Corpus Christi is teeming with privately owned refineries, some located very close to less-developed residential areas of the city. Despite the city being left without clean drinking water for a total of five days and households spending close to hundreds of dollars each in bottled water, Corpus Christi never took legal action against Valero. To do so would have cost the city a huge portion of the revenue it makes from Valero’s property taxes, and Valero would have threatened to end its business relationship with the city. Essentially, the health of Corpus Christi’s residents came second to big business.

read more

The Life and Times of the Socially Anxious


Story By: Lily Patterson

You’re at a party. You’re laughing, probably holding a cup of something, or using those hands to wave high in the air, dancing, or grabbing a friend around the shoulders, drawing them into a tight hug. You’re physically there, your feet are firmly planted on the ground,your face branded with a wide grin, elastically stretching and contracting to produce laughs and words. But you feel entirely absent, as though you’re plastered to the ceiling, looking down on your autonomous body down below.

On the surface, anxiety disorders, but specifically, social anxiety disorder, work quietly and maliciously. They’re specters, just like many mental health issues. Social anxiety is not to be confused with shyness, or being a homebody, or even being a so-called introvert. Of course, these qualities can inform and reinforce social anxiety, but they are not one in the same. And, surprise, surprise – although you might have guessed due to this article’s publication in Iris, a female-centric publication – anxiety affects women disproportionately. From adolescence to late middle age, women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder as men.

Social anxiety involves excessive, deep-seated fears and compulsive behaviors stemming from one’s relationship and interactions with other people. Cases can range from mild to severe, and resulting thought patterns, emotional and behavioral responses can similarly figure across a broad spectrum. Someone with social anxiety might be entirely avoidant of all social situations and interpersonal relationships. Or, they might experience mental compulsions, forcing them to take part in all social activities possible, and to concede any and all demands, requests, and opinions of others for fear of ostracization. And these are just two paths this breed of anxiety can take.

Here’s a scenario to help explicate: imagine you’re walking out of the library. You pass a friend, who’s walking through the doors, mid-conversation with someone else. You say “Hey, how’re you?” and they look back, caught off-guard, and respond with “Oh, hey Lily,” and continue to walk. What’s your assumption? Likely, that they were busy chatting with their friend, and, moreover, happened to be walking through the door to the library next to another person, which is an awkward maneuver in itself. Easy enough, right?

read more

The Wing


Credit: Edith Young for Architectural Digest (http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/audrey-gelman-the-wing-women-only-new-york-social-club)

Story By: Lilly Patterson

This October, a new kind of clubhouse opened on New York’s East 20th Street. The space offers up a cafe and comfortable workspaces; a meticulously curated library; a locker room (more aptly named a ‘beauty room’) that defies its sweat and grime-ridden namesake; and most important, the buzzing of women intent on redefining the world both around and far beyond them.

The Wing – co-founded by former PR powerhouse Audrey Gelman and business development maven Lauren Kassan – provides a home base for women on the up-and-up to collaborate, communicate, and forge friendships and alliances. Members include actress and writer Lena Dunham, rapper Remy Ma, J.Crew president Jenna Lyons, and Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine, among many other notables. Though the concept is inspired by women’s clubs of the early 1900s, it’s clear there is nothing antiquated about the necessity of this sort of female coalition to combat the male-centric world outside its doors. Here I pose a few questions to Audrey and artistically-inclined member, Edith Young. We discussed their college-to-real-world trajectory, what membership and leadership at The Wing means to them, and their advice for all young women, no matter the path they’re on.


Credit: Edith Young for Observer (http://observer.com/2016/10/audrey-gelman-is-reviving-the-old-fashioned-concept-of-womens-clubs/)

read more

Social Drinking: What’s so social about it?


Story By: Madeline Baker

We all know UVA’s unofficial motto: Work Hard, Play Hard. I applaud anyone who can balance a rigorous academic and extracurricular schedule with an impressive social calendar. I struggled with this balance my first year at UVA. My first semester wasn’t much different from any typical college freshman’s: I was free to do whatever I wanted on the weekends and I took full advantage of my social independence. Taking shots of cheap vodka in my dorm room before hitting the Corner was a staple of my Friday night. After several weekends filled with random frat parties and nights spent on the Trin dance floor, I came to the realization that I wasn’t actually having fun, I was just pretty drunk and doing what everyone else was doing.

I hated feeling like I didn’t belong in my environment. I drank to feel normal and part of the culture, but this only made me feel burnt out and alone. The motivation I had at the beginning of the semester quickly dwindled. I had lost interest in my schoolwork, as it seemed the only reward for a stressful week of tests and papers was another night spent drinking.  I thought this was what my college experience was supposed to be about: staying out late and drinking with friends. It was what I considered to be social. It was how I fit in with everybody else and how I “bonded” with my hallmates from my dorm. I wasn’t sure if I was the only one feeling this way, but it seemed like everyone else was having a great time. I couldn’t understand why everyone looked so natural in this part-hard environment, and I felt so completely out of touch. I drank in high school, but not to the extent I was drinking in college. First year was my first experience with head-pounding hangovers and gut- wrenching nausea. I didn’t know if I could keep this up every weekend, but so long as my friends were doing it, I sucked it up and continued to drink.

read more

Gretchen Steidle: Leading Change Globally with Compassion


Story By: Taylor Lamb

I’ll be honest. When I first heard about Gretchen Steidle, founder of Global Grassroots, coming to give the 2nd annual Beverly Cobble Rodriguez Lectureship for the Women’s Center… I was skeptical. I am often skeptical of people who seek to aid people in foreign countries– that they know next to nothing about– when there are many people right here in America needing help. I saw the pictures of her surrounded by black women and children, and I was a little upset. Did the Women’s Center really bring a white savior to UVA? However, after getting to hear her speak, I realized that could not have been further from the truth.


Gretchen Steidle is a “conscious social change agent.” A conscious social change agent works completely counter to the typical methods of social change we see today. During her lecture, Gretchen spoke of the people who typically do work in other countries. She said they have good intentions but tend to fail on delivery and execution. They are often outer-driven, self-focused, and have an “us vs. them” attitude about the people they help. Their outcomes are simply incremental changes that still fit within social norms. Although Gretchen never used the words, I began to think of the “white savior” I mentioned earlier. They are not bad people, and definitely have good intentions. However, because of the factors Gretchen mentioned, they do not bring about the best outcomes, and perhaps do more harm than good, if they do anything at all.

But that is not Gretchen. As a conscious social change agent, Gretchen says she is inner-driven, asking “What am I called to do?”, and other-focused. She begins her process with self-examination before examining others’ needs. The outcomes of this type of social change maximize what is helpful and possible, and goes for systemic change at root levels.

read more

The Burnout Game


Story By: Lilly Patterson

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘burnout’? I’d venture you have a general concept of what it is, but perhaps you don’t believe it applies to you. College students, particularly at UVA, not only take in but also perpetuate the stereotype that as young 20-somethings, we can afford to be running on all cylinders at all times. Time and time again, whether we read it on the ubiquitous Stall Seat Journals or hear it from our variety of advisors, we’re told that along with school, family, friends, and extracurriculars, we need to ensure good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and perhaps read a novel or throw in a transcendental meditation session. (While remaining entirely casuallilly about it, no doubt.) Despite these encouragements, it’s safe to say that most of us are lacking in more than one of these areas.

Here’s the kicker: I’d argue that students here are in a veritable burnout competition. Yep, that’s right. Think about the number of times someone has started a conversation with talking about how little sleep they got. 3 hours, you say? Suddenly, an interloper follows up with cries of their two-hour sleep. Another, perhaps, interjects with the home run: an all-nighter.

How about another example? You have two interviews this week, one with J.P. Morgan and the other with Capital One. But alas! Your classmate Cooper has six and three midterms.

read more