Dr. Horn and Ms. Brewster Reflect on Their Time at BUA

by Aparna Deokar

News

March 29, 2021

At the end of this school year, Dr. Horn, BUA’s American History teacher, and Dr. Harvey, BUA’s American Literature teacher, are retiring, and Ms. Brewster, Director of Operations and Finance, is leaving BUA for a startup. In the following interviews, Dr. Horn and Ms. Brewster reflect on their time at BUA.

What do you enjoy most about BUA?

Dr. Horn: I think what I enjoy most about BUA is that if you could really throw an intellectual red meat in front of the students, they would go at it. What I found over my long teaching career is that there’s a huge difference at every level between the people who really do the work and come prepared, and the people who don’t, and that first group is rarer than you might think. It’s probably, even in a place like Princeton, ten to twenty percent of the students in a given course. Generally, people take a course because of requirements, or because they want an easy course, and when you come to have a discussion with the class, only about three or four people really have much to say because they’re the only ones who’ve done the work. But at BUA, that has never been the case. Though not everybody does all the work all the time, most of the students do the work most of the time, and that’s the only place I’ve ever been where that’s the case, including places like Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, the College of New Jersey, the Brooks School, the Rivers School, and Phillips Academy. This is where that happens, and they do it with so much passion, enthusiasm, and joy, without the expected stress.

Ms. Brewster: I love getting a chance to work with students, especially being able to support students who have ideas. I also love the families I get to work with, who trust myself and all my coworkers with their students because the families are so kind, and the kids are so kind too. It’s also really exciting that we get to be part of Boston University too. We’re not really just a special small school, but a special small school that’s part of something really huge. And there’s amazing resources at BU that I’m going to really miss.

What do you enjoy about teaching? 

Dr. Horn: History is the field I’ve always loved because it’s so flexible and interesting. It really is an approach, rather than a subject, in looking at things organically rather than how they grew and changed. I particularly have always thought of history as the introduction to the liberal arts and to other fields. You can do the history of science or intellectual history, which, as the history of ideas and thinkers, is my favorite branch. I found it tremendous in college because I ran into so many thinkers and ideas I never would have in any other field. So for me, encountering the pragmatist philosophers William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey was a life-altering experience because I studied them for many years. I haven’t done much with that particular field at BUA because [tenth-grade history] is just a survey. But even in the “just a survey,” we read a whole day of debates from the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We get involved in discussions of Americans’ dedication to war and how it upsets democracy by reading the essays of Randolph Bourne. We get into ideas and thinking, and some of those ideas get into people’s heads and change their whole lives.

What do you enjoy about being the Director of Operations and Finance?

Ms. Brewster: I love that I get to learn about what the university is doing and the resources that it has and finding how BUA students can benefit from them. I use those opportunities and leverage those resources, so those are some of the things I love about my job because I get to be strategic and creative about the types of programs we might be able to offer. Though a lot of what I do is logistical and could be boring, it’s not because it’s in a school setting and I put the students and families at the center of what I do, and it’s all about trying to make their experience better.

What does being a teacher mean to you?

Dr. Horn: I never thought I was going to be a teacher. I never intended to be a teacher. I always hated school, at least until high school, and then I began to like it because we got into it and started reading interesting stuff. But now, I’ve had colleagues who say that they love interacting with students. I always tell my students, “I don’t love you at all” because first, it’s creepy, and second, I think it’s a little narcissistic to say that you love working with students and their attention, since it focuses on you rather than the subject matter. Instead, I come to love teaching when I and a student are talking about a third thing of intellectual interest and intensity, and that third thing is the subject. 

What was a memorable teaching moment of yours?

Dr. Horn: There are a lot, but there’s one I sometimes cite. Years ago, I had a freshman history class, and at that time we were reading some Socratic dialogues. I had assigned a paper that I first wanted us to talk about in class to get people’s juices running, and the topic was, “Would you or would you not like to have Socrates as a dinner guest?” I figured some people would say, “That would be great, with those wonderful conversations,” and others would say, “He’s a pain, and he’s always talking people into impossible situations.” Then suddenly I realized that there seemed to be a serious shouting match going on between these two girls. One was from India, and the other was a classic Irish Catholic Bostonian, but they weren’t arguing because of an East vs. West argument or anything like that. One thought Socrates was great, and the other thought he was just a pain in the neck. But anyway, the argument ended in a hilarious moment where one girl said, “Don’t say that of him, he’s so hottie!” and the other girl [became] dumbfounded. The room erupted in laughter, and that’s why it was so great, because you couldn’t have planned that. Two people were having this terrific argument, really getting into it, but going up against a worthy opponent. It didn’t matter who won because they had a grand time.

Has BUA changed you?

Dr. Horn: I think it has, but it’s hard for me to say. Sometimes it gets me really angry because some of us tried so hard for so long to make changes we thought would help, and so many different people came through into the place with more power than we had and said no or had their own ideas. But that is the complaint of old people anywhere. I also think I became a better listener and became better at working people around different plans. I’m a loose cannon, always have been, so I say things that provoke others, and I have a foul mouth. I grew up on the working class side of Cambridge, and I use all of that when I teach. People get offended, and recently I have found the emphasis on trigger words and microaggressions to be really tiresome, though I’ve become better at this. 

Ms. Brewster: BUA has changed, and it’s changed me with it. The types of students that come to BUA [now] are very similar to the kids that came to BUA fifteen years ago, when I started, in terms of qualities like their curiosity. But I think we’re able to do more and expand to more parts of the university in terms of partnerships [now]. And we’ve grown a little bit, though BUA is still a really small school. This has enabled us to have more robust clubs and activities, and I think in that way the school has really matured, just thinking about how clubs like Student Council are so involved in the student experience. Even with Zoom now, we’ve been able to try and expand more opportunities for students and families who live really far away, and I hope that’ll continue.

What do you leave behind at BUA?

Dr. Horn: That’s a tough question, because we all think we leave behind more than we do, and in a place like BUA, memory is only about four years old. As soon as there are enough students in BUA who have never encountered me, nobody will know who the hell I am! Some of the faculty will, and I have some very good friends in faculty here at BUA, so I’ll be leaving it up to them. But if there’s anything I have left in this school, it’s the fact that BUA is here at all. There were some very rocky times, early on, when some of us took some big risks. I also think I contributed to the atmosphere of the school, and though you can change and destroy it, it’s hard to, and it was even harder to build up over time that this is a serious place where everybody is having fun. There’s no difference in our minds between working and having fun with joyful inquiry.

Ms. Brewster: I leave behind a lot of great partnerships that I manage at BU and a lot of folks who really see themselves as partners at BUA who, before my role was created, operated very separately (although we do need to operate separately in some cases because we have different-aged students). I leave behind a lot of relationships that I hope will be sustained, with the families and students who receive financial aid, in addition to some of the more logistical pieces of my job, and I’ll be sad to leave those. I also love getting emails from people asking for help, and I get to help them, and that’s a fun part of my job. But I know that there’s lots of other people at BUA who like helping people, and it feels good to know I’m leaving behind a team who’s just as committed as I am to making sure that students and families have a good experience.

What are you looking forward to in your next chapter?

Dr. Horn: It’s a little scary. I want to be able to read as much as I want because teaching is exhausting, and you spend many hours grading papers and also preparing for what comes next. So I definitely want to read, but I’m worried I won’t know what to do with it, and I want to be able to write some stuff. I also have some speeches I gave to the Academy over the years, and I want to see if I can dig them up and turn them into a little pamphlet, since it’s just nice to have something you worked on show up in print somewhere. I also have never traveled all over the United States by car, and one of the first things I want to do when I’m “out” is to get into the car with some camping gear and travel places, having vacation during September and October when the weather is great and the leaves are turning colors and there’s nobody on the road. It just seems great to me. I’m older than I’d like and heavier than I’d like, so I have to do a lot of walking and biking to get myself in shape. Besides that, I’ve been playing [timpani] in the orchestra for many, many years, and I’d like to continue, if I can still move all the drums around. It’s all wide open to me, and though it’s kind of scary, it’s time to do it. I could have taught a few more years, I suppose, but I was getting mentally and physically tired.

Ms. Brewster: I’m looking forward to the creativity of my new role and to challenging myself and to working with a new team to build software for schools. I’m also excited to have a little more time to be with my family because there’s more flexibility in my new job than at BUA. I know I’m going to really miss BUA!

A Wealth Tax Would Benefit America

by Anna Augart-Welwood

Opinion

March 29, 2021

Since human brains have not evolved to understand large numbers, it is easy to underestimate how large one billion actually is, and, therefore, it is difficult to comprehend the size of the wealth gap in America. One million seconds is eleven days, while one billion seconds is thirty-two years. One billion dollars is such an incomprehensible amount of money that it would be difficult to actually spend, and there is no reason why anyone should hoard more wealth than they could spend in their lifetime while other people are homeless, starving, and dying of curable diseases. For this reason, Congress should impose a wealth tax on the rich.

The wealth distribution in the United States is drastically unequal, and many politicians are in favor of a wealth tax to help fix this inequality. According to the Federal Reserve, the top one percent of Americans collectively own approximately one third of the U.S. household wealth. The bottom fifty percent of people in America make up only 1.9% of the country’s wealth. Racial wealth gaps are particularly astounding. As of 2016, the median white family owned almost five times the wealth of the median Hispanic family and over six times the wealth of the median black family. Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with other Democrats, recently proposed the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act. It would place a two percent annual tax on households and trusts between fifty million and one billion dollars, in addition to a one percent annual surtax on households and trusts over one billion. The bill would help to narrow the racial wealth gap and wealth gap in general.

A poll from the New York Times in July of 2019 found that two thirds of all Americans, including 55% of Republicans, are in favor of a two percent wealth tax on everyone worth over fifty million dollars. The opinions among the people who would be paying the tax are more split. But imposing a wealth tax is not as simple as it sounds. It is difficult to determine exactly how much wealth there is in the country. Additionally, calculating revenue involves guessing how much the rich will evade the tax. Another difficult task for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is calculating how much people’s assets are worth. As John Koskinen, a former commissioner of the IRS, said, “The thing to remember is that really wealthy people don’t hold all their assets in easy-to-value areas like stocks and bonds. A lot of them have artwork that’s worth a lot of money. A lot of them have investments in privately held corporations or in investment vehicles that do not give regular valuations.” Enforcing a wealth tax would require the U.S. government to employ substantially more people in the IRS and determine how to calculate these valuations, seeing as bank account balances and the values of stocks and artwork fluctuate regularly.

Despite the fact that a wealth tax would be difficult to implement, it is necessary to close the wealth gap in America. The world’s top twenty-six billionaires own as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion people. Moreover, while millions of people were left without a steady source of income during the pandemic, billionaires got 565 billion dollars richer, making forty-two million a week on average. Some people argue that billionaires have worked hard for their money and should be allowed to keep it. However, the Billionaire Census found that 30.9% of billionaires inherited some of their wealth and that 13.3% inherited all of their wealth. Additionally, wealth inequality is self-reinforcing in the sense that people make money off their own wealth, such as through investments, giving them more wealth. And even though 55.8% of billionaires are self-made, they have more money than they could ever possibly spend. It is unfair that billionaires are hoarding money when others cannot pay for basic necessities such as food, healthcare, housing, and education. No one should be allowed to accumulate that much wealth in the first place, which is why a wealth tax would be beneficial to America. Aster Gamarnik ‘23 is in favor of a wealth tax; they say, “People shouldn’t die from something that could have been prevented if they had more money… The difference between the top and the bottom classes is so vast that poor people just can’t move up. It’s a deadly cycle of poor education, housing, and nutrition.” They believe that many aspects of our society are unfair, but since the wealth gap can certainly be narrowed, it definitely should.

While it would not be easy, implementing the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act would be greatly beneficial to the United States. Especially during the pandemic, many people, businesses, and organizations are struggling from a lack of money. On the other hand, billionaires have profited greatly during the past year. Imagine having so much money that you could buy everything you ever wanted and still have plenty to spare. Why would you keep it to yourself when you could use it to help millions of people?


Clifford, Catherine. “The majority of billionaires in the world are self-made.” CNBC, May 10, 2019.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/10/wealthx-billionaire-census-majority-of-worlds-billionaires-self-made.html.

Ewall-Wice, Sarah. “Elizabeth Warren unveils proposal for wealth tax on “ultra-millionaires” as richest Americans see gains during pandemic.” CBS News, March 2, 2021.
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sen-elizabeth-warren-introduces-ultra-millionaire-tax-act/.

Kurtzleben, Danielle. “How would a wealth tax work?” NPR, December 5, 2019.
https://www.npr.org/2019/12/05/782135614/how-would-a-wealth-tax-work.

To the End of the Jetty: Letting Go of Perfectionism

by Sally Jamrog

Commentary

March 29, 2021

On a day in late August several years ago, my family and I decided to take a walk on the Hampton Beach jetty, a thin strip of rocks jutting out into the ocean to protect the peopled shoreline from rough waves. The sun beat down on my shoulders, threatening to burn despite the layers of sunscreen forming a second skin over my body. Large rocks warmed the soles of my feet as we walked farther from the shore, their surfaces out in the summer sun no longer slick with the sea. As the terrain grew rougher, we maneuvered more carefully among the crags on all fours, reverting to our primal instincts. The rocks were more crowded than they had been that morning when my mother and I had made the journey together, just the two of us. Then, it had seemed the jetty belonged to only ourselves and the various ships that swerved around it with each journey past the beach. 

Now, I was climbing quickly, enjoying the thrill of the trail, unconsciously leaving the figures of my mother and younger brother far behind me as I twisted and turned among the rocks. I had been taking rock-climbing lessons at the time, and my little ten-year-old fingers itched to try themselves on real rock, different and more enticing than the plastic holds at the rock-climbing center. Pretending to be a master climber, I whirled and bounded over boulders with ease. 

I reached the end of the jetty, where the stone tapered out in a steady slope to the choppy seas below. Though the tides were out, the surrounding water was still sufficiently deep for boats to sail in, the currents greedy enough to sweep someone under and carry them away. That day, many children were at the edge of the rocks, dipping their fingers in standing tidepools that had formed from receding waves and bounding playfully, to their parents’ horror, over large fissures leading into the rocky depths. 

I stood by the flag marking the end of the jetty and pondered my intentions. Should I go farther? I remembered my mother’s warning not to explore this area without her supervision, but my feet wanted to move, my fingers to climb and grope their way into cracks and crevices. I yearned to join children my age ahead of me who had found starfish. So, spurred by curiosity, I passed the flag. I trusted that I was not so far ahead of my mother and brother, though all I could see behind me was a jostling sea of people. They would be here soon, I consoled myself, and besides, I was not going to slip!

New arrivals to the jetty flag watched me nervously as I steadied myself with hands on the rock behind me, probing the sloping edge of the jetty with my toes and slowly starting the descent. I would prove their worries wrong, for I was a trained rock-climber after all! In front of me, the vibrant hues of a kid’s colorful pails and shovels egged me on. I wondered if the starfish they had collected were as vibrant as some I had seen in the nature magazines that came to our house every month. 

When I had relied on crab-walking to carry myself halfway to the edge of the water, I then trusted it would be safe to shift my weight back onto two feet. The barnacles coating the stone under my hands had lacerated my skin painfully. I tried to wash off the bit of blood blooming on my palm in one of the pools of seawater basined in the crater of a boulder. I turned to face the rest of the distance to be covered and balked when I noticed more white barnacles clustered together, the surface of my upcoming footholds shiny in the sun, slick with sea-slime. A father and his daughter played in a tidepool not far ahead of me. How did they escape the barnacles? I got down on my hands and feet again, probing for any zones free of crustaceans and slime.

Before I realized I had fallen, I smelled the salty tang of seaweed. The crowns of those vicious barnacles bit angrily into my skin, more peering down at me mockingly from the cave mouth above. How did I slip? Water ebbed into the cavern where I found myself, its undulations ricocheting cacophonously in the darkness. Someone’s arms reached down into the fissure, creating shadows on the cave walls, calling for my hands. I could feel myself becoming the center of attention, thinking of the anxious faces I had striven to prove wrong. The face of the father I had seen earlier with his daughter appeared above the hole, asking if I was alright. My embarrassment held me down, shame shackling my hands to the rocks around me. Part of me wished to stay hidden in the shadows rather than face my foolishness, but I thrust myself upward anyway, grabbing onto the hands lent to me. It took a few tries and wrong footholds, the barnacles ever merciless, but soon the sunlight enveloped me again and someone led me to my mother by the jetty flag, who was concerned and horrified at the bloodied sight I had become. 

I would say the hardest part of that day was walking back to the rest of our family on the beach, the sand stinging in my cuts, blood etched down my sides. No vital parts of me damaged, just signs of my overconfidence calling out my carelessness to the general public. I tried to shut out the gasps, fearful eyes, and choruses of “Are you okay?” as I held my mother’s hand, my steps no longer as sure and confident as they had been. Some rock climber I was. 

Although rattled by this experience, I did resume rock climbing the next month, remounting my bike after a fall, as the hackneyed phrase goes. However, the real challenge for me suddenly became trusting in my abilities. “Do I know how to do this well enough?” “Is my work good enough for people to see?” Self-doubt developed into perfectionism. This is still a challenge I grapple with today and face especially with creative pursuits. How do I muster the courage to bring something out into the world when I know I still have so much to learn? Though perfection can provide a standard to work towards, it should not be fixated upon to the point that it inhibits production. Just because I am still learning does not mean that I cannot share what I have learned so far. Thus, I strive to keep my “master-climber” swagger, but with a mind more open and receptive to guidance from others and to the mistakes I am bound to make along the way.

Proctoring Software Should Be Used in Remote Exams

by Aditi Deokar

Opinion

March 29, 2021

This year, even with some in-person classes, most exams at BUA and BU have been held remotely to accommodate remote students. I believe that the use of proctoring software such as ExamSoft and Proctorio is a useful way to deter cheating during remote exams. 

I will start by sharing how a particular BU professor handled remote exams in one of my classes. Before COVID-19, this professor had used ExamSoft during in-person exams, which he had students take on computers, to speed up grading of multiple-choice exams, increase security by locking down students’ computers, and allow him to better understand the quality of his exam questions with metrics such as point biserial, which, in the context of exams, is used to correlate a student’s answer to a specific question to the student’s exam score as a whole. His exams were open-book and open-note. 

During the pandemic, he kept much of this the same but adjusted to students learning remotely. He held exams during a synchronous time slot on ExamSoft and kept them open-book and open-note. However, he ran into some difficulties. For instance, many students only had e-books, so he could not have ExamSoft lock down students’ computers. This allowed students not only to access their e-books, which was allowed, but also to use the Internet, which was not. To deter students from cheating by using the Internet, he had teaching fellows proctor us via Zoom to make sure we were not navigating to other tabs, and we were required to use a computer that showed our whole workspace. Unfortunately, this method ended up being too limited.

Shortly before our third exam, the professor discovered instances of cheating. Some of the questions on previous exams had been posted on the Internet years ago, so a few students were having another person out of view Google each question and tell them the answers while they were taking the exam. The cheating forced the professor to rewrite in the span of a day most of the questions for the third exam, for which we had to keep our microphones unmuted. This was very distracting to some students, especially in another section where a student’s malfunctioning fire alarm went off every few minutes. Had my professor used a proctoring software such as ExamSoft’s ExamMonitor, such incidents would have been flagged by an AI software for review already in the first exam so that he could quickly identify the cheaters and take appropriate action.1 We would not have had the difficulties of keeping microphones unmuted, and he would not have had to rewrite the exam. Personally, I would find using a proctoring software not any more stress-inducing than live proctoring, and I would have been comfortable knowing that cheaters would be effectively detected.

Although the exam was open-book and proctored live, cheating was still a problem in that class. We might, therefore, wonder what is the best course of action for BUA classes. Many BUA classes currently hold open-book or open-note Blackboard exams, often unproctored to allow flexibility in test-taking time, with the hope that a stringent time limit would be enough of a deterrent to cheating. But this strategy still allows students to use the Internet and communicate with others even if they are not supposed to do so, permitting cheating to occur without a means of detecting it. I certainly believe that BUA students are much more academically honest than the cheaters in that BU class. However, it is important to have a means of detecting cheating during exams because if there isn’t one, students can be tempted to cheat simply because they believe everyone else will. Such a means can be found in ExamMonitor or the similar software Proctorio. ExamMonitor is a part of the easy-to-use ExamSoft application, while Proctorio is a browser extension that can be used with any method of test-taking, including Blackboard, so teachers would not need to remake their exams in another application.1,2 

Some students might feel that proctoring softwares’ audio and video recording and AI analysis software are a violation of privacy. However, if they were taking the exam in-person, their teachers would be watching them and listening to them the entire time, and if they were taking it via Zoom and their teacher chose to record the meeting, the teacher would also have a recording of their actions the entire time, the same as ExamMonitor or Proctorio does. The AI only speeds up the process by identifying clips that it thinks might be suspicious for teachers to then decide themselves whether to investigate.1 ExamMonitor and Proctorio make the best effort to maintain students’ privacy, and while of course there is some chance that recordings could be leaked, we take that same chance by recording Zoom meetings all the time.3,4 Thus, proctoring softwares such as ExamSoft and Proctorio are viable alternatives to in-person proctoring that can help deter cheating while preserving the flexibility of asynchronous remote exams at BUA.


1 ExamSoft Worldwide LLC. 2021, “Strengthen Exam Integrity with Digital Monitoring,” 2021,
https://examsoft.com/solutions/exam-monitor.

2 Proctorio Inc. 2020, “Proctorio Frequently Asked Questions,” 2020,
https://proctorio.com/frequently-asked-questions.

3 ExamSoft Worldwide LLC. 2021, “ExamSoft: Privacy Policy,” 2021,
https://examsoft.com/privacy-policy.

4 Proctorio Inc. 2020, “Proctorio: Security Is No Accident,” 2020,
https://proctorio.com/about/data-security.

Grosse Pointe Blank: A Review

by Theo Sloan

Reviews

March 29, 2021

Some movies last the test of time. Included in this group is the excellent 1997 action comedy Grosse Pointe Blank starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver. In my review of Grosse Pointe Blank, I’ll be trying out a slightly different format: instead of discussing the movie’s good and then bad points, I’ll give a score out of five to several categories and end with a final score for the movie. Without further ado, let’s get into the review.

Part I: The Performances

I think one of the most important parts of a movie is the acting. An otherwise good movie can be ruined by an awkward or unbelievable performance, and an otherwise unimpressive movie can be carried by one or two fantastic, compelling performances. Fortunately, all the actors in Grosse Pointe Blank give it their all. The obvious standout is John Cusack, who gives a hilarious, entertaining, and oddly compelling performance as an emotionally challenged professional hitman. At the beginning of the movie, he’s both amusing and charming, but by the end, he’s jaw-droppingly hilarious. While he’s not nearly as good when he’s trying to be dramatic and serious, he’s still good enough to make his character reasonably believable. Minnie Driver also does a great job. Although she’s not given too much to work with character-wise besides a sassier-than-usual generic love interest, she plays that trope really well and adds to it some interesting spice and flavor. Driver’s chemistry with Cusack is an essential component of this movie. It’s hard to criticize these two performances; all I have to say is that Cusack probably could have done a better job with a few of his more emotional, serious scenes, though that’s not a very large issue in the grand scheme of things. 4.5/5

Part II: The Comedy

Grosse Pointe Blank knocks the comedy out of the park. It has some incredible jokes, especially near the end. In fact, the last ten minutes of the movie contain some of the best comedy I’ve seen in any movie ever. There’s plenty of witty dialogue; the gags and quips are funny, and the fantastic relationship between Cusack and Driver makes the comedy work even better. The main antagonist is also extremely funny at times, and he plays off Cusack really well. The cherry on top is easily the soundtrack (more on that later), which seems to have a sense of humor of its own. The song choices work incredibly well and almost always make an already entertaining scene or moment even funnier. The comedy is easily this movie’s strongest asset, and I would change nothing about it. 5/5

Part III: The Action

When the action in this movie is good, it’s really good. Just as with the comedy, the last ten minutes has easily the strongest action sequence. There are some other entertaining bursts of action throughout the movie; however, much of the action near the beginning is just not nearly as entertaining or fun to watch as the stuff near the end. In particular, there’s a fight scene in a convenience store that, while funny, is a bit sloppily choreographed, and I feel that both the setup and the aftermath of the fight are far more entertaining than the actual sequence. A fight in the school hallway falls in between those two extremes: it’s much better than the convenience store sequence but still doesn’t quite live up to the final ten minutes of the film. I don’t dislike any of the action, but a few sequences here and there fall flat. 3.5/5 

Part IV: The Plot

This movie follows the basic storyline of John Cusack playing a professional hitman, attending a high school reunion, and hijinks ensue from there. It’s an original idea and executed well. The plot has a pretty good flow to it, and the type of humor employed complements the wacky storyline well. However, I do have to mention a couple plot holes here. The main issue I have is that there are several times when people get shot at repeatedly but miraculously never get hit or injured. There’s a particularly egregious example of this about halfway through the movie, but it’s an issue that pops up several times, and it’s always a bit distracting. Aside from those unfortunate mistakes, the plot’s great. 4/5

Part V: The Score and Soundtrack

This movie’s score is completely unremarkable. It’s a perfectly acceptable, very passable action movie score that does nothing for me. But beyond the score itself, the rest of the soundtrack is a completely different story. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a great mix of pop, rock, and punk from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and it complements the movie so well. Some of the absolute standouts are Blister in the Sun by The Violent Femmes, I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Has Gone) by Johnny Nash, and 99 Luftballons by Nena, though there are many, many other excellent songs on there, all expertly used to complement the movie. The score, a two by itself, is saved by the soundtrack. 5/5

Part VI: Final Thoughts

I really like Grosse Pointe Blank, and I highly recommend giving it a watch, especially if you’re a fan of action comedies, because it’s hard to get much better than this. Although Grosse Pointe Blank does have its flaws, it’s a great movie with some great characters and some amazing jokes. I’m giving this movie a very strong 8.6/10.

Ocean’s Eleven Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

March 29, 2021

Ocean’s Eleven is a 2001 heist movie directed by Steven Soderburgh that inspired two sequels and one spinoff and deserves a revisit. It stars George Clooney as master thief Danny Ocean, Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, Matt Damon as the skilled pickpocket Linus Caldwell, Julia Roberts as Danny Ocean’s ex-wife, Tess, along with Don Cheadle as Basher Tarr, Carl Reiner as Saul Bloom, and Andy Garcia as Terry Benedict. This movie is a remake of the 1960s Ocean’s Eleven and is the start of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.

The movie begins when Danny Ocean is released from prison and meets up with Rusty Ryan to plan a casino heist. They want to rob 150 million dollars from an impenetrable vault that is shared by three casinos, each of which is owned by Terry Benedict, the antagonist of the film. To rob this vault, Danny and Rusty put together a team of eleven men, which includes Basher Tarr, Saul Bloom, and Linus Caldwell. Because the vault is impenetrable, the team needs to pull multiple cons to get into it. They spend weeks planning this heist and several days executing it. Even though the team runs into several bumps and distractions during their heist, they find clever ways to work around them. One of those distractions is Danny’s ex-wife, Tess, Terry’s girlfriend who is working as a museum curator in one of his casinos. Rusty believes that Tess is a liability to the heist because Danny still has feelings for her, and this provides a small conflict between the two main characters in the movie. 

I like how well the cast and characters work together in this movie. The main characters, especially George Clooney and Brad Pitt, have great chemistry with each other. Their characters seem to read each other’s mind, something especially enjoyable in a movie about con artists who are constantly deceiving somebody. And the movie contains some humorous scenes that show off the characters’ colorful personalities and make the film especially entertaining to watch.  Each of the heist members’ introduction scenes perfectly represents their personalities. Everyone in Ocean’s Eleven gang has a specific skill necessary to the heist, and everyone works well together to succeed in their plan. While the act of stealing 150 million dollars is a crime, Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict is so unlikeable that we can’t help rooting for Danny Ocean’s gang to succeed in their heist to rob him. I found Ocean’s Eleven very enjoyable, and I think it’s a great movie for the whole family to watch together.

Immigration Reform: The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

by Matthew Volfson

News

March 29, 2021

The United States Citizenship Act of 2021, sent to Congress by President Biden on January 20, 2021, attempts to make the U.S. immigration system easier for undocumented immigrants and immigrants generally. The legislation would give undocumented immigrants living in the United States a pathway to citizenship. It would also allow immigrants fleeing from natural disaster to be able to apply for and gain temporary green card visas to enter the United States. And the legislation would attempt to emphasize the United States’ commitment to immigration by raising the country’s immigration quotas and levelling the application field for entering the United States so that it is not biased against or in favor of any immigrant group. 

There are approximately 14.5 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. Experts say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to compute an exact number for the net cost of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. because of a lack of data on the undocumented population in America. Biden’s legislation would give all these immigrants the opportunity to “apply for temporary legal status… with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.” The legislation could also allow immigrants from areas such as the Maldives, currently only four feet and eleven inches above sea level, to come to the United States in the future in case flooding becomes catastrophic. It could encourage more individuals from war-torn countries such as Somalia or dictatorships such as Venezuela seeking a better life to come to the United States. 

This legislation has already passed the House of Representatives because the Democrats have the majority there — the vote was largely based on party lines. The legislation’s passage through the Senate is less certain because the Senate filibuster would require a supermajority, or two thirds of the Senate, to shut down the protest against the bill. The Republican Party showed its opposition to the legislation in the House: only nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Senate Republicans are likely to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who believes the legislation would “exacerbate problems at the border.”

Many BUA students are the children of immigrants; then, it comes as no surprise that BUA students are interested in immigration. BUA students seem to have a positive reaction to Biden’s legislation. Rohan Biju ‘23, a BUA sophomore and immigrant from India, believes that “everyone [should deserve] an equal chance at trying to come to the U.S. Of course, a person’s chance of coming to the U.S. shouldn’t be based on their country’s population or something else.” He believes that undocumented immigrants “[shouldn’t] get deported back immediately.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would attempt to stem any budgetary losses by the United States and clear any possible backlog of immigration cases because of an increase in undocumented immigrants. The legislation would essentially aim to regulate the immigration flow of undocumented immigrants by giving them an easier opportunity to come into the country. The same would go for regular immigration: the legislation would seek to increase the number of regular immigrants and make sure the applicants for citizenship are on a level playing field.


“Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System.” The White House, January 20, 2021.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-sends-immigration-bill-to-congress-as-part-of-his-commitment-to-modernize-our-immigration-system/.

Higgins, Tucker. “House passes two immigration bills that would establish path to citizenship for millions.” CNBC, March 18, 2021.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/18/house-passes-dream-and-promise-act-setting-up-path-to-citizenship.html.

Monroe, Annalee. “Does illegal immigration cost the U.S. more than $200 billion a year, as Trump claims?” The Arizona Republic, January 27, 2019.
https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2019/01/27/donald-trump-how-much-does-illegal-immigration-cost-united-states/2540512002/.

Singh, Maanvi. “US House passes bill that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship.” The Guardian, March 18, 2021.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/18/us-house-immigration-bill-dreamers-citizenship.

“The Maldives — The Land of Sun, Sea, and Sand.” The Maldives Expert, April 26, 2018.
https://www.themaldivesexpert.com/1594/the-maldives-the-land-of-sun-sea-and-sand/#:~:text=Lying%20between%20latitudes%201%C2%B0S%20and%208%C2%B0N%2C%20and%20longitudes,10%20inches%2C%20making%20it%20the%20world%E2%80%99s%20lowest%20country.

“The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.” Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, February 18, 2021.
https://lindasanchez.house.gov/uscitizenshipact.

“U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Bill Summary.” National Immigration Forum, February 24, 2021.
https://immigrationforum.org/article/u-s-citizenship-act-of-2021-bill-summary/.

“US Immigration: House Passes Immigration Bill Giving Dreamers a Path to Citizenship.” Immigration and Migration UK, March 22, 2021.
https://immigrationandmigration.com/us-immigration-house-passes-immigration-bill-giving-dreamers-a-path-to-citizenship/.

Wolf, Zachary B. “What’s a filibuster? Democrats may finally ax a relic of our racist past.” CNN, March 20, 2021.
https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/20/politics/what-is-a-filibuster/index.html.

Taking the Market Back, Stock by Stock

by Christian Asdourian

News

February 22, 2021

Wall Street was recently taken by storm when a group of Redditors skyrocketed the stock value of the retail store Gamestop.

In January 2021, a group of everyday people from a community forum called “r/wallstreetbets” on the popular website Reddit took it upon themselves to help alleviate the financial stress placed on GameStop. Their actions were a response to the tactics used by professional Wall Street investors who were planning on profiting from the decline of GameStop’s stock value. If you’ve seen the movie The Big Short, you’ve probably heard of the term “short selling” and may or may not have pretended to understand what it means. In essence, short selling is when investors sell stocks from a company with the knowledge that their value is going to decrease. They can then buy back the stocks cheaper and keep the difference as profit. When Redditors such as u/DeepF-Value and u/Stonksflyingup realized that GameStop was being heavily shorted, they began encouraging private retail investors, or individual, “little-guy” investors, to purchase GameStop stock. Before long, the cost per share of stock shot up to a whopping $483 at its peak from a measly $17 earlier in January. 

Melvin Capital, one of the hedge funds that was shorting GameStop, was forced into a short squeeze and had to buy back stock to cover their losses. They eventually left their short position on GameStop, with a loss of over four billion dollars in assets last month. But Wall Street was not going to go down without a fight. Initially, investment apps like Robinhood were the primary means that private investors were using to buy up GameStop stock, until these apps placed trading restrictions on GameStop and over ten other companies because of “significant market volatility.” This caused a massive uproar among the public and users of the app because of allegations of market manipulation. Several politicians voiced criticism of Robinhood’s actions, including Representative (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for an investigation into why Robinhood acted to “block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.” 

Given everything that took place, I asked Jonas Rajagopal ‘21, club leader of the Stock Market Club, to share his thoughts on these events.

How do you feel about this whole situation? 

I thought the situation was exciting. It is always fun to see Wall Street lose (though they made back most of their losses later in the saga). I think the main problem is not what happened on Reddit. It is that big hedge funds have been able to do this without punishments. They can donate to politicians to prevent the rules from changing. For example, companies like the Motley Fool can buy a stock, then invent phantom reasons to say it will rise, and their followers will buy the stock, and they make a ton of money.

Do you think the future of stock exchange is in jeopardy? Why?

I do not think the future of the stock exchange is in jeopardy. There may be some regulatory changes to prevent events like this from happening again, but anyone saying that this is the demise of the stock market is overreacting.

What do you think about the responses from companies like Robinhood and Wall Street itself? 

Initially, I thought the response from Robinhood was unacceptable. As I have learned more about the situation, I believe they had little choice. I also think their PR was a disaster and they could have handled it better. I think the system failed the “little-guy” investors. I also think trading should have been completely stopped by the NASDAQ, not just on Robinhood, and not just to prevent selling the shares. 


As of now, the massive increase in value for GameStop stock has plummeted back to earth. Although the company and stock value is in a better place than when it started, this saga has a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion, especially to those who were hoping that the stock’s price would keep on climbing. Regardless, what happened with GameStop is a historical moment for Wall Street. Even the little guys can influence the stock market if they work together, and GameStop is only the beginning. 


Aliaj, Ortenca, Mackenzie, Michael, and Fletcher, Laurence. “Melvin Capital, GameStop and the road to disaster.” Financial Times, February 13, 2021.
https://www.ft.com/content/3f6b47f9-70c7-4839-8bb4-6a62f1bd39e0.

Burbridge, Mark. “Redditors Vs Wall Street: The GameStop Situation Explained.” The University News, February 8, 2021.
https://unewsonline.com/2021/02/redditors-vs-wall-street-the-gamestop-situation-explained/.

Ingram, David and Bayly, Lucy. “GameStop? Reddit? Explaining what’s happening in the stock market.” NBC News, February 7, 2021.
https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/gamestop-reddit-explainer-what-s-happening-stock-market-n1255922.

Why I Run to BUA Every Morning

by Alyssa Ahn

Commentary

February 22, 2021

There was this day, I remember. Actually, there are a lot of those days. Days when my body tenses as soon as I wake up, and I just know it isn’t going to be a good day. These are the days when I sleep through my alarm. My eyelids pop open, and I desperately dive out of bed. I rush to the bathroom, glance at my contact lens case, check my watch, adjust my mask, sigh, and rush out. And my glasses press heavier onto my skin. Those are days when things don’t go my way. 

I dash through the kitchen with a heavy backpack crushing my shoulders. I smell those delicious crispy Costco croissants before shutting the door. I run to school on those days. I run like a prowling, snarling monster is chasing me — I run like the person who dies in horror movies. I run because I’m running for my life. I know that oversleeping leads to getting to school late, which leads to failing tests, which leads to bad grades. But that’s not why I run. 

Some people walk. When they’re late, they stroll in, acting casual, saving face. I can’t save face on those days — on those days, it feels like pieces of the world are cracking off, falling bit by bit; it feels like my face is fragmented, eroding into dust, and I’m alone. I do walk into class. I act calm, keep my head down, and don’t bring others down with me — I walk into class quietly. As long as I’m still running to school, still trying, things are okay. 

On some of the days when things don’t go my way, I try to get up, and I try to run to school. But sometimes, as I get closer to the parking lot, I pause for a moment and ask, “Why am I doing this? Why am I trying — what’s the point?” And then I remember.

I remember the people who I see on those days. People who always smile when they see me and tentatively nod in my direction — I see you, and I smile back with real warmth. I remember the BUA who saw me as a girl in eighth grade. They smiled and shook my hand and said, “I’m pleased to finally meet you.” They accepted me, and I grinned when I got the box and hugged The Odyssey

When everyone has almost gone to their second class of the day, I bounce up, smile and thank my teacher, wipe my desk, collect my things, and step toward the door. My friend waits for me. She smiles and greets me. When I walk into the next classroom, the whole room is always too bright. There are people slumped in chairs and people slumped on the floor. But when class starts and a familiar, grinning face projected on the board waves at us, we all smile. We have fun, and I laugh. 

I remember the person who always walks with me to get tested and waits for me in between classes and smiles when they see me. I’m grateful for the people who see me. One gesture of kindness is all it takes to start making those days better. When I’m having a bad day, or when I’m thinking about those days when I do things wrong, when things go wrong, I remember the kindnesses — and those true kindnesses and courtesies are why I run to school. So I try to give back every day with a little extra kindness to myself and to others. Because being kind is who I am; because I have to remember who I am to experience truly happy days.

The Laramie Project: Interviews With the Cast and Crew

by Ibukun Owolabi

News

February 22, 2021
Members of Drama Club perform The Laramie Project. Dr. Larash for The Scarlet Letter

On October 6, 1998, there was a horrific attack on the life of a young man by the name of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The suspects, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, kidnapped Matthew and viciously beat him because Matthew identified as gay. Six days after the brutal attack, Matthew Shepard passed away in Poudre Valley Hospital, leaving the world in shock. Henderson and McKinney were both found guilty of first-degree murder and were sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. 

The death of Matthew Shepard sparked protests across the nation and was a catalyst for change. Many people in Laramie felt that no person should have to go through what Shepard went through because of their identity, a belief that was amplified by the countless protests in cities across America. On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to “strengthen the protection against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth… add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”1

This year, Boston University Academy’s winter play, directed by Mr. Gardiner, shown on January 30, was The Laramie Project. The play, written by Moisés Kaufman in 2000, comprises a series of interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming. The dozen or so members of Drama Club played over sixty townspeople, all playing multiple roles. 

This year, many clubs and sports had to adapt all that they were doing before to the “new normal.” Drama Club had the complicated task of producing an entire play in a Zoom room. As a new member of Drama Club, I asked my fellow cast and crew members to reflect on the making of the beautiful play. The following are interviews with members of the BUA cast and crew of The Laramie Project.

Mr. Gardiner, Director

What was it like to produce a play that would be performed online?

Exciting and challenging on many levels. Whenever you produce/direct a play, one of the questions is the style or look of the production. Producing a play online added a lot of new things to consider. How do you honor that this is a play, not a film, that’s presented virtually? Is there a constant look across the board? How do you differentiate locations, characters, passage of time, act breaks? How do you deal with the wide range of devices that people are using to rehearse and record? What platform do you use for presentations?  Yea. The list goes on…

How was the production process this year different from previous years?  

Rehearsals took place later in the day, since it was better to have actors home on a computer without a mask than at school masked and socially distanced. The performances had to be recorded at the beginning of the winter break so that we had time to edit the recordings together into a coherent whole by broadcast date. The actors had to be ready for performance earlier. In a normal year we’d have at least a couple of weeks after winter break to put the pieces of the play together. Those are just a few of the differences in the process this year.

In the process of putting the play together, what were some things you enjoyed and some challenges you encountered?

I was grateful to introduce students to a play and story that few of them had heard of before our production. The story of Matthew Shepard was a story of national significance and one I followed closely and was impacted by — and the play was and is an important landmark in American theatre. I also enjoyed meeting new actors and learning what they can do. [I’ve also enjoyed] seeing other actors I’ve worked with before stretch and grow as artists in ways that sometimes surprised me.

Challenges — hoo boy — just the technical difficulties, all of which had to be dealt with remotely, from “unstable internet connection” to not enough space for the actor to set up their backdrop comfortably. And of course, scheduling any after-school activity at BUA is always challenging. There was literally only one day I had the entire cast together.

Suzie Marcus ‘22, Stage Manager

What got you interested in being involved in the play?

I’ve always loved stage crew and was stage manager at my old school last year, so I knew I wanted to be involved again here. I knew the story beforehand. I had heard of the play and the real event. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I enjoyed seeing people both remote and in person be able to come together to work on the play. I also loved the story and how everyone took it seriously and cared deeply about the subject matter.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Challenges were probably just related to communications and scheduling in general (for everyone), but for me personally, just remembering who played who off the top of my head was super difficult.

Jasper Milstein ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played multiple characters; my recurring role was Reggie Fluty. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I’ve been acting for upwards of ten years, so any opportunity to be in a show I’ll take. 

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

I think it’s an incredibly captivating and touching show. Obviously, it’s a tragic story, but I think that makes it even more important to keep sharing because hate crimes are still far too prevalent to this day. By sharing the story, [we’re] spreading more knowledge and bringing more attention to the issue. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I think being able to dive into some of the more complex scenes and monologues was a lot of fun and provided challenges as an actor.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

The remote aspect definitely provided some challenges in terms of communication and joint scene work but overall was not too bad to work around. 

Elizabeth Brown ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played a variety of roles throughout the show. All of the members of the cast played more than one role because of the nature of the show, which has around sixty-four parts. More specifically, I played Rebecca Hilliker, the Head of the Theater Department at the University of Wyoming; Father Roger Schmit, a Catholic priest; Aaron Kreifels, a college student who found Matthew Shepard; and Shannon, a friend of Aaron McKinney. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I have loved performing since sixth grade, when I was in my first musical. Before I came to BUA, I had seen my siblings perform in a couple different shows, and I liked what I saw, so I decided to participate in this play.

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

Before this show, I had never heard about the hate crime against Matthew Shepard, so the whole show was educational for me and very interesting. I also was fascinated by the close relationships that the members of the theater company were able to build with the people of Laramie.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I loved working with Mr. Gardiner, Kayleigha Zawacki, our video editor, and the rest of the cast on this play. Everyone was great and amazing to work with. It was also kind of cool to learn how to record a whole show from the comfort of my home.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

It was of course very different doing a production on Zoom, and there were some kinks to work out because of that. Also, scheduling is always an issue, regardless of whether it is in person or on Zoom. 

Kasia Perks ’21, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

My roles in the play were Doc O’Connor, Zubaida Ula, Narrator, and Mormon Home Teacher.

What got you interested in performing the play?

I miss theater because it’s not as easy to do now, so I wanted to perform in this play. I’ve been in every production since freshman year, so it seemed like an obvious continuation.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play? What were some of the challenges?

I enjoyed being able to act again and engage with a script, but it was hard to stay as focused as I would usually be in person.


While the recording is no longer available to the public, Drama Club did a spectacular job in carrying out the duty of bringing awareness to what happened to Matthew Shepard. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll leave you with the words of Mr. Kolovos himself: “I was struck not only by how well our cast handled the mature material, but also with how well they translated the experience to the screen. Within a few minutes, I forgot that I was in my living room watching a teenage cast.”


1 The entire speech was delivered at the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is on Youtube under the title President Obama Commemorates Enactment of Hate Crimes Prevention Act.