Thoughts on COVID-19 in the New Year


With February approaching, I could not have imagined the world looking the way it does now, compared to when this all began early last year. I am left wondering what everything will be like a year from now; regardless, this pandemic has, and will continue to change the way in which we do things. It is a little odd, but when I see movies and TV shows, I forget that there was a time when people just did not wear masks. Even seeing videos of people standing too close to one another makes me shiver. Were we just doing things wrong? Were people just not aware of one another’s personal space?

As this new month begins, I am wondering what the rest of the year will be like. Taking into consideration how things have been going, it is likely we will be in a similar predicament for the rest of the year. I am even noticing posts online that poke fun at people who talk about things they want to do after “after COVID,” as if there is going to be a sudden end to the pandemic. As much as I wish this was the case, this whole situation has been a rollercoaster. While many people, organizations, and governments are actively working on combating COVID-19, it is safe to say that things will never be the same. We will inevitably have to adjust to a new reality, and reconsider many things we might have overlooked before.

I do not wish to focus on the grim aspects of this pandemic anymore, because I believe that the news focuses on enough negative storylines as it is. Social media and news outlets are littered with dark and upsetting stories, only leading to further mass disappointment and hopelessness. Focusing on the good is important, and this pandemic has taught us a lot of things ranging from: the space we take up in public, to hygienic procedures, and collective consideration for others’ well-being, etc. It is not wrong to tell people that things won’t go back to normal, and it is okay to acknowledge that we will never be the same. We should remain realistic about the current situation without further spreading pessimism or negativity.

While the virus began affecting other parts of the world earlier than ours, the anniversary of our first major lockdown, which happened last March, is approaching. This passage of time reflects how each country, and each person handled COVID differently. Some places appear to be functioning closer to what they were beforehand, and many are in states of semi-lockdowns with varying restrictions. Going forward, nothing is certain, and we must try our best to adapt to these dynamic changes taking place around us. We have to find at least one positive outcome in our lives or surroundings that inspire us, and run with it; ultimately, I think we have spent too long pondering over the worst of what society is capable of.



The reason I am writing this is to shed light on something I have noticed happening more and more often. I would like to take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day being just around the corner to bring this forth. To be clear, I believe interactions people share nowadays are forced and vapid. How can we celebrate, or even give energy to a day that is used to make money off of people for the sake of love? I believe its meaning has been somewhat forgotten. From what I’ve witnessed, connections between many people are not only temporary, but entirely circumstantial. You don’t actually like someone, or them you, you just happen to sit together for the sake of not appearing alone. I bring this up as I feel we are not having this conversation.

How many of us have lost the ability to care about something or be present anywhere where you are not specifically obligated to be? I do not wish to appear nihilistic, simply taking in what I have come to notice, maybe start a conversation about this. While it is normal to prioritize oneself first and one’s family, how can we go on attending university, our jobs, any kind of gathering with this level of superficiality and these surface-level interactions? How can we live our lives to the fullest when a good majority of the people we meet are just passing figures? Do we even do, or say what we really want? Or are we just performing for the sake of keeping up a façade? In this dark, and cold world why have we stopped feeling? Or show passion towards something? When will we start thinking I want to be here, vs. I have to be here? Are we really satisfied with ourselves and how we interact with one another? Are people really okay with the never-ending banality of how we spend our days? Or am I the only one who sees this? I’ll admit, I have fallen into this rhythm of life as well, and spend my days seeking escape from reality in the world of old, romantic novels, being constantly disappointed with reality. What is your escape?

While I am still trying to figure out the answers to the aforementioned questions, I hope to have at the very least planted a seed in even one person’s mind. Let’s start thinking about this, and let’s start to feel again. Let’s start encouraging authenticity, not only with what we do and say, but how we feel. Going forward, I would like to start listening, really listening to people’s stories, and hope that we can all do the same. On a different note, can we start talking about love? is romance dead? I would like to learn about real-life stories; if anyone wishes to reach out to me please do, I want to feel inspired again. I will leave you now, with this generic reply when I ask anyone what they are doing for Valentine’s Day: “I’m just going to wait for the day after, when all the chocolate goes on sale”.

(Originally published February 5, 2020)



As the diversity of our global society grows to extents of onlooking promises of a more just future, so do the conversations of what this diversity means in a world that had for so long refused it. The laws of life and nature dictate that where there is light, there must be dark. Many great individuals, who in their time faced the world, advocated for those that had been silenced by their very government and society; these leaders have created a more just society, but this is not to say that there is an absence of damaging attitudes.

Many minority groups continue to face injustices even though our society continues to promote having reached some sort of ultimate just world. However, the silencing of minority groups continues, and in this perceived just world, many individuals who bring this silencing into light are accused of speaking of such unfairness that does not exist anymore, further silencing them.

As minority groups, in some respects, have become more popular, particularly within the social media world, individuals claim the attractive aspects of these minority groups yet continue to enable their oppressions. By doing this, the little voice that the minority had, has been taken over by the majority. What were once safe spaces for many individuals have been overtaken,

The majority must understand the power they have been systematically given. Still, the perception of a just world can create the illusion that there no longer exists responsibility for the majority to give minorities a voice. While it may seem simple to converse with the majority, many continue to refuse the existence of a system that enables the majority, making it difficult even to begin the conversation and for minorities to be heard.

Many minorities have been taught to accommodate the majority, avoiding discussions that make them uncomfortable, because many privileged individuals do not like hearing they are privileged. This mentality requires revision; minorities should not be afraid to voice their concerns regarding their agency as humans; no individual should remain quiet and suffer at the cost of someone else’s comfort. There must also be a consideration for minorities that are at a more significant disadvantage than others. As minorities, understanding the setbacks shared as well as those unique to different minority groups becomes important to upholding each other and recognizing that some face more discrimination than others. One must stand for their humanity and that of others.

“…only those of us who carry our cause in our hearts are willing to run the risks.” – Rigoberta Menchu

(Originally published February 5, 2020)




Love is an abstract emotion that most people describe as universally good, pure, and warm. It practically begs one to think that an individual cannot live up to their true purpose without having a soulmate or partner in life. A lack of love is where emptiness starts and ends in a person. Our generation is always left wondering and thinking about when they will meet “the one;” whether it is at Augustana during their student years, or years down the road with a person they met in elementary school.

But how true does this notion truly ring? Humans are naturally social beings and we crave companionship; some would say “true love” is essential in this process and must be found with a romantic aura. This causes some people to jump in and out of relationships because they do not understand how to be alone. They believe that they need someone in order to truly be happy, so they become dependent on others rather than looking within themselves first. When you are in love and it is gets taken away, you are left feeling cold without any sort of warmth.

This is why when one cannot find love, they are continuously searching, or are stuck in a static place in their life. They cease to feel any emotion and feeling because love is the foundation for all other emotions to root from. This is why some people describe their life as shades of grey before they met their significant other. They claim that colours became vibrant and the stars shone a little brighter. What some people fail to understand is that love is more than just a romantic partner or a fuzzy feeling that you feel when you’re around your crush. It starts with friendship, yet unlike relationships, it does not end as fast or easily. Your soulmate does not have to be the person you are romantically involved with, yet because of our idealistic society this is what many people believe. Your real soulmate is the person who is by your side through hardships, trial and error, fights that made you want to yank your hair out, and someone who you would call your best friend.

Your best friend will not wake up one day and decide they do not love you anymore. It is a bond that becomes blood. It is born from a place of honour, loyalty, and forgiveness. That’s what true love should really be.

(Originally published December 11, 2019)

Research Colloquium Musings

BY AMITAV BANERJI / Dagligtale Staff Writer

Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of learning new skills and gaining vast amounts of knowledge through my classes and my interactions on campus. The idea of mortifications of the self in sociology and the use of upstream and downstream business practices to create comparative advantage are just a few of the things that I got to learn but I must confess, I never really thought about the conception of these ideas. How these ideas came into being and what made them influential enough to be included in our curriculums were just two of the many questions answered at the research colloquium that was held on the 15th of February. The research colloquium allowed three Augustana professors to present the research that they are currently working on.

Alex Carpenter opened the colloquium with a presentation on, “Fur Inner: From krautrock to goth rock and beyond”. It started off with an introduction explaining krautrock and its undeniable ability to fade into the background. Krautrock came from a musical movement in the 1960s. It is considered to go against normal forms of pop due to the fact that it was so diverse that Anglo American couldn’t think this way about music and also because it was stylistically unsound to a point. Krautrock is worth researching due to its influence on famous musicians throughout history. During the 1960’s we saw krautrock have a great influence on musicians such as La monte young. We then saw krautrock influence musicians such as David Bowie in the 1970s and derivations of krautrock start to appear in various bands as well. Krautrock influenced its way through the era of punk rock and spank rock to influence hip hop artists like Kanye West who used krautrock like rhythm and beats to make songs in the early 2000s.

I managed to get in touch with Alex and he was gracious enough to answer the questions I posed to him. When asked to describe the main idea of his research he stated, “My research on German pop music focuses mainly on how identity is expressed through music (in this case, so-called “Krautrock”), on the influence of German pop in the wider world, and on analytic methodologies for pop music scholarship”. I also asked him if there were any benefits he hoped to ascertain from the research and if there was anything particular he would like the readers to know about the research to which he responded, “I hope that this research will help me and others to better understand popular music genres and the role pop music plays in the construction of national identities and I would like people to know that German music rocks”.

The next presentation was by Diego Coraialo on “Liminality in Contested Industries: The Tobacco Controversy”. I found this to be a particularly interesting topic because it acknowledged the harm created by the tobacco industry and looked to understand why this industry has survived for so long. The reason this industry has survived for so long is due to the practice of liminality. Liminality is the in-between or the position of ambiguity that forbids any straightforward classification of actors and actions within existing institutional frameworks. This concept emerged in the tobacco industry during the 1950s. The tobacco industry was free to publish what it wanted until the 1950s when scientists started to do research regarding the effects of tobacco. Noticing this change, the big five tobacco companies of the time started to implement liminality. This allowed them to promote categorical ambiguity where they would avoid having their drug classified as food or wouldn’t answer questions that would put their drug in the medical field. They also promoted scientific ambiguity for which they worked to produce false or misleading data of sorts which allowed them to release products and advertise them as “safe cigarettes”.

In 1998, litigation and laws were created and collective action was taken against key players in core stigmatized industries who were working together to prolong the liminality. The drawback of liminality was that this industry spent too many resources on a single approach rather than allowing expansion and R&D which would have improved their product. It was later found out that the technology for E-cigs had been available since the 1970s but  only came about in the 2000s due to the tobacco industry’s short-sightedness. Much to my delight, Diego was more than happy to answer a few of my questions. Diego explained that the point of his research is, “Why very controversial industries like tobacco and booze, that fall under what we call sinful industries, keep existing in spite of the fact that a massive amount of people are against them. For more than 50 years these industries have been knowingly selling harmful products and society has not been able to kill these industries and they still exist.” He very astutely pointed out, “these industries are growing, with the recent legalization of weed and just because it became legal does not mean that it is legitimate. These industries are stigmatized and we want to understand what these players are doing to perpetuate this industry.”

When asked if this research is new in any way Diego responded, “The idea of liminality was created by a German anthropologist in the 1920s and the whole idea was centered around individuals and how liminality exists between childhood and adolescent. The concept has been out there for a while and has been used in organizational studies. What we’re doing is that we’re broadening this concept to look at industries as a whole rather than individual characteristics, rituals or even organizational practices which will allow us to analyze how the rules of the game are bent and permits these industries to thrive despite the stigma.”


I then got to see the final presentation, which was presented by Erin Sutherland where she talked about “Visual Sovereignty: Indigenous Artist-Run centers in Canada”. Her research centered around an organization that protects, advertises and creates a community for indigenous art and the artists. The organization stays true to its values of inclusivity in the sense that there is no hierarchy even though it says that on paper. They showcase various pieces of art by various indigenous artists not only in galleries but also online, thus preserving the culture.

I walked into the colloquium with no expectations but I can safely say that even if I had any expectations, they would have been surpassed. It was incredibly humbling and fascinating to see professors doing research that could change and impact the world in many different ways especially since I get to attend classes taught by these professors.


Letting Love, Of all Kinds, Be Your Valentine


Around this time of year, you will see pink hearts and little bags filled with candy that you can send to your loved ones. However, that requires people to sit down and take a moment, which means they would have to take a moment from their busy lives, heavy workloads and demanding classes, only to find out that this moment seems to create questions. Naturally, the next question that comes along is, “Who do I love”? and “What does it really means when I say I love a person?” All these profound thoughts eventually make you realize that you still have a paper due at the end of the week, or a midterm coming up and by then the moment passes.

While it is important to answer these questions most people choose to forego this process due to the unpleasant feelings it stirs up. If they were to deal with these feelings, it would lead to changes in one’s behaviour creating an almost uncomfortable atmosphere of ambiguity. We choose to not go down this path due to the fear of it not ending and not knowing what results this path will yield.

I was first introduced to this sentiment when I came across a book written by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Dyer is an internationally renowned author who is known to have attained enlightenment. Dyer is well known for writing The power of Intention and Wishes Fulfilled, as well as having a large following worldwide. He believes that love is not something that is found between two people but an individual sentiment expressed for another being. He defines love “as the ability and willingness to allow those you care about to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

It is the understanding that the dichotomy between conditional love and unconditional love is false because if it’s conditional it is not love. This unconditional sentiment allows one to accept the people in one’s life for the changes in the loved one’s lives. This not only applies to one’s friends, family, and significant others but also to oneself. It allows one to accept oneself for the changes and growth in life which allows one to love oneself.

Understanding this sentiment allows for individuals to realize that obstacles in one’s life lead to growth and accepting this growth allows each of us to understand the meaning of acceptance. It is only when an individual accepts this growth, that they are able to respect themselves and in turn love and accept the people around them.

I’ve found that this definition presented by Dyer is a standard to hold myself and the relationships in my life, too. It has allowed me to realize that staying in relationships where the word love has been used but not fulfilled and acceptance is nowhere to be found doesn’t allow me to love myself. After a year of personally fulfilling this definition, I have found people who accept and respect the changes in my life as much as I do the same for them and while the transition of this change may lead you to say goodbye to long-standing relationships, you will get through it as long you love yourself.

This week, take a moment to accept the people in your life and yourself for the changes that will shape them and yourself. Take a moment to be grateful for this love and make it your valentine.


Why Modern Languages Matter


A while ago, someone I was talking to explained to me a Turkish proverb. A rough translation was:

“When a person knows one language, they have the power of one person. When a person learns a second language, they gain the power of a second person.”

In a sense, when you know another language, you gain the strength of being able to communicate with others; you’re opening yourself to other perspectives and ideas that you may not normally have come across in your own language.

Something that’s important when it comes to languages is that they carry your past, and your culture’s past too. A native language gives you the ability to get to know the intricacies of a culture. You have access to information that you normally wouldn’t have gotten from learning about that culture from the outside. As well, through languages, you create and shape your identity. When you learn a second language, you learn more about yourself by thinking more deeply about how you want to express yourself. Thus, you learn to better communicate with others, and better articulate your own thoughts.

Having a Modern Languages degree is more than just learning a new language. It’s about delving into a new culture, and truly working to understand its point of view. When someone goes into a language degree, they come out with not just communication skills, but with a more open mindset. Graduates are able to enter a variety of fields, because they have more experience with dealing with breaking down their assumptions, have a broader understanding of how society and culture is shaped by language, and also the interpersonal skills built through the tight knit community of the language department at Augustana.

Languages mean everything; they describe us and our identity, allow us to communicate with others, and express our culture and traditions. Graduates of these degrees have the flexibility to work in a plethora of places, and are armed with many applicable skills for the working world. If you’re interested in some language or culture classes offered at Augustana, check out AUGER 335 Contemporary German Culture, or AUSCA 142 Viking Age Mythology offered in English during the winter semester. As well, if you’re interested in learning a language other than English, there are beginner and intermediate classes for German, French, Spanish and Norwegian, which are offered every year.


Undergraduate Research: How to Start and Why you Should


I will preface this article by saying that my experience has been mainly in science, but most of the information will pertain to all disciplines of study. Undergraduate research is an extremely rewarding endeavour; however, it may be intimidating at the start. Many students have no clue where to begin or even what is available to them in their program. Herein lies the purpose of this article, I hope to give advice on where to start, some personal experiences I have had, and finally the pros and cons of taking on research at the undergraduate level.

Excluding research papers for classes, the lowest stakes type of project you can do if you’re entering your second year, is to take on a pass/fail directed project. In this type of project, students may be involved in a senior student’s project or another project that the professor sees fit. This gives you a taste of research and can be a great opportunity to dip your toes in and find out if research is for you.

Students in their third year or higher can take on a full directed project (Reading or Studies) in which they oversee the development, completion, and presentation of a research project. In any level of a directed project, the first step is to talk to a professor in the field you’re interested in studying to see if they will take you on for the project. From there, you will need to do some paperwork and planning with your professor. This may also open doors to summer research positions via grants from Augustana or the U of A.

Additionally, there are courses based strictly on research such as Field Studies in Biology (AUBIO/AUENV 334) where you may take on a research project whilst learning other important skills along the way.

When looking at a topic, nearly anything is possible. For example, I have personally studied the habitat selection of muskrats and the personalities of Mongolian gerbils. Other students have tackled subjects like dendrochronology and how theatre art is produced and consumed through the lens of heteronormativity and the gender binary. The possibilities are endless, really.

Over the course of my undergraduate degree I have taken both of the aforementioned routes, I completed the field studies in biology course and three directed projects. When completing my directed studies projects, I did have to sacrifice much of my free time, including breaks and long weekends, to get everything done. That being said, I do not regret doing them as they pushed my academic abilities and have prepared me for what to expect when I begin my master’s program.

Here, I’ve compiled my list of pros and cons:


  • Great experience for Graduate studies
  • Increase your knowledge in your chosen subject area
  • Usually receive a very high grade
  • Change from the usual classroom environment
  • Learn practical skills


  • A LOT of work
  • Usually entails public speaking (which can be intimidating, but worth it!)

In short, undergraduate research projects are great experience and can be done in any discipline. However, they do require a lot of work, so you need to put all of your effort into it; if you do, research will offer many amazing opportunities to you.

The Case of Chillabit vs. Augustana

How A Social Media App Affects Community


An article on Gateway, the official student newspaper of the University of Alberta, advertised Chillabit as a great way to build community among students. As a sociology student/Dag writer, who is always curious about the things around me, I downloaded Chillabit and decided to experiment with the app for a week. I slowly started to explore the functions that are available, including the upvote and downvote system to show your approval of a post, the anonymity of posting, and the incomprehensible tips that are offered to you after someone likes you on Chillabit. It was the second day of using this app when I started noticing the problematic pattern of posts. Specific individuals or positions were targeted and discussed as if they had no access to the app.

Since Professor Milbrandt teaches a sociology course covering the topic of media, I decided to interview her to talk about Chillabit. During the interview with Professor Milbrandt, I mentioned that several people were pushed under the spotlight involuntarily when posters explicitly suggested the identity of the person being discussed. And after explaining to Professor Milbrandt how the app works, she pointed out that “while most of it is likely done in the spirit of play, anonymous posting can have the unintended consequence of undermining the socially trusting and relatively community character of our campus.”

By subjecting unwanted attention to someone on social media the individual is disempowered. The consequences become more serious if the disempowered person is already marginalized in the Augustana community. Professor Milbrandt also said, “it would be positive if online communication supported, rather than undermined, the unique social character of our campus.” While staff and faculty deliberately attempt to connect with students through small-sized lectures and joining community events, Chillabit may not serve its original purpose of building a community at Augustana.

I also talked with some students to get an idea of what they think about the app. Some point out the negative effect of Chillabit, as students can post negative opinions anonymously and hide behind the screen, while some argue that the app is a great source of entertainment and information on campus.

Personally, I do not think posters intend to hurt anyone. They are simply inconsiderate about how one will feel being openly discussed in a platform that every student on the campus can access. I am not condemning anyone who uses Chillabit to tease a friend. Rather, I am hoping this article will prompt you to think critically about how you use this app.

During those days that I experimented with the app, I understood the temptation of scrolling through the app without thinking about the consequences for those being mentioned. I also understand the addiction to consume gossip without the actual interactions with people that holds you accountable for your opinions. I did notice there were posts on Chillabit praising individuals on the campus or even combating rumours targeted to specific people, and it was great of the posters to spread some positive energy.

Yet, guaranteed anonymity also opens up the channel for people to be mean under the false consciousness that there is no repercussion beyond the rankings in the app. Chillabit proclaims to foster a community, but is the app necessary in a tight-knit campus such as Augustana? Augustana is all about bringing people together — it is the official Augustana advantage that differentiates Augustana from North Campus!

I realize that students will not stop using Chillabit after reading this article, but I wish that readers turn this kind of communication into a means to further foster the sense of community and make Augustana a more welcoming place. Professor Milbrandt concluded the interview by wondering if posters might find creative ways to subvert or challenge the temptation to post anonymously by including their names, and encouraging others to do the same. After reading this article, I hope readers will reflect on their use of Chillabit by acknowledging that words can hurt, and think about the ways we can make the app beneficial to every student. And, I hope you are brave enough to challenge the negative use of the app when such occasions arise.