Refugees Hit Hardest By Trump Travel Ban

Seven Muslim-majority countries referenced in proposed temporary refugee ban accounted for almost 40 percent of all U.S.-bound refugees over past decade. Article written for Data Journalism class at Temple University.

A great American anthem proclaims to migrants that “this land is your land,” offering refuge to immigrants of any nationality to join a nation built by differences and grounded in hospitality for those who seek sanctuary.

But American citizens and politicians have drifted from these values, allowing their country’s humanitarian efforts to be buried deep beneath fear of terrorism.

In the past decade, politically-charged civil wars and terrorism in the Middle East and the Greater Horn of Africa have erupted into violence, displacing many innocents who oftentimes fear they’ll never return. The war in Syria has intensified over the past two years and sent thousands fleeing their homes. In 2015, the U.S. received 16 times the number of refugees from Syria than it did the previous year in 2014. Under President Trump’s travel regulations, however, Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely from entering the U.S.

Syria is among the seven Muslim-majority countries in question as the president and the Judiciary grapple over his 120-day ban on refugees entering the U.S. from said countries. Officials are bypassing Trump’s orders, but if the orders prevail, refugees from nations in turmoil will be forced to remain in there or find an alternate refuge nation. The seven countries being banned – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria – accounted for 39 percent of all refugee arrivals to the U.S. from 2008-2015, over the course of the Obama administration.

Halting refugee and asylum privileges for these countries eliminates a significant number of America’s refugees overall. It especially diminishes the U.S.’s help to those suffering in the Middle East from destruction and continued violence caused by American-involved wars. About a quarter of refugees who arrived during the Obama administration were from Iraq.

 

 

 *(numbers for Yemen and Libya were calculated into total refugees, but were too small to be represented individually in this chart).

*(numbers for Yemen and Libya were calculated into total refugees, but were too small to be represented individually in this chart).

But while Trump proposes to postpone refugee arrival from the seven countries, over the course of the Obama administration the number of refugees granted affirmative asylum from these countries – and overall – remained low. America’s refugee and asylum seeking process is two-tiered: if asylees (refugees already on U.S. soil) are granted affirmative asylum, they are allowed to stay in the U.S. as a non-citizen, or go through the legal processes of becoming one. It’s open to anyone who arrives, whether legally or illegally, and applicants must fit the characteristics of a refugee – someone fleeing war, or persecution because of race, religion, social group or political opinion. Even with these terms, a majority of applicants are rejected. Defensive asylum is temporary; these asylees are already in the U.S., but are threatened with deportation because of criminal activity or lack of proper documentation.

Considering the number of affirmative asylees, potential terrorism threats from the seven Muslim-majority countries named did not go ignored through Obama’s eight years. While 31 percent of refugees from countries other than the seven were granted affirmative asylum, only 6 percent of arrivals from the seven were. Both presidents, so far, have shown reluctance in allowing citizens of these countries to remain in the U.S.

refugees-accepted-area-chart

For defensive asylees, it’s a long legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security and immigration officials, and most of the time refugees from the seven countries do not meet requirements and are rejected.

War-tarnished countries have also left thousands of children displaced or exposed to threats of violence in their home countries. Americans recall the emotional image published in national newspapers of a Syrian father clutching his young son’s dead body; the boy drowned as they attempted to flee the nation by boat last year. Children became the face of the refugee crisis, as displaced under-16-year-olds represent 31 percent of all U.S. refugee arrivals during the Obama administration. Only 10 percent of these children, however, were granted asylum.

Over the past decade, America’s allowance of refugees, specifically those from the seven countries Trump is attempting to ban, hasn’t changed much. As concern for the members of these nations grows, America has the opportunity to become a nation which welcomes people abandoned by their own. The opportunity wanes as President Trump promises to toughen immigration and refugee policies.

*data from yearly Refugee and Asylum Reports by the Department of Homeland Security. Data analysis can be viewed at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B71H3A6yc1y-b1V0dGlrQjZYMGc

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Thinking on Your Feet: An Expose on Foot Traffic at Temple

Video and article by Greta Anderson, Brianna Baker and Michaela Althouse for Audio/Visual Journalism class.

It takes less than 20 minutes to get from one end of Temple University’s campus to another by foot, making walking the most convenient method of transportation for many students. But poor infrastructure, accidents and crime pose a safety issue for walkers. To combat some of these problems, Temple Police are working to make the school a more walkable campus.

Sophomore Lihn Than walks because it allows her to appreciate the sights and sounds of Philadelphia. Especially in comparison to her home city of Hanoi, Vietnam,  one of the most polluted cities in the world, she enjoys the atmosphere of Philadelphia and the connection to nature.

“I’d been walking for over a year before I got my first bike,” Than said, “and I’ve learned so much more about the city and about the people and I’ve met so many more people; I talk to more more people than when I’m biking.”

30% of Center City residents commute by foot, most likely because of its compact size, simple grid layout and well-maintained sidewalks. However, walking around Temple is more difficult. Even though the city launched the Pedestrian and Bicycling Plan in 2012 to improve the convenience and attractiveness of Philadelphia’s walking channels, sidewalks in North Philly are often broken or missing pieces. Construction and parked cars on streets like the 1800 block of N. 17th St. block pedestrians’ paths and interfere with their view of traffic.

These obstacles become especially dangerous when traveling to and from campus at night. With the shortened winter days, it is more common for students to walk home in the dark. To compensate, students must stay more alert when crossing busy streets with limited visibility. Not only must they be considerate of cars, but also of fast-moving bikers and skateboarders.

Sophomore Alanna Watters was walking home with her friends a few weeks ago, when she collided with a skateboarder while crossing the street. Watters does not remember the accident itself, and is still receiving treatment from injuries sustained during the incident. Watters had cuts on her face and body, a mild concussion, neck problems and is currently seeing a neurologist.

“The cars are all parked really close to one another,” Watters said,  “so a lot of times it’s difficult to see past them when crossing the street.”

Watters happened to be traveling with friends who helped her home. When alone, however, Temple students are much more susceptible to armed theft or assault, another danger of walking. In 2014, 600 crimes were reported on campus. To address the school’s reputation of being unsafe, Temple Police introduced the walking escort program in 2013. Students can call an escort who will arrive within minutes to accompany or shadow them home. Joe Garcia is the Deputy Director of Administration for Temple Police.

“We can’t do anything about people’s ability to commit a crime,” Garcia said. “We can’t do anything about people’s desire to commit a crime. What we can do, however, is reduce or eliminate the opportunity for someone to commit a crime.”

In 2014, the police also expanded their patrol area to better serve students living off campus. Still, Garcia urges against walking alone and relying on pepper spray to protect against assailants. He also discourages talking to a friend or family member on the phone for comfort, since it makes one a target for theft. Instead, he strongly recommends that students utilize the walking escort program, as it helps the University police force with their job– to reduce the number of crimes occurring to walkers on and around campus.

Watters agrees, saying that the accident has not stopped her from walking. She feels it is up to the Temple students and community to making walking a more viable option.

“I think that as a Temple community we all need to work together,” Watters said, “both in automobiles and on any sort of wheels and by foot, just to keep each other safe, and to look both ways when crossing the street.”

Marijuana and college students: Smoking it, selling it, not supporting it

College students are notorious for adopting social issues and giving them saliency on the national stage, getting involved in politics and in lots of cases, forcing progressive changes – so why aren’t students grabbing ahold of marijuana reform?

Raised in the “just say no” and “above the influence” era, millennials grew up with a negative image of all drugs, including marijuana. Students worry outward support of legalization could jeopardize employment, and support for the drug is not widely accepted. This is changing with decriminalization and legalization across the country, but there’s no guarantee of sudden student support – the drug is still illegal.

The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) works to get students involved in ending the War on Drugs, supporting decriminalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana. The organization has 5,000 student members in the U.S. and internationally, with two local chapters at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel. Temple did have a chapter until 2014, when its leader graduated and support dwindled. Jake Agliata, SSDP’s outreach coordinator for Pennsylvania, grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and has taken an interest in the area.

“We have a very strong chapter at UPenn and a smaller one at Drexel, but outside of that not much going on in the city,” Agliata said in an email. “There is definitely a need for more student activism in the Philadelphia movement and one of my jobs is to try and create excitement among students and young people.”

SSDP is dedicated to multiple drug issues, ranging from alcohol abuse and marijuana reform to counseling and education for users. They support marijuana reform, but do not focus on it and are not doing enough about it, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). PhillyNORML is Philadelphia’s chapter of the organization. Executive Director Bob Rudy said SSDP’s involvement in marijuana laws is limited, and it is one of the only student-led organizations doing any significant work.

“More adults are coming out than ever before, but students are dragging their heels,” Rudy said. “SSDP is not moving mountains over there at all.”

Another reason for a lack of support, Rudy said, is that young people feel they are excluded from the voting process and therefore have traditionally low voter registration. He also said college students are protected from the consequences of growing and dealing marijuana.

“University police do not want to bust people for weed,” Rudy said. “It costs the school too much money if they lose the student’s enrollment … But as soon as the kids get out of the university and they start dealing on the streets, they get their first time in jail and they understand the difference.”

Universities also have different preliminary punishments for possession and smoking marijuana. Temple’s Student Code of Conduct assesses its own violations for up to three repeat offenses, including punishments from a $250 fine for the first violation, which is steeper than the City’s citation, to expulsion from the university.

However these policies only apply on campus or within 500 feet of it, so any residents outside that area are face charges from the local, state or federal police. Temple, which only has six residence halls for undergraduates, is a majority commuter school. Not many students spend their leisure time on campus.

Compared to other universities with similar undergraduate enrollment, Temple has very few on-campus housing options. College students who live on campuses around the country may be protected by codes of conduct and university police rather than immediately facing legal charges, but many Temple students are not affected by university policies at their residency.

College students and drug use go hand-in-hand, as the drinking and party scene continues to be the social epicenter of higher education institutions. 52 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds had used marijuana in 2014, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Use among this age group jumped 20 percent from 2013.

President Neil D. Theobald recently sent a message to students with heightened penalties for around-campus alcohol use and parties that supply alcohol, but the policy changes do not mention drug use. The Temple Police gave significantly more referrals and made more arrests for alcohol violations than for drugs in 2014, according to an annual report. On Main Campus that year, 559 referrals were given for alcohol, versus 102 for drug abuse, which does not exclusively mean marijuana. When looking at arrests, alcohol led drugs 23 to 7.

Concern for marijuana possession and use is decreasing nation-wide, as states and localities continue to soften laws against pot smokers. Philadelphia decriminalized possession of 30 grams or less in 2014, meaning offenders get a $25 citation versus previous punishment of jail time. The citation for smoking marijuana in public is $100. Since the change, marijuana arrests in the city have decreased by about 80 percent according to police department reports.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania Sunday, administering limited licenses for physicians, growers and dispensaries. While the law is a positive step for prescribed patients, the bill keeps medical marijuana in the hands of healthcare distributors. Full legalization of marijuana for recreational use is an even harder bill to pass in Pennsylvania’s mixed-party legislature.

PhillyNORML argues that the medical marijuana bill is not sufficient. Small businesses are unable to emerge because licenses are too expensive. The bill prohibits the sale of marijuana plants, which means patients cannot grow their own medicine at a cheaper cost. As a result, the black market still dominates consumer interest and patients are more likely to turn to illegal sale to obtain their medication.

College campuses, the hotspot for illegal sales, continue to thrive without need for legalization. Students can easily access marijuana already without a huge risk of penalty, so they are not motivated to actively support legalization.

“What students don’t realize is that they could actually have a hand in it,” Rudy said. “They don’t realize it, they don’t care, there’s no incentive; what’s the incentive for a student to get involved?”

Palestinian and Zionist Student Groups Improve Dialogue to Reach Common Goal

Published: Fourteenth Street Magazine online, March 13 2016

Politicized language expresses a deep tension surrounding Israel and Palestine, as the two nations continue to feel threatened by each other. However the fear and hatred expressed conceals the desire to peacefully settle a centuries-old conflict.

A common goal between both nations has been hidden by hostility: peace and freedom for all people. Mainstream media is often consumed by the violence, rather than diplomacy, between the two polarized nations, depicting U.S.-backed Israel as a struggling state defending against Hamas terrorists. But there are many sides to the story – the Israeli government has made violent attacks on Palestinians unassociated with terrorism.

The conflict can be translated to Temple’s campus, where in the past Hillel and the Students for Justice in Palestine, among other Jewish and Palestinian groups in Philadelphia have protested and rejected each other for a once non-negotiable barrier between their two cultures.

Since beginning a closer relationship with the University’s diversity office, Hillel and SJP have made an effort to have respectful discussions. Hillel President Max Buchdahl said many American Jews feel cultural ties to Israel, though others are able to separate it from the Jewish faith. This can change the impact of SJP’s anti-Israel dialogue.

“A lot of American Jews grow up and we get a very positive image of Jewish faith in terms of religious teachings, moral values and things like that,” Buchdahl said. “They attach the state of Israel directly to the Jewish religion. Obviously there’s a connection, but I think they’re two separate entities.”

SJP holds ties with Middle Eastern, African American and minority students on college campuses. They have collaborated with socialist and anti-Islamophobic groups, Queer People of Color, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Asian and Black student unions, working to universalize the Palestinian struggle and connect it to social justice issues that have or are occurring in the U.S. Freshman SJP member Dinsio Walo-Wright praised SJP for its inclusiveness.

“I’m a black person. I’m not Palestinian,” she said. “We pride ourselves on intersectionality. The struggle of the Palestinian people is the same struggle that my people are going through.”

Freshman SJP member Natalie Abulhawa planned SJP’s Free Food and Fun Friday last month, celebrating Palestinian culture with ethnic food, dancing and art.

Freedom Dabke, a Palestinian dance group from New York performs at SJP's Free Food and Fun Friday in February.
Freedom Dabke, a Palestinian dance group from New York performs at SJP’s Free Food and Fun Friday in February. (Click to view the full photo gallery).

“Our stereotype can be the same stereotype that Muslims and Arabs get,” said Abulhawa, whose mother is from Palestine. “[Such as] militant, kind of ignorant things that people don’t understand … We represent the love we have and the fight that we’ve given and the strength that Palestinians have.”

Political stigma surrounding SJP has caused meeting cancellations and kickback from the University, according to President and sophomore Iman Sultan. She said their strong political views can often distract from the culture they want to represent and the accessibility of SJP.

However, SJP’s reputation is often overshadowed by an incident at 2014 Templefest, where Jewish student Daniel Vessel was allegedly attacked with anti-Semitic slurs and punched by a student standing by the SJP table. Vessel, a junior at the time, approached the table first and “verbally harassed them repeatedly,” according to Abulhawa and SJP member Yafa Dias. Vessel was also a member of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a group Abulhawa and Dias said specifically targets SJP groups in the U.S.

“What happened in 2014 was not our fault, it was more the fault of circumstance,” Sultan said. “When it comes to Templefest, every table is public. Anyone can visit it. Our table happened to draw commotion because of our political views and orientation.”

Though Hillel now has a closer relationship with the Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) office at Temple, senior Hillel member Emily Simons said the 2014 incident was not handled as well as it could have been. She said Hillel had requested the University provide security by their table for Templefest, but it did not.

“I was upset with the University because now everything that they’re doing is reactionary when it should be proactionary,” Simons said. “Now we’re working really hard with the IDEAL office and teaching them about diversity in the Jewish culture and we had [President] Theobald here. But it took four years to get Theobald to come to Shabbat dinner.”

Because of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath on Fridays, Hillel is unable to host Free Food and Fun Fridays, limiting the University’s involvement with their group. Simons said this was something both Hillel and the University are beginning to address.

Temple alumnus Hanna Khoury, music director for the Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture group in Philadelphia, plays traditional Palestinian music on violin accompanied by students and Al-Bustan master percussionist Hafez Kotain on drums.
Temple alumnus Hanna Khoury, music director for the Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture group in Philadelphia, plays traditional Palestinian music on violin accompanied by students and Al-Bustan master percussionist Hafez Kotain on drums.

She also said the 2014 incident was a reflection of the Hillel student board at the time. The group now has a full-functioning board that can actively interact with University officials. Iman said SJP’s student board at the time also failed to make their group accessible.

It is important to students in SJP and Hillel that the University provide a space for them to discuss and debate issues, and reduce demonization of either group. But there is a very fine line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. SJP members claim the latter; they do not support the establishment of the state of Israel. They often boycott products produced in Israel and push legislation that cuts the U.S. and Temple’s relationship with the nation, behaviors they define as anti-Zionist.

But for students raised in Jewish families and communities, anti-Israel speech of any kind can trigger emotion. Jews with strong ties to their culture consider the denial of a Jewish state as a rejection of their culture and therefore language can be interpreted as anti-Semitic.

“For a lot of Jewish students, they can’t see the difference,” Buchdahl said. “Any comment which resembles an anti-Israel sentiment is ‘you hate all Jews.’ … It conjures up a lot of emotion.”

On the other hand, Sultan said there is a distinct difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and that language is sometimes called anti-Semitic as a silencing tactic for anti-Zionist sentiments. This denies SJP the right to share their opinions on the state of Israel.

“A very serious issue of religious and ethnic discrimination against Jews is being exploited by people who have their own political agenda,” she said.

But Simons also believes anti-Zionist language can be easily interpreted as anti-Semitic whether it is intentional or not.

“[It’s] the way that someone feels they’re being attacked because of their religion and their culture,” Simons said. “That’s up to them to decide, not someone else, the same way someone might feel being attacked for their race.”

Sultan and Abdulhawa said they were not anti-Semitic and that SJP advocates for the liberation of all people, including both Palestinians and Jews suffering acts of war along the Gaza strip.

“Judaism is a religion. It’s peaceful, it’s beautiful,” Abdulhawa said. “When I say I’m anti-Israel, I boycott them; I don’t buy products from them. People think that’s anti-Semitic but it’s not. It’s a misunderstanding.”

Misunderstanding is starting to be addressed between IDEAL and each group, but dialogue between Hillel and SJP is still limited. Carmen Phelps, director of student engagement at IDEAL, said she has seen progress between the two groups. Both had representatives at the social justice summit in January and both appeared willing to discuss their interests.

Phelps also said she would understand why in the past Hillel and SJP were not open to these discussions. She said the University did not have personnel dedicated to learning the concerns of both groups, but her position now attempts to bridge the gap and encourage conversation that could potentially change the global perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The challenges all groups face, on this campus and in the world in general, are global,” Phelps said. “We can’t really expect these issues to be reconciled and resolved when we’re looking at global issues … Hopefully what we can do … is encourage a new paradigm for achieving those goals in the world, perhaps starting with an SJP and a Hillel at Temple.”

Teen Parents Raise Daughter with Genetic Disorder

PublishedThe Rampage, Volume 47 Number 6, April 2015

“Yeah, I have a daughter. I’ll show you some pictures; … I’ll tell you life stories; … I’m not going to hide her, because I’m proud to have her. I got pregnant and I had a daughter.”

In August of 2014, the summer before her junior year, 16-year-old Marianne Demelletes gave birth to her daughter, Aliyah Ward. She and her boyfriend, junior Ronnie Ward, found out three months later that Aliyah has Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder that causes carriers to have an extra chromosome.

The disorder only occurs in around one out of 6,000 births and most babies born with full Trisomy 18 do not live past their first birthday, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation. Aliyah struggles with holes in her heart, breathing troubles, slow growth and underdeveloped motor skills. However, she has been diagnosed with partial Trisomy 18, which means she can live a full life with some disabilities.

“It’s a rare condition. You can’t compare her with other babies,” Demelletes said. “There are Down Syndrome babies, which is Trisomy 21, and you can find them anywhere. … But Trisomy 18 babies, they’re so rare that you can’t … tell what’s going to happen.”

Aliyah’s disorder is not noticeable in her facial features or general behavior. Because her development has been delayed, one would only know she has Trisomy 18 if they asked her age. At eight months old, Aliyah has just started lifting her head on her own, but a healthy baby would be sitting up and crawling. She also had to have surgery to insert a gastrostomy tube through her abdomen Feb. 18 to deliver nutrients directly to her stomach.

Since the surgery, she has doubled her birth weight from six to over 12 pounds and is more energetic and active during the day, while before she would sleep for hours at a time.

“She’s lovely; she’s interacting. She’s still delayed, but she will catch up,” Demelletes’ mother Marilou Johnson said. “It’s a challenge, but she has a lot of support … we’re positively thinking.”

During Trisomy 18 awareness month in March, Demelletes reached out to the Class of 2016 Facebook group and junior Jonathan Garcia to get support and to inform her classmates about Aliyah’s disorder. Over 40 students wore blue March 18 to display their support for the family and read the link Demelletes provided on her Facebook post to learn more about the disorder.

“I was actually really surprised … I didn’t think that many people would actually care about it,” Demelletes said. “[Jonathan] told me to meet him in the second floor rotunda during lunchtime and I saw a bunch of people there and then I just started crying; it was so nice.”

Demelletes wants people to know about Aliyah and understand that her life is very different from children born with other genetic diseases. Since Trisomy 18 is rare and unpredictable, the family takes a day-by-day approach. There are no set expectations as Aliyah’s life progresses. There are only a few people capable of operating her feeding tube and the family is cautious about who they trust to watch her.

She requires extensive care, so Johnson has taken night shifts for her job as a nurse in order to watch Aliyah during the day. Ward’s mother also takes time to watch Aliyah during the week while Ward and Demelletes are at school.

Being pregnant during the school year was hard, Demelletes said, when her symptoms started in the spring of 2014. Her mother, friends and other students found out she was pregnant, and she and Ward were judged and misunderstood. They even lost friends who would not accept their situation. Johnson said she was very angry at first because she found out after Demelletes had already been pregnant for six months, but gradually she overcame that anger.

“Marianne has no choice; it’s responsibility. She brought [Aliyah] here in the world so she needs to stand up for that,” Johnson said.

Demelletes and Ward have found joy in having a daughter to come home to. Both feel that through their experience raising Aliyah, they have matured and grown into better people.

“I used to be a straight-E student. I couldn’t get good grades and I would constantly slack off; I never really wanted to get involved,” Ward said. “Since I’ve had my daughter I’ve become a better person. [I want to make] a better life for her.”

Demelletes is looking into attending college after graduating next year, rejecting the idea that because she is a teen mom, she will not be able to live a full life.  With the support of each other and their parents, she and Ward have found ways to make it manageable to care for Aliyah while taking on high school.

“My life is not over. My life actually just started,” Demelletes said.

 

Cochlear Implants Gain Acceptance

Published: The Rampage, Volume 47 Number 4, Feb. 2015

When junior Malick Gueye was four years old, his daycare counselors noticed something different about him. He often seemed distracted and unresponsive to their calls. Though the daycare workers said he was fine, Gueye’s worried mother took him to the doctor – and found out he was Deaf, mostly in his left ear.

“My mom broke down. She was crying and so was my aunt. It was a little hard,” Gueye said. “At that time, they just came from Africa, started a life here … [the doctor told them] that I can grow up being Deaf and that’s okay. I thankfully learned sign language to communicate and my parents would try and communicate with me.”

The family decided to look into options for assisting Gueye’s damaged hearing. The doctor recommended he get a cochlear implant (CI), a surgically-installed brain signal device, in his worst ear.

“I had nothing to lose. I could have a hearing aid on one ear, and a CI on the other,” Gueye said. His parents, however, decided it would be best for him to use hearing aids instead, as the CI surgery, especially as a child, comes with numerous health risks.

CIs are usually the first option suggested by doctors to hearing parents with Deaf newborns or children. It is the closest thing a Deaf person can get to gaining total hearing and medically, doctors find it to be the most helpful hearing assistant later in life.

“Doctors think fix. They want to fix what they consider is broken,” DHOH teacher Jenna Hubble, who is Deaf, said. “So, most babies that are born from hearing parents are given the option to do hearing aids or cochlear implants, and depending on the family, they may go [either] way.”

The surgery for installing a CI, however, destroys whatever hearing the person may have previously had, in order to position the CI and allow it to essentially take over the job of “hearing.” But if the CI does not work properly once it is installed, it could cause a partially Deaf person to completely lose his or her hearing.

“[My mom] was afraid to take the risk; I am too,” Gueye said.

CIs include one piece of machinery placed inside the skin and one around the side of the head. Both parts work to send electronic signals directly into the brain’s nervous system. Unlike hearing aids, CIs do not make sounds louder, but provide a substitute for sound by bypassing the damaged section of the ear and allowing the user to depict words more easily.

“I can hear words better and then can learn how to talk better because [I hear] the sounds more clearly,” freshman CI-user Adam Snyder said.

Both Snyder and sophomore CI-user Aya Ettayeb had only positive feedback regarding their CIs, expressing that they have not experienced any problems. According to Ettayeb, the technology has helped her advance in school and communication.

But in addition to the health risks of CIs, many Deaf people believe that cochlear implants threaten the continuation of Deaf culture and the traditions the Deaf community has created to bond those with their disability.

“Right when cochlear implants first came out, Deaf people were angered,” Hubble said. “They were afraid of losing their culture. They were afraid of losing American Sign Language (ASL).”

Compared to other assistive hearing methods, like hearing aids, CIs can potentially allow a Deaf person to “hear” most sounds. It is because of this advantage that the Deaf community reacted negatively – and sometimes still does react negatively – to the new technology, though Hubble said the community in general is now more accepting of it.

Another difference between hearing aids and CIs is the cost. According to Hubble, CI surgery, generally given at a young age, costs a flat $50,000 and is covered by most health insurance companies. Hearing aids, however, cost around $2,000 each and in most cases are only covered until the user is 18 years old.

Insurance companies often do not want to commit to paying for hearing aids for the rest of a person’s life. Hearing aids are usually upgraded after 7-8 years of wear, which becomes an expensive investment. This being said, hearing aid users often feel they need and deserve help in paying for the technology. Either way, it comes with immense benefits.

“Every time I get a new hearing aid, it’s improved and better than the last one that I had,” Gueye said. “The technology improves. Five years ago, I could be outside with my friends; they could hear birds chirping, but I couldn’t. Now I can actually hear birds chirping when I’m outside, like real quiet ones. Like right now, if there was a water drop, I could hear it.”

Whether someone has a CI or hearing aid, the most important thing, Hubble said, is for Deaf people to remember they have a community of individuals just like them.

“Either way, the person is Deaf,” she said. “Whether they have the cochlear implant or not, they were hard of hearing or with some hearing loss. They are Deaf … A lot of the Deaf students here don’t have any outside influences [like family members] in the Deaf community. They have each other.”

At RHS, the bond between fellow DHOH students is especially strong because of programs such as the Academic Bowl and ASL classes. The latter also gives hearing students the opportunity to learn an important part of Deaf culture.

“[We like to make sure] everybody sees what it’s like to be in an environment where everyone is Deaf,” Hubble said. “Even myself, I did not grow up in the Deaf community. I’m a part of it now, and part of me wishes I was a part of it my whole life, because I finally feel welcomed, feel like myself. I don’t feel alone anymore. I want them to be proud of who they are and not hide it.”