News Briefs 4/3/14

College mourns student’s passing

On April 1, 2014, Vassar College lost a member of its community, Dashielle Robertson. Robertson was a resident of Josselyn House and a member of the Class of 2017. An email was sent to the entire Vassar community on Tuesday evening informing them of Robertson’s passing. Members of all house teams on campus met and were provided with the resources to support their fellow residents during this time. Counseling services were made available to all students that evening in the Rose Parlor, and representatives of offices such as the LGBTQ Center, Counseling Service and Residential Life offered their assistance to any students seeking support. A memorial vigil was held Tuesday night on the Josselyn House lawn and was organized by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Sam Speers, the Director of the office, sent an email to all leaders of religiously affiliated organizations. “In light of recent events today—as we mark the sad news of Dashiell Robertson’s death and give thanks for her life—we have decided to change our plans for RSL Day tomorrow. We will not do the planned tabling tomorrow, but we will hold our dinner in the Villard Room at 6 p.m. Please invite your group members to join us for the dinner—and spread the word among others who want to be together as a community.”

For any students seeking support, the number for Vassar’s Counseling Services is 845.437.5700 and students may talk to On Call Counselors by calling 845.437.7333 at any time.

—Meaghan Hughes, Senior Editor


Japan ordered to end cruel whaling practices

On March 31, 2014, the International Court of Justice (the judicial system of the United Nations) ordered Japan to halt its whaling program, which the nation had previously claimed to be for scientific research (ABC News, “Japan Whaling Future in Doubt After Court Ruling,” 3.31.14). The decision comes after Australia launched a suit against Japan last summer, based on their surveillance of Japanese whaling ships in Antarctic waters near Australia. The decision is being hailed by wildlife activists, while the Japanese say it threatens a traditional part of their way of life (whaling with older methods has been practiced since about the 12th century).

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1982, allowing only for subsistence whaling for indigenous people and whaling for scientific research (International Business Times, “UN Court Bans Japanese Whaling In Antarctic,” 3.31.14). Norway and Iceland have continued commercial whaling in defiance of the ban by rejecting the Commission entirely. However, Japan has continued whaling under claims of scientific research. While its whaling is carried out by its Institute of Cetacean Research, the scientific processes and merit have been questioned by the international community, especially Australia where Japanese whaling is known to occur.

Since in 2008, Australia has been monitoring Japanese whaling projects to build a case for suit in the International Court of Justice. They have discovered that the annual whaling expeditions have little real scientific process occurring, and that only two peer-reviewed papers have been produced by the Institute since 2005. The whale meat is also sold to a few restaurants which still offer the delicacy. Japan’s fishing business is a major cornerstone of its economy, and their fishing projects include other endangered fish. In addition, entire villages which have traditionally whaled may lose their way of life (Time Magazine, “Japanese Whaling Ban Won’t End the Whale Wars,” 3.31.14).

However, whaling has become a controversial topic in the court of public opinion, with environmental activists advocating for sanctuary for the endangered species. A recent popular reality television show, Whale Wars, depicts Western environmental activists fighting on the ocean to protect whales from whaling ships.

In the meantime, the Japanese authorities have agreed to abide by the order and stop whaling in Antarctic waters, although smaller, allegedly scientific whaling programs will continue in the Pacific. The recent order may be used as grounds for nearby nations to sue to stop those expeditions, as well. However, it is possible that all whaling may continue for the Japanese if they can revamp their whaling program to more rigorous scientific standards, or if they withdraw altogether from the IWC and choose not to abide by their rules at all.

—Elizabeth Dean, Assistant Design Editor

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