A Cold, Wet Education

BY NICK IRONSIDE // NOV. 14, 2012  //

Freshman Joseph Negrete realized last night that he didn’t only miss his bed in Miami, Fla. He was also missing his bed here on campus.

In Boston alone, there are 8,000 homeless people. // //

Negrete is part of a first-year inquiry class that spent last night sleeping outside on the academic quad between Hafer and AAPC. According to Professor Karen Lischinsky, who has helped organize the assignment the past three years, the sleep-out gets students to “think about poverty and inequality at more of an experiential level.” Professors Carrie Cokely and Linda Romano also helped Lischinsky organize the night outside.

“I think it will be pretty interesting,” said Negrete, only one hour into his night on the quad. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never slept outside before, especially in the cold weather.

“I expect to learn to be more resourceful, in case I’m ever put against a situation like this,” he added. “Another thing that I expect to learn is different tactics to stay warm.”

Lischinsky made clear that the project was not about making students temporarily homeless. “That’s insulting to homeless people,” she said. Rather, it’s about deeply considering issues of poverty and inequality.

“We’re paying particular attention to the people in New York and New Jersey,” said Lischinsky, referencing Hurricane Sandy, which ripped apart areas of the East Coast earlier this month. “Tonight, right now, there are people outside in New York and New Jersey doing the same thing we’re doing. Except this is a class, and it will end in the morning. In New York and New Jersey, unfortunately, it’s a tragedy.”

Anthony Vicente, another freshman criminal justice major in the class, said he was both excited and nervous for the assignment.

“I feel like it’s a good thing because we’ve been studying poverty, how it affects people and stereotypes against it,” he said. “I think [the sleep-out] is a good idea.”

Students were required to keep a journal throughout the night. They have group discussions and wrote short opinion pieces based on prompts by the professors.

“I want them to really think,” said Lischinsky. “We’re going to have conversations throughout the night. What does it feel like to be cold? There are 8,000 homeless people just in Boston. It’s not a class for them.”


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