Goshen College’s newest major: criminal public health

Goshen College’s newest major: criminal public health

As many of you may know, Goshen College is currently undergoing a major rebranding campaign. If you look closely around campus, you will see promotional posters that say something like “Goshen College, where it all connects.” 

As part of this rebranding, the administration has also decided to add some new areas of study. 

I fully support this decision because I think that our current list of majors and minors is a little outdated and cliched. 

Is there one area of study truly unique to Goshen? The answer was no, until recently. Now, students at GC can choose a Brand New Major, unlike anything ever done before! 

Introducing: criminal public health!! 

Now, I know some of you might be confused, saying, “Greta, they are two different programs. There is criminal and restorative justice, and public health. They are separate. They even hired two new professors!” 

To that, I would chuckle and say, “How little you understand.” 

You see, the college planned on adding two new majors, but, due to last minute budget cuts, they had to smash them together. GC did end up hiring two new professors who would create the new major collaboratively: Robert Brenneman and Brianne Brenneman. 

Yes, you read that correctly. They share the same last name. Suspicious, no? 

I sure thought so. I decided to get to the bottom of this, speaking with both Robert and Brianne.

First, I spoke to Robert, who explained criminal public health as “an emerging interdisciplinary field that focuses on criminalizing healthy lifestyles in public. If people are enjoying a healthy activity out in the open, we try to make them feel bad about it in a very public, humiliating way. In my courses, we will be doing several field trips to local parks, where we will be picketing all the open space and jeering at anyone daring to use the exercise equipment.” 

Brianne echoed this sentiment, and encouraged students up for the challenge to sign up for CrimHealth405: Healthy Heists. 

She also explained that criminal public health is different from normal public health. “We focus on individual behaviors in order to create system-level change. We believe that people who make healthy decisions have been brainwashed and it’s our duty to provide an opportunity for justice; they must be re-taught that we should make decisions based only on what is best for ourselves and not for the whole community. We believe shame, not guilt, is the most effective tool for behavior change. If people simply don’t follow the rules, then the policy will become what is criminal, not the individual.”  

Fascinating. I asked about the type of work they do in their field. Robert said to look at the COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. and Brazil: “That’s where our results really come through and our work speaks for itself.” 

In terms of the work they are doing closer to home, Brianne said, “We believe the work starts right here on campus, which is why my daily ritual of yelling at students from my window about their health behaviors is so impactful. We can only hope they will take what they contract, I mean learn, on campus back to their families and communities.”

Sounds like these professors really practice what they preach. 

Enough about the actual major though – what about their identical last names? I confronted them about it, and was surprised by how openly they revealed the truth. 

“Brianne and I recently discovered that we are twins, separated at birth,” said Robert. “I realize that my crow’s feet and thinning hair make me look a little older, but it’s because of a rare genetic disorder that causes early-onset aging. I’m really only twenty five, having graduated from college in 1997 when I was two. I was a very precocious child.”

Separated at birth? How on earth did they come to find each other again, here at Goshen College? 

Brianne answered my question, saying  “once Rob was hired, he spoke to the committee looking to hire someone for the new [criminal] public health major. He had been searching for me, his long-lost twin, but I was difficult to reach all the way in Cincinnati, Ohio. The committee agreed to hire me because they are suckers for reuniting long-lost twins.” 

A beautiful story, for a beautiful new major.

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Written by Greta Klassen, Copy Desk Chief

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