Questions of Police Brutality in New Haven

(From The Campus Lantern – March 26, 2015)

On Saturday, March 15, the annual New Haven Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in the city. At one point during the parade, a white police officer slammed a black 15-year-old girl down to the ground, causing her minor facial injuries. Since the incident, the 15-year-old girl has missed school due to the swelling and cuts on her face and a fractured shoulder (www.newhavenindependent.org). A video of the incident was posted two days after, and quickly went viral.

The incident started at the parade near the Buffalo Wild Wings on Church Street. The 15-year-old girl was in the restaurant when she ran into an 18-year-old girl that she had been having a feud with for some time.  A fight broke out between the two girls and the police arrived on the scene within minutes.  The 15-year-old girl was brought outside and that is when she was slammed on the ground, as was caught on the video (www.newhavenindependent.org).

The girl was found to have had a knife, but her mother claimed that she carried it around to protect herself from the older girl “because she was scared for her safety.”  She was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, third-degree assault, breach of peace, and interfering with an officer (www.newhavenindependent.org).

A statement has been issued by the city confirming that it has opened the investigation.  Other details have been withheld, including the name of the officer involved (www.newhavenindependent.org).

Protests took place outside the New Haven Police Department on Monday, March 23, in response to these events.  One of the protestors stated that the protests were not about race, but rather about the lack of respect from police officers. On the contrary, another protestor stated her belief that the police officers would not have reacted so violently if the girl were a Yale student. She noted that this was not the first youth of color in New Haven who has faced violent treatment (www.yaledailynews.com).

There is debate about whether this incident should be considered an instance of racially-driven police brutality.  However, many can agree that the girl’s minor age should surely be taken into account when analyzing the case.

Stagnant Trial in the Case of Murdered Eastern Student

(From The Campus Lantern – March 26, 2015)

In the spring of 2013, Eastern Connecticut State University student Alyssiah Marie Wiley was found dead in Trumbull after being missing for approximately a month.  Over the following two years, Jermaine Richards, 32, has been on trial for the murder of Wiley.  According to affidavits from the court trial, Wiley and Richards had a seemingly unstable four-year relationship.  Just days before she disappeared, Wiley tried to break up with Richards over Facebook.  Richards allegedly told a friend that he was “going to get rid of her.” He was the last person she was seen with before her death (www.nbcconnecticut.com).

Just a few weeks ago on March 6, Richards was granted a mistrial in the case.  The 12-member jury deliberated for about five full days before ultimately failing to reach a consensus. Reportedly, jurors sent the judge a note Monday saying they were “deeply divided” on the case (www.nbcconnecticut.com).

Richards was set to appear in court again on March 12 for the start of a re-trial, but there is currently no update on the case.

In honor of Alyssiah Wiley, FEMALES will be holding their second annual LeLe Project in April. The LeLe Project will focus on raising awareness about the issue of dating violence. In addition to FEMALES, other student clubs and organizations will be tabling at the event to provide information and statistics on different interest groups.

If students have any questions or concerns about dating violence, they can reach Starsheemar Byrum, the Coordinator of Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team and the Women’s Center, by email at byrums@easternct.edu and by phone at (860) 465-4314.

Eastern’s Rhona Free Named President of the University of Saint Joseph

(From The Campus Lantern – March 26, 2015)

This Tuesday, the Board of Trustees of the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) announced that Rhona Free, Ph.D, will become the ninth president of the institution on July 1.  Dr. Free spent 25 years as a professor in the Economics department at Eastern Connecticut State University and eight as an administrator (www.foxct.com).  She is currently serving her last few months as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eastern. During her time in these leadership roles, Dr. Free has increased students’ outcomes of success by overseeing the emergence of eight new majors (www.westhartfordnews.com).

Current USJ President Pamela Trotman Reid, Ph.D., announced her plans to retire in October 2014. During her tenure at USJ, Dr. Reid led the university in many beneficial endeavors; including the school’s successful transition from a college to a university and the implementation of the USJ School of Pharmacy in downtown Hartford (www.westhartfordnews.com).

According to West Hartford News, Dr. Free earned a bachelor of arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1978, and a master’s and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Notre Dame in 1980 and 1983, respectively.  Her scholarship focuses on a multitude of topics, including racial/ethnic earnings differences; collective bargaining; occupational health and safety; and innovative teaching methods.  She has been published in numerous publications and was named National Professor of the Year in 2004 from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation.

“She [Dr. Free] will garner the respect of the entire USJ family — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends — at both our West Hartford and Hartford campuses,” outgoing USJ President Pamela Trotman Reid, Ph.D. said, according to West Hartford News.

“I am energized and honored to lead the University of Saint Joseph at such a dynamic time in its history,” said Dr. Free. “President Pamela Trotman Reid has positioned the University to move to new levels of excellence, having established outstanding academic programs and developed a vital presence in downtown Hartford. I look forward to building upon these successes as the institution develops new opportunities for students while upholding its commitment to the Catholic intellectual tradition and Mercy values — emphasizing service, ethical development, and social responsibility” (www.westhartfordnews.com).

In Free’s absence, the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs will be vacant at Eastern.  There are rumors that Dr. Pachis of the Economics department may take the position, but nothing is confirmed.

of Montreal: An Unforgettable Show

(From The Campus Lantern – March 12, 2015)

If I had to choose one word to describe the of Montreal show that I went to on Monday night at Toad’s Place in New Haven, I’d have to go with “unique.”

The opening bands, Yonatan Gat and Deerhoof, were both raw and guitar-heavy.  Instead of playing in front of the crowd on the stage, Yonatan Gat played in the center of the pit so everyone had an equal opportunity to see the band.  The band’s songs had more guitars than vocals, and the crowd showed that they enjoyed what they heard by clapping after every song.

The next band, female-fronted Deerhoof, could also be characterized by their screeching guitars and hard-to-distinguish vocals.  The band, which last played at Toad’s Place seven years ago, had a stage presence that the crowd loved – cheers and whistles could be heard after every song.

Up last was of Montreal, a band that could be described as a mix between experimental pop and glam rock.  Throughout the night, the band’s set was a mix between theatrical fantasy and catchy tunes.  The lead singer, Kevin Barnes, was introduced by a character named Lanc that was dressed up in a red spandex suit, a black cape, and an all-white facemask.

The night continued on with other theatric characters coming onto stage during of Montreal’s set.  At one point, there was a character in an Abraham Lincoln mask wearing a Spiderman spandex suit grinding on two characters with poodle masks, American flag spandex suits, and huge, misshapen breasts.  All the while, the backdrop behind the band showed trippy, colorful shapes and designs.  The visuals of the show itself were unlike anything that I have ever seen.

Of Montreal’s setlist was a combination of old fan favorites and songs from their new album that was released only this month.  Their odd music complemented the theatrics of the show.  Of Montreal closed with the song “She’s a Rejector” from their 2007 album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?.  The unforgettable show ended with Barnes, along with the crowd, chanting the lines, ”Oh no, she’s a rejecter / I must protect myself / No, no, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”

Out of the one hundred odd bands I’ve seen live in my twenty-one years, of Montreal was by far the most entertaining act.  If the band is ever in your area, I would highly suggest checking them out – and be prepared to experience a visual and musical show unlike any other.

2015 Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser

(From The Campus Lantern – March 12, 2015)

On Saturday, March 7th, Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser at Willi Bowl. The main purpose of the event, which was sponsored by Institutional Advancement, was to raise money for scholarships for Windham students to attend Eastern.  In addition, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) shared in the proceeds to support community service activities. The CCE assisted with the event by recruiting Eastern students and Windham students to come and participate in bowling as a mentoring activity.

Thirty teams attended the event from Eastern; including faculty, staff, librarians, the Student Government Association, Honors students and theme housing groups.  Other teams were from companies that work with Eastern, including Charter Cable, Willimantic Brewing Co., and Chartwells. Eastern faculty and staff sponsored mentoring teams for the event that enabled the school to invite 29 Windham students to the event.  Additionally, there were 92 Eastern student volunteers that served as mentors for the students who attended the event from Windham Middle School and the Path Academy in Windham. The Windham kids were divided up among 15 teams of volunteers.

Jessica DeFelice, one of the Eastern student volunteers for the event, stated, “It was nice to see college students leave their dorms early on a Saturday morning to get involved in the Windham community.”

Eastern men’s soccer team also volunteered their time to come and serve as mentors for the Windham students. They did a wonderful job reaching out to the students who were shy. The team was welcoming, funny and excited to be there, and their attitude caused the Windham students to loosen up and have great time. Our Piece of the Pie, a nonprofit that runs the Path Academy in Windham, made a very generous donation to enable 10 of their students to participate with Eastern students in the Bowl-a-Thon.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the faculty, staff, students, and businesses who donated nearly $10,000 to the event,” said Kimberly Silcox, director of the CCE, “The Windham kids had a wonderful time and the Eastern students were great mentors. We hope that this event will encourage more Eastern students to volunteer their time in our community.”

The Importance of Affirmative Consent

(From The Campus Lantern – March 5, 2015)

Last week there was a public hearing surrounding Senate Bill 636, an Act Concerning Affirmative Consent.  The bill would require colleges and universities to include affirmative consent in their sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence policies.  Affirmative consent is the conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity, and should be a key element in determining whether sexual activity was consensual.

We live in a society in which victims in sexual assault cases are typically blamed for the violence that is acted upon them by perpetrators.  In instances of assault, we ask first, “What was she wearing?”  We ask, “Was she drunk?”  We ask, “Did she say no?”  It should not matter if the victim was wearing sweatpants or a mini-skirt.  It should not matter if she was sober or if she had a few drinks.  It should not matter if she was silent or if she failed to protest the attack.  The fact of the matter should be that if affirmative consent was not given, then the relations were not mutual and it was clearly an instance of assault.

Some people might be concerned about the drawbacks of asking for consent in a relationship.  I’ve had friends suggest that it might be awkward for them to ask their partner to clearly state their consent during sex.  They complain, “But Mae, won’t that ruin the mood?”  My response is always the same: No, affirmative consent will not ruin the mood.  Sexual assault will, however, ruin the life of the victim and sometimes of the perpetrator.  What affirmative consent will do is clear the blurred lines between consensual relations and assault.

As a college student, I’ve heard horror stories of women’s reputations being scorned for what has happened to them at parties.  I’ve had friends come to me, crying, because they weren’t sure if it was their fault that they were assaulted because they didn’t know how to react when the assault was happening.  The victim should never think it is their fault that they were assaulted.  The conversation around assault needs to change from what the victim did wrong, to instead focus on the detrimental actions of the perpetrator.  Establishing an affirmative consent policy helps to shift the focus of the investigation to the perpetrator’s behavior and away from questioning what the victim did to say no.

It is my belief that affirmative consent will provide students with safer, more supportive college campuses.  The lines between what is wrong and right will no longer be blurred.  In terms of consent, Connecticut should abide by the affirmative “yes means yes,” instead of the ambiguous “no means no.”

Corruption in Chicago

(From The Campus Lantern – March 5, 2015)

flickr / Bob Simpson

Last week the media revealed that the Chicago police department owns a special site for off-the-books interrogation of Americans.  The facility, which is located in a nondescript warehouse in Honan Square in Chicago’s west side, has supposedly been the site of secretive work by special police units (www.joemiller.us).

There are many questions as to where the moral lines are drawn in this situation.  For one, families and attorneys cannot find family members and clients who are held at the facility. There are supposed instances of Americans who were shackled in the warehouse for an entire day, all while being denied their basic constitutional rights.  Lawyers are labeling the interrogation site as the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site (www. joemiller.us).

Police who run the site are being accused of abusing Americans in more than one way.  Examples of this abuse include keeping arrestees out of official booking databases; beating by police, resulting in head wounds; shackling for prolonged periods; denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility; and holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.  There was also an instance of a man who was found dead in Honan Square (www.joemiller.us).

Although the media has just heard news of the corruption, it has been well known in the Chicago community.

According to the Guardian, Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes stated, “It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there.”

Flint Taylor, a civil-rights attorney in Chicago argued that the events taking place at Honan Square violate the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution (www.theguardian.com).

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

The presence of such corruption in the United States has been compared to a terrorist act.  By definition, terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”  The practices that take place at Honan Square surely are violent and intimidating.  It might not be clear what the purpose of the secret Chicago warehouse is, but the intent is clear: to drive fear into American citizens.