All posts by Angela Fortuna

Breaking the Tie – Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of Education

by Sarah Willson

Betsy DeVos took the oath of office around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2, confirming her as the next White House secretary of education.

This occurred after a Senate standoff and a historic tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence.

The 51-50 vote was established after Democrats debated through the night in hopes of persuading Republican senators to ditch their vote.

Democrats argued that they needed “Just one more!” to eliminate the Republican vote, but ultimately failed to do so.

Mike Pence called his ballot “the easiest vote I’ve ever casted.”

President Donald Trump was upset by the protests, tweeting that “it is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country. Obstruction by Democrats!”

DeVos has been criticized by the public as being “unfit to serve” after her affirmation hearing that took place on Jan. 17. She argued that one school in Wyoming should consider bearing arms on school premises for protection from grizzly bears.

DeVos has also been denounced by educator unions for her lack of experience with public schooling. Many fear she will take public education funding and use it to build up charter schools across America.

After the vote, DeVos tweeted  “I appreciate the Senate’s diligence and am honored to serve as @usedgov Secretary. Let’s improve options and outcomes for all US students.”

Democrats, including Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, were concerned about Trump’s pick, especially when it came to caring for students with disabilities.

“You put those two things together, lack of compassion for what’s happened to places like Sandy Hook and an inability to just understand the basic law around vulnerable students and it was clear at the end of that hearing that this was someone who shouldn’t be the secretary of education,” said Senator Murphy to CNN earlier on Tuesday.

One Central Connecticut State University student was also concerned with Trump’s pick. Andrea Sanchez, a sophomore majoring in International Studies, questions if DeVos will be a good pick because of her lack of experience regarding public education.

“She has no prior experience in any public administration,” said Sanchez. “She never even went through any public school systems. I don’t see how she’s at all qualified. [DeVos is] someone who has no idea what people go through to get a public education. Not knowing anything about it herself isn’t giving her anything to work with.”

More than anything, Sanchez says she’s most concerned with the future of public schools and worries that all of DeVos’s energy will be poured into helping charter schools, which receive private funding from tax dollars.

While Sanchez agrees that not all charter schools are harmful, she believes that they are not ultimately what’s best for everyone.

Sanchez also addressed the issue of whether firearms should be allowed in schools.

When asked about DeVos’s plan to allow guns at a Wyoming school for use as protection from grizzly bears, Sanchez called it “a little extreme,” believing that carrying a firearm on school premises “poses a certain danger to everyone.”

In the meantime, DeVos currently has no formal plans to promote firearms on school grounds and plans to visit public schools starting Feb. 10.

His Majesty, King Trump

by Kristina Vakhman

Glimpses inside of President Donald Trump’s residences in New York and Florida say a lot about his tastes. Baroque furnishings and decor, all adorned with gold ornamentations, showcase a sort of “monarchical” preference. One feels as though they’re peering at the internal construction of an eighteenth century palace. The homes are fit for a king.

Consequently, these rich displays give off an impression of a narcissistic character. However, there is more to the embellishments than simply defining the president’s supposed arrogance. They present the hypothetical scenario of Trump viewing himself as an actual monarch rather than a democratic leader of a constitutional republic.

There is evidence. For one thing, Trump sees no conflict with interlacing his private business affairs with his duties as president. Like a king abdicating his throne to the prince, Trump has relinquished his empire to his sons, yet maintains a voice in its dealings. More royally, he has given his children and family members titles of political advisors; they attend meetings with foreign leaders in whose countries Trump has business ties. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was recently cleared to be his senior political advisor, despite the anti-nepotism statute barring him from this civilian position.

Additionally, Trump’s cabinet appointments have been based more on wealth than experience. Much like the aristocrats whom kings would surround themselves with, Trump’s nominees all have receipts for the exuberant amounts of money they’ve either donated to his foundation or to the Republican party.

For example, his pick for the Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, is a businesswoman whose family has contributed approximately $20 million to the right-wing and whose knowledge of public education is null. She and the rest of Trump’s choices represent the top tier of social class.

There is also the issue of Trump’s admiration for authoritarian rulers like Russian president Vladimir Putin. He has gone so far as to openly praise the leader while criticizing the effectiveness of former president Barrack Obama. He has no regard for Russia’s interference with the 2016 election or Putin’s crimes, instead viewing their potential friendship as an “asset.”

There are similarities to monarchs of greater alarm. History has shown authoritarian regimes undermining the integrity of the media and facts. Trump and his spokespeople incessantly attack the “dishonest media,” ignore intelligence reports and scientific evidence supporting the existence of grave issues like global warming and invent “information” that promotes their agenda. The mention of “alternative facts” made by the counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, is one famous example.

Monarchs swept unethical behavior under the rug to purify their divinity; Trump does the same, as shown by his suspicious refusal to release his tax returns. Authoritarians created scapegoats to draw away from their own faults; Trump has targeted immigrants and foreigners as the causes for most, if not all, of the United States’ problems. Kings crushed verbal or physical opposition; Trump has threatened to cut federal funds to a college because of its peaceful-turned-violent protest against his views, a move that, if it was legal, would destroy financial aid for thousands of students.

Trump is also following the steps of monarchs in terms of issuing executive orders. Within two weeks, he has already signed more than Obama did in his first few days in office. Should he continue at a rapid rate, he could reach the ranks of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II who put forth an average of 690 royal decrees a day.

The United States broke away from England to avoid monarchical rule. Trump’s lack of respect for democratic institutions and regulations could lead the country back to living under the reign of a king.

Dwindling Obamacare

by Sarah Willson

Before President Trump had even taken office, Senate Republicans began their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare provides affordable healthcare insurance for an estimated 18 to 24 million people.

The Senate voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a 51-48 vote on Thursday, Jan. 5, just eight days before Trump’s inauguration. The final vote took place around 1:30 a.m.

According to an article entitled “House Takes First Steps Towards Repealing Obamacare” by CNN, on Friday, Jan. 13, the House of Representatives voted to approve the repeal of Obamacare with a tally of 227-198.

“This resolution will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded while ensuring a stable transition,” said Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi.

“The Obamacare bridge is collapsing and we’re sending in a rescue team,” said Enzi.

Democratic Senators protested in the Senate as Republicans cast their votes, angered by the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress had made no formal plans to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats, including Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, spoke at the protest and voiced their concerns over the repeal.

“I think it’s important for this country to know this was not a usual thing, this is a day which lays the groundwork for 30 million people to be thrown off their health insurance, and if that happens, many of these people will die,” said Sanders.

Like many in Washington D.C., Central Connecticut State University students had their own opinions and concerns when it came to discussing the Affordable Care Act.

Ashley Ciarlo, a junior at CCSU, explained that while some people may find Obamacare helpful, it ultimately does more harm than good.

“People who have private health care are not getting the benefits that they need because Obamacare is raising the cost of their insurance” said Ciarlo. “I’m glad Trump is repealing it.”

Ciarlo goes on to suggest that Trump and his cabinet should push for all Americans to have their own private health insurance, believing that the cost of coverage would lower for most middle-class families.

“Nobody should be paying for anyone but themselves,” said Ciarlo.

Kenzie Merza, who is finishing her junior year at CCSU, has a different take on Trump’s plan.

“It helps people who cannot afford healthcare have an opportunity that they may not have otherwise”, said Merza. “Repealing Obamacare is fine, as long as there’s another plan to replace it. You cannot just take something away and leave everyone uninsured.”

Merza later states that she believes  a single-payer healthcare system, or Medicare for all, would be the best plan to replace Obamacare.

“No one should have to work multiple jobs to afford healthcare,” said Merza.

Although Merza understands this would raise taxes on middle-class families, she still believes that millionaires’ and billionaires’ taxes should increase in order to help those who cannot afford insurance.

Although both students expressed opposing views, they agreed that those who are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act should have enough time to find new insurance.

“You can’t just leave everyone stranded,” said Ciarlo. “No one should be left behind when it comes to something as serious as their health,” said Merza.

According to an article published by CNN entitled “The GOP’s Incredible, Shrinking Obamacare Repeal,” as of now, the process of repealing Obamacare will take months to finalize.

Greg Walden, the GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says there is a “mega-bill” that will soon attempt to take the place of Obamacare.

There is no word on what the bill entails, or if and when it will pass.

Cancelled courses reach all time high

by Angela Fortuna

More courses than ever have been cancelled this spring due to low enrollment at Central Connecticut State University.

“Cancellation of courses is the result of low enrollment a couple of weeks prior to the start of classes,” said Associate Dean and professor of biology Richard Roth.

The amount of cancelled courses for each academic department is different. Courses that are required in departments such as science and English see a smaller number of cancelled courses than ones students typically take as electives.

“We ended up having to cancel a couple of classes this semester due to low enrollment,” said Anthropology Department Acting Chair Kenneth Feder.

“Classes are generally cancelled when there is low student demand, and that isn’t the case for most [business] courses,” said Dean of the School of Business Ken Colwell.

According to Patrick Tucker from the Registrar’s Office, there were 124 courses cancelled this spring. In the spring semester of 2016, only 100 courses were cancelled, and in the spring semester of 2015, 85 courses were cancelled.

According to Kimberley Dumouchel-Cody, Advising and Career Specialist from the Center for Advising and Career Exploration (CACE), reasons why a course is cancelled include not enough students interested in taking the course, inconvenient times and the relocation of the professor. Often times, students and staff are not directly told why a course is cancelled.

At the end of the fall semester, students were given a day and time in which they were able to register for classes. Students with a higher number of credits were able to register for courses earlier than students with little to no credits.

“The big issue that we see all the time concerns timing. Students can’t always register in advance, usually it’s a financial issue holding them up, so some small classes are under enrolled by the time decisions are made to cancel,” said Feder.

Many students are unable to register for courses in advance because of holds on their account, which is mainly due to unfulfilled financial obligations. This gives the registrar the impression that only the students signed up for a class at the end of early registration want to take that class.

“Despite our best planning, enrollments fluctuate over time and sometimes our estimates are off,” said Colwell.

Even with the higher number of cancelled courses this spring, there are courses that are completely full in every day and time offered, leaving some students unable to take that class. Typically, these are the required courses like physical education and mathematics.

Many freshmen were unable to get into physical education courses this year, particularly PE 144.

Like a class can be cancelled, it can also be added, although the process is more difficult. For freshmen, transfer students and undeclared exploratory majors, Dumouchel-Cody said students have to go to the academic department for the class they are trying to get into. On top of that, CACE contacts the academic department to get more seats added to a class or to get more classes offered in general. The more students who go to the academic department, the better the chances are. Unfortunately, this process does not always work.

“It is so very important for students to register for their courses on time. That is the only way that we, as administrators, know what students need for the upcoming semesters,” said Roth.

Students and Faculty Fight for Higher Education

by Angela Fortuna and Sarah Willson

Students and faculty from across Connecticut rallied for affordable, quality higher education on the North Steps of the State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 26.

The day-long rally involved hearing from legislators and expert panelists, as well as union and community leaders who were invited to voice their concerns about education, defunding and spending cuts.

“Today, in Hartford, groups of people from [Connecticut State Universities] and other various institutions are rallying together with the common goal of keeping the cost of tuition down and providing a better education,” said Central Connecticut State University student Teri-Lynn Bailey.

The rally, held in the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol Building,  included lobbying legislators, a student panel discussion and a Q&A with film director Steve Mims.

Participants had the privilege of taking part in a student panel discussion and viewing of the documentary, “Starving the Beast.” The film, released in March of 2016, focuses on state funding of public universities and the increasing cost of in-state college tuition. It explains, “College costs too much and delivers too little,” due to its lack of government funding.

The government is, “Trying to attack young people who are just trying to find a way to educate themselves,” said Southern Connecticut State University Professor Stephen Monroe Tomczak.

During the Q&A, the audience voiced questions, concerns and comments.

“They’re designing the system to fail,” said a participant in the discussion of the documentary.

“The government wants to cut funding to public institutions of higher education which would result in students and families paying more to attend college,” said Bailey.

When two legislators were asked about the issue, both said they wanted to stop cutting the budget for professors and their students, believing that it negatively impacts students.

Students and faculty expressed concern about the quality of the high-cost education that young people are receiving.

Tomczak and CCSU Professor John O’Connor believe that the value of public education has remained the same, even as school tuitions continue to rise.

“The reasons are purely political, not economical,” said Tomczak.

Counselors and services have been cut at CCSU over the years. Tuition also continues to rise every year.

“We have to work together,” said O’Connor.

Events like the rally help raise awareness to the issues of education defunding, spending cuts and tuition increases.

“If you want something to change, the only way to do it is by banding together with people who have a similar passion,” said Bailey.