All posts by Analisa Novak

CCSU Football Players Suspended For One Game

by Analisa Novak

Central Connecticut State University has suspended four football players from the upcoming Sunday game after they were arrested on Sept. 9.

“In line with University policies they have suspended the Blue Devil football players for one game, to be served on Sept. 16.  The players are required to perform 10 hours of community service and they are also required to complete one of the University’s alcohol awareness programs,” said University Spokesperson, Mark McLaughlin.

Luke Ocasio, 22, Jose Manuel Garcia,  21, Kenneth David Keen, 21,  and Randall Laguerre, 21 was arraigned on Monday in New Britain Superior Court, after being charged with Breach of Peace in the second-degree and permitting a minor to possess alcohol. If convicted, they may face up to six months to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Chika Chukwu, 20, was also arraigned, but has been referred to adult probation. He plays wide receiver for the CCSU football team.

The arrests stem after the New Britain Police were called this Saturday to 64 Roxbury St., New Britain after neighbors complained of a party.

According to police records, when police arrived to the location there were many students who looked to be underage, along with a string of empty alcohol bottles and cans. Laguerre and Keen live in the building, according to the police report.

“There appeared to be students at the party that were not 21 years old and there were empty alcoholic beverages throughout the house. None of the tenants made any attempt to prohibit these persons from consuming alcohol,” the police report said.

All four were assigned a public defender on Monday and will be entering a plea on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

CCSU officials were made aware of the incident and maintain they remain committed to being a “good neighbor” to all who live in the New Britain surrounding area.

“CCSU takes its commitment to being a good neighbor seriously. We also believe it is our responsibility to educate our students about being good citizens, whether they are on or off campus,” said McLaughlin.

 

CCSU Staffing Shake Ups: Positions Vacant As Semester Starts

By: Analisa Novak

Reassignments and sudden departures have left many student services positions at Central Connecticut State University vacant, including three director positions.

The Director of Student Disability Services, whose duty includes  providing academic adjustments, modifications and accommodations to those protected under the American Disability Act (ADA), is just one of the three director positions that are currently unoccupied.

Dr. Valerie Hamilton-Brodie resigned and took another position earlier this summer. The interim Director of Student Disability Services is Dr. Carolyn Fallahi. With Dr. Fallahi acting as interim Director, SDS has only one other disability specialist to assist all CCSU students who seek assistance.

CCSU student Amanda Gorman, who uses SDS, is worried about the vacated position.

“I am concerned. I believe it is very important that they find a director as soon as possible. In order to provide adequate support to the students, there should be a director present,” Gorman said.

CCSU is currently without an Athletic Director after it was announced that Paul Schlickmann will be the new Athletic Director for Fairfield University. Schlickmann had been with CCSU since 2010, and has helped Central attain 20 NEC Championships. According to President Toro, as part of a recent organizational change, the Athletic Department now falls under Institutional Advancements.

“The division head for this area will first conduct a review of the staffing and department structure, before initiating a search for a replacement for the recently vacated Athletic Director position,”  Toro said.

Alongside SDS, the Director of Student Wellness Services remains unfilled with Dr. Jacqueline Harris retiring.

According to the job posting, the Director of Student Wellness provides oversight “for the total student health care activities of the university, and the preventive and support services in various forms of individual and group counseling including but not limited to psychotherapy, stress reduction, substance abuse preventive outreach programs and crisis intervention services.”

“The Vice President of Student Affairs is reviewing the organizational structure with the most recent departure of the Director of Student Wellness. In the interim, the vice president will be assuming that role,” said President Toro.

Student Government Association Senator Stephen Dew, sees the potential re-organizational of Student Wellness as a sign of things to come.

“Well, while it is my hope that we have a fully staffed student wellness center, so that we can deal with some of the more unpleasant situations students could potentially face during their time at CCSU, we have to be realistic. With the state and our university system facing budgetary uncertainty, all options must remain on the table. What we have to do as student leaders is make the case for reductions and consolidation at the system level, and not at the university level,” Dew said.

The combined salary for the three director positions that remain vacant is estimated to be $367,390.

SDS and Student Wellness fall under the supervision of the Vice President of Student Affairs, whose position is also not filled. Dr. Laura Tordenti, who was Vice President of Student Affairs for nine years, was reassigned this summer by President Toro.

In an email sent this July, President Toro thanked Dr. Tordenti for her “dedicated leadership” and assigned Dr. Peter Troiano as Interim Vice President, until a national search for a new vice president starts.  Dr. Tordenti currently is working on special projects for President Toro, at CCSU’s Institute of Technology & Business Development.


According to data from CTSunlight.org and HRAT.CCSU.edu in 2016, the salary for the Director of Student Wellness was $104,411, Athletic Director $192,234, Director of Student Disability Services $70,745.

 

No Confidence: Faculty Senate Votes Agaisnt The BOR

by Analisa Novak

In a defying motion against Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System Board Of Regents, the faculty senate of Central Connecticut State University voted for the no confidence resolution during an emergency meeting this past Monday.

The no confidence vote was made during a secret ballot out of fear of retaliation, and passed in an overwhelming 39-10 vote. Although CCSU voted no confidence, it did vote to participate in the proposed implementation plan with 65 in favor and two opposed.

“CCSU will participate in the implementation of the plan in order to advocate for and assert that our rights as faculty [AAUP and SUOF-AFSCME,] the rights of students, and the institutional identity are respected and to offer the needed expertise of faculty on the CCSU campus, even though we oppose the proposed plan as unfounded, nontransparent and undemocratic, and consider the plan an assault on the integrity and autonomy of the institution of higher education forced to be part of CSCU,” said the faculty senate.

The faculty senate is openly resisting BOR President Mark Ojakian proposed Student First plan that is looking to remove student services for all four CSCU Universities and consolidate them to one central one.

“This will eliminate redundancies across our campuses, leverage the expertise of our talented staff and allow better coordination and consistency of non-student facing activities,” Ojakian said in a statement released on April 3.

The proposed measure would save an estimated $13 million in administrative cost. Another proposed action from the BOR under the Student First plan, would be to centralize all 12 community college operations into one. The measures are estimated to save an estimated $41 million, according to Ojakian.

The faculty senate felt as if this counterbalances the Student First title and would actually hurt students.

“Centralization of functions will remove needed staff from campuses, beginning with human resources, and potentially affecting other departments and even faculty in later phases, preventing them from working directly with students, faculty and campus administrators,” said the faculty senate.

“This isn’t Student First, this is putting the Governor first,” said David Blitz when opening the “no confidence” debate.

If the proposed Student First Plan passes, each CSCU university would lose student services such as human resources and information technology on their campuses, & would have to travel to a central location for administrative services.

CCSU faculty senate found out about these measures when the general public did earlier this month. The faculty senate was not offered an explanation or breakdown of how these savings would be applied, having to resort to a presentation that was attached to the statement to see how the BOR decided this plan.

“He has not told us how, he has told us to guess how these numbers will be reached,” said faculty senate member Dr. Sue Holt. “It was not even a written plan, the board did not even ask one question about a massive cut to the system.”

Although last week the support for the no confidence plan seemed unanimous, the conversation on whether or not to table the motion was raised.

Some faculty members argued to get support of other CSCU universities and to inform more students of how this proposed plan would affect them.

Faculty senate members said that voting no confidence would show the BOR that they are ready to fight on behalf of all that would be affected.

“We have been cut to the bone, look at the years and years where we have been funded less and have had students bear the burden,”said Holt when voting for the resolution.

CCSU is the first university in the BOR to stand against Ojakian.

“This vote here is about leadership,” said faculty senate member John O’Connor. “Someone has to take leadership and vote with conscious.”

Shattered Trust: CCSU Student That Was Sexually Assaulted By Professor That Resigned And Later Taught At A Women’s College

 

by Analisa Novak

Although room 212 of Willard Hall is no longer in use, the traumatic memory of what occurred there still exists for former Central Connecticut State University student, Shannon Cunningham. This is where she was sexually assaulted by then Adjunct Professor Daniel Gula, according to multiple court documents.

Cunningham said that her attack happened when her guard was down the most and in broad daylight.

“The location was without a doubt safe. It wasn’t in a dark ally, in a dark parking lot or parking garage. It was on a state university campus, around 5 p.m. The sun still out and shinning bright when I walked in. Classes in session all around , students and faculty walking around outside. I can see the students and professors teaching in the rooms; doors are open,” Cunningham said in a victim statement to the court.

Before the assault, Cunningham said she respected Gula after she met him through a chance encounter. They spoke about Italian culture and museums, and had previously met in his office before where they shook hands as she left.

She never expected that weeks after meeting him he would trap her in a room, grab her breast, grind on her buttocks and expose himself to her.

According to the arrest warrant, Cunningham met with Gula on Sept. 15, 2014 to discuss an event she had attended. They conversed in his office and Gula shut the door due to noise.

Once the door was shut, the conversation then shifted with Gula playing with his wedding ring and saying “shinny shinny, pretty pretty.” Cunningham thought this was odd and got ready to leave for class. It was then that Gula asked her for a high-five, instead of the normal handshake they would do.

Shortly after, he asked Cunningham to hug him. As they hugged, it was then that he squeezed her, so tightly that Cunningham heard the professor’s shoulder pop.

“The hug was only a way to restrain me,” Cunningham said in her victims statement.

Cunningham still remembers how she was backed into a small corner of the room, as Gula began to sexually assault her.

“He backed me into a wall between the first desk in the room on the left and book shelves to the right. The area felt small. I felt trapped. I remember feeling like my brain was numb and body was numb all over. I couldn’t think clear…it wasn’t registering what was happening to me….it was as if my brain was on overload and wasn’t connected,” Cunningham said in the victim statement.

Cunningham told police that the more she tried to get away, the more aggressive Gula became.

“I kept trying to pull his arms and hands off my breasts and body. He was untouched by my words to stop. He continued pulling and grabbing at my breasts,” Cunningham said in the victim statement.

Cunningham said the event lasted eight to nine minutes, but felt like it was never ending. She was fearful that if she screamed, Gula would do something else.

“My thinking wasn’t clear, but I was terrified and numb. If I screamed or made any sudden moves, I didn’t know if he would strangle me, to shut me up. His hands had been so close to my neck. I had no idea who this monster was. I had no idea what else he was capable of doing,” said Cunningham in the victims statement.

Cunningham told police that she was unable to yell but she did manage to convince Gula to stop. She then escaped the room and went to class, although she was very late.

Days later with the support of her friends, Cunningham went to the Ruth Boyea Women’s Center and reported the assault. The case was then passed on to the CCSU Office of Diversity and Equity.

According to the arrest warrant, CCSU Police then spoke to Cunningham and she told them about the assault that had occurred.

Later that day, Gula came into the CCSU Police Department to speak to the them. According to the arrest warrant, he was told that he was not under arrest and could leave at anytime.

According to the arrest warrant, Gula adamantly denied any sexual misconduct, only stating that he gave her a hug. CCSU Police then told Gula that Cunningham was not going to be pressing charges, and they were looking to get the truth to close the investigation.

It was then that Gula admitted to the assault and signed a sworn voluntary statement, attesting that what he did to Cunningham was true. After the interview was over, he was allowed to leave the police station, according to the arrest warrant.

Cunningham said in the victim statement that the CCSU Police told her they had took Gula’s badge and keys, and fired him. Cunningham elected to be withdrawn from her courses and was issued a refund.

Months later, according to an investigation report done by Chief Diversity Officer Rosa Rodriguez, the report concluded that Gula violated the Board Of Regents and Connecticut State Colleges and University’s Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence Policy.

The conclusion of the investigation was that the case was completed and closed, as Gula resigned from his position before the investigation was completed according to the report.

After Gula resigned from CCSU, he then went on to teach at the University of Saint Joseph, a mostly female university.

“Daniel Thomas Gula was an adjunct faculty member here from Aug. 24, 2015 to Sept. 4, 2015,” said University of Saint Joseph marketing director, Diana Sousa.

Almost a year after the assault, Cunningham decided to press charges when she discovered that Gula was never fired from CCSU. Cunningham said she feels betrayed by CCSU because they allowed him to resign, thus allowing him to go teach at other universities.

“I believed he was fired. I believed they took his badge and keys the day he confessed. I believed this would forever stain his teaching record. After all, it was a criminal act, a felony or two and misdemeanor and not just policy violations. I believed that a university had obligations by law to ensure the safety of their campus and other campuses,” Cunningham said in the victim statement.

On Aug. 14, 2015, Cunningham along with CCSU Victim Advocate and Violence Protection Specialist Sarah Dodd, met with CCSU Police where Cunningham then pressed charges. Gula was arrested for third degree sexual assault, second degree unlawful restraint and disorderly conduct.

Gula pleaded no contest and was found guilty of second-degree unlawful restraint and first degree reckless endangerment. He was sentenced to a one‐year suspended jail sentence and two years probation.

According to Cunningham, a judge suppressed Gula’s confession because he confessed under the impression he would not be arrested. Cunningham has currently filed a civil suit against Gula and she is being represented by Nina Pirrotti.

The event took place more than three years ago, but Cunningham is still suffering from post traumatic stress.

“It has affected everything in my life. I would say prior to his crimes against me, I was a strong woman, able to overcome anything. I believed in myself. I could count on myself. Now, I live in this place that is guarded by fear of the unknown. I have never been so scared, humiliated or degraded in my whole life. I have lost my independence,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham still is haunted by what occurred at CCSU and how administrators handled it. She wants students to know of what occurs behind closed doors.

“Students and campuses have a right to know what happens on their campus. That when an institution fails to address the horrible acts of a faculty member or anyone, committing such violations of law, that the criminal court will serve justice and hold the individual accountable. I had no control over the investigation by CCSU Police. I had no idea my life would be changed forever after the crime. CCSU Police had an obligation to process this assault for the crime that it was sexual assault,” Cunningham said in the victim statement.

 

Is SGA Discriminating Against The Student Veterans Organization

by Analisa Novak

The mood at the Student Veterans Organization’s weekly meeting was business as usual, but a looming question thickened the air for its members; do they go for a third time to the Student Government Association and ask for the apparel originally granted to them, but then quickly vetoed the next week?

For current SVO Vice President Paul Small, that is no longer an option.

“I am not going back, I went there, plead my case to them, asked them for money that we pay for students funds and for SGA to cut our budget to $812 dollars last semester. This is okay but you should know if you cut a club’s budget so much, especially an active club and important club that does a lot of campus, SGA should expect us to come and ask for money,” said Small.

The SVO was approved for funds totaling $1,720.01 for sweatshirts and T-shirts on April 4. The majority unanimously approved it originally with 18 senators in favor and four against it.

Small then found out that SGA President Jahmil Effend vetoed the motion hours after the meeting. Small felt hopeless after finding out it was vetoed, as it was the only other option to receive the funds after a dismal budget that was given to them.

The veto prompted the SVO to reach out for the third time to the SGA, only to be called “immature,” and was attacked by SGA senator Danielle Plaskonka.

“They’re using emotional heart string pulling tactics, they’re saying they feeling alienated, which I understand where you’re coming from. I understand you feel Social Justice has not been fair to you, but it was not intentional and I wish you guys could see that. You also mentioned you tried coming for sweatshirts all semester, so why do you keep calling back SJC?” said Plaskonka.

“Is that your one move to get these shirts? I’m very sick of personal attacks, it’s immature and below everyone in this room. If you can’t handle this professionally, then shame on you,” Plaskonka added.

She continued on in a recently deleted Facebook post saying; “Please help me in understanding how both T-Shirts and sweatshirts will assist them in significant issues such as PTSD, suicidal ideation and societal understanding.”

“One of our agendas is raising PTSD stereotypes, but that was never the intent of the reasons to get shirts,” SVO  President Tyler Listro said. “Being able to raise awareness about PTSD is a benefit of having great representation of student veterans on campus, not the reason why we submitted a request for shirt funding,” Listro said.

Small said the request for the shirts was to let over 400 veterans know that there was a club here for them.

“Many veterans don’t participate with our club or know we exist. We have 50 members, 20 of which are active all the time. But we have approximately 500 veterans on this campus, National Guard members, and veterans from active duty that receive benefits to continue their education. Upon approval, when worn by members of our group, this will show others here that there is a club with people like them,” Small said.

Small stated that the request had nothing to do with using emotions to manipulate the system.

“I was told by that particular senator that I was there to manipulate the feelings, manipulate peoples’ decisions. That’s true in the sense that this emotional for me, but it’s not true that I am using what happened with the Social Justice Committee as a catalyst asking for money,” Small said.

This desire for sweatshirts and T-shirts has been actively discussed during the SVO meetings for the entire year. The SVO actively participated in the SGA canned food drive, so they could use the funds to attain apparel. However, due to a decreased budget, they had to use it for their annual Hoffman’s Gun Range trip instead.

“Our club minutes reflect that we have been trying to get this clothing all semester,” Small said.

The veto was held up by a 2/3 vote and the SVO was denied the funds. The same meeting in which the SVO’s contingency request was vetoed, Lunar Exploration Club’s contingency request of $905.76 for space suits was approved.

“They came with a similar request like SVO and they were approved. We were approved, but then vetoed by the SGA president. It seems clear to me that there is a clear case of discrimination,” Small said.

SGA senator Stephen Dew believes by the SGA not overturning the veto that the president ordered, and allowing the Lunar Exploration Club to receive space suits is a clear indication of discrimination happening within the SGA. Dew, who voted for the space suits, says that he has been voting for club requests each time.

“The fact that the veterans got a 18-4 vote the first time they requested, and got a majority the second time, speaks to the facts that senators in the majority want to fund the SVO. However, there is clearly an element on senate that doesn’t feel that way. It is rather disgusting that four people who voted against the SVO to begin with managed to obstruct government, and by obstructing government, a club was not able to get what they were requesting for,” Dew said.

Small has said that a number of senators have stepped in to assist the SVO and even attended their meeting last Thursday.

The SVO then filed another contingency request to the finance committee for $1,174.57 on April 17, for uniformed sweatshirts. The Chair of Finance Committee Treasurer, Brendan Kruh, decided not to hear the contingency request after he felt it was invalid due to the bylaws.

Vice President Christopher Cappiello disagreed with this, and said there seems to be a pattern with the SGA bringing up bylaws when it comes to the SVO.

“I think this is a good motion, they have everything they need to fill the bylaws, in my opinion: there is nothing wrong with this. We don’t have to pay 50 percent of it, we can pay 100 percent of it,” said Cappiello. “I don’t know why the argument is being brought up again when it comes to SVO and bylaws. Its like senate has this gravitational pull with bylaws when SVO walks into the door.”

It was appealed unanimously by the finance committee. The contingency request was approved by the majority of members of the finance committee, and will be heard by the SGA today.

Small already paid out of his own pocket to provide the club with T-Shirts. The shirt designer felt bad that Small had to pay for the SVO shirts after the SGA vetoed their request, and gave him a small military discount of 10 percent.

Active members and members who put out for the food drive will be receiving T-Shirts for free from Small. The SVO is looking into charging new members who would like to have T-Shirts, so that they can no longer go to the SGA for any other requests and are able to sustain themselves.