All posts by lorenzo burgio

The War on Media

by Laura Haspeslagh

The media has always been under scrutiny. Many claim that George Orwell warned us of its dangers in his novel, “1984.” Though the book was written in 1949, many see similarities in his dystopia today.

Media has come up in politics more often with the topic of “fake news.” It feels as though we are surrounded by misinformation, making it difficult to find the truth. I think this confusing time stems from a fear that the media is in control of how we think. We’re worried about becoming the common analogy of conforming sheep and the government turning into the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Mass communication studies show that the media isn’t telling us what to think, but instead what to think about. This still worries many, that the elite conglomerates of this county who own mainstream media companies are forcing their agenda upon us. So do we control the media or does the media control us?

Fearing the media would be a symptom of paranoia. To claim that the media has control over us would be to forfeit our abilities and accept that we are gullible. We have the sources needed to keep mainstream media accountable. Fact checking sites work avidly to confirm or deny information that sources put out. The market also works in a way that competitors keep each other in check in an effort to prove themselves to be the more reliable network.

Social media provides an outlet in which viewers can immediately respond in a positive or negative way that effects news reporting. It’s true that media is constantly in our faces within our society but we are the ones in control of the information we accept or reject. To say the media controls us would be undermining our own capabilities.

We know better than to simply accept whatever information is fed to us. Skepticism is important in verifying any information we receive. That’s why it is urged that we get our news from multiple sources. Any information from media should be taken with a grain of salt but that does not mean we must condemn it entirely. The media does have an agenda, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

There are so many topics that people value in hopes of making a difference, it would be impossible for anyone to give a fair amount of coverage to each issue. Media can provide the people with a unified topic to focus on that begins discussion and can lead to change. This isn’t to say that the topics that the media covers are more important than others or that the work that activists do is less important because it isn’t being covered by the media. However, the topics acknowledged in the news reach a mass audience that, in return, can illicit important discussions and change. Getting such a large audience to think and discuss similar issues is a feat in of itself.

Instead of fearing media, let’s embrace it wisely. Educate ourselves on issues brought up by the media and on the ones that aren’t. Listen to our peers and their own narratives on controversies. Have open-minded discussions. Become investigators ourselves. The media doesn’t have the power to control us unless we give it to them.

Investing in Knowledge

by Lorenzo Burgio

It is becoming increasingly difficult to convince upcoming generations that education is vital when poor graduates surround them.

Higher education is becoming more and more unappealing as the debt graduates face and the duration to pay them off increases. Being able to finish high school then immediately generate an income has become an increasingly appealing thought. There needs to be a sense of urgency to ensure higher education is obtainable and appealing for upcoming generations.

Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” but it appears to be developing into a bad investment, or at least one that doesn’t seem feasible for many.

Seven out of 10 students graduated from a four-year public or non-profit college with an average of $30,100 in student loans in 2015, which is a four percent increase from 2014 according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). In Connecticut, the average student debt for graduates of a four-year public or non-profit colleges is $34,773.

This is part of a gradual increase that has been seen for years. The average student loan upon graduation in 2012 was $29,400, “a 25 percent increase from $23,450 in 2008,” according to TICAS.

In addition to the amount of the loans increasing, so is the amount of students who are borrowing. In 2004, 62.4 percent of public university graduates had student loans — in 2012, that number rose to 71 percent, according to TICAS.

One Wisconsin institute performed a study in 2014 that concluded the average bachelors degree holder takes about 21 years to pay off their student loans in the United States. This is an extremely long time for upcoming generations to commit to.

If nothing is done to make higher education more affordable and accessible for upcoming generations, the size and amount of student loans are going to increase and the number of college graduates is going to decrease. The benefits of an educated population can only provide a helping hand to the economical and social aspects of our country.

“Research has supported this conventional wisdom, revealing that education not only enables individuals to perform better in the labor market, but also to improve their overall health, promote active citizenship and contain violence,” wrote the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in a study about the social benefits of higher education.

It seems the words of John F. Kennedy have been forgotten and should be reiterated and taken into consideration to benefit upcoming generations.

“Student loans have been helpful to many. But they offer neither incentive nor assistance to those students who, by reason of family or other obligations, are unable or unwilling to go deeper into debt. It is, moreover, only prudent economic and social policy for the public to share part of the costs of the long period of higher education for those whose development is essential to our national economic and social well-being. All of us share in the benefits – all should share in the costs.”

50 Shades Darker, or Just Duller

by Sophia Contreras

It’s safe to say that “50 Shades Darker” is not a film you would watch with your parents. If you’ve read the book or were hoping for improvement from the first movie, you will be sadly disappointed, and it will happen fast.

The film lacked an actual deep and interesting plot. Rarely ever does the movie live up to the book, but the movie adaptation of “50 Shades Darker” was just too long to sit through without getting bored.

The film sort of glorifies relationship abuse; a guy sweeps a naive girl off her feet and tries to control every aspect of her life. He orders her food, buys the company she works for to control her and tries to convince her that everything they are doing is perfectly normal, knowing that she doesn’t have enough life experience. They break up at the end of the first movie, and just like every other young naive girl she takes him back because “he is going to change,” we’ve all heard that one before.

Putting Christian Grey aside, the sequel includes another man competing for Anastasia love her boss, who invites her on a supposed business trip in New York and after Christian tell her she can’t go, her boss sexually harasses her.

Besides Anastasia’s new work drama, the film also exposes Christian’s old drama and history of abuse. We are introduced to his biological abusive parents, and to one of ex-submissive who desperate for his attention again. Christian’s mother and ex-submissive both look strikingly alike to Anastasia, making the viewer think that he might have some mommy issues. Christian past put Anastasia into life or death situations, and if you’ve seen the first movie you know how he gets about her safety.

Anastasia is exposed to his past and sees a side of him that disgusts her, however, this still doesn’t stop her feelings for him. Anastasia and Christian get more serious and make big steps in their relationship.

Specifically during Christian’s birthday party, the couple openly expresses their feelings for each other, leaving Christian’s mother to find out about his sexually abusive past with their family friend. The whole family is distraught, and to make things worse, Christian ends up in an awful helicopter accident. When he walks back into his house, he is annoyed that his family was worried. Like all Hollywood movies, despite his freak accident, he only comes out of his accident with a single scratch on his head.

The movie ends on a relatively happy note, but it definitely left space for another two movies. Despite how bad “50 Shades Darker” was, everyone knows that it’s so bad that everyone just has to watch it. Its like “Keeping up with Kardashians” or “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” no matter how bad it is, you will never be able to look away or delete all the episodes from your DVR.

A Concern for Medicaid

Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump are making an effort to alter the Medicaid program by issuing block grants, or per capita enrollment, to states.

This would differ drastically from how the funding is currently. “Medicaid now operates as either a negotiated fee-for-service system or a monthly rate per Medicaid enrollee. The federal government pays a portion of the expenses, and state government pays the other portion,” wrote usnews.com.

Ultimately the federal government pays for the needs of its beneficiaries. This results in the federal government covering about 57 percent of the states’ Medicaid costs, according to The Fiscal Times.

A block grant is a specifically structured federal funding with a set sum of money that will be given to the states in a designated period of time.

Under a per capita enrollment, the federal government would only reimburse the states for a specific amount per enrollee.

Whether states are issued block grants or per capita enrollment, Medicaid benefits are going to be impacted and will affect many elderly and disabled individuals. This would also impact children and adults who were unfortunate enough to be born with a disease, such as cystic fibrosis or kidney disease, that prevents them from working.

The change in Medicaid funding is part of Trump’s effort to save the federal government money, which he believes will leave more power in the hands of the state.

Medicaid is a federal program that provides healthcare funds for nearly 70 million Americans, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This raises concern in Connecticut because there are more than 765,000 Connecticut residents who receive Medicaid and $2 million at stake with the proposed cuts, according to the New Haven Register.

“Eliminating the federal dollars for experimenting with payment methods and care delivery structures would cost Connecticut billions,” said Lieutenant Nancy Wyman, co-chair of the Access Health CT board of directors to the New Haven Registrer.

The funds states are receiving for Medicaid should not be tampered with. They are used to help immense numbers of elderly and disabled individuals nationwide. Tampering with the funding to save the federal government money would impact the largest insurer in the country and the 73 million people they currently cover, two-thirds of which are in nursing homes.

There needs to be more caution taken when it comes to altering the dynamics of Medicaid and who that will impact. There seems to be an unwritten obligation that needs to be upheld in which Medicaid is maintained, or even improved in order to ensure all who rely on it are properly receive the care they need.

RECentral’s Insanity Workout

by Sophia Contreras

On Wednesday night, students were hot and sweaty in Kaiser Gym thanks to the Insanity Workout event hosted by RECentral. The instructor was a Central Connecticut State University alumnus, who attended three years ago and studied physical education.

The Insanity workout is said to burn up to 1,000 calories during a single 45-minute session, which, for students looking to get their spring break bodies soon, was a major appeal in attending the event.

When the Insanity warm-up began, about 100 students were present and eager to start their workout. However, by halfway into the workout, about a quarter had left. The high intensity workout was just too much for some. “My favorite part of the workout were the breaks,” said Jeffrey Flores, a criminal justice major at CCSU.

The instructor was very supportive and motivating. She offered plenty of alternatives to every movement. By the end of the workout, only the most determined participants remained. Although not all the participants finished the whole workout, everyone went home with an Insanity t-shirt to prove their accomplishment of participating in the workout.

RECentral was looking forward to hosting the Insanity workout event again. “A couple of years ago, [ReCentral] hosted the Insanity workout, we had about 400 students show up. We’re excited to host it again and are hoping for another big turn out, but with the weather conditions outside, we are unsure. We just want the students to have a fun way to stay active,” said Ken DeStefanis, director of RECentral.

Participants ranged from experienced athletes to students who wanted to get out of winter hibernation. “I’ve just started to vigorously work out because I am working on my Revenge Body inspired by Khloe Kardashian,” said Flores.

“I would recommend this workout to people who love cardio,” said sophomore Amy Brigham. When asked if she would do the workout again, she said, “I feel like I should say yes, but definitely not, it was a lot to handle at once.”

For students looking for a more vigorous workout, DeStefanis recommends the fitness classes offered by RECentral at Memorial Hall that include body boot camp, Zumba, spinning, yoga and more. The fitness class schedule can be found on RECentral’s website and paper copies are available at all gyms on campus.

RECentral hopes to host other similar events to encourage students to become more active. “We’ve been thinking about having Work Out Wednesday. We usually have programs like Insanity a few times a semester, we are hoping to have another similar event around Spring Week too, to get the students moving,” said DeStefanis.

Spoken Word: Kyla Lacey

by Christie Stelly

Kyla Lacey, a spoken word artist, performed at Central Connecticut State University Monday night, talking openly about her experiences with domestic violence and abuse.

Kyla writes poetry for a living, but does not use her education in the usual way. “I have a degree and I don’t really use it. I’ve never really been able to live a normal life,” she said. She has performed at over 100 colleges and universities in over 30 states.

“I think I just hope to inspire people to do something that makes them happy. Poetry makes me happy,” said Lacey. “It was something I was doing for free and now people pay me to do it.”

Students joined together to listen to Kyla perform about real life situations that she has found herself in.

“I’m part of a woman gender studies sexuality class and I’m also trying to become a victim advocate of some sort,” said CCSU student Olivia Doolan. “I’ve never heard of a spoken word artist, I just want to know more about it.”

Some of her favorite poems that she performed varied from talking about bad relationships to talking about her curly hair that she has learned to embrace.

She performed a poem about a conflict that she had been having with a friend. “Keep your friends close, but dispose of those that consult with your enemies. I loved real hard when I was hardly loved. It was my fault; I can’t blame anyone for my bad taste.”

A less serious poem about her hair still provided a message about learning to love yourself and embrace it. “My curls used to have to be shy and hide in middle school. Please know that my curls are unapologetically black. They’re not #teammixedchicks, they’re not racist.”

Being a survivor of domestic violence, she hopes that her story will help someone else. “It takes a woman seven times after coming back to a domestic violence relationship before she leaves,” Lacey said. She was in a relationship for four years, with violence beginning after the first year. “Nothing I did was ever good enough for him. You cannot love somebody into being a better person,” she said.

One out of four women will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. Opening up about her domestic violence issues made for an emotional room and allowed students to understand the importance of always loving and putting yourself first.

“I’ve been through a lot but I’ve learned to laugh and make money off of it. Turn my lemons into lemontini,” said Lacey.

Kyla has been nominated for numerous awards, including Campus Activities Magazine Best Female Artist. You can find her on Twitter @kyla_lacey or on Instagram @frequentfly_her.

Fighting Fake News in the Classroom

by Lorenzo Burgio

The struggle to tell fact from fiction in the digital age is the battle being fought recently by teachers and professors.

A Stanford University study recently found that students in middle school, high school and college, are bad at verifying the news read online — which is worrisome.

The ability to verify news is something that has to be practiced in the nation’s classrooms, said Professor Sam Wineburg, who produced research for the Stanford study, to NPR.

In the study, Wineburg explained that the concept becomes even more worrisome because “many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media, they are equally perceptive about what they find there.” This makes young people a major factor, because they are susceptible to believing fake news and more prone to spreading it.

“How do they become prepared to make the choices about what to believe, what to forward, what to post to their friends, when they’ve been given no practice in school?” said Wineburg to NPR.

This idea is becoming even more prominent as the media is constantly being attacked or used for personal agendas, and this is something educators are aware of.

This is a responsibility that is falling more and more into the hands of teachers and professors, because “fewer schools now have librarians, who traditionally taught research skills,” explained The Wall Street Journal.

As Facebook works with the Associated Press and other organizations to ensure fake news is not spread throughout the social media platform, efforts in the classroom can also help tame the spread of fallacies on the Internet.

“Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference,” wrote USA Today.

Encouraging and teaching the ability to sift out fake news in the nation’s classrooms is necessary. This ability is vital to becoming a functioning and involved member of society and can only benefit future voters.

California lawmakers passed a bill in January that requires the state to teach courses that help students between grades seven and 12 distinguish fact from fiction and understand the repercussions of spreading fake news.

The dynamics of these courses are specifically designed to have students combat fake news by knowing proper reporting techniques. They teach students to ask questions such as, “Are other news sites reporting on it? How is the writing? Can I find the people in the story elsewhere online?”

There will also be a special emphasis on using tools such as Snope.com and FactCheck.org to validate all information and to always think twice before sharing information on social media.

These courses should be taught nationwide. In a digital world that is only becoming increasingly technologically based, these are necessary skills that students should be properly educated in, to combat the spread and influence of fake news. It is particularly significant because the young, social media users play such a large role in spreading fallacies because of their familiarity and expertise with social media, and the perceived notion that news shared by them is of the same stature.

New Education Funding Formula

On Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy released his new plan to redistribute educational funding in the state with a formula that is more transparent and fair.

The new plan is meant “to address disparities in funding the state’s education system, stressing that waiting for further judicial action on the matter will only result in wasted time and wasted opportunity on behalf of students in Connecticut,” said Malloy.

Malloy’s plan would overhaul the current Education Cost Sharing grant formula because it alters how student poverty is measured in each school district.

By doing so, it creates “a grant pool of roughly $575 million to help towns pay for special education,” according to the CT Mirror.

This pool would then redistribute the funds to impoverished school districts that need funding most.

“For the first time in more than a decade, the proposed new formula will count current enrollment, and it recognizes shifting demographics of small towns and growing cities,” said patch.com. “To better ensure support is directed to communities with higher concentrations of poverty, it will use a more accurate measure of poverty by replacing the free and reduced price lunch measure with HUSKY A data.”

“Under the proposal, a new Special Education Grant will be created and funds allocated on an adjusting scale based on a municipality’s relative wealth,” stated a press release on the proposal.

Changes to the way educational funds are distributed in the state are needed. There are constantly drastic social and economic changes in the demographics that make up school districts throughout the entire state.

This directly impacts the needs of the students in these districts and in turn, the funds received. It seems counterproductive to allocate the same amount of funds to all school districts statewide, when the needs of some are far greater than others. The focus should be on the quality of education the districts are producing.

All school districts in the state should have the resources to maintain a certain high quality of education. To do so, each district must be closely examined to ensure they receive funding for what they need.

Connecticut is known for its extremely high education and wage gap.  Hopefully this funding further helps the progression in some of Connecticut’s towns and cities that are in need of the proper amount of funding.  Connecticut is consistently one of the top states in the nation academically; this redistribution plan should continue to improve that.

Malloy will be presenting his new budget formula today, at the Connecticut General Assembly while he presents his full state budget proposal.

Supreme Court Nominee

by Sophia Contreras

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, President Donald Trump named Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has an outstanding resume with degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law School and Oxford. Gorsuch also clerked for conservative Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals, as well as Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court.

If Gorsuch’s nomination is approved, it will not be his first time in Washington. Aside from being highly regarded during the Bush administration, Gorsuch also spent much of his childhood in D.C. while his mother, Anne Gorsuch, served in the Reagan administration as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2006, Gorsuch was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals by the Bush administration. Gorsuch is most well-known for his conservative views. He has openly opposed federal birth control funding, women’s rights and the restriction of religious influences in the work place, along with having sided with corporations over working class people.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised his voters a conservative judge who would follow previous Justice Scalia’s views. Gorsuch promises to do just that, and has openly stated his admiration for Justice Scalia.

“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law, and I will act as a servant of the Constitution and laws of this country,” said Gorsuch during the announcement of his nomination at the White House.

Gorsuch is 49 years old and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife, Louise, and two daughters. Gorsuch’s young age will allow him to carry Trump’s promise of a conservative judge for an extended period of time. Gorsuch’s views include protecting the second amendment and enforcing the death penalty when necessary.

Despite Gorsuch’s impressive resume and experience, he has received major pushback from Democrats who fear that having another conservative judge like Scalia will prevent them from having majority, making them dependent on the Supreme Court swing vote of Justice Kennedy.

Democrats are also upset because, during the Obama administration, Republicans refused to hold hearings for Obama’s nominee, with the reasoning that the election was only eight months away. Democrats have said they would “fight tooth and nail” and question Gorsuch’s credentials and experience. It has been rumored that the Democrats plan on holding a filibuster to prevent Gorsuch from becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Research done by professors from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Harvard University have found that, in addition to Gorsuch’s ideologies, political donations have also pushed similar conservative ideologies. The researchers found, “Judge Gorsuch is estimated to be more conservative than 87 percent of all other federal judges.”

The current vote is 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If the filibuster cannot be broken, Trump has suggested using the “nuclear option,” which refers to leaving it up to a simple majority instead of the 60 required votes. However, this decision is ultimately up to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.

The next confirmation hearing is predicted to take place in about six weeks. Until then, Democrats stated they plan to stand their ground and continue with their filibuster.

SNL Goes for Spicer and DeVos

by Lorenzo Burgio

Saturday Night Live has continued to receive a mixture of reactions from their consistent political sketches, imitating individuals such as President Donald Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos.

Melissa McCarthy played the role of Spicer last Saturday, Feb. 4, in a sketch imitating a press conference where he was bombarded with questions regarding the Muslim ban.

“I’m also concerned about Steve Bannon, a lot of people are saying he is behind this Muslim ban,” asked Cecily Strong, who was playing a reporter.

“When it comes to theses decisions, The Constitution gives our President lots of power and Steve Bannon is the key advisor, okay and our president will not be deterred,” said McCarthy as Spicer.

Kate McKinnon played secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos in the same sketch, where she was asked “I don’t think we ever got a clear answer on this, how do you value growth versus proficiency and measuring progress in students,” by Alex Moffat who played a reporter.

“I don’t know anything about school, but I do think there should be a school- probably a Jesus school. And I do think it should walls and roof and gun for potential grizzly,” responded McKinnon as DeVos.

Alec Baldwin continued his role at President Trump, and started off the sketch in the Oval office asking if his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner were still there, which they were.

“Perfect. When the Jews are away the Goys will play. Send in Steve Bannon,” responded Baldwin as President Trump, while the Grimm reaper, Steve Bannon, begins to simultaneously walk in the room saying, “Hello Donald, I have arrived.”

In a video interview with US Weekly, Spicer responded to the sketch about the press conference and the many other that were aired about President Trump.

Spicer said he said the sketch about himself the next morning, but focused more on the skits with President Trump in the interview.

“I think, you know, he [Baldwin] has gone from funny to mean and that’s unfortunate. SNL used to be really funny and I think there’s a streak of meanness now that they have kind of crossed over,” said Spicer.

“It was cute; it was funny. I’d rather talk bout the issues that the president is so committed to helping Americans on, but it’s part of American culture,” said Spicer to Fox News in a video interview, when asked about the skit.