All posts by lorenzo burgio

SGA Readership Program

by Analisa Novak

Central Connecticut State University students will once again have unlimited access to the New York Times, thanks to a program re-launched by the Student Government Association (SGA).  The newspapers will be available complimentary, both in physical copy and online, starting this week according to SGA Academic Affair Chair, Wyatt Bosworth.

The SGA Readership Program is an enhancement of the previous newspaper subscription platform, that was available on campus up until last year. It ended after various different organizations stopped sponsoring free copies of both the New York Times and USA Today, leaving the campus with no national newspapers available.

After bringing the motion to the senate last year, Senator Bosworth argued for a school as populated as CCSU, a newspaper subscription is essential.

“You go to any public university of this size, there’s a physical newspaper. That’s an expectation of attending a high quality institution,” Bosworth said.

The motion was passed 24-4, with those not in favor arguing that the SGA shouldn’t be paying for a service that is already free.

“I like the idea of having the paper, if you go on the databases on our website, you can gain access to the New York times with today’s date, it goes back to 1980, so we do have access to it already,” said Senator Ariana Simeone.

The CCSU library does offers the New York Times on their database search, but only has one paper version for students to use. It could not leave the library and is on a first come, first serve basis.

“The papers that SGA provides are more up to date, because we usually get them much later than they do,” CCSU library technical assistant Alberto Cifuentes Jr. said.

The SGA Readership Program will offer complimentary copies of the New York Times located throughout various newsstand located on campus, including Memorial Hall and the Student Center.

“You need something to look at, that you can take where you go. We need actual copies. As we have seen today, most of us didn’t even know about this free access,” said Senator Caitlin Moreau

CCSU students will also receive access through digital passes, that can be accessed through mobile or online devices. Unlike the CCSU Library database, the SGA Readership Program will have full access to all articles, including photo and videos. Students can easily access any article even on the go, with the digital pass option.

“I like the on-go option the most, I honestly don’t read actual papers a lot, so I am more likely now to read issues, now that its on my phone,” said CCSU student Kaylah Gore.

The passes are available on a 24 hour renewal basis on the New York Times website. The number of passes are capped at 222, which is the same amount of newspapers that the campus receives.

 

How Police are Dealing with Mental Health

by Cyrus dos Santos

Police officers are frustrated with the lack of resources available to help handle the ever-growing mental health issues in today’s society.

“You really have to be a psychologist,” said Central Connecticut State University Police Sgt. Jerry Erwin. “Because of our current budget crisis in Connecticut, and nationwide, a lot of social services have been cut.” Erwin acknowledged the toll our economy has taken on social programs that many, including law enforcement officials, have relied on. 

“The people dealing with these mental health issues don’t get the services they should be getting because of budget cuts,” said Erwin. “Police officers now have to be those people.”

Erwin said, referring to local hospitals, that they get people help through other services. However, once admitted, many end up back on the streets after a short while.

“I’m not blaming the hospitals,” said UConn Health Police Officer Sean Butler. “They do their best.”

Butler said that law enforcement does a great job of identifying mental illnesses and getting those suffering from a mental illness to the hospital, while sharing his dissatisfaction with the status quo. 

“We deal with the issues every day, all day. Same people over and over. They go to the hospital and are back, put on the street in hours,” Butler said, while admitting the duration can at times be longer. “But they always end up back on the street and nothing has changed.”

In early 2016, the Connecticut legislature tried to pass House Bill No. 5271 (HB-5271) that focused on law enforcement and their dealings with mental illness. It also would have required all police departments in the state to have an on-call mental health expert available at any time. HB-5271 was defeated in the Appropriations Committee.        

On June 7, 2016, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed House Bill No. 5547 (HB-5547) into action. It calls for an assembled task force to investigate the current training curriculum for all police, both incoming cadets and veteran officers.  

The bill states as follows: “The task force shall examine: (1) The current basic curriculum and practices, (2) the instruction and delivery of the basic curriculum, (3) the feasibility and desirability of offering training at satellite campuses, and (4) such other topics as the task force deems appropriate relating to police training.”

However, many officers do not believe training is the problem.

“The problem isn’t with law enforcement not knowing how to deal with mental illness. The problem is the massive numbers of people with mental illness on the street, and no place for them to receive long-term care. Years ago, there were multiple long-term care facilities for mental illness. The state closed them. The state needs to bring those facilities back,” said Butler.

The Governor’s office did not respond for comment.

This issue does not stop in Connecticut. It is a story that can be found throughout the United States.

“In my 23 years of police work, I can confidently say that the mentally ill and those suffering from drug addiction have not received the treatment they need,” said retired New York Police Department Sgt. Angel Rosa.

The Brooklyn native echoed Erwin’s claim when he said, “Officers are forced to be psychologists, social workers, parents, friends and the list goes on.”

“City and state governments don’t want to spend the money it takes to help these folks,” said Rosa. “In the end, they spend the money on lawsuits and re-training of officers.”   

“What most folks don’t know is that officers are constantly training,” Rosa said, noting that every time something does go wrong, the blame is placed on the training of the officers involved. “Yet that same officer handled hundreds of other [mental illness] cases with no incident.”

In the state of Connecticut, police cadets attend a class designed to prepare them for handling issues surrounding mental health.

“When recruits are going through the academy, there is a specific class, it’s a block of training on awareness of mental health,” said Police Officers Standards and Training Council Certified Instructor Liam O’Brien.

Taking a closer look at the current practice and standards of law enforcement training shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. At least, that is what Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald thinks.

“I think it’s valid, the examination of the curriculum,” said Fitzgerald, a member of HB-5547’s task force. “However, I think it’s a response to what’s happening across the nation, not so much what is happening in Connecticut.”

“We’re probably one of the best trained states,” he said, “as far as law enforcement goes, in the country.”

Fitzgerald is also a member of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association (CPCA), a strong opponent of the bill that would have demanded departments to employ mental health professionals to aid officers.

“Really, it was cost,” Fitzgerald said, explaining the CPCA’s issue with HB-5271. “It was an expense that was being forced upon the communities.”

Fitzgerald said, ideally, “We would like to have a mental health person with us when we go on a mental health call. But it’s not really feasible. It is an added burden that’s put on police officers.”

Though the task force is in its infancy, there is hope to find a way to fix the current issues.

“I think everything’s on the table,” said Andrew Clark, director for the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy at CCSU and member of HB-5547’s task force. “Everything,” includes the topic of mental health, said Clark.

Since the task force’s first meeting on Dec. 6, 2016, they have established a desire to reach out to the communities for feedback, Clark explained.

“One of the things we’re designing is a survey for populations to say, ‘what do you think could benefit police training?’ So, I imagine one of the things that could happen is surveys to communities and constituent groups, like those in the mental health arena that could say, ‘This is needed,’” said Clark.

On Dec. 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 94-5. It provides $6 billion for public health and medical research and is available nationwide. It was signed into law six days later by President Barack Obama.

According to the Council of State Government Justice Center, the bill covers: “Several criminal justice reform measures related to the issue of mental health, including the enactment of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act and the reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act.”           

Despite the claim that Connecticut police officers are some of the best trained in the country, Fitzgerald is not pleased with the support he has seen from the state. 

“Currently, the state has cut funding for our training academy,” said Fitzgerald. “The staff down there has been cut because of the budget deficit. Although police are being asked to do more, and do it better, we’re getting less resources in which to train for those situations.”

“The first thing I’d like to see is improved funding for our training,” said Fitzgerald. “I think the task force will also address that, because everyone wants the police officers to be the best that they can be, and if that’s the case, then we need to train them.”

The task force will meet once a month. Their report is due Oct. 1.

Welcoming New President Toro

by Alonso Velasquez

Central Connecticut State University welcomed President Zulma Toro at a reception held in Alumni Hall on Jan. 19th.

CCSU faculty and students filled the tables set up in Alumni Hall to enjoy finger foods, have the opportunity to mingle with each other and meet the new president for themselves.

The ceremony was open to the public, which resulted in many in the CCSU community taking the opportunity to meet Toro.

Many in attendance spoke of their hopes and expectations for the incoming president.

Student Chris Morales hopes that the new president will “improve student retention and support Greek life.”

CCSU Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Zdzislaw Kremens explained that, being an engineer himself, he likes that Toro “is an engineer. She is very energetic. I think she will be a very good president.”

Freshman Akai Long hopes that she fosters innovation. “She said that her plan involved a new building that CCSU recently purchased. I hope she has an active presence, as the predecessor didn’t.”

“I hope most of all that she has an open door policy, and is a transparent and accessible president,” said Student Government Association (SGA) Chair of Academic Affairs Wyatt Bosworth. “This is what truly causes positive change. She came to the student government meeting yesterday and sat down with us for an hour. She met with clubs and organizations. She cares deeply about getting student input and that’s a good first sign.”

“If we have a direct line of communication between the leadership of the university and the students, then we can collaborate and move the institution to be what we need to be,” said Toro at the SGA meeting on Jan. 18th.

“Things I hope she can improve on, would be for her to maintain a good relationship with the legislature of the governor’s office, we’re facing very big budget cuts this year,” said Bosworth. “The state needs to see her be an effective, transformative president, so they can continue to invest in this institution. And I hope that she keeps a high standard for academics, and funds our student activities appropriately.”

“We are going to make the case for Central once again to see if we can somehow at least maintain the current support from the state. We will continue to advocate for Central, because we are helping the students,” said Toro during the SGA meeting, in regards to the university budget.

Student Jose Diaz said Toro could help the Latino community. “At CCSU, there is a lot that can be done. So I think the expectation is to help the immigrant community and having more resources and being open to talking with students.”

CCSU Latin American Student Organization (LASO) co-director Awilda Reasco said, “I would like the support of Dr. Toro to enhance our diversity, because CCSU is in the backyard of Hartford and New Britain and we have so many talented young students of color, Latino, African American, low income students that we need to reach out, by giving access to them.”

The gala was part of a string of events intended to help Toro learn more about the CCSU community. The day prior to the event, she spoke for an hour to the SGA, and LASO also hosted an event for her.
Toro is CCSU’s 13th president, succeeding Dr. Jack Miller, and officially started her term on Jan. 3rd.

Healthcare is a right, not a privilege

by Lorenzo Burgio

Healthcare in the United States is being compromised due to it being viewed as a privilege, and not a right.

For years there has been a continuous debate over whether or not healthcare is a constitutional right. This discussion has recently been highlighted due to recent protests and changes in administration.

In lieu of this ongoing debate and recent friction, it seems necessary to clarify a few of the countless reasons healthcare is a constitutional right.

One reason was called to attention on Jan. 15, at a rally of nearly 6,000 people held in Boston at the Faneuil Hall, to protest Republican efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. This was one of about 35 rallies held across the country, organized by Bernie Sanders.

“We are making a statement that healthcare is not a privilege, it’s a right for everybody,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The goal of Mayor Walsh and his supporters is a right that has been asked for repeatedly and is seen in many other countries. It is also a right that is clearly defined in the Constitution.

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and exercise to pay the debts and provide the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” declares the Constitution of the United States.

This clause clearly affirms that Congress has the power to use tax money for universal healthcare, that will help the general welfare of the people in this country.

It seems though, Congress has cut up this clause into various pieces, and picked on the desired parts.

For many, the reason for opposing universal healthcare is fear of losing money due to increased taxes. However, this same concern is not seen when taxes are taken for military funding or to pay off national debts.

Because of the first two elements in this clause of the Constitution, without hesitation, taxes have always been used to fund the country’s military and pay debts. But there has been an overwhelming level of uncertainty and doubt when it comes to spending tax money on something as fundamental as healthcare.

Handling clearly defined human and constitutional rights in a selective, agenda-driven manner is unacceptable. Law and policymakers in this country need to get rid of this level of hypocrisy and obvious disrespect for the Constitution, and begin to uphold the constitutional rights the Founding Fathers set for this country; which includes universal healthcare.

CCSU Favors Clinton

By Austin Salnitis

Despite being largely frustrated with the election, the majority of Central Connecticut State University students support Hillary Clinton for president.

A representative survey conducted by CCSU journalism students found that Hillary Clinton controlled 46.9 percent of the vote compared to Donald Trump’s 14.9 percent, while 26.3 percent remain undecided. When only given the option between Clinton and Trump, three quarters of those surveyed opted for Clinton.

Although a total of 273 surveys were collected, some were not complete. When asked whom they would vote for on that day, a total of 228 answered.   When only given the two options, that number dropped to 212. The lack of participation may have to do how the students feel about this election.

Most students associated negative feelings with the election. Frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment were among the most common responses from 203 students, when asked to describe this year’s election. Although a select few found the process to be entertaining and even comical, many expressed strong disappointment and even went so far as to use profanity.

“I was a little surprised to see such a high percentage of undecided students,” said Dr. Diana Cohen, a political science professor at CCSU. “My theory regarding why so many students are undecided is that both candidates have major negatives. Further, the extreme negativity in this race is unappealing to many.” Cohen suggested the possibility of the undecided students being “tuned out” due to disdain for both candidates.

SGA Senator and President of CCSU College Democrats, Wyatt Bosworth was also surprised. “It doesn’t reflect the national attitude. I think a lot of those students are either upset about their options or are simply indifferent to both options.”

CCSU journalism student, Michael Robitaille, who was one of many to administer the survey said, “I’m not at all shocked by how many students are undecided. Some were even proud of the fact that they won’t be voting in November. It may not be the best option, but it definitely says something about the choices our students are facing.”

Another noteworthy finding of the survey is the lack of a gender gap. While women on campus were 10 percent more likely than men to vote for Clinton, surveys and polls from around the country were reporting figures more than twice that. “Circumstances have changed since your survey was distributed. Given how front-and-center gender issues have been in the past week, the gender gap has most certainly grown,” said Dr. Cohen.

The gender gap may continue to grow following the “Trump tape” and subsequent sexual assault allegations. “A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters I know have come around to Hillary because Donald Trump is that bad,” said Bosworth. With 26 percent of undecided students having supported Bernie Sanders, some of his followers are still up for grabs.

The results of this survey cannot be used to generalize any population other than CCSU students. The objective of the survey was not to draw any conclusions but to get a better understanding of how the students are feeling. The journalism students were able to do that through an intercept method.

Essentially, an intercept survey is conducted by approaching random people in a given area. In this case they were stationed in high traffic areas such as dining halls, larger academic buildings, and even parking garages during peak hours. Those administering the survey did so from Sept. 27-29, following the first presidential debate with each person collecting 25-30 surveys. Although there are many challenges with accurately representing a population through a survey, the results closely match the campus demographics.

Voter Registration

By Devin Leith-Yessian

Sitting behind a stack of 500 forms, the president of the Central Connecticut State University College Democrats called out to passing students, asking them if they are registered to vote.

“I don’t believe in that stuff,” responded one student, who briskly walked away. He wasn’t alone in that sentiment.

Around 480 registration forms were left blank at the end of the day. “It is discouraging to hear people say that their vote doesn’t count,” said President of the College Democrats Wyatt Bosworth.

Before the 2012 election, Democrats passed a law allowing same day voter registration and online registration. This allows unregistered voters to register at their polling place and cast their vote in one trip. In New York, which lacks same day registration, the deadline is 25 days before the election.

When Bosworth and his fellow CCSU Democrats were planning the push to get people registered as they walked through the student center, he admitted that the 500 person goal was “aggressive.” Nonetheless, he seemed disappointed at the lack of interest, and sometimes opposition, to getting registered.

“My vote doesn’t matter. A lot of people said the same thing at the table. They think the government is corrupt, which they’re not wrong,” said Kristina Carvalho, Secretary of the CCSU Democrats. “They feel as though they don’t have as strong as a voice as people say they do.”

One student who did stop at the Democrats’ table was Kaila Robinson. While she was already registered, she needed to change her address. This meant she had to file out another registration form. While she wasn’t particularly excited about Clinton, she said that it came down to “whatever I have to do” to stop Trump.

Similar to Robinson’s situation was Adam Offutt, who was also changing his address to a CCSU one. He said he doesn’t hear many people his age discussing politics or their intention to vote. What Offutt and other students seemed to agree on was dissatisfaction with the candidates that were running for office this year.

Standing in sharp contrast to Offutt and Robinson’s political orientation was Brandon, who preferred to not give his last name. Brandon labeled himself as a Republican. He wore a jacket adorned with a Confederate flag.

Brandon would have voted for Ted Cruz in the primary had it not been for an error with his registration marking him as an Independent. Although his vote would have been cast for Cruz only because Scott Walker had already dropped out. One spot of agreement he shared with Robinson and Offutt was that he is “not at all” happy with the candidates who came out of the primaries.

While Trump might not have been his first choice, Brandon still believes he is the clear choice among the candidates in the race. He fears a continued gridlock without presidential and congressional unity. He also believes that the economy, which he described as just beginning to “skyrocket,” would suffer with Clinton as president.

Regardless of the difference in political opinions, Bosworth asked Brandon if he was registered to vote. After a cordial conversation regarding the candidates Brandon left, leaving Bosworth to continue trying to find more students to sign up.

Despite only registering a few students, Carvalho was still optimistic about their work. “I would’ve liked to have seen more people, but the people we did ask were already registered, so that was refreshing,” she said. “Not all of them, but a good amount.”

Trailing off from laughter she wondered aloud, “But will they vote?”

 

Confusion Amidst Latest Sexual Assault

by Analisa Novak/ Jackson Rioux

Central Connecticut State University is backtracking on an alleged sexual assault that happened near campus.

Last Thursday, CCSU students and faculty were notified of a sexual assault that occurred on campus via a string of emails. The university sent out three separate emails, each email contradicted the previous one before it.

“It was a little confusing because I’m still not sure what even happened,” said student Fabian Fonseca. “I don’t even know if they know what happened.”

The confusion originally started after a sexual assault was reported to CCSU police. The alleged assault was said to have occurred on the early morning of Oct. 8th.

The victim originally said it happened in the Willard and Diloreto parking lot. University police, then, complied with the Cleary Act and sent out an email informing the campus of the attack, causing a media frenzy and panic within the CCSU community.

“It was overwhelming to receive all those emails, but it was a story that was not fully uncovered yet,” said student Lindsay Grant. “Hopefully police figure out what happened.”

The incident continued to bring more confusion as the night progressed. CCSU Associate Vice President Marketing & Communications Mark McLaughlin sent out two update emails stating not only did the incident not happen on campus, but also the victim was not a CCSU student.

“Since this went out earlier, I’ve learned that the person reporting the assault is not a CCSU student,” McLaughlin wrote.

The second one stated, “Thru further investigation CCSU Police have now determined that the reported sexual assault did not occur on CCSU’s campus.”

Since the string of emails last Thursday, the school has officially sent no further updates. No description of the alleged attacker was ever released.

McLaughlin did provide an update to The Recorder on Oct. 14th.

“After CCSU Police determined that the reported incident did not take place at CCSU, they closed their investigation and advised the person who reported it to contact the New Britain Police Department,” he said.

But with two sexual assaults allegedly happening within three weeks of each other, many students on campus are questioning if they are truly safe on campus.

“I don’t feel safe, especially because I have a lot of night classes,” said student Chelsea Scribner. “I’m definitely going to get some pepper spray.”

CCSU Police declined to comment further on what they are doing to ensure campus safety. In the generic email that was originally sent campus wide, CCSU police said they “Will provide additional patrol coverage to this area, but people are advised to use caution nonetheless.”

According to the 2013-2015 Cleary Report emailed out earlier this month, forcible sex offenses have increased within the last year at CCSU. In 2014 one forcible sex act was reported and documented. By 2015 that number tripled to four.

CCSU took some heat earlier this semester when students and faculty were not immediately notified of a sexual assault on campus. The assault, which occurred in James Hall, was determined to be an isolated incident by CCSU Police. The department deemed there was no threat to the rest of campus.

Torpe Theater Celebrates Italian Culture Month with ‘A Touch of Sinatra’

 

by Kaitlin Lyle

Sitting in the audience of Torp Theater last Sunday afternoon, members of the Central Connecticut community enjoyed an enriching musical experience in observing “A Touch of Sinatra,” a show dedicated to presenting the life and music of Frank Sinatra and his companions in the music business.

Presented by the Italian Resource Center in cooperation with the Elihu Burritt Library, the occasion on October 16, 2016, was made possible through the suggestion of Dr. Maria Passaro of the CCSU Department of Modern Languages, who had seen “A Touch of Sinatra” at a library event over the summer. The performance took place at 3 p.m. in Davison Hall’s Torp Theatre and gathered a crowd of Sinatra enthusiasts. Following an introduction by Dr. Passaro and Dr. Carl Antonucci, Director of Library Services, the show commenced with Joe Gilligan narrating the well-loved singer’s story and Donnie Fararro providing musical talent from Sinatra’s broad music career.

“We’re going to show the good and the bad, the people he loved and the people who loved him, and his enemies,” said Gilligan at the start of their performance. “We’re going to do a bit of everything.” With that brief foreword, the duo brought the audience back in time to Sinatra’s early days, beginning with his birth on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. As the audience began to settle into the ambiance that Gilligan and Fararro designed to tell Sinatra’s story, the theater was soon echoing with the familiar songs of the late artist, beginning with Fararro’s delivery of “New York, New York.”

With each account of the notable moments in Sinatra’s life, the theater lights would illuminate both the stage and the audience, subsequently lowering as the stories gave way to melody. In combining the words of his story with the lyrics of his music, the performers incorporated specific works that aptly depicted the trials and tribulations in Sinatra’s life: from his divorce from first wife Nancy Barbato (“All the Way”) to the moment of his first big break in 1939 (“Fly Me to the Moon”). With each celebrated song, the audience was enraptured as Fararro crooned the lyrics in the familiar style of the late artist. Along with their celebration of Sinatra through Fararro’s musical renditions, it was through Gilligan’s narration that the audience received an education of little-known details in Sinatra’s personal life, including the unfortunate eardrum injury he underwent at birth.

Between the anecdotes and the musical performances, Gilligan and Fararro shared a few jokes from their experiences that had members of the audience chuckling in their seats. However, their routine onstage was not entirely limited to narrating the life and music of Frank Sinatra, but also included the individual stories of Sinatra’s acquaintances during his music career, such as Perry Como, Johnnie Ray, and Dean Martin. In their renditions of Dean Martin’s melodies, the duo encouraged the audience to join them in singing the lyrics, succeeding as the crowd began singing “That’s Amore” with gusto. Yet it was during the grand finale – in which Fararro and Gilligan dedicated the song “My Way” to the memory of Sinatra’s beloved mother Dolly – that the audience members, regardless of age, joined in singing along with the popular ballad before replacing their singing with a standing ovation for the talent onstage.

Following the performances by Gilligan and Farrarro, there was an intermission outside of the theater that served Italian-style refreshments before the Italian film “Stanno Tutti Bene,” (Everybody is Fine) commenced.

Among the audience was Professor Gil Gigliotti of the English Department who was present along with the Western Culture II course that he co-teaches with Professor David Blitz of the Philosophy Department. Around the campus of CCSU Professor Gigliotti is especially known for his avid interest in the life of Frank Sinatra, as was referenced by Dr. Passaro in her introduction. As a professor in the English Department, he has taught several courses on Frank Sinatra throughout his time at CCSU, including a course abroad entitled “The London Sinatra(s)” during the winter semester of 2015. In addition, Professor Gigliotti has written two books that incorporate the musician’s life story, “Sinatra: But Buddy I’m a Kind of Poem” in 2008 and “A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit” in 2002, both of which can be found at the CCSU library. Since December of 1993, he has hosted a radio program entitled “Frank, Gil, and Friends” on Tuesdays from 8 to 10 a.m. in affiliation with the CCSU Radio Station 107.7 WFCS, where Gigliotti is also the faculty advisor. At the heart of the professor’s time on the air is the music of Sinatra, from his contemporaries to the music that Sinatra inspired in today’s genres.

As a whole, Gigliotti remarked that he admires the late singer’s persistence and hard work throughout his music career. “He started off as a hit among young teenage girls and his career should have ended shortly thereafter, but for any number of reasons, he managed to come back and he stayed on top for the rest of his life.” said Gigliotti. With regards to “A Touch of Sinatra,” Gigliotti stated that he hoped that his students would be able to observe the performance with a critical eye, given the knowledge they attained over the past two months. “I’m not looking for them to take away anything specific as much as hearing someone else tell the story and perform the music,” said Gigliotti.

Needless to say, those who attended the performance in Torpe Theater this past weekend were treated to a well-rounded cultural event that celebrated the lives of notable Italian musicians as well as the music that has bonded their impact throughout generations.

Church and State are Not Separate

by Lorenzo Burgio

With the presidential election nearing, it is important to recognize the Republican Party’s inability to separate church and state — an aspect to democracy deemed necessary by the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In a description of the party’s platform, the GOP official website states, “That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.”

The party’s claim that God-given rights are of utmost importance, comes after a proclamation that they stand for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The fact that the government is riddled with Bible thumpers would make Thomas Jefferson turn over in his grave. The Constitution specifically states no law will be made in any respects to a religious establishment, but this is increasingly seen in 21st century politics.

About 73 percent of Republicans are “absolutely certain” about their belief in God, according to a Pew research study. The same study found that 61 percent of these Republicans choose their political party on the basis of religion.

This is the same party that fails to acknowledge global warming is real, sex education needs to be taught and women’s reproductive rights are non-negotiable. Stagnant and antiquated concepts floating around the Republican Party are hurting citizens. A political group pushing a religious agenda leaves room for fallacies and fear mongering, while disregarding facts and reason.

Recently the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) stated, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance,” according to The Atlantic.

This inevitably ruffled some feathers in religious and Republican communities, but it was said at a necessary time.

Just before this claim by the USCCR, legal scholars finished a three year investigation on how to resolve the government’s issue of allowing religious freedom while protecting minority groups from discrimination. And the results were: they have no idea.

Religious beliefs that influence government decisions are destroying the vision the Founding Fathers had of government.

There is a clear issue with our government that stems from disregarding the words of the Founding Fathers. A separation of church and state is necessary in order for a democracy to work. The GOP cannot be trusted to make decisions that governs the entire country, when it is focused on a religious agenda.

A Temporary Win in the Dakota Access Pipeline

 

Many have been standing with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in recent weeks in order to halt construction of crude oil pipeline planned to run under the Missouri River, because it will run through sacred land, contaminate the drinking water and violate the National Historic Preservation Act.

The pipeline is planned to be 1,172 miles long, cost $3.78 billion and transfer 470,000 barrels of crude a day from western North Dakota down to central Illinois. This method of transporting crude oil will be cheaper than the current process of shipping it by train.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers is relentlessly trying to continue construction of this unjustified and unnecessarily destructive pipeline with no regards to the repercussions, or the tribe’s culture and beliefs.

Initially, the tribe’s legal claims against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency were rejected by the Court.

The tribe still succeeded to working with federal government officials who will not issue any more permits for construction within 20 miles of the Missouri River.

Permits previously issued will also be revisited in addition to, “The whole way in which the government interacts with Indian Tribes on major projects like this one,” said earthjustice.org.

The decision by the government to stop issuing permits and revisit past ones this past Friday, Sept. 9th, is huge win and step in the right direction for tribe and protestors.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the almost hundred other tribes from the U.S. and Canada, and all standing in opposition of the pipeline have succeeded with a temporary halt through peaceful protests, but are still working for a permanent one.

“We will continue to stand united and peaceful in our opposition to the pipeline,” said David Archambault II, chairman tribe in a statement issued after the legal claims were rejected.

Photos of protesters can be seen peacefully marching together, holding signs stating, “Oil kills, Water is Life” and blocking off bulldozers and equipment from continuing construction. At the same time, countless people are shipping blankets, food and water to aid protestors.

The same cannot be said for security guards working for the Dakota Access Pipeline company and their supporters, who are attempting to forcefully continue construction, disregard the National Historic Preservation Act and use violence to do so.

A couple days before the government’s decision to halt and revisit permits, security guards and their supporter attacked peaceful protestors with dogs and pepper spray. Videos of the incident can be seen on democracynow.org.

The tribe’s spokesperson Steve Sitting Bear said to CBS that six people were bit by security dogs, one being a child, and about 30 people were pepper sprayed.

This happened outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation during a protest to stop construction through an American Indian burial ground and cultural sites that are on private land. The construction had already started and destroyed parts of the private land and burial ground.

The despicable actions the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have taken in order to complete the pipeline are despicable. They are deliberately violating the National Historic Preservation Act and destroying sacred burial and cultural sites that are on private land to promote their own agenda.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who stand with them are taking a stand not only for themselves, but for all that live along the Missouri River. Further construction of the pipeline must be halted and a new plan needs to be found that works with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all that could be affected.