All posts by Sean Begin

Album Review: “To Pimp A Butterfly”

N.A.S.

by Brian O’Neill

When “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated third album was released a week early, the music world was abuzz with reactions and reviews of the unexpected drop. Following up their 2012 critically acclaimed “Good Kid M.A.A.D City,” and Lamar’s long list of stellar features and singles since GKMC’s release, expectations couldn’t be much higher for this new LP.

From a production standpoint, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a world away from the heavily trap influenced sounds that have been ruling the airwaves in mainstream rap for the past year. Instead, the sound is deeply rooted in funk, soul and jazz throughout the album. Commissioning musicians like bassist Thundercat, The Isley Brothers and funk legend George Clinton, as well as producers such as Flying Lotus, Sounwave, and Pharrell Williams, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a combination of 70s and 80s funk and soul, 90s West Coast G-Funk, old school boom bap and jazz, but done with a distinctly modern sound.

Songs like “For Free? (Interlude)” sound more like free-form jazz than hip hop. Others like “King Kunta” show the soul inspiration, with background vocals and a bass line that would feel at home with James Brown tracks. The George Clinton feature on “Wesley’s Theory” gives the song a distinct funk element, and singer Bilal’s feature on “These Walls” does the same. “i” has a pop soul feel, was made with the help of the legendary Isley Brothers, and won 2 Grammys this year.

Lyrically, Kendrick is as sharp as ever, talking about his experiences with fame, race and class in America, as well as those issues on a national scale. The first two tracks “Wesley’s Theory” and “For Free? (Interlude)” both cover society’s expectations for a rapper, spending their money recklessly, and how ‘Uncle Sam’ enables excess, pimps the rapper to his benefit, and throws the rapper aside when the profits stop. Kendrick refuses to follow in those footsteps. The themes of temptations of the rap lifestyle and hip hop culture are touched upon on “Alright” and “For Sale? (Interlude),” as Lucy, or Lucifer, tempts them with promises of fame and fortune.

The songs “u” and “i” are about self-hate and love, with “u” talking about Lamar’s struggles with depression and his shortcomings; his voice cracking and on the verge of a breakdown throughout the second verse. The hook in “i” that says “I love myself!” explains the song’s message of being happy with who you are perfectly, and is in stark contrast to the hatred and anger Kendrick shows in “u.”

The self-love message of the song “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” is directed at the Black community, saying “Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun/Give a f*ck about your complexion,” to relay that every color is beautiful.

Race and politics are talked about heavily through the album. In another of the album’s singles, “The Blacker the Berry”  Kendrick rhymes over a 90s boom bap inspired beat, aggressively addressing the self-hatred in the black community, as well as the racism from outside. The song “Hood Politics” compares congress and the government to street gangs saying, “Set trippin’ all around/Ain’t nothin’ new but a flow of new Demo-Crips and Re-Blood-licans/Red state versus a blue state, which one you governin’?” Other songs like “Wesley’s Theory,” “Institutionalized” and “Blacker the Berry” talk about the impact of the Reagan Era on the inner-city poor communities, a topic that Lamar has discussed in all of his albums.

The album ends with “Mortal Man,” and has Lamar asking, “if the sh*t hits the fan will you still be a fan?” The song gives way to Lamar reading a poem, one that has been cut and dropped into the end and beginning of tracks throughout the entire album. The poem explains the message and themes of the album. Lamar ends the poem and a conversation with Tupac opens. Using an old interview with Tupac, Lamar cut and worked his own questions in. Even though Tupac’s words are over 20 years old, they are still relevant, as his remarks on the LA riots of 1992 can be related to the Ferguson riots of today.

“To Pimp a Butterfly” feels less like an album and more like a musical. Each song tells a story and builds off one another, and all tie together in the end. What this album lacks in radio hits and bangers, it makes up for with beautifully done production and storytelling. In a year already full of excellent releases in both hip hop and music in general, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is one of the best albums, not just of 2015, but of the past decade.

If Indiana Wants to Discriminate, the Business of Sports Should Say Goodbye

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

The P&G Gymnastics Championships. The Big Ten football championship game. The NCAA Women’s Final Four. The NFL scouting combine. The U.S. Diving Olympic team trials.

Besides being major moments in their respective sports, these five events have one other thing in common: they’re all set to take place in Indiana within the next 18 months.

You know, Indiana, the same state that just recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill so vaguely written that it would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT citizens without penalty.

Proponents of the bill claim it’s being “mischaracterized” in the media, meant to be a bill about inclusion, not exclusion. But a bill that already has anonymous business owners boasting of not serving people simply because he thought they looked gay, is not one that exudes any sense of inclusion.

It’s why several prominent people, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, actress Susan Sarandon, and even Connecticut’s own governor, Dannel Malloy, top speak out against Indiana’s new bill.

“Because of Indiana’s new law, later today I will sign an Executive Order regarding state-funded travel,” Malloy tweeted on Monday.

“The bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear,” said Tim Cook in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

But this is where the business of sports can have an impact like no other force. Consider the five events above, and a sixth occurring this weekend: the men’s basketball Final Four.

When major championships come to a city, they bring with it an influx of money, boosting the local economy for a brief time. Hotels are booked to capacity; restaurants see more business.

How does this allow sports to make an impact statement against Indiana’s law? By taking away these events, you potentially damage the local economy. And while that’d be unfortunate for people working in Indiana, it’s also unfortunate Indiana feels the need to discriminate.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, and its president, Mark Emmert, have already released a statement saying they would “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

But what the NCAA should be considering is what Charles Barkley and other athletes and writers have suggested: move this weekend’s Final Four games somewhere else. Move them to Cincinnati, as The Nation’s Dave Zirin suggests, just 100 miles from the current planned location.

Sadly, this will unlikely occur. If money is the only thing that will get Indiana governor Mike Pence and the state’s Congress to repeal the bill, money is also the reason the Final Four will stay put. The NCAA would lose millions of dollars with the switch.

But if the NCAA really views itself as an inclusive organization dedicated to the student-athlete, it would leave Indiana for a different location this weekend. Such a move would show the NCAA’s willingness to push an inclusive agenda, while also showing those watching that money is less important to the NCAA than the people who comprise it.

Other sports have already expressed concerns over the bill, including the president of USA gymnastics, Steve Penny, whose sport will have its P&G Championships in Indiana this August.

The NBA and the WNBA, along with their teams from Indiana, also released an inclusive statement, although nowhere did it denounce the actual law. Meanwhile, the NFL and Colts owner Jim Irsay haven’t publicly said anything, as of this writing.

The sports world and sports culture is often a fantastic reflection of the culture as a whole, and as more athletes like Michael Sam or Jason Collins come out as gay, as more sports push a culture of inclusion, the sports business has the opportunity to make a direct impact.

There is a danger in allowing religious freedom bills that thinly veil the ability to discriminate against other humans. It’d be a nice, ideal thing for the sports world, and specifically the NCAA with its Final Four this weekend, to, for once, stand up against those practices.

Atlanta Public School Cheating a By-Product of Bad Legislation, Policy

N.A.S

L.A.B

by Sean Begin

For 11 Atlanta teachers, the choice between jail and a plea deal resulting in house arrest is now in the hands of a judge.

The Fulton County district attorney, Paul Howard, offered the 11 teachers the deal but Judge Jerry Baxter, who has said that jail time for every teacher convicted is fair, must first approve it.

The teachers were among the 35 educators indicted in March 2013 under racketeering charges. Prosecutors used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to convict each educator of obtaining bonuses by forging test results or giving out answers to tests beforehand.

The issue with the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal resulting in jail time is it’s punishing teachers who felt they had no other choice, thanks to the horribly written No Child Left Behind act, passed in 2002.

Under that law, schools have to pass a certain percentage of students in math reading and language arts in order to remain a functioning school. In addition, teachers are allowed to advance in pay and rank based on the scores of their students.

In theory, No Child Left Behind was a noble concept. It used data to drive education, but over time that data became the central focus of educators, and is ultimately what led to the APS’ cheating scandal.

The focus on data, derived from standardized test results, failed to take into account the many and complex social variables that affect a teacher’s ability to educate young people. In Atlanta, for example, in many of the schools that were found to have cheated, the students come from broken homes, often with one or both parents missing or under the influence of hard drugs.

This is what makes the “scandal” in the APS so sad. Many of these teachers felt they had no choice but to forge answers in order to continue providing some sort of education for students who would be forgotten and left behind by the rest of society.

In July 2014, the New Yorker profiled an Atlanta school, Parks Middle School, and the rampant cheating that was involved. Based around former teacher Damany Lewis, considered by many the top educator at the school, the profile describes how Lewis and his fellow teachers felt they had no choice but to forge results, to avoid being shut down and to avoid losing their jobs, simply because they knew they were all many of these children had.

Yes, perhaps some of those involved stood to profit from higher test scores among the schools, but many used whatever small amount they did receive to give back to their community, “to buy groceries, H.I.V. medications, furniture, and clothes for students and their mothers,” as detailed in the New Yorker profile.

The scandal in Atlanta is merely the by-product of badly written legislation (No Child Left Behind) combined with the district’s nearly unreachable targets that resulted in an environment where all that mattered were test scores.

When several of Parks’ teachers decided to come clean, they said they did what they did because forging the test results allowed them “to focus on issues that seemed more relevant to their students’ lives.”

What Baxter and other judges, what other lawyers and legislators should be pointing the finger at, is the badly written legislation of No Child Left Behind, and the pervasive virus of standardized testing that has become the norm in our education system.

If there’s one thing that’s fact, it’s that no two students learn in the same manner or at the same speed. So why do we continue to develop and push an education system that rewards outside factors like income and living situation and punishes those who are born with less?

Baseball Splits Weekend Series With Defending Conference Champs

N.A.S.

by Brian O’Neill

Friday afternoon’s gloomy and wet weather didn’t stop the Blue Devils from kicking off a four-game weekend series with Bryant.

In the first game of the series, the Blue Devils fell to the Bulldogs by a score of 15-5 before splitting the Saturday doubleheader with a 2-1 victory in the first game and an 8-0 shutout loss in the second. The team finished the weekend with a comeback 2-run double in the bottom of the ninth to take Sunday’s game 7-6.

“It’s [Bryant] a pretty good team in that dugout,” coach Charlie Hickey said. “They’ve been NEC champions the last two years. They’ve sort of had a little bit of a rebuilding mode with their pitching staff, but they’re a quality team. They’re probably the best team in our conference.”

In their first in-conference home game, the Blue Devils came hot out of the gate with Central’s starting pitcher, Austin Salnitis, striking out the first two batters and forcing the third into a fly out. Offensively, the Blue Devils racked up three runs on three hits in the first, with Ian Glassman, Dominic Severino and Ryan Costello each picking up an RBI. Adding to the offense, leadoff hitter Franklin Jennings stole his 14th base of the season, putting him in first place in the NEC.

After the hot start in the first, the Blue Devils’ bats went cold, recording just two hits from the second inning to the eighth. It wasn’t long until Bryant’s offense found their rhythm, picking up a run in the third and fourth to pull within one, before a seven-run outburst in the fifth, including a three-run home run from Brandon Bingel.

Adding on another two runs in the sixth and four in the ninth, the Blue Devils found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout, down 15-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Using the bottom of the ninth to give some lesser used players a look, freshman Nick Plachno roped a single into center field, kicking off a four-hit, two-run inning for Central, with Nick Coro and John Lippincott credited with RBIs in the inning. The late game surge brought the final score to 15-5.

“Combined with a rough two weeks in terms of some injuries where we’ve had to rebuild from the ground up, starting four freshman today, and not that that’s awful, but when you start doing that after 20 games, it’s a little bit to get used to,” Hickey said after the loss. “We’ve had three of our top seven pitchers go down to injuries, and that left us shorthanded today. I don’t know if we could’ve contained them all along, but we were winning 3-0, then all the sudden, a close game became a big game, and our offense isn’t built with an older more experienced team like Bryant.”

A strong start in the first game on Saturday by Brett Susi followed by a dominate relief appearance from Kevin Connolly led Central to a 2-1 win in the second game of the series. But the Central bats went cold in game two, getting shutout on just three hits, falling 8-0.

Like Friday’s game, Central had an early 3-0 lead over Bryant, but gave up five runs over the last three innings to find themselves down one heading into the bottom of the ninth. Singles from Costello and Dean Lockery were followed by a double to left field from pinch-hitter Mitch Guilmette to give Central to 7-6 win.

“This is a long weekend,” said Hickey. “We’re going to play 32 innings, and you’ve gotta keep battling and keep playing because it’s a battle of pitching staffs. And you’ve gotta keep approaching it and keep playing the game down to every out.”

After splitting their four game series versus Mount St. Mary’s last weekend, the Blue Devils host Fairleigh Dickinson for another four game series this weekend, starting with a 3 p.m. game on Friday.

Come On, Eileen: Purcell Plates Three in Senior Day Split

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

When the two teams tied for the top in the Northeast Conference met on the diamond Sunday, the opportunity was there for someone to emerge as the sole leader.

But after dropping the first game 2-0 and winning the second 3-0, Central Connecticut (28-9) and Robert Morris (24-20) remained tied for first, each team sporting a 12-2 record in conference play.

“I think that’s a perfect example of our conference, it’s so evenly matched, every team is so good,” said acting head coach Breanne Gleason. “Nicole [Sleith] is a great pitcher. She’s a strikeout pitcher, she’s a ground ball pitcher, she’s everything.”

Sleith held Central to just four hits in the game one shutout victory, striking out eight. Senior Laura Messina matched Sleith’s eight K’s and four hits allowed, but two sailed over the outfield fence courtesy of RMU’s Tess Apke.

The Blue Devils got to Sleith early in game two, giving Messina a 2-0 lead she would never relinquish.

After an Ashley Black bunt single and a throwing error by RMU’s shortstop, junior Eileen Purcell tripled to the right field corner, plating Black and senior Kat Malcolm. Purcell would deliver an unnecessary insurance run with two outs in the third, when she deposited a Sleith pitch over the left field wall.

“We all laugh because Eileen used to hate to hit,” said Gleason. “When she fields, she’s in such a good mood, and then when we do [batting practice], she’s not as happy. But this year she told us she was going to fake being happy during hitting so maybe she would like it more, and I think she’s starting to like it more after today.”

Purcell seems to have found her stride at the plate for more than just Sunday’s game. She’s been one of Central’s best hitters all season. She’s second on the team in RBIs (24) and third in home runs (4), average (.281) and slugging percentage (.447) while hitting in the cleanup spot this year.

“She’s a good person to put into that fourth slot because she’s really good with tough pitches,” said Gleason. “As a pitcher you’re going to throw your best stuff against 3-4-5, and she does a good job with tough pitches.”

The third-inning home run was the second of the weekend for Purcell. She sent one over the wall in the second game against St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday that plated two in a 6-0 Central victory. Like Sunday’s game two, Purcell finished that game with 3 RBIs and added a fourth in the 5-0 game one win. Purcell finished the weekend 4-for-10 with 7 RBIs, 2 home runs and a triple.

Sunday’s game one was the only rough spot in an otherwise polished weekend in the circle for Messina. Over 28 innings, she allowed just 16 hits and gave up only four walks, good for a 0.714 WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched). She struck out 23 and allowed just the two runs on Sunday.

The three shutouts give Messina 15 on the season to lead the nation. Coming into the weekend, her 0.91 ERA was good for third in the country, but after lowering it to 0.85 with her performance this weekend, she could jump into second.

Despite the implications of Sunday’s series against Robert Morris, Central was focused heading into Saturday’s games against St. Francis (Pa.), according the Gleason and as evidenced by the outcome.

“If you overlook a team in this conference, you’re going to drop a game, maybe two,” said Gleason. “So we were really focused on St. Francis, then after the game, we started to focus on Robert Morris but we talked about both teams all week.”

Central finishes the season with a game at Quinnipiac on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and a double-header at LIU-Brooklyn on May 2 at 1 p.m. to wrap up conference play. Regardless of the outcome of that last series, Central has clinched a spot in the NEC tournament that will start May 7 at either Robert Morris or home in New Britain.

Obama’s Remote War

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

After years of slogging through a seemingly endless ground war, it had to have been a most tempting proposition.

Instead of endangering American soldiers fighting Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in the Middle East, use a remote-controlled aerial death machine, or drone.

For President Obama, who viewed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of his predecessor as costly, both financially and in American lives, it seemed a simple choice to authorize more and more drone strikes on suspected targets in the Middle East.

But the program, which has long been kept under tight wraps by the Obama administration, has had its leaks and it’s become more and more apparent that Obama and those operating the drone program have no clue, at all, what they are doing.

Last week, Obama stood before cameras and reporters and acknowledged that a January drone strike had killed two hostages being held by Qaeda in Pakistan, including one American., Warren Weinstein.

According to reporting in The New York Times, officials were aware something had gone wrong when six bodies were dragged from the wreckage of the drone strike instead of the four they had suspected of being there. Those two extra bodies were Weinstein, who had been held hostage since 2011, and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, held since 2012. Both men were aid workers.

Weinstein wasn’t the first American killed by drone strikes, but he was the first not directly associated (or suspected to be associated with) Al-Qaeda. One of those American deaths, Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011, was a direct target.

The Times reported that an average of three separate counts of American drone strikes have listed 3,852 people killed in 522 such actions, with 476 of them civilians.

The problem here is obvious. Why is our president authorizing covert drone strikes without absolute assurance the people being targeted aren’t civilians? Obama claimed in a 2013 speech that no strike is undertaken without “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

Yet, 476 people have lost their lives in an effort to “end terrorism.” And there’s some suggestion that these drone strikes have done nothing but increase the number of people angry with the U.S., and add more people to the growing number of extremists in the Middle East.

The idea of drone strikes is, admittedly, very tempting. To be able to covertly spy on “the enemy” and administer a quick, precise strike, without endangering the lives of soldiers, seems the perfect solution to the intractable wars of President George W. Bush’s administration.

But President Obama and his cabinet have failed in their responsibility to protect human life in their wild use of the drone program. In fact, the type of strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto in January was supposed to have ended when American operations in Afghanistan ended in 2014.

But American officials were anonymously quoted in the Times’ piece as saying that the measure was not enforced, and that the CIA continued to carry out “signature strikes,” in which the targets are not directly identified as any extremist on American watch lists, but rather people who exhibit behavior that may ally themselves with known Qaeda threats.

It’s time, as President Obama winds down his lame-duck term that he and his administration take a hard look at the viability of a program that has proven to be as precise killing foreign threats as using fire to destroy a termite invasion underneath your floorboards.

Yes, the threat to your comfortable living has been eliminated, but at how high a cost?

Finishing Strong

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

With Tanya Kotowicz taking over the women’s lacrosse program before the 2015 season, it wasn’t surprising to see the team start slow.

The team started 1-5 and didn’t record their first home win until March 25 against Quinnipiac, their fourth home game and ninth overall.

But after settling into Kotowicz’s style of play, the team finished strong, winning three of its last four games and concluding with a 9-7 victory of second-place Wagner on Sunday.

“Getting used to a new culture, a new coach, a new system, we finally started to peak at the right time. And we fell short in three games by one goal,” said Kotowicz after Sunday’s win. “In one goal games you’re either on one end or the other, and unfortunately we were on the wrong end. So I think more than anything, they just keep believing and it started to pay off.”

Central defeated Mount St. Mary’s 9-8 on Friday night, after scoring the last three goals of the game to come from behind and win 9-8. Senior goalkeeper Morgan Tullar recorded a save with less than five seconds on the clock to ensure the Central victory.

On Sunday, a similar story played out.

With 19:08 left to play, Wagner took a two-goal lead on Jessica Mills’ third goal of the game, putting Central down 7-5. But Central would score twice in the next two-and-a-half minutes to tie the game at seven, on goals from junior Madison Hughes and sophomore Marissa Soto.

A little over two minutes after Soto’s game tying goal, her classmate Erin Dougherty put home what proved to be the game-winning goal on an assist from junior Falynn McCartney. Sophomore Jessica Giangarra added an insurance goal with 6:33 left to go.

Wagner failed to score in the last 19 minutes of the game thanks in part to great goalkeeping by Tullar, who had two big saves in the last three minutes of play to help preserve Central’s two-goal lead. Kotowicz also made a defensive change that seemed to stymie Wagner’s offense.

“They got used to one of our zone [defenses] we play, so we switched it to more of a man defense and just kind of gave them a different look, and they just weren’t able to adjust,” said Kotowicz.

Tullar and fellow seniors Brigit Hogan and Jessica Sudock were honored in a small ceremony with their families before the win, finishing both the season and the match on high notes.

“It couldn’t have ended better if we had to end this way,” said Kotowicz. “We would have loved to be in the tournament, and we will expect to be in the tournament from here on out, but today they controlled [what they had to]. We had two more games left and we had to make sure they were wins, for our seniors especially.”

Central finished the season with a 6-10 overall record and a 3-4 record in conference play, which actually put them in a four-way tie for fourth place with LIU-Brooklyn, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart. All three teams owned the tiebreaker over Central, meaning the team will miss the NEC tournament in Kotowicz’s first season, something she doesn’t intend to let happen again.

“I don’t ever want this program to be comfortable outside the tournament,” she said. “We’re bringing back a lot of players, but we’re going to expect a lot more out of them next year.”

Central’s top six goal scorers are all returning next season, including Hughes (24), McCartney (20), Soto (17) and Dougherty (11). Sophomore Alexandra Hooker (22) and freshman Kylie Sullivan (14) round out a strong returning attack and midfield.

With none of the defense graduating, the only question mark for Central heading into the offseason is goalie. Tullar graduates as the program’s leader in wins with 22, and will leave a gaping hole between the pipes that Kotowicz will need to fill.

With no backup currently on the roster, that means either a transfer, a freshman or a current player making a position change will fulfill that duty for Central next year, something to watch closely when the 2016 season rolls around.

Thank You, Blue Devils, and Good-Bye

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

One of the basic tenets of good journalism is, supposedly, a distant impartiality to the subject matter being reported.

Journalists are supposed to enter a situation merely as observers, there to record and dispense what they see and hear to those who cannot be there.

But sports journalism is different in that having a slight lean one way or the other is fairly commonplace. Just take the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan, who is often considered one of the best game writers ever. Ryan revealed in his new book how he was basically a Celtics fan covering the Celtics the entire time he was paid to do so by the Globe.

ESPN’s Bill Simmons is today’s most popular example of a sports fan as a journalist (although one can argue Simmons’ actual journalism has waned in recent years).

The reason for this is fairly obvious. A great majority of sports writers end up in this profession because they love sports. And so it’s natural that growing up, their allegiances ran one way or another. It doesn’t mean they can’t objectively report the news of a team they once (or perhaps still) rooted for.

It’s why I’ve enjoyed writing so much about Blue Devil athletics over the past two years for this paper. As a transfer student three years ago, I found in Central a place to find me, getting lost in improving myself as a writer and a reporter, all while becoming a fan of Central sports.

Regardless of the dozens of outcomes I witnessed, or the hundreds of hours spent on the dozens of stories I wrote, I enjoyed every minute of it. And perhaps more enjoyable than anything was my interaction with Central’s athletes, some of whom I grew familiar with and others who probably never remembered my name.

Each of the people I talked to over the last four semesters taught me about themselves and gave me a different view of life, of a different path that led us all to New Britain, Connecticut, either from across the country in California or 25 minutes away, like myself.

Over the last two years I’ve been able to mold myself as a young sports writer, now ready to tackle a profession that is going through mammoth changes with an uncertain future. But the athletes and people who’ve briefly let me into their lives since then have been instrumental in that.

As they improved their performance on the court, or the field, or the diamond during their time at Central, I did the same with my writing and reporting, using the time here to learn how to do what I love to the best of my ability.

So as I prepare to walk across the stage at graduation in three weeks, I just want to say thanks to every Blue Devil athlete, coach, fan, and person who impacted my time here in some small or great way. Thanks for letting me be a part of your time here, too.

 

The Importance of Baltimore’s Anger Over Freddie Gray

The events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department are mired in mystery.

When three officers arrested him (for reasons that still remain unclear), video footage shows him being hauled into a police van shouting in pain from an injured leg.

When Gray arrived at the police station, he wasn’t shouting anymore. He was barely able to breathe or talk. A week later, he died from injuries sustained to his spinal cord.

Gray’s death is one of dozens in recent months that have galvanized the black community and its allies to protest against police brutality. From Mike Brown in Ferguson to Eric Garner in New York, from Tamir Rice in Cleveland to Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, the deaths of black men and boys at the hands of white police officers have sparked dozens of protests.

Baltimore has followed suit, with protests turning violent over the last few days and police officers sustaining injuries in clashes with rightfully angry citizens.

As usual, most of the media has started to focus on those violent actions, painting the protestors in negative light instead of looking at the real issue: namely, how did Freddie Gray sustain an injury normally associated with high speed car accidents while in the back of a police van?

To ignore, too, why black citizens are upset by addressing the issue as one of personal racism (as in, are the individual officers themselves racist) does nothing but cause further anger and hurt.

It doesn’t matter if any one individual officer is racist. When the institution itself looks at people of color and sees them as criminals rather than citizens, that’s systemic racism.

When a system is in place that disproportionately arrests people of color for nonviolent drug offenses when the majority of drug users in the U.S. are white, that’s racism.

So the riots occurring over the last few days in Baltimore are merely a product of a population of this country that for centuries, has been viewed by those in power (that means white people) as less than second-class citizens.

It’s why the protests are so important. It’s why the outrage these people are feeling shouldn’t be brushed aside for outrage at property destruction. It’s the same argument over the protests in Ferguson. By any stretch of common sense, when does property matter more than a human life.

But we live in a country that currently seeks to extend First Amendment rights (rights meant for individual persons) to corporations, giving big business the same protections as people, and allowing them to implement practices that hurt and hinder citizens.

From the salve system of the 1800s to Jim Crow laws to redlining, America has found myriad ways to try and keep people of color in a place lower than their white counterparts. And while the riots in Baltimore are upsetting, many who call for their end are failing to talk about this generation’s old anger, and the distrust black civilians have towards authority figures.

But yes, let’s keep discussing how to better train police officers rather than find a solution to why society has such a skewed concept of what race and racism really mean.

Central Offers More Than Just Affordability For Transfers

N.A.S.

by Nicholas Leahey

Jacob Wilson is like every other college freshman at Central Connecticut. Every day, he goes to class, works out and plays the occasional video game with his suite mates. There is, however, something that sets Jacob apart from many other people on campus; he is a transfer student.

Originally an accounting major attending Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., the Southbury native transferred to CCSU in the spring of this year as an athletic training major. He cited many reasons for his transfer, including the size of the school. Approximately 1,281 students attend Nichols College, while roughly 9,771 attended CCSU in the fall of 2014.

“There is a jurassic difference between my old school and this one,” Jacob said. “It’s like black and white; it’s almost smaller than my high school.”

In addition, Jacob explained that the private school’s tuition and fees of $16,500.00 was sky-high in comparison to CCSU’s $4,438.50, and that being closer to his friends and family in Connecticut was more important to him than attending a private, out-of-state school.

Like Jacob, many students transfer to CCSU for a variety of reasons. CCSU’s affordability, though, was among the most popular reasons.

According to CCSU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, 1,158 students transferred to CCSU for the Fall 2014, making up 11.9 percent of the student population.

By comparison, 459 students transferred to Eastern Connecticut (8.8 percent of the student body), 563 (10.3 percent) students transferred to Western Connecticut, and 697 (8.4 percent) students transferred to Southern Connecticut for the fall 2014 semester.

Transfer rates have also gone up slightly over the past few years. In 2009, the total number of transfer students into CCSU for the fall 2009 semester numbered 974. In a recovering economy, affordability is definitely still a factor in applying to higher education.

“I think the affordability was definitely a factor in my decision,” said Cecelia Cannavo, a resident assistant and finance major at CCSU. She transferred from Northwest Connecticut Community College in Winsted during the fall 2013 semester. According to each of the state university’s school websites, CCSU has the lowest tuition of each the CSU schools. After CCSU, the next lowest tuition price was Southern Connecticut, with $4,578 per semester.

“I like it here,” Jacob said. “I’ve gone out, and made more friends and done things I couldn’t at my old school, and it’s all really convenient for me.”