All posts by Sarah Willson

Peru Native Talks Immigration

by Shaina Blakesley

Central Connecticut State University hosted Director of Immigration Policy and Campaigns for the American Civil Liberties Union Lorella Praeli on Oct. 18 in an effort to open up a conversation about immigration rights in America.

The crowd of about 50 in Memorial Hall last Wednesday morning included faculty, students and a number of Middletown students, all hoping to join the conversation about immigration.

Praeli, who immigrated to the United States from Peru when she was 10 years old after losing her leg in a car accident, said she spent 13 years as an undocumented immigrant and did not obtain citizenship until she married in 2012.

She graduated in 2011 from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut with honors and bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology.

Praeli said she began her political journey in Connecticut advocating for undocumented immigrants to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of a higher education, leading her to co-found and direct the program known as CT Students for a DREAM.

Praeli, who currently works in national politics, also previously worked for the nation’s largest immigrant youth group, United We Dream, and later became the National Latino Voting Director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In her time with UWD, Praeli said she aimed to give America’s younger generation a chance to speak out and tell their stories, believing they are the ones who can make future change possible.

Praeli’s drive for change can be traced back to 2012, when former President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy for undocumented young people who immigrated to the United States as children.

Nearly 800,000 recipients of DACA, who are often referred to as Dreamers, have been protected from deportation.

Now under the policies of President Donald Trump, Praeli fears the new administration may scrap the Obama-era policy.

“If something is going to give here, if we are going to have federal reform to fix the situation that we are in, we ourselves are going to have to be the drivers,” Praeli said.

Dr. Lourdes Casas, associate professor of modern language and Interim Director of the Latin America, Latino and Caribbean Center, joined the discussion to defend those who immigrate to the United States.

“On the local front, we stand in solidarity and support for our DACA students. We must continue to support one another during these difficult times,” Casas said.

Praeli also advocated for the implementation of the expansion of DACA recipients to parents of citizens and legal permanent residents, which has protected four million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“We can’t wait for others to step up for us, but if we are not sharing our stories and we are not organizing, if we are not at the table developing those strategies then other people are going to do it for us,” Praeli said when addressing the audience about her past hope to pursue DACA during the Obama administration.

Praeli also spoke about the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA and force Congress to develop new legislation within six months.

Those six months, however, could impact up to 800,000 people who could find themselves without a work permit or protection from deportation.

More than anything, Praeli stressed the importance of becoming a hero of your own story, prompting the audience to share their own hopes and dreams for theirs and America’s future.  

The audience responded with dreams of becoming psychologists, motivational speakers, a member of the United Nations and even obtaining a doctorate from Harvard University.

“I became the hero of my own story when I, an amputee, Latina and undocumented immigrant, stepped up to the mic and spoke my true full volume without fear, without shame and without apology,” Praeli said.

World News

by Sarah Willson

  • Connecticut remains the only state in the country without a budget. The 110-day ongoing crisis could cause even more towns to freeze spending and propose tax increases. According to Governor Dannel Malloy, the new budget, which was proposed on Monday, includes an additional $150 million in cuts. 
  • A “huge truck bomb blast” killed hundreds of people in Mogadishu, Somalia over the weekend, in what is said to be the “single deadliest attack ever in the nation.”
  • Officials say the “deadliest week of wildfires in California history” took place last week after nearly 6,000 buildings were destroyed and 36 people were killed, according to CNN. The fires continue to rage on through California’s wine country.
  • The United Kingdom is on high alert as Category 3 Hurricane Ophelia barrels towards Northern Ireland. The Met Office has warned of “potential danger to life.”
  • President Donald Trump has continued to hint that he will withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, a program created by President Barack Obama in 2015 with the goal to limit the country’s nuclear power. Despite this, Trump said he will prevent Iran from gaining “all paths to a nuclear weapon.”
  • Trump continued to praise the United States’ efforts in aiding Puerto Rico after Category 4 Hurricane Marie directly hit the island back in September. Trump said he and his administration have done “a great job” in helping repair the island but also commented that federal aid can not be in Puerto Rico “forever.”
  • The Trump administration announced last week that it will be ending cost-sharing substitutes, part of the Affordable Care Act, which help millions of low-income patients receive access to healthcare.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that “diplomatic efforts [with North Korea] will continue until the first bomb drops,” and that Trump is “not seeking to go to war.”
  • Former Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton made a statement that aired in an interview on Sunday that warned the U.S. to “Keep an eye on [Vladimir Putin] because he’s not done.”  This comes after the Central Intelligence Agency claimed that Putin hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election late last year.
  • On Saturday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board voted to expel Harvey Weinstein’s membership from the group that presents Academy Awards. This comes after dozens of women claimed Weinstein sexually assaulted or raped them while working with him.
  • On Sunday, U.S.-backed forces launched their “final assault” on Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Raqqa, Syria.
  • Two ISIS leaders in Marawi, Philippines have been killed after a five-month siege.
  • Austrian conservative People Party candidate, 31-year-old  Sebastian Kurz, is on track to become Australia’s youngest national leader, according to BBC News.

SGA Bullets

by Sarah Willson

The Student Government Association meets every Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. in Bellin A and B in the Student Center.

  • The Central Connecticut State University Student Veteran Organization is asking for donations on the “Go Fund Me” website to help aid Puerto Rican hurricane victims by raising $5,000 to help with the rebuilding process. Anyone interested in donating should go to the website and search “SVO Hurricane Relief.”
  • The CCSU American Society of Civil Engineers has been denied their $7,500 base budget request by the SGA due to the fact that the club has already been funded for this year’s competitions.
  • The SGA committee report announced that $40,000 will be spent on scholarships for CCSU students during the 2017-18 school year.
  • The Central Golf Club’s request for an extra $2,000 was approved by the SGA due to the club’s considerable growth in size for the Fall 2017 semester.
  • The CCSU Art Club’s budget request of $8,000 was approved; however, the club will not receive funding for T-shirts due to budgetary restraints.
  • The next Good Neighbor Campaign event, an event that aims to foster a good relationship between CCSU students and New Britain residents, will take place on Oct. 27 at 9 a.m.

Dare To Disrupt

by Sarah Willson

In an effort to open up a conversation about communication and inclusion, Central Connecticut State University held a discussion regarding bias on college campuses and in the workplace last Friday in Memorial Hall.

The event, which was open to faculty, staff and students, featured keynote speaker Richard Spada, a former CCSU graduate who now advocates for LGBTQ rights on both a local and national level.

An openly gay man, Spada said he became passionate about disrupting bias, particularly towards LGBTQ individuals, after dealing with discrimination himself due to his sexuality.

Spada explained how years ago he mustered up the courage to “come out of the closet” to his boss and fellow employees. Things, however, did not go as planned.

“It was anything but good,” Spada said. “Anything going wrong that you can imagine happened.”

Spada explained that he was soon left out of staff e-mails, cut from business meetings and mocked during his work hours because of who he loved.

Spada’s negative experience with his company and his boss set him off to do what he called “bigger and better things,” leading him to advocate for those he believes may not have a voice when it comes to being discriminated against.

Now, Spada said he is doing anything and everything to help create inclusion in the workforce.

“I am a disrupter,” Spada said. “You should be, too.”

Before advocating for others, however, Spada explained that it is important to first understand bias and why it is important to destroy it.

“It’s all based on society. Our images, our culture, the media, messages when we were growing up, etc.,” Spada said. “But what we do know is that bias impacts attracting top talent and enhancing employee engagement.”

Spada went on to explain the negative consequences of bias, explaining that it often causes people to “burn out,”  leave their workplace or self-sabotage.

CCSU President Dr. Zulma Toro also denounced the role bias can play on an individual’s life.

“It’s important we have a welcoming campus for students and facility. We welcome everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and cultural origin. We value everyone because everyone is a human being,” Toro said in an interview at the event.

Students too agreed with Toro, believing that creating a welcoming campus is one of the most important things CCSU can do.

“I think just building a community and letting people know that we have that here on campus [is important] so no one feels isolated,” said one student who attended the event, who wished not to be named. “It’s focusing on our similarities more than our differences.”

In order to combat bias, Spada said one of the most important things a person can do is avoid assumptions and debunk stereotypes both in the workplace and on college campuses.

According to Spada, stereotypes can be the worst culprit in creating biases. With that being said, Spada stresses the importance of avoiding words such as “all,” “always,” “never,” “them” or “those people.”

Aside from this, Spada mentions that active listening can also help debunk stereotypes and biases towards individuals.

“If you are mentally constructing what you are going to say while a colleague is still speaking, that signifies that you have stopped listening actively,” Spada said.

This goes along the lines of avoiding spokesperson syndrome, Spada explained, emphasizing the importance of letting an individual speak for themselves rather than having someone speak on behalf of them.

Most importantly, Spada said that it is important to remember the platinum rule: always treat others the way you want to be treated. If you would not want what you are saying to someone to be said to you, chances are it is most likely not respectful communication.

“It’s not rocket science,” Spada said. “All we have to do is take action to include and increase leadership.”

Although Spada said he understands that it is impossible to rid stereotypes and bias from the world, he will still continue to travel across the globe to eliminate at least some of it.

CCSU Hosts First Annual Rainbow Breakfast

by Shaina Blakesley

The month of October was designated as LGBTQ History Month in 1994, which aimed to commemorate and celebrate gay rights movements such as National Coming Out Day, which takes place every year on Oct. 11.

To celebrate this, the LGBTQ Pride organization at Central Connecticut State University hosted the first Annual Rainbow Breakfast last Friday, an event that aimed to honor the CCSU LGBTQ community, which had remained relatively inactive on campus for years.

“When I arrived at CCSU in 1985, it was a widely held belief that there were simply no gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students on campus,” said Sue Sweeney, associate director of Student Activities and Leadership Development.

This, however, all changed in the late 1980s, when the university hired a new vice president of Student Affairs who aimed to improve student life, ultimately leading to conversations to help support the largely closeted LGBTQ community on campus.

By the late 1990s, the Central LGBTQ group known as “Pride,” found Joanne DiPlacido, associate professor of psychological science, who became the group’s first faculty advisor.

“Nearly 20 years ago, I began serving as the advisor for Pride and we had to hold secretive meetings in the Marcus White building because students were afraid of the risk of being outed on campus,” DiPlacido said.

Now, the CCSU Pride student organization puts on events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance, Day of Silence and the annual Drag Ball that raises money for LGBTQ organizations such as True Colors.

CCSU Pride also provides educational awareness programs for the entire campus community and supports the LGBTQ students.

“Comparing then to now, we have an LGBT center, multiple student groups, women, gender and sexuality studies, hundreds of staff and faculty who have undergone safe zone training, the LGBT Advisory Board and the other advancements shared by President Toro,” DiPlacido said.

Other faculty members also aid in creating an environment that is inclusive and understanding to all student needs.

“Student Affairs administrators have also worked closely to support the needs of students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, with regards to ensuring their privacy, healthcare, housing and other vital services,” Sweeney said.

Shay Diggs, an athletic training major, said she was concerned about fitting in due her strained family relationship regarding her sexuality.

“CCSU has been my safe haven to come out and be who I am comfortably without feeling like I am under a microscope and being judged for everything I do,” Diggs said.

The event also presented several CCSU student and faculty speakers as well as their keynote speaker, Richard Spada, a CCSU alumnus.

Spada, the Senior Global Manager for Diversity, discussed how eight countries still punish homosexuality by death and 75 others incarcerate those who engage in same-sex behavior. He also discussed how the Trump administration is assaulting gay rights.

“Just because it is 2017 does not mean that we have overcome the basic fundamentals of human rights violations against LGBTQ+ people,” Spada said.

“We won’t go back into the closet. We are a positive light in the world. By telling stories, we become a positive change in the world,” Spada said.

Spada believes that people must keep talking and telling their stories in order to continue promoting change for the LGBTQ population.

The event concluded with the giving of the Rainbow Awards to deserving elected nominees who have contributed greatly to the LGBTQ community, such as English professor Mary Collins and chair of the CCSU History Department, Dr. Katherine Hermes.

President Dr. Zulma Toro said she believed events such as this one help “celebrate the core values of respect, dignity and inclusion that make our institution and our family so great.”

“Events like today are just another example of what it means to honor the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community and I just want to say, given my 20 years here, I would never [have] thought I would see the day that we would have an event like this,” DiPlacido said through tears.