All posts by Sarah Willson

This Week In National And International News

by Sarah Willson

  • Both outrage and support circled the internet as NFL players knelt and locked arms during the National Anthem, a move to show defiance against President Trump.
  • On Monday, North Korea’s Foreign Minister accused President Trump of “declaring war” on his country, a statement which was made after Trump tweeted that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.”
  • The Iranian government said on Saturday that the country has successfully tested a “new medium-range missile,” following reports that President Donald Trump may withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, an Obama administration program that aimed to limit Iran’s nuclear power.
  • At a rally in Alabama late last week, Trump reassured his crowd that the southern border wall between the United States and Mexico is “happening” and that he will be sure to pick out “the right one.”
  • Republican Senator John McCain said in a statement last week that he cannot, “in good conscience,” vote for the new health care proposal, a key decision that will likely end President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to CNN.
  • BBC News reported on Saturday that a 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocked southern Mexico, just days after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico, which had left over 300 people dead. Saturday’s earthquake resulted in the deaths of two women from apparent heart attacks.
  • All of Puerto Rico is still without power after Category 4 Hurricane Maria slammed into the island mid last week, leaving over a dozen dead. Authorities are urging over 70,000 people to evacuate, saying a dam failure is “imminent,” according to the National Weather Service.
  • One person was killed and seven others were wounded after a shooter opened fire early Sunday morning at a church in Antioch, Tennessee.

State Budget Crisis Forces Furlough Days on CCSU

by Kristina Vakhman

Facing massive budget cuts and a state economy in chaos, Central Connecticut State University faculty will be required to forgo a portion of their salary through furlough days — a move that Lindsay Keazer, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the school, sees as detrimental to students.

“I think there should be better ways for the state to balance the budget,” Keazer said. “I prepare future teachers. They won’t get as much information that’s important for their future career. It hurts me — it’s a financial cut — but I can survive. It’s unfair to the students who are paying money. It’s not just slicing my pay; it’s slicing the amount of knowledge [the students] can have. I wish I had more time and more class days with my students.”

Dr. Jared Ragusett of the university’s economics department agreed with Keazer’s sentiment, saying that the furlough days “bring home the state budget crisis to students.”

“It’ll take away services. Your tuition isn’t adjusted for that. That’s something students should consider,” Ragusett said.

Furlough days are unpaid mandatory leaves of absence, or “vacation days,” provisioned by employers as a means to cut costs without having to resort to lay-offs.

According to an email sent out to faculty by Louise Blakeney Williams, the president of CCSU’s American Association of University Professors, CCSU full-time faculty members “will not be paid for three days,” meaning teachers, coaches, counselors and librarians will not be coming in for work. One of these days has been designated for March 9 of next year, entailing that no classes or office hours will be in session, while the dates of the other two days are a matter of choice on a personal basis.

“I’m taking them the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving break, and I’m going to put an automatic reply saying I’m on furlough and I’m not answering any emails or doing any work because I’m not getting paid,” said associate professor of history, Dr. Heather Munro Prescott, while laughing. “It sucks that in a state this affluent, the legislature can’t find other ways to generate revenue.”

Additionally, the email encourages faculty to apologize to students that their “education may have been disrupted by the unwillingness of our legislature to adequately fund higher education.”

Dr. Virginia Mitchell, an adjunct professor of history, views the proposed $90 million cut to Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, including CCSU, as the problem and not so much the furlough days themselves.

“I’m much more worried about the other budget cuts they’re talking about in the legislature. This is a minor thing. We need more funding overall for education,” Mitchell stated.

Some faculty, who asked not to be included in this article, said they have not participated in furlough days in the past and will continue to do so. Others, like Dr. Samuel Zadi, who teaches French in the modern languages department, are virtually unaffected either because of scheduling or their readiness to assist CT’s crumbling budget negotiations.

“It doesn’t bother me much. There’s just one day that isn’t really fair because I’ll still be working anyway and they’ll be taking money from my salary. Other than that, I don’t see a problem with the principle. The state has some problems and they are trying to find ways to resolve it,” Zadi said.

Dr. Susan Gillmore, an associate professor of English, concurred that, though “money’s tight,” the university’s choice to participate in the furlough days “was done in the spirit of shared sacrifice.” As the mother of a son who just started at Southern Connecticut State University, she is willing to surrender a paycheck and is more concerned about how the budget will affect education as a whole.

“I’m more worried about the budget on the governor’s desk and what’s going to happen to the state and tuition and scholarships. I’d rather give up a few days than see students get more hits, but I’m afraid we’re going to see both,” Gillmore said.

“I just hope that the assembly restores funding for higher-ed. It’s one of the best investments they can make. It’s hard to have income loss, but we’re trying to work with the state and preserve what we have. I will say that it’s discouraging to have furloughs and then to see the budget they have,” Gillmore added.

Secretary for the Career Success Center, Linda Kaupus, believes neither students nor state employees should be hit by cuts whatsoever, especially by furlough days. Though her position is part of the clerical worker staff, Kaupus is affected.

“We need to do something in order to keep the state afloat, but I don’t think it should all be on the backs of the employees of the state of Connecticut. We all need to do our share. The government needs to do more with taxing the multi-million dollar corporations than the individuals with incomes. The majority of us state employees are in the middle class. How much more can we give?” Kaupus expressed with frustration.

“My husband works a regular job. He doesn’t need to take furlough days because his business is flowing; I’m getting taxed just like he is, but I also have to give back three days of my paycheck. Then they talk about how state employees are the cause of a lot of the problems here in the state. No, we’re actually not. We pay the same taxes as every other citizen in the state of Connecticut does. But if it’s going to help balance the budget and people get to keep their jobs, it’s fine. They’re a necessary evil,” Kaupus said.

CCSU Opens Discussion On Suicide In The Military

by Sarah Willson

“Are you suicidal?”

This is one of many questions that can save the lives of veterans suffering from suicidal thoughts, according to Susan Tobenkin, a licensed clinical social worker and specialist in substance abuse.

Tobenkin, along with four other panel members this past Friday, presented the question, along with debunking many common myths and stereotypes that are attached to veterans and the military community.

The panel was held in the Central Connecticut State University Constitution Room. The CCSU Veterans History Project and the Connecticut National Guard presented the panel discussion to open up the difficult conversation about the increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide that is found increasingly within the military community. CCSU President, Dr. Zulma Toro led opening remarks and welcomed the speakers and the 70 people in attendance.

Before beginning the discussion, Tobenkin stressed the importance of ridding the stigma associated with suicide.

“People who commit suicide are not weak, they’re not stupid, they’re not fragile,” Tobenkin said. “It’s just at that moment in time, they have more pain than they can stand. They lack a support system and a purpose to life.”

Tobenkin, who is a member of the National Guard, said that statistics have shown that suicides within the military community, especially those exposed to combat, continue to increase.

“We’ve got a particular problem with suicide,” the Connecticut National Guardsman said. “Only seven percent of the United States is composed of military personnel, but 20 percent of them make up all suicides. About half of those have been deployed.”

According to Tobenkin, veterans are three times more likely to take their own lives than the average person.

“There are some risk factors and warning signs to look for,” said Latonya Harts, a suicide prevention coordinator who works at the National Veterans Crisis Line. “Giving away prized possessions, losing a fear of death, shutting down your feelings. It’s almost like you cut yourself off from the rest of the world.”

When these warning signs happen, panelists agreed that there is an immediate risk of death.

“When a person loses his or her fear of death, they are in danger of suicide,” Tobenkin said. “It’s only people who can cross that line who can and will commit suicide.”

The panelists were not the only ones concerned with the high suicide rate in the military.

Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Dr. David Shulkin, who was unable to join the panel discussion, expressed his concerns over the high number of military suicides.

“As you know, 20 veterans a day are dying by suicide. That should be unacceptable to all of us,” Shulkin said in a quote. “This is a national public health crisis.”

Despite the alarming numbers, Albert Guillorn, a veteran and family therapy specialist, said that there are ways to help combat the numbers.

“These people are not alone,” Guillorn said.

He recommended that veterans find others they can relate to and open up with any disturbing feelings or thoughts that they begin to experience.

“Don’t be afraid to open up a conversation, even if it’s awkward at first,” Guillorn said.

All the speakers encouraged those who are suffering to not suffer alone, to talk about it and seek out all possible resources that are available to them.

“Together we can save lives,” Hart said. “All we have to do is open a conversation.”
The National Veteran Crisis hotline is 800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours, seven days a week. The CCSU Student Veteran Organization meets every Wednesday in the Veterans Affairs office, located in Carroll Hall.