Category Archives: SGA

Student Government Association Divided Over Social Justice Committee

by Lorenzo Burgio

An intense debate centered around the Social Justice Committee of the Student Government Association at Central Connecticut State University last week, resulted in the campus police being called and Student Affairs Vice President Dr. Laura Tordenti stepping in.

“Please remember yourselves, okay. You are better than this, all of you. You are supposed to be modeling leadership and civility. That’s not what I’m seeing here. You can agree to disagree and do it respectfully without vulgarity, or sarcasm. Respecting another person’s point of view even though you may disagree with it,”  Tordenti said.

“The student government’s mission is not to foster social justice, its not on the constitution and not why we’re here. We foster those movements and give other organizations the chance to do so. We don’t constitute what is SJC and what is not,” SGA Senator Wyatt Bosworth said.

The SJC was formed by then president Jahmil Effend a week after the 2016 presidential elections as an ad-hoc committee of SGA focused on social justice and related issues.

Senators Sawera Hussan and Christopher Marinelli were then elected to chair the committee. SJC has held many events including Tea Against Bigotry, Accept Existence or Expect Resistance Rally, assisting with “The Laramie Project” and more recently a veterans panel.

At the first SGA meeting in February there was a debate over when the Accept Existence or Expect Resistance rally was supposed to happen and the message being sent when advertising the rally.

Senator Marinelli promoted the rally to stand in solidarity with the CCSU community’s undocumented individuals, immigrants and refugees to other senators at that SGA meeting.

“We’re sending a message to the student body that we care about these things. We passed a resolution for Differed Actions for Childhood Arrivals and Differed Action of Parents of Americans, most of us are against the travel ban. This is a way to show students that we care deeply about issues that affects people like our undocumented students on campus with this wall,” Marinelli said.

“I understand what the message is encompassing. But the optics of what the protest will look like might fray into partisanship. SGA should remain relatively neutral in the political part of it,” Bosworth said.

The rally gained statewide attention when it was live streamed by NBC Connecticut, currently it has over 96,000 views.

At last week’s meeting the debate continued and Marinelli argued that SJC should be a standing committee so it is easier for other activism clubs on campus to receive funding and plan events with the SJC.

“Every SJC meeting has had outside representation. Leaders, activists, [we are] meticulous at making sure we have student representation. We need it as a standing committee because with diversity week as a platform, as SGA we have easier access to funds, we have an established relationship with SALD. We’re well versed with our SGA finance system, and a lot of clubs aren’t aware of that,” Marinelli said.

Many senators argues that it was other organizations’ job to activate SJC, no the SGA’s.

“SJC is a great idea and we need it on campus. But at the same time I don’t think it’s something SGA should be doing. There are times when SGA thinks of itself as the most important organization on campus, and in many ways it is. When it comes to social justice, we have a lot of other clubs like LGBTQ, MSA, SASA, LASO. They need to be represented at social justice events,” Senator Eric Ott said.

Marnielli argued that separate organization is invited to SJC meetings, but are not allowed to vote on financial or procedural matters in meetings.

The debate on whether or not to make SJC a standing committee will be revisited next week after President of the Student Veterans Organization at CCSU, Paul Small, expressed to the Senate that the organization weas upset they had not been invited to the SGA veteran’s panel.

“No relationship with the SGA is better than the one we have right now. We’re hoping that the new e-board will be willing to police the committees like SJC that failed to notify and advocate for the veterans on campus. I don’t want to take anything away from the SJC, you guys have held wonderful events for worthy causes on campus. The rally you hosted was a great success. I just hope in the future our veteran organization can be considered worthy enough to participate in these types of events,” Small said.

Marinelli did not want the other senators to lash out on the SJC, and admitted the mistake of not inviting the SVO was his.

“We’re a new committee, we’re learning how to do our things, I know we have some controversy with who wants a SJC and who doesn’t. Put that on me, don’t put that on the committee or let it build apathy against the committee,” Marinelli said.

After the mistake, Senators felt that the SJC was not properly organized and should not be allowed to be a standing committee, because it was damaging the credibility of the SGA.

“I don’t think SJC in current form should be allowed to carry on. I know that’s a controversial issue, I’ve been to some meetings and I respect the committee’s work. My concern is that we are disrupting the effective governing of our SGA as a whole. I wouldn’t want someone to question the student government on a core essential activity like scholarships, base budgets, our core functions,” Senator Stephen Dew said.

Hussan defended the SJC, stating that inviting the veterans to the panel was a mistake, SJC works closely with club present at their meetings and takes every clubs’ opinions into consideration when voting. Hussan also read the human-rights statement attached to the SGA constitution and related it to how essential SJC is.

“The constitution literally states we need a SJC,” Hussan said.

Ott countered the argument, stating that Hussan was misinterpreting the statement.

“To the human rights statement, there is not a single spot in this statement that says we need a SJC, that is an inference, an assumption based off the human rights statement; we do not need it. It protects human rights but it does not mean we need a SJC, it means we support the rights on CCSU,” Ott said.

Bosworth then said the conversation was focused on the SJC and now what the SGA plans to do to apologize to the SVO.

“Simply saying ‘we messed up’ and ‘we’ll get it better next time’ does not work for me and it shouldn’t work for anyone else. 450 veterans we slapped in the face because the committee was poorly run and poorly organized,” Bosworth said.

President Effend said he didn’t believe that SJC was run poorly, that the debate was tense and that the mistake needed to be rectified.

Dew said the SJC did not represent the entire campus; just those whose political views tend to be more liberal. He also questioned whether the SJC would have been formed if President Donald Trump had not won the 2016 election.

“We are in this climate now because of what we see outside that somehow we feel we have to take a stance as a student government. When we take a stance on issues like this, yes you might empower those that want to let their voices be heard, but at the same time you also offend a lot of people,” Dew said.

The debate then quickly escalated and multiple senators became angry. Bosworth, who had three points of order for saying “pissed off” twice and speaking out of turn, was asked to leave the room by Effend.

Bosworth refused to leave, causing Effend to call the campus police to escort him out. At that moment, Tordenti stepped in and urged all the senators to be respectful and take a breather.

“Come on, I’m stunned. Can everyone just take a deep breath? Does the conversation need to continue right now? Perhaps we can agree to table this while everyone collects themselves. Meet again perhaps informally to sort these things out? These are difficult issues, perhaps you’re reflecting what you do see occurring at the national level which is an embarrassment to many Americans at the national level. You’re better than this,” Tordenti said.

The meeting was then adjourned and another informal one was held two days later with Tordenti SGA members. The SJC will remain a committee until the end of the semester year unless allowed to act as a standing committee.

 

Sitting Down with the President

by Analisa Novak

 

Unlike many presidents who are found only in meetings and their office, you can find this year’s SGA president on the front lines with the rest of the student government. Setting a new standard when it comes to the word “president,” Jahmil Effend is a face that many recognize on campus because he willingly chooses to participate in each and every single event that he can. The Bristol native transferred to Central Connecticut State University from Becker College two years ago, after he chose to pursue a new dream.

“Out of high school I went to play football at Becker, it was a D3 football college. I didn’t like football so midway through freshmen year, I transferred here,” Effend said.

Just because he didn’t want to play college football doesn’t mean that the sport left Effend’s life completely. With his roommate, Effend started CCSU Club Football, one of the most active and funded clubs on the CCSU campus. His dedication to the campus grew from this club and he soon found a new outlook and goal.

“I spent the majority of my time freshman year going to the gym, eating and going to class. I did that for the first two months and I realized that, that’s just not the way to spend your time. So I got involved in football club and took the risk,” said Effend.

That risk soon paid off as Effend then became involved with Central Activities Network (CAN) after orientation his sophomore year. He later became a program director and joined the senate last year. Quickly moving up the ranks, he became the vice president of the chair committee and one year later, Effend now holds one of the most important roles on campus as President of the Student Government.

Even holding a role as significant as SGA President, Effend is incredibly grounded for such a powerful position. This is a president that puts his personal cell phone number on his business card, letting it be known that he is available to help any student, anytime they need him.

“I want to spend more time out in the community, actually doing things, meeting with professors, meeting with people on campus and just being visible and being available,” Effend said.

What is even more impressive than Effend’s commitment to his role as president is the fact that he does all of this while being a double major. Effend will be graduating this May with bachelor’s degrees in both Accounting and Human Resource Specialization.  But for Effend, it is his drive and passion that keeps him level. He enjoys going to class every day and learning more about his major. Effend finds this to be the key to balancing a busy schedule.

“You need to chose majors that you love, because ultimately if you don’t love what you are doing in class, it’s going to be difficult,” said Effend. “I found that this year has been even easier than before because now I’ve started my management and human resources specialization and I really love it.”

Effend gets to bring the skills he learns in the classroom into his student government meetings each week. His motto of “do what you love” has brought a positive energy to the SGA, which sometimes has very tough decision-making meetings.

“I’m meeting with every senator one-on-one this year to get their goals, their expectations of the executive board, so that we all can have one collective thought and I could put out the best student government possible for the students,” Effend said.

Effend’s welcoming personality is something that he wants all students on campus to feel. Effend is the main organizer for the anti-discrimination rally happening this month. He noticed the importance of the positions that student government members hold and wanted to bring the conversation to CCSU. Effend’s main goal for this event is to unite the campus and bring them together against the causes of discrimination.

“We really want to promote that CCSU cares, we are a university that is inclusive, we are a university that doesn’t discriminate and one that doesn’t want to discriminate,” said Effend.

With such a short time as president, Effend and his E-board members have been making incredible strides for the CCSU community. He helped make last year’s election the most voted election in recent years. With an impressive and record-breaking amount of 551 votes on the first day alone, Effend credits this turnout to the candidate gallery he planned last May. This candidate gallery will become a staple in SGA elections for years to come.

With his legacy already cemented, Effend hopes that his time here will be remembered as a president that helped improve the relationship between student government and the CCSU students.

“I really want people to leave my presidency saying SGA is one of the most visible organizations on campus and I know what the student government does and I know what student government is.”

You can meet President Effend and other members of student government every Wednesday at their Student Government Association Meetings at 3:05 p.m. in the Student Center, Bellin A-B room.

SGA Bullets

Motion not to exceed $70,000.00 for spring concert from SGA Reserves Y:21 N:0 .

Motion to allocate $5,600.00 for Homecoming Week with $3,500.00 for t-shirts, $500.00, $100.00 going to DJs, and $1,500.00 going to security for the Homecoming Dance. Pass: 24, Abstain-1

Motion to approve Club Soccer’s line item in full, requesting $500.00 for travel and $1,000.00 for athletic travel.   Pass: 25.

Cracks in the System: How a Sex Offender Was Able to Go Undetected

 

 

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by: Analisa Novak

Cracks in the system Central Connecticut State University uses to monitor sex offenders allows registered sex offenders to attend school undetected. The flaws came to light this past summer after it was revealed that a student on the registry had attended for a year without state police or university knowledge.

CCSU is the only Connecticut State University that does not list the names of sex offenders on the campus website.

Federal law only requires the school to make the information accessible for those on campus.

CCSU does this by providing a link to the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry, the minimum to comply with the Campus Sex Crime Prevention Act.

“It’s a judgment call,” said Mark McLaughlin, Associate Vice President, Marketing & Communications.

That’s the same federal law that Southern, Eastern and Western Connecticut state universities also have to follow.

The three schools, like CCSU, also provide that generic link but they go further and provide the names of the student sex offender and registry numbers on their website.

“We do this because the CT sex offender list is always changing, there are some offenders that still list SCSUs address on the official registry, that don’t go here. By making sure our campus list is accurate and up to date, we can better provide the information,” SCSU Campus Detective Cynthia Torres said.

The state also provides the CSUs with a list of sexual offenders on the database so they can cross-reference applicants and existing students as well.

This secondary check, if done, could also catch any offenders who are failing to disclose. This is done at the request of the university.

“They check our list (statewide registry list) against their list (campus list), to see if there is anyone going to school who is on the registry. If they notice that there is someone on there, who they have questions about, and contact us and ask if a particular student is listed being at the university on the registry and we say no, now we know there’s a violation and that’s a felony,” CT State Police Sergeant Matthew Garcia said.

The CT state registry list states that seven offenders use CCSU as their school address.

According to the most up-to-date list, which only the CCSU police have, only four offenders currently attend CCSU.

CCSU Police has listed a student who is a registered offender by the wrong name. His first and last name were mixed up on their hardcopy list and if students were to search for him on the state registry, using the name provided by the CCSU police, the name wouldn’t appear

“I think it’s important for the safety of our campus that the sex offender list is easily accessible by students and the more transparency on issues around sexual violence, the better,” said Sarah Dodd, CCSU Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention Specialist.

According to Gregory Sneed, CCSU Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, there is an interview process that registered sex offenders go through before they become a student on campus.

“Sex offenders are required to register where they reside and where they are going to school. So by virtue of that, they notify the state, the state then notifies us. We then call them in and to just have a conversation with them.”

Prospective students choose to do the Common Application or the CCSU College Net application.

Both these applications ask prospective students to disclose any misdemeanors or felonies.

Applicants cannot go forward with the online application without selecting either yes or no.

If yes is selected, admissions forward the information to campus police, who will then speak to the applicant if needed.

Campus police are not responsible for selecting who gets admitted into CCSU even if they are sex offenders.

 

Sex Offenders are required by federal law to select yes and to not only inform the university, but also the state police.

“Failure to notify would then constitute a class D felony which is punishable up to five years (CGS § 54-256),” according to Sergeant Garcia.

The campus police cannot issue this particular felony violation, only the state police can.

Nathan George Cheatham, 28, failed to inform the university or the state police of his enrollment at CCSU.

By doing so he went undetected among students and faculty for an entire school year.

Cheatham was required to register to the police under CT 54-253, which deals with individuals who have been convicted out of state and are now living in Connecticut.

Cheatham was 18 when he was arrested in Michigan in 2005 for a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl.

 “It should be noted that it is believed that she was actually 13 years of age when this (act) had transpired,” according to police reports obtained by The Recorder through a Freedom of Information request with the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office.

Another incident with an additional 14-year-old girl was also investigated.

Cheatham later admitted to the two separate sexual encounters with the minors, according to the police transcripts.

Cheatham was charged with Gross Indecency Between Male And Female (Michigan statue 750.338b). He has been listed a sex offender since 2006.

Out- of- state sexual offenders are required to notify police whenever they want to attend any Connecticut State University or college.

“If they’re moving into Connecticut they have to let us know where they are going to school. If they committed a sexual assault in (i.e.) MA and now they are coming here and going to CCSU, they have to notify us without undo or delay, “said Sergeant Garcia .

Cheatham’s sex offender status was not known to the university or police until after the CCSU Society of Professional Journalists received an anonymous tip.

CCSU SPJ is a chapter of the national SPJ professional organization for students and working journalists and protects journalism by fighting for ethics, training and their First Amendment.

Cheatham was to be the president for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The group was preparing for a trip to the national SPJ convention in New Orleans when members got the tip.

When originally questioned by the E-Board of SPJ, Cheatham was defiant and refused to speak on the issue.

Later he met with the vice president of the group. In an interview last week, she said, Cheatham told her that he is on the registry for “fooling around” with a then- sixteen-year-old girlfriend.

Cheatham also told her that it was optional for him to inform on his status.

Upon further investigation by the group, it was discovered that both of these statements were false. Cheatham was then asked to resign as president.

“As a student leader he should be compliant with the school. If he’s not following the rules of the school he shouldn’t be in the office”, said CCSU SPJ Vice President Lisa Massicotte.

After Cheatham’s offender status was discovered, the CCSU campus police were notified and the CT state police temporarily listed him as a non-compliant sex offender on the registry. Cheatham was also a Student Government Association Senator. He was elected earlier this year and was set to be involved in the finance committee. He had participated on a retreat with SGA members during the time where it was not known of his offender status.

Student Activities was made aware of Cheatham’s failing to notify the police and the university of his sex offender status around the time the information came to light.

But even as they were aware of this information, administrators in student activities continued to allow Cheatham to be an SGA Senator.

Although what Cheatham did is considered a felony in Connecticut, CCSU did not see it necessary to remove him from SGA.

According to the CCSU student handbook, any full-time student “in good academic standing and not under disciplinary sanction may participate in clubs and other co-curricular activities.”

When Director of Student Activities Scott Hazan was asked for comment, he forwarded all interview questions to Mark McLaughlin.

When McLaughlin was asked why CCSU allowed Cheatham to continue to be on SGA even after officials knew he was a non-compliant sex offender, McLaughlin said that federal Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents him from responding directly to any question. He did say, “When we (CCSU) become aware of students or employees on the sexual offense registry our normal procedure is to conduct a thorough review.”

Cheatham was never suspended or expelled.  He was never put on any sort of a probation period by the university. Due to FERPA no information of a conduct review was given. It is not known if the school will ever seek any disciplinary actions.

At no time was any student member of student government informed by the university of Chatham’s non-compliance status.

When asked for comment, SGA president Jahmil Effend said, “We have to trust the university as we do with everything else.”

Cheatham never responded to multiple requests for an interview. As of now he is not registered in any classes for the fall semester.

Had Cheatham notified the CT state police of his status, the New Britain police would then have been notified.

“This whole thing comes down to the offender even notifying the state in the first place. You get on the registry because you’ve been convicted of a sex offense, you did time and you are being released into the community, you have to register. You do not have a choice. You are in the system. It is their responsibility to physically register with us and keep us informed,” Sgt. Garcia said.

The majority of sex offenders are compliant with the registry and the terms that come with their release, according to Sergeant Garcia.

“If they are going to be attending a university it is incumbent on them to tell us; if they don’t then now they are facing felonies,” Sergeant Garcia said.

If any students know of any offenders who are choosing to not disclose and meet the requirements of their sentence, police advise them to search the offender on the database, select submit a tip (located at the bottom of the offenders photo), and let the CT police know.

Informants remain anonymous

The Office of Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention provides services to assist and support individuals affiliated with Central Connecticut State University who have been impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence, and/or stalking. Students who need these services should contact Sarah Dodd at the office of Victim Advocacy and Violence, located in Carroll Hall, Room 248.

Editor’s Note: The Recorder strives to provide the university with the most accurate information possible. It is for this reason that no individual whether faculty or student found guilty of any offense against the state, university or any student, will be shielded or protected through anonymity. There were no aliases used in this story. The only names that will ever be protected in The Recorder are those of anonymous sources and victims of any crimes.

Contract Negotiations Stalling Amid State Budget Woes

by Nicholas Leahey

The arbitration deadline for the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents (BOR) has been pushed back again – until June – as the state’s legislators continue to deal with the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis.

As a result, the current collective bargaining agreement has been extended.

According to CSU-AAUP representatives, negotiations are still ongoing over several key issues, as both sides pay close attention to the events which are occurring in Hartford over the State’s budget. Both parties have until August, when the current contract expires, to finalize a new one, with the state’s fiscal deadline on July first.

“The CSU-AAUP/BOR contract negotiations continue on non-economic issues,” said Dr. Elena Tapia, President and Chief Negotiator of CSU-AAUP,  in a statement.

The movement of the arbitration deadline comes after the Gov. Dannel Malloy asked legislators to reject a contract for the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), a union for non-teaching professional employees there, back in March. According to the Hartford Courant, he called the proposal too tough for economic times, and said, “Agreements negotiated between labor and management must reflect our new economic reality.” The UCPEA is currently re-negotiating their contract.

The new June first arbitration deadline also marks the third time the deadline has been moved. Both sides have openly said they wish to avoid  arbitration, especially in the state’s current fiscal atmosphere. Both parties, however, have yet to reach an agreement and are weary to discuss any economic-related issues with the state’s budget still pending.

According to official CSU-AAUP ‘Table Talk’ reports, a periodic report on the progress of contract negotiations from the CSU-AAUP to its members, has shown progress has been made on some issues, while others still remain in contention.

Specifically, in a March 14 report, both CSU-AAUP and BOR negotiators came to an agreement on a proposal which would enable multi-semester contracts to part-time faculty who have taught for six or more semesters. According to the report, eligible members and department chairs would be able to request such contracts.

In a most recent report released on April 6th, members of the CSU-AAUP, in a meeting on March 31st, asked about the status of a series of tentative agreements which they made with BOR negotiators on March 9, inquiring if whether or not the BOR had signed off on them. Members of the BOR negotiating team stated they were not done yet and that it was “a lot of tedious work.”

The same report also outlined justification for movement of the arbitration deadline to June first. It said, “This extension of the deadline represents a prudent adjustment in support of our aim to reach a fair resolution to several outstanding issues at the negotiating table.”

Calls and messages left for the BOR were not immediately answered or returned.

As negotiations continue, members of the CSU-AAUP and BOR remain tight-lipped regarding what is currently being discussed in meetings. Both parties have made it clear, however, they still hope to reach a deal in a timely manner.