Category Archives: Editorials

Letters To The Editor Are Fundamental To Journalism

by Lorenzo Burgio and Kimberly Pena

Letters to the editor have always been submitted to newspapers as a way to incorporate the public’s perspective.

“The letters to the editor section is the prime forum of democracy in a newspaper, the place where the little guy gets to have his say,” explained poynter.org.

The option to submit a letter to the editor serves as a bulletin board for the public to share opinions or information they feel is necessary for other members of the public to know.

It’s a way for citizens to express their concerns publicly and in their own words and has historically played this role.
“Letters to the editor can be effective in influencing public opinion and legislators’ views. The ‘Letter to the Editor’ section is one of the most widely read parts of most newspapers, offering a chance to reach a broad audience. Letters to the editor can provide readers with insights on issues with which they may be unfamiliar, and can also inspire readers to take action,” explained the National Education Association.
In the late 1700s into the early 1800s, lawyer and legislator John Dickinson wrote a series of essays titled “Letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania,” that were periodically published in various newspapers throughout the 13 colonies.

The essays argued that the colonies were sovereign in their internal affairs, and Dickinson argued that taxes were being paid by the colonies in order to raise revenue for Parliament, versus through regulated trade, which he felt was unconstitutional.

The twelve letters submitted by Dickinson helped unite the colonists against the British Empire and highlighted the importance of letters to the editor.

Something that seems to be overlooked in regards to letters to the editor, is the fact that is was written by someone who is not a member of the newspaper’s staff or editorial board.

The work submitted then does not constitute as an article, but a letter to the editor, and its content is not that of the newspaper, but of the public or person who submitted the article.

The purpose of letters to the editor are to tell the newspaper what they are doing wrong, filling holes in stories they published and for citizens to simply explain perception of certain issues to the public.

“In a letter to the editor or opinion piece, you can bring up information not addressed in a news article, and can create the impression of widespread support or opposition to an issue,” explained the National Council of Teachers of English.

Therefore it will be considered unethical for any staff member of the newspaper to change the writing and the meaning of the letters to the editor. Its purpose is to provide a perspective from outside of the newspaper organization that is untouched by the paper.

For a staff member to change the meaning of the piece, is committing an injustice to the public. It is not expressing the authentic meaning of the letter and it does not provide the most detailed insight of members of the community.

“There’s some value in providing readers with a notion of what people in their community are saying and thinking… We do our best to maintain a kind of a coarse filter and err on the side of publishing something rather than not publishing it.”

However, this does not obligate the paper to publish every letter sent to the editor, it is based on the editor’s discretion on what they think is for the best interest to the paper and its readership.

 

Free College Tuition for New York Residents

Public colleges and universities in New York will grant free tuition to middle-class residents beginning in fall 2017; a significant step in the right direction to benefit upcoming generations.

In order to qualify for free tuition, students must be full-time and average 30 credits a year, or 15 a semester, which can include summer and winter-break classes.

Although there is no grade point average requirement set for eligibility, students need to ensure their grades are enough to pass each class and stay on track with the number of credits for graduation.

Under New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s new plan, families who make less than $100,000 per year are eligible for free tuition at state colleges, universities and two-year colleges for the fall 2017 semester.

Every year, the annual household income requirement to receive free tuition will increase. It will rise to $110,000 in fall of 2018 and to $125,000 in 2019.

Free tuition at state colleges and universities is every student’s dream. Higher education should not only be accessible to students who are fortunate enough to receive help from their family.

Cuomo is also trying to work with state colleges and universities in hopes of lowering tuition costs overall, which seems logical if they will see an influx of enrollment. Currently, tuition at New York’s state colleges and universities totals $6,470.

The plan proposed by Cuomo estimates that the plan will cost $163 million in its first year.

Cuomo proposed the plan in January, in hopes of setting an example to other states to decrease college costs.

It is estimated that when the plan is fully phased, 940,000 people would qualify for the program at New York’s 64 state colleges and universities. New York has the largest public college system in the U.S., totaling over 443,000 enrolled students, according to USA Today.

With so many students eligible to receive free college tuition, many may wonder how this is possible. However, when attending a university, there are many other expenses, such as room and board, that need to be taken into consideration.

The State University of New York said the costs on top of tuition total $20,700 a year. Also, students are responsible for paying for textbooks and providing transportation to and from school.

Free tuition could also be a plan in the near future for Connecticut students. As of April 4, Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders backed the free tuition bill introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal the day before at a Senate meeting, according to the Stamford Advocate.

“The $1.3 trillion in student debt is a disgrace and so is the fact that the U.S. government is profiting from student debt,” Blumenthal said at the Senate meeting.

“The legislation’s sponsors, which include 14 Democrats who introduced a version in the House of Representatives, estimate that $600 billion can be raised over a decade by a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades, a 0.1 percent fee on bonds and a 0.005 [percent] fee on derivatives,” according to the Stamford Advocate.

Although it may take Connecticut a while to put free tuition into action, it would clearly be beneficial to the state and a step in the right direction to make higher education accessible to the entire population.

Too Close to Home

Three people were shot and injured in New Britain near the Central Connecticut State University campus last Wednesday around 7 a.m.

The three people were a woman and her 12-year-old and 17-year-old kids, who were all transported to local hospitals and are said to make a full recovery.

The shooting occurred on Newington Avenue, close to East Street, two and a half miles away and a short seven-minute drive away from CCSU; which is too close.

CCSU did not go into lockdown due to the incident. Since the shooting happened so close to campus and past events that caused campus to close down, it was a surprise CCSU was not.

Students at Central did not receive any notification about the event, not even through email as they usually are. Many students are still in the dark about the event, and have no idea it happened or what happened. Incidents such as this should be highlighted so students can take necessary precautions as New Britain residents.

With a shooting so close to campus, it is unacceptable that students were not at least notified of the event when it happened. There was no way for students to know where the shooter was going or what his possible intentions are unless they followed the news.

With the suspect’s intention being unclear and unpredictable, CCSU should have taken necessary precautions to ensure that the faculty and student body were informed of the event and were safe. Safety of students should be top priority for CCSU. If something were to happen, students would be unaware the event even occurred, putting many students in a dangerous situation.

The incident occurred after the suspect and a boy got into a dispute related to school, according to Eyewitness News.

The suspect has been identified as 36-year-old Jermaine Tywane Scott. Police officials are still looking for Scott, who is said to be “armed and dangerous,” and to have a criminal history that includes violence, according to police officials.

According to Eyewitness News, the shooting sent two nearby schools on lock down, Chamberlain Elementary School and CCMC School. St. Francis Hospital’s emergency department in Hartford did the same when the suspect was thought to be there.

Police officials believe Scott had both a relationship and lived with the women who was shot.

On the first of the month, authorities searched the home of another women Scott previously had relations with in New Haven on Thompson Street, where there was a large police presence.

Many nearby towns, specifically New Haven, are being watched by police in hopes of finding Scott and taking him into custody for several charges, including attempted murder, criminal possession, use of a firearm and criminal possession of a high capacity magazine, according to Eyewitness News.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the New Britain Police Department at 860-826-3000.

Hodgman Resigns From Hartford School System

Jill Cutler Hodgman, Hartford school system’s chief labor and legal officer, has resigned after agreeing to a separation arrangement, according to The Hartford Courant.

This agreement will keep Hodgman on the school system’s payroll until the end of the school year in June, while being considered on “paid leave” until then.

According to The Hartford Courant, the Hartford school system has “been subject to criticism in the aftermath of a state watchdog report that outlined widespread failures in how Hartford schools have handled allegations of suspected child abuse or neglect — particularly when the potential abusers are school employees.” This statement was made in reference to the Eduardo Genao case, which took place in 2016.

“[Genao] resigned in April 2016 after he was accused of sending sexual text messages to a 13-year-old girl from New York whom he had met at a district event,” according to The Hartford Courant. Genao pleaded not guilty to risk of injury of a minor.

Hodgman is one of Hartford’s highest payed employees, earning an annual salary of $183,846, according to The Hartford Courant. From now until June, Hodgman would have made nearly $50,000 based on her annual salary. Although she is not directly working under this agreement, Hodgman is essentially being paid this large amount to resign in June without complication.

Hodgman is said to be serving as a consultant to the superintendent of Hartford schools, but there are no specific tasks provided in the job description.

Hodgman said in a statement on March 15 that she “had the tremendous honor to work with talented and dedicated professionals in the service of the children and families of Hartford.”

“Though I have accepted a new position and will be stepping away from my role in Hartford, I will continue to assist the district through the transition and beyond,” said Hodgman. “I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given, and I have great hope for the future of Hartford.”

The question then arises — why did the Hartford school system make this deal with Hodgman in the first place?

The mistakes Hodgman made as chief labor and legal officer during the Genao case were enough for the Hartford school system to have her resign and make an agreement with her as far as salary concerns and benefits.

If the actions Hodgman made while working for the Hartford school system were not enough to fire her, why did the school system find it so important to make a deal with her to resign?

If Hodgman is fired “without cause” by the superintendent, she is entitled to her full pay and benefits, including the district’s health insurance coverage, until Aug. 31.

For Hodgman, leaving the Hartford school system will be difficult, and she will do so with a “heavy heart.”

There is Little Proof Citizens are a Concern

by Lorenzo Burgio

 

It’s Discrimination

A Virginia male transgender student is seeking to use a school bathroom that associates with his gender identity. However, the Supreme Court has sent his case back to the lower courts, delaying his search for justice.

Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old student in the middle of the national debate, is wondering what the huge issue is regarding him using the bathroom that aligns with his male identity.

“People expect me to say that using the boys’ bathroom was super magical and just the best time of my life,” Grimm said in an interview with CNN. “But I was just using the bathroom. I went in and left.”

Grimm wanted to feel comfortable using the boys’ bathroom, but he couldn’t feel further from that at this point.

The decision by the Supreme Court to send the case back down means it will go back to a court of appeals. Then likely removing the chance that the Supreme Court will hear it this term.

Initially, the federal appeals court ruled in favor of Grimm, citing the Obama administration’s support of Title IX as it pertains to transgender rights. However, the Trump administration has since revoked the support of this protection.

In an interview with CNN, Grimm’s attorney, Joshua Block, said of the setback, “This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we’ll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The issue is not only about Grimm – it is about giving people who are transgender the rights that they deserve without question.

In situations like Grimm’s, policies should play a supportive role in accommodating the needs of transgender individuals. Across the country, there are people just like Grimm that feel insecure after hearing issues like this.

“Last April, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Grimm, who fought a school board policy that denied him access to the boys’ bathroom but allowed him the use of recently constructed single-stall unisex restrooms,” reported CNN.

A person who is transgender should not be restricted from using their bathroom that they feel most comfortable in, or only single-stall unisex restrooms. Limiting where people who are transgender can use the restroom is discriminative and simply unethical.

Discriminatory acts seem to be a reoccurring theme in this country, except the victims are always changing. One would think, limiting a particular demographics access to public restrooms is simply bigotry and should not be tolerated in a democratic society.

The sex a person is classified under should be the defining factor of where an individual should be allowed to use the restroom. All transgender individuals should be allowed to use public accommodations as they see fit for themselves, and no individuals or government power should restrict, limit or have a say in the matter.

The steps back the presidential administration has taken in regards to transgender rights is discriminatory. People who are transgender should be able to feel comfortable with their sex classification at home and in public, and incidents like Grimm’s highlight how the country has regressed.

We Need the Truth

The New York Times ran a television ad for the first time since 2010 during the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony on ABC., firing back at President Donald Trump and emphasizing the importance of a free press. 

During the commercial block, a white screen appeared, with the words “The truth is, our nation is more divided than ever.” As the 30-second advert continued, the words “The truth is” remained on screen, with a variety of different messages following. As voices of reporters grew louder in the background, the advertisement ended with the words, “The truth is more important now more than ever.”

Although the advertisement does not directly call out the 45th president, it is clear by its message and tone that the statements provided target the travel ban and illicit ties to Russia.

In response to the commercial, Trump jumped on his favorite social media platform to share his thoughts. “For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly,” Trump tweeted.

Even as Trump continues to claim The New York Times is failing, the statement appears to be false. In reality, the Times actually added 132,000 paid subscriptions since Election Day, which is ten times the newspaper’s growth during the same period a year earlier.

The commercial was very upfront with its message. There is no footage or images that appear on screen. Instead, all that appears is a simple black text on a white screen. The Times advert is clear, direct and frank.

“The ad’s mission is to tap into national dialogue going on right now about facts and the truth and what that means in today’s world,” according to The New York Times branding executive David Rubin.

“The idea is to be a part of that discussion about what does it mean to find the truth,” said Rubin. “What does that mean in a world of ‘fake news?’ What is the role of journalism and journalists in that process and what is the role of the reader in supporting that journalism?”

The New York Times is one of many news outlets, including CNN, to be banned from a Friday casual press conference with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

It seems the Times is making a point, a very concise one, that says they will find a way to inform the public and decided to make that undeniably clear during one of the largest entertainment shows of the year.

They know how fundamental a free press is to a democracy and agree with Walter Lippmann that “there can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” 

A Concern for Medicaid

Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump are making an effort to alter the Medicaid program by issuing block grants, or per capita enrollment, to states.

This would differ drastically from how the funding is currently. “Medicaid now operates as either a negotiated fee-for-service system or a monthly rate per Medicaid enrollee. The federal government pays a portion of the expenses, and state government pays the other portion,” wrote usnews.com.

Ultimately the federal government pays for the needs of its beneficiaries. This results in the federal government covering about 57 percent of the states’ Medicaid costs, according to The Fiscal Times.

A block grant is a specifically structured federal funding with a set sum of money that will be given to the states in a designated period of time.

Under a per capita enrollment, the federal government would only reimburse the states for a specific amount per enrollee.

Whether states are issued block grants or per capita enrollment, Medicaid benefits are going to be impacted and will affect many elderly and disabled individuals. This would also impact children and adults who were unfortunate enough to be born with a disease, such as cystic fibrosis or kidney disease, that prevents them from working.

The change in Medicaid funding is part of Trump’s effort to save the federal government money, which he believes will leave more power in the hands of the state.

Medicaid is a federal program that provides healthcare funds for nearly 70 million Americans, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This raises concern in Connecticut because there are more than 765,000 Connecticut residents who receive Medicaid and $2 million at stake with the proposed cuts, according to the New Haven Register.

“Eliminating the federal dollars for experimenting with payment methods and care delivery structures would cost Connecticut billions,” said Lieutenant Nancy Wyman, co-chair of the Access Health CT board of directors to the New Haven Registrer.

The funds states are receiving for Medicaid should not be tampered with. They are used to help immense numbers of elderly and disabled individuals nationwide. Tampering with the funding to save the federal government money would impact the largest insurer in the country and the 73 million people they currently cover, two-thirds of which are in nursing homes.

There needs to be more caution taken when it comes to altering the dynamics of Medicaid and who that will impact. There seems to be an unwritten obligation that needs to be upheld in which Medicaid is maintained, or even improved in order to ensure all who rely on it are properly receive the care they need.

New Education Funding Formula

On Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy released his new plan to redistribute educational funding in the state with a formula that is more transparent and fair.

The new plan is meant “to address disparities in funding the state’s education system, stressing that waiting for further judicial action on the matter will only result in wasted time and wasted opportunity on behalf of students in Connecticut,” said Malloy.

Malloy’s plan would overhaul the current Education Cost Sharing grant formula because it alters how student poverty is measured in each school district.

By doing so, it creates “a grant pool of roughly $575 million to help towns pay for special education,” according to the CT Mirror.

This pool would then redistribute the funds to impoverished school districts that need funding most.

“For the first time in more than a decade, the proposed new formula will count current enrollment, and it recognizes shifting demographics of small towns and growing cities,” said patch.com. “To better ensure support is directed to communities with higher concentrations of poverty, it will use a more accurate measure of poverty by replacing the free and reduced price lunch measure with HUSKY A data.”

“Under the proposal, a new Special Education Grant will be created and funds allocated on an adjusting scale based on a municipality’s relative wealth,” stated a press release on the proposal.

Changes to the way educational funds are distributed in the state are needed. There are constantly drastic social and economic changes in the demographics that make up school districts throughout the entire state.

This directly impacts the needs of the students in these districts and in turn, the funds received. It seems counterproductive to allocate the same amount of funds to all school districts statewide, when the needs of some are far greater than others. The focus should be on the quality of education the districts are producing.

All school districts in the state should have the resources to maintain a certain high quality of education. To do so, each district must be closely examined to ensure they receive funding for what they need.

Connecticut is known for its extremely high education and wage gap.  Hopefully this funding further helps the progression in some of Connecticut’s towns and cities that are in need of the proper amount of funding.  Connecticut is consistently one of the top states in the nation academically; this redistribution plan should continue to improve that.

Malloy will be presenting his new budget formula today, at the Connecticut General Assembly while he presents his full state budget proposal.

Trump’s Muslim Ban Hurts More Than Helps

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump issued his seventh executive order in as many days.

His executive order banned refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days.

All seven nations are predominately Muslim, yet not a single person has been killed in the U.S. since 9/11 from an extremist from those seven nations.

On top of that, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates – the four nations that the 9/11 terrorists were from – were oddly left off of the list.  Those are also countries that Trump either has, or attempted to do business with.

The ban completely bypasses the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of their national origin.

It is beyond a cliche at this point but the U.S. was founded on immigrants.  We have hundreds of years worth of history proving this exact statement.  Yet this executive order essentially throws all of that away.

Apart from ignoring the history of the U.S., the executive order also is a major threat to our nation’s safety and will yield consequences.

For the past year the power that ISIS holds has been dramatically reduced, and for the past several months the Iraqi military has been fighting ISIS in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the last major stronghold being held by ISIS in the nation.  Every day Iraq gets closer to freeing the city, which could break the spine of ISIS.

ISIS uses propaganda and fear to recruit and while they were extremely successful in the past, luckily that is no longer the case. Yet this ban will simply give ISIS unlimited ammo for thousands of now forgotten about Middle Eastern young adults.  Which could reverse all of the hard work which has been done over the past year.

Over the past year we have stepped on the throat of the ISIS, yet this ban could very well have just picked them up, dusted off their shoulders and let them go.

In addition to putting more power in the hands of terrorist groups over seas, the executive order is simply inhumane. It denies entry to this country to continue a safe life. A quality this country was founded on, and prides itself over, stripped away for a reason that seems personal to President Trump.

The executive order seems to yield consequences that will hurt the U.S. and refugees seeking a safe haven, solely to benefit President Trump’s agenda which disregards the fact that no one in the U.S. has been killed by an extremist from those seven countries since 9/11.