Tag Archives: Governor Malloy

New Britain Resident Gets Stay of Deportation with Support From LASO, Governor Malloy

By Kassondra Granata

New Britain resident Mariano Cardoso had been facing the threat of deportation for the better part of 2011.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security granted the 23-year-old Capital Community College student a stay of deportation, a result that likely wouldn’t have been achieved without the support Cardoso received from Governor Dannel Malloy, state senators and the local community, including the CCSU chapter of the Latin American Student Organization.

Cardoso arrived in the country from Mexico when he was 22 months old. He spent the early parts of his life growing up in Bronx, N.Y. before calling New Britain home for the last 10 years. Cardoso plans to graduate from Capital Community College in a month with a liberal arts degree and dreams of becoming a math teacher or engineer.

His troubles began in 2008 when he was picked up at his uncle’s house by immigration agents looking for another person. In February, he received a letter warning him of deportation.

Cardoso tried to fight the case alone before reaching out to the community and groups like LASO for help. Upon hearing his case, LASO knew that it was their job to help.

“This is what LASO is here for,” said Molly McLaughlin, vice president of CCSU LASO. “We support them and we’re family.”

McLaughlin said that Cardoso’s situation is the most controversial that she has seen thus far.

“It’s interesting that this is happening in our own backyard and so many people are unaware of this and the DREAM Act,” said McLaughlin. “We’re trying to bring awareness to our community.”

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, is a bill that was first introduced in Congress in 2001 that would protect undocumented students in the U.S.

“At this time in our constitution and legislation we don’t have any rights that protect undocumented students,” said McLaughlin.

LASO has recently increased their efforts to get this bill passed ever since Cardoso has come in the picture. The group began their efforts by talking to faculty and people around campus. McLaughlin also took efforts of her own by writing a letter to congress in regards to the DREAM Act. So far, McLaughlin has collected over 200 signatures from students and faculty in support of the DREAM Act and is hoping to send it to Congress with a cover letter.

“It’s a letter to the president and Congress to pass the DREAM Act because there are so many other students going through this like Mariano,” said McLaughlin.

All the hard work eventually paid off and media exposure lead to Malloy giving his full support to Cardoso. Malloy went public on April 20 supporting Cardoso’s case in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security.

“For all intents and purposes, Mariano is American,” said Malloy in his letter. “To send him back to a country he has no recollection of and did not grow up in makes little sense, particularly as he is finishing his degree and looking to contribute to his community and this state.”

Malloy also expressed his support for the DREAM Act.

“I strongly support the efforts of Congress in considering the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors that would providence individuals like Mariano the opportunity to apply for temporary legal status and eventually permanent legal status and citizenship,” said Malloy in his letter. “Even if the DREAM Act were eventually approved, however, it would not become effective in time to assist Mariano.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal also called on officials to defer the deportation of Cardoso and to give his support for the DREAM Act. Blumenthal mentioned Cardoso in his statements and stated that he is going to find ways to assist Cardoso in his efforts.

“This decision is right for Mariano – and right for America – in light of his roots in the community and his future contributions to our society,” said Blumenthal in his statement announcing the stay that was granted. “I am thrilled with the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to grant Mariano Cardoso a stay of removal, renewable each year, so that he can remain in the only country he has ever known. Mariano is a promising young man with a bright future, and DHS’ swift action on this issue ensures that he will be able to continue contributing to his community.”

“I gained support that I wasn’t expecting,” Cardoso said at a panel discussing deportation held at CCSU last Wednesday. “The governor and Senator [Richard] Blumenthal spoke on my behalf and it’s an honor.”

Cardoso expressed his gratitude towards LASO and all of the support he received from students and those who have helped him try to solve this issue.

“So far I have much to learn and my goal is to meet with as many people as I can,” Cardoso said. “I know I have a lot of people to support me and with that in mind, I have something to strive with.”

At the panel the audience asked Cardoso about his experience with immigration and the threat of deportation, the response he’s received from the community and the support he has gained by addressing the public with his issue.

Vivian Nowakowski, a New Britain resident, had a similar story to share at the panel. In 2008, her husband was deported. Nowakowski explained her grief and the efforts that she made to get him back. Her husband was eventually able to return to the country.

“If anyone has a voice and they could help or know anyone else that could they must contact someone because this is a horrible, horrible thing,” said Nowakowski.

The DREAM Act was passed by the House of Representatives towards the end of 2010 with 55 yes votes and 41 no votes, but failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for it to pass the Senate.

Higher Ed Deal Aims to Preserve University Missions

By Matt Clyburn

A deal to reorganize the governance of Connecticut’s higher education institutions was reached yesterday after a week of discussions between the Office of Policy and Management and Higher Education Chairperson Roberta B. Willis.

The agreement contains many elements proposed by Governor Dannel Malloy during his budget announcements in February, including the creation of a single Board of Regents overseeing the four Connecticut state universities, twelve community colleges and Charter Oak State College.

The agreement also calls for the creation of an advisory commission reporting to the Board of Regents. The commission would design and implement a strategic plan for the state’s higher education system, including the University of Connecticut.

A press release from Malloy’s office stressed that state universities, community colleges and Charter Oak would remain separate entities with distinct missions. Each of the three groups will have a “lead individual” serving on the Board of Regents, presumably to advocate for policy and governance policies while a member of the body.

“I’m pleased that we were able to tie up loose ends and formalize this proposal on behalf of our state’s students who choose to attend our community colleges, regional universities and Charter Oak,” said Mark Ojakian, deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management in a statement. “In the end, it’s the students who win. By flattening our administrations costs and overhead, we can direct more money to our student and classroom instruction.”

“This proposal will help make these schools more functional to those who attend them,” Ojakian said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Laura Tordenti spoke to the SGA senate about the agreement at their meeting last week, saying that the plan will be in place by July 1.

“I think that Central will continue to thrive with the reorganization,” Tordenti said.

In the statement from the governor’s office, Rep. Willis of the Higher Education Committee said that she was originally concerned about the individual institutions’ missions.

“They serve a critical and defined need in our communities, one that must be maintained even as we seek efficiencies and savings,” Willis said.

“The commitment to a strategic plan is important,” Willis added. “The Advisory Commission will have an ongoing and permanent role, needed for us to be able to adjust to changing needs in Connecticut and responsive to student needs and workforce development needs in the state that our higher education system can address.”

Back in February, Malloy called for an annual report from the Board of Regents that identifies retention and graduation rates, resource allocation figures, cost-benefit analyses and an “affordability index” tied to Connecticut’s average family household income. The report is expected to include information related to enrollment and completion figures sorted by program of study, credit transferability across institutions and employment outcome data provided by the Department of Labor.

Rep. Willis said that more specifics need to be worked out, but that the plan is based on a need for change and improvement.

“In the end, we can improve student learning, help close the achievement gap, prepare student for 21st century jobs our state will need to move us forward, and make higher education more efficient and effective.

If passed out of the General Assembly, the plan would take effect in tandem with implementation of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

[Updated May 2]

Budget Agreement Will Affect Students’ Wallets

By Matt Clyburn

After 17 town hall meetings with the public and weeks of negotiations in Hartford, Governor Dannel Malloy reached a $40.2 billion budget deal last Wednesday with Democratic leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly.

The deal will raise taxes on income, retail sales, corporations, gasoline, alcohol, cigarettes and inheritance. Though the plan excludes proposals to raise various sales taxes and impose taxes on haircuts and car washes, the state plans to raise nearly $10 million in a new “Amazon Tax” that levies a tax on purchases made over the Internet.

The budget agreement succeeded in raising the tax on retail sales, including shoes and clothing under $50, from 6 percent to 6.35 percent. The new tax rate will also apply to over-the-counter drugs, cosmetic surgery, pet grooming, limousine rides, valet parking at Bradley International Airport, manicures and pedicures. Gasoline and diesel fuel taxes will be increased by three cents per gallon.

Democrats rejected Malloy’s proposal to eliminate the annual “sales-tax-free week” in August meant to ease the tax burden on families with students returning to school. Car sales over $50,000 and jewelry sales more than $5,000 will be subject to a higher seven percent sales tax.

Malloy’s original proposal would have charged the 6.35 percent rate on the first $50,000 of a vehicle purchase and seven percent on the amount exceeding that level. Now, a car retailing at $50,000 would cost $53,500 after taxes.

Deal-hunting shoppers were concerned about a proposal that would have charged sales tax on the full value of an item discounted by coupons. Under the proposal, a coupon applying a 10 percent discount to a $100 item would still be charged $6.35 in taxes, rather than $5.72 on the discounted $90 total. The deal reached Wednesday will avoid the coupon tax.

Many Republicans criticized the plan for raising taxes during a down economy, but were hopeful that the governor would be able to strike a deal for $2 billion in concessions with state workers. Democrats have been in negotiations with the state employee unions for several weeks but no deal has been reached.

“We are willing to work with all representatives of good intentions to resolve the state’s problems – Republicans and Democrats,” Malloy said in a recent statement.

Malloy said that he listened to Republicans and members of the public in improving the budget he presented in February.

“[The budget] asks more of our wealthiest residents who can afford it, it softens the tax burden on the middle class, while maintaining funding for schools,” said Democratic leader Rep. Chris Donovan in a statement at the capitol Wednesday.

Republican State Sen. John McKinney was not as enthusiastic, saying that a $2 billion hole in the budget left by the assumed savings from state employees might be unconstitutional.

“If they want to pass a budget and the governor wants to sign a budget prior to getting concessions, what happens if those concessions don’t come?” McKinney said.

“We are pleased to see that the budget has seen some improvements, such as asking the very rich to pay more of their share, as opposed to other ideas, like eliminating the property tax credit, that further hurt struggling working and middle class families,” said the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) in a statement.

“We will continue our discussions with the governor to see if common ground can be found between him and those struggling middle class families who happen to work for the state,” SEBAC said.

The budget and appropriations committees passed the budget deal on Thursday and Malloy asked the General Assembly to vote on the agreement as soon as possible.

“I want a vote as soon as we can get it,” Malloy said in a statement Monday. “If as soon as we get it is tomorrow, I’ll take it…if the soonest we can get it is next week, I’ll take that. One way or another, we need a vote.”

With Marijuana Legislation on Table, CCSU NORML Plans Second 4/20 Event

By Nick Rosa

With Governor Dannel Malloy backing bills for marijuana reform in Connecticut and April 20 (4/20) right around the corner, there is much to talk about.

Ever since the bill to allow medical marijuana in Connecticut was introduced in 2007 by the state legislature, it has been in and out of discussion. The 2007 bill to legalize medical marijuana was passed by the legislature, but former Governor Jodi Rell vetoed it.

Another bill has been proposed by Malloy to go along with the previously proposed medical marijuana bill. The proposed decriminalization bill would reduce penalties for people who have less than a half ounce of marijuana. They would be charged with an infraction, equivalent to a parking ticket, and would be charged with a $100 fine. On Tuesday the judiciary committee passed the decriminalization bill.

“I think the bills are good, for one thing it’s a step in the right direction. People will realize marijuana isn’t really that bad, it’s been relatively hyped up by the government and people in power per se. Decriminalization hopefully will get rid of imprisoning non-violent offenders,” said Larry Vitko, president of the CCSU chapter of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws.

Vitko also said he is against the medical bill because of certain fallacies in the debate, but overall supports it as a step in the right direction for legalization.

The medical marijuana bill would require patients to register with the Department of Consumer Protection and also have their physician certify that there is a medical need for marijuana. Another proposal would allow patients to grow their own marijuana for medical use since no dispensaries will be placed in Connecticut.

If Connecticut passes the bill for medical marijuana it will become the sixteenth state to allow it, and if the decriminalization bill passes Connecticut will be the fourteenth state to have marijuana decriminalized.

The new decriminalization bill would work with Malloy’s efforts to reduce Connecticut’s prison population, which will help save the state millions of dollars. A report in 2009 by the Capitol’s Office of Fiscal Analysis said that there were 9,928 marijuana arrests in 2007. A third of those arrests were of possession of less than an ounce.

According to the report, the decriminalization bill could help the state save up to $11 million and generate $320,000 annually in revenue from fines.

At a hearing earlier in March, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said, “Our state should not encourage illegal drug possession and use; however, possession of small amounts of illicit substances and related paraphernalia for personal use should not leave a person with a life-long criminal record.”

Malloy and Looney both agree that incarcerating small time offenders isn’t good for Connecticut and marijuana prohibition isn’t working.

With April 20 right around the corner and the new legislature still up in the air, Vitko and the other members of CCSU’s NORML chapter are putting together a daylong event in the student center circle on campus as a follow-up to last year’s event.

“This is our headline event, the 4/20 event, and last time I checked we have eight bands coming to play from 12 to 8 p.m.,” said Vitko. “During the event we will be handing out different educational pamphlets and different things to raise awareness about marijuana and try to educate the public on this issue. Most people don’t know really know all the facts, to be fair it’s kind of hard to know all the facts since we have been shielded from them our whole lives.”

The music festival, which has CCSU NORML working with booking group The Arc Agency, will feature local bands and others from the northeast including (The) Tony Castles, Jacobi Wichita and Deadhorse. Before next week’s event Vitko is getting advertisement ready and trying to get some radio time to get the message across. The event will be have marijuana awareness to help the young voters realize what these bills are and what they will do for Connecticut.

“There’s going to be education, fundraising, a little bit of everything,” Vitko said. “I expect some decent turnout no matter what and last year there was a phenomenal turnout but I hope this year will be better.”

NORML wanted to do something different this year to get awareness out there, so Vitko did just that.

“The big difference is the bands because the Central radio station played last year and we didn’t really agree with it, they really didn’t play our requests, they just kind of played their own music and wasn’t really music you’d play on 4/20, so we’re just going to play some bands and should bring in a bigger crowd,” said Vitko.

Malloy Addresses Budget Concerns at New Britain Town Hall

By Matt Clyburn

Governor Dannel Malloy made an appearance in New Britain last Tuesday for the fifteenth of 17 town hall-style meetings with the public.

Malloy hoped to gather views and opinions from the public that might improve his plan that calls for $1.5 billion in tax increases, but said that none were innovative enough to solve the projected deficit of more than $3 billion.

“I [have] yet to find somebody who says, you know, that they actually have a way better,” Malloy said.

The governor spent some time at the beginning of the town hall describing features of the budget plan.

“No borrowing of money to cover operating expenses, it’s not good policy, in fact it’s horrendous policy,” Malloy said after acknowledging the unbalanced budget former Governor Jodi Rell gave to his administration in February.

“These types of forums are the heart and soul of American democracy,” New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart said in his introduction of the governor. “I think the governor deserves recognition for taking his message directly to the people.”

Stewart recently lost an election to CCSU alumna Theresa Gerratana in a bid to represent New Britain, Berlin and parts of Farmington in the State Senate. The unsuccessful run came to a close less than a week after Malloy’s budget announcement.

Stewart now faces his own budget shortfalls as the Hardware City’s mayor, though Malloy said last week that he will not pass the state’s financial difficulties on to municipalities.

“We also refuse to balance our budget on the backs of New Britain or other communities by passing cuts in the state expenditure,” Malloy said.

Malloy compared the state to the deep cuts taking place in New York and New Jersey, saying that Connecticut is already too dependent on high property taxes.

“How would our balancing the budget [by raising property taxes] help this community, or for that matter any community in Connecticut?” Malloy said. “We are more dependent on property taxes than any other state in the nation.”

Malloy faced a skeptical audience in New Britain that challenged the governor on issues ranging from government policy to health care.

“I think that you have put a lot of creative thinking in the decisions you’re making related to the budget, but I don’t think that there has been a lot of critical thinking,” one resident said.

Another resident and state employee expressed concerns about the ability to pay in the face or tax increases and concessions.

“I actually believe this is the right framework,” Malloy said. “I know how difficult it is for you and your child in college…I know how difficult it is for me to face people like you.”

Malloy said that there will not be a ‘one size fits all’ budget solution.

“What I think we’re trying to do is find the right way, but if you have a specific cut you want me to be aware…we’ll be happy to take a look at it,” Malloy said.  “I don’t think there’s a perfect way to do it.”

“This is the package. The rudiments are there. We just have to find our way as a state to get there,” Malloy said. “If we do, then ultimately we’ll begin the process of building confidence in our state for the first time in many years.”

Malloy Okays Plans, Will ‘Aggressively Pursue’ Hartford-New Britain Busway

By Michael Walsh

Governor Dannel Malloy approved plans to build a rapid bus transit system that would connect Hartford to New Britain.

“The busway is ‘ready to go’ with 80 percent federal funding and a commitment from the Federal Transit Administration to sign a Full Funding Grant Agreement,” Malloy said in a statement on Monday.

Malloy met with both advocates and opponents of the busway before making his decision on the often-delayed project.

“Gov. Malloy’s decision to construct the busway is a visionary choice for the future of our region and the whole state,” said Rep. Tim O’Brien in a press release issued Monday. “It will create new economic development and jobs and new community development opportunities. I am proud that we have a governor who believes in building the economy of our state by investing our state’s first rapid transit system.”

Opponents say that the project would be too expensive and would squash any future plans of having a light rail be constructed in its place.

A major reason for Malloy’s decision to push on with the project is the possibility of leaving federal funds on the table in regards to this particular project. In a letter received from the FTA, Malloy was told that should the state withdraw the project and seek funding consideration for an alternative rail system the state would have reenter the competitive process.

“Even if the state completed all the necessary requirements, there is no guarantee that the $275 million Connecticut would forgo now in New Starts funds would be available to the state in the future,” said Malloy in his statement. “Connecticut has a track record of leaving federal funds on the table. I am unwilling to run the risk of losing additional federal funds. It is time to break with history. The timing is right to undertake this project.”

The busway, which will be located less than two miles from the CCSU campus, has been under consideration since 2003.

“New Britain is fortunate to be at the center of Connecticut’s first rapid transit line,” said O’Brien in his statement. “It will mean that our city will have opportunities for business and economic growth and jobs into the future and that New Britain will be at the center, in our state, of transit-oriented development in neighborhoods. And the many, many construction jobs will mean employment and new opportunities for many, many New Britain residents.”

Higher Ed Reorganization Plan Goes Before Committee

By Matt Clyburn

Connecticut State University System students in bright green t-shirts again took to the state Capitol last week to lend their support to professors criticizing Goveror Dannel Malloy’s proposal to reorganize the higher education system.

The students and professors were transported to the hearing by the Connecticut State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The AAUP also funded food for attendees and fact sheets aimed at highlighting flaws in the plan.

A portion of the reorganization plan would allow the would-be Higher Education Board of Regents to move up to 15 percent of any system’s budget to another system at the board’s discretion.  According to the AAUP’s fact sheet, this aspect of the proposal “has the potential to impact academic programs, creating unpredictability and uncertainty for students, faculty and staff.”

The first to testify before the legislative higher education committee Thursday was Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti, who spoke for more than an hour and fielded questions from committee members. Meotti said that in addition to about $4.3 million in annual savings, the assertion that 15 percent of budgets could be moved at will were false.

Meotti suggested that language in the bill may need to be changed to make the section more clear, noting that “it’s not intended in any way to subject these block grants to any kind of different authority.”

“At it’s heart, this proposal consolidates four boards…and three central offices,” Meotti said. “It’s important to keep in mind that the CSU system… is not located on Woodland Street, the system is found on the sixteen campuses where the faculty, students and leaders of those campuses are.”

Members of the public who were allowed to speak during the public hearing expressed concern that the new structure would make it easier to cut budgets and expand class sizes.

Malloy’s plan is based on the state university system model used in Minnesota. The University of Minnesota acts as an independent entity while the state universities and community colleges operate under a single board of governance.

The University of Connecticut will be unaffected by the plan and remain under normal operations and no schools will be closed or combined. Campuses will still operate under the leadership of their respective presidents and existing leadership structures.

The committee hopes to have a strategic plan ready for July 1 to coordinate with implementation of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

Looming Budget Cuts Bring CSUS Students, Faculty to State Capitol

By Matt Clyburn

Albertus Magnus student Larry Toast holds a provocative sign with SCSU student Cassandra Cuddy in the main conference room of Monday's budget hearing. Photo: Matt Clyburn.

Students, faculty and members of the public descended on the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Monday to organize against Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposal that would cut funding to the state’s higher education system by more than 10 percent.

The American Association of University Professors transported students and professors to the Joint Appropriations Committee public hearing where people were invited to speak or listen to the proceedings. Free t-shirts and dinner were also provided for students who registered in advance.

Amanda West, CCSU student and a student center manager, was there to learn about the options facing the committee.

“I really don’t want to see money taken away from my school, but if there’s no other way then I want to know where we’re going to get the money,” West said. “I’d rather find out why I’m being hurt than just being told ‘We’re taking this away from you.'”

“They’ve raised tuition nearly every year since I’ve come to CCSU,” West said. “In that four years, a small increase has become a large amount of money. It’s the quality of the education that I don’t want to suffer – if I have to pay more for a better education, that’s understandable. But if I have to pay more for an education that’s worse than the one I’ve previously received, or that goes down in standards, I think that’s unacceptable.”

Amanda Beaulieu, a CCSU student and info desk employee, is getting into the education field upon graduation.

“Why not get involved now? It’s my education, it’s my money, so I want to know what’s happening,” said Beaulieu.

“I feel like the CSU system is the system that needs [funding] the most, so they need to work something out for us,” Beaulieu said. “I think that people care more if they have to pay for their education like us; tuition increases add up. Our classes are going to be affected if the universities are unable to hire new professors or replace professors that have retired, classes will get bigger.”

CCSU student Kaylah Smith said “I think it’s our responsibility as students to come out and support the cause. It may not affect us right away, but it will affect other people who make the same decision we did to come to college. I think it’s important for us to take a stand. It’s not just about us, it’s about the future of education in Connecticut.”

Smith’s classmate, Theresa Degan, agreed.

“With less professors comes less students, eventually, so I think it’s important for students to oppose the budget cuts,” said Degan. “Our generation has been known as the ‘lazy generation,’ so I think it is important for professors to impart on us the necessity to get out and actually make our voices heard, otherwise we’re going to lose so much.”

“I chose Central above any other state university because of its individuality,” said CCSU student Giselle Ziegler. “I couldn’t picture myself at any other university because of the special things Central has to offer me through the music education department, through the education department itself. I think that if things were to become too centralized…every single university would lose the things that make it special to some degree.”

Students were also on hand from other Connecticut State Universities.

Marissa Fazzino of SCSU said, “I thought coming here was a good idea because the issues affect us directly. Southern has a possible 25 percent deduction in funding, so we thought that’s a good incentive to show up and show that we care.”

“Quite frankly, I’m against the merging of the CSU system in with the community colleges and the Charter Oak system,” said Zach Kunicki of WCSU. “While we do need to make budget cuts, I don’t think this is the proper way to do it and I feel that we could be more creative with our solutions.”

“It’s not that I don’t like the CCSU students or the community college students, or the charter oak students. I feel that each university has its own perks,” Kunicki said. “For example, Western has a really good jazz program and a great history program. Each one of these universities is known for something that makes it unique and makes it special and I feel that if we merge them all together, you kind of lose that.”

Melissa Hood, also a student at Western, said that she attended the hearing to “get a feel for what this really is all about and hear it directly from the people and the legislators.”

“On paper, [the proposals] sound good, but then where are the negatives?” Hood said. “What are the negatives?”

Elsa Nunez, president of ECSU, was on hand to watch the proceedings and discuss Malloy’s proposal.

“I want to support the governor in looking at all the ways we can save money and be more efficient because I think the governor has a strong case,” Nunez told The Recorder. “The state is in debt $4 billion dollars and how do we help him make that budget balanced?”

“The basic question is, if you do the restructuring, what are the savings?” Nunez asked.  “Where will those savings go? Will they go back to the colleges, will they go to the general fund? We need to know.”

Nunez took the occasion to point out that there are differences in identity among the CSU schools.

“Even though you might want to save money, you really do sometimes compromise the mission by having everybody mixed in together,” Nunez said. “I’m not against his proposal but I want to know what are the real savings and what is it going to mean to the students. When students choose a school, it’s because they’re attracted to the core values of an institution, the mission, the kind of major they can get there. So I would be worried that in a merger like this we might lose that focus.”

“I’m very optimistic that the right people around the table can do what’s best for Connecticut,” Nunez said.

CCSU faculty members and members of the CSU Chapter of the AAUP spoke before the committee hearing that filled the main conference room and pushed observers into three overflow rooms.

Jason Jones, president of the CCSU chapter, said “It is important to understand…that the proposed budget cut at its magnitude will make it impossible to meet the governor’s stated goal of putting more dollars into instruction and will do long-term harm to our graduation rates and other measures of student success.”

“The proposed budget and reorganization thus cuts higher education in four different ways,” Jones said. “First, through a direct cut to the block grant; second, through applied cuts caused by budgetary uncertainties around the reorganization; third, through concessions being exacted from state workers; and fourth through a tax hike on most of the faculty and staff in such a system.”

English professor Gil Giglotti spoke about CCSU students and the affect the budget cuts could have on their livelihood.

“If I had to summarize the CCSU student population in one word I would call them ‘tenacious,’ for their ability to adapt to circumstances often beyond their control,” said Giglotti.

“These tenacious students do not quit,” Giglotti said. “They, not infrequently, may switch from full-time status to part-time status, take classes at a community college closer to home or leave the residence halls and return home to save money, or some other fairly extreme solution, any of which makes it difficult to engage in the university the way we know can change their lives for the better and help them develop into engaged and productive citizens of Connecticut.

“What I fear is that when our tenacious students are hit not only with higher gas taxes and sales taxes and income taxes,” Giglotti said, “but also with cuts at CCSU that will result in larger classes, fewer course offerings, fewer student services and a longer road to graduation, their tenacity may turn to frustration, their frustration to resignation and their resignation to incompletion. The incompletion of their degree, the incompletion of their growth and their potential and the incompletion of their full participation in the future of Connecticut.”

Students Weigh In On General Education Program

By Justin Muszynski

Governor Dannel Malloy has emphasized the need for students in the Connecticut State University System to be able to graduate in a timely manner. A recent survey conducted at CCSU showed that the majority of professors believe that general education should be redesigned.

But how exactly do the students at CCSU feel about this?

Freshman Nathaniel Rice, 19, says the system should work more towards fulfilling students’ general education and major needs at the same time.

“Gen. ed should be more based towards your major,” said Rice. “If you’re a mechanical engineer, why do you need to take gym?”

However, Scott Randall, a 22 year-old senior, said he has had no problems with the general education system.

“I finished the requirements in two years like it’s intended,” said Randall. “They offer a bunch of different courses so it works.”

The current system requires a minimum of 44 to 46 credits and also at least three years of a foreign language, which can be taken in high school.

Colleen Wetmore, a 22 year-old junior, said she didn’t take a foreign language in high school and now is required to fulfill that need in college.

“You’re going to college for something specific, why do you need to take something random like a foreign language?” said Wetmore.

Wetmore, who also had a problem transferring her credits from Manchester Community College, said CCSU needs to be more transfer friendly.

“I wanted to major in music,” Wetmore said. “When I decided not to I transferred to Central and half of my credits didn’t get carried over.”

Freshman Michael Hubbard, 18, said that despite this being his first year at CCSU, he doesn’t think he’ll have any problems with the current system.

“I’m only a freshman but I think the system works pretty efficiently,” said Hubbard.

Candace O’Sullivan, a 27 year-old graduate student, says she likes some things about the current system but would change some aspects.

“I like the fact that people with more credits get priority,” said O’Sullivan.

Her only complaint is that some courses are restricted to only students who have been accepted into a certain academic program.

“A 200 or 300-level class shouldn’t be blocked to certain students,” said O’Sullivan. “When I wanted to major in education I couldn’t take any classes that were related to it until I was accepted into the program.”

Junior Michael Tinnirella, 21, explained that the goal of the system is in the right place but it’s too extensive.

“I’d keep a minimum general education system,” said Tinnirella. “You should know how to read and write when you leave college, but 44 credits is a lot.”

A long road lays ahead for any possible changes to take place. The Faculty Senate general education ad hoc committee will meet over the coming months to discuss the next steps in the reform process before making their suggestions to CCSU.

Malloy Aims to Save Some ‘Green’ In More Ways Than One

By Matt Clyburn

It’s no secret that the state is looking to save some green by cutting the budget and raising taxes. The effort may go beyond the cash savings, though, as Governor Dannel Malloy used his budget address last week to hint at a campaign issue that could save the state millions of dollars – decriminalizing pot.

“There are simply too many people who’ve been arrested and jailed for minor, non-violent or drug offenses,” Malloy said in his address. “If given access to an alternative forms of punishment, [they] would take advantage of that additional chance to choose a different and better path.”

Under his proposal that was referred to the Joint Commission on Judiciary last Thursday, anyone caught with less than an ounce of marijuana would be guilty of a simple infraction and subject to a fine instead of a possible stint in prison.

“This new policy will save us millions of dollars which is a benefit of a more enlightened policy whose time, I think, has come,” Malloy said.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis published a report in 2009 that detailed arrests for marijuana possession two years earlier.  Of the 9,928 arrest in 2007, it is estimated that one-third where for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, according to Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie.

“Based on a proportionate analysis of resources currently allocated to handle these offenses, it is estimated that the proposal could save up to $11 million and generate $320,000 in General Fund revenue – from fines – annually,” the report said.

“Obviously, this doesn’t apply to anyone selling marijuana; it’s for the person caught with a few joints,” Michael Lawlor, Malloy’s head of criminal justice policy and planning, told Stuart last week.

Malloy told a group of UConn students during his campaign that he would support the decriminalization of marijuana if elected.  The then-candidate qualified, however, that changing the classification from a misdemeanor to an infraction or lightening penalties would not be the same as outright legalization.

A 2008 ballot initiative in Massachusetts proposed policies similar to the new bill.  The initiative passed and was enacted in 2009, changing criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce to a $100 fine and removed small violations from state criminal records.

Some see the bill as a path to legalization – the Massachusetts law enacted just two years ago has now led to talk of sale, regulation, and taxation in the same fashion as alcohol.  According to analysis from an independent research firm, local ballot questions last year indicated that Massachusetts residents are ready for full legalization.

“There is strong evidence that if a well-crafted marijuana legalization initiative makes it onto the ballot in 2012 [in Massachusetts], it could pass,” said Jon Walker of Firedoglake Elections blog.

Many CCSU students are supportive of the initiative.  “I support it,” Junior Torry Murphy said.  “Of course, I also believe marijuana should be completely legalized. Take into consideration that damaging effects that alcohol and cigarettes brings, and they’re legal.”

Murphy added, “I feel that if it is still illegal, the punishment should be lessened. I’d like to know who is actually harmed by marijuana use, more so than alcohol and cigarettes.”

Still, others have questions.  “I guess it depends on what the goal of reducing it is,” Senior Christina Bittner said.  “Obviously, it won’t crack down on people who use it, but…people who have a severe problem would have more on them.”

“The people who support it probably smoke it and would rather risk a fine than prison time, and the people who don’t support it probably think the penalty for using drugs should be much worse than it is,” Bittner said.

The proposal was brought to the legislature by Democratic leaders on Malloy’s behalf, and will need to be crafted in writing by the committee before it is brought to the floor of the general assembly for a vote.  The committee will schedule hearings over the next few weeks.

If the bill is passed and signed by Malloy, it is scheduled to take effect on July 1.