Student Parliament discusses issues pertinent to the student body

Erica Clark – Assistant News Editor

A series of topics were discussed at the Student Community Government (SCG) on Wednesday, Feb. 13, during the second meeting for the spring semester.  

CoEXIST, who partners with other community organizations to bring awareness to students at RIC about the topic of HIV requested a grant to be terminated and to continue education as a student organization and funding learning. CoEXIST has worked on public events throughout the campus in the past.

The organization was looking to get funding from SCG, and they were granted permission on Wednesday night by SCG treasurer Janelle Gomez.

SCG also recognized the Active Minds club, which is a student-run mental health awareness, education and advocacy group that sponsors a number of programming efforts throughout the academic year.  

RIC faculty are now in the starting stages of an effort to create multiple committees to enhance ideas to better understand how to improve the study habits of students.

One of the three committees will assist professors to see if the effects of more classes with fewer students or more students and fewer classes will elevate academic success.

An additional committee for a faculty handbook will also be in the works as there is no “official” handbook for faculty at RIC, the closest thing to one as of present time is their contract.

President Sanchez, who sent out an email on Feb. 8th regarding safety around campus, has decided security and surveillance on campus needs to increase. On behalf of finance and Student Union, this would assist with after hours and securing the bookstore to avoid stolen merchandise.

“People have admitted the cameras are not the best quality,” said SCG President Josh Percy.  

As the legislation is still in the process of` creating qualifications for the RIC RI Promise, the limitation to receive it would be 60 credits, and a GPA of 2.5 or higher.  RIC students would also have to be on track to graduate within four years for the legislation to apply.

There is also a possible Spring concert in the works. There is a budget of $70,000 to adhere to, but SCG held reservations over hosting an act after the struggle to sell tickets at the Ty Dolla $ign concert last fall.

Food 4 Thought: L4L opens food pantry

Jessica Gauthier – Managing Editor

A study done by Wisconsin Hope Lab (2018) says that 36 percent of college students are food insecure, meaning that they have an uncertain or limited availability to nutritious food.

In 2016, Learning 4 Life founded Food 4 Thought at Rhode Island College, a pantry which helps students to combat food insecurity.

Food pantry contents; Photos courtesy of Thomas Crudale

Food 4 Thought began as a grant, with local restaurants such as Panera Bread and Blue State Coffee donating food that would normally be thrown out at the end of the night. When Educational Support Facilitator, Tina Leavitt, noticed that food was quickly disappearing, she started working with non-profit organization We Share Hope. With the help of local restaurants and We Share Hope, Food 4 Thought now receives 3,000 pounds of donated food each month.

“When students are hungry or they’re wondering where their next meal is coming from, it’s difficult to focus in class,” says Leavitt, “Food 4 Thought is not an answer to food insecurity, but more of a bandaid and a way to support students.” By allowing students facing food insecurity a place to easily access food on campus, Food 4 Thought believes it will help them concentrate on classes without the worry. “It can be hard to access food when you don’t have the money. Food 4 Thought is helpful with making sure I can eat and helps a lot of other students, too,” one RIC freshman who wished to stay anonymous says.

Leavitt says she wants to end the stigma against receiving aid for a sustainable food source. Since August, over 500 students have utilized the Food 4 Thought pantry and the pantry itself been utilized 780 times, not including students who do not leave their information (which is for data purposes only). In the pantry, there is everything from boxes of cereal, to snacks, to meal kits. In addition to free access to the pantry, students who struggle daily with food insecurity can be connected to a more sustainable food source, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).

The Food 4 Thought pantry is located in Learning 4 Life, on the first floor of Adams Library.

A green deal at Rhode Island College

Aaron Isaac – Anchor Staff

Many Rhode Island College students have been wondering what the school is doing to invest in renewable energy. Right now, RIC is finishing the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the rooftops of Donovan Dining Center and the Student Union.

Solar Panels captured by drone

RIC is partnering with Ameresco, a company which focuses on small-scale renewable energy projects, to install the solar panels in hope of becoming more energy efficient. The partnership started in 2014 when Ameresco did an audit of RIC to find what energy saving opportunities were available and was finished in 2015.

RIC’s Sustainability Coordinator James C. Murphy spoke to the Anchor about the numerous energy projects which were worked on, for instance, “switching over to LED lighting, implementing variable frequency drives [which are made to save energy costs] and replacing aging steam lines.”

The latest project to put up solar panels on Donovan and the Student Center was started in the summer of 2018. As of now, Murphy says the electrical work and inspections are finished. The last step is to get approval from National Grid.

But where did the money come from for this project? RIC received two grants, one from the RI Office of Energy Resources for $96,528 and the other from RI Renewable Energy fund for $65,528. However, RIC had to put up the remaining $128,472. Murphy says the money RIC put into the project will be recovered in five years from the gains in electricity which the solar panels are estimated to provide.

The project is estimated to save 1358 metric tons of CO2 annually. To conceptualize that, it would take the annual energy use of 163 homes to match that amount of CO2 emissions. RIC students can check how much energy is saved after the panels are turned on at https://dashboard-portal.solar-online.com//index.php?uid=UuNUfpB9.

Murphy says this will be a good thing for RIC, besides the savings and clean energy, “the project can be used as an example to be replicated elsewhere on campus thereby continuing Rhode Island College’s commitment to clean energy and efficiency.” He expects there is more to come for the United States when it comes to renewable energy saying “we are just scratching the surface of this industry.”

Major cuts to be made from student organizations’ budgets

Samantha Scetta – Editor-in-Chief

Every tuition-paying individual that attends Rhode Island College is required to pay $60 as part of their tuition payment, allocated specifically towards student activities. This money supports the many student organizations that exist on campus, funding events that organizations wish to hold, conference trips taken by the clubs, as well as funding the Student Community Government.

The student activity fee money pool is allocated by members of the Finance Commission, currently consisting of seven voting student members. The sums were divvied up amongst the various campus organizations this past weekend during annual budget hearings.

Recently, the student body was made aware that the Finance Commission is required make cuts to every single organization’s budget for 2019-2020. The total amount of money that needs to be cut from budgets is $71,802.07, or 21% from all budgets. The total amount requested by organizations is  $722,950.27, and the Finance Commission has just $651,148.20 to allocate amongst the organizations. All student organizations will be affected by this shortage of funds.

The lack of money available to students is a consequence of dwindling enrollment at RIC. With less students enrolled, there isn’t as much money being paid to the student activities fee. Enrollment is prospected to increase in the next few years with programs to boost enrollment such as Northeast Neighbors, a new program that offers a decreased tuition rate to students that are residents of certain areas in New England.

According to an email sent last Thursday from SCG Treasurer Janelle Gomez, this situation is a “critical financial circumstance that we have not encountered in a very long time.”

When asked what her thoughts were on the the budget cuts, Treasurer Gomez had a positive outlook on something that some might see as a setback. “It’s sad to say that we have to do so many cuts this year, but it’s beautiful to see the sense of community here at RIC when all club and organization leaders are willing to cut some of their own budgets to let smaller clubs and orgs grow, which is heartwarming to witness. This situation also proves that the more information you give people, the more they’re inclined to compromise.”

The second round of budget hearings will proceed in the upcoming few weeks after clubs receive the finance commission’s budget recommendations regarding which line items to cut funding from.

New Unity Center Director lays out goals at first Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion meeting of the semester

Tim Caplan – News Editor

The Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion (DDI) welcomed a new member last Friday to replace the recently retired former Unity Center Director Antoinette Gomes.

The semester’s first meeting of the DDI occured on Feb. 15 in the Faculty Center South Dining Room. The DDI is a committee made up of RIC faculty, staff and graduate students, co-chaired by Disability Services Center Director Keri Rossi-D’entremont and Associate Professor of Social Work Stefan Battle.

The Unity Center Director has historically held a standing executive board position, which was taken up by new Unity Center Director Pegah Rahmanian.

The meeting started with an introduction of Rahmanian, who hails from Oakland, CA, and whose most recent job was at a non-profit youth action group in Providence. “I feel fortunate to build off what Antoinette Gomes created” Rahmanian claimed “I’m looking forward to being a part of DDI, and having a seat at the table with such incredible minds.”

Rahmanian followed with a layout of some of her goals for the next eight to twelve months concerning the Unity Center after her first three weeks of observation. The first was to define the purpose and direction of the Unity Center as a whole. The second goal is to diversify the stories of the different communities at RIC, not just trauma and suffering, she followed up by saying she is a proud advocate of the “Yes, and” movement which acknowledges the pain of individuals in marginalized communities while also maintaining an effort to highlight the good experiences. The third goal is to “Take the ceiling away” from the Unity Center and integrate across campus.     

Professor Battle, who is on the subcommittee for tenure also spoke about creating a peer review group which would offer its services to faculty for research and submissions to academic publications.

Director Keri Rossi-D’entremont provided an update on the DDI’s spring lecture as well, which will feature speakers from “Project Implicit,” a non-profit which studies implicit social cognition, which the group describes on its website as “thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.” The lecture will be centered around Microaggressions. While the DDI is still in contract negotiations with the group, the event is currently scheduled for March 20 in Gaige Hall room 100 at 12:30pm.

Another major topic was the upcoming RIC Campus Climate Survey. The Campus Climate Survey is a web-based 60 question survey which will ask all students, faculty, and staff about their experiences at RIC. The questionnaire will be available starting March 19 and is contracted by Susan Rankin with Rankin and Associates Consulting.  

The meeting ended with the announcement of a new group on campus, the Queer Peer Support Group, which will hold meetings throughout the semester Thursday nights at 5:30 in the Unity Center.

A Tense Relationship: The United States, Iraq and Syria

Aaron Isaac – Anchor Staff

The announcement to withdraw troops from Syria and to keep troops in Iraq to watch Iran has created tensions between the three countries as well as between the intelligence community and President Trump.

In December, Trump announced he would withdraw the 2,000 US troops currently deployed in Syria. The move took some officials by surprise. Central Commander General Joseph Votel confirmed during a Senate hearing that the Pentagon was not notified of the plan beforehand. Votel himself was also “not aware of the specific announcement” to withdraw from Syria before the announcement. Trump cites the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) has the reason for the withdrawal, which he reiterated during a State Department meeting on Feb. 6th.

Although ISIS has lost a lot of control over Iraq and Syria since 2015, allies disagree with Trump. The United Kingdom and France, who have troops in Syria, say the presence of ISIS and extremists are still a threat. Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed said it was “premature” to say ISIS was defeated. He cited a threat assessment from the Director of National Intelligence which points to the possibility that ISIS will continue to try to attack the US and undermine the stability of Syria and Iraq.

On Feb. 5th, Trump again surprised officials in and outside the US when during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Trump said he would keep troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran. According to CNN, Trump’s comment was confusing to the Pentagon because they were unsure if the mission in Iraq was changing. Furthermore, monitoring Iran from Iraq worried some officials, such as Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who argued that a base in Iraq would further antagonize Iran.

Trump cited concerns of nuclear development as a reason for watching Iran. This comes after Trump withdrew the US from the “disastrous Iran nuclear deal” as Trump called it in May. However, a separate threat assessment in January from the Director of National Intelligence indicates that Iran is in compliance with the deal and has not pursued a nuclear weapon.

Mobile Gambling could soon be legal in Rhode Island

Erica Clark – Asst. News Editor

Concerns of legislators were high last week over the expansion of allowing sports fans to lay a wager on games from their mobile devices.

In a hearing at the House Finance Committee, a bill was introduced by House Speaker Nicolas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who are attempting to expand Rhode Island’s gambling scene. This bill would mean transforming the sports betting program into something gamblers can do in the comfort of their own home.

If this bill passes, this will allow anyone inside state borders to place a wager on a location-enabled mobile device.

Before being able to use your mobile device for betting, the bill requires you to register for an account in person at one of the two Rhode Island casinos. You are not granted access to the app unless registered.  This obligation assists with checking ID and run names through the database to exclude problematic gamblers.

During the hearing, Division of Lottery Administrator Gerald Aubin told legislators the state has hired a full-time problem gambling coordinator for any potential issues. There is a contract sealed with the United Way to answer a 24/7 hotline if needed by patrons. Individuals who choose to use the hotline are referred to treatment centers, and the state will pay for treatment if a person does not have insurance or coverage.

If Rhode Island legalizes mobile sports betting, DraftKings, the daily fantasy sports company, plans to submit a bid to become the mobile app vendor, according to attorney Julie Pearlman.

On Thursday Pearlman testified that the company requests to eliminate the in-person registration requirement because it could potentially limit access to the new legal gaming option.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has incorporated mobile gambling into her 2019-20 fiscal year budget, estimating it would bring $3 million in state revenue if implemented in January. January hits halfway through the fiscal year, and the state estimates waging on mobile devices would bring in $8.5 million the following fiscal year. Rhode Island’s sports betting law gives the state 51% of the revenue.

The House Finance Committee was unable to vote on the bill Thursday night.

Responses to State of The Union address vary across America’s political spectrum

Tim Caplan – News Editor

If one thing was clear the morning after President Donald Trump’s second State of The Union address, it was that the reaction of the American people was unclear.

The speech to Congress came just weeks after the temporary end to the government shutdown that was caused by the refusal to sign a budget for the year without inclusion of funding for a southern border wall.

Trump’s speech focused on bipartisanship, immigration, the economy, national security, and a series of individuals whom he felt was necessary to have their achievements highlighted. These included Alice Johnson, a former convict who had her non-violent drug offense sentence pardoned by Trump earlier this year, and a group of World War II veterans who helped liberate a concentration camp as well as a victim of that concentration camp.

A series of CBS instant polls showed that 76 percent of those surveyed approved of president Trump’s speech while 24 percent disapproved. Another CBS poll revealed that 72 percent of viewers approved of his comments on immigration.  

While he received raucous applause from Republicans throughout the night, the Democrats were noticeably unimpressed with the president’s words. Rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D)-NY didn’t clap for a single part of Trump’s speech, signifying the sizeable ideological divide across the two parties.

Trump’s only applause from a majority of Democrats came when he spoke about the fact that 2019 marks 100 years since the constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage in America was proposed, and that there are more women serving in the US Congress than anytime before. This was the lone moment of solidarity that extended across the aisle.

Trump also spoke briefly about the state of Venezuela, coinciding with what he believes is a rising trend in socialist rhetoric in American politics, most likely referring to congress members like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have described themselves as “democratic socialists.”

“We stand with the Venezuelan people in their nobel quest for freedom and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro Regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair. Here in the United States we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence, and not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free and we will stay free. Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Noticeably missing from the State of The Union Address was any talk about America’s rising concern over the environment and the increasing national debt. While the environment and climate change are historically Democratic issues, according to the Yale program on climate communication 69 percent of Americans polled are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming.

Trump also made a contentious statement about his relationship with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, claiming that in his opinion we would currently in a war with North Korea if he hadn’t been elected president.

There were two major responses to the speech came from Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Georgia and the independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Abrams spoke about her family values like faith hard work and helping others. She spoke about her vision for a better America and her experiences with workers suffering from the government shutdown. Abrams also spoke about her concerns over voter suppression and the need for economic security in America’s middle class. Senator Sanders response focused on rebuking some of President Trump’s statements including a response to Trump’s statement about socialism and America’s freedom stating “People are not truly free when they can’t go to the doctor when they’re sick.” This was Sanders’ second consecutive response to the State of The Union, however he receives backlash from many Democrats online and in the media for a perceived undermining of the response of Abrams.   

From the archives

Catherine Enos – Opinions editor

This archived article is from the February 14, 1989 edition of The Anchor.

“A proposal to provide free-tuition for Rhode Islanders… was introduced to the state House of Representatives last week” reads an Anchor article. Free tuition has been in the news for the past few years, so maybe this isn’t surprising. But, wait! This article is from 1989… It seems as if free tuition has always been on the minds of students and politicians, not just recently, but as long as 30 years ago.

However, the initiative introduced 30 years ago, as laid out briefly in this archived article, seems a bit different than the Promise Scholarship we’ve all become familiar with. For one, this plan from the past includes CCRI, URI and RIC. As the current scholarship stands, CCRI students are the only recipients of free tuition. Only recently has Governor Gina Raimondo proposed that RIC students enjoy the benefits of the scholarship, too.

Another difference in this free tuition plan is how the legislature originally planned out its implementation. The plan from the ‘80s sought to reduce charges gradually by 10 percent each year, which would have cost the state $35 million in the first year alone. Though a gradual reduction of tuition seems like it may have been a good idea, obviously Rhode Island opted not to go through with this plan. This time around, the cost of the Promise Scholarship is just a fraction of the $35 million plan from 1989––in the first year, the costs added up to around $2.9 million (providencejournal.com).

Though the plan originating from the House of Representatives failed, the Promise Scholarship has done quite the opposite and may expand to RIC, one day. One day, maybe students will be looking to the archives to see what life was like before free tuition.

Larger than life heroin spoon placed in front of Coventry drug company

Erica Clark – Asst. News Editor

This week in Coventry, an artist took his protest against the opioid crisis and transformed it into art.  

Domenic Esposito created a 10-foot, 800-pound sculpture of a heroin spoon on the sidewalk Thursday morning in front of Rhodes Pharmaceuticals.

Esposito says he feels Big Pharma as a whole has played a major role in the ongoing opioid epidemic.  The spoon sculpture represents what heroin addicts often use before injecting.

“My talent is art and metal working. That’s what I love to do. I’m using that talent to try and bring awareness and accountability to the opioid crisis,” said Esposito to NBC 10, who’s based in Boston.

Rhodes Pharmaceuticals’ website lists the drugs it manufactures, including the opioid painkiller oxycodone hydrochloride.

The pharmaceutical industry has been previously accused of overprescribing drugs and profiting from them.  

This protest hits a personal spot for Esposito, mentioning “My brother has been battling this addiction for the last 12 years,” he said.

The Opioid Spoon Project, the inspiration behind Esposito’s art, is a universal project geared towards the dark reality of the opioid crisis. On the project’s Facebook, they mention the spoon has “spawned an outcry” across the country and even internationally.  

This artist-led all-inclusive project promotes awareness and change in the opioid crisis that has affected countless lives and families around the world.

Esposito first spoon drop was with a different but similar sculpture in front of Purdue Pharma in Connecticut in June.

Coventry police were required to move the spoon as it was on the sidewalk, which is considered public space.

Rhodes Pharmaceuticals did not respond to request for comment.