Faculty and administrators advocate for RIC’s future

Catherine Enos and Lucille DiNaro –Opinions Editor and Business Manager

The legislative session is well under way, and so are the efforts of faculty, administrators and Rhode Islanders working towards the expansion of the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship. On April 10, an array of people testified in favor of the Promise Scholarship’s achievements and possible expansion to RIC students as proposed in the Governor’s budget bill. The testimony of two RIC professors suggested that RIC played a unique role in the legislative process.

Graphic Courtesy of NSVRC.org

And, indeed, for a large part of the spring semester, a group of RIC faculty have met weekly and stayed in communication with representatives from the Governor’s office to discuss the Promise and the concerns they had with its accompanying administrative provisions.

“The Governor’s office reached out to RIC… to get us to support the Promise Scholarship, which probably almost uniformly everybody thinks is absolutely fabulous.” Dr. Schmeling, chair of the Committee on Political Education, said. “We all get that our students struggle financially.” However, the new requirements of the Post-Secondary Council that accompany the expansion of the Promise Scholarship were somewhat “concerning,” according to Dr. Schmeling.

The areas of the bill that were cause for concern included performance-based funding initiatives, a common course numbering system and major revisions to the transfer credit articulation policies. In his verbal testimony on April 10, Dr. Schmeling pointed to ample research and institutional knowledge that suggests that the provisions would have been detrimental to the college and students.

Governor Raimondo’s Education Policy Advisor, Art Nevins, worked directly with faculty members to develop a revised version of the budget request, while honoring “the goal to make it easier for students to transfer in between institutions and navigate the higher education system.” A key motivator behind the new reporting requirements was the Governor’s desire to evaluate the Post-Secondary council’s ability to monitor and assess learning outcomes. “If you are going to RIC and going into the workforce, we want to make sure that you are getting a degree that will give you a good job and a good place in Rhode Island. We want to make sure that colleges do their part to make sure students are successful.”

“The way to achieve those goals really threatened institutional autonomy,” Dr. Bohlinger, chair of the RIC faculty commented. Dr. Pearlmutter, Interim Provost, agrees that “We could have some more serious thoughts about our capacity at looking at learning outcomes. That had been looked at when we did our change to general education programs about six years ago, and they decided to stay with themes.” While CCRI and URI develop curriculum based on learning outcomes, RIC curriculum is developed thematically. Discrepancies between the three institutions’ general education programs complicates the ease of transfer between CCRI, RIC and URI.

The administration of the college played a role in this process, too. “While this was largely a faculty initiative, the administration has been totally on board with this…” Dr. Arthur, an executive board member of the AFT, said, “they have other angles of involvement that we don’t have, so it’s been useful.”

Dr. Pearlmutter was adamant that should the Promise Scholarship pass, RIC will remain in control of curriculum related decisions and will maintain its institutional autonomy. Should these changes take effect, a committee of educators and administrators at the three post secondary institutions will be responsible for implementation of these new requirements.

Ultimately, the coalition of faculty and administrators agreed upon new provisions that were presented to the Senate Committee on Education on April 10. Despite disagreement and bargaining between the Governor’s office, RIC faculty and college administrators, they unanimously stress the importance of student involvement to pass this legislation. “Students don’t realize how much of a voice they can have” Dr. Arthur said. Dr. Bohlinger added that he hopes that “students become advocates and get in touch with their particular representatives… it’s really crucial that students become engaged.”

Title IX and what it means for safety on campus

Abigail Nilsson –Staff Writer

Back in early February, RIC students received an email from President Sanchez informing the community that obscenities were yelled at a female walking across the campus. Following this episode, campus police and security were increased. No more emails have been sent out regarding similar occurrences on campus, but that is not to say that there has not been other discrimination issues going on which have been handled privately.

Title IX is a federal law that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This means that any school who accepts federal funds must comply with this law, including Rhode Island College.

Anybody employed by RIC is considered to be “responsible employees,” including, but not limited to, professors, coaches, and advisers with the exception to the Student Health Center as they are covered under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. “Responsible employees” are required by law to report discrimination of any type or if a student does not feel safe.

A discrimination issue or concern does not have to be public and wide spread. “There is never any pressure from this office to file a complaint,” said Margaret “Peggy” Lynch-Gadaleta, Director of Institutional Equity.

RIC Health Services advises that if you feel that you are in danger, make sure you are in a safe place. Contact someone you trust. If you are in danger and need immediate assistance on campus contact Campus Police 401-456-8888 or call 9-1-1.

RIC has a new director of safety and security/chief of police, Colonel James Mendonca, starting on April 29. In an email sent out by Stephen J. Nedder, Interim Vice President for Admin. and Finance, welcoming Col. Mendonca to the RIC community, says, “he has pledged to hit the ground running, bringing his expertise in law enforcement and leadership to the department and institute and environment of community policing on our campus.”   

There are several on and off campus resources and counselors available. Any concerns regarding discrimination or inequality can be addressed to the Title IX Coordinator, Margaret Lynch-Gadaleta, she is located in Roberts Hall 301, or you can email at mlynchgadaleta@ric.edu or call her 401-456-8387. To view the annual Security Report at RIC visit http://www.ric.edu/studentlife/documents/RIC2018AnnualSecurityReport.pdf.   

RIC community mourns, remembers Dr. Daniel M. Scott

Erica Clark –Asst. News Editor

On Friday, April 12, Rhode Island College received the unexpected news that Daniel M. Scott, who was head of the RIC English Department, passed away due to an ongoing battle of multiple myeloma for two years. Dr. Scott was part of the RIC community for 25 years and had two degrees from Georgia State University in Atlanta and from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (M.A. and Ph.D.).

Dr. Scott was a professor of the English Department and studied various literature including African American, Western, Non-Western, and postcolonial texts.  He published work on multiple novelists, including Harlem Renaissance figures Wallace Thurman and Zora Neale Hurston. He was an active member of the Preparatory Enrollment Program (PEP) and the Dialogue on Diversity.

Dr. Scott was also an officer and served as Treasurer of the Rhode Island branch of the ACLU, and additionally a board member of Youth Pride.

RIC released a memoriam describing what they called the passion, and compassion Dr. Scott shared with the educational community:

“To describe Dr. Scott as much beloved by his family, students, friends, and colleagues is a woeful understatement. He was a genuinely good person who inspired respect and affection in everyone he met. No other person could be as witty, wry, and brilliant while still being so incredibly kind and humble. He never dominated a room, but his presence always sustained and enhanced the conversation.”

Dr. Stephen Brown, Assistant Chair of the English Department, described his experience with Dr. Scott as less of a specific memory, but as a man and professional he will always carry with him.

“I have never known anyone in a professional setting who could do such fine work with students and colleagues in so kind a way,” said Brown. “It was a kindness more than felt–it had being and meaning. Within and beyond the professional setting, I have never met his like, and I never will.”

Administrative Assistant to the English department, Armande Aywas described the sincere approach Dr. Scott had towards his advisees and fellow colleagues.“Dr. Scott was a man that understood people and would never hurt anyone, he appreciated people,” she said. “Every student leaving his office felt at ease and happy to have been advised by him, they felt a sense of comfort saying he is the best when it comes to putting their schedule together or guided them to what to take next. He never once not listened to what you have to say to him.”

“He never forgot my birthday in 6 years,” said Aywas. “He was a great human and I will never forget Dr. Scott.”

There was a celebration held on April 19 at 2 p.m. in Alger Hall to celebrate the life of Dr. Daniel M. Scott and the positive mark he left on the RIC community.

CUFI: A new group on campus

Tim Caplan –News Editor

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) established a new chapter at Rhode Island College this semester, and after having their constitution approved by Student Community Government (SCG), opened a booth at Donovan Dining Center last Wednesday to engage students on their advocacy of the state of Israel.

Delta Ayres, Genesis Jiminez, and Caitlyn Tiodor set up a booth in Donovan Dining Center last Wednesday to discuss their cause with the student community as well as advocate for “Save a Child’s Heart” an Israeli non-profit focused on providing cardiac care for children in developing countries.

“Some of the main issues that we’re concerned about is just the peace of Israel…We want there to be peace agreements, we want rockets to stop being fired at Israel, we want to stop innocent people being killed, and we want to protect the children on both sides,” said Tiodor.

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is operated through Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, where children from third world countries are brought to be given cardiological treatment.  SACH also trains doctors from these different countries across the world and shows them how to perform some of these complex heart surgeries so that they may bring that knowledge and skills back with them to their countries.

When asked about what some of the goals for their group are, Tiodor stated, “Our goal is to have an event one day where we have some speakers come in and talk about it, maybe our pastor or some holocaust survivors.”

Publick Occurrences hosts climate change panel

Abigail Nilsson –Staff Writer

Publick Occurrences, sponsored by Rhode Island College, the Providence Journal and Leadership Rhode Island, held a panel last Monday evening to discuss climate change and how it relates to Rhode Islanders. 102 of the 375 audience members were randomly given clickers to vote on climate change related questions. 98 percent of the voters believed that climate change is real and 82 percent agreed that humans are to blame.

Rhode Island has 420 miles of iconic coastlines which are constantly changing due to beach erosion, floods and rising sea levels. Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a climate-change and environmental justice consultant and panelist at Publick Occurrences stated, “We’ve got about a decade to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

Audience members wanted to know what is being done about climate change. Lauren Maunus, 21, asked, “why are we not talking about a Green New Deal?” She was standing with a group of younger audience member’s holding a banner that read, “WE DEMAND A GREEN NEW DEAL.” The Green New Deal (GND) is a proposed program created by New York Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to address climate change and economic inequality.        

Panelist Monica Huertas, a founding member of Providence’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee and activist for Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), could not emphasize enough that families living in low income housing are at a great disadvantage by living in areas where flooding is common and that they are likely to have an extraordinary financial setback after a flood. Several panelists agreed that minorities often live next to toxic facilities or flood zones and are often not disclosed this information when they move in.

This tied in with the agreement among panelists that communication is one of the greatest setbacks related to climate change. They believe that it is difficult to reach many people to convey and emphasize the severity of this issue. The panelists were in agreement that scaring people about climate change is not the best method for communication.

Sunshine Menezes, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Metcalf Institute of Marine and Environmental Reporting, feels that we need to hold politicians accountable for promises made about environmental protection. Other panelists agree that everyone needs to be involved, especially influencers on different media platforms including musicians and other artists. “Getting complete involvement in these issues is a crucial part of the future,” said Barnaby Evans, artistic and executive director of WaterFire Providence.

There is little doubt that climate change is real according to audience members, but they wanted to know what is being done about it in Rhode Island, or even on a federal level. It was mentioned among panelists that it is difficult for officials on both state and federal levels to agree on one single solution.

President Sanchez was proud to announce that Rhode Island College is taking steps in a green initiative with the recent renovations and has changed all of the light bulbs in the school to LED in an effort to conserve energy. Communicating the urgency and taking steps to protect communities infrastructure, and fuel efficiency were some of the points that panelists focused on making to audience members to help protect against climate change.

Sexual assault advocates share their stories at RIC

Erica Clark –Asst. News Editor

Suzanne Alden and Erin Cheschi shed a light last Wednesday for Sexual Assault Awareness Month by speaking about their personal experiences. Alden and Cheschi spoke to a small class in Adams Library 405 last Wednesday to a group of upcoming student therapists.  

Both women, who are survivors of sexual assault, shared two different stories on their experiences of having to live with trauma after their assaults.

One of the largest issues both women faced in their fight for justice is dealing with the criminal justice system.

“I felt like I was in the darkest tunnel, I couldn’t see the light,” Cheschi stated after discovering the justice system was not going to help her. She then had to become her own advocate.  

Cheschi described experiencing a sexual assault as a loss of power and a loss of self. Through losing herself in such a wounding situation, Cheschi described how important it is to find yourself again through creativity. Her output was writing.

Alden, who is currently raising a son who is about to be a teenager, described raising him in a #MeToo culture. She makes sure to set her own boundaries with him, rather than boundaries which are sometimes taught to females in today’s society. “I want to teach him to respect her wearing a skirt, not that she can’t wear the skirt.”

One of Alden’s largest dilemmas when facing her perpetrator was being afraid if she told someone, no one would believe her.

“If you get a positive response from abuse, you heal much faster,” Alden described to an upcoming therapist when dealing with patients who confide in them with personal information, especially mandate reporters.

When working with children, the fear of disclosure is real. Having a negative response, Alden described, makes it harder for anyone else to disclose personal information without feeling neglected, or guilty.

Experiencing such a traumatic situation, one of the key elements to healing, Alden said, was forgiveness. “When you get to the point of forgiveness, you really know you moved along. If you don’t cope with it, there’s no way to go beyond it.”

Mueller report finally released, gets mixed reaction

Tim Caplan –News Editor

After two years of investigation, Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice Robert Mueller III released the redacted final version of the “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.

The report has two volumes, the first concerning the events that took place involving the Russian intelligence agencies GRU (The Russian Military Intelligence Service) and the IRA (Internet Research Association).

The report details how these agencies created fake social media accounts in an attempt to influence American voters. Together, these social media accounts received millions of views, with names like “Secured Borders,” “Black Matters” and “United Muslims of America,” they were created to evoke political engagement among followers. They even organized rallies in several different states under these fake accounts.

The report also describes how the GRU hacked into the servers of The Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to take emails and disseminate them to the public through Julian Assange at WikiLeaks by way of an undercover GRU agent using the persona “Guccifer 2.0.” The website “dcleaks.com” was also used to release information hacked from these two organizations.

The report details how members and former members of President Trump’s campaign had contact with Russian state entities, including attempts to establish meetings between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and providing polling information to Russian authorities. However, no direct line of contact between Trump and these entities or knowledge of interference in the election has been established, and as a result the president will not be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States with a foreign actor.

The second volume has to do with alleged obstruction of justice by Trump and his allies to interfere with the investigation itself. A series of events were examined by the Mueller team to look into whether the Trump team did so. Many of these episodes had to do with Trump attempting to do something that could potentially be considered attempting to delay, obstruct, or prevent the process of investigating a criminal violation, however his staff would often go against his orders, averting that type of situation. Some of these examples include White House counsel Don McGhan refusing to fire Mueller after being told to do so by Trump, and suggesting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions take back his recusal on the investigation to try to have it stopped.  

In the end, the president was charged with no crimes, but received a mixed reaction from the American political class. Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted “The #MuellerReport paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” while Republican  Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio released a statement saying “Democrat Members of Congress should take a deep breath and read the Special Counsel’s report before jumping to conclusions. The Attorney General already confirmed what we long suspected. No collusion. No obstruction. It would be a miscarriage of justice to use cherry-picked bits of information from the report to sow further divisiveness and spread conspiracies that serve only to undermine our democratic institutions. One thing, however, is clear with the release of the report today: this sad chapter of American history is behind us.”

Robert Mueller has been subpoenaed to appear in front of the House Committee on Judiciary by chairman Jerrold Nadler no later than May 23.  

SCG discusses upcoming changes to RIC

Sean Richer –Anchor Staff

As the Academic Year at Rhode Island College begins to draw to a close, the Student Community Government (SCG) is beginning to lay the groundwork for next year. The first discussion was centered around the impending increase in tuition at RIC. Starting next year, tuition will increase by $325 per semester. This controversial decision has raised the ire of many people on campus, and they are asking why. The President of SCG, Joshua Percy, shared his frustrations with this new tuition hike saying, “Why impose this increase if it’s not allocated to some of the programs the students are asking for? We need to find out why.”

Many of the proposed changes during last week’s meeting were focused on infrastructure and services at the college. Among them was the possibility of hiring a new crossing guard on the east side of campus, as well as rejuvenated maintenance of the intersection at the east entrance. However, both of these changes would fall under the jurisdiction of the state, not the college. Therefore, a motion would have to be brought to the North Providence City Council.

Other proposed changes included expanding the hours of operation at the bookstore, and the re-opening of the campus convenience store. The staff representative, Arthur Patrie, resisted this proposal saying, “The last convenience store could not break even, the fact of the matter is, if we want it, we have to use it.” These motions were left aside for later discussion, but Vice President Monk Cain finished by saying, “I will not stop with this initiative.”

The student body at large has been clamoring for many of these changes for a long time. One example of these changes is the new garden and upgraded ingredients at Donovan Dining center. This includes the expansion of menu options, including vegan and gluten free alternatives.

“We didn’t have much of a choice” Interim Provost of Academic Affairs explains reason for shortened semester

Aaron Isaac –Anchor Staff

Did you know classes this semester were cut short by a week? If you didn’t know you may be asking yourself if you missed an announcement or an email. You can look, but no such email exists.

The reason for the shortened semester is due to the failure of the calendar committee to schedule the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for commencement in time. Interim Provost of Academic Affairs Sue Pearlmutter explained that the venue the administration wanted was not available when they needed it to be, on May 18. Director of the Records Office Tameka Hardmon said she learned about the issue months after the calendar was published and reported it to Pearlmutter. Starting in August, Pearlmutter said she and the committee spent months trying to decide what to do. In the end they decided to schedule commencement for May 11 and cut the semester by a week.

How much faculty knew while the decisions were being made is uncertain. Hardmon said Pearlmutter was responsible for informing faculty, and according to Pearlmutter there were two emails sent. One was to inform faculty about the scheduling problem, a second email was a note about what the calendar committee decided to do. Pearlmutter was not sure of the clarity of those emails saying “I don’t think they realized that what I said was we’re going to start the week that we had planned, we’re going to end classes on April 30th.” As a result, faculty lost days to complete their grading.

She acknowledged this new schedule may be inconveniencing professors, “the last thing we wanted was to inconvenience anyone, but we didn’t have much choice.” She added that faculty will soon get a notice saying those professors not holding final exams can use that day as an additional class day.

Administrators knew, faculty would know later, so why didn’t students know? “If you want to know the truth I consider myself really student centered, but I didn’t think about writing a note to students,” Pearlmutter said. “I’ll take responsibility for that,” she continued.

She regretted her not informing students after reading a student opinion piece in the Anchor, “it didn’t occur to me that student’s decision making in this was a consequential part and reading it in the article made me think that I took something for granted.”

Moving forward, she mentioned implementing a five year plan for the calendar was already put in place to make sure such a scheduling conflict did not happen again. Pearlmutter emphasized the various ways the administration could reach out to students including blackboard, group projects and reaching out to the Anchor, but she did not mention sending out emails.

The best way to encourage communication, she said, was to get students to participate on the calendar committee. She acknowledged this may be difficult considering students don’t necessarily know there is a calendar committee. “It took me a couple of months to find out who they report to and who actually appointed them so if we don’t know it, I’m sure that students don’t know it.”

What’s in your head? Implicit bias training at RIC

Tim Caplan – News Editor

Implicit Bias has been a controversial subject in the social science community for over 20 years, especially with the 1998 invention of the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Project Implicit, who created the test, is a non-profit research foundation focused on studying implicit social cognition and was founded by three scientists from Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington.

Dr. Jordan Axt, Photos by Thomas Crudale

On Wednesday, March 20, Jordan Axt, a postdoctoral research associate from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Center for Advanced Hindsight, was invited to speak at Rhode Island College by the Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Axt is a member of Project Implicit. The event took place in the Gaige Hall Auditorium.

Dr. Axt began his presentation by speaking about the differences between the conscious and unconscious mind: “Your mind is an island, part of it is above water, the conscious mind, (and part is) below water, unconscious mind.”

Dr. Axt then displayed a series of photos which demonstrated how the mind often plays tricks on the senses of sight and sound. These pictures featured monsters in a tunnel that seemed to be different sizes but when the tunnel was taken away, it was revealed that they were the same size. Another picture by Edward H. Adelson, displayed a checkerboard with a shadow over it, which made 2 different squares labeled “A” and “B” seem as though they were different colors, but in reality were the same. These were meant to emphasize the fact that the human mind often works in ways that people are unaware of as it happens.

The presentation then continued with a large scale administration of the IAT to the audience, in which it judged that the audience correlated the faces of white people with pleasant words at a higher rate than the faces of Black people with pleasant words. Dr. Axt said that this was normal, however, and showed his own original test results, which were very similar to that of the audience.

There are many social psychologists who dispute the validity of the IAT, the most vocal of which is University of Connecticut Professor Hart Blanton, who claims “The IAT provides little insight into who will discriminate against whom, and provides no more insight than explicit measures of bias.”

Dr. Axt’s response to these criticisms were that on an individual level, the IAT scores are not as adequate as what some social scientists believe about the measurement of overall feelings in a society.

The presentation was concluded with Dr. Axt’s 3 major suggestions about how he felt an individual could counteract their own implicit bias, which were to use objective criteria when decision making, think slowly, and be vigilant about implicit bias.

One of the photos presented by Dr. Jordan Axt, Graphic courtesy of naniomo.com