Environmental Justice at Rhode Island College

Catherine Enos-Opinions Editor

During the spring semester, The Anchor chronicled the beginning of a new organization on campus: the Environmental Justice Alliance. The idea for an organization like this emerged from Dr. Peter Little of the Anthropology department, who sat down with The Anchor again to explore just what exactly the EJA’s mission is at Rhode Island College.

The Environmental Justice Alliance isn’t a typical environmental club. “Environmental Justice” is exactly what it sounds like: a movement for equal protections from environmental hazards. Some concerns falling under the umbrella of environmental justice include problems such as air pollution, less access to healthy food, exposure to high levels of lead poisoning, waste dumping, et cetera. “Justice” is the goal in mind here, as these environmental issues often disproportionately affects communities of lower incomes and those of color.

The Environmental Justice Alliance’s main goal is to form a partnership with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI). The EJ League is based in Providence and works with the community on several projects. “Getting students directly connected to projects the EJ league already has”, says Dr. Little, is essential, as “they’ve [already] got the community relations built”.

The executive director of the EJ League, Cristina Cabrera, sat in on the first meeting to discuss the types of things RIC students in the EJA could assist with. Out of all the programs the EJ League currently has running, the one that stuck out most to Dr. Little was Environmental Community Organizers Youth (ECO Youth). It’s an after school program for teenagers which promotes leadership in the areas of social justice and environmental justice.

A program like ECO Youth would suit RIC’s various majors, Little says. “Finding ways to get our students involved in this program would be great… I’m trying to make this as student focused and student driven as possible.” Since ECO Youth is an afterschool program, education majors can be involved as well. And since it involves social and environmental issues, environmental studies majors, as well as various other social science majors can be involved.

In addition to being involved with the EJ League’s existing programs, EJA will have its own endeavors on campus. Though the Alliance is only in developmental stages with most of its initiatives, Dr. Little says that guest lecturers could be a possibility, as well as the possible development of an internship with EJLRI. Though this is not set in stone, internships are always heavily sought out on campus, so this is something for interested students to look out for.

In an effort to be “as student driven as possible,” the alliance is trying to get more people involved in the organization, increasing the overall output of the EJA. The initial meeting in the Spring was attended by 12 students, and they are hoping to continue to cultivate a  large and diverse group of people. The first meeting of this semester will be September 26 from 12-1:30 in Gaige Hall room 146, within the Anthropology department offices.

Do sons bear the sins of their fathers? For DACA recipients, RIC says no

Lucille DiNaro-News Editor

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has left Rhode Island College students and faculty struggling to navigate the political and moral turmoil.

DACA, which provides temporary protection from deportation to minors brought to the United States as children, has been slated to be revoked with no clear path to reform. With the future of DACA recipients unclear, over 30 RIC faculty members have drafted a letter to RIC President Frank Sánchez requesting campus wide protection and support for students regardless of documentation.

President Sanchez’s campus-wide email, sent on Sept. 5, which refrained from taking a definite stance on the issue, stated that “Rhode Island College will continue to follow state and federal law.” Followed by the commitment to “uphold our mission to provide educational opportunities to all students, notwithstanding the circumstances that brought them to the United States.”

Anna Cano-Morales, Associate Vice President of Community, Equity and Diversity asserts that “unless Congress makes it illegal, we will continue to offer public higher education regardless of status.” When asked if RIC will financially support DACA recipients should their working permits be revoked, she noted that there are Presidential Scholarships that could possibly be redirected to these students. The Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities, located in Providence, also provides financial aid through their ongoing online fundraiser. Anyone is free to donate at casori.org.

With less than three weeks remaining to renew DACA applications and submit the $495 application fee, questions regarding the renewal process, finances, healthcare and employment are left unanswered. The intent of the letter is to push the administration to satisfy the need for increased competency as soon as possible in order to meet the rolling deadline set by Trump.

Dr. Robyn Linde, a Political Science Professor at RIC, is disgruntled by the lack of professional support on campus regarding these issues. Considering the gravity of the situation at hand, faculty hope to provide a permanent resource to students who are otherwise driven into silence, fearing the consequences of disclosing too much personal information.

Cano-Morales shared the same sentiment. “It isn’t about the students who are on campus here who may be affected, it’s everybody around them, the uncertainty and living in fear. Being an invisible community is not acceptable. Whatever that invisible community is, you belong here.”

While the most recent census from Office of Student Success reports a total of six RIC students who are DACA recipients, they are not the only affected by the recent policy decision. There are 1,299 Rhode Islanders who currently benefit from DACA; several of them probable family members and friends of the growing Latino community on campus.

RIC students across campus struggle to rationalize the pending removal of DACA. Anthony Hernandes, a third year student, notes that “people are being ripped away from their freedom when they were promised to be able to stay here. They were promised a new life. That’s why people come here. All of a sudden, that’s all gone.”

First year student Rayeily Castillo asks,“who is benefitting from the removal of DACA? We’re treating these people like numbers but these people have lives.”

At a federal level, a judge in the Northern District Court of Illinois, Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, has issued a temporary national injunction in the face of the Justice Department’s threats to pull funding or grants from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with immigration authorities, though it stands to be seen if that ruling will extend to state schools such as our campus. The injunction will prevent the withholding of grant money until the lawsuit is finalized, a decision which could still be months away.

Addressing Title IX guidelines on campus

Aaron Isaac-Anchor Staff

On Sept. 7, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos announced that she was revamping Obama administration guidelines on sexual assault. She criticized Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter which set forth regulations on the handling of sexual assault in schools.

The letter was in response to a study from the National Institute of Justice which found that one in five women are victims of sexual assault while in college. Obama’s letter asked colleges around the United States to lower their standard of proof of sexual assault, immediately respond to complaints of sexual assault, provide a Title IX coordinator and adopt policies to prevent sexual assault in the future.

Rhode Island College’s recently hired Title IX Coordinator, Margaret Lynch Gadaleta, sat down for an interview with the Anchor regarding Devos’s decision. Gadaleta is not worried, as Devos has not replaced the policy, she simply has said she was going to take opinions from people on forming a new policy. Regardless of Devos’ decision, Gadaleta said she is committed to making sure every step of the process is fair and consistent with law and due process.

Regarding Title IX Policy on campus, Gadaleta has “great confidence in RIC,” and feels as though RIC stands “on the forefront of sexual violence prevention and Title IX issues.” Gadaleta hopes to ensure ongoing training for RIC staff, security and students to better equip them in handling sexual assault cases. Gadaleta recently published a brochure titled “Sexual Assault: Resources and Supports For Students. Safety, Advocates and Help.” These brochures are available to all students in the library, gender and women’s studies classes, health services and counseling centers. With increased awareness and a knowledgeable student body, Gadaleta hopes future incidents of sexual assault can be prevented.

Many of the new policies that Gadaleta hopes to enact work towards creating an environment in which students and faculty alike feel comfortable reporting sexual assault. Gadaleta hopes victims will be more willing to step forward, as “there are only one and five [sexual assault victims] that report, so there’s four others that presumably do not feel comfortable enough to come forward.” It is her hope that while she is in her position, those four out of five people can get the support and resources they may need as well.

Gadaleta hopes to ignite conversation on campus about Title IX and sexual assault, and you can expect to see her speaking at different events and classes here at RIC.
 

Despite the conversations occurring on a national level, Gadaleta insists that “there is a lot of support for everybody on campus and a lot of commitment.” Victims of sexual assault can seek help at campus health services, campus security or by emailing the coordinator directly at mlynchgadaleta@ric.edu.

A New Drug Creeps Into The Streets of Rhode Island

Samantha Scetta-Business Manager

Rhode Island is, unfortunately, not the only state grappling with an opioid crisis. Over the past few years, a newer drug has been competing with heroin in the fight for the title “most deadly.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, similar to methadone, that is used for pain-killing purposes across the United States. Here in Rhode Island, the drug is taking a heavy and dangerous toll on drug users. Manufactured in both the pharmacy and on the streets, fentanyl is available in many different forms, including powder and patches.  

Consumers and sellers of the drug can mix fentanyl with heroin or cocaine, causing it to become much more potent and, therefore, much more lethal.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, 35% of overdose deaths in 2014 involved the use of fentanyl. As of September 2017, the death rate has hit an all time high: 60% of all overdose deaths involve fentanyl.

There are many ways to cope with addiction, a disease which does not discriminate based on age, sex, or social class. According to Susan Coutu, whose daughter died in 2014 from a fentanyl overdose, going cold-turkey off of the drug might not always be the right thing to do. People need support, not only from their loved ones and families, but also from their Doctors. There is medication available to help assist the addicted with their recovery process.

If you or anyone you know is coping with an addiction to opiates or any type of drug, please call the drug recovery hotline at 1-877-978-1702. Never be afraid to ask for help.

End of the airwaves—WBRU closes doors after 50 years

Gianna Rocchio-Managing Editor

The unique culture of Providence has been influenced by countless entities over the years. They have come and gone with the flow of time, but it is nonetheless sad when their time ends; and after its 50 year reign, 95.5 WBRU is no exception. The radio station’s signature 95.5 FM signal license was sold last month for $5.3 million to the Educational Media Foundation, a nonprofit based out of California that began their Christian adult-contemporary broadcast on September 1. WBRU kept strong until the very last minute, with all of their DJs signing off one after another until midnight on August 31.

Their final weeks, leading up to their very last radio broadcast, were filled with farewell messages, memories, favorite segments, and some of the best tunes the station has turned out in a while. DJs took nearly every request thrown at them and played classic songs that have not made the cut on their playlists for a long time. In its very final days the station made an active effort to play its raunchier hits, like the 1992 song “Detachable Penis” by King Missle which was played twice on the last day. Some of the more seasoned DJs spent their final shows to talk about their favorite memories, like morning DJ Wendell G who gave some behind-the-scenes stories from one of his favorite concerts put on by the station. Young the Giant blew the crowd away at the Summer Concert Series in 2012, only to have the crowd storm the stage to dance with the band during their final song. This was before Young the Giant went on to play at the Grammy’s later that year. Clearly, WBRU has always had a knack for finding hiddens gems right before they become a hit.

Photo courtesy of youtube.com/tylershaw

Rhode Islanders can rejoice to know that WBRU still has a future beyond the sale of their signal. The Brown Student and Community Radio (BSR) and Brown Broadcasting Service, Inc. are both dedicated to continuing the creative and active community of WBRU. The $5 million sale will allow the station to enhance their education workshops that are necessary to power the station and keep it running, but now in a new capacity other than radio. Both the alternative-rock and R&B music previous played on 95.5 FM can now be accessed from the WBRU app at any time. The two groups are also working to get their content back on the radio in some capacity, with BSR filing an application to access Low Power FM 101.1.

For now, WBRU continues sponsoring events, putting on shows, and being an integral part of the Providence scene. But I don’t think you’ll be hearing “Detachable Penis” when you turn the dial to 95.5 FM anymore.

Rhode Island reacts to Hurricane Harvey

Lucille DiNaro-News Editor

Despite five days of rainfall, unprecedented flooding and severe wind gusts, much of Central and Southeastern Texas begins to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Department of Safety has estimated 185,149 homes damaged and 9,000 destroyed, categorizing Harvey as the second most costly natural disaster in U.S. History, preceded only by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Texans remain resilient and attempt to maintain a sense of normalcy with the opening of 202 Houston Schools today, nearly two weeks after the intended start date. This proves a daunting task as only two thirds of Houston Schools are in a habitable condition and hundreds of students must be reassigned. Attendance is expected to be low as many families lack access to basic supplies and shelter.

The House of Representatives has passed a $7.85 billion aid package for Harvey victims despite previous budget cuts to social services. $7.4 billion of this aid is to be allocated to FEMA directly. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson of Florida voiced their concerns regarding the package, asking that monies be allocated to Florida as Hurricane Irma looms in the distance.

Congressman Jim Langevin weighed in on the bill, stating “This funding package will ensure FEMA has the resources to begin the process of recovery during this difficult time. I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans came together to support the immediate needs of the victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

Following natural disasters, citizens commonly struggle to determine how they can possibly provide assistance. In cities and college campuses across Rhode Island, no time has been wasted. Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence urged constituents to assess the immediate needs of Texans, which include toiletries, cleaning supplies, clothing and diapers. For the past few weeks the City of Providence has accepted donations during their regular business hours. Transportation of supplies to Texas began on September 8.

Rhode Island College student-athletes and Student Community Government members can be found throughout campus collecting donations for hurricane victims. Collections have run for several days, and students are encouraged to send in donations if they are not able to participate on campus. Donations can be sent to the RIC Foundation, ATTN: Dollars for Texas.

The RIC Student Radio, 90.7 WXIN, plans to take to the airwaves on Thursday, Sept. 14 in a twenty four hour Radiothon to benefit hurricane victims. Student DJs will have a constant stream on the air and online at ricradio.org to raise money and generate awareness for the Salvation Army and their hurricane relief effort in Texas. Students and community members are encouraged to call either 401-456-8787 or 401-465-9946 if they would like to make a donation during the Radiothon.

For students and constituents who cannot participate in person, RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin asks those who want to help to donate online to national organizations with established relief efforts, such as the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

Promise Scholarship passes, Rhode Island College not included

Aaron Isaac-Anchor Contributor


Should the government pay for college tuition? Governor Gina Raimondo is concerned that, while jobs are increasingly requiring a college degree, college is becoming too expensive.

The Promise Scholarship is an attempt to make college more affordable for students. Gov. Raimondo’s initial proposal was to pay for tuition and mandatory fees for the first two years of study at the Community College of Rhode Island, or the last two years at Rhode Island College or The University of Rhode Island. The Rhode Island House of Representatives approved the plan in June. However, they limited the plan to only pay for the first two years at CCRI.

On Aug. 3, the State of Rhode Island allocated $2.8 million to the Promise Scholarship. The scholarship pays for the first two years of CCRI. To qualify for the scholarship, students must enroll at CCRI immediately after graduating high school or receiving a General Education Diploma. Students are required to enroll full time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. A common concern amongst lawmakers was that students will leave the state once receiving their associate degree, despite the fact that nearly ninety percent of graduates remain in Rhode Island. To address this concern, scholarship recipients must stay in Rhode Island or have the scholarship revoked. Puzzlingly, however, there is no penalty for leaving the state after receiving the degree.

Photo courtesy of riopc.edu

Students and faculty at RIC had varying opinions on the issue. Multiple students, like Scott Ferguson, believe that, if the state is going to pay for college, then students should get a degree that will help them get a job. The scholarship can apply to any associate degree offered at CCRI. Ferguson prefaced his remarks by saying that he believed students should not have to go into debt to be educated. Political Science Professor Richard Weiner recalled a time when college costs were less than $100.

While the Promise Scholarship certainly cut costs for students at CCRI, the program is not permanent nor is it all-inclusive. Existing and future RIC and URI students are left out, and the scholarship for CCRI will only apply for this year’s and next year’s high school graduates. RIC students question how this will affect future enrollment.

 While some CCRI students will receive a reprieve from the financial burden of their studies, the jury is still out on the how the program will affect future college hopefuls, as well as students attending other state institutions such as RIC and URI.

Gaige Hall opens in first step towards a campus reimagined

Lucille DiNaro-News Editor

In a series of renovations across campus, President Frank Sánchez, accompanied by Governor Gina Raimondo and several distinguished guests cut the ceremonial ribbon across the new Gaige Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Gaige was open to the public with the start of classes last week and has quickly proven to be a center for student engagement. Even as the ribbon was being cut, students lingered in the foyer on computers and chatting with friends.

The building boasts new classrooms sized to fit classes of 32, a full sized auditorium, conference room, student lounge areas and a breathtaking glass curtain wall.

Photograph by Andre Glover

Gaige Hall is the first building on campus to solely use LED lighting. By the end of the academic year, President Sanchez hopes Rhode Island College will have fully transitioned to LED lighting in all facilities.

Collaboration is key in the new Gaige, as classrooms are designed with white boards on multiple walls and mobile desks. Governor Raimondo is particularly excited about the buildings design, stating that students today need to learn to collaborate and problem solve together to better prepare themselves for the workplace. She hopes that the design of Gaige will foster this type of environment. Faculty members are now able to work alongside one another in offices designed to encourage the same sense of collaboration. Interestingly, faculty offices are almost completely isolated from classrooms themselves.

Current RIC student Nate Banks views the newly renovated Gaige Hall as a positive window into the future of the college.

“If this building and the efficacy of the building are successful, it would be an excellent meter of how quickly and how progressive this college is on its way to becoming.” Banks says hopefully. Many RIC students share the same sentiment. First-year student Jessica did not know much about the campus, but was drawn to the modernity of Gaige Hall and would like to see more of this on campus.

Craig-Lee Hall is currently undergoing a similar redesign process and is projected to be completed within the next 18 months. President Sánchez let the Anchor know that he “would like to submit a proposal for a bond request to the Governor to do several more buildings.” In time, RIC may see a complete makeover, and as Nate Banks simply puts it, “this place is going to be the place to be.”

Fresh perspectives with new VP of Student Success

Lucille DiNaro-News Editor

In his second month at Rhode Island College, newly announced Vice President of Student Success, Dr. Jason Meriwether, reflects on his past and embraces the innovation of the future in his ambitious goal of creating a more robust campus experience.

“What we have to do is demonstrate that the engagement on campus does have a direct influence on feelings of connectedness,” he asserts. Starting with a Student Veterans Success Team, Dr. Meriwether is collaborating with the State Veterans Office to eventually create a permanent office for the Student Veterans Organization in the Student Union. With some expansion and fresh ideas, he hopes to better integrate existing services and increase student engagement.

New traditions he hopes to foster include live music on campus, movies in Gaige Hall, a concert series and inviting a national speaker to campus each year. Meriwether notes that RIC students pay student activities fees and argues that they should be funding these types of events.

One of his most compelling initiatives is implementing a day of service on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Rather than a day off from school, Meriwether hopes to serve Rhode Island by transitioning the holiday into what he calls “a day on.” Students will begin the day on campus and bus to different spots in the community to participate in service projects.

Dr. Meriwether also plans to bring The Defamation Experience to RIC. This is a nationally acclaimed courtroom drama that explores topics of race, diversity, gender and class in three parts; the play, the deliberation, and the post show discussion. The kicker? The audience acts an interactive jury. RIC Students can plan to attend this event later this academic year.

Above all, Dr. Meriwether hopes to reward the hardworking students of RIC. Having grown up in a working class family from Guthrie, KY, he feels deeply connected to the students who are enrolled here.

“The students here have worked for everything they have, and are working for their degrees, to make their families better, for quality of life, for future generations. The day I discovered what I was meant to do, it was to serve this type of student on this campus. To ensure that the hardest thing that a student should have to do is go to class.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Meriwether

Dr. Meriwether does not make this statement lightly. After working with the Financial Aid Office, he hopes to unveil what he calls the RIC Retention Scholarship this January. Fifty $2,500 scholarships will be available online this spring to returning students only. While scholarship dollars have historically gone to new students, this scholarship is intended to encourage student retention, increase graduation rates and alleviate the stress of paying for college. The scholarship is expected to be competitive, as it is solely merit based.

The RIC Retention Scholarship is not a result of a new endowment, but a wise reallocation of existing funds. Dr. Meriwether states that his approach to everything he does must answer two questions. “How do we impact student success, persistence, and completion, and how does it tie into the mission and the strategic goals of the college? If we can’t answer those questions clearly, then that’s not what we should be doing with our time and money.”