Florida Southern College begins esports program

 

Staring in January of 2018, Florida Southern College is joining the movement that many deem the future of competitive athletics, esports.

Ditching basketball courts and soccer nets, esports allows gamers to competitively play video games with other teams. While the concept is revolutionary, it is also very new. Its long-term impacts are unknown, but some believe esports could lead to negative impacts, such as harming our environment.

Despite this concern, students and faculty at FSC are excited for the start of competitive gaming. They will be joining schools like the University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida State University in the movement.

Florida Southern President Anne Kerr believes that the good from bringing in esports outweighs any potential bad.

“We are all learning together,” Kerr said. “I think this is a great way to bring our students together.”

Florida Southern College President Anne Kerr and Vice President Robert Tate are excited to bring the esports program to Florida Southern. 

“With our growing computer science major, you have to think ‘how do we change to meet the needs of our students’?” Kerr said.

The National Association of Collegiate eSports is responsible for 90 percent of all varsity esports programs in America. According to the NACE, only seven colleges and universities had esports programs in 2016. Today, it holds about 30 schools in its membership.

Its rapid rise in popularity has been well documented. The 2014 League of Legends World Championship drew an online viewership of 27 million people, according to the NACE.

“It really is a spectator sport”, Kerr said.

Those who are interested can watch the competitions through their personal devices or in giant, flashing neon stadiums.

The movement is sweeping across colleges and universities nationwide, but the impacts of this concept have had little time to be addressed. The type of intense, high tech equipment that it requires uses a massive amount of energy. These are a few examples of features that require high energy usage:

  • Sophisticated widescreen computers
  • Gamer specific lighting in game rooms
  • Gaming stadiums, complete with monitors large enough for an audience to view

The esports program will use a massive amount of energy. 

With just 30 schools involved in the esports program, the negative effects of intense computer labs and spectator fueled gaming events are limited.

However, esports continues to grow in popularity, even outside of the school setting. That increase, with the continued use of fossil fuels, will further intensify the negative impact on our environment.

Morgan Napper is an environmental science student at Hillsborough Community College. She is concerned with the potential impacts of esports.

“It’s kind of a new thing so I doubt there is a whole lot of research but anything that uses such a high amount of power is a bad thing for our energy usage,” Napper said. “I mean, there could be ways to incorporate green technology but really I doubt that’s a priority.”

Though esports is a relatively new construct, researchers have been looking into the health impacts of video games for years.

 

Without concrete evidence, President Kerr stands strong in her support of esports.

“There is great excitement on campus,” she said.

Florida Southern will offer competition for League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone, three of the most popular games within the esports community.

 

USF offers free and confidential counseling resources for students

Whether it’s on or off campus, it’s not unusual to know of a sexual violence incident. Fortunately, most college campuses offer resources for sexual violence victims who feel like they have nowhere to turn.

At USF there are free and confidential resources available to help students who have experienced sexual violence. Students also receive certain rights when attending on-campus counseling.

According to Student Eligibility and Rights of USF’s Counseling Center, “All currently registered USF students who have paid the Tampa campus student health fee are eligible for Counseling Center services. Students have a right to professional and ethical services at the Counseling Center. Students have a right to a respectful therapeutic relationship without physical, sexual, verbal, or other abuse.”

Below is a video from the USF Counseling Center website explaining what they do.

Located at SVC 2124, the USF Counseling Center has counselors who are trained to help students with whatever they are going through. Once the student fills out an application at the counseling center, he or she will be provided with an available counselor. After the student has signed up for counseling, he or she can make appointments with their counselor.

According to the USF Counseling Center website, “The Counseling Center offers comprehensive psychological services to help students navigate the challenges of college life and take advantage of opportunities for personal growth.”

The Counseling Center is available for students who are currently enrolled in classes. They offer ways for patients to solve their problems, learn new skills and new insights or perspectives on how they can cope with their issue or trauma.

As stated by the USF Counseling Center’s website, their mission is, “To promote the well being of the campus community by providing culturally sensitive counseling, consultation, prevention, and training that enhances student academic and personal success.”

Whether it be for an individual, a couple, or a group in need of help, the center offers different types of counseling. For the couples counseling, both must be registered USF students to receive the free consultation. Meanwhile, group counseling has several different groups someone can connect with.

The Counseling Center offers several types of group counseling including for LGBTQ students, for those coping with grief, for those dealing with body image, and for those in need of family counseling.

Another resource is USF’s Center for Victim Advocacy, which provides free and confidential services to USF students, faculty, and staff.

Photo from Center for Victim Advocacy website

As stated by the USF Center for Victim Advocacy, “We serve men, women, and people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expression who have experienced crime, violence or abuse on or off campus either recently or in the past.”

Photo from Center for Victim Advocacy website.

USF’s Center for Victim Advocacy attempts to empower survivors of crime, violence, or abuse by promoting the restoration of decision making, by advocating for their rights, and by offering support and resources. However, while there are counselors at USF’s Counseling Center, the Center for Victim Advocacy has advocates.

An advocate with the USF Center for Victim Advocacy is a professional who is trained to respond with compassion and expertise to the victims of crime, violence, and abuse. Which includes crisis intervention, advocacy and accompaniment, safety planning, academic and housing assistance, and nonjudgmental support to victims to help them get through the experience and regain control of their lives.

The Advocacy Center has different sources it uses to help victims who have experienced sexual violence including individual support, academic/university support, medical support, court support, reporting assistance and more. The center is there to help victims learn and understand the rights for the specific crime he or she is dealing with it.

The center provides advocates to victims for guidance every step of the way, in any way possible. The center’s website also gives information on a list of crimes which show how the advocates can explain and assist the clients with their personal experience of sexual violence.

The following is an interview provided by USF’s Counseling Center advocate Angela Candela:

“How long has the advocacy center been open?”

“For at least 10 years,” said Candela. “We’ve been open for a really long time.”

“What’s the process like when someone comes in?”

“If somebody wants our services the first step would be to schedule an appointment by walking into the office to schedule an appointment or you could call and schedule an appointment,” said Candela.  “Then you receive an intake appointment with your advocate. They will have already looked at the paper and case file that you provided for them, then they will walk you through steps on what can be done and like to do”

“How many people come in on a weekly basis? Do you guys have a certain amount or is it random?”

“Its kind of random depending on the time of year, right now its busy during fall, slows down during spring and is dead during the summer. It really varies,” said Candela.

“What advice would you give to victims who have not gotten help or have not gone to an advocacy center or have just been very silent?”

“I would say that your best resource when you have experienced some type of crime would be an advocate. An advocate is really somebody that is there in your corner, that’s what we’re there for. We’re confidential, we’re not ever going to report anything. Its okay even if you were drinking underage at the time of the crime, we’re not going to judge you. We don’t care and are not going to tell on you or anything. All we are concern about is giving help to somebody who is a victim of a crime,” Candela said. “It’s scary, it’s not always easy. It takes a lot of bravery and strength to do so in the first place, to come out and say, ‘Hey I need help.’ If they feel like they can, I think it’s an amazing option.”

Photo by Megan Holzwarth

Both USF’s Victim Advocacy Center and Counseling Center are  options that are available to students. Other options include the University Police Department (USFPD) and the Student Health Services which are available to USF students who would like to receive help.

Sexual violence can happen to students on or off campus. With this in mind, USF offers resources to students in need of a safe space. Everyone deserves to know his or her rights and what services are available for students.

Below is the full audio link with the interview with Angela Candela.

 

Jazzy Rowe: another example of college hate crimes

On Oct. 30, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe posted a video on her Facebook page detailing what she endured from her dorm roommate since the beginning of this fall semester.

Video from Jazzy Rowe’s Facebook page

“After 1 ½ months of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more, I can finally say goodbye to Jamaican Barbie,” Rowe read from an Instagram post by Brianna Brochu, her former roommate.

Rowe first became uneasy in her living situation when Brochu was hostile and made Rowe feel unwelcome. When Rowe began experiencing health issues, one being extreme throat pain, she was forced to see a doctor.

In her Facebook video, Rowe explains she was put on antibiotics while waiting for test results. “I didn’t want to go through another sleepless night with such extreme pain,” said Rowe.

Brochu was arrested Saturday, Oct. 28, after her Instagram post was brought to the attention of local officials. According to an article in the New York Post, she was charged with third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace. 

Brochu has also been expelled from the University of Hartford. Although, this institution has condemned the acts of Brochu, this incident is just one of the many incidents of hate crimes on college campuses today.

The violence against Rowe and her belongings seems like a parallel to the prejudices of America’s past, but studies show that these issues are alive and well today.

In a 2016 study entitled Ten Days After by the Southern Poverty Law Center, incidents of hate and discrimination immediately following the election of Donald Trump as president were detailed.

The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes the data collection as followed: “The 867 hate incidents described here come from two sources — submissions to the #ReportHate page on the SPLC website and media accounts. Incidents were limited to real-world events; the count doesn’t include instances of online harassment. We have excluded incidents that authorities have determined to be hoaxes; however, it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.”

The study continues by stating 23 percent of the reported incidents were racially charged and targeted people of color. The incidents were reported as “racial slurs, whether in graffiti or face-to-face harassment,” as stated in Ten Days After. References to lynching were also highly reported in this study.

In a 2015 report by Florida’s Attorney General, Pat Bondi, entitled Hate Crimes in Florida“Hate crimes motivated by the victim’s race/color represented 55.9 percent of all reported hate crimes.”

Graph by Kylie Buklad. Data via “Hate Crimes in Florida (2015)”

Although, the graph shows the actual number of incidents definitely decreases over the years, the percent of racially charged hate crimes continues to constitute about half of all the hate crimes reported.

Table via “Hate Crimes in Florida (2015)”

Race is a constant factor and heavy motivator for the reported instances of discrimination and bigotry, at least in the state of Florida. According to a WUSF article, “Heidi Beirich with the Southern Poverty Law Center says hate crimes have always been grossly under counted.”

The first sentenced of the 2012 Hate Crime Victimization by the Bureau of Justice Statistics states there were almost 300,000 incidents of nonfatal incidents of hate crimes in 2012. Meanwhile, the FBI’s 2012 report puts the number of incidents at less than 7,000.

By not having an accurate representation of actual incidents of hate crimes, the voices of victimize minorities are, therefore, being silenced.

Ten Days After mentions instances of racially motivated occurrences on college campuses such as “‘Noose Tying 101’ was written on a whiteboard at San Francisco State University, and a black doll was found hanging from a noose in an elevator at New York’s Canisius College.”

The USF Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Equal Opportunity (DIEO) lists protected people as well as behaviors categorized as harassment, that are prohibited.

One of the prohibited behaviors is defined by DIEO as “Singling out or targeting an individual for different or adverse treatment with improper consideration of the individual’s race, color, marital status, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or veteran status.”

USF also allows plaintiffs to file internal complaints or to report cases to local authorities. The office also provides outside resources to students who may be facing discrimination or violence for filing external complaints.

External offices for filing harassment cases via DIEO at USF

Two days after last years election, USF faced its own incident of a hate crime in the form of racial slurs graffitied on the wall of a resident hall.

Judy Genshaft, USF president, sent out a communication to students regarding the situation vaguely. The purpose of the email was to inspire students to stick together and promote diversity, inclusion, and tolerance during a very divisive time following a chaotic election.

“Whether or not you agreed with the outcome, the University of South Florida System remains a special place where respectful expression of one’s beliefs is encouraged. Public universities, and particularly USF, play an integral role in moving our nation forward as a united – yet diverse – community,” wrote Genshaft.

Although, USFPD did not technically consider the incident a crime– as no permanent damage was done to property– the University still promptly reached out to students to ensure that acts of bigotry would not go unnoticed.

Hate crimes and bigotry may seem to still underline much of American life today as it did throughout our country’s history, but there is hope in solidarity.

After Rowe’s story began to go viral, people all over the country and world felt outraged at the atrocities Rowe had to face. A hashtag in her honor began to trend– #JusticeForJazzy.

Tweet by Sharine Taylor (@shharine)

People on the internet have begun to use its power of contentedness to share information about abusers and harassers in order to find justice for victims.

An overflowing of support for Rowe via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram has lead to a reversal of traditional racial inequalities in media coverage (i.e. using mugshots as the only representation of a African American subject, even if that subject is the victim).

Tweet by SpikedCider (@mellanieortiz)

It is undeniable that progress has been made to combat hate crimes and discrimination, and this progress will continue. Although, we may have a long way to go as a society, Rowe’s story should be seen as a tragedy that can lead to positive change.

With an impending trial, there is hope that Brochu will pay for her crimes, and Jazzy will see justice served. With her brave effort to share her story, and the quick actions of the university to denounce Brochu.

If you feel you have been targeted or victimized on campus, it is important to reach out. The DIEO has provided information for students and faculty for properly addressing and filing complaints.

Local elementary school opens food pantry to help support students

Clair-Mel Elementary School in Tampa has opened a new food pantry to combat child hunger among students.

Because 98 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch, school principal Rick Grayes and school social worker, Delora Campbell, saw a need for the pantry.

“I had a lot of kids coming to me saying they didn’t have food in the refrigerator,” Campbell said. “A lot of parents coming to me saying ‘I have to make a decision on whether I can afford to pay my rent or feed my children.’”

One of those children was third-grader Heaven-Leigh Gillisford.

“When I didn’t have food in my refrigerator, it was butterflies in my stomach,” Heaven-Leigh said.

Clair-Mel partnered with the Just Full Service Center, a Tampa food distributor for the needy, and received a $2,000 grant to open the pantry.

The pantry is available for all students and families. Grayes and Campbell want the parents to know that they are there for support.

“We are very excited,” Grayes said. “This is the way that we are trying to provide a layer of support, and ultimately this is going to help students be successful in life.”

Clair-Mel has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay and has applied for grants from Walmart. Their hope is to continue to receive donations in order to make sure the pantry stays open to help feed the students.

#MeToo: Social media hashtags and their impact

Photo by: Megan Holzwarth

During the last weeks of October, the Me Too campaign trended as social media users added the #MeToo hashtag to their posts to show solidarity and empathy for those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.

The campaign surfaced when The New York Times published an article on Oct. 5 that recounted stories of American film producer Harvey Weinstein and years of sexual misconduct. Since then, 76 women have come forward, accusing Weinstein of various forms of sexual assault. These women, mostly actresses, include Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The #MeToo hashtag has allowed these celebrities and other women to speak up about what has happened to them. The hashtag has also been used to recount sexual assault experiences other than those related to Weinstein.

Screen capture: Alyssa Milano’s Twitter

The Me Too movement didn’t start with the Weinstein case. Activist Tarana Burke began the movement over 10 years ago. Burke started this movement to help women from low income communities who have been sexually assaulted or harassed.

“Burke founded Just Be Inc., ‘a youth organization focused on the health, well being and wholeness of young women of color,’ in 2006 and launched the ‘Me Too’ campaign,” according to a USA Today article. “Burke’s goal was to let women who have suffered sexual abuse, assault or exploitation know that they are not alone and to build an extended network of women who could empathize with survivors.”

Women are not only using the hashtag, but so are men. This is a way for men to stand up for women, with some sharing their own stories as victims of sexual assault. Some male celebrities who have used the hashtag include actors Jensen Ackles and Jim Beaver.

Screen capture: Jensen Ackles’ Twitter

Other than the #MeToo hashtag, the #IBelieveYou hashtag has also surfaced. This hashtag has allowed people to help stand up for survivors through a show of support and validation.

The #IBelieveYou campaign began two years ago by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, which aims to provide a voice for victims of sexual abuse.

“[The campaign] has now taken hold in campuses and communities across the province, reaching nearly 7 million people online,” according to the AASAS website. “Even better, we’re changing attitudes and behavior.”

The #NOMORE hashtag has also trended as of late. This campaign also focuses on voicing instances of sexual assault while aiming to end domestic violence.

“A project of NEO Philanthropy, NO MORE is dedicated to getting the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse out of the shadows and encouraging everyone — women and men, youth and adults, from all walks of life — to be part of the solution, ” according to the NO MORE website.

NO MORE was launched in 2013 and has since worked with advocacy groups, governmental agencies, universities and other corporations to put an end to domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Me Too campaign, as well as other movements against sexual assault, are for women to know they are not alone. Through these movements, women can let their voices be heard; they don’t have to be silent.

Tampa Police Museum educates its community

TAMPA- There’s no doubt that police officers have a risky job. Saving the lives of others and making sure citizens are safe on a daily basis is an officer’s duty and mission. You can imagine the constant fear that their loved ones may have while they’re out patrolling our streets.

Mother and volunteer, Kathy Belmonte, knows about feeling anxiety as her identical twin sons work for the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  In order to keep her mind off the potential safety concerns Belmonte volunteers at the Tampa Police Museum.

“First of all they’re shocked that it’s free,” said Belmonte, who has been volunteering at the museum on Saturdays for a year. “That’s always a big shock.”

Organized in 1995, the museum holds the history of TPD from as early as the late 1800s. The museum is located on Franklin Street next to the police station in downtown Tampa.

The museum was originally an old courtroom on Tampa Street that contained memorabilia. Lieutenants Robert Pennington and Roberto Batista decided to turn the room into what it is today. There’s much to discover as one walks through the museum for the first time. Visitors can expect to see both an artificial helicopter and a police car. According to Belmonte, kids love taking pictures with both artifacts.

Artifacts are not the only main attraction one can experience. Visitors will be able to “time-capsule” their way and gain insight of TPD, which was formed in 1886.

“What they should expect is to see how police work has evolved throughout the years,” said Paul Mumford, a volunteer and retired TPD officer. “From communications with a telephone, to communications with walkie-talkies and cell phones, and how the generation has gone from the old way of doing police work.”

One of Belmonte’s favorite parts of the museum is the “Andy Wade Memorial.” During his adult years, Wade traveled all over the Midwest to collect original police records of the world’s most notorious criminals. Some of the criminal records you will see include George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife Kathryn, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Harry Pierpont and George “Baby Face” Nelson.

According to the biography attached to his memorial, Wade died in a car crash. His family donated the records he collected to the museum. Some may not know that back in the early 1940s and 1950s, Tampa itself was known to be filled with local gangsters and members of different mafias.

“I love looking at all these old mug shots of famous people,” said Belmonte. “I’m impressed. I feel like every time I’m here, I find something new that I didn’t really notice before.”

Mumford has been volunteering at the museum for two years. The majority of the museum’s volunteers are retired TPD officers. There are parts within the museum where officers donated items to be showcased. Although Mumford has not donated items, you can still see him donating his time every Monday.

“There’s a lot of displays that are from officers,”said Mumford. “There’s a display of badges and patches – those were all police officers that had collections that donated them to the museum so they could be displayed to the people.”

Even though the tour includes many fun facts, the museum is also filled with somber memories of officers who lost their lives on duty. One can sense the love and purpose to serve the community that the fallen officers had for their city. Even though the museum has been open for over 20 years, the goal is to inform and educate more people about the wonderful history of the great men and women who protect us every day.

The Tampa Police Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tampa Fire Museum gives back

On March 1, 1908, Tampa experienced the largest fire in its history. Cottages, factories and stores were burned down to ashes and two thousand people were left homeless.

The fire was discovered inside a boarding house in Ybor City. Before the volunteer firefighters came, many homes and businesses were already destroyed. The flames were extremely difficult to control.

“Everything was built out of wood,” said Joy Bunch, employee for the Tampa Fire Museum. “Back then trying to get it contained, they just couldn’t get ahead of it. When it was all said and done, it burned 55 acres and 17 city blocks.”

According to Bunch, city officials decided to rebuild everything destroyed by importing brick. This decision was also the reason why the Tampa Fire Museum is made out of brick.

Built in 1911, the museum was originally the headquarters for the Tampa Fire Department (TFD) until 1974.  Now the museum holds all the history of TFD and the Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR). Everyday visitors come in not only to learn about the history of both departments, but also to learn more about safety education and fire prevention. The museum is free of charge but donations are accepted and appreciated.

“We have an area for kids to play in,” said Scott Mays, a local firefighter. “We also have a couple of trucks and things like that for people to see. We also have a store where we sell memorabilia and other firefighter stuff and museum items as well.”

One part of the museum contains fire truck exhibits. One truck, nicknamed the “Little Mack” can still be used in a fire today if need be, but it’s mostly used for personal events such as parades and funerals. The truck was sold to TFD in 1949 for $13,884. It was last served in Firehouse Station Three.

Close by the fire trucks, one will see how the firefighters’ uniforms have changed over the years. During the 1920s and 1960s, firefighters wore less gear than the one’s today. You will see that in earlier decades, they wore a helmet, bunker pants, boots, quick-close fasteners and held a pick-headed axe. Now they’ve replaced the axe with a hose and added reflective strips, gloves, goggles, a face piece and more. According to the museum, the total amount of gear a firefighter wears adds another 75 pounds to their weight.

TFD originally consisted of volunteer firemen. The first volunteer company was created in 1885 and 10 years later the department became a paid company.

“The city budget was $18,000,” said Bunch. Bunch has been working for the museum ever since her son, Matt Bunch, passed away due to a rare cancer. He was a firefighter that was stationed across the street from the museum. He served the community for nearly 6 years.

“Tampa Fire Rescue supported him and our family,” she said. “While it was a very short battle, they were just tremendous to our family and still are. I started volunteering here and then they offered me a position.”

There is a room where visitors can pay their respects to the local firefighters that have passed away. Near the memorial room there is also an exhibit in honor of the firefighters that passed away saving lives on 9/11.

The museum also welcomes guests to host special events such as birthday parties, retirement functions and weddings.

“We do all types of events here at the museum,” said Mays. Before becoming a firefighter, Mays worked for the museum and stopped by occasionally to help out when needed. “We also do community things when we just have folks come in from the street for tours.”

Educating the community on fire safety is one of the goals of the museum. They wish to educate as many people as they can, especially children. This is one of the reasons why there is no charge to enter.

“We try to give fire prevention, what to do in a fire, things like that…where we don’t want to charge people for that information,” said Mays. “We want people to be able to get that information without having to pay for it because we feel that it is necessary and extremely important that people understand what to do during a fire.”

The museum has been designated a “local historical landmark” by the City of Tampa Architectural Review Historic Designation Division. You can visit on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“Besides the stop, drop and roll…get out and stay out,” said Mays. He says that is the best tip he can give to people who may not know what else to do in case of a fire. “If there is something left in there, let the firefighters know.”

For more information visit www.tampafirefightersmuseum.org

Plant City police purchase faces opposition

PLANT CITY- Plant City council voted to approve the 2017-2018 budget this week, which included a $335,000 military tactical vehicle for the police department.

Council members approved the funding for the military vehicle in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

The vote was opposed by the Restorative Justice, a grassroots advocacy group based out of Hillsborough County.  Its mission is to create a restorative justice system opposed to a punitive one. The group’s co-founder, Angel D’Angelo, says there are issues occurring within the Plant City police force that need more attention.

“Aside from the fact that it’s militarizing the police and that’s problematic in itself, what really got to us is Police Chief Ed Duncan had taken away both body and dash cams from Plant City, due to the cost of implementation and maintenance,” D’Angelo said. “If our calculations are correct, it would cost about $65,000 to implement body and dash cams for all 70 police officers in Plant City.”

Angel D’Angelo, co-founder of Restorative Justice Coalition (Courtesy of Angeldangelo.com).

For months, members of the community have shown up to Plant City council meetings to speak about what they say is the police department’s lack of transparency. Fifteen people made statements regarding the lack of trust between the community’s citizens and police at the council’s most recent meeting.

Plant City Mayor Rick Lott was confronted by upset members of the community who were against the decision.

Before entering his vehicle he stopped and said, “I can’t believe you’d shout at me like this, after all I’ve done for you.”

The city council, mayor and police department were contacted but did not comment on the situation.

Issues with the Plant City Police Department surfaced earlier this year. On July 6, Plant City resident Jesus Cervantes called 911.  Cervantes was distressed and asking for help.

According to the police department, when officers approached the vehicle Cervantes reached for something, and the officer then fired his weapon – resulting in a fatal accident.

Cervantes’ family and friends were devastated. They were contacted by groups such as the Restorative Justice Coalition and Black Lives Matter, who began to investigate the incident. Because there are no body or dash cameras on the Plant City police force, many questions began to surface.  The activist groups released a list of demands to the police, including the call for body cams on police and an external investigation into the Cervantes shooting.

“The police department sent us a one-page letter that essentially said, ‘Screw you’,” said D’Angelo.

Although city council decided to purchase the military vehicle instead of cameras, those opposed to the vote are not giving up.

Restorative Justice Coalition’s “call to action” flyer (Courtesy of the Restorative Justic Coalition Facebook page). 

The militarization of police is an ongoing matter of contention across the country.  Earlier this year, the Trump administration renewed program 1033, which allows surplus military gear to be purchased by police departments.  Police forces across the country – including those at over 100 universities – have purchased military weaponry or vehicles.

 

Help from local hurricane relief group extends to Puerto Rico

TAMPA— Members of the community have united to form Decentralized Response, a grassroots response coalition, in the wake of the environmental and economic devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Decentralized Response previously operated under the title Irma Decentralized Response. The name was changed when the group’s relief effort extended beyond hurricane Irma.

Volunteers have supplies sent to a three-bedroom house in Tampa that they call the hub.  They store goods there and distribute them statewide.  The group is even planning a relief trip to Puerto Rico.

Pictured left is one of the rooms in the response hub. The whole house holds a variety of relief supplies that volunteers distribute in the hurricane relief packs. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Dezeray Lyn, a woman who assisted in the formation of the response group, discussed the group’s main mission, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

“We are here to feed and supply anyone in the community who needs it,” Lyn said. “We also traveled to Apopka, Immokalee and the Keys to give the community there assistance.”

Lyn is also a co-founder of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.  According to the Facebook page, MADR is a grassroots network with a mission to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid and autonomous direct action.

Members of MADR and other activists began mobilizing, as the threat of Irma loomed, to help those in need before, during and after the storm. They formed distribution teams to take hurricane packs containing food, water and hygiene products to refugee families days before Irma hit. The group was a saving grace for those trapped in the rain and high winds.

“We received a call to our relief line from someone trapped in the storm,” Lyn said.  “They were stuck on the side of the interstate, and the police said the winds were too high to send anyone to help them, so we sent our people to pick them up.”

Mostly, the poorer communities were without water and power for extended amounts of time after Irma passed. Decentralized Response provided those neighborhoods in need with water, food and even generators, in some cases.

Dezeray Lyn is featured to the left helping with the delivery of goods to citizens in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Justin Garcia

Lyn and activists also traveled to Apopka and Immokalee to provide relief. Apopka residents found themselves without power for many days in their small, farming community. It was loosely estimated that 70 percent of the citrus crop was lost during the storm.

Immokalee was hit harder by Irma than many other parts of Florida. More help was needed, so the Coalition of Immokalee Workers worked hard to receive and distribute goods. The town of migrant farmers didn’t have power for weeks and lost a major portion of their crops. Some even lost their homes.

Relief efforts continue.  However, the aid priority of Puerto Rico and other islands has made itself apparent.  The Decentralized Response crew is gearing up to make a trip to the devastated island.

“We are leaving on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico on October 12,” Lyn said.

Their goal is to help people in need after hurricane Maria. They will distribute relief goods that are being collected in a shipping container before the trip. It should be there when they arrive.

This is a donation flier from Decentralized Response that lists the products needed to be collected and distributed to the victims of the hurricanes. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Members of Decentralized Response feel that state efforts are not enough considering the destruction in Puerto Rico.

“We must demand that they do more, but also help as a community however we can,” Lyn said.

 

 

 

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

USF communications during Irma cause mixed reactions

As Hurricane Irma threatened the state of Florida, there was a feeling of unease for some USF students and Tampa residents.

Tampa homeowners and businesses boarded up their windows and stood by while the storm made landfall in the Keys as a Category 4.

In the days before landfall, students on the USF class Facebook pages expressed concern and speculated about classes being canceled. USF Dean of Students Danielle McDonald first communicated to students the possible effects of the hurricane on Sept. 5, writing that decisions about campus closures would not be made until later in the week.

The following day, McDonald told students campus would be closed for the rest of the week and through the weekend. As days passed and Irma’s path shifted, more communications were provided. Florida Gov. Rick Scott mandated that state offices and schools close Sept. 8-11. USF canceled classes Sept. 7-13.

Dean of Students Danielle McDonald sent out a series of emails as Hurricane Irma approached to inform students of safety procedures and campus closures. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Students

Throughout this time, USF Tampa decided not to evacuate students living on campus.

“We are not in a flood zone and are further away from the coastal areas,” McDonald said in an email to students. ” … I hope to reassure you that the campus and our surrounding neighborhoods, where most of you live, is considered safer than other areas.”

In the time leading up to the storm, USF communicated with students to educate them on precautions to take and ways to prepare. McDonald included tips for hurricane preparation in an email to students. USF also has a page dedicated to emergency preparation.

Infographic by Kylie Buklad

However, as Irma approached, some students living on campus became nervous for their safety despite reassurance from the university.

Taira Zavala, a senior at USF, chose to go with her family to Texas to wait out the storm.

This is Zavala’s first year living in off-campus housing. She waited until Saturday night to finally evacuate. The days leading up to the storm took quite a toll on her, she said.

“I was incredibly stressed the week before the hurricane,” Zavala said. “I could not help but think that I should evacuate … My anxiety was just so terrible and I knew if I stayed it would only get worse. The storm was not as bad as I anticipated, but for my mental state it was the right move.”

Zavala questioned the timeline of campus communications and cancellations at USF.

“I definitely feel that they could have made the decisions in a timelier manner,” Zavala said. “I know many students that evacuated so I think it would have been the right move to close down the school for the remainder of that week.”

Zavala was not the only student to leave USF ahead of Hurricane Irma. Dillon Sunderland, a junior at USF, decided to evacuate the Wednesday before the hurricane hit Florida.

“This was the first time I have experienced a major threat on campus,” Sunderland said. “I felt unsafe in my [off campus] apartment because of the lack of storm windows, and the fact that I’m on the first floor, so flooding was a concern.”

Sunderland has been living in campus housing for over a year. He may have felt unsafe in his USF affiliated apartment, but Sunderland said he thinks that USF handled the emergency well.

“They closed school early enough to allow people to evacuate,” Sunderland said.

USF System President Judy Genshaft released a video about the impact of Irma on USF. She spoke of the efforts of USF faculty housing and feeding students that stayed on campus for the storm. She said almost 800 people were housed in the Sun Dome, which is a special needs shelter for Hillsborough County, during Irma. Genshaft said she was proud that USF could keep so many people housed and fed during the storm.

 

Safety Buttons Installed On Campus As Security Precaution

Kendall Davis

The Digital Bullpen

 

Safety Buttons Installed On Campus As Security Precaution

 

Over winter break, University of South Florida took action in hopes of making its Tampa campus safer by installing red emergency buttons across campus in 11 populated rooms such as lecture halls.

The campus facilities team, along with the information technology team and emergency management, designed the buttons to work specifically for the campus and its access control systems.

“They work with our building control access system,” Assistant Director of Communications Aaron Nichols said. “It’s the same system that on a schedule will lock and unlock the doors in buildings at night and then they unlock in the morning. When you hit a button, it activates that system and it locks the perimeter access doors for an area.”

Campus shootings have become fairly common over the last couple of years. According to the Washington Times, 142 school shootings occurred nationwide since the Sandy Hook shooting in October 2015.

“I feel like it makes sense,” USF student Qua’on Thomas said. “It’s kind of good to be proactive versus reactive. So I could see why they would do it.”

Once one of these buttons is pushed, only campus police or a facilities manager can unlock the doors. Pushing the button doesn’t automatically alert police, so students still have to dial 911 after pushing the button.

I think that it’s important that people feel safe,” Thomas said. “It’s not about having it to actually prevent something, but just having people know that they are thinking about their safety.”

Explore Tampa’s waterways with Riverwalk Boating Company

 

Jason Olewinski has lived in Tampa for nearly thirty years. A few years ago, he wanted to explore Tampa’s waterways, and what originated as a personal motorized kayak quickly became Jason’s reality and an affordable opportunity for both tourists and locals to enjoy Tampa’s canals.

“For the past few years our entertainment options have been limited,” Olewinski said. “So I went ahead and just bought a few and threw them down here and so far people have been loving it.”

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, next to the Convention Center, you will spot 6 green mini- powerboats floating in the water. Established in 2014, the Riverwalk Boating Company provides a thrill and unique water experience for all. Whether you have prior boating experience or not, you can be the captain of your own two- person mini- powerboat, minus the hassle of maintenance and repairs of owning a boat.

The mini boat can take you through the Tampa waterways. The winding Hillsborough River will take you north around the city and south along Bayshore to Davis Island.

Chris and Chantal are vacationing for the week and just happened to walk by the boats while exploring the city. The two decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and travel along Bayshore Boulevard.

“I loved it! It was so much fun. They go decently fast,” Chantal said. “The waves… that was fun, feeling it go all crazy for a second.”

Riverwalk Boating Company is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until sundown. It is an enjoyable option for anyone 18 years or older with a driver’s license and a credit card, and dogs are also welcome onboard. The prices start at $35 for 30 minutes or $50 for one hour, and there are special rates if you rent out more than one boat.

To reserve your boat, visit riverwalkboating.com.

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Is There a New Way to Test Batteries?

According to a recent Buzzfeed article, there is a new method to test the strength of batteries. By observing the bounce of batteries, you may be able to tell how much life is left in them.

“If you want to test that theory, you need to, you know one try will not do it,” physics professor University of South Florida’s Dr. Sarath Witanachchi said. “You’ve got to try maybe twenty times and see is there a pattern.”

USF engineering student Alex Tremper believes that such an experiment has already taken place and conclusions have already drawn.

“Princeton researchers have demonstrated that this can only tell you whether batteries are fresh, not whether they are charged enough to allow a device to function,” said Tremper.

Knowing whether or not batteries are fresh, can be useful in preparation for storms with potential, to cause power outages, like Hurricane Hermine. Battery-powered appliances can alleviate some of the inconveniences power outages bring.

“We had lots of flashlights, we actually had a battery-powered TV, radios, hand-held video games, things like that,” Tampa Bay Area resident Spencer Adkinson said.

Tremper and Dr. Witanachchi claim that a more reliable way to test a battery is with a voltmeter, which measures the voltage across the terminals of the battery. If the voltage drops below the amount the device requires, then the device will not function.

“This decrease typically happens slowly throughout the life of the battery with a dramatic decrease towards the end of the battery’s life,” Tremper stated.

 

Campus safety event with USFPD encourages awareness

The University of South Florida hosted a brand new event, National Campus Safety Day, on Sept. 28 that highlighted campus safety awareness.

Multiple organizations such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department and the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue came out. The idea of the event was to demonstrate awareness to the citizens of Hillsborough County.

“What we hope is that the police alone, the fire alone, the first responders can’t be always everywhere they need to be all the time,” said USF Police Chief, Chris Daniel. “By educating our community, that makes everybody part of the solution.”

The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and was full of students looking to participate. Demonstrations such as CPR with just your hands and how a police K-9 takes someone down were just a few on scene.

“This way there’s an incentive to listen to the information and to meet different people that you ordinarily would not meet,” Daniel said.

For more information regarding campus safety, visit USF’s annual security report and safety guide.

USF study works to prevent firefighter injuries

The University of South Florida is showing progress in a firefighter based exercise study they funded this May. The study spans four departments, including St. Pete, Temple Terrace, Tampa and Hillsborough County.

This study utilizes five exercises to strengthen firefighter’s lower backs and core in hopes of reducing the risk of injury.

Firefighters carry approximately 75 pounds in gear alone, though this number can rise to over 100 pounds when additional gear is needed for a call. This weight in addition to the need to respond quickly puts firefighters at a higher risk for back injuries and chronic back pain.

St. Petersburg Division Chief of Safety and Training, Joseph Bruni has seen his fair share of these injuries throughout his work in the department.

“We have about 50 to 55 injuries a year in a department of this size of 350 personnel,” Bruni said, “and the leading injuries that we see are back and knee injuries”

Bruni who completes the exercises himself speaks highly of the study and what it has accomplished for him.

“It’s helped a great deal as far as my back feels and at the age that I’m at now and the years that I have on the job,” Bruni said. “The exercises that I’ve been doing here in the study has helped substantially.”

While the potential for the final Fall 2017 results are too soon to tell Principal Investigator, John Mayer can attest that what they have accomplished so far is working.

“Anecdotally we have some evidence to support that the exercises are indeed helping the firefighters with their job and to prevent back injuries,” Mayer said.

The next installment of this study can be seen later in this year as the research team pushes towards the potential for national implementation.

Local Dads, USF Student Team Up to Save Lives

Two Tampa dads are hoping to prevent hot car deaths with the help of their new invention. It’s called Sense-a-Life and it’s a wireless and Bluetooth powered system made up of sensors, pressure meters, and a cellphone app.

Fadi Shamma, a pharmacist, and Jim Friedman, an engineer, teamed up to end tragic stories of children being left in vehicles.

“It brings such agony of a child being hurt no matter who it is,” Shamma said. “And so I’m like, ‘Jim, you’re an excellent engineer. You’re great at what you do. You know, here’s a problem, let’s come up with a solution.’”

When the driver door opens and a child is in the car seat, a voice alert comes on to remind the parent to take the child out. Then, an alert is sent straight to his cellphone. If the child is still not removed, an alert is sent to a second parent or guardian. The app will also notify police, if needed.

The app was created by USF student Masud Hossain, who is the co-founder and CFO of Sense-a-Life.

“It’s very easy and simple to use and I think it’s a simple solution to a common problem”, Hossain said.

According kidsandcars.org, 38 children die each year from being left in a hot vehicle.

“We’re selling a simple reminder,” Shamma said. “And if our simple reminder system, you know, will help a parent double check or think twice and it saves one life a year, we’re happy.”

Friedman, Hossain, and Shamma’s collective goal is to make this device affordable so that every car seat has a Sense-a-Life installed. Their product will be on the market later this year. For more information and to support their Kickstarter campaign, visit www.sensealife.com.

 

USF alumni eats like a caveman

 A young entrepreneur has taken her passion for eating healthy and combined it with her passion for cookies to create her own company Base Culture. This company is not like any other sweets retailer that sales brownies and banana bread; all of the products are paleo friendly, meaning they follow the popular Paleo Diet.

“The Paleo Diet is nicknamed the caveman diet for a reason” says Base Culture founder Jordann Windschauer, “If you were to follow the Paleo Diet, you eat meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit.” Windschauer praises the diet and even goes on to say that she felt “more alive than ever and had more energy than she had had in years.”

While the Paleo Diet did have its ups it also had its downs. Windschauer enjoyed the new found energy boost, but she also missed all the sweets she used to eat.

“You know it got really hard not being able to just grab banana bread on the way to work in the morning. I looked for products that could satisfy my sweet tooth but would also satisfy paleo requirements but there were none” said Windschauer. It was that same day she took matters into her own hand and stated creating “sweets” that were made solely from seeds, nuts, and fruits.

She then took her paleo friendly sweets she baked to her local gym to share with her friends and they became an instant hit. People soon began offering compensation for her products, and overnight the company Base Culture was created.

Many customers have claimed to not even taste the difference between paleo friendly brownies and regular brownies. “I just tasted it and it’s actually really good and it’s awesome that it’s really healthy” said satisfied customer Lexi Ashby.

The idea of paleo friendly products has taken the market by force. Since the company’s beginning in 2013, Base Culture products are now available in over 50 stores nationwide and will soon be available in Walmart.

 

 

 

 

From Bikes to Books

 

One clear evening last February, amid the crowd of screaming fans and the stench of race fuel permeating the stadium, Bodie Colangelo walked away from his professional motocross career to focus on a new dream.

Having been dropped from his sponsors earlier that year, Colangelo was considered a privateer racer. Privateers paid for the sport out of pocket. With endless medical bills and large sums of money contributing to his profession, the wrist injury he suffered at that Supercross Arena competition had been the last straw.

“I realized the risks outweighed the reward,” Colangelo said. “I was constantly getting hurt and the money just wasn’t there.”

His success throughout his career had left him unprepared of what steps to take if it had ended. Attending a university after graduation had not been a consideration. The goal had been to focus on riding but Colangelo was forced to reconsider school as option after his injury.

“I felt if I wasn’t going to race anymore that I would go to school and pursue a degree in business,” Colangelo said. “At that point I was just ready to take it easy.”

Colangelo enrolled at Hillsborough Community College in the spring and has been focusing on completing his degree. The slower paced lifestyle gave light on how years of riding have affected his health.

“I’ve broken so many bones they have my racing jersey hanging in USF’s Morsani Center,” Colangelo said. “When the weather changes my bones will ache and I have constant back pain.”

David Colangelo, who served as a father, coach, mechanic and trainer while his son was a racer had also benefited from the change of pace. There were no days off between working as a supervisor at a Water Treatment Plant and traveling for races.
“Every sacrifice I made was worth it to see his dream come true,” David Colangelo said. “The focus is to now see him through school.”

On nostalgic days, Colangelo will take his bike out for a spin. He isn’t a stranger to his old racing track where he spent much of his adolescent years. Unable to stay away from hobbies that bring him a thrill, he has since shown interest in muscle cars and racecars.

Brandi Colangelo, the racers mother, has a hard time seeing her son in any dangerous sport. Staying home with the youngest sibling while her husband and son were away at races gave her plenty of time to worry. Now that the racing days are behind them she now faces a new wave of fear with her son’s new obsession for muscle cars.

“The first thing he did after he stopped racing was buy muscle car,” Brandi Colangelo said. “I don’t know what’s worse, worrying about him on that bike or worrying about him in that car.”

With the continued support of his family, Colangelo is set to graduate in the spring of 2018. Unsure of where his life will go now that racing isn’t the dream he’s following, he was hopeful for a bright future.

“Things didn’t go as planned for me but I know that somehow I’ll end up back on that track,” Colangelo said.

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Collecting The “Booty” From the Pirade Of Pirates

Pereira
Photo by Dana Achatz

Even though some people view Gasparilla as a holiday to make it an all day party Marilyn Pereira wasn’t convinced. Pereira decided to stay away from the madness at Bayshore Boulevard and work a double shift as a server at World of Beer on Saturday. To her there was not much of an appeal to attend the event. It was more important to her to make some money than see the parade.

“I didn’t request off for Gasparilla because I didn’t really even know what it was,” Pereira said. “I just moved here and I didn’t know Gasparilla was today until pretty much everyone I work with requested off.”

Sometimes called the Mardi Gras of Florida; the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates attracts thousands to Tampa every year. The parade takes over the streets of downtown for a majority of the day. People from all over Florida make the trip to celebrate, and most of them are dressed up like pirates.

Pereira worked all morning and through most of the evening. She said she saw an increase in customers during her second shift Saturday evening after the parade had ended.

She described large groups of people of all ages weighed down with beads and wearing fake black beards and hats with giant feathers. She seemed to find the outfits a little silly. Even though she made more money than she had originally expected, she decided it might be worth it to attend Gasparilla next year.

“Yeah I would go. It would’ve been fun to tag along with someone,” Pereira said. “Maybe next year.”