Hillsborough teachers fight for promised raise

Teachers protest outside the Hillsborough County School Board meeting in downtown Tampa. The protest focused revolved around the school board’s decision to not provide a previously promised raise to qualified teachers. Photo by Justin Garcia.

Hundreds of public school teachers gathered at a recent school board meeting to demand higher pay.

Protesting teachers and supporters surrounded the Hillsborough district school board meeting off of Kennedy Avenue in downtown Tampa.  Most of the crowd was dressed in matching blue Hillsborough County Teacher’s Association shirts.  Many held signs reading ‘fair pay for fair work’ and ‘honor the contract.’

The messages on their signs referenced the school board’s recent decision to not pay the $4,000 a year wage increase promised to qualified teachers in their contracts.

“I’ve been teaching here for three years and have seen an increase to my salary of only $200,” said Britney Wegman, a teacher at Riverhills Elementary in Temple Terrace and rally organizer. “This is the year to get an increase and they’re telling me that there is no money. I’m here to stand up for other teachers in this position, I’m here to stand up for other school workers, who are, a lot of them, not making a living wage.”

Many Hillsborough teachers will be “working the contract” for the week after Thanksgiving, which means they will only work the hours that are required of them in their contract.

“It’s essentially showing the kind of work teachers do after class and before class, and what kind of impact that will have,”  Wegman said.

The school board said the money for the raise isn’t there.   Hillsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins read from a prepared statement inside the school board meeting, “A lot of you are saying, ‘Just find the money for more raises somewhere.’  I hear you,” Eakins said.  “Here’s the issue: we’re not starting from a healthy, balanced budget. We’ve been starting way behind, every year, for several years.”

According to Eakins and the school board, state funding isn’t keeping up with Hillsborough County school growth.  Twenty years ago, the district had to add new schools and buildings due to growth and to comply with the class-size amendment.  They didn’t receive any state funding to help with the effort.

“That means right now we owe a billion dollars from new construction 20 years ago and we have a billion dollars in deferred maintenance,” Eakins said.

The school board maintains that the funding is not available because of funding decisions made at the state level.  On the same day the protest took place in Tampa, Governor Rick Scott proposed a major increase to school funding for 2018.  Earlier this year, Scott signed HB  7069, which directs more tax money to go to charter schools.

According to data from the Florida Department of Education,  the average teacher salary in Hillsborough is $49,910.

The average salary for teachers in Hillsborough county is $49,910.18 for the 2016-17 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

 

Along with teachers, students showed up at the school board meeting in support of their teachers.  The week before the board meeting, students began walking out of class in protest of the school board’s decision.

“I’m here to support my teachers who dedicate their lives and are completely devoted to my education.  They deserve a lot better from our school district,” said Graham Shelor, a student at Blake High School who showed up to protest with teachers. “And it’s not only them, students, staff, everyone under our public school system is very much affected by this.”

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.

Four states, one home

College freshmen are faced with the decision of choosing a college major, which they will dedicate the next four years of their lives to. A majority of college students have little experience to base such a big decision on.

Dominic Conrad is a sophomore at the University of South Florida. He is studying marketing and plans on graduating in the spring of 2020.

Conrad had a demanding childhood. His father, Dexter Conrad, a top sniper in the Marine Corps, was constantly being relocated for his job. His family followed and supported him, despite the number of times they had to move.

The Conrad family lived in West Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina and Florida. In Dominic Conrad’s eyes, the district made the greatest impact in his life when he was 8 years old.

“It was the first place that really felt like a home to me,” Conrad said. “It was the first time that I loved my school and I made real friends. I even saw my first football game with my dad there. The Washington Redskins will always be my favorite.”

His passion for football inspired him to choose marketing as his major. Conrad aspires to work in the marketing department of the Washington Redskins when he graduates from USF.

Conrad thought his devotion to his favorite team could benefit their marketing department more than the average marketing major.

“I love this team with all of my heart,” Conrad said. “I will learn anything and everything in my courses just to make sure I can be the best, because they deserve the best.”

This summer, Conrad plans to intern for the marketing department at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the District. He hopes to acquire knowledge that cannot be taught in the classroom.

Dexter Conrad is proud of his son’s decisions and accomplishments so far.

“He took his future into his own hands,” Dexter Conrad said. “The fact that he already has an internship in the summer shows me he is serious about this. It’s not the Redskins yet, but it’s one step closer.”

Pam Colleton’s 57 years in Progress Village

 

Progress Village is Tampa’s first low income housing area and it has been through a lot over the years, but one resident has always stayed faithful and seen the best in the neighborhood.

Pamela Colleton has lived in Progress Village since the 60s. Colleton loves “The Village” and she knows almost everything there is to know about it.

“Our community was like one big family. You know how you hear that it takes a village to raise a family? Well this is our village. I raised my kids out here. I tried to move one time, but they didn’t want to move, so I couldn’t move and stayed here. I’ve been in my (current) home… it will be 40 years January 28. So, I just love the village,” Colleton said.

Colleton works in the parks and recreation center where she meets all the families that live in the village.

“Well I love the community. I have been here for 57 years, so I grew up in the neighborhood. So, I know a lot of the families here, the older families as well as the newer generations of families. I’ve worked at the parks and recreation for eight years doing the basketball program at the gym. So, a lot of the newer kids I met. So, it’s a feeling of home it really is,” Colleton said.

Colleton moved to “The Village” when she was eight years old. Before that, she lived in Hyde Park. Growing up in “The Village,” Colleton was able to share many stories about the park, where she spent most of her time when she was younger. The park was the place where everyone would hang out, and none of their parents worried about them because they knew their children were safe.

There was always plenty to do at the park like playing on the basketball courts or dancing to James Brown music. Mr. Johnson, who ran a concession stand at the park, would put a quarter in the juke box for the kids to dance to. Colleton was very active as a child and would constantly be engaged in games of basketball, volleyball, kickball and more.

Photo from Jeanette Abrahamsen

“The basketball courts. We had four goals and we had a four-square court and that stayed busy. The four-square court from the beginning to the end, that stayed busy. In front of the concession stand we had a large piece of concrete where the music was playing. You could go and dance if you wanted to,” Colleton said.

Colleton owns a family reunion booklet. The booklet is about Progress Village. “We had people coming back to Progress Village who haven’t been back in Progress Village for years. Pulling this all together we advertised it in the papers. We were just trying to get everybody back and quite a few people came back, every year quite a few people came back,” Colleton said.

The booklet was Progress Village’s yearbook and showed all the history that happened in the village. The book had history ranging from church history to the history of the first city council presidents. The booklet gives people the chance to see and learn about their own history.

Pamela Colleton is passionate about Progress Village and she loves being part of her community. She shared several stories with WUSF and you can listen to the whole interview below.

USF adjuncts petition to unionize, university leadership resists

Adjuncts demonstrate outside of Marshall Student Center on Oct. 12. Photo by Mike Ruso.

Adjunct teachers at USF are in the midst of a campaign since April to establish a union, but not without resistance from the administration.

Months of effort have culminated to a legal standstill as USF pushes to block a vote for adjuncts to unionize. Tenure-track faculty positions are becoming harder to find, adjunct professors are making up an increasingly important part of the academic workforce. They fill in gaps by teaching classes other faculty members can’t teach or accommodate for last-minute changes or additions of classes. USF is attempting to prevent adjunct faculty from unionizing on the grounds that they are temporary employees.

Adjuncts at USF submitted a petition to unionize to the state of Florida’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) in April.  This petition was filed in conjunction with Faculty Forward, which is part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In pushing for this union, adjunct professors, Faculty Forward and SEIU say adjunct professors aren’t compensated properly for their work and that establishing an adjunct professor’s union will help establish a better standard of living for the professors.

USF responded to the petition with legal action, filing with the Florida PERC to block the petition. The USF board of trustees cited Florida Statute 447.307 in a statement in court documents submitted in September.

“Even if the Hearing Officer were to determine that the adjuncts in this case possess an expectation of continued employment, the petitioned-for unit would still be inappropriate, because the USF System adjuncts do not share in a community of interest, as required by (the statute),” the board wrote in the court documents.

In October, as reported in USF St. Petersburg’s The Crow, state hearing officer Lyyli Van Whittle recommended that the state PERC allow adjunct professors to vote to form a union, which Mike Ruso, an adjunct professor in the English department at USF,  said is a step in the right direction.

“The wording of PERC’s decision is so unequivocal in its support for the adjuncts that a vote to form a union is now inevitable,” Ruso said. “The ruling is a major victory not just for us, but for adjuncts across the state because it sets a precedent that adjunct professors  at all Florida universities have the legal right to unionize.”

While they waited for the PERC to make a decision, adjuncts demonstrated by sitting in on a USF board of trustees meeting and then walking out, marching through the Marshall Student Center and protesting in front of the building on Oct. 12.

Since the PERC recommended order, the board of trustees has filed 17 exceptions to the terms of the union vote, which will delay the process of unionization for adjuncts. Caught in a legal battle, the vote cannot happen until the PERC issues its final order.

Faculty Forward and adjuncts sent an email response to the exceptions put forth by USF.

“Due to this change the organizing committee will be changing strategies,” Faculty Forward wrote in the email. “Adjuncts will be deterred, but only will take this time to recalibrate and shift into a better, stronger position.”

Adjuncts sit-in at USF board of trustees meeting on Oct. 12. Photo by Justin Garcia.

The board of trustees at USF does not feel that a union for adjuncts is justified, as outlined in their court submissions. The Tampa Bay Times reports that USF officials are also worried about an adjunct union, not wanting to deal with a third party and concerned about upticks in costs and potential layoffs.

“Though they provide a valuable service in supporting the mission of the university, the USF System believes forming a union is not in the best interests of the adjuncts and continues to oppose this effort,” university spokesman Adam Freeman said in a statement.

According to a 2013 report from NPR about the death of an adjunct professor at Duquesne University, the typical adjunct professor in the United States earns between $20,000 and $25,000 a year.  Ruso said the average adjunct is making $3,000 per class. According to information in court documents submitted to Florida PERC by USF, adjuncts at USF can earn from $2,600 to $12,000, depending on the department and the number of course hours. The course hours can range from three to 12. Adjuncts at USF say that these wages, along with the fact that adjuncts receive no benefits mean that they need a union, whether or not they are temporary employees.

Ruso joined the union movement earlier this year.  As a graduate student, he read the Chronicle of Higher Education and the stories in the publication about adjuncts resonated with him.  

“I read that they drove from campus to campus to teach six, seven or eight classes a semester,” Ruso said. “I read that they didn’t have health insurance. The whole business model of using adjuncts struck me as unjust.”

Ruso said he is still proud to teach at USF but thinks the treatment of adjuncts needs to change.

“I take a lot of pride when I tell someone that I’m a professor at USF, but I don’t think we can truly be a great institution if we have 600 professors who are being exploited, many of whom are living in poverty,” Ruso said.

However, change in the form of voting for a union will have to wait until the PERC gives its ruling.

Business major hits the ground running

 

David Zhou, Photo by Emily Munger

Arriving to his photoshoot with camera in hand, playing a catchy pop song on his phone and slicking back his hair, David Zhou is ready to make a new portfolio for his website.

Zhou, 20, helped co-found a premium fitness apparel company named Alpha Pack Fitness and does photography and videography for paying clients. He is also senior majoring in business at the University of South Florida.

Zhou’s eyes beamed when he remembered the reason why he wanted to help start Alpha Pack Fitness.

“We wanted to create a brand that had real meaning behind it,” Zhou said. “Something a community could come together for but also create clothing that was technologically superior but affordable.”

The Alpha Pack Fitness community is one Zhou said he has never seen before in other businesses.  Alpha Pack Fitness sells clothing, but they are also a social media tool for motivating people, according to the website.

“The Alpha Pack Fitness community is a group of friends turned family who encourage me to stay healthy and positive,” Annette Rumas, an Alpha Pack Fitness customer said.

Co-founding a business at 18 years old was not the only task Zhou was completing. He said he also had an interest in YouTube, and would watch video bloggers share their lives with communities they had never met. So, Zhou began to bring his camera on every car ride, family gathering and even his prom.

“I will never forget shooting my first video for a client,” Zhou said. “Seeing how their lips just curled all the way up into a huge smile from my video was priceless.”

Zhou learned his craft by watching tutorials on YouTube. He began to make his own photography business after realizing it was a service people needed. He decided it would be a way to gain experience while bringing people quality products.

“I ended up compensating myself,” Zhou said. “I invested most of the profits back into better equipment, so I can keep producing higher quality photos.”

Today, Zhou is a contact for many USF organizations. He said that he records events such as sorority bid day, formal and recruitment videos. With a large student body looking for his services, Zhou said he is kept busy.

At the end of the academic year, Zhou said he was shooting graduation photos for more than 10 clients a day.

Zhou said that he is helping the world become slightly better, one business deal at a time.  He is also thankful to his parents, who have put faith in him.

“I believe that I have made any sacrifice my parents had to make worth it,” said Zhou. “Everything I have done is in thanks to them.”

Policy changes for Title IX on college campuses?

Election year means new changes from the new person in office, and new policies replacing the old ones.

One thing that this election year has decided to change is former President Barack Obama’s Title IX guidance for colleges.

Title IX makes sure educational institutions do not discriminate against genders. Members of any gender may not be excluded from participation or be denied benefits in educational programs.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans on changing Obama’s Title IX and replacing it with a new policy she is working on. The new guidance is shorter and quick to the point compared to the old policy. It is in the form of a question-and-answer document and allows schools to decide how to handle cases of sexual misconduct on their campus.

“The tone of the new guidance is much more permissive than that of the Obama-era directives,” said Peter F. Lake, who leads the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Trump’s administration also rescinded documents from Obama’s Title IX guidance, including a 2011 Dear Colleague letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document.

Many colleges have announced that they will not be changing their current sexual misconduct policies. Colleges take sexual assault seriously and are not planning on changing their policies until more details are talked about.

In a background call with reporters, a senior department official said the government had left open the option of what schools do in this interim period but had no expectation about whether colleges would adopt a higher standard.

Crystal C. Coombes, senior deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of South Florida, spoke with the Chronicle of Higher Education and said her institution will stick with the preponderance standard for now.

“We believe it works well for us,” said Coombes.

DeVos did give credit to the Obama administration by bringing this issue to light and creating a policy to help, but she thinks the policy should be updated and changed.

“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” said DeVos. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

DeVos believes that changing the policy would be good and help all of those who are involved in sexual violence cases, including the people  accused of sexual violence and the victims.

“All students deserve protection. All students,” DeVos said in a news conference in July. “There has been a lack of clarity in this area. I heard from both groups in ensuring that the process is fair to both parties, and they’ve acknowledged that it isn’t today.”

Most people are not behind DeVos policy plan change and some fear that this will not help the victims at all, but only those accused of sexual violence. They think things will go back to how they use to be and victims won’t have their voices heard.

Title IX may have new policy changes. Some people may think the change is a good idea, while others may argue that there shouldn’t be any change. The government is taking careful consideration of both groups when creating the new policy.

Student fee funds technological upgrades across campus, USF system

How much the student technology fee accounts for per credit hour, according to numbers from 2017-18 from the USF controller’s office. The total shown includes all fees, not just the student technology fee. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

Since 2009, USF has charged students a technology fee; a fund that has accumulated millions of dollars over the years for system wide or campus technology projects.

The fee was established by the board of trustees in accordance with the Florida Legislature, according to the Information Technology (IT) website. Florida statute 1009.24.13 allows up to 5 percent of tuition per credit hour as the technology fee.

“The revenue from this fee shall be used to enhance instructional technology resources for students and faculty,” the statute says.

Students pay slightly more per credit hour in fees than they do in base tuition, according to 2017-18 numbers from the USF controller’s office. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

When USF established its technology fee, it chose the maximum: 5 percent. The 2017-18 undergraduate tuition rate at the Tampa campus is $105.07 per credit hour, according to the controller’s office. This means the student technology fee is $5.25 per credit hour. A student taking 15 credit hours will pay $78.75.

The student technology fee represents a small percentage of the total amount of fees USF students pay, according to data from the 2017-18 USF controller’s office. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

Jenny Paulsen, assistant vice president of USF IT, said the fee has been used for a variety of projects both system wide and at the individual campus level. These range from putting Wi-Fi on campus to e-books in the library.

“I think all of [the projects] have been quite impactful in one way or another,” Paulsen said.

All of the projects the student technology fee has been used for in the past are posted on the USF IT website. Some of the projects listed include printer replacement in the library, BullSync, student access to Lynda.com and apps.usf.edu. The latter project is one Paulsen thinks is particularly noteworthy.

“Rather than you as a student having to go and buy these very expensive software packages yourself, the tech fee sponsored the ability for us to provide those software packages to all students through the apps.usf.edu portal,” she said.

Students on campus need varying degrees of technology for the work they do. While some students just use the printers in the library, the members of the Whitehatters computer security club require a little more. The club gathered for a meeting in the iTeach lounge in the College of Education on Sept. 29.

Alan Gay, an embedded software engineer at LGS Innovations, taught the Whitehatters members about ways of hacking into devices. He donated a device to the club to help them take power measurements – a ChipWhisperer Lite, which costs about $300.

At the end of the meeting, the students spoke with Gay and familiarized themselves with the machine. Brad Daniels, president of the Whitehatters club, said the topics and technology the club deals with tends to be advanced, and sometimes that means they need high level technology to go about their business.

“Some students have more money and a more degree of resources, better computers … but we do have students that can’t afford those resources or it’s not as easy to get and so in those cases we try to provide computing power to those that need it and that requires money,” Daniels said, “right now, most of the computer infrastructure we have was just free donations from individuals who are just friends of the club, but there’s always things that we need. There’s always things that we need more of and so we’re kind of always on the lookout for different sources of funding or resources.”

His club gets its funding from the engineering council within Student Government, which funds the club through activity and service fees. There are many resources the club uses on campus, Daniels said, such as the 3-D printing lab and computer labs for computer science students. However, there are some changes that he would like to see.

“What I would really like to see is a computing environment for students where they could create their own virtual machines because that’s really the main thing that I find students are lacking,” he said.

He said the club has considered applying for student technology fee grant, a process he needs to coordinate with faculty advisors who are more familiar with the process. As of right now, the club has never applied for technology fee money.

USF IT allocates the funding for these projects through a series of committees. Of the money students pay for the fee, 25 percent goes to funding system-wide projects, while the remaining 75 percent goes to funding projects on that student’s campus. The divisions include the three campuses, Tampa, Sarasota-Manatee, St. Petersburg and also USF Health.

Paulsen said there is a committee established for each entity with student, faculty and staff representation. These representatives are assigned the task of getting requests from their constituents.

“We leave it up to each of them on how they want to do that,” she said.

The committees are dedicated to or piggyback on other committees. The Tampa committee was formed just for the purpose of the technology fee. The system committee is actually the IT Management Committee. Health leverages the Health Technology Governance Group for its meetings.

“Some of the committees are standing committees that have other roles as well, so they meet on a regular basis anyway, and we hijack some of their meetings for the tech fee,” she said.

Each entity operates on its own cycle. These cycles all operate throughout the year and may or may not overlap. They don’t meet in excess, Paulsen said, usually meeting once near the beginning of the cycle and then once to make decisions on projects. The goal in selecting projects, she said, is to put students first and to align with the mission of the university.

“One of the things that we do encourage is investing in emerging technologies,” she said. “… The tech fee is a source of funding that’s encouraged to be used for trying out new technologies to see whether they do add value or not and if they do we can go on and … make use of that technology in the future.”

However, there are still some resources those like Daniels and the Whitehatters members would like to see. No matter how much or how advanced the technology that students at USF are using is, Daniels said he thinks it’s a good idea to have the fee fund technology projects on campus.

“Even somebody who’s not using technology heavily, I think the cost of some of these resources should be subsidized for the students that need it,” Daniel said. “It’s like taxes. There are people who use more public resources than other but everyone still pays their fair share of taxes because we’ve decided as a society that people who need food stamps or something should be able to get them … I think it’s kind of the same for the tech fee. Even if you don’t actually use resources that are funded by the tech fee, I still think it’s fair that everyone contribute.”

There are always more requests than what can be funded, Paulsen said, but she thinks the committee has done a good job.

“I think that the great part about it is we have delivered some great solutions for students in the space of technology, so it’s really been very valuable,” she said.

While Paulsen said the technology fund brings functional and newer technologies to USF, the beneficiaries of the fund are ultimately decided by the committee.

 

CLARIFICATION:

In this story, Jenny Paulsen, assistant vice president of USF IT, said that the technology fee committee meetings sometimes hijack other committee meetings. After publication, Paulsen said she did not mean hijack in a negative sense. Instead, she meant it as “use.” The meetings of the technology fee committees do not disrupt other committees at USF.

3-D printing’s consumer market slowly grows

From pizza to prosthetics, new cars to human hearts, the feats of 3-D printing have made headlines for years.

But in a dimly lit room, amid the constant low hum of these printers at work, a much humbler mission is underway. Printers are fulfilling a print request for a small blue duck.

This duck, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, took just over 30 minutes to print in the 3-D printing lab at the USF Advanced Visualization Center (AVC). Once the duck was complete, the printer started playing a short song. The screen displayed a message that read “We love printing things!”

The invention of 3-D printing goes back to the 1980s, but only in the past decade has it moved into the realm of the everyday consumer, said Howard Kaplan, senior technologist and visualization specialist for the AVC.

“It’s a humongous industry,” Kaplan said. “I don’t think it’s just engineering at all. I think it spans a much wider variety I think in fact than (virtual reality) does. I think (virtual reality) would like to say in its marketing that it caters to a wide variety of people, but the utility of it is really not there yet.”

Objects are printed in melted plastic, built up layer by layer using a 3-D computer model as a guide. The plastics the AVC uses are ABS and PLA, which is what Kaplan said most consumer-level 3-D printing is done with. Prints can take hours depending on their size. Longer prints that the AVC receives are done overnight.

The printers that line the shelves of the AVC come in various shapes, sizes and price points. However, outside of the walls of USF, consumer-level 3-D printers can be found everywhere from Walmart to Amazon to Office Depot. The popular crafting site Etsy has users offering not only 3-D printing services but selling 3-D printed goods, ranging from jewelry to miniature crossbows.

On Amazon, the prices for 3-D printers range from a little more than $200 to upward of $20,000. For those students who don’t want to pay for a printer of their own, Kaplan said they can use the AVC’s 3-D printing lab. Prints aren’t free, but they’re cheaper than buying a printer and supplies.

Students take advantage of the printing lab for a variety of projects. Kaplan highlighted the fact that many students, from engineering to the arts, use the center for their research or for prototyping and sculpture making. However, not every task sent to the AVC’s printers is an academic one.

Caleb Hall, a USF senior business major studying restaurants, used the AVC’s services to print a cover for one of his knives. The cover, printed in black plastic, was designed to go over the edge of the knife to protect it in a bag. While Hall said it lost its grip after just a few weeks, he still has it. He looks at the growth of the consumer market for 3-D printers optimistically.

“There’s so much potential for growth that by the time they get super advanced and can reliably print organic matter it’ll be so easy to buy simple printers in the consumer market and there’ll be files to print nearly anything you want,” Hall said.

Caleb Hall, a USF senior majoring in business, 3-D printed a cover for one of his kitchen knives.  Photos courtesy of Caleb Hall

What makes 3-D printing so appealing is that it brings factory-grade technology to the average consumer, Hall said. It has the same appeal as normal home printers.

“Sure you could go to the library or a Kinko’s to get something printed on this hulking machine back before we were born, but then the technology got small and affordable,” he said. “Now, instead of needing access to a factory with an injection molder, if I want to make something like a desk ornament or a silly rubber band gun I can just 3-D print it.”

Kaplan holds a different view. Even though the market grows, Kaplan said, the technology at the consumer level hasn’t made very significant leaps in terms of the level of technology that goes into them.

“I think the consumer level printing isn’t changing much or hasn’t changed much, other than the fact that more and more printers are hitting market every month,” he said. “But the printers don’t seem to be that different in terms of their quality or ability so it’s kind of that just saturation of the market.”

Aside from that, there are a few factors holding 3-D printing back. While Hall expressed interest in purchasing a personal 3-D printer, he said he feels the devices are too expensive to be everyday household items yet. There is also an issue of software, as in order to 3-D print something, one must first have a 3-D model. That modeling technology, Hall said, is still out of reach for the everyday user.

Kaplan echoes this point. The transition from high-tech to household has been slowed by the 3-D modeling knowledge users need to make objects to print. Kaplan said there are models out there on the internet for people to download and print. Hall got his model for the knife cover from a professional chef subreddit. But eventually, Kaplan said, people will want to make models of their own, and that’s where they’ll hit a wall.

But beyond this, Kaplan said, users need to have a goal for their printing. If consumers don’t know how to make things to print or what they want to print in the first place, buying the printer is just a waste of money.

“If you’re new to the technology and you just go out and buy something without doing enough research or talking to people, then you’re going to get in trouble down the road,” he said.

Sexual violence happening on college campuses

By Megan Holzwarth

September 24, 2017

Going to college should be a fun time in people’s lives. It’s so exciting to finally be on your own and to meet new people while going out to parties, sporting events, clubs and late night study sessions. One thing that people shouldn’t have to worry about when going to school is sexual violence. Unfortunately however, this is something college students should definitely be aware of when they are on campus.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, women who are 18 to 24 years of age are at a high risk for sexual violence. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics. Infographic

Sexual violence takes place more on college campuses than any other forms of crime that happen on those campuses. Students who are victims of sexual violence often do not come forward to report the crime to law enforcement. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Only 20 percent of female student victims, age 18 to 24, report to law enforcement. Only 32 percent of nonstudent females the same age do make a report.” RAINN also states that, “about one in six college-aged female survivors received assistance from a victim services agency.”

From RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

Another thing that students should be aware of is the fact that there are periods of increased risk of sexual violence throughout the year. According to RAINN, “More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November. Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.” Students should also keep in mind that law enforcement on campus are there to help protect students and have been trained to respond to this matter.

Below are some statistics from RAINN’s article: Campus Law Enforcement Has a Significant Role in Addressing and Responding to College Sexual Assault

  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement officials have legal authority to make an arrest outside of the campus grounds.
  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for rape prevention programming.
  • 70 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with local law enforcement.
  • 72 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for survivor response and assistance.
  • Among four year academic institutions with 2,500 students or more, 75 percent employ armed officers, a 10 percent increase in the last decade.

College campuses are taking this issue seriously with the help of law enforcement on the campuses. The law enforcement on these school campuses are there to make sure that every student is safe.

Another method that college campuses use to keep their students safe is Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, which is used at the majority of schools in the country. There is a website dedicated to Title IX and spreading awareness of sexual violence called “Know Your IX”, which was founded in 2013 by survivors of sexual violence. The article “Know Your IX” from the website of the same name says, “under Title IX, schools are legally required to respond and remedy hostile educational environments and failure to do so is a violation that means a school could risk losing its federal funding.”

From “Know Your IX”

For students who are victims of sexual violence and are considering reporting about the crime this is what the schools must do under Title IX. According to “Know Your IX”, “schools must notify victims of their right to report to police and facilitate that process if desired by the victim. Victims also have the right not to report to the police. Regardless of a victim’s choice to report to the police, a victim may use a school’s grievance procedure to address sexual harassment or sexual violence or merely seek accommodations. When reasonable, schools must accommodate a victim on campus to remedy a hostile environment on a school’s campus.” Colleges that do not obey and help the victim may be in violation of Title IX.

Sexual violence is not something to be taken lightly and certainly not something that can be tossed under a rug. Issues of this nature are very serious and must be addressed and handled with respect to both the victims and accusers.

https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence

That Extra Step

Located in St. Petersburg, this school goes above and beyond when it comes to the concept of inclusion within learning environments.

Midtown Academy stands out because most schools do not use the inclusionary system, but rather separate students with disabilities. In every class, Midtown Academy includes students with disabilities in the same classes with other students in their grade.

“We have an inclusionary model in which all of our students who are special ed[ucation] [are] just in regular classrooms depending on their IEP, or Individualized Education Program,” says Portia Slaughter, Principal of Midtown Academy.

Teachers agree with Slaughter when it comes to the way education is taught at Midtown Academy, like Daniel Doolin, a teacher at this school.

“This school really showcases inclusion,” Doolin says. “When you put students together and you hold them all to a common standard, the low ones will rise to the high ones, and the high ones will pull them up.”

Speaking from experience, Doolin says the most important thing is getting to know your students personally.

“It is important that you have met their parents, that you know where they live, that you know what they do for fun, that you know their brothers’ names and sisters’ names,” Doolin says. “Because you will find throughout the day that you’re going to need that information to pull them back in.”

Slaughter grew up in the St. Petersburg community and is glad to give back. She finds that teachers are easily accommodating to children and their specific needs without separation.

Midtown is preparing many of their students for the real world, where they will not be separated because of their disability.

USF’s St. Petersburg Campus Welcomes its Newest Facility

On Jan. 17, the USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business opened Lynn Pippenger Hall in St. Petersburg, a $30 million facility.

The building was named after St. Petersburg resident and former Raymond James Financial Inc. executive, Lynn Pippenger, who donated $5 million to the St. Petersberg campus in 2016 prompting USFSP to honor her.

The four-story, 68,000 square foot building has meeting spaces, over 20 classrooms and a 200 seat auditorium.

“It’s pretty awesome because after I’m leaving class I’m able to come up here and just you know, study and relax,” student Mike Singleton said. “It’s a very comfortable building rather than just being in the library.”

Dean of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business, Sridhar Sundaram, believes the building can create an impact on the St. Petersburg community.

“The community has walked in and said ‘Wow, this is a beautiful facility,'” Sundaram said.

“As we have more and more events we are going to be a resource for them but they also take great pride in having this building in their downtown.”

The facility is home to 1,300 students and 60 faculty members and is hosting various events for the community throughout this year.

 

Leadership Day Held at Fox Chapel Middle School

Students and parents filled the halls of Fox Chapel Middle School on Wednesday to take part in Leadership Day.

Arianna Carter, a seventh-grader and member of student government, spent the day playing in the band and working behind the scenes to make the day run smoothly.

“Leadership Day is a day that we show Hernando County what the seven habits are and how we use them to help the community,” said Carter.

The Leader in Me is a school transformation model, developed in partnership with educators, that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Magen Schlechter, a teacher at Fox Chapel, said this program allows students to learn what it means to be a leader and how little changes in their personal life can help them persevere.

“Each habit represents certain character features that we should work on and improve on day-to-day to help us be the most effective leaders we can be,” Schlechter said.

Over 25 projects took part in Fox Chapel’s third-annual Leadership Day. The school’s Beta Club will be nationally recognized by the Leader in Me program for completing over 350 hours of community service.

Carter, a member of the Beta Club, is inspired to continue being a leader outside the classroom.

“We really just help around the community,” Carter said. “I heard that high schools have beta clubs too and I’d like to help more.” 

For Schlechter, watching her students embrace this program is one of many things she’s happy about.

“I’m really proud that the kids have found something to be proud of,” said Schlechter. “You see kids in a new light and they become completely different people and it’s an awesome thing.”

 

Author of “The Selfie Vote” Speaks Out About 2016 Presidential Election

Author and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson stopped by to talk about polling, millennials, and what could seemingly be labeled the most interesting election yet. Here is her seven second take:

* Click *

Second 1: Anderson is a millennial herself, though she is hesitant to admit it. She carefully placed space between her age and ours while she spoke. Anderson never anticipated falling into her current line of work. A graduate thesis and a passion for Washington D.C. put her on the path of polling, political contributing, and a book deal among other endeavors. A strong voice for the millennial generation.

Second 2: As for her take on young voters, they care more than you think. Anderson recalled comments made that millennials are unreachable when it comes to politics. For Anderson these comments do not ring true. Instead she sees 80 million millennials, one force that can reshape an election.

Second 3: So how does one reach these lucrative voters? Anderson does not think that the Democratic party has hit the nail on the head just yet, frustrated with the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton campaign. Anderson referenced her frustration in the article Stop trying to make Chillary Happen. She recalled Clinton’s requests for young voters to “Pokémon Go to the polls” and explain how their student debt made them feel in three emojis or less. Anderson’s advice to Clinton:

“Quit trying so hard,” Anderson said. “Just be yourself.”

Second 4: As for the Republican nominee Donald Trump’s efforts, Anderson considered them to be either non-existent or counterproductive. Though, she did give a nod to Trump for being the more technologically savvy out of the two.

“The medium does not trump the message,” Anderson said. “No pun intended.”

Second 5: So how do the candidates tip the scale and reign in the millennial vote this year? Speak to young voters at the level they are currently at. According to Anderson, this includes understanding their moral lens, distrust of big institutions, adversity to labels and pragmatism.

Second 6: The real question is what does this election come down to? For Anderson, it is numbers and certain states. Trump needs 269 electoral votes to push the decision to the House of Representatives. This is easier said than done according to Anderson’s analysis.

“Trump needs everything to go right in that one narrow path to win,” Anderson said.

Second 7: In the end, Anderson is optimistic that Trump will not win this election cycle.

“Democrats fall in love,” Anderson said. “Republicans fall in line.”

Clinton does not have an easy fight either in Anderson’s eyes.

“Young women are not giving bonus points based on someone’s gender,” Anderson said.

This year’s election is up in the air, causing Anderson’s closing statement to never ring more true:

“Your vote matters.”

Local Organization Inspires Young Girls

The Centre for Girls is a youth organization aimed at girls from ages 5 to 14. It is led by Sartura Shuman-Smith, the center’s program director. The center is also organized by program manager, Walter Jennings.

“This place is so therapeutic and so healing for me,” Shuman-Smith said. “It is just so important for me to know I have a purpose.”

When asked about the focus of the Centre for Girls, Shuman-Smith said, “We’re not creating girls or enhancing girls, we are creating women and developing women.” She talked about the accounting classes, dance instruction, as well as a Lego program for the young women ages five to nine.

Walter Jennings, the program manager, is in charge of after-school help, as well as developing a curriculum for all of the girls attending.

“Our heart’s passion and desire is for young people to come up with good, constructive ways to deal with some of the issues and challenges that they have,” Jennings said. He talked about how his girls attended the center and how much he feels he owes the organization.

The Centre for Girls is located on 105 W. Sligh Avenue and serves an enrichment program for girls ages 5 to 14. The program is not free, although the website offers program assistance. There are currently 46 girls attending the center.

NFL, MLS Brass Participate in Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series

The University of South Florida’s Sun Dome recently hosted two influential people in the sports world. Tod Leiweke, Chief Operating Officer for the National Football League and Don Garber, the Commissioner of Major League Soccer. The USF Sport & Entertainment Lecture Series is aimed at students studying in USF’S Sport & Entertainment Management program.

Students find it important to have renowned names visiting the university. This is especially true for those in the Sport & Entertainment program.

“First of all, having such important folks that have so much influence in the sports business like Tod Leiweke and Don Garber brings a lot of great attention and educational opportunity to folks in the Tampa area,” said student Payton Phillips. “Our students, our faculty and our athletic staff [benefit] as well, so it’s able to bring industries’ minds and is good to learn from so that we can perform better and learn more.”

The lecture series is a way to show the growing Sport & Entertainment Management program which the university now offers.

“I came here for the basic fact that I wanted to be a Sport Management major, but USF didn’t have that major when I first started,” said Brittany Barber. “I just decided to come to see how I would like it if I wanted to go into it for Grad School because, you know, Grad School is a whole other monster than undergrad. So I just wanted to figure out whether this is something I want to pursue.”

The event took place at USF’s Sun Dome and was presented by Florida Fox Sports and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The lecture series has taken place annually, with this year being the fourth installment.

USF student conquers fears with help of YouTube

A former dream pushed to the side because of fear has now taken form for USF student Jade Lopez. Her channel “Mrs. You’re Welcome” is a reminder for her that she is done letting fear run her life and is prepared to share her story and her talents with those on the other side of the screen.

“I’m so done with fear telling me that I can’t do it or people are going to laugh at you or it’s not going to be good enough, no one’s even going to  watch it,” Lopez said. “I’m just like how ‘bout you shut-up and I’ll prove you wrong.”

Tucked away in the USF library Lopez finds herself fiddling with equipment and editing software while she works between their green room and the Digital Media Commons learning as she goes.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, I literally said that in the first video,” Lopez said. “If the video is crooked I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Though this does not stop her from pursuing her goal, it rather encourages her to make this channel the one that stays. To make this channel the one that is true to her personality and her style. To make this channel the one that inspire others. Stating that she wants her viewers to:

“Realize that they are enough.”

Which is something her friend Briana Brown already finds she is accomplishing.

“She has a bright future with this channel,” Brown said. “She is kind of filling that void in the YouTube community where there needs to be a positive energy or a refreshing light.”

Only time will show what impact Lopez’s channel will leave, but for now her possibilities are seemingly endless.

If you want to see more from Jade find her here at: Mrs. You’re Welcome

College tuition hinders student success

Michelle Fernandez, a first-generation Cuban-American, hopes to be the first one in her family to graduate from college but with the high cost of tuition that may not be a possibility.

Fernandez, a sophomore at the University of Tampa majoring in Biology, has had to acquire two jobs in order to pay the university’s high tuition rate.

“I went to college thinking that it was going to be difficult because of the coursework but I never really expected the cost of tuition to be as big of a factor as it is,” Fernandez said. “I realize I go to a private university, but the cost of school can be a huge distraction from actual school work and scholarships are never really as easy to get as people make them out to be.”

Currently, student debt has skyrocketed to new heights. According to findings by the Federal Reserve, as recent as March, student debt in the U.S. has reached about $1.2 trillion across the board.

With the upcoming election, this issue has become even more pressing. Politicians on both sides are trying to come up with a reasonable solution. For instance, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is in favor of eliminating college tuition, stating that he believes a college education should be free in the U.S.

This idea may seem radical to many people at first, but many universities in the U.S. previously operated in such a manner. Currently, a small portion of universities does not charge tuition. These universities still may charge for things such as room and board, but tuition is not included.

However, not all students find the cost of tuition to be an issue. Both sides of the spectrum are equally represented when it comes to this particular issue.

“I am personally from Jamaica and I know that some people that are from the U.S. might find the tuition expensive, but for international students like me, it is worth it to get the experience of going to school in the United States,” Wainwright Heron, a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in economics, said. “For the opportunity to get a quality education abroad, I see no issue with paying the cost.”

Even at schools where tuition is charged there are alternatives to paying out of pocket. Most universities offer programs such as federal work study, grants, and scholarships in order to ease the financial burden on students.

“The controversy over making universities tuition-free is not holistically an economic one but rather the monetary aspect is a portion of a greater issue,” Javier Rodriguez, an economist, said. “By making tuition free to everyone, unfortunately, we would be devaluing the merit of earning a degree. A college degree would be as useful as a high school diploma.”

There are many issues that impact students from homesickness to depression, and the cost of tuition is another one of these problems for some. Fernandez said the best thing she can do is to remain positive.

“The best case scenario would be for me to graduate and find a good enough job to pay back all my debt and still have enough money to live comfortably,” Fernandez said. “I just have to keep my eyes on the prize.”