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.

 

Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.

 

Local leader tells her story

 

Photo by Ashley Vedral

Oct. 16 marked the first of two days students from the University of South Florida would conduct interviews in Progress Village, Florida for WUSF, the school’s radio station.

Seated in a long, narrow room covered with art made by children, Linda Washington, President of the Progress Village Civic Council, spoke.

Washington told her own story.

She was born just outside of Tallahassee on Sept. 24, 1957, in a town called Quincy and moved to Progress Village in 1961. Washington still cherishes memories from her time there as a child.

Washington said one lady, the candy lady, had an impact on her life.  She remembed the candy lady vividly.

“Mrs. Washington was the candy lady that lived next door to me,” Washington said.  “It’s nice to have someone in the neighborhood that still provides those little sweets.”

The candy lady was a welcome sight because stores were few and far between Washington said.

“Having a candy lady next door to get a frozen cup or penny cookies, that was ideal,” Washington said.

Washington said that she was on only child for 16 years, so being able to go out in the community and play really met something to her.

Bad memories proved hard to recall but Washington shared her memory of the storm that tore through the village in the mid ’60s.

As she grew up, Washington had many ideas as to how her life would unfold.

” Well I thought was going to be a teacher for the longest because I used to play school in my bedroom,” Washington said.  “So I really thought that I was going to go to college and become a school teacher.”

Washington notes the happiest moment of her life was having her daughter. Before her daughter, she married and moved away from Progress Village, to Bloomingdale, Florida. Several years later, she and her daughter returned.

“You knew almost the entire community whether it was through church, school or just, you know, activities that took place in the community,” said Washington. “I was raising a daughter and I knew that I would have a support structure with my parents living in the community.”

Washington’s return to Progress Village occurred in a way that was almost too good to be true.  There was a home available.

“It was on a Christmas Eve,” Washington said.  “I’ll never forget it, and that’s what started the wheels rolling, like I’m going to move back to Progress Village.”

After returning to Progress Village, Washington began attending meetings for the civic council. She said she enjoyed going, as she wished to be a part of the community. Attending regularly earned her the spot of President.

“I started going to the civic council meetings, and at that time, Mr. Kemp was the president,” Washington said.  “And so, for the 2011 elections I was voted president of the civic council.”

Although she was hesitant to take on the position, because she was working full time, Washington accepted and has not looked back. Washington led the community after the storm of 2011.

“I never knew about storms like that,” Washington said.  “There was a lot of devastation, and it was all material things. No loss of life.”

Washington could recall what that storm was like.

“March of 2011, we had tornadoes that hit Progress Village, and that was a lot of damage to homes,” Washington said.  “I mean, it was pretty destructive because there were several tornadoes. It wasn’t just one that hit.”

In addition to making sure Progress Village recovers when tragedies occur, Washington also works to organize the town reunions.

“Every 10 years or so we have our reunion and that is unique in itself,” Washington said.  “This is a community reunion, where people come back and share in the memories of what it was like living in Progress Village, and that’s always fun.”

As a leader of Progress Village, Washington credits the former president of the civic council with teaching her to successfully carry out the role.

“I have to say that, our past president, Mr. Kemp has been very influential in my life,” Washington said.

Father’s death inspires USF student

via Public Domain

‘Ready, aim, fire’ is a phrase that one USF student is very familiar with.

Clay shooting is one of the many activities that she enjoyed with her father before he died.

Sarah Gimbel, 20, and her dad had a very close relationship. As her parents’ only child she was always spending quality time with them. One of her family’s favorite pastimes was driving their motorcycle. Gimbel’s father was a motorcycle patrol officer for the Tampa Police Department for 20 years. On May 7, 2016 Gimbel’s father, Howard, was killed in a motorcycle accident while enjoying an off-duty ride with her mother, Tonya.

“I was in the driveway when my parents were about to leave for their motorcycle ride,” said Gimbel, “I remember telling him, ‘I will stop talking and let you guys go. I will just talk to you later! I love you!’ just a little later was when I got the call from my cousin.”

This is when her life changed forever. Gimbel shared a special relationship with her parents. She always loved having a police officer as a father. Gimbel and her friends always felt safe when her father was around.

“Sarah and her dad were very close,” said longtime friend Sarah Berry, “She always had the best experiences with him. When she was younger she truly felt that her dad was invincible.”

After the accident not only did she have to stay strong, she had to grow up fast for her mother’s sake. When her mother was in the ICU for over a week Gimbel had to make funeral arrangements for her father and sign the paperwork. She had to do all this on her parent’s behalf.

“Since my mom attended his funeral in a stretcher and by ambulance, I stepped up and gave a eulogy in front of close to 500 -700 people,” said Gimbel, “I became a stronger person because I knew that my dad deserved that. I can say today, a year and a half later, that I would have never been the person I am today without that tragic experience.”

After the outpouring support from the Tampa Police Department and the Tampa community Gimbel wanted to find a way to give back. The idea to create a memorial foundation in her father’s honor was only part of her plan.

“Competitive shooting clays is a sport my dad got me into,” said Gimbel, “We enjoyed shooting monthly tournaments together. When my father passed I was trying to think of something to do in memory of him and that’s when hosting a sporting clay shoot came to mind. It is now the most important thing to me.”

The annual shoot is an event hosted, planned and organized by Gimbel. After her first memorial shoot last year, Gimbel donated the money to a competitive youth sporting clays team for their trip to nationals.

For the other part of her plan, she was able to create a scholarship for a high school senior entering college. Her goal for the foundation is to extend the scholarship program and give more opportunities to students that have parents in law enforcement.

“Sarah is so quick to help others and she never complains,” said Berry, “she really embodies all of her dad’s great qualities. I see his humor, positivity and dedication in her.”

Gimbel also participates in other volunteer events with TPD. The annual Tampa Police Memorial 5k is one of her favorite events. Gimbel says that this is when she truly feels her father’s presence.

“It makes me so proud to be her friend,” said Berry, “I know that her father would be so proud of all her accomplishments and of the woman she has become.”

Local doctor creates library to help the community

The Dr. Walter Smith Library is a two-building, former residential home managed by Dr. Walter Smith, where students of all ages can go to study and learn.

“Each day I saw the children playing in the streets after school with no place to go,” said Smith. “I decided I’d like to do something that would make a difference so they could have some place to come in, read and learn some things they didn’t know.”

Dr. Walter Smith in his library. Photo by Tyrah Walker.

The library was once Smith’s parent’s home before they died.  He continues his parent’s legacy by welcoming and educating the community.

Walking into the library for the first time feels more like stepping into a museum.  The library’s building one holds a variety of magazines and books on math, science and history.

There is a computer room with an exhibit of famous African-American astronauts—Robert Henry Lawrence and Dr. Mae Jemison. The exhibit hangs over a collection of dinosaur skulls that Smith has collected over the years.

“If you want to study biology, chemistry and physics [at the library],  then you have what it takes to study it,” said Smith. “There’s the periodic table, too, on the wall.”

The library also has a collection of African-American art and sculptures that Smith obtained during the years he lived in Africa. During his time there, Smith was appointed senior fullbright scholar at the University of Malawi.

Building two of the library holds more books and magazines on Africa and African-American history, such as the national bestseller, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”.

There is a room filled with photos of Smith’s heroes: former President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Nearby the dinosaur collection is an exhibit of the human body that hangs over the computers, where students can do their homework.

Smith was born in Tampa in 1935. He grew up in Cairo, Georgia; Tallahassee and Harlem.

Smith received his associate’s degree from Gibb’s Junior College. He then received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in leadership from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

He later became FAMU’s seventh president. After completing his master’s, Smith received his doctoral degree in higher education from Florida State University.

“It’s not all just sitting down at a computer,” said Smith. “You’ve got to read, you’ve got to do research, you’ve got to talk, you’ve got to travel. You put all that together and you grow.”

For Smith, it’s important that young people know their history.  One can expect a short history quiz when they come in the library and meet him for the first time.

“Education is very important,” Smith said. “We need to start educating our young people in our homes. Far too many parents don’t take the time to read the books.”

In honor of his mother, Smith has an area within the library that exhibits a dress she handmade for his retirement party. She was always proud of his achievements, he said.

“I told my mother I would never sell this property,” Smith said. “I bought the facility and began to make it like we wanted and care for young people. God works in mysterious ways.”

Smith has been given over 100 awards since his early adulthood.

He received the Soaring Eagle Award in 2003  for his lifetime contributions to American community colleges. Other awards relate to his outstanding professional achievement and work within both the Tampa and Tallahassee communities.

Smith’s library is located on 905 North Albany Ave. and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

https://youtu.be/5OBgcbDKqI0

Lessening the environmental footprint

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach is known for its eco-friendly presence in the community. From reusable hand towels in the restrooms to air-conditioning units that automatically turn off when a patio door is opened, the beach resort lives by the Green Lodging lifestyle.

TradeWinds employee, Jessica Leonard, is taking that to a whole new level. In June, Leonard created the TradeWinds Eco Team (TWEC).

Jessica Leonard helped create the TradeWinds Eco Team geared toward lessening TradeWinds Island Grand Resort’s environmental footprint.photo by Courtney Aurich

Leonard is an internal communications and training coordinator at the resort. She is mainly responsible for the employee culture side of Human Resources. Part of her job includes enrolling employees in the Habitat for Humanity program. She’s in charge of getting TradeWinds employees to volunteer 200 hours building a house for another employee in need. Leonard is also an active volunteer and enjoys making a difference in the community and in the environment

“I value people. I think if somebody else is in need and I have … or if I can provide for myself and someone else can’t, who am I to not help them?” said Leonard.

Leonard often gives her change to war vets begging in the street. She has picked up the tab for a homeless man at local buffet. She finds joy in helping others.

Leonard’s generosity dates back to volunteering at a local animal shelter when she was a teenager

“They always needed your parents to go and it was really hard before 16,” said Leonard. She would push her mom to come with her, just as she pushes people at work at Habitat for Humanity.

Familiar with her inspiring ways, Leonard’s co-worker, Sophie Bajack, proposed the idea of starting a beach cleanup on St. Pete Beach.

“I shut her down right away,” said Leonard. “There’s not enough trash on this beach to make a tangible result. People are going to pick up two straws, and be like, ‘why the hell did I wake up early and come out to this?’ I said no.”

She did like the eco-friendly concept, however, and the idea of helping the environment. From that, the TWEC was born.

The TWEC, as described on the organization’s Facebook page, is an organization that plans to “lessen the footprint they leave on the environment” through education, teamwork and outreach. TWEC attempts this by preserving wildlife and maintaining clean waters.

Leonard and Bajack are the founders of the TWEC with TradeWinds is the sponsor. TradeWinds provides meeting spaces, snacks and merchandise giveaways for the organization and partner, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, donates gloves, safety equipment and cleaning supplies.

“There’s food. You get a free T-shirt that says, ‘Eco Team’ on it. It’s completely free,” said Leonard.

Recently, TWEC adopted its first sea turtle nest which will hatch anywhere from 68-102 eggs. They have also created their own beach cleanup that takes place twice a month.

The first beach cleanup was June 8.

“We picked up 68.9 pounds,” said Jessica. “We had like 25 garbage bags full. It was horrifying.”

Since then, TWEC has hosted beach cleanups every second Tuesday and fourth Saturday of the month. Pickups take place from 8-11 a.m. Volunteers begin at the TradeWinds Island Grand property and end at Guy Harvey Outpost Resort. Volunteers are as young as 7 years old and any employee or community member can attend.

“Last cleanup, we found a fire extinguisher, a knife, and a rolled-up dollar bill for — it was definitely a drug-related paraphernalia. You find a lot of condoms and just weird stuff,” said Leonard.

Eco team member, Victor Cifuentes, 28, believes in “lessening footprints” on and off the beach. At the bar where he works, he cuts six-pack rings before throwing them into the trash. Cifuentes worries the plastic rings will eventually end up on the beach and hurt sea life.

“You got to respect where you live,” said Cifuentes.

 

US needs stricter rules for sand mining

 

The Earth is running low on sand and gravel. Photo courtesy of Ashley Vedral

Sand and gravel are mined all over the world and used to create concrete for the structures and streets humans take advantage of every day. Manufacturing concrete is not the only thing sand and gravel are mined for and because of the continuously rising demand for sand, the world is beginning to run out.

An article by David Owen for The New Yorker states a beach volleyball tournament held in Toronto imported 35 semitruck loads of sand. In addition to the reporters eyewitness account, he also cites a study done in March 2014 by the U.N. Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Global Environmental Alert Service regarding the fact that Earth is losing sand faster than the environment can naturally produce more.

“Globally, between 47 and 59 billion tons of material is mined every year, of which sand and gravel … account for both the largest share (from 68-85 percent) and the fastest extraction increase,” the UNEP study said. “Surprisingly, although more sand and gravel are mined than any other material, reliable data on their extraction in certain developed countries are available only for recent years. The absence of global data on aggregates mining makes environmental assessment very difficult and has contributed to the lack of awareness about this issue.”

The world’s demand for sand and gravel in construction projects is rising as humans construct roads and buildings while working to replenishing shorelines. Alone, China constructed approximately 90,968 miles of roadways in 2013.

“[C]ement demand by China has increased exponentially by 437.5 percent in 20 years, while use in the rest of the world increased by 59.8 percent. Each Chinese citizen is currently using 6.6 times more cement than a U.S. citizen,” the UNEP study said.

The study goes on to note that sand, once mined and extracted from land quarries, riverbeds and streams is now mined and extracted from the ocean and coastlands. Resources from inland areas are declining due to the over mining.

However, sand is still extracted from these areas. This is due in part to the lack of legislation regarding mining of sand and gravel. What follows is an excerpt from ThreeIssues.sdsu.edu which states U.S. law.

“Sandmining from streambeds in the U.S. is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Chapter 26, Subchapter IV, Section 1344: Permits for dredged or fill material),” it said. “Under this legislation, the government is authorized to deny or restrict the specification of any defined area as a disposal site, whenever it is determined, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, that the discharge of dredged or fill materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.”

The entirety of the law can be found here. The law shows that the U.S. is able to issue permits, however, there is no definite law stating punishment for over mining or making any areas illegal to mine from.

Another reason sand is still extracted from areas that are beginning to run low is that certain projects require specific types of sand and gravel.

“For concrete, in-stream gravel requires less processing and produces high-quality material, while marine aggregate needs to be thoroughly washed to remove salt,” the UNEP study said. “If the sodium is not removed from marine aggregate, a structure built with it might collapse after few decades due to corrosion of its metal structures. Most sand from deserts cannot be used for concrete and land reclaiming, as the wind erosion process forms round grains that do not bind well.”

If more strict laws are not put in place around the world, it is possible the Earth could run out of sand in the future. UNEP suggests that a lack of monitoring and regulating leads to over mining and a great deal of damage to the environment.

Over mining of sand and gravel is also drastically affecting marine life.

“The mining of aggregates in rivers has led to severe damage to river basins, including pollution and changes in levels of pH,” the UNEP study said. “Removing sediment from rivers causes the river to cut its channel through the bed of the valley floor (or channel incision) both upstream and downstream of the extraction site. This leads to coarsening of bed material and lateral channel instability. It can change the riverbed itself.”

Although this issue is one that is not widely known, it is staring to garner attention as popular news sites report on it.

The New Yorker

New York Post

Smithsonian

NPR

New York Times

Tom Scott via YouTube

The entirety of the  UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service’s study can be found here.

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.

Hobby turns into online shop, honoring autistic son

TAMPA —  Amanda Richards, owner of online shop Absolutely Adrian, and her husband Logan, craft toys that serve a very big purpose – honoring their son, Adrian, who was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three.

“I’ve always been kind of weird and creative,” said Richards.

Her love for all things unique and exciting grew when her family did. Richards said she found her ‘crafty partner for life’ when she met her husband, who is also diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Despite Logan’s degrees in biomedical engineering and nuclear chemistry, he chooses to create.

Amanda and Logan’s hobby turned into a passion when their son was brought into the world. Richards describes her son Adrian as, ‘perfectly different.’

Richards, who previously worked in the restaurant industry as a manager, needed to find a job where she could stay home and tend to Adrian more effectively. That is when they put their craft to good use. The idea for creating the toys featured on Richards’ Etsy shop originated as a way to help her son.

“It started out with making toys and items for children on the autism spectrum and then into other things we love and enjoy doing in our downtime from all of Adrian’s therapy and school needs,” Richards said.

Adrian, now nine years old, is nonverbal.

“No words does not mean he doesn’t have anything to say,” Richards said. “That sweet boy always finds a way to communicate with us. A real gem, he is our greatest treasure.”

One of the ways Adrian communicates is through magnetic letters. He sorts through letters to form different words, even some that Richards does not recall teaching him.

Adrian also works on his communication in occupational therapy. He learns how to type words to cause actions, such as typing, ‘yes mint’ on the computer to show that he would indeed like a mint. Adrian continues to expand his communication skills by learning to use picture exchange and sign some words like ‘more’ and ‘please.’

In a 2016 press release, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that an estimated 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Richards’ and her family have worked hard to adapt their world to the adventure life threw at them.

Absolutely Adrian contains a range of items including jewelry, toy wands and autism sensory stones. Prices on the items range from five to fifty dollars.

Courtesy of the Absolutely Adrian store page on www.etsy.com.

One of the items that Richards believes is particularly helpful for Adrian is the sensory stones. They are small stones, in many different shapes such as dinosaurs and cars, that light up through sunlight and stay illuminated for up to ten hours.

“Adrian was scared of the dark and the idea of putting him to bed with a battery operated toy made us incredibly nervous as he is sensory seeking and will eat nonfood items if given the chance,” Richards said. “We create and morph a lot of our ideas together to make these nifty pieces.”

Richards and her husband do their best to allow their passion and love to reflect on everything they craft for their shop. Finding a way to work while also being able to adequately care for Adrian was everything Richards needed in her life.

“Adrian has taught us to slow down in life,” Richards said. “To be appreciative of every small thing and simply have fun and we do all the time.”

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.

Little League children taught to succeed off field

Bianco Berry (left) and his daughter, London. Photo by Katie Ebner

The vice president of Progress Village Little League teaches children more about life than baseball in hopes of inspiring a misunderstood community.

Progress Village was created less than 60 years ago—before the height of the civil rights movement—to give black people an affordable community to call home. Only a railroad track separated it from the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorized members of the new community.

Progress Village changed a lot over the years, but it still fights a bad reputation from its drug problems and murders that seem to be the only reasons the community makes the news.

Little League Vice President Bianco Berry, however, sees Progress Village differently than outsiders. Though he did not grow up there, the tight-knit community enjoys a rich storytelling culture, which is how he learned about its history.

“Just to hear the old stories is really, it’s almost like, you growing up, you wasn’t always here, but you always feel like you was always involved in the community,” said Berry.

Berry started volunteering with the Little League when he moved to Tampa in 2006. His passion for giving back to the community and being a positive influence for his children and the children he coaches earned him a spot on the Little League board, and eventually the title as vice president.

During his stint as vice president he coached both of his children, and even coached his daughter’s softball team when it won the district championship two years ago. His daughter, London, 11, cherishes her relationship with her dad for more than what they have accomplished on the field together.

“Many people don’t have a dad that can just tell them that, ‘oh you’re amazing, you’re worth it in life,’ so I just feel like respected that like I have someone that is there for me that can tell me that,” said London.

She credits the Little League for playing a big role in teaching children like her valuable life lessons.

“I think that kids can develop great leadership because Progress Village, we hold a lot of like activities for the children to do, just to get involved more, and also it gives the kids like new opportunities to learn something new, and to experience things off of others,” said London.

His primary focus is not winning games. It’s helping children learn how to achieve great things beyond Little League Baseball.

“We’re trying to teach you the game, trying to teach you the fundamentals, trying to teach you this is how life is,” said Berry.

As one of the league’s leaders, Berry wants players to recognize the importance of working together.

“We try to give you the tools that’s not necessary to succeed in sport but to succeed in life as well,” said Berry. “This has to be like a team organization. You got to have teamwork when you go to your job, you got to have a team, got to be able to rely on others, you try to teach them it’s not always about ‘me me me.'”

He also emphasizes the importance of giving at-risk children a positive atmosphere to learn and grow, instead of falling into bad habits.

“[We] try to teach them to be respectful of everyone, and just try to provide a safe and fun environment for them to come out and do stuff, and not have to be always in the streets, always doing something negative,” said Berry. “Try to turn something negative, and try to make them keep, keep a positive attitude.”

Bianco and London spoke to WUSF as part of its “Telling Tampa Bay Stories” radio series. Photo by Katie Ebner

Berry teaches his own children these same values. On every family vacation, he and his wife take their children to different universities wherever they visit to show their kids what they can achieve if they continue to work hard and be positive influences on others. These trips gave his daughter a new perspective, and inspired her to make a difference in others’ lives.

” … Until like a few years ago I didn’t really realize that most people don’t exactly get like I have,” said London. “[I’m] able to do stuff in life, [and] not always [be] one of those people who’s always down. I can always stay positive.”

According to Berry, both of his children exemplify the values he tries to teach Little League players, and he could not be more proud of them. His daughter talks about how she stands up for kids who get bullied at school, and how she is involved with Sisters Network—an organization that raises awareness for African-American women impacted by breast cancer. One day, she wants to be a doctor or professional athlete.

“I mean, she’s a pleasure,” said Berry about his daughter. “Both my kids are, so I’m just happy trying to do the right thing by them, make sure they can be productive citizens in life.”

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.

Renowned journalist condemns ‘alt-right’ speech at University of Florida

Ralph Lowenstein speaks to USF students and staff. Photo by Justin Garcia.

TAMPA-  USF students were visited by a widely respected journalism professor on Tuesday, Nov. 21st, who spoke on the issue of white nationalism and a recent controversial speech in Gainesville.

Retired University of Florida (UF) Dean Emeritus Dr. Ralph Lowenstein spoke to a room full of students and teachers at USF.  He spoke in-depth about white nationalists, in particular Richard Spencer, leader of the ‘alt-right’ movement.

“He [Spencer] believes in ethnic cleansing,” Lowenstein said.  “He doesn’t go much further than that.”

Lowenstein explained that Spencer won the right to speak at UF on October 19th because of free speech under the First Amendment.

“Those of you who are journalism students know that there are lots of exceptions to the First Amendment,” Lowenstein said.  “ You can’t shout fire in a crowded theatre.  You can’t engage in hate speech that will set people off to do damage to people.”

In August of this year, Spencer co-organized the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. which became violent.  Many were injured and Heather Heyer, who was there to protest the alt-right, was killed when a man drove his vehicle into the crowd of protestors.

Spencer and his legal team feel that their speech is defended under the First Amendment.  Gary Edinger is Spencer’s attorney who defended his right to speak at UF.

“This was no doubt a sensitive and difficult issue for the University of Florida,” Edinger said.  “But all citizens should be pleased that the First Amendment was ultimately respected.”

Spencer says that his ideas are controversial because they are powerful.  He claims that it is not the alt-right who are violent, but the groups who oppose them.  He says this frees him from the possibility of his speech being censored due to the threat of violence from the alt-right.

“This is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to free speech,” Spencer said.  “If you can’t protect the free speech of a controversial speaker then you don’t really believe in free speech.”

Protesters demonstrate outside of Spencer speech. Photo by Justin Garcia.

UF students and others who oppose Spencer interrupted his speech inside the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts with chants such as, “Say it loud, say it clear: Nazis are not welcome here.” Outside of the speech, over 2,500 protesters against Spencer demonstrated around the Phillips Center.  The protests were mainly peaceful, except for a shooting which occurred near the event.

Lowenstein described the shooting, “Students who were demonstrating went to an intersection  near the Phillips auditorium,” Lowenstein said. “Three of these alt-right people… approached them at a bus stop.  One of them pulled a gun and fired the gun, thank heaven it missed and it [the bullet] went into a nearby building.”

One of the victims who was fired upon remembered the license plate of the vehicle the men were in and gave it to the police, who stopped them on the interstate. The three men, Tyler Tenbrink, Colton Fears and William Fears were accused of attempted homicide and are being held at Alachua County Jail.

Richard Spencer and the alt-right have yet to release a statement on the shooting.

Lowenstein made it clear during his discussion with students at USF that speakers such as Spencer should be resisted at colleges not only for the sake of the integrity of the university, but also to protect the well-being of those exposed to members of the alt-right.

“I feel that the University of Florida acted improperly,” Lowenstein said. “They actually turned down this man because of the threat of violence.   Then when their attorney threatened to file suit against them, they caved in completely, instead of taking it up to a federal court, at least for the benefit of the students and faculty.”

Here’s what you need to know about Betsy DeVos’ changes to Title IX

Over the summer, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicked off her plans to replace Obama-era Title IX.

Before enacting any changes, DeVos met with victims, victim advocates and accused assaulters in an attempt to see all sides of the argument.

Title IX has been a crucial component in protecting students against discrimination. According to an article by Jeannie Suk Gersen in the New Yorker, sexual assault is not explicitly stated as protected, but is interpreted by the courts today as a form of sexual discrimination.

DeVos has spoken out about the need to protect the accused, although, victim advocates say this narrative gives way to rape culture and the silencing of victims.

In an article for CNNAnnie Clark, the executive director for End Rape on Campus, stated, “We will not accept this blatant favoritism for the rights of rapists under the guise of fairness.”

In the 2011 Dear Colleague letter put out by the Office of Civil Rights under President Obama, schools were required to use a different levels of the Burden of Proof while investigating sexual assault cases.

There are 3 levels for Burden of Proof: Beyond a reasonable doubt, clear and convincing, and preponderance of evidence. The letter stated that the schools were now required to use the lowest burden, preponderance of evidence.

Prior to this, schools were using the standard of clear and convincing evidence. According to law.com, preponderance of evidence is not based on the amount of evidence present, but the more convincing evidence that is present.

Gersen stated that some felt that this more lenient burden of proof allowed for unfair trials against the accused; victims rights advocates believe that this rhetoric of protecting abusers silences victims.

One of the downfalls of the Obama Era Title IX is it was implemented through the Dear Colleague letter. Many schools felt pressured into changing their policies and procedures after the release of the letter. Schools are required to stay in line with implemented standards in order to continue receiving federal funds.

Not only did the letter and its requirements come as a surprise to university officials, it is also easily overturned with the release of a new letter. On Sept. 25, 2017, the Office of Civil Rights released a new letter rescinding that of the Obama Administration.

In this letter, it is stated schools should no longer rely on the regulations of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, and that the department would further be relying on standards from Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance from 2001 and the Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Harassment issued Jan. 25, 2006.

It is unclear how rolling back on these protections of victims will explicitly affect college campuses. 

At USF, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion & Equal Opportunity houses the Title IX Coordinators for our campus. Unfortunately, they would not comment on changes made by DeVos,or what changes USF students should expect on campus.

In a speech to students, DeVos stated, “One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many.

After months of attacks on minority and previously protected groups by the administration there is hesitation and backlash against DeVo’s decision.

Everyone’s favorite spanish retailer, Zara, has done it again. On top of it’s new arrivals comes another controversy. It’s been revealed that unpaid workers from the company’s factory hid secret messages in the clothing.

Website, Business of Fashion, reports that several factory workers in Istanbul, Turkey are slipping cries for help in the form of handwritten notes into the pockets of in-store merchandise. After shoppers began to discover unusual tags attached to or tucked into their garments, it was clear that an underground campaign from factory workers who made the pieces was brewing.

“I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” is just one example of the words allegedly written on the tags. Essentially, the notes are meant to put pressure on the shopper to send a message to the top that the retailer’s factory workers are going uncompensated for as long as up to three months and without severance pay.

The tags reportedly state that the workers are employed by Bravo Tekstil, one of Zara’s factories based in Istanbul. The factory, which also produces clothing for Next and Mango, allegedly closed last year following similar allegations. But this isn’t the first time Zara has been the target of its discontented Turkish employees.

After the shutdown of the manufacturing company in July 2016, workers launched an online petition demanding the mega-retailers they’d been hocking clothing for dole out their overdue pay.

It’s reported that, despite having over a year to do so, neither Zara nor Next or Mango, have been able to reach a solution to pay the some 140 workers employed by Bravo Tekstil. Not only are the clothing companies responsible for every aspect of the production of their merchandise, but they reserve the right to randomly shut down their manufacturing centers, too, which isn’t uncommon in the fast-fashion realm of the industry, but contributes to the ongoing crisis of little to zero protections for factory workers and their hard earned pay.

What’s interesting about these revelations,  is the fact that factory workers are going into the stores to disrupt the post-production process, as opposed to sewing their mission into the tags before the items hit stores. Upon hearing of this news, Refinery29 reached out to Zara for comment and was provided with the following statement from an Inditex spokesperson: “Inditex has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Textil and is currently working on a proposal with the local IndustriALL affiliate, Mango, and Next to establish a hardship fund for the workers affected by the fraudulent disappearance of the Bravo factory’s owner.

“This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation, and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016. We are committed to finding a swift solution for all of those impacted.”

Walt Disney World Resort’s NBA Experience’s latest update

Preview poster for The NBA Experience. Photo by: Tea Piro

As of Oct. 19, the Walt Disney World Resort has given guests an updated first look into a sports themed experience coming to their main shopping and dining destination, Disney Springs.

In June of 2015, the editorial content director for Disney Parks, Thomas Smith published an article on the Disney Parks Blog, announcing The Walt Disney Co.’s collaboration with the National Basketball Association to create The NBA Experience. The announcement came just before the 2015 NBA Finals, which brought in an American audience average of roughly 20 million.

“We’re excited to join The NBA in offering this unique form of family entertainment,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It will be a terrific addition to the world-class lineup of shops and restaurants coming to Disney Springs.”

The Oct. 19 announcement featured concept art for what will be the facade of The NBA Experience. The statement referenced the architectural design of modern basketball arenas across the U.S. as contributing factors to the design choice.

While detailed design ideas have yet to be released for the interior of the space, the venue is set to include shopping experiences, games with competitive features, a connected dining location and other interactive aspects.

“This one-of-a-kind experience is sure to be enjoyed by basketball and Disney fans of all ages who visit Disney Springs from around the world, ” said Sal LaRocca, NBA President of Global Partnerships.

On March 14, 2013, Tom Staggs, Chief Operation Officer for The Walt Disney Company, announced the transition of the resort’s shopping center, Downtown Disney, into what is now Disney Springs. The three year expansion resulted in the shopping center almost doubling in size.

The NBA Experience will be replacing DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park that opened at The Walt Disney World Resort in 1998. DisneyQuest featured an array of video games that highlighted attractions found in the Disney parks as a way for guests to enjoy key elements without directly visiting one of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.

In June of 2015, it was announced that DisneyQuest would close its doors the following year to make way for The NBA Experience. However, DisneyQuest did not officially close until July of 2017.

DisneyQuest demolition site as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro
DisneyQuest demolition space as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro

DisneyQuest was known for its old-school atmosphere, featuring pinball machines and other arcade-style games. While this aspect brought feelings of nostalgia to some guests, others viewed the indoor theme park as outdated. However, Walt Disney World Resort cast members noticed an influx of guests returning to DisneyQuest prior to its closure.

“People know that it’s coming to a close,” said Steve Ruffman, the General Manager of Disney Springs’ West Side and The Landing, to the Orlando Sentinel in June of 2017. “There are Disney gamers, there are Disneyphiles and there are people who are just excited that this has been part of their annual visit to Disney World. It’s now ‘a must-do’ when it was ‘a may-have-been’ a year ago.”

The NBA Experience is coming to The Walt Disney World Resort following the closure of NBA City at Orlando’s Universal CityWalk. NBA City, the themed restaurant that included NBA memorabilia, closed in August of 2015.

“Earlier this year, we decided not to renew the lease for NBA City so we could create an exciting, new concept for that space,” said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder to the Orlando Sentinel.

The NBA Experience’s new location to Disney Springs will add a significant space increase to the basketball themed restaurant. The location of CityWalk’s former NBA City restaurant, now The Toothsome Chocolate Factory & Savory Feast Emporium, offered 17,500 square feet; however, the new location at the DisneyQuest space offers 100,000 square feet.

Although the opening date for summer 2019 has officially been announced, Walt Disney World Resort guests have been voicing differing opinions in the comment sections of the Disney Parks Blog regarding a NBA themed experience at Disney Springs.

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.”