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Volume 92 (Fall 2019 - Spring 2020)

Student Leaders write to President Leahy administration and the Board of Trustees

JUNE 19, 2020

DEAR PRESIDENT LEAHY AND MEMBERS OF THE MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES,

In light of the recent renaming of Wilson Hall and establishment of the Diversity Initiatives Fund, we seek to address the University’s practices that have been discriminatory towards students of color, particularly those who are low-income. While this long overdue action is a positive step in the right direction, the environment and institutional structure perpetuated by Monmouth and its administration remains extremely hostile towards students of color, in particular Black students. We acknowledge the significance of this symbolic gesture, but it is not enough to redress these systemic issues. Monmouth has a continued pattern, as we have evidenced below, of showing the University's complete disregard for the wellbeing and prosperity of its students of color and overall low-income student population. In particular, President Leahy, your public proclamations and support of low-income students/Federal Pell Grant Recipients are in complete contrast with the actions and measures you take in private. Moreover, members of the Monmouth community continue to freely make racially charged statements that are both harmful and disheartening towards students of color.

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Statement from MPRCA's Team on Updates to Monmouth's CARES Act Grants to Students

default article imageOn May 26th and May 27th 2020, the MPRCA team prepared emails for Federal Pell Grant recipients and Pell eligible graduate students (“Pell eligible students”) to send to Monmouth’s CARES Act Grant team. In these emails, students inquired on their eligibility for CARES emergency relief aid and attached financial aid award letters of a student who did receive CARES aid and a student who did not. The CARES Act grant team responded to these emails, denying these Pell eligible students CARES aid with a justification that the students did not demonstrate “Unmet Need.”

On June 3rd—nine days after the initial email with correspondence with students, the MPRCA team sent a letter extensively outlining our deep concerns with Monmouth University’s use of an “Unmet Need” criteria which discriminates against the schools poorest students, with the most substantial need-based financial aid, to President Leahy. On this same day, the President responded and Monmouth amended its CARES Act grant eligibility on their website.

On June 4th at 10 a.m. EST, members of the MPRCA Team met virtually with Monmouth University President, Dr. Patrick Leahy. During this call, President Leahy expressed that using the “Unmet Need” criteria, 272 undergraduate Federal Pell recipients were denied emergency relief aid through the CARES Act. This number does not include low-income Pell eligible graduate students who were also denied aid. This number also includes over 55% (84 students total) of students in the Educational Opportunity Fund Program (“EOF”). President Leahy acknowledged that the use of the “Unmet Need” calculation was a result of his lack of oversight of the CARES Act Grant Team and took the blame for initially denying the schools poorest students, all of which are Pell eligible students, vital emergency relief aid through CARES. Further, he stated that after notification through the MPRCA team’s initial students emails, the eligibility criteria were amended to include all Pell recipients and Pell eligible graduate students. He disclosed to MPRCA, that the CARES Act Grant team is comprised of the University’s Vice President of Finance, Vice President for Enrollment, Director of Financial Aid, and Director of Community & Government Relations.

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After Months without Eligible CARES Aid from Monmouth Students Address President Leahy with Concerns

default article imageOn Wednesday, June 3, the Monmouth Pell Recipients for CARES Aid (MPRCA), a student organization recently established to address Pell grant recipients from Monmouth who have not yet received CARES aid despite eligibility, sent a letter to President Patrick Leahy and the Monmouth CARES Act Grant team. Students have also formed a petition to address these concerns, which has circulated the Monmouth community and has nearly met its goal of 1,000 signatures. The MPRCA letter to Leahy is published below.

Dear President Leahy and the CARES Act Grant Team:

We are writing to you to share our concerns that Monmouth University, when tasked with distribution of emergency relief aid for the COVID-19 pandemic, has maneuvered in such a way which penalizes its low-income students for being poor. The University received nearly $5 million in grant aid through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”). Of this funding, $2.5 million was provided through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (“HEERF”) to be used as the minimum allocation of emergency financial aid grants to students.

In establishing an “Unmet Need” eligibility criteria for distributing the HEERF funds, the University has denied a large proportion of its low-income students vital emergency aid needed to financially withstand the disruption of campus operations on account of the pandemic as CARES intended. This strikes us as troubling given that, as we will discuss below, our New Jersey peer institutions have made very different value choices in these times of crisis.

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Arts and Sciences Courses Find Difficulty Transitioning Online

default article imageFollowing Governor Murphy’s order for all schools to transition to remote learning, students and professors within the departments for arts and sciences, whose coursework requires laboratory projects, artwork, and performances have adapted to ensure that learning for their courses remains effective.

Mike Richison, an Assistant Professor of Arts and Design, explained some of his new methods towards teaching his Motion Graphics class, one of the many University offered art courses. Richison stated that along with uploading tutorial videos to provide instruction and demonstrate specific techniques, “I check and answer my email obsessively, and I host regular drop in Zoom sessions where students can come and go as they please to ask questions or show me their progress.”

For other art classes, the transition has been difficult due to their physical and hands-on course content. Sarabeth Nemetz, undeclared freshman student, described how her 3-D art class has changed as a result of the transition to online instruction, explaining that her class had to abandon a project they were previously working on due to the materials still being located on campus. “Instead of doing the projects we were doing before, now we’re working with cardboard and things we can do around the house,” Nemetz said.

Richison also commented on the need for compassion and understanding in this time of uncertainty. “I’m normally a stickler for technique,” he explained, “but I’ve had to provide a few different ‘roads’ to completion for one of my projects. I think this kind of flexibility is important during this time. It’s not just about a new format, it’s about what else is going on with a student and their family.”

Jeffrey Cook, a Lecturer of Music and Theatre Arts, confirmed concerns regarding music courses being an area of study that experienced uncertainty when transitioning online. “As it relates to online functionality, there are some courses that can’t and won’t translate in its truest state, such as ensembles,” Cook said, “... the very nature of teamwork and collaboration being the essential function in the performance of music is altered in such a way that it just can’t be replaced.”

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How The Coronavirus Affects Those With Compromised Immune Systems

default article imageAs positive cases of coronavirus continue to be recorded throughout the world, those who are immunocompromised have undergone extra precautions to protect themselves, as they are at a higher risk of complications due to their reduced ability to fight infections, according to cancer.gov.

This reduced ability to fight infections “... may be caused by certain diseases or conditions, such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes, malnutrition, and certain genetic disorders. It may also be caused by certain medicines or treatments.”

Rick Folbaum, news anchor for CBS46 in Atlanta, Georgia, is a father of five children and a Crohn’s disease patient who recovered from the coronavirus. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Crohn's Colitis Foundation.

“The virus does not discriminate, young or old,” Folbaum said. “It does not matter what socioeconomic group you come from. This is something that can impact anyone, and we all need to take precautions.” Folbaum was proactive to seek treatment, saying “... it was mainly because of my family, not so much because I have Crohn’s.” .

Everyone needs to be mindful of coronavirus’ severity, even if they do not have a chronic condition, Folbaum said. “I can say during my newscast or just simply when talking to friends and family, you have to take this seriously.”

Folbaum has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease for many years, explaining that, “I don’t like Crohn’s to define who I am or what I do. I am always mindful of Crohn’s, but I try not to have it dominate my thoughts.”

Many patients with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), may be fearful of their level of risk and exposure to the coronavirus, according to the Crohn's Colitis Foundation. “The best action any patient can take is to follow recommendations from their healthcare team and do their part to help limit the risk.”

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President Leahy's Zoom Student Meeting Disrupted by Outsiders

default article imagePresident Patrick F. Leahy Ed.D. hosted an open meeting for all students via Zoom, a video conferencing app, on Wednesday, April 1. Joined by Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement Mary Anne Nagy and Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs Rekha Datta, Ph.D, Leahy addressed Coronavirus concerns before ending the meeting early due to students sabotaging the intended Q&A portion of the call.

“I want to thank you all for spending a few minutes here,” Leahy said. “I wanted to make sure that I was available to directly share some information, and also, more importantly, [answer] questions which I’m sure you might have about how we’re doing this semester and how we’ll continue to progress the rest of the way.”

Leahy began his remarks with hopes of each student's health and safety, encouraging listeners to remind people within their lives of how much they are appreciated. “Not in my 51 years have I ever seen anything like [the Coronavirus], so I can imagine how all of you feel as well.”

Open meetings with students is a tradition Leahy began as President of another collegiate institution, he said. Attempting to carry the tradition to Monmouth despite the current health concerns, Leahy stated that it’s just as, if not more important to have the discussion in the midst of a crisis.

“Hopefully you’ve been receiving my messages,” Leahy said. “I’ve been joking that I recognize email is not always the most hip way to communicate with people of your generation, but I have all of your emails. It is a way that I can get information distributed out to you. In addition to that, I’m trying hard to record videos time to time.”

Leahy addressed the choice to enter remote learning and instruction for the entire semester, emphasizing a need to “settle in '' over the next five to six weeks to complete the semester in as orderly a fashion as possible.

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Monmouth University to Continue Remote Learning Throughout the Semester

default article imageOn Tuesday, March 24, President Leahy announced via email the decision for Monmouth University to continue remote, online learning for the remainder of the spring semester in response to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Remote instruction began on Monday, March 23 and was previously scheduled to end on April 10.

“We held out on making this decision as long as possible in the hope that we might all be together again before the end of the semester, but, unfortunately, that no longer looks possible,” Leahy wrote in the email. “While we will be unable to gather on campus as one Monmouth community, we remain committed to offering you in this remote learning environment the personalized education that you expect from us, enabling each of you to continue to make progress on your academic journey.”

All on-campus events were cancelled for the remainder of the semester, in addition to summer study abroad trips.

The decision came eight days after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 104, which ordered the indefinite suspension of in-person instruction at colleges and universities beginning on March 18. The more recent Executive Order 107, signed on March 21, directs all New Jersey residents to stay at home until further notice.

The President’s email also mentioned an optional pass/fail grading policy, prorated refunds on unused room contracts, meal plans, and parking fees, and the transition to remote work for student employees. Residential move-outs will take place over a 14-day period beginning on Thursday, March 26, and will require students to schedule appointments to recover their belongings.

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Graduate Student Fights for NJ Expungement Reform

Graduate Student Reform 1Nicole Tierney, a clinical men­tal health counseling graduate stu­dent and disbarred attorney, is one of many nonviolent offenders facing difficulties with New Jersey expunge­ment laws.

Expungement refers to the court-ordered procedure through which the legal record of an arrest or conviction is erased from an individual’s crimi­nal record, according to New Jersey Expungement Lawyer, Katherine O’Brien, Esq.

Tierney pled guilty to a child en­dangerment charge involving her youngest son in 2007; she lost cus­tody of her children and was sent to drug court, from 2008 to 2011.

In 2010, Tierney tried to obtain a property and casualty insurance li­cense since private employment did not appear to be an option. She was denied the license because she was a felon and in drug court.

After graduating drug court in 2011, Tierney tried to obtain a title in­surance license. She passed her exam in Aug. 2013 but had to contest and appeal her initial denial for months before receiving her license. Tierney specified that because it was difficult to find private employment, she pur­sued a Certificate of Rehabilitation: designed to help rehabilitated offend­ers find employment and prevents the state from denying a former offender licensure solely based on their crimi­nal conviction.

However, even after being grant­ed the Certificate of Rehabilitation, Tierney did not receive written con­sent to be employed in the insurance business until Dec. 2013. Despite her li­cense, Tierney was unable to find work as an agent at a title insurance company due to her criminal record. She was able to work as a sales agent, making 25 per­cent of commission, compared to the 80 percent commissions on premiums that appointed agents make. “Again, my potential and earning capacity were re­duced because of my past,” Tierney said.

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Monmouth Competes at Harvard Model United Nations Contest

Harvard ContestThe University’s United Na­tions (MUN) Team recently sent a delegation of 31 stu­dents to compete at the 66th session of the Harvard Na­tional Model United Nations, Feb. 13-16.

Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociol­ogy and an associate profes­sor of political science, served as the faculty advisor on this trip.

“[The event] is the oldest and most competitive MUN contest in the world, and this year it attracted universities from 39 separate countries as well as 70 [more] from across the USA,” Mitchell said. “MU’s delegation represented the countries of Brazil, Aus­tralia and Mexico. MUN con­tests model the actual United Nations system, and students compete on different commit­tees – UN Economic & Finan­cial Committee, UN Human Rights Council, UN Commis­sion on the Status of Women, UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Jus­tice, World Health Organiza­tion, World Trade Organiza­tion, etc.”

Committees tackle specific world policy challenges, ac­cording to Mitchell. Students represent their respective countries while committees operate dependent on the roles of the United Nations system.

“The goal is to write policy resolutions that bring together different countries and bal­ance national interests to the benefit of the world,” Mitch­ell said. “The contest started Thursday evening and end­ed Sunday afternoon.”

MU’s Head Delegates (also known as Team Cap­tains), were Nicholas Boice, a senior political science major, and Payton Colland­er, a junior political science and criminal justice major.

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Traveling Museum Makes a Stop at Monmouth

Museum 1“A Tribute to The African- American Journey,” a traveling museum which displays arti­facts from significant moments in African American history and culture, made a stop in the Rebecca Stafford Student Cen­ter, Anacon B, on Feb. 21.

Displayed artifacts ranged from many culturally impor­tant civilizations in Africa, as well as through the Transatlan­tic Slave Trade, Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction, The Jim Crow Era, The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, and through to the modern day. The collection also celebrates and highlights contributions of African Americans in the arts, sciences, sports, entertainment, politics and education.

Fred Saffold, Community Outreach Coordinator for The True Black History Museum, explained the personal connec­tion he feels with all artifacts of the traveling collection.

 “I don’t have one particular fa­vorite piece, because everything is of significant importance,” Saffold said. “However, I’d say the Jim Crow [section] is important because I feel like that area of his­tory and time has had the most impact. That false narrative of Af­rican Americans still resonates in the world to this day.”

Artifacts contained within the Jim Crow era collection included self-addressed mailing envelopes of Thelms “Butterfly” McQueen, an African American actress who was best known for her starring role in the 1939 film “Gone With The Wind” as Prissy, a maid, as well paraphernalia from the Klu Klux Klan, a U.S. white suprema­cist hate group whose primary target was African Americans.

“It makes me feel empow­ered,” Saffold said. “It makes me feel like we’re doing this work for a reason. Our goal here is to bring back value to people of African descent, so seeing this false narrative, living through it, surviving it, protesting against it and seeing some progression, it’s amazing. The mission is to re­store value to people of African descent, in the black community and outside.”

Zaneta Rago-Craft, Director of the University Intercultural Center, explained her love for the political components of the trav­eling museum’s collection.

“I really like the Shirley Chi­solm piece because I think that her history, specifically as a po­tential candidate for president, is lost in history a lot,” Rago-Craft said. “She was just such a powerhouse and I think it’s cool for people to be able to experience a lot of her story, especially with the presidential election coming up.”

Rago-Craft was referring to a signed article by Shirley Ch­isholm, the first African Ameri­can woman elected to the U.S. congress, as well as becoming the first woman to run for Demo­cratic presidential nomination in 1972. This item sits alongside a signed photo of President Barack Obama.

Janay Craft, Director of Operations for True Black His­tory Museum, expressed interest in adding more modern items to the collection.

“I definitely would like to add more modern stuff, as there are activists and people that are making history right now,” Craft said. “With Kobe Bryant’s recent pass­ing, I would love to get some arti­facts of his. There’s so many arti­facts you could collect, but off the top of my head it would be more modern things that are happen­ing now, and the legendary Kobe Bryant.”

A sports related table includes a signed pamphlet by African American boxer, activist and philanthropist Muhammad Ali, as well as a signed jersey by Martin Briscoe, the first starting African American quarterback in profes­sional football. A signed card by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, an activist and retired hall of fame basket­ball player who played 20 sea­sons in the NBA, is also included in the collection.

Jihad Johnson, student advis­ing mentor and representative of the Intercultural Center, reflected on the American educational sys­tem’s inability to properly convey African American history.

“As a student, to realize how much you weren’t taught as a kid, and then to come in [to the traveling museum] and see so much, you feel robbed almost,” Johnson said. “You’re like ‘wow, this is so much history with so much to know, and so many interesting things that people like me have done,’ and I was never taught it. I have to learn all this information through museums and things like that. This information should be in textbooks; it’s something I should be learning and taking exams on growing up as a kid, especially as a black man.”

PHOTOS TAKEN by Matthew Cutillo

NJ Gang Experts Speaks with Guardian Clubs

default article imagePresident of the East Coast Gang Investigators Asso­ciation Edwin Torres spoke with members of the Guard­ians Club regarding orga­nized gang activity within the state of New Jersey as well as nationwide in Bey Hall, on Feb. 19.

Torres is also a special agent for the NJ Commission of Investigation, as well as a former lieutenant with the NJ Juvenile Justice Commis­sion where he commanded the Gang Management Unit.

Serving 33 years in law enforcement, Torres began his career as a housing unit officer at The New Jersey Training School (NJTS), the largest single correctional facility for young men in the state of New Jersey, accord­ing to Torres, where he also founded a specialized gang unit.

“I started a gang unit because right in the middle of the 1990’s, our facility got crushed by the Bloods [street gang],” Torres said. “The Bloods started explod­ing all over New Jersey.”

1990’s era law enforce­ment officers did not believe in the existence of “real” Blood street gang mem­bers operating in the state of New Jersey, according to Torres. Convinced the ju­veniles were not legitimate and merely faking their gang affiliation, less focus was placed around their rise.

“Fast forward from 1993 to now, gangs account for at least 15 percent of all the ho­micides in the state of New Jersey,” Torres said. “We fell asleep at the switch.”

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Contact Information

CAMPUS LOCATION
The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

MAILING ADDRESS
The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey
07764

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu