Community is not enough

Collegian Editorial

Several weeks ago, National Suicide Prevention Week took place across the nation and La Salle’s campus. The importance of this week cannot be overstated; suicide prevention and mental health awareness and acceptance are critical now more than ever, especially among college students for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death.

This past week the Students’ Government Association (SGA) planned a mental health campaign to raise awareness of mental health resources. Various student organizations were invited to participate in the campaign as a way to pursue the issue with a united front across campus. Mental health cuts are occuring across all organizations and one of the most common hurdles to seeking help is knowing where to look.

Unfortunately, the campaign this week was not well executed or organized and, in conjunction with bad weather and abnormal amounts of rain, became lost in the shuffle of campus life so that few students were aware of its existence. The botched implementation of a mental health initiative only mirrors La Salle’s longer record in not providing adequate counseling services or making students aware of them.

La Salle University has a counseling center located in the Medical Office Building on West Campus. It is open to the whole student body both by appointment and, to a degree, for walk-ins. It exists, in their own words, to help students, “identify, clarify and resolve issues of importance to you in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality” and works, as best as it can to meet these stated goals. However, the counseling center, whose resources and location are relatively unknown, still has faced issues in the past with high demand, which complicates the appointment-making process.

This is not to say that the center does not do good work. It certainly does, but it faces the problem common to so many departments on campus — it is tasked with meeting the needs of a community with few resources and less recognition.

La Salle’s acceptance of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant was an attempt to close the deficit of what the school provides for mental health and what it needs. The grant’s funding, according the University, is to be used to “reduce the potential for deaths of students due to suicide or alcohol/drug overdose by increasing outreach to the University’s most vulnerable students; increasing by-stander interventions by faculty, staff and friends; and increasing help-seeking behaviors by students in need.” It is a critical step in the right direction. 

Fortunately, the nature of the University rooted in Lasallian values prevents students from slipping through the cracks and going unnoticed. La Salle is truly a community. When students start to demonstrate symptoms of deteriorating mental health, friends, teachers and staff notice. When students do not show up to class teachers email them, not to scold but to check if they are ok. When students do not participate in events and activities, on campus resident staff members check in. When one has not left their room all day, friends come to visit. 

Community stops students from falling through the cracks — but only to a degree. As that community grows and college students are put under ever more pressure, individual, uncoordinated actions cannot be relied on. A coherent and ordered system for addressing and helping students with mental health issues is needed. Hopefully, the reception of this grant is the first step in developing a more cohesive system by providing more resources and spreading awareness about issues surrounding mental health. 

Letter from the Editor to the incoming class

The Collegian Staff wishes you the best of luck, from your first La Salle event, First Fest, to your last, Commencement.
The Collegian Staff wishes you the best of luck, from your first La Salle event, First Fest, to your last, Commencement.

To the class of 2022, the Collegian would like to welcome you to La Salle University. Our publication, in print since 1931, aims to serve the La Salle community by delivering the latest campus, national and international news, in addition to providing articles on politics, sports, commentary, satire and arts & entertainment.

As you adjust to your new role as a college student, we hope you consider the following: embedded in North Philadelphia, La Salle is a special place for many. Our campus is the birthplace of lifelong friendships, home of historical landmarks, and, of course, the site where students climbed the (ungreased) poles at 20th and Olney after the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
Moreover, La Salle will be your home for the next four years, so try not to take it for granted. Sometimes it can be hard—especially in the moments when life and school get too stressful. But even in those moments, allow yourself to take advantage of everything this school has to offer, whether it be the Late Night La Salle events or the staff in the library. The resources you need are put in front of you; it is up to you to utilize them.

The incoming freshmen class is one of the biggest the University has seen in the last 20 years. Among this class and the upperclassmen, you will find some of the greatest friends you will make in your life. Strive to forge relationships with your peers, as their friendship may be the guiding force that carries you through your time here.

Also, for the sake of everyone on this campus, get involved. Last year student involvement was at a low—some clubs were cut, the yearbook was not published, and the Collegian is struggling to fill in the gaps in our editorial staff. This is a chance for you to change that. Seize the opportunities put in front of you by trying something you never thought you would do. Join a recreational team, pledge Greek life, find a club you love, apply to go on a LIVE trip or write for the Collegian. Use this as an opportunity to challenge yourself and to be a part of something greater. Chase after these moments now, because before you know it, it will be senior year and you will be wondering where the time went.

Lastly, find yourself a mentor. Whether it be a professor, a staff member, or an older student—find someone you can look up to as a model of Lasallian values. They can assist you in forging your own path as an Explorer.
Welcome to the La Salle family.

 

Selena Bemak

2018-19 La Salle Collegian

Editor-in-Chief

Editorial ♦ The Halls Are Full: La Salle is Back in Session

The halls are full again.

Despite the blistering heat, the University is well on its way to another semester that will, with luck and hard work, prove even better than its last. The editorial board would like to offer a warm welcome to returning students and recognize the newest addition to our community, the class of 2022. To quote President Hanycz, “we have been waiting for your arrival and are delighted that you are finally here.”

Much has been done over the previous school year and this summer to prepare for students arrival. Around campus material improvements have taken shape, though some may be small. This year also marks the institution of many new initiatives laid out in the Momentum 2022 strategic plan. This class will be the first to experience the much-hyped “living learning communities” as well as under the newly redesigned core curriculum focused on “institutional learning outcomes” that will hypothetically better prepare incoming freshman for college and life beyond.

No real or important institutional change ever occurs instantaneously and so it will be through freshmen that many of the steps proposed and taken by President Hanycz upon her arrival three years ago will begin to show their relative profit. Based off the admission of the largest class in recent history, the hiring of many new faculty is evident of such profit surely, a welcome sight for all.

However, no amount of institutional improvement, material or organizational, can replace the power of an engaged and active student body. La Salle presents an immense wealth of opportunity for those that wish to pursue it. Last Thursday, at the Activities Fair, dozens of clubs and organizations availed themselves to freshmen and upper classmen alike for membership. Each of these organizations present numerous leadership opportunities that are freely accessible to those interested, capable and willing to work. While many may be apt to take such openness for granted it should be acknowledged for the great benefit that it is—particularly by incoming freshmen who would be loath to let such opportunity go to waste.

Many incoming students have already interacted with one example of engaged and open student leadership—the Explorientation leaders who happily run the five days of freshmen orientation. Unfortunately, if one looks across other organizations, they are likely to find the same individuals giving tours as ACEs, up on stage in the Masque, leading Greek life or even editing here at the Collegian. While organizations flourish on campus, they often draw from a relatively small group of engaged individuals not for exclusivity’s sake but for want of anyone else to draw from. This is an unfortunate ailment that, with a large and vital incoming class such as this one, can be remedied.

To echo our final editorial of last year, “we have stressed repeatedly … that students can become involved, shedding the layer of apathy that coats the student body.” This semester, with all the opportunity it holds, presents yet another chance to engage. The preconditions on the part of the University have all been met; now all that is required is involvement.


Letters, guest columns and opinion pieces will be considered for publication provided that they meet with the editorial standards of The Collegian and fit the allotted space. All letters must be signed. They can be submitted to nardob1@student.lasalle.edu or abbateb2@student.lasalle.edu. The Collegian reserves the right to condense or edit submissions. Weekly editorials reflect the views of the editorial staff and are not representative of the university or necessarily the views of the rest of the Collegian’s staff. Columns and cartoons reflect the views of the respective writers and artists.

header_commentary

Collegian Editorial: What is the power of a petition?

Social media is a powerful force. Whether or not it’s productive is another question.

Activists have always attempted to leverage the newest technologies to spread the impact of their message. The Civil Rights Movement was largely propelled by African American activists’ use of the newly popularized television media to disseminate their message in a way that print had failed to do. Images of the Freedom Riders’ bus engulfed in flames were broadcast into the living rooms of white America, bringing a struggle half a nation away to the hearts and minds of leaders in Washington, D.C.

Today, some analysts have pinned their hopes on the ability of social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, to create meaningful social change. Digital political organizing greatly reduces the marginal cost of spreading a message, while nearly eliminating barriers to access to new, entrepreneurial activist groups.

The problem is that many of the campaigns that have been spread online do not materialize in the physical world.

Twitter activism has not radically transformed the world. Rather, it’s made it easier for people to feel like they’re taking up a radical cause without expending more effort than hitting the “share” or “like” buttons while lounging on their couch. Worse, there’s little evidence of an expectation on the part of organizers that the people who encounter their message will do any further action.

That’s not to say that social media isn’t able to start real-life social transformations. Take the protests in Ukraine, Tunisia or Egypt. Knowledge was disseminated using social media platforms to coordinate action against oppressive government forces. Say what you will about the results of those revolutions, but the process was an ideal use of technology: incorporating new platforms to build on a long tradition of peaceful, organized protest.

La Salle isn’t Ukraine, and we don’t need Saul Alinsky to guide us through a radical transformation. We are a community (and a rather small one, at that) in which knowledge can be conveyed in a variety of means to provoke change.

Signing a petition isn’t one of those ways. Moreover, a self-interested student body request for a party day in Center City isn’t activism. It’s whining.

This isn’t a new topic for the Collegian. As the 1998 editorial board said, “When the best example of student activism in response to an event that fundamentally has aroused feelings on campus is a letter asking someone else to take action, that’s a problem.”

SGA can be an important part of the La Salle experience. The group is ideally designed to filter student information, formulate them in a coherent, warranted argument and personally deliver them to the president’s office due to the close nature of their partnership. However, the Collegian believes that claiming to produce change with a petition, without any formal mechanism for how those signatures can better help you negotiate and advocate on behalf of students, is not only self-serving but saps the collective energy of the student population. Such petitions are largely ineffective when there are ample opportunities for direct interpersonal communication between SGA and the administration.

Furthermore, as a group designed to handle the most pressing problems faced by La Salle’s students, the Collegian believes that wasting effort on a request for a day off is a poor utilization of the limited capital which SGA has to provoke a response from the administration. While one-third of all college students across America are food insecure, higher education is struggling with high rates of sexual assault, depression, and mental illness, and the University is undergoing a rapid transition, why is the lack of a day off SGA’s catalyst for action?

All issues regarding the La Salle student body are local, requiring local responses to amplify student voices. When those voices are raised above the everyday chatter of student complaints in the service of a worthy cause, SGA’s actions should be lauded. We have no reason to join SGA in their self-congratulatory celebrations today.

Cuts made, Lasallian values maintained (February 11, 2016 Issue)

The Office of the President had to make the difficult decision yesterday to cut costs via termination in effort to maintain short-term stability and long-term prosperity. President Dr. Colleen Hanycz and her administration terminated 33 janitorial employees in an effort to reduce costs during challenging financial times. Although it is unfortunate that La Salle’s financial state requires this decision to be made, the Collegian understands the necessity to prioritize spending for the sake of the university.

The details of the financial relief that the university will receive from these cuts has yet to be made available; the decision, however, to outsource janitorial services to Interstate Maintenance Corporation makes sense. This decision comes shortly after the university announced that it would implement a Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program package. These two decisions, along with Program Prioritization, are necessary to combat La Salle’s $12 million revenue shortfall.

Every financial decision that has been made up until this point has been in the best interests of La Salle students to ensure we all receive a Lasallian education. The Office of the President has likewise maintained Lasallian values in its difficult decision making and has made every effort to aid employees following termination.

Furthermore, the Collegian commends the consistency the president has shown in making difficult financial decisions since her taking of office. The 23 employees who were terminated over the summer were aided in a similar manner as the janitorial employees, receiving tuition remission, assistance in finding new employment and counselling services. Effective leadership requires consistency, and Dr. Hanycz has been consistent with both her actions and with the Lasallian mission.

The fear associated with a total debt surpassing $12 million is quite real, but misperceptions regarding a sense of disarray among leadership at La Salle is misconceived. The Collegian stands behind the recent financial decisions to continue to educate students in the tradition of the Christian Brothers.

As La Salle moves forward with its prioritization process more challenging decisions will be made by the Office of the President. The Collegian expects that all of these decisions will be conducted in a Lasallian manner. We look forward to continued short-term stability but also await long-term growth.

More issues need further exploring in referendum process (February 4, 2016 Issue)

Last week, the Collegian praised the Students’ Government Association for initiating two new referenda meant to engage the student population in issues that matter to them. For those unaware, the issues up for voting are whether to make the St. Miguel townhouses gender neutral and institute a universal grading system across all core classes. While there continue to be many varying opinions on these matters, we still believe that reinstating the process is in the best interest of the school. Regardless of what actual changes to La Salle it leads to, having the students be directly involved in the process ensures that their voice is heard at this school.

While the process itself is definitely a step in the right direction, there is some fault associated with the issues themselves. This isn’t to say that gender-neutral housing and a new grading scale aren’t worth talking about at all. Instead, there are simply other concerns that are also worth addressing, perhaps even more so than the ones currently being voted on now.

One issue in particular that has received a lot of attention, especially since the beginning of the semester, is that of parking, or rather a lack thereof. It seems that every year, both resident and commuter students alike struggle to find consistent parking spaces, even after paying $100 each semester for a parking pass. Due to the fact that not everyone with a parking pass parks on campus every day, La Salle can’t be expected to reserve the same amount of spots as passes sold. A potential solution to this problem, however, would just be to increase the amount of spots available.

Instead of this happening, the amount of spots has actually been decreased this semester, as the construction on the site of the new Christian Brothers’ house has blocked off an entire row of the St. Miguel parking lot. Many townhouse residents have seen this as an unnecessary inconvenience, and the Collegian shares this opinion. It’s clear that the issue of parking needs to be addressed, and a referendum would likely be an effective way to bring more attention to this.

Other problems that need further addressing by the student body are in relation to frequent internet outages and the process behind Judiciary Board hearings. It is of this publication’s opinion that while issues with the campus Wi-Fi can’t always be avoided, they have been frequent enough to the point where the administration needs to directly address them further. In regards to the J-Board, we feel that the hearing process has become far too subjective and inconsistent across the board to remain effective, and bringing this up through the referendum process could be a successful way to get more people talking about it.

While we at the Collegian realize that bringing these concerns up via a referendum will not inherently lead to any direct changes, it’s still absolutely worth it to have a wider range of issues be brought up to the student body as a whole. Not only do these particular problems deserve more attention, but it’s also crucial to continue this referendum process so that it doesn’t simply turn into a one-and-done process. Consistency will be one of the keys of ensuring that it remains a constant way to keep students involved in the everyday matters of their university.

Ground-breaking referenda: allowing students to voice their concerns (January 28, 2016 Issue)

In the SGA constitution, article 11 allows a referendum to be called if a proposal that is brought forward by a member of the La Salle community by one of two ways. Either by receiving a two-thirds vote by the members of students on the Students’ Government Association or by the presentation of a petition containing signatures of at least five percent of the student body.

After this, the proposal is put to vote for the entire student body where it must receive a majority favorable vote and at least ten percent of the total student body must participate. While this does not guarantee that a decision will be overturned, the referendum’s offer a platform for student opinions to get to the appropriate faculty committee to move forward.

The referendum process has not been used in the past due to students not knowing that it existed, but under the new student body president, Beckett Woodworth the first referendum is now taking place. Woodworth has made it a point to make sure that students voices are heard and thanks to that there are two votes proposed by students that are live on SGA’s website.

The first vote is for a universalized grading scale within core classes. The scale would call for standardization so that if students were to take the same core class with a different teacher and receive the same numeric grade, those students would not be given different letter grades.

The second vote is for gender neutral townhouses. This would allow students of separate sexes to share the same townhouse. However, there are some restrictions. One is that each floor must have people of the same gender living on it so that people of different genders are not sharing the same bathroom. The double room would also be a single gender room.

We as the Collegian staff support student voices being shared in a platform like the referenda. As a paper that supports the voice of the students, we find it commendable to see SGA doing their part in making sure that the voice of the student is heard. The entire referendum process allows the La Salle student body to come together, and the evolution of that process can lay the foundation for major change at La Salle.

Imagine the possible student suggestions that may now be considered because a precedent is being set with these two proposals. It will be intriguing to see what comes of the referenda, and we are excited to see the development of this process.

La Salle needs network upgrades (December 3, 2015 Issue)

The college experience has become Internet-based. Adapting to the tools that the Internet provides for both professors and students, grades and assignments are accessed through sites like Blackboard and Canvas, files for group assignments are shared through emails and file sharing services like Google Drive and Dropbox and down time is spent streaming video through Netflix, music through Spotify and video games through Xbox or PlayStation.

The La Salle Parent’s FAQ states that about 70% of the 3,600 full-time undergraduate students live on campus. It is safe to assume that most of these 2,240 students come to college equipped with both a laptop and smartphone. Some also bring a smart TV with an Internet connection, Internet-connected game console or tablet. This is potentially 4,480 devices connected to the network across campus without counting the desktop

PCs present in Wister Lab and the library, computers in classrooms and laptops or tablets brought to class by both residents and commuters.

Thinking on these statistics, the sheer amount of connections through La Salle’s network at one time must be overwhelming for the servers to process at once. Peak hours of usage exist around dinner time, before registration and the hours between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. At these peak times, students often experience instability of Wi-Fi connection in dorms, slow speeds when actually connected or no connection at all through either Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Running a speed test of La Salle’s network shows that we are provided Internet from a company called Sunesys, a company that provides high-speed fiber optic Internet to 31 metropolitan areas in the U.S. The results of the speed test show that La Salle’s Internet is capable of downloading 94 megabytes per second, which is 31 MP3 songs in just one second. Have you ever been able to download that quickly? Probably not.

In order for a student to be successful in college, the Internet connection needs to cooperate at an instant. In a time crunch, if the network environment does not provide a student the means to send the file a group member needs to continue working, or submit their assignment online that is due at 8 a.m. that they spent all night working on but find that the connection is unreachable and miss the deadline, this can be detrimental to their grades.

La Salle also requires students to install their own proprietary “Safe Connect” software and the newest version of MacAfee Virus software in order for students who live in the residence halls to access the Internet. Most senior students have older versions of computers they received when first coming to college, and running new software is not something for which both the computers and programs are fully optimized. On a Macbook Pro 2011 running the newest OSX El Capitan, Safe Connect runs two processes: one that is connected, and another that is unresponsive, making the computer’s memory management inefficient.

La Salle needs to recognize these problems and allocate funding to provide students with a stable and efficient Internet connection through both Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Network and technology services are not something a college can try to save a buck on in 2015, and the University needs to keep this aspect of the modern college up to date in order to compete.

“La Salle progresses in security alerts,” Collegian Editorial (September 25, 2014 issue)

The Opinion of La Salle University’s Student Newspaper

As students of a university that is located in the heart of the North Philadelphia area, we are all too familiar with the crime that takes place week after crime-ridden week. Within the last three weeks, there have been shootings that have resulted in deaths within no further than a five block radius of La Salle University. The University is not responsible for the constant crime that occurs in the area in which we live; however, it is its responsibility to inform students in both a timely and detailed fashion.

We at the Collegian agree that the University has made strides in informing its students in each of the last three shootings that have taken place off-campus. In the past, explorerAlerts have been late and provided little description via text message, email and La Salle portal postings. Since the Sept. 10 shooting that took place on Woodstock and Conlyn streets, the Sept. 22 shooting on Old York and Tabor roads and the Sept. 24 shooting on 20th and Nedro streets, the University has improved immensely in alerting students each time.

With regard to the Sept. 10 shooting, only off-campus residents received emails informing students that a security advisory was posted on the portal. This posed a problem to on-campus residents who were not promptly alerted about the incident.
The University improved on Monday by making use of explorerAlert and giving updated description of the incident on Old York and Tabor roads on the portal. The shooting was in close proximity to the York North Apartments, which is not affiliated with the University but houses several students.

In the case of the Old York and Tabor roads shooting, La Salle’s security has progressed. What the University failed to do, however, was inform everyone that the 19-year-old male that killed the woman on Old York and Tabor roads turned himself in. In the case of future lockdowns, students need to be aware of whether the perpetrator has been detained or not. In this case, the local news reported that the male turned himself in the following day; this is information that is both crucial and beneficial.

In the most recent shooting on 20th and Nedro streets, the University made the right decision by putting in place a campus shelter. Once again, La Salle facilitated information from the Philadelphia Police in a timely and descriptive fashion. It was a problem, however, that La Salle University WiFi was inaccessible and, without having installed explorerAlert text messages, many students were unaware of the shooting until WiFi was up and running on Wednesday morning. Students also need to be made aware that they may have to update their alerts to be sent to their cell phones on the portal, or else it may remain inactive.

La Salle University has made progress in each of the last three shooting incidents within the last three weeks. There is still room for improvement. University WiFi cannot continuously remain a problem throughout the year. A viable resource being inaccessible for extended periods of time is inexcusable and must be addressed.

In addition to the WiFi, La Salle Security’s credibility can only be increased by sending out professional email alerts. The content of the message will be conveyed more clearly if the formal elements of the message are correct (e.g. capitalization, punctuation, etc.). The University has clearly improved in the last several weeks, and the Collegian hopes that it continues to develop its communication with its students into the semester and the rest of the school year.

“Let us know: delay in communication from security leaves students unaware,” Collegian Editorial (September 11, 2014 issue)

The Opinion of La Salle University’s Student Newspaper

Shootings near La Salle’s campus are an unfortunate occurrence. The North Philadelphia neighborhood is not the safest area, but that does not stop students from crowding the off campus streets on weekend nights. Unfortunately, on Monday Sept. 10 around 10 p.m. there was a shooting. Although it did not involve any students, that fact should not be as comforting as it might seem. The event transpired on the corner of Woodstock and Conlyn streets, very close to where many off campus students live.

The University, however, seems uninterested in making sure students are comforted. It is an area that is theoretically patrolled by the University via bikes, but they say that nothing was reported until 8:30 Tuesday morning. It was also stated that it is an area the University does not control, and therefore the responsibility for safety falls on the Philadelphia Police Department. The police had determined it was “not close to campus” and therefore not an event to make known to us, despite the fact that they did not catch the shooter. Even if the original event was not on campus, it was in close enough proximity that students should have been made aware.

Students interviewed for our news article regarding the shooting first heard about the incident through other students and unreliable social media sites. The University’s lack of a prompt response during the crucial first few hours led to confusion among students. This could have been avoided by utilizing the emergency text alert system that students are encouraged to employ.

Safety Alerts are appropriate in these situations, though there is a dissonance between the message and the student. Should they choose to ignore, not notice or otherwise not click on the alert, there is nothing ensuring they get these messages.
The text alert system gives users the choice to get messages regarding other La Salle affiliated areas. “Commuter” is one of these options. When a location within walking distance of campus is involved in an incident, it calls into question why no alerts were sent, despite it being deemed an “off campus area.”

After the shooting, one of the involved parties fled the scene in a car to an unknown location. These details were not extended to the La Salle community, who live in the immediate area. This is crucial information that, if sent out, could have prevented possible further incident.

The fact that nothing had been reported is concerning; as stated, the shooting was in the patrolled areas. Police cars with flashing lights were driving around and at one point congregated near The Explorers Den, directly in sight of a stationed University guard and across the street from the security headquarters.

While it may not be deemed as part of La Salle security’s area of interest, it is no secret that students live in these areas, and many more walk to and from them at all hours at the night. Some form of alert to students, however brief, would give students appropriate time to react to the situation. Thankfully no La Salle affiliated students were harmed, but when we live in an area where instances like these are not uncommon, security perimeters should not be keeping important messages from students.