CAMPUS – The VOICE http://www.mcccvoice.org Campus and Local News Since 1968 Tue, 16 May 2017 13:15:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Marketing or merit? Campus vets like services, but questions surround source of #1 “Military Friendly®” ranking http://www.mcccvoice.org/victory-media/ http://www.mcccvoice.org/victory-media/#comments Sun, 30 Apr 2017 14:40:01 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5768

An article in Mercer’s December 2016 issue Viking newsletter explained how the college had “been named the number one military-friendly school among all two-year colleges in the nation by Victory Media, a provider of informational resource material to U.S. active duty military personnel, veterans, and spouses.” The VOICE wrote about the award, too. But what does that ranking mean? How did we earn it? What standards are used to determine the winner?

In a report written by the independent non-profit group Veterans Education Success (VES) titled “Understanding Misleading Websites and ‘Lead Generators:’ A case Study: Victory Media’s ‘Military Friendly® Schools’” originally published in August 2016 and updated in February 2017, VES calls to question the standards and practices used by Victory Media to assign its rankings.

During an interview with The VOICE, Dr. Jianping Wang said that during her candidacy as President for MCCC a group of veterans approached her with a list of complaints, she promised to address them within two years’ time.

Dr. Wang said, “That was my pledge and we earned that title in one year, so it’s a really really big accomplishment for this college, the hard work and the staff.”

But the watchdog group that protects veterans says in their report that “Victory Media is a private, for-profit company that publishes several magazines (most notably GI Jobs), a website (militaryfriendly.com/schools) and a list promoting what it calls ‘Military Friendly® Schools.’ These lead veterans and military members to believe that the colleges promoted by Victory Media are good for service members. Unfortunately the opposite is too often true.”

The report also states, “The only schools to have more than 100 complaints in the GI Bill Feedback System are University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, Devry, and Colorado Technical Institute.  All are designated ‘Military Friendly®’ by Victory Media and promoted by Victory Media’s survey, search engine, and e-mail blasts.”

In fact, Mercer, too, has had three formal complaints lodged against it by student veterans that are currently noted on the VA’s website, vets.gov GI Bill comparison tool, which helps veterans seeking higher education options. Two complaints are regarding financial issues (Tuition/Fee Charges), and an additional complaint related to a change in degree plan/requirements.

Mercer student veteran Chris Molnar dismisses the complaints saying, “There is a lot of paperwork and back and forth between the VA and the school that has to happen for Veterans to get their benefits for school every semester and it gets really annoying. But Colonel Becker [Mercer’s Veterans Services director] and Tammy [his executive assistant] help a lot with whatever they can, and any time I have come to them pissed off or annoyed because something isn’t working or stuff is taking longer than it should, they help me out right away.”

Nevertheless, many community colleges that have veterans services programs have no formal complaints lodged against them with the VA and offer a broader variety of services on campus, such as health centers and daycare services as four other community colleges in New Jersey do. This raises the question of what Victory Media’s criteria are for determining who goes on their Military Friendly list and in what order.

Victory Media’s website describes their current methodology saying, “we collect vast amounts of public and proprietary information; process this data using our methodology and weightings, which are established with the guidance of our Military Friendly® Advisory Council, and audited by EY (Ernst & Young); and rate institutions and organizations on how Military Friendly® they are.”

It does not specify what public and proprietary information they evaluate, but it seems unlikely that formal complaints with the VA are included.

One central aspect the assessment of military friendliness is a free survey that schools can allow veterans to complete so the data can then be sent to Victory Media.

Mercer’s president, Dr. Jianping Wang, when asked how the college qualified for it’s ranking said: “Well it’s really the hard work of our staff. So [there] is a survey you need to fill out to do this. We got such a great response and that earn[ed] us the highest school [ranking]. That’s how we earned [it]. So it’s not like any secret or anything; it is just by a very simple survey.”

But of Mercer’s 146 student veterans and active duty military personnel it’s not clear what percent actually took or were aware of the survey.

Marine Corps veteran and former Editor in Chief of The VOICE Carl Fedorko says that he did not take a survey and was unaware of anyone else who had taken it, as he never heard any fellow veterans talking about it.

Likewise, Fire Science Major, and Army veteran, Barnabas Adombire, when asked if he had taken the survey stated, “Nope I didn’t…I also do not know what Victory Media is.”

Adombire says when he heard about Mercer’s number 1 ranking on the Military Friendly® list “My initial reaction was just like, ya know, obviously I was like ‘What? The whole nation? Thats pretty cool’. But then again I’m like ‘Well how did they achieve that?’…There’s a lot of colleges. [Mercer] being number one? That means they have to have really done other stuff that I don’t even know about.”

That’s not to say that Mercer’s veterans that The VOICE was able to interview did not have a positive view of the college’s services. Their reactions were universally positive, especially toward the director of services, John Becker.

Mercer has also received other accolades for its veterans services, such as the New Jersey Military Order of the Purple Heart given to Mercer during a ceremony this past September 11. The college is the first Purple Heart Community College in New Jersey.

Adombire says Becker and the Veterans Affairs office has made a point of creating a comfortable lounge for the student Veterans on campus, adding, “Knowing the people behind it, I can understand how they got [the ranking].”

But outside of improvements made to the office itself, Adombire was unable to name any significant changes to the services in the time since President Wang says she was approached by veterans with complaints before she took her position.

When The VOICE reached out to Sean Marvin, legal director of Veterans Success, the watchdog group, he responded to emailed questions about what Mercer’s number 1 ranking mean saying: “If your school’s ‘military friendly’ designation is from Victory Media, the next question is whether your school paid Victory Media for that designation.”

As a first step in that process The VOICE combed through each month’s official Board of Trustees Updates for the past year as these include financial updates and authorized payments to vendors. We also reviewed the school’s financial audits, but in both cases we were unable to find any listing of Victory Media under that name or any alternatives, such as “VMI” which is the designation they use on their email.

Marvin went on to say, “You would have to ask your school administration if they paid Victory Media/GI Jobs Magazine any money.”

To that end, The VOICE filed an Open Public Records (OPRA) request in March to find out if the college had, in fact, paid Victory Media for the ranking or for any other marketing services, but the request went unanswered.

According to the report done by Veterans Success, “Victory Media also makes money a second way: it operates a ‘pay-for-play’ scheme that promotes the colleges that pay Victory Media the most.”

With this information The VOICE was able to obtain rate cards from Victory Media from 2012 and 2015 that provide a fee structure. These do not indicate any pay-to-play information for how high on any list a school might pay to be ranked.

They do, however provide information entitled “Packages Offer Greatest Reach and Value”, which explains a star ranking system going from 1-5, where more stars offer better perks. The 2012 prices ranged from 1 star being offered at $9,900 and a 5 star rating being sold for $49,000. By 2015 the rates had increased to $14,900 for 1 star up to $59,900 for 5 star.

The ratings correspond to the marketing services provided such as “Preferred Search Results on militaryfriendlyschools.com,” print ads and “Enhanced Print Listing” in the Military Friendly® Schools publication, and “Run of Website Ads” and “Suggested Schools” listing also on the militaryfriendlyschools.com website.

When asked by The VOICE how MCCC reaches out to veterans to let them know about programs offered, President Wang said, “Oh yes, we are trying to publicise as much as we can and we also have our current satisfied veterans marketing for us.”

Without the public records requests information it is impossible to know the extent of Mercer’s relationship with Victory Media. Has the college paid for marketing and advertising to veterans? If so, has that influenced the college’s ranking on the Military Friendly® list? Or was the extent of the college’s interaction with the company simply the administration of a free survey to veterans that showed our college was the best?

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Huffington Post – “Military-Branded Websites Push Veterans to Troubled For-Profit Colleges” (Feb. 2016) by David Halperin

U.S. Federal Trade Commission –  “FTC Staff Perspective on Lead Generation” (Sept. 15, 2016)

The New York Times –  “For-Profit Colleges, Vulnerable GIs” (Sep. 2011) by Hollister Petreaus

Glassdoor – Job board presenting jobs, salary information and reviews from former employees – Victory Media employees discuss pressure to up-sell

Victory Media Military Friendly® methodology description

 

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In faculty contract fight months of negotiations fail to end stalemate over pay and benefits http://www.mcccvoice.org/contract_fight_2/ Sat, 29 Apr 2017 12:10:47 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5594

Students have seen signs posted on faculty office doors and in windows saying, “No Contract, but Still Working” but what do they mean?

The full time faculty members, of which there are approximately 100, work based on a contract that lays out annual wages and salary increases, and clarifies how many classes are to be taught, how many supervisory evaluations given, number of office hours, amount of benefits and other job requirements. A key sticking factor is that without a new contract, faculty do not receive any increase in pay.

The most recent faculty contract expired over a year ago and faculty union officers and college administrators have been deadlocked in negotiations.

Professor of Communication and the President of the faculty union, Alvyn Haywood, says, “We expect that the institution will take care of us as we take care of those who we work with.”

After months of stalled negotiations, Professor of English Edward Carmien, who is the current lead negotiator, says the full-time faculty and administration have moved into a “fact finding” stage.

Professor Carmien says, “In fact finding both sides will have the opportunity to share what they see are the facts of the matter at hand.” The facts in question have to do with college finances and whether or how much pay can be increased based on availability of funds.

According to Professor Carmien, negotiations began in March of 2016. An agreement was not made at that time and the faculty association declared impasse, a legal position meaning no progress is possible. This lead to a mediation meeting in September 2016 to try to resolve the conflict. The meeting did not produce a contract, and the mediator recommended both parties go to the “fact finding” stage.

Currently the full time professors have not had a raise in 2 years. According to union members, as cost of living goes up the expectation is that salaries should go up as well.

A bitter contract negotiation in 2013, which was covered in detail in The VOICE, found that the central disagreement was over a 1.5 percent raise in salary. At that point some community colleges in NJ were getting as much as a 2-2.5 percent raise.

Art Schwartz, Professor of Mathematics and the previous lead negotiator told The VOICE why these seemingly incremental raises matter saying, “For example, if I get a two percent raise and you get a one percent raise, you’d said ‘Oh, what the hell, it’s only one percent.’ No, I’m getting twice as much as you. And that will make a difference in 10-15 years.”

Dr. Jianping Wang, President of MCCC, says that the college simply does not have the proper funds to give professors such a raise. State funding, which is supposed to pay for one-third of community college fees, actually only accounts for less than 10 percent. Students currently pay over 50 percent of all community college fees. That is why tuition prices are rising each year.

Dr. Wang told The VOICE, “I believe we have incredibly hard working faculty, dedicated faculty…and they really deserve to get a raise. I want to give them a raise. But the truth is, as the president of the college, you cannot do things just because you want to, you have to do things that are responsible and that sustain the college. So if you choose just to settle the contract, don’t care how you’re gonna pay for it, then it will do the damage to the future of this college”

During the current negotiation period Dr. Wang has noted that the college has a $500,000 surplus. She has proposed a “success sharing” option as a means to increase faculty pay. Under such a plan, faculty would get bonuses if more of their student completed and passed their classes.

One faculty member who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of job reprisals said, “The idea of ‘success sharing’ is unethical. It puts pressure on faculty to lower standards so they can make more students pass. It also pits faculty against one another based on those who won’t inflate grades and those who will.”

The same professor continued, “I think the president’s argument would be that the team benefits from overall increased graduation and retention rates so there is no pressure, but the team doesn’t assign grades, individual professors do. Even if they try to ignore the pressure, in the back of their minds they know the more students they push along, the more money they might get. From the student’s perspective that means you can’t count on your diploma to reflect real learning or mean anything.”

A similarly contentious contract fight occurred in 1986. The college administration did not want to give faculty a raise, but it was shown that the college could afford it. Eventually, professors went on strike for three days. Classes were canceled and the school activities came to a halt. With contract negotiations now lasting longer than it did in 1986, is there a risk that the faculty will go on strike again?

Professor Schwartz says, at this point “I don’t think the faculty would support a strike.”

However faculty have indicated that they may hold a vote of no confidence in the president’s leadership. While such an action does not have any direct impact, it would signal to the college’s board of trustees that protests or even another strike might be the next step.

In a survey of 30 students conducted by The VOICE, 63 percent said they believed that professors not having a contract affects students, but on a scale of one to ten, half of those students rated how much they would be affected at the mid point, a five.

Although there is a low likelihood that the faculty will go on strike, this does affect students in other ways. Contracts require professors teach a minimum of 5 classes a semester, but many professors teach 6 or 7 classes to make more money.

English Professor Jack Tabor says, “What that means for you guys is that we are more tired. We would love to get your papers back faster, but because we are sort of having to run at 125 percent because we have to do this extra amount of work just to literally makes ends meat, it does wear us out. We’re less patient. We have less energy to come up with new things to teach.”

Dr. Diane Campbell, Executive Dean of Student Affairs says, “If you are doing what you came here to do, the signs in the windows should raise a flag in your intellect for you to question what is going on. And if you talk to a faculty member about what that sign means, hopefully as you leave Mercer and go into the workforce, you will understand what that means a lot better in terms of ‘still working’. We don’t have a contract, but we’re still working.”

Although this process has already been over a year long, professors agree that it will continue to be a long and drawn out process like it has been in the past. The “No Contract, but Still Working” signs are not new. They have been used several times in the past when a contract agreement was not made in time.

Prof. Tabor says, “I think after the contract negotiations, these signs will probably get slid back behind everyone’s desk for next time, because this seems to be the nature of labor, especially here at Mercer.”

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With on-campus daycare unavailable, students must look elsewhere http://www.mcccvoice.org/with-on-campus-daycare-unavailable-students-must-look-elsewhere/ Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:14:03 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5597

Every semester it becomes more important for students to complete their degrees and graduate in the time frame they planned. The difficulty of being a part time student and working full time in order to pay off school is already stressful, and now add the expense of paying for childcare services for those who are both parents and students.

Of the 18 community colleges in New Jersey, 13 have a daycare on campus that serves students, faculty, staff, and the community.

Bergen County Community College is one of the 13 schools that have a childcare center on campus. The students receive a higher discount for the childcare center tuition than the staff, faculty and open public in order to help out students.

Sally Dionisio, Director of the Child Development Center of Bergen Community College says, “We do our best to assist students and their children in order for them to complete their degrees, it’s a good opportunity for students to be able to drop off their kids here at campus while they are taking classes.”

Mercer has realized that child care is a problem for students, staff, and faculty members. Dean of Students Dr. Diane Campbell told The VOICE, “We had a meeting and our faculty said that child care it was an issue with students, that lots of time we had students who bring their children to school and it seems that they need a way to have somebody to watch their children.”

In fact, in the late 1970’s there was a co-op childcare center on Mercer’s main campus. However, the college only provided the space, the mothers were in charge of the shifts. Professor of Visual Arts Lucas Kelly’s mother was able to finish her high school and Associate Degrees at Mercer County Community College because of this service.

Kelly says, ”She and a number of students created a co-op. This cooperative daycare that she participated in was basically a bunch of students who were mothers who needed childcare and couldn’t afford childcare but also needed to go to school and couldn’t afford not to go to school. So they essentially traded their time to watch children for time to go to class, so my mother would watch a group of kids while the number of the mothers whose kids were under the watch of my mom were taking class.”

In a survey conducted by The VOICE, 72 percent of students said Mercer should have a daycare on campus, and 60 percent said that if Mercer had a childcare center on campus they thought more people would enroll. But the student were less enthusiastic about the idea if it would result in a tuition increase.

One respondent wrote on the survey: “If it doesn’t affect my tuition then I don’t care.”

The opening of a daycare on campus might affect tuition costs, according to Dean Campbell. She says, ”There are so many regulations that go with childcare that makes it very expensive to run…To renovate the toilets that are the little size, for examples. So as we look into it, it takes more and more money to even to begin to set it up.”

What would be the direction that Mercer would take if they decided to open a daycare?

According to Professor Theresa Capra, who runs the college’s Education program, “We don’t want to open a babysitting place, like in the supermarket where you can drop off your kids while you shop. If we are going in the direction of opening a child care center it must be a high quality facility with trained and qualified professionals, and it would be a wonderful opportunity for students in the EDU courses and psychology courses to get hands on learning and observation time, and I also think there is some room to have Mercer students to work there part time.”

In a survey conducted by Dean Campbell’s office of faculty and staff, of the 160 respondents, 36 percent indicated a need for childcare.

Having such a facility on campus would not only benefit faculty and students who are parents, but also students majoring in early childhood education.

Keighley Webb,  an education major says, “I think it would be extremely beneficial for education majors to have a daycare on campus. For EDU 109, an intro to education course, it is required to observe 25 hours of teaching. It would be useful to have a daycare on campus for students to be able to conduct their hours there.”

Dean Campbell  has made an effort to survey students about their needs and most recently held an informative session for students, staff and faculty members by Child Care Connection. This agency, based in Trenton,  assists families with their child care needs by helping them find facilities in the area.

This sounds like a good option for parents, since they also offer connections with summer camps, but according to student Aronya Downing, a mother of two, there is a problem.

“The problem with Child Care Connection is that your income can disqualify you, and most of the places they offer do not have late evening babysitting, so it’s a trouble with evening classes for me,” said Downing.

Although the cost of establishing a center are high, community colleges in New Jersey that have lower tuition than Mercer have managed to accomplish it. Passaic, Middlesex, Gloucester, Camden, Atlantic Cape and Burlington county colleges all have lower in-county per credit tuition than Mercer, and all of them have daycare centers. Three of them–Middlesex, Gloucester, and Burlington–have health centers, another important student service, too.

“It’s kind of a shame that it hasn’t happened here at Mercer. I hope that the new administration thinks of this as a service for the community…Opportunities for women are not looking like they are getting better, and childcare doesn’t look like it is going to get cheaper,” says Professor Kelly.

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PROFILE: Kento Iwasaki, Mercer grad and professional musician http://www.mcccvoice.org/kento/ Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:06:11 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5590

Musician and Mercer alumni Kento Iwasaki gave a lecture and performed music on the traditional Japanese koto instrument as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series on April 12. Iwasaki was introduced by acting dean of the Honors program, Dr. Bettina Caluori. She told the audience “This is the role reversal teachers love. He was my student, but today I’ll sit in my seat and learn from him”.

A former Honors student and member of Phi Theta Kappa, as well as reporter for the VOICE, Iwasaki attributes much of his current success to his start at Mercer, especially the first class he took here, an English 101 class with Dr. Carol Bork.

He said of it, “I will always remember that class…She said that this class informs how to be successful in other classes. That’s kind of a really big statement, but it was completely true. It has informed how I write music.” Specifically, he says it helps him switch between his “editor side and creative child side” as he applied what he learned brainstorming for English papers into working up new compositions.

Iwasaki believes the multifaceted liberal arts curriculum here helped him grow, saying “If I didn’t go to Mercer, I probably wouldn’t have become a theater composer. Mercer made me an interdisciplinary composer”.

That interdisciplinary approach has certainly taken hold on his work. As part of the duo Gemini Hasu he plays the koto alongside his partner, who plays the djembe, or African drum. The two are working on infusing their music with modern electronica and trap beats for the club scene. This fusion of music both Asian and African, modern and traditional, can really only be called interdisciplinary.

But how did Iwasaki get involved with the koto when his time at Mercer was mostly spent focusing on the piano? After he graduated from Mercer with an Associate’s in Composition he got his Bachelor’s degree from Temple University, and then his Master’s from the Manhattan School of Music. He stayed in New York City and was commissioned by Columbia University for a piece.

This led to Iwasaki pursuing the koto at Columbia, sitting in on classes they taught on it and joining the koto ensemble. He also spent a month and a half in Japan studying under a koto master. The training was intensive; he says he spent around twelve hours a day under her tutelage. He ate three meals a day with her and her apprentice, making it a personal as well as professional relationship.

The koto has a traditional Japanese sound. It looks like a massive version of the neck of a guitar and is larger than Iwasaki himself. It’s hard to imagine him carrying the massive instrument through the subways of NYC, but he just laughed off this idea saying “Believe me, I’ve seen stranger.”

Aside from his work as part of Gemini Hasu, Iwasaki has also founded The Traveling Opera Company, which performed “Beloved Prey” here at Mercer last semester, a work Iwasaki composed the music for. He is also the musical director of Opera-Tunity, which works to bring opera to children. He can be often found alongside his djembe playing partner in subway stations of NYC, or playing in locations like Central Park, filling the air with music mixing different cultures and times, much like the city itself.

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Student radio station works to build community http://www.mcccvoice.org/radio/ Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:00:22 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5587

The dominance of of radio, particularly college radio which for decades helped promote obscure bands to stardom, has been steadily declining. This has become a huge problem that impacts community colleges as much as four year schools. While many may know of the popular classical station WWFM that plays on campus, the student station, Viking 89, which offers up a variety of musical genres music, from rap to jazz is struggling to maintain and grow their listening base.

This lack of interest in radio is occurring because of the many alternative ways in which students can listen to music. Communications Professor Mitch Canter, who teaches explains the problem saying: “ Listeners in their 20s have more alternatives than ever for audio entertainment.  Forget WPST or HOT 97, how about playlists on iPods, smartphones and laptop computers?  Streaming Spotify or Pandora off an iPhone or Android device?”

There isn’t much information about the student radio station online making and a VOICE survey of 50 students found that almost half (22) had no idea there was a radio station, while the other half (22) were aware but disinterested and didn’t listen to it. There were only six students who said they listened to the station regularly even though its primary broadcast range is the bustling cafeteria.

The VOICE conducted the same survey at Bucks County Community College to see if students were more interested in their student station, Radio BUX, but the results were even worse. Eighteen students didn’t know it existed and 31 students who knew about it never listened. Only one student who said that they had listened to it on occasion.

Shawn Slaughter, the General Manager for Viking 89 since 2013 says “We are the spice of life, because you can hear James Brown, Conway Twitty, Method Man, Beethoven. We’ve even had talk shows.” This means that the radio station is created for just about anyone, with any kind of musical taste. Slaughter emphasizes that the station plays an important role in helping to establish a sense of community on a commuter campus.

But to make a station work requires a dedicated staff. Slaughter told The VOICE: “When I first came [the station] was really small, not a lot of members… kind of like right now.”

Slaughter thinks there is a way for the station to reach more people. Professor Cantor, as faculty adviser of the station says “ I don’t think that the station can do this on its own, but I think it can be a tremendous contributor to the campus community.”

Professor Cantor says this can be accomplished “If Viking 89 can find the right mix of music programming and public affairs programs that are relevant to students’ everyday experiences here on campus, it can be a powerful combination.”

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Student art exhibit opens at Mercer’s Gallery http://www.mcccvoice.org/student-art-exhibit/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 14:24:45 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5759

On Apr. 12, The Gallery at Mercer County Community College held it’s third and final reception, the Visual Arts Student Exhibition showcasing dozens of piece across many fields of visual art such as photography, graphic design, sculptures and more.

Laura Callejo Jimenez, a Communication: New Media student, had one of her photographs selected. Jimenez told the The VOICE that her one goal was to find something different and goes beyond the surface. This was the first time she’s had any form of visual art chosen for public display.

Jimenez said, “Photographing an old car makes me think of everything that car has seen through many years. For some, this car was a dream years ago, today it is just sitting in at a random warehouse area in Trenton.”

Another photography student Lizzie Mayer has had pieces chosen for exhibitions in the past. Her most recent submission is titled [insert title here]. Mayer will be attending TCNJ in the fall studying art history. She works and has interned at The Gallery where she, along with other interns, have been able to create and curate their own shows.

Mayer told The VOICE, “[I]t’s only for a week [but] we get to pick what we want. It can be a show about anything, we just need to find the artists and a theme and do it all ourselves without the help of the director.”

The interns’ most recent exhibit was their first. Mayer says it will be possible to host one more show by the interns if they take what they learned from the first one and plan accordingly. There are already discussions about the next theme.

Mayer says, “[The first exhibit] was just our persona so we just put in random work that we did to see how it would work together. Again, that was just our first show. The next show we were thinking about doing street art, graffiti art, street photography, have a city theme.”    

Graphic Design and Advertising major Julia Cook’s piece, Vogue 1963, features a self-portrait as a Vogue model on a 60’s themed cover. Looking beyond Mercer, Cook is interested in Art and Design schools in Philadelphia, and says her confidence has increased while working on this semester’s capstone project rebranding a company.

“We have to all work together and do separate portions of rebranding a company. Right now it’s the Warrior K-9 connection company. So we’re working with service dogs that help out warriors, men who have come back from the military,” Cook said.

In reflecting on her experience with the show, photo student Jimenez said: “Having the opportunity of publishing some students work is a great idea that motivates professors and students to keep up the hard work seeing some results in a short time.”

The Gallery at MCCC is currently seeking volunteers for the fall and spring semester and is always encouraging students to submit their work.

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Snyder puts Avengers on ice in Vikings home opener http://www.mcccvoice.org/snyder-puts-avengers-on-ice-in-vikings-home-opener/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:56:08 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5475

Mercer County Community College’s baseball team got to play on home turf for the first time on Thursday, March 23.

The Vikings kicked off their homestand with a 10-1 victory over the ASA Avengers. They returned from their week-long road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to cold, wet weather that caused a postponement of their first two home games against Rockland Community College and Brookdale Community College

However, head coach Kevin Kerins told The VOICE he believes that the weather has worked to the team’s advantage as it gave them the opportunity to rest after the energy sucking time spent playing in Myrtle Beach, where the team went 5-3.

“It has been cold unfortunately, but we play through it, this recent snow storm hit at a good time, we were able to fly back from Myrtle Beach and it also gave us nice break upon return to recover. We only lost 2 games, which have been rescheduled,” Kerins said.

Kerins also thinks the additional obstacle of playing in unusual conditions will build up his team’s mental toughness and endurance.

“In January and early February it can be tough [because] we have [a] long season and we put [a] lot of time, practicing indoors, on turf, field, outside in cold can wear on guys, but I also think it makes our guys mentally strong.  Our players know we are working toward something special each season and being flexible with practice plans, game locations and times is part of process,” Kerins said.

Sophomore infielder Gabe Castillo got the Vikings on the board early with his first homerun of the season in the bottom of the first inning.

Castillo said, “We were just all trying to do something for the team, came back ready, got a couple of days off, came back and put some hits together.”

Sophomore infielder Erik Bowren contributed a home run of a different fashion by hitting an inside the park, two run homerun in the bottom of the sixth, which put the Vikings ahead of ASA by eight.

Bowren told The VOICE, “It was good to get that one today. It gets your adrenaline going for sure. Off the bat I had a feeling it was probably gonna be three, but then I was coming around second and I saw the coach just kinda keep waving me and I thought if he was gonna keep waving then I’m just gonna go. It was a bang-bang play, but lucky for us I was safe.”

Another noteworthy performances of the game was that of freshman starting pitcher Nick Snyder. Snyder improved to a perfect 4-0 on the season by throwing a shutout five inning performance featuring ten strikeouts, only one short of his season high. Snyder told The VOICE he thought it was his strongest outing of the year, though he gave up seven hits and three walks, as well as pitching in  a first and second no-out jam in the top of the second inning. Still, Snyder was ultimately able to keep the Avengers off the board for five innings.

Snyder told The VOICE, “When I get into jams like that it almost seems like the game slows down a bit, my intensity and focus goes up, and I think that really helped me get out of those jams. Just slowing it down and really figuring out how to get out of those jams.”

ASA’s only run of the game came in the seventh inning with the Vikings already up by nine.

With the team’s longest trip of the season now behind them they were able to open up a seven game homestand, with what Bowren says was a crucial win: “Being the home opener and stuff in the cold weather, we wanted to come out here and get a win. They’re a great team with a lot of talent, so we just wanted to get out there as a team and play some good team baseball and we did that today.”

The Vikings have improved to 13-4 on the season, which puts them one step further on their goal of a return trip to the NJCAA World Series.

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After Reddit mocks diversity disaster, college uses real student successes for promo models http://www.mcccvoice.org/student_models/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:53:36 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5484

When entering MCCC, you can’t miss the life-sized images of students hanging from the lamp posts lining the perimeter campus drive. The “Faces of Mercer” campaign has put these faces on the MCCC website, on brochures, and all around campus. But who are they?

Turns out, these students are selected by Wendy Humphrey and Jim Gardner in the Public Relations office. The student models are usually chosen through a recommendation from faculty members at Mercer and based on of their commitment to Mercer and their involvement in things like clubs, sports, or band.

The use of student models is, in part, a reaction to a debacle in 2014 when the winter course catalog used a stock photo image of young people–who didn’t appear to be going to college–one of whom had a black man’s head photoshopped poorly onto a white man’s body and was positioned lurking behind three white girls

The photo may have been intended to display campus diversity, but instead the vexing image was posted to  “photoshop-battles” on Reddit, the popular online discussion website (As of this reporting it has 14k views). The Internet lost no time in responding. As the image got thousands of views, people downloaded and photoshopped in all kinds of other images before re-uploading

New versions included other types of “diversity” including a man in a wheelchair, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a child in a raincoat, and a duck. Students from other schools posted similar PR gaffs.

Jim Gardner told The VOICE, “In the past there was a period of time where a lot of the students that were portrayed were from a photo library, and we quickly realized it’s more impactful to have actual students.”

Both Humphrey and Gardner remarked that the use of non-student models was due to financial difficulties, but still should not have been done. “You can’t replace actual people, which is a lesson that we learned,” Humphrey stated.

The student models are not only used to show their involvement in school activities, but also to show diversity among the MCCC campus. Dr. Jianping Wang who is the President of Mercer believes that “Faces of Mercer” should identify the real population among the students that attend the school. “We want to have a mixed representation. That’s the only instruction I give to the marketing team,” said Dr. Wang.

Most colleges have a student model campaign where current students are used to show what the majority of students are like. As Mercer is only a 2 year institution a lot of the models used are no longer current students.

Dr. Wang stated, “By the time we take the photo and put them into all these publications you graduate and you move on. So a lot of times you walk around and say, ‘Hey this person is no longer here.’”

According to Humphrey and Gardner, a student that is in their first semester can be chosen to model and represent “Student Success.” This is reaffirmed by model, Ashley Castillo who is a current Liberal Arts major at MCCC, she was chosen to model for Mercer during her first semester, in Fall 2015.

Although it is hard to tell who will become successful and who will not, the fact remains that  majority of the student models were heavily involved in extracurricular activities, and had noteworthy intentions to become successful through their academic grades.

Mani Kissling was approached by  Humphrey after being photographed playing for Mercer’s soccer team. She was asked to attend a golf benefit held by Mercer, and after her photo was posted onto Mercer’s facebook page she was asked by Humphrey to do a photoshoot as part of “Faces of Mercer.” Kissling completed 5 semesters at Mercer then transferred to Monmouth University.

Kissling noted that Humphrey reached out to her to be one of her models and next thing she knew, her face was everywhere. “I was very thankful for all the opportunities that had been given to me, and I think she [Humphrey] recognized that,” Kissing said.

While at Mercer, Kissling was involved in soccer, basketball, and cross country. Along with that she worked hard to keep her grades up in the classroom. When The VOICE asked Kissing if she had considered herself,  “Student Success,” Kissling replied “Yes, I do…I would consider myself ‘Student Success’ because I worked for it, I worked really hard for it.”

Another student model used as a “Face of Mercer” is Ousman Joof. His accomplishments at Mercer included being part of the International Student Organization, being part of the Graphic Design Club, involvement in Student Government Association, partaking in Cross Country, and serving as Editor in Chief of The College VOICE. After 5 semesters at Mercer,  he transferred to Drexel University.

“During the Spring into Success function in 2015 I was approached by Francis Paixao I guess I got lucky because other student[s] could have been picked.” For being considered an example of “Student Success” Joof said, “Yeah I would say I was a good representation of Mercer, but you’ll have to ask around to see if that’s true,” Joof said with a smile.

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STUDENT PROFILE: Interview with Colette Leonard James http://www.mcccvoice.org/colette/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:15:17 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5478

The VOICE’s ongoing STUDENT PROFILES series explores the lives of individual Mercer students and their unique, surprising, often courageous stories.

This month’s installment introduces Colette Leonard James, a nontraditional college student whose academic path was never assured, but who will be graduating in May.

Note: Portions of this interview have been condensed, reordered and edited for clarity, but no content has been changed.

The VOICE: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Colette: I’m Colette James and I’m 53 years old. I’m also a high school drop out, but then I returned back to school and got my high school diploma in 2001. So, coming to school that wasn’t on my agenda. Like me doing college, I never thought I could reach it because on top of that, I’m a recovering addict of 25 years. And, I have dyslexia  so I figured “I got a high school diploma, I’m good leave me alone.”

The VOICE: You have said drugs have played a role in your life. Can you say more?

Colette: Drugs are something you shouldn’t get involved with but in my household it made it easier because me and my sister and my mother were all addicted. That made it bad. It was easier to allow the children to live with other people so they wouldn’t have to go without eating. My daughter stayed back in first grade because I wasn’t able to get up to take her take her to school. I got put out of housing authority because of paying 80 something dollars for rent but that shit was more important than paying.

People look for love in all the wrong things, in men and whatever, and it’s what is going to make you happy. We think that stuff makes us happy, but it’s only for a moment. Before you know it you look around and time has went by. Your mind may be young, but your age is saying something else. So at the age of 28 God allowed me to clean myself up. Now I have 25 years sober. I went through my 30s and my 40s and I had the opportunity to become someone’s role model.

My grandchildren don’t know anything about that time. All they see is what they see now. They don’t know what it took to get here. Only my daughter that’s 37 knows, because she lived it.

The VOICE: How did you finish high school?

Colette: I dropped out of high school in 1981. I was a young mother and I didn’t pass the eleventh grade. Once you don’t pass, you don’t want to go anymore. And then, like I said, drugs, getting high, drinking, and a man became more important than going back. So I tried doing the GED thing and it was just hard. GED is harder than taking a test and actually getting a teacher. I got clean in 1992. In 1999 or 2000 I learned about the Daylight Twilight High School, and it was in my neighborhood in the urban community. I said, well let me try Daylight Twilight, maybe I can get my high school diploma that way. Maybe God is giving me opportunities to better myself. And then, when I joined the school, my mother joined and niece joined, so we all graduated. My mother ended up graduating a year before me. Me and my niece graduated in 2001.

The VOICE: And then how did decide to come to college?

Colette: I was married and I was in the process of getting a divorce and I have a cousin who is a school teacher. We were talking on the phone and she goes “You should go back to school,” and I said “Go back to school? For what?” She said “Because now you’re getting a divorce. Men like smart women!” So that’s what made me go back to school.

The VOICE: So what was the first step at Mercer like?

Colette: When I got here, I had to start from the bottom because I had to do a lot of pre-requisite classes, because I wasn’t in school for years. But when I saw my grades it was like “Wow, all you have to do is apply yourself and you can do this even through your challenges. You can make this work for you!”

Last semester I took Professor Holly Johnson’s English composition class and before that I had never read a whole book. Never. Because when I sat there I couldn’t comprehend it. We read a book called Ghettoside, and she gave me an app to put on my phone so I could listen to the audio book while reading, so when it was discussion time in class I knew exactly what was going on. And that made me so happy, that at 53 I was able to read a book for the first time in my life.

The VOICE: One thing that teachers say about you is that you have a very strong work ethic. Where does that come from?

Colette: That comes from my background and being determined. That I was going to make the best of any situation. So if I’m going to give you something, I’m giving you my all, I’m not coming with ten percent, I’m coming with it all. I don’t mind asking questions. As a child people would say that “you are asking too many questions!” and then growing up people would say “Well you got to ask the right questions because no question is a dumb question.” So my model is, if you have a closed mouth, you can’t eat with a closed mouth. Anything that you are determined or what you want, you have to go after it for yourself.

That’s what I do. I try to be the best at whatever I do. I was the best at whatever I was doing even when I was drinking and drugging. Sometimes I talk about the stars and the moon. As a child you want to reach the stars. I found that the stars are the people that you meet on the way. The stars could be a teacher and I’m climbing up on my ladder and I’m reaching these stars. Like if I need help. I go over to a teacher and I say “I don’t know how to do this, but if you can help me, then I can get it.” That makes me shoot for another star.

The VOICE: What advice do you have for other students?

Colette: Try not to smother yourself with drugs and alcohol, men and pills and stuff like that and all that partying. Do your work ahead of time because a lot of high school and college students wait until the last minute. They put a whole lot of pressure on themselves to wait til the last minute to do an assignment. If you do it early you’ll have it done. Then you won’t have to worry about it right? If you need help get the help you need. Don’t be too proud to say I need to go to the tutoring center, ‘cause they’re here for you. If you need to reach out, like if you’re going through it at home, go to counseling sessions. People always look at counseling as a downfall, but really you’d be crazy not to go.

The VOICE: Who are your role models?

Colette:  My daughter and grandchildren are my role models. I have to say that because it is them everyday that make me strive. There are teachers here that I love too. They take time out to make sure I get what I need. Another role models is My grandmother. She lived to be 86. But the biggest one is my daughter because she could have turned out differently but she turned out to be a great mother, a great person, through all she suffered, all I went through. And she’s kind of my biggest fan.

The VOICE: When will you graduate from Mercer?

Colette: I don’t want to leave Mercer, but I got to go. I’ve been here since 2012. I started out getting a certificate because that was reachable for me. I started getting the medical office assistant’s certificate, but since I had so many credits I said “Well you might as well stay and get the degree, you’re right here.” So I’ll be graduating with an A.A.S degree in May.

The VOICE: What will be going through your mind when you’re crossing that stage getting the diploma?

Colette:: Reaching the star. I am reaching a star that I wasn’t even trying to conquer. I am thinking about getting my Bachelor’s degree. Thinking about going to Rider. Not thinking about it, I’m on my path to going.

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Friends can be found even on commuter community college campus, if you look http://www.mcccvoice.org/friends-can-be-found-even-on-commuter-community-college-campus-if-you-look/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 11:03:02 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5500

A common complaint heard on campus is that people come to class and then immediately leave for home or to work. That’s true. This is a commuter school and not everyone has time for socializing after classes. But there is community here if you bother to look for it.

“It really has to do with getting involved,” says Mani Kissling, adding, “Nobody is going to know who you are if you just kind of hide in the shadows of class.”

Before transferring to Monmouth University Kissling was on the soccer, basketball, and cross country teams at Mercer. “Doing athletics really, really helped in getting involved in the community” Kissling says.

In a survey of 37 students on the West Windsor campus, just over a third said they do not feel they are a part of a community, but most of these students also said they go to their classes and leave campus immediately afterward. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they were not in any organization or club at Mercer, which is the simplest and most practical way to get involved.

Being a part of The VOICE has given us the ability to meet, work, and socialize with fellow students many of whom we have never had a class with. It also give us the chance to interview faculty and administrators for articles, and build a relationship with them. Before The VOICE we had only ever seen President Wang in pictures; now we have built a relationship and she knows us when we come to interview her for articles. Sure there may be days where we have to stay late to work on the paper, but that keeps us away from the go to class and go home trap.

We had a former VOICE staffer, Daniela Rocha, come in to talk to us at the start of the semester and she talked about her career in international journalism that started at Mercer, but also mentioned the lifetime friendships she made on the paper. A glance at The VOICE’s social media shows staffers stay in touch long after they graduate; they help each other find apartments in new cities, they meet up when they’re back home.

For some students, it’s not clubs that provide community, but their program of study. Joe Suarez, a Freshman studying Music at Mercer says, “A typical day for me is nothing super interesting. I go to classes, maybe have to wait a half an hour or so for my next class, and after all of them I leave.” But he notes that he does talk to people in his department.

Sympathetic to the community college students unique situation is Literature Professor Dr. Jack Tabor. Having been a community college student once himself, Dr. Tabor says he can relate to the cycle of school, work, home: “inherently [with]in the community college it is hard [to find community] unless you are involved with a student group.”

He tries to address this at Mercer by having an active dynamic in the classroom to help students collaborate. When students don’t speak or are disconnected from him or one another, he has them “turn their wagons” to create small groups. “What the group work tells me” said Dr. Tabor, “is that there is a very strong sense of community.” Dr. Tabor has found this strategy to be successful.

Brian Morton-Salley, a sophmore studying Information Technology and Informatics at Rutgers University told The VOICE “I feel that a community college can have a sense of community itself because you’re still having classes, you’re still gonna have to find people to study with.”

In an interview with Mercer’s President Dr. Jianping Wang, she said, “students [here] have [a] much closer relationship with their faculties than [those at] a four year institution, because we are smaller classes…Our faculties are very student centered…They are always with you. So that gives the students a sense that they care, that the faculty cares about them…That should give them a sense of community.”

Dr. Wang did note, however, “there are some students who come here full time and work full time. So they come, take classes, and leave. I would say that those students probably don’t feel a close sense of community with fellow students,”

Another suggestion for the students looking for a community would be to visit your success coaches. They can provide a list of available clubs and advise you on any other questions. Success coaches are assigned to every freshman on campus, so that’s a place to start (Hint: don’t look on the Ellucian Go app, try your MyMercer portal to find yours :).

Hidden in faint white italics on the top of Mercer’s home page is the college’s mission, stating, “a vital college, engaged with its community, and dedicated above all else student success.” Mercer’s faculty and students are engaged in creating and maintaining a sense of community. It’s there, you just have to keep an eye out for it.

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Safety concerns resurface after sex offender Mercer student arrested http://www.mcccvoice.org/woolf/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 21:40:22 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5286

What happened: The crime, the suspect, the arrest

Mercer student and repeated sex offender, Adam L. Woolf, was arrested following an incident at the campus gym on February 7. He has been charged with five counts of second-degree luring, three counts of fourth-degree lewdness, and five counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

A source with direct knowledge of the case, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive subject matter, gave The VOICE the following account of what happened. On Tuesday, February 7 two girls, aged 10 and 11, arrived a few minutes early to their 5:20 PM swim practice at the Mercer pool. They were approached by a man they didn’t recognize on the pool deck. He was medium height, balding, and had a British accent.

Acting as though he was a college employee, the man told the girls there were new rules because of chlorine in the pool, and that they had to go downstairs and shower in the women’s locker room before they could come back up for practice.

Although they thought it sounded odd, the girls headed slowly down the stairs to the empty locker room. Hearing footsteps, they hid in the toilet stalls, standing on top of the seats. They heard the man, later identified as Woolf, enter and say: “I know you girls are in here!”

The girls waited until all was quiet before venturing out, then spotted feet below one plastic shower curtain and immediately ran out of the locker room and up to their practice.

The allegations presented by Assistant Prosecutor, Renee Robeson, suggest Woolf also approached three boys on the team, lured them into the shower and exposed himself to them. All the children were later called into the police to give statements taken by the Special Victims Unit.

According to Breanna Santini, a Mercer student who works as a lifeguard and receptionist at the gym, and who was there on the evening of February 7, the swim team’s coach, Nancy Shapiro approached her and asked, “If I recognized this man in an overcoat who claimed to be campus security, but wasn’t wearing an ID or uniform.” Santini says she told Shapiro she did not recognize him.

Soon after that, Santini says, Shapiro contacted campus security to alert them that there was a problem. Shapiro was coaching a YMCA team that uses the facilities, and is not a college employee. The VOICE reached out to her for comment multiple times but was turned down.

According a statement from county prosecutor Angelo Onofri, campus security quickly handed the case off to the West Windsor police department who he commended for their work on the case.

Woolf who had slipped out of the gym at first was quickly apprehended and brought to the police station, leaving later that evening after his attorney, John Furlong, arrived. He was not formally booked and charged until February 8, during which time it appears he returned to his parents’ home in Skillman, NJ. According to records online, Skillman is where his prior arrests took place.

On February 15, at Woolf’s first court hearing before superior court Judge, Peter E. Warshaw, the judge did not allow him to return home, despite his father’s requests. The judge asked Furlong if his client had sought a program for help or was considering attending one. Woolf’s lawyer, responded saying that they would look into one and would have an answer for the judge by Woolf’s next court date of March 1.

What came next: Campus safety and the notification

Woolf’s record as a sex offender goes back to 2006, with other incidents following in 2007, and again in 2009 according to records online. All of the incidents seem to have been against girls under the age of 13. Woolf himself was only 13 when the first arrest took place, but under the sex crime laws in New Jersey, commonly known as Megan’s Law, Woolf would have been tried as an adult in the courts and subject to adult penalties.

During the February 15 hearing, Judge Warshaw noted that in addition to the current events, there had been another allegation against Woolf in 2015 that was still pending in 2016. He clarified that he was not assigned to hear that case, in which a female student at Mercer had reported Woolf for harassment.

Reporter David Foster at The Trentonian, obtained the incident report in which the female student indicated to security that even though she had initially been friends with Woolf, she felt he was now harassing her. Campus security investigated, the Title IX coordinator was notified, and the college decided the situation didn’t rise to the level of harassment but told the student she could file a complaint with the police, which she did. The case, which has lingered in court for 15 months, still has not been resolved.

In an interview with The VOICE the day after the pool incident, Mercer Dean of Students, Dr. Diane Campbell said, “We are aware if there is a sex offender among our student body. Mercer is aware when a sex offender is registered in courses.”

When asked what the college’s policy is on allowing registered sex offenders to attend, campus Public Relations spokesman, Jim Gardner, told The VOICE that that was beyond his purview, but said, “We are an open campus and we have students from all walks of life, many of whom are looking for second chances.”

Woolf is registered as a “tier 3” or “high risk” sex offender. According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s website: “If the risk level is high (Tier 3), in addition to law enforcement agencies, schools, licensed day care centers, summer camps, registered community organizations, and members of the public are notified,” when an offender is present.

Mercer shares its campus with the The Joseph F. Cappello School, which, according to the Mercer County Special Services School District, “serves students between the ages of three and seven.” Mercer also runs “Camp College” a summer day camp for elementary and middle school aged children and has many minors on campus through programs such as Jump Start and Career Prep. Then there are off campus groups like the YMCA swim team that have permission to use specific campus resources, such as the pool, on a limited basis. It is not clear which, if any, of these programs were aware of Woolf’s presence.

Keighley Webb, an Education major, told The VOICE: “I cannot believe I sat so close to this man for 15 weeks in my public speaking class last semester. Woolf asked a number of girls in the class, including myself, for our phone numbers. We all felt sorry for him because of his learning difficulties and we wanted to help him. Little did we know that we had just given our personal phone numbers to a registered sex offender.”

Director of College Safety and Security Bryon Marshall, told The VOICE that his team is always worried about the safety of the students, and that there is a notification process if there is a sex offender on campus. He said, “Yes, yes, absolutely. We would send [notification] out through Dr. Campbell. She has all the students’ emails and information. We also have the MAlert system. So we would provide information to the degree necessary. So then, in a sense, she would inform the general population.”

However, during the time Woolf was released, before he was formally charged and detained, the college did not use its emergency alert system–MAlert–to notify students about the incident. The MAlert system was working, however, as students did receive snowstorm information.

Mercer Professor of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Bondurant, formerly Chief of Police in Plainsboro, was asked by The VOICE, from her knowledge of the law, if the college had any obligation to let the campus know if a sex offender might be at large after an incident on the campus. She responded: “I would say that it was a police matter that supersedes the college’s responsibility. So I believe the police department, West Windsor, who investigated it, would be responsible and most likely would have released information in a press release.”

Although the West Windsor Police Department handled the initial investigation of the case, their public information officer referred the matter to the county prosecutor’s office which did not release an official statement until a week after Woolf was apprehended on campus. Articles in local papers came out the same day.

Katriel Perez, a Computer Science major, told The VOICE: “I think it’s something we should have been told about. To hear it from a Twitter account but not your own school makes no sense to me.”

The first official notification from the college about the February 7 events came via a broadcast email on February 17. Mercer President, Dr. Jianping Wang, wrote: “Over the last two days, items have appeared in the news media about a recent incident in a MCCC facility involving a Mercer student and underage youth.” Dr. Wang emphasized the legal obligations of the YMCA team saying, “The organization’s use of the pool facilities is guided by the terms and conditions of a rental agreement, which requires that underage children be supervised by adult participants, coaches, or spectators.”

Dr. Wang concluded her letter to the college community saying, “I strongly encourage you to work with us to enhance campus security.  If you see something, say something.” Official posters with that same phrase have now appeared in the P.E. building.

Student and Staff Reaction

Mercer students’ reactions to Woolf’s arrest and the college’s response to it, ranged from stunned to outraged.

Nicole Migliaccio, an Education major, told The VOICE: “I am kind of shocked that no one was alerted. After hearing about the situation, and realizing that I had seen [Woolf] around campus previously, not knowing what his intentions were, it’s kind of unsettling now that even after the fact students weren’t informed directly. I found out through Facebook.”

Stefany Changanaqui, a Communication major, told The VOICE: “It’s crazy. Why wouldn’t Mercer notify us? It’s a big thing and it concerns my safety. What if something disturbing like this happens again? Is Mercer not going to let us know? We have a right to know if there’s a sex offender wandering around campus, just so we can be cautious. It’s disturbing because it’s like a slap in the face from our campus saying they don’t care about our safety.”

Lina Garcia an Exercise Science major, who had a class with Woolf, struggled to understand her own experience with Woolf. She told The VOICE, “I was shocked when I saw the news. Adam Woolf was a somewhat shy classmate, with a soft voice and sometimes [he] looked like a child. No one could ever imagine that he could be a sexual harasser.”

The VOICE asked Dr. Robert Kleinschmidt, Dean of Liberal Arts and Communications, if he knew about Adam Woolf’s background or the incident that lead to Woolf’s arrest, he said he did not and declined to give an interview.

Likewise, Communications Professor, Mitch Canter, who was Woolf’s academic advisor told The VOICE he, too, had never been made aware his advisee was a registered sex offender.

Ongoing security questions

The VOICE obtained copies of the campus daily security logs from the day of Woolf’s arrest, but found they do not contain any record of a call coming in to security from coach Shapiro regarding the pool incident, nor of the arrival of the West Windsor police.

Mike Hiestand, an attorney at the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), told The VOICE in a phone interview that the incident should have been reported into the campus daily logs.

Hiestand said: “Pretty much everything that occurs on campus, where a crime has actually taken place, should have been noted [in the logs] there…They need to provide enough information about the crime so that you have a general understanding of what’s going on.”

The logbooks are records the college must maintain as part of the Clery Act. The law is named after a college student, Jeanne Clery, who was beaten, tortured, raped and murdered in her freshman dorm room at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1986. No one had told her parents that 38 other violent crimes had been reported on the campus in the three years prior to their daughter’s death. They advocated for a law that could keep other parents and students informed.

Colleges have two basic obligations under Clery. According to the Student Press Law Center’s website, “Under the Clery Act, colleges that receive federal funding must report annual crime statistics, maintain a daily crime log, and produce an annual report detailing security policies.”

However, Mercer officials had a different interpretation of the law. A week after Woolf’s arrest, Bryon Marshall told The VOICE, “By definition [The] Clery [Law] has a discrete set of variables that you have to examine before you make an entry into a Clery report, and the conduct that occurred here does not reach those levels that we know of. As the investigation continues it may or may not. There is a particular definitional categories which are reported. Is it Clery reportable? By definition, no, based on what we know.”

It is not clear if Marshall was conflating the daily logs–which had no record of the call on February 7 or the visit from the police to pick up a student–with the annual crime report, which, based on the charges now filed against Woolf, will certainly be required to include the incident. Nor is it clear how the annual reports can be filed accurately if there is no record of incidents in the daily logs.

Mercer has run into problems with inaccurate crime reporting in the past. In 2012 The VOICE reported that the college had filed annual reports indicating zero crime for three years, even though various incidents had been reported and occurred on campus. The report also revealed that incidents which were handed over to local law enforcement–similar to the handoff of the Woolf to the West Windsor PD–were omitted from the college’s reports between 2009 and 2012.

When asked if colleges often have a series of ongoing problems with crime reporting, SPLC attorney Hiestand told The VOICE: “Typically, if you’ve been slapped on the wrist or in violation with Clery, we do not see repeats coming in. We would think that would be the wake up call to get your act together.”

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Handicap access at Mercer sees few changes in five years http://www.mcccvoice.org/handicap-access-at-mercer-sees-few-changes-in-five-years/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:40:12 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5271

The Administrative Assistant for the Dean of Liberal Arts, Debra Stotland, gets to Mercer every morning at 7. She always pushes the handicap buttons for the doors she enters to make sure they work. If a button is broken she calls Security to let them know. She does on behalf of handicap students who might find themselves in her same situation later in the day.

Stotland was confined to a power wheelchair until 6 years ago when she underwent bariatric surgery. During her time of relying on Mercer’s handicap accessibility, she found that many handicapped students have to go to great lengths to get around campus.

“In good weather it’s fine, but during inclement weather it’s very inconvenient for students,” Stotland said.

Stotland told the VOICE, on bad weather days when a student doesn’t want to walk outside, in order to get from the MS building to the AD building, the student must enter the LA building first, go through the ET building, then go into the BS building before finally arriving at the AD building. A trip that requires an inconvenient amount of time when the MS and AD buildings are less than 50 yards away from each other.

Many offices at Mercer keep their doors open if they do not have an automatic door opening button, but Stotland said that this gets Mercer in trouble with the Fire Marshal’s because of it being a fire safety hazard. Stotland has continued to make handicap accessibility a focus for Mercer’s administration by being an advisor for a student club whose aim was to bring handicapped awareness to those who are non-handicapped, and she has also gone as far as to offer administration to use her in wheelchair to see what it is like to be handicapped on campus.

“It’s gotten much better” said Stotland, “They meet the minimum requirements.”

When Stotland would use the Faculty/Staff dining area while she was handicapped, she would have someone accompany her, or wait for a student to open the door for her since the area does not have an automatic door opening button. She was amazed at how willing students are to help, “Our non-handicapped students are very helpful.”

In 2012, The VOICE assessed handicap access on campus. Reporters found that Mercer had no automatic door button at the entrances for the Financial Aid office, Bookstore, or the Enrollment Services office. This is a problem that has continued to be unresolved, despite the offices are some of the most frequented places on campus.

Since the 2012 article, handicap access has not changed much on campus. Mercer has maintained minimum compliance with the ADA, but issues raised in the 2012 VOICE article have not been fully addressed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed into law in 1990 and strove to enforce civil rights laws protecting people with disabilities against discrimination in employment, public services, and public accommodations. Mercer complies with ADA regulations because they are considered a part of the “Places of Education” category under public accommodations. The Act was edited in 2010 and contained small rule changes like requiring light switches be installed 48 inches off the ground, compared to the previous 54 inches.

A person with a disability is defined by the ADA as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

When asked how Mercer goes above ADA standards Arlene Stinson, Director of The Center for Inclusion, Transition and Accessibility, said “The standard is the minimum, and obviously there is a desire to maintain compliance for all students with disabilities.”

Out of the many automatic opening doors on campus, that are in front of certain buildings and within, less than 10 work.

“The college is ADA compliant, and generally as a campus it is fairly accessible.” said Stinson, “We have a series of elevators and two floor situation that allows access to almost all classrooms by elevators.”

Mercer still has no elevator in the CM building, making the art gallery on the second floor harder to get to, one of the issues brought to light by the 2012 article.

According to Stinson, “the total number of students we serve each semester is approximately 700.” That number includes students with learning disabilities and not solely those who are physically handicapped.

“Arlene [Stinson] determines the needs and we make adjustments based on her recommendations.” said Director of College Safety Bryon Marshall, “we figure out creative ways to get them to class.”

If a classroom needs to be moved because of lack of access for a student, according to Marshall, it is done, “in a way that is very quiet, confidential”

Both Marshall and Stinson cited a problem they encountered this semester with a student. “We had to move a classroom because it wasn’t accessible to someone who uses a wheelchair.” said Stinson.

Marshal says “Simply the room’s no longer functioning, so we move the class. That way we don’t single out the person.”

Stinson says, “The ultimate goal is for the accommodation floor to not be necessary anymore because the campus is designed so it is accessible to all.”

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