LOCAL – 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

 

]]>
http://www.mcccvoice.org/victory-media/feed/ 2
REVIEW: Mochi, a dessert you don’t want to sink your teeth into http://www.mcccvoice.org/review-mochi-a-dessert-you-dont-want-to-sink-your-teeth-into/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 14:34:32 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5648

Whole Foods of Princeton is one of five of the stores in the nation to feature a mochi ice cream bar, so The VOICE staff set about figuring out exactly what we think of the confections. Although there were dissenting opinions, the overall response can be summed up as “no way, no thanks,” though the staff acknowledges a certain distrust for the pricey Whole Foods brand and a general lack of fondness for cold foods and/or ice cream.

News Editor Tim O’Boyle explained he is not the sort of person who “will bite into a popsicle. I’ve got to savor and taste. I don’t bite.” This perhaps presaged his response to the round, rice flour paste wrapped ice cream balls that come in Easter egg colors and are usually eaten in three to four bites in the same manner as a filled puff pastry.

O’Boyle’s first response: “I think basically, they are gentrified munchkins.” Indeed, the orbs are just slightly larger in size, but identical in shape, to doughnut munchkins.

His second response: “Honestly, when I ate the first bite I knew this would be the first and last time I ever put one of these in my mouth.”

VOICE Opinions Editor, Oscar Trigueros was similarly unenthused. He said, “I like anything I put into my mouth to be warm. I’m not a cold foods fan.”

According to her Nov. 7, 2012 obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Mochi ice cream was invented by Frances Hashimoto, a businesswoman and community activist who lived in the Little Tokyo district of the city. The treat has roots in Japanese Daifuku. Hashimoto’s husband is credited with suggesting filling traditional Japanese mochi with ice cream. The idea took hold and became mass produced as a Japanese American restaurant staple starting in 1993.

Notably, the one Asian American on the VOICE staff, Jackson Thompson, expressed more affection for the confections. Moreover he was able to explain the pronunciation for the non-ice cream version of mochi is closer to moo-chee.

VOICE co-adviser, Prof. Matt Kochis, likened the dessert balls to his most familiar starting point as an American of Slovak descent, pierogis, but not in a complementary way. He eyed the cornstarch dusted exteriors–used to keep the items from sticking in their case–with suspicion. Each mouthful required lengthy, concentrated chewing to get down and brought discussion to a halt. His response, “You just want to follow it with a glass of water.”

All present noted that the colors of the mochi exteriors did not always correspond to the actual flavors, which were revealed by co-advisor, Prof. Holly Johnson, after they had been tested. Yes, pink was strawberry and white vanilla, but the green ones? Wasabi? Pesto? Lawn clippings? No, it was matcha green tea. This was one of the few flavors the group generally agreed was worth eating.

“If the only thing you brought me was a tub of the green ones, I might consider eating them again,” said Trigueros.

Mango also received slightly less hatred than the other flavors. Whereas the black sesame was described by O’Boyle saying, “I imagine it’s similar to what vape water would taste like.”

Trigueros added, “It finishes by dripping down the throat like mucus. It’s like clearing your throat.”

When asked to guess the price of a single mochi ball staffers, adamant that Whole Foods overcharges for everything, guessed from $3 to $5. The actual price is $1.50 for one and $12 for a box of 10. You can select the flavors yourself, so a box of only matcha green tea mochi is easy to come by, however, staffers indicated the price point did not fit a typical community college student’s budget.

In short: mochi = NO-chi.

]]>
Philadelphia Flower Show displays feature Dutch designs and student entry takes home gold http://www.mcccvoice.org/flowershow/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:00:04 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5413

This year the Philadelphia Flower Show theme was, “Holland Flowering the World” which inspired entrants to come up with new ways to present beds of tulips, windmills, bridges and the traditional Dutch wooden shoes.

The show, hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and founded in 1829, features the newest plant varieties, garden and design concepts, and organic/sustainable practices.

This year, Mercer’s Horticulture and Plant Science students worked with peers from the Fine Arts, Advertising & Graphic Design, Illustration and Television programs to craft an exhibit called “Postcards from Holland,” that included a park, a farm area, a windmill, a bike, rows of corn, tomatoes and, of course, tulips.

The team was awarded the Gold Medal in the Education category for their effort, and also earned the Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy for their work.

Megan Jean, an Advertising and Design major who helped build the structure told The VOICE: “I am really happy that we won two awards! All of the clubs worked really hard to make everything perfect.”

Getting things perfect required obsessive attention to detail. For example, the flowering park section included yellow and brown witch hazel flowers, pink and red roses, and green tall trees.

Professor Amy Ricco who runs the Horticulture program at Mercer told The VOICE:  “We used 50 different species, our display had close to 700 plants.”

Besides the number of plants there were other considerations.

“Trying to force our plants to bloom in the greenhouse when they normally wouldn’t be blooming,” was a considerable obstacle according to Professor Ricco.

Megan Jean says “the best part was that we had the freedom to come up with a design as long as it fit the theme.”

Before finishing the exhibit, many different parts had to come together outside the Horticulture program itself. For example, the Art Club helped out by painting the windmill.

”The hardest thing was probably having to wait for things to dry and for paint to come in. We couldn’t continue on to the next step until the paint was dry, and the cold probably didn’t help.” said Amanda Tonkery, illustrator major and part of the Art Club at Mercer.

The Graphic Design and Illustration students created postcards and posters for flower show visitors. The pamphlets included facts about Holland and Holland’s unique use of space resources that promote an eco-friendly culture. All this was cemented by a short video, produced by a Television student, focusing on  “Sustainability In Holland” which was played in Mercer’s barn exhibit.

This year many new features were added to the show, such as a light show that was presented in the middle of the convention center. It included music and heavy light concentration on the windmills and bridge.

“This is amazing, the music, the lights and the decorations. It feel[s] like I am in Holland.” said Joe Kasper from New Hope, Pennsylvania.

The PHS displayed 1,240 exhibits this year, which included everything from plants, trees, flowers, to butterflies and dutch landscapes.

There was also a “Wine and Spirits Tasting Room” with a large selection of wine from around the world. And for those who didn’t want to leave their puppies at home there was a “Yappy Hour” where dogs were invited to attend the show and get treats.

“Hey if I can bring my puppy, have a beer and smell flowers, [I am] def…coming back next year” said Martin Fichter, from Philadelphia.

Oak Troise, from Philadelphia said: “I love it, this is my fifth year coming and it’s always great. It puts me in the mood for spring.” The show ran from March 11-19 and attracted around 250,000 visitors. “It’s beautiful, I would love to live here and have a flower.”

Professor Ricco told The VOICE: “Mercer has one of the few horticulture programs in the state.  We have a great program that offers students many opportunities to gain valuable experience and knowledge so they are prepared to either transfer or enter the workforce.”

The Mercer team hopes will defend their title in next year’s Flower Show.

]]>
What the flock? Suburban chickens rule the roost http://www.mcccvoice.org/flock/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:45:29 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5391

We are in the middle of a chicken craze. Residents of towns across the state have taken to backyard poultry production.

Several factors seem to be contributing to the foul frenzy. First, there has been an upswing in do-it-yourself (DIY) culture. White collar workers are looking for ways to slow down, feel useful, and find some connection to a time when people followed the rhythms of the seasons.

There are other major motivators as well, such as a growing desire for cleaner eating and increased awareness of the animal cruelty that is common in mass poultry production.

But people wouldn’t be interested if chicken rearing was too complex for an average citizen to master.

Bud Wood, owner of Murray McMurray Hatchery, a poultry supplier based in Webster City Iowa, told The VOICE: “Chickens can fit into a backyard garden very well.”

Murray McMurray has been around for 100 years and for much of that time was a catalog business, but it’s now the Amazon of eggs. The company uses special shipping to send eggs and even chicks right to your home. Their website offers all kinds of informational resources for those starting their first coops.

Matthew O’Boyle, from Pennington, became interested in raising chickens when he watched his cousins do it on their farm, however, he was initially nervous when he thought his home would not be enough space.

“I thought [having enough space] would be a barrier stopping us from getting chickens but as always, I stumbled upon the Internet. There were thousands of articles, videos, tutorials, and blogs about raising backyard chickens…”

According to the Murray McMurray blog, “roost space depends largely on the size of your chickens — how tall, wide and long they are, from beak to tail.” But for people starting out who are looking to keep six small to medium sized birds, each needs about a square foot of space in their roost and the minimum yard area needed for roaming is about 6’ x 15’. Some city dwellers are able to make this work in narrow spaces behind brownstones or in overgrown alleys. Suburban homes often have a few more options.

According to O’Boyle there are legal requirements for a chicken to be considered “free range,” such as giving them six hours outside to roam free, however, he offers his birds more than what the minimum requires.

“For my flock of three chickens, I have about a 125 square feet for them to free range in. They free range from about 6:45 in the morning until it starts to get dark depending on the season,” O’Boyle said.

Rules and regulations for backyard chicken farming are specific to the town you live in. There are legal requirements for raising and producing chickens if you plan to sell them, but you are not required to have any sort of permit or license to raise your own.

“The chickens must be a certain distance away from any house in my neighborhood. We are also not allowed to have roosters in our flock because of the noise and aggression that they cause,” O’Boyle said.

Another concern for keeping any live animals is ensuring their health.

According to Bud Wood of Murray McMurray, “We are a member  of the USDA, National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) so all of our stock has been tested for diseases and have been cleared for sale in that way.”

Beyond the original health of the chicks Murray McMurray blog discusses how to reduce flock stress to maintain productivity, and deal with issues like Marek’s disease and other parasites.

Above all else, O’Boyle wanted to raise his own chickens in order to know that the eggs he ate come from healthy chickens.

“It’s sad to see many of the commercial free range chickens who are loaded with hormones to produce the most amount of eggs possible. They can have as little as a hole just for neck access to the outside which can qualify as their exposure to sunlight,” O’Boyle said.

Restaurant owners are shying away from such practices. Local restaurants like Agricola in Princeton and Eno Terra in Kingston purchase their eggs and other produce from local farms like Terhune’s and Cherry Grove in Lawrenceville.

If all this is starting to make you think of getting a few hens, be aware that certain types of birds are available during certain seasons. This month is a fine time to get a Feather Footed Fancy, a Cornish Roaster, or even a Chukar Redleg Partridge (although watch out for those partridges if you live in Maine, because you’ll need a special permit from Fish and Wildlife before you can “import” the birds through the mail).

Why would you ever buy a Feather Footed Fancy? Bud Wood says chicken fanciers enroll their birds into events such as the Midwest Poultry Federation or The Master’s Cup, held in Murray McMurray’s hometown of Webster City, Iowa, open to breeders and non-breeders alike.

O’Boyle says “I had used the argument of fresh, free range eggs as the original justification to get them but they have now become a huge interest and hobby of mine.”

Local 4-H clubs which teach children leadership skills through hands-on programs, many of which involve raising and caring for animals, also have competitions for chickens.

If you want to see some fancy chickens, Sussex County Poultry Fanciers spring show is May 20.

]]>
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.

]]>
New bill would tighten pedestrian responsibilities http://www.mcccvoice.org/new-bill-would-tighten-pedestrian-responsibilities/ http://www.mcccvoice.org/new-bill-would-tighten-pedestrian-responsibilities/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:01:51 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5472

South Jersey assemblyman Chris Brown introduced the Driver and Pedestrian Mutual Responsibility Act on On Feb. 6, 2017. If passed, it would make it illegal for pedestrians to cross the street without being in the crosswalk zone. The act also looks to introduce a yield for pedestrians at the crosswalk, as opposed to a stop, for drivers.

 One of the reasons why Brown wants to repeal the previous law, which concerned pedestrian safety and traffic control, is because he believes that it isn’t working.

“Despite the best efforts by the state to raise pedestrian and motorist awareness, through multiple agencies and public relation campaigns, the law 2010 Chapter 319 simply isn’t working.” Brown told The VOICE, “According to available State Police records, in the four years after the law took effect 2011-2014 pedestrians fatalities increased by nearly 10 percent.”

The key difference between the new Driver and Pedestrian Mutual Responsibility Act and the previous law is that that the driver previously had to come to a complete stop at a crosswalk. The new bill requires only that the driver yield.

“There is clearly a conflict between drivers and pedestrians because they are both afraid of each other,” said Brittney Moody, a Mercer freshman, studying Business Administration.

The controversy of the proposed bill is deciding the difference between stopping and yielding.

According to Cyndi Steiner, the executive director of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition, “It should be a stop, stop and stay stopped. In the law 2010 Chapter 319 was meant to clarify that, because yield is such a vague word.”

Steiner’s main concern, she says, is about pedestrian rates of survival during an accident, telling The VOICE, “If a car going 25 miles per hour hits someone, they have an 85 percent chance of surviving. If the car is going 40 miles per hour, the pedestrian only has a 15 percent chance of surviving.”

Many pedestrians have a different perspective. Through a survey of 30 people conducted in downtown Trenton and downtown Lambertville, 86 percent of people disagreed with Chris Brown’s proposal.

According to Benjamin Cole, a 65 year old crossing guard for Trenton Public School System, “New Jersey drivers are almost worse than drivers in New York. They will hit someone and keep driving.” He added, “I’ve been on this corner [Parkside and Stuyvesant] for 3 years and I’ve seen plenty of accidents, the impatient drivers in Trenton are always speeding to beat the light.”

There are many other factors that could cause fatalities on the road that do not involve crosswalks, the main one being cell phone use. According to the National Safety Council report from 2011, 52 percent of car crashes involved a cellphone.

But cell phones can be as much of a distraction for pedestrians as they can be for drivers. “If you are using a cell phone in a crosswalk while walking there should be a fine,” said Brittney Moody.

“Unlike the frog in the arcade game who gets many chances, people only get one chance to cross the street safely,” assemblyman Brown said, adding, “I would rather adhere to the proverb and follow the common sense of a grandmother, than accept the misguided advice from Trenton politicians.”

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the most effective way for pedestrians to prevent injuries and deaths are to increase visibility at night by wearing reflective clothes and carrying a flashlight, walk on the sidewalk, and “Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection.”

The last suggestion has been found to be even more effective: the installation of “complete streets.” Like those found in major metropolitan areas such as New York and Philadelphia, a “complete street” is designed to enable access for pedestrians, bikers, and automobile drivers in the safest way possible by putting in accessible bike lanes, crosswalks, and wide intersections for cars.

The proposed bill has received mixed reactions from both New Jersey residents and those who take advantage of tourist attractions from out of state. These mixed reactions make it unknown whether the proposed legislation will be passed or not. But with last year having 185 traffic deaths in New Jersey that involved pedestrians and cyclists places like Seattle, that have the lowest rate of pedestrian deaths, begin to look much more appealing.

]]>
http://www.mcccvoice.org/new-bill-would-tighten-pedestrian-responsibilities/feed/ 1
New York’s Times Square really is worth the bucket list http://www.mcccvoice.org/times_square/ Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:53:13 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5460

Times Square – By Jasmine Santalla

The array of lights, sounds, billboards, smells, the buzzing hive of activity, and all the yellow taxis have made Times Square one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. But is it worth the bucket list? In a word: yes.

At the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, in the heart of midtown New York, Times Square teems with tourists, bringing people together into a single tangled, blaring, jumbled, flashing intersection of humanity.

It wasn’t always a bustling entertainment hub. According to the Times Square Alliance, a non-profit organization says it, “Works to improve and promote Times Square,” the now busy intersection was originally named Longacre Square and upon its conception only consisted of a few brownstones. Over the course of time, Longacre Square became a prominent red-light district where pickpockets and brothels were widespread. But eventually big time theater producers bought it up and rehabilitated the area into what the Alliance calls: “A symbol of the American spirit.”

A recent visit on a bone-chilling day leading up to snowstorm Stella found disagreement among visitors about whether Square thought it was worth the hype.

On the one hand there was the Guatemalan visitor who like its familiarity, saying,  “It is just like in the movies! It is amazing!”

A Colombian woman standing nearby agreed in part, saying, “Times Square is cool, but it is too noisy.”

While both the Columbian and Romanian said they would not recommend visiting Times Square, from this perspective of this reporter–a native of South Africa–these ladies are missing the point.

It is precisely the sounds, expense, and bustle of the city that makes it real. New York City is supposed to overload and ignite all your senses. It is supposed to leave your ears ringing, temporarily bankrupt you, and make you think twice before eating off of the floor. It is precisely this irreplicable atmosphere of the intersection that draws people to the heart of the Square.

]]>
NJ Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman addresses student questions http://www.mcccvoice.org/nj-congresswoman-bonnie-watson-coleman-addresses-student-questions/ Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:05:19 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5405

As the 2016 presidential election grew near, The VOICE surveyed Mercer students and found most weren’t very interested in politics, didn’t like the candidates, or were just pessimistic in general.

For example, Gahabree Gordon told The VOICE, “I think Hillary is going to win, but me personally, I’m not voting. I don’t think either one of them are good candidates. This is the first election I’ve been able to vote in, I was so excited to vote turning 18 years old and it’s like ‘I’ve gotta pick between them?!’ I can wait another four years. I’ll be ok. I’m expecting things to get worse but I’m praying for better.”

More recent reporting suggests that following the election, some portion of the student body has been motivated to participate more in politics.

The VOICE interviewed Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who represents the college’s districts, to ask her her views on the current political climate and how it relates to college students.

VOICE: What role do you see young people playing in our current political climate? What can students do to advocate for themselves?

Watson Coleman: I think that students that are eligible to vote represent a huge floss of potential voters, and I think your voice can be best heard through voting. I also think that organizations on your campus that are designed to educate on issues can be very influential. It is really important to belong to a critical group…You are very important. You need to be reaching out to people like me…showing up and getting involved.

VOICE: What should students be focusing on with the new leadership in the White House?

Watson Coleman: I think this is an unprecedented time where your attention is required on so many levels, there are things that are happening at the available, there are issues that are very important that are happening out of the department of health, the women’s right to choose. There are things that are going to be happening in the Department of Labor that have to do with things like equal pay. There are things coming out of the Department of Justice, like your voting rights. This…requires people like me to not just focus on one thing, but stay alert on a number of issues and, stay as involved as I can. Same goes for all of you.

VOICE: How do you plan to best represent the interests of college students from our district?

Watson Coleman: I have been engaged in higher education, so I’m very much in tune to affordability in the state of NJ. I’ll be paying attention student debt, expanding Pell grants. I have always tried to support students who are going to school part time with subsidies. Accessibility, diversity, education: I try to stay close to college community.

VOICE: How does a member of a minority party in the House maximize his or her influence when the House rules (unlike the Senate) are designed to maximize the power of the majority at the expense of the minority?

Watson Coleman: You are speaking to the frustration we are all feeling right now. There are a number of things we are committed to right now, [like] seeking attention on resolutions, and [continuing] to highlight the role of Russia in the current presidency. We are committed, although we recognize that we don’t control the agenda and we don’t have the number of votes. What we do have is relationships and we try to energize people. Even perhaps with Republicans–if they weren’t so doggone scared of what the right wing would do to them– when they do exercise their heartfelt response to something, they’re not alone.

]]>
Habit Burger: A habit that may become an addiction http://www.mcccvoice.org/habit-burger/ Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:00:31 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5497

Habit Burger located on Rt 1 in Lawrenceville, has given Central Jersey a touch of sunny Southern California–where the franchise began–in only three months of it being opened.

It is the perfect combination of cheap, but good quality, food, excellent customer service, and an overall friendly environment, which makes visits to this restaurant your first good habit.

On a recent visit, the majority of customers were there for the first or second time. They only had good things to say.

“It’s a great place,” said Habit Burger customer Vinicio, adding, “It’s our second time coming here.”

Though it’s new to central New Jersey, The first Habit Burger was opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, and can now be found nation wide.

Habit focuses on freshness and visitors compliment the availability of fresh food on the menu.

“I got the cobb salad, she got the double burger, and the kids got chicken nuggets.” said Habit Burger customer Paul, while out for a bite with his family, “We don’t go to too many fast food places, but everything was pretty good.”

Habit Burger tries to differentiate themselves from other fast food chains, despite sharing similar qualities.

Khala Bagwell of Hamilton said, “This place kind of reminds me of a fast paced Red Robin.”

One of the best items on the menu is the teriyaki charburger, which is packed with an almost overwhelming number of flavors. This burger is topped with ingredients such as grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce, as well as classic burger toppings like fresh lettuce, onions, juicy tomatoes, mayo and a pickle. Ordering the sweet potato fries adds an even bigger punch to the meal.

The total cost of a burger and fries is around $7 which, when compared to McDonald’s prices of a regular cheeseburger meal being $8, makes the options at Habit Burger a steal!

When asked about the freshness of the food, General Manager, Brian Berry said, “The food is never frozen. We have a special meat packing plant in New York, and all of the toppings are fresh.”

The freshness of the meat can be easily tasted in the juiciness of their burgers. Habit Burger also has a dedication to the freshness of their vegetables. According to the kitchen Manager Brian Pierce, “In the morning there is no prep besides lettuce, tomato, and salads. At around 2 pm we send employees to the back to prep some more so that it’s not cut and open all day long.”

The Habit Burger staff are friendly and welcoming, and will offer help with any questions on the food. After placing the order, you can either wait and watch, since it is prepared right in front of you, or you can sit back at a table and have a mental vacation imagining you are in Southern California where Habit burger began.

]]>
A new addition to the basement music scene where everyone from Bon Jovi to Screaming Females got their start: The Bunker http://www.mcccvoice.org/bunker/ Tue, 28 Feb 2017 15:09:58 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5382

New Brunswick’s music hot spot, The Bunker, is easy to miss. It looks like your standard off campus college house. Nevertheless, locals know to go around back and down into the basement. It might as well be a portal to another world.
On Friday February 3, the room was rocking with a line up of Dangerous Vice, Pioneer the Eel, Motor Heart Man, Johnny Cola and Barzan the Barbarian, each providing a contrast of sounds from psychedelic rock, post-punk, and hip-hop.

New Brunswick, which houses the main Rutgers University campus, has spawned numerous bands since the 1970’s. Clubs like the Court Tavern, The Melody and The Roxy helped bands like The Smithereens, The Bouncing Souls and Bon Jovi get their start.

According to the book New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye: Bands, Dirty Basements, and the Search for Self, by Ronen Kaufman, it was in the 1980’s that off-campus houses started using their basements to host questionably legal shows in part to give students under drinking age and thus unable to get into the other clubs, access to the burgeoning punk scene. The secrecy was always part of the fun.

The basement scene continues to this day and has more recently propelled bands like Screaming Females into mainstream popularity. Venues in the scene typically allow around 100 people and often shift from place to place.

Charly Santagado set up The Bunker. In an interview with The VOICE she said: “I hosted on campus open mic type shows last year and wanted to take it off campus because I could have my own rules, not have to deal with bureaucracy, etc.”

Santagado describes how she found the space saying, “I was looking at houses to live in for the 2016-2017 school year and when I saw the one I moved into, I was totally sold by the basement and its potential as a show house. So I brainstormed a name and planned a show and that was the birth of The Bunker.”

Though she lives with housemates, Santagado is the only person actually involved with the making and management of The Bunker.

With an entry fee of only $5 per person, The Bunker became packed within the hour on the night of February 3. There were a total of five acts playing at the show.

The first to play was Dangerous Vice. As the band set up, the crowd casually talked to each other while sipping on some drinks or going outside for a cigarette. When they began to play, the tone changed, and the talking stopped. Everyone moved forward and gave their full attention to the band.

A Bunker regular and Rutgers student, Joanne Zapata said, “People are pretty friendly and don’t really care whether it’s your fiftieth show or your first show. Everyone’s just there to support each other and build on friendships while listening to music.”
Applause and cheers filled the room for each artist. Occasional impromptu mosh pits formed during more intense sets, creating a violent sea of people that pushed and pulled each other in chaotic rhythm. The energy of the show connected the performers and the audience through thumps and riffs. Barzan the Barbarian specifically seemingly made the entire basement vibrate with his violent, and ferocious beats.

Another Bunker attendee and Rutgers student, Connor Bracken, told The VOICE, “I go for the social aspects, and also just for the few hours i can escape while the music’s here. I like to just stand up front and dance for a bit, letting out all the shit at the end of the week.”

Meeting new people, discovering new music, and escaping the responsibilities of day-to-day life seems to be the heart of what makes shows so popular.

Rutgers student Leanne Reid said, “It’s something to do and way better than frat parties!”

The attendees have formed a sense of community and Do It Yourself (DIY) counterculture that shows how artists don’t need to be in an expensive venue to gain recognition and a dedicated audience.

Bracken summed up the basement scene saying: “It expands your horizons and broadens your perspective on music, all while being a much more intimate experience. And it’s just fun.”

]]>
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.”

]]>
Women’s Marches inspire locals and some students to activism http://www.mcccvoice.org/student_activism/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:40:32 +0000 http://www.mcccvoice.org/?p=5246

Mercer student Essence Otero and friend joined the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017The day after Donald Drumpf’s inauguration saw what experts believe is the largest political demonstration in U.S. history. According to Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman, two experts on political protests from the Universities of Denver and Connecticut respectively, as cited on Vox.com, the Women’s March on Washington was joined by sister marches in more than 600 U.S. cities and attended by 4.2 million people in total.

Stay-at-home mom Elizabeth Meyer of Somerset County. Formerly a teacher Meyer told The VOICE: “I got married, I had two little girls, life became so busy. I didn’t really have the time to pay attention….I [was] more worried about getting my girls off to school in the morning or how we’re going to pay the mortgage.”

But Meyer, a trained teacher, says that feeling changed after the election of Donald Drumpf; there was so much at stake that she felt compelled to do something. However, the trip to Washington seemed financially and logistically challenging with young kids. Still, she was determined to persist: “Just because I can’t make it to Washington D.C. [didn’t] mean that I don’t have a voice.” Meyer says.

Meyer decided to organize a sister march in Trenton. She reached out to the Women’s March organizers through Facebook and couple of days later she was given the green light to host the Women’s March on New Jersey.

As part of the planning phase she says: “I just started making calls, Googling organizations online…I thought the ACLU, Planned Parenthood may be into this. Then I found a group called New Jersey Citizen Action.” With the support of these groups, the event started to come together.

The Trenton march was attended by an estimated 7,500 people according to NorthJersey.com, and six other smaller marches were held in other parts of the state including Asbury Park, Mount Laurel and Pompton Plains.

Groups from a number of New Jersey colleges and universities sent delegations to the Women’s March on Washington and the sister march in Trenton, but Mercer was not one of them which is perhaps not surprising as a VOICE survey of 30 students found that while 60 percent were either pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of our country following the election, even more–63 percent–said they were unlikely or very unlikely to participate in any political action going forward.

One exception to this is is Essence Otero, a seventh semester Liberal Arts major who did attend the Women’s March on Washington. She said her rights as a Hispanic woman were the driving force in her participation.

Otero says: “Since the election, our president has made a lot of people angry, including myself, with the choices he has made and the words, or tweets, he has said. I truly believe the only way to get our president’s attention and actually start seeing change, is to peacefully protest and fight for our rights and for equality for all, no matter what race or gender you are.”

Survey results show Mercer students, despite mostly being unlikely to join Otero in her fight, think the efforts are still worth it. More than half of the Mercer survey participants said they believe political activism is effective in influencing governmental policies.

When asked what their main post election concerns are, the majority of the students surveyed said women’s rights, immigration, and jobs in the economy. They gave three primary reasons for why they weren’t likely to become politically active:  either they do not know how to get involved in political activism, are unaware of how to contact activist groups in the area, or they do not have the time to participate.

Professor Dylan Wolfe, Assistant Professor of Communication attended the Women’s March on Washington. He told The VOICE: “I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of young voices in political change. I myself was a political activists as a young man, I was involved in local and national organizations.” He adds: “There is a lot of clear evidence that student activism in particular has a strong energy.”

Asked about his participation in the Women’s March as a man, Professor Wolfe said: “Primarily, [I participated fo
r] women’s issues, immigration and minority issues, and environmental issues…I believe strongly in America’s foundation in free speech and dissent, and the power of both of those in American Society.”

Another professor who attended the D.C. March is English Professor and current interim Dean of American Honors, Dr. Bettina Calouri. She told The VOICE her main reason for attending as identified on the sign she created for the protest: “My sign read, ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Key for our DEMOCRACY.’ Our democracy goes nowhere if we can’t show respect.”

Dr. Calouri says: “When people demonstrate something on their feet, they show they’re passionate about it. It’s one thing to post something to Facebook. That doesn’t take a lot of time and personal commitment…[but putting] your body out there in some sense shows a commitment.”

But student Otero says she views social media as a key starting point for young activists.  She told The VOICE: “Twitter and Facebook have definitely helped people become more aware and are getting involved in protests and actually fighting for what they believe in, not just hiding behind their phone watching everything happen. During the Women’s March I saw babies, children, teenagers, young adults, older adults, literally every age of men and women were there fighting together and protesting.”

While students may be slow to engage in social action, those who are hesitant because they feel like they don’t know where to start are certainly not alone.

Elizabeth Meyer, the Trenton March organizer, says: “Before the election, I had no idea who my state rep[resentatives] even were…So, I’m coming from a place where I’ve gone from 0 to 60. It’s like having no knowledge whatsoever to being thrown in the midst of all of this…It has been a really sharp learning curve.”

]]>