The Lake Effect: Lessons Learned From a Life Well Written

It only took two rings before I was greeted with a cautious “hello.” His voice sounded like he had been debating whether or not to pick up, and understandably so, considering an unknown Connecticut number lit up the screen of the Atlanta-based writer’s phone. But once I nervously, yet proudly asserted that I was one of Matt’s students, his voice smoothed and softened. Our introduction and opening pleasantries gave way to my first question, and then I, the novice, was tasked with interviewing the seasoned professional. And this “seasoned professional” wasn’t just anyone; it was CNN Digital’s senior writer, Thomas Lake.

While Lake now sits atop CNN’s digital news outlet, he never dreamed of holding such a title — that is, he never dreamed of it because he never set out to pursue journalism in the first place. As a student at Herkimer Community College in upstate New York, Lake was a general studies major with little idea of what career he’d pursue, something that followed him even as he began Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts a few years later. However, inspiration finally came when he took a feature writing class with a professor named Steve Crowe.

“I’d always enjoyed writing, and taking this class sort of showed me what the possibilities were,” he said. “That someone could spend their career and actually get paid telling exciting stories — it sounded very appealing to me.”

That wasn’t the only thing Lake got out of Crowe’s class: Crowe helped him land an internship in the fall of his senior year at the Salem News, a paper for which Crowe previously worked. Following his senior year, a young Lake bounced from working at a twice-weekly newspaper in rural Georgia — a paper where he said he “got to make some of [his] worst rookie mistakes on a very small stage” — to serving as a full-time staffer at the Salem Times, to finally landing what he thought was his dream job with the St. Petersburg Times.

But by 2008, Lake was already eyeing his next move and decided to send an email to one of his favorite writers, Gary Smith.

“Amazingly,” Lake said, “he wrote back. I sent him a story I had done at the St. Petersburg Times, and he liked it well enough that he got on the phone to the big boss, the editor of Sports Illustrated in New York, and said, ‘Hey, you should give this kid a chance.’”

And the rest, as they say, is history. He stayed with the magazine until 2015 when his position was eliminated due to budget cuts, then taking his knack for storytelling to CNN as an “outsider” looking in on the complex world of politics. With a book about the 2016 presidential election (“Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything”) under his belt, a circuitous career to look back on and more still to come, Lake said the topics he writes about are of little importance; in fact, he doesn’t much care for sports or politics. Instead, he looks for universal themes to transform into rich stories.

“I love finding moments of human drama and split-second decisions people make that have long-term consequences,” he explained, something he certainly achieved in his most famous work, “2 on 5.”

A time-hopping wonder that simultaneously foreshadows and reflects, Lake’s omniscient approach to telling the story of an underdog Alabama basketball team in “2 on 5” shelves the traditional Cinderella story and talks fate, hardship, redemption and demise. For Lake, weaving the intricate tale required some contemplation of his own.

“I think a huge part of the best writing is thinking — stopping and thinking,” he said. “There was so much that I did on that story in particular, just sitting there in silence with no distractions, nothing fragmenting my attention at all and sitting alone in a cheap hotel room.”

It seems that minimizing distraction has been Lake’s MO all along; once he decided to pursue journalism, he’s never once broken his focus, always keeping his eyes fixed on his next move. Even when considering budding journalists, Lake offered more of the same.

“Report and write as much as you can,” he said. “Keep a journal or some other kind of notebook. Sit on the quad and just write descriptions of what you’re seeing — your sensory experiences — because all that just flexes those muscles. Ultimately, you’re only as good as your ability to put experiences into words, and so you’ve got to be practicing that and then reading the best writing.”

I hung up the phone and sat in amazement. “I just spoke to a writer for CNN, a place that maybe I’ll work some day,” I thought. After all, that’s why I wanted to interview him in the first place: to make a connection at an organization where maybe I too could catch one of the lucky breaks that seemed to mark Lake’s own career.

As I reflected on our conversation, a wave of mixed emotions consumed me. I was at once hungry for the experiences he’s had, envious of his writing abilities and hopeful. Hopeful that if I keep writing just like he advised, maybe I could carve out a similar place for myself in journalism. I ran through the rest of the day hearing two rings of the phone and three words echoing in my head: just keep writing.

Appears on the blog 4 North, run by Fairfield University Professor Matt Tullis.
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The pay problem in women’s basketball

The last time the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team lost a game was Nov. 17, 2014. With a winning streak of 104 games (and counting), the team has cemented their place in history, earning an NCAA record for the feat. This is the same storied basketball program that has produced the likes of Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, a two-time WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medal winner, as well as nine-time WNBA all-star Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird and 2012 WNBA MVP and New York Liberty center Tina Charles. Yet, despite the accomplishments, women’s basketball at both the collegiate and professional levels faces drastic funding and pay disparities that starkly contrast that of their male counterparts in the NCAA and NBA, an offshoot of the gender pay gap that should not still persist in 2017.

Perhaps the problem in the WNBA begins in the NCAA — that’s at least what the Women’s Sports Foundation argues, and it begins with the amount of money invested into NCAA Division I women’s teams. As of the NCAA’s most recent gender equity report, women’s sports team only received 40 percent of operating funds for college sports and 36 percent of college recruitment spending money. When it comes to scholarship money, 55 percent of NCAA college athletic scholarships went to male athletes while 45 percent went to females, according to their 2014 report.

These figures, however, represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the inequities present in the microcosm of NCAA college basketball. Take, for instance, the UConn women’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament success. While women’s tournament appearances merit zero monetary rewards, each game a men’s team plays (excluding championship appearances) “earns the team’s conference roughly $260,000 this year plus $260,000 each of the five following years,” according to the New York Times, “so the total value of a victory in the men’s tournament is approximately $1.56 million.”

The root of such thinking lies in the commercialization of the sport at the college level: if men’s teams bring in more money via television ratings and ticket sales, says the New York Times, the natural thought is to allow the men to reap the rewards monetarily. However, women’s teams do just the same, selling out games and playing live on ESPN, yet they earn nothing for their efforts. And this privileged treatment for men’s basketball teams doesn’t end in the NCAA.

In television broadcasting rights alone, the NBA rakes in $2.6 billion in revenue from ESPN and Turner Sports, reports Newsweek, while the WNBA gets $12 million annually to have their games shown on ESPN — a fee that amounts to less than half of 1 percent of the NBA’s deal. And the disparity only grows more dismal when it comes to player salaries. According to the 2014 WNBA collective bargaining agreement, the 2017 base salary was $40,439, while the maximum veteran’s salary was $113,500. When compared with their male counterparts in the NBA, however, it was a tale of two salaries: the minimum salary for the 2016-2017 season was $543,471, yet the highest surpassed $30 million and the team salary cap hit $94.143 million.

But before NBA and WNBA salaries are justified as a function of the league’s unequal earnings, it may be that WNBA players aren’t getting their due payment after all. VICE Sports estimates that, between ticket sales and broadcasting deals alone, the WNBA’s revenue sits at least $35 million. With 154 players active in 2014 season and the average league salary resting at $75,000 in 2015, VICE Sports estimates that “the WNBA would have paid its players $11,550,000,” a mere 33 percent of the league’s total revenue that starkly contrasts the 50 percent of league revenue imparted to NBA players. “Yet whatever the exact number,” VICE Sports contends, “it appears a significant gender wage gap exists in basketball, with WNBA players only getting — at most — about 0.67 of what NBA players receive, even after adjusting for much higher NBA revenues.”

This reality is not isolated to basketball, either. In tennis, a sport touted as more equitable, quietly serves up a similar story: Roger Federer earned $731,000 for his U.S. Open win in 2015, while Serena Williams earned just $495,000 for achieving the same feat, reports the New York Times. Wimbledon only began paying their male and female victors the same in 2007, after Venus Williams pushed for equal pay in the early-mid 2000s. Yet, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team hit the same pay wall, earning only $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup, while the men’s team earned $9 million without moving past round 16 in their 2014 World Cup endeavor.

It is clear that the money invested in and paid to female players in the NCAA and WNBA pales in comparison to that which is poured into men’s teams and leagues. Putting all television deals and ticket sales aside, what pay and funding should be based on boils down to the age-old argument that has dominated professional industries since the moment women entered the workplace: equal pay for equal work.

Female basketball players work just as hard as their male counterparts — take UConn, for example. Their current 104-win streak bests the previously-held men’s record (from the UCLA 1970-1974 team) by 16 games. Overall, the women’s program has had 11 national championship-winning teams, while the UConn men’s program has only had four total championship teams in its history.

On a professional scale, female players continue to surpass male basketball players. Stepping beyond the national basketball leagues and onto the world stage, the U.S. Women’s basketball team maintains a 49-game Olympic win streak and eight gold medals in Olympic competition since their 1976 debut in the Games, while the men earned 15 gold medals since their 1936 entrance into the Olympics and extended a 25-game winning streak during the 2016 summer event.

The talent exists in female basketball players, but the investment in them does not. If women’s teams and leagues were taken as seriously as men’s in their moneymaking abilities, perhaps we’d see greater pay parity. But until that day, we’ll have to be content watching women give men a run for their money — literally.

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Marist snaps Stags’ five-game winning streak

All dressed in pink for their annual Play4Kay game on Thursday, Feb. 16, the Stags (14-12, 11-6) were left feeling blue as the Marist Red Foxes (12-15, 9-8) toppled Fairfield’s five-game winning streak by a score of 68-62.

The game — which benefitted the Kay Yow Cancer Fund that honors former North Carolina State University head women’s basketball coach Kay Yow — saw the Stags’ early fire quickly doused by a Marist offense that was dominated by sophomore guard Maura Fitzpatrick. A steal and field goal by Fitzpatrick ignited an 8-3 Marist run over the final five minutes and 20 seconds of the half. She also knocked down each of her three three-point attempts in the quarter, en route to finishing the game with 22 points. Marist carried a 34-26 lead into halftime.

For as good Marist’s offense was in the second quarter, it was their defense that frustrated Fairfield the most. The Stags were held to 36.5 percent shooting for the game by the Red Foxes’ stifling defense, including just 21 percent in the deciding second quarter.

Fairfield, however, kept making runs to keep the game close despite their shooting struggles. Senior Kelsey Carey muscled her way to a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double, posting her seventh 20-point game this season. Fellow Stag Samantha Cooper ‘18 earned a double-double of her own, securing 10 rebounds and 13 total points on the night.

Yet, Fairfield’s efforts fell short: although the Stags outscored the Red Foxes in three out of four quarters, Marist’s persistent defensive pressure on Fairfield held them to 16 points or fewer in all quarters but the fourth.

Fairfield head coach Joe Frager said that this pressure inflicted by Marist was likely the cause of some of the Stags’ offensive woes, which all began in the second quarter.

“The second quarter, I think we took some ill-advised shots,” he said. “I think sometimes, when you struggle on offense, that has an impact on what you’re doing mentally and emotionally on the defensive end of the floor. And I thought we had two or three really bad defensive breakdowns where they hit a flurry of threes right before the end of the second quarter and consequently, Marist had that nice lead going into the locker room.”

With Fairfield’s first loss since Jan. 26 and their second loss of the season to their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival, Frager said he doesn’t want the team to dwell on the Marist loss, especially heading into their final road game of the season against Iona College on Sunday, Feb. 19.

“We have to reflect on this game, but we can’t carry this forward with us. We have to use this as a learning tool, but we have to move on to the next game,” he said. “Our biggest problem now is if we take our dejection over this game and let it impact the way we prepare for Iona. We’ve got to be pointed about the mistakes we made and really work to correct those, but we really just have to look forward to the next opponent.”

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The pay problem: Are gender wage disparities irreparable?

As an engineering major, Sarah Rybacki ’17 knows that entering a male-dominated industry in the near future means she is bound to face wage gap issues.

In fact, she’s even had professors prepare her for what she might encounter when she enters the workforce. “I have been encouraged to be self-confident, to stand up for myself and to be very certain of my work,” she said. “I’ve been told that I will likely have several labels placed on me before I even introduce myself, most prominently that I will be the diversity hire.”

The wage gap issue, however, is much larger than just one field of work. In reality, wage differences by gender have been a part of American society for as long as women have infiltrated the workplace.

According to information from the National Committee on Pay Equity, while both men’s and women’s yearly salaries have increased since their information’s start date of 1960, women only made almost 79 percent of what men earned in 2014.

While this appears to be an improvement, women’s median yearly salaries have only seen a 39 percent increase over these 54 years, with women earning an all-time low 57 percent of men’s wages in 1973. Median yearly earnings in general have experienced some fluctuation, but men consistently earned more over the five decade time frame.



Median earnings between men and women have fluctuated between 1960 and 2014, according to data from the National Committee on Pay Equity. Graph by Nicole Funaro/Notes from Nicole

But in the United Kingdom, the wage gap saga proves to be a much different story. Between 1997 and 2015, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics found that female workers’ median hourly earnings increased by nearly 78 percent; by 2015, female workers earned 81 percent of men’s hourly wages, with women’s median earnings totaling £10.51 per hour while men earned £13. Full-time and part-time hourly wages in 2015 proved more egalitarian: full-time female workers earned 91 percent of men’s pay, but part-time female workers made more than their male counterparts, taking home 106 percent of men’s pay.

Although there are variations globally, there are even fluctuations in the wage disparity by state. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Louisiana has the largest pay gap, with 35 cents separating men’s and women’s hourly wages, despite the average gap across all states (including the District of Columbia) coming in 14 cents lower at 21 cents.

states top 10

Data from the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that there are even variations in the wage disparity by state. Graph by Nicole Funaro/Notes from Nicole

As if the gap weren’t widespread enough, the issue only grows more complicated when examining minority women. For example, information from the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that, in the 20 states with the largest number of full-time female African American employees, their combined median salary amounts to $689,671 annually; white, non-Hispanic men in those same states earn over 60 percent more, with a combined median salary totaling $1,104,836 annually. This means that African American women employed full time in these states earn an average of 62 cents for every full-time white man’s dollar.

With the issue affecting women of all eras, locations and ethnicities, Rybacki knows that she will become one of the many affected by wage disparities when she enters the workforce.

“The wage gap is concerning,” she said. Speculating on the source of the gap, Rybacki said, “I’ve heard it attributed to men knowing how to negotiate a salary. And maybe this attributes to the lack of self confidence felt by women across the country.”

Rybacki pointed to one of the potential sources of the gap: salary discrimination and negotiation. According to a Washington Post article written by Laura J. Kray, professor of Leadership at the University of California’s Berkeley-Haas School of Business, the interim CEO of social media site Reddit, Ellen Pao, banned salary negotiations in order to “eliminate the persistent disadvantage that women have at the bargaining table.”

Citing a 2011 article in the Journal of Experimental Social Pyschology, Kray wrote, “Researchers repeatedly have documented that people react more unfavorably to women who ask for more money, compared with men who do. A woman who negotiates is seen as especially demanding and therefore a less-than-ideal new colleague,” thus discouraging female employees’ negotiation and perpetuating the gap.

Pew Research, however, presents a different picture of the causes of the wage disparity. While women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs that were traditionally relegated to men, the study shows that “women as a whole continue to work in lower-paying occupations than men do.”

No matter the source of the gap, it has ramifications that affect every aspect of a woman’s life. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s population survey data, women’s median weekly earnings as of the fourth quarter of 2010 were $22 less than men’s; this disparity could accrue to a cumulative loss of $379,000 by the time a woman reaches the age of 65.

dep of labor

Differences in earnings can amount to significant losses over time. Graph by the U.S. Department of Labor

Such differences in earnings have the potential to impact current and future generations of female workers alike. The Brookings Institute found that half of all girls born into low-income families have poor chances of upward mobility and will grow up to remain low-income situations in adulthood, while only 39 percent of boys will do the same.

Dr. Emily J. Orlando, associate professor of English and co-director of the Women, Gender & Sexuality studies program, said the impacts of such a gap have the potential to affect every aspect of life.

“It affects everything,” she said, “Quality of life is the first thing that comes to mind.”

Although the gap has persisted despite its speculated sources, it may — or may not — soon see its demise with the 2016 presidential election. In February 2016, Cosmopolitan and John Della Volpe, CEO of poll group SocialSphere and director of polling at the Harvard Institute for Politics, surveyed 1,000 newsletter subscribers between the ages 18 and 34 about the issues in the current election that concern them. The results of the survey indicate that nearly 60 percent of millennial voters see the wage gap as an important issue facing the country.

With the issue among the chief concerns of young voters, current presidential candidates have addressed the gap in different ways. According to Think Progress, a political news blog, candidates Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Hillary Clinton (D) have both supported the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014, with Clinton being a major sponsor of the bill that aimed to enact harsher penalties for pay discrimination, among other things.

Ted Cruz (R-TX), however, has a history of thwarting the issue, voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act in late 2014, helping the Republican senators unanimously block its passage. The Huffington Post reported in October 2015 that right-wing front runner Donald Trump explained his views on equal pay to an audience member at the Problem Solver Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire in this way: “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.”

With such polarizing positions on the wage gap, Rybacki is hopeful that the issue will be addressed by the incoming president and his or her administration.

“I’m hopeful that regardless of who is elected that the wage gap will be addressed,” she offered. “However, I think an issue like this is a social issue and needs to start at the grassroots. I think it starts with empowering women and women being aware of their own self-worth.”

Dr. Orlando offered that perhaps a more visible presence of women in leadership roles will be a starting point in bringing about a change in wage disparities.

“I think getting more women in positions of leadership — not just CEOs and the President of the U.S. but also SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] and the House and Senate — could move things in a more equitable direction,” she said.

No matter how pay disparities will be addressed in the future, Rybacki said she hopes that Americans as a society can get to the heart of the issue.

“My only hope is that the wage gap isn’t forgotten. I think fundamentally, it’s about equality and respecting the inherent dignity each of us possesses.”

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Fairfield’s School of Nursing fetches an emotional support dog

The latest addition to the staff of Fairfield’s School of Nursing doesn’t have years of experience working in the best hospitals around the U.S., nor has she spent years studying the profession. In fact, she doesn’t even speak.


Meet Dakota, a border collie-golden retriever mix who serves as the School of Nursing’s new emotional support dog. Dakota began her work in the School of Nursing in July after her owner, Carole Pomarico, assistant professor of nursing and director of the second degree and RN to BSN program, brought her into a nursing class to see how she would react around students.

“I was doing a lot of research about dog therapy and de-stressing students with dogs, so I thought, ‘I’m going to experiment with her,’” Pomarico said on her decision to bring Dakota into the School of Nursing. “I have second degree students that have classes in the summer, so I brought her in, and she went on the elevator calmly, walked in the classroom in 203 on the second floor, I took her leash off her and she walked up and down the aisles greeting the students. And I thought, ‘This dog is a perfect dog!’”

Because of Dakota’s initial success, Pomarico decided to get Dakota certified as an emotional support dog with the United States Dog Registry. According to the registry, emotional support dogs are “dogs that provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions.”

After registering Dakota as an unspecified emotional support dog to help students cope with stress, Pomarico then sought the approval of Meredith Kazer, dean and professor of the School of Nursing and Todd Pelazza, the director of the Department of Public Safety, as well as Counseling and Psychological Services, all of whom immediately gave a green light for Dakota’s presence on campus.

Kazer said she was “thrilled” at the idea of Dakota in the School of Nursing. “I had recently lost my dog Lucy and connected with Dakota immediately. When Professor Pomarico suggested we put Dakota through the certification process to become an emotional support, I pledged my full support.”

The next step was to set up ‘office hours’ for Dakota, which were originally on Tuesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the beginning of the semester. However, Pomarico said that this initial schedule changed very quickly. “By public demand, she’s been coming into work everyday in the afternoon, and she gets requests to come before exams, to come to class just to de-stress the students if they’re really stressed out about anything,” she explained.

And according to the American Psychological Association, college students are often stressed. In their June 2013 study, they found that anxiety is a top concern among college students, representing 41.6 percent of the 319,634 represented in the survey. The National Alliance on Mental Illness shared similar survey results; when students were asked if they had experienced a mental health crisis — which is categorized by such things as feelings of anxiety and panic or stress about their course load — during their time in college, 73 percent of students said they had.

But according to Pomarico, Dakota’s job is to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that students feel. “Everyone smiles when they see Dakota, and especially around hectic times — registration time, advising time — when everyone’s all in a hurry to do things and stressed out, and they see Dakota, and all of a sudden, everyone just goes, ‘Phew, I’m calm.’”

Kazer thinks that Dakota is not only a comfort in times of stress, but also in times of grief. “When Maureen DiCostanzo, Operations Assistant in the Office of Exploratory Academic Advising, passed away suddenly on Friday morning, Nov. 13, Dakota was there to comfort the staff and students.”

Junior nursing major Catherine Petitti found that interacting with Dakota has the ability to instantly brighten students’ days. “Just being around Dakota makes you happier, so I definitely think it will change your day for the better, and it will just help you interact with other people in a more positive light. It will just cheer you up, which is always helpful,” she said.

Dakota’s calming presence can extend beyond the walls of the School of Nursing, said Sarah Rybacki ’17. “I think it would be beneficial to see her in other parts of the University, and not just the School of Nursing,” she said.

Petitti shared this sentiment, saying that she hopes to see Dakota interact with students of other majors. “Maybe she should reach out to other members of the Fairfield community with different majors, so like with engineering majors or business majors even. Maybe she can take a trip to Dolan or maybe even the library.”

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Kazer has her own ideas on how Dakota’s presence will grow at Fairfield. “She’s done such a good job in her first few months, she may be ready for a promotion. In the future, perhaps [nursing] students may take her into the nursing home or community settings if this is allowed,” she said.

However, Pomarico is content with Dakota’s performance thus far and is in no rush to give her increased responsibilities. Although this semester is a trial period, Pomarico said she projects that she will continue to come to the School of Nursing everyday to interact with students. Pomarico sent an email to faculty members inviting them to request Dakota to come to their classes prior to administering their final exams, but she said, “We’ll see how that goes.”

Beyond this, Pomarico said, “I don’t have any intentions on giving her a higher level of dog therapy. She’s perfect the way she is.”

Kazer agreed, describing Dakota as an “asset” to the School of Nursing. “She is our best friend, asking nothing of us but to love her, which we already do.”

If students would like to visit Dakota in her office — her doggie bed beneath Pomarico’s desk — Dakota has office hours everyday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in room 111 in the School of Nursing.

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Universities in CT Mashup

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Digital Journalism Five-Shot Design Video

“I love how you can just escape and go into a whole other world that you create.” Click below to learn more about Ricky Funaro’s passion for art.

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Does Fairfield’s Security Make the Grade?

The scene on the University of New Haven’s campus in early December 2013 has become the stuff of every college campus’ worst nightmare: A young adult parks his car in a lot across the street from campus, pulling handguns and ammunition from the car’s trunk and puts them in a backpack. Guns and ammunition concealed in a backpack, he is spotted by a passerby who calls the police. Within minutes, the campus is in lockdown.

With similar scenes occurring more frequently on Connecticut college campuses, most recently at Central Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven, and Yale University, campus safety procedures have risen to the top of schools’ priority lists in recent months.

Yet many Fairfield University students say they are virtually unaware of the school’s emergency procedures.

“I’ve never been informed about emergency procedures,” Danyelle Lepardo, ’17, said. “The only emergency procedures I’ve ever practiced are fire drills, but that’s the only thing I know of.”

Other colleges around Connecticut have updated the bottom banners of their websites to display safety information, including Central Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven.

However, Fairfield University’s emergency information is far less accessible.

Students at Fairfield have to choose from a multitude of links on the homepage, or even try a search entry, in order to find the school’s emergency procedures.

Todd Pelazza, Director of Fairfield University's Department of Public Safety (image courtesy of Fairfield University Website)

Todd Pelazza, Director of Fairfield University’s Department of Public Safety (image courtesy of Fairfield University Website)

Todd Pelazza, Director of the Department of Public Safety at Fairfield University, acknowledged that the school’s website should provide easier access to the Department of Public Safety’s emergency procedures so that they are more accessible to the student body.

“On our website, there is information, and on my.fairfield there is information, but students can’t really access my.fairfield to get to our information,” he said.

Despite this, Pelazza claims Fairfield is learning from the Central Connecticut State University and University of New Haven incidents to heighten safety on campus.

“One of the lessons learned is the need to regularly update the community on the situation at hand,” he said, explaining that this lesson reinforced procedures that they already have in place.

“One other lesson is to have a space large enough for a staging area outside for responders,” Pelazza said.

Pelazza also explained that Fairfield’s Public Safety Department is a part of the Connecticut chapter of IACLEA, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, which meets regularly to discuss training topics and incidents that have occurred on college campuses.

Most recently, they have examined the incidents that occurred at Central Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven, finding a common theme in both cases.

“One of the common threads, though, is the insider threat,” he said, defining it as the possibility of a dangerous situation coming from someone within the school community.

Pelazza explained that it is hard to balance the amount of information the Department of Public Safety wants to give to the Fairfield community with the potential of a safety threat from someone inside the campus walls.

He says he often grapples with how to handle this balancing act, saying “if you give too many details to students, faculty, and staff, does that, then, inhibit your ability to respond effectively because they know your plan already?”

In effort to provide students with basic safety information, Pelazza said that on April 1, 2014, students should have been notified via the “Students 411” section of my.fairfield of emergency procedures being put up in the new portal.

Pelazza said that this section will contain “a lot of our generic emergency plans,” as well as locations of emergency phones throughout the campus. Students were not actually notified of this update until the release of the “Students 411” email on April 14.

This link put into my.fairfield directs students to the Department of Public Safety’s webpage on the university’s website. This page presents links to their contact information, as well as information on registering for the StagAlert notification system, which sends updates and emergency notifications to students, faculty, and staff.

Fairfield University's webpage dedicated to public safety information (screenshot of Fairfield University's website)

Fairfield University’s webpage dedicated to public safety information (screenshot of Fairfield University’s Website)

It takes four clicks to reach this information, starting by clicking on the my.fairfield button on the top of the homepage, signing into my.fairfield with a username and password, clicking the “Students 411” button on the left side of the page, and finally clicking a link entitled “Emergency Preparedness.”

The page also gives Fairfield University’s crime statistics as of 2012, as well as several printable documents containing emergency procedure information. There are also links to register for numerous safety training programs, including Rape Aggression Defense classes (R.A.D.), as well as CPR classes.

While all of the information accessible through the portal is important, freshman Jillian Lucia, like others on the campus, says she is not aware of how to access the information within my.fairfield.

“I did not know that at all,” Lucia said of my.fairfield’s recent launch of the safety information. “I still do not know how to access anything pertaining to procedures for DPS,” she said.

Pelazza says that the Department of Public Safety is planning to take more deliberate actions to create a safer campus in the future.

“One of the things we are always interested in is adding personnel, he said. “Right now we are at a staff of 18 officers, and we’ve had that number for some time now. So that is a focus.”

Pelazza is also concerned about increasing the amount of closed-circuit television cameras on campus, especially those focusing on the entrances to the campus.

“We have one currently at the main entrance but that currently is the only entrance that we have that on,” he said, explaining that the entrance behind freshman dorm Jogues Hall and the entrance to Fairfield Preparatory High School are currently unmonitored.

Pelazza also expects to add closed-circuit television cameras in housing facilities such as Claver, Kostka, and Gonzaga, as well as at the entrances to the upperclassmen townhouses and Jogues Hall. He hopes to receive funding for these projects through the Capital Budget in the beginning of July 2014.

Pelazza also hopes to further patrol open entrances with an increase in the use of physical barriers.

Fairfield University students have their own ideas of how to create a safer campus.

Freshman Danyelle Lepardo suggested that the officers from the Department of Public Safety give seminars in the dorms about safety issues.

“They should come to the dorms and talk about safety procedures like they do for alcohol awareness,” she said.

Lepardo echoed Pelazza’s goals of adding security to the entrances on campus, saying that “there should be someone sitting at the front gate at all times checking for Stag Cards and registering all cars that come on campus.”

In the future, Lepardo hopes that the Department of Public Safety educates students and faculty more about their safety procedures.

“I definitely think they should advertise it more especially in today’s world,” she said. “It’s scary and you never know what could happen. If they educated us more on safety procedures, I think it would make for a better and safer campus.”

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Senator Blumenthal Holds Forum at Fairfield University about Sexual Assault Prevention

United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) visited Fairfield University Friday, holding a roundtable discussion to learn what steps the government needs to take in preventing sexual assault on college campuses.

The forum, held at the Dolan School of Business, also featured input from Jim Himes, House Representative for Connecticut’s Fourth District, and Laura Cordes, executive director of CONNSACS, or the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.

(From left to right) Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Jim Himes, and CONNSACS executive director Laura Cordes

(From left to right) Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Jim Himes, and CONNSACS executive director Laura Cordes

Each speaker entered the forum with their own views on sexual assaults, but they all stressed a willingness to change the culture surrounding the issue.

Blumenthal was first to express his views, opening the forum by laying out his hopes for the discussion.

“A lot of people want to pretend that it isn’t there. But I want to hear it in your voice, through your eyes, what you have seen on this campus,” he said.

Himes told attendees that he realizes the importance of educating young students on sexual assault and violence, a realization partially spurred by being a father to two daughters. He said that “it hits you right in the gut” to think that by not educating children on sexual assault, they may be put into danger.

Himes also expressed a need to target sexual assault education to young men, saying “unless we change the way young men think about the issues around sexual violence, what is tolerable and what is not, all the legislation in the world won’t fix it.”

Cordes also spoke of attempting to change what she referred to “rape culture” that is rampant in today’s society. She told attendees that CONNSACS, has been working towards changing this culture for almost 30 years, through “public services, victim advocacy, and prevention education and training.” CONNSACS has also been instrumental in helping to change attitudes on victim blaming, Cordes said, as well as learning more about the behavior of a sexual assault offender.

As the discussion was extended to the audience, attendees voiced their opinions on what leads to sexual assaults. Many spoke of knowing friends who found themselves in dangerous situations after having too much to drink.

In response to this, Blumenthal acknowledged that alcohol can lead to potential assault circumstances. However, he argued that “being drunk is not a defense to the person who commits a sexual assault. It is not a legal reason to be used to defend oneself for committing this crime.”

Another recurring topic of the discussion was when to educate students on sexual assaults and crimes. In his remarks, the senator called for an earlier education on sexual assaults.

“The focus on college is fine,” he said. “But it has to begin earlier, at the high school level, even in the middle school level, because that’s where the culture is ingrained.”

Several Fairfield University students were in attendance, including sophomore Claretta Mills, who argued that “there needs to be a college advocate rather than talking to an administrator,” saying this would make students who have been victims of a sexual assault more comfortable in sharing their story.

Freshman class president Jason Abate also agrees that there needs to be a change in combating sexual assaults.

“Our culture as of late has seen a lot of instances where people have chosen to make ignorant or inappropriate decisions,” he said, adding that he is glad that Senator Blumenthal and this forum highlighted what a college should be doing to help prevent sexual assaults on campus.

Blumenthal explained in closing that he is going to take what he learned from the forum and send it in a report to President Obama, while also trying to implement other changes through the legislative process.

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“Byron’s Law”: Advice from Former New York Post Columnist Christopher Byron

Christopher Byron, author and former columnist for The New York Post (image courtesy of

Christopher Byron, author and former columnist for The New York Post (image courtesy of

Christopher Byron, author and former columnist for The New York Post, spoke to students Thursday, giving them advice from his nearly 50 years of experience in the news industry.

Byron started his discussion with what he called “Byron’s Law,” or how to begin a career in a news organization.

“Byron’s law in getting a job is that pull always works better than push,” he said. “You get a lot further in your whole career by being able to get pulled into a situation rather than trying to shove yourself into it.”

Byron himself was pulled into a job right out of college at Time Magazine after contacting Yale College’s alumni networking office as a senior to inquire about jobs in the media industry. They told him that it was possible to get a job at the magazine, since Henry Luce, co-creator of Time, was a contributor to the school. The staff in the alumni office then made a phone call to the magazine to inform them that Byron was coming for an interview.

By the time he arrived for his interview at Time, his future bosses were anxious to welcome him. “They said, ‘Byron, come on in, I’ve been waiting for you,’” Byron said.

Byron argued that the phone call to the magazine made by the alumni networking office differentiated him from other applicants.

“You go from being somebody who’s knocking on the door and unexpected to somebody that has somebody who’s on the other end who wants to help,” he said.

From this experience, Byron said he learned the importance of having a network of people willing to help you. He encouraged students to contact their own alumni networking office, because “the nasty secret of adulthood is that it’s not what you know, but who you know,” he said.

Once a job is secured, Byron said that it is important to be dedicated and work hard. He told students that “once you get inside of an institution, it is important that you make a total commitment to live, breathe, and die the news.”

Demonstrating this commitment, he began his career at Time, in a position that was a step above an internship working on the in-house newsletter. But, because he was passionate about his job, Byron said he came in everyday with “20 story ideas,” and was constantly pitching his ideas to those working in the news department. Eventually, he was promoted to a news correspondent covering Wall Street, and later was sent to Europe as a foreign correspondent.

Byron closed his remarks by passing on advice to students that he received while working at Time.

“Let the job that you’re doing define your life’s experiences. If you make that commitment, you won’t be disappointed.”

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