The College hosts ‘Send Silence Packing,’ a display to raise awareness about mental health struggles. (Kim Iannarone / Photo Assistant)

Suicide: the silent struggle

By Kelsey Leiter
Correspondent

May 9, 2013. April 30, 2014. Oct. 6, 2014.

Three tragedies. Less than two years. One life altering decision: the individual moments when three different students from the College decided to end their lives.

Among the general population of young adults aged 18-24, homicide and suicide are the second and third leading causes of death.

The College hosts ‘Send Silence Packing,’ a display to raise awareness about mental health struggles. (Kim Iannarone / Photo Assistant)
The College hosts ‘Send Silence Packing,’ a display to raise awareness about mental health struggles. (Kim Iannarone / Photo Assistant)

There are currently no studies comparing homicide and suicide rates of students that fall within that age demographic both on and off campuses — however, many campus professionals dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health promotion often refer to suicide as the second leading cause of death among college students, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s website.

When sending their children off to four-year institutions for higher learning, parents may feel a tumultuous ensemble of emotions. Pride, joy, hope for the potential future — are all at the forefront of their minds. Somewhere in a darker corner, however — worry, anxiety, fear.

On one hand, they are nostalgic for the child they swear was two-years-old less than five minutes ago. But, they are also excited for their son or daughter as they recall the experiences they had at the colleges they attended. Could that really be 20 years ago?

On the other hand, the gut-wrenching feelings they may have stem from their innate habit of worrying, something they might try to stifle but can never completely defeat. Their uneasiness can also be equated with the horror stories of things like alcohol poisoning, Greek life hazing and drug abuse, among other tragedies, that occur on college campuses across the U.S.

These worries are not just founded in shocking news stories, but also in startling statistics. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

With college campuses focusing on issues like these, it is often more startling when a suicide occurs on a college campus. When students, who seemingly have everything to live for, take their lives, it sends a crippling wave of shock across campuses all over the country, affecting families and students alike.

At the College, the first death by suicide in the last several years was that of tennis captain Paige Aiello, 21, who was tragically considered missing for a month before police identified her body in the Hudson River.

“I  just don’t understand what’s happening to these high-achieving kids,” said Aiello’s father, Christopher, to Philly.com. “How did we get to this spot? The whole thing, for me, will never make any sense.”

An A-student at the College, Aiello was weeks shy of graduation and had been accepted to nine law schools when she went missing two days before her 22nd birthday. Police believe Aiello jumped from the George Washington Bridge because they found her purse, cell phone and car keys on the span’s south walkway.

“It’s so normal for anyone who is connected to a suicide or a loss to ask themselves what they missed,” said Dean of Students Angela Chong, who manages the College’s student outreach program. “It’s just really important to remember that every person is different

“College is tough. Many of our students are learning how to be in relationships for the first time … There’s a lot going on during that time in someone’s life. This is not the time to think you can handle it all by yourself.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines suicidal thoughts and behaviors as “psychiatric emergencies requiring immediate intervention.” According to their website, suicide is the most common psychiatric emergency with close to one million Americans receiving treatment for suicidal thoughts, behaviors or attempts on a yearly basis.

Volunteers at Mercer County’s crisis hotline, CONTACT, have been on the other side of many an “immediate intervention.”

CONTACT is a free crisis intervention hotline for people seeking someone to listen, ease their despair and help them share the daily burdens of life. Their website explains their work as “compassionate listening and safety services” that over the past 35 years has saved “countless number of lives that would have been lost to suicide.”

Chong said that there is usually no single defining moment or situation that leads to suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Stephanie Menakis participates in the balloon release, part of TCNJ Cares Week. Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)
Stephanie Menakis participates in the balloon release, part of TCNJ Cares Week. Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

“No one really wakes up one day and feels like they don’t have any alternatives. It’s a process,” Chong said. “Most students have been dealing with depression or anxiety, or something has been going on for a while.”

The College has tragically seen an increase in suicides on campus in the last two years. Only a year after Aiello’s death, and coincidentally in the same month, Michael Menakis, 18, a freshman playing for the College’s basketball team, allegedly died from injuries sustained by jumping from the top of a school parking garage.

Emily Johnson, a sophomore business management major, was with Menakis the morning of his suicide attempt and said that she didn’t notice anything alarming about his demeanor.

“Even his best friends that he played basketball with said they had no idea anything was wrong,” Johnson said, reflecting on the incident.

“I think second semester his habits got worse, like skipping class and stuff,” she realized in retrospect. “But no one really noticed because it happened subtly and everyone skips class. You’re not necessarily looking at that like it means something or thinking, ‘Oh, wow, he must be really struggling.’”

While it is sometimes difficult to recognize warning signs, Chong explained, “Look for changes in behavior. Drastic change — you’re not just looking for one isolated circumstance or behavior. (You’re) looking for anything that is a change … especially during stressful academic times of the year. It may not be any one thing. It can’t just be up to any one department, one friend, one boyfriend, one anything, to have the responsibility of noticing these things.”

In response to the recent devastating losses, the College has changed its approach to better assist students seeking help.

“The approach has changed so that it’s a community effort,” Chong said. “Our net is wider so that we can have a more holistic picture of what’s going on with that student to discern if we should be concerned or not, because you certainly don’t want to overact and drive a student away from seeking help services.”

Though Menakis had been drinking that night, according to Johnson, she said he was no more drunk than she had ever seen him before. Johnson was with him as early as 3:30 am the morning of his attempt. When she first received a call from one of Menakis’ new fraternity brothers, she was only told that Menakis was in the hospital and had potentially been assaulted.

“The police came to question me and at that point they didn’t really know what had happened, or they just weren’t telling me,” Johnson said. “They asked me if he had ever talked about Madison Holleran who he ran track with in high school. He hadn’t, and I didn’t realize at the time who she was.”

Holleran was a freshman track star at the University of Pennsylvania who graduated from Northern Highlands High School with Menakis. On Jan. 17, 2014, just as her second semester had begun, she committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a parking garage in Center City, Philadelphia. Her death was one of five among the Penn student body in six months’ time, including four confirmed suicides, Philadelphia Magazine reported.

It wasn’t until this January that her parents revealed the contents of the note their daughter left behind.

“I thought how unpleasant it was to be locked out, and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in,” she wrote, also leaving behind cookies for her grandparents, chocolates for her father and necklaces for her mother. “I love you all … I’m sorry. I love you,” she wrote.

Her former classmate, Menakis, had just become a member of the College’s chapter of Sigma Pi Theta Delta before he took his own life. Members of the organization were in shock. After his death, Menakis’ fraternity brothers participated in Hamilton’s “Out of the Darkness Suicide Walk,” sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Frankie Parisi, a junior business major at the College who joined the fraternity at the same time as Menakis, said he never saw any signs.

“Mike was just one of the guys, we all loved being around him. I don’t think Mike ever reached out to anyone, which is tough to understand,” Parisi said.

His lack of outreach to his fraternity brothers is especially difficult to understand as the fraternity’s philanthropy is the Sean Vernon Feliciano Amazing Day foundation for suicide awareness.

The “In Memory of Mike Menakis” fundraising page the fraternity created surpassed its goal of $1,000, ultimately raising $1,709. All proceeds are going to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We have done everything we can to keep his memory alive,” Parisi said. “Aside from our philanthropy, that is probably the most important thing to us.”

Chong has created a task force at the College implementing efforts to help reduce the negative stigma often attached to reaching out for help.

“You just want to make sure that you’re asking, how can every effort and message help protect our students?” Chong said. “How can this be a place that is comfortable talking about this kind of thing, that it eventually reduces the stigma? And that people feel more free to say that, ‘Hey, I’m going through something.’

“I can’t imagine anything worse than someone saying ‘I’m gonna reach out for help,’ but then feeling like that’s wrong or that there’s something wrong with me.”

Less than four months later, Sarah Sutherland, 18, a 2014 Scotch Plains High School graduate and freshman at the College, committed suicide when she jumped from the Route 22 overpass on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, N.J.

Sutherland’s suicide was a shock to junior Jennie Sekanics, Sutherland’s freshman floor Community Advisor.

“She always seemed happy and was always kind, she was very generous — always one of the first people to offer help,” said Sekanics, an English and women’s and gender studies double major. “I will say that it was evident that she was under a lot of pressure … Sarah was well-liked on our floor and her death affected each and every one of us.”

Like many others who are in some way affected by a suicide, Sekanics has struggled to deal with the loss of her young resident.

“I was very distraught for a long time. I really felt like I didn’t do my job — in my mind, her death was my fault. I had trouble coping with her loss and my guilt,” Sekanics said. “It took a lot of conscious self-love, care and advocacy, but I am here, and I am happy and healthy. I realized I needed to recognize how I cared for myself — what worked, what didn’t and why. It is really important to know what makes you feel good, especially in times of distress, and now self-care is the most important thing in my life… academics following second, of course.” 

It is unknown whether these three students had reached out to the College’s Counseling and Psychology Services center (CAPS), however, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center website explains that “even though most campuses provide low or no-cost mental health services to their students or can refer students to off-campus services, student survey data shows that many students who need help are not asking for it directly.”

The American College Health Association found in 2008 that most students who report being depressed (i.e., screening positive for depression, self-reporting depression diagnoses or symptoms) are not in treatment. One survey, for example, showed “only 36 percent of students who screened positive for depression or anxiety actually received some form of treatment.”

Students walk to raise awareness for suicide and mental health struggles. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)
Students walk to raise awareness for suicide and mental health struggles. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

Most students who die by suicide are not clients of the counseling center, the website explains.

So, what can be done? What is being done?

Chong explains that after the deaths of these students, there was an outpouring from the College’s student body and faculty who wanted to do something to help prevent future suicides and help students seek assistance when needed.

The College’s Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Task Force, made up of faculty, staff and students, lobbied for two additional counselors in CAPS in order for psychiatrists to be available on campus for 20 hours a week. The task force has also put trainings on for faculty and students to better help break down barriers for students who want to reach out for help.

This past October was the College’s CAPS’s Mental Health Awareness Month. The month began with a Mental Health Screening Day in which students were invited to get a “mental health check up.” Screenings for mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol use/abuse, eating disorders and gambling were available with immediate feedback provided by professional staff from CAPS, Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI), the Alcohol and Drug Education Program (ADEP) and the TCNJ Clinic.

CAPS Peer Educators (CAPS PE), students who volunteer with the program, hosted several other events for students including “Stigmonolgues” where more than 200 students heard personal stories from their peers about their experiences with mental health issues, stigma and recovery.

New York City author, Josh Rivedal, was brought to campus to present his one-man show, “The Gospel According to Josh,” which narrates his journey through depression and explains how he made it to the other side. Students were able to learn more about how to reduce the stigma, raise awareness and help fellow students struggling with depression seek help.

During the month, CAPS PE brought with them to all events what they call a “Message of Hope” table. They asked students to create and leave hopeful messages for others and then take with them a message that someone else had written.

“The aim was simple: bring a smile and sense of hope to another, while leaving with a bit of hope for yourself,” the group’s website explains.

The influx of messages and positive feedback inspired CAPS PE to create a Tumblr page called TCNJ Unbreakable as a forum to anonymously post positive messages, uplifting quotes and images.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,” a quote from Leonard Cohen added to the page by a student at the College reads. “Behind you are the challenges you’ve met. Before you lie new possibilities. Today you chose the direction of your life,” another student wrote.

CAPS also encouraged students to attend Hamilton’s “Out of the Darkness” Suicide Walk.

Other organizations have also stepped up to help promote suicide awareness. In 2013, junior psychology major Noelle Skrobola and senior psychology major Melanie Wong, along with alumnus Monisha Ahluwalia, opened a chapter of Active Minds with the goal of “increasing awareness of students, faculty and staff at TCNJ about issues surrounding mental health, symptoms related to mental health disorders and mental health resources available both on-campus and in the surrounding community,” the group explained on its website.

The organization has already been recognized by Active Minds, Inc. as a five-star chapter and was nominated for a Road-Runner Award, which is given to a chapter that “hit the ground running on programming, leadership formation and awareness efforts on its campus,” according to the group’s website.

During the Suicide Prevention Month this October, Active Minds set up a table in the Brower Student Center where students could dip their hands in paint, leave prints on the banner and sign their names — metaphorically lending a hand to stop suicide.

“Every handprint represents a person who’s willing to talk to you,” junior psychology major Margaret Pappadimatos, student organizer for Active Minds, told The Signal in an article from the Oct. 1, 2014 issue. “They will talk to you for however long (you) need, as long as you don’t take that final step.”

The Active Minds website has links to resources for students, families and teachers seeking help for themselves or others.

And while CAPS and Active Minds have made significant steps in the right direction, Johnson feels there is still more to be done.

“I don’t think TCNJ or the email directly addressed the issue,” Johnson said, referring to the email alert sent to the campus announcing Menakis’s death. “I know it’s very personal for family and friends, but the community should be aware of what’s happening. And it seems to be a recurring issue at TCNJ, so it needs to be more of a universal topic. If it weren’t such a closed subject, people would be more likely to address it if they were having an issue. It wouldn’t have to only be an internal struggle.”

Sekanics agrees that changes need to be made to the way the College handles the announcement of a campus suicide.

“A death, especially a suicide, is not a ‘special announcement,’” Sekanics said. “Language needs to be better suited and more sensitive to the matter and the communities, and the TCNJ community at large, that it affects.”

Available data from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center suggests that suicide occurs at a rate between 6.5 and 7.5 per 100,000 among college students. More than 80 percent of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year and 45 percent felt that things were hopeless. 

The American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, likewise, finds that 60.5 percent of students “felt very sad” and 30.3 percent say they “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” at least once in the prior 12 months.

The College’s campus community is working to fight against these unsettling statistics. Progress has been made and yet there is so much more to be done.

As Johnson said, “Once it’s done, it’s done. You can’t take it back.”

But, hopefully, with the right action steps, the College will be able to help prevent suicide in the first place and give students the right tools to seek help before drastic circumstances unfold.

Be the Match Bone Marrow Drive comes to campus

By Mark Marsella

Staff Writer

Students were able to register as potential bone marrow donors at the Be The Match Bone Marrow Drive on Monday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Travers-Wolfe Lounge.

Monday’s event, hosted by Res Life and Delta Epsilon Psi followed a previous marrow drive that had taken place on Wednesday, April 29, in the Brower Student Center, headed by the football team and Be The Match’s “Get in the Game, Save a Life” program, which collaborates with college football programs to host drives all over the country.

These two events over the past week have allowed students at the College to strengthen Be The Match’s registry — the largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world — by providing their contact information, dabbing skin cells on the inside of their mouths with a cotton swab and stating their willingness to be a potential marrow donor. Any students who joined the registry could be a potential match for a blood cancer patient who needs a bone marrow transplant to live. Despite the simplicity of joining the registry, however, the actual transplant process can be time-consuming and somewhat painful, often turning away potential marrow donors.

The statistics, however, show the need for more registrants. Every four minutes, someone in the world is diagnosed with a blood cancer. A patient’s likelihood of finding a matching donor on Be The Match ranges from 66 to 97 percent, and 70 percent of blood cancer patients needing a marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. That is part of the reason why senior biology major Jesse Mendillo says he helped organize Monday’s drive — because he knows it can be difficult for blood cancer patients to find donors with compatible marrow, so increasing the registry’s scope helps patients’ chances.

“I know they have blood drives here like every other week, so I wanted to benefit the community by covering all the bases and doing something different,” Mendillo said.

Mendillo organized the drive with junior economics major and pre-med student Neil Nadpara — who got it sponsored by Delta Epsilon Psi — and senior special education and i-STEM double major Bridget Byrne, who knew a contact at Be The Match and feels especially passionate about bone marrow transplants because it saved the life of her uncle.

“He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia five years ago when I was a junior in high school, and after going into remission, he relapsed with CMML this past fall,” Byrne said. CMML, which stands for Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, is a different form of leukemia that is often caused by the kind of chemotherapy her uncle received for his first diagnosis.

“The end prognosis for this second diagnosis was that he would need a bone marrow transplant to live,” Byrne said.

A few months later, Be The Match found a compatible bone marrow donor for Byrne’s uncle.

“Now that he received [the transplant] about a month ago, he’s been progressing a lot and is able to be home with his family,” Byrne said.

Now, Byrne is giving back by organizing drives to increase the registry that saved her uncle’s life. For Monday’s event she contacted Kathy Young, a manager of the HLA Registry in Community Blood Services, who had helped organize a successful bone marrow drive in honor of Byrne’s uncle this past January.

Young says that one challenge the registry faces is that many potential donors are reluctant to sign up after learning that the transplant process can take up to 20-30 hours total between doctors visits  — it can also sometimes involves surgically removing bone marrow from the hip and can be painful. That is why Be The Match clearly lays out the process to potential donors and asks them if they would be willing to go through with it before signing up.

“If anyone is still unsure or unwilling, we say, ‘Don’t sign up, you’re not ready. Wait until you’re ready,’” Young said. “I’m not coercing people or pushing people (to sign up), I want them to be ready and know exactly what they’re getting into before they register. Because if you sign up and match and back out, it could delay their transplant and give false hope to the patient’s family.”

Registrants backing out of the transplant process is another problem the registry faces.

“At our center, maybe 30 or 40 percent of people who said they were willing don’t want to donate when we call,” Young said, “especially people who signed up many, many years ago.”

Young said that she tries to convey to people that the transplant process is worth saving a life.

“My job is to educate them,” she said. “The therapies and transplants have gotten so much better over the years.”

Indeed, most donor testimonials describe the pain as no more than flu-like symptoms for a few days, or a dull ache. They also praise Be The Match’s thorough efforts to keep them informed and comfortable. And while donors only know the age, gender, disease and country of the recipient, after the first year, if both parties are willing, Be The Match will share their contact information with each other.

The only thing they know about the person who saved Byrne’s uncle, she said, is that he is a 26-year-old male from Germany.

“If you think about it, the process would take at most about an entire day’s worth of hours,” she said. “However, when you think that your one day of time could give someone years of their life — that in itself is pretty powerful, at least in my opinion.”

Byrne said that despite peoples’ reservations, the event on Monday was extremely successful.

“Today we were able to convince most of the ‘not sure’’s, but did have a few people who decided not to sign up at this time,” she said.

The football team’s drive also had a great turnout, said head football coach Wayne Dickens, with over 500 people joining the registry at that event. “Get in the Game, Save a Life” keeps track of about 40 college programs and compares how many people each school registered. According to Dickens, after last Wednesday’s event, the College is ranked second.

“It’s a very worthy cause. You have the opportunity to save someone’s life,” Dickens said. “You can’t ask for a better humanitarian gift than that.”

Local union leader, professor to retire after 45 years

By Mark Marsella
Correspondent

Although Professor Ralph Edelbach is retiring after nearly 50 years of teaching at the College and working with its union local, he still searches for fascinating issues he would’ve discussed in his Society, Ethics and Technology class. And while he is no longer teaching students, he’s found a new audience to educate.

“Jon Stewart did a piece the other day on religious rituals associated with robots and artificial intelligence,” Edelbach said. “I look at that and say, ‘Oh, I can use that in class! Oh wait … I’m not teaching anymore.’ So I tape it on my TiVo, put it on PowerPoint, and now I show it to my grandkids.”

Now, as Edelbach prepares to more to Texas so that he can be closer to his family and grandchildren, the Technological Studies teacher reminisces about his half-century at The College of New Jersey — or Trenton State College — as the school was named for most of his time here.

Edelbach enjoys his trip at German Grand Prix in 2005 with friends. (Photo courtesy of Ralph Edelbach)
Edelbach enjoys his trip at German Grand Prix in 2005 with friends. (Photo courtesy of Ralph Edelbach)

As one of the more active and influential faculty members, Edelbach has taught a wide variety of courses, served on the Faculty Senate as the union representative and was the president of the school’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union local for 25 years. Throughout Edelbach’s involvement with the College, he has not only witnessed countless changes in these fields, but has also been invaluable in implementing them.

Edelbach’s multifaceted career at the College began in 1966, when he joined a much smaller campus and faculty to teach classes in the school’s burgeoning “Industrial Arts” program. He primarily taught “General Shop,” which educated all different majors in the techniques of industry, design and building.

“When I think about some of the equipment we used to use — oh, God,” Edelbach laughed. “We never thought about (safety and) that stuff back then. Now there’s whole lectures on safety.”

Edelbach largely developed the College’s Graphic Photography program in the 1970s, and noted that the term “digital” did not exist back then — they used darkrooms, “chemicals and all,” to process photos.

He also taught classes in printing and Advertising Design, describing the College’s phototypesetter — a machine that created what is essentially today’s WordArt — as a “crude beast of a machine.”

Edelbach taught courses in Graphic Photography and Advertising Design with John Karsnitz, former chair of the Technological Studies Department, who joined the College’s faculty in 1978. In fact, when the College gave Karsnitz an office on the third floor of Bliss Hall that was inconvenient for him, Edelbach intervened.

“Ralph said, ‘Hey, why don’t you move into my office?’” said Karsnitz, fondly recalling how small the offices were back then. “There was barely enough room for a filing cabinet, two desks and two of us.”

Karsnitz continued to teach Graphic Photography and Advertising Design with Edelbach and another faculty member when the original Armstrong Hall, “the elevated area (of Armstrong Hall) on the Bliss side,” was built in the early ’80s. But as the successful program grew and developed into the College’s modern engineering program, Karsnitz taught in the Technological Studies Department on the teacher’s education side, while Edelbach taught courses on the industry side of engineering.

In the early 1990s, however, the Society, Ethics, and Technology (SET) course was developed as part of the College’s first liberal learning program (the original program required freshmen to take a class called “From Athens to New York,” and required sophomores to take SET). Edelbach transitioned to teaching SET and later on becoming President of the AFT local. He devoted half of his time to the union and the other half to teaching SET.

“We wanted the students to better understand how the technological world was impacting them. Everyone on campus thought that was important,” said Karsnitz, who said that he, Edelbach and faculty from nearly every discipline collaborated to develop the course.

Although the SET course is no longer a requirement for all students, it remains a popular Liberal Learning elective taken by many majors, exploring the cultural, ethical and moral implications of today’s cutting-edge technology. Junior accounting major Christina Roach took Edelbach’s SET class during her first semester at the College in the fall of 2012. She said that although his class was challenging and his teaching style strict, she greatly enjoyed and benefitted from the subject.

“(The class) greatly impacted me,” Roach said. “It kick-started my career here at TCNJ at the highest standard … it prepared me for what to expect, and how to critically think.”

Edelbach said that SET was his favorite class to teach because the nature of the subject is always changing.

“Teaching the class was really a great experience,” Edelbach said. “There’s always something different going on, whether it’s about biomedical ethics, pollution, the need for more energy. As the years went on and there were more and more issues to discuss, instead of cutting anything out of the curriculum I said, ‘I just have to talk faster.’”

Edelbach has not only impacted the College as a teacher. For 25 years, Edelbach served as the president of the AFT union local, working with the College, several of its presidents and the state of New Jersey to mediate relations between teachers and their administrations. During his time with the AFT, Edelbach witnessed both periods of cooperation and unrest between faculty and administration, including two statewide teacher strikes in 1974 and 1979 — the first lasting one day and the latter lasting nine.

“And it was very tough,” Edelbach said. “They were over issues like the faculty being able to pick textbooks, salaries, health benefits, things of that nature. They were pretty nasty times.”

Another period of tense relations between the AFT and the College administration occurred just before President Gitenstein’s term of office, Edelbach said. He recalled that the College’s teachers held demonstrations against a former president, because the College was “crying poverty” and raising tuition while simultaneously purchasing expensive local properties.

“Those were really rough times on our campus,” he said.

Since Gitenstein has taken office, however, relations between the faculty and administrators have changed for the better, according to Edelbach.

“Right now, we have on our campus the best working relationship between administration and faculty of any school in the state,” Edelbach said. “I think I was able to help bring that about and keep it going, with much support, and with the administration willing to do things in a collegial way.”

And there has certainly been an improvement in this relationship.

“Before (Gitenstein), it was much more adversarial and even crude,” said Karsnitz, who also served on the Faculty Senate executive board. “(Edelbach) should certainly be recognized as bringing a much more effective, professional relationship between the administration and union to the College.”

Edelbach noted that the union and the College will always have some disagreements, such as Gitenstein’s advocacy for state schools to gain more autonomy from the state.

“We, the union, feel that it would be detrimental to faculty to have that happen,” Edelbach said. “We feel that the more autonomy the presidents get, the more likely it is that you’ll have some whacko president going crazy. That hasn’t happened on our campus, but it’s happened on other campuses,” he said, citing the president of Kean University who purchased a $219,000 conference table.

In addition to teaching, coauthoring new editions of the “Society, Ethics, and Technology” textbook and serving as president of the AFT local, Edelbach has a passion for race cars and for rebuilding old cars. He has taken trips to the Sebring 12-hour races (where he once relayed messages from the pit stops to the control tower), the Festival of Speed at Goodwood England, the Monterey Historic Races and the German Grand Prix. He has even driven on the infamous Nürburgring racetrack, which has hosted many German Grand Prix races. Edelbach also designed and built his own house.

His passion for building and designing outside of the classroom, he said, translates to the satisfaction that teaching always brought him.

“I always like to do things with my hands,” Edelbach said. “So working with equipment and tools, showing somebody how to do something who didn’t know how to do it — that was always rewarding. And when it comes to the SET course, the intellectual stimulation of looking at issues from the perspective of technology was equally rewarding.”

“Rewarding,” Edelbach says, is the best way to describe his 48 years at the College.

“I’ve been damn lucky to have this job because it’s been so rewarding, so stimulating and so enjoyable,” Edelbach said. He noted that while there are people who dread going to work and cannot stand their colleagues, he has never had to face that. He also hopes his grandchildren will have the opportunity to have the kind of rewarding job that he was able to enjoy.

“I’ve always been able to go to work and say, ‘Today’s going to be a great day,’” Edelbach said.

TCNJ EMS: Test anxiety and how to handle it

By Steven King
Columnist 

We’ve almost made it to the end, but we still have one last challenge to overcome this school year: finals. Finals come around every semester, and every semester everyone experiences that all too familiar stress. For some people, however, this stress translates into severe anxiety, which can keep a person from being able to focus on studying and performing well.

Finals week creates additional stress for students. (AP Photo)
Finals week creates additional stress for students. (AP Photo)

Testing anxiety is no laughing matter and it can affect people to an extreme degree, to the point where even the simplest question becomes tough to answer. Even after a test, a person might still feel anxiety, which can lead to poor performance on the next test. Hopefully, TCNJ EMS can give you some tips to help reduce this anxiety so that you can do your best on your finals.

First of all, what is testing anxiety? Sometimes you can feel really nervous before a big event in your life, whether it be going on a roller coaster or competing in a sport. This type of uneasiness, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Generally, this anxiety makes you more alert and ready. It might not feel too nice, but it doesn’t compare to the anxiety that is experienced by people who suffer from testing anxiety.

Testing anxiety is unhealthy for you, physically and mentally. It is a form of excessive fear that makes it difficult to concentrate on an exam and is usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as nausea, which makes it even harder to focus. Overall, testing anxiety can be defined as an extreme sense of fear — marked by unhealthy physical symptoms — that keeps a person from being able to focus on their exams.

So, what exactly can you do to deal with testing anxiety? Luckily, there are several methods to help relieve this anxiety. First of all, you need to get a good night’s sleep. While it is tempting, do not cram all night before the exam. Unfortunately, cramming can lead to even more anxiety. Besides that, eat something healthy before the exam, but make sure you do not eat something too heavy. Avoid sugary foods, since it’s possible for the sugar to make anxiety worse. During the exam, try to sit in a comfortable position and change your position if you need to. It also helps to use some positive reinforcement, such as acknowledging that you are doing your best. Just try to stay calm and stay positive, and ignore any negative thoughts that might be trying to mess with you. Overall, healthy physical habits are a must, but remember to stay positive about yourself and your performance.

While testing, anxiety can certainly be nasty and detrimental to your exam score, there are ways to deal with it. By thinking positive thoughts before and during the test, eating healthy and practicing good sleeping habits, it is possible to calm your anxiety. With only a little bit of time before the year ends, good luck on your finals and remember to stay positive!

Classic Signals: April ’03 Junior Year Transitions

By Kimberly Ilkowski
Features Editor

Kell describes the transition from sophomore to junior year. (Kimberly Ilkowski / Features Editor)
Kell describes the transition from sophomore to junior year. (Kimberly Ilkowski / Features Editor)

The final issue of the Spring 2003 semester featured a heartfelt confession on the struggles of transitioning into junior year. Sports Editor John Kell wrote to let freshmen and sophomores know that it is never too late to get involved and get the most out of your time here at the College. As our own semester comes to a close, it is an important reminder to stay motivated and positive.

I hate those articles/opinions about reflection. I don’t think that much can be learned by them, but here I go trying not to reflect too much. I’ve been asked to write about something that I have been saying for weeks, the difference between a sophomore and a junior.

Sophomore year was an amazing year. I went to countless concerts, semi-formals, formals, date parties, frat parties, house parties, Broadway shows and nightclubs.

In one weekend, I ended up partying or going to events in four different cities (Philadelphia, New York, Camden and Trenton — I didn’t say they were all good cities.)

Sophomore year in college is the year you start thinking like a college student and finally leave that high school mentality behind you. But I don’t think that sophomore year is the real year of truth.

Junior year is hard. Any junior in college can tell you that this is the year that really counts.

When my sophomore friends ask me what junior year is like I tell them to imagine how hard their junior year in high school was, (by far the worst year in high school), and multiply that to the college level. At times, it’s that bad.

Junior year is the year that I finally realized the reason that I was at college. I joined SGA and the staff of The Signal. I got two new jobs — hall security worker and another at the Gap.

I realized that I had been wasting my time during my sophomore year — time that I had to make up this year. My resume sucked and I realized that without hard work and experience, I wouldn’t get any internship let alone any job that I applied for.

Now I’m busting my ass and attempting to make up for it.

Last semester, as any of my friends can tell you, I didn’t party much because I had to budget my time to the minute. I was working over 30 hours a week between my three jobs on top of being a full-time student. It wasn’t always fun but I grew up to be the man I am today.

I have to say that in retrospect, I was just a boy before that. if anything, junior year has taught me that I am ready for the internship and the eventual job I hope to get.

It taught me that I can move off campus senior year and balance my life and finances better when I’m off on my own. I think I’m ready to move away from home after college and if I get an opportunity to move away from the east coast or even further, I would have to take it. 

So what am I trying to say in this opinion? I guess I’m saying that if you are reading this, it’s not too late to get involved.

It’s not too late to do all the things you saw yourself doing in college and it’ll never be too late to grow up to become a better person then you were yesterday.

The Hollyword: Alaimo has final word

By Johnanthony Alaimo
Columnist

Have you been holding your breath waiting for a “Lizzie MaGuire” reunion? Well, I have news for your blue, dead body. It happened! Sort of. Are you still excited even though I said sort of? Would you be more excited if I said absolutely? Do you hate me asking you questions when there’s really no way of you answering them? Shut up and listen!

Hilary Duff bowls with TV best friend, Miranda Sanchez. (AP Photo)
Hilary Duff bowls with TV best friend, Miranda Sanchez. (AP Photo)

According to E!, Hilary Duff she went bowling and hung out with former TV best friend, Miranda Sanchez, played by…I have no idea what her name is in real life and I refuse to find out. Why can’t it be Miranda Sanchez? She also hung out with her TV brother, Matt, who now has a receding hairline. Cool! This all happened not because Hilary necessarily wanted to, but because she went on a Tinder date with some guy named Tom! Tom who, Hilary??? Tom Welling? Tom Arnold? Tommy Pickles? All this mystery will certainly hurt the campaign for presidency you just launched.

Hil refused to give up more details on her beau, but she said that he’s an actor and she doesn’t like that! Should’ve swiped left, Hil. She went on to say she ABSOLUTELY did not kiss him at the end of the night but that she’s a TINDER ANIMAL, a phrase I hope to never hear again describing a person. Good for you though, Hilary! Get yourself out there. Where’s Gordo in all this, though? Is he OK? Is he off your radar? Let’s find him!

Carey takes a picture with her dolphin friend in 2000. (AP Photo)
Carey takes a picture with her dolphin friend in 2000. (AP Photo)

In news that is not shocking, but should be, Mariah Carey is best friends with a dolphin! How did she manage such a feat? Dolphins of course are known for their fandom of Mariah! (While sharks are known as Ariana Grande fans.) In a recent interview with Robin Leach, she explained she’s buddy buddy with a dolphin named Osbourne. Sounds good, Mimi! But if this is a PR stunt by SeaWorld, though, I’m not having it. Just please remember that he needs to be immersed in water at all times, so cool it on the ice cream carting with him!

Alas, my chickadees, this is the last edition of the Hollyword. Please, don’t shave your head. Save (shave?) that drama for another day. It brought me great joy and carpal tunnel syndrome writing this column for you. We’ve been through a lot. Meltdowns, throwdowns and pat downs (my favorite). My only regret is that I will not still be writing when Justin Bieber will inevitably be airlifted off a toilet. Hopefully another sociopath takes my place here at The Signal to cover that.

I will leave you with the wisest words I know. I quote, “DON’T BE FUCKING RUDE!” — Kim Kardashian. Good night and good potluck.

AEPi hosts 24-hour barbecue to raise money

By Nicole Ferrito
Staff Writer

Hotdogs and hamburgers were grilled for 24 hours straight on Tuesday, April 28, as the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at the College fundraised for the Heroes to Heroes foundation, one of their national philanthropies.

The 24-hour barbecue raises funds for Heroes to Heroes. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)
The 24-hour barbecue raises funds for Heroes to Heroes. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

At this year’s annual day and night barbeque event, the fraternity raised $2,498.15 to be donated to the their philanthropy.

“We figured it would be something that was fun for us and for the campus,” junior chemistry major and President of AEPI Andy Glass said on choosing to do a 24-hour barbecue as a way to raise funds. In addition to hotdogs and hamburgers, the brothers sold “Support Our Troops” bracelets, pretzels and other snacks.

The brothers chose to raise funds for Heroes to Heroes because two of their members are related to war veterans, Glass said.

Since the fraternity has hosted the barbecue since Alpha Epsilon Pi’s establishment on campus in 2007, they felt it was a part of their history to continue the event, according to junior and philanthropy chair of the fraternity Alec Grossman.

“It brings out every brother and the students,” Grossman said.

When commenting on the reasoning behind planning the event Glass said, “It’s just something different that not a lot of other groups do.” The fraternity stationed themselves outside the Travers and Wolf dorms and said they do get a lot of people that come out to the event at night.

AEPi sells hotdogs and pretzels for students. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)
AEPi sells hotdogs and pretzels for students. (Samantha Selikoff / Photo Editor)

“I think it’s really cool and a good cause,” said Priscilla Blanco, junior Deaf education and Spanish double major, who was grabbing a hotdog during at the event during the afternoon.

The Heroes to Heroes foundation aims to help veterans who have tried to commit suicide or are suffering with depression.

“We provide a spiritual healing and peer support program for veterans,” program founder Judy Schaffer said.

The veterans are taken on a trip to Israel, Schaffer said. The journey is meant to “help them regain that sense of self and faith.” The program takes a group of about 10 veterans, who are paired with three to five mentors from Israel. Heroes to Heroes is a non-denominational program and is open to all combat veterans.

The program was established five years ago and has had over 60 veterans participate in the program, according to Schaffer. They will be sending another group to Israel in October. Schaffer explained that the trip is both a spiritual and social journey and that the veterans help each other to heal.

Schaffer added that all of the funds raised and donated go directly to the program.

Campus Style

By Heather Hawkes
Columnist

This week, I interviewed junior biology major Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette on spring style.

Let’s start off with where you shop. What are some of your go-to stores?

JM: I like to shop at stores that provide high quality clothing for reasonable prices. A few of my favorites are J. Crew, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters and Zara.

Jessica Alba shows off her fresh, spring fashion. (AP Photo)
Jessica Alba shows off her fresh, spring fashion. (AP Photo)

Do you have any celebrity influences that you look to for style inspiration?

JM: Yes, I love Jessica Alba’s style — she has the perfect balance between classic elegance and current flare. I also look toward Angelina Jolie for inspiration. I think there is something to be said for women who can be fashion forward while still presenting themselves with class and poise.

What is your favorite thing about dressing for the spring season?

JM: It’s so refreshing to mirror the new spring colors outside in my wardrobe through a brighter color pallet. Also, I’m so glad that I no longer have to cover up my outfit choices with a bulky winter coat.

What is your favorite accessory that you absolutely can’t live without?

JM: My ring. I got this simple silver ring from Green Street Consignment in Princeton and I wear it every day. It’s such a great place to find unique high quality jewelry that doesn’t tarnish.

How would you describe your personal style?

JM: I would say my style is very versatile. I don’t stick to just one look. It’s all about experimenting with different textures and patterns, but at the same time keeping it classic and simple.

What is your best shopping advice?

JM: Comfort is key to being confident in your clothes. You want to choose classic pieces that are higher in quality so they will last you a long time. Quality over quantity is definitely the way to go.

What is your biggest fashion pet peeve?

JM: When people are wearing things that don’t fit them. One of the most important elements of dressing well is making sure that your clothes are tailored to your body.

TCNJ Cares Week brings campus together

By Leigh Cesanek
Staff Writer 

Students throughout campus came together to talk about suicide awareness and prevention in a series of events from Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1 in the first ever TCNJ Cares Week. The week was an opportunity for students to participate in conversations about mental health and the importance of giving mental health issues priority in the everyday lives of students.

The College hosted its first TCNJ Cares Week with events that included spreading messages of hope throughout campus on flowerpots and in the Student Center, public speakers, a campus walk, an exhibit and small group discussions.

Students release balloons with messages of hope written on them. (Samantha Selloff / Photo Editor)
Students release balloons with messages of hope written on them. (Samantha Selloff / Photo Editor)

“The one thing that I wanted to achieve this week was to get the campus community talking,” said Stephanie Menakis, a senior management and psychology double major and a member of the TCNJ Cares Team. “I think that’s the first step in making a true difference in our community.”

Menakis lost her brother, Michael Menakis, a freshman on the College’s basketball team, who tragically took his own life last year in April 2014.

The Lions’ Walk for Hope on Friday, May 1, became the largest ever walk for suicide awareness to take place on a college campus, according to the TCNJ Cares Team. The Walk for Hope concluded the week with a procession around the loop on campus and a balloon release.

The previous record for a suicide awareness walk for on a college campus had been below 500 people, and on Friday, the Care Team ran out of 500 balloons to hand out to all the students in attendance.

Menakis began the Walk for Hope with a speech about her personal involvement with the mental health cause by sharing a story about her brother, Michael.

“In the past year, I learned a few things,” Menakis explained about suicide and mental health. “People tend to generalize someone who is suicidal,” she said, when in reality, it can be anyone.

“People also don’t know how to talk about suicide,” Menakis said. “I wasn’t prepared for the ignorance that also exists.”

She emphasized how important it is to be someone to turn to and to be someone for others to confide in.

“Seeking help shows strength,” Menakis said. “I urge you all to be an ally.” Following the walk around campus, balloons were released in honor of those who were lost to suicide. The display also honored those who personally struggle and those who show support and act as an ally to the cause.

On Tuesday, April 28, Active Minds put on the Send Silence Packing exhibit as part of TCNJ Cares Week. The display featured 1,100 backpacks strewn across the Green Hall Lawn, representing college students who commit suicide every year. Some backpacks had small biographies or messages from loved ones.

Students stopped by to read and digest the display, according to Sarah Perry, president of Active Minds and a junior psychology major.

“At least 1,000 people stopped by today,” she said. Perry also said that many students commented on the display’s impact.

TCNJ Cares Week kicked off on Monday, April 27, with “What Do You Care About?” sponsored by To Write Love on Arms TCNJ UChapter, where students wrote inspiring quotes and messages, such as “You are beautiful!” that were displayed on the Path of Hope in the Student Center.

On Monday night, Jordan Burnham, a public speaker and mental health advocate shared his experiences with depression and suicide to stimulate the conversation within the college community.

As Burnham recounted his suicide attempt in detail and his eventual decision to share his story with news organizations, he remembered thinking: “I never want anyone to be in the position I’m in now.”

His purpose now in speaking and advocating, Burnham explained, is to motivate others to have a healthy emotional balance, develop healthy coping mechanisms and to “continue the conversation, making mental health relevant on your campus.”

Deborah Wu, a senior accounting major who attended the speech, said, “It’s important so that the people who are struggling know that they aren’t going through it alone.”

Justin Shaffer, a senior biology major,  who was also in attendance, explained the importance of speaking out,

“The people out there who are trying to get the point across publicly make it OK for people on a private level to talk about it,” Shaffer said.

The Wellness League put on a peer-led discussion called TCNJ Connect Tuesday night. The League’s co-founder and leader Derek Giannone, a psychology major with a clinical counseling specialization, opened up the event by explaining that the organization’s purpose is to “make TCNJ a more emotionally involved place.”

Personal conversations took place among students who had never known each other previously. Students discussed ideas to make the College a better community as well as ways to prevent suicide on campus.

On Wednesday, April 29, students dressed in purple and yellow, showing support for suicide awareness, and posted selfies to Instagram with #ICareTCNJ, tagging friends they care about.

Counseling and Psychological Services’ Peer Educators set up a table in Alumni Grove for students to decorate flower pots with messages of hope to “Plant Positivity” on Thursday, April 30.

The TCNJ Cares Team included: Menakis, Shap Bahary, Ryan Molicki, Rebecca Morrissey, Mariagrazia Buttitta, Kelsey Capestro, Dane West, Ryan Cleary, Angela Lauer Chong, Elizabeth Gallus and Kelly Hennessey.

TCNJ Cares Week touched many people on campus.

“I was blown away by the number of emails, Facebook messages or just people stopping me this week to thank the TCNJ Cares Team for organizing this week of events — how much it personally meant to them and how much it has the potential to affect the community,” Menakis said. “Our team always said if we impact one person by the end of the week then we accomplished our goal and I would love to believe that we did just that.”

Campus gets its own set of TED Talks

Emma Colton
Staff Writer

The College brought the international sensation of the TED Talks experience of powerful, brief and enlightening discussions to campus on Sunday, May 3, with TEDxTCNJ — an event that celebrated spreading the “spirit of ideas” under the slogan #LightTheFlame.

“TED is a conference of ideas worth spreading,” said Theresa Soya, a junior communication studies major who founded and coordinated TEDxTCNJ. “Independent TEDx events help share ideas in the community, throughout the world.”

The day-long event, held in the Mayo Concert Hall, was organized independently of the traditional TED Talks known around the world. The added ‘x’ in the name simply means that the event was specially catered to the local community.

During the College’s TED event, a total of 14 speakers were able to zone-in on educating and entertaining the audience with specially-tailored discussions aimed for the millennial generation.

“Be an artist, regardless of what you want to do with your life,” said TC Nelson, owner and general manager of the Trenton Social restaurant. “Take the mundane routine and turn it into an art form.”

Nelson’s short speech was not only a motivational one consisting of tried-and-true bits of advice on following the heart, but it was also a crash course on running a successful business. The entrepreneur has been running Trenton Social since 2010, when the thriving watering hole for professionals, students and locals opened.

The event, however, did not just allow a platform for seasoned experts to give advice to college students. On the contrary, six of the speakers were current students at the College, and four others alumni. In addition, the student-run TrenTones a capella group performed a medley of songs.

“I encourage everyone to go out and become an everything bagel,” junior seven-year medical program member Ami Shah said during her talk, “Importance of Interdisciplinary Learning.”

Shah, however, was not talking about continental breakfast foods. Instead, the self-described enthusiast of all-things biology and mathematics was urging students at the College to embrace studies they love — even if the academic fields are totally unrelated.

Since high school, Shah has been fascinated by biology. When she applied to the College, her parents encouraged her to enroll as a biology major. But Shah had a secret: She loved the simplicity of studying mathematics, as much as the complexity of studying biology.

At a crossroads, Shah compromised and enrolled as a seven-year pre-medical student, and has made it a priority throw herself into studying mathematical oncology. Thus, becoming like an everything bagel: one person, with many interests.

“I think it was important to bring TEDx to TCNJ because many times in college we are so concerned with our major and clubs, that we do not get exposed to many different ideas and concepts,” said Becky Flores, a senior history and political science double major, who spoke at the lecture. “Through TEDx, TCNJ students were exposed to an array of ideas from prison reform to the merits of interdisciplinary studies to creating a successful business.”

The event also had a more somber, serious element when nursing professor Catrina Sparacio talked about her personal struggles and triumphs. The professor, who is both a lawyer and a registered nurse, held the audience captive as she told of surviving rape when she was a student at the College in 2000, how she triumphed over attempting to take her life and even how she had previously struggled financially due to a rare disease that prevented her to walk when she was 21.

Sparacio told the audience that she was telling her story truthfully and whole-heartedly so she could be an inspiration to others —  and so that the idea rooted in TEDxTCNJ of #LightTheFlame could be spread to the community at large.

Sparacio concluded her talk by having the audience stand and repeat the words, “I swear to shine my light, my whole light and nothing but my light.”

 

SG members reflect on past year of governance

By Alyssa Sanford
News Assistant

Candidates, both old and new, vied for seats on Student Government’s cabinet, as well as positions as class council heads and school senators, on Tuesday, April 28, marking the end of election season and another successful year of governance in SG.

On Wednesday, May 6, SG members will hold their final meeting of the semester and formally make the transition between the current cabinet and elected cabinet.

According to current Executive Vice President Michael Chiumento, the cabinet speaker and vice president of Advancement positions have yet to be selected. A campus-wide email from Kevin Kim, the alternate student trustee and chair of the elections committee, sent on Monday, April 27, mentioned that some positions were not open to a vote because there weren’t enough candidates running for the positions. These positions and freshman class council positions will be voted on in the Fall 2015 semester.

Casey Dowling, the newly elected president for next year, is looking forward to another year of governance.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to serve the students of TCNJ again,” Dowling said. “Student Government has a strong and dedicated group of students and I am excited to see what we can all work together to accomplish in the coming year.”

Javier Nicasio, the new executive vice president, spent the past year serving on the cabinet as the vice president of Equity and Diversity.

“I have been able to advocate on issues that revolve around diversity,” Nicasio said of his time on the committee, citing projects like “I, Too, Am TCNJ,” “TCNJ Epcot” and the Bias Response team that deals with intolerance on campus. As executive vice president next year, Nicasio is eager to “continue to advocate on behalf of the student body on a variety of issues.”

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous, but I am very enthusiastic about my new position,” Nicasio said. “If I had to describe myself in one word I would say that I was hard working. I put 110 percent into everything that I do, and as executive vice president, I will continue to work hard in improving our campus.”

Graduating senior Mike Chiumento, the executive vice president of SG from 2014 to 2015, has mixed feelings about leaving his post behind after three years of service to the campus community as a part of SG.

“Part of me is glad to be closing such an important chapter of my college experience and another part of me would love to be able to keep serving TCNJ students for another year,” Chiumento said.

In particular, Chiumento is immensely proud of the work that he has done and overseen this past year, especially of projects like the Middle States review commission and changes to the college’s online and blended learning policies. Though it is not always easy to advocate for a wide variety of on-campus issues, Chiumento believes it’s important because “they impact students every single day in countless ways.”

Chiumento is confident in Dowling’s and Nicasio’s leadership capabilities, however, he does have some advice for his successors.

“Be confident from the get-go, hit the ground running before and throughout the summer, and recognize that some things are out of (your) control and will inevitably go wrong,” Chiumento said. “In those moments, (President) Matt Wells and I came to realize that we could be confident in our organization to bounce back and persevere.”

Stud renovations undermine clubs

By Alyssa Sanford
News Assistant

After the announcement that the Rat would be closing forever after 40 years, and once telltale fences and green mesh began to pop up around the perimeter of the Brower Student Center, it became clear that renovations to the Stud would be starting soon — but not without affecting the student organizations housed there.

In the wake of renovations, student organizations struggle to find space. (tcnj.edu)
In the wake of renovations, student organizations struggle to find space. (tcnj.edu)

Although renovations to the 1970s-era Student Center are long overdue, and the campus community seems to be generally enthusiastic about it, leaders of on-campus clubs and organizations are frustrated that they’re being displaced by future construction efforts.

TCNJ Hillel, a club associated with the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is a prime example of the negative effects that the Stud renovation is having on clubs who work out of the Stud. Hillel has already been relocated from its office space in the Stud basement to a closet in the Spiritual Center — much to the dismay of its members who had to throw out a lot of supplies and holiday decorations.

“Probably the most upsetting thing is that we had to leave behind a lot of meaningful things,” said Danielle Kassick, co-president of Hillel and a junior psychology and elementary education double major. “We had to throw away scrapbooks that members of Hillel from 10 plus years ago put together. We also had to leave behind important religious items, like prayer books and shabbat cups.”

According to Kassick, co-president of Hillel, it was “just a really stressful process” to consolidate their office into a significantly smaller storage space.

“The office was supposed to act as a place where we could store our things, but also a place where we could hang out with other members in a place that we always knew would be available,” Kassick said. “Now that this is gone, it’s been difficult to have spontaneous gatherings for our organization.”

Katie Yorke, a co-chair of programming for Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) and a member of the Women’s Center, echoed Kassick’s sentiments of frustration. The Women’s Center’s office space in the basement of the Stud has already been cleared out — making it impossible to hold private meetings with women in need.

“The Women’s Center is supposed to be a safe space for anyone to come to and know that there’s people there for them, but now, if we are moving into a public space, people might feel hesitant to come and open up,” said Yorke, a junior Spanish and international studies double major. 

Yorke also mentioned that the basement office in the Stud wasn’t necessarily conducive to attracting foot traffic.

“We’re an important organization but we were always a second-thought in the fact that we were just allotted the basement,” Yorke said. “How can we advertise when people don’t even know our room exists?”

Yorke has not yet been told where the new office space will be, however, according to Stud Manager Seth Zolin, they will be relocated to an open space in the Stud. If this occurs, however, the lack of privacy “could create conflicts” for women who want to talk openly without fear of judgment, Yorke said.

Other club leaders have already experienced conflicts with Student Center managers.

Kerri McLaughlin, president of Circle K, said that “a few months ago they basically told us, tough luck, we don’t have space for you anymore.”

For a club like Circle K, which emphasizes service and leadership, it was shocking that the Stud managers were “turning a cold shoulder” to the executive board, as well as many other well-established organizations, she said.

“We’re not the only club that’s not being given space back that really needs it,” McLaughlin said.

TCNJ Musical Theatre, for example, doesn’t have “any designated meeting or storage space that we can easily access on a daily basis” allotted for next semester, said Ken Abes, a junior biology major and secretary of TMT.

TMT shared their cube in the Stud with All College Theatre, the Mixed Signals and Alpha Psi Omega, as both storage space for props, costumes, merchandise and memorabilia, as well as a meeting space. So far, while Stud management “has been accommodating” in assisting in the move-out process, they haven’t designated a new space for TMT that would be easily accessible to both the club and the public, according to Abes.

Some student organizations feel neglected by Stud renovations. (tcnj.edu)
Some student organizations feel neglected by Stud renovations. (tcnj.edu)

“While the staff of the student activities center have been very accommodating when it comes to other aspects of our organizations’ business, no communication had been made to alert us that we would be losing this space or why we were not given a guaranteed space in the renovated student center,” Abes said. “This loss came as a surprise to us.”

Abes hopes that the College administration will implement better forms of communication so that all students’ concerns can be expressed in the future.

Zolin is aware of the space issues that come with renovation.

“It was very quickly realized that we could not provide a space for all of the 200 student organizations on campus,” Zolin said. “Every dedicated space created reduces square footage available for the general population.”

While the new Stud design will allot space for “storage cages” in the basement for many student organizations to use, the current space issue will be more difficult to resolve.

Management first reached out to organizations “from underrepresented populations” so that their “vital service” to the campus community would remain intact for years to come, Zolin said.

The George Jackson Center, Simon Bolivar Room, Pan-Asian Room, PRISM and Women’s Center offices will all have a prominent position in the new Student Center so that they’ll be “easier” to find and more accessible to the public, Zolin said.

Fortunately, other organizations were able to find a new home for the next few semesters. Zolin listed a few of the organizations that he was able to find space for, including CUB, SFB, PRISM, Student Government, Inter Greek Council, Black Student Union and several others.

The Student Government office, like many other organizations’ offices, will be relocated to Roscoe West Hall, even though the cabinet isn’t sure exactly what the space will look like yet. Matthew Wells, president of Student Government, is optimistic about the Stud renovations, simply because it will improve life on campus for everyone.

“I think any sort of construction or anything sometimes bars some students, but … in the long run I think it’s going to be extremely beneficial to the college,” said Wells, a senior health and exercise science major. “Some people will see it as a great thing, like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to have a brand new, renovated student center my junior year.’ But then others will be like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go here because it doesn’t have it here and now.’ It depends on the person.”

But Wells recognizes the prevailing sense of frustration that comes with moving office space.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Wells said, though he acknowledged that “it stinks having the student center down” for logistical reasons.

Besides the obvious closures of the Rat and the Lions’ Den, students will also have to adjust to the college bookstore’s closure and relocation.

“Provided everything stays on schedule” with Campus Town construction, the College Barnes & Noble location in the Stud will close in July for a two-week period, store manager Josie Tavarez said. It will tentatively reopen on Monday, Aug. 3, in its brand-new Campus Town location. The allotted space for the Campus Town bookstore will be 1,400 square feet and will also have a Barnes & Noble Cafe.

It will be a “new and improved bookstore,” Tavarez said.

Zolin also mentioned the addition of “more meeting and programming spaces located throughout the building,” as well as “innovative” new spaces like the Global Corner near the new main entrance. It will feature televisions tuned to world news, and the Multimedia Corner that will allow students to project media from their laptops onto a large screen to share with others.

“These types of innovative spaces will help us meet the goal of providing a modern, attractive and welcoming student center that will benefit our community for years to come,” Zolin said.

Although there are positive changes happening to the Stud, like the construction of new on-campus restaurants that will fill the vacancies left behind by the Rat and the Lions’ Den, it will take some time for students to adjust to the reconstruction of the campus’ longtime epicenter.

“Organizations are just going to have to be flexible throughout the next two to three years,” Wells said. “Flexibility and resilience will keep us through.”

Signal staffers Julie Kayzerman, Sydney Shaw, Ellie Schuckman, Kimberly Ilkowski, Mackenzie Cutruzzula and Jonathan Edmondson contributed to this report.

From the Roberts: Samantha’s Style Vlog

This week we wanted to introduce you to the other half of this dynamic duo, Samantha! Samantha is a fashion-lovin’ Journalism major who hopes to one day write for a beauty or fashion magazine. Let’s see what she had to say for herself this week!

As always, we recreated Sam’s outfit with pieces that are as equally cute as those that she herself sported. First, we picked the same Free People backless halter that Samantha wore in her video. On the bottom, we chose the Out From Under Alvardo Short from Urban Outfitters. These shorts are completely versatile; they are perfect for lounging on the beach or a summer-night out with friends. Not only are these shorts comfortable and adorable, but they are also only $28. (Does it get any better than that???) To finish off this look, we chose the Gilroy Sandal by Sam Edelman in black. The style of this shoe is the perfect mix of sophisticated and simple. (We each want our own pair…) And, of course, no outfit is complete without a
little accessorizin’. The layered Half Moon Rosary Necklace from Urban Outfitters is the perfect finishing touch. And voila! An outfit that is the perfect combination of comfort and cute.

From the Roberts

Thanks so much for hanging out with us this past year! We can’t wait to see what next semester will have in store for us, as well as our fashionista readers.

Sending much love and warm wishes of a happy (and of course, fashionable) summer!

Until next time,

From the Roberts

College ‘sends silence packing’

By Sydney Shaw
News Editor

One thousand one hundred backpacks were scattered across the Green Hall lawn, impossible to miss for students walking to and from classes on Tuesday, April 28. The backpacks, some of which bore personal stories, represented the 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year in the United States.

Send Silence Packing, a powerful traveling public education display hosted nationally by Active Minds, aims to raise awareness about mental health issues, remove mental health stigmas and lower suicide statistics by using donated backpacks to give a face to the students lost to suicide each year.

The display encourages students to reach out for help. (Kim Iannarone)
The display encourages students to reach out for help. (Kim Iannarone)

“We want to work to start a conversation about mental health,” said Mimi Tohill, a road trip staffer for Active Minds. “At most colleges we go to, a student will come forward and ask if they can contribute a story about a loved one they lost to suicide.”

According to Tohill, about a third of the backpacks were accompanied with stories written by parents, siblings, friends and significant others of students around the country who have committed suicide. Many of the stories included photos of the students who lost their lives to suicide and personal memorabilia, such as college pendants.

“I just want you to know that you were a beautifully fantastic person,” one story read. “We all loved you and you never let me down.”

Besides the overwhelming backpack display, signs around the lawn shared statistics and motivational messages, such as “50 percent of college students report suicidal ideation at sometime in their life” and “seeking help shows strength.”

“I’ve had a lot of mental health issues,” said president of the College’s chapter of Active Minds Sarah Perry, who didn’t hesitate to share her history of struggles with mental health. “It’s about starting a conversation and offering a safe space for students, so I’m not afraid to admit it.”

According to resources available at the exhibit, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. With three students from the College committing suicide in the past two years — senior Paige Aiello in May 2013, freshman Michael Menakis in April 2014 and freshman Sarah Sutherland in October 2014 — the demonstration was approved to appear at the College with the hopes of reaching students who are struggling with mental health disorders.

“We haven’t received any negative feedback yet,” Perry said. “For some students who have dealt with or are currently dealing with issues like depression or suicide, the display may act as a trigger and bring up a lot of emotions.”

In order to assist students who are triggered by the display, volunteers from TCNJ Clinic were available to talk near a table in front of the wall on the Green Hall lawn. The table contained a plethora of resources for students who may be struggling with depression.

“We have pocket guides to mental health, pamphlets on how to help a friend, magnets with local resources and hotlines and more,” Tohill said.

There were also crisis intervention resources for particular demographics, including LGBTQ individuals, blacks, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, student-athletes and veterans.

“Instead of it being seen as a weakness, we want students to know that reaching out for help is a strength,” Tohill said. “There is a space to talk about how you’re feeling.”

Members of the College’s chapter of Active Minds walked up and down the diagonal paths that crisscross the Green Hall lawn, handing out informational flyers and letting students know that they are not the only ones struggling.

“We may often suffer in silence,” one of the more prominent signs of the day read, “but we do not suffer alone.”

The College of New Jersey Student Newspaper Since 1885