"News is the first rough draft of history."

The Voice of the College at Florham

"News is the first rough draft of history." - The Voice of the College at Florham

Big turnout for Baca visit

Staff Writer

On March 11, students appreciated the beautiful weather as they waited outside in a line that extended well beyond the front doors of the Mansion. The traffic was caused by the visit of Jimmy Santiago Baca, acclaimed poet and novelist, who read from his most recent novel, “A Glass of Water.”
Lenfell Hall was overflowing with anxious listeners, who ultimately had to line up against the sides of the room or plop down on the floor.
Close to 4 p.m., Baca’s appearance was met with whistling and clapping. He began by stating that poets do not make a lot of money, but that he has been one of the really lucky writers.
“I’ve been successful without being a popular culture icon,” said Baca, who prefers to stay with his family.
Raised by his grandmother before being placed in an orphanage at 13, he explained that his father, mother and two brothers were killed.
“What I really wanted in life was to be loved, have a family, have a house,” said Baca of his youthful desires.
Baca briefly recounted his early years of adolescence and his incarceration at the age of 18 for drugs. During his five years in prison, Baca taught himself how to read and write, which prompted the beginning of his poetry career.
“Life is so incredibly strange sometimes,” said Baca. “Because of poetry, I no longer had to fight.”
The audience then got a taste of Baca’s latest novel: “But when that man cut my throat I never had a thirst so fierce, a thirst for life as mine was being drained. I tell you, never a thirst so fierce as wanting one more second of life with my family.”
The reading was followed by the announcement that Baca had sold the movie rights for this work, and that actor Benjamin Bratt is set to star.
Baca also said that he recently completed two documentaries for Showtime, and his next big project is a two-hour piece for HBO on the mentally ill, in honor of his brother.
Freshman Patricia Jones is studying Baca’s work in her Research Writing course at FDU.
“He has so much depth and personality. All of the things he’s been through has led him to look at the world in an untainted, romantic view,” Jones said.
“It’s refreshing to see somebody who’s been through so much and can talk about it with a smile on their face.”
After the session in the Mansion, Baca and students went to the Bottle Hill Pub where students showcased pieces before an audience.
Megan Kellerman, creative writing graduate assistant, read three poems. Then, student Tyler Masterson played two original songs on his acoustic guitar.
Baca then read “Dream Instructions,” one of many poems found in his book, “Black Mesa Poems.” He said it was one of the very first poems written in prison, which reflected the terror he experienced. What inspired the content and title was a dream that he attributed to a vision.
Baca stuck around to autograph books and talk to students. He said that his day at FDU “has given me an extraordinary experience.”

Media and law pairing for PublicMind

Staff Writer

As part of FDU’s Politics on the PublicMind series, guest speakers recently discussed the media and law.
On March 8, Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, spoke about “Shield Laws and the Press.”
On March 22, Bruce Baron, founder of Baron Associates P.C., attorney and legal commentator for Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and Court TV, spoke about “The Media’s Influence on Law in the 21st Century.”
Journalists are bound to meet with opposition at some point in their career. They will encounter unresponsive sources, retracted statements, even possible lawsuits. When it comes to legal charges, however, specific legislation has been passed to help combat reporters being subpoenaed when involving confidential sources, evidence, or notes.
Shield laws were specifically created to defend newsgatherers’ rights to protect the identities of their sources or classified information.
“One of the most important credos is act independently and if you make a promise to someone, keep that promise,” said Dalglish, former journalist and attorney.
“No federal shield law or explicit protection for journalists exists. But many states have enacted their own shield laws and other legal protections for journalists working within their borders,” according to the Poynter Institute.
Presently, 37 states have statutory laws where reporters do not have to testify, according to Dalglish. Yet, if a journalist is subpoenaed to testify before a federal proceeding, the federal government laws apply.
In the struggle to establish federal shield laws, one of the challenges faced by Dalglish’s organization is defining who is covered under the bill.
“You have to prove that you’re earning income, that you’re a professional journalist. On the other side, we have a narrow scope of coverage. You have agreed to protect the identity of your source, but the Senate has a broader sense: ‘Who’s a journalist? Are you going to let one of those damn bloggers to be covered?’” mimicked Dalglish.
Bruce Peabody, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, offered his opinion on the matter of bloggers.
“The problem, obviously, is how do ordinary citizens, already awash in news and other forms of data, sort through more and less important and penetrating accounts of the world? One answer: those citizens should make sure they have a strong liberal arts training so they can critically scrutinize sources of news and navigate information,” Peabody said.
Overall, there is very little opposition on the House of Representatives side, but the Senate seems less supportive of the proposed Free Flow of Information bill, instead opting for a reformed draft, which would only require a reporter to “disclose confidential information during criminal investigations or prosecutions, or in civil cases where the information obtained is ‘essential’ to settling the matter,” according to a September 2009 article in The Washington Post.
“On the federal side, what would we do about national security? All you have to do is burp out ‘national security’ and they will have to testify,” said Dalglish regarding the federal defense reason to not pass the bill.
However, Dalglish remains confident. She said that in the 37 states with shield laws, the laws have worked well.
“I am very encouraged,” she said. “Now we’re just trying to tweak who is covered by this privilege.”
Dalglish believes that sources could recognize the same standards when it comes to determining who to share information with.
“Sources also want to know that you’re going to give them something, and that you’re going to stand up and provide a certain level of protection. Someone who works for a news organization has stood up for this,” she said.
Citing anonymous sources is controversial in the journalism world.
“There are many news editors that will not let them report the information unless they get another source to confirm that information,” said Dalglish.
The conversation about the media and law didn’t end with Dalglish.
Baron’s speech began with a statement about how media and law are a balancing act. “The U.S. Supreme Court remains the holdout. The situation is that Americans believe in transparency,” he said.
The balancing process, however, may ultimately lead to controversy. High-profile cases over the years have been subject to distortion due to the media’s following of trials. Viewers may be swayed by media figures such as talk show hosts, reporters, or radio broadcasters, succumbing to the presence and influence of these “talking heads,” and formatting their opinions based on what they have witnessed through mass-media outlets.
Baron said this could taint the jury pool. He referenced the 2009 David Letterman scandal, declaring that media coverage of it put in the jurors’ minds the idea “that David Letterman’s not clean.” He affirmed that a jury or judge should never put his or her own opinions or experiences into a case.
Later, Baron asked: “What happened to presumption of innocence?” He added that when something is tried in the court of public opinion instead of a court of law, there is a “rush for judgment, not justice.”
On another note, Baron offered some advice to students pursuing legal careers, saying he firmly believes in internships.
“It’s a very bad job market out there,” he said. “It’s a good idea not to sit back and whine about how the economy is not good. Get experience and knowledge to put on your resume.”
Baron called online social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter a treasure trove of evidence and information. “What you do today on that Facebook can help or hurt you in years to come.”
“He’s not preaching anything he doesn’t preach to his own kids,” said his daughter, sophomore Amanda Baron. “The mentality has been in my family that conduct yourself in person as you would on the computer.”

Seniors toast 99 days to graduation

Staff Writer

In collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations, SGA Senior Senators Brittany Laning and Erika Baldino hosted an event on Feb. 9 at the Bottle Hill Pub to mark the countdown of 99 days until the class of 2010 walks at graduation on May 18.
There was a $3 admission charge for every participant, which entitled the guest to a glass of champagne and appetizers from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. There was also the option of purchasing a decorative class t-shirt of FDU’s “devil” insignia by donating a total of $20.10, in honor of the class year, according to Beth Reuse, director of constituent programs.
By the end of the night, 100 guests were in attendance, and a total of $300 was raised. The proceeds of the entrance fee were donated to the class gift fund, with a gross amount of $1,300 assembled thus far.
“We had this event in mind since last semester, and as soon as we got back to school we started to make the preparations. We were happy with the turnout due to the fact that we only had a short amount of time to advertise for it,” said Laning, referring to the mass FDU student e-mail and Facebook announcements sent out only the day before.
Students piled in to celebrate with peers and make the toast at 11 p.m.
Senior Anthony Del Conte said the event was sentimental because he was able to interact with people whom he has not seen since freshman year.
“I came because it’s my last year of being here with everyone,” said Del Conte, who is continuing his studies at FDU through the Quest five-year master’s program come Fall 2010. “It’s really the last hurrah, I don’t want to regret anything. I’ve had a great time here, and I want to remember it.”
Other students had similar feelings. Senior Homecoming King Evan Weinstein recalled his shyness upon entering college and his social progress since then over Magic Hat 9 beer.
“Let’s put it this way: to be completely honest with you, I cannot believe how fast my college career has gone. [The] champagne toast made me realize that college is coming to an end, and I got a chance to relish in the years that I’ve been here and the friends that I made.”
Senior John Schneider was pleased to steal away with friends for the night. “We’re going to have to start thinking about careers. Reality is setting in. I think it’s a good thing they’re doing this, to bring everyone together,” he said.
While swirling the drink in his cup, Senior Dan Rolwood shared his sentiments by quoting Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” saying, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Rolwood added, “College was a next step, but now it’s time to end. We set our mark, our footprint, and it’s time for a new start.”
The commencement countdown continues, but seniors still have other events to look forward to, such as the Senior Dinner Dance on April 16, according to Laning. She also hopes to have a “50 Days ‘Til Graduation” affair.

PublicMind hosts ‘Law and Society’ series

Staff Writer

This semester’s Politics on the PublicMind events, sponsored by the College at Florham Library and the PublicMind Poll, is covering “Law and Society.” The topic directly correlates with a Spring 2010 course taught by Bruce Peabody, chair of the Department of Social Sciences.
Peabody elaborated on the importance of this season’s theme: “Law is everywhere – it shapes everything from how they serve food at FDU’s cafeteria to whether your parents can know your grades to what constitutes sexual harassment in the classroom or the dorms. And yet, despite the ubiquity and importance of law, many students and citizens don’t know a lot about it. So the class is intended to shine a spotlight on law’s importance and meaning throughout our lives.”
Every Monday from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. until Apr. 19, a guest speaker will discuss “law in theory and practice in the context of important contemporary issues and controversies,” according to Peabody.
Each week after, the featured expert will offer professional and original insight on pressing topics for the audience to participate in and debate. These influential speakers are scholars, judges, prosecutors and attorneys. The showcase includes many FDU professors.
The series kicked off Feb. 8 in the Orangérie, featuring FDU’s David Rosen, professor of anthropology and sociology, who discussed “Child Soldiers and International Laws.”
According to Eleanor Friedl, curator and reference librarian, Rosen reviewed children as young as eight joining war throughout world history. Friedl said Rosen spoke about how Americans tend to be shocked by this truth because their society has a distinctive view of childhood.
Friedl recalled that Rosen said Americans today view children and youth as victims of war who are exploited by adults.
The following week, Roger Koppl, director of the Institute for Forensic Science Administration, examined “Forensic Science and Criminal Law.” Koppl’s presentation featured a slideshow titled, “That’s Not How It Works on T.V.,” which observed the errors in forensic science and the repercussions wrongly accused victims face. According to Koppl, these inaccuracies roughly contribute to over 33,000 false felony convictions per year. He pointed out unfortunate circumstances such as that of Josiah Sutton, who spent nearly four and a half years in prison after he was charged and convicted of rape, as a result of botched DNA testing from a crime laboratory. Koppl produced a picture of the laboratory, which showed a leaking gap over what should have been a sterile lab environment.
Another famous case mentioned was that of Brandon Mayfield and the 2004 Madrid train bombing. Rosen said the FBI initially made a “100 percent match” to Mayfield from fingerprints found at the scene. The FBI later had to retract its statement and apologize.
Koppl believes there are three main reasons for forensic flaw: forensic science is subjective, crime labs are part of “law enforcement” agencies, and crime labs have a twofold monopoly. He proposed some solutions, particularly random, independent, and multiple examinations, to avoid damaging miscalculations, such as “sequential masking,” which is allowing forensic examiners to know information in advance about the case or person in question, potentially leading them to form biases about the results.
Koppl also shared a saying he likes to use: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; a net may be stronger than any of its knots.” Overall, he believes television shows, such as “CSI,” hinder his efforts. “These shows [display] forensic scientists as the infallible wizard, so it’s frustrating,” said Koppl.
Peabody said Koppl’s solution is “a marvelously creative, ‘common sense’ set of checks and balances that keep forensic examiners accountable and practicing good science.” Towards the end of his lecture, Koppl said, “Humans need truth like they need water,” which could be the fuel for his cause.
The first two weeks of the series were well-received by students, faculty and members of nearby communities. According to Colleen DiGregorio, public relations and marketing coordinator for the University’s library, more than 100 people attended Rosen’s lecture and about 90 attended Koppl’s. Peabody said these events are good opportunities for the FDU community to interact and learn from one another. “I think our students like hearing from outside speakers, especially those who bring different academic and professional perspectives and expertise to our discussions,” he said.
Peabody’s students are required to attend, and he believes it is essential for students of any major to participate because it can be relevant to any academic discipline. He also said that the sessions could help students make professional connections and develop ideas about their career path.
“One of the most irritating depictions of the academy is its portrayal as an ‘ivory tower’ isolated from the concerns of the real world,” Peabody said. “The Politics on the PublicMind series is a great reminder that this is utter hogwash. Our speakers have taught us about current public policy, human rights abuses, how to protect the wrongly accused from unfair incarceration and death, and the state of crime in New Jersey.”

Artist hosts first solo exhibition at FDU

Staff Writer

Japanese-born artist Minako Ota recently presented her first solo exhibition in the United States, “Floating Worlds: A Tokyo Artist in the West,” at FDU’s College at Florham library.

The exhibit is currently open to the public during library hours through Oct. 30 and presents Ota’s latest creations that emphasize her theme of East and West fusion.

For the past 20 years, Ota has worked as a conservator. She came to FDU around 2001 to work with the painting collection that the university owns. Here, she met Eleanor Friedl, curator and reference librarian, with whom she remained in contact over the years. While in Moscow, Ota mentioned she was looking for venues, and Friedl offered the Orangerie for her first showing.

Since FDU has a policy that does not allow artists to display for commercial purposes, Ota had to arrange the opening reception at an educational angle. By demonstrating the creative process of her work, she was able to interact with the audience by showing them the steady progression of her efforts. Ota said that screening in this manner came naturally to her because she already documents everything from sketches to random doodles.

After the opening reception, Ota received a swell of positive feedback from the audience. She was also very pleased to have received fan mail congratulating her on the show. “FDU is such a wonderful place,” said Ota.

“Floating Worlds” is the English translation of “Ukiyo-e” which is a traditional Japanese genre of woodcarving prints portraying idealized beauties in domestic or erotic scenes, warriors, or landscapes, according to Friedl.

These images were meant to aesthetically transport viewers from conventional life, and into a “floating” or “fleeting” world of euphoria, according to Friedl. Ota had a variety of ideas, but felt the chosen title was most suitable because she felt her “work is floating between the two worlds of East and West and is always moving and shifting,” she said.

The blending of these two contrary cultures derived from Ota herself. She was born in Osaka, Japan, but studied and worked in Europe and the United States. “When I express myself on canvas, I combine the two,” said Ota. “I strongly feel that I [won’t] be 100 percent culturally Japanese or another culture, so I will always be in between. My paintings will always be suspended over this spectrum between East and West.”

Although meshed between the two, Ota has an undeniable Japanese foundation. “When there is some kind of argument on a subject, I am always on the reserved side. I like listening [more] than talking. I am married to this American guy who is a big talker. He talks 10 times more than I do. It’s like the relationship is equal, but he wins every time! This is when I feel my Japanese roots more strongly,” said Ota.

In November, Ota has a show in France, in an Asian boutique that shows antiques and contemporary art. She tries to show 20 paintings, incorporating new pieces.

Previously, she had a group show based on artwork containing fish in Lambertville, N.J. She also submitted a piece titled, “Girlfriends,” to the 67th annual competition of Audubon Artists, Inc., a group of artistic professionals.

Her painting was selected and put on display in the Salmagundi Club in New York City until Oct. 2. Ota’s next goal is to get represented by a gallery in New York City. She hopes to keep expanding by achieving awards through competitions. “I started painting in October 2007 in Moscow…[my] career as a painter is short, so I want to speed up by getting recognizable venues [and] awards,” said Ota.

On average, Ota tries to finish each piece in two to three weeks, believing that if more time is spent on one, she loses the “creative juice,” which is why she makes a deliberate effort to get her ideas on canvas promptly.

Despite her passion and talent, Ota is concerned about the unstable economic condition, noting that “no one is buying anything right now, and I really hope that this economic crisis will improve in the near future so artists won’t be extinct.” She adds, “It’s a tough world, tough market.”

Gathering her inspiration from a variety of outlets, she credits books as being a considerable source of stimulation. Her two favorite authors are Haruki Murakami and Joseph Campbell. In reference to Murakami, she said, “He has such an effect on me. It’s like having a dream like you’re still awake.”
Campbell acts as almost a muse, and by regarding his simple mantra of “follow your bliss,” Ota herself believes, “you have to follow your instincts, whichever pleases you most.”

For aspiring artists, Ota advises, “Paint what you want to paint. Don’t paint to just please other people, because you can’t waste time on your canvas. Forget about it; it’s impossible to please everyone. The painting with a face in it always turns out the best. You have to be the biggest fan of your painting or else you can’t continue.”

Convent path causes concern for students

Staff Writer

The public regularly uses the path to Convent Station for biking and running during the day. FDU students also walk the path at all hours to reach campus. Each year, the school is hounded by complaints from students who are forced to commute through the trail during the night. Since there are no lights on the path during dark hours, students have often reached out to Public Safety for transportation to the nearby train station. This, however, is prohibited, leaving students to endure a decent amount of unmonitored traveling before reaching FDU.

It may seem to frustrated students that FDU has not pursued safer alternatives, but Campus Provost Kenneth Greene provided background information on this issue.

“A few years ago we tried to institute an evening shuttle from campus to Convent Station,” said Greene. “We were unable to find individuals who had the right driver training and would be able to drive a van for a few hours in the evening. So, we abandoned the effort.”

The main reason transportation is not provided is because FDU does not want Public Safety officers to leave campus. The only exception to this would be during a medical emergency.

Junior Kristal Polonia made mention of possibly beginning a petition to bring more attention to the dilemma.

During an exchange with Director of Campus Public Safety Willie Thornton, Polonia discovered that Public Safety has approximately 23 officers alternating between three time shifts throughout the day.
Being that there is limited availability of officers, FDU cannot risk an emergency occurring while officers are bringing students to and from Convent Station.

FDU is attempting to provide assistance without encroaching upon legal policies. Presently, Greene advises students to walk alongside Madison Avenue until they reach the campus gate. From there, Public Safety will transport students since they are technically on campus grounds.

He also urges students to sign up for the SMART Communications program, which allows Public Safety to electronically track the student and reach them swiftly if there is an urgent situation. Students are able to register for this service via the FDU Web site by clicking “Web Shortcuts” on the main page and selecting “FDU SMART Comm. (FDU Mobile),” according to Greene.

Polonia shared that she previously commuted for two semesters.

“It’s scary to walk down that path. I’ve shown the path to my mom and she said she would never do it by herself. She’s in shock that students have to do that sometimes. You think like, ‘What could happen to me?’ No one would know about it until much later on,” Polonia said. “You’re basically putting your life at risk.”

In regards to the lighting, Greene said the path is owned by Morris County and is meant to provide a walking path for county residents. In order to have lights installed, Greene said, “We would need to convince the county that they are needed. I will be contacting county officials to see if they are interested in lighting the path.”

Senior Christopher Bowen continues to commute from Morristown. To distract himself during the shady trek, he listens to music, noticing other commuters use flashlights or cell phones to provide some light.
“It’s really unnerving having to walk back and forth, even with me being a guy. If someone wanted to do something they have full range to do whatever and there’s no one else there,” Bowen said.
Bowen maintains his guard when walking, but worries especially for female commuters.

“I worry more for females than actually for myself. You don’t know what kind of guys are out there,” he said. “There’s so much opportunity for something bad to go on back there.”

With students and Public Safety officials communicating respectfully with one another, much confusion and tension can be alleviated. Hopefully in time, a solution can be found.