T R ANSPARENC Y After the suicide on campus in early November, FAU students feel FAU administration should have been more transparent about the incident. Page 20
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UP STAFF EDITOR IN CHIEF
KRISTEN GRAU NEWS EDITOR
NEIL SANTANIELLO ILENE PRUSHER MICHAEL KORETZKY DESIGNER
KIMBERLY SWAN JOSEPH ACOSTA REGINA HOLLOWAY HOPE DEAN DAN KARANIKIS
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COVER PHOTO BY ALEX LISCIO
TABLE OF CONTENTS HOOT’S THE NEW GUY?
NOT EVERYTHING IS SO MAGICAL
From now on, Owlsley will have some company on the field: a smaller owl mascot named Hoot.
Even though the Disney College Programs has several perks, like free park admission, some FAU students who’ve participated say it’s not what they expected.
WHAT FAU DOESN’T WANT US TO TELL YOU
WHAT’S NEW WITH STUDENT GOVERNMENT?
FAU needs to stop violating its community’s First Amendment rights.
From stadium concerts to free beach parking, here are some plans Student Government has for next semester — and what’s happened this semester. After the suicide on campus that occurred in early November, FAU students feel FAU administration should have been more transparent about the incident.
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From now on, Owlsley will have some company on the field: a smaller owl mascot named Hoot.
THE NEW GUY?
BY JOSEPH ACOSTA PHOTOS BY ALEX LISCIO
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
n the eight years since Owlsley was introduced to the FAU community, the mascot has become a popular fixture at athletic events and a photo opportunity for students. This semester, the university introduced an additional smaller mascot named Hoot. But who is Hoot? Hoot, according to their official page on the FAU website, is an “adventurous” partner to Owlsley. “Walking through the FAU Preserve, Owlsley met a gopher tortoise who spun a tale of an adventurous baby burrowing owl ... Looking high and low, Owlsley soon tripped over a small burrow and Hoot emerged. They talked for hours about life, love, and FAU. After that, the two were inseparable,” the website reads.
“The team knew that they wanted a smaller owl with Owlsley-like characteristics but with a more cartoon-like appearance.” -Richard Mahler, Student Activites assistant director
But in reality, Hoot is the result of years of creative planning, said Assistant Director of Student Activities Richard Mahler. Hoot was added to the FAU Spirit Team this Fall at the FAUFIU football game in November. FAU created a second mascot to grow the mascot team and allow for them to be present at more sporting events. “Hoot was an idea that was in the works for the last few years,” says Mahler. “The team knew that they wanted a smaller Owl with Owlsley-like characteristics but with a more cartoon-
like appearance.” Mahler also says that the inspiration for a second mascot came from his predecessor, Jamie Ortiz. FAU partnered with the costume company Street Characters to make the suit for Hoot, according to Mahler. “Because Hoot’s appearance is standardized with a jersey, shorts, and sneakers, the additional cost of Owl feet and accessories did not apply as it does with Owlsley,” he said.
The Hoot costume would cost about $8,500 with a lifespan of four to five years, in comparison to Owlsley, which costs the university over $10,000 per complete suit, according to Mahler. FAU is looking for two students who will be taking on the role of Hoot. Those students will get paid different amounts, depending on whether they’re selected as part-time or full-time. Part-timers will receive $2,500 per semester, while full-time students will receive $5,000 per semester. FAU places a height limitation on being Owlsley, which limits the opportunity to only people who are 6 feet or slightly over, according to Hoot’s concept sheet that outlines his benefits and purpose. Hoot is gender-neutral, and students shorter than 6 feet can wear the suit — which FAU has two slots for. “Only one person is Hoot at this time. We are looking to add one more Hoot for the 2020-21 academic year and have received approval from Student Government during our budget
request process,” Mahler added. Another one of Hoot’s jobs is to help with marketing and outreach to the A.D. Henderson School, the K-8 school on the Boca campus. “The team was looking to grow, not only in membership but also in their reach across campus and the South Florida community,” Mahler said. On the concept sheet, Hoot has smaller eyebrows and larger cheeks than Owlsley. The miniature Owl is designed to only wear a jersey and shorts, while being almost a foot shorter than Owlsley, standing at around five feet. The addition of Hoot also allows for the coverage of more events, per the concept sheet. Mahler added that “Hoot and Owlsley will both be at home football games. For all other events and sporting contests, attendance by either or both will vary based on availability.” “From a logistics perspective, having two mascots eases game day scheduling for both pre-game and on-field activities. It allows team members to rest more often and cover more ground,” he said. Many schools around the country have two mascots, the concept page points out. One of the most notable duos is Albert and Alberta from the University of Florida. Albert was created in 1970, and Alberta joined him in 1986, according to the mascot website. A group of eight to 10 members play Albert or Alberta during the school semester, and they normally work anywhere from three to 15 hours a week. Despite sharing the similarity of having two mascots, Florida Atlantic and the University of Florida’s mascots are very different. According to the concept sheet, Hoot is gender-neutral, something unlike the University of Florida, and many other universities around the nation. In addition, Owlsley and Hoot aren’t related at all, unlike Tiger and Tiger Cub from Clemson University, or Jay and Baby Jay from the University of Kansas.
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EVERY FRIDAY 7
NOT EVERYTHING IS SO Even though the Disney College Program has several perks, like free park admission, some FAU students who’ve participated say it’s not what they expected.
MAGICAL BY KIMBERLY SWAN
THE MAGIC KINGDOM IN WALT DISNEY WORLD. PHOTO BY DAN KARANIKIS 8
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
n May of 2019 while working at Magic Kingdom on the Peter Pan’s Flight ride, Lindsey Cartwright and other employees walked through the ride and saw a grayish, white powder on the ground. Upon closer inspection, they realized it was a dead person’s ashes.
anonymous job review site Glassdoor. Ralston said that was barely enough money for her to live on her own and pay for her housing.
They had to check it when the ride stopped and called the fire department. The ride stopped for three hours, went up for two, then an hour later, it stopped again.
When Ralston needed money, she decided to pick up shifts on her days off and ended up working 31 days in a row because she couldn’t afford lunch and her car payment.
Cartwright, a current FAU senior interdisciplinary studies major, said a rider must have sprinkled the ashes during the ride, and the employees had to sweep it up.
Cartwright said although she lived in the cheapest housing, half the money she made went to rent. What was left was used for food, and it came to a point where she had to dip into savings, even when at some point the pay went up a dollar.
That’s not what Cartwright had envisioned doing when she applied for her internship at the Disney College Program. Her and other FAU students who’ve participated say that even though there are several benefits to joining — like free admission to the parks — they were blindsided by the expenses of living and harsh treatment from guests.
What is the Disney College Program? According to their website, the Disney College Program is a five to seven-month internship program designed to give students on-the-job experience working at the parks and resorts, participate in college coursework, and meet and live with different people from across the world in company-sponsored housing. It also says participants in the program can network with leaders, take personal and career development classes, and build hospitality skills. Cartwright applied in August 2018 and started on Jan. 28 until May 16. She said you are assigned a role in a park and you can extend your time up to a year if you wanted to. Although she extended her time, she quit during her extension for mental health reasons and was ready to head back to home and school. Although she wanted to be a performer, she was denied and instead got a role in attractions. Madalynn Ralston, a senior psychology major at FAU, said she got accepted into the program on Oct. 9, 2018 and started Jan. 14. Her program lasted four months until May 16. However, Ralston said FAU did not offer any internship credit. She worked in Mickey’s Philharmagic, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel and Princess Fairytale Hall.
Making ends meet
“We are very underpaid and overworked,” she said.
“I didn’t see a difference because I was still struggling for cash when I was still up there,” said Cartwright. As for the hours, Cartwright said her schedule would change to the point where one time she worked eight days in a row. The shortest hours she ever worked was six, and the longest was 13. Cartwright talked about how she overworked herself to the point the job wasn’t fun anymore. Ralston worked five days a week for about 30 hours, but she had low hours because of her work location. She said they’re guaranteed two days off during the week, but sometimes they would give her the weekends off and it felt like the week would never end. According to a DCP spokesperson, all applicants for the DCP, including those who opt to live in their own housing, must be “fully available seven days per week to participate in the program. Full availability includes being able to work mornings, nights, holidays, weekends and overtime, with different days off every week.” The spokesperson added that participants’ weekly housing fees include utilities, transportation to and from work and other local shopping areas while receiving local discounts and privileges — but didn’t answer if the housing costs and exposure to hostile guests were as advertised.
What’s a typical DCP day? There is none Both Cartwright and Ralston had to deal with difficult guests while working at Disney. “Sometimes we would get guests that gave us praise for our jobs, but that was rare,” said Ralston. “We had lots of ungrateful guests and even a couple who would call us names.”
Participants get paid $10 to $12 an hour, according to the 9
One of Ralston’s strangest encounters was when a guest called her “racist” for doing her job. Each park has “Extra Magic Hours,” where guests who are staying at Disney resorts get early and late access to the park. Ralston’s job one day was to make sure guests entering during Extra Magic Hours were staying at the resorts using a scanner. One guest refused to tell her which resort he was staying at — and started getting angry. He argued he should get in just with his pass to get into the parks, but she explained to him that doesn’t mean you’re staying on Disney property. He started yelling, telling her that he makes much more money than her working at Disney, Ralston said. Ralston said she searched for her coordinator so she could calm the guest down. While she was still letting guests on the ride she heard, “She won’t let me on the ride because she’s racist,” and that sent her over the edge. She snapped at him, and then her coordinator told her to cool off and then she ran backstage.
Cartwright said that in March, a guest using a handicap scooter in the Magic Kingdom nearly broke her foot trying to board the Peter Pan’s Flight ride. Since the ride doesn’t allow scooters, guests had to be transferred into a wheelchair, but instead of doing that, the guest took off into the FastPass entrance. The cast chased him and tried to stop him. Cartwright managed to catch up to him and put her foot in the way of his scooter. They argued for 10 minutes as he kept running into her foot to make her move, but she didn’t budge. Security was called but he left before they could show up. “It’s kind of hard to work at a Disney Park without getting yelled at at least once,” said Cartwright. But not all days were bad. Cartwright also talked about a happy moment where she helped a lost 2-year-old boy be reunited with his family again. The mother was crying and screaming when he was lost, and Cartwright ended up finding him with a cast member and brought him back, she said.
“Our leaders had to get involved and at the end of the night I found out that this guest had been rude and starting these things with cast members all over property,” said Ralston.
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FAILURES FAU needs to stop violating its communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s First Amendment rights. BY CAMEREN BOATNER & HOPE DEAN ILLUSTRATION BY CAMEREN BOATNER 12
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
homas Elton violated the Constitution.
He sent his staff at Owls Care, a group that promotes physical and mental health, a message that violated their First Amendment rights. Elton told his staff that they risked being “terminated” if they spoke to the University Press about their most recent accomplishment — being named an “Outstanding Peer Education Group.” “You are not permitted to talk to newspapers that include but are not limited to the University Press, anyone wanting to write reports, articles, etc. If you are asked questions, refer them to professional staff. If anyone is found to be providing interviews/ making guarantees/ promises without the consent of a professional staff member, you may be terminated,” Elton wrote to his staff. What Elton did is a violation of his employees’ First Amendment rights, according to Frank LoMonte, the current executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. It’s also far from the first time this sort of thing has happened during my tenure at the paper, let alone the paper’s history. In my two years here, I put up with the violations — from coaches telling athletes they can’t speak with the media to Media Relations barring FAU staff from speaking with us — but last month, I became fed up. FAU Associate Marketing Director Jeremy Adam said the message was sent out “in error.” He also said, “Faculty, staff and student representatives have the capability to speak with media organizations if they choose to do so,” via email. The UP reached out to FAU Media Relations for comment, but has not recieved a response as of publication time. LoMonte said that public universities can’t bar people from speaking with the media, or exercising their rights in other ways. “You can’t force somebody to sign away their First Amendment rights in exchange for a government job,” LoMonte said. I asked the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to write a letter to the university, putting them on the spot about their staff’s and students’ rights under the First Amendment. And FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program Officer Lindsie Rank spoke with FAU’s lawyer. She thinks they’ll take FIRE’s advice in revising a policy that stifles free speech. The UP reached out to FAU General Counsel, but has not received a response as of publication time. The policy on FAU Media Relations’ website says: “Personnel in all departments and areas should feel free to respond to questions posed by the media concerning their departments or areas. If they are concerned about speaking with the media or with formulating a response, they should contact Media Relations for assistance.” 13
Rank says this part of the policy is good. But the policy goes on to contradict itself by saying: “The proper procedure to release information to the media is to go through Media Relations –the official source of information for media representatives.” “The first part is really good. It expresses a commitment of transparency. Faculty and staff can talk to the media when and if they want to. The second part of the policy says that information released to the media has to go through relations. That could mean any information you’re trying to release to the media,” Rank said. The problem with asking faculty and staff to show media relations their comments before sending it off to the press is that it lacks a sense of transparency that is crucial to public universities. “The reason transparency is important is you’re talking about a public institution that takes taxpayer dollars and puts them to work. If the public doesn’t know what you’re doing with those dollars, then that’s a problem,” Rank said.
Locker room lockdown “FAU appears to maintain similar concerning practices related to athletics media relations, although FAU does not appear to have a specific athletics media relations policy,” Rank wrote in the letter to FAU. PHOTO COURTESY OF FIRE
“You’re talking about a public institution that takes taxpayer dollars and puts them to work. If the public doesn’t know what you’re doing with those dollars, then that’s a problem.” -Lindsie Rank, IRDP Officer 14
Managing Editor Kristen Grau wrote an article in November 2018 about how FAU’s cheerleading and dance teams will not have any locker rooms in FAU’s new Schmidt Family Complex for sports, while the size of the football players’ locker room has doubled. She tried to reach out to cheerleaders and dancers to see how they felt about the situation, and all of them declined to comment. But this wasn’t an individual choice — they cited a meeting where their coaches allegedly told them not to speak with the media. “We were asked not to speak to anyone,” an anonymous spirit member said. “My coach gave us strict orders.” Sports Editor Zachary Weinberger wrote an article about FAU Athletics’ stance on whether student athletes should profit from their name and likeness. He tried to interview freshman football players, but Communications Assistant Director Katrina McCormack told him they have a policy that freshmen athletes can’t speak with the media. “When a student athlete wants to speak to the media in his or her own capacity about matters of their own concern even about the university, they shouldn’t have to seek approval from media relations,” Rank said. FAU’s cheer and dance teams are National College Athlete Association (NCAA) Division I sports, just like FAU’s football team. But the First Amendment rights of athletes are a “gray area,” LoMonte said, usually because those types of cases don’t go to court, where the limits of their free speech would ultimately be decided. UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
However, he still finds this situation fishy. “In my opinion, ordering members of a cheerleading squad not to talk to the media is a violation of their First Amendment rights, whether they are viewed as employees or whether they are viewed as students,” LoMonte said. And it doesn’t matter if a rule barring contact with the media is officially written down like it is with resident assistants — it’s unconstitutional to stop someone from talking to the media even if the rule is just spoken. “If a person who has supervisory authority over you gives you an illegal order, then they’re violating your rights … If everybody is informed that it is a regulation, it’s just as good as if the regulation really exists,” he added. But at the time, Jessica Poole, senior associate athletic director for FAU’s external relations department said any athlete can speak to the media at any time. “Our coaches don’t bar anyone from speaking with the media, that is a personal decision made by each of our student athletes,” she said in an email. Multiple athletes told the UP about the meeting nonetheless.
Fixing the failures These instances of FAU barring its community from exercising their First Amendment rights don’t stand alone. It happens constantly, and has been going on for years.
“You can’t force somebody to sign away their First Amendment rights in exchange for a government job.” -Frank LoMonte, Brechner Center Director
For example, former Editor-in-Chief Ryan Cortes published a piece about this exact same topic in 2012 — including a mysterious unspoken policy saying that staff members absolutely have to talk the media through Media Relations when the exact opposite is stated in FAU’s Media Relations policies. And this continues because people don’t care enough to stop it, according to LoMonte. “I think almost nobody feels so strongly about giving an interview to a reporter that they are willing to challenge their own employer. It would take an especially courageous person to get a lawyer and sue their own supervisor for a right to give an interview, and nobody feels that invested in giving an interview,” he said. Part of the problem lies in not practicing what Media Relations preaches. That’s why Elton’s message was sent out in error: FAU employees don’t understand First Amendment requirements. The fact that the message even went out deters students from speaking with the UP or other media, even if the staffers couldn’t have been fired. Rank said the first step in fixing the relationship between FAU and the media is to revise their policy, and make sure they’re practicing it. “Part of the policy is actually really good and we’re looking forward to speaking with Florida Atlantic and making that policy better,” Rank said. “If we can bring it back to what that first policy looks like, and make sure their practices also reflect that, then FAU will have the gold standard in student press policies.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRECHNER CENTER 15
WHAT’S NEW WITH
From stadium concerts to free beach parking, here are some plans Student Government has for next semester — and what’s happened this semester.
BY ISRAEL FONTOURA
STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT KEVIN BUCHANAN AND CELINE PERSAUD. PHOTO COURTESY OF SG WEBSITE 16
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
t’s difficult to get out of a date at a bar you know is going awry. How can you excuse yourself? Who can you call if there’s nobody around to pick you up? That’s why Student Government plans to give you an easy out if you’re at a local bar.
Next semester, SG is aiming to partner with local bars to create Owl Shots. If you order an Owl Shot a specific way to the bartender, they’ll know to either walk you to your car, call a taxi or call the police. Student body president Kevin Buchanan and vice president Celine Persaud are working to make that the case come Spring. Some other goals they’re working toward are free student parking at nearby beaches, stadium concerts, and discounted test preparation programs.
• Neat tells the bartender that you, as an individual, needs to be walked to your car. • Lime signals that the bartender should call them a cab or taxi service. • On the rocks alerts the bartender that they need to intervene for the individual, like calling the police if a situation poses a threat. SG is also working with the Boca Raton City Council and Parks and Recreation department to implement student access to golf courses and free parking at beaches throughout the city. All students need is their Owl Card. “That’s everything for me. [Making] sure that students here have access to be able to go ahead and get these mental health breaks,” Buchanan said.
In March, the pair was elected with Buchanan previously serving as SG’s chief financial officer, and Persaud as associate director of the Council of Student Organizations (COSO), which supervises registered student organizations.
Since then, they’ve worked with faculty, SG members, and even local officials to bring changes to the FAU community.
BET Hip Hop Award-winning artist Waka Flocka Flame headlined the annual Bonfire in September and American Idol winner Kris Allen also performed free for students. At this year’s Homecoming concert in October, students saw Billboard-charting artists Aminé and Ari Lennox in the auditorium for $10, compared to last year’s $21 ticket.
As chair of the University Budget Appropriations Committee (UBAC), Persaud presides the hearings and deliberations of the funding for university-wide departments, facilities, and programs. As president, Buchanan approves or vetoes campus House or Senate legislation which can impact events, campus initiatives, and student life. Here’s what some of that money has been going to so far, and what students can expect to see soon:
Beyond campus Off campus, SG is working alongside local bars and owners to introduce Owl Shots, a specific drink you can order to signal to the bartender you’re in an uncomfortable situation. All they have to do is ask for an Owl Shot neat, lime, or on the rocks, each with differing levels of severity. This initiative will be on display in both men’s and women’s restrooms.
This semester, SG brought big names to the university to kick off football season.
During the Spring semester, students say goodbye to football season, but SG has plans to use the stadium for FAU’s first-ever stadium concert. The $70 million stadium was only used eight times for football games this Fall, according to Buchanan. Persaud said that the Spring semester tends to be “very slow,” so this would give students an event to look forward to and promote FAU to both students and the community. The approved Senate bill outlined that the stadium concert would “strengthen the bond of the student body and increase school spirit.” Because of funding, Buchanan mentioned they are looking to bring in country music artists who are relatively cheaper compared to pop artists, so they’ll be able to bring more than one act to perform.
“We have had reports that a couple of students have actually used this and we have had very positive feedback on this,” Persaud noted.
The Student Body President and the President’s Administrative Cabinet have allocated $150,000 from the SG Fund Reserve account to go to the event, in a joint effort with the Athletic Department.
Here’s what the bartender will do for you, if the program is established, based on your order:
Buchanan and Persaud said they have started working on the spring event but could not provide extra detail. 17
On campus In his State of the Union address, Buchanan announced they’re implementing a parking citation leniency system. The initiative would allow students to have a warning instead of being automatically ticketed. “Most of the time, the people getting parking tickets, don’t know why they’re even getting them in the first place,” he said. “It seems so small, but this is actually something that affects all students across [FAU].” Buchanan and Persaud also negotiated a 40 percent student discount for online and in-person preparation programs for tests like the GRE, LSAT, and MCAT, which can cost upwards of $4,000, according to Buchanan. “[It was] a huge priority for ourselves, making sure that every student has the opportunity to thrive within their undergraduate [and go] forward within their graduate level degrees,” he said.
Student Union Since the summer, the Student Union (SU) has undergone a $24 million remodeling project and SG has allocated $150,000 of their funding to the new esports arena. Through this donation, SG will be recognized as a sponsor of the new addition. Michael Cooper, director of the Student Union, said during an August Senate meeting that the arena will have top of the line PCs and to expect about 40 to 45 gaming tables with the SG logo on the mouse pads, gaming chairs and surrounding television monitors to show their sponsorship. The SU is the number one place for student engagement, according to Buchanan. But since construction, students have not been able to get much use from it this Fall. The new eSports arena would dedicate a space for FAU to host gaming tournaments and work with organizations like the FAU eSports club. The arena is expected to open next year. “It’s going to change the dynamic of what our union is… we’re going to be having million-dollar tournaments be coming through,” Buchanan said. Buchanan also noted that the SU is finally moving away from bulletin boards with new TV monitors, reducing the use of paper flyers. Now, students and organizations will be able to promote events on the monitors throughout the building. “An OwlCentral submission is not going to do it for a person that’s trying to actively get people to come to their event,” Buchanan said, referring to club and organization leaders who regularly host events. He added that this will give students a chance to “market themselves.” 18
Here’s what SG plans to bring to the campus and Boca community next semester. • Country music concert in the football stadium • Parking citation warnings before getting ticketed • A specific drink you can order at local bars to signal to the bartender that you’re in an uncomfortable situation • Free parking at local beaches “Being a commuter campus, we have to work around our students, not have them work around us,” Buchanan said. Persaud added, “There’s a lot to be excited for in the next couple of months, and I am elated to be a part of this change.”
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
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Communication students participate in the Suicide Awareness March organized after the suicide on campus last month. Photo by Alex Liscio
TRANSPARENCY After the suicide on campus in early November, FAU students feel FAU administration should have been more transparent about the incident. BY REGINA HOLLOWAY & ISRAEL FONTOURA PHOTOS BY ALEX LISCIO 20
UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
Editor’s note: If you have thoughts of suicide, support is available. FAU’s Counseling and Psychological Services crisis hotline is 561-297-3540. The University Press reached out to FAU Media Relations for a statement but did not receive a response.
hen someone, whose name has not been released by police, died by suicide last month near the library, students waited days to hear a response from FAU. When President John Kelly released a statement on mental health three days later that provided on- and offcampus resources, students say they were let down by no mention of the specific incident. When asked, FAU Media Relations did not release a statement on the suicide because at the time it was an ongoing investigation, and they did not respond to the student reactions. Many students say they found out about the suicide from social media and word of mouth. They were disappointed that someone took their own life, but even angrier that FAU didn’t acknowledge it.
FAU’s response On Nov. 5, FAU’s emergency alert system sent three different text messages, emails, and phone calls to students warning them of police activity near Garage 1 and Volusia Street. By 11:45 a.m., students were given an all clear — but still not entirely sure what caused the activity in the first place. Faculty were the first to receive acknowledgment of the
Students placed roses next to the suicide victim’s memorial near the library. Photo by Alex Liscio
incident. They received an email from provost Bret Danilowicz two days after the incident regarding mental health resources. “As instructors and mentors, you may encounter students or colleagues in distress. Suicide is a serious concern for college campuses, including our own,” the email stated. “FAU offers a number of resources that are available if you become aware of a situation in which an individual is considering harming oneself.” President John Kelly released a statement to students the day after that, emphasizing the importance of mental health services and awareness. “The last weeks of a semester can be particularly challenging, and the fall semester, with the added stress of the holidays, can be the most challenging period of all for many people,” the statement read. “The university community recently suffered some terrible losses, and while the circumstances were very different, they were equally tragic.”
Students’ reactions With what seemed to students like little to no response from any faculty and administration, seniors in a communication studies capstone organized a “Suicide Awareness March” to honor not only the individual, but all the lives taken by suicide on FAU’s campus. The class, taught by professor Deandre Poole, brought up a march when just days before they were set to present projects about mental health, someone passed away. “They were very disappointed with how the university responded
Students wore yellow ribbons at the Suicide Awareness March. Photo by Alex Liscio 21
to the student who committed suicide, and I was as well. Other faculty members did not even know and as more and more people found out they started saying, ‘Well, why wasn’t this communicated?’ or ‘Why didn’t we know about this?’ And so we collectively said we wanted to do something,” Poole said. The demonstration took place two weeks after the suicide and together, students and faculty walked across the Breezeway to outside Garage 1, where they held a memorial and moment of silence. People that attended the march were also given yellow ribbons, to represent suicide awareness, and had the opportunity to write down encouraging words and condolences on a ‘‘memorium board’’ outside of Garage 1. Students were hoping this could be a learning lesson for the university, where they could take this tragedy and make it an open talking point, and listen to what the student body was saying they wanted to be changed. “‘Just stay away from such-and-such an area.’ Students said that’s all that they could remember. They said that was a very disrespectful way of talking about somebody who died, the life that was lost,” Poole said.
contact information for FAU resources and support; a case study and discussion; and question and answer session with Dr. Vernon and representatives from the Dean of Students Office and the Counseling and Psychological Services Center,” Danilowicz wrote. Valeria Reynoso said as a senior social work major, she understands how much it can help to simply just talk about mental health issues, especially suicide. “Suicide can be an uncomfortable topic but it’s important to discuss it and to let people know it should not be an option,” said Reynoso, who found the news through Twitter. “It’s very disappointing to see how my school has reacted to the death …” she said. “I think it’s not something the school should sweep under the rug.”
Guylandsky Jean-Gilles, a senior, arrived on campus the morning of the suicide in an Uber and saw police cars at Garage 1. He initially thought someone was shot by an officer but when he learned it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound after reading the University Press’ coverage, he said his heart “sunk.” “At first I was really bothered about seeing the body, but now I’m upset about how FAU is handling this situation. Why have the students not been told about what happened? Why weren’t classes canceled? Why is FAU saying nothing?” Jean-Gilles said. Sophomore Mia Wood also felt that classes should have been postponed, saying, “I think it was wrong of FAU to keep classes [and] all activities going after what happened. Someone had literally taken their life. The feelings of those close to that person needed to be taken into account. Who could sit through class the rest of the day after learning that their friend took their life?” Wood said. On social media, organizations like Student Government and the FAU National Organization for Women chapter stressed that students should seek help if they need it or think someone else does, but did not acknowledge who passed away. Similar responses have been seen from all types of administration, highlighting the resources available for students to reach out and get support. The Office of the Provost released an email to the faculty of the university, introducing an initiative to provide them with a better opportunity to support students with their mental health. “Faculty workshops in Student Crisis Assistance have begun this semester and will be offered widely next semester. Announcements will come from your Deans and Chairs. Please come to one of these 90-minute sessions, which will include: how to identify and engage with distressed students, 22
Rachelle Saint Louis, PEP Talk Director UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19
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UNIVERSITY PRESS // 12.10.19