Vandalism Strikes UMBC Apartment Community

Vandalism at Terrace Circle threatens a fine to the residents of the Hillside and Terrace apartments.

Broken Gate

Damage from where the gate was allegedly ripped out by a vandal.

Over the course of the past year the gate at UMBC apartment complex that blocks off Terrace Circle has been destroyed three times. The destruction of the card reader at the gate led UMBC Residential Life to threaten a seven dollar fine to all residents of Terrace and Hillside apartments if the perpetrator is not found. Residential Life believes that the residents of Hillside or Terrace are responsible for the vandalism.  This has sparked outrage among the residents. The crimes are unusual for the area, which is not a common place for vandalism.

The gate was put up after the renovations of Hillside and Terrace because the road is the only route that emergency vehicles can take to get close to the apartments. Before the renovations the roads were wide enough for multiple cars to fit on the lane, and students would use that road to unload supplies to their apartments. Now the roads are only wide enough to fit one car, and if students tried to unload supplies then the lane would be blocked. The gate has been broken three times since September.

“Those are not University roads, a lot of students think those are access roads, but they are actually emergency vehicle roads. Their intent is to ease any emergency vehicles in reaching the apartments. Students who are parking on that road currently are actually putting other students at risk,” said Doug Copeland, Hillside Community Director.

The cost for fixing the gate is 4000 dollars and comes mostly from the card reader that opens the gate which was pulled out of the ground in mid April. In the prior instances the card reader was not ripped out of the ground, so the costs of fixing the gate were not as high. Also in those earlier instances Residential Life has their own set of workers who could repair the wooden gate. When the card reader breaks, the University has to call in outside contractors to fix it.

“The gate arm is a special product that I have to order, and it takes time to get here. The controller costs over 4000 dollars and I also have to order it. Then I have to have someone install it because that is not a product that we normally deal with,” said Roger Becks, Assistant Director of Residential Life.

The University is considering several methods to try to combat the continuing vandalism.  First they are considering replacing the wood arm with a metallic arm to prevent potential vandals from ripping the arm out of the gate. Also the community directors have sent out emails to all of the residents of the Hillside and Terrace Apartments warning about potential fines for the whole community if the vandals are not caught. Students in the past have helped Reslife identify the culprits in past instances of trash being dumped near the apartments. They hope students will once again help identify the vandals.

“I had one student email me and say somebody left their trash out and they took it for them. It was awesome that they took that student’s trash out and I thanked him for that and followed up on that student,” said Shivany Trujillo, Terrace and West Hill Community Director.

Trujillo and Copeland believe that a stronger presence from the UMBC Campus Police in the apartment complex would help lower the chances of continued vandalism. Deputy Chief of the UMBC Campus Police Paul Dillon agrees that people would not harm the gate with an officer stationed there, but he says it is not feasible to keep someone stationed there at all times.

“That area is part of our normal patrol sector, but driving by and checking on the location has minimal effect, if we had to run an operation for that it would be resource intensive. You would have to put in surveillance and watch it for two straight weeks. I am not going to put a cop out there for 24 hours,” said Dillon.

If the vandal is caught and convicted by the UMBC judicial program then they could face both criminal penalties and University penalties. If the vandal is not a student they could be charged criminally with malicious destruction of property which is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of three years in prison and a fine of 2500 dollars if the damage exceeds 500 dollars.

However if the vandal is a student they might not be criminally charged. Instead they will be referred to the student judicial program. If found guilty, the student would have a one on one conversation with a judicial program worker to discuss the charges and either take responsibility or move forward to a student hearing board, said Lauren Mauriello, Assistant Director of Resident Student Conduct.

If a student is found responsible they could face four possible sanctions including a verbal and written reprimands, disciplinary probation, disciplinary suspension or expulsion. Also the student could be responsible for paying for the damages. The goal of the judicial program is to be a deterrent, but also to educate the students about the damages.

“Every case is different, so sanctions and conditions are always specific to that case. Generally in this case we would be looking at probation for a period of time for causing significant damage to the University and looking at a form of restitution to the University, either by paying the cost or community service because the community was impacted,” said Mauriello.

Residents of Hillside and Terrace have sent their community directors a horde of emails asking how they can be fined seven dollars for a crime they had nothing to do with. Also there has been some outrage at the email sent that residents read as threatening a fine for students if they do not give up information about the vandalism.

“I do not think it is right to fine everyone in the community. Honestly the gate should just be removed entirely. I would make more sense if if students could use it for moving in and out of campus,” Junior and Terrace resident Andrew Ide said.

With only two weeks left in the semester, time is running out for the perpetrator to be caught, and save the residents of Hillside and Terrace from the fine.

Gate Replacement

The attempted replacement of the gate by Residential Life is easily pushed out of the way and rendered useless.

UMBC Professors Debate Sex Selection

Dr. Kalfoglu debates Dr. Lindahl about the ethics, advantages and dangers of sex selection through Pr-implantation genetic diagnosis embryo screening.

In front of a nearly full Public Policy lecture hall, two University of Maryland Baltimore County professors debated the ethics of parents choosing the sex of their child on Tuesday April 8.

The UMBC Biology Council of Majors organized the debate between Dr. Andrea Kalfoglu and Dr. Lasse Lindahl to inform the student body about the issue. The debate focused on Pr-implantation genetic diagnosis embryo screening. This is a process that can be used to detect and eliminate diseases, or to determine the sex of the embryo. The debate focused on whether sex selection would be harmful or beneficial to the human race, and how people should control their use of sex selection without resorting to government intervention.

Laws are already being written in state legislatures about this topic, including one mentioned by Kalfoglu that bans selective abortion in South Dakota. Selective abortion is when people abort their child if it is not the gender they wanted. Both professors believe this debate should not be solved by government intervention, so their goal for the debate is to spread awareness about the topic. Kalfoglu wants people to be able to select their child’s sex if they want to.

“As the field of genetics grew, that opened up a new field for genetic technology,” said Kalfoglu, “I intended to argue that the government should not handle sex selection technology, primarily because I do not trust them. The use of technology should ultimately be left up to physicians…labs and the potential parents.”

The debate began with both sides presenting their opening arguments about the possible effects of sex selection on societies around the world. Both professors agreed on the first key point, which is that government should not be involved in deciding the future of sex selection. Kalfoglu used the argument that men in Congress do not know enough about the female reproductive system to tell women what to do with their bodies.

Kalfoglu’s argument centered around the idea that sex selection can help deal with different social issues that plague the world. According to Kalfoglu, sex selection can improve sex ratio imbalances lead to fewer abortions and help women living in sexist societies. She used China as an example where there are 1.3 million men for every one million women.

Kalfoglu spoke against the idea that gender selection will lead parents to have preconceived notions about their children. This may cause parents to force their kids into certain gender roles, such as a boy playing sports. Kalfoglu argues that these notions already exist in our society, and choosing the sex of a child will not amplify them.

“Grandparents were asked in a study and said, It doesn’t matter what you do to manufacture kids, they are going to disappoint you.” said Kalfoglu.

Lindahl, on the other hand, wants to warn people about the potential dangers of people willingly choosing their child’s sex. Lindahl argued that science can do as much harm as good, citing the atomic bomb as an example. He believes that preconceived notions will be heightened if parents are allowed to choose the sex of their children.

“Being a scientist, we should not always do something just because we can.” said Lindahl.

Lindahl describes himself as a social libertarian and believes that sex selection should not be regulated by the government, but that private citizens should not choose the sex of their children. He compared government regulation of sex selection to the Affordable Care Act, claiming that the government could not get healthcare right and would not be able to properly regulate sex selection. He is concerned that the government is becoming to involved in the lives of Americans, and with the technology approaching quicker than he thought, he wanted to get his argument out.

“It seems to be something that is coming up. Until I read up on some of the issues regarding this debate, I was unaware that the technology was as far along. It is the same technique we use on yeast cells in my lab, I was not aware that it was being used to sort sperm cells,” said Lindahl.

Students came away from the debate with mixed feelings about sex selection. Seniors Tumi Oludemi and Dijo Abraham both came into the debate with a small amount of background on the topic, and they both agreed that Kalfoglu used more empirical data for her argument, while Lindahl used philosophical arguments. Oludemi came away agreeing with Lindahl, however Abraham was conflicted.

“I’m still pretty fuzzy on my decision on the debate, I honestly do not think it is a big deal, but there is a stigma which is big cultural problem that is impossible to address. People are going to do this through abortion anyway,” said Abraham.

When this topic was brought to the discussion boards on myUMBC by Biology Council of Majors President Dominick DiMercurio, it created a small controversy. On the online poll 55 percent of responders said they could not be convinced to change their minds. Despite the unwillingness to compromise their beliefs, the boards created a long discussion about the dangers and advantages of sex selection.

“We got little bit on the myUMBC discussion board, they divulged into the differences between sex and gender. There has been discussion and that is good, to take what you learn in a textbook and look at what the greater ethical issues are,” said DiMercurio.

Humans are still in the early days of sex selection technology, however the technology exists and it is part of the future that UMBC students will live through.

UMBC Students Take a Stand Against Sexual Assualt.

Sexual Assault survivors share their stories at UMBC’s Take Back the Night on April 15, 2014. After the speeches, UMBC students marched in support of survivors.

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UMBC Students fill seats on the Commons Main Drive and wait for “Take Back the Night” to begin.

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Students listen to sexual assault survivors tell their stories and how they deal with their pasts.

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T-shirts created by survivors that tell their stories. These were entered into a contest and voted on.

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Some of the signs used in the March Against Sexual Violence from the Commons Main Street to the Sports Zone.

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Students forming the marching block for the march. Students chanted “Whatever we wear, where ever we go, yes means yes, no means no.”

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The Solidarity Performance in the Sports Zone after the march. The set featured UMBC’s own Last to Fire.

 

Open Enrollment Exchange Helps Students Get Insurance.

With the open enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act approaching, the University of Maryland Baltimore County hosted an open healthcare exchange on Wednesday February 26, for students to explore their possibilities.

The law makes it mandatory for most Americans over the age of 18 to have some form of health insurance before March 31, 2014. If a person does not have insurance they could face a fine of either one percent of their household income or 95 dollars per person in a family, depending on which total is higher. Fortunately for most students, the law allows people to stay on their parents plans up to age 26, but even that will not help every UMBC student. Students have an option, through the exchange website to view plans that they can afford on student budgets.

“There are policies that run from catastrophic up to platinum. Students based on their income can either get Medicaid, because of the expanded Medicaid system. Or they could get subsidized premiums. If a plan is 100 dollars a month the government could offer to pay 26 dollars a month so you could get that coverage,” Cheryl Benitez of the University Health Services said.

The idea for the exchange came from the office of University President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, and the event was organized by Benitez and the UHS. Benitez invited two navigators from the state of Maryland to come to campus and walk students through the application process. Due to technical difficulties affecting the website, applying for coverage has been controversial over the last few months.

Marylanders are more fortunate than residents of other states, because Maryland has experience with health exchange websites. Even before the national law went into effect, Maryland had a similar website run on the state level, so difficulties here are less severe. Even so, having assistance with the website is important to UMBC senior Nnameke Onejeme who had difficutly figuring out the website on his own.

“I have been without insurance for a good year now, and I am looking to get through the process,” Onejeme said, “I have gone through the website a couple times but I have not been able to sign up because I always get slowed down.”

The event was not without its share of problems. Originally, UMBC wanted two navigators to assist, but only one showed up. This caused long waits and confusion for students who tried to have meetings in between their classes. Most students waited for about an hour before their meeting, and without a sign in sheet, the order of appointments was disorganized.

Benitez stepped in to fill the role of the other navigator and the exchange began to run smoothly. Most of the students at the event met with someone who could help them enroll, however a few students had to leave before they could be helped because they had to go to class.

According to ABCNews, only 22 percent of people signing up for the exchange are between the ages of 18-34, a number that the Obama Administration wants to increase to 40 percent. Young people see health insurance as too costly, and signing up is too time consuming, so events like this are being promoted at college campuses. At UMBC, the UHS sent out an email around campus to spread awareness, and have brought speakers to campus to talk about the law.

The Affordable Care Act is the center of on going controversy, but Benitez believes it will be essential for college students. She worked to make sure students could ignore the hype and understand the facts about the law. To her it was about getting students insured only, and she has an optimistic view of the future.
“Some people have never had health insurance because they were considered high risk, now everybody can go in and buy a plan that fits their needs,” Benitez said, “People do not realise how much being sick can change your life in an instance. In my opinion [the Affordable Care Act] is a very good thing to happen.”

Experience at the Desk provides a solid foundation

Jacqueline Scott controls the toilet paper and mailing for many students on campus, however most students rarely even enter her building.

Scott, a senior and three year veteran of the desk staff, currently works at the apartment center desk, after working in the dorms in the past. Scott decided to become a desk staffer to get a job on campus and hopes to work her way up the ladder and become desk manager. Scott hopes that the customer service experience from this job will help with her future in business. The position also helped her to better handle situations that she may be unprepared for.

“It helps with how to handle situations that just happen. You learn how to do things that are not by the book, being a desk staff prepares me for that,” Scott said.

Whether that unexpected situation is a student losing their credit card at two in the morning, or hearing a crime has occurred near or on campus. Those situations are not what she expected when she signed up for the job, but sometimes they are unavoidable.

Having experience with both dorm desks and the apartment desk, Scott found the two jobs to be quite different even if they sound similar. In the apartments the job is much more customer service based, while in the apartment it is more social. In the dorms students pass by the desk every time they leave or return, so Scott was able to get to know some students. At the apartment center, people only come in for packages, laundry and a few random questions.

“It is more like a customer service desk unlike the other desk which actually interact with the students. We interact with the Resident Assistants to do programs in the community,” Scott said.

Scott is majoring in Financial economics and a linguistics minor in French, she is hoping that her job will help her with future interactions in the job market.

“Everyone needs customer service experience, because regardless of your job you will need to interact with potential customers, so this job will really help in that aspect,” Scott said.

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Introduction for ENG 380

For ENG 380 I’d just like to post an intro.  I’m a junior at UMBC minoring in journalism, which is why I’m in the class. I write at the paper so I have a little bit of experience in new writing, but I hope this class makes me better. Also I want to get a better handle with finding new stories.