Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Recognizes Ella Grasso Award Winners 2019

Left to right, community activist Anne Ash; Shawn Ray Dousis ’19; State Sen. Mae Flexer; June Dunn, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning at Eastern; and President Elsa Núñez

Shawn Ray Dousis ’19 of East Lyme, president of the Foundation for Campus Ministry at Eastern Connecticut State University; June Dunn, assistant dean in the Office of Continuing Studies and Enhanced Learning at Eastern; and community activist Anne Ash, were named recipients of Eastern’s annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards on March 27. The event took place in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.

Dousis won the student award category. She will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a second major in Liberal Studies. At Eastern, she has served as a manager for Eastern’s men’s ice hockey team and as public relations officer of People Helping People. She currently serves as president of The Foundation for Campus Ministry. In 2017, Dousis established, planned, coordinated and facilitated “Shawn’s Cupboard,” Eastern’s Food Pantry.  The cupboard now serves many students, and has recently introduced a “Swipe It Forward” program that works through Chartwells, Eastern’s food service.  

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

“I am honored and grateful to have been chosen for this award and want to thank everyone involved for considering me,” said Dousis. “Our efforts with Shawn’s Cupboard have made food insecurity at Eastern less of a problem today than it was yesterday.”

Dunn won the faculty award. She has overseen the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program, along with several grant initiatives to assist students from marginalized communities in achieving their educational aspirations.  Prior to Eastern, she was the women studies conference and special events coordinator at Southern Connecticut State University. She also previously served as assistant to the director for the University of Connecticut’s Upward Bound Program, as well as Program Coordinator for Girls, Inc., in Stamford.

Dunn had an Ella T. Grasso story to tell. Her fifth-grade class at Hindley Elementary School suggested the sperm whale be made the state’s official animal. Hundreds of other schools and organizations across the state supported her, and Grasso signed the sperm whale bill in May 1975. Dunn eventually met the governor: “She was so authentic, down-to-earth and kind. This memory is why this award has additional special meaning and great honor to me.”

Rash, who won the community award, grew up in the 1940s and 1950s when girls playing basketball were limited to two bounces and could only play on half the court. Those challenges inspired Rash to become an educator, which provided a backdrop for working to make a difference in the lives of women and girls, locally and internationally. Her hands-on volunteer efforts include mentoring women in the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM) Learning Partners Program; helping with fundraising efforts for Ecole Agape, the only free school for girls in Haiti; promoting the programs for women and girls as part of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut (CFECT) Windham Women and Girls Fund; and encouraging literacy with Altrusa of Northeast Connecticut projects.

“It takes a village, so this award is shared with the people in this room,” said Rash. “My fellow awardees, my friends from Altrusa, the Windham Women and Girls Group, Ecole Agape School for Girls in  Haiti and the Community  Foundation, we all work together to make the world more equitable. We know that basketball has progressed, but there are still women who only have access to half court. We need to continue to work for full court access for all women!”

State Sen. Mae Flexer

In her welcoming remarks, Eastern President Elsa Núñez cited statistics showing women still earn “only $.81 for every dollar men make. Minority women make far less.” She engaged the audience in a series of cheers of “We Have Room to Grow!,” reminding those in attendance of “the special skills women possess.”

State Sen. Mae Flexer delivered the keynote address. Flexer said Grasso embodied what it means to live a life of commitment and service to others and to advocate for a more just and equal world. “Her dedication towards an issue like the underrepresentation of females in government – at a time when that issue was considered to be unimportant – is incredibly inspiring and meaningful, especially, as I stand here before you as a female elected official. She left an indelible mark on the state of Connecticut, but it also makes us think about our own legacy. In a hectic, ever-changing world, what are we doing to make our communities and our society just a bit better? I encourage everybody in this room to find what lights a spark within you and to pursue it. It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Former State Rep. Evelyn Mantilla Speaks on Being ‘Out’ in Politics

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/13/2019) Evelyn Mantilla, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, visited Eastern Connecticut State University on March 6 to discuss her experience as the first openly bisexual legislator in the nation. Mantilla is committed to advocating for underrepresented groups and encouraging others to become involved in politics.

Before beginning her career as a state representative, Mantilla experienced setbacks that highlighted the importance of perseverance. During her initial run for office, she was thought to have won by five votes, which called for an automatic recount. She actually lost by 16 votes. “Every vote really does count,” she said.

Moreover, Mantilla was especially inspired to campaign again after being dismissed by another politician, a Puerto Rican man who had ties to law enforcement and used the position to his advantage. Born in Puerto Rico herself, Mantilla felt that she had to intervene. “I didn’t like the way he was representing my community, so I decided to challenge him.”

While Mantilla had more than 100 volunteers on her team, they were threatened and harassed by people working for the opponent. Despite their efforts, she lost a second time. “We celebrated because we were proud of what we did,” she stated. However, the man who beat her was convicted of voter fraud, and Mantilla received a third chance. She petitioned to be on the next ballot, and was finally elected in 1997.

“When I ran, I was not open about my sexuality,” she revealed, though she was in a committed relationship with a woman. “I realized that there was a big part of me that I was not bringing to that new table.” At a LGBT pride event in Hartford, Mantilla made a speech in which she not only declared her bisexuality, but also proposed to her partner in front of everybody. “I proposed marriage, in public, in the shadow of the State Capitol.” Feedback was mainly positive.

Nevertheless, Mantilla and her partner soon considered the safety risks that came with such overt vulnerability. With their lives exposed, they were occasionally nervous to leave the house, but found strength in support from those around them. “There were people in our community who we knew weren’t just going to be accepting, but encouraging.”

Still, as Mantilla had suspected, encouragement was not shown by all. When she strived for re-election, one Pentecostal minister ran a homophobic campaign against her, utilizing derogatory terms on posters and general hate speech to sway voters. Mantilla went about her business, running a “normal, door-to-door campaign,” and proved successful in the face of adversaries. She was re-elected with 88 percent of the vote.

During her role as a legislator, she acted as a resident “social worker” in lower socioeconomic areas, attuned to their most pressing needs and vocalizing them. She was able to work on the issue of same-sex marriage, along with contributing to election reform. “I really wanted to level the playing field,” said Mantilla. She stressed the significance of forcing combatants to collaborate with outcast groups “in all of their identities” and emphasized the effectiveness of connecting on a human level.

“I’ve remained involved professionally and as an activist,” she said of her time spent away from the House of Representatives. Her final term expired in 2007. Urging the audience to run for office, Mantilla pointed out that there is not enough minority representation and, consequently, not enough diverse opinions active in government. She promoted getting involved locally in addition to speaking with somebody like herself on how to approach a campaign. “You simply have to have knowledge of your community.”

Mantilla concluded: “Some of the simplest things carry you through in the end.” She cited familial support and focusing on successes rather than failures as means of pushing through to accomplish goals, particularly in politics. “There is nothing more powerful than bringing yourself to a table you have fought for.”

Written by Jordan Corey

Eastern Students ‘Take Back the Night’ Against Sexual Assault

Take Back the Night keynote speaker Michael Bidwell of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut spoke with students about using their voices to take a stand against sexual assault.

Written by Jolene Potter

Eastern Connecticut State University students, faculty and staff took a stand against sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence in October with a series of events focused on increasing awareness and response to survivors.

The events were hosted in collaboration with the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, Women’s Center and Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT), illustrating the collective approach of Eastern in addressing interpersonal violence.

Sexual violence and domestic violence are major public health concerns that plague communities and families across the nation and the globe. The statistics are staggering – every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

On Oct. 23, Eastern hosted 2, 90-minute sessions of Students Fight Back, a program that teaches tools for bystander intervention, awareness, personal safety, intuition and the basics of self-defense. The motto for the program was “The best fight is the one never fought.” Acknowledging survivors attending the program, keynote speaker Nicole Snell said, “We want to help survivors work through their trauma and reclaim their personal power.”

Nicole Snell of Girls Fight Back presented “Students Fight Back,” a gender-neutral class about using you intuition, being an active bystander and consent.

The program also provided an in-depth discussion of consent, including how consent is clear, unambiguous and verbal. “Firstly, silence is not consent,” said Snell. “‘No’ is a complete sentence. Anything said afterwards is a negotiation and there is no negotiation with people who don’t respect our boundaries.” Students gained a clear understanding of consent as ongoing, verbal, coherent and retractable at any time.

Students Fight Back encourages students to define their own personal boundaries and safety. “You are the expert of your own personal safety,” said Snell. “Who better than you to make decisions about your safety?”

On Oct. 29 from 6-8 p.m., Eastern held Take Back the Night, a march, rally and speak-out for survivors and allies of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence. Take Back the Night is an international event and non-profit organization with the mission of ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence.  

“Intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking are a huge problem in this country, causing victims, as well as witnesses and bystanders, in every community to suffer incalculable pain and loss,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of Eastern’s Unity Wing and SAIV-RT. “It is important that we come together and take action on spreading the word and educating each other about these issues.”

The event has grown significantly from prior years, with a line of students outside of the Student Center Theatre wanting to support survivors and share their stories. “It is incredibly moving to see so many people show up to support survivors of violence,” said a student who shared her experience with the crowd. “When survivors speak out, even despite immense fear, they put a face and a story behind issues that are often shrouded in statistics or silenced altogether. It is an extremely courageous thing for anyone to do.” 

Support persons from Eastern’s SAIV-RT, Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Police Department attended the event to inform students of available resources and stand in solidarity with survivors of trauma.

For the Clothesline Project, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence made t-shirts to show support for those impacted by interpersonal violence.

Eastern also collaborated with multiple local organizations and non-profits to increase the network of support for students. Sexual assault crisis counselors and advocates from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut (SACCEC) were also in attendance, including college advocate Allison Occhialini, who offered support to survivors who shared their stories.

SACCEC is a private, non-profit agency offering free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and abuse through crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and prevention, and community education.

Representatives from the United Services Domestic Violence Program also attended to offer services and words of encouragement to students who may be struggling with or know someone in a domestic violence situation.

United Services provides the only domestic violence shelters and services in Northeastern Connecticut. They offer a wide array of services designed to respond to the needs of domestic violence victims and their children throughout their journey to become free of abuse.

Although Take Back the Night is usually an annual program held in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Eastern’s community united to offer the event in October as well in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “We wanted to offer the program again this fall because we all have a role in hearing survivors and ending interpersonal violence on campus,” said Byrum.

As a visual display of survivor support, Eastern also launched the Clothesline Project. Displayed from Oct. 25-31, the project displays shirts with messages and illustrations designed by survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and domestic violence. The purpose of the project is to increase awareness, destabilize stereotypes about “victims,” celebrate survivor strength and to provide another avenue to courageously break the silence that often surrounds these experiences.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Open ‘Minded’ House: Eastern’s Unity Wing Welcomes All Students

Staff members of the Unity Wing pose for a group photo in the Pride Center.

Written by Jordan Corey

Despite the pressure that comes with the start of classes, there are always systems on Eastern Connecticut State University’s campus to support its students. To ring in the new semester and encourage student engagement, Eastern’s Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing held an activity-packed open house on Jan 24.

Consisting of the Pride Center, Women’s Center and Intercultural Center, the Unity Wing creates a safe place for all students, something that was evident through the positivity-centric stations at the open house. Julissa Pabon, Intercultural Center graduate assistant, recognized the importance of dealing with academic stress as she sat at their “coloring relaxation” table. “You can grab a couple of pages and take it on the go, or you can sit and relax and color and talk about anything you want to,” Pabon explained. “And we’re going to give out tips on ways that we think you can best stay organized for the semester.”

Pride Center coordinator Nicole Potestivo leads a group of students through the “eye see you” activity, in which students write down a problem they feel goes unseen and then post it to the wall for all to consider.

Similarly leaning toward an artistic side, the Women’s Center allowed open house attendees to make decorative sand jars complete with written, positive affirmations about themselves — a way, graduate assistant Courtney Mayberry noted, to combat some of society’s negative energy. The crafts are meant to be kept as motivating reminders. “We just want to throw a little positivity into the air and have our students remember the things that they like about themselves, and continue to look at them as things to get them through the year,” Mayberry said.

Using notes to foster a connection with students, Pride Center graduate assistant Marcus Morales described the “Eye See You” project constructed for the open house. This allowed people to freely write down any problems that they feel go unseen, granting them recognition and promoting openness. “Different things — from identity issues, to health issues — there’s no real structure to what the issue has to be, but it does look at how we raise awareness for things that people go through that we don’t normally talk about in popular media or discussions,” Morales stated.

The open house, set up “passport style” ensured that students visited all three centers, with their passport stamped at each station before getting to refreshments at the end.

‘Yes Means Yes’: Affirmative Consent

Consent Logo

Written by Jolene Potter

The Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) at Eastern Connecticut State University partnered with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) to present “The Consent Workshop,” an interactive workshop designed to help students better understand the meaning of affirmative consent. The program was held on Oct. 18.

“The Consent Workshop” was presented by Eastern alumnus Ignacio Heredia. He graduated from Eastern in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and has been working as an Education and Youth Development Coordinator for PPSNE for 10 years. Heredia has extensive experience in developing and implementing sexuality education programs for youth and adults in community-based organizations and schools.

The workshop first explained what affirmative consent was and what it looks like. Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. “It is so important to not only know what consent is, but to know what it looks like and how to practice it,” said Heredia. The interactive workshop accomplished this by engaging in open dialogue regarding safer sex practices. Students also worked with peers to respond to hypothetical scenarios and identify solutions and red flags.

The workshop also discussed different types of communication with students. “Assertive communication is ideal,” said Heredia. “Assertive communication involves speaking in an open, clear and respectful way. Individuals who are passive communicators may be afraid of confrontation and aggressive communicators are often forceful and may even seek confrontation with others. Consent requires assertive communication.”

Students also learned the five major criteria for consent. First and foremost, consent a clearly indicated desire to engage in a particular activity. Consent is also changeable, meaning that an individual can change their mind at any time and that consent once is not consent forever. Consent is also informed, meaning that both parties are aware of the other’s boundaries and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Consent is also freely given, meaning that neither party is coerced or convinced to do something they don’t want to do. Lastly, consent is enthusiastic.

Heredia recommends continually checking in with your partner to ensure that both parties are engaged and wish to continue. “You should watch, listen and never be afraid to ask,” said Heredia. “You can and should ask your partner if they are comfortable, if something is okay, if they want to slow down or if they want to go further. Silence or lack of resistance does not mean consent.”

Eastern Police on Community Relations

Written by Jordan Corey

•Eastern Police Lieutenant Thomas Madera converses with students regarding police brutality and the department's standards for hiring new officers.

• Eastern Police Lieutenant Thomas Madera converses with students regarding police brutality and the department’s standards for hiring new officers.

WILLIMANTIC, CT The contentious discussion of police brutality that has dominated American conversation in recent years has not been overlooked by the police department at Eastern Connecticut State University. Last week, University police officers emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with Eastern students by participating in National Coffee with a Cop Day and Eastern’s monthly Blackout Day. Eastern’s campus police used the two events to continue their open dialog with students regarding law enforcement practices.

•Eastern Police Officer David DeNunzio interacts with members of the Eastern community.

• Eastern Police Officer David DeNunzio interacts with members of the Eastern community.

Originating as part of the 2016 National Community Policing Week, National Coffee with a Cop Day (Oct. 4) has evolved into an international forum giving officers and citizens a chance to interact outside of hostile situations — over a cup of coffee. Eastern’s Coffee with a Cop event took place in the Student Center Café and featured Chief Jeffrey Garewski and Lieutenant Thomas Madera, along with officers Jennifer Murphy, David DeNunzio and Sergeant Steven Schneider. Garewski and Madera began by explaining how much the department values community relations, especially the connection between officers and students. “A lot of the students know us on a first-name basis,” Madera pointed out.

The officers stressed that the goal is not to get students in trouble. They also described the type of person they seek when hiring new officers. One thing they look for is amicability, someone who grasps that they are working on a college campus and not on the streets. Because of this, the department takes its time reviewing applicants and hires new officers carefully. “I would rather go short-staffed than hire someone who won’t work well with this population,” said Garewski.

A group of Eastern students and police officers take a photo for Black Out Day in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

A group of Eastern students and police officers take a photo for Black Out Day in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Garewski and Madera addressed questions regarding the ability of police officers to do their jobs as well. “A misconception, not just here but countrywide, is how we’re trained,” Madera commented. He elaborated by informing students that Connecticut is one of six states accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Qualifications needed to be an officer are not taken lightly. It is the only occupation in Connecticut where a polygraph test is mandatory, they also mentioned.

The officers additionally wanted attendees to know that the divide between law enforcement and the public taking place nationally is not lost on them and that they understand people’s hesitation in talking with police at a gathering like Coffee with a Cop. Nonetheless, they hoped to highlight that while bad officers do exist, the media plays a large role in public perceptions and may focus on negative police work more than the positive. “People look at individuals as a group,” Garewski said. He and Madera conveyed that above all else, Eastern police will continue to perform ethically and with the best interests of students in mind.

Later in the week, Eastern’s Blackout Day created another opportunity for discourse between police and students, with Madera and DeNunzio as speakers. The event was organized to jumpstart conversation about police misconduct in a safe, comfortable environment. Statistics were presented concerning the number of people killed by police in 2014, particularly people of color. Students inquired about where the Department of Public Safety lands on the issue of racism affecting police work.

“Everybody shares the same rights,” Madera said, affirming that the University’s officers treat everyone equally. “Those are the types of officers that we hire.” He explained that students are the ones who count more than anything else, reiterating that the department is selective in its hiring process for that reason. Not only do they look for officers who are able to unbiasedly work with a diverse group of students, but the department as a whole follows strict legal policies about racial profiling.

One student brought up the impact of frequently watching videos of police brutality in the news, drawing attention to the emotional toll that comes with it. The officers discussed the news media and its power, arguing that it often focuses on what will sell. “The video you’re seeing is only part of the video,” DeNunzio commented. The two stressed that while there are undoubtedly “bad apples” in law enforcement, as in any profession, it is a necessity to do research in these situations in order to have all the facts.

Madera and DeNunzio provided further insight on how Connecticut law enforcement operates as opposed to other states, touching on its in-depth police training process and the many procedures that must be followed when employed as an officer, from diversity training to practicing lethal force. Though the presence of racial profiling in the overall system is undeniable, the officers acknowledged, and while fixing it is a work in progress, Madera made the department’s stance clear: “I will tell you this: not here. Not at Eastern. That’s one thing I do not tolerate.”  ###

 

Prisca Dorcas is a Woke Brown Girl

                                                                  ‘I am a Mami’s Revolution’

Written by Jordan Corey

Prisca Dorcas

Prisca Dorcas

To be a “woke brown girl” in America is no easy task – just ask Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, founder of the popular online platform “Latina Rebels.” Widely known as Prisca Dorcas, she is an acclaimed writer and activist from Nicaragua who focuses on the plights experienced by people of color in America. Dorcas visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 4 for a “University Hour” presentation titled “Dear Woke Brown Girl.”

Dorcas is uncompromising in her mission to protect and uphold the stories of her Latino community. With a lighthearted demeanor, she can be sharp with her language; an intentional behavior that stands in contrast to her conservative Pentecostal upbringing.

She shared that it wasn’t until graduate school when she was regularly around white people. Studying at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, she soon realized that she was not being treated the same as her peers. Dorcas recalled attending a party with a group of friends and one of them saying that they would never fight her, assuming she’d beat them up. “You know nothing about where I come from, yet you have very real assumptions about what this brown body does,” she explained to the Eastern students.

The first piece Dorcas shared, “Politics of Pigmentation,” highlighted this sort of stigmatization, centering on the idea that her “mami” always warned her about getting too much sunlight. “She is not telling me to stay out of the sun for a deep concern for my health,” she read. “My mami does not want me to be too brown.” It took years, Dorcas revealed, to love the color of her skin.

The writer consequently stressed how important it is to bring her mother, a brown woman who has adapted to the very oppressions that Dorcas fights, into the spaces that she has been to. She wants to do what her mother could not, but without alienating herself. She uses her and her grandmother as guides to non-linear logic, discussing societal issues in a story-like manner with no clear beginning or ending. “I am a mami’s revolution.”

Dorcas concluded by reading “Dear Woke Brown Girl.” She described the piece as something she needed to hear during those challenging times in graduate school. “Woke brown girl, do not let them take away your passion,” she spoke, “And boy will they try, without any compassion, to keep you down. But remember that without passion you will extinguish, and if for some reason you do, and you might, there will be other woke brown girls to pick you and light you up again.”