Getting Paid to Play ?

D1 athletes already benefit enough, they do not need to be paid

BY GILLIAN FARRUGIA

The average Division One athlete invests over 43.3 hours a week into practices, 3.3 more hours than the standard American work week according to Forbes. Between media coverage and merchandise, big name state schools including Ohio State, University of Michigan, and University of Alabama brought in just under $150,000,000 of revenue in the 2014-15 school year (USA Today). With the amount of media coverage around college athletics, it’s hard to imagine that these stars that we sport on our jerseys, are just a couple years out of high school. Between the immense amount of time and money invested into the NCAA, as well as the incredible dollars they bring into the university, should Division One athletes be paid like employees?

Well, in a sense they already are. Even if the athlete sits bench all four years of his or her college career, he will still get awarded with tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money, with the exception of football, basketball, and volleyball which tend to earn full rides. This discrepency of scholarships between various D1 sports would only become more prominent if a salary came into play. While they may invest the same weekly hours, a D1 soccer player would not earn as much as a D1 football player. This seemingly unfair gap would vary immensely between school and even more between men and women’s athletics.

Furthermore, athletes, like any other college student, are enrolled in college to learn and improve, and should not be paid to do so. They should be benefiting from their skill set, which is where scholarships come in.

Beyond financial benefits, many athletes in high intensity D1 sports are also provided with tutors for their classes, by the university. While they are in school, there schould still be an emphasis on education. On the field and in the classroom, students are enrolled in college to hone their skills. They are not yet proffesionals in either  fields.

Take an aspiring doctor. She likely earned an academic scholarship for her excellence in high school, but regardless of the countless hours invested in perfecting her skills, she is not a proffessional in her field and should not be paid as such.

The same goes for college athletes. While only 1.6 percent of D1 athletes actually go professional from their college career according to NCAA, they are still in a learning enviornment and should not be paid for their  education.

Breaking News: Teens Can't Drive

My name is Anna and I can not drive

BY ANNA DONNELLY

I was no better of a driver three hours after the DMV employee handed me the small square of rectangle than I was that morning driving to Old Saybrook. Yet suddenly, I had the literal license and confidence to drive in a manner unthinkable the day before.

To be completely honest, most high schoolers are horrible drivers. Many have been involved in hit and runs and fender benders and yes, even hit parked cars. All of my friends (except Emily Bohmbach: you go, Emily Bohmbach), have been in a car accident, most due to their own fault.

Of course, driving is inherently risky and people of all ages are all at some level prone to accidents, however, I don’t think it is a coincidence that being a bad driver is practically a prerequisite to being a teenager.

So what makes us so bad?

I believe the most fatal is a false sense of confidence.

According to Autoblog, 36 percent of juniors and seniors admit to aggressive driving, even though 81 percent know that it is dangerous. Every time a teen driver picks up their phone or drives 50 mph down Flanders Road, they know they are being unsafe.

Unfortunately, not even an accident or close call will pull teens from their terrible technique.

So what do we do? The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. The only way to sober our erratic driving is to take accountability of our actions. If you are a bad driver, it’s okay. Own it, you’re also a new driver. Novice drivers need hours of practice and to have experienced countless situations over years before they can be considered a good driver. (Hint: If you can’t park straight don’t even think about grabbing your phone, even if it’s just to skip a song.)

Don’t combine your complete lack of experience with irresponsible distractions or reckless speeds. Recognize that you are the operator of a destrutive high power machine--the kind that you have to be 18 to use at most workplaces--that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year.

It’s not just your life that you’re playing with when you reach for your phone, wander too long on the audio controls, or run through a stop sign. Distracted drivers spend an average of 10 percent of the time outside of their lane.

How do you want people driving around your siblings, parents or best friends?

Drive like that.

Let’s not get cocky, East Lyme.

The Silence of The Millenials

Overproduction of music fails to create classics

BY GILLIAN FARRUGIA

My throat stung as I belted horribly the final chords of Toto’s 1982 classic "Africa" as my dad and I went on hour three of our stop-and-go traffic pursuit of the Delaware beaches. It was hour three but the grueling traffic seemed lost amidst the flow of classic hits that left both my dad and me utterly out of breath.

Music brings people - young and old, black and white, gay and straight, man or woman - together. With technological advances moving at a faster rate than ever before, there seems to be an increasing gap between younger and older generations. Yet, for all of our rightful criticisms, I believe millennials have not failed in immersing ourselves in the beauty of timeless music.

Classics like "December 1963" and "Runaround Sue" that have rocked decades are what breaks the barrier between ages and evokes stories of wild concerts well before our time.

However, this intergenerational bond of music, may be coming to an end. I try to envision my life 20 years from now, scrambling to juggle kids and a job, and I try to imagine the "timeless" tunes of my youth my children will be humming.

Will they still be doing the Whip and the Nay Nay? Not likely. Will they break it down to "Juju on That Beat?" Probably not.

Music of today is so short lived that classics are hard to come by. We do not listen to the same "hits" we listened to two weeks ago. The top hits of the week are so artificially manufactured with computer-generated instrumentals and auto-tuned voices that talent is hardly a requirement for fame.

Lyrics of music that populate the radio are no longer inspired poetry, but vulgar slurs repeated countless times when the beat drops. Now, don’t get me wrong, I turn up the radio when "Caroline" by Anime comes on, but part of me wonders where the producers could possibly go from here.

It is an undeniable trend that the following generation produces a more risque style of music than whatever style preceded it. Legends from Elvis to Madonna entirely revolutionized the music industry that created an uproar of controversy as to the vulgarity of it.

As I blast "Caroline," Top 10 on Billboard’s, I thoughtlessly sing along to "Bad thang, fine as hell, thick as f***, oh my god, that’s my baby." Entirely entranced by the beat of the song, I couldn’t help but fathom how much more scandalous can a genre get.

What will top this next week? Advancements are so rapid and music libraries make any song limitlessly accessible, I fear no capsule of our musical youth is going to be captured. If we can’t listening to the same song we were two weeks ago, how can we possibly salvage any form of classics?

After all of our extreme production of sirens and beat drops, will any of our music really withstand the test of time, or will the music of our generation be silenced?

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Twas the night before last, and my mother bestowed a file of information I had never seen before: a complete compilation of all letters I had written to you. Coming from a woman who still insists we put out carrots for your reindeer, this was obviously an emotional  gesture.

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How to : Spread Misinformation

The dangers of a free Internet

BY GILLIAN FARRUGGA

Step 1: Come across a peculiar scene or bit of information that has potential to be a juicy story.

Step 2: Evaluate the situation, but not too deeply, to effectively report the story from probably only one angle (ideally your own).

Step 3: Through your social media of choice, carelessly craft a brief statement that is confident and indisputable, and likely blown out of proportion.

Step 4: Post it immediately and watch your destruction spread!

As a 17-year-old from a small town, a thoughtless expression of opinion would hardly ripple the school culture, right? This certainly wasn’t the case for 35-year-old businessman Eric Tucker of Austin, Tex. when he tweeted "Anti-Trump protestors are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in," on Nov. 9. The tweet was accompanied by a photo broadcasting a line of coach busses that he presumed had carried Anti-Trump protesters.

At the time of the tweet, Tucker had 40 followers - a mere fraction of the hundreds that back ELHS students. Within hours, the comment was retweeted at least 16,000 times, and shared over 350,000 times on Facebook. The story was picked up by several news agencies, as well as activist organizations, including Free the Republic, where it was shared 307,616 times (New York Times).

The following morning, President Elect Donald Trump himself backed the accusation of Tucker’s tweet, sending, "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

By the time it was discovered that Tucker had little to no basis on his statement, the headline had swept the nation, shaming the Anti-Trump protesters who arrived that morning in Austin, Tex. with full intentions of a peaceful protest.

In a later interview, Tucker claimed, "I’m a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption" (New York Times).

As a busy 17-year-old, I can certainly attest to Tucker’s lack of time to fully fact-check every statement that comes of his mouth. However, this does not make it okay to spew whatever potential gossip that surfaces throughout the day, with no regard to how they affect others.

Yes, the election results are a widely touchy subject across the board, but some statements sting more. Subtweets targeting friends, fake accounts exploiting peers, and baseless commentary over controversial issues: all petty statements people indulge in daily. If Tucker and his 40 followers can create a nationwide controversy, imagine the damage a single tweet can have around the school with hundreds of followers.

We must be mindful. Understand the impact a string of words can have on an individual, and the turmoil it can erupt in a population.

 

A Hidden Genocide

Has the American public been desensitized to others’ pain?

BY ANNA DONNELLY

There is an ethnic cleansing occurring right now in Africa, but none of us know about it. Or do we just not care anymore? Which scares you more?

A few months ago, I watched a movie in class called "The Devil Came on Horseback" that told the story of retired Marine, Brian Stiedle, who took a job monitoring the ceasefire in the Darfur region of Sudan in 2004. Little did he know, he would end up witness to genocide, his only tool a camera. Eventually, he contacted New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who published his photos and story in his column and also wrote a book, "The Devil Came on Horseback" which was adapted into a movie, aimed at raising awareness for the corner of the world that the United States had turned a blind eye to.

In short, Sudan, the largest country in Africa, became extremely volatile after gaining independence in the 1950s from Great Britain. There is a three-fold prejudice violence between Arabs and non-Arabs, herdsmen and farmers, and differing skin colors. After a rebellion in 2003 by the non-Arabs, the Arabic leading Sudanese government hired the Janjaweed to "exterminate the African tribes in Darfur" of rural areas. The Janjaweed travel throughout the country capturing and burning villages, taking families as servants, killing men, gang-raping women and mutilating children. Refugees have migrated towards the eastern border to escape into Chad.

The movie, which encouraged people to take action, came out in 2007. Almost a decade later, as I began my research the first headline that appeared on Google News lead with "Chemical Weapons Use in Darfur."

How had this crisis not ended? The United States and even the United Nations are aware of the problem, yet we have failed to stand up politically to the genocide, instead offering financial aid, which does help the refugees, but does little for the villages suffering under Janjaweed control.

Is it because there is no oil in Darfur for us? Or have we failed to act because we cannot identify with the "inferior, uncivilized tribes" of Africa?

The people of Darfur deserve just as much assistance and anger from the USA as we have shown to Syrian refugees. Why is no one else mad?

Our handling of this crisis is not unparalleled in history. Americans seem to have an attention problem, unable to focus on important matters for long periods of time.

A tragedy will occur and for weeks we will throw our support behind retweets and monetary donations just awaiting the next new cause to strike. We have seen this pattern in effect as our social media outrage faces a new problem every day, with no rememberance of the prior day’s injustice.

I am not calling for the United States to serve as the world’s policeman. But we cannot truly call ourselves the leaders of the free world and protectors of democracy if we do not condemn genocide. If we are aware that people are being killed systematically yet do nothing, we are at the same fault as the perpetrators.

Where do we go Next?

The world must accept the results and move on

BY ANNA DONNELLY

Last Tuesday night, we elected a bully as leader of the free world, leaving many confused and anxious as to what comes next.

Whatever you may believe politically, there is no denying the reality that an office held only by men who dedicated their entire lives to public service will now be succeeded by a man who the biggest newspaper in the country once used two full pages to print 281 of "All The People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter Since Declaring His Candidacy for President."

When I first realized Trump would be the president at the start of my adult life, I was angry, confused and looking for someone to  blame.

I decided I would not pursue a career in the liberal arts and college near Washington D.C. was out of question. After given a few days to cool off, I have realized the vast majority of Trump voters want the same things I want: financial stability, safety and a better future for our families. They did not vote for him because of the horrible statements he made directed at women, people of color and other marginalized groups. They voted for him in spite of that, because the world is changing too fast, people are scared, and they feel the system is not working for them. Do I disagree with the hate fueled rhetoric used to achieve the goal? Absolutely.

At the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama reminded us that "When they go low, we go high." So, utilize this heartbreak. Spend a day crying and complaining, then suck it up and try harder. If Barack Obama can hold civil meetings with the man who fueled a movement to question his allegiance to America and has pledged to undo all of his accomplishments, we, too, can-and need to-put our political and personal differences aside for the sake of a functioning democracy.

Despite the outrage, evident everywhere from New York City protests to classrooms, Instagram fights to Twitter rants, I am reminded of Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan: "Stronger Together." Sure, it does not have the ring that Make America Great Again had and #ST is a much stupider hashtag than #MAGA, but Hillary’s message was clear: Even if you’re not for me, I’m fighting for you.

This is the message that Donald Trump’s staff should be sending to the tens of millions of disappointed Americans, especially considering there are more of them than Trump supporters.

It is also the message that we should be sending to each other. It is perfectly understandable to be scared and anxious for the coming years, and the best way for marginalized groups to overcome it will be to support each other and organize to fight back in 2018.

Our country must make a decision this  winter: Will we choose greater polarization and conflict, giving up hope on the people of our country? Or will we choose to listen to each other and remember that we all have the same goal, while still managing to fight for the causes close to our heart?

I hope we choose the latter. After all, fighting for what is right will always be worth it.

Black Friday Takes a Dark Turn

I slouch back into my chair, satisfied in a way only a fattening Thanksgiving meal can satisfy. Laughter rings around the room as loved ones embrace in a dizzying glee. My phone buzzes on the table, awaking me from my food coma. It was a text from my friend: Black friday going on hour three. I checked the clock:  10:30.

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You Do the Crime, you Pay the Time

Same crime, different consequences?

BY JOYCE LIN

There are so many things wrong with our criminal justice system today. I’ll give you two scenarios. Two guys are charged with the same crime of sexually assaulting an intoxicated girl. Now, you are in charge of deciding their jail time. Who are you going to give a longer or shorter sentence to?

Wait, why should they not both get the same sentence? That is the fair way to approach this, right?

It should be assumed that equal violations get equal punishments, but in some parts of this country, judges hand out very unequal sentences for the exact same crime.

On Jan. 18, 2015, Stanford student, Brock Turner was found sexually assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious girl. He was charged with three felonies and is now a registered sex offender.

Judge Aaron Perskey decided the sentences of both Brock Turner and Raul Ramirez, a 32-year-old Latino immigrant. The crimes committed were very similar; Ramirez was arrested for sexual assault, as well. But, the aftermath of both crimes were very different. Instead of running when caught like Turner, Ramirez stayed at the scene of the crime, talked to the police, and even apologized immediately.

Even so, Ramirez was given a three-year sentence, a much harsher sentence

than Brock Turner’s mere six months.

In the matter of justice, these decisions were far from fair. Part of the reason for this is that Judge Perskey might have shown a bias towards student athletes.

A bigger issue still is that researchers have continually found that minorities are more likely to get longer jail sentences than white people for identical crimes.

We, as a country, have come so far to treat everyone equally, so why is it that situations like these are still happening in courts?

When will race stop interfering with people’s opinions and actions? The same crime should come with the same consequences, regardless of any biases.

4 Simple Ways to be more like the Swiss

A few life lessons I learned while in Switzerland

BY GILLIAN FARRUGIA

Stepping off of the plane after my Swiss vacation into the muggy Providence air and rush of traffic, I felt an overhwelming gust of nostalgia toward the fresh air and humbling vastness of Switzerland. Determined to bring the simplistic lifestyle back to my stress-ridden senior year, I have compiled four easy steps to channel your inner Swiss.

1. Eat slower – and with people you like

As I sank into the fur chair beneath a yellow umbrella, burning my tongue on the rich goulash, I attempted to take in my utterly breathtaking surroundings (a state most likely credited to the 13,642 ft. shift of altitude and lack of physical fitness that heaved me to this point). Having just arrived in Switzerland, my family’s first excursion hiked us to the top of First. After encountering countless roaming cows (whose bells could be heard ringing throughout the mountains) and almost falling off the mountain thrice, I was eager to get the check and see what else Switzerland had in store. But that is not the Swiss way. That is not the European way, really. Meals are meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Throughout the duration of the trip there was not a meal that lasted under two hours. As a senior in high school having time to enjoy food-incredible food-with my family and really talk without any interruptions took quite some time to get used to. Between soccer practice and homework and work, it is a rare occasion that a family’s schedule lines up to sit down and relax.

2. Sell your car and take trains everywhere

While this may be a bit unreasonable, there are definitely some life alterations one can take to feel more like they are cruising on a train and not pushing 50 on Boston Post. Sure, riding through the Swiss Alps past grazing cows, snow-capped mountains, and fields of wildflowers isn’t exactly downtown Niantic (nothing against Long Island Sound), but if you leave the house a few minutes earlier and leave time to take a breath and avoid road rage, I guarantee you will arrive at your destination with much lower blood pressure and maybe even enjoy the ride (as the lovely signs that line our streets encourage). Long story short: slow down and enjoy the ride.

3. If you see a cow, pet it

It might get you called out when you’re crossing the border (@US customs), but I promise it’s worth it. Sure cows are harder to come across in East Lyme (unless you reside in Salem) but a dog will do the trick. Like cows, dogs have been scientifically proven to raise your spirits and help you relax. Some schools even bring in dogs during exam week to ease student stress!

4. Hike all the trails

Oswegatchie Hills might not have much on the Swiss Alps (a walk in the park for the Swiss, mind you), but the short break from reality and breath of fresh air does wonders for your sanity. If thinking about college or high school drama has become too much, remove yourself from reality for a couple hours with a close friend or your dog and watch your worries wash away. Hint: Autumn and college applications are right around the corner - what a perfect solution!

The Place of Patriotism in Professional Sports

The NFL’s double standards regarding patriotism

BY ANNA DONNELLY

The NFL’s reactions to quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem due to the oppression people of color continue to face in this country have been unsatisfactory.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he supported players who want to see a change in society, but then added, "On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL," as though they were two very contradictory statements. Or does the NFL just care about making money?

In 2015, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake revealed through a government oversight report that professional sports teams from the NFL, NHL, MLS, NBA, and NASCAR racked in a combined $53 million for marketing and advertising contracts from the Pentagon from 2012 to 2015.

Yep, that’s right. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has spent mass sums of your tax money paying "America’s sports" to support our armed forces through patriotic displays like troop tributes and the color guard. Money from the NFL was only returned after public attention was brought to the issue.

It is despicable that taxpayers are financing the multi-million dollar business of sports advertising. This system of "paid patriotism" goes against all the ideals of our country. The majority of the time, even our military can function solely through volunteers. If Americans can risk their lives to support our country, why should the NFL be paid to do so? Sports organizations should feel obligated to respect servicemen and women. In essence, greedy corporations are forcing the military to pay to promote the very system which allows us to sleep safely every night.

Professional sports set the example for all amateurs from college athletics down to t-ball. Young Americans everywhere should be taught to honor all of those who have fought for our country, regardless of any personal gain like the money teams have received.

The NFL making contracts with the DOD to support veterans directly contradicts their take on Kaepernick’s protest. Kaepernick’s protest is genuine and heartfelt. He specifically said he did not mean to slight the military or the police. He simply sees a problem in the country that he loves and wants to draw attention and administer change to  it.

If the NFL is allowed to exploit the U.S. military for money, shouldn’t they allow Colin Kaepernick to exercise his freedom of speech as he protests a country which has continuously and systematically oppressed people of color?

In reality, the NFL just cares about appealing to their fanbase-the self-proclaimed "Patriot," the average American man who believes in three things: ‘Merica, football and beer. The NFL will not alienate these men (because the organization has money tied directly to this audience through contracts) and therefore they must oust Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is a private citizen who, although employed by the NFL, has the right and moral obligation to himself (and the grounds) to protest our country which has legally mistreated minorities.

To be taught not forbidden

Why a changing culture is in need of alcohol education

by Gillian Farrugia

Looming in the not so far distance, the big one-eight is the official so long to lemonade stands and rainbow hair clips and best of luck to paying checks and pursuing a career. Amidst this overwhelming terror of responsibilities, 18 typically calls for means of celebrations. Cashing out on lottery tickets, and Cuban cigars, all in honor of the new freedoms that come with the occasion - all in good, legal fun, of course, as long as you don’t have a sip of alcohol.

However, regardless of the strict enforcement, teens manage to find loopholes around this law. Centers for Disease Control Prevention reported that people age 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge  drinking.

Before false conclusions are drawn, this is not an editorial promoting underage drinking. But rather, a sentiment to the fact that if turning 18 entrusts young adults to be mature enough to decide to join the military and purchase cigarettes, both incredible risks, that 18 should grant the privilege to be able to handle alcohol  responsibly.

A common argument against lowering the drinking age to 18 is that those still in high school would purchase alcohol for underclassmen. While this is a valid argument and would most likely occur, the only change would be the source of alcohol, not whether or not the alcohol is  accessible.

Because it is effectively illegal to consume alcohol before 21, teen drinking is carried out in private, less controlled environments that typically serve the purpose of getting drunk, and doing it quickly.

If binge drinking is how teenagers are introduced to alcohol, they are more likely to carry this behavior into college where it will only intensify in an environment where parental figures are less of a concern.

Once acclimated with the college atmosphere, fake I.D.s become the next course of action to acquire alcohol before the age of 21. If caught in possession of a fake I.D., consequences range from fines to charges of fraud and potential jail time. If you are above 18 when charged, you can be prosecuted as an  adult.

Beyond that, 18 permits the ability to vote, join the military, serve in jury duty, sign contracts, marry, buy cigars, apply for loans, and make decisions regarding medical  treatments.

In a society where kids are growing up faster due to overflowing media on every screen, a major problem that attests to reckless underage drinking is that kids are not prepared. Discussing how to drink responsibly and how to set boundaries both at home and in school, rather than simply reprimanding it, would reduce the desire to binge drink in private. If mature consumption of alcohol were to be a greater focus in our culture, there would be a smoother transition into drinking, a decrease in alcohol-related accidents and development of alcoholism, and enough knowledge to be trustworthy at 18 to drink responsibly.

Life Lessons From A-225

Some people have cross country. Others have AP Chem Society. I had The Saga.

by Maura Donnelly

As I prepare to graduate in the next few weeks, I’ve taken the time to reflect one of the most influential experiences of my high school years: writing for the Viking Saga. I will carry the following lessons I have learned here wherever I go:

Hard Work Pays Off

Journalism has taught me, more than any other class, the value of hard work. Hard work isn’t always fun, but it is necessary. I had to earn my position on the newspaper.Instead of chatting with friends during lunch, I interviewed people. I spent hours agonizing over every word choice as I tried to cut 350 words down to 200 words. I fussed over every little detail the pages I laid out, trying to get everything lined up perfectly, until I threw my hands up in the air and sent it in.

Nothing ever will be perfect, but you can rest easy if you know that you put all you had into it.

Put Yourself Out There

As a sophomore, I was the quietest, shyest reporter in my class. I joined Journalism because I loved to write, but the idea of going up to someone to ask for an interview terrified me. However, I pushed myself to take the plunge and it paid off. Each time, I became more comfortable and learned how to ask the questions that delivered the most thoughtful, anecdotal quotes. Even after three years, the idea of interviewing certain people causes some anxiety, but I learned to swallow those feelings of doubt because I know that I’ve done it before.

If you don’t try, you will always wonder: what if?

Follow Your Passion

There have been times when I got stuck writing the same, unoriginal articles that no one seems to be interested in. I would have quit after the first semester if I hadn’t come up with an article idea that I cared about and wrote it. For once, scheduling interviews was not just a chore that I knew I had to do. I threw myself into writing that article and investigated every single angle to the story I could think of. It was time-consuming, but I loved it.

In the end, these memories will far outshine the daily grind.

Be Spontaneous

Every once and a while, be spontaneous. Decide minutes before you leave to tag along with your sister and a couple friends when they drive up to New Hampshire on a school night to go to a Bernie Sanders rally. You never know when the next time you’ll find yourself on stage at a Bernie Sanders rally, leading the room in cheering and sitting less than three yards behind the man himself as he gives his speech.

Sometimes jumping on board with your sister’s seemingly crazy schemes works out for the best.

Love Your Friends

Over the past three years, I’ve built incredible friendships with my co-editors. In the past year, we’ve traded story ideas over froyo, gotten lost in corn mazes, made it to the final round of Chikumbuso’s Lip Sync Battle for "Bad Blood" and ate breakfast at the Shack at 6 a.m. on a Friday morning. When I was worried that I didn’t have enough people signed up for my club’s Lip Sync Night, they set up an entire routine to perform together. We’ve been there for each other through all the sweat, blood, and tears that comes with Journalism.

There is no bonding experience quite like it. Saga love, my girls (and James too, I guess).

Losing it's Shock Value

The consequences of cruising becoming part of everyday speech

by Gillian Farruiga

In third grade, "The Sandlot" taught me how to swear.

Appalled by the explicity of the new expressions, I kept my newfound corruption a secret.

By the time middle school came around, it seemed that my little secret had leaked among the masses and everyone was clumsily throwing around the vulgar terms in all their preteen angst-y glory.

Drawn to the magnitude around the forbidden words, I practiced the language in private conversations or under my breath over a stubbed toe.

As I became more comfortable with the language, it gradually found its way into my speech.

Come high school, uncensored words pollute the lyrics of chart-topping music and addicting Netflix shows. Celebrities litter Instagram captions and tweets with every cuss word in the book. As a result, cursing has become laced in daily teenage conversation.

I hardly think twice when the f-word floats through the hallways or when the term "s***," describes the mound of schoolwork awaiting the afternoon ahead. Cursing, it seems, has lost its shock value in our society.

A study conducted by leading scholar on cursing in the United States, Timothy Jay, revealed the average teenager weaves in 80 to 90 cuss words into their speech each day.

During time of increased stress, this dosage of curse words could actually reduce anxiety. Much like exercise, swearing out of frustration raises the heart rate, triggering a group of neurons called the amygdala that makes the brain less sensitive to pain.

However, the most common usage of expletives has become less of an expression of anger and more of a casual filler in  conversation.

A reoccurring issue with cursing losing its shock value is what the proper action to take is when a student mistakenly drops an f-bomb in class, or the teacher overhears a kid jokingly calling her friend a b****. The black and white expectation for respect in the classroom has become a rather gray area in schools.

Several teachers, especially those who also coach sports or teach elective courses, form relationships with students that lead to friendlier conversations. Like any relationship, comfort evolves with time and formal language relaxes into everyday speech, swearing included.

For students, the normalcy of explicit language often gets them into trouble by failing to distinguish teachers who allow the swearing, and often times even lead by example, and teachers who harshly reprimand it.

While this may be a gray area now, chances are that with the splurge of cursing in social media, our children’s generation will be immune to the explicity of swears at a much earlier age. As the casualty increases, it may even be a matter of time before cursing integrates into media coverage or formal advertising. By then, there would be no soothing of stress and no achieving a reaction. All that would be left is the word itself.

Weighing the Elementary School Project

A message to the community about where the proposal for updating the elementary facilities is going wrong

by MAURA DONNELLY

     After speaking to town officials, the superintendent, and parents, I have reached the conclusion that the latest plan approved by the Board of Education for updating the elementary school facilities is not in the best interests of the community.

The Current Proposal and How It Came About

         Currently, the plan approved by the BOE is to renovate Lillie B. Haynes School, to postpone the rebuilding of Flanders School for five to seven years after spending $1.5 million on refurbishments, and to close Niantic Center School and move students to LBH. If this plan does not pass referendum, NCS will close after the 2016-2017 school year and students will be moved to LBH, with no improvements whatsoever at any school.

     The proposal overturned the BOE’s previously approved proposal to rebuild Flanders next to the original building, renovate NCS, and close LBH after elected officials in town expressed concerns that the $58 million plan is too expensive.

     The former proposal was presented to the BOE in 2014 by the Design Steering Committee, a committee formed of BOE members, school administrators and members of the community. The committee made their decision based on an accumulation of years of research that investigated every possible option, from renovating all three schools to closing two schools and building one big school for the entire town. The final proposal that the committee presented took into account the reality of declining student enrollment and the additional expense to the town, but kept the quality of education the first and foremost concern.

     The current plan was developed after conversations between the superintendent and town officials, past and present, about the likelihood of the former proposal passing referendum.

     For the following reasons, I believe that the current proposal does not meet the needs of the school system and that the proposal that is in the best interests of the community is to rebuild Flanders, renovate NCS, and close LBH and return it to the town.

1.) Effect on Student Learning

     In order to maintain East Lyme’s standard of excellence in education, the students and teachers must always be the first priority. A major benefit of the plan to closing LBH instead of NCS would be that it would cause less disruption to the students during the construction period. According to the former proposal, students at NCS would be moved to classrooms LBH during renovations and the new Flanders School will be built next to the existing building, allowing every student in the district to continue learn in classrooms for the entire construction period.

     However, under the current proposal, there is not enough room at NCS to house LBH students during their construction, which means that the BOE will have to choose between less desirable options.

     The first option is to use portable classrooms placed outside of the school(s). This would mean that for two years during construction, an undetermined number of students will be learning in classrooms isolated from the majority of the school except for when they return to the main building a few times a day for lunch and specials. Some concerns about this plan are the security of the portables and moving children in inclement weather.

     Another option is the phased approach, when students are moved between classrooms as the building is renovated, one wing at a time. While all construction will take place after school hours, there are obvious concerns about the safety of students learning next to a construction zone. All necessary precautions will be taken for the safety of students and staff, however, there is always a possibility that something might not work out as planned. Also, the construction will displace activities that take place after school, including childcare and sport practices.   

2.) Unequal Facilities

      At a time when East Lyme students are leaving our schools to attend magnet schools in the region, which costs the town money, it is in the town’s best interest to maintain facilities for every single grade level that provide the most attractive option for families. By putting an entire school on the back burner, the current proposal will not help East Lyme to compete with the beautiful facilities of regional magnet schools.

     Flanders seems to be in the worst condition of the three elementary schools, considering the fact that the current state of school makes it more cost effective to rebuild an entire building than to renovate it, yet the current proposal means that its needs will be addressed last. The $1.5 million set aside for refurbishments will only be enough to pay for a more secure school entrance and updated furniture, technology, lighting, and tiles.

     According to parents, this proposal is a band aid that simply does not address the school’s most pressing needs. One of the biggest concerns is the ventilation, as there is no air-conditioning. At Flanders, the cafeteria gets so hot in certain months that there are fans running constantly and the doors are kept open, which is not only a distraction to learning, but a security risk. If security is such a concern, does it even matter that there is a more secure main entrance if the cafeteria doors are wide open? Only a new building will address the structural problems that are the root of this issue and other problems at Flanders, and they should not be left alone another seven years.

     Undeniably, the impact of this current proposal will create a situation of inequity in size and resources between the two schools. While NCS and LBH will be moved into a new, air-conditioned school with technology for twenty-first century learning by 2019, the students at Flanders will remain in an over 50-year-old school with minimal refurbishment improvements for years to come.

     Even after waiting seven years to rebuild Flanders, the BOE cannot guarantee that after spending $34 million on LBH and $1.5 million on Flanders, the town will go through with investing the money to rebuild Flanders, which currently would cost $33 million and will only cost the town more after seven more years of inflation and declining state reimbursement. At this rate, it will likely be over a decade before the newly built Flanders opens its doors to students.

     The Flanders students need a new school now.

3.) Cost to the Town

       Additionally, information about the current proposal's cost and effect on taxes was presented to the BOE and the community in a way that was misleading. According to this information, the most recent proposal will have a mill increase of 1.1, which means an annual tax increase of $281 for homes assessed at $250,000. The older proposal presented a mill rate of 1.9 mill increase, or an increase of $482 in annual property taxes.

     However, the tax increase of $281 only factors in the cost of renovate LBH, which costs over $8 million more than the cost of renovating NCS. When the BOE presents the current proposal as a $34 million plan compared to the previous $58 million plan, they fail to take into account the cost of rebuilding Flanders. After current state reimbursement, the cost of rebuilding Flanders is nearly equal to the cost of renovating LBH, which means it can reasonably be assumed that in order to rebuild Flanders in five to seven years, the mill rate will increase by approximately the same amount again, making the entire project reach the total of a 2.2 mill increase. In fact, the Flanders project will cost even more in seven years due to inflation and a pattern of declining state reimbursement, which potentially brings the mill rate even further up.

     When government attempts to shortcut spending at the expense of the upkeep of public facilities, there are often unanticipated consequences. Here in East Lyme, the decision to make minor upgrades on the high school baseball field a few years ago rather than rebuilding the entire field at once ultimately ended up costing the town more money because the improvements were band aids that did not address the real problem. Every year, a new issue arose with the baseball fields that required more money and dragged out the construction process. Last year, the drainage problem kept the team off the baseball field for an entire season, so the team had to travel to Dodd Stadium in Norwich to play every home game.

     If Flanders is merely refurbished rather than rebuilt, a similar situation could develop, especially if a proposal to rebuild Flanders fails to pass referendum in five to seven years. The town needs to accept the situation for what it is and making room in the capital improvement plan for the $33 million to rebuild Flanders before the project is dragged out and costs the town more money. The consequences of such a situation will have much larger and long lasting consequences to the town and school system than the baseball field situation has. This scenario would be damaging not only to the students and staff at Flanders, but to East Lyme's reputation for providing quality education.

     Another cost for the town to consider is property values. One of the greatest draws for families moving into East Lyme is its highly regarded school system. Although East Lyme’s reputation for education is stellar, young families considering moving to town may be turned off by the condition of Flanders building and the fact that there is no guarantee it will be addressed in the immediate future. As a result, the property values, especially in the Flanders section of the district, will potentially decrease.

4.) Priorities from the Town Government Come Before Students' Needs

     Looking solely at the total costs for the rebuilding/renovating of each school, it is difficult to understand how the current proposal would be determined more affordable. However, there is one more factor to consider: the town of East Lyme has more to gain from closing NCS than LBH.

     If NCS is closed, the town will have the opportunity to sell the school, which would bring the town a considerable amount of money because of its location in downtown Niantic. LBH’s location, which is distant from the downtown area and located next to the middle school, is not as marketable.

     The BOE was convinced by officials in the town government that the town could not afford to work on two buildings at once. Considering that a plan that closes NCS and leaves open the option of selling the property in the near future is more beneficial to the town, it is reasonable to conclude that their position on the proposal is influenced by that fact.

     In a town that prides itself on its strong educational system, it is unacceptable that the BOE would accept a proposal that prioritizes the money made from closing a school over following through with the plan that was determined by years of research to be in the best interests of the students. The BOE, which represents the students and teachers, has a responsibility to stand up for the plan that will provide the students across the district with equitable technology and learning opportunities for the 21st century.

     While selling the property of NCS will bring in a significant amount of money for the town, it is important to remember that the property at stake is a well-functioning, beloved school that has played an important role in the Niantic community since it opened more than 60 years ago. The school buildings were built for the purpose of educating this town's youth, not for the town government's benefit. Instead of worrying about what use the town could get out of a property, the deciding factor the BOE should be considering is what each building and its location has to offer future generations of students.

     Over a year ago, the BOE voted in favor of renovating NCS over LBH based on the cost of renovations and what was best for the students educationally. Why has this changed?

     The decision to change the proposal was made because elected officials in town advised the superintendent and BOE that the $58 million plan was too expensive to pass referendum. Although the town government is most familiar with the effect of the plan on the budget and taxes, their decision to put pressure on the BOE to come up with a less expensive plan was not one that should have been made solely by a group of people from the town government.

     Before the town government blocked a proposal for the schools that had been approved by the BOE for a year, it needed to hear directly from the people they shared concerns about raising taxes. The town government should have hosted a public forum or community meeting in order to explain the situation and to hear directly from town residents if they would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to make the repairs that the elementary schools desperately need in a timely manner.

     Instead, the changes were passed with seemingly no input from the community outside of the town government. The BOE passed the superintendent’s revised proposal to renovate LBH, delay rebuilding Flanders, and close the NCS building only two weeks after it was presented to them. According to the meeting minutes of the BOE meeting on Mar. 28, the night the current proposal was approved, the majority of the parents who spoke during public comment asked the town to slow down and reconsider postponing rebuilding Flanders and closing NCS. When the BOE passed the proposal, these people felt that their voices as parents and town residents were ignored.

    Since the fate of the elementary schools affects every single resident, whether through taxes or their children’s education, the town needs to be involved more than they were in the decision to abandon the previously accepted proposal. The town voters should have the final say in whether or not the town will make fitting the money needed to repair the schools a greater priority in the town’s capital improvement plan.

5.) Commitment to Education

        Even if the cost of the project is high, the town has an obligation to provide financial support to maintain its public facilities, especially its schools. The town most recently spent money on renovations at the elementary schools in the 1970s, so it is long overdue for the schools' needs to be addressed. During the last six years, the town has put projects for upkeep desperately needed at the elementary schools on the back burner as the BOE spent years researching the best plan for school district. It is unacceptable for these needs to be further delayed at any of these schools.

     The youngest students in the district deserve to have the opportunity to learn in schools that are designed for the 21st century, just as the middle school and high school students. As the voice of the students and teachers, the BOE has a responsibility to reach out to the entire town to advocate for a plan that will meet the needs of the entire district, not one that settles at improving the learning environment for less than 2/3 of the student population. Instead, at the most critical moment, the BOE conceded too much of the original plan in an effort to pass referendum.

     Many parents are angry that the commitment of the quality of education has been trumped by cost concerns of elected officials rather than the consensus of a town referendum. They are upset that inaccurate information that stated that the LBH property could not possibly be sold because of stipulation from a 1950s town meeting was presented as a reason to abandon the former proposal. They are frustrated that the BOE cannot guarantee that Flanders will be rebuilt in the time span that is planned. They are angry that the BOE still keeps the option open of closing NCS before the construction on LBH is complete, which would put more children into a building under construction or portable classrooms when there are alternative proposals that could have guaranteed that every child remain in classrooms before they are moved into the newly renovated school.

     At this point, if any of the parents at these schools vote in favor, it is likely to be out of fear that the next option presented by the town will do even less for the schools than the current proposal. Is this truly how a town celebrated for its commitment to education conducts itself as it tries to improve its elementary school facilities?

Ways for the BOE to Move Forward

     After taking into consideration all the concerns of the current proposal, I would like to see the following steps taken. First, the BOE should step back and review what the former proposal has to offer the town. Since the cost of addressing the needs of two schools at once and the effect it will have on town taxpayers was the single primary objection to the first proposal, the BOE should review the plans for NCS and Flanders to prioritize which improvements to the school are absolutely necessary. For example, the proposed site plans to build outdoor amphitheaters at both schools would be positive additions to the schools; however, not building them will not have a detrimental effect on the quality of education. I am confident that if the BOE could find similar opportunities to cut unnecessary improvements if they reviewed the proposal again.

     The BOE will need to take action immediately, as there is not much time to change their proposal before the deadline for paperwork to be submitted to the state. If the BOE fails to make the deadline, the cost of the project to the town will rise significantly because with every year that they spend deliberating, there is less state reimbursement

Potential Option for LBH

     At the time of the proposal that would close LBH was brought forward, it was suggested that the town would be able to use the building as a town hall or police station. According to First Selectman Mark Nickerson, that option is no longer a possibility because the space available is too big for the town’s needs.

     I would like to propose the possibility that the town could use the space at LBH for more than a town hall. Central Office, for example, could be moved to another wing of the LBH building, which has proximity to the middle school and is a more central location between the schools if NCS remains open. Additionally, having central office and the town hall offices in the same building allows for better communication and eliminates the upkeep of the current Central Office building from the budget. If there is no other use of the Central Office building, it could be torn down to be used as athletic fields for the high school.

     Also, the Parks and Recreation department could move into a wing of the LBH building, giving the public library more space. While a town hall would probably have little use for the cafeteria, art, and gym in the LBH building, Parks and Recreation could use these rooms for the afterschool program from elementary students and other community events. Since the LBH building would still be open as a town facility, youth sport programs like East Lyme Youth Basketball and the Challengers basketball team could continue to the use the gym, while closing NCS would eliminate a gym for town sport leagues.

Conclusion

     As stated before, the decision about the elementary schools was one to be made by the entire population of East Lyme. The BOE has a responsibility to ensure that the plan that is in the best interests of the students is the first option brought forward to the town for a referendum. If the community voted that the proposal was too much for the town to afford, at least the BOE would have done everything they possibly could for the students before moving onto less desirable options.

     Although the BOE and town government are moving carefully with this proposal, they might be surprised by the support they could get from the community. East Lyme’s stellar educational record is something that has benefited people throughout out the community, whether or not they have children. Quality education helps to keep property values high, which protects residents from losing money when they sell their homes. Even people who do not have children currently in school have close ties to the school district because they are graduates or have children who graduated from East Lyme. If the BOE and parents went out into the community to prove that the schools desperately need new facilities, they may have a chance at convincing the community to support their plans.

     As a student who has experienced 13 years of education in the ELPS system, I have benefited from the times East Lyme pulled together to pass expensive plans to renovate the high school in 1998 and to build the new middle school building in 2001. Although these projects were controversial, ultimately, the residents of East Lyme made the decision to invest in the schools because they recognized the need for a new facility.

Stripping Away the Double Standard

The evolution of Free the Nipple movement

By Gillian Farrugia

he Free the Nipple campaign had a surge of popularity in 2013 when Scout Willis strutted down the streets of Manhattan completely topless. The ignition of equality spread to celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, both of whom posted topless photos on their Instagram with the hashtag #freethenipple in protest of the double standard of public toplessness. Both photos were censored due to  "indecency."

The equality movement was launched in 2013 when filmmaker and activist Lina Esco witnessed topless women parading the streets of New York City with motives to dissolve the stigma around female nipples. All women protesting were arrested for public  indecency.

As it stands today, it is illegal for women to be topless in public, breastfeeding included, in 35 states. In less tolerant places like Louisiana, exposure can force a woman into jail for up to three years and cost $2,500 in fines. While New York legalized public toplessness for women in 1992, the NYPD continues to arrest women for offensive  exposure.

In 1930, it was illegal in all 50 states for men to be shirtless on a beach. A small, yet dedicated group of men fought public standards, the police, and several courts to achieve basic rights. By 1936, it was a social norm for men to be topless in public.

Eighty years later, Free the Nipple activists ask how men can be completely topless on a public beach, yet women cannot even breastfeed on a beach? How is it that the most natural form of nurturing life is considered a  crime?

Furthermore, negative reaction to a woman’s exposure is often viewed as her own wrongdoing. In cases of sexual assault, the question is posed of whether the "provocative" attire she was wearing provoked the assault. It is implied that she should have known better than to display herself in a suggestive way.

Even in our public schools, girls have been sent home for presenting themselves in clothes that were deemed distracting. In the media, a movie is required to get an R rating if it exhibits topless women. On social media, photos that reveal toplessness are banned. Constant sexualizing of the female body has led to extreme censorship in our society.

In a blog on Huffington Post, Lina Esco writes, "the Free the Nipple film focuses on the hypocritical contradictions in our media-dominated society wherein acts of baroque violence, killing, brutalization and death are infinitely more tolerated [than toplessness]."

The full "Free the Nipple" film is available on Netflix, where live footage captures the progression of the movement and the evolution of social norms pressing forward to future generations.

Fighting A Culture of Violence

Why we need to be on our guard in college

by MAURA DONNELLY

According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, one in five American women and one in 16 men will experience sexual assault during their college years. To bring this statistic a little closer to home, its implication is that in our graduating class of 143 females and 109 males, 29 women and 7 males will be sexually assaulted during the next four years.

In a few months, I will be leaving home for college and this statistic will take on new meaning. If the national average holds true, it will happen to me or a friend that I care about. I need to prepare myself by learning about what sexual assault means, how to avoid dangerous situations, and how to advocate for my college to better respond to sexual harassment and violence.

The National Department of Justice (DOJ) defines sexual assault as "any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient." In other words, no means no. If a person is not thinking clearly because they are drinking or incapable of response because they are passed out, that means no, too.

Sadly, reports from the DOJ indicate that 62 percent of rape victims were assaulted by an intimate partner. Emotional abuses, such as aggressive tones or coarse language directed at a partner, attempting to monitor a partner’s interactions with others, making demands of a partner, calling a partner insulting names such as "stupid" or "idiotic," and threating physical retaliation, often escalate into physical violence and rape.

If a partner is treating you that way, get out of that relationship. You deserve so much better. If you are not ready to leave a relationship yet for whatever reason, you deserve support, too.

Fighting sexual assault may seem impossible because it is so ingrained into our culture. However, individuals can take steps to protect themselves by taking a self-defense class, recognizing how much alcohol is too much, watching drinks at bars and parties, trusting gut instincts that a person or area is dangerous, and staying close to friends.

It is undeniable that the perpetrator of sexual assault is ALWAYS at fault for issues of sexual violence. It is appalling to blame women for their rapes by saying that they should have known better than to dress a certain way. The Not Alone project, supported by President Obama and Vice President Biden, attempts to reach out to all people, specifically men, to take a stand to protect victims with the slogan, "1 is 2 many."

The path to safer campuses will not truly begin until every individual recognizes that "1 is 2 many," and takes actions that reflect it.

Spreading the Word to End the Word

     By MAURA DONNELLY

     Six months ago, sitting in a lecture hall at Wesleyan University for Best Buddies Local Leadership Training Day, I was presented with one of the most moving speakers I have ever heard.  Her name was Loretta Claiborne, and the life story she shared with us was difficult, heart wrenching, and ultimately triumphant. Her call for friendship and respect for people with disabilities reflects the goals of East Lyme High School’s own Best Buddies  chapter.
     Claiborne’s story is one of those inspiring stories that is meant to be shared, but her story takes in special meaning for me when I look at in context of respect and the power of friendship.
       Claiborne grew up as one of seven children raised by a single mother in 1950s and 60s. She was unable to walk or talk before age 4 because of physical and intellectual disabilities. Claiborne described how she struggled to keep up with her classmates, only to be taunted by students and even teachers. She longed for just one friend her age.
     Months later, the part of her speech that stands out most clearly was her empathetic declaration that having a friend is the most important need of every single child, regardless of whether or not they have disabilities.
     Despite the struggles of her early life, Claiborne has gone onto to accomplish the extraordinary. She is an excellent runner who has participated in the Special Olympics since 1970, and has run 26 marathons in her lifetime, with a personal best of 3:02 in the 1982 Boston Marathon. Through the Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, Claiborne has built strong friendships and became a powerful advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to follow their  dreams.
     Claiborne’s inspiring story has been shared with the world through the 2000 Disney movie “The Loretta Claiborne Story,” which recounts her journey to become a Special Olympics athlete, and her biography, “In Her Stride,” published in 2005. She also travels the country, speaking at various lectures and school assemblies about tolerance, dealing with bullying, overcoming obstacles, and finding opportunities in sports and other  activities.
      All too often, however, these challenges and talents, alike, go unrecognized.
     March is Best Buddies Month, a celebration of the friendships which are formed every year through the international organization, Best Buddies. This month is a call for tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of their physical or intellectual abilities.
    Here in East Lyme, the Best Buddies chapter is joining several other chapters across Connecticut and the United States to Spread the Word to End the Word. The campaign calls for the end of the “r-word,” and any words that are used to hurt and belittle our fellow students. Join Best Buddies in building a wall against hateful words by using and acting on words such as respect, tolerance, and compassion in East Lyme.