Christine Powell

About Christine Powell

Christine is a journalism major with an online concentration and a business minor on her way to graduating in May. She is actively involved in many aspects of the journalism program and hopes to secure a job in Manhattan upon graduation, where she has always dreamed of working at a magazine. In her spare time, Christine enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, family and friends, drinking coffee and eating anything with chocolate in it, exploring new places, practicing photography and reading books.

Anatomical research project embraces new technologies

Maureen O'Leary, a member of the research team, is a professor of anatomical science at SBU. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University

Maureen O’Leary, a member of the research team, is a professor of anatomical science at SBU. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University

Technology like new software programs, social media and crowdsourcing has recently helped to connect the scientific research community worldwide and bring about progress in understanding the history of life.

Six years ago, a team of 23 international mammal evolution researchers linked up not only to answer some important scientific questions but to develop an effective way to share data with each other. From that came MorphoBank, an online, cloud-based database and workspace more advanced than any previously existing tool.

Now, the American Museum of Natural History, WNYC’s Radiolab and LiveScience.com are collaborating on an endeavor to have the public nickname Protungulatum donnae, the placental mammal common ancestor the team was able to identify thanks to MorphoBank, said Senior Director of Publicity at New York Public Radio Jennifer Houlihan.

Placental mammals, the branch of mammals that carry their young to term in a placenta, are a diverse group, ranging from whales to bats to horses and, not to mention, human beings. Given the wide variety within the group, there was a desire in the scientific community to discover the common ancestor that connects the nearly 4,000 species.

The team began by working, sometimes virtually, to create MorphoBank and what is essentially a “giant spreadsheet with species going across and features going down, like ‘presence of a certain tooth,’” Maureen O’Leary, leader of the project and an associate professor in the department of anatomical sciences in the School of Medicine, said.

What resulted was the world’s largest system of genetic and fossil data.

According to O’Leary, before MorphoBank, plenty of computer software existed for working with DNA, thanks in large part to the Human Genome Project, but nothing sophisticated was available to anatomists conducting work based on the fossil record.

John Wible, a member of the project and curator of mammals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, said in an email that the project “could not have been done without a tool like MorphoBank,” a testament to its importance.

Artist Carl Buell's rendition of Protungulatum donnae, the common ancestor. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University

Artist Carl Buell’s rendition of Protungulatum donnae, the common ancestor. Photo Credit: Stony Brook University

After compiling the extensive data, the scientists ran an algorithm that created a tree, part of an effort by the National Science Foundation (NSF) called the Assembling the Tree of Life program. From there, they were able to trace back to the placental mammal common ancestor and identify its features.

The creature they identified was between the size of a mouse and the size of a rat, with a white-colored underbelly and a darker back. It ate insects and had a fleshy nose, a full set of teeth and a long, furred tail, O’Leary said. An artist, Carl Buell, has since drawn a rendition of it.

This tree also provided evidence that placental mammals developed later than commonly thought.

Within the scientific community, there exists an ongoing discussion of ‘rocks vs. clocks’ in regards to whether fossil-based data or DNA-based data should be used in models to reconstruct the timeline of life.

The molecular clock method, which is DNA-based, purports that placental mammals came about before the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, which occurred some 65 million years ago. But the recently published study, based on fossils, concluded that, in fact, they did not develop until 36 million years later than genetic data alone had estimated.

And since the team’s findings were published in the journal “Science” on Feb. 8, 2013, there’s been a call from the public to come up with a more colloquial name to call Protungulatum donnae by.

“It’s something that we hadn’t thought about, but it’s come up a ton since the paper appeared,” O’Leary said.

She said that names will be solicited, perhaps via Twitter, and then voted on.

Houlihan said the initiative would likely launch in the next week or so, but at press time no definitive date was available.

The National Science Foundation is also funding a new project, which O’Leary is part of, to use crowdsourcing to allow the public to participate in research.

“The cry that anatomists keep coming back to is that our work takes so long and that’s why it’s hard to do,” O’Leary said. “The National Science Foundation thought ‘Is there anything we can try that’s big and bold to help change that?’ And in a workshop, this idea came up.”

Crowdsourcing is the concept of soliciting work or raising funds from a group of people, usually online. It is typically used for tedious work or to fundraise for projects.

The idea, O’Leary said, is to ask the public to complete small tasks, like scoring data and solving problems, much like the work she and her team did to trace back to the placental mammal common ancestor. The tasks are simple, but because there are so many of them, they can be rather time consuming.

The NSF is considering using Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing marketplace run by Amazon, according to O’Leary.

“You might get paid only one penny per task, but you might do a thousand of them and then you make a little money,” O’Leary said.

According to O’Leary, beta testing on the project should launch sometime next spring.

SBU police officer strikes pedestrian with patrol car

A Stony Brook Police Department cruiser is removed from a ditch near the Tabler Residence Quad after an officer struck a female student on the sidewalk. (ANUSHA MOOKERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

A Stony Brook Police Department cruiser is removed from a ditch near the Tabler Residence Quad after an officer struck a female student on the sidewalk. (ANUSHA MOOKERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

A University Police car struck Stony Brook student Brianna Bifone on the sidewalk near the Tabler West Bus Stop on Circle Road at 10:12 p.m. on Thursday while responding to an emergency call, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

The car continued into an embankment, pinning Bifone beneath the rear of the vehicle.

“According to eyewitness reports, the responding vehicle was traveling with its emergency lights activated when it struck a sidewalk which caused it to veer onto the opposite walkway, subsequently striking the student pedestrian,” Chief of Police Robert Lenahan said in a statement.

Daniel Wolbrom, chief of Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SBVAC), said Bifone’s legs were pinned beneath the car for about 30 minutes before she was extricated and moved to an ambulance.

Both Bifone and the police officer were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

Bifone is reported to be in fair condition, while the police officer, who sustained minor injuries, was treated and released from the hospital, Lenahan said.

The identity of the police officer has yet to be released.

The police officer was responding to a call regarding a “large group” at the Student Union when he struck the student, Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese said.

The accident is currently under investigation, but Zacarese said there was no reason to believe the police officer was under the influence at the time of the incident.

The police officer radioed for assistance and emergency vehicles from University Police, Stony Brook Fire Department, Setauket Fire Department, SBVAC and Suffolk County Police Department arrived on the scene.

Check back for updates to the story.

Jobs report: unemployment rate rose in October

Most students counting down the days to Thanksgiving break are looking forward to food, friends and sleep, but Marianna Savoca, director of the Career Center at Stony Brook, said that students hoping to secure an internship for the summer should use the break to jumpstart their plans.

“Be intentional about your Thanksgiving and winter breaks,” Savoca said in an email. “You can make connections and potentially interview while you are home, especially if you live far from campus and cannot do so during the school year.“

Savoca said that students should, at the very least, start to look over their resumés. If students see a gap in their experience, they can use the time during winter or spring break to participate in something that would improve their marketability.

According to a recent study by the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), 58.6 of employers who responded converted their class of 2011 interns into full-time employees and added that they expect to increase their internship hires in the next year.

Landing an internship, then, can be an important step toward entering one’s desired field after graduation, which many students worry about in the time of a slowly recovering economy.

In the latest jobs report, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Nov. 2, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9 in October as compared to 7.8 in September. The reason the unemployment rate increased, though, is a positive one—more people joined the labor force. Additionally, 171,000 jobs were added.

Last month’s unemployment rate was notable, as it dipped below eight percent for the first time in nearly four years. While many found that figure encouraging, there was speculation in the media that, perhaps, the numbers had been skewed to help President Obama before the election.

Michael Zweig, an economics professor and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at Stony Brook, said that the numbers were not illegitimate, though.

“It has nothing to do with the political needs of the administration,” Zweig said in a phone interview. “The BLS doesn’t operate that way and hasn’t operated that way for any president.”

In the latest report, the BLS also revised employment gains for August and September from 142,000 to 192,000 and 114,000 to 148,000 respectively. This, plus the fact that October’s unemployment rate remained at less than eight percent, indicates that the economy is continuing on its path to recovery, perhaps at an even faster rate than previously calculated.

“When they revise upward, it indicates that things are getting stronger faster than had earlier been anticipated,” Zweig said.

Savoca advised students to combat the relatively weak economy and land internships by simply starting to look for them.

ZebraNet, various job websites, professional associations, family and friends are all good resources when searching for internships, Savoca said.

“We have had several companies recruiting for next summer’s internships already,” Savoca said in an email, citing companies like GE Transportation, Google, Travelers Insurance and JPMorgan Chase.

Savoca said that an internship is an “opportunity to test-drive a career idea, apply what you’re learning in class to real world problems, hone your skills and learn new ones that are valued by employers, meet professionals in your field, acquire mentors, get recommendations for your future, and understand the field from the inside.”

And while the biggest, most competitive companies have already been recruiting, Savoca said that many more will continue to post job opportunities to ZebraNet or visit campus in the coming months and during the spring semester.

President Barack Obama re-elected for a second term

Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States on Nov. 6 with a total of 303 electoral votes, defeating Republican candidate Mitt Romney by carrying swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire. Complications have prevented key player Florida, however, from concluding which candidate won the state’s 29 electoral votes.

Accordingly, there is not yet an official word on the results of the popular vote. However, Obama led 60,193,076 (50.4 percent) to 57,468,587 (48.1 percent) as of press time. Obama carried 69 million popular votes to John McCain’s 59 million in 2008. The race, then, was much closer for Obama, who faced low voter enthusiasm and the nation’s frustration with slow economic recovery.

“Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president,” Obama, 51, said early Wednesday during his acceptance speech in Chicago. “And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”

Exit polls indicated that Obama garnered fewer votes from demographics like 18-29 year olds, blacks and Catholics than in the 2008 election. However, votes from Hispanics, Democrats and Asians ticked upward.

Romney dominated the male vote with 52 percent, while Obama took the female vote with 55 percent. Romney also won 59 percent of white voters, who this year cast 72 percent of total votes, the best a Republican candidate has done since 1988.

Although television networks like MSNBC, CBS and CNN projected that Obama had won the election around 11:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Romney waited until close to 1 a.m. on Wednesday to concede, after he and his staff had concluded that no recounting of close votes could declare him victorious.

“This election is over, but our principles endure,” Romney, 65, said during his concession speech in Boston. “I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to a renewed greatness.”

Regarding voter turnout overall, preliminary figures by the Associated Press demonstrated that more than 118 million people voted in the presidential race, although that figure will rise as ballots continue to be counted. According to the Federal Election Commission, 131 million citizens voted in 2008.

Another preliminary study out of George Mason University estimated the 2012 voter turnout rate to account for about 60 percent of all eligible voters. American University’s analysis found that turnout rates in states like New York and New Jersey were lower than normal because of superstorm Sandy, as the states are still struggling to recover. Estimates gauged that New Jersey’s voter turnout was 12 percent less than in 2008, while in New York the turnout was 15 percent lower.

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe,” Obama said in the conclusion to his speech. “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

On Wednesday, Obama returned to work by opening negotiations with Congress, which remained in Republican hands after the election, regarding the looming fiscal crisis.

Election 2012: Breaking down the economy issue

Each month since 1915, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an independent federal agency that measures labor market activity, has collected, analyzed and released information on the total number and characteristics of employed and unemployed Americans.

The agency surveys about 141,000 government agencies and businesses, which are representative of approximately 486,000 individual work sites, to gather data on the employment, hours and earnings of workers and releases it in a report, “The Employment Situation.”

The BLS considers someone unemployed if they do not have a job despite being available to work and have actively searched for a job in the four weeks preceding the survey.

When the number of people that are unemployed is divided by the number of people currently in the labor force (everyone older than 16 who is neither in an institution nor on active duty), the unemployment rate is calculated. Those who are not working but not looking for work are not considered part of the unemployed population.

The report also calculates how many jobs were added, and that figure, along with the unemployment rate, tends to get the most attention.

In the September report, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, dipping below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months, and 114,000 new jobs were added by employers. Employers have added an average of 146,000 jobs per month in 2012, compared to 153,000 in 2011.

How much the latest unemployment rate should be praised depends upon who you ask, but long term trends do demonstrate that the economy is improving. The change may be slow, but it is evident. Compared with a year ago, there are 1.94 million more people working. While there are no booming job openings, the nation isn’t really losing any, either. The average monthly employment growth is at about a break-even level to keep up with the natural increase in population.

But there are many other valuable data in the monthly reports, too, like the number of involuntary part-time workers and discouraged workers, or the tables that break down the numbers by race, age or educational attainment.

Additionally, the reports indicate more specific trends over time. Government employment, for example, has been on a downward trend, but the private sector has added jobs steadily. The health care industry is booming.

Those workers without high school diplomas are three times as likely to be unemployed as those with a bachelor’s degree. The unemployment rate for African Americans is also nearly double that of whites (13.4 percent versus 7 percent).

Forming an opinion on the state of the economy and who is best equipped to repair it, however, is difficult if the jobs numbers are not put into context; in 2008, the unemployment rate was 5 percent, and when President Obama took office in January of 2009 it was the same as it is now, 7.8 percent. In October of that year, the unemployment rate reached its peak at 10 percent.

Today, the price of gasoline, food stamp use, the federal debt and the rate of poverty are faring worse than when Obama took office. Comparatively, though, the levels of consumer debt, corporate profits and mortgage rates are better. The data are, across the board, mixed.

Both Obama and Romney’s campaigns have focused heavily on the economy, and both boast the ability to spur improvement. Generally, the Republican party is perceived as pro-business and pro-job creation. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, though, Democratic presidents have created more jobs per year than Republican presidents have.

Democratic presidents averaged 1.83 million jobs added per year over 40 years in office as compared to the Republican party, which added an average of 966,388 per year throughout 36 years in office.

Unemployment rates down, part-time employment up

In a struggling economy, simply finding a job can be more of a priority than finding a job that requires you to use your college degree or maximize your full potential.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) September jobs report, the unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 percent; this is the first time the rate has fallen to less than eight percent in nearly four years, arguably boosting President Obama’s potential for re-election. Additionally, employers added 114,000 jobs and, overall, the total number of people who said that they were employed rose by 873,000.

But while the report seems to demonstrate a step in the right direction, it’s important to recognize the finer implications.

The number of involuntary part-time workers, or persons employed part-time for economic reasons, rose to 8.6 million in September from 8 million in August.

“The general good news is more jobs and a lower unemployment rate,” Michael Zweig, a professor of economics and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at Stony Brook, said. “But then you look at what kind of jobs we are adding. There’s a big increase in involuntary part time employment.”

Many who need full-time work, the report suggests, are now taking part-time positions to avoid long-term unemployment.

The report also showed that the number of people unemployed for less than five weeks declined by 302,000 to 2.5 million, but the number of long-term unemployed people, 4.8 million, changed little.

These two figures suggest another trend, according to Zweig,

“When there’s an increase in employment, the most recently unemployed are hired back first,” Zweig said. “The people who have been unemployed long-term have an especially hard time returning. So if someone loses a job, they need to get a different job as fast as they can.”

While not an ideal situation, Marianna Savoca, director of the career center at Stony Brook, said that those students who recently graduated or are coming up on graduation should try to make their best of part-time positions.

“Use this part-time gig to establish yourself as a good worker and establish yourself by taking it seriously,” Savoca said. “You could miss out on an opportunity to showcase your professionalism, and you never know how that could work out for you in the long-term.”

She also said that if you take a job in an industry that is not related to your career intention, it is important to dedicate a few hours per week to some volunteer work in the area you’re looking to enter.

“It’s a small but significant opportunity for these young professionals to get exposure,” Savoca said. “There are communities you can help serve that will add to your résumé and connect you to good people and build your network. It’s important to understand that a service activity could be a better return investment for them than searching for jobs on monster.com”

Ultimately, Savoca said the cliché that “it’s all about who you know and who knows you” is true.

To find such opportunities, Savoca said that both students and alumni of Stony Brook should look at ZebraNet, an online tool provided by the Career Center that has both job or volunteer listings and a database of employers.

Even if jobs are not posted under the listings, Savoca said it is key to become familiar with the employer directory. From there, students or recent graduates have access to more than 7,000 employers who post their information.

“It’s a tool to learn more about what companies are out there,” Savoca said. “Go through the directory, learn about the companies, go to their websites, see if they have volunteer opportunities or even positions that aren’t in the job listings.”

In September alone, 640 jobs were posted to ZebraNet. Among those, 216 were full-time, entry-level positions, 160 were full-time experienced, 112 were part-time and 130 were internships.

Voter sign-up deadline nears

Ben DeAngelis, a regional campus supervisor for NYPIRG, is helping Stony Brook students register to vote for the upcoming presidential election. Taylor Bouraad/The Statesman

Election day, Nov. 6, is fast approaching and the window of opportunity to get involved is closing quickly.

According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), which conducts research on the political and civic engagement of young people out of Tufts University in Massachusetts, there are 46 million people ages 18-29 years old who are eligible to vote. That demographic makes up 24 percent of the eligible voting population in the United States.

In 2008, 51 percent of the youth voting population came out to vote, which was a 2 percent increase from the 2004 election numbers and an 11 percent increase from those of the 2000 election. While this number is low compared to the adult demographic, in 2008, 84 percent of young people who were registered to vote cast a ballot.

The key to improving the youth vote, then, is not encouraging the young to get to their polling place on election day; it is, rather, encouraging them to register and educating them on how to do so.

The deadline to register to vote in New York State is 25 days before the election, or, this year, Oct. 12.

Ben DeAngelis, regional campus

supervisor for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a non-partisan, student-directed research and advocacy organization, said that one of the most popular questions from students that he helps to register is whether or not to register under their Stony Brook University address or their home address.

DeAngelis said that he encourages people to register under their campus address. Students spend the majority of their year here, he argues, and it allows you to get your vote in more easily when you can walk to the Student Activities Center instead of sending in an absentee ballot or driving home.

But DeAngelis also said that by voting under their campus address, students can directly influence policies that affect the State University of New York system.

“There’s a real correlation between the politicians who invest in SUNY and the amount of young people registered in their districts,” he said. “The more students we register here, the stronger the message we send to local politicians that they’re accountable to students.”

However, DeAngelis stressed that the most important thing is simply voting in the first place.

“I don’t care who you vote for or what you vote on, just recognize that the election not just about presidents,” DeAngelis said. “It’s really important that people pay attention to all of the issues and all of the candidates, not just what they see on ‘The Daily Show.’”

 

Registering to vote

 

There are many ways to register to vote both in person and online. On campus, both the University Student Government office and the NYPIRG office distribute applications, and once they’re filled out the offices will mail or deliver them to the appropriate location for you. Additionally, the Stony Brook College Democrats register voters from a table in the SAC lobby most days.

Otherwise, you can go in person to your local County Board of Elections or Department of Motor Vehicles.

There are also many methods online. Two popular and user-friendly websites that register voters are rockthevote.org and vote411.org, a project of the League of Women Voters.

 

Knowing your candidates

 

There are many ways to educate yourself about the candidates, including visiting their official websites. But there are also websites that personalize and streamline the process for voters.

Vote411.org allows you to enter your address and then brings up a list of all the candidates that will appear on your ballot. From there, you can compare two candidates running for a position at a time by seeing their responses to questions about key issues side by side. Additionally, you can ‘choose’ your preferred candidate as you move through the varied positions, and then print out or email yourself a list of your choices to bring with you to the polls.

Alternatively, votesmart.org/voteeasy offers an interactive tool. You are prompted to answer questions on issues like abortion, immigration and education, and indicate how important each issue is to you. The tool also provides a short summary of why people generally agree with or object to the question at hand.

Meanwhile, the candidates are displayed at the bottom of the screen, and as you answer questions a percentage of “how similar they are to you” is calculated. At the end, you are given a ‘“best match.” You can then further explore information about the candidates, which ranges from their basic information to their voting records and campaign finances. The tool works for both presidential and state candidates.

Additionally, isidewith.com offers voters what is, essentially, a survey. There are a series of questions to answer and, again, you are prompted to put a weight on the significance of each topic. In the end, you are given results of how all the candidates stack up in comparison to you, measured by a percentage. The results also break down by percentage which parties you side with. Currently, though, the survey is only offered for presidential candidates.

PASS tutoring program expected to resume

Providing Academic Support to Students (PASS), a tutoring program run by the Undergraduate Student Government, will resume operations in the coming weeks, said Derek Cope, current vice president of academic affairs, who oversees PASS.

The program, which supplements various tutoring services on campus, was launched in 2007 to provide students with one-on-one assistance, but it only ran for a short time last year before operations stopped.

Adil Hussain told The Statesman in April that before he was elected to the position in the fall of 2011, his predecessor, Shamell Forbes, had depleted the program’s budget. This forced the program to be shut down because tutors could not be paid.

Cope said he believes that the $20,000 budget ran out prematurely because tutors were being dishonest about the number of hours they were with their students and were receiving weekly paychecks of $450.

Records of how Forbes used the budget and how tutors were misusing the program no longer exist, Cope said.

According to Cope, tutors get paid $15.00 per hour to work with up to three students, and each student can receive up to 10 hours of assistance per week.

As new vice president of academic affairs, Cope said he is trying to revise the bylaws of the program “to maximize the budget so that more students can get tutoring and the budget can last for a longer amount of time.”

This year’s budget for PASS, which is funded by the mandatory Student Activity Fee, is $30,000.

Cope said he plans to change the bylaws to decrease how many hours per week students can receive tutoring from 10 to three and pay for tutors $10 an hour instead of $15.

In addition to such changes, Cope said he plans to implement procedures to safeguard against continued dishonesty by tutors.

“Now there are going to be time sheets that each tutor has to fill out and the tutee has to sign,” Cope said, “and the student liaison will sit in and evaluate the tutor on a monthly basis to make sure they’re providing an adequate tutoring service and being truthful about the amount of hours they tutor.”

Cope also said that any tutors caught trying to cheat the bylaws would be fired.

If the USG Senate does not approve his proposal, Cope said that the current bylaws will have to remain in place. If that is the case, Cope will limit the number of students tutored each per week so that the budget lasts until May and PASS remains operational.

“It’s a limited budget of $30,000, which means $15,000 per semester,” Cope said. “If I pay the tutors $10 an hour, that means at max 90 hours of tutoring per week, which is only 30 students. It might have to come down to first come first serve.”

To qualify for the position, tutors must have received at least an A- in the course they wish to tutor or get a letter of recommendation from a professor who teaches the course.

Cope said that interviews for tutors have already been conducted, but none of the positions can be filled until the Senate approves them.

He also said that he has noticed a need for a tutoring center at SBU and is working to organize such a resource for students.

“As of now there is no center on campus that centralizes tutoring,” Cope said. “I have been meeting with Dr. Charlie Robbins, vice provost, and we are working on a project for that.”

Sandy Ren, a sophomore nursing major, said that she would like to see a centralized tutoring location on campus.

“I feel like it would be a lot easier if you could have people from each department in one location,” Ren said. “Then if you need physics and calculus tutoring, it’s in the same place instead of going all the way to different ends of the campus.”

Satabdi Sugandha, a sophomore English major, said that tutoring should be mandatory.

“Just one mandatory fifteen minute session,” Sugandha said. “Getting students there is the hardest part, but I think after that everything would flow and students would be doing a lot better.”

Students stay in school to avoid job market

Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a jobs report describing the current job climate. Christine Powell will analyze and contextualize the report each month for Stony Brook University students.

With the presidential election fast approaching, the data published last week in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, one of the most heavily weighed indicators of the state of the economy, have received increased attention.

The two pieces of information that tend to attract the most focus when the report is released are the unemployment rate and the number of added jobs.

August’s numbers, which were released on Friday, show that the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July.

However, the government only considers people unemployed if they have actively searched for work in the past four weeks, and the findings demonstrate that the percentage dropped because more people gave up their search for a job.

Employers also added 96,000 jobs in the month of August, according to the government. The average monthly employment growth for the year 2012 so far has been 139,000, compared to a monthly average of 153,000 in 2011. These two figures, however, are broad national averages and are not specifically applicable to college students.

The report also noted that many young people are staying in school to avoid the weak job market.

Marianna Savoca, director of the Career Center at Stony Brook University, said that in recent years, her office has seen an increase in the number of students pursuing a graduate degree.

“That’s an indicator that if college students are feeling pressure they decide to stay in school and wait it out,” Savoca said. “Our philosophy here in the Career Center is that waiting out the economy by attending grad school is not a good idea.”

A survey conducted in March by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a professional association that collects data about employment among college educated young people, showed that 32.7 percent of employers plan to hire more recent graduates this fall than they did last year, and 40.9 percent said they plan to hire the same amount—welcome news for those students feeling pressure.

While Savoca said that she encourages students to go to graduate school, they should only pursue higher degrees if doing so is purposeful, not to prolong entering the job market.

“While a graduate degree can be an aspect of a student’s marketability, marketability does not come only from a degree,” Savoca said.

Savoca also said that it is important to remember that each industry varies, and job opportunities and salaries are dependent on what industry students are looking to enter. This means, she said, that a higher degree does not necessarily lend to higher salary.

The average salary for a candidate with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is $79,923, according to Payscale.com. In comparison, the average salary for someone with a master’s degree in social work is $48,547, according to the website.

“A master’s degree does not always equal more money right away,” Savoca said. “Data shows that those with graduate degrees will earn more money over time, but it is entirely industry specific.”

Michael Zweig, a professor of economics and director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at SBU, said that despite the month-to-month variations of a weak and slow-recovering economy, the long-term trends show stable improvement.

“Let’s not get completely out of joint when something goes up or goes down in one particular month,” Zweig said.

The report also demonstrated that the labor force participation rate has dropped to 63.5 percent, which is a 31-year low. The labor force participation is a measure of the number of people who are in the labor force (those who are either employed or looking for employment) as a fraction of the population. Zweig said that the makeup of the population affects that number.

“As we’ve seen there is a larger fraction of young people who are in school compared to the past, and a larger fraction of the population is retired now because of the aging of the population and the baby boomers,” Zweig said. “It follows, then, because you’ve got growing fractions of the population who are not in the labor force, that you have fewer people as a percentage working, and that’s the number that you see.”

Solution for grant controversy

An ad-hoc committee created by the Undergraduate Student Government has come up with a partial solution to the controversy of the National Tournament Grant, which has been found by the senate to be unconstitutional.

The committee, consisting of senators David Adams, Corey Platt and Nicholas Ela, was unable to present its findings at last Thursday’s senate meeting due to time constraints but did publish them in the April 19 USG agenda.

The committee voted 2-1, with Adams opposing, to “create a National Event Grant that is open to all clubs, with different criteria than normal Event Grants,” according to its statement. The system of event grants has not been finalized.

Platt said they are “still trying to figure some of the details involved and what defines national.” The committee will be meeting Monday to come up with a final proposal.  The committee met with representatives from several clubs when making their decision.

The committee agreed that the “National” part of the grant must be defined in terms of size, scale or reputation and that each club should receive a limit of one National Event Grant a semester.

Each grant has a maximum of $3,500-$4,000, has maximum amounts for specific expenses and will fund a maximum of 80 percent of the trip.

Adams said he voted against creating the grant because he thought there did not need to be a special grant for national events and creating one would tie up the Senate.

The other options the committee had were to have everything covered by event grants and have all funding placed in the clubs’ line budgets.

“They had three options,” Women’s Soccer president Kathryn Michaud said. “The first one was the only one that would have been beneficial. The other two options would cause a lot of problems. The first option needs to have a few things changed though.”

The funding for the Grant would come from USG’s annual rollover budget, which is usually around $200,000, according to USG Treasurer Thomas Kirnbauer.

Numerous members of sport clubs and other clubs came to protest at the USG office last month, when the motion to strike the National Tournament Grant was proposed by Senator Jason Sockin.

The argument against the current grant was that its wording limited the National Tournament Grant to sport clubs, which violates the USG constitution by having separate funding criteria for different clubs.

“I do not agree on funding of up to 80 percent of the total cost,” said men’s soccer President Derek Cope, who attended the Thursday meeting, “because the cost can still be substantial.” He also said the funding amount should be about $1,500 greater.

“I agree that there should be a National Event Grant,” Cope said, “so that there is no preferential treatment.”

Students protest USG financial revisions

More than 60 students, mostly from sports clubs on campus, gathered outside of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Legislative Review Committee’s meeting on March 28 to protest a proposed revision to the Financial Bylaws.

The fourth revision the Senate has considered this semester would eliminate the National Tournament Grant in an attempt “to bring the Undergraduate Student Government into better compliance with its Constitution.” According to the Senate, the grant is unconstitutional because it establishes “separate criteria for club/organization funding based on the purpose of the entity.”

The protest was organized by CJ Kottuppallil of Seawolves Rugby, Derek Cope of Men’s Club Soccer and Kathryn Michaud of Women’s Club Soccer.

Senator David Adams said that the National Tournament Grant violates the USG Constitution and the laws of the State University of New York because it segregates sports and non-sports clubs. He called getting rid of the National Tournament Grant “the right thing to do.” He also pointed out this will not affect the clubs’ line budgets.

“I understand the clubs’ concern,” Senator Najee Simmons said.  Without the National Tournament Grant, clubs could only apply for an Event Grant of $1,500 maximum if the club’s budget is $10,000-1,000; $2,500 maximum if the club’s budget is $10,000.01-20,000; and $3,500 is the club’s budget is more than $20,000. Simmons said the grant needs to be removed because it is unconstitutional, but the separate Event Grant should be modified to allow sports clubs to make up for it.

“Personally I was opposed to [the legislation] completely,” USG President Mark Maloof said. “I’m happy that the clubs agree.”

The National Tournament Grant was implemented in September of last year, according to Executive Vice President Deborah Machalow. The revision was brought up by Senator Jason Sockin, who was not at the meeting.

After protestors stated their opinion, the Legislative Review Committee voted to table the bill until the senate could form an ad hoc committee to gather club input, which happened the next day.

The committee will meet with representatives and members from clubs and organizations to hear their concerns about the revision and willthen present its findings to the Senate on April 19. From there, the Senate will decide what to do about the revision.

Walking down the aisle before walking in graduation

While many students are focused on getting good letters of recommendation and internships in college, others might be planning a wedding.

Even though the Pew Research Center has found that marriage rates are down and marriage age has risen, for both men and women, there are couples who tie the knot before graduating. CNN reported that educated couples, with at least a bachelor’s degree, are more likely to have a happy, stable marriage.

At Stony Brook, couples and families can live in one bedroom apartments at Chapin and married graduate students and undergraduates can live at Schomburg. Couples with children can also take advantage of the day care. They can also send their older children to the Three Village School district, which transports children directly from Chapin.

According to Zhang Shen, 27, the university treats married and single students the same but a couple’s social network shrinks. He and his wife Chen, 25, a graduate student, spend most of their time together.

Michael Conrad, 25, also a graduate student said married life for him and his wife Joanne, 27, is different.

“It’s awkward,” Conrad said. “When you’re married, you go around as a couple pretty much.”

He also said there are less married couples and families at Stony Brook than at his old school, Montana State.  At Stony Brook, it can be hard to mingle with single students. Many undergraduate students said they would not consider marriage before graduation, or even know anyone who has gotten engaged or married at Stony Brook.

“I guess marriage is a time for when you graduate,” said Yaël Saint-Armand, a junior.

Some students hold off on marriage while in college because they are not ready to take on the bills.

“If I was ready financially,” junior Myles Cambell said, “I would consider it more so.”

But some people have a different perspective on money.

“You’ll never be financially sound,” said married junior Steven Sternfeld, 24, who lives off campus with his wife Penina, 23. “I think it’s much better to get married at a younger age.”

Sternfeld said younger people are “more malleable” and less set in their ways than those who get married in their late 20s or 30s.

Students on campus are often surprised to learn about their marital status.

“Usually people are shocked,” Sternfeld said.

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Field space protests come to a close with a letter from Stanley

A deal has been made in the ongoing fight to increase field space for students. The deal, which was reached on Thursday, will let student groups reserve the Three Village Soccer Club fields for free.

The fields, which once cost students $65 for each game and had to be reserved through Three Village Soccer Clubs, will now be reserved through the Department of Campus Recreation. In a letter, President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., wrote that all students who recently have paid to use the South Parking Lot Fields will be reimbursed.

Recently, issues were raised over the charging of Stony Brook students by Three Village Soccer for use of the South P fields for games, which involve students from other colleges. Matt Graham, a senior chemical and molecular engineering major and rugby player, who organized a rally last month with the USG to increase recreational field space, said “it’s what should have been done.”

The original revocable lease from 1982 states “at all other times than those designated… University Center (SBU) may use the designated areas noted… for its own purposes.”

Graham and Derek Cope, a junior health sciences major and president of the Men’s Soccer Club, presented a resolution to increase field space before the University Senate on Monday, Nov. 7, where it was met with unanimous approval. University Senate President Fred Walter said Graham and Cope “Did a wonderful job. No one can be opposed to field space for the students.”

“I don’t remember anyone objecting,” said Graham on his presentation. “They overwhelmingly understood the benefits if having field space, which you might think some people don’t. They know the students need things to do, especially out-of-state students far away from home.”

In a campus lifetime meeting on Tuesday, meetings with Three Village Soccer Club were discussed, as well as adding field space to the campus as part of future renovations.

“Everything is a tradeoff,” said Barbara Chernow, vice president of facilities, at the meeting. “We need access to our own fields and we need to build new ones.”

According to Graham, soon students will be able to schedule use of the fields for the spring, when the weather gets nicer.

“We’re all really excited about this and have already started to try to schedule games with other teams for the spring semester and are discussing the possibility of hosting a tournament,” said Kathryn Michaud, the Women’s Soccer Club president. “This is great news for our team as well as the other sports club teams.”

The tense situation between Three Village Soccer Club and Stony Brook has led to “unprofessional” moments, according to students. Cope described a situation where a Three Village Soccer Club employee stepped onto the field during a game to tell the Men’s Soccer Club to leave. The game, according to Cope, was delayed because the referee showed up late.

Mitch Pally, president of Three Village Soccer Club, said the team was aware of the time constraints and that the delay with the soccer club delayed the game that was supposed to take place on the field next. Both sides accused the other of poor behavior.

“I understand that Three Village is a separate organization from the school and they need to cover their costs for mowing and lining the fields in addition to paying the lease, but it doesn’t cost them any money for us to play there since the fields are already mowed and lined for the community members that play there,” Michaud said. “They shouldn’t be using Stony Brook University’s club teams to pay off their lease to Stony Brook University.”

“We are all really appreciative of the university officials working so hard to fight for students about this issue,” Graham said. The petition that has been circulating to increase recreational field space has received 3,300 signatures.

Mitch Pally did not comment on the deal.

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Kings Park Psychiatric Center diagnosed with haunting

It’s one of Long Island’s most famous haunted places, and it’s 20 minutes from Stony Brook. The abandoned King’s Park Psychiatric Center has all the makings of an urban legend. Deserted building? Check. Dozens of deserted, century-old buildings that used to house the insane? Check. Really creepy at night?

Definitely. The center was shut down in 1996, and not long after, rumors of ghosts, strange noises, and unaccounted-for psychopaths started popping up.
Trespassers have reported hearing screaming and yelling when walking by the buildings. There are also rumors that some patients had been “misplaced” while they were being transferred and are hiding out in the underground tunnels that connect the separate buildings. There have also been reports of a white figure with a red mouth and eyes.
A recent trip to the center in the middle of the night revealed no disembodied voices or apparitions, but the mood was definitely ripe for it. Armed with nothing but cell phone lights, it was revealed that windows had been shattered, walls had been covered in graffiti, and holes had formed in the roof. The photos did not come out clearly enough to reveal any ghosts, and no deep angry voices told the group to get out were heard when the recordings were played back. Because the buildings still contain asbestos, going to the Kings Park Psychiatric Center is ill-advised for health reasons and also illegal.
However, there will always be those who go to the center and insist it is haunted. On the Internet, there are several testimonies from visitors to the center. One claimed to hear footsteps and had the sensation of being watched while in one of the buildings.
Laura Leita, an urban explorer and Stony Brook University graduate, claims to have taken a picture that revealed a black object moving across a wall when it came out. Kings Park is a popular destination for these explorers, who document their experiences in abandoned buildings.
There may not be more reports of paranormal activity at Kings Park for much longer, as 15 buildings are set to be demolished. Already the state is looking for a (brave) demolition company for the jobs. Hopefully, they won’t run into any former patients.

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Sport clubs rally for more field space

Athletic teams, such as the women's lacrosse club and quidditch team, protested about the lack of available sports field space. (MAX WEI/THE STATESMAN)

“Four acres for 300+ clubs,” “This sign is bigger than our field” and “Don’t fence us in” were a few of the signs at Wednesday’s rally against the lack of available field space on campus and the fee that Three Village Soccer Club, which rents the South Parking Lot field, charges club sport teams for games.
The protest was organized by Matt Graham, a senior rugby player and former Undergraduate Student Government president, who has also circulated a petition to increase field space for club sport teams.
Graham said the main goal was to gain a sufficient amount of space for all students. He said the university has been “sympathetic toward our needs. They understand the benefits of having field space for more students. It’s up to them to solve the problem.”
He has also received help from the Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, and the presidents of the individual sport clubs.
One of the most common complaints among protesters was the lack of space available for club teams. Nicole Himmelwright, vice president of the women’s soccer club, said games and practices are hard to schedule. Practices are limited to two nights a week for club sports, and clubs must give up their field space when intramural teams are practicing.
Sean Corley of the Stony Brook quidditch team said he wanted the team to not have to practice behind the physics building anymore, which is on a tilt and surrounded by concrete, making practice unsafe.
Alexander Michel of the rugby club said, “We just feel, as sports clubs, we are underappreciated and not noticed.”
The other issue was the fee charged by Three Village Soccer to use the South Parking Lot fields.
“Stony Brook is inadvertently charging us,” said senior Michel St. Clair.
The South Parking Lot Fields have 15 acres of land, leaving club teams with four on campus. David Hairston, manager of intramural and sport clubs at the university, said Three Village has owned the fields since he started working at Stony Brook in 2005 and that the money from renting the South Parking Lot fields has helped pay for the lights on the Campus Recreation field. He said most field requests are processed in less than 48 hours.
The women’s lacrosse club had a full field in the South Parking Lot fields, but it had been turned into a parking lot without the team’s knowledge. “We could not reserve field space,” said Andi Burrows. Now, the team practices in the corner of the softball field.
David Song, a junior in the soccer club, pointed out that in addition to paying the fee to use the South Parking Lot fields, club sports must also pay for other expenses such as referees and gas, which come out of the clubs’ budgets.
“They are building a hotel, right?” said Rachel Amoako, who signed the petition, “I think we should be able to divide the space evenly.”
Hairston wrote that “any field space that will help our student groups thrive and have the University more visible in a positive light, would benefit the SBU community as a whole. However I am not sure if charging the students is the best alternative because some of these organizations do not have the money in their budget to afford the fees being charged by Three Village, which then leads to less programming opportunities.”
Three Village Soccer’s President, Mitchell Pally, said that the fee is only $65 for university clubs instead of the normal $100 fee, and that it is only charged for games because a team that is not affiliated with SBU or Three Village is using the fields, but it is free for the teams to practice and play pick-up games. He also said that Three Village has rented the land from the school for around 20 years and pays a $75,000 fee. Three Village also developed the land from a garbage dump and is responsible for its maintenance, according to Pally.
The petition was signed by 2,600 people. A video has been put up on YouTube by Graham under the title “Stony Brook University Field Space Petition.”

“Four acres for 300+ clubs,” “This sign is bigger than our field” and “Don’t fence us in” were a few of the signs at Wednesday’s rally against the lack of available field space on campus and the fee that Three Village Soccer Club, which rents the South Parking Lot field, charges club sport teams for games.
The protest was organized by Matt Graham, a senior rugby player and former Undergraduate Student Government president, who has also circulated a petition to increase field space for club sport teams.
Graham said the main goal was to gain a sufficient amount of space for all students. He said the university has been “sympathetic toward our needs. They understand the benefits of having field space for more students. It’s up to them to solve the problem.”
He has also received help from the Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, and the presidents of the individual sport clubs.
One of the most common complaints among protesters was the lack of space available for club teams. Nicole Himmelwright, vice president of the women’s soccer club, said games and practices are hard to schedule. Practices are limited to two nights a week for club sports, and clubs must give up their field space when intramural teams are practicing.
Sean Corley of the Stony Brook quidditch team said he wanted the team to not have to practice behind the physics building anymore, which is on a tilt and surrounded by concrete, making practice unsafe.
Alexander Michel of the rugby club said, “We just feel, as sports clubs, we are underappreciated and not noticed.”
The other issue was the fee charged by Three Village Soccer to use the South Parking Lot fields.
“Stony Brook is inadvertently charging us,” said senior Michel St. Clair.
The South Parking Lot Fields have 15 acres of land, leaving club teams with four on campus. David Hairston, manager of intramural and sport clubs at the university, said Three Village has owned the fields since he started working at Stony Brook in 2005 and that the money from renting the South Parking Lot fields has helped pay for the lights on the Campus Recreation field. He said most field requests are processed in less than 48 hours.
The women’s lacrosse club had a full field in the South Parking Lot fields, but it had been turned into a parking lot without the team’s knowledge. “We could not reserve field space,” said Andi Burrows. Now, the team practices in the corner of the softball field.
David Song, a junior in the soccer club, pointed out that in addition to paying the fee to use the South Parking Lot fields, club sports must also pay for other expenses such as referees and gas, which come out of the clubs’ budgets.
“They are building a hotel, right?” said Rachel Amoako, who signed the petition, “I think we should be able to divide the space evenly.”
Hairston wrote that “any field space that will help our student groups thrive and have the University more visible in a positive light, would benefit the SBU community as a whole. However I am not sure if charging the students is the best alternative because some of these organizations do not have the money in their budget to afford the fees being charged by Three Village, which then leads to less programming opportunities.”
Three Village Soccer’s President, Mitchell Pally, said that the fee is only $65 for university clubs instead of the normal $100 fee, and that it is only charged for games because a team that is not affiliated with SBU or Three Village is using the fields, but it is free for the teams to practice and play pick-up games. He also said that Three Village has rented the land from the school for around 20 years and pays a $75,000 fee. Three Village also developed the land from a garbage dump and is responsible for its maintenance, according to Pally.
The petition was signed by 2,600 people. A video has been put up on YouTube by Graham under the title “Stony Brook University Field Space Petition.”

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Amazing Race with Stony Brook style

On Saturday, Stony Brook held its own version of the “The Amazing Race” as a resident assistant social. The event was organized by James College resident assistant Charlie Stoll, who put together a “Survivor” competition last year.

The event began in H Quad with 10 teams of two people. One person from each team would participate in three of six separate events in each quad, and the event ended with a challenge that both team members had to complete in the West Apartments.

The first event, “Counting Cards,” involved counting face cards on poster board displayed throughout H Quad. Freshman Mona Tsu-Tsui and sophomore Jeanette Tang of the White Team completed this challenge first and were then off to Mendelsohn to find two hidden pumpkins.

“I’m very confident, though everyone has a bike, I’ve got a secret weapon,” Tang said.

Although the White Team had a lead, the Black Team, comprising sophomores Chris Jordan and Brandon Blair, passed them on bikes as they were on the way to the next event at Roth Pond.

There was a delay in starting the Roth Pond water relay, so Blair and Jordan were awarded a five minute time bonus. They were followed by the White Team, then the Orange Team, freshmen Shannon Hehary and Russel Amore. Lucia Kolodiuk and Mike Penn, both freshmen on the Green-Blue Team arrived next, trailed by Team Fire, composed of freshman Melisa Terrill and sophomore Nicole Bansen, who is a Statesman staff writer.

The next event was a free shot at the Tabler basketball court, which left the Black team in the lead, then Orange and White. However, the next event at Roosevelt cost a large amount of time for all those involved. Answering a question wrong would take both team members, who were allowed to work together, down a path which they would not realize was the wrong one until the end.

The Black Team was the first to get to Kelly, where its members had to complete a riddle challenge. They were followed by the Green-Blue Team.

The final challenge, to be completed by both teammates at the West Apartments, was a “Minute to Win it” event that involved stacking index cards and plastic cups, then pulling out the cards so that the cups would fall on top of each other. This was the point where all other teams could catch up, making it anyone’s race.

In the end, the Black Team finished in fourth place, and were awarded “Night Owl” T-shirts donated by the Student Union. Third place winners Katelyn Gilbert and Peter Millien of the Red Team were given SBU water bottles from the Campus Bookstore. Team Fire won the second place prize, two $25 Barnes & Noble gift cards. The first place prize, two $50 Walmart gift cards, went to freshmen Raynell Carrido and Katrina Feri.

“It’s really cool,” Feri said. “I didn’t expect there to be so many different challenges.”

Stoll thanked the Residence Hall Directors for their $300 dollar donation to the event, Walmart, the Faculty Student Association and the Student Union for the prizes they donated, and all the resident assistants and students who volunteered to help with the race.

“It was a pretty good idea,” said Johnathan Mignola, a volunteer. “I give props to Charlie for coming up with it.”

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