University policies regarding sexual assault and harassment cases remain largely unclear for students

13120678-Sexual Harassment Poster-11x17_Layout 1By Arielle Martinez and Kelly Zegers

Although Stony Brook University received recent praise and a $270,000 grant in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Justice for its policies on sexual harassment, the university has several possible procedures and departments for dealing with sexual assault and harassment cases. This creates a confusing process, as The Statesman discovered after reviewing each of the university’s policies on the matter.

There is no definite punishment in cases of sexual harassment and assault. According to the university’s Student Conduct Code, the sanction is usually suspension from the university. However, Matty Orlich, the director of University Community Standards, said in an email that the sanctions listed in the “Disciplinary Sanctions” section of the Student Conduct Code apply to all violations of the code and are not specific to sexual harassment or assault. These sanctions include verbal warning, written warning, restitution, special restrictions or loss of privileges, disciplinary probation and expulsion.

Stony Brook has also made several recent changes regarding who handles complaints under Title IX, which protects people from discrimination based on sex under any education program receiving federal funds. The university announced June 5 that Raúl Sánchez, the former senior director for Title IX and Risk Management, will be replaced by Marjolie Leonard, the interim director of Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action (ODAA), after Sánchez was in the position less than a year.

Sánchez’s predecessor as Title IX coordinator was Christina Vargas, who was the director of ODAA for 12 years before becoming the affirmative action officer at Suffolk County Community College a year ago.

Sánchez was out of his office on April 30, May 5, May 13 and May 14 when The Statesman contacted his office requesting information on Title IX. He also did not reply to emails from The Statesman.

“My job is not to investigate or to judiciate,” Leonard said of her new position. “It’s just to oversee the Title IX process and to work with the different departments that handle complaints.”

Furthermore, the university places several limitations on a complainant’s role in the internal procedures. SBU’s Complaint Procedure for Review of Allegations of Unlawful Discrimination/Harassment states that during investigation proceedings, “the parties shall not employ audio or video taping devices,” even though New York state has a “one-party consent law” under which a person can record any conversation in which he or she participates.

The ODAA’s Discrimination Complaint Procedure states that “legal counsel retained by a Complainant or a Respondent may not participate or be present at any meeting convened by ODAA.” The handbook also states: “Although repeated incidents would create a strong claim of discrimination, a serious isolated incident can present sufficient grounds for corrective action.”

However, it does not specify what counts as a “serious isolated incident.”

How the university handles sexual harassment and assault reports

Leonard, the interim senior director for Title IX and Risk Management, said via email that ODAA investigates all incidents “as appropriate.”

She continued, adding that when possible and appropriate, ODAA collaborates with University Community Standards and Employee and Labor Relations “to minimize the amount of time the complainant has to repeat his/her story.”

If the alleged culprit is a student, the complaint is addressed by University Community Standards. Employee and Labor Relations deals with instances in which the alleged culprit is a faculty member or an employee, according to Leonard.

Students and employees of the university also have the right to file sexual assault and harassment complaints with outside enforcement agencies, such as the state Division of Human Rights, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“A person may opt to file a complaint through the university’s internal procedure and pursue the matter outside the university simultaneously,” Leonard said.

Assistant Chief of Patrol Eric Olsen said when a victim goes directly to the police, University Police Department detectives investigate the report and then consult the complainant about his or her options under Title IX. If the complainant wants to pursue criminal charges, UPD then contacts the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. However, UPD does not make decisions regarding sanctions under SBU’s internal procedure.

“We just collect the facts and forward them to the Title IX coordinator, basically,” Olsen said.

Seventeen forcible sexual offenses were reported on the Stony Brook campus in 2012—four more than in 2011 and 10 more than in 2010, according to UPD’s 2013 Annual Security and Fire Report. According to Olsen, the annual report includes crime reports that have not been already been proven to be unfounded.

Smita Majumdar Das, the assistant director of the Center for Prevention and Outreach, said that more reports do not mean more cases.

“What is happening to these people is not reported, and nationally the rate really sees 5 percent of victims come out and report, leave alone the law enforcement,” she said. “Community rate is 13 percent of cases get reported, so in college reporting is even more depressed, so I would say the better education, more prevention messages, more victims feel that what happened to them—they were not held responsible, more people will start identifying this as a crime that was perpetrated against them and will seek out more services. And part of seeking out more services is reporting what’s going on.”

Majumdar Das said if a student initially goes to CPO after a case of sexual assault, he or she does not have to report it to the Title IX coordinator, as CPO and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provide prevention education and confidential counseling services.

“We do not set policies, and we do not directly report to Title IX either because, being counselors, we are not mandated to report this to Title IX,” she said. “But what we do do is when we are talking about education and doing any programming for students, we talk about Title IX, we talk about our sexual misconduct policy, we talk about how to initiate a report, which office to call and what to do and what the report can look like.”

Victims of sexual assault and harassment can also contact Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS) for counseling, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at the University Hospital can provide medical forensic examinations after an assault.

What students know

Students who were asked if they know what Title IX is were either unsure of its meaning or knew it involved protection based on sex—no one interviewed by Statesman reporters knew of its protection from discrimination in the forms of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

Those interviewed said they thought students should be more educated about how to respond to a case of sexual harassment or sexual assault and provided varied answers about where to go or who to contact.

Some students said they would contact the University Police Department while others suggested they would go to the hospital depending on the situation as well as CAPS and CPO if they felt that they needed psychological support.

Freshman chemistry major Sadqa Jamal said there should be more times in a year in which the university informs students on where to go and what to do.

Ilgon Choi, a freshman business major, said he knew students were informed about sexual assault during orientation, but that he did not remember what was said.

“I feel like people do tell us, we just don’t really listen, because I’ve heard of stuff to help you, but I just never paid attention,” he said.

Alyssa Coiro, a sophomore political science and U.S. history major, said that as an a member of the women’s basketball team, she knows about the sports end of Title IX and that the athletics department has resources to keep athletes informed.

Coiro said she knows “a little bit” about sexual harassment and assault because of the athletics department but added, “if I were a regular student, I don’t think I would know what I just said, which is very little.”

“I think there should be a standard about how to handle these situations,” Coiro said when told how the university responds to cases. “There’s like gray areas, there’s a lot of room for error, I think, so I definitely think there should be a standard.”

PhD student in hispanic languages Coral Rivera said, “It has to happen to you, I guess, for you to understand what kind of harm, any kind of violence happens to you, so if they don’t consider it a big thing, it doesn’t matter how you feel because they’re going to make another decision.”

“There are lots of issues here, but yes, students at [Stony Brook] should certainly have clarity on policies and their reporting options,” Susannah Pasquantonio, Policy Analyst and Community Liaison for the office of New York State Sen. Liz Krueger wrote via email when told of the confusion students face. “And to clarify – the university may have its own set of policies and disciplinary actions, but if a student commits a crime, he/she is not exempt from legal consequences (though we know there is great under-reporting in cases of sexual assault).”

The New York State senate passed Sen. Krueger’s bill to protect interns from sexual harassment and discrimination on June 18.

Commencement 2014

The Class of 2014 was honored at the 54th Annual Commencement of Stony Brook University on Friday, May 23, 2014 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Approximately 5,916 students will join the Stony Brook alumni community following this year’s commencement, according to a press release from the Stony Brook University Office of Media Relations. President Samuel L. Stanley, Sen. Charles Schumer, and Dean Jerrold Stein were among the speakers of the ceremony, along with student speaker Ali Syed. Both Stein, who announced his retirement earlier this semester after 38 years at Stony Brook and Syed, who is graduating, reflected on the growing Seawolf community and the sentiment of what being a Seawolf is and all that it meant to them in their years at Stony Brook.

“Some of you will create companies, perform life-saving surgeries and become award-winning journalists,” said Syed. “But just remember, we are the Seawolves who forged our own paths, rather than walking on the open ones. Let’s not stop that tradition.”

See our video and gallery below to relive this year’s May Commencement.

#gradschoolproblems: Graduate students in need of a more competitive salary

The Graduate Student Organization during a monthly meeting to discuss issues. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

By Tomasz Bakowski and Anusha Mookherjee 

It is an exciting time at Stony Brook University. With the SUNY 2020 and Project 50 Forward initiatives coupled with the transformative Simons gift, Stony Brook is poised to grow by leaps and bounds. The current plans at Stony Brook are to increase the faculty by 250-300 people over the next few years. 

As touched upon in the piece on graduate student housing, this massive expansion would also result in a large expansion of graduate student enrollment. But there remain many questions. We have already asked “Where will they live?” in our previous piece, but now we must ask and even more basic question: “How will they live?”

Graduate students have a mixed role—that of student and employee. During the length of their doctoral studies, which typically take between five to seven years, they depend on salaries or stipends to live and eat. When a graduate student first enrolls, they are guaranteed nine months of funding, which is paid directly by the Graduate School. 

In return for the stipend support, and in addition to any classes or research they perform, graduate students serve as teaching assistants. After the first year, typically, a graduate student must find a professor or Principal Investigator (PI) who will fund them. As such, it is necessary that graduate students have a conversation with their prospective thesis adviser to guarantee that they have the funds to support them for the duration of their studies. 

This money come directly from research grants awarded to professors and is administered by the Research Foundation, the SUNY organization responsible for administering grants. Students in the humanities often continue to be supported by teaching assistantships.  

All graduate students are guaranteed a minimum level of funding support. This level was set at $15,145 for teaching assistants (TA) and research assistants (RA) for at least half a decade. Compared to other universities, both public and private in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), Stony Brook ranked near the bottom of the bottom third in terms of minimum stipend support. 

Only in January 2013 did the minimum finally increase to $17,145. This raise was automatically applied to all TAs by the Graduate School; however, the minimum increase only applied for new grants, resulting in an increase in pay only for new RAs. Graduate student RAs on already funded and budgeted grants were not guaranteed any increase. 

The administration planned on continuing to increase the minimum stipend levels by $1000 per semester through the end of the 2014/2015 academic, up to a level of $20,145.  An increase to that level would have increased Stony Brook’s ranking among AAU universities near the average from several years ago. Unfortunately, even this plan has not been followed through on by the administration, despite many promises made to the graduate student leadership.

 Money budgeted for TA stipend increases was instead utilized to pay for mandatory faculty salary raises as negotiated by the United University Professions (UUP), the faculty union. Currently there is no concrete plan offered by the administration for when the minimum stipend increases will be reinstated. 

Graduate salaries vary tremendously at the department level and even between labs in the same department, with differences of over $10,000 over the course of a year between students in the same department. Some students are paid better with individual departments and PIs offering salaries significantly higher than the required minimums; however, this is not guaranteed. 

Many graduate students work for near the minimum, with many students in the social sciences and humanities being affected the most. This creates an extremely large disparity in the quality of graduate student life on campus, with some faring significantly better than others while performing similar work. Increasing the minimums would help to alleviate the economic disparity and hardship faced by hundreds of students. 

The cost of living on Long Island is over 30 percent higher than the national average. Despite this, the graduate student stipends offered to many are still below those offered at many other research universities. This forces graduate students with stipends near the minimum levels to often live paycheck to paycheck,  barely being able to afford housing and food. As the university continues its expansion, we must be wary of the costs of growth. Although increasing faculty hires by nearly 300 is a lofty goal, it is important to remember the costs attached to that goal. More faculty means more graduate students. This will only cause more pressure on an already cracked system that barely holds up students today. 

The university should aim not just for quantity, but focus on increasing quality as well. Long term growth should be measured by not just numbers, but the productivity of the departments and ability to match higher institutions outside the lab. 

Areas such as the cost of living and inflation, should be factored into the salaries given to students. Some have argued for stipends to be decreased or minimums reduced. The reasoning behind such an argument is twofold. First, if more students are willing to work for less to earn their doctorates, then they should be allowed to.

The incentive for faculty is that they are able to increase the quantity of students working for them for the same amount of money. Second, if students are paid less than the required minimum, they do not receive tuition waivers from the Graduate School because they are considered part-time graduate students. Therefore, it is argued that their should be no limits so as to not force students to pay for tuition as well.  

Arguments for not raising, or worse, decreasing minimum stipend levels for graduate students are insincere. Minimum graduate student support levels serve multiple important purposes, and should only be increased. First, they allow graduate students to have a decent standard of living during their graduate studies, allowing them to focus on their research, rather than stress and worry over whether there is enough money to eat. 

Second, increased graduate student support levels attract competitive, quality applicants. This would only benefit the university in the long run by creating a workforce capable of producing higher quality research and academic papers. Third, increased support levels change the financial incentive for departments and PIs by encouraging them to focus on quality of students rather than quantity. With finite resources, departments are forced to be more selective in those who they admit into their programs. This only benefits all parties involved as the students who enroll are more committed to their work, PIs gain a higher quality student pool, and the university increases its reputation for research excellence.

As the university grows and climbs in ranks as a research institution, it is vital to keep long term goals of growth in mind. Though in theory hiring hundreds of new faculty is an admirable and worthy endeavor, it must be done responsibly. The reality of the situation is more graduate students will be put into financial situations that will only take away from the quality of research and learning at Stony Brook University. 

Tomasz Bakowski is a fifth year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering. Former Speaker of the Senate and Vice President of the Graduate Student Organization. For his PhD work, he is working on better understanding the physics of DNA molecules under confinement on the nanometer-scale.

#gradschoolproblems: Got Advising? A lack of advising puts SBU grad students behind

(ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

The Graduate Student Organization serves as a forum for public debate and advances the interests of graduate students, according to its website. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

By Tomasz Bakowski and Anusha Mookherjee 

The average graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. spends around six years of his or her life working towards obtaining a doctorate.  After expending such tremendous time and effort, newly minted doctors often find themselves asking, “what’s next?” With a lack of structure and appropriate advising within the graduate departments at Stony Brook University, for many, the answer remains muddled. 

Many graduate students do not seriously consider what their employment opportunities would be during their graduate studies and often find academic positions unavailable, alternative careers that they are unprepared for, or worse still, unaware of entirely.  A significant part of this disconnect stems from the deficiencies in academic advising, that are reinforced by the structure and culture of graduate school. 

When one decides to join a department as a new graduate student, one works independently to find a position within the department. Generally, prospective students, if they come for a visit before they accept the offer, are advised to have in mind two or three professors or principal investigators (PI) who they would be interested in working with and contacting them before accepting an offer of admission. Most departments at Stony Brook offer funding for the first nine months of one’s graduate career, starting when you arrive until around the first week of June. At that point, one needs to have found a PI willing to take on and pay a new graduate student in their lab. 

It is often advised among graduate students that one picks a lab/PI with a good or mediocre project, but a helpful and concerned PI rather than a possibly amazing project with an uninvolved PI. In the end, the exact content of one’s thesis does not matter as much as the “fit” between student and adviser given the close working relationship necessary over the course of a five-plus year project. 

However, advising goes beyond getting help in obtaining a degree. Any degree is useless if a student does not have a place to apply his or her education. In terms of career advising, there is no assigned “mentor.” Rather, one’s PI serves a multi-functional role as your thesis adviser, employer and mentor all in one. 

Discussing future career opportunities with one’s adviser can be hit or miss. Professors are trained to be good academic researchers, and, as a result, typically are only capable of advising and training their students to pursue a similar academic career path, however, the number of available academic jobs has been steadily diminishing for decades. While many PI’s take a vested interest in the employment outcomes and placement of their students, others play an absentee role in their advising roles. Others still do not entertain discussions of careers outside of academia, with an academic culture still occasionally viewing such paths as “lesser.” Furthermore, every department within the graduate school is independent of the others, so the requirements for and quality of advising and mentorship in each program varies widely as well. 

During the course of a Ph.D., graduate students are either unaware of or unable to pursue internship opportunities. There is little incentive for PIs to allow their students to pursue internships. While they can directly broaden and improve career prospects for current students, internships pull students from their primary job: research. That puts pressure on PIs who would face an economic and productivity loss.

Many newly minted Ph.Ds go on to postdoctoral positions. In theory, one utilizes a postdoctoral position to broaden one’s research experience and potential by working in a new institution and laboratory, and after two to three years finding a tenure track academic position. The reality of the situation is much more dire, with many young researchers toiling away for over half a decade through multiple post-docs for barely twice the pay of a graduate student, in what many have recognized as form of disguised unemployment.  Fewer than one in five Ph.Ds in postdoctoral positions find tenured faculty positions. 

The National Science Foundation compiles data highlighting the employment problems of Ph.Ds in the sciences through their Survey of Earned Doctorates illustrating that less than 40 percent of students have committed jobs at graduation with large increases in the percentages of students either pursuing post-doctoral positions with unclear results or worse, remaining unemployed. 

 A significant part of the problem regarding Ph.D advising and employment rests on prospective students themselves. Many incoming students do not have a clear career goal as to why they are seeking an advanced degree. When asked, many students claim that they will either pursue a career in academia or “industry”— an ambiguous term that fails to appreciate the many distinct career paths outside of academia often titled as “alternative careers.” This results in unmet expectations and unclear answers.

The importance of preparing oneself for a broad range of career opportunities has started to become more obvious to many graduate students, with students beginning to work together to educate themselves on the possibilities out there.

One graduate student club, The Graduate Career Association, has organized dozens of seminars, panels of alumni and networking sessions.

The Graduate School and Career Center at Stony Brook have only in the past few years began to truly recognize the depth of the advising and employment problems faced by graduate students, starting to attempt to address them. 

These initiatives include organizing more events catered specifically to graduate student career opportunities, highlighting resume building and starting a new office within the graduate school, the Integration of Research, Education and Professional Development (IREP). The graduate school also hopes to have all students begin to plan and fill out their own Individual Development Plans (IDP), modeled on those available at http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/, to help students set short and long terms goals related to their professional careers, whether they be inside or outside academia. 

Such initiatives led by both student organizations and the Graduate School should be applauded. However, much more needs to be done to start setting career expectations for graduate students. 

One recommendation would be to have graduate students have additional mentors, not associated with their thesis advisers, focused primarily on discussing professional and career goals. This would allow students multiple perspectives and help guide students more effectively during their studies.

Another important change would be to require graduate students to take writing courses focusing on writing for non-expert audiences. Going one step further, including broader communication courses in the curriculum for all graduate students would be a boon for all involved parties. 

These courses could be modeled after those offered by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science’s curriculum. It would help students not only become better presenters of their own scientific work, which bolsters their lab’s and the university’s reputation, but also better communicators to non-experts and future employers. 

Finally, the university should establish a centralized way to track student employment outcomes and placement post-graduation. Publishing this data for the use of current students, and even advisers, would be of immense value. Currently, any tracking of outcomes is done at best at the department level or at the level of individual labs or groups. At worst, not at all. This is a huge untapped resource for potential networking for current students and resource for hosting more career events on campus. 

Changing the academic culture is also important. Faculty and administrators must come to appreciate the fact that according to the NSF’s own statistics less than 14 percent of Ph.Ds will end up in tenure track positions more than five years after graduation.

“Alternative careers” is a misnomer. Non-academic career paths are not the alternative, but rather what the majority of graduates will pursue. Academic careers are the alternative, and in many places they are very hard to even obtain. Incoming and current students must also more seriously ask themselves why they want to obtain an advanced degree and how it will benefit their careers. 

If we intend on being a top tier research university, we cannot maintain the status quo when it comes to graduate education, training, and advising. The realities of the job market demand that students are prepared to tackle a wide range of career opportunities outside of traditional academia. Expectations need to be set, programs need to be improved and information needs to shared more widely. 

Tomasz Bakowski is a fifth year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering. Former Speaker of the Senate and Vice President of the Graduate Student Organization. For his PhD work, he is working on better understanding the physics of DNA molecules under confinement on the nanometer-scale.

Strawberry Fest 2014

During this last full week of the semester, one of the final Stony Brook traditions took place in the Academic Mall: Strawberry Fest. Strawberry-inspired foods were served at different stations, from the traditional strawberry shortcake to the not-so traditional strawberry-jalapeño salsa with nachos. Diversity Day also takes place every year during Strawberry Fest to add more color to this favorite Stony Brook tradition. Check out the gallery below as we officially welcome spring on campus!

Roth Regatta 2014

Stony Brook University celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary of Roth Pond Regatta. This year’s theme was “Video Games.” Take a look at our video and gallery below to see how students participated in the annual SBU tradition.

Allison Zelnick: from the pool to the court

(PHOTO CREDIT: FRANK L. FUMELLI)

Zelnick, who was captain of the Women’s Swimming & Diving team, now plays on the university’s Women’s Volleyball team. (PHOTO CREDIT: FRANK L. FUMELLI)

By Kyril Kotlovsky and Polina Movchan

When Stony Brook University’s swimming pool closed in Fall 2012, many swimmers, including team captain Allison Zelnick, were left in disarray about their futures.

“How can I describe how we felt…anger, depression, betrayal?” Zelnick wrote on her blog. “We all understood what happened, but no one could suppress these feelings. At that moment, everyone on my team had to accept that they were now retired swimmers.”

The decision to close the pool and discontinue the men’s and women’s swimming programs came in two phases. The pool was initially drained in the summer of 2012 with the intention of renovation, thus cancelling the 2012-2013 season and redshirting the whole team. Zelnick described the pool as being, “old, and full of problems,” which hurt the school recruiting-wise.

The plan was to rent out external facilities so the team could keep practicing, with the intention of competing the following year. However, when Stony Brook’s Emergency Relief Fund was cut in half—from $200 million to $100 million—the $10 million cost to repair the pool moved down on the university’s list of priorities.

A subsequent inspection from the National Collegiate Athletics Association revealed that the pool did not meet code and safety regulations, requiring a completely new facility. This left the teams without a home turf for the foreseeable future.

In a statement to the student body, Stony Brook’s Office of External Relations wrote: “For swimming or diving student-athletes who choose to stay at Stony Brook, we will honor all current athletic scholarships and will continue to receive academic support and student-athletes’ welfare services. For any swimming or diving student-athletes who wish to pursue the opportunity to transfer to another institution, we will support their unconditional release.”

These developments also came during a difficult time for the program. Dave Alexander, the founder of the women’s swimming program at Stony Brook and coach of 32 years, died of cancer that same summer. The team had just made the jump from Division III to Division I the year before.

“There are swimmers who came here as freshmen who have never swam, and don’t know the legacy of Dave or the team,” Ellen Driscoll, Stony Brook’s assistant dean of Students, said.

Although the team was aware of Alexander’s condition, they were distraught nonetheless. “I really felt like I needed to carry on his ideals as captain,” Zelnick said. She described Alexander as “the glue that held the team together.”

Unable to swim for the first time since grade school, Zelnick said she was filled with a void. She had come off a strong sophomore year, where she was named the team’s most valuable player and set school records for the 200, 400 and 800-yard freestyle relays.

“When I heard the news that my swimming career was over, I walked outside the sports complex and cried in the stadium parking lot for a good hour,” Zelnick said. “I felt betrayed. I had finally put my whole heart into swimming and it just seemed like it was ripped away from me. I had dreams where I was swimming and getting the cuts I wanted for months, and then I would wake up crying because they weren’t real.”

Zelnick’s boyfriend, fellow swimmer Hajime Ichikawa, graduated from SBU in 2013 with a degree in health science. He described Zelnick as a fun-loving individual who enjoys video games and anime, but also a great competitor and teammate.

“As an athlete she was competitive and very motivated,” he said. “She cared about the team and wanted everyone to get better. She trained hard and set the bar high. She was a great role model and a leader.”

Ichikawa said that Zelnick was angry that the swimmers were informed of their future so late in the semester.

“She was heartbroken and was not sure what to do with her career,” he said. “She had an identity crisis and wanted to transfer because she had many more swimming goals she had not reached yet.”

“I think Allison had the strongest reaction to losing the pool,” her teammate, senior business management major Joseph Zhu, said. “She was one of the few people to really fight for the return of the pool by organizing petitions and raising awareness in the community.”

Zelnick ultimately decided to stay at Stony Brook.

“I was already a junior, and transferring in the spring would have meant losing a majority of my credits,” she said. “I wouldn’t be that great at swimming anyway, because I would have been out of the pool for so long.”

The following spring presented Zelnick with a new opportunity—during a weightlifting and running session in her junior year, she describes being recruited by volleyball coach Coley Pawlikowski, who offered her a spot on the Women’s Volleyball team.

“She said they had experiences with training new athletes,” Zelnick said. “She didn’t care if I had no prior experiences, and she was willing to train me at my own pace with no expectations. I said yes right away, even when she told me to think about it.”

Zelnick joined the volleyball team with the understanding she would mostly be a bench player and could use her height and athleticism to help the other girls learn better defense techniques during practice. But she said she was simply thrilled to be part of an athletic program once again.

Zelnick’s new teammates recognized how difficult the transition from one sport to the next must have been for Zelnick.

“Taking on a completely new sport had to be incredibly tough and I think she handled it well,” captain Lo Hathaway said. “She tried her best every day to do something that had been completely foreign to her.”

Hathaway also described Zelnick as a “very determined hard worker” who “always cheered everyone on and kept her spirits high for her teammates.”

The team struggled under first-year Pawlikowski, starting the year at 4-10, but finishing strong with 12 wins in their last 18 matches.

“I was lucky that I wasn’t the only one getting used to a new coach,” Zelnick said. “I think the team made great strides in just the first year. Even myself, knowing nothing about volleyball, could still see improvements through everyone on our team.”

Zelnick’s expectations were exceeded when Pawlikowski called on her during a game against University of Massachusetts Lowell on November 8, 2013.

“I was so excited that I pretty much blacked out,” she said. “I can’t remember much, because I was so nervous that I wasn’t thinking straight.”

The Seawolves won that game, improving to 15-14, the only time all season they maintained a winning record.

Zelnick was also the recipient of the 2014 William J. Sullivan award for “outstanding contributions to the development of academics and student life on campus,” according to the schools website, which also states that this is “the most prestigious service award the University can present to a graduating senior.” She will be leaving Stony Brook with a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA in finance and management.

As for swimming, Zelnick hopes to one day get back in the pool.

“Once I have a steady life situation, I will probably compete in masters swimming,” she said. “I’d love to rejoin a club USA team and train. I know it will be nearly impossible to get back to where I was, but I would be happy just being a competitive athlete.”

Earthstock 2014

Earthstock 2014, Stony Brook University’s annual celebration of Earth, took place on Friday, April 25, 2014 in the academic mall. The event included live bands and performances, as well as the traditional plastic duck race, in celebration of the Earth and sustainability.

Raw fish on campus compromised

(PHOTO CREDIT: MCTCAMPUS

Several locations on campus did not store their raw fish properly, putting students at risk for contracting herring worm. (PHOTO CREDIT: MCTCAMPUS

By Alex Kramer, Thomas Lotito and Alyssa Melillo

Campus Dining’s failure to freeze its raw fish properly may have put diners at risk for a parasite that causes diarrhea and vomiting, according to recent Suffolk County Department of Health Services inspection reports.

Raw fish must be kept frozen at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for seven days, or at -31 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 hours, to kill a parasite known as anisakis, or herring worm. Inspections were conducted at Jasmine and the Union Commons in October, West Side Dining in September and Roth Café last April.

The SCDOH found that salmon at Jasmine was stored in a freezer that could not maintain temperatures at -4 degrees Fahrenheit and the fish served there was not date-marked. Salmon was not adequately stored at Union Commons as well, nor was tilapia. The reports could not identify whether raw fish at Roth Café was frozen to destroy parasites before it was served.

When humans are infected with anisakis, the intestinal worms can grow up to two centimeters, which can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. They stick to the walls of the esophagus, stomach or intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“The standard is meant to kill off parasite eggs that some fish carry,” Keith Schneider, a food safety expert at the University of Florida, said. “It makes it safe to eat the fish raw.”

Fewer than 10 people are diagnosed with herring worm in the United States each year, but many more cases may go undetected, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website. It is most common in Japan, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Surgery is needed to remove the worm in extreme cases.

Each restaurant on campus that serves sushi has a blast chiller—a high-powered refrigerator that can freeze raw fish to the recommended level—according to Todd Johnson, assistant executive director of the Faculty Student Association.

Joseph Rudolph, regional operations vice president for Lackmann Culinary Services, the contract holder for Campus Dining Services, suggested in an email through an FSA spokeswoman that Stony Brook had violated the safety requirements because “during the busy lunch periods, cooks are going in and out of those freezers which can cause the temperatures at certain times to fluctuate.”

Rudolph added that Campus Dining implemented the use of temperature logs for all salmon “so that each piece is individually tagged and logged as to when it was received and when it was kept frozen.” He did not say whether that requirement was in place before the violation.

A Campus Dining sanitarian is responsible for keeping the temperature logs and conducting monthly unit inspections, a spokeswoman said. An executive chef at West Side Dining is responsible for making sure the fish is frozen properly.

Five years ago, a Stony Brook student reported nausea after eating sushi at Jasmine that she described as “having an unusual taste,” according to a report by The Statesman.

Roger Tollefsen, president of the New York Seafood Council, said the FDA published standards for maintaining seafood safety 15 years ago. Suffolk County adopted the freezing requirements in 2003, according to spokeswoman for SCDOH Grace Kelly-McGovern.

“It takes a perfect storm of events for someone to be infected with these parasites,” Schneider noted. “The regulations are written for the worst-case scenario.”

Johnson said the violations were resolved in the months since these health inspections were conducted.

“Campus Dining reacted quickly to this issue by immediately discarding any food product that might be in question and revising their food handling procedures,” Johnson said in an email through an FSA spokeswoman.

He added the new food handling policies were approved by the county health department.

“The new food handling procedures, staff training and additional management support that were put in place this year provide Campus Dining with excellent tools that should help them implement and maintain the necessary food safety procedures needed at our dining facilities,” Johnson said.

Students interviewed on campus did not have much good to say about campus dining when showed the health inspection reports, although nobody complained of illness.

“Some of the food at Kelly is really dry and stale, it seems like it has been there since the morning,” freshman Daffeny Barochin said. “It’s insulting—you really want me to eat this?”

“For meal points, it’s not bad,” junior Sarah McNulty said after she finished eating her roll from Eastern Cuisine at West Side Dining. “I like this better than the SAC,” she said. “It just sits there in the containers at the SAC. It doesn’t look good.”

McNulty said she eats the sushi because she considers it healthier—it is not fried.

On a particular Friday, spicy tuna and tuna avocado rolls were nestled between sandwiches and wraps near the entrance to the SAC dining room. The shelves they were sitting on were labeled ‘Nutritionist Picks.’

Psychology major Melanie Rodriguez, also a junior, said she never eats the sushi on campus, but agrees that the variety of food is lacking.

“We’re on a college campus and they expect us to do well, but all of the fried food makes you feel sluggish,” Rodriguez said. “I personally do not eat the sushi on campus because, judging by all the other food here, I expect for it not to be fresh.”

Raúl M. Sánchez: Stony Brook’s new Title IX Director

Sanchez has 13 years of administrative experience and is a lawyer. He was hired to his current position July 2013. (JESSICA DESAMERO / THE STATESMAN)

Sánchez has 13 years of administrative experience and is a lawyer. He was hired to his current position in July 2013. (JESSICA DESAMERO / THE STATESMAN)

by Elsie Boskamp and Sarah Kirkup

In 2012, there were 17 cases of rape on the Stony Brook University campus.

The following year, in July of 2013, the university hired Raúl M. Sánchez to serve as the senior director for Title IX and Risk Management.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity, according to The United States Department of Justice website.

Sánchez is responsible for “developing and implementing a risk management program,” while overseeing the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action. He is also working full time on Title IX issues, according to a job description issued by the university.

According to Sánchez, the SUNY consent agreement says that all colleges are required to have a Title IX division on campus to deal with all acts of discrimination on the base of sex.  “[There is] more emphasis [on the program] because of the federal government,” he said.

Sánchez, a lawyer, has 13 years of administrative experience, including his former position as director of the Office for Equal Opportunity at Washington State University.

Since Stony Brook hired him, he has revised procedures in the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action and is in the process of fulfilling a training program through online courses.

Sánchez has been considering various courses about sexual assault from Workplace Answers, a company that provides colleges with online classes, and has conducted multiple student sessions with resident assistants to get student feedback.

“Students want more information regarding sexual assault,” Sánchez concluded from discussions with the resident assistants.

The online classes, which the university plans to offer in the fall, will be available to all students, faculty and staff members. They will satisfy the university’s legal and moral obligations to its campus community.

Training programs will also involve educating people about the dangers of alcohol.

A majority of Title IX violations involve alcohol abuse, according to Sánchez.

“Many young people have active social lives, and people take advantage of that,” he said.

In many cases, issues regarding student misconduct occur “behind closed doors,” Sánchez said.

In these instances, investigations involve gathering as much information as possible from the people involved and any social media networks they used.

Some investigations are conducted by various campus offices and organizations. This includes the campus police and medical and psychological services.

Providing a proper infrastructure to “file complaints,” implementing consistent policies and communicating them accordingly are some of Sánchez’s main goals.

“This is a university that wants to protect its students,” Sánchez said.

In the future, Sánchez said he is interested in “possibly working with student government on some of these issues,” and continuing his work with Title IX employees.

“There were, and still are very capable people working on Title IX before I got here,” Sánchez said. “But, as far as I know, I’m the only person on campus who works full time, all the time on Title IX issues.”

Uncontested USG election results unsurprising

USG contestants ran largely unopposed this year. Whether the process is fair and democratic is up for debate. (MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)

USG contestants ran largely unopposed this year. Whether the process is fair and democratic is up for debate. (MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)

by Ryan Wolf and Will Welch

Undergraduate Student Government elections closed on Friday, officially establishing junior biology major Garry Lachhar as the next president of USG and making the $99.50 student activity fee mandatory for undergraduate students for the next two years.

Very few students voted in this year’s elections compared to last year. The activity fee ballot initiative received the most votes—808 students were in favor of keeping the fee mandatory and 369 were against it. Lachhar received 839 votes compared to the 1,260 votes current USG President Adil Hussain received last year. A total of 2,162 students voted in last year’s presidential race.

But Lachhar, who ran unopposed, would have won the position with only one vote, as would the six other candidates running for executive council positions and the three candidates running for class representative positions.

The number of uncontested elections this year was a result of the petitioning process, which requires candidates to submit as certain number of signatures from students to appear on the official ballot. Though many students filed to run in the elections, few actually turned in the petition form.

“I had originally received 60 intent forms,” USG Elections Board Chair Jacqueline Wall said. “When it came time for the petitioning forms to be handed in, I was surprised when only 36 students had completed the process and turned them in to us.”

To her knowledge, USG has never seen such a large number of uncontested elections before.

The petition process requires 600 signatures from students to run for President, Executive Vice President or Treasurer. It requires 400 signatures to run for Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Student Life, Vice President of Communications or Vice President of Clubs and Organizations.

Despite the number uncontested positions, the USG Elections Board does not have provisions for write-in candidates or votes against candidates on the ballot.

“There was never any concern raised to us about having the ability to write in for elections,” Wall said. “Since there is no precedent on such a procedure, we didn’t investigate the possibility.

“The ability to do write-ins can be investigated further,” she continued. “But we will need to look into the feasibility of doing this from a technological standpoint.”

For the coming years, the Elections Board will try to make changes to avoid the situation from repeating itself.

“Going forward, we would like to start the elections process earlier and see if getting the word out sooner has any effect on preventing this from happening,” Wall said.

The USG election process allows for candidates to form parties. Thirty-four of the 36 candidates who ran were part of “The Actual Party.” The two candidates who did not run with the party, Michael Lavina and Stephanie Kaczynski, did not win their positions.

Current senators Vincent Justiniano and James Mutino, who did run with “The Actual Party,” were not re-elected.