Spring has Sprung but Snow Costs Linger

Snow at MonmouthThe University experienced a dramatic amount of snowfall this semester, leading to the quick depletion of the snow removal budget and numerous school closures. Patricia Swannack, Vice President of Administrative Services, said this year’s total snowfall has been much higher than it has been in recent years. Because of the increased amount of snow, Facilities Management has exceeded their snow removal budget line and has had to transfer monies from other budget lines to compensate.

According to Swannack, the snow removal budget line is normally between $35,000 to $40,000, but so far this semester, about $130,000 was spent. University groundskeepers and other employees have the primary responsibility of plowing and salting the parking lots, Swannack said. However, sometimes the task becomes too great for the University grounds crew.

According to a representative from J.F. Kiely, a construction company in Long Branch, NJ, the University has had a contract with them for two years to assist in snow removal exclusively. The company assists the University groundskeepers when they are overwhelmed with snow removal. The contract with the University states that J.F. Kiely must immediately respond to snow removal (when needed) while on call. J.F. Kiely crew members provide their own equipment to assist with snow removal. The University pays the construction company based on the number of workers needed and the type of equipment they use, said Swannack.

“The contract includes no precise cost; it depends on how many people are assigned to plow and for how long. For example, if we receive two inches of snow the cost is minimal. If we receive 20 inches of snow, the cost can easily run up to $10,000.” snow-removal”If we receive seven to eight inches of snow or more, or if the snow is very heavy, our equipment is limited and not capable of plowing all the parking lots within a short period of time,” said Swannack. “Snow cannot always simply be plowed into a mound because it reduces the number of parking spaces we have. Sometimes, it has to be physically moved by putting the snow into a truck bed and dumping it on an athletic field.”

Although the University prides itself on its grounds keeping, when it comes to snow removal, safety is a top priority. “We do our best to create a safe environment where people can travel throughout the campus. Snow and ice removal is never perfect, but our employees work tirelessly to do the best they can to make the campus as safe as possible,” said Swannack.

Thomas Pearson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that there are many snow-related factors that contribute to the closing of the University. If there are four or more inches of snow on the ground, low temperatures and poor road conditions, he consults Swannack, other board members and the local police to make a decision as to whether or not to open the University, with the safety of students as the primary concern.

“I believe in the value of running classes,” said Pearson. “It is more enthralling to see students performing in class.”

The University must adhere to federal guidelines that require classes to meet for at least 14 weeks, or 2200 minutes of instruction per semester. If the University does not comply with these regulations, the government can hold sanctions against the University, including the pulling of federal aid, according to the Provost.

Although Pearson’s rule of thumb is to keep the University open, he understands there are times when it simply isn’t in anyone’s best interest to open the school. Thanks to advances in technology, students are able to receive instruction while away from the classroom.

“Professors have found more creative ways to instruct their classes by using things like E-Campus and Powerpoint. These advancements have offered professors great flexibilities to conduct their classes,” said Pearson.

While Facilities Management has placed a great emphasis on removing snow from roadways and walkways to ensure students are able to attend classes safely, the salt used to aid snow removal has caused severe corrosion to the staircases on the residential side of campus.

Ethan Gazda, a freshman business major who has to walk by the corroded staircases and experiences this daily. “In the past the stairs used to be partially blocked off, but now they are totally blockaded, causing an inconvenience when you have to walk to and from class,” he said.

Swannack said that stairs on the residential side have been corroding for years and Facilities Management has been doing its best to patch them up. Although salt is corrosive, other ice melting materials have been used and have not had the same effect that salt has.

Moving forward, Swannack said that she hopes to correct deteriorating conditions to infrastructure around campus. Facilities Management has planned for this spring, or as soon as the weather warms up and remains warm. Facilities Management is also exploring finishes that will not cause staircases and roadways to deteriorate under extreme temperature changes.

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The Best Places at Monmouth to Rest your Hiney

Walking into a restroom can sometimes be a risky gamble. You can either have a pleasant experience fully equipped with an attendant, or smell the foul odors courtesy of the person before you and the poor ventilation can knock you 10 steps back before you brace yourself and force you to hold your breath for 30 seconds.

Restrooms are traditionally a place to privately take care of personal business, however, in college there’s more to it than that. They serve as a temporary escape, or a 10 minute vacation, without the sandy beaches. We go to restrooms to “tweet,” gossip about that cute boy or girl in class and use the mirror to make sure we look as good as we did when we left for school in the morning and don’t forget those bathroom “selfies.”

Because the restroom is such an important place and plays a colossal role of our daily lives, I have decided to outline the University’s premier restrooms and the ones you should avoid at all costs. This article exclusively considers publicly accessible restrooms located in academic buildings, the Dining Hall and the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. After visiting the restrooms on the academic side of campus I didn’t have the stomach to research the restrooms in all of the dorms and suites.

WORST

5. Howard Hall – First Floor
Right outside of the 24-hour lab in Howard Hall are what feels like the smallest restrooms on campus. The single-person lavatories are so tiny inside that it is almost impossible to move without slamming into a wall. It makes even the most basic functions of a bathroom, like washing your hands or flushing, nearly impossible. These bathrooms lack the space that it needs to be considered a luxurious bathroom. Moreover, the vestibule that serves as a waiting area is constantly crowded with people anxiously waiting their turn to enter the jail-cell type restroom that it discourages students from attempting to wait in line. This restroom does serve its purpose for those students who need to take a quick leak while up all night studying or finishing their term papers.

4. Student Center – Third Floor
Although it is a cozy and decently sized restroom on the upper level of the Student Center, its downfall is that it’s the only one up there. The third floor of the Student Center is home to most of the club offices, as well as the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services. With so many offices and people who will be potentially fighting over toilet time, I find it strikingly odd that there is only one single-person restroom on that floor for both men and women. The poor ventilation does not help the cause either, because once there’s a lingering smell in these bathrooms don’t count on it going anywhere fast.

3. Edison Hall – Second Floor
When I walked into both the men’s and women’s restrooms, I was suddenly bombarded with childhood memories of my elementary school and the little boy’s room there. The paint colors used in my elementary school restrooms significantly resemble the paint used to color the stalls of the restrooms in Edison Hall. Both the women’s and men’s room are outlined with blue tile, which leads me to believe that they were both used as men’s rooms at one point. The women’s room did have a few amenities that were found nowhere else on campus: a TV tray table in case you want to cram for a test before class, and a wicker shelf that housed over 20 rolls of toilet paper and plenty of liquid soap. If you’re one of those people who constantly worries if there is enough toilet paper for you, this might be your go-to bathroom, although to me it reminds me of a facilities management storage closet with a complimentary bathroom.

2. Rechinitz Hall
If you have ever been in the new art building, you may have noticed that the floor plan is hard to navigate, which has a negative impact on the placement of the restrooms on the list. Trying to locate the bathrooms in Rechnitz Hall makes you feel like a mouse in a maze trying to get to the cheese; having to go upstairs, then downstairs, then through the Art Gallery, (if it is unlocked), then through a classroom mid-lecture and finally down a hallway. It is a complete burden, especially while doing the pee-pee dance the whole time. I would recommend avoiding the building as a whole, even if you need to use the restroom during class in Rechnitz Hall. It’s easier to just walk to Plangere or the Student Center than finding your way around the building, which is just as easy to navigate as a Jackson Pollock painting.

1. Magil Commons – Dining Hall
This is a no brainer. Hundreds, maybe thousands of students utilize the Dining Hall everyday, and a good majority of them use the bathroom either before or after their meal. There just isn’t enough manpower from facilities management or ARAMARK to keep it clean. Elizabeth Bennett, a senior, expressed her dissatisfaction with the restrooms by saying, “I just feel like they never are clean or they just seem like they’re [dirty] because they are so old and ugly.” If privacy is your thing, these restrooms are not for you. With so many people coming in and out, it’s not exactly discreet. Remember, what goes in, must come out and these restrooms look like yesterday’s dinner.

BEST:

5. So-Sweet-A-Cat Field
Although the “So-Sweet-A-Catbox,” the field hockey’s playing field, possesses every quality of a horrible restroom, it narrowly makes it to the best list. The restroom that undoubtedly bears a resemblance to an outhouse has a capacity of one at a time, and gets dirty really easily. But putting all the negatives aside, it is a score. If you are part of a team that practices there, field hockey namely, I’m sure you hold this bathroom in high regard. Prior to building of the lavatory on the field, players coaches and spectators of games had to use Port-A-Pottys, which are infinitely worse than the current facility. This restroom makes the list because if you are in the area and need to “go,” it is the only place to do so in what feels like miles.

4. Guggenheim Library – Second & Third Floors
Countless late night study sessions equate to plenty of coffee; which ultimately means more bonding time with the bathroom. The Guggenheim Library has a bathroom on each of its levels, but the second and third floors seemed to be the roomiest. The best thing about the library is that you never have to worry about being interrupted due to the quiet policies that are always enforced, and there is no shortage of reading material to bring into the stalls with you. If you ever need a break from studying, especially with midterms approaching, the Guggenheim is your best bet.

3. Edison Hall – First Floor
What a difference a floor makes. If you’re ever in Edison Hall and need to use the bathroom it pays to take the trip to the first floor restrooms. The new state-of-the-art restrooms took me by surprise. With stainless steel stalls and automatic sinks and toilets, it makes for a relaxing environment. Admittedly, the women’s room is more impressive because it has eight stalls and is larger than the men’s room, however both of these restrooms make for great environments for those bathroom “selfies.” I’m sure Thomas Edison would be honored to take a number two here.

2. Wilson Hall – Basement
You would think that the older the building is, the more appalling the condition of the bathrooms are, right? Nope. Wilson Hall is home to easily the most elegant bathrooms I have ever seen; it is the ‘Royal Flush!’ They all emit feelings of peace and tranquility, but the ones in the basement appear like restrooms you would find in a high budget film from the 1980’s… “Annie” perhaps?
“The bathrooms in Wilson Hall’s basement … Look straight out of Harry Potter,” said senior Zachary Werkmeister. He continued, “I have to go at night though so no babes see me.”

1. Magil Commons – Club Room
After four years it is time to reveal Monmouth’s best kept secret. Everyone uses the restrooms in the Dining Hall, but has anyone ever thought to go outside, down the ramp and use the restroom in the building adjacent to the Dining Hall? If you really needed to, you could find me in there twice a day, because it is hands down, my favorite place on campus to be. It is a gem because not too many people know about it. The Magill Commons Club Rooms are usually empty if there is not a conference or event going on, so it’s a safe bet that nobody will interrupt you. Occasionally, I play music loudly from my phone, or enjoy the silence, either way I can guarantee the restroom in Magil Commons is clean, well stocked and a perfect place to spend your free time, discreetly.

Overall, I am content with the fact that all of our buildings have a place where we are able to do what we have to do. While it is evident that some buildings are a tad worse than others, I have a complaint that extends to each and every bathroom; please, raise the toilet paper holders. I either hurt my hand reaching to get toilet paper, or constantly rip the paper, which annoys me to no end. If the toilet paper holders are more easily accessible, I will be happy with every restroom, no matter what it looks like. Hopefully this list steers you clear of those low-end lavatories, and gives you a new place to flush your troubles, and other waste, away.

Is this on the Syllabus? – Editorial

If NYC were to come to life and take the form of a human, it would be a college student. From sunrise to sunset, college students are constantly engaged in some sort of activity. Whether you’re cramming for tomorrow’s Advanced Abstract Algebra quiz, or listening to the sweet sounds of your unfinished chapter readings serenading you, just like city nightlife, there is always something else to do.

When a student registers for a class and is handed their syllabus, it acts as a binding contract between the student and professor. As students, we schedule internships, extracurricular activities and work around the course schedule given to us by our professors. When a professor spontaneously decides to make it mandatory for a student to attend an event outside of class, it dishevels the student’s schedule and puts the student at a disadvantage if they are unable to attend an event due to a prior commitment.

The Outlook believes that students should not be required to attend events outside of scheduled class meeting times because the events tend to conflict with prior engagements. We feel that it is unnecessary for professors to force students to attend events on campus causing students to skip a class, leave early or cancel other obligations just to attend this event and not get penalized.

Often, professors also assign students a supplemental reaction paper to be handed in after the event, which can be frustrating to students who were not able to attend the event. One editor said that it is completely ridiculous and counterproductive to assign more work to a student that was unable to attend the original event due to an over-packed schedule. Professors need to understand that some sort of compromise needs to be created for students who cannot attend mandatory events because, in most cases, the outcome usually isn’t fair for students.
Aaron Furgason, an associate professor of communication, feels that students should decide on their own whether or not they want to attend events outside of class. Furgason said, “I would never make it mandatory for students to attend an event on campus, but I will make the students aware of the event…If I do assign students to attend a mandatory event, it would be clearly outlined in the syllabus.”

Although the staff is opposed to being required to attend events outside of allocated class instruction time, we understand the benefit of attending these events. Events hosted by the University offer additional instruction from our peers, professors or even guest speakers that we would otherwise not have access to. As students of the University, we expect a high return on investment in regard to our education and events on campus provide students with additional opportunities to learn and participate in activities they may never do again.

Another editor said, “Honestly, I have yet to go to an outside of class lecture or presentation that hasn’t taught me anything, and usually I remember the outside of class content better than the inside class stuff. Overall, we as students are here at the university to learn.”
Some professors choose to offer extra credit to attend events as opposed to forcing students to go. The Outlook feels that offering the incentive of extra credit to attend events is a better approach than making an event mandatory. There are times where events on campus do compliment the classroom instruction and having a professor recommend an event to the class that students can further benefit from shows that professors are truly invested in the students and want to enhance their educational opportunities.

Eleanor Novek, an associate professor of communication, is in favor of providing extra credit to students who attend campus events. Novek believes attending events on campus allows students to be exposed to things they haven’t had the opportunity to partake in. Although many professors believe that requiring us to attend events on campus enhances our education process at the University and prepares us for the future, The Outlook feels that it is a disservice and an inconvenience to the students.

By forcing students to attend events outside of class, it suggests that the students do not want to be there in the first place, leading to inattentiveness during events and resistance towards the presenter. If professors want students to benefit from events on campus, the best they can do is make students aware of them. The students who want to take advantage of the opportunity will do so and the others will either miss out or fulfill their previous obligations.

Professors need to understand that they shouldn’t require students to attend events outside of class, because if someone isn’t interested in attending something, that’s it, check please. Professors already have the attention of the students for two and a half hours a week in the classroom and for countless hours while doing homework. As students, we cannot afford to take time off of work or skip class just to make one professor happy, but we will gladly consider the event if we finished that 20 page paper early and if extra credit is offered.

Pep Bands Will Make you Dance

Monmouth Pep BandAt the heart of our hawk is a group of approximately 45 students who are responsible for uplifting the spirits of students and athletes. Deemed “The Big Sound of the Jersey Shore” by former President Paul Gaffney, this “Spirit Team” ensemble plays your favorite tunes like LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” at basketball and football games in an effort to get the crowd going and help to lead the teams to victory.

The University Pep Band falls under the umbrella of the Department of Music and Theatre Arts, according to Bryan Jenner, the advisor of the organization. The band is open to any student of the University of any talent level who has any interest in participating in the organization, and even encourages alumni of the University to participate in the organization after they graduate.

In middle school and high school, band members such as Meaghan Brandt, President of the Pep Band, who primarily plays the flute, recognized that there were certain stigmas that may have applied to members of a band that are absent in college. Brandt, a senior education major, said, “There is no such thing as a ‘band geek.’ I don’t feel that at all. The athletic teams are very embracing of us and they recognize that we play a huge role in their success.”

There is an overwhelming sense of community that the Pep Band gives off that is almost unparalleled by any group on campus of its size. The reason for the tremendous sense of family is band camp, according to Kevin Dillon, Treasurer of the band. Although the University’s band camp is nothing like the “American Pie” version, it’s still Dillon’s favorite part of being involved in the Pep Band.

Dillon doesn’t only use band camp to hone his skill at playing the clarinet in hopes to be a better player than Squidward, it’s his favorite time to meet new members and catch up with his band members in hopes to make lifelong connections. “I came to this school not knowing many people, but because of Pep Band, I was able to make friends, and I now live with two of the band members,” he said.

The self-sufficient group of Pep Band students places a high emphasis on education. Besides being talented musicians, they recognize the value of not only playing an instrument, but thriving inside the classroom as well. “We’re very proud of the fact that out of all of our members, 18 of them were Dean’s List students. Many of our members have 4.0 GPA’s, or close to it,” said Jenner.

Jenner is also impressed by the diversity of majors Pep Band members have. He feels that the varying areas of study contribute to the success of the organization academically. Jenner said, “Students tutor other students of the band to keep the band in such a high academic standing.”

Although the Pep Band doesn’t host fundraising events, they focus on supporting philanthropic events and playing at events such as the University’s Student Employment Appreciation Day, Long Branch Columbus Day Parade, Homecoming Parade, Relay for Life and any other events that they are invited to. “It’s very awarding to give back to the community,” said Jenner.

The University Pep Band has made connections with companies and organizations outside of the University as well. The Pep Band has endorsement deals with instrument manufacturing companies like Jupiter, and Maypex, Vic Firth and is sponsored by Scala’s Pizza in Long Branch.

Jenner is looking for more driven students to become members of the Pep Band. He encourages passionate students to express their musical abilities and effort at their informal auditions.

There is a place in the Pep Band for almost any student on campus. Even though this diverse group of students is made up of many different areas of study and musical backgrounds, they all have one thing in common – the love for what they do. These students, who have an astounding love for music and place an extremely high importance on academia and completely embody the school’s mantra, “Monmouth Hawks Fly Together.” This organization is more than just another group on campus. They are a family.

Mara Cige, Secretary of the Pep Band and the Spirit Officer, said it perfectly, “We are just a bunch of quirky kids who love to make music.”

National Council of Negro Women Hosts Glow in the Dark Dance Party

Glow in the Dark DanceThe National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) hosted its annual “Glow in the Dark” dance party in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSCC) on Saturday, March 8 from 9 pm – 1 am, with music from DJ Taj of 106 & Park.

Approximately 200 students attended the dance party, helping NCNW raise approximately $650. Students were able to purchase tickets for $3 before the party and tickets were sold for $5 at the door. Each student was allowed two guests each, who also paid $5 at the door.

Kaila Lane, President of NCNW, said, “This ‘Glow in the Dark’ party is similar to the ‘Back 2 Business’ party that we hosted earlier in the year. My goal is to make this the ‘party of the year’ and allow students to have a [venue] on campus to have fun.”

Previously, NCNW has hosted a party at the beginning of each semester, with special guest DJ Wallah of HOT 97. “Although we enjoyed having DJ Wallah at our parties I felt it was time for a change,” said Lane. “DJ Taj is just as well-known as Wallah because he is on 106 & Park; plus, Taj is only a high school student which makes it that much cooler to have him here.”

DJ Taj, who played an assortment of music throughout the evening including Hip-Hop, R&B and Reggae, was excited about hosting the event at the University. “It’s just a good feeling seeing people of all ages enjoying the music,” said DJ Taj. “I had no idea that this was a party crowd. When I first came here I thought I was just going to be at another boring party, but when I actually started playing music, it was a lot better than I imagined.”

To promote the event, NCNW placed an extreme emphasis on advertising. “Advertise, Advertise, Advertise,” said Lane. “We sent e-mails out almost every day, we hung up posters around campus and we relied on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even the DJ promoted the event himself. There is so much power in advertising.”

Merissa Jones, advisor of NCNW, was pleased with the effort the members of the club placed on holding the event. Jones also said that despite the e-board being new and considering it is a Saturday night and an alcohol-free event, the turnout was pretty good.

“The proceeds we earn by hosting this party help fund our service projects as well as trips and events we attend throughout the year,” said Jones. The NCNW participates in the Adopt-A-Family program during the Christmas season. NCNW also attends the “Black Solidary Conference” at Yale University and the African American Museum in Philadelphia throughout the academic year.

Lane hopes this event raises awareness about NCNW and encourages other students to become part of the organization. “I wanted to use this event to advertise NCNW and potentially get more boys to become part of the club. I know it’s the National Council of Negro Women, but we used to have more boys in the club and I just would like to get back to that.”

“Students also think that we are part of the African American Student Union (AASU), and that’s why we wanted to host our own event for once. It’s good that we co-host events with other clubs on campus, but we want to show students that we are not the same,” said Lane.

Upon arrival, students and guests were required to show valid identification and leave their respective identification at the door. Guests were also given glow sticks and a raffle for the door prize.

All attendees of the event were prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages or containers inside the RSSC.

Brittney Wade, a junior communication major, said,” It was really nice to see a big group of the black community come out and not have drama. It was definitely worth the $3.”

J’lyn Martin, a junior communication major, said, “The DJ played a good assortment of music for the party and got the party hype. I would attend an event like this again because organizations on campus don’t usually host parties like this. Overall, it’s a fun event to participate in.”

“Everyone still keeps talking about the party, the DJ and how the lighting was amazing. This event was a great way for students on campus to interact and meet each other in a fun environment,” said Lane.

WMCX Rocks on for Twelve Hours Straight

MixerThe University radio station, 88.9 FM WMCX, hosted their 5th annual, “12 Hour Music Fest,” featuring 12 bands performing live and students who currently radio hosts conducting interviews with the bands, from 9 am – 9 pm on Friday, Feb. 28.

According to Dr. Aaron Furgason, advisor of WMCX, the event is a celebration of college radio. It gives people a chance to hear music they don’t normally hear with a clean unproduced sound. It amalgamates what college radio does best: new music and new styles.

The theme of the day was “Anti-Valentines Day.” Katherine Wight, senior and General Manager of WMCX, said that the “12 Hour Music Fest” was supposed to be right after Valentines Day but it had to be pushed back. “By this time of the month everyone is tired of love songs, so we needed to change it up. WMCX is ‘Modern Rock with an Edge,’ not ‘lovey dovey’ stuff.”

“Each band performed an Anti-Love song and then told us about it,” said Amanda Messenger, Music Director of the station. Messenger was responsible for booking musical talent for the event.
According to Messenger, the event featured a combination of mostly local bands and artists. “To choose the bands to contact, I pulled from ones that have been to past WMCX events and have been featured on the air before,” she said.

Guests of the event included, The Battery Electric, The Dazzling Dooms, Natalie Zeller, Wild Rompit and Colton Kayser.

Kayser, who earned his MBA and Music Industry Undergraduate degree at Monmouth, used to host a show at WMCX. Kayser said, “ I chose to be a part of this event because I’ve done a number of interviews with the X before. When Amanda asked me to perform, I agreed, because I love the station and I’ve always had a good time when I’ve been there.”

According to Wight, all of the artists performing during the event are all volunteering, and chose to partake in the event. “Even though the artists are not being paid monetarily to participate, they are being paid with promotion. The whole point of this is to get bands that have a lot of potential some airtime. Promotion is important for them and is ultimately the key to our success,” Wight said.

Kayser said that he used the event to promote himself as well as his self-titled debut record. “It’s a great opportunity to publicize my new record and not to mention, I know 12 hour fest is usually catered.”

“Its important to promote the bands. This event is all about the bands. We could have the next Led Zepplin here, you never know; and it would be great to say that they were here first,” said Wight.

Furgason said, “The camaraderie between students is one of the greatest aspects of 12 ‘Hour Music Fest.’ Radio is such a solo thing; you’re in the studio alone a lot of the time, so this event brings the staff together.” Furgason continued, “These are the events that show if the students actually like each other.”

The event started off with an acoustic version from 9 am – 4 pm. After 4 pm, the interviewers were able to accommodate more metallic bands. Wight said that because of classes in the morning and early afternoon on Fridays, they weren’t able to have the heavier bands perform because they didn’t want to disrupt the classes that were in session.

The “12 Hour Music Fest” was originally a 24-hour music festival. “After three years of host a 24-hour event, the station decided to consolidate the event into 12 hours because it was hard for students to stay awake during the whole event, so I found that I was the only one conducting interviews at three in the morning,” said Furgason.

WMCX advertised the event by hanging fliers around the University, writing Facebook posts and using word-of-mouth. Wight also said that a graphic designer created a logo for the event that they used on their fliers.

WMCX is also currently planning their 40th anniversary celebration that will be taking place on May 1 and May 2. Wight said that she plans on having alum from the station come on air and do a show.

Wight said, “Since 1974, when the station started, we have had a lot of people who started at WMCX become successful and it would be great to have them here to network, do a show and have a good time.”

Author Discusses Physical, Mental and Social Issues

Andrew Solomon - NYT Best Selling AuthorThe University Department of Counseling and Psychological Services, in conjunction with Shore House of Long Branch, NJ, hosted New York Times bestseller, Andrew Solomon for a book reading and signing in the Wilson Hall Auditorium on Monday, Feb. 24.

Solomon’s book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children & the Search for Identity,” explores the lives of families that accommodate children with physical, mental and social disabilities and the obstacles these parents face with loving and accepting their children.

Solomon, a homosexual who has previously suffered from depression, explained that the book’s title is a play on the expression, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”

Solomon said that the concept of his book came about while writing an article about deaf culture for The New York Times. He noticed similarities between the acceptance of identities within the deaf culture and the homosexual culture, which lead him to realize that the experience of each subculture is universal.

“I saw the parallels between the deaf experience and the gay experience, and I suddenly thought, ‘Wait a minute, there’s a gay thing and a deaf thing … I’ll bet there are others,'” said Solomon.

“Far From the Tree: Parents, Children & the Search for Identity” narrates the accounts of families dealing with the issues of dwarfism, Down Syndrome, Autism, and several other disabilities. Solomon’s theme for the book was to help parents cope with their child’s disability, and to develop the acceptance of the parents and the children themselves.

In discussing the importance of self , family and societal, Solomon said, “They all feed one another and each of them strengthens the other. You’re more able to achieve self acceptance if you have family and social acceptance; they’re all intertwined.”

Shore House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving people with mental illnesses opportunities to achieve their full potential. According to http://www.shorehousenj.org, Shore House provides opportunities for its members to obtain employment in mainstream businesses and provides various other support resources.

Christian Smithson, a member of Shore House suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), said, “[Shore House] is a place to interact with people just like me. The sense of family helps lift our spirits …. We learn that we are way more than our diagnosis.”

Pauline Nicholls, a consultant for The Shore House, reached out to Solomon to host the reading and signing to create awareness about an issue that the Shore House deals with everyday. “We need to speak up and speak out and I think [Solomon] does that…. The more we start a dialogue, the more we can inform change and reach a point where society can accept those with mental illnesses.”

Solomon said that many parents of disabled children grow closer to their children despite their flaws and learn to celebrate the conditions that they once feared. In his most extreme example, Solomon supported his claim of acceptance by discussing his relationship with the parents of Dylan Klebold, a perpetrator of the Columbine High School shootings.

“We still think that if kids commit crimes it’s because their parents are bad parents…. But in the case of the Klebolds … they’re really lovely people and the actions of their son came from something profoundly broken within [him]. It’s not the parents’ faults,” said Solomon.
Solomon explained that in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold, said that she was able to still love her son because “If you love someone, you love both the good and bad in them.”

Smithson said, “I loved this event because it touched upon a lot more than I thought it would. The author talked about mental illnesses and the stigma that comes along with it and I thought that it was a beautiful thing.”

Kaeili Puopolo, a freshman, said, “[Solomon] was very well spoken and was also entertaining. Surprisingly, the only thing I disliked was that it wasn’t long enough.”

“His perspective on what is commonly referred to as a disability was also interesting to me,” Puoplo continued. “He referred to deafness, Autism, homosexuality, and many other disorders as identities and encouraged acceptance to all differences people are faced with.”

Franca Mancini, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said, “We co-hosted this event to reach out and support organizations in the community. [The University] is a great venue to help get information like this out to the community.”

“Partnering with Shore House to host an event like this is such an important initiative too because they can offer help and assistance that goes far beyond what we can do on campus,” said Mancini.