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Students Involved in Alleged Hazing Appear in Court Variety of dispositions for Alpha Epsilon Pi brothers

One brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity pleaded not guilty to assault and battery, hazing, and failure to report hazing yesterday in Brighton District Court in connection with an alleged incident at the unrecognized fraternity in April. A half dozen other BU brothers had various charges continued or resolved.

Judge Patricia Bernstein set an August 20 pretrial hearing for Jesse Kay (SMG’14). Assault and battery is punishable by up to two-and-half years in prison, while hazing carries up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Kay’s lawyer said the 20-year-old “has no prior involvement in anything involving criminal activity,” and he would seek to have the charges dismissed. Kay was released on his own recognizance.

The incident began after a complaint about a rowdy party at 24 Ashford St., Allston, brought Boston police to the address, where they found five AEPi pledges in the basement, stripped to their underwear, bound together with duct tape, and covered in food condiments.

Kay and another man facing the same charges, Spencer Davidson (CGS’10, SHA’12), who was arraigned June 20, are charged with ordering the five pledges to strip, allegedly tightening their bonds, pouring hot chili sauce on them that left welts on their skin, and ordering them to drink fish oil.

Three others—Jonathan Toobi (SHA’12), Lawrence Rosenblum (CGS’12), and Alexander Nisenzon (SMG’12)—face charges of failure to report hazing, and Rosenblum also is charged with keeping a disorderly home. Bernstein set arraignment dates for the three: Toobi on September 12, Rosenblum on September 20, and Nisenzon on August 27. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Luke Goldworm said those students had a “more limited role” in the alleged hazing, having been found upstairs rather than in the basement with the pledges.

The charges against two more men were decriminalized to civil infractions. Justin Michael Katz (CAS’12), who had been charged with failure to report hazing, proved that he was out at a convenience store during the alleged hazing, Goldworm said. The judge fined him $200 in court costs. Robert Rappa (SMG’12) told the pledges to come to the house for the alleged hazing, but was not involved in it, according to Goldworm. He was ordered to pay $400 in court costs and do 40 hours of community service.

A seventh person, facing failure-to-report charges, Kyle Shevrin (COM’12), is to be arraigned August 27. Another, Michael Sanieoff (CGS’12), was arraigned last month on a charge of keeping a disorderly house and is due back in court July 5.

The University does not recognize AEPi, whose national organization yanked membership from the chapter April 10 following the alleged incident.

Earlier this year, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) suspended until 2013 Sigma Delta Tau sorority for a drunken hazing that sent two female students to the hospital. AEPi brothers participated in that incident as well.

The AEPi and SDT cases were the first reported hazings at BU in more than a decade and followed a winter meeting with Greek life leaders where Elmore stressed the imperative of avoiding hazing.

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Alleged Sorority Hazing Investigated By University, Police

Alleged Sorority Hazing Investigated by University, Police Sigma Delta Tau suspended during probe

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore is weighing the fate of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority after it was temporarily suspended earlier this month for alleged alcohol-related hazing.

Elmore says the University is investigating both the group and roughly 20 individual students—SDT sisters and members of an undisclosed fraternity—involved in the alleged hazing. The fraternity is not recognized by BU, unlike SDT before its suspension.

“Given the facts we had, I asked that SDT be suspended pending our ability to investigate this,” says Elmore (SED’87). He hopes to wrap up the inquiry by the end of next week and says most students involved have been cooperative.

If the allegations are judged true, the sorority could face permanent suspension, while individuals found to have violated BU’s conduct policies “could warrant suspensions or worse,” Elmore notes. “Any organization that has members who are going to be complicit with hazing or haze other students should expect that they are not going to be associated with BU.”

This is the first reported allegation of hazing at BU in more than a decade, according to the dean. “I’m particularly disappointed,” he says, because of the timing: just this past January, in the wake of incidents elsewhere, Elmore met with student organization leaders, including those from fraternities and sororities, to talk about hazing. He says he discussed with the leaders that Massachusetts outlaws hazing and that “there’s just no place at all for hazing in these organizations and in this community.”

The March 3 incident, first reported by the Daily Free Press, began when students summoned an ambulance for an intoxicated female student on Ashford Street around 9 p.m., according to BUPD Lieutenant Peter DiDomenica. About an hour later, he says, BUPD officers stopped three men helping a second woman who also appeared intoxicated. “It caused concern for her medical condition,” and the officers arranged for her to go to the hospital as well, DiDomenica says.

“My understanding was they were treated and released,” says Elmore.

Further investigation revealed that the drinking was part of an alleged hazing at an off-campus private residence. Aside from the University probe, Boston police and the BUPD are investigating possible violations of the state’s anti-hazing law, according to DiDomenica. Hazing is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and a year in jail.

Marisa Feehan (CAS’12) and Juliette Miller (CAS’12), respectively the president and vice president of campus affairs for the Panhellenic Council, which governs the University’s recognized sororities, issued a public statement deploring “any behavior that threatens the well-being of any member of Greek Life,” and saying, “we will not accept the occurrence of such incidents.”

The council lifted its SDT recognition, the statement says, but also urges the University community to “support each other and the sisters of Sigma Delta Tau.”

The alleged hazing drew local media attention to BU at a time when two former members of the hockey team are facing sexual assault charges. President Robert A. Brown appointed a task force earlier this month to report by this summer on the culture of the hockey team.

Against that backdrop, Elmore says, “I want to remind folks the overwhelming majority of our students are doing the right thing. Real community holds its own accountable, and we’ve been consistent in terms of doing that. In social situations, we’ve got to be ‘present.’ We’ve always got to be folks who look after themselves. This community still moves on.”

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Android 4.4 Kitkat And Nexus 5 Appear In Photos In Italy

Android 4.4 KitKat and Nexus 5 appear in photos in Italy

This week someone all the way over in Italy appears to have gotten their hands on a Nexus 5 running no less than Android 4.4 KitKat. This build seems to be final or certainly near-final with a collection of features we’ve either only heard rumors of or have never seen before. Working with build KRS92B and Kernel 3.4.0, this Nexus 5 appears to be nearly ready for showtime – and not all that unlike the Moto X.

Here we’re finding the likes of white icons in the notifications bar, first of all – this is distinctly different from the blue or cyan look of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. NFC appears to be playing a much larger part in this equation as “Pay with just a tap” appears in the main settings collection. As shown by Tutto Android, this will likely tie in with Google Wallet, allowing the feature to come out as a much more prominent element in the LG-made Nexus 5 than in past Android devices.

Location mode appears to be separated into three categories – Device sensors, Battery saving, and High accuracy. With High accuracy, the user will have GPS, Wi-fi, and mobile networks working to grab location data. With Battery saving, just Wi-fi and mobile networks will be used. With Device sensors, just the GPS sensor will be used – much easier to understand than the series of checkmarks in previous iterations of Android.

The color scheme appears to be the biggest change in this iteration of the Android operating system. You’ll find slightly flatter icons, a new “modern” set of wallpaper images, and a slightly different configuration for the lockscreen. With the lock in the same location as previous iterations of Android, you’ll also find the Google Now circle is slightly more apparent, and that slight black-to-transparent gradients exist at the top and bottom of the display.

This iteration of Android nearly does away with the top black bar generally apparent in previous versions of Android – the same is true about the on-screen buttons black bar which now fades into the background. Once you’re at a general homescreen you’ll also see that – at first launch – the Nexus 5 may very well only be showing a camera, apps drawer, and phone icon (the phone icon notably updated from Jelly Bean 4.3).

The Boot animation appears to be the same as shown in the Google Play editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 with swirling, interlacing circles of color. You’ll also find an updated collection of access points for Google Now. Pulling in from the left at your left-most homescreen brings Google Now up the same as you’d have gotten to “quick access settings” in a Motorola RAZR HD device last year. You can also apparently say “OK Google” from the homescreen with an “always listening” mode just like Moto X.

Have a peek at the archive of other recent revelations in the Android 4.4 KitKat universe over the past few weeks and expect a full launch sooner than later! The Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat environment are just around the corner!

Students Find College Aid In Micro

Students Find College Aid in Micro-Loans and Small Donations Online services offer a dollar here and there

Carmen Rondash (CAS’10) got $30 from an online college aid site.

His father was retired, so when his mother’s jewelry designing job was vaporized by the recession, Carmen Rondash (CAS’10) was open to any and all ideas for scrounging up money for school. The Rochester, N.Y., resident stumbled across SponsorMyDegree, a two-year-old Web site that matches students with businesses and individuals willing to donate — sometimes nominally — to their education.

How nominally? Rondash, an aspiring teacher, got about $30 from several donors, notably a former educator who willed a bequest to SponsorMyDegree for recipients whose profile information listed teaching as an interest.

Of course, 30 bucks wouldn’t buy you class time through the afternoon. Fortunately, the family’s financial setback was “just a little speed bump,” Rondash says, as he and his parents found jobs and the University helped with aid. As for SponsorMyDegree, “the money is not important at all,” he says, “but it amounts to finding a dollar on the street every now and again. It takes no effort, so I am not losing anything.”

Tweak the antipoverty strategy of micro-loans to businesses in the developing world and import it to American campuses, and you’ve got the idea behind “micro-sponsorships,” “peer-to-peer lending,” and other names slapped on the budding industry of online student loans and grants. Companies in this business — among them People Capital, Virgin Money, GreenNote, Fynanz, GradeFund, and Prosper — differ in their approach, but they share the mission of connecting student borrowers with lenders or donors in the Internet era.

SponsorMyDegree is unusual in that it arranges donations rather than loans. Calling itself a “listing service,” it allows students, and graduates paying off student loans, to hit up willing sponsors for small donations, as little as $5. Borrowers complete and post a profile on the site for free; individual donors and businesses read the profiles and decide whether to donate to the student, based on her interests, financial need, or other bits of bio.

The lure for companies is that they can aim donations at students whose profiles suggest they might make potential customers (donation offers require students to respond to a company ad). The site does not release money donated to borrowers until it has verified their enrollment at, or graduation from, the schools they claim.

GradeFund gives students’ friends and family the opportunity to donate to their education if they maintain good grades (donors define what constitutes “good” and make a promised contribution every time the student hits the mark). Students must upload their transcripts so GradeFund can verify their performance.

This Web-era source of education money remains sufficiently novel and little-used that “it’s not on the radar” of Christine McGuire, executive director of BU’s Financial Assistance Office. Other observers warn that while the sites can be useful — some students have procured thousands of dollars for their education — students should familiarize themselves with each company’s requirements, fees, and interest charges and confirm that it’s a legitimate lending site.

Rondash hasn’t tapped the money in his SponsorMyDegree account yet (the site requires you to accumulate $20 before making withdrawals). He’s waiting for it to grow before paying the site’s $5 processing fee. Meanwhile, he has an account with UPromise, a corporation founded by former BU trustee Michael Bronner (SMG’82) and owned by student lender Sallie Mae that allows students and their families to save small amounts of money every time they patronize participating stores and restaurants.

Rich Barlow can be reached at [email protected].

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Muslim Students In The Age Of Trump

Muslim Students in the Age of Trump Trying to de-demonize their religion after years of harassment

Harassment of minorities, including Muslims, is reportedly on the rise under Donald Trump, who seems to have a darker view of Islam than his Oval Office predecessors.

Walking in Kenmore Square after returning from the Christmas break, Doaa ElTemtamy says, she passed an elderly man who, seeing her hijab, spat at her and told her to go back to her own country.

That country would be Florida.

The US-born-and-raised ElTemtamy (CAS’18, Questrom’18) says she and other Muslims have endured such indignities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But Donald Trump’s campaign and election touched off a jump in harassment of, and threats against, minorities, nationally and in Massachusetts, according to law enforcement and hate-group monitors. While recent numbers are hard to come by, the FBI reported 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2023, a 67 percent increase from the previous year, in the most recent accounting available. The increase prompted the Massachusetts attorney general to set up a hotline (1-800-994-3228) for reporting incidents.

“These are taunts that we’ve received our whole lives,” she says. “If we were to report each time that happened, it would be ridiculous,” which is one reason she and her peers tend not to report harassment incidents. But they’re not being passive.

The ISBU devoted the February edition of its monthly Unfiltered Talk series to Activism and Spirituality in the Age of Trump. The series started last fall to allow students, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, to discuss potentially uncomfortable topics in Islam, ElTemtamy says.

“A lot of Muslims are being put on the spot…asked questions about their religion. It’s pretty tough to answer questions on behalf of your entire religion, especially when there are multiple interpretations,” she says. She adds that non-Muslims have said to Muslim students, “‘To be honest, I came here thinking you guys were a bunch of terrorists.’ If you don’t know any Muslims, and all you see is the news, why wouldn’t you think that way?”

The ISBU is contending with outside political waters lapping at the campus borders. Whereas Trump’s two predecessors took pains to distinguish between radicalized Islamic terrorists and the majority of peace-loving Muslims, the new administration “sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world,” the New York Times reported recently. “In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.”

Noman Khanani (SED’17), the ISBU’s chaplain, was no fan of Bush and Obama policies such as drone attacks, which have killed innocents in addition to terrorists. Yet, he says, those presidents were “respectful in the way they spoke of Muslims” and avoided generalizations about Islam.

“We know rhetoric has an impact on the way the public reacts, and that is what makes Muslims fear the general public giving in to this rhetoric and fear-mongering,” he says. “I’ve spoken to multiple students who have taken steps to avoid being alone in situations such as walking back late at night from the library.”

ElTemtamy says Muslim students have received heartwarming support from students of other faiths and from Marsh Chapel. Khanani agrees that the ISBU “has built numerous alliances with organizations across campus and has a strong relationship with much of the administration…to help counter Islamophobia.” While he’s the ISBU chaplain, he is not one of Marsh’s University chaplains. He would like to see at least a part-time Marsh chaplain to address the unique needs of Muslim students.

The Rev. Robert Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, says the chaplain for international students ministers to Muslims and the devout of other world religions. While he’s interested in building on that “because of the timeliness, importance, and sensitivity of the needs of our Muslim students,” he says, a Marsh-affiliated chaplain would require some financial support from the Muslim community, as is the case with other denominations having University chaplains.

In the end, ElTemtamy says, she cares less about Trump and his supporters than about her God.

“Being the best person you can be—we’re not doing that, essentially, because Trump’s campaign is painting us out to be like a bunch of terrorists.…We’re doing that because that’s what our religion taught us to do.” Trump’s campaign, she says, deepened her religion, “made me closer to God, and made me lean on Him even more so.”

BU Resources for Reporting Harassment

A student who is being harassed has several options for reporting to authorities.

“Any student or staff member who feels threatened or harassed can always call” the Boston University Police Department at  617-353-2110, says its acting chief, Scott Paré, BU deputy director of public safety. He cites Massachusetts law, which defines criminal harassment as “willfully and maliciously engag[ing] in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.”

BU’s complaint procedures for discrimination note: “Unlawful discrimination includes harassment based on an individual’s membership in any legally protected category.” The procedures note that BU bans discrimination based on several categories, including race, creed, religion, and ethnicity.

Students may initiate a harassment complaint by contacting the dean’s office at their BU school, the Dean of Students office, the University’s Equal Opportunity office, or for those living in dorms, Residence Life.

There are limits to what authorities can do in some cases. “I’m not aware of any way to address harassment from random people on the street who are not known, except to contact the BU police if there appears to be a danger or repetition of harassment by the same person,” says Kim Randall, executive director of the Equal Opportunity office.

The University can investigate if students are harassed by an identifiable BU affiliate, including employees of companies doing business with the University, Randall says. She encourages students to report such incidents to her office, the Dean of Students, BUPD, or Human Resources.

Even if authorities can’t identify harassers, Nigeria-born Eniola Anuoluwapo Soyemi (GRS’17) found some solace, after several racist taunts, in reporting the incidents to the Massachusetts attorney general’s hotline (1-800-994-3228) and having a sympathetic ear for her story. “They were extraordinarily helpful in my case,” she says, “and I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone with such experiences to contact them without hesitation.”

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Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness Are Peaking In College Students

Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness Are Peaking in College Students

Photo by Cydney Scott 

Mental Health

Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness Are Peaking in College Students Nationwide study, co-led by BU researcher Sarah Ketchen Lipson, reveals a majority of students say mental health has impacted their academic performance

A survey by a Boston University researcher of nearly 33,000 college students across the country reveals the prevalence of depression and anxiety in young people continues to increase, now reaching its highest levels, a sign of the mounting stress factors due to the coronavirus pandemic, political unrest, and systemic racism and inequality. 

“Half of students in fall 2023 screened positive for depression and/or anxiety,” says Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University mental health researcher and a co–principal investigator of the nationwide survey, which was administered online during the fall 2023 semester through the Healthy Minds Network. The survey further reveals that 83 percent of students said their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance within the past month, and that two-thirds of college students are struggling with loneliness and feeling isolated—an all-time high prevalence that reflects the toll of the pandemic and the social distancing necessary to control it.

Lipson, a BU School of Public Health assistant professor of health law, policy, and management, says the survey’s findings underscore the need for university teaching staff and faculty to put mechanisms in place that can accommodate students’ mental health needs.

“Faculty need to be flexible with deadlines and remind students that their talent is not solely demonstrated by their ability to get a top grade during one challenging semester,” Lipson says.

She adds that instructors can protect students’ mental health by having class assignments due at 5 pm, rather than midnight or 9 am, times that Lipson says can encourage students to go to bed later and lose valuable sleep to meet those deadlines.

Especially in smaller classroom settings, where a student’s absence may be more noticeable than in larger lectures, instructors who notice someone missing classes should reach out to that student directly to ask how they are doing. 

“Even in larger classes, where 1:1 outreach is more difficult, instructors can send classwide emails reinforcing the idea that they care about their students not just as learners but as people, and circulating information about campus resources for mental health and wellness,” Lipson says. 

And, crucially, she says, instructors must bear in mind that the burden of mental health is not the same across all student demographics. “Students of color and low-income students are more likely to be grieving the loss of a loved one due to COVID,” Lipson says. They are also “more likely to be facing financial stress.” All of these factors can negatively impact mental health and academic performance in “profound ways,” she says.

At a higher level within colleges and universities, Lipson says, administrators should focus on providing students with mental health services that emphasize prevention, coping, and resilience. The fall 2023 survey data revealed a significant “treatment gap,” meaning that many students who screen positive for depression or anxiety are not receiving mental health services.

“Often students will only seek help when they find themselves in a mental health crisis, requiring more urgent resources,” Lipson says. “But how can we create systems to foster wellness before they reach that point?” She has a suggestion: “All students should receive mental health education, ideally as part of the required curriculum.”

It’s also important to note, she says, that rising mental health challenges are not unique to the college setting—instead, the survey findings are consistent with a broader trend of declining mental health in adolescents and young adults. “I think mental health is getting worse [across the US population], and on top of that we are now gathering more data on these trends than ever before,” Lipson says. “We know mental health stigma is going down, and that’s one of the biggest reasons we are able to collect better data. People are being more open, having more dialogue about it, and we’re able to better identify that people are struggling.”

The worsening mental health of Americans, more broadly, Lipson says, could be due to a confluence of factors: the pandemic, the impact of social media, and shifting societal values that are becoming more extrinsically motivated (a successful career, making more money, getting more followers and likes), rather than intrinsically motivated (being a good member of the community). 

The crushing weight of historic financial pressures is an added burden. “Student debt is so stressful,” Lipson says. “You’re more predisposed to experiencing anxiety the more debt you have. And research indicates that suicidality is directly connected to financial well-being.” 

With more than 22 million young people enrolled in US colleges and universities, “and with the traditional college years of life coinciding with the age of onset for lifetime mental illnesses,” Lipson stresses that higher education is a crucial setting where prevention and treatment can make a difference.

One potential bright spot from the survey was that the stigma around mental health continues to fade. The results reveal that 94 percent of students say that they wouldn’t judge someone for seeking out help for mental health, which Lipson says is an indicator that also correlates with those students being likely to seek out help themselves during a personal crisis (although, paradoxically, almost half of students say they perceive that others may think more poorly of them if they did seek help).

“We’re harsher on ourselves and more critical of ourselves than we are with other people—we call that perceived versus personal stigma,” Lipson says. “Students need to realize, your peers are not judging you.”

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