Students Want Better Communication About Crimes

BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO AND TYLER MILLIKEN // MAY 3, 2017 //

A number of Curry College students are angry about being kept in the dark about serious campus incidents this semester.

Students, faculty, and staff alike are trying to resolve tensions, and some issues. The Student Government Association hosted an open forum at its annual Town Hall Meeting; the college ran a “May Day” event that promoted a positive outlook on diversity; and various groups have hosted educational events on campus concerning topics such as race, environmental concerns, and LGBTQ+ discrimination. There were even student-led protests last semester about the need for greater inclusion and transparency on campus.

But although the college has implemented a new “bias response protocol this semester, the administration remains inconsistent in how and when it informs the Curry community — if at all — about serious incidents on campus.

Sexual Assault in Curry Dorm

(Editor’s Note: Charges have been dropped in this case.)

For example, on May 1, The Patriot Ledger reported that a Curry student was raped in her dorm room by a Hyde Park resident who does not attend the school.

Godson Derosena, an 18-year-old student at Northeastern University, was arraigned in Quincy District Court on Friday, April 28, on charges of rape and indecent assault and battery. According to the story, the Curry student reported the incident to Public Safety back on March 22. The assault occurred two days prior.

Public Safety contacted the Milton Police Department, as well as campus support services for the victim. However, the Curry administration chose not to notify students, faculty or staff about the on-campus assault at any point throughout the investigation or even after Derosena’s arrest. Derosena pleaded not guilty last Friday and was released without bail.

“The only reason I knew about the rape was because my dad called me yesterday about the rape, worried about what was going on on campus,” said Emily Travascio, a freshman Nursing major, noting that her father learned about the incident from local news reports. “For other events going on on campus, such as racial prejudices, the school is slow to react to these things. We never really know what is going on.”

“The value of knowing is so we can be safer and be better informed,” she added. “I do not think the college is doing a good job of informing us.”

Student Sending Death Threats

As was the case with the on-campus assault, most members of the Curry community learned about another incident only after it was first reported on by external news media. According to The Berkshire Eagle, a Curry College first-year student was arrested on Sunday, March 26 after sending threatening messages to six other Curry students.

The Berkshire Eagle article was published on Tuesday, March 28. The following day, Curry College Public Safety released a statement of its own via email to notify the Curry community about what happened.

According to Public Safety, six Curry students reported that a previously suspended student, Sean Baruch, 19, had sent them vulgar text messages. Two of the students reported receiving death threats that included images of a black handgun. Baruch reportedly communicated that he was coming to campus.

It is unclear why Baruch was previously suspended by the college.

Public Safety contacted the Milton Police Department and assisted both Milton and Lenox Police in an effort to locate Baruch, who lives in Lenox. Lenox Police found Baruch at home, where he was taken into custody. It was only upon his arrest that police learned that the weapon he displayed was a toy.

Baruch has been charged with threatening to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrested. He pleaded not guilty in Southern Berkshire District Court.

“If it had been deemed an immediate or ongoing threat, Public Safety would have issued an emergency alert or timely warning in closer proximity to the actual incident,” said Interim Director Paul L’Italien. “Even though an emergency alert or warning wasn’t required, because of the scope and seriousness of the circumstances of the incident, including the arrest, the College believed it was important to send a community notification.”

However, L’Italien noted that there was a longer than usual interval of time in implementing the community notification protocol “due to human error.”

Hate Crimes reported via the Curry Portal

On Monday, April 10, Public Safety alerted students through the MyCurry portal about two bias-related incidents on campus. Throughout the past two semesters, students have been informed of these issues through campus email.

The community message explained that “a student in the Mayflower residence hall reported that her room had been entered and vandalized by an unknown individual(s). The student, who identifies as a member of the LBGT community, indicated that her decorations, including one with LGBTQ pride rainbow colors, were torn down and rearranged to spell an offensive word.”

Lumped into the message was a second incident. “A student who lives in the Lombard residence hall reported that the whiteboard on his door had been written on. The message, which was offensive and biased in nature, has been documented and removed, and the College has posted a notice about the occurrence of the graffiti in the location where it occurred, indicating intolerance for such behavior and asking for assistance in addressing it.”

“Prior to the new protocol, communications were inconsistent,” said L’Italien. “The ‘bias response team’ has implemented a consistent communication protocol this semester, which includes sending a Public Safety email to all students, parents, faculty, and staff if an instance of a hate crime occurs. That was not the case in the April 10 incident.”

L’Italien added that local law enforcement did not determine the incidents to be hate crimes, but that the “discriminatory behavior” will not be tolerated.

No one has yet to be identified responsible for the incidents.

Lisa MacDonald, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, said students in the two residence halls assisted the bias response team and Student Affairs staff in addressing “this unacceptable behavior in their community.”

“If an instance of bias-related graffiti or vandalism occurs, the response team will [from now on] post a notification to all campus community members on myCurry,” said MacDonald. “The bias incident response team is also in the process of expanding the myCurry Diversity page and implementing ongoing updates about bias-related matters.”

While it remains unclear what constitutes “bias-related graffiti” versus a “hate crime,” it is evident that many students are unsatisfied with the inconsistent communication on campus. If a bias incident merits public acknowledgment via a flier at the site of the offense, why does a sexual assault on campus merit no communication at all?

“I believe it’s definitely important to know what’s going on at campus, and it’s not a good look for Public Safety to be hiding these serious situations from students,” said Marvin Bony, a senior Business Management major. “It causes more harm than good.”

When asked about the recent sexual assault on campus, which he was unaware of, freshman Stephen Bascio was far more blunt.

“I am absolutely appalled,” said Bascio. “Curry was founded on communications, so why don’t they start communicating the things that matter most”

Curry Comm Welcome

VIDEO BY JEFF LEMBERG // AUGUST 31, 2016 //

On Wednesday, August 31st the Communication department held an introductory session welcoming the newest communication majors to Curry College. This was followed by an ice cream social where students and professors were given the opportunity to mingle and create connections.

At the event, the first year communication students were asked what their goals are as comm majors. These are their responses. #CurryComm

If You Build it, They Might Read

BY KEVIN DIFFILY // MARCH 26, 2012 //

Every Curry student must take “Fundamentals of Communication” to fulfill a CLAC requirement. They’re also required to purchase a dense textbook at a price that ranges from $60 to $130, depending on where and how one buys it.

Those who teach the class, and many of the students who take it, agree that the course carries great value. But the book…not so much.

For that reason, a number of professors in the Communication Department are working to create their own textbook for student use. Led by Professor Brecken Chinn Swartz, the group is looking to shelve the current book, “Communicating Effectively,” 10th edition, and develop something more user friendly for students.

Professor Brecken Chinn Swartz is leading a group of professors to create a new textbook for the Fundamentals of Communication course.

Swartz said she and other professors in the Communication Department had discussed using a different textbook for all sections of the course—because it’s a CLAC requirement, between 6 and 15 sections are offered each semester—but came to realize that nothing met all desires. So, Swartz suggested that the group write its own book, “a team approach that would allow everybody to contribute their expertise into the course content and the teaching methods,” she said.

To date, those contributing to different chapters of the book include professors John Barrett, Dorria DiManno, Nina Hofman, Marcy Holbrook, Jerry Gibbs, Roberta Kosberg, Rob MacDougall, Vicki Nelson, Sharon Sinnott, Ruth Spillberg and Swartz, all of the Communication Department.

Swartz said the goal is to create a book that is less like a classic textbook and more interactive. The new book, with a working title of “Communicating Well: A Fundamental Toolkit,” will give a broad overview of certain concepts so that professors “can really talk around it, without all of the stories being told in the book, which we think is not effective for how students read these days.

“It was amazing how coherently our vision fell together in terms of the kinds of chapters that we wanted, the way we wanted to approach the book, the format of it, and the graphics of it,” Swartz added. “We’ve really been amazingly on the same page.

“It’s not just about the field of communications and what the main concepts are,” she said. “We’re hoping that the management student, the nursing student, the computer science student would be able to use the concepts in the book…for small-group communication, professional communication, and our way of viewing communication in the world.”

Jeremy Kittredge, a sophomore criminal justice major, agreed that the book Swartz described would be a vast improvement over the text he used in his “Fundamentals of Communication” class. “I didn’t really like [the old book] because it was too bland,” he said. “I felt like a lot of the material was just unnecessary. It was way too dry and specific.

“Students who are taking ‘Communication’ simply to fulfill a requirement have no interest in reading about the in-depth specifics of nonverbal communication, for example,” Kittredge added. “I’d rather have the basic concepts detailed in the book and have the professor talk about them in class.”

Mark Doneghey, a sophomore biology major, echoed that sentiment. “The old book was an absurd amount of reading,” he said. “It was just overwhelming.”

“Communicating Well: A Fundamental Toolkit” will be offered as a hard-copy book only. However, Swartz said the book would include worksheet pages and that it will cost markedly less than the current offering. Whereas students like Kittredge and Doneghey reportedly paid about $80 for their books, the new text will hopefully cost around $30, Swartz said.

Contributing professors are working to have their final manuscript sent to the publisher, Cognella Academic Publishing, by the end of this academic year so that the book can debut in the fall. Swartz said she hopes that next semester will serve as a trial and that professors can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the book and tweak it as needed for future use.

“Curry will be unique in that we have a textbook that is written by our faculty,” she said, “and we’re hoping we’ll be a leader in the industry.”