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Loans, Loans, Loans: Montclair State University’s Million Dollar Debt

Article Written By: Chanila German

As students walk around and admire the beautiful buildings on campus, it is hard to imagine any of the buildings coming with a dollar sign. However, many do, in the form of loans.

In order to finance the construction on campus, Montclair State University borrowed $189.36 million in 2014 in the form of a bond. Like any loan, it comes with an interest rate, and in this case 4.21 percent, according to public documents.

The university still has a remaining balance of $182 million that will be paid back in a period of 30 years. Each year, on the first of January and July, the university must pay back the interest on the loan. Last July, the university made a payment of $3.2 million.

In addition to this borrowed money, the university uses funds from other sources to help pay for construction, including student tuition, investment income, university reserves and donations, according to Assistant Treasurer Donna McMonagle.

The 2014 bond helped the construction of six buildings, including the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences (CELS), the Feliciano School of Business, Partridge Hall (also known as the School of Nursing), the School of Communication and Media (SCM), the Center for Information and Technology (CIT) and College Hall.

In some cases, the 2014 bond helped to pay for the majority of the buildings construction, such as the SCM, which cost $64.8 million and Partridge Hall, which cost $19.4 million. While in other cases, it paid for a portion of the buildings, such as the Feliciano School of Business, which it provided $15.5 million, and $13.2 million for CELS.

College Hall is currently under construction with a $56 million budget and will not reopen until 2020.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

College Hall, which is not expected to open until 2020, has a $56 million budget for renovations. The 2014 bond is covering 50 percent of the building’s overall cost. The remaining balance is being covered through the university funds since the state of New Jersey has not provided a grant for this project.

“We haven’t issued any bonds for about four years,” said the Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Jon Rosenhein. “So, we haven’t taken on any new debt in that period, which doesn’t mean that we won’t at some point in the future.”

Rosenhein mentioned that from “time to time” the university does receive state grants that it does not need to pay back.

“Mallory Hall, which is now called the Center for Information and Technology, was funded through a state grant,” Rosenhein said.

A female student walks in front of the Center for Computer and Information Science.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

The state grant called Building Our Future provided $7 million of CIT’s $23 million budget. The remainder of the budget was paid with university funds. Other buildings, such as CELS and the Feliciano School of Business, also received funding from the state.

State grants lessen the financial burden placed on students since they are helping to pay off the university’s debt through their tuition.

In 2019, the contribution from students’ tuition and fees will cover 69 percent of the operating budget that the university uses for construction, according to documents given to The Montclarion by McMonagle.

Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Jon Rosenhein (left) sits beside Assistant Treasurer Donna McMonagle (right) in the Feliciano School of Business.
Chanila German |The Montclarion

Rosenhein said that he believes that the university is mindful of the burden it is partly placing on students.

“One of the reasons [many] institutions, and almost every college and university does it this way with periodically issuing bonds and paying it off around 30 years, is that in part to equalize the cost of [it] over many generations of students,” Rosenhein said. “So that the students that happened to be here the year that College Hall was built, that cohort of students doesn’t have to pay for the whole building.”

Some students did not realize their tuition contributed to a large portion of construction on campus, like freshman linguistics major Samantha Lauret.

“Well, then I think that the [university] needs to figure out how to make it a little bit fairer,” Lauret said. “Because if that’s [where] all the money is going into, I feel like students should be provided more advantages as well.”

Students walk in front of the Center for Computer and Information Science.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1904 President Richard Wolfson agrees that it is “unfair” that current students are “paying for buildings that they will never use,” but he noted that current students are benefiting from buildings funded by prior students.

Junior sports media and journalism major Bryant Flores said he understands why some students might think paying for new buildings was unfair, but he personally does not mind it.

“It relates back to the hearings we had last year,” Flores said, referring to a tuition hearing held by the university. “It actually mentioned that the state was providing less and less funding for all state schools and the tuition here isn’t much anyways. So, I don’t see it as a big deal to fund the construction, but that’s just me. But, I also see why people might think it’s a problem.”

An overlook of Montclair State University’s operating budget for 2019.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

Wolfson said that he believes construction is necessary since the university has a shortage of “general classrooms and lavatories.” However, he said the university should stay mindful and not lose sight of the academic portion either.

“My question for the board of trustees is always, ‘Okay, we are putting up another building. Are there enough classrooms in that building?’” Wolfson said. “‘And are we paying as much attention to the academic side of the house, meaning are we hiring enough faculty, advisers and people that help the students as well?’”

“My question for the board of trustees is always, ‘Okay, we are putting up another building. Are there enough classrooms in that building?’” Wolfson said. “‘And are we paying as much attention to the academic side of the house, meaning are we hiring enough faculty, advisers and people that help the students as well?’”

Originally published on Dec. 11, 2018, on The Montclarion.

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From Copyeditor to Author and Illustrator

Former Montclair State University student makes her dreams into reality

Article by: Chanila German 

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Ilene Dudek, the author of the “Little Ant” series, poses with her three books at her book signing event at Nutley Public Library on Sept. 8. Photo by Chanila German

On the second floor of the Nutley Public Library, the laughter of children echoes down the hallway as they enthusiastically run around a small playroom. Their laughter is directed toward a bright-eyed woman with curly brown hair who holds a stack of colorful flashcards in her hands. Each child gets a chance to pull their own flashcard from the stack and watch as everyone, including the woman, acts out the action written on the card.

Ilene Dudek says she floats in space as she puts her hands out and demonstrates that there is no gravity in space.

“Don’t talk to any aliens or float to the moon,” Dudek said. “Now come back to earth.”

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In the playroom of the Nutley Public Library, the children demonstrate how to “walk like a turtle” as their parents and Dudek (left) watch from the sidelines. Chanila German | The Montclarion

Dudek smiles as another child rushes to her to pick another card which reads, “Walk like a turtle.” Now it is the parents who laugh as they watch the children immediately drop to the floor and give their best impression of a turtle. The flashcard activity soon ends and Dudek then announces that she will be signing copies of her books. She also provides students with a craft area in the back of the library.

Dudek, a Montclair State University alumna and current resident of Nutley, New Jersey, is the author and illustrator of the “Little Ant” series. During her time at Montclair State, she originally majored in business but quickly changed to English. While she loved learning about creative writing and crafting her own stories, after college she decided to play it safe and got a job as a copywriter in advertising.

“I think it was a little intimidating to think that I am going to be an author and how many years will it take for me to get out there and sell my stuff,” Dudek said. “It is nerve-wracking when you are young to say this is what I am going to do.”

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Dudek plays with the children at her book signing event at Nutley Public Library on Sept. 8. Chanila German | The Monctarion

It wasn’t until last year when Dudek was laid off from her job that she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an author. Her inspiration for her stories came directly from home in the form of her two young sons, Matthew and Alex, who are 10 and 4 respectfully.

“These two energetic boys, who are always at the park looking for fish or new trails or restaurants,” Dudek said. “They were always looking for something exciting to do and the ‘Little Ant on the Go’ is the perfect expression of that.”

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From left to right: Matthew Dudek and Alex Dudek pose with their mother Ilene Dudek on a slide. Photo courtesy of Ilene Dudek

“Little Ant on the Go” is the first book in the “Little Ant” series. The story is about an ant that gets accidentally flushed down the toilet and the wild adventures he goes through to get back home. Dudek ’s youngest son was the inspiration for this particular story as she wrote it while potty training him. The other two books, “Little Ant Hears a Noise” and “Little Ant Saves the Day,” are also inspired by her sons. They are both stories that Dudek loves to share with other children.

At the beginning of her career, Dudek has visited several libraries and elementary schools, including Bloomfield Public Library, Spring Garden Elementary and My Little University. During her visits, she doesn’t just read her books but also provides games tailored toward her stories. These include flashcards, I Spy and a sound guessing game.

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Dudek plays with the children at her book signing event at Nutley Public Library on Sept. 8.
Chanila German | The Monctarion

“Dudek likes to have a very interactive story time with the participation of students,” said Lucia Alvarez, a library associate at Nutley Public Library. “[She] follows it up with many games and afterward a craft. So, they recreate a garden with grass and ants like in her books.”

Alvarez is one of the library associates who helps Dudek with her craft area. As Dudek signs books in the front of the room, Alvarez assists several children in creating their own flower pots. One of the children that she helps is a young toddler named Tabitha who refuses the help anyone but Alvarez.

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Lucia Alvarez, a library associate at Nutley Public Library, helps the children with their flower pot. Chanila German | The Montclarion

“As a parent, it was a lot of fun watching the games and seeing my daughter pick some of the cards,” said Mark Jacobsen, the father of Tabitha and a former student of Montclair State. “The book was very silly too.”

Tabitha is one of the children that bought a copy of “Little Ant on the Go,” which Dudek sells for $10 at the end of storytime.

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Former Montclair State student Mark Jacobsen poses with a copy of “Little Ant on the Go,” which he bought for his daughter Tabitha. Chanila German | The Monctarion

On what to expect in the future from Dudek, she said to expect more “Little Ant” stories.

“I really want to continue with the ‘Little Ant’ because there are so many stories within me that are silly, and it’s a good place for me to get it out,” Dudek said.

She also has a desire to write more “Stephen King type” novels but doesn’t want to stop making illustrations. Her long-term goal isn’t set in stone, but what Dudek does know is that she wished that she became an author earlier in her life.

“I’m 43 years old, so that was 20 years that I was finding myself,” Dudek said. “I have so much joy and appreciation for what I do, and I wake up every morning ready to get back to work that I wish I had done sooner.”

Originally published on Sept. 27, 2018, in The Montclarion.

Juul: The Flavored Flash Drive Frenzy

Photo By: Chanila German

Montclair State University students along with other teenagers around the country are participating in a new trend called Juuling, despite alarming health labels.

Public health sophomore Kayla Williams Juuls on Montclair State University campus during breaks between classes. Photo by Chanila German
Public health sophomore Kayla Williams (left) and undeclared sophomore Rachel Benzinger (right) Juul outside together. Photo by Chanila German

“It’s a lot better for you than cigarettes but it’s still bad for you regardless and I know that. I know I’m still putting poison into my body.”

– Dominick Sylvester

Dominick Sylvester, a faculty member and former student at Montclair State, shows off his Juul. Photo by Chanila German
A cloud of vapor surrounds Dominick Sylvester (left), Kayla Williams (middle) and Rachel Benzinger (right) as they all Juul together. Photo by Chanila German
Dominick Sylvester, a faculty member and former student at Montclair State, shows off his Juul. Photo by Chanila German
Rachel Benzinger (left) and Kayla Williams (right) let out a cloud of vapor together. Photo by Chanila German
A single Juul Pod, which is the cartridge that clicks on the top of the device contains up to 5 percent nicotine. Photo by Chanila German

“The thing about it is that you feel better if you are hitting a Juul all day, even if you are smoking more nicotine than smoking three cigarettes a day. I just feel better with the Juul. However, in terms of nicotine just by the numbers, I’m probably taking in more.”
– Robert McPherson

Junior computer science major Robert McPherson Juuls behind the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences.
Photo By Chanila German
A Montclair State student lets out a cloud of vapor while Julling with his friends. Photo by Chanila German
A group of Montclair State University students smokes Juuls, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vape mods. Photo By Chanila German

For more information regarding Montclair State students and the effects of Juul, check out the article that my class and I wrote on The Montclarion website. Link below!

https://themontclarion.org/feature-story/juul-the-flavored-flash-drive-frenzy/

New Books, New Librarians, and a New Atmosphere

Welcome to The New Milford Public Library

Article Written By: Chanila German

The New Milford Public Library is located at 200 Dahlia Dr. in New Milford, New Jersey. Photo by Chanila German

From the comfortable sound of silence to the smell of old books, The New Milford Public Library is a sanctuary for some residents of the small town labeled the ‘birthplace of Bergen County.’

Even far removed from the center of town located at 200 Dahlia Dr. in New Milford, New Jersey, the rectangular brick building often sees a wave of visitors from the time it opens and closes its doors. At random times, visitors can be seen playing board games, attending story time, coloring, watching a movie, chatting with friends or reading a book.

However, it’s only been in recent years that the library has seen an increase in visitors. The Library Director Terrie L. McColl credits this with library’s growing addition in staff. 

“I’ve been the director for 12 years and we basically had the same staff for 12 years,” says McColl. “So, we had some turnover in staffing and that has helped to add some new blood into the community. We hired a new children’s librarian this year, and she has been doing a fabulous job of getting people into the [library].”

Terrie L. McColl, the library director, poses alongside a cutout of Elvis that has made several appearances at events in the library. Photo by Chanila German

McColl continues, “We also have a new teens’ librarian. That’s a tricky area to get kids into the library especially since we aren’t near any schools. The high school is on the other side of town. The middle school is on the other side of town. So, getting the teenagers into the library is a little trickier but we are working on that too.”

Along with new staff, the library is offering new programs for all ages.

Since October 1, teenagers can join the Teen Zone! to relax and eat snacks with their friends on Monday afternoons.  As well, adults can learn Line Dancing with Lynn, discuss local and world issues during the Current Events Group meetings or drop off their children for story time with Sunkyung Roh.

Roh, who has worked in two other libraries including The New York Public Library, was hired as the new Children’s Librarian three months ago. She believes that the job description for librarians has evolved from simply checking out books to planning events for visitors.

“…The children’s librarian’s role is not like it was in the 70’s and 80’s,” says Roh. “Because these days, people come to the library not just to check out books. They expect programs, events and story time. So even I, as a patron, if I visit any other libraries, the first thing I check is the library event calendar. So now the library is not just a place to store books, but it is more like a cultural hub. Everyone gathers here.” 

Roh also believes that one of the strongest benefits about the public library is that everything is free to residents. 

“[The library] doesn’t charge anything, but, once [a] father told me after the baby’s story time that ‘Your program is better than the one that I went to that is a fee-based center,’” says Roh.

Someone who agrees with Roh is 38-year-old New Milford resident Arun Kandathil Chacko. He often finds himself using many of the services the library provides because of their wide selection. 

“[The library] provides great resources in terms in movies, books and magazines for the children,” says Chacko. “They have a great selection of kids’ books and a lot of activities for children in the summer and weekdays. I have a one year old and we take her for story time with the librarian and it is fantastic. It’s also a great way to meet people in the community.”

One of the sculptures that New Milford Public Library has on display outside of backside entrance of the building. Photo by: Chanila German

Apart from the new programs and staffing, McColl hopes to start displaying sculptures around the building and working with the New Milford Historical Society and Museum to start displaying artifacts inside the library in the near future.

“The public library is for everybody,” says McColl. “They often say, ‘it’s from cradle to grave.’ It’s life-long learning so you have to cater to the whole community, not just one segment.”

BELIEVE ME, TOO

Opinion article by Chanila German 

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A clip art of #WhyIDidn’tReport of a woman’s mouth covered with 10 different hands. Photo courtesy of @aweebitblue via Twitter

Men and women are not only different because of their gender but also due to their varying experiences. While both men and women can become victims of sexual harassment and assault, women are often the ones attacked since they are viewed as the “weaker” gender.

When women are brave enough to speak up about their attacks, the first question that most people ask is, “What were you wearing?” as if their clothing was a form of an invitation.

On Sept. 27, the country watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was “100 percent” certain that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a summer party in 1982.

Ford, a research psychologist, recalled the horrific night that Kavanaugh pinned her down to a bed, covered her mouth and molested her while his friend Mark Judge watched. Her voice trembled slightly, but Ford gave a full account of the night to the best of her ability. She refused to spare the public of the details, wanting everyone to understand the terror that she felt 36 years ago. The terror that one out of six American women has faced in their lifetime after “being the victim of an attempted rape or completed rape,” according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

For many individuals in the United States, Ford is a hero.

The moment that Ford stood before the committee and described the most terrifying experience of her life, she became a symbol of strength and courage to all sexual assault survivors. Victims of sexual assault often feel voiceless when it comes to talking about their attacks. They often think that the public won’t believe them and fear the repercussions that might come along with that disbelief.

I believe Ford, and I believe every other woman that has come forward in the past year and told their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Don’t call me naive or easily manipulated because I am neither of those things. I believe these women because of experiences that I have faced myself.

Like many other women, I have also faced sexual harassment and assault.

I have encountered catcalls from random men on streets, heard people make vulgar comments about my body and have even been touched inappropriately. Now you must think to yourself, “Was I asking for it?” I can assure you that I was not, just like many other victims. I was targeted not because of any other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Recently, President Donald Trump tweeted, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement by either her or loving parents,” which caused Twitter to explode with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReportIt. Women and men from all different ages, races and backgrounds tweeted why they didn’t report their assault.

Many replied that fear, shame and even embarrassment was the reason:

For me, it was that I didn’t think I was important enough. Or better yet, I didn’t think what happened was a big deal because worse things have happened to other people. Looking back on it now, I realize that I am important, and my experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s. I wish I had handled my experience differently. It might have saved me from years of pain and confusion, but I didn’t. I cannot change the past.

Although I may have handled my situation differently, I can still choose to support women who decide to come forward. I choose to believe women like Ford because their stories matter just like mine. Sexual assault is real and according to RAINN, every 98 seconds another American becomes a victim to it.

So, when a victim has enough courage to tell their story, let’s not ask them why they didn’t report it when it first happened. Let’s be supportive and remember it’s not easy to bare one’s most vulnerable moment to the world.

Originally published on October 4, 2018, on The Montclarion.

The Price of Winning

Article by: Chanila German

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The Montclair State University women’s ice hockey team poses with a trophy after winning nationals on Feb. 18. Photo courtesy of gofundme.com

Despite the wishes of many players, the Montclair State University women’s ice hockey team will not become a varsity sport anytime soon. Even though the program had a fantastic season with its first Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference (DVCHC) Championship win and an invitation to the Atlantic Hockey Conference Association (ACHA) National Tournament, many factors are taken into consideration when making a club sport into a varsity sport as explained by Holly P. Gera, director of intercollegiate athletics.

“There are many factors that go into starting an [National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)] varsity sport,” Gera wrote in an email. “Just some of the things that have to be considered are: Title IX compliance, facilities, budget, personnel, support staff – including athletic training, sports information, advising and compliance, viability of the sport, conference sport sponsorship, etc.”

The four-year-old program, which was originally started by several students on a Facebook page, has grown massively. The team maintained an undefeated season, along with its other successes. Many of the players believed that this proved that the team should become a varsity sport.

“That was the goal when we started [the team] years ago,” said senior forward and English major Brittany Meneghin. “Especially with the success we have had this year, I think that there is no doubt that we should be a school team.”

Head coach Dave Solomon also said that he would like to see the team at an NCAA Division III level.

“That’s kind of our goal to grow the program as we get a more steady influx of players coming in,” Solomon said. “Yeah, we would love to see it get to that level of Division III.”

Even though becoming a varsity sport comes with more challenges such as stricter selection of players, many do not seem to mind it.

“We would have to become more of a team who attends practice more often,” wrote freshman defenseman Lexie Montez in an email. “The fact that it will become stricter in picking players is never a bad thing because it just means we become more competitive and hardworking. I have no problem with that.”

While there are many differences between a club sport and a varsity sport, the biggest is the cost. Club sports players pay a fee to play at the university. According to the women’s hockey team website, both new and returning players must pay $1,600 and $1,200 respectively. For some players this fee is a strain on them, especially as college students paying other bills.

“Club sports are pay-to-play sports,” said Kristin Iattarelli, senior co-captain and justice studies major. “So [at] the beginning of the year, we have an [admission] that we have to pay for the sport and that is kind of how it goes. Division III is what the rest of [Montclair State] competes in so they have everything paid for, but we have to work a little bit harder.”

Iattarelli mentioned that there are also options like scholarships and sponsors to help cover the cost of players’ fees in the club.

Nonetheless, after receiving the ACHA National Tournament invitation, the Red Hawks needed $15,000 to cover the cost of expenses for a competition in Columbus, Ohio in March. The team started its own GoFundMe page the day after they won the DVCHC Championship last Sunday night. The page already raised $2,145 of its official $5,500 goal by early March. Several other players have started to fundraise by selling chocolates and T-shirts.

While the team has made progress, some players found the process of fundraising frustrating.

“It is frustrating having to fundraise our money for nationals because despite all the work and effort we are putting in every game to win and make a name for Montclair State women’s hockey, we still have to dig out of our pockets to pay for this trip,” Montez wrote. “Rather [than] putting our attention into practicing for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we have to make sure we make enough money to even go to nationals.”

Even though varsity sports are mostly funded by the university, Gera mentioned that varsity sports fundraised too.

“While varsity sports are funded by the university, all our teams and student-athletes raise funds to support their programs and supplement their budgets,” Gera wrote. “This is mostly done to cover travel expenses, extra staffing and the cost of team gear. If a varsity team qualifies for an NCAA Championship, the NCAA reimburses a certain amount of the costs, but not necessarily all the costs.”

Along with the financial burden on players, the Red Hawks also dislike the university’s lack of acknowledgment for the team. Many believe that the university does not promote the team enough.

“If the promotion and hype [are] being given to one club sport, then I think that it should [be] given to all of them,” Iattarelli said.

 

Originally published on March 14, 2018, on The Montclarion.

‘Women Belong in the Kitchen’ According To Bible Believers

Article by: Chanila German 

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Pastor Lowelo stands to the side while a member of the religious group preaches.
Lucia Rubi Godoy | The Montclarion

An organization called the Bible Believers antagonized students while preaching their views in the Student Center quad and later in front of Alexander Kasser Theater on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Capt. Kieran Barrett, the group of about five non-students were on campus trying to bait students into verbal arguments with signs saying “Women belong in the kitchen” and sweaters that had “Fear God” written on them.

The Bible Believers, originally from Philadelphia, travel to various colleges and universities on the east coast. Their goal is to spread their faith and make students “repent their sins.”

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A Bible Believer holds up a sign saying “Women belong in the kitchen” in the Student Center quad.
Photo courtesy of Michelle MacDevette

“Oh, we love students,” said Pastor Lowelo, a member of the group who declined to give his last name. “We are warning them about hell to come because of their sins, and Jesus is the answer. People should read the Bible and stop sinning.”

Students were seen visually upset with the comments of the organization. Several of the female students were angry and offended by their views on rape and a woman’s place in society. Other students were enraged by their homophobic comments.

“I think it is wrong that other people try to force their religion on other people because not everyone is Christian or [has] the same love of Christianity,” said sophomore English major Admiral Ozochiawaeze. “And to blame victims about rape is blasphemy in my opinion. It is just infuriating [and] it’s kind of funny to yell back, but I don’t know how that makes us look.”

The University Police Department kept students a few feet away from the demonstrators as they protested and created a circle around the group. The organization preached their various opinions on topics of women, LGBTQ people and even different religions.

“According to my understanding, [the Bible Believers] came to discuss issues from the Bible and they have a right to do so,” Barrett said. “Therefore, we are here to make sure that the people at this university are kept safe and that they have their constitutional right to discuss things.”

A few students led a counter-protest to drown out the message of the Bible Believers. While many students were displeased with the protest displayed by the organization, they agreed that everyone had the right to express their own opinions and belief.

“So much of the things he is talking about is not in accordance with the Christian mission or Christian philosophy that I was exposed to,” said junior political science major Bo DePaul. “Part of me is having a little bit of fun, and another part of me really hates hypocrisy, but he is engaging in his free speech and so am I.”

Junior humanities major AJ Nichols, who stood in front of the group and chanted back responses, wanted everyone to know that Montclair State’s views were separate from this organization.

“Honestly this demonstration is not what this community stands for,” Nichols said. “The fact that we’re all coming together to speak against this kind of hate is powerful and important. Spread love. That’s all we need on this campus.”

Originally published on March 14, 2018 in The Montclarion. 

Newman Catholic Reacts to Bible Believers

Article by: Chanila German 

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The cross stands outside of the Newman Catholic Church. Chanila German | The Montclarion

After an organization called the Bible Believers visited Montclair State University to preach their own interpretation of the Bible on March 14, members of the Newman Catholic Church have expressed their frustration over the group’s misrepresentation of the Christian faith.

The Newman Catholic Church is located at 894 Valley Road in Montclair, New Jersey.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

“I just want to say that what happened the other day with the Bible Believers, that was horrendous,” said Sophie Ouellette, a missionary worker that works with the church through a nonprofit group called Focus. “Everyone was so upset even just being there and hearing what they were saying. That is not a representation of Christians as a whole whatsoever.”

Sophie Ouellette, a missionary worker from the Newman Catholic Center, attended the demonstration by the Bible Believers and was horrified by the comments of the group.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

According to Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Karen Pennington, the organization was permitted on campus with the authority of the university as the federal law does not allow it to prohibit content based on the message.

Many declared that the preaching of the religious group veered more toward sexism, homophobia and intolerance rather than actual views of the Christian faith.

“It was very heartbreaking to know that there were so many people on campus that thought that God hates them…,” Ouellette said. “Or that women are not valued or that the church hates gay people. All very false things… [but] there were people on campus actually believing this because of these people. It was just awful, but those things are not true.”

Junior marketing major Erika Rademaker was disgusted as she watched and heard the demonstration put on by the Bible Believers with her friends, including an openly gay student and a Muslim-American student.

“It’s so sad to see people like this still exist,” Rademaker said. “I’m very open-minded like I think most college students are in 2018. I was really proud of the group of students and faculty who defended their views and tried to stand up to the men preaching negativity and hate.”

Another student who watched the preachers was junior communication and media arts major Katherine Braunstein, who is currently the secretary of Newman Church. Braunstein mentioned that upon hearing that the organization was on campus, she was frightened.

Junior communication and media arts major Katherine Braunstein is currently the secretary at Newman Catholic Church and hopes that people will not judge all Christians based on the demonstration of the Bible Believers on March 14.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

“I was like, ‘oh no’ immediately and [felt this] sense of dread because this campus isn’t known for being religious,” Braunstein said. “And it is also hard for me to find a home here being very religious myself. It’s just difficult more than anything, but one of the reasons why I was so scared was because people that aren’t religious and want to find something to say against Christianity, they will find anything possible to speak against it. And the [Bible Believers] made it even more intense and worse.”

Braunstein explained that this organization did not represent all Christian faith members, only a slim minority. She hopes that people will not judge the religion simply based on the misinterpretation of these men. In her attempt to discredit the group on the day of the demonstration, Braunstein asked students with questions and concerns about Christianity to reach out to her via her Instagram.

Sean Grealy, the Newman Catholic Campus minister, also discredited the group’s views.

“Obviously, there are certain stances the church has regarding certain things like gay marriage and things like that [that] are talked about in the media,” Grealy said. “There is a lot of background to that, but the basic message is and will always be love coming from the Catholic Church. The Bible Believers that were on campus, they were not preaching love. They were preaching hate. They said that if you were a member of LGBTQ community, you were damn[ed] to hell forever. That is not true.”

Even though a wide-range of students were offended, Pennington wants students to know that the university understands, but that everyone has the right to freedom of speech.

“To those who are offended, they should try to remember that others won’t always share our opinions,” Pennington said. “We cannot control what others say or do, but we can control our reaction to it. We can walk away and not give offensive people an audience. We can fight by providing programs and activities that provide an alternate view.”

Originally published on March 31, 2018, in The Montclarion.