New Ohio bill proposing textbook fee raises concerns

Paying tuition is a looming concern for most, if not all college students. An increasing number of students are obligated to take out student loans to fulfill their tuition requirements each year. It is for this reason that the new bill being proposed for Ohio schools to increase tuition by charging a textbook has been questioned among University of Toledo students.

“For the 2018-2019 academic year, the board of trustees of state institutions of higher education shall provide textbooks to all undergraduate students as a mandatory service,” the bill, H.B. 49, states.

In accordance with the bill, the board of trustees of UT may charge a textbook fee of up to $300 for a full-time undergraduate student.

“Essentially, the bill will put the responsibility of purchasing texts books on the institutions,” said Student Government President, Amal Mohamed. “Tuition will go up by approximately 300 dollars a semester, but all textbooks will be provided to students.”

The bill states that the textbook fee will cover any instructional tools, such as bound and electronic textbooks and software, used specifically for curricular content instruction in a course.

According to Mohamed, student government is assembling a task force of senators that will visit various student organizations and classes to educate them on the bill. Once students understand how it will affect them and the university, they will make an educated vote.

Mohamed, fourth-year biology and psychology major, stressed that the student government aims to assess the opinion of UT students on the subject.

“We are introducing a referendum that will be made public in the upcoming weeks, in which any student at UT can vote for how they feel about the bill,” said Mohamed.

However, the Finance Committee on Higher Education will have the final say on imposing the fee, Mohamed said.

While the effects of the bill will be felt by all students, the benefit could vary according to major.

“It depends on your major, what year you’re in and how much you use textbooks,” said Judy Daboul, third-year biology pre-med major. “Our library itself has a lot of textbooks that you can use.”

Daboul elaborated that, while science majors may spend around $300 on textbooks during their first year, the cost for other majors, such as English, is usually far less.

Furthermore, several alternatives exist for students, such as purchasing cheap books from Amazon, borrowing from the library and even forsaking textbooks altogether in favor of studying from lecture notes, Daboul said.

“Especially for international students, they already charge a high fee and then adding this makes it more expensive,” said third-year psychology major, Rasha Sheikh. “While the fee doesn’t suit me, it might suit others.”

UT harnesses solar power for sustainability

Every student has faced the dilemma of sitting on campus somewhere, studying in a beautiful green space, only to be forced inside to charge their electronics.

But with the help of the Student Green Fund, that won’t be an issue any longer. The University of Toledo community can now use the sun’s energy to power up their electronics outside.

In spring of 2016, second-year UT student Julia Button wrote a proposal to the UT Student Green Fund for exterior tables with solar panel-equipped umbrellas that harnesses the sun’s energy into attached ports.

These ports can then be used by students to charge whatever electronic devices need it when they are outdoors.

Installed last semester and currently ready to use, the solar panel tables sit outside the Student Union, near the Engineering Campus and on the Health Science Campus, the tables stood ready for student use.

Director of Energy Management, Michael Green, said he understands the benefits of bringing environmentally friendly ideas to fruition.

“It’s a loving, kind, sustainable change,” Green said. “It’s going to have a good, social, positive impact for students.”

According to Green, students may plug in their devices or utilize an absorbable energy charging pad, all while interacting in an outside environment.

Campusgoers have already begun reaping the benefits of the recently constructed tables. First-year student Emily Mahoney said she utilizes the charging station for both means of convenience and interaction.

“It’s a refreshing addition to campus,” Mahoney said. “I was able to charge my cell outside and even meet others at the table. I can see myself, and maybe even a couple of friends, there again sometime soon.”

According to the Student Green Fund webpage, the SGF serves to finance student proposed projects that promote sustainability through an optional five-dollar fee offered at the start of each semester.

SGF Manager Matthew Rader hopes to keep the SGF active and encourages students to bring their eco-friendly proposals forward.

“Any student that has a sustainable idea can present to the fund,” said Rader. “We as a group discuss it, vote on it and approve it.”

According to their grant requirements, any student currently enrolled or recognized student organization may apply for funding from the SGF. University faculty, staff and administrators are also allowed to apply for funding, with the requirement that the funds directly involve one or more students.

Project proposal sheets can be found on SGF’s UToledo webpage.

Tapingo come to UT

Just walking through the student union during lunchtime can be a struggle due to long lines weaving throughout the whole building. However, thanks to the University of Toledo’s decision to implement a new app called “Tapingo,” dining lines have the potential to become a lot shorter and speedier.

Tapingo is an app that will allow students to preorder their food from certain locations on campus.

After working on implementing the app for several months, it went live Monday, March 20 for UT campus.

Gary Casteel, operations director for UT’s dining and hospitality services, said Tapingo will improve the speed of service, cut down wait time, allow personal order customization and save previous orders so that reordering is a breeze.

“It will speed up the payment process in our retail locations, but most of the advantage goes towards the guests’ experience,” he said.

Tapingo can be used to order food at Croutonz, Agave, Java City, Subway and Starbucks, but Casteel said that other locations may be added in the future.

“It’s awesome this app works for most places on campus, but it would be even more convenient if they could somehow make this work for the dining halls,” said Trevor Daniels, second-year mechanical engineering student.

Taylor Burchfield, first-year communication major, said this app will help students who have a small window to grab lunch between classes.

“This app is a game-changer because that Subway line is not a joke,” said Justus Maveal, second-year business major. “It will definitely save some time.”

To use the app, students need to download it from the app store on their phones, select the location, place the order and choose the method of payment.

Tapingo shows the wait times for each location and gives an approximate time when the order will be ready for pickup.

Each location that uses Tapingo has a sign identifying where to pick the order up, Casteel said.

Casteel said UT is the first school to use the Tapingo app in the area.

According to the Tapingo website, they believe that “technology removes the hassles and stress of everyday transactions—so humans can focus on more important things. You know, human things.”

Students react to ten-year master plan

In February, the University of Toledo’s board of trustees approved a master plan that will put into place a series of major campus renovations over the next decade. This plan comes after many strategic planning sessions and suggestions from the community, experts in education and construction and UT students.

But do UT students really understand what the master plan is and what is entails?

“I think there is a lot of students who don’t even realize a lot of it was done,” said Cameron Forsythe, UT Student Government vice president. “We haven’t seen an immense outpouring of feedback about it, at least what I’ve experienced personally.”

Forsythe, as a representative of SG, was involved in representing the students in the creation of the master plan. He said that many of the students he has talked to are “intrigued and happy about it.”

“In specific, there’s a few things I’ve actually gotten quite a few comments on,” Forsythe said. “The first would be the bridge over Douglas, the pedestrian bridge. I know that there are several people who are excited to see that happen. It’s an effort that’s been ongoing for a number of years now and to finally see the university actually implementing it, they are very encouraged by that.”

Another portion of the master plan calls for a new building to be built on the UT’s Engineering Campus. The building, which will replace Palmer Hall, will be the new hub of research at the University of Toledo. Forsythe said that the new building will increase the collaboration of student research.

“The way I understand it to be, is there will be premade laboratories that aren’t major-specific because right now, within the basement of Palmer Hall, we have engineering-specific labs,” Forsythe said. “In Bowman-Oddy, we have other specific labs for other majors. The intent of this new building is to take all of those labs and put them into one place where they will be able to share resources. They’ll be able to share ideas on how to move forward and things of that nature.”

According to Forsythe, Palmer Hall was not originally built for classroom use, as it was previously owned by a private company. He said that Palmer has not been maintained enough to reach the standards of top-level classrooms.

Many students seem excited about the prospect of Palmer Hall’s demolition, Forsythe said.

“Pretty much the response I’ve gotten from every engineering major I’ve spoken to about it, or really anyone who has a class in Palmer Hall, is that they’re excited to see that building gone,” Forsythe said. “Everyone was hoping something would be done.”

The master plan also lays out the plan for a new green space between the classroom buildings on the engineering campus, where tables and other seating will be provided for people’s enjoyment.

“I look forward to it,” Forsythe said. “Any time we can add green space on campus without negatively impacting parking, campus operations and other aspects of the student life, I’m generally in favor of. Any way we can promote an outdoor space for student use is beneficial and an idea that’s being very beneficial to the college as well.”

Changes that are beneficial to students are the whole idea behind the master plan. The plan calls for the reorganization and consolidation of colleges and majors that are spread out across campus. For example, the department of communication has ties to three different buildings on campus: the Lance Thompson Student Union, Sullivan Hall and Rocket Hall.

“I think the overall consolidation of things, especially for the majors that are currently spread out across the entire campus, will be beneficial,” Forsythe said. “When you’re having a 10-minute gap and both those classes are at Field House, that’s not an issue. But if you have a 10-minute gap and one of your classes ends at Rocket Hall and one starts at HH 10 minutes later, that’s when you struggle to get there.”

Another huge change to campus will be the demolition of Carter Hall and the construction of new baseball and softball fields in its place. Zach Harig, a third-year communication student, says the move from Scott Park will help to centralize the athletic programs.

“Our college baseball and softball programs really haven’t gotten the support that they have deserved and worked for the past decade,” Harig said. “That’s because a lot people don’t want to drive even two or three miles off of campus. Now that they are on campus, students and fans will have easier access to it.”

Harig said that the old venue at Scott Park, including the stands and the fields themselves, is in a state of disrepair. The new fields will be a major upgrade.

“When you stack those over at Scott Park up against the rest of the Mid-American Conference, they are not nearly as nice,” Harig said. “A couple of players I talked to from Northern Illinois said ours was by far the worst stadium that they’ve ever played in. The new ones are going to be a lot nicer and getting a lot more people on Main Campus is going to be a win-win for everyone involved in the programs and the university.”

The new location and nice venue will help to recruit new players to UT, according to Harig.

“I think this will make it a lot easier for the programs to sell themselves, so to speak. During recruiting visits, you don’t need to bring players to Scott Park and show them a deteriorating venue. Instead, you’re led on campus, right near academics, right next to the Glass Bowl.”

Although the master plan addresses many important issues on campus, one that is always on the forefront of students’ minds is missing from the plan: parking.

“As for parking concerns, in Student Government, it’s definitely something that we’re not going to be quiet about,” Forsythe said. “Parking is one, if not the largest, comment we get from students. And we’re going to continue to treat it that way.”

Forsythe said the board continued to point out that, even though parking at the northern end of campus is continuously packed, “There is always parking at Rocket Hall.” Forsythe said that Student Government fought this claim continuously.

“Their notion was that all the problems can be solved by simply parking elsewhere, and that we didn’t have a parking issue on campus,” Forsythe said. “We recognize it to some extent that yes, we do need to walk, but at the same time there were some proposals that they were actually looking into and took the parking, in our opinion, and made it worse.”

One proposal thought of was taking Lot 10 and moving it farther away from the Centennial Mall. The idea was to turn the area into another green space, just like they did with the mall decades ago.

“But that’s one of the things we fought them against and we were fortunate that they heard us and they didn’t implement that change,” Forsythe said.

University of Toledo students celebrate Islamic culture

Islam Awareness Week comes at a time when the topic of Islam has become a staple of the major news outlets. Despite being constantly bombarded with stories focusing on Muslims, many of us remain unable to answer even the most basic questions about the world’s second largest religion. UT itself has a sizable Muslim population longing to spread awareness of their faith and eliminate misconceptions.

“Islam Awareness Week is a tradition followed by all universities across North America where we as the Muslim Student Association educate people about Islam and our cultural values,” said Alyan Ahmed Memon, co-president of the Muslim Student Association.

The MSA organized an event for each day of the week. On Monday, March 13, the program kicked off with “Try on a Hijab Day” at a Student Union table.  This event allowed non-Muslims to don the emblematic headscarf and to ask MSA representatives about their faith.

“Women can still feel beautiful while wearing a hijab, and I got to experience that firsthand,” said second-year social work major Kenya James. “It’s very important to acknowledge Islam and make people aware of it because there are a lot of false stereotypes of Muslims and Islam.”

Tuesday’s event featured Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The speaker addressed Black Lives Matter and the travel ban. Memon said that MSA wanted to the base the week’s events on real-world problems.

An open mic night of the Muslim Writers Collective will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Brady Innovation Center. Participants will share their poems and stories regarding the subject of “failure.”

“It’s a topic that everyone can relate to,” said Rana Elhag, MSA secretary.  “You can do a million different spins on it.”

Memon stressed that Muslims stand up for various problems in the world, not just issues that affect their community alone. To demonstrate this notion, a workshop on mental illness will be held Thursday by Ali Altimimy in Student Union 2592.

“Islam is worried about your whole being; not just your heart and spirituality, but the mind, body, soul. Everything,” said Fatma Ismail, a fourth-year religious studies major and former MSA president.

Islam Awareness Week will be capped off with a public Friday prayer at 1:30 p.m., led by Adam Smidi, in Student Union 2582.

Elhag emphasized the importance of MSA designating a week to reach out to the student body. She said that it enables them to clarify the issues that arise regarding their community.

“We are living in a time where a lot of the discussion around Islam is negative, so I hope this results in a greater sense of unity among UT students of all faiths and backgrounds,” said Elhag, a third-year pharmacy major.

University undergraduate discovers companion star to Beta Canis Minoris

Equipped with only the experience of an undergraduate, third-year physics major Nick Dulaney discovered an unknown astronomical body.

Dulaney analyzed 15 years of archive data collected at UT’s Ritter Observatory, which led him to make his discovery.

According to a news release, UT postdoctoral research associate Noel Richardson assisted Dulaney in finding that a highly studied star, featuring a disk around its equator, is actually a binary star, or a double star.

“In my research, I was studying a larger star called beta CMi (Beta Minoris), which is about 3.5 times the size of our sun and much hotter. This has a gaseous disk around its equator,” Dulaney said.

Professor of physics and astronomy and Director of the Ritter Observatory Jon Bjorkman provides fieldwork opportunities for undergraduate students like Dulaney on campus.

“Publishing the results of research projects like this brings recognition of our program, and in particular how we involve undergraduates in our research,” said Bjorkman.

Richardson credits Dulaney’s utilization of the program and tools available to his recent finding.

“This project exemplifies how our one-meter telescope on campus is so useful,” said Richardson. “Nick learned how to operate the telescope, analyze the data and discuss the findings with others during his time here. So many universities do not have such resources, and this highlights the strengths of our program.”

Adding to his recent success in the field, Dulaney was the lead author, alongside 14 others in the published research paper regarding the discovery in “The Astrophysical Journal.”

As stated on its website, “The Astrophysical Journal” is the foremost research journal in the world devoted to recent developments, discoveries and theories in astronomy and astrophysics.

“It will be very helpful to say that I am first author on a published paper,” Dulaney said.

Dulaney recognizes the weight of his discovery and the effect it may have on his future career.

“This is a big deal for me,” Dulaney said. “I got to learn a lot of great skills for the field of astronomy through this. This will be an asset for me, whether it be for graduate school or a job.”

COBI adds two new minors for fall semester

The College of Business and Innovation is offering two new minors that will give students real-life, hands-on experience that business employers look for.

The minors will be in enterprise resource planning and business information security and are effective immediately.

“Recently, industry needs for ERP-related positions are increasing and one of the primary purposes of the minor is to make students more knowledgeable and marketable with real business functions and transactions,” said Euisung Jung, one of the instructors for the ERP minor and current UT associate professor.

Jung said ERP systems are used by many area employers and most Fortune 500 companies.

“ERP is one of the fast-growing, enterprise-wide business information systems, and the three courses in ERP minor will help students understand business processes,” Jung said.

Jung said the material aims to help students understand the concepts of ERP and advance analytics.

P.S Sundararaghavan, professor for the ERP minor, said that this minor is for students who want to get familiar with how large- and medium-sized organizations are run with the help of ERP software.

Sundararaghavan said some qualities to succeed in this minor would be interest in computers, running computer packages and following instructions to see why something is wrong and try to fix it.

“It improves the employment prospects, since many firms use such software and would like people who already have some knowledge, cutting down their training time,” Sundararaghavan said. “Other students, such as computer science, information technology, may be interested in it to widen their skills.”

The business information security minor brings the students’ attention to the issues and concerns of security such as hacking, said Anand S. Kunnathur, professor for the business information security minor.

“They need to understand how to manage the security of the information resource, which is quite often the lifeblood of business,” Kunnathur said. “The business information security minor offers them this opportunity to get this exposure.”

COBI is the first to implement a program such as this, Kunnathur added.

According to Sundararaghavan, this minor is targeted at students majoring in information systems, accounting and finance. He said an interest in computers, networking and data analysis would help students succeed in this minor.

“It improves the employment prospects, since many firms seek in their candidates knowledge of information security,” Sundararaghavan said. “Other students such as computer science, information technology, may be interested in it to widen their skills.”

He said if the minors become very popular, the department would need to add one additional faculty member in the long run. If this happens, the new faculty member would be hired in the fall of 2018.

Sundararaghavan said that some of the classes that make up the minors are offered as electives; however, this is the first attempt to bring them together in a minor.

10-year master plan approved by UT board

In ten years, the University of Toledo is going to have a whole new look, thanks to the University of Toledo’s board of trustees’ approval of the master plan.

The plan will focus on four key major themes: repositioning the academic core, consolidating athletics, investing in research, and enhancing student life.

“The new varsity athletic fields will energize the campus. The creation of a new research facility and academic quad on the engineering campus will provide something we have never had for the 4,000-plus engineering students,” wrote Jason Toth, associate VP for facilities and construction.

Eric Brown, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, said that the new academic quad on the engineering campus will be a real benefit for students.

“Most engineering students spend most of their days on the engineering campus, and they don’t have many nice spots to chill,” Brown said. “The quad will be a nice touch.”

Toth wrote that the master plan will create a much different physical space on campus, while also adding to the sense of community and activity.

According to the master plan webpage, repositioning the academic core will focus on “investments in classroom technology and layout in the academic core, making our teaching spaces more flexible and effective.”

Specifically, University Hall’s unutilized space will be refurbished into administrative offices. Carlson Library and the Lancelot Thompson Student Union will add additional gathering spaces for students.

According to Toth, some buildings will receive extensive infrastructure work that will greatly improve operational systems, “while others will receive updates, finishes and systems within classrooms that people can touch and feel so they appear more substantial.”

“In the early years of the plan we target renovations in our most highly utilized classrooms to impact the greatest number of students and faculty as possible,” Toth wrote.

The master plan will also focus on the more natural aspects of the school, with a river walk being added along the Ottawa River.

In terms of investing in research, UT’s biggest change will be a new research building to be constructed west of Nitschke Auditorium.

“The multidisciplinary research facility is being designed to support all of our colleges,” wrote Toth. “It will have both dry and wet lab space, computer lab space, collaborative meeting space and office space.”

The master plan also aims to bring all athletic facilities onto main campus. Doing so will “energize Main Campus student life through easier access to intercollegiate athletics,” states the master plan webpage.

The soccer team will begin playing inside the track as opposed to at Scott Park campus. There will also be additional softball and baseball fields built where Carter Hall, which will be demolished, currently stands.

When it comes to enhancing student life, most attention will be focused on student housing as well as some new outdoor recreation facilities.

“To attract more juniors and seniors to live on campus, we will develop apartment-style housing (with ground-floor retail) on Dorr Street, adjacent to the Dorr Street Gateway,” the webpage states.

According to Toth, at this point, lease rates for these apartments have not been discussed.

“We will construct our first dedicated outdoor recreational complex south of Dorr Street between Secor Road and Byrne Road, which could include a new facility for the University of Toledo Police Department and others,” the master plan webpage states.

However, the plan does not address the issue on parking and will not be adding any spaces or lots.

“Parking was discussed throughout the planning process,” Toth wrote. “A parking study was completed at the very beginning of the master planning process.”

According to Toth, the survey concluded that UT does have sufficient parking, but it may not be located as close to locations as people wanted, lending to the conclusion that parking lot options may not be utilized well by students.

“Given this information, the limited availability of space on campus and financial constraints the decision was made to look at alternative use strategies first,” Toth wrote.

However, if this strategy proves unsuccessful, a new parking lot along the Dorr Street corridor of campus could be added, according to Toth.

The projected $275 million master plan is funded in multiple ways, including by State of Ohio Biennium Appropriations, Bond Capital and Private/Donor Funding, Toth wrote.

UT researchers work to avoid another water crisis

In 2014, the city of Toledo enacted its infamous water drinking ban when high amounts of a toxin released by harmful algal blooms was found in the water, and it was determined unfit for human consumption.

Three years later, this problem is still cause for much concern; with harmful algal bloom season coming up in June, researchers at the University of Toledo created an online database of algal bloom research as part of a state-wide research effort to find a solution.

In 2015, UT received $66,000 from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to compile a research database and support harmful algal bloom research, said Patrick Lawrence, professor in the department of geography and planning, and associate dean of social and behavioral sciences in the College of Arts and Letters.

Lawrence and Karen Gallagher, a Ph.D. student in the spatially integrated social science program in the department of geography and planning, worked to create a database containing over 300 documents, publications and links with information including how algal blooms form and the public health consequences of the blooms, Lawrence said.

“Harmful Algal Blooms Information System, or HABSiS, is a site that stakeholders and community members can go to and get vetted information about the algal blooms,” Gallagher wrote. “People can use this website to educate themselves on public land use, how algal blooms form, the negative impacts of these blooms and what practices can minimize the prevalence of harmful algal blooms.”

HABSiS will need to be kept up-to-date with the latest information, especially as new research and findings are released from universities and state agencies, Lawrence said.

Algal blooms are nothing new to Lake Erie and have grown in rivers and lakes across the world for millions of years, according to Lawrence. However, the world has seen an increased frequency of algal blooms for the past few decades in both salt and freshwater ecosystems.

“This type of algae releases a toxin called microcystin in very small amounts,” Lawrence said. “The World Health Organization declared this as a harmful toxin at 10 parts per billion and can cause severe liver problems in large doses.”

Even though this toxin was flagged as a dangerous substance, there has been very little research conducted of the effects it has on people and ecosystems where it is found in small quantities, Lawrence said.

One goal Ohio researchers have is to understand the short and long-term effects that small amounts of this toxin have on humans and animals.

“There are many forms of algae that are not harmful, but we have noticed an increase in one particular type of algal bloom that is responsible for the 2014 crisis,” Lawrence said.

If harmful algal blooms go unresolved, public and environmental health could be put at risk, but so could the economic futures of businesses that thrive on Lake Erie.

“The other side to blooms is the public perception. Blooms are ugly, and the water looks like green paint, so that would turn a lot of people away from visiting the lake and doing recreational activities,” Lawrence said. “This is a multi-billion-dollar industry that could fold up because people would rather pack up and take their money elsewhere.”

Funding has also paved the way for improved algal bloom measuring and tracking that Lake Erie communities lacked during the 2014 crisis. This means that water treatment facilities, the city and researches have more time to respond accordingly, Lawrence said.

“Removing the bloom from the water is very difficult; it’s not like an oil slick that can be skimmed off the surface. Instead, they are like filaments that can move around the lake,” Lawrence said.

There are a variety of factors that go into the formation of harmful algal blooms, but the most concerning factor for researchers is the runoff of excess nutrients from farmland and cities, Lawrence said.

“Farmers use manure and fertilizers to help increase yields, so what we need to ask is, ‘How do you apply these nutrients? How much do you apply it? And where you do you apply it?’” Lawrence said. “These are all practices that need to change and could reduce the amount of nutrients that make it to the lake and rivers.”

This strategy of starving algal blooms won’t stop bloom growth, but it will prevent them from growing large enough to cause any problems, Lawrence said.

“The toxin can be removed from the water via treatment plants and chemicals, but it is much harder to remove it from lakes and rivers. So that takes us back to the question, ‘How can we prevent algal blooms?’”

However, before any of these solutions can be implemented, Ohio researchers will need to measure the associated costs and give that information to the affected stakeholders, agencies and residents, Lawrence said.

“There are many options as to how we deal with this problem and some that involve changing behaviors and land use,” Lawrence said. “So we want to communicate to stakeholders and encourage an informed dialogue and ask, ‘What does the science tell us, and what do we do with that information?’”

Criminal justice researchers at UT analyze misdemeanor arrest numbers for Toledo

Two years ago, misdemeanors accounted for approximately 90 percent of total arrests by Toledo police officers. These crimes include anything from a low-level drug possession, loitering and much more.

Now, in an effort to understand the issue of low-level crimes and create smarter criminal justice policies to address their rise, the University of Toledo has been selected as one of six partners across the United States to join the first research network on misdemeanor justice.

Attorney and Executive Director of the Toledo-Lucas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Holly Matthews initiated the city of Toledo’s involvement in the research network run by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“Toledo is perfect for this project,” Matthews said. “The city is the largest in the jurisdiction. It would be great to take a deeper look at the misdemeanor crimes, which are driving our local jail population. To me, this seems to complement our ongoing work.”

UT received a three-year, $169,000 grant to analyze local police force data and work with research institutions throughout the country, according to the press release.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice states that the selection criteria for the six cities includes the availability of high-quality administrative data, including at least ten years of reliable data on arrests for low-level offenses, summonses, pedestrian stops and case outcome data including pretrial detention.

Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, Durham and Prince George’s County in Maryland are also among the seven total jurisdictions to join the network and work in correspondence with one another.

Associates in UT’s criminal justice program look forward to contributing their expertise to the research network.

“I am very excited to be a part of this project,” wrote Kasey-Tucker Gail, principal investigator for the misdemeanor justice research project at UT. “It will yield valuable research on the very under-researched topic of misdemeanor. The impact it has on our field is profound.”

Toledo Police Chief George Kral recognized the need for reform in the area of low-level crimes and plans on utilizing the intelligence provided by professionals at UT.

“We are always looking for ways of reducing rates of incarceration. We are going to take what we’ve been doing, let UT crunch the numbers. Then together we’re going to come up with some new policies,” Kral said.

The work being done will attempt to produce alternatives and constructive adjustments to the system.

“We are very lucky to work in a community where agencies are receptive to sharing in the research process and working towards positive change,” Tucker-Gail wrote. “This is a groundbreaking project that puts UT at the forefront of research.”

According to Tucker-Gail, the network will act as an academic opportunity for those enrolled in UT’s criminal justice program.

“Students will be involved in this project,” Tucker-Gail wrote. “We will hire a graduate student for this project for all three years and engage students at any level possible in research and scholarly activity.”

Journey to become a ‘man of your word’

After becoming an accidental, viral phenomenon overnight, Alex Sheen turned his instant success into a national movement to change the world one promise at a time.

Sheen shared the story of his journey at the University of Toledo’s Doermann Theater on Feb. 16 to nearly 400 audience members.

As CEO and founder of “because I said I would,” Sheen said he makes and keeps promises to strengthen humanity’s will because he simply doesn’t believe in superheroes.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, the color of your skin or what language you speak; we all understand the importance of a promise,” Sheen said.

On Sept. 4, 2012, Sheen was asked to eulogize his father at his funeral. There was one thing that kept coming to his mind.

“My father was a man of his word,” Sheen said. “When he said he was going to be there he showed up. He always kept his promises.”

The day after his father’s funeral, Sheen wrote his first post about the concept of promises and how that connected to his father.

Later that night, he made the Facebook page “because I said I would.”

Sheen said he wasn’t satisfied with the concept of everyone being sad over his father being gone and not doing anything different. He thought if he could get a few people to make and keep a promise, his father’s legacy would continue on.

“My first goal was to have my father’s memory live on a little bit, be more meaningful, but also to say goodbye in a manner I thought was respectful to him,” Sheen said.

Sheen made a Reddit post that said he would send out five promise cards to anyone in the world. A promise card is the size of a business card but is completely blank except for the words “because I said I would” written near the bottom.

Sheen said the concept of a promise card is to make that promise tangible; it becomes more real on paper.

“Once you write the promise on a card, you give it to the person you’re making the commitment to and you get it back after you do it,” Sheen said. “You say ‘this card is a symbol of my honor and I’m coming back for it.’”

Today, “because I said I would” has distributed 4.47 billion cards to 153 countries upon request. Sheen said sometimes we make promises so small we tend to forget, but, to another person, that promise could mean the world.

“I’ve had to go a long journey to get better at my promises, and I’m still flawed in many ways, but I would put my batting average up against anybody,” he said.

While at work in February 2013, Sheen received a letter from an anonymous person explaining that Sheen’s blog and organization is the reason this person is still alive and made a promise to Sheen to never give up.

Sheen said he remembers sitting at his desk crying because of how this letter affected him. That was the day he quit his job to start his non-profit organization, “because I said I would.”

For Sheen, it all comes down to accountability.

“Sometimes we don’t need a miracle; we need people to do what they said they would,” Sheen said. “There’s no such thing as superheroes in this life; it’s up to you to offset the bad.”

Sheen’s current goal is to further develop the organization’s chapters.

It starts with an adult chapter to provide funding and connections. From there, he wants the chapters to spread to high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.

“I want to give someone a way to come up being a good person,” Sheen said. “That’s our goal.”

Heidi Appel, Dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College, said Sheen’s success shows us how effective social entrepreneurship can be.

“‘Because I said I would’ compels us to follow through on promises we make to ourselves and to each other,”  Appel said. “This is critical to our leading successful and satisfying lives as social beings and is really the finest expression of our humanity.”

Taylor Burchfield, an honors college communication intern, said Sheen’s speech was very impactful, especially to college students.

“As college students, we don’t always understand the impact of everything we do or the promises we make,” Burchfield said. “What Alex said really put things in perspective to be more mindful of the commitments we make to others and ourselves.

Sheen said he wants to change the world, and he doesn’t care if that sounds ridiculous.

“’Because I said I would’ is not about me; I would go so far as to say it isn’t even about my father,” Sheen said. “It has always been, and forever will be, about you.”

Seven countries, seven stories

Standing in front a podium with their cultural identities soon to be exposed, students and community members presented personal stories to depict their struggles with cultural differences and present the value of accepting diversity.

The event, entitled “7 Countries, 7 Stories” and organized by a collaboration of student organizations, follows a “March Against Injustice” led by campus members as a response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven countries for 90 days.

Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Willie McKether was key in bringing the event to fruition and began the evening with a statement regarding the pride the faculty and staff have in all of those they serve.

“The University of Toledo is 100 percent behind our students,” McKether said. “We are very proud of you, and we will continue to do these types of events.”

Francis Mok, an American-born Chinese and first-year student, was among the first to speak and stressed the importance of accepting and conversing with those around us.

“At the end of the day, we want to make the world a more diverse place,” Mok said. “We should do things we normally wouldn’t do. Interact with people you normally wouldn’t think of. Have a conversation. Start a dialogue.”

The succession of speakers progressed, and their message of acceptance continued through personal battles with individuality and the difficulty to assimilate.

A Muslim American student used a poem describing a preschooler different from those around her to convey the belief that what one says to another matters.

“I wanted to apologize,” said the speaker. “Sorry I don’t look like you. Sorry I don’t have the words. Words are invisible, but they are thicker than milk and honey.”

First-year student Alexx Rayk recognized a message of unity in the presenters’ stories.

“Everyone is coming together from different backgrounds and giving their own take on a situation, yet they are all giving the same message of coming together and unifying and supporting each other,” said Rayk.

The event comes at a time of a political culture dealing with issues of acceptance and, for former professor at the University of Toledo and community member Dr. Samir Abu-Absi, an occasion of this nature strengthened the campus’s culture of inclusion.

“It is really important for the students and the community to be involved,” Abu- Absi said. “I was pleased to see the level of support by the administration.”

Students have the opportunity to continue the conversation surrounding topics of acceptance and may attend an event with McKether, entitled “Lunch with the VP,” March 2 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. in SU room 3016.

Joining him will be Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Kaye Patten. This is an opportunity to talk with Dr. McKether and Dr. Kaye in an intimate setting about topics surrounding diversity at UT and in the community.