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Why so serious?

(09/15/10 4:00am)

On Sept. 27, 2008, two Sunni Arab police officers arrested three Iraqi secret service members because they failed to show verifiable documents confirming their identification. When Riya Qahtan, a Kurdish politician, went to the police station to negotiate their release, cultural tensions came to a head and Qahtan was shot to death.




Students rally to restore the SUNY budget

(04/02/10 4:00am)

Students gathered in Founders Plaza with their signs on Wednesday, some of which read "No Tuition Hikes: 0 percent," "UB 2012: The End of Public Education is Near" and "Student Debt Bails Out Wall Street." But the rally was not like the violent UB protest in 1970, the one for which the school has gained national notoriety. Instead, it was an air of confident personal vindication in the students' peaceful assembly that got everyone's attention, as the protestors stood shoulder-to-shoulder to actively defend a cause for which they needed no self-convincing. Students gathered to protest state budget cuts and the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), which would give the SUNY administration blanket authority to raise tuition, without having to consult New York State legislature. The Graduate Student Employees Union (CWA Local 1104) and UB Students Against Sweatshops spearheaded the rally, as advocates of United University Professions and the Civil Service Employees Union joined them below the administrative offices of Capen Hall. "We are opposed to PHEEIA, as it would allow SUNY to increase tuition and open its campuses to private, profit-driven interests," said Christopher Buckman, a graduate philosophy student at UB and Chief Steward of GSEU. "State schools are intended to be accessible and affordable, and this privatization of funding would eliminate the entire point of state education by putting the responsibility of funding on students and their families." From April of 2008 to the present day, UB has seen a state tax funding loss of $40 million, according to the GSEU. The school's worry is that PHEEIA will allow the state to further reduce funding for SUNY, and that the steady increases in tuition proposed are at risk of not covering University operational costs, but instead are making up for the state budgetary gap. They fear that tuition increases will bail the state out of debt on the backs of student loans, as private interests in the SUNY administration will contract jobs off-campus to non-union labor, so that they can pay less for outsourced service. "Out of everybody at UB, the administration is the only group that seems to think that PHEEIA is a good idea," said Mia Jorgensen, a graduate Anthropology student at UB and the Business Agent for the GSEU. "They can obviously see that it will grant them a lot of political clout, but what's in it for everybody else?" "It is all part of this big UB2020 public relations machine that the administration is forcing on UB," Buckman said. "If you are somehow against UB2020, then you are invariably labeled some kind of non-progressive traitor." "The SUNY system is often regarded as an Ivy League of public education, and all of that history will vanish with the privatization of public university" said Monazir Khan, a graduate sociology student from SUNY Binghamton. "Privatized research schools like Michigan State and University of Pittsburgh are important facilities, but SUNY must still exist in the realm of public education, because that is all that many New Yorkers can afford." According to the GSEU, Gov. Patterson's proposed $152 million budget cut, $16 million of which will come from UB's budget, will prompt SUNY hiring freezes for faculty and staff and higher graduate student fees. At the same time, it would create larger, more impersonal classes for undergraduates, whose seminar classes are already being picked-off of the course catalog. "UB only gets 22 percent funding from the state even now," Khan said. "So any budget cut, or privatized tuition control would thrust us further in the direction of becoming an expensive private research institution." Protestors urged fellow students to contact legislators, the local and state congressmen and assemblymen for whom they vote, to pressure them to vote down both the budget and the Innovation Act. Additional future moves by the GSEU include planned visits to Buffalo government offices, and mass letters and "e-mail blasts" to local Senators. "This is only the picnic… and it was a wonderful turnout" Khan said. "But we'll be back on the phone with local and state legislation tomorrow." Email: news@ubspectrum.com


UB School of Nursing opens new building

(03/19/10 4:00am)

The University at Buffalo's School of Nursing has found a new home on South Campus. The historic Wende Hall has seen $7.1 million in renovations in an effort to re-create a handsome relic of the old, while providing UB's nursing program with a brand new state-of-the-art facility. "This is a very exciting time for the school of nursing," said Jean K Brown, Dean of the UB School of Nursing. "This new facility has provided us with more tools to support our vision." Wende Hall, named after alumnus Grover William Wende, was built in 1885 and expanded in 1955. It was originally home to the university's Department of Physics, and until 2008, the building was a classroom and satellite office building. The improvements have turned Wende Hall into the energy-efficient pulse of the nursing program. The nursing school's groundbreaking move from Kimball Tower, where it had operated for more than 30 years, to its own technologically advanced building matches its spirit for independence, Brown said. At Wende Hall's grand opening on March 16, faculty, staff and students in the nursing program presented the renovations to the public and led tours of the new facility, presenting their audience with the school's plan for the future. The problems it faces as the high demand for quality nursing heightens the bar for academic excellence. "With the well documented shortage of nurses, education preparation becomes even more important to the health and well-being of our community," said David L. Dunn, vice president for health sciences at UB. "These women and men are the backbone of the healthcare system." UB's School of Nursing aims to be among the top 25 nursing schools in the country, and it dedicates this new building project to its commitment to leadership and quality. "A world-class nursing program requires dedicated staff, faculty and students, but it also requires a state-of-the-art facility," Dunn said. The new space includes 4,000 square feet for the Center for Nursing Research (CNR), a manifestation of the School of Nursing's emphasis on research. According to Brown, research for health care is an essential skill for new nurses to meet the requirements of a rapidly expanding field of medicine. The clinical laboratories are well equipped to handle the university's new standards for patient simulation. Their talking patient mannequins, nicknamed Homer and Samson, can be controlled by an instructor who watches in the adjacent room through a video feed. "The new clinical ‘open-labs' are available to any upperclassman, for four hours a day, three days a week, to come in and try their practical skills," said Janel Yacovoni, a junior nursing student at UB. "The new space is really nice." As part of UB 2020's plan to group all of the university's health science schools to one campus, Wende Hall is only one of several expected building and program renovations. The nearby Acheson Hall is projected to become the new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The School of Nursing hopes that the new facility will encourage students to consider nursing as a profession, to help to build a strong foundation against the nationwide shortage of nurses in health care. "The high morbidity rates that have been linked to nursing shortages mean nothing less than saving lives is at stake," Brown said. But the improvements to the program go far beyond new bricks and mortar. The nursing program has also launched an accelerated Bachelor of Science program, which efficiently produces new graduates in 12 months. Other program innovations include a number of graduate-level programs for nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and an innovative nurse anesthesia program. The new building is hardly the full result of the nursing program's dedication. Dean Brown and the School of Nursing's administration are confident that it is only a start to an improvement in health care, which goes far beyond a little fresh paint. Email: news@ubspectrum.com



Students provide pro bono tax services

(02/24/10 5:00am)

This spring, IRS-certified accounting students from the University at Buffalo will provide free tax preparation services on North and South Campuses for individuals with annual incomes below $49,000. The student-run tax service includes preparing tax returns and ensuring that all tax deductions and income tax credits are accounted for. In 2009, according to a press release on the UB School of Management Web site, volunteer accounting services brought nearly $640,000 in tax refunds back into the Buffalo community. Around $120,400 of that sum came from the Earned Income Credit, which helps to direct additional financial support to low income families. 'It's called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, sponsored by the IRS,' said Jeff Bassen, a senior accounting major. 'It's the same thing as getting taxes done by a certified accountant, but we save our patrons up to $300 in fees that they would otherwise have to pay for the services.' Bassen is the president of the UB chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international accounting society, which annually spearheads the volunteer work at the university. The accounting program at UB also recruits and accepts volunteers to assist in the program on both campuses and on their weekend time. The accounting students must complete an eight-hour training program and pass an online exam in order to participate in the VITA program. The program is almost entirely student-run. 'The students involved are typically undergraduate students in the accounting program,' Bassen said. 'Some volunteers are in their sophomore year at UB.' The services are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Patrons need to bring with them wage statements, W2 forms, interest and dividend statements and 1099 forms, along with banking information and standard identification documents. The length of time required for each tax service depends on the complexity of the return. 'The biggest thing, in the past three years of this project, is the move to the South Campus, closer to where more of the target clientele lives,' said Cynthia M. Shore, senior assistant dean of external relations at UB. 'One of its most significant purposes is to make sure that the people who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit get their money, because some don't even know they're eligible to save several thousand dollars in taxes.' The EIC helps to reduce income taxes by refunding taxes already withheld from wages, saving a family with two children up to $5,000, according to the press release. 'Most of the South Campus clients are from the Buffalo community,' Shore said. 'I think it's more gratifying for the volunteers when they can get people the money that they would have otherwise lost in paperwork.' According to Shore, the project typically recruits around 200 students each year, grossing thousands of hours in tax services and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax returns. 'The whole point is to give back to the university and the city of Buffalo,' Bassen said. The School of Management encourages the entire UB community to take advantage of the opportunity for free tax services. The services are available in 109 Allen Hall on South Campus and in 106 Jacobs Management Center on North Campus. Times and dates can be found on the UB School of Management's Web site. E-mail: news@ubspectrum.com



UPD spent winter break in training

(01/20/10 5:00am)

While the empty UB campus continued to sleep during its final week of winter holiday, the University at Buffalo Police Department conducted in-service training drills on the vacant grounds. The exercises were specifically 'active shooter' drills, in which a mock assailant with a simulated weapon is disarmed and brought into custody. The officers involved in the drills were required to attend brief lectures, and then participated in physical instruction. 'It is good policy, in general, to conduct these drills several times a year to maintain tactical skills,' said UPD Chief Gerald Schoenle. 'These drills are important to help prevent against, and to deal with, incidents like the recent armed attack in Brockport.' Still in the shadow of the attempt on Northwest flight 253 this past Christmas day, and taking into account the university's recent history with violent crime, UB students have mixed feelings in regards to the drills and their practicality. The exercises are done regularly, several times a year, 'but things are still happening,' said Brittany Sliter, a junior nursing major. 'I suppose the police can't be everywhere all the time, but it's frustrating knowing that people are getting away with armed robbery' says Sliter, as she recounted a story of a student who was assaulted with the butt of a pistol and robbed. 'It is comforting to know that the police are taking measures to remedy the campus security problem, but working nights, even on North Campus, is still pretty scary.' According to UB Crime Statistics, a majority of the violent crimes, namely aggravated assault and robbery offenses, occur on public property. 'We have the most trouble off campus, but I hardly ever see a University Police car on North Campus; it tends to be on South Campus that I see the majority of the cops,' Anthony Parrella, a sophomore business student and South Campus resident, said. But despite student worries, Schoenle still sounds confident in his plans for the future regarding campus security and its subsequent effects on student life. The drills took place on North Campus, and were fitting, yet unspecific, to the campus geography. 'They were standard drills, but important nonetheless,' Schoenle said. Aware of the concerns for North Campus, Schoenle made knowledge of the drills public 'to prevent any cause for alarm, given the drastic increase in police presence on campus. But also, perhaps just knowing that we're making efforts to improve and maintain the integrity of our policing will put some people's minds to rest.' E-mail: news@ubspectrum.com