Campus Connection, Oct. 27, 2010

The Merciad has partnered with student newspapers at Gannon University (The Gannon Knight) and Penn State Behrend (The Beacon) during the 2010-11 school year.

Our goal is to bring you the most important news happening on local college campuses each week.


Student government holds in-house elections

By Adam Fracassi, managing editor

Penn State Behrend Student Government Association (SGA) filled three of six vacancies in the Senate on Wednesday through in-house elections.

The six positions – four freshmen spots and two upperclassmen spots – were vacant due to a variety of reasons, including Constitutional directives, an impeachment and a resignation, and an unsuccessful fall election.

The two upperclassmen spots were not only filled, but the election was contested. Ayodele Osbodu, Justin Wheeler, Ashton Beers, and Brennan Zanella each spoke briefly to the Senate and answered questions. After a closed-doors debate, the SGA selected Wheeler and Zanella.

Only one student – D.J. King – ran for a freshman position, meaning that three freshmen Senate seats remain vacant. The Senate unanimously approved King to his seat.

King, a freshman biology/genetics major, said that he wants to get involved to make a difference on campus.

“I want to be a part of SGA because I want to get more students involved around campus, and have them be more aware of what’s going on here,” he told the Senate.

Wheeler, a marketing and MIS major, plans to participate in the Student Affairs and Public Relations committee of SGA, in an effort to bring the organization to the students.

“I really want to broadcast SGA and get their name out there,” he said. “Flyers, whatever else we can do, we need to let people know what SGA is doing.”

He also said he wants to work with Housing and Food Services to try to resolve overbooking of Residence Halls.

Zanella, a sophomore, served last year on Student Government Association and is the Night Club chair for LEB as well as a member of Kappa Delta Rho. He draws his inspiration to join SGA, he said, from a desire to include the entire campus in events.

“I want to really help make this campus appeal to everyone,” he said. “Sometimes it seems like it caters to business and engineering majors, and it should appeal to a wide audience.”

The freshmen seats will remain open until they are filled during in-house elections.

The vacancy problems in SGA, which have occurred each of the last several years at some point, are the impetus behind an effort launched by SGA President Stephen Burger to revisit the elections code throughout the rest of the year. He hopes to have a significantly altered and improved elections procedure in place before Spring elections.

During Spring elections, which in the past have occurred throughout March and April, a majority of the Senate and the entirety of the executive board is elected, minus the treasurer, which is an appointed position.


Gannon initiates protective measure for homosexuals

By Abby Badach, editor-in-chief

Gannon University is taking steps to improve the climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and transsexual individuals on campus with the introduction of the university’s Safe Network, unveiled at last week’s Vigil to End Hatred.

“It’s a way of saying we will not accept abuse, discrimination or harassment of any kind on Gannon’s campus,” said the Rev. George Strohmeyer, university chaplain and vice president of mission and ministry. “It’s more painful, sometimes, when it’s aimed at gays and lesbians who are having a difficult time, anyway, finding their place. It’s pitifully painful.”

The network connects trained individuals, called “allies,” with members of the Gannon community who identify themselves in the sexual identities listed above – or who are questioning their sexual identity – to enter into a non-judgmental, confidential and supportive relationship through dialogue, conversation or other activities.

Strohmeyer said allies complete a formal training that is consistent with the Catholic Church’s teachings and the mission of Gannon University. This includes a workshop on Saint Paul’s “Theology of the Body” and a review of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ encyclical “Always Our Children,” which offers suggestions for pastoral ministers when working with LGBT groups.

Currently, 20 faculty and staff members have completed the training and have chosen to identify themselves as official program allies. Ward McCracken, dean of student development and a facilitator of the Safe Network, said there has been a lot of interest from the Gannon community to hold another training so more people can become certified.

Official allies display the Safe Network logo – an upside-down rainbow triangle in a grey oval – in their offices so interested persons know they are safe and supportive people to talk to about sexual identity issues. But McCracken clarified that the term applies to more than just the officially trained faculty and staff members, and also includes anyone who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people.

“What we hope is that everyone is an ally, in the end,” he said.
Senior pre-med/biology major Samantha Kiefer said the Safe Network sounds like a healthy concept.

“Depending on the openness of the students and the quality of the allies, it could give a lot of hope to people who feel singled out or different,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of targeting at Gannon, but I do feel like there’s a lot of ignorance.”

McCracken added that the Safe Network will serve as an outlet for students to participate in the sexuality arm of Gannon’s LIFECORE program. McCracken and Strohmeyer both encouraged students, faculty and staff to pick up pledge cards to sign to affirm their commitment to support the healthy discussion of sexual identity issues on campus and eliminate discriminatory language that promotes hate and violence.

More information on the program and its intent is available at

Strohmeyer said the Safe Network will help LGBT students become more connected with the university community.

“Just to recognize they’re here is a form of saying, ‘Welcome,’” he said. “‘We recognize the beauty of your life, your goals in life. You’re a human being. Your soul is beautiful in God’s eyes. Welcome – welcome home.’ That’s very important.”