All posts by Rita McNeil

Seven members of the Student Philanthropy Committee holding a red bow, which will be placed around campus during Generosity Week on buildings that were made possible through donations. From top left: Morten Tastum, Alexa Kristin Carbajal, Madeline Meininger, Natalie Gallo, bottom left: Sausha Gruca, Megan Kenny, Sascha Rosemond (Photo courtesy of David Carrillo)

To Give or Not to Give?

Student Philanthropy Committee puts on Generosity Week to highlight the importance of giving back to USF

USF seniors have been asked to donate to the “Senior Class Gift” by the University — some receiving soliciting letters or phone calls months before their graduation asking students to donate money back to the school. Some of these students have expressed frustration at being asked to give money to USF so soon, as they have either paid an expensive tuition or incurred debt. Despite the controversy, this year’s Senior Class Gift is currently at $8,621, with 128 donors contributing (30 more donors than in 2013). To educate students about the realities of donating to the university, the Student Philanthropy Committee (SPC) will be putting on Generosity Week, beginning Monday Feb. 24.

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USF Student Missing, Family and Friends Hope for Safe Return


Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Missing USF student Bradley Bennett (Courtesy of Bennett Family)

Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary when Bradley Bennett’s family last heard from him on January 4th — a little bit of uncertainty perhaps on what his next move was, but his father never suspected he would be filing a missing person’s report for his son just weeks later.

Bennett, a 32-year-old USF student, was reported missing after his friends and family couldn’t get ahold of him for weeks. He was spotted once in Fresno on Jan. 8 and once in Bear Valley on Jan. 13, but by the times those reports were made to the police, Bennett had already disappeared, according to his father Steve Bennett.

“The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown,” said Steve Bennett in regards to his son’s disappearance. As a pastor, he’s counseled parents who have lost a child to death, but “I think there’s closure with death, and this… this is a little different,” said his father.

Neither Bennett’s father or his friend Seva Mouler, a computer science graduate, suspect he was taken away against his will. “He was definitely one to go on adventures,” said Mouler. But this time is a little different, he thinks, because no one can get ahold of him. “I’ve called him a lot of times. [His phone] connects, rings a couple times, and then has an error,” said Mouler.

Bennett’s father thinks he might be on some kind of spiritual journey. “Brad is a Christian, and he thinks on the basis of that, he thinks about theology a lot,” he said.

His friend Mouler said he hopes that if that is the case, “he will come back a better person and figure everything out that he wants to figure out,” he said. Mouler was worried about his friend after finding out he was evicted from his Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, a result of the discontinuation of money he was receiving from the navy.

Bennett is a veteran, as he spent five years in the navy. After he returned, he lived in Jamestown, Ky., and spent a year living in Minnesota with his a friend he met while serving, but he was always drawn to California. His father thinks some of his uncertainty may have had to do with him missing his friends back home, and that he was having some trouble discovering himself.

As far as Bennett’s relationship with the family, Steve Bennett said they were all very close. “We’ve had a good relationship, not to say relationships aren’t strained from time to time,” he said.

Both his father and his friend spoke about his character. Mouler said he always had other people’s best interest in mind, saying he was so nice to others that it sometimes was detrimental to him. Steve Bennett explained that he was drawn to homeless people in San Francisco, Mouler thinks this is due to his desire to help people.

As far as his spirit, Steve Bennett said, “this is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. “There’s still a little numbness, sometimes it’s a little hard to process everything,” said Bennett, trailing off.

Bradley Bennett is enrolled as a fine arts major at USF. He is an artist and loves drawing and painting. Mouler said Bennett loved all his classes and his teachers, and “he had no reason to leave USF.”

Steve Bennett explained, “one of the things I have learned from this is often we do not realize how our actions and our decisions can greatly affect other people.” He asks that the USF community acts as the eyes and ears for Bennett and his family, “because we’re not there. Any information leading to Bradley’s whereabouts is greatly appreciated.”

Bradley Bennett is 175 pounds and 6 feet tall. If anyone has information leading to Bennett, the San Francisco Police Department can be contacted at (415) 558-5508.

The Return of Swine ‘09

In the peak of flu season, a virus that shocked the nation in 2009 has returned. H1N1, also known as swine flu, has been present since the initial pandemic, but this season the H1N1 virus is reportedly emerging at higher levels than ever since 2009.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “this is the first season that the virus has circulated at such high levels since the pandemic.”

During the week of Jan. 12-18, 96.8% of the influenza A viruses were H1N1 viruses, according to their Weekly FluView update.

As of Jan. 9, the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported on the death of a flu patient in San Francisco. They confirmed the strain of the virus as H1N1.

One stamp you won’t want to be collecting! Stay healthy during this season’s flu outbreak. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

One stamp you won’t want to be collecting! Stay healthy during this season’s flu outbreak. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

In the past month, the San Jose Mercury reported on eight deaths of swine flu in California — one in the East Bay, one in Santa Clara County, two in Sacramento, one in Orange County, and three people in Stanislaus County.

Professor Chenit Ong-Flaherty of the School of Nursing and Health Professions at USF thinks students are not currently at high risk of catching the virus. “I am not aware of any students with [swine] flu symptoms. Nor any cases around USF.”

Luckily for students, the School of Nursing is part of a national initiative to monitor influenza activity and prevent flu outbreaks in the USF community. Mark Smolinski, MD, of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, partnered with the School of Nursing to introduce Flu Near You on campus.

Flu Near You is a program that tracks flu activity across the nation. Reports are made available to volunteers after they anonymously submit flu-like symptoms, as shown in an ABC 7 newscast.

Judith Karshmer, the Dean of the School of Nursing, appeared on the news report stating, “Flu is something that is really very serious, and is something that we can track and and know how to prevent.”

Professor Courtney Keeler, who led the Flu Near You initiative at USF, recommends using the program to “help an individual remain aware of flu patterns in their own communities. These local trends are important indicators since one’s risk of the flu increases with the incidence of flu in one’s neighborhood,” she said.

Although the risk of H1N1 in the USF community is not currently of paramount concern, Professor Robin Buccheri notes, “A very scary thing about the H1N1 virus that we found in 2009 is that it can be especially serious in children and young adults.”

So why are young adults more susceptible? “The leading theory is that there is something about the flu that resembles the H1 flus that circulated before the 1960’s,” according to Donald McNeil, New York Times reporter and infectious disease expert. “People who were alive in the 1960’s or earlier probably caught it as kids and still have some antibodies and programmed white blood cells floating around that protect them,” said McNeil.

The main way young adults can stay protected then, is immunization. “The flu shot this year, which all nursing students are required to have updated annually, covers H1N1,” according to Professor Kimberleigh Cox. “Immunization and thorough, frequent hand washing, along with rest, sleep, fluids, and adequate self-care are the most important prevention tools,” said Cox.

Flu shots are no longer available to students on campus, but immunizations are free at the St. Mary’s Student Health Clinic on 450 Stanyan Street if students have the USF-sponsored student health insurance plan. Appointments can be made at 415-750-5995 and must be requested at least 24 hours in advance.

     Students interested in participating in the Flu Near You program, can learn more and sign up here


If You Don’t Have Haters, You’re Doing Something Wrong

Community Organizers Discuss Activism Principles 

If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong.

This sentiment, speaking to the idea that there must be opposition to produce change, was a primary focus of Javier Reyes, Bay Area activist and hip hop producer, who spoke at last Thursday’s panel, “Activism: Then and Now.”

Reyes was one of three panelists that have been agents of change for numerous causes, joined by Shanell Williams, Student Trustee at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and Phil Hutchings, who was involved in the Freedom movement of the 1960s and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Newark, New Jersey.

The evening’s speakers focused on topics including the accreditation conflicts at CCSF, the Occupy Movement, the “selfie movement,” and what we can learn from the Civil Rights Movement.

After the panelists explained their positions and gave insight into the workings of social movements, the evening progressed into an open forum where the audience asked questions. The event was moderated and organized by senior Victor Valle, who asked the speakers how they thought activism has shifted since the rise of technology.

“We can’t have success without successors, which essentially means we have to pass on these lessons and stories to the next generation, which now is us.”

Although all three speakers recognized some pros of rapidly developing technology, they agreed that there is less of a human connection now. “We need to get back to sitting around the table and having dinner together, that’s where the magic happens,” said Williams. Hutchings agreed, saying that we need to figure out the most effective way of using technology while “increas[ing] the human part,” he said.

Reyes recalls when the flipped camera feature on iPhones first came out, allowing “selfies.” “When did it become about the self and not about the we,” he wondered. He thinks technology should be used not to promote self-righteousness, but righteousness. Until then, “no one is moving together,” he said.

Williams commended USF for being an institution dedicated to getting out in the community, reminding students to use the heart. Reyes added, “don’t be academic without having the compassion of spirit. You think you’ve made it after getting a degree, you haven’t made a damn thing until people are free.”

The speakers left a lasting impression on Valle. “We can’t have success without successors, which essentially means we have to pass on these lessons and stories to the next generation, which now is us. I’ll definitely remember that one forever,” he said.

Another topic brought up throughout the evening was the Accrediting Commission for Junior and City Colleges taking away CCSF’s accreditation, which refers to “the quality of education or training provided by the institutions,” according to the U.S. Department of Education, but Williams said they were focusing more on financing governance than quality education. Williams explained that absence of accreditation basically means the school is one step away from shutting down completely. She spoke about the recent efforts of CCSF to appeal the decision of the Accrediting Commission for Junior and City Colleges.

She wants to preserve affordability because “we want to keep the community in community college” rather than conform to the agenda of their opposers -“a neoliberal agenda that says only a certain few can have the opportunity to education.”

Explaining how students are best positioned in any fight for change, as they are on the forefront of the job market, Williams gave students insight into how the Occupy Movement could have been better so as to create a framework for future causes. “There has to be a clear leadership and organization,” she said, adding that spirituality is essential in spurring change because “it is a part of the human condition. It’s all about changing people’s hearts and minds.”

These factors are part of what made the Civil Rights Movement so successful and could have made the Occupy Movement stronger, Williams explained.

Another important factor for successful social change, according to Williams, is for the marginalized communities to be at the forefront of the movement. This is one thing Occupy was lacking, she explained. The Civil Rights Movement had solidarity among marginalized communities, as well as a commitment to nonviolence. Whereas with Occupy, “There were individuals who were aggressive with the police, they thought radical mass action was all there is,” she said, adding, “that’s what killed the movement.”

Hutchings also outlined lessons for social change, all of which he learned through his involvement in events of social rebellion in the 60s.

“There are more people in the 21st century motivating for change than there were in the 60s, but the focus was stronger,” said Hutchings, explaining how the movements then were more specific, focusing on causes such as anti-draft, women’s liberation, anti-Vietnam, and civil rights, whereas Occupy was much too broad.

Hutchings also noticed how more recently, successful movements have been more to the political right, whereas in the past, movements that made significant changes had more of a liberal focus. As for where the left stands today, “the thrust now is trying to hold on,” said Hutchings.

But these activists have no intention of backing down. “We work better when we are in a conflict zone versus a comfort zone,” said Reyes. “It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you’re going and where you wind up.”

After starting his own theatre company at 19, Reyes eventually started teaching at UC Berkeley and later worked with youth. He recalled when he was a child, one of his teachers told the class, “you’ve got to be willing to die for what you have to say.”

He said that was when he knew his purpose, standing up for what you believe in.

This idea was of crucial importance among the speakers, as Williams quoted the words of MLK, “a man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”