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Maffei Stars as Dons Earn Series Win over Portland

Over the weekend of March 22-24, the USF baseball team went head to head with the Portland Pilots in a three game series. The games on Friday and Sunday were held at USF’s Benedetti Diamond while Saturday’s game was held at AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, as part of the Eighth Annual Dante Benedetti Classic. The Benedetti Classic is a day of baseball dedicated to the legacy of former USF coach Dante Benedetti in partnership with the Dante Benedetti Foundation, an organization that aims to “help kids through the game of baseball.” The Dons (11-12, 3-3 WCC) took two out of three games of the series and moved within a game of .500 for the season.

Game 1 of the series saw USF’s starting pitcher redshirt junior Abe Bobb in his fifth and best start of the season. The right-hander contained the Pilots’ offense, only allowing five hits, just one walk and striking out six through 7.2 innings. Bobb was stellar in his outing and held on to a shutout into the eighth inning, which eventually earned him his first win. While Portland’s sophomore starting pitcher Travis Radke pitched well too, the Don’s timely hitting gave them just enough to claim the victory in this low scoring game. Freshman catcher Kyle Anderson started the first rally when he smacked a double to left-center in the bottom of the fifth, his first hit of the season. He eventually came around to score on senior second baseman Jason Mahood’s groundout to give USF a 1-0 lead. Mahood also drove in another run with a two-out single to right field in the seventh that plated senior center fielder Justin Maffei. The California native went 4-for-4 and combined with Mahood to produce six hits at the top of the lineup. Senior closer Adam Cimber then came into the game and successfully completed his fourth save of the season. The Dons took the first game of the series 2-1.

The second game was held at AT&T Park as part of the Dante Benedetti Classic, The Dons lost 5-1, snapping their three game winning streak. Before the game, USF head coach Nino Giarratano was recognized for his 400th win since becoming a part of the baseball program on the Hilltop.

The Pilots broke open the scoring in the third inning with four runs off USF junior starting pitcher Alex Balog. The Dons were unable to retaliate and were held scoreless through seven, scattering five hits. USF’s only run came in the eighth inning with two outs, when Maffei singled to third base and scored on Mahood’s double to left field. Maffei continued his hot hitting and went 2-for-4 that day. Portland outhit the Dons 10 to 6 to ultimately take the win.

After splitting the first two games of the series, USF proceeded to win the series on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the Pilots in 10 innings at home. Sophomore starting pitcher Christian Cecilio was exceptional for the Dons again as he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the second time in his three starts. Cecilio pitched 5.1 innings before senior reliever Haden Hinkle took over to complete the game. Hinkle earned the win, improving to 5-0 for the season. The top of the Dons’ lineup provided the offensive spark for the team again, with the leadoff batter Maffei going 3-for-5 and Mahood going 2-for-3. USF jumped ahead in the third inning with a RBI from Mahood and the Pilots responded with one run in the fifth. Though the Dons managed to log 11 hits on the day, 11 runners were left on base, which resulted in the game being tied at one run apiece after nine innings. During the bottom of the 10th, with two outs and runners on second and third, junior shortstop Josh Miller hit a slow chopper towards the Pilots’ third baseman. With the third baseman charging, he attempted to bare-hand it but failed to do so. The runner on third, sophomore third baseman Bob Cruikshank, crossed home plate easily to give the Dons the 2-1 victory.

USF will face Saint Mary’s of Moraga, Calif. in a three game series this Thursday through Saturday.

Want Justice? Equality? Get the Low-Income into Good Colleges

An article entitled “Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor,” published in the New York Times found that America’s “talented,” high-achieving poor are failing to make it into our country’s better colleges and universities.

Of the roughly top 4% of graduating high school seniors from the lowest fourth of the income range, only 34% attended selective colleges. Compare this against a selective college attendance of 78% for high-achieving students in the top income quartile, and we find that academically talented, poorer students are half as likely to go to a good college as their richer counterparts.

These are not just numbers; these findings point to a key source of socio-economic disparity in America. After all, if access to the best colleges and universities in the United States is largely out of the reach of even the most qualified low-income students, what other ways are there of breaking cycles of poverty, racial inequality, and disenfranchisement?

The causes of this situation are complex and not easily understood — even the study’s authors recognize this. However, institutions of higher education need to recognize that keeping a quality college education within the comfortable reach of the many, not just the privileged few,  must come to be their top priority. Ultimately, education is the most effective way to combat cancerous, persistent prejudices and to close gaps of many kinds, including wage, gender, and racial.

For colleges, specific steps to increase the representation of low-income students might include intensifying efforts to recruit students among the rural and suburban poor (in addition to searching for students living in select urban areas, like New York and Los Angeles), simplifying and standardizing the process of obtaining financial aid (rather than having students navigate the jungle of disparate deadlines and forms to even be considered for aid at a school), and employing other ways to recognize promising high-school students outside the traditional and increasingly costly commercial avenue of the College Board, which administers the SAT and Advanced Placement programs on which college admissions offices too heavily rely.

It goes without saying that these measures can only supplement the meat of any effort seeking to bring the “talented poor” onto a campus: a vigorous financial assistance program that is, ideally, a combination of private backing and robust public funding. No amount of aggressive recruiting will do much good if the price is too high.

Skyrocketing tuition, high costs of living and rent, and challenging job prospects discourage a sobering majority of low-income high-achievers who look at selective colleges — traditionally, the sure path to personal and community success — and see something unattainable. This needs to change, or the dream of a just, equitable society succumbs to the threat of a world divided into the educated wealthy and an underclass structurally shut out of a world-class post-secondary education.

Three Sophomores Smash School Records at Stanford and Davis

From left to right: Laticia Lonon, Hilary Davis, and Kamilah Davis

From left to right: Laticia Lonon, Hillary Davis, and Kamilah Davis

Hillary Harris

Saturday, March 2 was a day of “firsts” for sophomore middle distance runner Hillary Harris, the proud new owner of the USF school record in the 400 meter race. Harris, an environmental studies major from Hillsboro, Ore., not only collected her first collegiate record, but did so in her first time running the event at the college level. Typically an 800m runner, she was using the 400m race as a training tool to prepare for her primary event.

“I didn’t use blocks or anything, and everyone else was, and I kind of showed up to the track a little bit late so I was in a hurry and stressed out. But it just made me run faster I guess,” Harris said.

The 20-year-old crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 57.30 seconds, defeating the previous record of 58.76s (set by Aly Drake in 2010) by more than a second.

“I was viewing it more like training,” Harris said. “I wasn’t actually that nervous — I get a lot more nervous for the 800, because it’s like, my baby.”

Having had little experience with the 400m open and none at the college level, Harris, although already a record-holder, has yet to find her true “stride” in terms of strategy for the one-lap race.

“It [the Stanford race] was the fastest 400 I’ve ever run, but I can run faster. I don’t really know the best strategy for the 400 yet.”

While it is a new experience to be a collegiate record holder, Harris is used to finding her name at the top of the record lists — she holds the fastest times for the 400m and 800m at Glencoe High School in Oregon. She hopes to add that 800m record to her accomplishments here at USF, and considering that her personal best is a mere 0.5 seconds away from the current record of 2.06.13, it seems likely that she will soon fill the top slot in the record books for both events.

Aside from conquering the 800m record, Harris has another goal for this season, and an even more ambitious one set for her career at USF.

“I want to make it to Regionals in the 800,” Harris said. “And hopefully by the time I graduate, yes, I will make it to Nationals.”

Laticia Lonon

Breaking records isn’t at all a new thing for sophomore Laticia Lonon, USF’s sole female thrower. Lonon has been throwing the discus since high school, and arrived to San Francisco in 2011 having already accomplished greater distances than the school’s discus record at the time. On March 2 at the Stanford Open in Palo Alto, Calif., Lonon bested her own record of 39.91m, set last April, with a 40.00m toss.

“I had been doing decently well in practice, I was like ‘I’m going to hit this 40 meters, the 40 meter club’ — that was like, my thing. I had set a new record for myself at the very end of last season that was around 39 meters, so I decided I would hit 40 and then I hit is exactly,” Lonon said.

The 19-year-old from Santee, Calif. was seeded last out of the five girls competing in the discus event. Her 40.00 meter throw ended up being good enough for fourth place.

“I was seeded last, fifth, so I was like ‘okay, I’m just going to do me,’” Lonon said. “I actually think I do better in those kinds of situations, with lower pressure. I’m just going to…do what I know I can do and not worry about anyone else.”

As the Dons only female thrower, Lonon looks forward to getting a chance to represent USF at the West Coast Conference meet. Her goal for the season is to qualify for the meet, which would mean increasing her personal best to 145 feet, or 44 meters.

It seems like kind of a big jump, but based on my practices I think I could do it this season.”

She set her sights even higher for the rest of her college track career.

“The ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA regionals. I’d probably have to throw 150 or 155 feet [45-47m]. That’s definitely like a long term goal, by the end of senior year,” Lonon said.

Kamilah Davis

With her stress fracture of last season fully healed and just one warm-up meet in her event under her belt this season, sophomore sprinter Kamilah Davis easily triumphed over the five-year old University of San Francisco 200 meter record.  The San Jose, Calif. native bested the previous record or 26.03 seconds, set by Brianna Junior in 2008, with her 25.97s finish two weeks ago on a hot and sunny day at the UC Davis Aggie Open in Davis, Calif. This is the first time she has held a record in her four year long track career.

“Before the run I was actually kind of tired and sleepy…I was kind of surprised [to have broken the record],” Davis said.

Davis finished first in her heat and fifth overall, her highest finish in collegiate competition. After a tough year of adjustments and injury last season, Davis hopes to see some rapid progress this season and eventually surpass her best times from her prep career at Archbishop Mitty High School.

“In high school I had been running mid 25s, but my freshman year here was pretty bad, I had been running pretty slow,” Davis said. “Adjusting to the different training and weight lifting set me back a lot.”

Breaking records will likely be a more frequent occurrence for Davis as the season progresses. If all goes as planned, she will shave almost half a second off her current time in order to qualify for the West Coast Conference meet.

“My goal is to beat it again, hopefully next week,” Davis said.“The conference mark is 25.5 [seconds], so I’m going to shoot for that, or maybe a little bit faster.”

AwkSci Goes to Chicago


If Awkward Silence, or “AwkSci,” the USF student improv team, sold tickets to their shows they would make a pretty penny. Most nights their shows are at capacity with eager and enthusiastic students waiting to get their laugh on, but lucky for us college students most shows are free.

Surprisingly enough, Awkward Silence is not a University affiliated organization. In fact, this group of student comedians receives no funding what so ever, though they have requested funding from USF. This fact makes their upcoming trip to The National College Improv Tournament in Chicago a testament to the group’s success.


After winning The Golden Gate Regional for the second year in a row, Awkward Silence will be one of only two returning groups to the national competition, and the only one to be going on their own dime. Though the trip is costly, it didn’t stop this dedicated group of individuals who created their own account on gofundme.com, and through the support of friends, family and fellow students they raised up to $2,000 and are on their way to the Windy City!

The National Tournament will take place this Saturday the 23rd as an all-day event. It will begin with four preliminary rounds consisting of four colleges competing against each other in each round.

Last year Awkward Silence did not make it into the final round, though the team is confident going in this second time. According to one of the team’s co-captains, Lucas Waldron, “we have developed a good relationship with Chicago’s own Second City Improv, so even competing is a great way to network, and as one of only two returning groups, we feel very confident about this year.”

Awkward Silence was formerly a part of the Performing Arts and Social Justice program at USF, but has been operating as an “underground” student improv team since around 2008, and every year their audience and success has grown.

The team’s other Co-Captain and graduating senior, Dana Robie, says, “the opportunities that Awkward Silence has given me, and the people I have met along the way have been some of the best aspects of being a part of this team, and I hope that the future brings more opportunities, competitions and off-campus performances.”

Awkward Silence holds auditions once a year and if invited to be a member, you are involved all years you are a student at USF. Both Co-captains would like to extend an open invitation to all who are interested to come out and audition this coming August the first week of school, so be on the look out!

Women’s Rights Movement in Colombia Takes the Stage

Colombian actress and social rights activist Patricia Ariza came to campus to speak to a full house of USF students and faculty, and other visitors about her unique movement for women’s rights in Colombia.

Ariza is the president of the Colombian Theater Corporation, and the co-founder and director of Teatro La Candelaria, which is a Colombian theater group. The group serves as an outlet for Colombian women to express their socio-political struggles through performance art. As Colombia’s first alternative theater, Teatro La Candelaria is a mechanism for Ariza and the women of Colombia to send a message to the Colombian government, people, and the world, about the corruption and violence of Colombia’s past and present, in hopes of creating a better future.

Ariza spoke in her native Spanish, with the help of a translator.

There are currently four million internally displaced Colombian peoples, most of whom are women. Ariza said the Colombian military uses women as “booty” or bait, and the majority of social rights movements in Colombia are lead by women who are survivors of war. These high-risk cultural resistance movements exist to promote social change in Colombia.

“I form part of this resistance,” said Ariza, by running a mixed gender theater group. “Like Virginia Woolf would say, 22 years ago I resolved to have my own room,” and as an actress, Colombia’s Virginia Woolf has found her greatest role of all as an activist for women’s rights.

In response to the socio-political issues that have long plagued Colombia, like drug trafficking, guerilla warfare and human rights crimes, Ariza channeled her talent and passion for theater into a tool for social change.

“Many of the things women show in these plays are what they are experiencing now and their ideas for solutions,” said Ariza, who uses publics spaces like plazas to put on performances. The idea of the plaza is to occupy spaces that are traditionally male-dominated by establishing a female presence, Ariza said. She played videos of recent performances during her discussion. Although the videos were in Spanish, and Ariza provided a brief translation: “These women are asking, ‘Where are the disappeared? Where are the dead?” The image of women filling a public plaza came to life as the room darkened, and the audience looked into the lives of these women a world away.

Other performances by Ariza’s Teatro La Candelaria include artistic demonstrations through city streets, like women singing and holding framed pictures of their loved ones who have disappeared as well as Ariza’s version of a fashion runway show, which she has taken international. On the runway, women sing and tell stories, sometimes painted and dressed up in traditional costumes. “This is not the typical [runway] which silences women and only accepts one type of beauty. Our women are subjects – elderly, obese. They speak and showcase the ability women have to turn pain into strength,” Ariza said. She is even planning a runway show in which female prisoners can participate. The runway has been performed in many different countries where Colombian women wish to mobilize and bring attention to the issues in their home country.

“Due to these movements, the Colombian government sees the need to reach a peace agreement,” Ariza said of her theater groups raw and emotional performances. Although she noted that the Colombian government has yet to be successful in responding to the equality and peace needs of its country’s women, Ariza strongly believes in the importance of pressing the movement so that women do not lose their voices.

Ariza is currently planning for a large immobilization in Colombia of a million people, and is also planning her next runway show in Denmark to further her goal of international mobilization for Colombian social rights. “We don’t work with these women as charity. It is an exchange of knowledge that transforms both groups,” Ariza explained about her goal to create a language of femininity to express the need for social change in Colombia. Ariza said her goal is to “produce a new type of language that corresponds to women,” and her career as an actress set the stage for Ariza to bring this creative vision to life.

Senior Sarah Pearson, a comparative literature and culture studies major admired Ariza’s alternative approach to social rights activism, “Performance art can be a powerful way of exploring themes of social justice.”

“The big picture is resistance. This was a great perspective from a different country to see how these movements are applied in real time, like the runway shows,” said senior politics major Marvin Pascua.

Ariza’s example of taking a personal passion and creating something bigger was inspiring to Media and Latin American studies professor Susana Kaiser. “In an environment permeated by violence it’s uplifting to see such a display of creative political action,” she said. “For me, some of the most compelling performances were those where the women manage to physically bring into public spaces the presence of the absent, their faces and their names, such as their covering of the city with framed photos of killed and disappeared people.”

Patricia Ariza’s presentation was part of the 12th Annual Global Women’s Rights Forum and co-sponsored by the Performing Arts for Social Justice (PASJ) and Center for Latino Studies in the Americas (CELASA) departments. Roberto Gutierrez Varea, associate PASJ professor and co-director of CELASA, moderated the discussion.

Ten Years after the Invasion of Iraq, Recalling the Lies that Made It Possible

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, mostly civilians, and the displacement of millions.  Sectarian and ethnic tensions remain high and violence and terrorism — despite being less pervasive than a few years ago — are endemic.  The current Iraqi government is notoriously corrupt and repressive, guilty of widespread torture and extrajudicial killings of opponents.  A whole new generation of Islamist terrorists radicalized by the invasion and insurgency is now active worldwide.

Almost 4500 Americans were killed and thousands more received serious physical and emotional injuries which will plague them for the rest of their lives.  The war has cost U.S. taxpayers close to one trillion dollars, contributing greatly to the national debt, which has resulted in the sequester and other cutbacks in vital social programs, including work-study funds and other support for college students.

The Bush administration could not convince Americans to support such an illegal and unnecessary war for the sake of oil and empire.  Instead, they had to lie by falsely claiming that Iraq was a threat to the national security of the United States through its acquisition of massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, the development of a nuclear weapons program, the acquisition of long-range missiles and drone aircraft, and operational ties with Al-Qaeda.  As they were forced to admit later, absolutely none of those claims were true.

However, they were still able to recruit some prominent Democrats—such as Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein, and Harry Reid—to repeat their lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and other manufactured threats.  Some journalists, political pundits, and even academics were also convinced to tout the administration’s line.

Here at USF, just weeks before the invasion, two of my colleagues—one in the Politics Department and one in the History Department—engaged in a public debate with former Politics professor Cynthia Boaz and I. They repeated many of the administration’s lies in their desperate attempt to convince USF students that Iraq was somehow such a dire threat to our national security that it required a U.S. invasion and occupation and that it would somehow be worth all the resulting human, financial and environmental costs. They also claimed that, despite the United States being the primary supporter of the region’s worst dictatorships, the Bush administration was committed to building democracy in Iraq and that a U.S.-occupied Iraq would be a model for freedom and prosperity in the region.

Professor Boaz and I correctly observed that Iraq was not a threat, had probably rid itself of all its proscribed weapons and weapons systems, and that a U.S. invasion and occupation would be a clear violation of international law and the United Nations charter, would result in years of bloody counter-insurgency war, sectarian conflict, and a rise in Islamist extremism and sectarian conflict which would make the establishment of a stable democracy impossible.  I had done extensive empirical research on Iraq over the previous fifteen years and was quite confident in my assessment, as were most scholars familiar with the Middle East.

One of our colleagues, however, insisted that area specialists like us could not be trusted because, in his words, we tend to “go native” (as in developing too much sympathy towards the populations we study to be able to engage in objective analysis) and that President Bush actually had a better grasp of what was best for the Middle East (and presumably other regions of the world).

Particularly disturbing about these arguments was the implication that the unsubstantiated claims of the administration (led by two former oil company executives who clearly coveted Iraq’s natural resources) were somehow more reliable than empirical research by respected scholars familiar with the region.  The message, in effect, was “Trust the State.  If the leaders say we must go to war, just go along.  Don’t question what they tell you.”

The lesson to today’s students is this:  Do not to trust the government when it says we must go to war in a far off land (particularly if it has lots of oil).And don’t trust professors who tell you to ignore relevant scholarship and simply believe whatever the president says.