August 2, 2014

John Jay Loses Student In Harlem Explosion

By: Taja Whitted

Staff Writer

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By Taja Whitted

On a late afternoon in early March, public safety officers appeared at Professor Bettina Carbonell’s classroom. They wanted to know if Alexis (Jordy) Salas was inside.

“He said it was just a family matter, but then the other public safety officer came along and reported that they had checked and Jordy’s ID hadn’t been swiped. That detail stuck in my mind,” said Carbonell.

She did not know it that day, but it was later confirmed that he had been a casualty of the explosion in East Harlem.

“I didn’t know it was an explosion, I thought it was an earthquake or something but when I woke up it was on the news and I live six blocks away,” said Simone Whitaker, a criminal justice major.
Salas, 22 and a transfer student at John Jay College, was confirmed dead on March 14. His death was the result of an explosion on Park Avenue and 116th street in East Harlem on March 12. According to a New York Times article, the explosion was a result of “small gas leaks below the pavement.” Two buildings collapsed that day with eight in total confirmed dead.

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By Taja Whitted

On March 20, almost two weeks after the explosion, family and members of the East Harlem community arrived at the Ortiz Funeral Home to mourn Salas.

Inside Chapel B laid a mahogany casket decorated with yellow ribbons and swirls of blue and yellow roses next to Salas’s wedding photo and other significant moments in his life.

The chapel quickly filled to capacity with many squeezing in while others lined the stairs down to the second floor lobby, all waiting to say goodbye to their brother and friend.

Pastor Thomas Perez, head of the Spanish Christian Church, started the service by saying, “every time he greeted me it was with a big hug, he filled a special place that will not be filled again.”

Before the ceremony closed, guests were invited to share memories they had with Salas. They painted a picture of his many attributes: caring, fatherly, loving and occasionally mischievous. One friend recalled the moment Salas gushed about his future wife, leading Jennifer Salas to speak of their young romance. They had met at the age of 14 and soon became best friends. When they grew older, their love for each other turned romantic and they got married. “I remember when I told him he would be a father,” she said in a gentle tone, “he cried with joy.”

Jennifer Salas continued fondly talking of Jordy and his beloved dog Dash. The mourners took relief in laughing at the things young men do with their dogs. Stories were told of sleepovers and fatherly moments. His mother was the last to speak and her words quieted the room.

“We had a close relationship. He liked nice things, sneakers, t-shirts, like an ordinary boy, but if a friend liked something of his he would just give it to them,” said Rosa Salas.

Kenneth Holmes, the dean of students, Lynette Cook-Francis, the vice president of student affairs, Professor Carbonell and former English professor Margaret Tabb were in attendance. “It was so wonderful too that the pastor asked if there was anyone in the audience who didn’t speak Spanish…so I raised my hand and said ‘do you speak Spanish Marnie?’ said Carbonell, referring to Professor Tabb. “She said no.”

From that point on the service was translated and many were able to fully understand the depth of Jordy’s character.

“He was very active in his church. He was well loved in his community, very giving, loving husband, Sunday school teacher, soon to be father, loving brother, good friend and it was surreal for me to sort of get to know him after he passed away and what a great person he was,” said Holmes.

While Jordy’s friends and family knew him well, at school he was very quiet. Each semester professors are immersed in a class filled with personalities, some who need more encouragement than others to break out of their shell.
“After some point you get to know everyone, but Jordy was quiet so by now and it’s only a couple of weeks later he might have said or done something,” said Carbonell.

Carbonell explained that Jordy’s fresh arrival at John Jay hadn’t given him enough time to connect with other students.

At his funeral she took note of his involvement in the community. “You could see his life at home and with the church probably took up a lot of his time, so I don’t think he really had a chance to form relationships here,” she said.
Back at campus students contemplated ways to remember their fellow colleague and whether John Jay was doing enough. For Forensic Psychology major Kelley Peluso, they were.

“I thought it was nice that they sent out the email. It had everything I needed to know,” said Peluso.

Peluso is referring to an email that was sent to the student body by Cook-Francis on March 18, it stated the date of Jordy’s funeral and where to send donations.

Some, however, believed more could be done, like Criminology major Eric Colon.“I don’t think John Jay is doing enough possibly to help the family instead of sending an email,” said Colon.
To remedy the unease, Student Council President Clinton Dyer explained that there are plans in the making.

“We are working on having a vigil to happen in front of the 9/11 memorial. Right now the family is putting him to rest and we wanted to give them some time so that we can have them at the memorial,” said Dyer.

Carbonell had Jordy in her LIT 260 class, an introduction to literary study. Before his passing, Jordy had turned in an assignment based on the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. The tale covers an African American family and the quilt they have handed down through generations. It is essentially a story of heritage.“That paper has taken on a whole new meaning to me and it’s a good paper, and it is very promising in terms of who he would become as an English major, as a writer. He wanted to be a lawyer so there’s that part…” said Carbonell as she folded her hands onto her lap.

For Carbonell, it was a slow realization that she had lost one of her students. “I heard nothing about the building collapses that day and it wasn’t until I got home that night and it was late…I was watching the 11 p.m. news and I saw the story and at that point they weren’t mentioning any names…for some reason I woke up the next morning knowing that those two things were connected,” she said.

Even though Jordy is gone, and his family mourns for him, he is around. He exists in them, his unborn son and a piece of writing that will be treasured for times to come.

“So you know there are traces I would say, there are traces of Jordy,” said Carbonell.

National Science Foundation Winner

Nikoleta Despodova

By Navita Nauth

Staff Writer

When she opened the email, she couldn’t believe it. Screaming from excitement, she had to double check. Nikoleta Despodova stared at the congratulatory email that stated she had received $126,000 from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Despodova is currently a John Jay graduate student continuing her research on whether or not a defendant’s sexual orientation influences a juror’s judgment of his/her state of mind.

An immigrant from Bulgaria, Despodova moved to the United States in 2009 without any family or friend for support. As a child, Despodova was always interested in diversity and studying other cultures.

“In Bulgaria, you cannot learn anything about other cultures. Everyone’s basically the same,” she said.

Despodova’s family suspected that she would not remain in the States for an extended period of time and would eventually return.

America was also not what she expected. “That’s one of the stereotypes that immigrants expect: streets to be paved with gold, but that’s not the case. Things are much harder than we expect,” Despodova said.

To make ends meet, Despodova worked as a waitress in hotels. After her first year in the country, she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree. “Education is important and in this competitive world you need education,” Despodova said.

After research and searching, she attended an open house meeting at John Jay College and decided she would study here.

During her studies, she met Mark Fondacaro, Professor of Psychology. It was from Fondacaro’s research that Despodova derived her own research study.

Despodova worked for more than a year on her research with little supervision from Fondacaro. She collected data, recruited subjects and wrote a comprehensive literature review. Although she comes off as very serious, Despodova likes to watch Asian horror movies in her free time.

She proposed an independent response project to extend Fondacaro’s research that questioned if a defendant’s sexual orientation affects a juror’s judgment.

“Nikoleta was involved in multiple research projects with multiple mentors, which gave her a breath of experience and research related skills. She was very responsive to the guidance and feedback that I gave her. She would read all the articles she was asked to and looked for more,” Fondacaro said.

As a result of her hard work, Despodova applied for the fellowship and is now here at John Jay to advance her studies and to work towards her goal of studying psychology.

“She was very poised, motivated and focused in her research interest. Overall, Nikoleta is a highly motivated, intelligent young woman who is determined to succeed,” Fondacaro said.

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Westport Fight Leads to Stabbing

By Benjamin Passikoff

Ahmed Jaradat contributing reporting.

At 11:10 A.M. today as John Jay College students prepared for a 3rd period research class in room 107 of Westport, a student attacked another with an 8-inch serrated bread knife.

“There was an incident,” risk management and ethics manager Ryan Eustace said. “One student was arrested. One student went to the hospital.”

The altercation occurred before the professor had arrived for class.

It is not clear how long the fight lasted, but the assailant was taken into custody by NYPD officers and the wounded student was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital across from Harren Hall.

Toppled chairs in Westport 107 after students rushed out and down the stairs away from the fight. By 12:15 P.M. the door to 107 was locked.

 

Professor Maria Volpe, a professor of sociology at John Jay, was on her way to meet Kate Szur, who is senior director of Student Academic Success Programs.

“I was twenty minutes early to my meeting,” Professor Volpe said. “There were all these students rushing out of the building.”

According to Professor Volpe, one of Szur’s student peer leaders had taken control of the security desk, as the Public Safety officer had chased after the assailant towards 10th Avenue.

“I heard some skirmish,” Szur said. “I was on my email, trying to finish my work. We came down to ask security what happened.”

Stephanie Zomer, a John Jay Health Services employee and member of Student Academic Success Programs, whose offices are in Westport, was one of the first responders to scene.

“The students came screaming out of their classroom saying that a student was just stabbed,” Zomer said.

Zomer ran down the stairs, out of the building, and towards 10th Avenue. As she reached the corner of 56th Street, she saw Public Safety had subdued the assailant on the corner of 55th Street and 10th Avenue.

“By the time I got there, security was holding him down, and people from the streets were holding him down, and the guy that actually got stabbed was holding him down,” Zomer said. “So I got the guy that was bleeding all over the place-I took my shirt off right away and I wrapped it around [his wrist].”

The Counseling department provided with fresh John Jay work out apparel as a replacement for her bloody clothes.

“He had a really deep laceration on his wrist, and his bone was out,” Zomer said. “I was trying to put as much pressure on it as possible. I just had blood all over me from trying to get it to stop bleeding, but it just wouldn’t….”

Blood drops on 55th Street and 10th Avenue.

 

The two students were in the same class, but, according to Zomar, the victim did not even know his assailant, or why his assailant attacked him.

Professor Volpe and Szur remained on the scene with Zomer and waited as a public safety officer took her statement in a back conference room of Westport.

Dean of students Kenneth Holmes was proud of the speedy rate of response. He was involved in a behavioral intervention meeting with members of his office, Public Safety, and college council, when he heard the news.

“When we heard about the situation, the assistant director for security went to initially take care of the situation, then counciling went, then I went,” Holmes said. “It was the ninth response from the college community in hearing about it, and getting the information to all of the different ears of the university that needed to respond.”

According to a letter from President Travis, the student who was cut did not sustain a life threatening wound. It is expected that St. Luke’s will release him today after treating his injury.

NewsFeed: Trying To Find Houses For The Formely Incarcerated

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Even out of prison people with a criminal background still cannot seem to get a break. For the formerly incarcerated finding a home can be difficult especially when landlords can choose to bar such individuals. A toolkit or guide was developed by Fortune Society and John Jay College Criminal Justice to help people with a criminal past to find education and housing.  National Reentry Resource Center presents a webinar that reviews the toolkit as well as other findings to aid people with criminal histories.

Sources- National Reentry Resource Center

NewsFeed: The Crime Report Developed A Top Ten List for Criminal Justices Stories of 2011

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The Crime Report, published by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,with the help of contributors and bloggers complied a list of top ten Criminal Justice stories of 2011. The stories were according to The Crime Report to be significant and interesting in terms of Criminal Justice. Topics on the list include changes in corrections, re-evaluating the reliability of eyewitnesses identification, and redefining what rape is.

Source- The Crime Report

NewsFeed: Murder Is Down, But Why?

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This year alone New York City has experienced its third lowest homicide rates of 502. The lowest being in 2009 of 471 and the second being in 2007 of 499. The decline in homicide is also more significant or sharper in the city than anywhere else in the nation. Mayor Bloomberg attributes the decrease to the work of police and fire departments but experts are not too sure about that. Experts such as Andrew Karmen, sociology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, attributes the decline to the current lifestyle of young adults. Karmen believes because young adults from ages 18 to 24 are attending colleges,  they are less likely be murdered then young adults that do not attend college.

Murder Mystery

The Long Island serial killings of women prostitutes have become a mystery even being called “the Gilgo Beach Murder mystery.” Many experts believe that there are multiple killers due to the number of victims, the different methods used in disposing the body, and the number of years that separate the murders. Louis B. Schlesinger, Professor of Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice believes there is only one serial killer. Despite the number of victims and the gap in years between the first murder and the last, 15 years, he still believes there is one murderer. In response to the reason why the victims were dismembered in the past but are no longer, Schlesinger  explains that

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the killer must have just realized that it was too much work and decided to switch up his methods.

Unable To Accept Freedom

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After spending 26 years locked up in jail for fatally stabbing a man, Randall Lee Church finds himself back in after he burns down a house. He was 18 years old when he was first incarcerated in the year 1983; before Facebook and before smartphones. When he was released at age 46 he was unable to adjust to the world he knew in 1983. The frustration boiled to a point when he commits arson in retaliation. Church is a prime example of the prison re-entry our nation, prisoners unable to cope and wanting a way out end up back in prison. Executive Director of Prisoner of John Jay College of Criminal Justice Ann Jacobs further explains the recidivism dilemma.

Read more articles like it at Chron.com

Two John Jay Students win the Elbert Stillwaggon Memorial Scholarship

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Two John Jay Students win scholarships in Fire Science major:

New York, NY, September 16, 2011The John Jay Foundation today announced that John Jay College of Criminal Justice sophomore Mateusz Grebowiec, age 20, and junior Ken Zeng, age 22 were awarded the Elbert Stillwaggon Memorial Scholarships. Sponsored by the New York Propane Gas Association (NYPGA), these scholarships of $3,000 annually are awarded to two full-time students in the College’s Fire Science Program. ”