Danial Aziaz Khan talks about Pakistan elections. Photo by Dominic Gwinn.

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

On Thursday, November 3, Students from Roosevelt’s International Student Association, in conjunction with the International Studies Program, held a series of lectures discussing the differences in elections throughout the world. Moderated by Roosevelt professor of political science and international studies Phillip Hultquist, the student-led panel detailed election methodologies in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as some of the problems faced by citizens of those countries in their own unique electoral processes.

With the intent of bridging cultural divides, students talked about the structures of their governments, the differences in voting procedures, as well as some of the challenges faced in conducting elections.

“The student presenters did a great job of showing how elections work in their countries,” said Hultquist. “They highlighted some troubling aspects for democratic norms, such as undue influence from the military, corruption, and political dynasties…You know it’s a good event when you have to cut off discussion to stay on time or when people stick around after the presentations are over to keep talking about the issues.”

Bernice Kasongo, an 18, year-old Biochemistry student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke earnestly her country, and found insight in how other others, despite their cultures differences, deal with local elections, political corruption and the disillusionment with the political process.

“It was good to hear about the elections from people that have no interest in lying about it,” said Kasango. “They told us the truth about how elections actually go even if the process was unfair sometimes due to corruption.”

Kasango explained that in many countries democracy is hard to achieve due to dictators or disaffected citizens who feel that they have no say in their countries. “I feel that it was important for students to know how elections go outside of the U.S because they can realize that it is important to vote,” Kasango said. “Statistics show that people of the age of 18-35 are the ones that vote less. So, we wanted to show them how important it is to vote because some people do not even have that opportunity.”

Samawi “Sam” Al Helli, a 29 year-old student from Iraq working towards his Masters in computer science, spoke about Iraqi elections and urged students about the importance of voting.

“…The whole point of the event is sharing with [students] how elections work overseas and comparing it to how it works here in America, and how important it’s even if it was one single vote. It can make a difference. No vote goes in vain even if the candidate you voted for didn’t win.”


By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

With Roosevelt University facing severe financial stress, the current administration held several meetings with Roosevelt’s Student Government Association. Incoming Provost Lois Becker and President Ali Malekzadeh answered questions from students on Nov. 2 and Nov. 9, respectively, in order to ease the concern of students, accept comments and suggestions and inform students about some of the potential policies being considered.

Students questioned Provost Becker and President Ali about changes in Roosevelt policies, such as its commitment to social justice, tuition increase, and the sale or lease of large assets like the Gage building and University Center.

“We’re going to be here for another 70 to 100 years,” President Malekzadeh said, assuring students. “There will be up and downs. We had enrollment challenges last year, mainly because of MAP, so fewer students showed up. We have to cut our costs.”

President Malekzadeh then explained why Roosevelt is in the financial position that it is currently.

“When they built this building they didn’t do any fundraising for it,” said President Malekzadeh. “Therefore debt on this building is very high, that puts pressure on our budget. You saw tuition go up, like, three percent on average. That was the reason for it. What I’m trying to do is cut our costs as much as possible without hurting your education in the classroom.”

President Malekzadeh explained that to low student enrollment had left Roosevelt with an abundance of space, allowing for a consolidation of university resources. In order to stem the possible tide.

“What we’re trying to do is use the facilities that we have as much as possible. Gage costs us significant millions of dollars every year to operate. We’re not using it as much as we should, or we have extra capacity in this building. We should be using that.”

Students also questioned Provost Becker and President Malekzadeh about initiatives to not only retain current students, but also attract new students as well. Other concerns addressed at the meeting ranged widely from plans for Schaumberg, mentoring programs, repairs to the Auditorium building, attracting new students and transfer students, as well as the types of marketing being done to attract students and businesses to invest in the university.

“There is a Faculty Leadership Team that is currently identifying the learning outcomes for a new general education program,” Provost Becker stated in an email to the Torch about some of the initiatives being undertaken by fine-tune programs. “I want to support the reforming of general education and make sure that the Roosevelt undergraduate education prepares students for careers and graduate school. Roosevelt has a strong tradition of experiential education. I want to expand that work and make sure that students can use these opportunities to best take advantage of the job market and continuing education.”

In a statement to the Torch, SGA President Nathan Stoll stated that he was glad to see the both the Provost and the President listen to the concerns of the students, and that the SGA was working toward hearing more student concerns.

“We have these meetings with people like Provost Becker and President Ali in an effort to provide an outlet for students to speak directly with the people who make the policies of our university,” said Stoll. “We’re looking now to start bringing in some of the Vice Presidents in for open floor forums where students can share their experience, ideas, and grievances with the people charged to serve our students and our school…we’re hoping more students come to our open meetings every Wednesday to speak up about the problems they face.”

Fountain: In my rainbow class, a palpable air of mourning

The following post originally appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times under the byline of John W. Fountain on 11/11/2016. John Fountain was Dominic’s professor at Roosevelt University in 2016, and is a regular columnist for the Sun-Times.

On the morning after, I wore black. Black turtleneck. My professorial black suede jacket. Black slacks. Wine shoes for a spray of color — a ray of hope.

I was in mourning. Not for the loss we will all suffer for having now elected a sexist bigot to be leader of the Free World. Mourning for those who ultimately will live to regret it as this country is whisked into a whirlwind of born-again hate and the campaign promises turn up empty. For “we” gon’ be all right.

But inside my classrooms at Roosevelt University this week, the air was palpably somber. A journalism class that resembles a rainbow — Latina, white, black, a student from Ukraine, straight, gay — we are America.

Usually optimistic, some students were reduced to tears — angry, fearful, dismayed — over the democratic elections that yielded President-elect Donald J. Trump.

While not in my lesson plan, circumstance demanded we discuss the matter at hand. Some could. Some could not.

Tears flowed.

“I couldn’t help but notice today was not a good day for you. …Intended to speak with you after class, but you left before I could,” I later wrote to one student. “Hope all is well.”

“I’m OK,” my student Dominic Gwinn wrote back days later. “I was reeling from the results of the election and what that means for me as a journalist, as a student, and as a young white male who has worked so tirelessly to abolish the kind of thinking that is unfortunately so pervasive. Injustices were seemingly validated. I’ve always known that they still existed. But their prevalence in modern society made me physically ill.

“I stayed up all night co-hosting an election party for my internship, and I was the last soul trying to maintain hope and optimism until everyone left in tears. When I finally got home, I turned on some music and I wept alone like a child. …I tried to breathe, but my lungs knew only deep heavy sobs.

“Is this what people wanted? Did they not remember the wars, the economic catastrophe, the racial and sexual bigotry, state-sanctioned torture, domestic spying, environmental destruction of just 10 years ago?

“Are they ignorant? Or do they just not care? Do they just not know how much work was done in the town they — with disdain and loathing — call ‘the Swamp?’

“They deride the lot of residents who sacrifice their own votes to live in a city where their job is to help people all over the world.

“And the people who work tirelessly in windowless rooms to make sure tomorrow is, at the very least, not as bad as yesterday, are simply nothing more than cogs in a machine that needed to be dismantled?

“There’s no plan to fix anything or rebuild, just the false promise that everything will be better after it’s all destroyed.

“It was like being stabbed. The fresh wound pours warm blood, soaking everything it touches. With trembling hands, and jaw agape, cool air rushed toward the hole in my chest, and the pain began to sink in…

“Eight years ago, I stood out on the Mall one cold, blustery day, to see a man tell us all: That we’d won the fight, but our battle had just begun. There would be losses, and there would be setbacks. But we couldn’t stop now. Not yet…

“I’m a journalist, and there’s a story to tell.”

I told Dominic and other students that in the words of Kendrick Lamar: “We gon’ be all right.” That I am encouraged simply because of who they are: Our best hope.

Not just a ray but a rainbow.



All photos by Dominic Gwinn
from Roosevelt Torch


Roosevelt University has overhauled the Early Alert system in order to help students struggling with their classes.

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

In an effort to aid students struggling with their courses, the university has overhauled its Early Alert system so that students in danger of failing courses have a chance to save their grades.

While aimed at freshman, the idea behind the Early Alert system is to help guide students at all grade levels, including those at the graduate level, through the rigors of academia by connecting them with faculty, staff and support programs.

“What we’re trying to do is just employ whatever means we can to get students to the support that they need,” said Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Linda Jones, who helped work with faculty and staff on building the new alert system.

According to Jones, many of the problems faced by newer students are resolved simply through letting them know about existing resources.

“They don’t know about the tutoring center or writing center,” said Jones. “If they’re not doing well in a class a lot of students just default to, ‘I’ll avoid it,’ ‘If they don’t see me it’s not a problem,’ ‘If I don’t think about it, it’s OK,’ That kind of thing.”

If an an instructor finds a student in danger of failing, explains Jones, their first step should be to address their concern with the student.

“They don’t need to send in an early alert to send them to the writing center or tutoring, but some conversation,” said Jones. “Even if it’s an email, that should precede the alert so that it’s not a surprise to the student. That’s off putting.”

If that fails, professors have the option of filing an Early Alert from within RU Access based on several criteria that range from academic performance, attendance, class participation, preparedness, comprehension, Midterm grades below a C, as several others. Professors then offer a best course of action for the student, such as seeking support at the Academic Success Center, Office of First Generation Student Support Services, the Writing, Center, or to make an appointment with their academic advisor. Instructors then their concerns in some detail, and a copy of the notification is sent to the student, their advisor, and the appropriate support service.

In a statement to the Torch, Student Information Systems Specialist Laura Kehoe explains that, “The intention is to give faculty a way to easily connect students with resources early enough in the term to help them be successful.”

While similar services are common at many universities, and Roosevelt has had an Early Alert system in the past, it has been rudimentary and unhelpful. Faculty attempting to aid students by filing Early Alerts found their their concerns often fell into a “blackhole”, according to Jones, due to the lack of connectivity between students, faculty and support staff.

This new system, while not perfect, does seeks to use existing school resources to establish a bridge for students in need. Because of Roosevelt’s ongoing budgetary constraints, Jones, Kehoe, and several other members of Roosevelt’s faculty and staff including Elizabeth Meadows, Associate Provost Megan Bernard, and Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising Alicia Butler, felt that something must be done to help address problems common in many first year students .

Students shouldn’t over react when they get this,” said Jones. “You’re getting an early alert because somebody cares about you. It doesn’t mean you’re flunking, it will offer you an out, it will give you some options, some ways to deal with things.


By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

At the beginning of the Fall 2016 academic year, Roosevelt students utilizing the fifth floor of the Gage building found that their classrooms were under video surveillance.

Set unobtrusively in the ceilings of the classroom labs, the cameras were relatively unnoticed for the first few weeks of class with many students and professors simply unaware of their existence as there was never any notification from the Department of Communications or campus security.

Many students simply ignored the cameras and assumed that their installation was simply another layer of security, but when Roosevelt Journalism Professor John Fountain became aware that his classes were under constant surveillance he voiced his concerns within the Department of Communications, and in his weekly opinion column in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There had been some departmental faculty discussion before the beginning of the semester about safety and security,” Fountain writes. “But I seem to have missed the memo on the decision to install cameras in Mac-equipped classrooms: two where courses are taught and that also serve as student computer labs; and another dedicated solely for student lab use.”

The Gage building’s fifth floor offers students enrolled in communications courses a variety of tools often required to complete assignments in journalism and media studies programs such as DSLR cameras, audio recorders and video cameras.

Labs within Gage’s fifth floor are also equipped with 27-inch Retina Display iMac computers that host photo, audio and video editing software required for students to complete class assignments. It is also home to student run media outfits like the Torch, the student radio and television operations, The Blaze, and RU Fire TV.

IMC Major Katie Hay wonders why no one was told about the cameras if they were indeed only to ensure the technology would be safe. “If it was for technology, why weren’t we told we were being filmed?” Hay said.

“I feel like it’s something more,” states 24-year-old Alexis Hauskin. “It’s not like someone’s going to carry out a whole desktop without someone noticing, you know?”

Currently, access to equipment is restricted to students majoring in degrees under Communications Department. Students seeking to check out equipment must first present a Roosevelt ID, and sign a release form which is logged into a system by a lab aide.

Equipment is rented out on a 24 hour basis. Lab computers are also limited to communications students, and monitored by a student lab aide Monday through Friday.

Paul Acosta, a 28-year-old junior, IMC major and military veteran, felt that the placement of cameras seemed odd. “A big part of security is being informed about security measures,” Acosta said. “The strangest thing to me is that we weren’t informed.”

“I was O.K. with them being in the labs,” admits 23-year-old RU Fire TV station manager Heather Rowlison, a senior Journalism major. “But when I found out that they were in the classroom it made me feel really uncomfortable because they had been running when we have had discussions in our classroom setting that, to me, I felt very secure and private.”

Rowlison’s disagreement with the cameras in the classrooms stems from the revelation of personal details about her life during the course of a class, and her lack of knowledge about the cameras.

“I would definitely say it made me feel very, very uncomfortable. I shared things in class that are part of my personal life, and I just would worry if someone were to hack into — years down the road, you know? Would it affect my chance of running for some sort of office? I don’t know that I will or won’t, but if they dig up some of this private stuff it would be very harmful to me.”

The camera’s footage, according to a source, are housed within the Communication Department’s private server, and any access is restricted to only a select group of trained Roosevelt staff. However, it remains unclear at this time what, if any, information was recorded, viewed or stored within the server.

Illinois state law does allow for video surveillance in public settings like classrooms, however audio recordings are restricted to “one-party” consent. Anyone wishing to record a conversation, according to the state law, must first obtain the permission from any individuals before recording.

The U.S. National Institute of Justice Research Report conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999 concluded that cameras cannot be used in places where one has “a reasonable expectation of privacy,” and that while surveillance of classrooms is often a contentious topic, “it is probably wise to use cameras in classrooms only when the teacher is given an option and notification that a camera is to be used.”

The report further states that, “Signage can be an important legal component in the use of video cameras in schools.”

In a statement to the Torch, Professor Fountain states, “The presence of surveillance cameras in the classroom isn’t something I could ever support because it potentially inhibits or discourages free and open discourse which ought to occur in the sanctity of a university classroom. The idea of surveillance cameras in the classroom, particularly a journalism classroom, seems to undermine free speech, free expression, a free press and violates the assumption of privacy within the classroom, even at a private university, especially one where we embrace “social justice.”

Fountain questioned if being recorded made some students less likely to participate in classroom discussions on certain subjects.

“I’m sure they were. And as a professor, I found it disconcerting having an electronic eye over my shoulder,” Fountain said.

After pressure from students and faculty, the cameras were removed during the first week of October. A brief statement was sent to students outlining new security protocols for accessing the Gage’s fifth floor. Students are now required to tap their Roosevelt IDs to a small electronic lock when accessing the the floor, similar to how students, faculty and staff already must tap their ID’s when entering the Wabash or Auditorium Building.

In a statement to the Torch regarding the cameras and subsequent security measures, Marian Azzaro, Chair of the Department of Communications at Roosevelt stated, “The Department of Communication installed security cameras when the computer labs were upgraded. The purpose was to protect the university’s investment. When a member of the community voiced concern regarding the security cameras, we discussed and took steps to select an alternative method and that alternative is currently being implemented. If members of the community have thoughts on safety or security, we hope they will speak to Campus Safety or their Department Chair.”

“I wouldn’t mind tapping into to get into the communication labs,” Rowlison said of the newly implemented security measures. “I’m a communication student, I utilize the equipment; I utilize the labs, and I feel that extra security is good because we have a lot of valuable things on this floor.”

“Transparency equals trust,” Hay said. “When you are transparent about that, what you intend to use this information for then we can all feel confident and not have to question why they’re doing this.”


Students at the pre-debate discussion. Photo by Dominic Gwinn

By Dominic Gwinn
Staff Reporter
from Roosevelt Torch

Before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off for their final debate, Roosevelt’s department of Women’s and Gender Studies hosted a discussion featuring the Chair of Roosevelt’s Political Science department, David Faris.

More than a dozen students attended the discussion moderated by Women’s and Gender Studies Director Marjorie Jolles, with topics being discussed ranging from third party candidates, the electoral college, gerrymandering, and the national popular vote initiative.

“I thought it was interesting,” said 20 year-old Rachel Hunter, an international student from the U.K. “You can only hear so much about it at home, but to really be here in America, I never realized how insane the process is for the American people. I feel like I’m much more prepared to talk about things now.”

Faris, supported by Jolles and Associate Professor of Political Science Bethany Barratt, helped students discuss the why certain states matter more than others during a presidential election, why some states are called, “red” or “blue,” as well as some of the topics that were never addressed in the previous debates, like climate change. The presidential electoral process and the Electoral College were also detailed for students unfamiliar with the inner workings of the presidential electoral process, as well a popular alternatives to the College, such as the National Popular Vote Initiative.

“I was honored to take part in the WGS pre-debate election discussion,” Faris commented to the Torch. “The students asked sharp, important questions, and we had a freewheeling, open-ended discussion that represents the best of what democracy has to offer. I also enjoyed meeting students from different majors, and the opportunity to chat with them about important issues. I had a blast.”

“We’re glad people came out to listen,” commented 21 year-old Anna McColgan, a senior in majoring in Social Justice. “It’s important to talk about these things.”