Violations and vodka

PC Patrick Alejandro
Patrick Alejandro for TRW

Violations and vodka

All the MTV shows were right about one thing: alcohol plays some sort of role in the college experience. During a four year stay at college, it’s more than likely that in one way or another you will at the very least come in contact with or consume alcohol. Unfortunately, most college alcohol consumption is the less-than-legal type.

Due to strict underage drinking laws, some hold the idea that this promotes not only more dangerous drinking but a fear of reporting serious alcohol related issues as well. Instead of prioritizing safety, students are more likely to “wait out” dangerous issues such as alcohol poisoning or even sexual assault in fear of being caught and penalized. However, from medical, legal, and UMBC’s own disciplinary opinions this seems not to be the case on UMBC’s campus.

In regards to students being more prone to heavy drinking, Mickey Irizarry, Assistant Director of Health Education at UMBC’s University Health Services makes it amply clear that “it depends” because “they are not necessarily less harmful… it all depends on the amount that you are drinking.” For instance, “standard drink sizes, all three – beer, wine and liquor – in their correct sizes would be equal drinks.”

Even with this statistic, Irizarry goes on to explain that regardless of the type of drink, “alcohol may be more harmful for young adults or persons under 21 mainly because their brains are not fully developed at this point…and can disrupt brain growth and development and can impair memory functioning in the long run.”

When arguing the importance of getting caught versus reporting serious issues, Major Paul Dillon, Deputy Chief of Police at UMBC admits that there “are certainly pitfalls” but, “if a student is worried about getting a minor alcohol citation or a sanction from the University over the potential life of a fellow student they need to get their priorities straight.”

However, UMBC Police’s main priority is the students’ safety. To Dillon’s knowledge, “[UMBC Police] have never issued any alcohol citations during an alcohol poisoning call.” Even then, disciplinary action is not the first thing on the mind. Dillon goes on to say that he believes, “if a student drinks to the point of needing transport to a hospital they likely have an alcohol problem and need help.”

Even from a disciplinary aspect, UMBC values the well-being of the student more than anything else. Dr. Jeff Cullen, Director of Student Judicial Programs at UMBC explains that other than state laws, “UMBC does not have strict alcohol regulations” and “as police reports….[are] generated by staff, what [is seen] is that students are concerned about the health and well-being of their peers.” Even the Code of Conduct  states that, “disciplinary action may be waived for students in violation of alcohol or other drug policies who responsibly report crimes of violence or hazing.”

Despite all this overwhelming evidence, it comes down to the individual. At UMBC, they make it clear from day one that this is a campus that cares. If you want to make the best decision about it then do not drink if you are underrage. However, we all make mistakes, but at the very least make it a no-brainer to prioritize your peers over self-preservation.

Pardoned journalists, The Pope addresses Congress, Mexican murders


President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 100 prisoners on Thursday, in light of the major Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Among the pardoned individuals were two Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed.

Pardoning prisoners on Eid al-Adha is a tradition of sorts in Egyptian politics, and in a statement Sisi’s office said that the act was grounded in humanitarian and health reasons, and that it was “in line with the president’s initiative last December to release detained youth.”

Many of the prisoners were prominent left-wing activists arrested for protesting against the government, which quickly began to serve as a source of criticism against Sisi’s administration by the international community. Many were quick to note that Sisi’s pardon came one day before he was scheduled to travel to a United National General Assembly gathering in New York.

Fahmy and Mohamed, along with a third journalist colleague who was released in February, Peter Greste, were arrested in December 2013 at a hotel in Cairo after being charged with broadcasting false news. The Egyptian government also accused the journalists of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, although sound evidence was never presented to support these claims.


The United States

In his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis delivered an address to Congress on Thursday in which he challenged the nation’s elected officials to break out of partisan paralysis to heal the “open wounds” of the world.

“Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples,” said the bishop of Rome to a joint meeting of Congress. “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, took up issues that his predecessors have long shied from, including immigration, the death penalty, the arms trade, environmental legislation, religious liberty and abortion. Many pundits noted how the Pope’s address catered to both liberals and conservatives, although his rhetoric concerning the former was much clearer.

However, the Pope’s influence on Congress was far from significant. The Senate was quickly back to a stalemate as the Democrats and Republicans quarreled over whether to defund Planned Parenthood or not.

Following his speech, Pope Francis visited a local church where he addressed the issue of homelessness. He mingled with a crowd of homeless people, among them felons, mentally ill individuals, victims of domestic violence and substance abusers. Pope Francis chose to spend his last few hours in the Capitol in a nontraditional way, to the surprise of many.



On Friday, President Enrique Pena Nieto announced the creation of a specially designated unit to investigate the case of the disappearance of 43 students last year.

President Nieto’s announcement came after meeting with the relatives of the missing students in light of the first anniversary on their disappearance.

Despite the president’s efforts, the families of the students voiced their wish for an international commission of experts to lead the investigation. They believe the government’s special unit is fundamentally flawed and have suggested that the Mexican army played a role in the disappearance of the students.

The students disappeared on September 26, 2014 in the city of Iguala in Guerrero state, where they had gone to gather for a commemoration.

The Mexican government has said that local police officers had apprehended the students and gave them to a local drug gang, which allegedly killed the students and burned their bodies.



In the Loop

Leading Orgs, UMBC’s student organization officer retreat, was held this past Saturday in The Commons’ Skylight Lounge. The retreat was jointly hosted by Student Life and the SGA, and ran all day from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Over 50 student organizations were represented, with groups such as SWE, WMBC and Phi Mu Fraternity for Women all in attendance. Guest speakers included former SGA President Catie Collins and UMBC’s President, Freeman Hrabowski.


UMBC has announced a three year, $2 million research partnership with the United States Naval Academy. The research will be centered around five federally funded cyber-security initiatives that come amid rising numbers of data breaches, many of which endanger the personal information of federal employees. One of the projects will focus on how to more quickly and effectively recognize a data breach. A limited number of students and professors from both schools will work on the projects.


On September 24, members of UMBC’s International Genetically Modified Machine team traveled to Boston to present their research at MIT’s Giant Jamboree. The Jamboree is an annual event where iGEM teams from high schools and universities from all over the world come to present their synthetic biology projects. UMBC’s iGEM team presented a Copper Bioremediation project, a waste management technique that used copper cells to remove E. coli from natural environments.

PC Zach Garmoe
Zachary Garmoe for TRW

Our sickly Senate, a troublesome trial

In an effort to keep UMBC students informed, The Retriever has been attending weekly Student Government Association Senate meetings on Monday nights. While each meeting has been controversial in its own right, the meeting held on Sept. 28 was worth noting.

The meeting started with confirmations. Due to the opening of an RA position within Residential Life, Vanessa Barksdale respectfully stepped down from her position as senator on Sept. 4.

Following this newfound vacancy, Speaker of the Senate Andres Garcia released an application for the position on Sept. 15. In total, there were seven students that submitted applications before the Senate meeting on Sept. 28.

Garcia announced that he selected a candidate, Alex Zarlenga, because “he was the first to respond back to the application.” Zarlenga proceeded to speak in front of the Senate, providing reasons as to why he should be appointed.

He received backlash from several senators. It became clear that Garcia had not interviewed any of the other candidates. Zarlenga is a friend of Garcia’s, and is a former roommate of senator Seth Benefield. Furthermore, it was later discovered that Zarlenga had in fact campaigned for Jankoski during the previous elections. 

Senators Andres Garcia, Seth Benefield and Augustus Williams all received endorsements from embattled SGA President Anthony Jankoski during the election process, and in turn have each maintained a strong allegiance to Jankoski.

The Senate rejected the confirmation, and have tabled the matter until more candidates are interviewed. However as the constitution states, the Speaker of the Senate only has to bring one candidate to the Senate to be confirmed. In other words, Garcia can interview as many or as few candidates as he chooses, and has the option to bring just one to the Senate. 

When senators run for office, they are made aware of the necessary time commitment via the Senate Procedural Rules. It states, “Attendance at Senate meetings, committee meetings, and office hours is mandatory for all Senators.  Two unexcused absences from regular Senate meetings or committee meetings within the same year shall result in expulsion from the Senate.”

Potential senators were also made aware that they should clear their schedules after 5:30 p.m. on Monday nights, as this is when Senate meetings start. Meetings have no set end time.

Two senators currently have class conflicts. Both Benefield and Williams have class at 7 p.m. on Monday, and are therefore absent for at least part of every meeting.

The Senate Procedural Rules state that the Speaker of the Senate, in this case Andres Garcia, has the ability to determine what is an excused or unexcused absence. During the meeting on Sept. 28, Garcia announced he would give excused absences on a case-by-case basis.

Initially Garcia gave examples like “A death in the family or being sick…”, but when pressed about whether leaving for class would qualify as an excused absence, Garcia conceded that it would. Several senators found this problematic, given that each senator knew not to register for classes during that time period.

After much debate, a decision was reached. Two excused absences and two unexcused absences would be allowed. It is worth noting that given the new attendance policy, even if Benefield and Williams were eventually removed from office due to attendance violations, it would likely be after the impeachment vote took place.

Both were supported by Jankoski, and both are friends of Garcia, who was also supported by Jankoski.

PC Zach Garmoe
Zachary Garmoe for TRW

Making it Happen: Registrar goes paperless

As times have changed and classes have become more technologically-based, so have the offices that handle student records. Here at UMBC, the Office of the Registrar is responsible for a student’s academic record, which includes transcripts, degree audits, transfer credit evaluation and oversight of the graduation process.

Pamela Hawley, acting registrar, discussed how the office has evolved over the years and the act of going paperless.

“We are trying to make forms accessible online and provide more of a workflow for the setup online to make it a more straightforward process for students,” said Hawley.

The first to be available online is the change of major form.

“The change of major form is what we are trying to make into the first true e-form so that it can be approved before it is submitted to the office [of the Registrar],” said Hawley.

The way that the system is currently set up makes it so that some majors require departmental approval before being able to submit the actual form to the registrar. With this improvement, the approval will already be in place so students just have to fill out the online form.

A huge stride in becoming an electronic service came in 2009 with the introduction of the Peoplesoft program, which students use to enroll in classes.

“Peoplesoft was a huge stepping stone in going paperless, as it provided so many more services than the program we had before it, Legacy,” said Hawley. “Before that, professors used to have to fill out grades through Scantron; now they just go into Peoplesoft and enter the grades and they are done.”

From here, the office is looking to partner with the Department of Information Technology to explore different avenues to improve student scheduling. Through this, students would be able to schedule around other obligations such as work or extracurricular club meetings.

Another tool this would provide is academic planning that would use the degree audit to plan out classes to take over their projected four years at the university.

Overall, the switch has been successful as some of the administrative processes have been moved online, which provides a more self-service format for users.

Students should be on the lookout for changes, like the partnership with DoIT, which will be in place by the spring.