adam gentile

College cancels congressional candidate coming to campus

Administration says Mikie Sherrill welcome to visit after election

By Brett Friedensohn
Editor-in-Chief

Adam Gentile
Features Editor

Less than 24 hours before her scheduled appearance in professor Mark Washburne’s history class, New Jersey 11th congressional district Democratic Candidate Mikie Sherrill was disinvited by County College of Morris administration. As for why, the reasons vary depending on who is giving them.

Dr. Bette Simmons, vice president of academic affairs, sent an email to Washburne, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Mendham Borough, and Interim Dean of Liberal Arts Dr. James Hart Oct. 15 to notify them that the visit was postponed. On that email, sent to the Youngtown Edition, she copied History Department Chair Dr. Michael Parrella and Communication Department Chair Dr. Matthew Jones.

The email chain started Saturday, Oct. 6, when Washburne notified Simmons, Hart, and Parrella that he had heard from the Sherrill campaign that the candidate was available to visit Oct. 16.

Washburne said that he sent a text message to Sherrill after she beat him in the Tuesday, June 5 Democratic primary for the 11th district seat, congratulating her on her victory and invited her to speak in his classroom. He said that after not hearing a response on the matter, he met her again at a September Democratic fundraiser and again extended his invitation, and sent the email within minutes of hearing from Sherrill’s staff.

Parrella emailed Washburne back Oct. 6 saying that he had spoken with Hart and was unsure of the college’s policy on inviting candidates to speak in classes and that Hart will speak to Simmons when she returns Tuesday, Oct. 9. Simmons later said to the Youngtown that she was on vacation during this time.

She replied to Washburne Oct. 9, saying that he needs to reach out to Webber to invite him,  and she advised him to wait until after the election to host Sherrill. Later that day, she sent another email saying that he may host Sherrill even if Webber declines the invitation, but Washburne will need to invite him  nonetheless.

“It would be most appropriate – and in keeping with college expectations – that you reach out to Mr. Webber’s office and invite him to participate as well,” Simmons said in the email. “If he declines, you would still be able to host Ms. Sherrill as the offer had been extended to her opponent.”

Washburne replied that day saying that he had reached out to Webber’s office. He later told the Youngtown that he would have been happy to host the Republican state assemblyman but had emailed and called the office multiple times but heard no response.

“The time to bring her in is before the election, and if they want to be fair, let’s bring in whoever wants to come in as well,” Washburne said.” Jay Webber hasn’t responded, but he could have come in. Nobody was saying he couldn’t come in.”

Youngtown staff had been in contact with Sherrill’s staff over the week leading up to the scheduled visit to organize an exclusive interview with Sherrill before she spoke to the students. Since the cancellation, Sherrill and Webber’s campaigns  have not responded to requests for comment.

Washburne has in the past hosted in-class visits by 11th district incumbent Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, and in October 2016, organized a debate between representatives for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Simmons said Wednesday, Oct. 17 that it was Washburne’s responsibility to notify the department of public safety as well as the office of marketing and public relations about the scheduled event. The next day, the professor said that none of his supervisors told him this was his responsibility but that would have alerted these departments had he been instructed to. This matter never was mentioned in the email chain.

“That never even came up in conversations at all, so I find it odd that it’s coming up now in conversations,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s coming from. There wasn’t any part of our conversation at all that I didn’t notify any of these people. I was trying to figure out whether we could even do the program, so we never got to that stage.”

Simmons said that Washburne needed to notify public safety about the matter because Sherrill is running for federal office, and therefore, the college would be at a higher risk level if she is on campus.

“She may have been bringing her own security staff, but that still means that we have to do some things, making sure the facility was the proper facility to host her,” Simmons said. “So all of those housekeeping items needed to be taken care of, and unfortunately, they were not taken care of. And then the other part of the issue is again, because she is running for a political office, we need to make sure that the college had extended an offer to the other candidates that were running  for that position, that they were given an equal opportunity to have access to our students and our employees, and that had not been done either. And so, to do all of that in the very short period of time from the moment I found out that the event had been scheduled, we just felt that wouldn’t be County College of Morris at our best, so we asked to have it postponed.”

Kathleen Burnet Eagan, CCM’s public relations director, said that if Washburne had notified her office of the event,  she would have reached out to the candidates’ staff to find out what they need the college to do to help and if they need publicity assistance.

“It’s just part of the logistics, and this is when it went from solely a classroom event to a larger event,” Burnet Eagan said. “There’s a lot of pieces to take care of, and you need some time.”

Washburne said that Simmons had changed her mind on the rules regarding the steps he needs to take to host Sherrill.

“Dr. Simmons changed her mind on Thursday and said we had to hear from Jay Webber. And so, we never heard back from Jay Webber, so and I don’t know, I haven’t been in touch with the administration since Thursday on the matter, but I got an email on Monday saying that they were cancelling Mikie Sherrill coming to the class,” he said. “To me that would be great, if we were to invite Jay Webber. I said, ‘What if we invite Jay Webber?’ She said, ‘Sure.’ And that’s what I did.”

Simmons said that the college made its instructions to Washburne clear and consistent.

“I can’t respond on how he interpreted the message that I gave,” she said. “Knowing that there were other people that were a part of that conversation, I would say that it was really clear with what the college expected of him.”

While he is a Democratic politician, Washburne said that his purpose of bringing Sherrill to campus was not to promote his agenda but rather to educate his students and engage them in their elections.

“I love controversial topics to bring in. I want to engage my students, so for me, it’s not a big deal to bring in a candidate, or a few candidates,” he said. “I want to get them excited about the election, so that’s really the reason why I invited her and I have invited other people in the past, just to get students excited about it. They wanted, the administration wanted her to come in after the election. So I said, ‘This can’t wait. My students won’t be able to ask their questions about her positions.’”

Mike Velasquez, a fine arts major, does not agree with the schools decision to cancel Sherrill’s visit.

“We have these signs out in the student center that tell us to vote, but when we have a candidate coming to talk to us they just turn her away, that’s not right,” Velasquez said.

Alexa Cacchila, a nursing major, said that with Sherrill being unable to show up students lost a valuable opportunity to be encouraged to vote.

Robert Osewalt, a liberal arts/criminology major, was disappointed in the action that the school took.

“She should’ve been able to come, isn’t the school supposed to teach their students about the world?” Osewalt said.

Sophie Connell and Lianna Del Corpo contributed to this story.

Writers’ club promotes literacy with book drive

By Adam Gentile
Features Editor

The CCM writers club ran its first book drive Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the Student Center in an effort to encourage literacy for underprivileged children.

In the United States childhood illiteracy in 4th grade is around 35 percent; however, for lower income families the illiteracy rate is at 82 percent according to the Reading Partners, an organization dedicated to stopping childhood illiteracy. Illiteracy also follows the child later on in life as the U.S Department of Education reported that 60 percent of inmates are illiterate and 85 percent of juvenile delinquents are illiterate.

Marcos Mirlas, president of the Writers Club, organized the event and was in the student center running the book drive.

“The goal was to get books appropriate for children for ages 3-17, and we were trying to give them to children in need,” Mirlas said.

The writers’ club did not work with any established charity or children’s organization, however, Mirlas plans on donating them to a social service office inside his town that will ensure that they go to children in need.

This was the first charity event that Mirlas organized and did not know what to expect from the outcome.

“I overestimated and I had 15 boxes to hold the books, but I only ended up needing five boxes which is still a lot of books, so it’s a good bounty either way,” Mirlas said.

Assuming the average dimensions of a packing box and that of children’s books the writers club most likely collected more than 200 books on their Oct. 9 book drive.

Along with organizing book drives the writers club also has an end of semester event known as the writers’ block.

“It’s like a poetry, but it doesn’t have to be poetry, like the club anything that is your own written word that you present to everybody,” Mirlas said. “There are judges and prizes and it’s a lot of fun for everybody.”

At the moment the club is not going to put on another book drive this semester, but organizations such as  International Literacy Association, Reach Out and Read, Literacy for Incarcerated Teens,. all make it their mission to end illiteracy.

The writers’ club focuses on presentation and peer review, that encourages people to show up with any written work whether its a poem, song, short story, or any other form of literature. The meetings take place once a week between 12:30-1:45 on Thursdays.

Students still undecided as midterms approach

By Adam Gentile
Contributor

As the midterm elections are approaching Tuesday, Nov. 6, some  County College of Morris students are vying for one specific party while others are unsure or not planning to vote at all.

New Jersey has one Senate seat up for election, with incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez defending his position against his Republican counterpart Bob Hugin, who is within  two percentage points of Menendez in a Stockton University poll released Monday, Oct. 1. Also in the race is Madelyn Hoffman of the Green Party and Murray Sabrin of the Libertarian Party.

In the House of Representatives, voters in all of New Jersey’s 12 Congressional districts will elect a representative.

The 11th District encompasses CCM’s campus and takes up most of Morris County as well as some municipalities in Essex, Bergen, Union, Sussex, and Passaic counties. In its race, the incumbent Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen has decided to not seek reelection, thus guaranteeing a new representative for the first time since he took office in 1994. Mikie Sherrill, a former navy pilot and federal prosecutor,  who won the Democratic primary will challenge Republican Jay Webber, who is currently serving as  an assemblyman for New Jersey’s 26th district.

The other district in Morris County is the seventh district which includes western Morris municipalities such as Roxbury, Wharton, Chester, and Mount Olive; while  also encompassing parts of Warren, Somerset, and Union counties and all of Hunterdon County.

That seat has been held since 2009 by Leonard Lance, another Republican, who is challenged by Democrat Tom Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for human rights under President Barack Obama, and worked on the Human Rights Council under President Bill Clinton.

Muhammad Akhter, an engineering science major, said that he has not followed the election as much as he has wanted.

“I’ve been using up whatever free time I have to look into whose running and what their issues are,” Akhter  said.

Akhter  said that he will be voting for Democrats “mainly because of the issues, not really the people.”

Lisa Foran, a graphic design student, said she is a registered voter and  is planning on casting a ballot in the upcoming election. She said that she hasn’t been keeping up to date with the election, but  would prefer that the Republicans maintain control of the house and senate and gain more local seats.

Jessica Johnson, a fine arts major, said  she is not planning on voting this year because she has not been following any of the elections and does not want to make an uninformed decision.

“It’s kind of messed that its a vote for one party or the other,” she said. “It’s either black or white for voting.”

Johnson said that there should be less tribalism in political discourse.

“Everyone is really angry right now, and nobody knows what to put their anger towards,” Johnson said. “People are just lashing out at each other, and it’s kind of scary… I feel that people really need to come together cause then people are just fighting each other.”

Kymber Hinkling, an engineering science major, said she is still undecided as to whether or not she wants to vote this year.

“I don’t agree with either party or the party system and think that it’s fundamentally limiting to our democratic freedoms,” she said. “If we don’t abandon the red vs. blue politics we are going to see a lot more tribalism .”

However, she said that she is aware of her local candidates.

“An official came to my house and gave me an overview of the candidates who were running,” she said.

Caleb Doherty,  a mathematics education specialization major, also said that two-sided politics obstructs civilized dialogue.

“Nationally we have a lot of problems in our system. I feel that polarization where if people are on different sides where we can’t have civil discussion is a big problem”

If you haven’t registered to vote yet and want to participate in the midterm elections, you can register at https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/voting-information.html. The mail-in voter registration deadline for New Jersey is Tuesday, Oct. 16.