Ringling Bros. Circus Abolishes Use of Elephants

“How does a business be successful?” asks Kenneth Feld, President and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “By adapting,” he says. Under constant pressure from the general public, animal rights activist groups, and “anti-elephant” ordinances from cities in which they wish to perform, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has made the decision to discontinue the use of elephants in their performances by the year of 2018.
The circus told the Associated Press that their decision is the result of “growing public concern about how the animals are treated.” However, Feld claims that his company is “not reacting to our critics,” but rather, “creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”

Because the show is most well-known for its large mammals, and an infamous company logo which features an elephant, executives of Feld Entertainment told the New York Times that the decision was “difficult and debated at length.”

Alana Feld, Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment, says that over the years “there’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our customers. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.” Perhaps the public’s concern is the result of a 2011 case when the company was fined $270,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act several times between June 2007 and August 2011, according to the USDA.

Currently, Feld Entertainment owns 43 elephants. Of those elephants, 29 live at the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, 1 is being loaned to a breeding program at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, and the remaining 13 will continue to put on performances over the course of the next three years until the circus’s elephant use is officially put to an end.

“This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995,” says Feld. “When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild…This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers.”

Men’s Basketball Senior Night Loss: WCSU vs. ECSU

Andrew Cirino
Contributing Writer

The smell of the stadium, the roar of the crowd, everyone on their feet.

That was the last time five seniors would get to experience this in a Western Connecticut State University uniform. It was senior night at the O’Neill Center and the stands were packed with the colonial faithful. This would be the last home game for seniors Jimmy Louissaint, Russell Payton, Philkwan Tate, Tony Seldon, and Claudy Casseus. To add to the importance of this game, it was against number one team and instate rival Eastern Connecticut State University.

Before the start of the game, everyone took a few minutes to honor the hard work and dedication that the seniors put in. One by one, they walked out onto the court with their families by their sides. The coaches, followed by the rest of the team, then greeted them as they posed for a final picture together.  

The players took their positions and waited for the game to start. The referee stepped up midcourt, and with a toss of a ball, the seniors’ last game began. The ball was won by Western to start the game. With a few quick passes, Western scored its first points of the game. Starting the game with an early basket gained momentum and took an early 6 to 4 lead. Yet, being the number one team in the conference, Eastern was unfazed and went on a nine-point run to take a 13 to 6 lead.

This was unacceptable to the seniors as they stepped up to score 10 unanswered points and take a 16 to 13 lead. Once again, Eastern would rally to take a 22 to 21 lead. Then after a buzzer beater 3-pointer by Eastern, they would go into the half with a 31 to 30 lead over Western Connecticut.

Once halftime was over, both teams took the court, yet it was a bit of a rough start for both teams. Both teams would go scoreless for the first two minutes of the third quarter. With an enthusiastic crowd supporting Western, they were soon silenced when Eastern Connecticut took a 21 point lead. But the Colonials were not out yet.

They would answer with seven points of there own narrowing their margin to a 55 to 41 lead.

The seniors, with all the fight that they had in them, took this deficit and closed the gap to just 8 after senior Jimmy Louissaint hit a huge 3-pointer that erupted the crowed in hopes of a comeback. Despite the senior’s best efforts, they would fall to Eastern by a score of 70 to 60.

Despite the loss, all of the seniors played well. Jimmy Louissaint had 5 points and three assists. Russell Payton had 2 points and two assists along with Philkwan Tate who also had 2 points and two assists. Claudy Casseus had 3 points and five rebounds, and senior Tony Seldon finish the night with an outstand 14 points and five rebounds, leading the Colonials in scoring.

Whalers Stumble Into Playoffs

Al Kessler
Sports Editor 


The 5th season of the Federal Hockey League has come to a close and the hometown Danbury Whalers are in the playoffs once again. One of the inaugural FHL teams the Whalers have now made the playoffs every season, and have made it to the finals all but their first season. In the 2012-2013 season the Whalers would capture the Commissioner’s Cup by defeating the Dayton Demonz. This year they look to get back to the Promised Land but they face a tough challenge. Danbury stumbled into the playoffs, losing 7 of their last 10 games to give them a 27-21-6 record, good for 4th place. Because of the struggles of the 5th place Berkshire Battalion the Whalers were able to secure a playoff spot.

This year the Whalers were led by forward Brett Liscomb who had 17 goals and 65 assists in just 51 games played. He is joined by Tim Richter, a Naugatuck CT native in his 2nd year with the team who tallied 66 points this season. Another key piece offensively for the Whalers is Russian born Ilya Solarev, a former 9th round draft pick of Tampa Bay in the 2001 entry draft. Solarev played professionally in Russia from 2008-2013, but was banned after failing a drug test for performance enhancing substances, but his 60 points helped the Whalers to their playoff berth.

Defensively Danbury is led by Steve Brown from Spring Lake North Carolina, whose 6’3” 230 pound frame is tough for opponents to deal with. Behind Steve is franchise goalie Mike Brown, a 5th round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in the 2003 entry draft, who helped propel the Whalers to their 2013 championship, earning honors as the playoff MVP.

The challenge for the Whalers, despite a potent roster, is the Watertown Wolves. The top team in the FHL ended the season with a 37-13-3 record, with one game left to play against the Battalion. The Wolves clinched the first place berth in a 4-1 win over the Whalers on Friday March 6th. The Wolves have the top goalie and scorer in the league along with head coach Brent Clarke who earned the FHL’s coach of the year award, sharing the honor with Berkshire coach Darin Lane. The Whalers are trying not to repeat their early exit from the playoffs in their first season, and under 4th year head coach Phil Esposito (no relation to the Boston Bruins great) they have their work cut out for them.

In watching the Whalers during the final stretch of the season they certainly did not look like a team ready for the playoffs. Struggles offensively would frustrate the team and seemed to affect the quality of goaltending as well. Net-minders Brown and his backup Kevin Hoy seemed unsure on good nights and downright uncomfortable on bad evenings. If the Whalers want to have playoff success they will have to elevate their game to the level they achieved earlier in the season, especially against a Watertown team which has been destined for first place since the start of the season.

The playoffs kick off in Danbury on Friday March 13th at the Danbury Ice Arena. The 3 game series features the first game in Danbury and two games back in Watertown NY.

WCSU’s “You Can’t Take It With You”

Behind-the-scenes, the Wardrobe Crew of the WCSU Department of Theatre’s production of You Can’t Take It With You work diligently to help transport audiences into another time. You Can’t Take It With You premiered Wednesday, February 25, in the MainStage Theatre in VPAC on the Westside of campus.

 You Can’t Take It With You would not be possible without the work of the Wardrobe Crew, a group of young ladies who work diligently without the reward of applause at the end of the show. After the curtain drops, their reward is laundry. And laundry is only one aspect of the work that these ladies put in. The Wardrobe Crew maintains the costumes, designed by Irene Hatch Thelen, a designer of many Off-Broadway productions, throughout the run of the show, from making alterations long before opening night, to mending holes or other mishaps during and after the show. They help prepare the actors by getting them into costume and stay throughout the show, silent and unseen backstage, in case of any costume emergencies.

Working on the Wardrobe Crew is part of a core class for all theatre majors, Theatre 300: Theatre Production Lab. This course assigns each student to a crew regarding a technical aspect of theatre allowing the productions to be elaborately built and the students to gain experience in all aspects of theatre. Crews include: Costumes, Lighting, Set, Props, Sound, Box Office, and Paint. Jennifer Wilson, a freshman Musical Theatre major from West Haven, talked about her experience working on You Can’t Take It With You’s Wardrobe Crew. She stated, “It’s great! It’s helpful to learn other aspects of being in a production other than just being on stage. And being backstage helping with changes, it’s fun.” This experience is also a great learning experience for the students. Sophomore Musical Theatre student and Head of Hair and Makeup for this production Alex Allyn affirmed, “It’s been super cool. I wasn’t around in the thirties so I don’t know what they looked like, but I adapted. Always adapt, I’m an actor. So, I ‘Googled’ a lot of fingerwaves and how to do it and I tried out like sixteen different methods on my friends, I owe them a lot because I did it, and I finally found out a method that works. And its just been a process because you don’t know what they are supposed to be wearing, but you just have to do all your research, and executing it is a completely different thing and I will probably get it right by the time the show ends.”

You Can’t Take It With You follows the love story of Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby and the wild events that happen when the eccentric Sycamore Family and the straight-laced Kirby Family collide. Life, laughter, love, fireworks, and kittens keep you thoroughly entertained, while the prominent questions about class and the pursuit of happiness versus the pursuit of wealth warm your heart and resonate in your mind.

You Can’t Take It With You was guest directed by John Hickok. He is a professional actor and director from Broadway productions such as Little Women, Aida, and Parade. With more than 30 years of experience, John Hickok has directed both nationwide and internationally, the premiere of Olivier Award winning Burning Blue in London.

What’s Wrong With the Newest Truth Ad? Everything.

Kristin Ruopp

Contributing Writer


About a half hour ago, I was doing some casual Facebook surfing. Suddenly, 1d7358_751ac6482db54c20b9ce0aba06c9c922up pops up one of those pesky Facebook ad videos, uploaded and promoted by a group called “truth,” which, now I know, is a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to fighting smoking and tobacco usage. This campaign against smoking, which is an important cause in urging young adults to break tobacco addictions, seems like a great cause. The video caption told me that one of my favorite Youtubers, Grace Helbig, was in it – so I clicked on it. And immediately become horrified at what I was watching.


The video begins innocently enough, even comical, with young people using an app I assume to be Tinder. They are swiping right, which likes the profile of people they deem attractive (I think? I’m not on Tinder), but when they get to someone who smokes, they swipe left – and cue the awful, cheesy, degrading song about how if each guy or girl was smoking in their online picture, they would immediately swipe left, which, if you didn’t know (and I’m sure about this), dumps that person into the rejection pile. The video resembled something of a bad SNL skit. I was so horrified at what I was watching, it took me several minutes to compose my thoughts. But, after some time passed, I came up with some reasons why this video was completely insulting and a complete failure.

1. truth makes it clear that it is marketing to the Millennials – you know, the 18-25 year-olds who are just SO incredibly vain and shallow, they need to be told that something is unattractive to the desired sex in order to get them to stop. Was this created by 40-50 year olds in a damp, dark basement somewhere in Queens? I’m assuming this video cost money to make, so where is the research showing that this approach would be effective? truth wouldn’t invest money into a video without doing research on whether it would work or not, would they?

truth tells adolescents to “left swipe” people on Tinder who are smoking in their pictures.

Unfortunately, it really does seem that it did, because if it had, it would have noted that ads such as those made by MTV and those funded by the federal government have an included “shock factor” in their commercials. An article posted by the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids reveals that a campaign launched by the CDC in 2012 effectively helped more than 100,000 smokers to quit. This media campaign was led by an ad called “Tips from a Former Smoker,” a video which shows the horrors of smoking and what it can do to one’s health and body. While it took a total of $54 million to launch and complete the campaign, a federally-funded amount that the folks at truth, non-profit, simply don’t have, one can take a hint from how this ad was constructed to lead to its lasting effectiveness. Was truth trying to break the mold of anti-tobacco commercials? Possibly. But there is a main reason why the shock factor is a large part of these ads – because they work. You know what doesn’t work? A corny music video which degrades smokers while managing to mock the vanity of Millenials.

2. truth makes it seem, as others noted in the comment section, that smokers are not worth the “swipe right,” which is actually hurtful (weird!!) to smokers; the video shames them instead of supporting them. Studies have show that overweight individuals who were surrounded by positivity and support throughout their weight-loss journey lost a higher percentage of weight and were more likely to keep off the weight than those who also attempted to lose weight surrounded by negativity and shame. What if all addictions were treated like weight loss should be? What if smokers who were not shamed, but nudged into getting support before things could get worse? How much does truth really care about young smokers? How much does truth want them to stop? Please, tell me, because it doesn’t show in this ad.

3. truth implies that smoking is more of an accessory than an addiction. That it can be turned off by a reminder that “smoking is unattractive.” It’s just like getting the newest haircut or shopping for the newest fashions – you just do it, and you’ll be more attractive!

On the other side of the screen, do you think young smokers are going to quit smoking so they can get more Tinder swipes? There’s someone out there for everyone, we all know, even those weird people who accept smoking in a partner as part of the package. Do you think we live for swipes, truth? Do you think that we are so vain and shallow and disgusting that we are hurt by your suggestion that we are unattractive when we smoke? This perception that you have about the majority of our generation only applies (I will admit) to a select few. But this is a complete failure if you truly think that these are the values the Millenials hold.

To wrap things up, I just want to say, again, in case you didn’t understand, that this was an awful and offensive video to Millenial smokers. Pointing out flaws will not lead to rallied support. Calling someone unattractive will not cause an epiphany. An addiction will not be cured when it is treated like a light switch.

And, most importantly, shaming smokers will not cause them to quit.

Writing to Congressmen: Small Voices Can Make A Big Difference

Brian Sweeney

Contributing Writer


Currently the world is going through changes, but do you think it is going through large enough ones to count?

People today believe that their individual opinion will not matter when it comes down to the larger picture, and that’s a real problem. If people stop taking action and participating in events, no matter their size, then any advancement we could have in the future will end with a sudden halt. While some still stick to the mindset of their individual opinions doing nothing, others, like Residential Assistant Lindsey of Centennial Hall, have taken a stand in an attempt to do something in deciding the fate of this country.

Tuesday, the twenty fourth of February at eight o’clock, this Residential Assistant hosted an event in Centennial Hall lounge appropriately titled “Writing to Congressman”. In this event, any student was allowed to come and write a letter to any of the members of congress or higher on any topic that he or she found to be important and discussion worthy.

Students from all over campus were welcomed to come and share their worries, opinions, and hopes with one another about the current state of our government while writing their letters. This event, in particular, received a lot of attention from justice, law, and business majors who were very interested in sharing their opinions to the government on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the legalization of cannabis to changes in the current education syllabi that schools and colleges use.


When I asked Lindsey what the likelihood of these letters getting released to their designated recipients she replied, “Hopefully Tuesday, March 3rd. That’s when I’ll be getting the stamps to send them.” I had shown up the event at around eight-thirty that night, which was around half an hour from when the event was designated to begin and there were already a plentiful amount of letters piled up from students.

While I was there, I interviewed Earl Barnes, a history major student, and asked what he was writing about and to whom for the event. Earl explained to me that he was writing to Connecticut’s current governor, Dannel Malloy, about hoping to see some changes in the Connecticut school systems.

“I really believe that events like these are what make the senators, governors, and even hopefully the president stand back for a moment and understand the severity of some problems that the public feels are getting ignored,” said Earl.

And he’s right: a lot of these problems do get ignored by the government because of their intense focus on other diplomatic issues. But maybe it really is the small events like these, in quantity, that can help bring issues like these to our government’s attention.

The event showed great promise at being something that could start a revolution of what needs to be changed in the future of not only our school, but the United States in general. More schools need to have opportunities, like these, for students to write to their government leaders and address their concerns with how the country is going. With more events akin to this one, maybe we won’t have to be so afraid of our countries future and instead perhaps be a bit more excited for its arrival.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​English and Writing Departments to Merge?

Jordan A. Sprogis

Dakota Sarantos
Managing Editor

Leo Budnick
News Editor

Provost Jane GatesMuch talk has circulated among the Professional Writing majors of Western Connecticut State University as to whether the school will still offer a degree in their intended field of study by the beginning of this Fall.

Junior Eric LaRocca is one such student enrolled in the program who has voiced his dissatisfaction with the possibility of merging the Professional Writing Department with the English Department.

“Whether they realize it or not, the School of Arts and Sciences at Western has an obligation to those currently studying in the Professional Writing department and cannot manipulate the duration and/or requirements for those who have been persistently laboring in the program. This poor decision not only speaks volumes of the culture in which we live where illiteracy has skyrocketed and is commonly applauded, but perpetuates the lopsided notion that the craft of writing is unimportant and, therefore, should be neglected. To disband such a unique and uncommon program that promotes the significance of critical thinking, coherent writing, and other fundamental skills is an absolute disgrace to the integrity of Western Connecticut State University as well as the contemporary professional writing community,” said LaRocca.

Coming this fall, there may be a significant change and new home for those in both the Writing and English departments at Western Connecticut State University.

Jane Gates, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Missy Alexander, Dean of the Department of Arts and Sciences, are currently discussing the potential merging of the Writing Department into the English Department. Students enrolled in this new department would be able to choose between a Bachelor of Arts in English or a Bachelor of Arts in Writing.

Although she is involved with the leading and pushing for this major decision to merge departments, Gates is currently listed as a finalist to be the next President of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), according to a press release from Jan. 30 on the MCLA website.

In September of last year, Provost Gates and Dr. Alexander proposed the merging of the Writing Department with the English Department.

The proposal addresses budgetary concerns and its goal is to save funds for the school. According to Dr. Patrick Ryan, the current Chair of the Writing Department, the plan includes saving money by eliminating adjunct-taught courses.

However, according to a Feb. 5 article by J. R. Thomas in the CT Mirror, the budget for the Connecticut state universities (CSU) central office has increased by $5.5 million as of 2012, while Western and the other state universities have lost a total of 67 faculty members.

The Writing Department has already eliminated 24 adjunct-taught courses.

Members of the Writing Department, including Dr. Ryan, are opposed to the merger and are currently in discussions with Dean Alexander to find other ways to trim the budget.

Several students enrolled in the Writing Department have expressed concerns with the merger. Flyers can be found around the school protesting the merger of the two departments.

Currently, no one knows who put up the flyers.

The Echo’s inbox was flooded with protests from current Writing Majors.

Even though the merger would still keep the option of both the Writing and English Majors, there is a possibility it would combine parts of the curriculum of both and remove some Writing classes.

Speaking on the merger, Dr. Ryan said, “…the dean’s proposal to merge the department does argue for requiring Writing majors to take three to four courses in English literature, presumably in place of Writing courses.

At the same time, Dean Alexander’s proposal also suggests eliminating some upper-level special topic courses in English literature, some of which are considerably popular among students.

Dr. Ryan did emphasize that there are currently no definite plans to change the curriculum.

“I have struggled for five years to find my path in college, and I finally found writing. I may not have started going to this school for it, but I sure am now. If the Writing Department merges, I will probably be forced to leave and find another school to go to. I don’t want to have to do that because WestConn is so close to home, it’s affordable, and I finally found the classes I want to be taking,” says Amanda Currier, a fifth-year student who is switching into the Creative Writing focus of the Professional Writing major.

The Echo reached out to the secretary of Dean Alexander who set an appointment for an interview about the potential merger.

When the interview was supposed to take place, Dean Alexander declined to comment to The Echo until the decision was finalized.

No – kids don’t need all that homework

Jordan A. Sprogis

An elementary school in Manhattan, P.S. 116, has recently decided to abolish all traditional homework, such as math worksheets and at-home essays, encouraging children to spend more time with their families.

Of course, this outrages the parents.

Principal Jane Hsu sent out a letter to parents in February, some of which read, “The topic of homework has received a lot of attention lately, and the negative effects of homework have been well established. … They include: children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time and, sadly for many, loss of interest in learning.”

She also commented that the school is not eliminating homework in its entirety, but is instead offering a new dynamic to it. Regardless, parents have threatened to take their children out of P.S. 116 in fear that they won’t learn enough.

The idea was brought up at a Dec. 12 meeting between staff and parents when there was a concern raised by the school’s School Leadership Team. Apparently, students were being forced to skip recess after failing to turn in their homework from the night before.

How would you feel if your child told you that he or she wasn’t allowed to play at recess so they could finish their homework from the previous night, only to come home to do more?

I would be furious; my own elementary school used to do this. It made a lot of kids upset. Looking back, my only wish is that my teachers realized how much we needed that free time in the middle of the day. I started homework as soon as I got home, continued through dinner, and finished it right before bedtime. Some nights, I would lie to my parents about the amount of work I got so I could have more free time to play outside. The idea of those worksheets, pages upon pages every week, stressed me to tears. My mom can vouch for this.

According to Smithsonian magazine, professors of education David Baker and Gerald LeTendre at Penn State found that in countries with the most successful school systems – such as Japan – assign the least amount of homework. 


Go figure.

Diane Lowrie, mother of nine-year-old Iaian, decided to leave her home in Ocean County, New Jersey, three years ago after realizing that her first-grade son was suffering from the amount of homework he was given. 

“Tears were shed, every night,” Lowrie told Smithsonian. “Iaian started to hate school, to hate learning, and he was only 6 years old.”

I would rest my case, but I can’t – not yet.

Marwa Keshk, a parent of two children at P.S. 116, is not happy with the decrease in homework. “[She’s] spending more time in front of the TV, in her room playing,” Keshk said of her older daughter to PIX11, a news source in New York.

It just sounds like parents who use this reasoning don’t know what else to do with their children if they’re not busy with homework.

To me, it seems like a lack of parenting. Although I am not a parent, I was a child at one point. My sister and I were kept busy no matter what – whether we were playing games, quizzing each other on the multiplication tables, or running around outside or on our bikes through the neighborhood.

A couple of years ago, I used to babysit some young kids, brothers at two and six years old. The first night I babysat, their mother said to me, “They can watch only one hour of T.V. It can be now, it can be later – whenever, but I just want to make sure that they’re getting enough time playing with their toys or reading. They turn into zombies otherwise.”

I understood and respected that a lot. 

The point is that it is up to the parents to make sure their kids are being kept busy – just as it is their responsibility to make sure that their kids are not suffering from amounts of stress at such a young age.

“Where was this school when I was a kid?” reads a comment on an article about P.S. 116.

Yeah, I’m still wondering the same thing. I wish my principal eliminated repetitive homework every night so I could enjoy time with my family instead of being pushed to tears and arguing with them over my math.

On a daily basis, children shouldn’t be forced to work as hard as adults do. Kids are meant to play, explore, and be free before the real world straps them down for the rest of their lives.   

New and Improved Fitness Zone

   WCSU faculty and students alike gathered in Berkshire Hall to observe the Grand Opening of the newly revamped Colonial Fitness Zone on the Midtown Campus in full session on Tuesday February 24th.  The start of the Spring 2015 semester marked a new beginning for Midtown Recreational facilities as well as the Recreation Department as they changed locations from the “black box room,” a room no larger than a millionaire’s private fitness room, to a room that was previously occupied by the Theater Department prior to the opening of the Visual and Performing Arts building on the Westside Campus. 

     “We’ve already seen an increase in attendance this week when we checked the card scanners for students to swipe in to use the fitness center,” said Amy Shanks, Assistant Director of The Center for Student Involvement. Shanks, along with Doctor Keith Betts (Vice President of Student Affairs), Luigi Marcone (Director, Facilities Operations and EHS Programs) and Peter Visentin (Director of Facilities, Planning, and Engineering) all had an integral part in overseeing the renovations of the new fitness zone and purchase of new equipment.

“Most of the equipment was from the old space. We just had to wait for squat racks and the stair machine to arrive. We had 350 students attending before we switched locations and it’s gone up to 500 and more this past week,” said Shanks. The Assistant Director also mentioned that her and her colleagues needed to wait for approval from the Connecticut State Legislature in Hartford in order to make renovations to the old theater space

     Before the change in location, the WCSU Recreation Department already began making improvements to the old fitness room as early as Spring 2014 when they added new machines. The additions included a new Smith machine, cable machine, leg press, leg extension machine, preacher bench, and a Lat Pulldown machine that doubles as a seated cable row machine. After the move to the old Theater Department space, the fitness center received two squat racks and a stair climber machine as the latest installations of fitness equipment. In addition to new space and equipment, the fitness zone also encompasses other former theater rooms as space to hold fitness classes such as Zumba.

     “I love the new space for Zumba. It’s perfect for other classes as well,” said Rec. Department member and Zumba instructor Ariana Mesaros. “It’s a convenient spot next to a fully equipped gym and I think this will help increase participation in fitness classes.”

      “As increased fitness goes up we will offer more classes,” Shanks said. “If there’s enough demand from students who use the space we’ll consider getting more equipment.” 

Albino Abductions in Tanzania

     The brutally mutilated body of one-year-old Yohana Bahati was found on Tuesday, February 17th, a few miles from his homestead in The United Republic of Tanzania in East Africa. His limbs were “hacked off” according to local police Chief Joseph Konyo. Yohana was born with a congenital condition called albinism which causes an absence of pigmentation in an individual’s skin, hair, and eyes.

     Tanzanian witch-doctors covet the bodies of people born with albinism, superstitiously claiming that they bring “good fortune and wealth”, according to The Guardian News. The Red Cross says that an intact set of limbs and other body parts goes for as much as $75,000 in Tanzania, causing the country’s albino population to be vulnerable to kidnappings and murder by armed gangs who seek money in return for the bodies from those practicing the rituals.

     The country’s UN Chief, Alvaro Rodriquez, claims that since the year 2000, over 74 albino individuals have been murdered in Tanzania. The horrendous abductions and killings started receiving media attention this past December when Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi, a four-year-old Tanzania girl with albinism, was seized from her home by an armed gang. According to The Guardian News, her body has yet to be recovered, but there have been over 15 arrests made in regard to her case. Unfortunately, one of the suspects is her own father.

     Josephat Torner, an albino Tanzanian activist who seeks protection for those in his country with albinism, told VICE News that as the demand for albino body parts grows higher, it is becoming common for parents of albino children to turn against them, selling them to the superstitious. “I have found many parents who have been convicted for this,” he said, “They sold their children to the killers.”

     Although the media attention around the abduction of Nundi resulted in Tanzania outlawing witchcraft this past December, it is still apparent from Bahati’s case that the barbaric practices are continuing, and there is fear that they will not come to an end.

Rodriguez claimed to Agence France-Presse news agency, (AFP), that “These attacks are accompanied by a high degree of impunity, and while Tanzania has made efforts to combat the problem, much more must be done to put an end to these heinous crimes and to protect this vulnerable segment of the population.”

The year of 2015 brings along political elections in Tanzania, and while one can hope that this will be a step toward new protections and security for the targeted victims of the country, to date it has only led to more violence. The UN told AFP that there are many corrupt politicians who commonly invest their luck in the practices of witch-doctors with the hope of winning the elections. Rodriguez fears that “it could be a dangerous year for people living with albinism.”

Still, determined activist Torner has hope for the people of his country who are facing the same condition and threats as he, and seeks justice for victims like Bahati and Nundi. “I am pushing to the Tanzania government to protect us more,” he told VICE News. “We are Tanzanian citizens. We need to be protected like other people, the way how they are being protected. I will continue to fight; I will not give up for sure.”