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Justice Department sues PCC

Justice Department sues PCC

By NICK MEYERS

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Pima Community College on Oct. 31, claiming a violation of employment rights of PCC police officer and Army National Guardsman Timothy Stoner.

The suit alleges that, based on his military involvement and obligations, Stoner was denied promotion twice for a job similar to the one he had held at the time.

If it is found that the decision to deny his promotion was based on his military involvement, it would be a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.

USERRA guarantees service members are able to resume jobs that they held before going on deployment as well as not being denied

employment, benefits and promotions based on being a member of the military.

“While it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific details of this case while it is pending, I can assure you that the college will aggressively defend itself,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in an email sent to college employees.

“We are confident that the evidence will establish there was no violation of federal law and that the outcome of the promotion process was based on appropriate factors,” he said.

In 2013, after the second time he was denied promotion, Stoner filed an internal complaint against PCC. According to the suit, he cited then-chief Stella Bay’s bias against members of the military as a deciding factor in her decision, despite his qualifications.

An internal investigation by Pima found that Bay had repeatedly expressed her dislike for military members and that Stoner’s service was indeed a factor in her decision to deny his promotion, the suit said.

“As a result, the PCC investigator recommended that remedial action be taken, including placing Stoner in an acting corporal position,” said a DOJ press release.

College officials were unable to comment on the difference between the findings of the internal investigation and Lambert’s confidence that federal law had not been violated.

Stoner has been a PCC officer since August 2001 and obtained the assignment of lead police officer in 2006 under former chief Barbara Harris.

In 2010, that position was eliminated and its responsibilities were assigned to the newly created role of police corporal.

Stoner applied for the job while he was serving in Afghanistan and was one of six final applicants considered.

Of the final six, Stoner was the only active military member and the only one not promoted, despite being a former lead officer.

The decision was made by a three-member panel including Bay and PCC Executive Vice Chancellor David Bea.

Current Police Chief Manny Amado said the lead police officer position was a temporarily appointed position created by the college.

“A corporal is more of a permanent positions – it is an actual classification,” he said. “It’s like the next level up, where a lead would be just that: a lead.

“One of the things that we look at in testing is not only how that person does in the testing process but also we look at their personnel record,” Amado said. “Disciplinary action, complaints lodged against the employee, performance issues.

“It’s not just the written test, it’s not just the interview, it is the totality of the testing process up to and including any types of performance issues or anything within the personnel record of that employee,” he said.

The complaint alleges that Bay made comments to another PCC officer during the selection process that Stoner was “selfish to apply for the promotion while volunteering for active military duty.”

In 2013, Pima commenced a second application process for the same position, in which Stoner again applied and was denied promotion.

Around the time of the selection process, Stoner was eligible for retirement from the military but chose to continue service.

According to the complaint, during the interview process with Bay and Bea, Bay questioned Stoner on his intent to retire and “became upset” when he told her that he had decided to remain in the military.

Bea remained neutral during the exchange, the suit said.

The complaint said that Bay continued to “raise concerns” over Stoner’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the position in regards to his responsibilities in the military.

The lawsuit also alleged that Bay “expressed her opinion that military service members are so used to taking orders that they cannot think for themselves and do not do well in stressful situations.”

Amado said he disagreed with that statement.

“In my experience, those men and women who have served in the military have been trained to think quickly on their feet,” he said.

Bay resigned from Pima in July 2013 amid accusations of creating a hostile work environment to the point of endangering fellow officers and students on the campus.

A man who answered the phone at the number listed for Bay hung up when called for an interview.

The DOJ is asking Pima to reimburse Stoner for lost wages and benefits since he was denied promotion in 2010, as well as legal costs.

Stoner suit was reffered to the DOJ after a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services was unable to be resolved.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is now filing the suit on Stoner’s behalf.

“Employers have a legal obligation to respect and honor the rights of our uniformed service members to be fairly considered for promotions and other employment opportunities and not to subject them to unlawful discrimination because of their service in defense of our country,” the DOJ said.

Stoner could not be reached for comment.

Read the full lawsuit at justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-suit-against-pima-community-college-violatnig-employment-rights.

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Hanna wins PCC governing board post

Hanna wins PCC governing board post

By ANDREW PAXTON

Voters have decided that Mark Hanna will be the newest member of Pima Community College’s governing board after a tightly contested election on Nov. 4.

Fewer than 1,500 votes separated Hanna and his competitor, Tucson Medical Center executive Michael Duran.

Hanna received 25,988 votes to Duran’s 24,566, according to the Pima County Elections Office. Voters also cast 269 ballots for write-in candidates.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to help restore Pima to the respected and effective educational institution that has served our community for over 45 years,” Hanna said in an emailed statement. “I am really excited about being part of the ‘new and improved’ Pima Community College that makes dreams come true for any and all students who seek to improve their lives through education.”

Hanna said he met with a few thousand constituents going door-to-door during his campaign.

“Over and over again, I heard stories of how Pima has positively impacted the lives of so many folks in our community,” he said.

“I also heard wonderful things about the Pima staff and faculty helping students be successful. I am proud to join this team.”

College officials said both candidates should be thanked for their desire to improve Pima.

“I am confident Mark will be a great addition to our board,” said Chancellor Lee Lambert in a message to employees. “As a Pima graduate who has served on our Foundation Board since 2012, he knows the college well. He also has experience working directly with students and overseeing a large business operation,” he said.

Hanna is a former manager at Costco and recently retired after seven years as a college and career readiness counselor at Catalina high Magnet School.

During public forums last month, Hanna said his experience in both fields made him the best candidate for the position.

He said his first goal will be to assess where the college is at and where it’s headed.

Hanna believes the college is on track to having probation removed.

“Yes, there are a number of challenges ahead for our college, most notably the correction of the issues raised by the HLC, but I firmly believe we are on our way to building a stronger, more accessible and affordable student centered educational institution,” he said.

“As a board member I will insist on respect, fairness and integrity in all matters affecting our staff, faculty, students and the college in general.”

Hanna will be replacing Brenda Even, who has served on PCC’s board since 2001. She did not seek re-election for another term.

PCC board members are elected to their unpaid positions for a term of six years. The District 1 seat held by Even was the only seat decided this election cycle.

Hanna will be officially sworn in during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 14.

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Mark Hanna speaks at an education forum in September. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

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Downtown Campus celebrating big 4-0

Downtown Campus celebrating big 4-0

By JAMIE MAESE

Pima Community College opened the doors of Downtown Campus in 1974 to provide a “gem of an education in the heart of downtown” to thousands of students in Tucson.

During that time, students have achieved many dreams and overcome many challenges.

Sylvia Lee, a longtime PCC administrator who now serves on the college’s governing board, attended classes at Downtown Campus in 1977.

“It has changed so much, especially structurally,” Lee said.

She worked as a student aide in the financial aid department, and also worked for a “dean of the dark” who managed night classes.

“Downtown has been transformed into this incredible urban campus, and it is incredibly diverse and full of life,” Lee said. “The location of it really brings different variety of culture and people to the campus.”

Pat Houston, academic dean for science and communication arts, will host a 40th anniversary celebration for Downtown Campus on Nov. 15 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The free community-wide birthday bash is for past, present and future members of the Downtown Campus family, Houston said.

Activities will include a wide variety of food trucks, children’s games, cookie decorating and a “show us your moves” dance contest. DJ Richie Rich will spin tunes from the past four decades.

Former Pima student Randall Rehak, more popularly known as R Dub from the internationally syndicated Sunday Night Slow Jams radio show, will emcee.

Rehak moved to Tucson as a teen, and attended PCC classes off and on for years. He returned in earnest in 2009-2011, then transferred to the University of Arizona to complete his degree.

“I am super excited to be back in Tucson, and so honored that they thought of me to be at this event,” Rehak said via telephone from his San Diego home.

“I like to joke that I went to Pima for 20 years, because I sort of did, but ever since it has been near and dear to my heart,” he added.

Houston encouraged everyone who attended Downtown Campus to share favorite memories by emailing phouston@pima.edu.

“I am so excited for everyone to come to the birthday party,” Houston said. “R Dub is an amazing emcee and we have so many fun activities planned, and a ton of food.”

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Pima news briefs

Pima news briefs

Produce sales begin Nov. 15

A monthly event that allows participants to pay $10 for up to 60 pounds of fresh produce begins Nov. 15 at Downtown Campus.

Produce on Wheels With Out Waste will take place from 8-11 a.m. in the north parking lot.

Those buying produce are encouraged to use what they need and share with friends and neighbors.

The POW WOW events are hosted by the Downtown Campus Diversity and Student Veterans clubs. A portion of funds raised will help support upcoming club activities.

To volunteer or for additional details, contact Sharon Arceneaux at 206-7263.

Veterans’ symposium Nov. 16

Pima Community College will host a symposium titled “Putting Our Veterans Front and Center” on Nov. 16 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Downtown Campus Amethyst Room.

Activities will include a keynote speaker and workshops. A panel discussion will include an opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session. Veteran’s services resource representatives will be on hand.

For additional information, email gescobeda@pima.edu.

 

Foreign policy forum Nov. 17

Former ambassador Stuart Holliday will discuss his ideas, insights and experience in foreign affairs and international institutions on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre.

PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert will co-host the free event with Holliday as they explore “The New Meanings of Global Citizenship.” An audience question and answer session will follow.

The event is sponsored by PCC, the University of Arizona Global Initiatives and Southern Arizona Council for International Visitors. For additional information, call 206-4500.

 

Study Abroad Fair Nov. 18

Downtown Campus will host a Study Abroad Fair Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Amethyst Room as part of International Education week.

PCC is partnering with the University of Arizona Study Abroad and Student Exchange. UA offers hundreds of programs, lasting from three weeks to 10 months, in about 60 countries.

Students can meet UA Study Abroad program directors and financial aid/scholarship advisors.

For additional information, contact academic dean Patricia Houston at 206-7045.

 

‘Death with Dignity’ forum

An anthropology class will sponsor a public discussion on “Death with Dignity” on Nov. 19 from 3-4:30 p.m. in the West Campus community room, JG-05.

The discussion, led by Anthropology 253 instructor Dianna Repp, is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Repp at 206-6067.

 

Explore the planets Nov. 19

The East Campus “Astronomy for All” series continues Nov. 19 with a free viewing and a talk by University of Arizona assistant professor Kaitlin Kratter.

He will discuss “Exploring the Architecture of Planetary Systems at Home and Abroad” at 6 p.m. at the observatory ramada. The rainy day location is Building E4, Room 403.

For additional information, call 206-7672.

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Aztec Press runner-up for national award

Aztec Press runner-up for national award

The College Media Association, the largest organization for student journalists in the country, announced its picks on Oct. 31 for best newspapers nationwide. Pima Community College’s Aztec Press took second place in its division.

The announcement came during the CMA’s 93rd annual National College Media Convention, held this year in Philadelphia from Oct. 29-Nov. 2. The convention gathers thousands of student journalists for workshops, keynote speeches from professional journalists, critiques and other events in addition to the award declarations.

The Organization Pinnacle Awards given out at the convention acknowledge the best college newspapers, broadcast stations, websites and magazines for the past two semesters. Aztec Press was named runner-up for Newspaper of the Year in the “Two Year, Less Than Weekly” category.

El Don, Santa Ana College’s paper, took home first place in the division and Wingspan, Laramie County College’s publication, took third. It was the first time Aztec Press has been recognized by the organization.

-By Andrew Paxton

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Board candidates detail plans for PCC

Board candidates detail plans for PCC

By ANDREW PAXTON

The two candidates vying for a seat on Pima Community College’s governing board met in a pair of forums to give the community a chance to learn more about their past and vision for the future.

Michael Duran, an executive at Tucson Medical Center, is facing off against Mark Hanna, a former high school counselor and business manager, for the District 1 Board of Governors seat. Voters in the district will cast a ballot for one of the two candidates during the election on Nov. 4.

Hanna and Duran are vying to replace longtime board member Brenda Even, who decided earlier this year not to run for re-election.

During the forum at PCC’s district office on Oct. 20, the candidates were asked questions on several topics, including student services, how they would improve Pima’s status and how to make sure the college continues to innovate and improve.

Both were also asked what the top goal should be for Pima once probation is lifted  from the college.

“Its absolute number one priority is enrollment growth,” Duran said. He said the college needs to make targeted investments to attract more students.

Hanna said the college needs to be looking at both the short and long-term future and offering degrees in new fields.

“Pima has the opportunity to move very quickly on adjusting to what is in the marketplace and to create those classes that will serve those students,” he said.

Duran said Pima needs to look through the eyes of students to understand the challenges they face with financial aid and student services.

“Once you do that, all of a sudden you have a different mentality and a different approach to make sure we are providing the resources to serve our students efficiently and effectively so that we make this their institution of choice,” he said.

Hanna said he understands the problem after helping students through the steps during his time at Catalina High School.

“Streamlining the whole process of applying for financial aid and finding and facilitating more scholarships would help so many students at this school and that is what I would certainly suggest happen.”

Both candidates also stressed the need for Pima to engage in strategic planning.

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PCC board candidate Michael Duran. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

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PCC board candidate Mark Hanna. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

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Pima locks on  to student vets  with new director

Pima locks on to student vets with new director

By NICK MEYERS

Back in ’78, Daniel Kester was a young airman recruit. One stripe on his shoulder, no more than a year out of high school, his second lieutenant asked him, “Kester! You ever think about going to college?”

Truth was, he hadn’t. College was for lawyers and bankers and senators’ sons; he was the son of a fireman who grew up in Ohio.

“Kester,” said his lieutenant. “I’m ordering you to go to college!” Kester told his officer he didn’t think he could do that. His officer didn’t think so either. Even still the officer told him to get into his car and drove him to the base education office. He sat in the car, engine running, and told Kester he’d wait there until he signed up for a college course.

“I was immediately addicted to learning,” Kester said. “I think about him every day and I’m thankful that he saw something in me that I didn’t see.”

Kester hopes to find his old lieutenant someday and tell him how his life was impacted by that almost order.

“I can’t wait to tell him what those words meant to me. It’s a constant reminder to me to help others in the same way.”

Kester is Pima Community College’s new director of veterans and military affiliated service, a newly created position to oversee veterans’ affairs at the college.

The new addition comes following mishandling of veterans’ files, which led to a temporary suspension of veterans’ benefits at PCC in March.

“In creating this position, we are ensuring that our student veterans consistently receive the best possible administrative services,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release.

Kester intends to incorporate a series of student success courses, which he hopes to teach, as well as establish a veteran’s center on every campus like the one on Downtown Campus.

Additionally, he plans on digitizing aspects of student veteran records to streamline various processes.

“I’ve been really impressed with everyone here and really impressed with their willingness to support veterans,” Kester said.

His background in education coupled with his military experience makes him uniquely qualified for Pima’s new position, which coincidently opened up shortly after he finished writing his dissertation on the transition of military personnel from active duty to post-secondary education.

“During my research I’ve always said, ‘people spend more time planning their vacations than their careers,’” he said.

He aims to improve career planning and sees his time at Pima as a counselor to student veterans.

“I’ve always been a counselor at heart,” he said.

“My very first teaching gig was at a community college,” Kester says. “And I’ve always felt like I had it right the first time at community college.”

Kester began his teaching career at Owens Community College in Ohio after spending 10 years in the Air Force. During his time in the military, he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

“It’s kinda like an efficiency expert,” Kester said. “So you look at processes whether it’s an assembly line or a bank or an institution such as here. I look at, say, our certification process and I can see where the bottlenecks are and where there are opportunities for improvement.”

Many student veterans at Pima are already familiar with Kester due to his time spent at the college researching his dissertation, during which he worked closely with PCC student veterans.

Pima student Adrienne Lujan, a six-year Navy veteran, was one of the students interviewed by Kester during his research.

“We had no idea what the future was gonna hold. We had no idea he was gonna walk through that door and be the director,” she said. “That initial contact, though, did make it easy, I think, for everybody.”

Lujan also stressed the importance of having a military veteran to act as an advocate for service members at the college within the administration.

“We need a communication system with the upper echelon of Pima College,” she said. “Hopefully Dr. Kester along with student veterans have a chance to attend steering committees where issues can be addressed as they come up.”

During his dissertation, Kester discovered that while student veterans rated Pima’s veteran services highly, they didn’t necessarily take advantage of the services due to what he identified as culture shock.

“They really felt abandoned by the military,” Kester said.

“They built a military identity for four years, and then they only give them five days to go ‘OK, go find a job, here’s how to write a resume.’ You can’t change that identity in five days. That’s the whole idea behind this position, is to ease that transition.”

Sean Lore, a two-and-half-year Army veteran, agrees.

“Transition is very hard. It’s just a different world – a totally different world – and it’s hard to connect with people,” he said.

Kester also helps student veterans make the transition from active duty to community college. His ideas and passion for helping veterans to not only attend, but succeed, at Pima embody the goal of his position.

“What is cool is the young kids that are comin’ right out of four years, they have the whole world open to them.

“So they come out, they probably don’t have a degree, they don’t have that much experience, they’re like ‘I can do something different. I don’t have to do what I did in the military.’

“So it’s a wonderful group to talk to. It’s exciting, you can kinda live vicariously through them,” he said.

“Just say ‘wow you’re 21 again and you can go anywhere you want: you can go into the arts, you can go into music, you can go into journalism, you can go into fire fighting,’ and I just think that’s so exciting to sit down with them and choose a career.”

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New Veterans’ Director Daniel Kester wants to advocate for students. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

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Plus 50 helps mature job seekers

Plus 50 helps mature job seekers

By MARIANA CEJA

Laughter filled the gymnasium at Pima Community College West Campus on Sept. 19 as hundreds of mature job seekers walked inside.

Some were better dressed and prepared than others. Some arrived with basic education while others had bachelor degrees, but everyone carried the same hopeful spirit. They were open to whatever the Plus 50 career and job fair had to offer.

More than 60 employers and 12 resource programs were ready to provide opportunities to job seekers age 50 and above.

Potential employers included the University of Arizona Health Center, Tucson Unified School District, Lutheran Social Services, Wells Fargo Bank and Casa de la Luz Hospice.

Participant Richard C. Valenzuela said he has worked as a technician for 20 years and was looking for a change. He also encouraged college students to continue with their education.

“Hopefully, being young, you can continue your education,” he said. “Older people don’t want to go back to school, we just stick with our own careers.”

Job seeker Susan Johnson earned a social service certificate and was looking to work in that field. She is also taking classes in hopes of earning an associate degree in applied science.

“It was difficult at first to get back into the routine, but I adapted and I really enjoy it now,” she said.

Dean Elofson said he has a bachelor’s degree in business and enjoyed a successful career in sales and management.

“I am at the end of my career, and I am looking for something meaningful,” Elofson said. “I am not going to retire because when you retire, you stop working and you die, and I don’t want to die.”

PCC is home to two grant programs that help unemployed men and women ages 50 and older. Both programs are part of national initiatives.

Back to Work 50+ helps adults develop marketing and networking skills, and provides them with strategies to land a job.

Supporters include the American Association of Retired Persons, Wal-Mart and the American Association of Community Colleges

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is part of the four-year federally funded educational initiative that was launched at 100 community colleges.

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Job seeker Richard C. Valenzuela fills out job applications at the Plus 50 job fair. After working as a technician for 20 years, Valenzuela said he is ready for a change. (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

It helps students complete degrees and certifications by providing tutoring, computer skills and, eventually, job placement assistance. There are Plus 50 advisers at all six PCC campuses.

Details about the program can be found on pima’s website at pima.edu/current-students/advising/plus-50.html.

Roger Forrester, Plus 50 Program Coordinator, said he emphasizes the importance of networking, volunteering and internships.

“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be,” he said. “Often the best way to get a job is to network.”

Bradley Lancaster, who represented Jim Click Automotive at the job fair, said his company is willing to consider quality candidates of all ages.

“Jim Click doesn’t hire any managers from the outside, we only promote from within,” he said. “We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.”

Tormay Newman, director of caregiver education and training for Home Instead Senior Care, said the company hires part-time male and female caregivers ranging in age from 21 to 80.

“They have to have compassion,” Newman said. “We can train people, but they really have to have the heart to help others.”

Nancee Sorenson, East Campus vice president of student development, oversees the Plus 50 and Back to Work 50+ grants.

“One of the things that people who are 50 and over are concerned about is that maybe their technology skills aren’t as sharp as they should be, or they haven’t had an interview for a job for a long, long time,” she said.

Forrester said part of his role is educating employers.

“Some employers say that if you are over 50, you don’t have any computer skills. Not true,” he said.

“You’ll be surprised at the percentage of people age 50 and older that are very computer savvy, but we have to make employers more aware of that,” he added. “They’ve come a long way.”

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“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be.” Roger Forrester, Plus 50 program coordinator (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

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“We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.” Bradley Lancaster, Jim Click Automotive (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

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SPEAKERS' SERIES: Talk will explore aging brains

SPEAKERS’ SERIES: Talk will explore aging brains

By TANISHA KNUTZEN

Pima Community College psychology instructor Sarah B. Burger will discuss “The Aging Brain” at PCC’s Speakers’ Series on Nov. 4.

Her lecture will begin at 6 p.m. in the PCC District Office Community Board Room, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Light refreshments will be available.

Burger’s presentation will discuss the brain and its aging process.

She will define dementia and explain techniques to help minimize the impact of aging.

She’ll also identify common myths about aging and highlight normal age-related changes to memory and cognition.

Burger earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Arizona and became a licensed psychologist in 2013.

She has been an adjunct instructor at PCC since 2012. She also teaches undergraduate courses and supervises doctoral students at UA.

In addition, Burger works full time in private practice as a clinical neuropsychologist while also pursuing her board certification.

The Speakers’ Series, which is co-sponsored by the Faculty Senate and the provost’s office, spotlights PCC faculty and their expertise.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

One final lecture remains as the Speakers’ Series concludes its fourth year.

Writing instructor Kristen Hoggatt will discuss “The U.S. Poetry Academy” on Dec 2.

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Pima team wins second place in UA management contest

Pima team wins second place in UA management contest

By ANDREW PAXTON

Four Pima Community College students earned second-place honors Oct. 17 in the Arizona Community College Excellence Case Competition.

The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management invited community college faculty to nominate talented business students.

The competition challenged teams to create an innovative business plan that solved a specific case problem.

PCC students James Brindley, Alanna Castro, Kalinda Lindmark and Rie Midei took second place after impressing judges with their ideas for online enrollment growth.

Rebecca Byers, Rachael Drozdoff, Jasmin Gonzalez and Peter Vesely competed on the second PCC team.

Case details were not revealed until the day of competition.

“The case competition was that each team was hired as a consultant by Eller College,” Midei said. “We had to conduct a benchmark analysis of the three primary competitors who offer online business degrees.

“I didn’t even know what a ‘benchmark analysis’ was until this event, so it was a really challenging task for me,” she said.

After a brief orientation, teams were allowed to gather research, develop their proposal and prepare a formal presentation.

“We only had two and a half hours to complete our research and PowerPoint to present it to the judges,” Midei said.

Nine teams from Arizona community colleges presented to a panel of judges, who posed challenging questions to team members.

Midei was impressed with several of the other teams’ presentations.

“They all seemed very calm and keen, and were full of great ideas,” she said. “My knees were shaking during the presentation, but when it was over, I felt great.”

The competition featured seven teams from the Phoenix area alongside Pima’s two teams. Glendale Community College won first place.

“When the judge announced our team as the runner-up, I realized that we were so close to the winning prize, which was a $600 individual scholarship for Eller College,” Midei said.

“It’s too bad that we didn’t win, but I was very happy that I had the opportunity,” she said.

“It was a resume builder and confidence builder as well.”

Midei said she was happy to be one of the first students representing Pima at the competition.

“Last year, no one signed up from PCC, so my accounting teacher was eager to nominate students,” she said “I needed to challenge myself for something totally out of my comfort zone, so I signed up.”

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PCC competitors included, back row from left: Peter Vesely, Rebecca Byers, James Brindley, Jasmin Gonzalez; front row: Alanna Castro, Rachael Drozdoff and Rie Midei. Not pictured: Kalinda Lindmark.

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Voters will decide state propositions

Voters will decide state propositions

By SIERRA J. RUSSELL

We change the world every day, and this is especially true on Election Day.

Local elections feel the weight of our decisions regarding propositions. These state amendments are put on the ballot in order to change the Arizona Constitution. By casting a vote, we help to shape the future of our community.

Prop 122: Rejection of unconstitutional federal actions 

What it does: Allows state law to reject federal laws that Arizona officials consider inconsistent with the Constitution.

Supporters say: It will prevent state and local taxes from being spent on federal laws that Arizonans consider illegal. Other supporters assert that the prop will help to strengthen Child Protective Services.

Opponents say: It will permit the state to bypass federal environmental safeguards. Opponents say that the prop does not help to protect children from abuse.

My take: This proposition has been rejected by voters in the past due to suspicions that there are underlying motives. There are also concerns that this is a way to reject the federal health care mandates recently instated by the Affordable Healthcare Act. Vote against the measure, because Arizona lawmakers need the guidance and restrictions of federal laws.

Prop 303: Right to try; use

of investigational drugs

What it does: Allows medications that have not been approved by the FDA to be tested by terminally ill patients.

Supporters say: This measure will help to get possibly life-changing medications to patients faster, since the process of getting a new drug passed by the FDA can take years. Terminally ill patients have nothing to lose and should be allowed control over their bodies and treatment.

Opponents say: The proposition would allow terminally ill patients to become experimental test subjects while charging them with costly medical bills. It also could result in false hope and wasted time.

My take: In theory, this measure sounds like it may help terminally ill patients. After hearing a number of debates on the topic, there seem to be too many unanswered questions. Similar to Prop 122, I suspect there might be hidden agendas behind this proposition. I plan to vote against this initiative because I am concerned that it may actually delay proper treatment while experimenting with medications that do not have proven results.

Prop 304: Increase

legislative salaries

What it does: Raises the annual salaries for 30 state senators and 60 state representatives from $24,000 to $35,000, beginning on Jan. 1, 2015.

Supporters say: The increase would help guarantee more qualified state officials are in place or remain in their positions with less financial concerns. These lawmakers have not received a pay raise since 1998.

Opponents say: Government officials shouldn’t do the job for the paycheck, and lower salaries ensure people seek office to serve the people. Legislators receive other benefits that help to supplement their income such as insurance and pension plans.

My take: Considering that Arizona state lawmakers have not received a pay raise in more than 15 years, it seems that an increase is necessary. I hope the salary increase will help to ensure that the officials will be able to focus on doing their jobs well. I support this measure.

If you are a registered voter and are unsure of where and when to vote, visit webcms.pima.gov/government/elections_department.

To register for future elections, Arizona residents can visit dmv.org/az-arizona/voter-registration.php.

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Pima animal shelter bond vote on ballot

Pima animal shelter bond vote on ballot

By MARIANA CEJA

Thousands of cats and dogs at the Pima Animal Care Center glue themselves to the bars of their compartments, standing up, barking, meowing and licking strangers’ hands with the hope of finding an owner to love.

On Nov. 4, Pima County residents will have the opportunity to vote for a more humane facility for these animals with Proposition 415.

The $22 million proposal will cost the average homeowner about $2.89 annually.

The PACC facility opened its doors in 1968, and is almost half a century old.

Like many old buildings, PACC requires more than repairs. Supporters say they need an entirely new building because the site is currently operating at more than double its capacity.

“We have sometimes 10 small dogs in one kennel, big dogs we usually have up to five in one kennel,” PACC vet technician Nichole Jones said. “These kennels were made for about half of what we have right now.”

People probably don’t realize the need, she said, adding “I definitely think the public needs to be aware of how stressful and crowded this place is.”

The existing building was created when there were roughly 300,000 people living in Tucson. Now, the population is nearly 1 million.

The facility was created as a county pound, offering few services other than warehousing strays. Now, the facility is committed to adoptions and serves as an open admission shelter. That requires new accommodations.

Some of the major challenges that the existing facility faces are the overpopulation of animals, lack of noise-reduction kennels, insufficient quarantine space, inadequate cat shelters, lack of natural lighting and poor medical facilities.

Jones made an open invitation for PCC students to volunteer and spread the word.

“We are more than happy to have more volunteers, we depend on them a lot,” she said. “And just spread the word out about adoption. Spay, neuter and focus on education.”

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A puppy offers a pleading look to potential owners visiting the Pima Animal Care Center. (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

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Honors Club scares up funds at Slaughterhouse

Honors Club scares up funds at Slaughterhouse

By ANDREW PAXTON

The Pima Community College Honors Club has been keeping busy with a full array of community service projects this semester.

On Oct. 26, several members of Honors Club combined with members of the Alpha Beta Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society to volunteer at one of Tucson’s scariest haunted house, Slaughterhouse.

Most of the Pima students and their families found themselves as zombies in the “Apocalypse” haunted house.

The volunteers played the role of attackers as customers proceeded through the war zone, blasting any undead in their path with laser-tag guns.

The funds raised by the Pima clubs will be donated to The Florence Project, a non-profit group that helps undocumented immigrants by providing pro bono legal services for deportation hearings, filing for refugee status and more.

The clubs will also volunteer at Produce On Wheels With Out Waste and donate the funds to Florence. The first POW WOW is on Nov. 1 from 5-11 a.m. at the Desert Vista Campus north parking lot.

The clubs will also volunteer at the VA for their annual Veteran’s Day celebration and throughout the holiday season.

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Honors Club member Francy Luna Diaz shows her zombie face at Slaughterhouse on Oct. 26.

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Same-sex marriage: Wedding bells ring

Same-sex marriage: Wedding bells ring

By JAMIE VERWYS

Nine-year-old Nevaeh Riss is already familiar with the concepts of equality and love that so many adults seem to struggle with.

“God would want us to be happy,” she says. “Instead of Him judging us, He would want us to have freedom and to love anyone we love.”

Nevaeh was raised to believe not to judge others and that we all have rights as humans to make our own choices. Her mother, Brystal Riss, was one of the many members of the LGBT community celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Arizona on Oct. 17.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled the state ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional and ordered the state to “permanently cease” the ban.

Attorney General Tom Horne finalized the decision in a statement where he said he would not appeal the ruling.

“I have decided not to appeal today’s decision, which would be an exercise in futility, and which would serve only the purpose of wasting taxpayers’ money,” Horne said.

The ruling follows closely behind same sex marriage bans lifting in Nevada and Idaho on Oct. 7.  With the addition of Arizona, 31 states have legal gay marriage.

Around the entire country, a wave of change has grown. But what does this change mean for Arizona and the people who have fought for gay rights?

Triumph for families

Riss has lived in Tucson for 12 years and works in marketing. She has been involved in Tucson Pride, the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation, Wingspan and TIHAN. For her, the legalization of gay marriage is a step in the right direction for equal rights for all.

“In general, I’m for equality for all people,” she says. “There’s already too much hatred. People need to start coming together more and realizing it’s none of your business,  then we can get past that blockage in the conversation and move on to more deep conversations and know each other past certain stereotypes.”

Her daughter was a life-changing addition into her life and says the importance of acceptance is crucial for children in their developing years.

“As children, that’s such an important age for them because they are going to begin to choose if they allow the hatred and judgments people may put on them to bring them down,” she says.

“I don’t want her to grow up with people around her hating on me, judging me, saying I’m wrong for doing these things.  That’s unfair for a child, especially when all I’m trying to do is bring love into her life. I hope that one day whatever she decides to do she has every right to do it and she won’t be bullied.”

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Tears stream down the face of Yazmin Mazon, left, during a ceremony to marry Vaniessia Godinez at Pima County Superior Court. An Oct. 17 ruling removed a state ban on same-sex marriage. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Protections denied

Local drag queen performer Tempest DuJour is an active voice within the community. An associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television by day, he is a hostess for charity events by night.

DuJour married his husband while they visited family in Utah last year. The state lifted its ban during their stay. The couple has two children and stresses the impact gay marriage laws have on the family unit.

“In the state of Arizona, they only recognize me as the legal parent. So if something happened to me today, the kids would be taken away from my husband,” he says.

“Legally we have no protection for the kids. It’s a huge deal for us. The marriage, whatever.  The kid part is absolutely essential for us.”

Now with the ban on gay marriage abolished, their children will be protected the same as children from a heterosexual couple would be.

According to a 2004 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, marriage provides at least 1,138 different benefits to spouses and their families. Before gay couples were allowed marriage licenses, these protections were unavailable to them.

Unmarried couples are not often considered next of kin in hospital or emergency health situations of their partners and are not entitled to property, assets or personal items if their partner passes away.

They are also denied automatic joint custody of children and joint tax returns and benefits.

Donnie Cianciotto, artistic director of local theater group Musical Mayhem, came out as a lesbian at the age of 13. Two years ago, he came out as transgendered, identifying as a male.

In 2004, he joined in a domestic partnership offered by the city of Tucson with his then-girlfriend and spoke about the very few protections it offered.

“I remember thinking ‘a domestic partnership, yay how exciting’ but it really didn’t do much for you,” he said. “It gave you some legal protections, but not the whole shebang.”

“Don’t placate us by saying ‘here’s your domestic partnership. It does nothing for you.’” he said.

“This affects the whole family. People don’t realize how many issues are affected just by this one thing. It’s more than just, ‘oh great, gays can get married.’ There’s a lot more tied up in it.”

Cianicatto has many friends within the LGBT community who have now married, including a lesbian couple with a baby on the way.

“It’s good to know my friends, people in the community who are good people and good parents have more protection. It baffles me that people don’t think of the kids in that,” he said.

“Now they are legally married and that kid doesn’t have to grow up thinking my mom doesn’t have the same rights as my friends’ parents.”

Allies in Tucson

Alongside members of the LGBT community cheering the ruling were large factions of Tucson.

April Moss is currently in her second year as Tucson Pride Alliance president and says Tucson has always been a leader in the fight for gay rights.

“The history speaks for itself that Tucson has always been very much supportive,” she says.

“Tucson Pride Alliance was developed in 1977. Tucson was one of the first communities in the nation to pass a law protecting people from anti hate crimes,” she says. “Tucson has always been a leader in stuff like that. The people of Tucson have always reached out and said here, let’s make a difference.”

Cianicatto says Tucson is on average for gay friendliness with other places he’s lived.

“There are some benefits about the LGBT community of Tucson. It’s pretty supportive of itself and relatively close knit,” he says. “We have the other side of the coin which is that it’s not very big, not well funded.”

For DuJour, Tucson is a city to be proud of.

“I’m prideful of diversity in the Tucson community. This is an amazing, warm and welcoming community,” he said. “It always has been, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Support for the gay community has a strong voice at Pima Community College with its own  Pride Alliance. The group strives to create a safe space for LGBT and allied students to be themselves and become educated about the community.

They host various events at the campuses and have plans for future speakers, Q&A sessions, an LGBT film festival and a coming out stories board where students can share their own personal experiences.

Vice President Melissa Medrano-Jossler says she is happy to live in Tucson instead of another city in Arizona.

“I feel like Tucson is a lot more liberal than other places and more accepting,” she says.

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Ladd and Rob Keith pose with their son Liam and daughter Rowan on the courthouse steps after their marriage ceremony in downtown Tucson. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Wedding bliss

Couples statewide flocked to the courthouses immediately upon the lifting of the ban.

According to the Pima County Superior Courthouse, clerks issued double the usual number of marriage licenses the day after the ban was lifted.

Local actor and singer Aaron Singleton was one of the Tucsonans to marry at the courthouse when the ruling came down. He met his partner online four years ago and they hit it off instantly.

Their choice to marry was based on their love and the benefits that come with a marriage license.

“We’re looking forward to filing joint taxes the most,” he says.

Though their marriage was a personal triumph, Singleton speaks on the greater good legalization has brought to the state.

“The ban lifting was not just a win for LGBT folks, but a win for the constitution. We are all equal under the law, and laws should reflect that.”

Ally Booker identifies as queer and had a ceremony with her partner to celebrate their love before the ruling. They plan to officially marry once children enter their lives. She opened her sexuality resource center and boutique, Jellywink on Fourth Avenue this year and offered discounts to gay couples with new marriage licenses.

“Our emphasis is on making sure everything is body-safe, educating our customers on what they should look for (and look out for), and providing a friendly and non-judgmental environment where people feel safe to ask questions and explore,” she adds.

“Almost every U.S. city already has a woman and queer-friendly shop like this, and my friends and I have felt a vacuum in Tucson when it came to something like this for a long time,” she says.

“Now Tucson finally has a woman and LGBTQ friendly sexuality resource center.”

Booker believes that the legalization of same-sex marriages will positively affect not only the LGBT community but the community as whole.

“Same-sex parents can now legally adopt their own children. We now don’t have to depend on the whim of individual health care workers to visit our loved ones in the hospital and make important life decisions on their behalf should the need arise. Gay marriage will also affect the business community. The wedding business is a huge industry.”

Moss questions businesses that seek the right to discriminate biased on orientation, race, religion or status.

“Business owners, sometimes I wonder about them because it doesn’t matter who’s spending the money.  Whether you’re black, white, yellow, green, purple, interracial marriage, gay, single parent, the money all spends the same,” she says.

While many couples have married since the ruling, not all are rushing to the courthouse.

Riss does not herself intend on getting married, but is happy those who do now have the right to that choice.

“Personally I don’t believe in marriage due to my own dealings but the whole point of equality is that everyone has a choice.”

Motorcyclist and educator Pablo, who declined to give his lat name, rides with an all-inclusive motorcycle group called The Lost Boys. The Tucson Chapter of the group is made up of men, women, straight, gay and transgender members.

Pablo also does not know if he will ever marry.

““I may never get married and I’m OK with that but for my friends who have chosen to do that I think it’s amazing. It says a lot for our country that we have come this far in this amount of time.”

Opposition

While people statewide are celebrating this historic ruling, there are still those within the community and local government who have continuously fought against gay marriage.

Attorney General Horne was one of the last holdouts in the state defending the right of Arizonans to only allow “traditional marriages.”

“A number of attorney generals have refused to defend laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I have not been among that group. I have fought to defend the laws as passed by the voters of Arizona, which I believe is the duty of the Attorney General.”

The law he previously fought to protect was Proposition 102, voted on by Arizonans on Nov. 4, 2008.

The amendment to the state constitution defined marriage as “the union between a man and a woman.”

Governor Jan Brewer also released a statement after the ban was lifted defending the decision made by 55 percent of voters several years ago.

“In 2008, Arizona voters approved a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Now, with their rulings, the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people and further eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold our laws.”

The definition of traditional marriage is one backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian legal organization was created in 1994 “to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world,” according to their mission statement.

Lawyers of the alliance supported Horne’s team and in a July filing to the federal court they argued, “Only man-woman couples are capable of furthering the state’s interest in linking children to both of their biological parents.”

Horne’s decision not to appeal the ruling legalizing same sex marriage was one that surprised members of the LGBT community.

“My instinct was that he was going to appeal it,” Cianciotto says. “It’s a fight that so many people are willing to fight to the death, just going to choke the hell out of it and not let it go.”

Despite being happily surprised, he feels Horne merely “went with what was going to be easiest.”

“I have friends who say ‘email Tom Horne or go to the Facebook page and say thank you for him not appealing this.’ Why on earth would I thank someone who has a record of being very homophobic just because he did the right thing?”

Moss, the Tucson Pride president, says she commends Horne’s decision, though she feels it was an inevitable choice.

“I was glad he didn’t want to challenge it. He realized, ‘My job is done. I need to move on and get over this.’ I applaud him for that. I would shake his hand and say ‘Thank you.’”

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Rev. Owen Chandler conducts a marriage ceremony for Vaniessia Godinez, left, and Yazmin Mazon at the Pima County Superior Court in downtown Tucson on Oct. 17. They were one of the first same-sex couples married after the ban was lifted. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Equal rights

With the number of states lifting marriage bans and religious affiliations stepping forward to show support, why is there any opposition left?

Moss says that the issue isn’t restricted to the LGBT community, but rather is about equal rights as a whole.

“People need to get their heads out of the bedroom and they need to accept people for who they are,” she says.

“What it is in all actually is about human rights. It used to be if you were African-American you had to sit at the back of the bus. If you were a woman you could not vote,” she adds.

“These things have all evolved and changed and that’s where it basically is right now for the LGBT community.”

Though the Bible is often cited as the source material defending “traditional marriage” supporters of marriage equality are challenging how it has been interpreted.

“I was raised in the church and was taught that love one another,” Moss says.

“You taught me to love and be accepting and that’s exactly what I am.”

Riss also came from a religious background and her father was a Jehovah Witness.

“The biggest thing I say is don’t judge.  It’s huge for me because that’s what it says in the Bible,” she says.

“They seem to miss a lot of that for what they may be uncomfortable with and they aren’t ready for the change. A lot of people in society like their safety and their comfort. This is their life in a box.”

Her daughter Nevaeh gave simple advice to those wanting to place judgment upon anyone.

“I think that people who want to judge people should stick it to themselves instead of telling other people. They might be really sad because they don’t like how they are or they are jealous,” she says.

“You should choose your own path, you shouldn’t choose their path because then you would be sad and lonely.”

Final words of pride

The legalization in Arizona is a harbinger of change within our society as a whole. Though many feel the fight for equality and gay rights still faces obstacles and challenges, joy and pride are the feelings most prevalent among the LGBT community and its supporters.

Booker from Jellywink says there’s more work to be done.

“There’s still a lot of haters out in mainstream society and policies and attitudes that reflect that hate.   And there’s also that age old problem of when a certain portion of an oppressed community is finally accepted within the folds of the establishment, they forget the struggle of the rest of the community.”

“Social change is a never ending process that ebbs and flows,” she says. “I’ll just focus on celebrating each achievement.”

She is offering a 40 percent discount at Jellywink through Nov. 6 to any newlywed gay couples who have read this article.

Drag superstar DuJour was surprised at how soon licenses were being issued once the ban was been lifted.

“Truth always wins. Love always wins. We always knew it would just be a matter of time but didn’t know it would be this quick.”

Moss hopes the change and equality continues to spread.

“I think that day is coming, hopefully sooner than later, slowly but surely, the states are coming around.”

Riss remains optimistic of society learning acceptance.

“It’s amazing to be able to see people able to be happy with who they are,” she says. “Once people see that the world is not going to implode they will see it is OK.”

For young Nevaeh, gay marriage boils down to a lesson most of us learned as children; treat others as you would like to be treated.

“I think it’s cool how we can marry whoever who want because what if someone loves someone and it wasn’t allowed? That would be very heartbreaking,” she says. “You don’t want to hurt people.”

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Pima News: Halloween events on campus

Pima News: Halloween events on campus

Compiled by Alex Fruechtenicht

Campus Halloween activities include:

• Oct. 30-31: Free Haunted Haven at Desert Vista Ocotillo Room with refreshments, costume contests, live entertainment and a haunted house. Thursday hours 4-8 p.m., Friday 3-8 p.m. Details: 206-5070.

• Oct. 31: Diá de los Muertos celebration at West Campus JG-05  community room from 2-4:30 p.m. Details: 206-6742.

• Oct. 31: Northwest Campus Zombie Walk, second level Student Life Center, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Have professional zombie makeup applied for a small fee. For additional information, call 206-2131.

East Campus hosts Diá de los Muertos

East Campus will hold its annual Diá de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, festival on Nov. 3 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the library courtyard patio.

Free activities will include songs, folklórico dances, poems and art. Visitors can also sample Pan de Muertos, or All Souls Bread. Spanish faculty and students will make altars to honor the dead.

For additional information, call 206-7616.

Policing topic of round-table discussion

The East Campus humanities department will host a round-table discussion on Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the East Campus community room.

The event will highlight the history of policing, from ancient times to modern-day tactics and stories.

For additional information, call 206-7616.

Downtown Campus to celebrate veterans

Downtown Campus will hold a free celebration for veterans on Nov. 10 from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the parking lot near the RV building.

Highlights will include speakers and recognition of local businesses that support veterans, plus food, activities and entertainment.

For additional information, call 206-7258.

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