Dorm drinking spikes as warm weather approaches 

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013

Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 00:04

On a warm autumn night in Belden Hall, a couple of freshmen guzzled down their second Four Lokos, locked up in a room. They were blasting a Dubstep mix tape while swaying in their chairs and chatting. Suddenly, they heard a loud knock on the front door. It was noise that made their hearts sink. One of them crept to up to door to take a look through the peephole, while the others scrambled to hide stuff. The person at the door was the RA.


Chances are the freshmen in the dorms didn’t pay attention to their first dorm meeting, or skim through the student handbook on DePaul’s policy on underage drinking, or ignored both. With the smell of spring in the air and final quarter ending, students want to spend their last few warm weeks in Chicago partying. For many students, these few weeks are the last chance to have an epic night out before returning home to the watchful eyes of their parents for the summer break. But it’s important to consider the potential punishment for breaking the rules because it could be more than just a hangover.

According to DePaul’s Office of Student Affairs, there were 574 alcohol violations in the residence halls in 2011, almost all of them involving underage drinking. Furthermore, alcohol violations make up about 50 percent of all conduct violations in the dorms.

Before freshman DePaul students even enter their first classroom, they attend a seminar on harm reduction strategies that informs students about the negative effects of alcohol.

This seminar is hosted by members of the Dean of Student’s Office and preventions specialists. The session focuses on the Code of Student Responsibility.

But informing students about the rules and punishments won’t stop them from popping the cap off that first beer or wine cooler. Tommy Isaia, 22, was caught drinking in Sanctuary Hall during his freshman year.

“The RAs busted in the room and a bunch of kids climbed out the first floor window,” said Isaia. “I remembered they made us pour all of the expensive Grey Goose down the drain.”

Isaia had to face punishment, but he was one of the lucky ones. It could have been worse.

“My punishment was to write a letter of apology to the to the Dean of Student’s office,” said Isaia. “I didn’t lose any of my dorm privileges and it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Although DePaul doesn’t have a “strike” policy, students that are caught drinking on campus receive disciplinary action from the Dean of Student’s Office. A commonly used program known as BASIC (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) evaluates what actions should be taken to help students that are caught with an offense.

Rebecca Aronson, an alcohol and substance abuse prevention specialist at DePaul, said the program is designed to evaluate the level of counseling that a student with an infraction may need.

“It’s a two-session alcohol education and counseling intervention where I gather lots of information from the student about what’s going on with them,” said Aronson. “I examine the student’s experience at DePaul and of course what got them mandated to meet with me in the first place.”

After the first meeting, Aronson will determine if a student is a risk to him or herself or to other students.

“Importantly I ask them about how much are they drinking and how often are they drinking?” said Aronson. “Is there any other drug use involved in the picture? Once I can gather all of that background information, I will meet with them a second time and give them some personalized feedback based on what they shared with me. I will let them know if I see any red flags.”

Dan, a student who wants to remain anonymous, said his incident involving underage drinking was a huge hassle.

“One night I was drinking with my roommate and we got into a fight,” said Dan. “The RAs overheard the fighting, came into our room to investigate, and then made us move to separate rooms.”

Dan said the incident didn’t end in just having to write a letter of apology, but it led to a whole investigation. Dan was worried. His parents were worried. It affected his academic performance.

“I had to meet with the Dean of Student’s Office,” said Dan. “For a few days they were telling me that I could possibly be kicked out of the dorms or school even. But after a few days they determined that the two of us should switch rooms.”

Not all students who get caught drinking in the residential halls or on campus will get a second chance. Students who are intoxicated to the point of being taken to the hospital or becoming physically violent cannot only be expelled from the university, but can also be handed over to the police to face criminal charges.

While each case is unique, the goal of the program is not to punish students going through a conduct process, but to educate them. Aronson said the program believes that “educational sanctions and interventions are more effective and more consistent with the mission of DePaul University.”

Schools need more security

police vigil sandy hook

In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn, people are asking the question, “are our children safe in schools?”

Parents are demanding for action to be taken to insure the safety of their children since more than 20 school shootings have taken in the United States over the last 10 years.

With the loss of 20 children and 6 educators, slaughtered by Adam Lanza, a deranged 20-year-old, once again the debate on gun control is heating up, with lots of Americans asking for a change in the law. Maybe the first step to insure the safety of students is to secure schools.

In an interview with CBS, Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Service expressed a concern that safety in schools has become a secondary issue in the past few years.

“In the last five or six years, we’ve seen some progress stalled do to cutbacks in resources on prevention counselors, psychologists mental health as well as the training of security personnel. There’s been an enormous focus on test scores, academics, education reform, budget cuts, and many other important issues in schools. But we have to keep school safety on the front burner.”

“Schools need to better prevent and to protect students from potential harm,” said Janw Kurtz, a mother of three. “Teachers and students should be trained more with security measures.”

A first step towards preventing students from being harmed is to look at the current security and safety procedures employed by schools. The current practice will undoubtedly vary from towns and cities across the nation.

Schools that are located in affluent communities like Newtown, have minimal security protection for their students, while schools in the south side of Chicago have metal detectors and officers patrolling the area to keep their students safe from gun violence.

Many people, especially parents are wondering how Adam Lanza was able to get into the school and why there was no one there to protect their children.

Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School by firing a volley of bullets through a secured door. Some security companies have suggested that bulletproof glass and doors could have prevented Lanza from entering classroom.

Some schools have already announced that they will host assemblies to train students on what to do when facing a similar situation as what happened at Sandy Hook. School faculties hope that drills and training exercises will better the chances of student surviving in the event of another shooting.

The presence of a security officer at the school could have deterred a shooter like Lanza. Gun-rights advocates suggest that school teachers and administrators should have guns. Access to arms would allow them to protect everyone in the school environment. On the other hand, teachers wielding a gun while confronting a shooter might put their students at a greater risk of being shot.

Whether we need armed security or bullet proof doors or not, something needs to be done. Perhaps the school system in America should look into how the Transportation Security Administration has secured air travel.

At the end of the day the one thing that all we all can agree on is that we want children, students, and everyone to be safe and secure in schools. In the memory of all that perished last Friday, we must make sure that the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happens again, that the children and educators did not die in vain.

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 23:12

Meat-free McDonald’s opening in India: Why not in Chicago?


McDonald’s has decided to take its low-value prices to a new demographic. The company announced Sept. 4 that it will be opening two new vegetarian restaurants in India. The first one is set to open its doors in the city of Amritsar in 2013 followed shortly by another one in the Vaishno Devi cave shrine.

According to Yahoo!, there are 33,500 McDonald’s locations worldwide, but only 250 are in India. Beef and pork are not served in India due to religious reasons, and the kitchens are already separated for cooking vegetarian and meat-based foods. With the new openings, McDonald’s is trying to respect the Hindu and Muslim cultures and offer new tastes to targeted populations.

McDonald’s should consider opening vegetarian restaurants in the United States, especially in Chicago since the number of vegetarians is rising. According to, 10 percent of adults in America, or roughly seven million people, consider themselves vegetarians. Chicago is also ranked as the 10th-largest vegetarian city, while Portland, Ore. is ranked the first.

Opening a veggie McDonald’s would not only revolutionize more than just giving vegetarians a quick way to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it would be a fresh move on the company’s part.

Because fast food is one of the leading contributors to obesity in the United Sates, this new concept could help out consumers on a time crunch and help pay for meals that are cheaper and healthier.

Chicago also has a large demographic of people who are or who would want to be vegetarians, but might not have access to convenient restaurants that are dedicated to healthy and tasty vegetarian food. Restaurants, such as The Chicago Diner located at 3411 North Halsted Street, offer meat-free food but are pricey. For example, the “BBQ Bacun Cheezeburger” costs $10.50 at the diner.

Communities such as Wicker Park and Lincoln Park have a large number of students and young adults who have a particularly hard time finding restaurants that are affordable. For someone who is vegetarian or wanting to switch to a new diet, the choices for strictly vegetarian establishments are rather limited.

Instead of picking up a greasy cheeseburger that contains a lot of salt and fat, college students could indulge in a vegetarian burger that wouldn’t contain as many saturated fats. At the very least, McDonald’s should do a trial run in Chicago and just add a few veggie burgers to see how the general public would perceive it.

Amy Erb, a vegetarian of 20 years, supports the addition of a meat-free McDonald’s in Chicago. “I think it would be a great inclusion to the city because it would allow people the opportunity to eat healthier on a daily basis,” said Erb.

Erb worked at DDB Needham, an advertising agency, where McDonald’s was one of its clients. “When I worked at DDB downtown, I would often have to grab something quick, which was never a healthy choice. I’m glad the company is taking such a ‘green’ initiative,” said Erb, laughing.

McDonald’s new concept makes it evident that the business is set to thrive by anticipating market changes and providing choices that not only satisfy consumer needs, but also are responsible for giving people healthy choices to live better lives.

By Derek Franke and Kasia Fejklowicz
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 17:09

From “Family Guy” to suit and tie: Seth MacFarlane to host Oscars


Seth Macfarlane has been chosen as the host for the 2013 Academy Awards, premiering Feb. 5. The 38-year-old actor is known primarily for his voice roles on the shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”

Macfarlane had several big successes this year, especially with his first directorial debut. The movie “Ted,” directed, co-produced and co-written by him was highly successful in theaters, but Macfarlane will have big shoes to fill at the Oscars since Billy Crystal, a regular Oscars host, was fabulous last year as usual, hosting the show for the ninth time.

As a first time host, Macfarlane will have to bring his A-game, or he may receive a similar backlash that James Franco and Anne Hathaway experienced when they hosted. Their appearances in 2010 were not funny, and it was an uncomfortable experience for the audience.

Looking at the long list of previous hosts, it seems that typically older comedians have been chosen based upon their well-established reputation and creditability in making people laugh. Just imagine the Academy and the telecast producers, though, sitting around discussing the best candidate to be the host of the event, when all of the sudden, a young coordinator brings in a copy of “Family Guy” – an episode with one of Peter Griffin’s offensive drunken rants. The Academy and the telecast producers react, acknowledging the brilliant idea to have Macfarlane as the host.

Viewers love Macfarlane’s characters and voices on “Family Guy,” but will the real Macfarlane resonate with the audience of the Oscars? The answer is yes!

Before he was asked to host the Oscars, Macfarlane perfected his chops on the Comedy Central Roasts of Donald Trump, David Hasselhoff and Charlie Sheen. More recently, he hosted this year’s season premiere of Saturday Night Live. The first show of its 38th season was well received by audiences. It seems like Macfarlane has been preparing himself in the last several years for this opportunity.

Macfarlane hasn’t been looking for other types of regular acting roles besides the ones on Family Guy and American Dad, and there is no sign that he will give up any his voice-acting work for a traditional acting role. Another potential reason for landing the position of host may be that he also sings and writes music for Showtime. These talents could provide fresh and entertaining content to the show.

One thing for certain, Macfarlane will bring his voices, crude humor and unrestraint to the event. He will likely provoke insulting comments and antics that may shock and entertain the audience.

In the last few years, the Oscars have been rather dull. In choosing Macfarlane, The Academy and the telecast producers might be attempting to draw a younger audience. Animated comedies have been extremely popular in the last few years. The Academy and the telecast producers of the Oscars hope to win an award of their own with one of the biggest comedic talent. It’s now up to Macfarlane to make it shine.

By Derek Franke
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 15:10

Privacy invasion of royal couple no issue for paparazzi

Kate Middleton recently made headlines for something other than being classy. Closer Magazine, a French tabloid publication, published photos showing Middleton sunbathing topless while on a private resort in Chateau d’Autet, France, Sept. 14. Chi, a publication owned by the same publisher of the Closer, released a 26-page photo of the married couple vacationing.

The royal family was shocked by the publications of the photos and considered them as an intrusion of privacy. They quickly filed a lawsuit against the publisher. A French judge ruled Sept. 18 that the publisher must hand over the photos as well as pay the Royal Family 2,000 euros, which is approximately $2600 dollars. If the French publisher is late in handing over the photos, within 24 hours it will be forced to pay 10,000 euros per day until the photos are given back.

“It is a scene of married life, intimate, personal, that has nothing to do on a magazine,” said Aurelien Hamelle, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the royal family. This breach of personal privacy through paparazzi has been an extremely hard issue for all celebrities and remains an ethical issue in society. Prince William, Middleton’s husband, believes that photographers contributed to the death of his mother Princess Diana.

The invasion of privacy by the paparazzi has been a troublesome issue for celebrities and public figures. Even if lawsuits are used against any publications, the released photos already have done damage to the image of a celebrity or public figure. There is not a lot anyone can do when nude or compromising photos hit the Internet. Despite knowing that the public scrutinizes them, it is difficult for famous people to avoid putting themselves in a vulnerable position that could damage their integrity.

To the public, celebrities and royalties like Middleton possess a certain flawless image, but they often do things that may challenge their persona.

Before this fiasco in France, TMZ published pictures of Prince Harry cavorting naked during a game of strip billiards in Las Vegas, Nev. Photos of the brother of Prince William, who is third in line to the throne, showed Harry stark naked but for a wristwatch and a necklace, his hands cupping his genitals.

What can be gleaned from these mishaps is that most popular figures may not be as perfect as people often think. They frequently turn out to be something much less ethereal than what is presented to the public. No, the paparazzi shouldn’t invade anyone’s privacy; however, celebrities like Middleton must recognize that once you have become a public figure, you may have to give up a certain amount of privacy.

Fans adore celebrities, but keep in mind that they’re also drawn to the unflattering side of someone who is a public figure. We are all human beings and oddly enough, flaws are probably what draw celebrities and public figures closer to their admirers.

By Derek Franke
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 18:09

Blues Music Lives at Buddy Guy’s Legends in South Loop Chicago

The South Side of Chicago may invoke thoughts of violence and economic struggles that are highly publicized on a national scale. But in the South Loop neighborhood, there is a corner establishment that continues the legacy of a musical genre for young and old with international notoriety.

Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash Ave., stimulates every sense with dimly-lit blue lights, the taste and smell of barbeque chicken and Cajun spices, a hint of bass guitar tickling the bones and music so good there is no reason to carry-on a conversation.

Audio Slideshow: Click here to see the audio slideshow of a night a Buddy Guy’s Legends.

“You may not be able to hear the blues much on the radio anymore,” said blues legend and namesake of Legends, Buddy Guy. “But you came to the right place.”

With about forty dining tables surrounding the stage sandwiched between two long bars, as soon as dinnertime starts Legends becomes – and remains – packed full of standing-room only patrons.

A collection of autographed guitars adorn the walls from the likes of Muddy Waters, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

An assortment of the eclectic – corporate businessmen, young 20-somethings, elderly and tourists – eat, drink $6 pitchers of Goose Island microbrews and give away their origins as they converse in Italian, Spanish and Polish.

“I fell in love with this Green Line Pale Ale,” said Darren Sturdy, 35, visiting from Amsterdam. “I love the blues. I came to Chicago just for this.”

As soon as the music began with house band Brother John, the night becomes about the music. This was blues the Chicago way – taking the acoustic guitar and harmonica, making the harmonica louder with microphone and amplifier and adding electrically amplified guitar, bass, drums, piano, saxophone and trumpet.

On this particular Monday night was an open-mic “Jam Session.” With vocals by current Chicago blues sensation Linsey Alexander, anyone who brought an instrument and signed up were invited to jam on stage with him. Though no one had played together before as a band, there was no difference between the enthusiasm and instrumental talent of the house band and the three hastily put together jam sessions.

“I didn’t wanna go to work today…so I called the boss and took the day off,” Alexander sang.

It did not matter the talent level, this night was for the love of the blues.

“I have been playing the harmonica since I was 8 years old and the one thing I have learned is that you can always learn something new,” said blues harpist Paul Havor. “I have been coming and playing here a long time because there always is a high amount of energy.”

Pat Lindel, 22, a student at Roosevelt University’s College of Performing Arts, was the youngest musician of the night’s jam session. The drummer had taken time off from playing only to pick up where he left off without missing a beat to an excited crowd that gave the young man an ovation.

“It was fun,” he said. “I want to get back into it. I miss the excitement.”

Buddy Guy. (Photo by Jeff Kirk)

The night was highlighted somewhere around midnight when Buddy Guy himself showed up on stage. Although Guy only plays about six sell-out shows a year during January, the excitement of the crowd made him make an appearance for a few songs.

“Bring me another shot so I don’t forget my lyrics,” Guy asked a bartender over the microphone.

There was a man dancing in a black fedora and sunglasses with an unlit cigar clenched between his teeth. A couple from Zambia were snapping their fingers and waving scarves adorning their country’s colors and name. There was even a young man in the jam session that played the metal washboard and spoons.

Members of the audience start dancing to the blues. (Photo by Jeff Kirk)

The time between songs was minimal – with usually only an introduction of band members or a call for more drinks. Even between the sets of jam sessions there were no sound-checks or time to prepare. The music flowed like the beer all night – with little chance to converse between sets or over the music without stepping outside or kissing the ear of the person you were talking to.

The blues are alive and well. Thanks to places like Legends where young and old musicians can feel the excitement of an international crowd and take lessons from their peers.

“Well, I mean you’re good but you need room for improvement. You need to listen to more records and emulate what you hear,” Alexander said to a young jam session member leaving the club. “It’s never too late to practice. Matter of fact, you should go home and practice right now.”

“I’ll try,” the man replied.

“Musicians don’t try – they do.”

Who will win the second Presidential Debate?

Listen to the audio podcast, then vote in the poll below.

2012 Chicago Marathon.

The 2012 Chicago marathon took place on Oct. 7 and I created a Storify page to document the event. Within the page I used pictures, YouTube video and Twitter quotes to help share the story of the runners. Here’s a link to my Chicago 2012 Marathon coverage. Please enjoy.

Chicago Muggings Map 2009

During the summer of 2008 a baffling series of robberies involving battery took place in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.There were seven attacks reported to the police in the span of a week and mostly in the middle of the night or early morning.

The first attack occurred on July. 30, at 2 a.m. when police say a man was robbed and beaten in the 600 block of W. Fullerton Avenue. Five minutes later, just down the street at the 2100 block of North Stockton Drive, another man was robbed and beaten, right across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo.  On Aug. 1 at 3 a.m. police believed that a man was robbed and beaten on the 2000 block of North Cleveland Avenue. About a half an hour later, 3:36 a.m., another man was robbed and beaten in the 300 block of West Webster Avenue, near Francis Parker School.

Days later, Aug. 4, another man was robbed and beaten near Fullerton Avenue and Cannon Drive. On this occasion, the incident took place at 10:55 a.m., and the victim fought off the offenders with a bike lock. Interestingly, Aug. 3, at 4:50 am, a 24-year-old man was beaten and his cell phone taken at Halsted Street near Buckingham Place in Boystown. Another 21-year-old man struggled with three attackers. He got his wallet stolen during the mugging near his home in the 400 block of W. Deming. As of April. 1, 2011, according to Chicago police, no arrest has been made in any of these cases. One or more perpetrator were involved, robbing as well as beating individuals, and still at large.

Jim Allen Speaks About the Upcoming Election

Jim Allen Photo
Jim Allen talks to DePaul students about the upcoming elections and changes from previous elections. (Photo by Mike Reilley)

Jim Allen, the communications director for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, is concerned about getting young voters to the poll for the Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012 elections, to decide most importantly the United States presidency.

The Chicago Board of Elections has been busy preparing for the election.  Jim P. Allen who handles communication between the Board of Election Commissioners for the city of Chicago and a voter population of one point four million voters says a lot of thing has changed since the 2008 election.

Since 2004, a new type of ballot has been implemented in order to make sure unfair voting practices do not occur.

“ We had a butterfly ballot punch card that was used predominately in the 1970’s, 1980’s all the way until 2004 when it basically became outlawed because of what happened in 2000,” he said. “In Florida, and in many other states across the country, those electoral voters gave it to Bush.”

“These punch cards unfortunately, if they’re not manufactured correctly or they were cut incorrectly, there will be flaws. When you go to punch that little needle through the ballot, if it doesn’t always break away, you will have a Chad,” Allen said.

Problems such as dimple chads, swinging chads and hanging chads, caused many problems for voters in the 2000 election, giving president George W. Bush votes he didn’t receive. “The Help America Act created a system of guidelines for every election jurisdiction to follow,” Allen said.

“In 2008 we saw an amazing crowd swell of participation especially among young voters,” said Allen. “We had 100,000 registrations in the month and especially in the week before the deadline to register to vote. We never had anything like that in the history of the Chicago Election board.”

Allen noted that new developments in technology have lead to the use touch screens to help make the process easier. The inclusion of paper ballots in the layout the name of a candidate, can allow voters to draw a line, circle and even write in the name on the ballots to avoid confusion. In addition, to target Latino voters, all of the directions have been written out in Spanish in order to ensure that the voting process is fair and unbiased.

But even with the innovation in the voting process, the Board of Election acknowledges that number of registered voters is not as good as it could be.

“In a big presidential election, we can look forward to only 70 percent to 77 percent of the people who are registered,”Allen said. One point seven to one point eight million people in Chicago are 18 and older who are eligible to vote.  But for the moment we have only one point two million registered to vote,” said Allen.

Allen also noted that voter registration has been down compared to the last election. However, the targeted demographic has not changed since.

“The most reliable voter is a woman who is 66 year-old who is registered,”Allen said. She will go to the polls every single time. But for the younger generation not so much,”