Torch Photo/ Amanda Negretti
1) Gempesaw interview
President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw sat down with our former Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Ciechalski in April to discuss various aspects of St. John’s University — among these were the issues of hiring, fundraising, basketball and education. He also touched upon the protest and town hall that took place on the Queens campus in February, and said, “as an immigrant and a person of color, I fully understand where they’re coming from.”
2) PLUG ticket wins SGI elections
In April, the PLUG ticket swept the Student Government Inc. (SGI) elections. Junior Atem Tazi became the second black female president in SGI history. PLUG, which stands for personality, legacy, unity and growth, was led by Tazi who beat out Roderick Jackson on the SEED ticket 1314 votes to 929.
3) Red Storm upset No. 4 Duke and No. 1 Villanova
In February, the Red Storm snapped an 11-game losing streak with consecutive wins over top five teams Duke and Villanova. Led by 33 and 26 points, respectively, sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds propelled the team to two of the biggest wins of the college basketball season.
4) Protests on campus
Student-led protests began in November with an impromptu demonstration of more than 40 students who marched to Gempesaw’s office because they said the University was indifferent “toward the needs of its marginalized students, including students of color, LGBT and disabled students.”
In February, another student-led protest with more than 150 students gathered at the Little Theatre to speak to administration about racial encounters that have taken place on campus took place — this was organized due to racist messages from a white, female SJU student and a Nassau Community College student that were sent to black, female SJU students. In March, Gempesaw organized a town hall so students could address their grievances to him and other administrators. It ended with various students walking out, followed by Gempesaw and other administrators.
5) Study abroad
St. John’s Discover the World study abroad program ended operations in Seville, Spain as of January 2018 — one of the program’s staple destinations.
During the fall, the University had announced that Limerick, Ireland would be a substitute for Seville in the University’s popular DTW program. A major reason for the change was that students were able to secure visas more easily.
6) Union Turnpike Safety Concerns
In March, our Managing Editor Isabella Bruni wrote an investigative piece on safety concerns along Union Turnpike in the wake of several accidents in recent years outside the University’s gates. Most recently, a man leaving a St. John’s basketball game in January was hit by a car and killed. The New York City Department of Transportation is looking at potential pedestrian safety enhancements, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said.
7) Bent out of shape
In January, Bruce Bent, the alumnus behind the name of Bent Hall, accused the University in a $10 million lawsuit of reneging on an oral agreement to keep his surname attached to the building forever. As of March 28, the University filed a motion to dismiss the complaint entirely.
8) Faculty hires
The number of new, diverse faculty hires was considerably higher this year compared to years past. This development comes on the heels of a years-long student discussion about a lack of diversity among the ranks of faculty.
Provost Dr. Robert Mangione and Chief Diversity Officer Nada M. Llewellyn said the increase is due to the University’s recent efforts to accommodate the student body’s concerns, and as a direct response to Gempesaw’s second strategic priority, which is to “recruit, recognize and retain the best faculty, staff and administrators.”
In September, St. John’s University was introduced to Callisto, an upstart online sexual assault reporting system. The University became one of 13 schools in the nation to have partnered with the program, which said it’s having success nationwide in increasing the rate of documented incidents that lead to investigations.
10) Multicultural experiences
This year, multicultural organizations hosted a myriad of events to showcase the diversity in the student body, such as a series of talks called “How Africa Connects Us” sponsored by the Caribbean Student Association, the Latin American Student Organization, the African Students Association and the Haitian Society.
In September, Gempesaw responded to the Trump Administration’s controversial decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by reminding the St. John’s community that he is among hundreds of college presidents who called for the DACA program to “be upheld, continued and expanded.”