Beautiful bullets: When guns turn into jewelry

This week, Syracuse’s Common Council voted to pass an agreement that would turn confiscated and surrendered guns and bullet casings into jewelry, where local non-profit organizations against gun violence receive about 20 to 25 percent of the proceeds.

The agreement between the Common Council, the Syracuse Police Department, and Liberty United—the organization who change spare gun parts into jewelry—will last for three years.

“The weapons conversion program seems to be a symbolic gesture to promote a cause,” said the Common Council’s former Chair of Public Safety Jake Barrett.

And yet, this gesture has failed to reach its full implementation capacity. According to Barrett, since there is no way of knowing how many guns or weapons people may have, it is difficult to measure how successful the police department’s abilities of confiscating these weapons are.

“Making jewelry for high end customers, or low, has promotional value, but no law enforcement value,” he said.

Although a Liberty United representative was unable to reach, according to the organization’s website, jewelry items range from slightly expensive—a cuff bracelet for $ 95—to even more expensive—a $3,895 white sapphire necklace.

According to Common Councilor Bob Dougherty, a portion—20 to 25 percent—of profits made from this jewelry go to anti-gun violence programs.

“The proceeds have gone to programs at the Southwest Community Center which is at ground zero of our gun violence problems,” Dougherty added.

However, this program reveals an issue with the police department’s role in it.

During Barrett’s experience as the former Chair of Public Safety, he said the police department is not always fully compliant with this conversion program.

Barrett even added that throughout multiple meetings concerning the seized gun program with Syracuse’s police department, there was a “lack of transparency and no sense that the converted funds were under any sort of oversight.”

“It was a kitty control by an unelected official, the Chief of the SPD,” Barrett added.

Syracuse’s police Chief, Frank Fowler, was unable to be reached for comment.

However, police Sgt. Richard Helterline said the police attempts to monitor all reports of gun and gang violence, adjusting their security measures according to the level of violence in a specific area.

“It could happen anywhere and it does happen everywhere,” Helterline said. “We’ve had incidents throughout the whole city at different points throughout the years, so it’s not one specific area, and that’s a part of what we’ve been doing, is tracking it before it becomes an issue in any area.”

Syracuse is no stranger to gun violence, which is why Liberty United’s attempt of tackling gun violence is one of many in the area.

Cure Violence, for example, is part of a state-run program, SNUG, that was first introduced to Syracuse about a year and a half ago, although it was just implemented last August, according to Cure Violence’s former project manager Raheem Mack.

“The reason that Syracuse was chosen as a site is because per capita, the shooting numbers and the homicide numbers is pretty high,” Mack said.

The program involves bringing in people who had been involved in gun violence in their past and have found a way to move forward and away from violence.

“We try to get that high-risk individual in that high-risk community before the actual shooting happens,” Mack said. “Talking to them, giving them a new avenue or mechanism to deal with their conflict, giving them an opportunity to change their mindset in dealing with how they deal with conflict in our community.”

Although Helterline said most of the calls the police receive don’t necessarily relate to gunshots or gun violence, he also said these cases of gun violence in general are “pretty serious.”

However, despite the police department’s efforts in decreasing gun and gang related violence, Councilor Barrett brings up the role police officers play in areas where they may not necessarily be trusted.

“Gun violence most usually has some sort of witnesses to it,” said Barrett. “That no one comes forward to give testimony is indicative of the lack of confidence our affected neighborhoods have in law enforcement.”



Common Council votes to update Syracuse Police Department’s bomb robot

Although this past weekend’s terrorist attacks on Paris and Beirut led to major cities around the world on high alert, the small city of Syracuse has also been wary of possible attacks.

Last Monday, Syracuse’s Common Council voted unanimously to purchase a Power Hawk Non Energetic Remote Access Tool, or NERAT, to use as part of the Syracuse Police Department’s bomb robot. Common Councilor-At-Large and chairperson of the Council’s public safety division, Pamela Hunter, said the main component of this is an updated version of the police department’s current bomb robot.

“What would make this robot different is that it has the ‘jaws of life’ on it,” she said. “And so this would be able to pry open some sort of container or something that the current one they have right now doesn’t have what they call the ‘jaws of life’ on it.”

The updated bomb robot costs no more than $34,495, and is also able to pick items up and move them.

However, Majority Whip Councilor Jake Barrett noted that the money the police department applies for is usually in response to money that is already available. Although the Council would usually need to match a payment purchase, since this money was already set aside for security related issues, it’s essentially free.

“The Department of Homeland Security has made some money available to certain municipalities to have equipment on hand in the event of a terrorist activity such as a bomb threat,” Barrett said. “So you apply for it and you get it. It’s just another tool in the toolbox.”

Aside from the robot, the police department usually takes other precautionary measures in the case of a bomb threat, such as bomb sniffing dogs and a bomb squad, according to police department spokesman Sgt. Richard Helterline.

Although Helterline could not share the exact details of the police’s usual response to a bomb threat, he said it usually would include sending in police dogs to respond to the threat and check if it’s legitimate, followed by police officers that are called to the scene. This would be different with the updated bomb robot.

“Say a dog went through and sensed a bag that no one was familiar with, we would pull everybody out and we would use the robot so that it wouldn’t endanger any officers or people’s lives,” Helterline said.

Barrett, who was part of the unanimous vote for this new purchase, noted the shortcomings of the robot’s technology in today’s day and age.

“Today’s terrorism, they don’t care. They have a vest strapped on to their waist, and there’s no amount of sniffing, etc., that is going to stop this guy from pulling a zip cord,” Barrett said. “So this equipment our police department is applying for—we’re fighting a war of 30 years ago; war has changed.”

Instead, Barrett suggests “intelligence on the ground.”

Helterline, however, said other forms of security to stop a bomb from happening depend on the actual location since each building’s security standards are different and usually decided by the building’s owner. Which is why the police department also relies heavily on people’s tips.

“If you see something strange, report it,” he said. “We’d rather be safe than sorry. So if anything seems out of place or somebody’s acting strange, we would hope that people would call in before we have an issue.”

Syracuse has not had an actual bomb explosion in its recent history, although there have been threats made in the city of Syracuse and at Syracuse University.

In September, police responded to a false bomb threat on the downtown city courts, forcing the evacuation of everyone in the buildings. While in 2013, SU received a bomb threat through an anonymous social application, Yik Yak, regarding a possible bomb threat in a residence hall, according to Hannah Warren, the Department of Public Safety’s public information officer.

Although the bomb threats have been rare, Hunter, Barrett, Helterline, and Common Councilor Bob Dougherty, all agree this tool is still an important safety measure.

“They’ve identified something that they feel is useful for them to keep them safe, and it’s a tool in their toolbox,” Hunter said. “So they live it, they work it everyday, they know what they need as far as tools. They have identified this as being something useful they need, obviously that’s where we’re going to make that happen.”

Mayor Miner’s email shutdown continues as Common Councilors pursue lawsuit

When Syracuse’s Common Councilor Bob Dougherty was invited to a city meeting this weekend, he had to forward the email invitation to six other councilors’ personal emails because they lost access to their work email months ago.

These five councilors, along with the council president, city clerk, and other city staff employees have been unable to access their emails ever since Mayor Stephanie Miner shut down their office computers and servers on July 1. The shutdown came after a number of council members refused to sign a computer-use policy agreement.

The policy allows the Miner administration to monitor city employees’ emails and discipline the councilors if they violated the agreement. Since then, five councilors—headed by Councilor-At-Large Kathleen Joy—voted to file suit against Miner’s administration.

“That lawsuit has to do with the separation of powers,” said Joy. “The other councilors who are involved in this recognize that we are the legislative branch of government. We take that very seriously.”

Since the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are entirely separate, Joy said Miner is overstepping basic American law by demanding the councilors sign the policy.

“I can’t imagine any elected official would think that they can cross the boundaries into somebody else’s territory and demand that they be fired because they don’t follow the policy that the mayor wants.” Joy added, “It’s ridiculous. It’s not a kingdom; it’s a government; it’s a democracy.”

Like Joy, Councilor-At-Large Jean Kessner also based her opposition on a similar argument: the importance of respecting government boundaries.

“The only power the Common Council has is the power of the purse, the reason for that is the separation of powers, we are the legislative branch,” Kessner said. “It works like that in Washington, it works like that in Syracuse.”

The mayor’s office has declined to comment on this story.

Along with Joy, councilors Jean Kessner, Nader Maroun, Chad Ryan, and Jake Barrett voted to move forward with the lawsuit against Miner, while Councilors Pamela Hunter, Bob Dougherty, Helen Hudson, and Khalid Bey voted against the lawsuit.

Syracuse’s City Clerk John Copanas, who is also supporting the lawsuit, said Miner’s agreement “contradicts the city charter.”

“The city charter says that I work in the legislative branch and I’m an independent office of the mayor. And she wants us to be dependent on the mayor in a disciplinary fashion and there’s no way that’s how the charter sees it,” Copanas added.

Although Copanas said a lawsuit is not ideal, he added that Miner’s administration has made it difficult to find a solution to the issue. Copanas and the councilors have signed computer policy agreements in the past, but none had been similar to the current debated agreement.

“What they could’ve done is let the old policy stay in place until a new one was negotiated,” Copanas said. “What the mayor chose to do is if you don’t sign the one I put in front of you, I’m shutting down the computers—there was no negotiation.”

Copanas said these past policies were a page long, listing what could and could not be done while using the office computers. Yet this year, the agreement suggested people could be disciplined and fired by the mayor.

“You know this is insane,” Copanas said.

However, Dougherty, a councilor who signed the computer-use agreement and did not vote to pursue a lawsuit against the mayor, said the disputed negotiations had a lot to do with tensions between the city clerk’s office and the mayor’s office.

Since the public elects the common councilors, and the city clerk is elected by the councilors, there have been disputes of whether the city clerk is a city employee or a publically elected official.

“The mayor’s office does not consider him to be an elected official and there’s been friction back and forth between the clerk and the mayor’s office,” Dougherty said. “That existed way before the computer thing.”

Although Dougherty said he understands “the principle” of the separation of powers, he expressed his discontent with the entire situation and said the lawsuit is a waste of money.

“We shouldn’t be spending taxpayer’s money on this lawsuit,” Dougherty said. “The money’s kind of a drop in the bucket but maybe it would’ve been better to use that money to buy our own server too.”

However, Copanas said that the mayor could have saved half of the lawsuit’s expenses by not seeking outside lawyers’ assistance.

“I guess the real question is why has the mayor hired outside lawyers, she has the corporation council’s office to defend her.” Copanas added, “Maybe it’s possible they don’t agree with her position?”

 Copanas and Dougherty do agree on one aspect of this issue that has continued for months now; it will not be solved anytime soon.

Copanas said he hopes that with this lawsuit comes a third party that could help resolve the issue.

“I find it very hard to believe that the courts are going to read the charter—which is what they’re going to have to base their decision on—and come to the conclusion that we are employees of the mayor,” Copanas said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Syracuse Councilors to provide free yoga classes to city employees

Syracuse’s Common Council unanimously voted to provide City employees with free yoga classes from September 10 to November 5, in an attempt to promote healthy and fit lifestyles.

The program will be taught by Sophie Tashkovski and will last for nine weeks. This is her second time teaching yoga class with city employees, which was an eight-week program that took place last May.

“Mayor Miner and members of her staff had a New Year’s resolution to practice yoga together, and they regularly participated in my Sunday night Yang Yin Class,” Tashkovski said. “When they saw the benefits of regular yoga practice we began talking about how great it would be if more city employees had access to regular yoga classes.”

The class will be offered once a week and is part of a Wellness Program event. The city’s assistant director of Personnel and Labor Relations, Donna Briscoe, said she received encouragement to bring yoga to city employees.

“There was a lot of positive feedback and increased interest from employees. Our hope is that our employees will reap the benefits of yoga—relaxation, increased endurance, stress relief—and engage in other activities as a result,” Briscoe said.

Councilor Nader Maroun said the City Council’s health insurance carrier, ProAct, has funded this program with $1,000.

“This particular yoga offering is only part of a variety of efforts that have been offered in terms of exercise programs and access to diet information,” Maroun said. “So we’re trying to do our part.”

Although the City Hall has not specifically initiated yoga classes outside its own employees, Maroun said he hopes others in Syracuse are encouraged to initiate a similar program.

“The short-term and long-term benefits of it (yoga) are good and so the idea of being a catalyst for others to offer these types of programs is certainly something to be considered,” he said.

This could not only be beneficial to the Syracuse community, but specifically to students in schools, especially since nearly half of students in Onondaga public schools are either overweight or obese, according to a 19 Apr. 2015 article.

However, Maroun says some initiatives have already been made in the Syracuse school systems. “The city itself through the school district in one way is trying to offer a balanced and healthier diet in our school system,” Maroun said.

Tashkovski said yoga is suited for all levels and is specifically helpful for people working at an office all day.

“Yoga is for everybody and every body,” she said. “Many employees are sitting at desks all day, and yoga helps improve posture as well as calms the nervous system after stressful days at work.”

In addition to these yoga classes, Briscoe, the assistant director, said they have promoted other ways of healthy living by introducing employee sporting events like kickball and basketball, having workshops on disease and stress management, and interacting with the Syracuse community through the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, where approximately 278 companies compete against each other.

“Our goal is to help our employees find some form of activity that will enhance their and their loved ones’ lives. Everyone can benefit from healthy lifestyle changes and our goal is to make a difference,” Briscoe said.

But even with the focus on wellness, some say the City Hall program ignores the broader meaning of yoga. Yoga is not solely a physical activity or simply made for people to relax, according to director and instructor of Morningside Yoga Michael Smith. Smith has been a practicing yogi for more than 40 years.

“Yoga is originally the science of mind, really, the whole exercise component evolved much later,” he said. “Now it’s okay to go to yoga and be relaxed—don’t get me wrong—but it’s only a kind of starting place for yoga as far as where you go.” Instead, Smith added yoga is an activity that takes a lifetime to practice.

The idea of a nine-week yoga program is not something Smith appreciates, since he said it only begins to scratch the surface of yoga practice. Smith also expressed some criticism towards the Common Council’s initiative.

“The fact is, they don’t really respect yoga. They think of it as a second-rate fluff on the side and not a serious activity. So I’m not surprised that they’re going to do a 2-month program,” he said.

However, Tashkovski, the program’s instructor, still remains hopeful concerning the benefits of these classes and its impact on the city employees.

“I love leading the City employees through a yoga practice each week,” Tashkovski said. “It is very satisfying to see them grow in their practice and many have told me that they are sleeping better and feeling better with every yoga class they take.”


Rasamny: Millennial label needs to be divided into more accurate subgroups

This was originally published in The Daily Orange. 

It’s difficult to imagine any generational similarities between a college student who’s learning how to become independent and a person who is married with kids.

And yet, categorizing these two different groups of people into one collective group happens often.  Actually, in my case, it usually happens every week with this column. The millennial age range encompasses people from 18 up to 33-years-old, or those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. However, I don’t think classifying these different age groups into a single category is the best and most accurate way to do so.

Millennials are known as the most diverse generation, but rather than have things such as race, gender and sexuality influence how this generation is categorized, they should be grouped by major norms. With this said, instead of grouping millennials into one large entity, like we usually do, millennials from 18–24 years old should constitute one group and those above 25 should form another.

Clearly differentiating the two from each other as separate subgroups of millennials would not only help gain a more accurate representation of the generation’s behaviors and norms, but also further develop research on their financial norms and social habits.

Statistical evidence in a Jun. 14 Financial Brand article shows the difference between these two age groups. For example, the article reported that 29 percent of millennials in the younger age group manage their own finances, compared to 51 percent of older millennials.

In some ways, it makes sense to categorize millennials into one group, since most millennials do have the commonality of Baby Boomer parents, with the exception of some from Generation X. But the fact that millennials have been raised by the same generation definitely does not automatically mean they will turn out with similar characteristics. A millennial born in 1981 was 15 years old by the time someone was born in 1996, and a society can be significantly different during that time.  And although this may also be applied to past generations, in the case of millennials this age gap has influenced millennials’ use of technology.

It’s true, millennials are a tech-savvy generation, but it’s not accurate to say that all millennials are at the same level when it comes to technology.

Millennials experienced the spread of the Internet and technology at different stages in their lives. For example, a 2013 Jul. 17 Barkley study reported that 44 percent of millennials who are now parents chose Wal-Mart when asked which retailer they would purchase from for the rest of their lives.  The other options included Amazon and Target.  Surprisingly, the generation that is crazy for the virtual world, did not pick online-marketplace Amazon.

These are major principles that define the millennial generation. And since there is a significant difference between the two groups’ relationships with technology, it would be more precise if this was addressed.

Not only did we not grow up in the same time, but there events that impacted the older millennial generation differently than the younger millennial generation.  The introduction of mainstream technology and easy virtual accessibility was at radically different points in millennials lives.  All millennials don’t share core values that define the millennial generation — it’s time to differentiate between the older and younger millennials.

Tamara Rasamny is an international relations and newspaper and online journalism dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Tam_Rasamny.

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Ben Carter ’10 couldn’t find anyone talking about money and having fun, so he created his own show, blog and brand

Originally published on Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications website

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Newhouse grad filmed 14 episodes of personal finance show this year

Ben Carter has been fascinated by money, investing and personal finance since he was a little kid. Carter, who studied advertising at the Newhouse School and graduated in 2010, has found a way to pursue his passion and hopefully help others in the process. After moving to Washington, D.C. after graduation, Carter spent several years developing “Manage Your Damn Money,” a video series and blog devoted to just what it sounds like: finances. With 14 episodes under his belt, Carter answered a few questions about what it’s been like to create a brand from scratch.

How did the idea for “Manage Your Damn Money” begin? Did you see yourself doing this as a student at SU?

It was never something that I thought would lead into my professional life. (A year or so after) graduating from the advertising program at Syracuse University, I realized there was no space where money or personal finances are dealt with in a cool and funny way. Money is usually dealt with in a more serious way, and when someone is giving advice it’s usually boring. So there’s this complete space that’s open in terms of the market and in terms of building a brand—that was something I was comfortable doing.

So I started developing the brand and it took close to three years to actually launch the project. We finally launched on April 15, 2014. I think our last episode was posted a month ago, and we have 14 episodes.

How do you manage your money? Would you say you’re good at it?

I’ve been holding onto money and saving money since I was a kid. I remember I got $200 for some work I did for my uncle in Virginia and then I went back home and took those four $50 bills and I put them in my jar. I used three of them, but I was just going to hold on to one of them forever, and I never used it. I would probably still have that $50 bill but my dad used it on gas.

Afterwards, I got into investing a little bit and I just started learning more and more about how people go about using the money they have to make more. And that’s really kind of where I started. I do a good job at saving and trying to be aggressive about investing.

You ask most of your guests this question so it will sound familiar: What was your “Damn, I’m broke as hell moment?

When I graduated I moved to D.C. and I was living on my buddy’s couch for way too long—eight or nine months. I had around $2,000 to my name that I could spend, and was working at Banana Republic. I could spend the majority of it to put a deposit down on this one apartment. I didn’t have any furniture, I was sleeping on this mattress pad thing. So that was my “damn I’m broke as hell moment.” And then soon after that I got a job at this retail place where I could at least pay my bills. Eventually I found a position in my area of study at a communications agency.

What have you learned since starting the MYDM series?

I think we did a good job of executing the vision, but we haven’t gotten the traction in terms of hits or views on the videos. The main thing is that when you do this online content thing, you’ve got to definitely be in it for the long haul. I was under the impression that the name was so unique and the concept was so unique, that that would drive a lot of attention. What I found is there are different things that drive the competition online, and it’s much more of a long game.

What are your hopes for the future of the series?

I hope one day it’s a well-known entity. The ultimate goal is to create a brand that makes money cool and so that when people from our generation see it, they understand that this is something that they can identify with and to go to the show’s events. Hopefully then everyone will find their own way to be better at managing their money.

What advice can you offer Newhouse students?

Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just stay persistent, because it can be tough and it can feel like it’s never going to come, but if you’re persistent and you take small steps, eventually it will.

Check out the Manage Your Damn Money website here. 

Millennials Must Work to Close Gender Gap

The millennial generation is known for its diversity, its liberal ideals and its support for same-sex marriage.  And yet gender inequality still persists among millennials in the job market.

Last Wednesday, released the results of a survey in an article called, “5 Things Millennials Should Know About the Job Market,” where they briefly touched base on statistics of millennials’ jobs after graduation.  Although they mentioned the gender gap, Cosmopolitan’s reference doesn’t do it justice.  The article only states how many men and women have jobs lined up before and after graduating, and the percentage of men and women who work on a salary or hourly compared to their first jobs.

In fact, although a Dec. 2013 Pew Research study reports the gender gap is closing among millennials compared to the national average, with millennial women earning 93 percent of what millennial men earn compared to the average 77 percent, some may think a low seven percent gap is something to be proud of.  Despite the fact that this gap has decreased over the last 10 years, the mere seven percent is still not something to dismiss due to its small quantity.

With this said, although women are directly impacted by unequal pay, it’s not just women’s issue ––it’s a millennial’s issue.

Our prospects for the future may all be different.  Whether some of us plan on getting a job right after college, pursuing a post-graduate education, or even taking some time off and traveling the world, I think it’s safe to say that most of us would like to apply what we learned in college to good use and get fairly paid for our work.

But one of the crucial questions a lot of millennials don’t really consider is when we actually do apply these skills with whatever job we choose to pursue, will we be paid the same amount as our colleagues? And that answer, at least for most women, is no.

As college students, some us us will graduate with a lot of student debt on our hands.  Men and women pay the same tuition, and yet women fall short when it comes to paying off their student debt, according to an Apr. 7 Forbes article. The article also explains that the older people get, the larger the gender gap increases.  Therefore, it may only get worse.  This can directly impact how millennial women pay off their student loans, and more broadly across generations, this influences how much money can go into retirement savings as well.  Of course, other factors like the willingness to put money aside can impact how much people end up saving.

Millennials can respond by reaching out to policy makers and companies and demanding them to address these salary differences, since a lot of the time unequal gender treatment may not necessarily be intentional.

With all the negative stereotypes millennials are associated with — ranging from lazy and impatient to disrespectful and conceited — we’re actually the generation where women and men are the closest to be paid equally. Seven percent is lower than the average, but we still have a long way to go. Millennials should make it their goal to diminish the gender gap so when the next generation is surveyed, the gap no longer exists.


Rasamny: Low millennial turnout rate due to lack of information

This was originally posted on The Daily Orange.

While to many it may have been well known that the midterm elections took place last week, statistics are showing otherwise.

Only an estimated 21.3 percent of millennials voted in the midterm elections, according to a Nov. 5 International Business Times article, which is similar to the 20.4 percent of millennials who voted during the 2010 elections.

Many millennials have taken to their social media accounts, frustrated over the GOP’s control of Congress. If more millennials had voted, the results may have been in favor of the Democratic Party. So the crucial question is, why didn’t we vote? I think a large reason for this includes a mixture of apathy, but mostly, lack of information.

For example, on Nov. 4, I was sitting in the library with a friend of mine, when I asked her if she voted. She looked at me, confused, and asked, “Voted for what?” We were on the first floor of the library, where voting stations had been set up on that same floor. Although there were two voting stations on Syracuse University’s campus — in the Nancy Cantor Warehouse and in Bird Library — the overall campus’ atmosphere days and weeks before Nov. 4 was not the same as it was during the 2012 presidential elections.

When MTV announced its #WhyIDidntVote hashtag, many took to Twitter and explained their side of the story. One of these Twitter users accurately portrayed the typical millennial procrastinator when he tweeted, “First, it was apathy; then, I forgot to register #whyididntvote.” However, although apathy towards politics from our generation does indeed exist, I don’t think this was the primary reason many millennials tossed their vote aside last week.

Instead, I think a large factor in millennials’ low voter turnout has to do with lack of information concerning how to vote and the steps people need to take in advance. For example, college student Zee Krstic (@zee_krstic) tweeted what many college students experience when voting time comes along. Krstic said, “@MTV I didn’t vote because I’m an out-of-state college student and mail-in ballots are LITERALLY impossible to understand #whyididntvote.”

This tweet reveals a major issue millennials face, since many college students who travel outside of their home state or outside of their voting precinct, have to fill out an absentee ballot well in advance. This can discourage college students from voting, since millennials are used to getting things done with the touch of their fingertips.

In my case, I didn’t vote because I’m not a registered voter and wasn’t really aware of the registration process since I moved back to America in 2012. Unfortunately, when I did try to register, it seemed like it was too late because there was no quick way to register online and most options included going to register in-person or downloading the form online and sending it by mail.

Millennials must realize that voting is a great right to exercise, and they need to move past the apathy and seek out information they may need to reflect their opinion through the polls.

Tamara Rasamny is a junior international relations and newspaper and online journalism dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at

Rasamny: Snapchat should expand international video features

Originally published on The Daily Orange.

During my ritual of unhealthily checking Snapchat every 20 minutes or so, I look at my screen and am disappointed that there are no new stories in my feed. As I contemplate rewatching my friends’ snapchat stories, a different story catches my eye: Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.”

Snapchat has allowed its users to experience different cultures by personally connecting with each other through its “Live” story feed, also known as Our Story. Anyone who has the application can check in on events occurring around the world that Snapchat features, such as Dia de los Muertos. These event coverages are compiled from other Snapchat users’ videos and photos from that location to form one giant story.  Snapchat’s live feed ranges from college sporting events to the cultural events such as the yearly Festival of Lights in India, also known as Diwali.

The addition of this feature has been an innovative new way to expose our generation to other cultures. But after using this feature for a few months, I am a little disappointed with the relatively low number of international live feeds.  More often than not, the app shows live feeds of events happening in the United States.  With the exception of Diwali, the World Cup, Dia de los Muertos, and a couple other stories from outside the U.S., there haven’t been many other worldwide events published on the feed. Snapchat can make Our Story even better by consistently streaming more international events or events that we wouldn’t be able to see from our regular Snapchat friends.

Although technology, current events, films and music are ways to connect people across different cultures and areas of the globe, Snapchat is doing this in a more personal and unique way.  Instead of simply reading about the Melbourne Horse Races in Australia, or even watching a short video about it, the stories on Snapchat allow viewers to get a 10-second glance of a person interacting with family, friends and the environment around them.

The Our Story feature allows people from all over the world learn about things they may not have known about beforehand.  For example, as a person who knows a lot about Mexican food but very little about the actual culture, tradition and celebrations, I didn’t know what Dia de los Muertos was until after seeing Snapchat’s live feed and Googling it myself.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Snapchat recently has added more stories with the introduction of “Our Campus Story,” which allows students to post pictures and videos on this feed.  Unlike the live feeds we see today, students who are actually on campus are the only ones who will be able to watch and post to this feed. This is a nice addition, but it still only shows us what we can already see from our friends.

The concept of a live feed has been a great start for Snapchat, especially in allowing millennials to collaborate and virtually interact with each other, but I hope the app develops this further, bringing in more events from different areas of the world such as countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, among other places. It would be extremely enlightening for American millennials to get a personal view of people their age recording videos on cultural celebrations.

Tamara Rasamny is a junior international relations and newspaper and online journalism dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at

Rasamny: Millennials should not wear offensive Halloween costumes

Originally published on The Daily Orange:

With Halloween in just two days, people are preparing to dress up in costumes, whether its sexy, funny, or in rare cases, actually scary. But when deciding on a last-minute costume, millennials should avoid wearing a controversial outfit that will likely end up being offensive.

We’ve seen these costumes before. Acting as a caricature for things such as a major event, race, socioeconomic class, and gender, these costumes try to make an extremely serious situation into a laughable matter. Because of the viral nature of the internet, a costume that seems funny to a group of friends could actually end up coming back to haunt them in the form of an embarrassing, offensive picture.

With the Ebola virus already affecting around 10,000 people, the Halloween costume of an Ebola health worker, or a “sexy Ebola nurse” is beyond inappropriate.  According to an Oct. 26 Daily Mail article, the costumes are being sold for almost $60, with separate lengthy yellow boots sold separately for $80.

The website selling these costumes even attempts to make it seem like these ‘outfits’ are a fashion statement. The website says, “The short dress and chic gas mask will be the talk of Milan, London, Paris, and New York as the world’s fashionistas seek global solutions to hazmat couture.”

Instead of being the talk of the town, anyone wearing that costume will be a mockery on social media.

For example, we still hear about two young women who thought their 9/11 costumes were hilarious. Last year, the women wore costumes that were labeled “North tower” and “South tower” with an American flag on their heads, clouds of smoke, fire, and even shadows of people jumping out of the buildings.

The fact that people even dressed this way––whether they were trying to make light out of a horrible event or not–– is completely insensitive for those who have a connection to the events on 9/11.

This costume fiasco wasn’t the only Halloween related incident that got the online and news world’s attention. Actress Julianne Hough, most commonly known for her role in “Dancing with the Stars” and “Safe Haven,” received a backlash for her “Orange is the New Black” costume, in which she dressed up as the character Crazy Eyes costume. As part of her costume, Hough wore blackface makeup. Donning blackface is a surefire way to make sure you don’t get a job after that picture is circulated on social media.

So this Halloween, before you pick an outfit that you think will result in a few laughs, lustful stares, or horrified screams, think about if your costume is offensive. If you’re unsure if people will think it’s funny, they probably won’t. They will, however, share your picture with the caption, “How not to dress for Halloween.”

Tamara Rasamny is a junior international relations and newspaper and online journalism dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at