A call for clean water

Consistent water problems spark the idea that the water systems on campus are outdated. Sonoma State University continues to issue proper safety precautions to provide safe drinking water to its 11,000 students, staff, and faculty.

Over the past few years Sonoma State has sent out numerous emails, cautioning people to not drink and cook with the water that the school provides in fountains and kitchen sinks due to a possible contamination to their well system. Specifically last spring semester members of Sonoma State that lived on campus were put into a tough spot when they were told to not drink the water for the “48 hour period.”

Supposedly the possible contamination was caused by a drop in water pressure. Therefore, the school had to run multiple tests that took “48 hours” to receive results and send out advisory emails. 

Unfortunately, members of the Sonoma State community have also received emails in the past, such as the one on Nov. 5, 2018 stating, “Due to a water line break and a valve malfunction this morning, significant parts of the campus experienced reduced water pressure or no water service. Crews have corrected the problem, and all water service has been restored.” 

There were no further emails sent advising students that tests were going to be conducted or that the water should be boiled before consuming even though there was “reduced water pressure.” Therefore, the 11,000 members that consumed Sonoma State’s water could very easily have been exposed to harmful contaminants and bacteria.

The emails were very contradictory in the sense that they advise everyone that it is safe to wash their hands and bathe with the tap water, but to also sanitize immediately after doing so. If one cannot wash their hands without using sanitizer afterwards, they probably should not be using the water at all.

Water contamination can cause severe health problems including neurological disorders, reproductive issues, and gastrointestinal illness. 

For such extreme possible side effects there should also be extreme precautionary measures taken in order to avoid and prevent water contamination.

The emails being sent out are untimely and usually sent after a majority of the people on campus have already consumed the possibly contaminated water. Sonoma State University should be sending out text message alerts immediately to ensure the safety of the students, staff, and faculty. 

The safety and health of the community should be the University’s number one priority. Instead, the members of this campus receive emails such as, “Yesterday I sent you an email where I shared three options to protect yourself during this ‘Boil Water Advisory’ - one of which was that it was ok to ‘use a Brita filter or other water purifying device.’  When I initially received information about the Advisory, I was informed a filter would suffice due to what we understood at the time about the quality of water on campus.  Since I received that tip about the filter, additional information was made available stating filtered water should still be boiled – which you received by email from the university.  Please accept an apology from myself and my supervisors for what I shared with you being outdated.”

Sadly, not only was the information outdated but so were the water bottles students received from the University. 

Sonoma State offered a measly one water bottle per student during this 48 hour testing period. The water bottles had an expiration date of Jun. 19, 2013. They claim that water bottle expiration dates are for quality not safety. While the water doesn’t go bad the plastic that incapsulates it does. The chemicals in the plastic will start seeping into the water once the expiration date has been surpassed. Sonoma State University is extremely unprepared for an issue in well contamination that  has been going on for years.

In a 2002 water assessment consumer report, “Wells #3 and #4 were identified as being vulnerable to contamination from sewage collection systems.” 

After receiving emails that provide inactive links and documentation that says it is from 2018 but provides data from 2002, it is safe to speculate that Sonoma State’s well system could possibly be deteriorating and outdated. 

The students, staff, and faculty at Sonoma State University deserve honesty and a reliable drinking source. There have been too many valve malfunctions, drops in water pressure, and line breaks over the past few years. It is time Sonoma State prioritizes the safety of the community and takes responsibility by making a change to their well system. Perhaps, some of the money students pay to have clean water should be used to make any updates and repairs that the water system needs.

Uptick in crimes calls for better security

Two of the most important feelings to have on a college campus are ones of safety and security. With the stress of midterms, essays, and work, students and faculty should not have to worry about their cars getting meddled with or walking in the parking lots at night. Unfortunately, Sonoma State University lacks functioning cameras in many of the parking lots and main spaces of campus. This, in turn, seems to have resulted in some issues that make Seawolves wonder how secure their campus really is.

Most recently, Sonoma State has had an issue with catalytic converters being stolen from cars in campus lots. Three separate theft reports regarding catalytic converters were reported on Fri., Aug. 23 through Sat., Aug. 24. In all three instances the car was a Toyota Prius. A Crime Prevention Information Bulletin email was sent Aug. 27 but for three days owners of Toyota Priuses were potentially unaware of the possible danger. 

It is times like these where people begin to wish Sonoma State had cameras in more areas on campus. Without these eyes in the sky, there is little to deter thieves from stealing and finding the culprit is made more difficult. It would be helpful to have cameras in spaces where crime is most likely to happen

While the catalytic converter theft is concerning in and of itself, it is not just the catalytic converters that have been stolen.

A plethora of students have had unpleasant experiences ranging from clothes being stolen or moved from the laundry room to skateboards being taken from various locations. The parking lots are not the only places where cameras are needed, but in several spaces around the school. The university has too many blind spots for its own good, and theft is just one of a litany of potential problems that a lack of cameras may pose.

If a car bumps into another car in a school parking lot there are not many ways to hold the driver accountable. Students that have to walk home to their dorms don’t have the security of knowing there are cameras to disincentivize crime. Vandalizing other dorms is made easier by the fact that there are few cameras around village lots. Cameras may help discourage people from attempting illegal activity and act as a helpful resource in discovering who is committing the crimes that occur.

Camera use could be beneficial in solving crimes but that is not their only function. The device’s very presence gives students a better sense of wellbeing and hope. A camera may not stop a thief from stealing a car, but they can give a helpful clue that leads police to the perpetrator. Students could rest a little bit easier when they leave their cars alone that if something happens to their vehicles University Police have access to video that can help catch the person. The peace of mind that a camera brings could be a huge relief to students.

Universities are responsible for the safety of their students. An extra tool could be useful in preventing campus crime and give Seawolves a feeling of protection over their belongings and themselves. While the school lacks cameras around campus we will have to be even more careful with our personal possesions to ensure that there arent any unwelcomed surprises.

Upsetting Netflix drama filmed on campus

The summer of 2019 brought Sonoma State University many things--a record heatwave, fire warnings, and the filming of 13 Reasons Why on campus. The controversial but ever-popular show transformed SSU into Sanderson University, with no Lobo or Bismarck in sight. Though students were excited to see their school on their laptop screens, many were frustrated and confused as to why SSU was chosen as the location of filming.

13 Reasons Why is a show following Clay, a teen, who finds explanations of why his classmate Hannah committed suicide. The series is based on a novel that was just as graphic and glorifying as the show. Even with trigger warnings and some now deleted scenes, the series still involves graphic depictions of suicide, self harm and rape. Many incidences of teenage suicide were noted to be inspired by the series, however scenes were only recently deleted, after years of being seen and accesible for anyone with a Netflix account. 

 According to CNN, the rates of suicide among young males went up nearly 29% in the month after the show premiered. 13 Reasons Why is notable for its romanticization of depression and self harm. Some critics say it’s an important show to have since it talks about tough issues while others note that the series does nothing to actually inform watchers of the warning signs, what to do if a friend is suicidal and so forth. Along with this 13 Reasons Why suggests that suicide is a solution to a temporary issue, can be used as revenge on bullies, or that the act should be blamed on others, when mental illness is the cause of suicide and self harm. Showing these scenes and this storyline will only lead to young people in a bad mindset to perhaps copy what Hannah did-- whether that be for revenge, out of impulse or to blame others. 

FOX reports that two families of young females who committed suicide blamed 13 Reasons Why for its triggering and upsetting scenes. Peter Chiu, an uncle of one of the females, told Fox reporters, “I feel it’s dangerous for that small percentage of young adults...the show gives only one alternative for cyber bullying and other teenage issues.”

Sonoma State has been known for its small and inviting campus, but that doesn’t mean that the school provides a high standard of mental health care in many students’ eyes. With previous issues regarding the lack of funding for CAPS and giving students a limited amount of therapy space or time, filming this show here can almost feel like a slap in the face.  

The transformation of the school left many students questioning why SSU was using their $30,000 dollars in filming funds to power wash bacon and eggs rather than put it towards improving CAPS. Some even thought that Sonoma was forgetting its morals and ethics in regards to such a distressing show for the money and exposure. A new sign has been spotted on campus, buildings are spotless and freshly painted--but these things only happened because of the filming, not just because SSU wants to improve its look and cleanliness for its own students. The university said, according to the Press Democrat, “it will put the funds toward educational programs — particularly around issues like suicide and school shootings.”

Educational programs are great for awareness and bringing light to situations others might be going through--but education isn’t going to give someone with a mental health issue ways to heal or cope. Allowing a TV show that romantizes depression and self harm on campus may remind the 1 in 5 students that contemplate suicide because of school stress in the US that SSU may not be as ethical as it seems.

New Title IX rules protect institutions, not students

New proposed guidelines for Title IX focus on protecting institutions, but leave students without resources. 

The Department of Education is changing the rules surrounding sexual assault on college campuses to protect the accused and reduce college’s liability. 

The definition of sexual assault is being changed. Now, schools will only be accountable for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses.

These new Title IX guidelines are a step in the wrong direction at a time when progress needs to be made.

A vast majority of rapes aren’t filed through the proper authorities. 

This is seen at Sonoma State. Ten rapes were reported to the university last year, but hundreds of people reported a history of sexual assault when they visited Counseling and Psychological Services. 

For many reasons, it is difficult for sexual assault survivors to come forward. Whether they know the perpetrator, are afraid of being believed or just want to move on, there are plenty of reasons why someone might not go through the proper channels to report their sexual assault. 

To compensate for the fear sexual assault victims face, colleges need to be proactive in finding the sexual assaulters and removing them from the university. The responsibility can’t fall solely on the victim.

Only holding a college responsible for sexual assaults that occur on campus allows for rapes that are reported as off-campus to be swept under the rug.  Only 37 percent of Sonoma State students live on campus.

 A student is still a student even when they leave Sonoma State property. Just because a student lives off campus doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to the same resources that students who live on campus do.

 Universities should be held responsible for sexual assaults off campus too, especially if they involve a student perpetrator and student victim. The culture of Sonoma State doesn’t end where its property does--it extends across Rohnert Park and Cotati, into the neighborhoods where most of its students live.

This new set of guidelines also redefines sexual misconduct and only condemns severe, pervasive and objectively offensive sexual misconduct. This narrow definition would allow for administration to overlook Title IX violations if they do not believe it to meet this new criteria. This will impact those who work, teach and attend Sonoma State. 

Another issue with the new guidelines are that they create a new rule that calls for cross-examination of sexual assault victims. Although this wasn’t previously outlawed, it’s frowned upon due to the potentially traumatic problems associated with questioning an alleged sexual assault victim by asking them to relive their assault. The new rules explains that attorneys must be allowed to submit questions on their behalf for the alleged victim or accused to answer. 

These new rules let colleges off the hook for sexual assault. Laws are needed to force colleges to be proactive in preventing sexual assaults, or else they will do the bare minimum.

Eleven percent of students are sexually assaulted in college, according to the Department of Justice. This is an epidemic of dramatic proportions, and these new rules will only make it worse.

SSU should notify students of all campus rapes

Sonoma State may be able to scrape by the letter of the law with minimal campus-wide communication on sexual assaults and rapes, but it would be false to say that Sonoma State is making student safety its highest priority.    
     The Sonoma State STAR first began investigating rapes that occurred on campus after the 2018 Annual Security Report was released by Sonoma State this October.

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