Thursday, April 22, 2010

Students at the University of Connecticut do more than study, party and watch basketball. They engage in service, they volunteer and they help build the culture of UConn in a variety of ways.

Spring 2010



Singing becomes the music By Emily Abbate

Guard Dogs do not party By Kelsey Bongiovanni

Getting a Jumpstart By Jennifer Lewis

Riding solo By Jack Sullivan

Bringing art to a tennis court By Ellis Sant’Andrea


What happens when gossip goes on-line By Rachel Ardise

Sexual abstinence comes in a bag By Kelly Sullivan

Discovering the best morning wake-up By Stephanie Bousquet

Searching for Downtown Storrs By Perry Robbin


Finding King Arthur By Michael Peal

Finding hope in the night By Michelle Jarvis

Who needs Harry Potter By Michael Tidmarsh

These stories were written for Journalism 3013W, Magazine Writing, at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn. during the Spring 2010 semester under the guidance of Associate Professor Robertt Wyss. You can reach the instructor by email at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Singing becomes the music

By Emily Abbate

Every Wednesday evening after a long day of classes at the University of Connecticut Elkin Taveras eagerly climbs the three flights of stairs and strolls down the dimly lit hallways into room 219A of the Music Building.

Inside he finds a sense of family. Taveras is part of the UConn Conn-Men, an all-male a cappella group founded in 1999. And every week, ten guys get together to do something they all love, sing.
The Conn-Men are one of four a cappella groups on the UConn campus. Sharing the scene with Rubyfruit, A Completely Different Note, Extreme Measures and A-Minor, they describe a community of support.
“We all have the same passion,” said sophomore Cameron Haley. “And because of that, we all go to support each other because it’s something we enjoy.”
“I enjoy it because it’s a gateway,” said Taveras. “It’s a passage out from all the stress and monotonous things of college. Yeah, there are issues at times, but what group that is striving to be at top of their game isn’t going to have issues?”
There’s no doubt that they are on their way to the top. Recently, the group gained national recognition as one of the best college performance groups in the country by the Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA), a national group of a cappella singers and groups. Songs from the Conn-Men will be featured on the a capella society’s nationally distributed compilation CD, The Best of College A Cappella. CASA, formed to create a community between fans and singers, is also featuring A Completely Different Note on the album.
“I do a lot of other things on campus,” said freshman member Samuel Smith, who attends UConn on a full track scholarship. “But in terms of what I get out of it, nothing holds a candle to this. This is what I really love.”
For the members of the group, being in an a cappella group is much more than just singing. With a repertoire ranging from ‘80s and ‘90s pop-rock to today’s radio favorites, there’s a wide range of songs that bring different memories for each member. In fact, singing the songs has helped form a bond that goes beyond their college years.
“Every time we get someone in the group, the dynamic changes a little - but we stay the same. It’s kind of like a family,” said Taveras. “We’ll get together at a reunion in 20 years, and it’s going to be like seeing my brothers.”
Keene State, Smith College, Boston University and Penn State are some of the upcoming stops on their spring tour. And when they get into the car headed for a new destination, anticipation rises.

“There’s a lot more then just the concerts we perform at,” said Haley. “There’s the after parties and the journey to get there. We’re a tight close knit group of guys because of everything we’ve done together.”
“I wouldn’t trade being in this group and traveling to stay in and walk the rape trail, or to run around campus aimlessly at night,” said Taveras. “Those occasions have their time, and I think that as a member we come in here committed to doing something, and it’s that commitment that makes us who we are.”
For now, the members are working on the newest addition to their repertoire, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As the low bass tones harmonize with the soprano pitches - a smooth chord emerges from the ten guys in room 219.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guard Dogs Do Not Party

Kelsey Bongiovanni

It is a cold Saturday night in Storrs but inside the Carriage apartment the party goers are sweating. Katie and her friends gather by the keg, trying to figure out how to get home. They know they are too drunk to drive but the thought of walking home on the dark, curvy roads that are so characteristic of New England chills them. Katie pulls out her phone and dials a number.
“Guard Dogs,” the woman on the other end replies. “Where do you need a ride to and from?” she yells in order to be heard over the background noise from the other end. She does it without sounding upset. “Ok, someone will be there in 20 minutes.”
Guard Dogs is a non-judgmental ride home for University of Connecticut students and stands for “Giving UConn a Responsible Driver”. The program is entirely student run and over the past three years it has seen a staggering increase in volunteers. In 2007 Guard Dogs had only six members. But as of 2010, the program boasts over 250 members, 50 who volunteer on a regular basis and about 200 hundred who volunteer less frequently.
What drives these students to give up their weekend nights and shuttle around their drunken classmates? Some volunteers say its entertaining, others think it’s a good alternative to partying, but one contestant refrain is that Guard Dogs helps save lives and people want to be a part of that. “I feel like I am keeping my community safe,” Morgan Maneely, a 4th semester economic major who volunteers with Guard Dogs said, “If people don’t have a sober ride back to campus, they may result to drunk driving.”
Like Maneely, Caitlin Cuskley also likes keeping her community safe. When Cuskley came to Storrs as a freshman in 2006 she took a First Year Experience class that left her looking for an on-campus project to get involved with. When she came across Guard Dogs, which was still in it’s developmental stages, she wanted to be a part of it.
Guard Dogs was founded in 2006 by Rebecca Auger and Shawn Logue. It became a pilot program of the Undergraduate Student Government and receives a majority of its funding through USG, about $40,000 a semester.
Now four years later, Cuskley is the executive director of Guard Dogs and has watched the program grow since it first began.
The fun, laidback atmosphere of Guard Dogs helps to keep volunteers coming back each Friday and Saturday night. “I don’t sigh the nights I drive,” Cuskley said. “It’s a break from the normal party thing.”
The dramatic increase in volunteers over the last three years has created the ability to give more rides. Guard Dogs believes that every person driven home is a life saved and since the program started four years ago they have helped saved over 14,000.
It takes the driver a few minutes to reach the Carriage House apartments. Katie and her two friends sit in the back seat of one of the seven Guard Dogs vans. Insulated from the winter cold, they pull away from the party and head towards home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get a Jump Start on Helping Kids!

By Jennifer Lewis

It is mid-afternoon at Mansfield Discovery Depot School. Ten children ages two to four have been brought together to the Big Room to meet with their college student mentors. They are about to join in “circle time” by going over a story, a poem and an activity all based around a certain theme.
The participants are part of Jumpstart, a language and literacy program for underprivileged children. It is a full-year, 300-hour commitment that is formed on the basis of volunteer work and has proven to be successful for college students who want to be teachers.
Each Jumpstart program has multiple “teams” that go out and connect with local preschools. The teams are divided into 10 corps members and one team leader. The University of Connecticut is currently the only place in Connecticut that offers a Jumpstart program.
“I love the structure of it,” said Stephanie Cole, a 20-year-old human development and family studies major at UConn. “I love the interaction with the kids, staff and other corps members.”
Each corps member is assigned a “partner child,” at the same assigned school.
On this afternoon, once as they assemble in the Big Room, the team leader, James Wu-Ea, is watching over everything.
“Circle time” starts off the session, and each theme will last about eight sessions, over which they will read four different books. They read to the children and use vocabulary that the children may not be familiar with in order to enhance their reading capabilities. They then have “center time” in which there are different centers set up around the Big Room that the children can go to and perform certain activities. There is also a set-up called “Let’s Find out About It” where Wu-Ea discusses “various topics and subjects to help children explore the world.”
After center time, there is a quick snack time and then finally closing circle time. During each center or circle time, the members of Jumpstart are required to interact with the children by not only supervising the activities they do, but by asking thought provoking questions that get the children to think. For instance, if a child is drawing a spider web, a Jumpstart member may say, “Hey, are you going to draw a spider here? Will you draw other insects?” and so on.
“We want them to be in control of their day and to develop decision making skills,” Cole said.
Jumpstart is extremely beneficial for everyone involved, said Cole. Children apply to be in Jumpstart, and then the staff and Jumpstart program directors decide which kids would most benefit from the program. These kids will get extra help and attention, whether it be learning new or better skills or just having a friend, someone to talk to.
Teachers, like Melissa McManus, also love the program. “Jumpstart has made me realize that there are some really great programs out there for kids and that we are fortunate to have one at Mansfield Discovery Depot,” she said.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Riding Solo

By Jack Sullivan

When Nyle Blanck was in middle school, he stumbled across a strange object on eBay that he decided he must have.
Unlike any bike he had ever seen, this object had a single wheel directly attached to a seat by a simple frame. Blanck had discovered a unicycle.
Five years after his discovery, the unicycle has become Blanck’s passion. “While looking up videos online to learn to ride, I stumbled upon a video of a guy performing tricks at a skate park,” said Blanck. “I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever seen and decided I want to be as good as that guy.”
Now a second semester chemistry major at the University of Connecticut, Blanck is the founder and president of the Unicycle Club, where other students who share Blanck’s passion for this mysterious bike meet once a week to practice.
Blanck said that while it took him about a week to learn to ride consistently, after five years of riding, there is still room for improvement. He said that he can teach a beginner in roughly eight to 10 hours.
He said that as the club grows and becomes more experienced, they hope to put on shows around campus to show off their abilities.
“The possibilities are endless for a unicycle,” said Blanck. “I can jump onto a picnic table from the ground, ride by pushing the wheel instead of using the pedals, juggle while riding, jump and spin it under me, ride backwards, and many other tricks.”
The club currently has 24 members, and many have joined with no prior experience. They meet every Friday outside of Hicks Hall in East Campus. Blanck said that at the club, they teach new riders to ride consistently. Once they get the hang of it, they progress to jumping and tricks, depending on what they are interested in. They also go on rides around campus if enough members feel up to the task.
Blanck said that most people take up riding unicycles simply to be able to say they can do it. “It is a unique contraption the catches the eye of anybody anywhere,” said Blanck. “It is not something the average person sees everyday and many people are interested in trying it.”
According to Blanck, a beginner unicycle can cost anywhere from $30 to $150, and that his first unicycle from eBay cost $50. He said that the price increases as the material becomes lighter and stronger, and that a unicycle for an expert rider can cost up to $1,500.
And despite what conventional wisdom may suggest, Blanck said that riding a unicycle is actually not that dangerous. “When the rider is falling off, the person naturally puts their feet on the ground out of habit,” said Blanck. He said the only times he has hurt himself was while riding down stairs and riding off-road, and that riding on flat surfaces is safe.
“When you first learn to ride there is a rush of adrenaline when you realize you are actually riding on just one wheel,” said Blanck.
Anyone interested in learning to ride needs to have self-confidence, fearlessness, and persistence, according to Blanck. He said that many people give up after trying it a few times, and that he wishes everyone could know what it feels like to actually ride.
“It takes twice the man to ride half the bike,” said Blanck.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Students transform tennis courts into work of art

By Ellis Sant’Andrea

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, a desolate, gray tennis court at the University of Connecticut at Storrs came to life when 70 students, equipped with spray paint, stencils, guitars and skateboards, transformed the area into huge, vibrant canvases.

Cracks in the ground were outlined in neon colors, creating a glowing spider web effect. Images of imaginary creatures, goofy cartoon figures and graphic typography were plastered on the bottom half of the huge cement walls where, rarely, a tennis ball once bounced.
Now, any student is able to enter the area and paint whatever they would like anywhere in the space.
This is the work of LAVA, a group of UConn students who say they are determined to excite their campus like a wave of glowing molten rock pouring over a quiet landscape.
LAVA, which stands for Launching Activism Via Art, is headed by two art majors. Kaiti Archambault, an illustration and anthropology major, and Caitlin Yates who is studying painting and psychology, founded the group in the Fall 2009 semester.
When UConn’s student government wouldn’t fund groups with the chalk they needed to draw large advertisements outdoors, student leaders realized there was no club connecting arts and activism.
Yates went to Archambault and suggested they co-found LAVA. “Our brainstorming ideas just took off. We’ve been going ever since,” said Yates.
The tennis-court-to-canvas transformation is the group’s biggest project so far. A professional graffiti crew even showed up at the walls’ grand opening due to word of mouth. Three musical acts performed, and someone even made a human volcano costume.
The group also serves as a liaison for less artistically inclined student groups who need help making promotional materials.
LAVA puts out a zine to promote its upcoming events. They are “adorably constructed by our cheerful team of ziners and contain fold-out posters inside,” said Yates. You can find an issue in any of the main buildings on campus.
LAVA also planned a “Lava River Live” for the Spring semester and an open mic finale hosted by Long River Live. Other activities included a benefit show and screen printing demonstration at Hillel.
The meetings for LAVA take place in the Art Building Pit at 9 p.m. on Mondays.
“The space is for the use of the entire campus. We wanted to find an area where any student can express themselves freely,” said Archambault about the graffiti walls.
LAVA isn’t just composed of art majors, as one might assume. In fact, art majors are in LAVA’s minority.
“I think we’ve made more people get involved in the arts,” said Yates. “We’re composed of a very diverse group of majors…and we do art-related activities for the entire campus’s participation.”

Photos courtesy of Kaiti Archambault

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Juicy Campus and College ACB Push Gossip Boundries

By Rachel Ardise
Meredith Parker had been teased before, but never to this extent. She was urgently called into her friends room her junior year of college to see her name on the computer screen glaring back at her. A thread named “Meredith Parker, the real Greek Life bitch,” had been started on Juicy Campus.
New gossip sites like Juicy Campus and College ACB are a forum where students can anonymously post messages. They are heating up discussion among college campuses about privacy and free speech.
Parker, now a senior, was a victim of the site’s maliciousness. She says that posts contained “degrading stuff about the dirty things that they wanted to do with me sexually. Others saying horrible stuff about how I am apparently a terrible person, a slut, and deserving of being beaten by my boyfriend.”
Juicy Campus has come under the microscope of Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal. In a press release he stated that his office has contacted this website “to determine whether it adheres to its promised bar on abusive, libelous and defamatory postings. Our investigation reveals that such postings are prevalent and pervasive in flagrant violation of the site's promise to prohibit such activity. Allowing anonymous postings without effective anti-abuse mechanisms invites inflammatory and hateful comments.” By doing so, he hopes that he will compel owners to enforce their own rules.
In an article by the Daily Nexus, a student-run newspaper from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Juicy Campus owner Matt Ivester says that nowhere in the “terms and conditions” does it state that there is any content screening. In addition, he said he is protected by constitutional first amendment rights, federal law and court decisions which exempt such websites from content generated by a third party.
However, Juicy Campus shut down in February, 2009 Juicy. In its press release, company officials stated they closed for financial reasons. They then started to direct their traffic to another gossip site, College ACB.
College ACB has stated that if students found a post offensive, they could write in and it could possibly be taken down. Parker says she tried to get posts removed from Juicy Campus to no avail and College ACB gave her a difficult time until she threatened a lawsuit. She was able to get information directly targeting her taken down, but other comments about allegedly being “bitchy” or “slutty,” have been ignored.
Owner Peter Frank was asked to comment but did not respond.
Some college students have begun to organize efforts against these websites. UConn students in particular have started an advocacy group called UNITE that talks about the effects of sites like these and what we can do to stop them. Tennessee State University has blocked the site from its internet access server.
Gabrielle Greenlee was the UConn Panhellenic president the year these sites first started to become popular. She says that although UConn was not successful in blocking the sites completely, some members of the university did monitor them as best they could. Also, conversations were held with Greek Life and the UConn community as a whole about how hurtful such comments can be.
Website defenders say that these sites make for light-hearted gossip. University of Connecticut sophomore Sarah Gerber says she goes on the site from time to time just to see what people say. “I think it’s funny. No one should actually take that stuff seriously.”
Not everyone is amused. Parker says, “The fact that someone would sit on their computer and write nasty things about another person is just something that is sad. No one, no matter what they have done, deserves to be on that site.”

Sexual Abstinence Comes in a Bag

Abstinence kits fly off the shelf here at the University of Connecticut.

"They were like hot cakes," said health education office coordinator Joleen Nevers.

The kits contain things like bubbles, puzzles, a nutrition bar and a list of ways to make love with someone without having intercourse.

Nevers initiated the abstinence kits at the education office after forming a focus group of students who were abstaining from sex. The group, though not representative of the whole campus, didn't seem to want or need a group formed specifically for abstaining students, but they did want some type of a support system.

"If that was the case, the office would gladly offer help, support and resources," said Nevers.

To do this, the health education office introduced abstinence kits, which are put together by students who work in the health education office. The kits are extremely popular, but their popularity is not representative of students abstaining from sex until marriage; religion is usually assumed to be the reason for abstaining.

"It may just be that they don't have a partner they want to express themselves with yet or that they want to focus on school. We have found that the majority of [abstaining] students have said they just don't want to have sex yet," said Nevers.

Hundreds of abstinence kits are stacked in the office, next to stacks of boxes of condoms and flavored lubricants. The health education office also supports students who choose to be sexually active. These students can come into the office and receive a free goodie bag of male or female condoms, dental dams and lube.

The health education office not only provides students with these preventative measures for free, it also offers programs educating students in safer sex, such as the Rubberwear program.

"The Rubberwear program is mostly for freshman; we promote safe sex and safer sexuality so we teach how to put on male and female condoms. Many freshmen come into college not knowing how to properly use them," said Danielle Cooney, a junior at UConn.

Cooney is a sexpert, which is a title given to students employed and specdially trained by the health education office in safe sexual methods and stress management. Sexperts, along with health education office staff members, provide programs such as Rubberwear by going to dorms or making themselves available at a table during campus events.

Another program offered is "Sex Jeopardy," which takes place during a First Year Experience (FYE) class. The program must be requested by the instructor and is set up like Jeopardy; the class is split into teams and questions are about sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex methods.

These programs help educate students on safer sex and their sexuality while letting them know there are resources available to them.

"We have a presence on campus so students know we're available to them," said Nevers.

"Because everyone's a sexual being, whether they choose to express it or not."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Let's Spoon

By Stephanie Bousquet
It’s a Sunday morning and the only thing getting many University of Connecticut students out of their warm beds is the thought of fluffy pancakes and fresh eggs at the Wooden Spoon Restaurant.
Serving breakfast and lunch daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Wooden Spoon is the closest thing to a home-cooked meal for many hungry college students. Located on Route 44 in Ashford, it offers old-fashioned customer service, affordable prices, and enormous portions, all things a college student can appreciate.
Owners Jean and Michelle Martin said they never anticipated their restaurant would have so much success. They opened the Wooden Spoon seven years ago when they realized there was nowhere to get a decent breakfast in the area. Business has been thriving ever since. Pleasing the customer has always been the restaurant’s top priority, according to the Martins.
“We know without customers we wouldn’t get a paycheck, so we make sure nobody leaves here unhappy,” said Jean Martin.
According to Jean Martin, the majority of their business comes from regular customers, like Natalie Curran, an out-of-state UConn student.
“My friends and I won’t usually travel far for food, but the ten-minute drive to breakfast is more than worth it,” said Curran, who makes her veggie-omelet breakfasts at the Wooden Spoon a weekly tradition.
As Curran and her four roommates pull into the crowded parking lot early Sunday morning, they don’t even flinch at sight of the hungry customers flooding the restaurant doorway. With only 15 small tables and a loyal following of students and locals, the restaurant always fills up fast. However, none of the girls in the car seem to have any complaints about having to wait in line for their favorite breakfast.
Inside the restaurant, waitresses move quickly from table to table, carrying large trays stacked high with breakfast orders and refilling empty coffee mugs. Within minutes, the groups of girls are seated at a red-leather booth in the corner. As the smell of warm pancakes and maple syrup fills the air, the girls erupt into a conversation about what to order. The waitress comes to take drink orders just as the girls are discussing the day’s specials, which include banana oatmeal pancakes and a grilled chicken and egg breakfast sandwich cleverly titled “Which Came First”.
The hardest part is deciding what to eat, according to the girls. Some of the most popular items are the plate-sized pancakes, omelets made to order, and the egg sandwiches. Along with their great selection of daily specials, every meal is served with a side of homefries cooked to order. It takes about ten minutes for the roommates to finalize their breakfast choices, which range from chocolate chip pancakes to eggs benedict.
“I order something a little different every time I come here and I am yet to have something I didn’t like,” said Angela Cillo, UConn senior, who decided to give the banana oatmeal pancakes a try.
Although there isn’t an empty seat in the restaurant, the women only wait about ten minutes for their breakfast. All at once, they perk up as they spy the waitress heading in their direction with a try full of food.
“When I’m hungry, I hate waiting,” said Darren Aldrich, a UConn student sitting at a nearby table. “That’s why my favorite part of the Wooden Spoon is their fast service…I’ve never had to wait more than fifteen minutes for a meal.”
Chatter at the girls’ table completely ceases once the food arrives. The table is full of every different type of breakfast food you could imagine. Hands start flying in every direction as the girls motion for the endless condiments around the table. Without hesitation, the girls dig in.
Fifteen minutes later, the only girl still eating at the table puts down her fork and slowly leans back in her seat. Around the booth, all the girls are smiling and look like they are ready for a mid-morning nap. The check arrives but even this doesn’t put a damper on their post-breakfast bliss. Including a generous tip, the bill for the five of them is still less than $50. The girls take their final sips of their coffee and prepare to head back to UConn.
“Next weekend, I’m getting the French toast that little boy is eating,” said Curran as she held the door on her way out.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Searching for Downtown Storrs

By Perry Robbin

There are over 20,000 University of Connecticut students in Storrs, thousands of faculty and staff, and over a thousand students at nearby E.O. Smith High School, across Route 195 from Mansfield’s downtown. Many do not have easy access to a car, but most students find the current downtown underwhelming.
The Mansfield Downtown Partnership (MDP), representing interests from UConn and the town, plans to revitalize the area with Storrs Center, a mixed-use town square with business and infrastructure improvements. Yet despite years of planning, $18 million in grants and businesses signing up for the new storefronts, there has been little physical progress downtown.
Seven students were recently interviewed on how they felt about the downtown area. Three lived next to the downtown in Buckley residence hall in their freshman year and the juniors all spent two years on campus. They all now live off-campus.
The group as a whole said they weren’t overwhelmed when they first saw downtown Mansfield, although most said they like the plazas anchored by Starbucks and Friendly’s, south of the Store 24 building. These two plazas operate near full capacity and will remain when Storrs Center is built.
Similarly, none of them were particularly impressed by the physical appearance of the area, least of all the Store 24 building. Shannon Wright said the building is “grimy,” while Mike Segelka said it looks “ratty.”
Variety was a big concern. Matt Wisnesky said he spends too much on groceries because, lacking a car, he is forced to buy them at convenience store prices. Wright and Pearce Kisby said they would like a grocery store as well, while Nick Horvath wants a big box store. There hasn’t been a grocery store in the area since the 1970’s.
Many said they would like to see more entertainment in the area. Cegelka and Nick Horvath both specifically mentioned a sports bar, and Wright and Tyler Wagoner said a bar would draw them to the area as well. There was a bar beneath Store 24 decades ago that was large enough to host bands and entertainment, that space is still vacant. Tequila Cove was a popular destination for students in the downtown, but was closed due to code violations in 2007.
“[I want] a bar where you can get a real glass of beer,” Kisby said.
Parking was a common concern. Brian Keenan, Wright and Kisby all said the parking situation downtown is poor. Wisnesky and Kisby also bemoaned the state of the pavement, saying it wasn’t good to drive, or even skateboard, on. Storrs Center will expand parking in the area with a multi-level parking garage, but the cost will be passed on to business owners and customers.
The feelings of this group of students mesh with many of the important concepts that will differentiate Storrs Center from the current downtown. A diverse selection of shops and food, along with a general mixed-use theme, and increased, improved parking are big parts of the Storrs Center idea.
Storrs Center will likely be an upgrade over the current state of downtown Mansfield and provide a lot of things that are missing from it. When the changes will actually come is the concern.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Love to LARP

By Mike Peal

When the weather warms, students at the University of Connecticut are treated to a unique scene next to Homer Babbidge Library: their fellow students dueling as if straight out of the middle ages.

The medieval combat is fencing, “American Gladiators,” and Camelot combined, and the result is a whirlwind of color, noise and twirling limbs combining to create a scene straight out of “King Arthur.”

Since 2004, the Society for Medieval Arts and Combat at the University of Connecticut has allowed students to embrace their inner knight.

The society was inspired by a similar club at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass. There, Jason Rosa, founder of the UConn chapter, joined the club as an undergraduate. Later, Rosa moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, enrolled at UConn and created the society.

The society practices “The Realms,” a “live action roleplaying” game (commonly referred to as LARPing) that can only be described as “Dungeons and Dragons” come to life. The society practices “boffing,” a model of medieval combat complete with swords, shields and bows and arrows made out of wood, fiberglass, foam and duct tape for safety. Players aim to strike an opponent with the weapons’ safe tips until they are pronounced dead.
Far from a mere novelty, boffing follows an intricate hit-point system depending on where a person is struck. For example, if a player is hit in the right leg with a sword, the player can no longer use that leg and is forced to hop on one foot.

While the initial goal was to imitate the club in Worcester, Rosa said the UConn chapter “quickly took on a life and culture of its own.” For one, the society extends its reach beyond UConn and attracts players throughout New England.

“It's one of the most diverse groups in New England. It gets people from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on a weekly basis,” said Josh Learned, 26, who drives from Ludlow, Mass. to attend UConn practices. “It’s become one of the deepest pools for bringing in new, young and interested players.”

Furthermore, the society stresses a close community among its members. The club meets for dinner before every practice, holds workshops for members to hone their weapon-crafting skills – how to wrap weapons for safety, how to sculpt a shield or how to customize with colors and logos – and gathers for monthly board game nights. On weekends the club travels together to renaissance fairs and Realms tournaments throughout New England, where they can dress in medieval garb.

“My best friends at UConn are from SMAC,” said Alysha Metcalf, a UConn senior. “It is a wonderful community where I’ve met some of the most interesting people I could ever imagine.”

Rosa, now a UConn alum, said he takes a great deal of pride in the social aspect of the group – something he had not expected from a medieval sparring club.

“The people at this campus are a lot more down to earth than the one in Worcester,” Rosa said. “I mean we are LARPing, and that is nerdy, but it is intrinsically less nerdy here at UConn. Since its inception the club has become a lot more of a social group than I had first imagined it being.”

UConn Community Rallies to Fight Sexual Violence

By Michelle Jarvis

Caely Flynn attended her first rally two years ago at the University of Connecticut and is now the coordinator of a purposeful mob that strides through campus annually, carrying signs and chanting.
This is not a celebratory mass reacting to the latest athletic victory; this is Take Back the Night.
What began as a personal whim for Flynn has transformed into a cause. “I can say with total confidence that Take Back the Night absolutely spearheaded my feminist activism. It has been such a major part of my time here at UConn,” Flynn explained.
Every spring, hundreds of students and faculty, men and women, take to the streets to Take Back the Night. Last year alone there was an estimated 300 participants, according to Kerri Brown, student and University of Connecticut Women’s Center employee.
The candlelight march is in conjunction with the annual, nationwide event to raise awareness about violence against women. While the march is about this larger problem, the personal stories of survivors are really what touched Flynn.
“I saw four of my friends go up on that stage and tell their story. I had no idea. I couldn’t believe I didn’t see anything beneath the surface that would let me know what happened to them,” said Flynn.
The magnitude of the problem hit home even more the following year when Flynn saw even more of her friends stand up and tell about living as survivors of violence.
The proof of the dimension of the problem is in the numbers: one in four women will be the victim of assault or attempted assault by the time she graduates college, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
According to the TBTN foundation, the first Take back the night occurred in association with the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women which took place in Brussels in 1976. The tribunal was attended by over 2,000 women from 40 countries. A candlelight procession occurred after, sparking the annual gathering of survivors, friends, and activists.
At UConn, the event is coordinated by the Violence Against Women Prevention Program. The activist organization, which is run through the Women’s Center, seeks to prevent “all forms of sexual violence through education, outreach, and advocacy,” according to its website.
The march, which in 2010 was scheduled for April 21st, attracts a crowd of friends and strangers. However as Flynn explains, “That stranger and myself are no longer strangers because we have that shared experience. Having that solidarity with individuals who are willing to recognize sexual assault as a huge issue is very moving.”
One of Flynn’s friends who had never attended, planned on going this year in part due to Flynn’s enthusiasm for the cause. “I had wanted to go last year but just needed that extra push. You can’t not be influenced by Caely, she’s such a positive influence,” said Natalie Bajorin, a UConn student.
Flynn encourages everyone to attend the event, men and women. “Sexual assault greatly hurts men too…who wants to be perceived as a threat?” said Flynn.
Matthew Pellowski, a student and a feminist, planned to attend because “I see rape as a form of oppression, every time a male commits that heinous crime, he also serves to instill fear in women everywhere in their own communities.”
However, those closest to Take Back the Night realize that work still needs to be done. “We have made great strides,” says the TBTN foundation, “but our march is far from over.”

Muggles Unite

Michael Tidmarsh

Imagine hundreds of teams of muggles at the University of Connecticut battling it out with broomsticks in hand, balls, and hoops and even a designated player to be the “snitch.”
Quidditch has come to UConn
Quidditch is the game remembered by many Harry Potter fans as the game of high-flying action through the skies on broomsticks. On April 11th, students were scheduled to use their wizard skills before fans on UConn’s campus.
“For Harry Potter fans, this is a dream come true”, said Andrew Taylor, Student Union Board of Governors member who created the local Quidditch tournament.
Quidditch was founded in Vermont at Middlebury College, and over 200 colleges across the United States participate in the event. In 2006, Middlebury hosted the Quidditch World Cup. Games have been featured in USA Today and broadcasted by CBS sports.
Even though students aren’t flying in the blue sky like Harry Potter and his friends, they will battle it out on playing fields to determine the Quidditch champion.
During Muggle Quidditch, eight players are on the field in a variety of positions including: chasers, keepers, beaters, and seekers. Hula hoops are used as the goals while volleyballs, basketballs, and dodge balls are used as Quaffles and nerf and waffle balls serves as Bludgers. The ‘Golden Snitch’ is deployed at various times throughout the match. Chasers must track down the snitch for the game to be over.
Throughout the match, Chasers pass the Quaffles and score points through the goals. Each team has a goalie or a ‘keeper’ to prevent the Chasers from scoring. Beaters are the team’s defensemen, hitting the team’s opposing Chasers and protecting their own. Seekers continue to track down the ‘golden snitch’. If the snitch is caught, the game is over.
Since Quidditch has become a national phenomenon at various universities, some UConn students were delighted to hear that it was coming to their campus. Said Lizzy Anderson, a UConn sophomore and avid Harry Potter fan: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the sign for the tournament. I’ve been reading Harry Potter since middle school and it’s awesome to see the book come alive at UConn.”
Anderson said her friends were also overwhelmed at the thought Quidditch would be coming to the campus. “Four or five of my friends wanted to sign up immediately to play. We couldn’t hold in our excitement any longer,” she said.
Taylor was confident the event would be a resounding success. “With how many Harry Potter fans out there and the number of teams in the tournament, I believe the tournament will be a great success for UConn and its community”, he said.