May 23, 2008

NEWS: Hodge Conjecture

No, the math problem known as the Hodge Conjecture hasn't been answered but conjecture about Benjamin Hodge, Johnson County Community College trustee, has been.

Hodge announced May 22 his intention to run for Kansas State Senate in Johnson County's 8th district. Hodge resigned his seat in the Kansas House as 49th district representative at the end of the veto session earlier this year.

Many speculated Hodge would run against Democratic incumbent Sue Storm for the 22nd district representative seat in the House. Yet Hodge's announcement has him seeking the seat of Barbra Allen, Republican, who will not run for reelection.

According to Hodge's press release, he intends to file today but as of 7 pm, the Johnson County election webpage failed to list him. The Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz reports that three other Republicans are considering vying for the seat as well.

Part of Hodge's platform focuses on taxpayer lobbyists.

"All across the state, government bodies hire lobbyists at taxpayer expense," Hodge said in the release. "These lobbyists then work against the interests of taxpayers. This practice needs to stop."

However, the JCCC Board of Trustees employs a lobbyist for Johnson County Community College.

Read Hodge's announcement here.

May 16, 2008

NEWS: Evacuation


University of Missouri -- Kansas City campus police evacuated the University Center when a graffiti threat was identified. Local station KMBC reports the graffiti read: On May 15th, you can be a hero or you can be dead.

According to the report, campus police determined the threat had no credibility so the University Center reopened an hour later.

May 15, 2008

NEWS: Graffiti Update

Student says college's call for 'extra sets of eyes' put him in security's focus

Bartholomew Klick, a student at Johnson County Community College and former reporter for The Campus Ledger, stepped forward as the student who reported the latest graffiti incident.

According to Klick's blog the college's public safety officers questioned him in a rather aggressive manner.
The school gestapo came after I reported it and collected all of my personal info. I have nothing to hide and no real reluctance about answering questions such as, "Where do you live?" and "what is your phone number?" -- but I can't help feel like they had no real reason to ask me about that and not bother to ask me questions relevant to the issue.
Klick said he understood the concern but wondered if the manner of questioning might dissuade him and others from reporting similar incidents in the future.

May 7 a posting on the college's electronic mail server, Infolist asked for volunteers to act as "extra sets of eyes" to help catch the person or persons responsible for the threats.
Read the post here.

BREAKING NEWS: Coaches Quit

Cameron Fletcher, sports editor for The Campus Ledger, is reporting on his blog that three head coaches at Johnson County Community College have stepped down from their positions.

Details are sketchy but according to Fletcher's post the three coaches are:

Debbie Carrier, head coach of Women's Basketball

From Carrier's Bio:


Head coach Debbie Carrier has built a program at Johnson County Community College that has catapulted the program into the national spotlight as annual contender for the NJCAA Division II title, and a consistent top-15 nationally ranked program in the NJCAA coaches poll.

The 2007-08 season was another impressive campaign for the all-time winningest coach in JCCC history. Carrier has led this year’s team to a school record 28 wins, and along the way her team won its ninth straight Region VI title, sixth District B championship, made sixth appearance in the NJCAA D-II National Tournament, finished fourth in the final coaches poll, and fifth in the National Tournament. Read the rest of her bio here.

Jill Stinson, head coach of Volleyball

From Stinson's bio:

From the outset, it was evident Stinson would carry on the tradition while establishing a legacy of her own. Johnson County raced out of the gate her first season with a school record 13 straight wins, breaking a 15-year mark. That fast start also helped JCCC receive a top-20 national ranking. Her team went on to capture a school and conference record eighth consecutive conference championship. That string was extended to 10 straight years. In 2003, Stinson again led JCCC to a conference title, but added region and district titles as well, and a ninth-place finish in the NJCAA D-II Tournament. It was JCCC’s first national tournament appearance in 20 years. Read the rest of her bio here.

Joe Weis, head coach men's and women's track

From Weis' bio:


Since taking the reins of the track and field program at Johnson County Community College, Joe Weis has found tremendous success. As he enters his sixth year at the helm, Weis, his staff and his teams continue to establish their marks in the lore of Cavalier history, shattering school records and adding numerous All-Americans to the illustrious luminaries of JCCC’s storied past. Judging by his results, both as a coach and as an athlete, this path looks to continue into the future. Read the rest of his bio here.

May 14, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Threats Continue

Danger or Diversion?
Campus wonders if graffiti threats foretell violence or are tactics to disrupt finals

A Johnson County Community College student discovered another graffiti threat last night in the Billington Library.

According to a posting on the college's electronic server dedicated to the library staff, the threat mentioned a specific date -- May 15.

"Just to let everyone know, last night a student reported another incident of graffiti in the first floor men’s restroom," the posting reads. "Apparently the graffiti mentioned May 15 as a specific date."

The post added that the Department of Public Safety documented the threat and to talked to the student who reported the incident.

In an April 30 posting to another of the college's electronic mail servers, Infolist, Terry Calaway, president of JCCC, said the campus community has no reason for alarm.

"The most likely motivation for these actions is to cause turmoil rather than to perpetrate an actual act of violence," he said. "However, a positive effect of such a situation is that it raises awareness. This is a stressful time of year for all of us." Read the full posting here.

The Campus Ledger reported the college's response to previous graffiti threats.
Threats of violence on campus are being combated with awareness.

The evening of April 23, an adjunct professor discovered graffiti in a stall of the men’s restroom on the second floor of GEB. It threatened violent acts on campus in May.

The following Monday, April 28, a similar incident of graffiti was reported to be found in the men’s bathroom on the second floor of the Science Building.

Terry Calaway, college president, said, “We do not feel that there is any reason for alarm or worry. This is most likely someone trying to cause panic.” Read The Ledger story here.
A week later, another posting on Infolist called for volunteers to report additional instances of graffiti. Read the full posting here.

That same day Calaway addressed the graffiti incidents during a town hall meeting. He said no specifics were given nor were any specific groups targeted. He added that Overland Park police reported similar incidents at area high schools and attributed them to students wanting to get out of class. Read the Town Hall notes here

The two occurrences incidents reported by The Ledger and the one in the latest incident in library all appeared in men's restrooms. A previous threat appeared in the library women's restroom in February. Read that account here.

May 13, 2008

COMMENTARY: Tales of Two Students

Walking on the Ledge: Student Life
Sometimes the best thing a college can provide is stability


Thor Nystrum stands in the parking lot where a fight in 2003 triggered a breakdown that resulted in Nystrum begging a police officer to kill him. "Shoot me in the head. No one has to know," he begged. Photo by Rachel Seymore, courtesy of The Daily Kansan

Johnson County Community College plays a part in two recent stories focusing on students struggling with life challenges.


Current student, Cali Senkpeil, finds herself trying to keep her family together in The Kansas City Star's "Neighbors come to aid of brother and sister who lost parents."

Cali Senkpiel spent the past two weeks gaining custody of her younger brother, John Christian, and then helping move him into her apartment. At the same time all that was going on, there was one other responsibility the 20-year-old needed to fulfill — make funeral arrangements for her father.

Once those matters were settled — difficult as it was — Cali felt strongly that she had to keep moving. So this week she headed back to her classes at Johnson County Community College.

Former student Thor Nystrum, describes his break and mental health recovery in The Daily Kansan's "To Hell and Back."

Upon returning home, I inform my parents I will be returning to Kansas. They call it a “terrible, terrible decision.” I have enrolled in spring classes at Johnson County Community College, and I have agreed to sublease a place from a student in Lawrence. They attempt to talk me out of it.

“This is what I’ve decided to do,” I say. There is a conviction in my voice that I haven’t felt in more than a year.

Published within days of each other (Cali's story on May 2 and Thor's on May 5) these articles illustrate how the college serves as a grounding force in students' lives -- especially in times of need.

I hope Thor and Cali inspire us to make our campus a better place. They show us that responsibility doesn't come by simply following the rules but though understanding them. They also show us that breaking the rules is as an essential a skill as following them.

The articles remind this administration watchdog that I need to tell students' stories more often. Wt think that investigations uncover truth -- and they do -- but so do these stories.

May 12, 2008

NEWS: Trustee Blog

Blogging Benjamin
Former district rep, a journalism major, blogs Kansas politics




Few people know that Benjamin Hodge, Johnson County Community College Trustee and former Kansas 49th District Representative, is a blogger.


According to Kansas Progress, Hodge's blog, its purpose is to "inform, to connect, and to motivate. We hope to promote policies that encourage government to be: limited in size, effective, efficient, and accountable to the people."

When he launched the site in 2005, Hodge posted a message on the University of Missouri-Kansas City's student newspaper forum saying he and four friends created the news site and that the KP blog was part of his graduate course studies.

Today KP blog editors have narrowed to Hodge and three others. They include: Tim Anderson, Hodge's campaign treasurer; Paul Norman of Victory Enterprises, a Midwest political consulting and polling firm; and Brian T. Johnson, a political communications consultant in Jefferson City, Mo.

An e-mail from Hodge requesting subscribers says part of the mission for the blog is to build a subscriber base that will attract advertisers. Perhaps he means campaign contributors.
An April 9 KP blog posting by "Editor" reads:
"Some think that Hodge will run against incumbent Democratic State Representative Sue Storm."
However, the posting has been removed and replaced with a post dated 12/31/1969 6:00:00 pm. It is still available via Google's Cache.

A quick Internet search reveals Hodge isn't just a contributor to the KP but the domain owner. Hodge's other domain, benjaminhodge.com, serves as his campaign site.

Hodge joins a growing list of JCCC bloggers some of which will be featured in upcoming posts.

May 10, 2008

COMMENTARY: Finals Week Starts with Mother's Day

Walking on the Ledge:
Stressed students seesaw between family and finals
Ever since PBS began its Poetry Everywhere campaign, one piece always stops me in my tracks whenever it airs -- Billy Collins' "The Lanyard."

It's hard to listen to and watch because it highlights one of the biggest problems college students face as we finish final projects and prepare for finals week -- Mother's Day.

How do we make time for mom when every second must be devoted to the most important week of the semester? We stress because we've probably missed birthdays, weddings, and other holidays because of our commitment to school. And mom, who probably gives us a little bit of a hard time when we do miss those events, is most probably one of our biggest supporters while we're in school. For that reason, it just doesn't feel right to push her day aside.


Others, like me, find the day difficult because our mothers have passed. I usually try to stay home that day save for one trip -- to the cemetery. I don't want to see families having dinner. I don't want to drive past a park to see them picnic. I don't want to see children buying presents at Target or a cake and a card at the grocery store.When it's time, I try to find a small out of the way flower shop where I can swoop in, buy a dozen roses without engaging in small talk with the cashier. I hate to see the look on their faces when they realize their roses are going to a grave instead of a family dinner.

Once at the cemetery I see other orphans paying respect. Some have been making the trip for years. And for others, this is their first time. That's when it's especially hard to visit mom. Everyone cries but those uncontrolled and visceral sobs transport everyone to our first Mother's Day at the cemetery.

After sitting in my car trying to pull myself together so that I can drive home, I leave the cemetery. I'll be back on my birthday and on hers.

At some point, I light a candle for her and thank her for my life. But maybe this year, we can follow Collins' lead and present mom with our own lanyards
.

video

RELATED: I've Been Thinking About ... Mom

May 9, 2008

NEWS: College Hires Sex Offender

Reporter Cameron Fletcher's latest article in Johnson County Community College's student newspaper, The Campus Ledger, examines proposed background checks for employees.

However, what readers won't learn is that Fletcher discovered the college actually hired a registered sexual offender.

According to Fletcher's original article, the work-study employee served as administrative support for three semesters in the college's Railroad Operations department. The article also notes college administrators admit the college has no policy addressing the hiring of registered sex offenders.
Update: At the request of a source close to the situation, I've edited out an earlier comment speculating why the story didn't run. The intent of this posting is not to attack The Ledger staff (outgoing or incoming) but rather to highlight the crucial and essential skills student journalists need to edit effectively and in the voice of the reporter. That is only one of the many responsibilities an editor carries.

Update:
The source agreed to go back on the record.
Fletcher doesn't know why Ledger editors cut the information on the college employee. He wants to give them the benefit of the doubt.

"I think it had to do with space, I was slightly perturbed by it. But what are you gonna do?" he asked. "I would rather they had something else cut out instead of that. The way it was printed was kind of softball-ish."

Read Fletcher's version here.
Read
The Ledger version here
.

INFOLIST: Town Hall Tidbits

From the college's electronic mail server, Infolist:

Dr. Terry Calaway, JCCC president, opened his Town Hall meeting May 7 with a discussion on campus safety. He discussed the two instances of graffiti, recently found in restrooms, that threatened violence in May, noting that no specifics were given and no certain group was targeted. The Overland Park Police Department was consulted, and they noted that the situation is similar to a pattern occurring in the high schools, where students are looking for some time out of class. Dr. Calaway noted that while there is no reason to be anxious about the situation, there is every reason to be aware. He encouraged faculty and staff to keep eyes and ears open, and if they see anything out of the ordinary to let Public Safety know.

Dr. Wayne Brown, executive vice president, Administration, concurred, noting that there are at most five Public Safety officers working on any shift and encouraged people to report unusual situations on campus by calling extension 4111.

Dr. Calaway noted that it’s possible we’ll see a third occurrence of graffiti, probably before finals. Additional cameras will be placed in hallways and outside (not inside) restrooms in some buildings to help find out who is writing on walls.

Dr. Calaway then brought up the subject of the academic reorganization currently underway in the college’s Instructional branch. The new structure (see http://www.jccc.edu/home/download/16956/InstructionalFlowchart.pdf) calls for eight academic deans. The search process is underway to fill three of these positions – Health and Wellness, Business, and Technology – by fall. Faculty will continue to be involved with the search process this summer through special contracts.

Conversation continues on the question of whether to have chairs or facilitators for academic departments. The history and sociology departments will pilot the concept of chairs next academic year. Compensation issues have been addressed with the career program facilitators as well.

Also to be considered is the concept of staff support for the academic positions and whether it is adequate.

Dr. Calaway is also looking at ways the credit and continuing education branches can work together more effectively and how those programs can be meshed together. Structural issues are also being addressed in the President’s, Information Services and the Administrative Services branches, and conversation continues on what to do with the advising role at the college. Innovative proposals have been proffered regarding the role of advisors in keeping students engaged.

In response to concerns about how long the reorganization process was taking, Dr. Calaway stressed the importance of conversation and inclusion, as faculty and other institutional leaders are part of the process and planning. From his perspective, this process was about getting college faculty and staff engaged so more people understand how the internal process works and are committed to its success. Most of the planning will be wrapped up in the next month, he said. To continue to build the infrastructure to support the work we’re doing, several new positions have been requested in the 2008-2009 budget.

Many questions from Town Hall attendees concerned support staff, who inquired first about the recent climate survey. Results of the recent college climate survey will be returned and released this summer. Staff also asked about the upcoming salary study, questioning why some positions had already been changed, while others were waiting for the salary study to be conducted. Others said they felt they were lumped together under “umbrella” titles that did not adequately reflect their jobs. Still others expressed uncertainty, not knowing whom they would be working for or what they would be doing. Dr. Calaway noted that he felt we needed to get the deans in place first to give an overarching structure to the Instructional branch and to get a full picture of what was needed for the area. In large branches, we could be looking at hundreds of different positions, and we need to see where those fit. The problem often is the volume of work expected of people, not their placement within the system.

Staff also asked about the Hay Group, the firm that will be conducting the study and who also conducted the last study 10 years ago. Many feel that the previous study looked only at titles and not at the individual positions.

Dr. Judy Korb, vice president, Human Resources and Organizational Development, assured people that the Hay Group will look at the content of each full-time job, analyzing the decisions made, the scope of the responsibilities, the impact on students, and the specific functions. While titles may need to become more descriptive, it is the functional aspects of the position, and not the title, that determines where positions are placed. Conversations with Hay will start this month. Changes recommended by the study are intended to be implemented in the upcoming fiscal year and not over five years, as a rumor has it. Rather, changes that can be made will be made within the next fiscal year. The college is committed to an honest, fair assessment and to implementing the resulting recommendations in 2008-2009. When the results are returned, supervisors will have the opportunity to review them to provide feedback.

Dr. Calaway lauded support staff for having the courage to speak up. Respect and trust, he said, needs to extend in all directions. The Town Hall meeting was an example of how we can make it work.

A question also arose about future campus expansion. Dr. Calaway said we need to have the staffing infrastructure in place before any expansion of facilities. The college has been approached by groups in Olathe, Lenexa and Mission about siting satellite campuses in those cities. Sometime in the next year we’ll need to make a decision about facilities. He also noted that in the coming budget year funds have been allotted to bringing other campus facilities up to the level of the Regnier Center.

A question also arose about the role and function of part-time staff and the status of part-time benefits. While part-time staff will not be part of the formal salary study, their positions can be reviewed, as can the question of moving part-time positions to full-time. Human Resources needs the results of the part-time benefits survey, which was to be provided by the part-time employees, with assistance from Institutional Research.
A posting to the Library listserv clarified the salary study's scope. Korb said the study does include part-time workers.
The question of representation for line staff was also raised. Many staff members are not represented by any organization like OP, and OPL is not representative of all hourly staff. The possibility of a Campus Senate could help more people feel represented. Allowing all groups to have a place to air their views will be the way we improve the institution, Dr. Calaway said.


COMMENTARY: Regret the Error

Walking on the Ledge:
Errors that Influence
Was Learning Management System Vote Tainted by Student Newspaper?

Every campus newspaper staff wants to influence campus – but not through errors.

An article in the April 24 issue of The Campus Ledger reported Johnson County Community College (JCCC) will abandon its current Management Learning System (LMS) powered by Blackboard in favor of one powered by ANGEL Learning. The article also reported the LMS will be in place by fall 2008.

The problem? The faculty was in the midst of conducting a vote on whether to adopt ANGEL. A day after the story ran, a posting on the college's electronic mail server, Infolist, voiced faculty concerns.

“Contrary to the Campus Ledger article, the college's move to ANGEL Learnin
g is not a forgone conclusion,” the post read. “We're in the middle of the faculty vote to support or not support the move to ANGEL Learning. Faculty votes count and are crucial as no decision will be made until the voting time period concludes on Monday, April 28, 2008 at midnight.”

The posting said if the vote is affirmative, the faculty’s recommendation moves to the Academic Technology Advisory Council, the Executive Council, the Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee and then to the entire Board of Trustees. A negative vote from faculty could stop the process, as could a negative finding by any of the committees along the way.

“If approved by all parties, the timeline for the implementation of a new LMS still needs to be developed,” the posting continued. “Any assumption that faculty and students will be using a different LMS for fall 2008 is premature. Implementation will require more time than exists between the board vote and the start of fall classes.”

Read the faculty post here.

A few faculty members asked how the paper could publish these errors and who, if anyone, checks facts. I explained the editing process I helped establish during my tenure at The Ledger. A minimum of three editors check the story and the staff reviews the proofs, or “minis,” for errors on production night. Yet, I agreed the article’s factual errors also could serve as errors that influence.

“Maybe this calls for something more than running a correction in the next issue, perhaps a staff ed?” I wrote in an April 29 e-mail to the Ledger's adviser, editor in chief, and managing editor. “I know the situation sucks because everyone loves to point out when The Ledger makes a mistake. But if it's not addressed then the integrity of the paper suffers especially on the heels of some prestigious awards this year.”

The next day, six days after publishing the article, The Ledger posted a correction and apology on Infolist.

“It has come to the attention of The Campus Ledger that the April 24 article about the Blackboard Learning System contained incorrect information,” the post read. “It was not our intention to sway the vote for a new learning management system ... Our staff will take this experience to heart. We plan to continue providing the quality, accurate news that you have come to expect from our award-winning newspaper.”

Read The Ledger post here.

Seeing this as a teachable moment, I asked the Ledger's adviser, editor in chief, managing editor and the reporter how the situation unfolded.

Linda Friedel, managing editor, acknowledged ethics breach.

“We definitely consider it a learning moment,” Friedel said. “It is the worst mistake anyone has made on the Ledger this year.”

She said a meeting took place yet they could not identify the origin of the mistake.

“Either the reporter didn't make the question clear, the source spoke out of line, the source didn't communicate it was a done deal and the reporter thought it was a done deal,” she said.

Friedel said the most they could do was acknowledge the mistake and use it as an example of how not tor report.

Alexia Lang, editor in chief, did not respond to my question.

Anne Christiansen-Bullers, adviser, said she would meet with the reporter and Lang to discover how the errors happened.

The reporter, Bartholomew Klick, said a few days after The Ledger's apology posted, Lang abruptly fired him. He said she cited the errors along with an e-mail campaign he spearheaded against The Ledger for an unrelated story as reasons for his termination.

Yet, Klick contends he accurately reported the story. He said during the editing process, editors cut crucial information and left gaps they later filled with assumptions and other misinformation.

Klick provided his unedited copy showing the differences. His original lead reads:
“As quickly as autumn of this year, the college may have a new program for managing its online course material.”

The published version reads:

“Beginning this fall, the college will have a new program for managing its online course material.”

Read The Ledger article here.
Read Klick's original version here.

Klick said the only thing he regretted about the story was that he did not record and clearly document his interviews. Both he and Friedel agreed organized documentation would have identified errors and allowed corrections before publication.

Further complicating the situation is that everyone involved is an accomplished journalist. Klick and another staffer recently were awarded the college’s Robert J. Helmer award for excellence in journalism. Alexia Lang was named first runner up for the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press Journalist of the Year award in the two-year division. Friedel is a contributing columnist to The Kansas City Star’s Neighborhood News and Christian-Bullers has earned an advising award from the Collage Media Advisers association.

The faculty voted to endorse ANGEL Learning as it’s LMS. The recommendation now moves along the path to approval. Yet the question remains: did the reporting errors influence the vote?


Visit Regret the Error to read about media mistakes

May 8, 2008

NEWS: Not-So-Fast Food

Gov. Sebelius wants you to eat it

The Kathleen Sebelius dedicated a new edible garden at Johnson County Community College. The dedication near the Heirsteiner Child Development Center will support programs at the college. Sebelius will return to the college to host the Healthy Kansas Summit June 6-7.

Watch the Kansas City Star video of the dedication here.

May 7, 2008

INFOLIST: Graffiti Busters

From the college's electronic mail server, Infolist:

VOLUNTEERS FOR COMMUNITY POLICING EFFORTS
This is a call for volunteers in our community policing efforts. We have had a noticeable increase in vandalism recently in the form of graffiti. Please report these incidents immediately to the Department of Public Safety by dialing 0, using a red phone or a code blue phone outside. Also, remember, that in an emergency, please dial ext. 4111 on campus. We need your help as "extra sets of eyes," especially with suspicious activity in and near restrooms, so we can take a bite out of this crime.

RELATED: Graffiti Threats, Handwritten Hate

May 6, 2008

INFOLIST: Faculty Awards Awards

From the college's electronic mail server, Infolist:

HAAS, SOPCICH RECEIVE FACULTY'S ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Julie Haas
, executive director, Marketing and Communication, and Dr. Joe Sopcich, vice president of Institutional Advancement and Government Affairs, were both selected this year by the Faculty Association at their general membership meeting to receive administrative leadership awards. Both Joe and Julie provided outstanding leadership and courage in periods of transition for the college and continue to do so. Julie, among other things, has been a long-time advocate for the interests of adjunct faculty, and Joe has championed greater relations between the foundation and faculty and the implementation of a grants office. The award is intended for those in administrative positions who exhibit leadership and vision for the college and responsiveness to faculty interests at levels above their peers. The award has been offered sporadically over the past ten years or so. The only other recipients are Dr. Marilyn Rhinehart and Dr. Larry Tyree. The faculty felt it appropriate to make two awards this year given the character exhibited by both Joe and Julie through the college's recent tumult.


May 5, 2008

A Brief Note to Thor Nystrom

Incredible.


Thor,

The media is filled with traditionalists. Many traditionalists say we should not write about ourselves and if we do, we should never disclose as much as you did. Those of us who follow rules with skepticism know they can help and hurt us. We understand that knowing when to break the rules is just as an essential skill as learning to follow them.

Thanks for breaking rules in life and in journalism.

May 2, 2008

COMMENTARY: Holocaust Remebrence Day

Walking on the Ledge:
Pride and Prejudice

Today is another reminder of why I am proud to be gay.

Holocaust Remembrance Day reinforces why it’s important for me to honor the gay men who died wearing a pink triangles and the lesbians who died wearing black ones. Nazis tagged them with a symbol, tortured them and finally slaughtered them.

When I first moved to Kansas City, I didn’t know much about being gay except that I was. One day in the public library, I found what appeared to be the gay section. One of the first books I picked up was a book about the Nazi persecution of gays.

I sat crying as I read the entire book. Then I picked up another and then another.

As I continued to check out books and videos, these men and women slowly transformed from being cases to being relatives. I was like an orphan discovering his roots.

They taught me that being gay isn’t simply about attraction to another man. It’s a history. It’s a culture. It’s … a gift.

I honor these lost family members by embracing my own pink triangle and the label that comes with it. I embrace their sacrifice. I cry for their suffering and I live to fulfill the dreams they passed down to me.

Sometimes that means when a gay issue arises in class, I have to become an instructor. Sometimes it means I have to write letters, e-mails and make phone calls to elected officials. And a few times, it meant that I had to commit civil disobedience.

What I find most troubling is that as society moves towards accepting -- not just tolerating -- gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, our community is facing a challenge from many who reject those labels. Rejecting those labels means forgetting the men with the pink triangles. It means negating the existence of the women with the black triangles.

It means we’re one step closer to wearing them as symbols of oppression instead of symbols of pride.


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