Bronxites Tackle Discrimination in XFL Revival

By Jorel Lonesome

XFL logo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Vince McMahon is relaunching his ill-fated Xtreme Football League (XFL), and many Bronx residents object to its new discriminatory rules and what some see as McMahon taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook. 

“I think this is just his Donald Trump maneuver where Vince persuades the masses to get people interested then over time he’ll walk away from it,” said Bronx resident Raquel Brahmbhatt, 29, cashier at Gamestop on Greenwich St in Manhattan. Brahmbhatt believes that McMahon and Trump have similar approaches to gaining an audience for their shows. “Right now he’s a salesman, a clever businessman. So right now he’ll say whatever gets people’s attention.”

This will be the second time McMahon tries to get his extreme league off the ground. The original XFL debuted—and then failed—in 2001 as a joint venture between WWE and NBC. XFL’s gimmicks included fewer rules, rougher play, scantily clad cheerleaders, cross promotion with pro wrestling superstars, and innovative use of technologies during games, including player microphones and aerial cameras. However, fans quickly soured on the poor quality of games and focus on eccentric personalities. 

On Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, McMahon, the chairman and chief executive of WWE, announced his plan to relaunch the XFL. The reboot will be owned by McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment, a separate company from WWE. As he continues to revive the XFL, he will remain in his current position with WWE. This updated XFL will have eight teams, 40-man active rosters and a 10-week regular season schedule followed by playoffs. Its quicker, “family-friendly” version of football will limit games to about two hours. 

However, McMahon also created new standards this time around, including a ban on players displaying their “politics” during games, a policy many Bronxites say is unfair, especially the rule against kneeling during the national anthem. In the XFL, players must stand for the national anthem, a practice McMahon sees as an opportunity to gain NFL fans who have expressed dissatisfaction over the ongoing player protests against racial injustice.

“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon told ESPN. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.” McMahon also stated that he will not allow players with criminal records to join the league.  

Some Bronx residents and workers argue this is opportunism and that it’s going too far. “Vince McMahon can always change the rules around,” said Bronxite Stephen O’Hara, 41, a retail sales associate at Home Depot in New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York. “I think he will reject players with criminal records that involve assault and domestic violence charges. The DUI and marijuana charges shouldn’t rule someone out. Violence, on the other hand, is a different story. I personally don’t want to see athletes that beat their wives, making thousands or millions of dollars for games that they play.”

Bronx residents also see McMahon’s decision to ban athletes that have criminal records from the XFL as hypocritical since the WWE chairman allows wrestlers with a rap sheet to work for him. “It’s contradictory of Vince McMahon to be annoyed at NFL players for having ‘politics’ interfere with the games and then have rules that are basically ‘no politics unless they’re mine,’” said Bronx resident Nicolás Cruz, 28, a cashier at Hot Topic in Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn. “With that rule applied to WWE there’d be almost zero wrestlers on the roster. Wrestler Scott Hall was arrested years ago for choking out his girlfriend after falling into a drunken rage. Hall shot a man with his own gun and admitted that he killed him.” 

Fellow Bronxite Daniel Weeks, 33, a volunteer at National Parks Conservation Association in New York City, agreed. “Wrestler Randy Orton might be one of the top stars of the WWE right now, but he has been suspended by the company for violating their wellness policy,” said Weeks. “Randy got arrested for going AWOL many times in the Marine Corps, and disobeyed orders from a commanding officer. He went to military prison for it.”

Kevin Draper argues in the New York Times that “McMahon is following, President Trump’s lead on politics as well as showmanship.” He points out that “Trump, who has denounced N.F.L. players’ protesting racial injustice by refusing to stand during the anthem, has long been involved with the McMahons and W.W.E. Linda McMahon, Vince’s wife, was appointed by Trump to run the Small Business Administration on Feb. 14th, 2017.” 

“Trump has also hosted wrestling events at his properties,” Draper adds, “and has been involved in the showmanship, once shaving McMahon’s head in the middle of a ring. Trump was also involved in an alternative professional league in the 1980s, owning the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived United States Football League.”

While Draper states that McMahon had not consulted with Trump about the XFL, he notes that McMahon’s “ban on politics during games would extend to the president’s positions.” 

Bronx native Nathan Daniels, 26, a Remote Computer Programmer at Euro-Pro Operating LLC in Boston, MA, agrees that McMahon is backing Trump’s positions. “I think Vince McMahon’s ideas or rules for the XFL are linked to his relationship with President Donald Trump,” Daniels said.  “McMahon and Donald Trump worked together for years. Trump was a part of WWE’s main event storyline at WrestleMania 23 ‘The Battle of the Billionaires story arc.”  

It remains to be seen whether McMahon’s new XFL venture will gain more traction than the original version. McMahon expects the XFL League to start play in 2020, according to the New York Times.

MTA Moves Lehman Students at a Snail’s Pace—at Best

By Hector Bello

Lehman College students exiting the 4 train at Bedford Park Station. Photo by Hector Bello.

Lehman students have not seen any relief in subway delays and service suspensions, despite an MTA announcement in July of 2017 that promised improvements. This hits many Lehman students hard, as the MTA’s dysfunction often penalizes them as they try to get to class on time. 

Danny Rodriguez told the Meridian that he has, “found it challenging to explain to professors why he’s late to class because the subway delays excuse is too commonly used.” Since most professors include a class policy that penalizes students for arriving late, Rodriguez is not the only with this problem.

The Meridian conducted a poll of twenty-three Lehman College students which showed that 84 percent travel to school via mass transit, and that 47 percent have had to explain to their professors the reason for lateness. Nursing major Trinidad Rodriguez says, “I spent almost two years trying to explain [to] my professor why I was late.” Our survey also revealed that 39 percent of students reported being late several times a week because of train delays.    

Lehman’s absence and lateness policy states that students can be absent twice with no penalty. But after their first two absences, students’ grades can be affected, and this in turn can also affect their eligibility for financial aid benefits. 

Doctor Sarah Ohmer, a Lehman professor of Latin American Studies and African Studies, says that after the first two absences, “you start losing five points for every time that you miss class. If you have three tardies that equals one absence. So, if you’re on that subway that is late then it will not affect your grade until it happens several times, then you have to be accountable for lateness.”       

37 percent of students surveyed also consider train delays when choosing their classes. Some do not schedule morning classes because they fear they may not make it on time due to the MTA’s dysfunctional system. Those that do told the Meridian that they must schedule extra time for their trip to school. “For afternoon classes I don’t really care about the train schedule but for morning classes I give myself maybe an hour and a half to make it to school,” says biology major Valentina Castellon.    

“If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.” 

- Business Administration major Michael New

However, one insider was at least optimistic about future improvements. David Alvarado, a contractor for the MTA, said the chance of delays, “depends [on] which train you take. While I find the four-train to be always crowded and in delay, the D-line takes me wherever I need to go fast and efficiently.” He added that many of the delays can be attributed to the advanced age of the trains. “Every time that the train is delayed it is being maintained. You cannot compare a hundred-years-old train with trains such as the one in France or China that are only forty years old … The older the train is, the more maintenance it needs.”

Alvarado noted that Joseph J. Lhota, the new MTA director, “has worked in train systems in Europe and Asia… [And] he plans to bring the same efficiency here to the United States. Let us pray that he improves train traffic in the city.”

Until these improvements happen, though, students are left paying the price—and looking for alternatives. Business administration major Michael New says, “If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.” 

Parkland Shooting Leaves Lehman Students Doubting Campus Safety

By Hector Bello

Unguarded entrance to Lehman. Photo by Hector Bello

“If it can happen in Florida, then it can happen over here in any college in New York too,” said Lehman Biology major Carelitza Fernandez about the shooting in Parkland Florida. Fernandez explained that her fear increased following this Feb. 14 incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 students. “Of course, I am concerned that something similar can happen in our school,” she continued, “because on average there are at least two school shootings a week in the U.S.” 

Many blame the high rate of shootings on the lack of laws regulating gun sales. Even for people that need psychiatric help it is easy to acquire semi-automatic weapons.  According to ProCon.org, “As much as 40 percent of all gun sales are undocumented private party sales that do not require a background check (aka the “gun show loophole.”)

 Along with renewing the national debate on gun control, the Parkland shooting had many Lehman students feeling unsafe, especially since at Lehman only two out of the six entrances are guarded. “It is absurd how anyone could walk through Lehman,” said Lehman business major Jesus Hernandez, “The question is, is our school prepared for an emergency like that? I feel like we should be more cautious and raise awareness. Yes, I am concerned. I believe that we should have an action plan in case of an emergency.”     

Although she noted that the campus entrance she uses is guarded, Lehman nursing major Angelica Olivares seconded her sense of potential threat for “other people like women in the night time…it is dangerous and it should be guarded. To be honest, yes, every day I am concerned because anything can happen on this campus.” 

Lehman computer science major Alex Mayi expressed mistrust of safety mechanisms in general. “You know, sometimes campus security officers are not so efficient when dealing with things like guns and rifles,” he explained. He added, “I know that gun laws in New York State are a little bit better and can protect us a lot more, but it is definitely still a threat and something that we should be constantly vigilant about and make drills for it to keep our campus safe.” 

Lehman Students Denounce Lack of DACA Deal

By Shaiann Frazier

Protestors stand with DACA. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nearly two weeks after the Trump administration’s legislative deadline passed, the future of over 700,000 immigrants remains in limbo, and Lehman students continue to demand their renewed protection under legislation known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The White House had designated March 5 as the deadline to reach a bipartisan deal on the bill, but two federal judges, in California and New York, issued injuctions on January 10 and February 13 respectively that block this deadline. While this gives those covered by DACA more time to apply for extensions, it also leaves them worried about their future in America. 

Tapanga Perry, 18, a freshmen and nursing major at Lehman, said, “I feel that people’s DACA shouldn’t be taken away because everybody has the right to live the American dream. And it wouldn’t be right to send people back.”

DACA was an executive order created by former President Barack Obama back in 2012. It allowed undocumented immigrants to legally reside in the US for two years without the fear of deportation. Under this order, immigrants received background checks and were given two-year renewable permits that allowed them to receive an education, secure legal jobs, and obtain valid driver licenses. 

To be protected under DACA, immigrants had to be between 15 and 31 years old when submitting their request, and to have been residing here since before June 15, 2007 as mandated by the Department of Homeland Security. This past September, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, and gave Congress six months to negotiate a deal that would keep those under DACA free from deportation and protect border security. As the March 5 deadline came and went, neither Republicans nor Democrats managed to come up with a passable bill.

Both parties proposed bills that ensure the pathway to citizenship for most immigrants, but Trump rejected them. A bill needs at least 60 affirmative votes in the Senate to pass, as well as an affirmative majority vote in the House before it reaches the president’s desk, where he may still veto it.

“The fact that a deal hasn’t been reached saddens me because I feel that [DACA] is an opportunity for people to be able to advance in their lives and get a better education.” 

- Frances Latalladi, 42, a Lehman senior and journalism major

As the law now stands, those under DACA will continue to reside in the U.S. until their work permits have expired. New applicants who applied before September 5, along with renewal applicants that were processed before October 5, can remain in the U.S. Now that the issue will be taken up in the court system, those who couldn’t make the deadline have a temporary reprieve, but must still live in fear for their long-term future.

George Abraham, 22, a junior and business administration major at Lehman said, “It’s depressing, these are families you’re talking about who are being treated like they have no values. There’s no remorse.”

According to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, 983 undocumented immigrants protected under DACA could lose their protected status every day, and nearly 30,000 people could be deported each month for the next two years if Congress fails to reach a deal.

The most vulnerable group under DACA are the “dreamers,” a term used to refer to people covered under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2001, which offered legal status to undocumented immigrants in return for attending college or joining the military.

According to a report from the Migration Policy Institute in 2014, over 241,000 DACA immigrants were enrolled in college, and nearly 57,000 of them had already earned a bachelor’s degree. 

Frances Latalladi, 42, a Lehman senior and journalism major, stressed how vital this opportunity is for many Dreamers. “The fact that a deal hasn’t been reached saddens me,” she said, “because I feel that [DACA] is an opportunity for people to be able to advance in their lives and get a better education.”

Bryan Diaz, 21, a computer science major at Lehman, agreed. “I feel like there’s many [dreamers] that need an opportunity in life,” he said. “And by getting deported they are being deprived of it.”

Michael Anti, 22, a computer science major at Lehman who was born in Ghana, also questioned the logic of the Trump administration. “I have a friend who’s under DACA and he’s a nice person,” he said. “And I don’t see why they would want to deport somebody like him, he’s contributing to society, he has a goal, and he wants to do something good.”

Lehman College Mourns the Loss of Yoryi Dume

By Deirdre Fanzo

Students and faculty write their final thoughts to Yoryi on a board dedicated to his memory. Picture courtesy of the Office of Prestigious Awards. 

On the afternoon of Jan. 31st, Joseph Magdaleno notified the Lehman community via email that Yoryi Dume, a senior at Lehman, had passed away over the winter break. The email did not disclose a cause of death. This news came as a terrible shock to students and faculty members, many of whom had forged close relationships with the young scholar. 

“The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.” 

- Hilliary Frank, a Lehman chemistry major

Dume entered Lehman in the fall semester of 2014 as a member of the Lehman Scholar’s Program, a demanding program that requires its students to take on a rigorous course load and maintain a high GPA. Dume was an enthusiastic student who had no trouble with these requirements. He approached his studies with determination and set the bar high for the other students in his classes. 

Dume spent much of his time in Lehman’s Office of Prestigious Awards (OPA) where, according to its director, Professor Augustine, “he was a very good mentor to many people. Yoryi was like everybody’s big brother. He had big dreams.” It was under Augustine’s mentorship that Dume applied for his very first scholarship, which he was ultimately awarded. Dume had hoped to attend Duke University for graduate school where he would have continued to pursue an education in Latin American Studies. 

Dume also spent time studying abroad in Brazil. He fostered a great love for Latin American Studies, and his time in Brazil allowed him to celebrate this passion. According to Augustine, “Travel was where [Yoryi] found his happiest moments.” 

Memorial service for Yoryi Dume. Picture courtesy of Jennifer Mackenzie.

On Feb. 1, faculty and students gathered in the OPA for a memorial for Dume. The following day, a separate memorial service was held in the Student Life Building. In the OPA, those who had gathered wrote letters to Dume, which were placed in a box that now holds a place of honor in the office. His professors and peers also shared thoughts, memories, and anecdotes of their times together with him, and there was not a dry eye in the room. 

Students Helina Owusu-Sekyere, a biology major, and Hilliary Frank, a chemistry major, knew Dume closely through time spent together at the OPA. Owusu-Sekyere said he “was a wonderful person. He was very determined.” Frank and Augustine both emphasized that “he was always there for you.” Frank added, “The amount of love he had for people is shared throughout. We all loved him as deeply as he loved us.”