Lehman’s Chemistry Department Recognized for Successful Pre-Med Program

By Beauty Kolade

Ezekiel Olumuiyide working with a High Performance Liquid Chromatography machine. Photo by Beauty Kolade.

Lehman’s pre-med program was recently ranked 16th out of the 20 best pre-med college programs, according to onlinecollegeplan.com. Lehman was the only CUNY school featured in these rankings, as published on Jan. 9, and its Bachelor of Science in chemistry was named the best of all its pre-med programs. 

“51 percent of all of [Lehman’s] pre-med students were accepted into medical schools like New York Medical College, Touro, George Washington and SUNY Downstate,” said Dr. Scott Calvin, the senior advisor at Lehman’s pre-health program. “This percentage is higher than the national average of students applying to U.S. medical schools, which is around 40 percent. I have seen the program growing ever since I’ve been working.”  

According to Calvin, pre-med students comprise nearly half of the 975 students active in Lehman’s pre-health program, which also includes tracks, such as pre-dentistry and pre-pharmacy. Of the 443 pre-med students, 43 are chemistry majors. 

Pamela Mills, Interim Dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences and former chair of the chemistry department, credits innovative pedagogy as one source of the program’s acknowledged excellence. “Lehman received this recognition as a result of collaborative effort between both the instructors and students who performed their respective duties,” Mills said. 

One innovation that she and chemistry professor Donna McGregor brought up is the flipped classroom teaching style to the program. “The flipped classroom system was my main contribution; it involves students watching relevant topic videos posted online, participating in answering class questions using iClicker, and getting help from assistants during class and at office hours when necessary,” said Mills. “Our goal was to make the class an active learning site for students. Active learning is like playing an instrument, you’ve got to practice to progress and be ready for the concert which is the exam.”

“The chemistry department has provided me with the opportunity to obtain the research I crave and intend to utilize when I get into medical school.” 

– Lamount Evanson, 20, Lehman sophomore chemistry major

McGregor recalled, “Five years before my arrival in 2015, the average GPA for the traditional teaching style in general chemistry I and II was 1.65 and 1.81 respectively. After the introduction of the flipped classroom method of teaching, the average GPA from 2015 to 2017 increased to 2.74 and 2.67 for both classes respectively [and] the pass rate increased by 40 percent and 35.5 percent in both classes.”

Several chemistry majors told The Meridian that they agree wholeheartedly with the department’s recent accolades. “I was not surprised with this news because in my opinion, compared to other departments, the Chemistry department has taken a forefront at representing Lehman,” said Andre Ferguson, who graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry. 

“The department is growing. For instance, there are now more teacher assistants for chemistry courses, compared to when I was an undergraduate at Lehman,” he added. “I was able to become a scientist while I was a student at Lehman by gaining wet lab experience, participating in presentations and also attending research lectures. Now I’m an adjunct professor at Lehman and this experience will help me learn and improve skills that will help me in medical school.” 

Sophomore chemistry major Lamount Evanson, 20, also praised the department for giving students the chance to work as teaching assistants. Evanson, a chemistry TA, explained: “This experience will contribute to my preparation for the MCAT, a standardized test needed for admissions to medical school. As an international student, there not many research opportunities outside of campus that I am eligible for. However, the chemistry department has provided me with the opportunity to obtain the research I crave and intend to utilize when I get into medical school.”

“The chemistry department is very supportive regardless of a student’s performance in class,” said sophomore Ezekiel Olumuyide, 18, a chemistry major and aspiring physician. “The professors there…are always involved in helping students, making chemistry easy for us to understand… and give students the opportunity to gain a high yield of undergraduate experience.” 

NYC’s Proposed Financial Plans Put More Costs on CUNY Students

By Felicha C. Stevens

Mayor Bill de Blasio pictured in 2013. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

While New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ten-year plan for the city, FY20, makes big promises about greater affordability, his 2020 budget proposal calls for large funding cuts to city agencies including CUNY, Citywide Administrative Services Department, New York City Health and Hospitals, and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). 

Announced on March 7, the $92.2 billion plan incorporates a loss of $600 million dollars in federal money, which will result in cuts to the funding of agriculture, education and health care organizations. Budget shortfalls will include $125 million in financial assistance for families in need, $59 million in vital health services for New Yorkers and $300 million in education funding.

According to  NYC  Open Data statistics, these cuts will burden 1,620,356 New Yorkers who rely on government assistance to help with their monthly expenses, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Human Resources Association (HRA). CUNY students and their families will be affected in major ways, some by multiple cutbacks at the same time. 

“I suffer from a lot of illness. I’m HIV positive and I struggle to make it,” said James Foster, a 60-year-old student at Lehman’s Adult Learning Center, “If they cut my food stamps that means I would have to spend more money, I’m only getting $192.00, and food is very expensive.” Foster will be affected by the cuts to both financial assistance for families in need and health services. 

The cuts were ostensibly made in response to the state’s $2.3 billion shortfall in the 2019 Income Tax Revenue and a $1.6 billion projected shortfall in 2020, according to nyc.gov. City agencies were able to find $1 billion in savings from the 2019 and 2020 preliminary budgets, but this leaves another $750 million in agency savings needed. Many Lehman students and staff fear the outcome will make their lives harder.

“I find it outrageous [and] I’m extremely upset about it! I know it’s going to hurt my students. I know it will affect me. I’m hoping the numbers are just negotiating points rather than real numbers,” said Mindy Levokove, a reading, writing and math instructor at the Adult Learning Center for GED preparation at Lehman. 

Lehman junior Genesis Ramos, a 22-year-old English and journalism double major, concurred. “As a student, it affects me. The money that is being cut is the money that I need for my books. It’s the money that I could be using for Metro Cards or to get food on campus.”

“The food in the grocery store is expensive, we get a little bit of food stamps, and we have to use that to budget for 30 days. You have to budget how you eat because we need those food stamps,” said Michelle Solomon, 53, a Castle Hill resident and student at Lehman’s Adult Learning Center. 

De Blasio’s FY20 plan promises a more affordable city, with guaranteed healthcare access  for  600,000 uninsured New Yorkers, improved access to care including mental health services and more financial contributions to “3-K for All.” However, many students remain skeptical of these promises. 

“I feel like it’s insane because I don’t think we are going to see the money being used for this stuff,” said Ramos. “If we actually see this it will be good for us, but it’s hard for many people, especially, when you come to the Bronx to see the things they say they are doing. They say they will have better public health care and we don’t. Many people complain that their health care, especially when it’s public, is really expensive and they have to pay out of pocket.” 

Felicia Turner, a 28-year-old student at Lehman’s Adult Learning Center and mother of two small boys, disagrees. “I have a 6-year-old, and school is a big deal. Kids need their education,” said Turner, who has benefited from “3-K for All.” “It has helped my son a lot with his ABC’s; his reading level has improved a whole lot. The pre-K he was in had four teachers. It was hands-on, and they knew how to deal with kids.”  

“The government operations are laughable, except nobody’s laughing.” 

- Mindy Levokove, a reading, writing and math instructor at Lehman’s Adult Learning Center

The FY20 will launch in the summer of 2019 in the Bronx and city-wide in 2021. The ten-year plan will cost $104.1 billion dollars with the majority of its revenue going towards infrastructure. The financial plan summary anticipates that 37 percent of the budget will focus on infrastructure and 29 percent on government operations, leaving only 22 percent for school, and 12 percent for housing. 

“I feel like there might be a little bit of neglect when it comes to [school costs],” said Gregory Morelo, a 23-year-old Lehman senior and music major. “It does sound like a real low number in comparison to everything else, especially since there are thousands of students across the city that would also need financial assistance because they’re attending school.” However, Morelo supported the focus on infrastructure “because some of the neighborhoods here in the Bronx are a little bit outdated and run down. They deserve to be updated.” 

“They can take all the money away from government operations as far as I’m concerned,” Levokove said. “The government operations are laughable, except nobody’s laughing. I want the mayor to stop running all over the place and make good on all of the promises he made before he became mayor.” Before he was elected, she recalled, “I believed what he said, and other than the universal pre-K, I don’t see what he’s done. He needs to focus on helping people in the city and forget what else he’s got in his mind.”

For Lehman Students, Higher Minimum Wage Means Cuts in Hours

By Juan A. Santos

Street art in Singapore reads “Minimum Wage?!” Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“Superiors decided to cut personnel by keeping 3 out of 4 employees who will now have to work more,” said Lehman sophomore Ahsanul Hague, when asked how the recent rise in New York State’s minimum wage impacted his workplace. Hague, a business and computer information systems double major who works at Dunkin Donuts, explained “I don’t have an issue with a decrease in hours since I’m working part-time. I have already seen an increase in my salary since the minimum wage increase, which helps me save…but my ex-coworker [is] not so good after he was laid off. The store was struggling to function 100 percent.”  

In New York, the minimum wage increased from $13.50 to $15 an hour on Dec. 31, 2018.  This marks the twenty-second increase since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced the federal minimum wage in 1938, which started at 25 cents per hour, according to minimum-wage.procon.org. 

Many activists hailed the increase as a victory for workers. “The ‘fight for $15’ an hour has gone from a rallying cry to facts on the ground in just a few short years,” said Paul Sonn, the state policy program director of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers. “This demand was from the fast-food workers who explained that was the minimum they needed for a decent life.”  

However, for Lehman students who work, the effects of this increase have been mixed in the first three months of the year. The disparate outcomes have been seen as a blessing for some and misfortune for other employees and employers this fiscal quarter.  

“As a student assistant worker at the Counseling Center on campus, I have experienced a noticeable increase on my weekly income statement thus far,” said Lehman senior Daisy Flores, a diet and nutrition major. However, Flores observed that many of her coworkers were laid off. “Two-thirds of our staff at the center consists of unpaid interns. I gained more hours and more work while fellow co-workers got phased out as more unpaid interns came in. They worked 9 to 5 p.m. replacing phased out co-workers’ hours.”

“I gained more hours and more work while fellow co-workers got phased out as more unpaid interns came in.” 

- Daisy Flores, Lehman senior and diet and nutrition major

With this raise, New York City joins several cities on the West Coast where the minimum wage has already hit $15, including San Francisco and Seattle. California’s minimum wage, which rises to $12 an hour for larger employers on Jan. 1, is expected to rise to $15 over the next few years.  

Sonn cited recent decisions by national retailers like Target and Amazon to raise their wages to $15 an hour. The country is now a patchwork quilt of wages, with some states still operating under the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Connecticut’s minimum wage is $10.10. In New Jersey, it is $8.85, though the state’s Democratic governor and Legislature, which is also controlled by Democrats, want to raise it to $15.  

Economists linked higher wages to better physical and mental health and reduced decision fatigue, which results in increased productivity, as reported by The Education & Labor Committee. Higher wages reduce turnover, recruiting and training cost for employers. For hourly workers in New York City who are not laid off, the increase can make a big difference. 

Rosa Rivera earned just $5.15 an hour and relied on government assistance to pay her rent when she started working at a McDonald’s in Manhattan 18 years ago. Now, 53 and a veteran of several rallies for better wages, Rivera’s eyes teared up as she spoke about attaining one of the main goals the workers had set.

“When I get my first check with $15, I’m going to be so happy,” said Rivera, an immigrant from El Salvador with three children. She said she was proud to pay her rent and help support her grandchildren without federal benefits.

As Demand Grows, Lehman’s Supply of Parking Spaces Gets Scarcer

By Deanna Garcia

An overlook of the Lehman parking lot from the Science Building. Photo by Deanna Garcia.

Over the last five years, Lehman’s enrollment has increased from 12,398 to the current total of 14,787 students, according to its Department of Institutional Advancement, and yet the college’s parking lot remains the same inadequate size. 

Divided into north and south sections, the lot has 866 total spots, including 17 handicap and 14 reserved. Andrea Pinnock, director of Auxiliary Services, reported that 1,708 parking permits were distributed to students this semester. “Both the student and regular faculty/staff parking lots are oversold since there are no assigned spaces and parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis,” Pinnock said. “This methodology has been used for many years and allows the college to offer parking to more students.” 

According to Dawn Burgos, director of Campus Activities, there are currently 200 students on the waitlist for the next available parking permit. To obtain a spot for the whole semester, students must have either paid their tuition in full or have a payment plan. Burgos explained that students have to pay the full rate of $75 for daytime parking or $55 for evening parking, which can be done upfront or online. 

“The day permit covers a full day every week, while the evening permit only covers 5:15 p.m.,” Burgos added. “We’re trying to accommodate more people by adding a day and evening feature. If people come in late, we’re able to provide more spaces for those students.” She explained that after 5:15 p.m., when most staff and faculty members leave, students are allowed to park in the faculty parking lot. 

Some Lehmanites, however, feel that there should be more spots available for everyone. 

“There are times, like after 10 o’clock or after certain hours, when it’s harder to find a spot,” said Jen Begeal, new media manager at BronxNet. “Sometimes I just have to wait for somebody to leave.”

Latrica Burton, a junior producer at BronxNet, is relieved to know that there is parking near her job. Before she started parking in the south lot, Burton used to park her car on the street, which was difficult at times. “It used to be tedious to run out during a show to put more money in the meter,” she said. “After I got a ticket, I made it my mission to get a parking pass.” 

“It’s such a lifesaver,” said Wayne Townsend, a Lehman senior and journalism major. “There’s always a spot.” He also observed of Campus Activities, “The permit people are the most efficient at Lehman.” 

On the other hand, senior Jasmine Ayala feels that there is a lack of information on how to obtain a permit. “This sometimes causes people to go back and forth without clear information of what has to be done.” 

Townsend and Ayala both agreed that the parking lot is worth the cost compared to using the meters around campus. “After a while, the meter prices add up,” said Townsend. 

Some students, however, prefer to find spots around campus, as opposed to in Lehman’s parking lot. “It’s easier to find spots if you know what days and times you can park in certain areas,” said senior Shanese Mullins, a 28-year-old journalism major. “I don’t think that I should have to pay for parking when I already pay for tuition.”