Westsylvania ’16: hot weather, cool music

By Ethan Brogan

INDIANA — Summer heat and bright sunshine drew crowds downtown to start the 2016 Memorial Day weekend with the Westsylvania Jazz & Blues Festival.

Festival organizers said on Saturday’s weather cooperated and business support increased for the third annual music fair.

“This year we tried to up the game,” said Matthew R. Baumer, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania music professor and an event coordinator.

Organizers estimated daytime attendance at 1,200 as weather reports pegged temperatures in the low 90s.

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Reassessment symposium: the video

INDIANA — On April 19, dozens of Indiana County citizens attended a public forum on real-estate reassessment for property-tax purposes. And they peppered expert panelists with questions about the issue — the county’s top news story of 2015.

Local news coverage of the public event was thorough. And IUP-TV plans to air the complete video. Meanwhile, for the record, the complete video recording of the 90-minute symposium is available here:

In the video, symposium panelists discuss the history, the reforms and the future of the property tax and of reassessment in Pennsylvania. And they answer audience questions.

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Life after death at IUP: student-bereavement policy adopted

Katelynn H. Tucker, junior exercise science major at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Zink Hall, April 21, 2016. Photo by Jaimi Dodson.

Katelynn H. Tucker, junior exercise science major at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Zink Hall, April 21, 2016. Photo by Jaimi Dodson.

By Jaimi Dodson

INDIANA –- Katelynn H. Tucker, 21, a junior exercise science major at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, endured the worst hardship of her life on Nov. 12, 2014. That’s when her mother – her biggest supporter and best friend — died of breast cancer.

That was the start of her grief. Tucker said she went into denial and struggled with depression.

“I tried to go right back into life after the funeral,” Tucker said in a March 24 phone interview. “The whole spring semester after, I felt kind of non-existent.”

For students like Tucker, the university offers services for the grief-stricken. But, also like Tucker, few students seek help.

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Most IUP students report self-medicating with marijuana

Corey S. Simpson, management information systems major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in his off-campus apartment, April 27, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

Corey S. Simpson, management information systems major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in his off-campus apartment, April 27, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Most students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania report using marijuana, a recent email survey shows. And of those users, more than half say they do it daily.

The survey, sent to 1,000 undergraduates on April 21, found that 60 percent said they smoke marijuana or consume marijuana-related products. Of users, 55 percent said they get high every day. (See survey details in Sidebar 1, below.)

Marijuana recently made headlines in the Keystone State when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 on April 17 to legalize it for medical use. (State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, and state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, voted for the measure.)

Full implementation of the law may require as long as two years. But some IUP students have moved beyond marking their calendars.

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Local citizens ready to welcome Syrian refugees

John A. Hanna, left, and Poom Sunhachawi-Taylor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Hadley Union Building, Building, April 12, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

John A. Hanna, left, and Poom Sunhachawi-Taylor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Hadley Union Building, Building, April 12, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Since September, about 1,300 of the refugees fleeing the bloody civil war in Syria have settled in the United States. In Indiana, Pa., a group of citizens and professors is preparing for Syrian refugees to settle here soon.

In January, community organizer Poom Sunhachawi-Taylor and attorney John A. Hanna established the Refugee Working Group to raise local awareness of the crisis and to lend a helping hand to those in need.

For Sunhachawi-Taylor, it’s personal. She lived most of her life in the Middle East, where her father was stationed by the United Nations Security Council. His final assignment was Damascus, Syria.

“At the time the area was a conflict zone,” Sunhachawi-Taylor said during an interview on Tuesday in the Hadley Union Building on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus. “I saw first-hand the violence that took place there. I remember tanks rolling through the area and destruction all over. That’s what made me passionate about getting involved.”

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Public pocketbook symposium on Pa. property tax, April 19

A Preview

By Ethan Brogan

INDIANA – The Society for Professional Journalists at Indiana University of Pennsylvania is sponsoring a knowledge-based-journalism symposium to discuss property-tax reassessment on Tuesday, April 19, 5-6:30 p.m., in the Hadley Union Building’s Ohio Room. Citizens and students are invited to the free public event.

Listen to a one-minute podcast promoting the April 19 public symposium on real-estate reassessment for property-tax purposes.

The reassessment issue was Indiana County’s top news story of 2015.

Symposium panelists will discuss the history, the reforms and the future of the property tax and reassessment in Pennsylvania. And they will answer audience questions.

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Muslims 101

Michelle L. Sandhoff, Ph.D., associate sociology professor at IUP, in her McElhaney Hall office, April 8. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

Michelle L. Sandhoff, Ph.D., associate sociology professor at IUP, in her McElhaney Hall office, April 8. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Michelle L. Sandhoff, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, will bring years of immersion in the Muslim community to a classroom in fall 2016 to deepen student understanding of Islamic culture.

Sandhoff, co-advisor to IUP’s Muslim Student Association, is offering a course titled Muslims in the U.S. in the 2016 fall semester.

The course description says SOC 481 will emphasize “deconstruction of popular stereotypes about Muslims.”

The experimental, three-credit special topics class will draw attention to the Muslim community in American history, especially since 9/11, and will encourage inclusion among students, Sandhoff said in an interview in her McElhaney Hall office Friday.

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Landlords enlist in IUPatty’s policing; students notice

Richard Clawson, co-chair, Indiana Landlord Association, April 5, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

Richard Clawson, co-chair, Indiana Landlord Association, April 5, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Landlords increasingly are instrumental in policing the IUPatty’s party scene during the annual Indiana University of Pennsylvania student-initiated March mayhem, students, landlords and police say.

Police appreciate the development, with some reservations. Students don’t appreciate it.

“Landlords are policing their own,” borough police Chief William C. Sutton said during a March 18 interview in his office. “They are a tremendous help.”

Enlistment of the landlords followed a March 2014 IUPatty’s weekend that made headlines about wild partying and riots, according to Richard Clawson, executive director of the Indiana-Armstrong Builders Association and co-chair of the recently formed Indiana Landlord Association.

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Public information at IUP

An Analysis

Michelle S. Fryling, executive director of communications and media relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, March 31, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

Michelle S. Fryling, executive director of communications and media relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, March 31, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA – On Aug. 12, 2014, a secret meeting of a “college-age-activities committee” convened in the cavernous Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Adjacent Indiana University of Pennsylvania hosted the event. The public and the press were barred.

Participants included university representatives, borough officials both elective and administrative, state emergency-management officials and as many as 665 local landlords. The agenda: How to prevent riotous behavior -– and bad p.r. — by students and other young people who partied most notoriously on South Seventh Street during that spring’s IUPatty’s revel.

This year, the committee, renamed the Indiana Area Collaborative Team, or I-ACT, met March 3 to prepare for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parties. As it did last year, the diverse group designated a primary source for public information about the event and related public-safety issues, according to one official who attended. That primary source is Michelle S. Fryling, executive director of communications and media relations at IUP.

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Crash pad

984 Oakland Ave., Indiana, Pa., is encircled by yellow caution tape, March 16, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

984 Oakland Ave., Indiana, Pa., is encircled by yellow caution tape, March 16, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger and Renee Williamson

INDIANA – Ashle D. Baines, 22, a junior criminology major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was attending a packed party at 984 Oakland Ave. in the wee hours of Feb. 27. A song came on, and the crowd of what police later estimated at about 60 people were on their feet, dancing all at once.

That’s when the living-room floor caved in, crashing the crowd into the basement.

“People were, like, screaming and freaking out,” Baines said in a March 18 interview in her South 13th Street apartment. “I was really scared.”

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