Toward a more tolerant IUPatty’s

Pennsylvania State Police mounted unit, Indiana Borough municipal building, March 23, 2019. Photo by David Loomis.

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – Five years ago this month, IUPatty’s made its reputation as a “yearly bacchanalian bash” when hundreds of young people in Kelly green T-shirts rioted on South Seventh Street. Video captured the mayhem. Pittsburgh TV aired it. Social media spread it. It became a thing.

During March 2017’s revel, two off-campus shootings left one dead and three injured.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s response has been to ban the word IUPatty’s from its official lexicon. Instead, administrators use the wordier euphemism “spring high-celebratory events.” Speak no revel.

More substantively, the university has deployed a local variation of shock and awe. The university recruited a coalition of cops from at least four local and state agencies, supported by a chopper, mounted troopers and, most recently, a drone. Police were backed up by a rear echelon of more than a dozen institutions ranging from the university to the Chamber of Commerce. Landlords were recruited for private-party-pooping detail.

It worked. Last weekend, authorities pronounced IUPatty’s 2019 “quiet,” “pretty quiet”   and “uneventful.”

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Think global (Green New Deal). Act local (sustainability)

Student rally, Lafayette College, Easton, Pa., 2015. By The Lafayette.

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA — On Friday, students worldwide (and nationwide) skipped school to protest inaction on climate change by grownups. In Indiana, Pa., students and teachers had a scheduled day off.

Protesters elsewhere were moved in part by a report in October from the world’s top climate-science body, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Mainstream news media emphasized the report’s warning that the world has 12 years – until 2030 — to take action to avoid catastrophe. To protesters, the date added new meaning to the word “deadline.”

“It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said of the report’s release. “We have to put out the fire.” (Cue Billy Joel.)

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunshine Week and the case of the purloined Punxsy panties

In 2005, the American Society of Newspaper Editors launched the first national Sunshine Week, a celebration of access to public information that has been held every year since to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights. (Editorial cartoon by Matt Wuerker | Politico via AP)

An analysis

By David Loomis

INDIANA – At the advent of Sunshine Week, a former Media Law & Ethics student emailed to ask about a March 5 news item published in ExploreJefferson.com, a local news website serving the student’s hometown of Punxsutawney. The 174-word police-blotter item was generating heated comment on the news site and on Facebook.

Was there something libelous or unethical about the story, the former student asked?

Not a bit. But reader reaction reflected a bigger issue, timely for this week’s annual news-industry observance of the First Amendment and a free press: The headline on the Associated Press story in Sunday’s Indiana Gazette captured it: “Analysis: Town by town, local journalism is dying in plain sight.”

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Burrell’s bike-path bugaboo

Burrell Township Supervisor Dan Shacreaw, Burrell Township Library 40th anniversary celebration in 2017. Uncredited photo submitted to The Indiana Gazette.

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – Burrell Township supervisors last month took another swipe at a proposed bike path and bridge across their turf. Supervisor Dan Shacreaw spoke for the three-member board and against supporters of the proposal:

“We are not on board, we are not going to be on board, and that’s as far as it goes,” Shacreaw declared at the municipal lawmakers’ Feb. 20 meeting. “I don’t care if they say they’re trying to work with us or not. I am not for it, and I’m not going to be for it.”

For good measure, in case Shacreaw’s fact-free, my-way-or-the-highway rhetoric wasn’t persuasive, he offered a Plan B: Shelve the project until voters cast ballots in the county commissioners election this year – whether in the Nov. 5 general election, or in the May 21 primary election, or both, was not clear. In other words, Shacreaw would make the Burrell bike-path proposal a countywide referendum.

“They need to wait until new commissioners get on board, and then move forward with it if they want to,” Shacreaw said.

Board chairman Larry Henry added helpfully, “Why handcuff new commissioners to a project they may not support?”

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The new IUP multicultural center’s leaky roof

Trash cans collect rain water dripping from ceiling, IUP Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement Center, Feb. 21, 2019. Submitted photo.

By David Loomis

INDIANA – On Thursday night, a dozen or so students and staffers gathered in the glass-walled conference room of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s year-old Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement. On two large screens, the audience watched “Green Book,” the 2018 Oscar-nominated film based on a true story of a touring black pianist and his white chauffeur navigating second-class public accommodations on the road in the Jim Crow American South of 1962.

Behind the audience is the renovated one-story lobby of Elkin Hall, the last of IUP’s open-access dormitories — opened in 1964, closed in 2016. The lobby houses a front desk, cushioned bench seating with charging stations and, up a few steps and down a hallway, administrative offices. The rest of the five-story building is empty, except for the center’s upstairs storage space.

When IUP President Michael A. Driscoll cut the ribbon on the $2.7 million center renovation on Jan. 26, 2018, he touted it as “one of the most important things we have created here.”

Now, it’s one of the leakiest.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A pattern of jurisprudence in Indiana County courthouse

Ronald Lee Weiss. 2018 photo by The Indiana Gazette.

Law & Order

By David Loomis

INDIANA – A Jan. 15 hearing in the Indiana County courthouse reviewed sad local history in the 1978 homicide of 16-year-old Barbara Ellen Bruzda of Tunnelton. The judicial history dates to 1997, 19 years after her death, when a jury found Ronald Lee Weiss, of Shelocta, guilty of her murder.

Since then, appeals in the case have kept courts busy. One is the Indiana County Court of Common Pleas, where Judge Thomas M. Bianco presided over last month’s proceeding, 40 years after the crime was committed.

Weiss reminded Bianco that a federal judge in Pittsburgh struck down his conviction  in August, citing misconduct by a state police trooper and a state-appointed prosecutor during his 1997 jury trial. To retry him on the same charge now, the question facing Bianco, would violate constitutional guarantees against double jeopardy — prosecution after acquittal — Weiss argued.

Judge Bianco is scheduled to receive written arguments by March 1 and to rule by early spring on the issue. But whatever he decides, U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak’s 2018 ruling in the Weiss case revealed what he called a “pattern” of cold-case homicide investigation and prosecution in Indiana County.

 

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fact-check contest: the rest of the Rega story

Dec. 31, 2014, front page, The Indiana Gazette.

A Review

By David Loomis

INDIANA — We have a winner In The HawkEye’s first fact-check news quiz!

“Just wow,” read the winning entry. “Hard to believe the writer overlooked Judge Rega’s brief banishment from the bench.”

Indeed, the quiz winner (who requested anonymity) promptly and correctly identified a 2014 incident involving Indiana County magistrate Jennifer J. Rega that went curiously missing from the Jan. 25 front-page news item announcing her intention to seek a fourth six-year term on both Democratic and Republican tickets on Nov. 5.

Not only did the winner correctly identify the missing link in the public record, the winner also identified the broader issue – the lacunae (sorry; it’s the right word) around the county courthouse.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fact-checking beyond the Beltway

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. Credit: Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Fact check

By David Loomis

INDIANA — This could be a good year for reality in Washington.

Congress has recalled that it is a co-equal branch of government.  News media over here and over there are fact-checking official pronouncements and tweets. Presidential lawyer/defender Rudy Giuliani is increasingly regarded as a court jester. White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway’s persistent “alternative facts” have earned her a nomination for a ban from news media devoted to traditional truth-seeking.

Coming this week, another tell-all promises more looks behind the leaky curtain around the White House. Disinformation both foreign (Putin) and domestic (Trump) is a matter of public record. And even Fox News, a Trump toady, has turned to what the president calls “fake news.”

Fortunately, citizens are catching on, according to  this week’s Washington Post-ABC News poll.

 

DATELINES FOR DISINFORMATION are not limited to D.C. Beyond the Beltway, citizens are drowning in it.

It’s “raining down on them everywhere they turn,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote last month.

What about Indiana County?

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Campus racial climate change?

Oak Grove preacher Ed Neimann, right, discusses race with members of the IUP Racial Justice Coalition for Change in front of Stapleton Library, Jan. 23, 2019, Photos by Justin G. Cobb.

By The HawkEye staff

INDIANA — On Wednesday, an Oak Grove preacher approached a group standing in front of the library at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They were holding signs expressing opposition to racism and hate. He was saying racism is a “two-way street.”

“The discussion had the potential to go in a lot of different directions,” IUP sociology professor Melanie D. Hildebrandt, co-founder of the Racial Justice Coalition for Change group, said in a Friday phone interview.

But by all accounts, the conversation went in a good direction. It addressed African-American and Muslim students, and it was civil and respectful. Preacher Ed Neimann, reached at his North Huntingdon, Pa., home on Friday, said the exchange was “very cordial.”
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MLK Jr. marchers pursue his dream

Indiana University of Pennsylvania student Kalyn S. Menifee, center, and others lead a crowd of about 100 at the annual Indiana County NAACP Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial march, Philadelphia Street, Indiana, Pa., Jan. 19, 2019. Photo by Anthony Frazier.

By David Loomis

INDIANA — About 100 people braved freezing temps and a bracing wind on Saturday morning to march four blocks from the county courthouse to a downtown church, symbolic footsteps of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights leader’s birthday is an annual holiday on the third Monday in January, and the commemorative march delivered a diverse assembly to the parish hall at Grace United Methodist to marshal what King described as “disciplined nonconformists” dedicated to racial progress.

Racial acrimony in Washington, much of it centered on immigration, was muted at Saturday’s two-hour post-march church program. It included an invocation by Grace United pastor William Blair, choral music and speeches by participants, adolescent to aged.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment