Eastern Alumi Sign Petition Urging EU to Rescind Award: State Senator and Eastern Alumni of the Year attends Capitol insurrection.

At the end of 2020 a petition surfaced urging Eastern University to rescind the 2009 Alumni of the Year award to State Senator Douglas Mastriano on the grounds that he “failed to meet that standard in his role as Pennsylvania State Representative’’. The award standards include “outstanding service through church community, and/or vocational excellence coinciding with the mission of Eastern University”, including Faith, Reason, and Justice. Mastriano graduated from Eastern University with a BA in history, class of 1986.

Facebook | A Facebook post by Mastriano during his campaign was widely interpreted to be islamiphobic.

The petition was originally created due to a social media post by Mastriano which harbored anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his anti-mask position during the COVID-19 pandemic. When urged to reconsider his mask position by local clergy in his constituency, Mastriano called the group of 40 faith leaders “cowards”, as well as questioned their faith as Christians.

Commitment to rescinding Mastriano’s award became even more pressing when he was pictured attending the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Senator’s campaign spent several thousand dollars bussing constituents to the protest, and the Senator himself was scheduled to speak at the event following President Trump. Mastriano is even found in a photo with former PA Representative Rick Saccone attending the event.

WHYY | Senator Mastriano and former PA Rep. Saccone pictured together at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Senator Mastriano’s involvement in this event is unsurprising to many. Since November, Senator Mastriano has been a strong proponent of overturning Pennsylvania’s election results, including urging Governor Wolf to appoint Trump as President. Senator Mastriano has also spoken on a podcast affiliated with QAnon, the far-right conspiracy group linked to the attack on the Capitol.

Though Mastriano claims to have left the protest before any violence started, and there is no evidence to suggest this claim is untrue, he has been urged by several peer Senators and Representatives to resign from his position. Senator Mastriano was inaugurated for his second term as State Senator on January 5, the day before the violence at the Capitol began.

These allegations have been acknowledged by the Eastern Alumni Advisory Board, and rescinding of the award is currently under review. However, information beyond “This process is ongoing,” has not been shared with the Waltonian.

Senator Mastriano has made clear he has no intent to resign, and has denied any allegations of terroristic behavior, saying, “When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines.”

Whether Senator Mastriano’s conduct spreading baseless claims about PA election integrity, blatant islamophobia, anti-mask policies, and attendance at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 justifies rescinding his alumni award is for the reader to decide. One thing, however, is clear: Eastern’s commitment to its mission of faith, reason, and justice is under intense scrutiny as the university deliberates over this award.

To view this petition, visit http://chng.it/V2Vxn22P. To view the original award, visit page 15 of the Spring/Summer 2009 edition of the Spirit magazine on Eastern’s webpage. For more information on this issue, please contact the Waltonian at wtonline@eastern.edu.

Sources: WHYY, PA State Senate, Change.org, York Dispatch, Eastern.edu

What You Need to Know: “Rigged Election”, the Administration’s response, and democratic history.

The results of the 2020 General Election have been called, according to the Associated Press, determining that candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the U.S. President and Vice President in January. These results came with a stark divide between President Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud and his administration’s call for trust in the electoral system.

President Trump has been vocal in denouncing the trustworthiness of mail-in ballots and the electoral process as a whole, saying: “He [Biden] only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”

President Trump’s refusal to concede the election or recognize President-Elect Joe Biden has resulted in numerous states calling for recounts and more than a dozen lawsuits filed for state and federal review. A report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) concluded “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,”, adding “While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too,”

The Director of CISA, Chris Krebs, nominated for this position by President Trump, has worked to maintain the mission to provide non partisan and trusted election security. Krebs is now expected to be removed from his position due to condemnation from Capitol Hill, and following the forced resignation of senior CISA official, Bryan Ware.

Though this is not the first time a contemporary election has been called into question, there has not ever been an election where the incumbent has refused to concede an election or commit to a peaceful transition of power. The only other candidate to contest election results was Al Gore v. Bush in the 2000 General Election. Thus, President Trump’s accusations have broader implications than this election, as they call into question the credibility of our electoral system, and the foundation of U.S. democracy.

Sources: Time

Historic Election Wins

Kamala Harris (D): Vice Presidential-Elect Harris won a historic election as the first Black Asian-American woman elected to this position.

Cori Bush (D): First Black woman to represent Missouri in the U.S. Congress. Bush worked as a medic during Black Lives Matter protests in Furguson during 2014 and is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and the Green New Deal. Bush is one of a number of marginalized, progressive candidates who joined the U.S. Congress this election.

David Andahl (R): Republic candidate from North Dakota was projected to win one of two seats for North Dakota’s 8th Congressional district. As a rancher and chair of the Burleigh County Planning and Zoning Commission, Andahl ran on a pro-coal and agriculture platform. Despite this success, Andahl died from the novel Coronavirus on October 5th at the age of 55 and his election victory was declared posthumously.

Sarah McBride (D): McBride has gone down in history as the first openly transgender state senator after winning the race in Delaware this General Election. Previously, McBride served as the Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, and is widely credited for championing the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 which ensured legal protections for transgender people in the state.

Ritchie Torres (D): Born and raised in the Bronx district which he is now representing, Torres’ historic victory means he is the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latine member of the U.S. Congress. Torres’ campaign was built on progressive housing funding, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal. He is a recovered addict and has been open about his battle with mental illness, and will be taking these perspectives into his role as New York’s 5th Congressional District Representative-Elect.

Madison Crawthorn (R): Winning North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, Representative- Elect Crawthorn, will become the youngest representative elected to the U.S. House since 1965 at the recently celebrated age of 25. Crawthorn was paralyzed in a car crash at the age of 18; he has drawn upon this strength to win the district election by almost twenty percent, saying “I’m a proven fighter—overcoming life’s toughest
challenges. Now I’m ready to take on the liberals in Congress.”

Marilyn Strickland (D): Washington’s 10th Congressional district voted in favor of Representative-elect Strickland to be the first Korean-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, as well as the first Black woman to reach this position in Washington state. Born in Seoul, Strickland served as mayor of Tacoma for eight years and served as the president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Ana Irma Rivera Lassén (D): The first Black, openly lesbian Puerto Rican to become an elected legislator in Puerto Rico, Lassén was elected to Puerot Rican Senate this cycle. Lassén has built her career in human rights law and gender discrimination. In 1980 she sued and won a lawsuit against a Judge who would not permit Lassén entry into the court unless she was wearing a skirt or dress. Lassén joins four openly gay Candidates in Puerto Rico to win elected positions.

BIDEN AND HARRIS WIN PRESIDENCY: The Associated Press and Washington Post call election results amid controversy.

On November seventh the Associated Press called the 2020 General Election in favor of Joe Biden, with 290 Electoral votes and President Trump getting 232 Electoral votes. The Washington Post concluded the results at 306 votes for Joe Biden. Both reports show a clear lead for the Biden campaign. These results were determined after several days of vote recounts and delayed results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alaska, and Nevada.

Though President Trump and many of his populous supporters refused to acknowledge the results of this race, a number of governmental officials, Democrat legislators, and a growing number of Republican
legislators have urged Trump to accept the results. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton
came out saying “I think it’s very important for leaders of the Republican Party to explain to our voters — who are not as stupid as the Democrats think — that, in fact, Trump has lost the election and that his claims of election fraud are baseless”.

The General Services Administration (GSA) has yet to call this race. Their formal recognition is needed for
the transition process to commence; a process that takes several months, an extensive budget, and an impressive exchange of information. The Biden administration has committed to taking legal action if the GSA does not acknowledge the race results in the upcoming week. Emily Murphy, the primary GSA administrator and Trump appointee, has a reputation for being a “diligent professional” according to the New York Times, and is expected to follow nonpartisan precedent. The delayed recognition is likely due to “the precedent established after the 2000 election, when court battles over the Florida recount delayed the transition by several weeks.” according to CBS.

Since the initial announcement, President Trump has conceded that the election was “won” by Biden,
adding “He won because the Election was Rigged,”. A number of lawsuits in state and federal court, as well as calls for recounts have resulted from this allegation. Despite these accusations, the Biden-Harris
Transition Team plans to continue with the transition of power as planned, resorting to legal pursuit if
necessary. The White House Counsel has committed to upholding this peaceful precedent and aiding Biden in his transition. It is yet unclear whether the Trump Administration itself will commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Prior to the election President Trump alluded to an unwillingness to leave power in statements and tweets.

In September during a press conference the President was asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election. Trump responded saying, “Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens”, adding, “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

For more information on the election, go to the Waltonian’s centerspread for an in-depth analysis of the
race results and repercussions.

Sources: Fox News, Washington Post, Associated Press, Time, CNN.

“Food Deserts”: A look into the framework behind and the affect of inequitable food access.

It is generally understood that there are vast inequalities across the globe in food access. What is alarming, however, is the degree of inequity in access to healthy, affordable food within one community
or city. Upon taking a closer look at communities which have lessened access to healthy food and fresh produce, or “food deserts”, it is apparent that this phenomenon is not random. These inequalities disproportionately affect neighborhoods with larger amounts of Black and Brown residents.

In Philadelphia, for example, much of the city’s residents do not have access to a grocery store within one mile of their home. According to the USDA, neighborhoods which experience the least access to grocery stores include Strawberry Mansion, Fairhill, East Germantown, Kensington, and Allegheny West.
These neighborhoods are also the home to majority People of Color and areas with the lowest income in
the city.

This organization is not unintentional. Health food grocery corporation Whole Foods has been repeatedly criticized for placing their stores in high-income neighborhoods. Worse, this chain has a
history of establishing their stores in areas where the residents cannot afford their ridiculously high prices in a successful attempt to gentrify the area and push out its residents.

Other health food stores, such as Trader Joe’s, is known for establishing branches exclusively in high-
income areas, despite being known for its affordable health food prices. This practice serves to further segregate low-income communities from access to affordable and healthy food options.

Representative Marcia Fudge (D- Ohio), member of the Congressional Black Caucus, says “While Whole
Foods may have a limited presence in many of our districts, further consolidation may force grocers who
have a stronger brick-and-mortar presence in our communities to respond to this merger. As a result, it is possible these grocers will consolidate further and close stores that offer any, or the only, option to low-income communities.”

In East Germantown, the nearest grocery store is a twenty-minute bus ride for most residents, a circumstance which has been the reality for more than forty years. According to the The Food Trust,
“Research has shown that you are where you eat, that the neighborhood you live in has a profound impact on the food choices you make.” Furthermore, “Research also demonstrates the
economy of lower-income communities is positively influenced by improved food access. For example, the development or presence of a grocery store can create jobs, stimulate investment in the neighborhood and anchor complementary retail.”

Consuming healthy food is the greatest contributor to our ability to thrive, life expectancy, and mental
health. It stimulates economic growth, pulls families from poverty, and facilitates our brain to learn. It is our most basic need as humans. And yet it is a “privilege” 23.5 million Americans do not have.

Sources: Future Foods, USDA

How to Vote in Pennsylvania: A comprehensive guide to voting in the 2020 Pennsylvania General Election.

Step 1: Apply for mail-in absentee ballot at votespa.com/ApplyMailBallot. The Mail-in Ballot Application must be received by your county election office by 5 PM October 27, regardless of post stamp.

Step 2: Mail-in ballot must be postmarked by 8 PM Nov 3 or received by the county election office by 5 PM Nov 6 to be counted. Mail-in ballots must be placed in the secrecy envelope, which is put inside of the mailing envelope.

Step 3: If you cannot or do not want to vote by mail, you must vote in person on November 3 at your
municipality’s Polling Place. Contact your County Elections Office to determine which local Polling Place you are registered to vote at.

Step 4: What’s on the ballot?
1. President of the United States
2. State Representative for the U.S. House of Representatives
3. District Representative for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives
4. Pennsylvania Auditor General:

What they do: The Pennsylvania Auditor General makes sure that state money is spent legally and properly. They are an official ‘watchdog’ for the Pennsylvania congress spending.

5. Attorney General of Pennsylvania

What they do: The State Attorney General is the top legal representative for the state. They enforce federal laws, provide legal counsel, interpret law that governs executive state departments, and head the federal jails and penal institutions.

6. Pennsylvania State Treasurer

What they do: The Treasurer serves as the administrator of more than $100 billion funds across the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including receipt, withdrawals, and deposit of state money.

The Importance of Belonging: Get to know Dr. Randolph Walters, the Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging.

Though Dr. Randolph Walters has been a beloved member of Eastern University’s faculty for twenty-six years, his new position as Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging calls for an introduction. Dr. Walters worked in a variety of positions, including high school teacher, adjunct instructor, pastor, and missionary before receiving a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Immaculata University. He developed a private practice in Philadelphia, Randolph Walters & Associates, LLC. He has a specialty in trauma therapy and teaches courses in the Trauma concentration as he has worked as the longest serving faculty member in the Counseling Psychology program at Eastern University.

Walters views this position as an extension of the work he’s already been engaging in throughout his life and career. When asked what he hopes to accomplish in this position, Walters explained that he would like to have the faculty, staff and students of Eastern reflect the diversity of our nation, as well as address any inequities in opportunities, programs, policies and budgets so that each student at Eastern gets the same opportunities,
and are able to have access to what they need to be successful.

Regarding his title, Dr. Walters explained that Eastern should be striving to create a sense of “belonging” for students, not just inclusion, saying that
humans were created with a deep fundamental need for “relationship, connection and community.” Thus, his title reflects the emphasized significance and value placed in each student at Eastern beyond the numbers. This concept of belonging is one which resonates with Dr. Walters, both in his professional field of psychology, and culturally, as he grew up in the Caribbean.

Walters believes that his life purpose is to facilitate diverse people globally in their journey of healing and to reach their full potential and God-given purpose. To do this he marries psychology, theology, and spirituality, something he thinks this new position well reflects. Walters says “I’m a healer. I believe God has called me to do that in the world.”

This position allows Walters to take a leadership role in helping to live out the Kingdom of God. “It’s ministry,” said Walters, “Ministry is touching people. I try to do this in all aspects of my life, not just in church on Sunday.” Walters referenced the Acts 2 passage as the birth of the church; an image of the church which is diverse, people from all over the world worshipping together as one. This is the image that Dr. Walters believes Eastern
University should reflect in its Diversity Initiative, and in his recently appointed position as Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging.

PRESIDENTIAL & VP CANDIDATES CLASH IN DEBATES

The first Presidential Debate for the 2020 campaign cycle was Tuesday, September 29, featuring former Vice President Joe Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump. The debate topics include the Supreme Court nominee, COVID-19, healthcare, the economy, taxes, racial justice, law and
order, protests in Portland, climate change, and election integrity.

Both candidates challenged each other throughout the segments, interrupting and attacking their opponent’s personality, family,
and political history. While not much was covered in the way of policy, many of the “hot button” issues were exhausted. The candidates discussed the Coronavirus for over twenty minutes, each claiming the others’ practices would have resulted in more deaths.

When asked to discuss racial justice, both candidates skirted the issue, Biden saying “There’s systemic injustice in this country, in education and work and in law enforcement and the way in which it’s enforced. But look, the vast majority of police officers are good, decent, honorable men and women. They risk their lives every day to take care of us, but there are some bad apples. And when they occur, when they find them, they have to be sorted out. They have to be held accountable.”

Trump, when asked to condemn white supremacists and vigilante militia, told the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, to “Stand back
and stand by.”. This statement was interpreted by the Proud Boys as a direct endorsement and encouragement to their group. Trump followed this declaration by condemning racial sensitivity and critical race theory as “racist”, when asked why his administration directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training this past month.

A poll following the debate determined that former VP Joe Biden may have gained a small amount of support, while Trump lost a small margin of supporters. However, it appears that most voters have already determined who they will vote for, and the debate made little impact either way. The general consensus, as quoted by Lisa Lerer of the New York Times, is that “There was a clear loser at last night’s debate: you. Yes, you, the American voter.”

Due to the disorienting amount of interruptions, the next Presidential Debates will likely include stricter moderation with the potential to turn off candidates’ microphones upon excessive interruptions.

The Presidential Debate was followed on Wednesday, Oct. 6, by the Vice Presidential Debate for the 2020 campaign cycle. This debate focused more on policy, discussing many of the same topics addressed in the Presidential Debate. Both candidates managed to act more professional than their Presidential counterparts, though vice presidential candidate Mike Pence continually interrupted Senator Kamala Harris.

Both candidates avoided some of the more challenging topics, including sidestepping a question about healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions and how each campaign will handle their administration should either aged Presidential candidate fall ill during their term. Additionally, Pence repeatedly argued with Harris on Biden’s campaign positions, including fracking, law and order, the Green New Deal, and COVID; Pence claiming Biden’s campaign supported issues Harris asserted were simply untrue.

For many viewers, this was the first time seeing the Vice Presidential candidates speak live and the debate gave many voters a better insight into each campaign and their positions.

Sources: Statista, Rev.com transcript, New York Times

Congressional Contradictions in Ongoing COVID Stimulus Negotiations

As we approach flu season during the Coronavirus pandemic talk of a second stimulus check has increased. Congress is back in session, and debating how much, who would be included, and when a
second stimulus check would be released to eligible American citizens.

The rescue package has strong bipartisan support, and according to CNBC, Nancy Pelosi said “We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” regarding how long Congress will remain in session before the holiday break.

It is unlikely that Congress will be able to come to a timely agreement with the 2020 Presidential Election looming and the death of esteemed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There are still a number of eligible, approved stimulus check applicants who have yet to receive their stimulus package. As debates regarding a second stimulus package continue, frustration with the existing negligence in the March CARES Act creates increased dissatisfaction among the American public.

With such strong bipartisan support, the second stimulus check seems to be the best way to address the American peoples’ needs as this potential second round of Coronavirus threatens. However, contradictions and confusion in D.C. have stalled the progression of this decisive act.

A $1.5 Trillion stimulus has been proposed by a bipartisan caucus dubbed “The Problem Solvers”, but the proposal seems unlikely to advance. Thus far, Democrats have pushed for increased protections and widening eligibility for the American people, with Nancy Pelosi standing firm at her original proposal of a $2.2 trillion package.

Congressional Republicans offered a slimmer package with a $1.1 Trillion relief fund including unemployment benefits, Paycheck Protection Programs for small businesses, school funding and liability shield measures, but no stimulus check.

Meanwhile, President Donald J. Trump recently urged Republicans to “Go for much higher numbers”, because the American people “desperately need the money”, despite “They [Democrats] don’t want to give stimulus payments”. These comments appear to contradict the position his party is taking, as well as the Democrats’ push for increased funding, in the negotiations of the COVID-19 stimulus package.

Regardless of petty politics, the American people need this stimulus check. According to a survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 15% of receivers of the stimulus check spent it on regular expenses, 33% devoted it to a savings fund, and a whopping 52% used it to pay down existing or occurred debt related to the Coronavirus. Congress must work to take a unified stance to pass this new
stimulus package.

“DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND BELONGING”: A look into the shortcomings of Eastern University’s diversity initiative.

The Diversity and Inclusion Planning Initiative was created in 2016 to respond to an analysis which determined the racial makeup of the EU workforce had been steadily declining from 2010 to 2015. The analysis specifically cited university leadership as lacking in racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.
The initiative, charged by former President Robert Duffett and led by former Executive Vice President, Tom Ridington, was recommended to address the widening gap between the diversity of Eastern’s student body and those who teach and serve our students.

The initiative was followed in 2017 by a report predicting why Eastern has a low number of faculty, staff, and leadership of color, followed by a proposal for how to achieve changes in the area of diversity and inclusion.

An excerpt from the report concludes the low number of people of color at Eastern “is likely symptomatic of deeper causes emanating from policies and practices that fail to reflect the standards of community life found in Eastern University’s institutional commitments,” adding that “Hiring based on personal networks, rather than posted openings, frustrates those outside of existing power relationships from opportunities to advance their career.” The proposal recommended an institutional audit conducted by an external organization and creation of the position of Chief Diversity Officer to respond to this inequity.

In September 2017, after commitments and training to diversify, the University filled six dean’s level and above positions, with all white and mostly male persons. In response, the Concerned Black Staff and Faculty wrote a letter of concern to President Robert Duffett urging him to examine and change the University culture, and tenure and hiring practices. Multiple meetings and letters later, the same practices continue in 2020.

This summer the Anti-Racism Initiative was created by a group of students including a letter and list of expectations for Eastern to make strides toward anti-racism, alongside a petition which gathered the support of over 700 students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff. In response to this, and to the previous proposals and recommendations, sitting President Ronald Matthews appointed Dr. Randolph Walters as a part-time Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging.

The special assistant was appointed by the President, as opposed to the open process that was recommended in the proposal by the broader study of effective collegiate diversity. The proposal additionally recommended the position of Chief Diversity Officer, a position virtually identical to Dr. Randolph Walter’s new job description. Instead, Special Assistant to the President suggests a consultative role, while upholding the same job description as the full time position of Chief Diversity Officer.

In an attempt to better understand this issue, I consulted Dr. Kathy-Ann Hernandez, a professor at Eastern whose ongoing scholarship and research for a book she co-edited, Diversity Matters, focused specifically on the Black Diaspora in Christian higher education. Hernandez says “My continued work in the area of diversity and inclusion convinces me that ultimately D & I work is about disrupting
‘cultural lock-in’. This term refers to ‘the gradual stiffening of the invisible architecture of the corporation’ that results in ‘the ossification of its decision-making abilities, control systems, and mental models’ (Foster & Kaplan, 2001, p.16).”

Hernandez adds, “Even with the best strategies and policies for going forward, if we do not first do the work that is necessary to first identify the culture that is at work here and then seek to change it, we are treating the symptom rather than the cause.”

This observation directly addresses the procedural failures of Eastern University in appointing the role of Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging. Dr. Hernandez concluded, “I view the processes by which this appointment was made as a serious misstep on the path to creating a truly inclusive and equitable EU campus community. This was an opportunity to disrupt the status quo of how things are ‘done at EU’ and to make room at the table for more voices to be part of the process. Now more than ever given the zeitgeist, institutions that continue to make such decisions from positions of privilege and power, do so at their own detriment.”

Eastern University’s honorable goal of increasing diversity, inclusivity, and belonging for staff, faculty, and students of color by creating this position was well intentioned and certainly needed. However, their aim will ultimately be hindered by upholding the normative procedures and practices which inhibit diversity and inclusion. For Eastern to take effective and sustainable steps toward diversity, equity, and belonging they must reconsider the procedures which ultimately inhibit these ambitions and heed the recommendations given by the Eastern community.