All posts by Gabriel Esparza

Agape Latte

(Photo Credit: Father Jud Weiksnar)

Hilbert College —  Campus Ministry hosted Agape Latte Tuesday, April 4, in the Lower Level Campus Center. Agape Latte is a program that runs at multiple colleges throughout the country, bringing people together for fellowship, baked goods and coffee. The event then has a speaker talk about their faith journey and personal life, it’s a chance for the community to connect on a deeper level and to have deeper conversations about life than what normally occurs.

Mary Ann Hobar, an associate professor and Assistant Chair of the Forensics Science Division at Hilbert, was the speaker, her talk was titled, “When Life Throws You a Curve.” She spoke of her aspirations, since being a little girl, of joining the police force and her struggle and dedication to fulfill her dream. She described a conversation with her parents, “They did not want me to enter the police force and were happy when I was accepted into Veterinary School.” But she decided not to go, she stayed close to her family and decided to repursue her dream of joining the police force.

Her main reason for staying home was because of her family, they were supportive and loving, they were the foundation of her life. She was successful and was accepted into the Police Academy, after opening the acceptance letter her father told her, “Your smile was worth everything in the world.”  But then life threw Hoby a curve, her father suddenly died.

Hobar, nicknamed Hoby, decided against going to the academy and instead chose to stay with her mom. This was a hard time for Holby and her mother, but they persevered. And Hoby was offered a local job on the police force. This allowed her to stay with her mom and work her dream job. She worked herself up through the ranks and retired as a lieutenant of the Orchard Park Police Department.

As her time was coming to a close, working for the police department, Hoby picked up teaching a couple of criminal justice classes at Hilbert. Students loved that she had real world experience in the field, and she was asked to come back each semester. Then she was approached and accepted the new role of Head of the Forensics Science Division at Hilbert, it is currently a very successful part of the Hilbert curriculum that has blossomed under the guidance of Hoby.

Agape Latte was a fun, engaging and insightful program. Campus ministry is planning to host similar events during the upcoming fall semester.



Hilbert Students Assist a Recovering City

New Orleans— Students of Hilbert College through Young Life, a non- denominational Christian ministry group,  spent their spring break on a service mission trip, helping the people of New Orleans. The group of eleven was led by Jake Peters, the Assistant Director of Residence Life at HIlbert College.  The students volunteered through the Saint Bernard Project, an organization that was set up in response to Hurricane Katrina, to help victims. The clients of the Saint Bernard project are usually people with a lower income, many of whom had been scammed out of initial relief and rebuilding efforts, people still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The trip started by attending a black Baptist church in the lower ninth ward, one of the worst affected areas of Hurricane Katrina. There was a lot of passion at the service, but there was definitely a sense of community. The preacher talked about stepping up when called upon and spreading the faith the question, “do I have a Joshua in the house”, was met with a robust “Amen”. These people that had endured so much expressed a great sense of joy by being together and sharing their faith, especially through their love of singing.  

Hilbert students worked at three work sites during their service learning trip, operating from the Mustard Seed Ministry House, a house that functioned similar to a hostel. The first site was the building of operations for the Saint Bernard Project organization, the job was to sand and paint the walls. The room will be renovated in order to rent out to a different non-profit group, which would bring down operating costs and ultimately allow for more funding to go to helping the people of New Orleans.

The next site was cleaning up roof tiles and garbage in a person’s backyard, the damage coming from the recent tornado that swept through the area. Driving to the site, the students saw the devastating effects from the tornado first hand, entire roofs had been removed from people’s homes and many doors were denoting the deaths that had resulted from the tornado.

The last work site was a Catholic middle school that had been submerged due to Hurricane Katrina and had not been opened since. The water level was still visible by the water marks on the door entering the school. While the lower level is currently being used for meetings, the upper level, which functioned as the school had not been touched, it was like viewing a snapshot in history. The chalkboards had not been erased, still showing some drawings, lessons and the last date that school was in session. After speaking with the deacon of the church it became clear, “ This school has been closed for eleven years and will not reopen, it’s a miracle that the bottom floor can be used, but this where we can find hope and hopefully be a light to the people.”

No matter where the Hilbert students worked, the locals of New Orleans were tough resilient and optimistic for the future. They found hope in many small victories and acts, and were greatly appreciated for the small acts of service that the Hilbert Students were able to provide.

The Trump Immigration Ban

Hamburg– On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order, temporarily banning people from seven Muslim – majority countries, while also issuing a temporary indefinite ban for people from Syria.

Mneerah Alkahil, a graduate student from St. Bonaventure expressed her thoughts about the ban and was able to provide some historical context, “this ban did not happen overnight, but it is an accumulation of years of anti-Muslim sentiments.” Mneerah, herself, is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia and sees both perspectives of needing to be secure and of helping refugees in need. But she believes that the American media is falling short when it comes informing the public, “the media covers attacks only on the Western world, however, more Muslims are dying from terror attacks and the American media is giving almost no coverage to efforts by Muslim countries to combat terrorism.” Muslims are constantly being called to condemn and to do something about the terrorist attacks, yet it is people of the Muslim faith that are the overwhelming victims of terrorism. Some efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism have included convening a Summit Security Committee hosted by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of over 34 Muslim countries.

The media too often unfairly targets Muslims, as Mneerah noted, “ Fox News is the highest rated show on television and they say that Islam is not a religion but an ideology.” These types of statements, whether intended or not, are demeaning and enhance the messaging of people seeking to recruit more followers to groups like ISIS. Mneerah described the issue of this mentality as, “ Muslims are seen as too different and that we contradict American values.” When asked what being a Muslim meant to her she responded, “Being Muslim means following the teachings of Mohammed and his followers, this includes, praying, fasting and showing your faith in how you treat people, it means to be kind and to perfect your work.”

Mneerah suggested some ways to break down barriers and to help eradicate some prejudice against people of the Muslim community, “Have conversations with different people, you’ll  be happy to get to know someone from a different culture.” She went on to explain the root causes of groups such as ISIS, “ ISIS attracts vulnerable people with homicidal thoughts, it’s like a gang that is using the pretext of religion. Many are criminals with prison records. They desire a clash of civilizations, the East versus the West.” According to her they are more of a political group than a religious group. American interventionism has contributed toward their recruitment and feeds into their narrative. According to Mneerah, “These people are living a different interpretation of Islam, the Quran is being taken out of context and not being read with the historical context, it was written for Mohammed during his time, we need to re-read and re-evaluate the Muslim texts.”

When asked where she sees hope for a brighter future she said, “ I hope that we look back on this as the crazy phase. But there is hope from people protesting on behalf of total strangers at airports or people like lawyers helping immigrants.” Instead of responding out of fear and anger, people should be  willing to listen to the perspective of someone else and  be compassionate.

People Then Politics

Hilbert College — The Committee for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a public forum to discuss the immigration ban issued by President Trump; featuring Dr. Andrew Kolin, a political science professor at Hilbert College as the keynote speaker.

Ahyana King, director of Multicultural Affairs at Hilbert, introduced Dr. Kolin, and also noted that HIlbert was helping to sponsor a family immigrating to Buffalo. Dr. Kolin began by stating that Trump had issued an executive order named, “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States”, along with a temporary travel ban on seven muslim-majority countries, the executive order serves as an indefinite shutdown on immigration from the country of Syria. No country involved with 9/11 or Saudi Arabia, a major proponent of terrorism, was included in the ban. “This ban had a short term motive, and was drafted by Steve Bannon, a mouthpiece of the party”, claimed Dr. Kolin.

Dr. Kolin then gave historical context of the ban, and some of the anti- immigration sentiments that have occurred throughout our country’s history. Restricting immigration out of fear began with “ The Alien and Sedition Acts and the age of Nativism. The 19th century saw the rise of the Know- Nothing Party, it was during this time that Italians were branded as terrorists and later placed in internment camps.” Asians also served as scapegoats of American fears in our past, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act, with interment and school segregation serving as clear examples of this policy of hatred. In 1924, Congress passed the “Immigration Act” which turned away Jewish refugees. Citing these examples, Dr. Kolin tried to illustrate that the “Land of Immigrants” has not always been very welcoming to immigrants and has often been afraid of “the other”.

He continued discussing the recent executive order, stating, “ the Attorney Generals of sixteen states filed to halt the ban, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the ban

unconstitutional, on the grounds that it violates the establishment clause of the US Constitution, it also violates the state’s due process clause, as explained in the Fifth Amendment; and the individual’s right to due process noted in the 14th Amendment. In addition, the 1965 Immigration Law forbids discrimination based on nationality. The ban also violates provision of international law from the “United Nations Convention Against Torture”, granting civil and political rights for people that are emigrating.” Dr. Kolin also noted that it is in the best interest of the American people to allow refugees because, “birth rates are in decline and the US needs an infusion into the workforce that is vital to industries. According to the US Department of Labor, over 50% of farm labor is undocumented.” Similar numbers hold up in other industries as well, including the meat packing industry and various commercial services. “ Most of the 11 million immigrants earn under minimum wage, and the cost if they all left, would be 200 billion dollars annually.”

According to Dr. Kolin, “The main source of terrorism is caused by white supremacists, yet Trump called the Planned Parenthood attacker a maniac, if he had been a person of color he would likely be constantly saying that he was a terrorist, however there has been a rise in terrorist activity, especially by the KKK.” Trump is targeting the wrong demographic if he truly is concerned about the safety of the American people.

Dr. Kolin then shifted to talk about foreign policy, “The US is highly supportive of terrorism. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is supported by taxpayers and trains oppressive Latin American dictators. The United States is the top weapons buyer, dealer, military spender, has the greatest military presence, and is the greatest overthrower of governments.”  Dr. Kolin then quoted Martin Luther King Jr., “ The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.” “This ban is playing into the politics of fear, you have a 1 in 36 million chance of being killed by someone banned by the executive order, but in reality, it is US foreign policy that has contributed the most to the rise of ISIS. When polled, citizens in the Middle East are not as concerned about ISIS or other radical groups, “people are most afraid of terrorism committed by the United States and Israel.

In closing, Dr. Kolin pointed out that the ban was struck down as unconstitutional by President Bush appointees. He also cautioned that the executive branch has grown too powerful. During the question and answer period he anticipated that “Trump will likely seek an alternative method to implement the ban, the executive order was the fast track, he is now seeking to go after courts, and to silence the fourth estate.”

Hilbert Dining Hall Is Going Green

By Gabriel Esparza
Staff writer

Hamburg — Students can  now take their meals to go in plastic, washable containers from the Hilbert College dining hall. The college has introduced a new Styrofoam free takeout program called “Eco To-Go.” Students sign up for the program at the register. With a $15 purchase students will be able to take two containers at a time, and keep two on reserve. Dirty,  rinsed dishes will be returned back to the cafeteria and they will be replaced by two new ones. The two containers will include one soup bowl and one compartmentalized to-go box.

The move toward a more environmentally friendly takeout policy is driven by past excess waste. According to Jessica Lively, the food service director, Styrofoam plates and cups were taking up too much waste and too much of the budget. “The trash and dumpster were  constantly being filled, the Styrofoam order would be as high as 1200 boxes, just to be thrown out,” Lively said. Students would often use the to-go containers and still dine in. This kept the workers busier than necessary emptying trash. An additional factor was a possible health effect of students eating food from styrofoam, especially if food was microwaved inside the Styrofoam, Lively said.

Lively made it clear that the dining hall is not trying to turn a profit on the containers and said, “we are currently breaking even.” The cost for access to the four containers is currently $15, if you sign up before Jan 31. That’s down from the original $20 price. The containers are microwaveable, dishwasher safe and can be placed in the freezer.

Election Night at Hilbert

Ryan Crino, an RA at Hilbert, hosted an election night party for the Hilbert students. About 30 students attended, people had their different reasons for coming. The best reason being, “It’s my room, I had to be here.” The event was held in the Katherine apartment and started at 8pm. Cirino had handouts for everyone, listing the four main candidates and explaining all of their positions.

 We started watching the ABC coverage, tallying the electoral votes of the results as they came in. Everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win, it was just a question of when the experts were going to announce it. Cirino did a good job ensuring that there was plentiful food and drink, we had enough on the off chance that election results would go far into the night. The conversation of the room was light, a lot of small talk, no one was really discussing politics for the first part of the coverage. Around 9:30 almost everyone left to go back to their rooms, only five devoted and fixated students remained and we would stick it out until the end.

The race turned out to be closer than what we had originally anticipated, we were still fully expecting Clinton to win even if it was a little closer. We discussed one of the lesser known presidential candidates, Andrew Basiago. (Look him up he’s real.) This man claims that he has time traveled, been to mars and shot at dinosaurs. While obviously not a serious candidate to win, he is definitely interesting and helped us pass some time discussing conspiracy theories.

Then the election took a surprising turn, some key swing states had just closed their polls and Trump was ahead! A democratic strategist then said, “It’s ok, because Florida isn’t important to win, we’re focusing on Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.” Presumably losing Florida was always a part of their winning strategy. On TV the talk was all about how, “Clinton is only down by a couple points.” Instead the talking points should have pointed out how much Clinton was underperforming and how low the voter turnout was, which always helps republicans get elected. For example, in Wayne County, Michigan in 2012, Obama won by 48% of the vote, Clinton was edging out a 1 point lead there. That is important because she was definitely going to lose in the more rural areas, so she had to win with larger margins in the more heavily populated areas.

Around 10:15 we changed the coverage to the fox news station, they were the most up-to-date with their projections. But after a while the commentators run out of stuff to say and the room found them to be annoying. Most commentators were followed by cynical remarks by Hilbert students. “Why don’t they just play rock, paper, scissors?” An exit poll came out saying that Trump won independents, 48% to 42%. The real surprise of the election was Florida! Not that Trump won this swing state but that they had a smooth election! They seemed to have enough ballots at all of their polling places, many congratulations is in order for the state election board of Florida!

Each swing state going to Trump became less and less of surprise. Trump winning Wisconsin was huge for the Trump campaign, the democratic blue wall had been pierced, Trump was on the verge of victory. Around 11:15 a Canadian immigration website reportedly crashed, presumably some people were not happy about the election results? As the election results were coming to an end the room became more engaged , a heavier use of political humor and puns were utilized to analyze what had just occurred throughout our country. “If Trump can win the presidency with no political experience, I better be able to get a job with my degree!” In the great political upset of modern history a total novice, an outsider, having never been elected to political office, won one of the most powerful and important positions in the world. Around 2:30 Clinton called Trump to concede, we were just waiting for Trump to give his victory speech. We were looking at, against all odds and established rules of politics, the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

The room was disappointed that Trump had been elected, but they would not have been overly thrilled about another Clinton presidency either. Some had supported the third party candidates, knowing full well they they wouldn’t win, but they kept their sense of moral and political high mindedness, to them Jill Stein and Garry Johnson would have been better alternatives. People were mostly hoping that Trump would not roll back some of the social progress that had been made, especially for the LGBTQ community, and that Trump would act responsibly and rationally, the big hope is that Trump said and did a lot of his strangeness just to get attention and that he will now act more like a world leader.

What happened at the Bethlehem Steel Site

LACKAWANNA — The Hilbert College community awoke to thick plumes of black smoke in the sky last Wednesday, coming from a massive fire at a building that was part of the Bethlehem Steel complex on Route Five.

The fire started early Wednesday morning Nov. 9, according to officials and witnesses who live in the neighborhood surrounding the building.

The building was a storage space for what was described as “recyclable materials,” as well as cars and boats.

No cause of the fire has been determined, but officials were still investigating.

“People were in the building at the time but no one is known to have been harmed. There is no official cause to the incident and the arson unit will do their investigation,” said Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski, who was at the scene of the fire last Wednesday, talking with emergency responders and residents who came by to look at the blaze.

Jesse Susi, a resident of Beech Street, a small side street that backs up to the huge structure, reported hearing a loud, explosive bang early Wednesday morning. He said he used to work inside the building several years ago.

“My old job just  burned down, I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. Susi lives a block away, upwind from the site, and said that he felt comfortable and safe, despite being so close to the flames.

A helicopter operated by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department hovered over the site and took video images. Route Five was closed in both directions near the site for several days, until demolition crews were able to demolish what was left of the building. News reports said there was a fear that the building would collapse and spill debris onto the roadway.

Last Wednesday, many people stood and watched responders from Lackawanna, Buffalo, and several other nearby agencies blast the fire with water cannons.

There was some concern raised by Szymanski and other officials about air quality, from the smoke plume. Szymanski told a local TV station that Lackawanna would be purchasing its own air monitoring equipment to check for harmful contamination in the coming weeks.

Celebrating Four Senior Athletes

By Gabriel Esparza

October 29th Hilbert College celebrated the career of four  athletes: Nickee Thibault, Morgan Ott, Serena Tecl and Amanda Binder.  Before the final volleyball game of their collegiate career the players were announced and took a picture with their family as part of a pre-game ceremony. A short bio was read telling the crowd about their time, not only on the court, but also off the court. Hearing some of the little things that they seniors did, such as being “team DJ” , you realize how much the seniors meant to their team and how much they will be missed. Despite losing the game, you could see the chemistry between the players and how much they enjoyed playing the sport together that they dedicated so much time and effort to.

The Future is in Good Hands

By Gabriel Esparza

Talking with Vanessa Enciso, the Vice President of the Criminal Justice/ Forensic Science club at Hilbert, you can begin to understand how much her time here at Hilbert will shape her future. For now Vanessa sees herself becoming a medical examiner. “I like solving puzzles and I would like to bring some closure and comfort to families after losing their loved ones.”

Joining the Criminal Justice/ Forensic Science club (CJ/FS) has also been an important learning experience here at Hilbert. The CJ/FS club has provided students valuable insight and preparation for their careers. Detective Payne of the Orchard Park Police Department gave a talk about his personal experience to the club. Detective Payne recommended getting experience by being a military police officer first or to make yourself marketable by joining a citizen academy or local law.

CJ/FS students also attended a Criminal Justice  conference in Lake Placid where they listened to more experts and listened to panel discussions. The club also visited Attica correctional facility, here they learned how the prison operates from trained professionals.

The exposure of professionals helps to influence the perspective the students have of their fields, while preparing for their potential careers the CJ/FS club also helps out in the community. Among other volunteer opportunities, the club participates in the Adopt-A-Highway program. “I love helping out and volunteering. Working on a common project brings us closer together.”

The constant between Vanessa, Detective Payne, other club members and other experts is the passion for what they do. You can sense how much their job and their field means to them, being able to help others in their community gives them their drive. The CJ/FS club provides a good opportunity for it’s members here at Hilbert College.