Eastern Connecticut State University’s University Hour series brought a number of interesting speakers to campus in October.
On Oct. 5, the Student Government Association hosted a mock debate with four current Eastern students representing the four presidential candidates; the event was moderated by SGA President Harrison Brooks. President for the College Democrats of Connecticut Allison Kazluskas represented Hillary Clinton. SGA Secretary James Dignoti represented Donald Trump. SGA Student Issues Committee Chair Francesco Ricigliano represented Gary Johnson, and political science honor student Josh Newhall represented Jill Stein.
“While we all hold different ideological and partisan views, we did not want the debate to become a shouting match like presidential debates often are. We aimed to present each candidate’s platforms in a way that could educate our audience and help them to better understand the candidates,” said Newhall.
“Practice and personal experience kept me comfortable up there. I do not have any immediate future plans to debate, but I would like to run for office in the future so I may be debating at some point,” said Kazluskas.
On Oct. 12, speaker Ian Haney Lopez, a constitutional law scholar and law professor at University of California-Berkeley, shared his research on the connection between racial division and growing wealth inequality in the United States during his lecture “Dog Whistle Politics: Race and Economic Jeopardy for All.”
“The Dog whistle is a metaphor for speech that operates on two levels. Silent on one level, but triggering strong reaction on the other,” said Lopez. “So if you think about terms like illegal alien, inner city, silent majority or middle class, all of these are silent on one level about race. None of them directly mention race and yet all of them trigger strong racial reactions.”
On Oct. 19, former Eastern men’s soccer player Jon DeCasanova shared his story about his battle with aplastic anemia, which he had less than a one percent chance of beating. Following the showing of “The Story of Jon DeCasanova: A True Warrior”—the short documentary about his battle—DeCasanova answered questions.
“Mentality was the biggest challenge of this. There was one thing I was known for during my sickness and that was optimism. I was just the happiest kid in the world for some reason although I was in the hospital. The weird thing is that I wasn’t that way all the time. I was just wired to be optimistic. Do I think that I am wired to in some way always be optimistic, yes, but it’s something I’ve worked on for a long time,” said DeCasanova.
“I had so many things going for me. I was a dean’s list student, I was the captain of the soccer team, I had great friends and great family, nothing was bad in my life. I honestly can’t think of something I wish I could change. For this to happen, especially at the age of 20, it was just absolutely insane and ridiculous not only for me but for my friends and family to deal with,” said DeCasanova.
DeCasanova has been cancer—free for more than two years. He has been spending time as a motivational speaker at high schools and colleges in New England to try and inspire students and help them with the struggles of everyday life.