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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.


As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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Students Honor Trayvon Martin

Students gathered in front of Baron-Forness Library on “Trayvon Tuesday”, April 17, to remember the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was killed in Sanford, Florida.

“Justice in general has always been served, but is it really happening when it’s supposed to be?” asked Marlan Jones, a sophomore communications major with a minor in political science, who was leading the event.

According to a New York Times article, it happened like this: It was a dark, rainy night, on February 26, when Martin entered the Retreat at Twin Lakes on his way back to the house he was staying at in Sanford, Florida.

A neighborhood watch had been created in August 2010 due to earlier episodes of robberies, said the article. The guidelines were that the volunteers for the watch should not possess police authority, should not have any firearms, and should only be the eyes and the ears for the police force. George Zimmerman, 28, was chosen for the job.

That night, Zimmerman had a licensed, 9-millimeter handgun and when he spotted Martin walking past his vehicle, he became suspicious and dialed 911, according to the New York Times.

 There aren’t many details about what exactly happened during those next six minutes from 7:11 to 7:17 p.m., but what the newspapers were able to find out was that Zimmerman told Martin to stop moving and Martin started running, so Zimmerman set off in pursuit.

What happened after that is unclear. Some say that Martin punched Zimmerman first, while others say that Zimmerman tackled Martin, but no matter how it started, both men ended up wrestling on ground, according to the article. 

Someone screamed for help and no one is really sure who it was, but then a single shot was fired and then silence filled the night.

When Zimmerman took it upon himself to chase after Martin, he stepped out of the guidelines that were set for the neighborhood watchmen, according to the New York Times.

Despite the charges filed  against Zimmerman on April 11, one student who attended the on-campus remembrance said he was not convinced there was enough evidence to find Zimmerman guilty.

The thing is, said Jones, you’re innocent until proven guilty; however, it seems like you’re guilty until proven innocent.

The Stand Your Ground Law “allows people to use deadly force when they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury,” according to a CNN article. In answer to the accusations that he fired too quickly instead of trying to reason with Martin, Zimmerman says that he shot in self-defense with no intention to kill.

Yet some students in the group were saying that because Martin didn’t stop when Zimmerman called for him to stop, he broke the law, so he was just as much in the wrong as Zimmerman was.

While all of suspicions and accusations are flying around in this case, one of the students in the group said that it’s great that more light is being shed on it, but at the same time, the family has to relive it every day and they really can’t seem to escape it.

It’s on the news every single day, so instead of being able to go through the grieving process and getting the chance to move on, it’s being drug out further than it would’ve been otherwise. The student said he could not even begin to imagine how hard it must be for the parents to see their son being talked about on TV.

Most of the students in the group were trying to view the story from both sides. Maybe Zimmerman felt that it was his duty to protect the neighborhood and had some motive for pulling the trigger that night, they said.

After the discussion, Jones asked for a moment of silence to be held to commemorate the death of Martin. 

On April 23, Zimmerman was released from jail on a $150,000 bond. Later that day, his attorney, Mark O’Mara announced that Zimmerman would enter a not-guilty plea.

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator Vol. III, Issue 25)

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Campus Pinpoints Details in Occupy

Students from Edinboro University and Mercyhurst College discussed the humane conservative viewpoint of the Occupy Wall Street Movement with Dr. Michael Federici, from the political science department at Mercyhurst, during a panel discussion in the R. Benjamin Wiley Arts & Sciences Center on April 5.

“The problem when we’re general (in our discussions) is we miss the subtleties that allow us to see similarities between things that are seemingly different,” said Federici in his opening comments.

Federici said that humane conservatives tend to take the word “conservative” seriously, in that they believe there is something worth preserving and conserving.

For example, the integrity of the community is important to conservatives and in relation to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, there are several areas of common ground that Federici pointed out.

Concentrated economic power is seen as destructive to local communities, Federici said.

“I’ve seen over the course of decades, small family-run businesses be replaced and forced out by big, giant corporations,” said Federici. “We would call that the ‘Wal-Mart Problem.’”

The Occupy Wall Street Movement claims that they are fighting against the combined power of major banks and multi-national corporations and their influence over politics, Federici said.

Yet, Federici said he doesn’t agree with the way that the Occupy Wall Street Movement demonizes the tens of thousands of people that work there.

“That is precisely the kind of language that I think polarizes politics and discourse,” Federici said.

The idea that it’s possible to transform the entire world is another example of language use that Federici doesn’t agree with. “The very talk of massive, wide-sweeping change is unrealistic and likely to do more harm than good,” he said.

“I think it makes more sense to focus on smaller, local goals that are attainable and to stay within your own community, first and foremost, when it comes to political reform,” Federici stated.

Federici also didn’t agree with the idea that more democracy is better. When we talk about rights and democracy, Federici said, I think you’ve lost touch with how the real world operates

“Political action requires a certain degree of intelligence. Not only intellectual intelligence, but practical intelligence that comes with time and maturity,” said Federici.

In response to Federici’s comments, Sean Fedorko, a recent graduate from Mercyhurst who holds B.A.’s in both Political Science and Philosophy, said that he agrees with what Federici said.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement wants localization and empowerment, Fedorko said.

So, thinking about empowerment in relation to self-interest, Fedorko said, “this is the kernel that really rests in the similarities between humane-conservatism and OWS and maybe (can show) how… these two groups are advocating a very similar goal from very different means.”

The people involved with the movement are advocating a way to regain power because they see an imbalance of power, said Fedorko.

“They seem to be failing, however, due to their knee-jerk reaction to political, economic and social institutions that are failing to foster the good life for the majority: the 99 percent,” Fedorko pointed out.

I think that if the activists were to articulate that what they’re advocating isn’t to seize control of Wall Street and punish them, said Fedorko, but trying to reintegrate Wall Street “as individuals who have sort of lost the way to a community that we all need to foster.”

Brian Barton, a senior majoring in Political Science at Edinboro University, responded next by saying that one of the unifying characteristics of humane conservatism and the movement is the skepticism toward the government.

The problem that conservatives had with the bailouts in 2009 was the government interference in the market, Barton said. They felt that the government was deciding who would be the winner and the losers rather than just allowing the marketplace to decide.

The government intrusion in the marketplace has extended our current economic drought, said Barton, and that’s why I find myself supporting some of what the movement is advocating.

Suzanne Boone, an undergraduate majoring in sociology at Edinboro University, has had a personal experience with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and, in her response to Federici; she said that it’s important to have these conversations in order to get different perspectives on the issue.

“We all have a common thread that holds us together as human beings,” Boone said. It’s all about having respect for the other person and holding that conversation with them about their views and what they’re going to do about them.

“Every single person has to be responsible for the decisions that they make,” said Boone, “and to change the things that they can change within their little area.”

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator Vol. III, Issue 23) 

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Former NPR Personality Discusses Religion Conflicts – Religion and Humanities

Ken Myers, a former National Public Radio persona, spoke about “Religion and the Humanities” to hundreds of students and faculty members at Cole Auditorium on Thursday, March 29.

“A good education recognizes the whole of what we are, that we are imaginative creatures and not just rational creatures,” Myers said. “That we were made for more than just mere survival.”

Of his personal convictions, Myers said, “I would assert that human beings were made to love what is true, to honor what is good and to delight in what is beautiful.”

Humanities helps to uncover the meanings and purposes of life, said Myers. He went on to explain more about what humanities and education really is.

Philosopher Josef Pieper called attention to the difference between being educated and being trained, Myers said.”

Training is concerned with one aspect while education is concerned with the whole world, according to Pieper.

Myers explained that education has been historically grounded in the disciplines under humanities.

“While vocational training shapes skills, humanities shapes persons. Training provides information, humanities opens a way for wisdom. Training departs practical abilities while humanities provide the framework for guiding our practices,” he said.

Myers cited Jacques Barzun, a 1970 American historian, and discussed how he used a farming metaphor to describe the role of humanities in society.

“Cultivation means that minds are not just databases that need to be filled. They’re more like fields that need to be prepared for fruitfulness,” Myers said.

For example, literature, philosophy, language, and the arts are not just classes to take, Myers said. They should be encountered in everyday life.

“The time of formal education is simply the intense preparation for a lifetime of informal education,” said Myers. “The field isn’t just cultivated once because there is more than one crop to be harvested. Education is just the beginning of our relationship with these different areas of research.”

Humanities frees us to live as more than just mere animals, Myers said.

In a 1910 lecture to the Association of American Universities, Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, warned against schooling that was merely training, said Myers.

The trained individual is a tool, not a social mind, said Wilson. Society needs minds that are imaginative and not just capable of logic or reasoning.

Poetic knowledge is a central part of the humanities, said Myers. This knowledge requires involvement and participation. It’s an invitation to engage and respond.

Poetic knowledge calls us away from detachment and dominion, toward love and community, Myers explained. It challenges our objective and subjective knowledge.

In this sense, education is more than just training for a job, Myers said. If we think that human beings have a higher purpose than mere survival, then education can be seen as to equip us for that higher purpose.

We are created in the image of God according to the western humanism and religious viewpoint, said Myers, but we continue to make mistakes because of our humanity.

Myers quoted historian Steven Ozment in saying that “we study the past, not to avoid repeating it, but to learn how previous generations survived the same mistakes that we make.”

The search for truth is essential to communities, said Myers. “Just knowing the truth wasn’t enough. We need to get together and talk about it.”

Myers then went on to point out the similarities between the church and the university. The church had always read the Bible out loud to a gathered community of believers and, likewise, the university also had its own “canon of writings.”

The church researches the Bible, while the university takes the texts that others had written and compare other articles with that text, Myers continued. The church looks to the Bible for guidelines on how to do theology and the university looks to written texts to see how professors before them had taught certain subjects.

In his closing remarks, Myers quoted literary scholar, Marion Montgomery, in saying, “A good education isn’t just the combining of ideas. It’s a communal wrestling of ideas of reality and then take it to the next step.”

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator, Vol. III, Issue 22)

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University Policy Deems Attendance Unnecessary

The Edinboro Administration Council has announced that as of April 1, they will allow students to have an unlimited amount of excused absences for the rest of the semester.

“We’ve learned from past semesters that when the weather is nice and the sun is out, students tend to skip class anyway,” said Robert McCluder, head of the council.

“We discussed different options and came to the conclusion that it’s unfair to force students to stay in class when they’d rather be enjoying the outdoors,” McCluder explained.

However, in order to give students credit for the class, the council couldn’t say that they weren’t required to show up for class, said Michael Munchie, the secretary for the council.

After weeks of meetings, discussions, debates, and compromises, the council decided that the only way that this could be made possible was through eliminating the limit of excused absences, said McCluder.

The coucil based its decision on a number of points, according to Wendy Wright, a member of the council and professor of sociology at Edinboro.

“Not every student learns the same way,” she explained. “Some learn best by taking notes, while others prefer to just listen to a lecture. Then there’s the group that doesn’t get anything from the class and learns everything on their own.”

The council also sees the benefit of allowing students to have more free time in their day, Wright pointed out.

“Students seem to be more relaxed if they don’t have to be in class every day,” she said. “If we don’t require them to be in class, except for tests, then that gives them more time to work at their own pace, improve their grade, and actually learn something from the class.”

Mark McKenzie, a psychology professor at the university, said that he sees the benefits that this will have on the students, professors, and the overall grading system of the university.

“Everyone is wired differently and no one learns the same way,” he said. “But, in taking away the limits on excused absences, professors and students alike will find learning to be enjoyable for all.”

Students won’t have to worry about getting up too early for classes, McKenzie stated. 

They’ll most likely become less stressed when they don’t have the extra burden of trying to get to class on time when they’re in the middle of working on an assignment,.

Then there are the professors. McKenzie says that he has noticed that several of his students seem to use his class as a napping period. “I’m hoping that when we give students an unlimited amount of excused absences, there will be less of a problem of sleeping in class.”

Clarice Lee, a senior majoring in speech and hearing, said she was surprised about the new policy, “I can’t believe they’re actually giving us an opportunity to skip class without getting in trouble for it,” she said.

But it’s no joke according to secretary for Student Affairs, Margaret Jones. “It’s a legitimate rule now,” she said. “The council has listened to students complaints and reasons behind skipping classes once spring weather hits. This goes to show that when enough students speak up and present their case well, they can make a change that is beneficial to all.”

(Disclaimer – None of the information in this article is factual)

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator Vol. 3, Issue 21)  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Michael Phelps: Swimmer Superstar

Setting seven world records, eight American records, eight Olympic records, and winning eight gold medals in the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 was an amazing accomplishment for 26-year-old swimmer, Michael Phelps.

The fact of the matter is that Phelps didn’t swim just the eight races while he was at the Olympics, pointed out Chris Rhodes, head swim coach at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. 

During the week or week and a half that he was there, Phelps did anywhere from 20 to 24 races. 

“It’s not just a one and done type deal,” said Rhodes.

Phelps’ focus in the last Summer Olympics was to earn the eight gold medals and it was such a large feat, Rhodes isn’t sure that Phelps could duplicate it, especially since there are a lot of strong swimmers out there.

Without divulging any solid information to the media, Phelps implied that he already knows what races he will be competing in and has an idea of what he hopes to prove in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which will take place on July 27-Aug. 12, 2012.

In an interview with Bloomsberg Magazine, Phelps said that he feels a lot more relaxed and calm than he has in past Olympics and thinks that he’ll be able to use that to his advantage in the up and coming Summer Olympics.

If anything, his goal this year would be to break the records he set in the last Summer Olympics, said Rhodes, and there is a possibility of Phelps breaking his own 50-second record in the 100-meter butterfly, but not by much.

One of the reasons is that as the body gets older, it starts to deteriorate, Rhodes said, especially for swimmers who constantly use their muscles and shoulders. With this in mind, Rhodes doesn’t believe that Phelps will be competing in as many events as we saw before. 

Phelps told Bloomberg that he’s finding that as he gets older, he doesn’t recover like he used to. This time around, he said that as he focuses on perfecting the small details of his swimming, he’s found that he feels the same power, talent, and passion that he started out with at the beginning of his career.

“I think he’s really great for the sport of swimming,” Rhodes said of Phelps. “U.S. swimming is very strong in the world and we pretty much dominated for a long period of time. What [Phelps] has done is brought some significance to the sport.”

What it all really comes down to are those hundredths of seconds. According to the USA Swimming website, “It is a sport of finger-tip touches. It is a sport where thousands of meters can come down to thousandths of seconds.”

It can go the other way too. It’s not just about the seconds, the meters, or the strength of each individual swimmer.

“In the sport of swimming,” Rhodes said, “it’s not about every single meet. It’s about [working toward] the focus meet.” 

In this instance, the Olympics would be that focus meet, said Rhodes. But first, athletes need to go through the Olympic Trials, taking place June 25-July 2, in order to make it onto the American team for the actual Olympics.

Once the top two are chosen for each event and the Olympic American team is formed, then the athletes will start training for their “focus meet.”

The swimmers will “bring up their yardage, do a lot of endurance training, and do a lot of long course training,” Rhodes explained. “Once you get closer to the meet, the yardage will be cut back and the intensity will be cut back as well, but they’ll still have a lot of technique to work on.”

The different races that Phelps has competed in that past are the 100 meter butterfly, which is just down and back the length of a 50 meter pool, the 200 meter butterfly, the 4×100 meter relay, and the 400 meter individual medley (IM), which consists of four different strokes – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, Rhodes explained.

But according to an interview with Reuters, Phelps has opted out of racing in the 400 IM and said the toughest race in the upcoming Summer Olympics could be the 4×100 meter freestyle relay. The toughest race, Phelps said in an interview with Reuters, is the 4×100 relay. All the team can do is put up their best swimmers and hope for the best, Phelps said.

With his six-foot frame and 80-inch wingspan, Phelps may appear to be superhuman. But in today’s day and age, said Rhodes, the fact that he was caught doing drugs in 2009 makes him seem more human to his fans.

“Not that I condone anything that he did,” Rhodes pointed out, “but it kind of puts his achievements into perspective. Obviously the guy is very talented and his genetic makeup allows him to do certain things than the average human, but it just shows that when you work hard, you can accomplish some great things.”

Phelps earned himself a spot in the history books for topping Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven gold medals. 

“I don’t think there is anyone out there that can top Phelp’s record of most medals, to be honest,” Rhodes said. “There’s a lot of young talent that can challenge him in each one of his events, but to say that someone can do what he did again, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see when the next ‘Michael Phelps’ comes around.”

Anna Tielmann

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Communications Chair Selected to Attend Leadership Academy

Tony Peyronel, Department of Communication & Media Studies chair, has been chosen to attend and participate in the 6th annual Scripps Howard Leadership Academy being held at Louisiana State University (LSU) on June 4-7.

“I haven’t been involved in anything like this before,” said Peyronel. “There are a lot of interesting people, not just academic, but working journalists who come (to the Academy) and do panels and speak,” said Peyronel. “I’m sure that it’s a top tier and national level program. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The selection process is nationally competitive, said Peyronel. Applications come in from all over the country and applicants were required to send in a cover letter explaining their interest in academic administration, a current biographical sketch, and two letters of reference.

More than a third of past participants now hold leadership positions at their universities, according to LSU’s website, and they have applied what they learned to each of their universities in order to create room for progress.

“I haven’t been involved in anything like this,” said Peyronel. “The Leadership Academy is funded by the Scripps Howard Foundation, a major news service, and hosted by Louisiana State University. I’m not exactly sure what to expect because this is the first specialized training type thing that I’ve done.”

Peyronel holds a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from Edinboro University, where he reported for The Spectator, and also has a master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington D.C.

“That’s one of the top graduate journalism programs in the country,” said Peyronel. “I was fortunate to go there right after I graduated from Edinboro. One of the ironies is (that) Greg Luft, who chairs the journalism and technical department at Colorado State University, went to American University with me and he is the person who recommended that I check into the Academy.”

Luft had attended the Leadership Academy last year and he was the person that persuaded Peyronel to consider applying for it. Peyronel said that Luft also wrote one of the required recommendation letters needed for the application process.

Peyronel said that he then found a job as a reporter with the Kittanning (Pa.) Leader-Times and then, after a couple years, moved on to become a public relations writer at Penn State University.

In 1992, Peyronel came back to Edinboro University and was the coordinator for the former undergraduate programs in Speech Communication, broadcast journalism and print journalism, as well as advisor for the campus newspaper and radio station, The Spectator and WFSE-FM. He was then named the department chair in 2005.

The Leadership Academy, according to LSU’s website, brings “select up-and-coming mass communication professionals and scholars together with seasoned administrators to share administrative strategies and insights [on academic programs in journalism and mass communication].”

“It is exciting both to represent Edinboro University in this national arena and to have the opportunity to bring back valuable information and ideas that can strengthen our own academic programs,” Peyronel said.

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator, Vol. III, Issue 20)
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Financial Crisis Studied

Students and faculty who attended a presentation on February 29 on the U.S. financial crisis, discovered the reasons behind the recession and why the situation hasn’t been improving faster than it has been.

“It didn’t come out of the blue,” said Dr. Samuel Claster, assistant professor of sociology at Edinboro University. “It’s been a 30 year period of corporate deregulation of the banking industry and the financial system as a whole.”

Our economic system has a series of economic and political subsystems and in order for them to each function properly, they have to mix with people’s values, beliefs, attitudes and everyday lifestyles in a process called “socialization,” said Claster.

“Investment banking is the largest industrial sector in America and has been since the late 70s,” Claster said, “but a society cannot sustain when wealth is concentrated in that one economic sector.”

Yet, one of the problems with this is that the system pushes its problems on the citizens and hinders our ability to critically examine and question those in power and domination, Claster pointed out.

This then turns into “irrational functioning,” Claster explained.

America has one of the most advanced health care systems in the world, for example, but is 25th compared to other nations with the number of citizens because of our insurance industry, he said. This is the result of us “living in a society where the many are ruled by a few,” Claster said.

This can be seen in the way the mortgage system works.

In the video “Crisis of Credit Visualized” that Claster showed, Jonathan Jarvis, an interaction and media designer, says investment banks link families with a mortgage lender.

Investment bankers then borrow money and call up the various lenders to buy mortgages, which they then divide up into portions and sell to their different investors.

So, says Jarvis, when the homeowners default on their mortgage, it creates a problem. No one wants to buy a house that isn’t bringing in a profit and then “the whole financial system is frozen.”

“What caused the major collapse illustrates the interconnectedness of the banks in our entire financial system,” said Claster.

On September 7, 2008, the government took over and bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the major mortgage lenders, and on October 3, 2008, the Senate passed a revised version of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

“It’s a capital injection,” said Claster, “and what that means is that some of it is loans to come later, but for now they had to get money to the banks immediately.”

According to, a news website, the banks were considered too big to fail, so one of the solutions was to make them bigger, such as have Wells Fargo buy Wachovia.

Other problems added to the crisis. Fraud, which is also known as “robosigning,” and Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), said Claster.

“Robosigning sounds fancy, but it’s actually criminal,” said Claster. It’s when a person gets paid to sign the names of six or so bank presidents to hundreds of different loans without their consent. These are actual legal documents and this happens all over the country.

MERS may be an efficient way to keep track of the thousands of housing mortgages, “but it values efficiency over customer service,” Claster said. “People don’t know who owns their mortgages, they have no contact with them and they don’t know where the actual titles to their mortgages are.”

In 2010, the Frank Dodd Act was put into play. It created a lot of government regulatory councils and commissions so that they could redesign our regulatory system. “Yet, the things that have happened can happen again because new bubbles will burst,” said Claster. “Critics are pushing to break up the banks and stop making them bigger because what we’re actually doing is socializing our problems and privatizing our profits.”

The government also struck a $24 billion deal with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other major banks,” said Claster. Seventeen billion dollars would be set aside for credit forgiveness, while $5 billion would be put into cash payouts to those who have been foreclosed upon.

Claster asked, “Is the administration saving the system and making real good economic policy and reform or is it all part of a political strategy that keeps the two party system rolling on?”

Claster stressed that Americans must not always trust governmental decision-making. “We have experience and we have the expertise,” Claster said. “We can’t leave it to the people who rule this country.”

Anna Tielmann  (Taken from The Spectator, Vol. III, Issue 19)

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APSCUF Negotiates New Contract

DSCF4326Amidst Governor Tom Corbett’s proposal of cutting our funding and the possibility of tuition going up again next year, Edinboro University’s faculty unions and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have been working to negotiate a new faculty contract for the upcoming year.

“What’s nice about it is for all that it’s hard to sit down and work it out, once it’s worked out, we’ve got the rules,” said Dr. Jean Jones, president of Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF) at Edinboro.

“It makes things a little bit easier once the contract is negotiated. It’s all clear that this is what we’re going to do and how we’re going to proceed for the next couple of years,” said Jones.

There are 46 articles in the contract that deal separately with hiring and firing faculty, number of work hours, sick leaves, online courses, number of classes that an individual professor should be able to have and more, explained Jones. 

The faculty contract expired on June 30, 2011 and they have been “going to the table” and sitting down with the union leaders on one side and the PASSHE leaders on the other, trying to come to an agreement on a new contract that both groups can sign off on, said Jones.

“We have been working under the terms of the old contract since it expired,” said Kenn Marshall, the media relations manager for PASSHE. He said PASSHE is aiming to benefit both sides of the negotiation as well as the students at the campus.

According to the PASSHE website, the 14 universities in the PASSHE system pride themselves in offering the lowest costing, four-year degree programs in the state. Currently, the annual in-state tuition is $6,240.

“Nearly 120,000 students, 90 (percent) of whom are Pennsylvania residents, are enrolled at PASSHE universities,” said the PASSHE News Post.

So, as faculty, when it comes down to contractual issues, said Jones, APSCUF wants to protect as much as they can. She stressed good working conditions, how many temporary faculty are working, how often we’re putting classes online, and class size, as examples.

Another worry that has been added to the contract negotiations is Governor Corbett’s proposed state budget cuts.

Jones said she didn’t know if the potential budget cuts will affect the class sizes or the faculty members, but as a union president, she said she was worried about faculty jobs.

“If there was any fat, we’ve cut the fat. We’ve cut into the muscle and I think we’re now down to cutting the bone,” Jones said. “I don’t know where we can possibly find the money to make up for the shortfall.”

Financial costs are always an issue when it comes down to the contract, said Marshall. 

He said 75 percent of the finances are personnel-related and reduction of the funding will have an impact on our contract negotiations.

However, contractual concerns aren’t the biggest concerns right now, according to Jones.

We’ll work out our contract, said Jones. “This isn’t about money for professors. This is about us really loving this institution and us being really worried about its future.”

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator, Vol. III, Issue 17) 

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PNC Spokesman Explains Economy

Last Thursday, February 9, students and faculty attended a presentation given by one of PNC Bank’s spokesmen, William Adams, on the current recession in Europe and what it could mean for the U.S. economy.

“We’re not on the same level as Europe in terms of national debt. But the reason we don’t have the same crisis that Europe is having right now is because we have coherent national economic policy,” said Adams.

This policy allows for the federal government to use tax money collected from other states to keep the economy from collapsing completely in another state, said Adams.

Europe has a different economic system called a currency union, where 17 countries share the same currency, but are not under the same government, like the U.S., said Adams.

Adams went on to explain that being a part of a currency union requires the countries to agree on a common fiscal policy, which is how much money the government spends and how much they can collect for taxes. A common monetary policy, which sets the interest rate for an economy, is required as well.

The European economy is going downhill because taxes have gone up, the government spending has gone down, and a lot of government workers have been laid off. “That is probably two-thirds of the reason why Europe is in a recession right now,” Adams explained.

The other one-third of the reason is the investors. “The big issue right now is the banks,” said Adams.

As debt prices have gotten worse, European bank stock has lost about 60 percent of its value. “The higher you are in debt, the harder it is to borrow money,” said Adams

Some economists say that the European recession is just a passing thing and the euro should return to its normal value by the end of the year. “I’m a little more pessimistic about that because… it’s not because of a business cycle, or because the stock market went up or went down. It’s because the institutions they have don’t work,” said Adams.

Unemployment rates also reflect the condition of the economy. In Spain, there’s a 23 percent unemployment rate, which means that about one out of four workers aren’t able to find work. The rest of Europe is at about 10 to 15 percent unemployment.

In comparison, The PNC Northwest PA Market Outlook report says that while manufacturing industries have cut jobs over the years in the U.S. and younger residents have left northwestern Pennsylvania and other states in search of faster growing job markets, the job growth across the country has been encouragingly stable so far through the recovery.

According to The PNC Financial Services Group, “the job growth will average about 140,000 per month in 2012, adding up to 1.7 million new payroll jobs over the course of this year.”

“Our expectation is that we’re going to finish the year with unemployment under 8 percent,” Adams said.

While the U.S. is going to take a small hit from the recession in Europe, our coherent economic policy will allow our unemployment rates to lower and the labor market is starting to show signs of recovering

 “Our debt problems are just as serious as Europe’s debt problems and our deficit is nearly as large as the deficit of other European governments,” acknowledged Adams. But the reason we don’t see the effects of it is because we have a better monetary policy and an independent currency, he said.

“We’re showing signs that we are on our way to recovering from this terrible recession that we’re now finally getting out of,” said Adams.

Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator Vol. III, Issue 16) 

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