Dec 18, 2014

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The Loss of a Beloved Teenager

By Melissa A. Theodorakatos

“Thank you Lady Gaga for everything you have done for me. Paws up forever.”

Those were the final words ever written by 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer at 1:30AM on Sunday, September 18th. Hours later, he was found dead outside his home after committing suicide. Reports show his death was linked to anti-homosexual actions taken by his classmates at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo, New York.

Jamey was an active blogger, using his personal Tumblr as a venting area for his pain and suffering. In the recent weeks leading up to his death, posts were seen of song lyrics pertaining to death and depression. The posts were not seen as alarming to his followers due to their integration with regular postings of pictures and social commentary. Outside of the Internet, he often complained of the bullying he received to his school’s administration and in return was given very little guidance from his assigned school social worker. It has been revealed that he was also seeing a therapist separately due to his depression. Family members have admitted that suicide warning signs were evident, but his recent behavior showed signs of improvement. His school social worker stated that the administration provides services, but claims that the school is not a mental health clinic.

Those who knew Jamey in the real world and online found themselves in a state of shock after the incident. He was well loved on his blog and was considered a sweet and loving boy that favored Lady Gaga and represented himself as a “Little Monster.” He created his own “It Gets Better” video, in which he spoke of his bullying but reassured the viewer that he felt support from those around him. He mentioned his love for the Gaga and quoted her single Born This Way by telling viewers you must “love yourself and you are set.” He promised it would get better and urged his viewers to embrace their identity. One can only wonder why he did not take his own advice in the moments up until his death.

Jamey’s death has reached individuals nation-wide, filling the Internet with sympathy messages and dedication videos to show support for his family. But, as in every situation, there also exists posting from individuals degrading the news of his passing and regarding the situation as irrelevant. Thousands of posts on Twitter and other social networking sites include updates that categorize suicide victims as weak, claiming that the LGBT community must grow thicker skin and disregard the hateful remarks. These individuals lack the understanding that every person is unique in his or her ability to cope with a negative integration within life.

The only comfort that one can receive from this tragic event is the knowledge that his suicide will bring about change within our country. After the deaths of Tyler Clementi and other young adult homosexual males in the fall of 2010, initiations of all kinds were brought forth to end the anti-LGBT related bullying around school and work environments. Jamey’s death is acting as a reminder of these initiatives, bringing light to the situation and creating a generalized feeling that action needs to be taken immediately. Lady Gaga tweeted shortly after his death that she was aware of the situation and would spark a movement to ask our government for a law that will change the way bullying is handled throughout America. Her tweets began a discussion among followers regarding the legal action that would be fitting in these situations. Many feel school administrations should be compelled to take more action within a student’s life, especially when warning sides are evident. Others believe that older bullies that commit actions that can be categorized as hate crimes should be disciplined in a court of law, especially if their actions are proven to be a direct cause of one’s suffering. Whether or not Gaga’s actions will develop any type of legalized document is unforeseen, but they will certainly spread awareness globally.

It is important that Dowling recognizes the significance of bullying when assessing the state of the student community. As a College, we are extremely lucky to possess a supportive and understanding administration that caters to the needs of the students. Faculty and staff make it their goal to aid any student that expresses a need. The Personal Assistance Counseling service is a free confidential counseling department on campus for any student who wishes to make an appointment. The Student Government Association allowed the addition of the GSA into their list of supported organization after it was presented in the spring semester of 2010. This club, along with the outstanding support of many faculty members, functions to end discrimination throughout our environment and provide a safe space for all students on campus. The President has dedicated the school semester to Jamey and all suicide victims, making it her goal to launch a campus-wide campaign in the months to come. Every Dowling student should be made aware that organizations exist in their favor to deal with any issue they may be feeling.

Below is a list of contact information for some of the Dowling support facilities. If you would like to get involved in these organizations, feel free to reach out to the noted student leaders. Getting involved is the first step in spreading Suicide Prevention and Anti-Bullying Initiatives throughout our campus.

Personal Assistance Counseling: (631) 244–3455 or 1–800–624–2593 http://www.dowling.edu/studentservices/healthservices/pac.shtm

GSA: Melissa Theodorakatos – (631) 660–1596 – mat9@dowling.edu

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A Family Farm Falls

By Arianna Johnson

Imagine owning a farm that has been passed down for generations, then having it all taken away…

That is exactly what happened to farmer John White. His family’s 300-year-old, 57 acre farm is in serious jeopardy of being lost to an oil tycoon from Houston. This whole fiasco came about in an innocent attempt to save his children the headache of having to pay millions of dollars in estate taxes after his death. White had found that one of his cottage renters, Anthony Petrello, could help. Petrello offered to buy 11 acres of the White property for $2 million dollars, in order to alleviate some of the future debt; the deal, however, was not as simple as that. More than a decade has past, and there are still lawsuits being pursued.

John White, 89, is a World War II veteran, a retired Bridgehampton volunteer firefighter, and has worked his family’s land, growing potatoes, for as long as he can remember. He has never put a monetary price on the oceanfront farm, setting aside conservation land in Sagaponack strictly for the family, eventually totaling over 90 acres and worth millions. But they have never given into developers, showing how strong their attachment is to the land. Being old-fashioned and thrifty, however, has its costs. Deals made by supposedly honest men and sealed with handshakes, no longer hold up, especially in a court of law.

Petrello, 56, is the president and C.O.O. of Nabors Industries, the largest land-based oil-drilling company in the world. His background story is that of a typical lower-middle-class boy who excelled in math and got a free ride to Yale, only to go onto Harvard Law School. He climbed the ropes, working at Baker & McKenzie in New York, and then at 37 accepted his present position. Being located in Houston came with the job, but Petrello wanted to find a way to come back to his roots. When a friend of his told him about the cottage rental, or “the model,” as he refers to it in 1992, he flocked to the beach.

After hearing about White’s dilemma, in 1995, they hashed out a deal to subdivide the land that was then appraised at $6 million. The only concern that White had was how large of a house the Petrello’s would build; he did not want one of those McMansions on his land. Petrello assured White that they would erect a house about the size of “the model;” however, David Berg, the Petrello’s lawyer, confessed that because of the enormous size of their mansion in Texas, it was “silly” for anyone to believe they would build a modest sized home.

When the blueprints were first drawn up by architect, Francis Fleetwood, the house was estimated to be around 4,500 to 7,000 square feet; the final result was 18,000 square feet. By the time the first closing came around in late 2000, land prices had gone through the roof and the farm was being appraised at $32 million. The $2 million Petrello was going to pay for his 9.56 acres was barely going to cover the estate taxes. Due to this problem, plus the fact that the Petrello’s wanted a substantial sized house, not only the first, but the second closing was cancelled, to which Petrello responded with a lawsuit.

Since then, ten summers have gone by. The Petrello family received their plot for $2.1 million and the rest of the beach front land went to the Town of Southampton to develop on for $14 million; mere pennies compared to what the Whites could have gotten from the subdivision. But the heartache does not end here; Petrello is suing the White family for 10 years of aggravation and lawyers fees, which totals $4.3 million. Petrello also has a right-of-first refusal clause in the original contract that now gives him the right to the rest of the family’s property. Petrello’s plan of “grandeur” for his new Sagaponack getaway is to build a two story five-bedroom home with a pool and deck.

“If there’s a modern-day Satan, it’s Tony,” says Chandler Robinson, the builder who reinvaded the Petrello’s Houston home. “If you’re around him, you see it: he’s mean; he’s self-centered; he’s aggressive… On top of everything, he wants to hurt you.” Apparently, the Whites are not the only people Anthony Petrello has done damage to.

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