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FGCU News: A Year in Review

FGCU News: A Year in Review
EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone

FGCU started off the year with the unveiling of Seidler Hall on Jan. 7, 2016. The hall, formerly known as Academic Building 7, was renamed Seidler Hall in honor of the Seidler family and their commitment to the university.

Lee and Gene Seidler stand in front of Seidler Hall. The Seidler Fund will help to create new opportunities for FGCU professors and students. (EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone)

Lee and Gene Seidler stand in front of Seidler Hall. The Seidler Fund will help to create new opportunities for FGCU professors and students. (EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone)

After changing the university’s mission statement from “practices and promotes sustainability” to simply “promotes sustainability,” the Board of Trustees was met with student backlash and a subsequent petition at its Jan. 12 meeting. The statement was eventually changed back a month and a half later.

Students also expressed their concerns about a new road connecting Ben Hill Griffin Parkway to South Village, especially after learning the road would likely not include a wildlife underpass for keystone species, such as the threatened gopher tortoises, that call FGCU home. The original projection had the road completed by December 2016, but that was based on the prediction that the permits and project would be approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in time. For now, construction on the unnamed road is at a standstill.

In January, FGCU also debuted The FGCU Effect’s first TV spot during halftime at an FGCU women’s basketball game. This was following the project’s commission by the university nearly a year earlier in light of FGCU’s upcoming 20th anniversary.

Campus saw continued growth with the instatement of seven new student organizations in the spring semester, including the Outdoor Adventure Club, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Clinical Laboratory Science Club, African Student Association, Sub 30, LGBT Pride Club and Circle K International RSO. Alpha Tau Omega also established a colony in October.

2016 also saw FGCU increase its STEM options on campus with the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering introducing its plan for a construction management program as well as Lutgert College of Business’ proposal to introduce both supply chain management and data analytics and informatics majors. Other new STEM programs, such as bachelors’ in forensic science and public health as well as masters’ in environmental studies and physician assistant studies, were later approved by the BOT in April.

A security camera video still of one of the bookstore thieves. (Courtesy of UPD)

In February, UPD announced that repeat thieves had gotten away with $2,821.75 worth of textbooks from the FGCU bookstore since August 2015. The suspects, described as two white males and a white female, were never apprehended.

After reporting a six-percent voter turnout rate the prior year, Student Government opened up the option of online voting for the first time for an election that saw sitting student body president Thieldens Elneus, who ran unopposed the previous year, running against former party member, university relations chair Jack Emmer. The election resulted in Elneus’ reelection, which was graciously accepted across campus despite The Nest party using Eagle News’ logo as its own without permission given Elneus’ relatively high report card on the year.

Elneus followed through on the promises of his prior campaign, which had gotten him mediocre marks, with the official start of Eagle Radio in fall and increased school spirit through the introduction of events such as FGCU’s first-ever homecoming week.

After the broadcast branch’s induction in fall 2015, Eagle News TV continued its popular Eagle News Does videos, in which the editors and staff typically participate in BuzzFeed-esque challenges, but things got serious for Muslim Student Association’s Hijab Day on Feb. 15.

Following university president Wilson Bradshaw’s announcement of retirement, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee was formed at the Feb. 23 BOT meeting. Bradshaw will take a year off but will return to teach courses in fall 2018 as per his contract. Bradshaw was honored in 2016 by former GOP candidate Ben Carson in May and, later, by African Network of Southwest Florida, which the president of, Kenya native and FGCU professor Peter Ndiang’ui, decided to induct Bradshaw into as an elder.

The PSAC began its search with its first meeting on April 5 and was expected to have Bradshaw’s replacement by December, but the committee advised the timeline to accommodate for the lack of a third applicant as required. The extension gives PSAC until Jan. 31, 2017.

Freshman Sierra Stevens and sophomore Michael Rybak dance during the fourth annual FGCU Dance Marathon in Alico Arena on Saturday April 2. (EN Photo / Taylor Crehan)

Freshman Sierra Stevens and sophomore Michael Rybak dance during the fourth annual FGCU Dance Marathon in Alico Arena on Saturday April 2. (EN Photo / Taylor Crehan)

As the spring semester wound down, FGCU students hosted the fourth annual Dance Marathon where attendees danced for 13 hours to raise $52,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as opposed to last year’s $24,811.55 “for the kids.”

With the Eagles for Clean Air campus initiative, FGCU smokers were expecting the designated smoking areas to be shut down starting May 9 but were disheartened to find the main DSA between Reed Hall and Whitaker Hall shut down nearly a month early for the construction of “gathering areas” after the stars aligned for Tom Mayo, the director of facilities planning. Despite this, those on campus who do not comply face vague consequences, as UPD “doesn’t want to be the smoking police,” said Jon Brunner, the director of Counseling and Health Services. As Brunner said, the main concern was public health, which was made evident by Student Health Services offering cessation classes for smokers on campus.

FGCU went on to graduate more than 1,600 in its spring commencement, followed by another 400 in summer and 970 more in fall.

In May, Global Medical Brigades made its most successful annual trip yet, to Nicaragua as usual, despite the hiccups it faced after getting its funding cut by SG.

Students gather in remembrance of the victims in the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub. (EN Photo / Taylor Crehan)

Students gather in remembrance of the victims in the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub. (EN Photo / Taylor Crehan)

Early into the summer semester though, tragedy struck the nation, this time close to campus, in the Pulse nightclub shooting, which took the lives of 49 victims as well as the shooter and injured another 53. Students and staff gathered for a candlelit vigil on the Library Lawn in remembrance of those lost in Orlando.

Another vigil was held later that summer for the victims of the shooting at Club Blu in downtown Fort Myers, which took the lives of two teens and injured 17 more between the ages of 12 and 27.

Approaching fall semester, a sexual assault was reported in Seidler Hall on
Aug. 4. The attacker was never found.

For its momentous birthday, FGCU’s entrance got a facelift, but the more significant change for students was in the campus dining options in particular. Howard Hall saw the most change, losing all of its prior restaurants to get a complete remodel before the addition of Boar’s Head, a revamped C3 Convenience Store (now called The Marketplace @ Howard Hall) and BYOB. Cohen Center saw Truly Organic Pizza swapped out for Papa John’s, and Blu Sushi began going by its parent company’s monicker, Brahma. At its Sept. 13 meeting, BOT also announced its plans for Academic Building 9.

Campus remained as socially active as past years, if not even more so, from students who consider themselves white allies of the Black Lives Matter movement hosting marches in adjacent Naples to an LGBT student playing bagpipes over the notorious preacher on the Library Lawn. Multicultural RSOs also got together for a forum to ask, “Where are our vigils?” in light of the 261 black people who were killed by police in 2016.

For Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, FGCU students came out, beginning with the story of Katherine Belyea’s transition, in which she explained that “girls don’t always wear dresses.” Her story became a shared narrative for many FGCU students, including Alexa Trenk, Matthew Peterson, Harry Mehri and Brittani Anderson amongst the many other voices who spoke up for FGCU’s Coming Out Story.

FGCU got quite a few celebrity guests in 2016, starting with Big Black in February, followed by Chris Lane and Chase Rice at Nest Fest and finally D.R.A.M., Baaeur and T-Pain at Eaglepalooza. The presidential election also brought then-GOP candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to Florida, as well as former president Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama and Sen. Tim Kaine on behalf of Clinton’s campaign. Ultimately, Trump, who had come the closest to FGCU with his rally at Germain Arena, became the nation’s president-elect. This news didn’t sit well with some in South Florida, where protests were held in Miami and as close as in Ft. Myers.

In late October, FGCU students rallied and rallied again after news broke that the words “KILL (N-word)” were written alongside a graphic drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree on a whiteboard in Seidler Hall. The incident was left out of UPD’s weekly report to Eagle News more than two weeks prior.

Two FGCU students hold signs during the protest on Thursday, Oct. 27. (EN Photo / Travis Brown)

Two FGCU students hold signs during the protest on Thursday, Oct. 27. (EN Photo / Travis Brown)

Bradshaw went on to commend the student body for coming together in a campus-wide email, saying he “couldn’t be prouder.” That didn’t stop a second and third racial incident from occurring in the next month as well as a derogatory term against LGBT individuals being keyed onto a car in the dirt lot mid-November.

Tragically, FGCU saw the deaths of former FGCU baseball player Alex Diaz, FGCU student Ryan Wendell and FGCU student Sebastian Ramos from August through November 2016 — all in separate car accidents.

Former Eagle News editors were recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. Former opinion editor Cait Schall was recognized as the Best Columnist in the South, and former editor-in-chief Kelli Krebs was named runner-up in the Online Collegiate Category of the Larry Peterson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism while FGCU as a whole was named one of Florida’s best colleges for 2017 by College Choice.

About The Author

Rachel Iacovone

Rachel Iacovone (yah-cuh-voe-nee) is a fourth-year journalism student at Florida Gulf Coast University. She was born and raised in the Sunshine State, which may not be obvious considering her pale skin and less-obvious vitamin D deficiency. Also made less obvious by her skin tone — her Hispanic heritage. She can be found at the Eagle News copydesk or out shooting events around campus with one of her seven camera bodies. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and others-proclaimed hipster, proud Christian and bleeding-heart Liberal and an obvious fan of contradictions.

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