“The Whisper Network” examines MeToo and realities of working women

An instant New York Times bestseller, “The Whisper Network” by Chandler Baker is a little bit of everything: fiction, mystery, thriller, contemporary, feminist, iconic and relatable.

Whisper Network book cover

The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker is a New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for July.

The book centers around four women: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita, who work at Truviv. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means Ames will most likely become the next one. Each of the four women experience working with Ames differently and the office is full of rumors about him sexually assaulting women. The whispers are often ignored and his victims keep quiet until a new colleague comes into the picture. With a recent assault and Ame’s likely promotion, the women decide enough is enough. It’s time to speak out.

The story’s core centers around the #MeToo Movement, and sexual harassment and assault in corporate America. The mystery aspect comes in during the short court transcripts that follow many of the chapters. Readers don’t exactly know what’s going on or why the characters are testifying in court yet, but it’s obvious something went terribly wrong.

Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita are all mothers, and the book examines the challenges of finding a work-life balance, and the double standards of working moms versus working dads.

“Children turned men into heroes and mothers into lesser employees, if we didn’t play our cards right.”

Being a working mother is a double-edged sword. When women work too much, they are seen as bad mothers. When they don’t work enough, they are seen as less valuable to their companies.

As a lawyer, Sloane makes more money than her husband and Rosalita is raising her child alone, so the importance of their jobs and the money they provide for their families can’t be denied.

“For our children, we chased the gold standard of suburban contentment set by our own stay-at-home mothers, while simultaneously stepping into the shoes of our bread-winning fathers.”

Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita constantly make decisions to put work or their children first. No matter which they choose though, they feel guilty.

“We will say this: none of us thought that motherhood and work could exist harmoniously. If anything, they were two forces, diametrically opposed. We were the prisoners, strapped to the medieval stretching device, having enjoyed the rare privilege of both loving and having chosen our torturers.”

Baker also mentions the other challenges of corporate America for women, such as how women are expected to act — never too emotional, always happy — and look — polished, professional and pretty — at work.

No matter how much progress there’s been for women throughout history, it’s still a man’s world. And the best way to survive is to have a tight-knit group of supportive friends in the office, which is what Sloane, Ardie and Grace, all lawyers, are to each other.

Rosalita is part of Truviv’s cleaning staff but her story intertwines with the other women’s more and more throughout the book, and Baker shows the hardships of class disparities in the office. As a Hispanic women, there is more of a risk for Rosalita to come forward with her assault story than it is for other women.

Baker also touches on bullying in school, postpartum depression, infidelity, single parenting and many other weighty, important issues. While many of the passages provide insight and thought-provoking quotes to readers on these topics, it felt too fleeting and not enough time spent on each. There was also not enough character development throughout the book. It was hard to grasp the personalities and struggles of each woman when the chapters changed between the four women’s points of view.

Despite these problems, “The Whisper Network” is still a page-turner with readers nodding in agreement with the opinions of the main characters and wondering what will happen next.

Ultimately, the story is a rallying cry for women to stop the whisper network and start speaking their truths to the world.

“And so, when one of us spoke up, it was never just for her. It was for us.”



The most relatable pop songs of the summer

Belt out the lyrics to these guilty-pleasure pop songs.

The Man – Taylor Swift


Cover Art for “Lover.”

This might be the most iconic song on Taylor Swift’s new album “Lover.”

Every woman is internally screaming, “Yes!” when listening to “The Man” lyrics as Swift imagines what her career would be like as a man.

In the intro, she sings about how her critics wouldn’t hold a man to the sexist double standards that she is held to when it comes to her many relationships. “They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to. / And that would be okay for me to do.”

People perceive men to be cooler when they date more while women are seen unfairly in a negative light. Critics often mention how Swift is constantly writing songs on relationships and exes while male artists who do the same thing — think Ed Sheeran or Maroon 5 — aren’t called out.

“The Man’s” chorus starts with “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.”

This is something that goes across every woman’s mind during her career. It also relates nicely to the second verse when she sings, ” They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve.”

Yes. Yup. Yeah. Preach Taylor.

Listeners of this song will also love Swift’s political statement of equality in “You Need to Calm Down.”

Small Talk – Katy Perry

Small Talk

Cover art for “Small Talk.”

“Small Talk” is a great explanation of what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone and then become their ex. And of course, running into an ex in public results in awkward small talk, hence the title of the song.

“We went from strangers to lovers to strangers in a lifetime,” sings Katy Perry in the chorus.

She talks about how strange it is to mean everything to a person and then nothing.  “Isn’t it weird that you’ve seen me naked? / We had conversations ’bout forever. / Now it’s ’bout the weather‚ okay.”

Ugh, the dreaded small talk.

Listeners of this song will also love Perry’s recent single “Never Really Over.” It’s about past relationships that the door is never fully shut on.

Slide Away – Miley Cyrus

Slide single

Cover art for “Slide Away.”

Fans who are upset about Miley Cyrus’ split with Liam Hemsworth should listen to this break-up song about him.

Cyrus and Hemsworth met when they were 17 on “The Last Song” set. In the pre-chorus she sings, “Move on, we’re not seventeen / I’m not who I used to be / You say that everything changed / You’re right, we’re grown now.”

Cyrus sings the lyrics beautifully, and the vibe is more rock than pop influenced.

“So won’t you slide away? / Back to the ocean, I’ll go back to the city lights,” Cyrus sings as a possible reference to Hemsworth’s ocean roots in Australia and Cryus’ hometown of Nashville.

Cyrus also mentions her party days; “Don’t want the whiskey and pills.” Hopefully the wild days are behind her and she can find true love again.

Listeners of this song will also love Cryus’ recent single “Mother’s Daughter” where she sings about feminism and the right women have over their own bodies. 


Earth Day campaign to protect species & how to help

The nonprofit Earth Day Network is seeking support for their Protect our Species campaign for Earth Day on April 22, 2019.

According to the book “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity,” the Earth is currently in its largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. Naturally between one and five species will go extinct annually; however, the Earth is currently experiencing multiple extinctions daily — 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than normal.

Earth Day Network is focusing on endangered and threatened species vital to ecosystems

  • Bees are essential for human survival and important pollinators, which provide one in three bites of food Americans eat.
  • Home to 25 percent of marine life, coral reefs feature plants and animals that are being used in new medicines to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions.
  • Elephants maintain biodiversity where they live in multiple ways. By flattening grasses as they travel, they create habitat for smaller species. Some animals also use the water holes that African Elephants dig.
  • Standing 15 to 20 feet tall, giraffes spot predators in the wild before any other animal and act as a warning system to the others. When giraffes run from danger, they are protecting animals like zebras and gazelles who start running from the threat too.
  • While they can be seen as pests to humans, insects are a food source to thousands of animals and also play a role in pollination. Without them are global ecosystems will disintegrate.
  • In addition to a whale’s role in marine ecosystems, whale watching is a four-billion-dollar industry that supports 13,000 coastal jobs worldwide.

Species decline due to many reasons

There is overexploitation of some species due to human consumption, use or sport, such as trophy hunting for ivory elephant tusks. As temperatures rise due to climate change, it puts more animals in danger as well. Habit degradation like pollution also plays a role and can keep animals from thriving in their natural environment. Lastly, as humans continue to dominate land, sea and resources, the survival of species are constantly being reduced.

Easy ways to protect the Earth and animals

Being conscientious in everyday choices may not have an immediate impact that is visible to the eye; however, as more people make eco-friendly changes in their lives, it will slowly but surely protect the environment. Although they seem like small changes, these are five easy ways to start taking action and save the animals:

  • Switch out cleaners for non-toxic cleaning products. Some plant-based and biodegradable brands include Branch Basics, Simple Green and Honest Company.
  • Beat plastic pollution by using reusable bottles, cups and bags.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating food waste. Organize your fridge, freezer and pantry by expiration date. If you find yourself with a surplus of food, freeze items for a later date.
  • Limit electricity usage with LED and CFL lightbulbs. Turn lights off when you leave the room and unplug items that aren’t in use.
  • Save water by only running the dishwasher and washing machine when you have full loads. Fix leaky faucets and turn the water off when you brush your teeth or shave.

Go green for the 8.7 million species of plants and animals, the 7.7 billion people and future generations living on Mother Earth.

Stay Up to Date with theNewsWorthy podcast

It’s hard to keep up with the news and find time to read, listen to or watch broadcasts, especially ones that aren’t leaning to the left or right. Award winning broadcast journalist and former TV news reporter, Erica Mandy, understood this problem and created theNewsWorthy podcast.

Ready by 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Mandy presents the major news stories in a “fast, fair, fun” way Monday through Friday. Most episodes are just under ten minutes and cover everything from breaking news, businesses and politics to sports, movies and celebrities. She has special episodes each Thursday called “Thing to Know Thursday” where she interviews a special guest on a specific topic after the regular news coverage. These episodes are slightly longer, about 15 minutes or less, but are still easy to fit in while getting ready in the morning, eating breakfast or driving to work.

Mandy presents the news in an unbiased way and gets straight to the point in a casual and friendly manner. For a more in-depth look at the stories she covers, visit the homepage, www.theNewsWorthy.com. View an episode’s show notes to see her sources and read longer stories on each topic. TheNewsWorthy is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcast apps, or listeners can sign up by email to receive episodes straight to their inboxes.

With theNewsWorthy, there is no excuse to be uninformed about the news anymore. Plus as Mandy says, it’s fast, fair and fun.

October’s most frightening headlines: climate change in 2030, flu pandemics and Trump

Just in time for Halloween, the news has been scaring the crap out of me lately.

First up: climate change (a.ka. the world is going to end by natural disaster)

The article that first caught my attention was CNN’s “Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn.”

Umm scared yet?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) announced that the Earth has until 2030 until apocalyptic climate change occurs. IPPC predicted the planet will reach the crucial temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030, which will cause extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, food shortages and clean water shortages.

Side note on water: One of my professors used to say that the next World War will be the fight over clean water and I think she might be right. Climate change puts clean water at risk and according to Water.org., 844 million people (or one in nine) live without access to clean water. No clean water means poor sanitation, which leads to illness and death (and I’m not exaggerating.) One million people are killed by water, sanitation and hygiene-related disease each year, according to Water.org.

Back to my main point, I’m surprised the news on climate change hasn’t gained more attention with 2030 being only twelve years away. I think part of the reason people ignore global warming is because it might not affect them in their lifetime, but climate change is occurring much faster than anyone expected. Twelve years is in most of our lifetimes (hello 30s) and many people have already faced the effects of climate change from hurricanes Michael, Harvey or Florence, droughts in South Africa and wildfires in California.

The planet is almost two-thirds of the way to catastrophe, almost at 1 degree Celsius. While it is possible to decrease carbon dioxide emissions and not reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, major changes in energy usage need to be made across international levels.

Signed by 195 countries, the 2015 Paris Agreement set out to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Obama administration, the U.S.’s plan was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025.

Unfortunately with Donald Trump in office, that plan is down the drain, and more people are talking about his “horseface” insult to Stormy Daniels than how he is trying to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. The U.S. wouldn’t officially be out until closer to 2020 though and a new president could potentially keep the U.S. in. Trump has said that the agreement is a threat to the U.S. economy; however, there might not be much of an economy left if hurricanes and food shortages wipe the population out.

At 72 years old, Trump might not be alive in 2030, but I would like to be, and we will all face the consequences of his presidency long after he is out of office.

Next up: Flu pandemic (a.k.a. I got my flu shot yesterday)

The article title that scared the crap out of me was Vox’s “A pandemic killing tens of millions of people is a real possibility — and we are not prepared for it.”

Cool Vox, thanks for this encouraging headline.

Luckily, Vox does give some tips on how the U.S. could prepare for a pandemic like improving vaccine development; however, anti-vaccine sentiment in the U.S. and Europe has been increasing. This could lead to the resurgence of infectious diseases like the measles, so get your children vaccinated, please.

This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. It killed more Americans than any other event in U.S. history taking 675,000 American lives and 50 million across the globe. Could another pandemic be in the near future?

The past ten years saw outbreaks of the H1N1 flu in 2009, MERS in 2012 and Ebola in 2014. And while medicine is much more modernized than it was 100 years ago, there are always new risks. Vox mentions how the global transportation network can quickly cause a virus to travel from one corner of the world to another in less than twenty-four hours, or how humans can obtain zoonotic diseases from animals like Ebola.

Surprise, surprise, pandemics could arise from climate change as well. Due to warming weather, disease-carrying agents like mosquitoes move into new regions, which puts new populations at risk.

Lastly: Any headline involving Trump (a.ka. vote for change on Nov. 6)

I’m going to spare you all the details on why Trump is scary (or this blog post would double in size — you’re  welcome) and tell you to vote in the midterms on November 6. VoteSaveAmerica has an awesome tool where you can enter your address and compare all the candidates on your ballot. See where each candidate stands on important issues like the environment, healthcare, education, the economy and more.

Throw some glitter, make it rain: Kesha’s comeback with album “Rainbow”

Not knowing when Kesha would release new music again, animals were left to play her most recent 2012 album “Warrior” on repeat. After many battles in court with her longtime producer Dr. Luke, who Kesha has accused of sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse, a new album “Rainbow” finally dropped on August 11.

In order to avoid Dr. Luke, former CEO of Kemosabe records, as best as she could, Kesha did not work collaboratively with Dr. Luke but instead worked with other producers while he approved the music. Kesha still has to produce two more albums with Kemosabe Records until the contract is over.


Cover art for “Rainbow.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“Praying” was the first single released off of “Rainbow,” a 14-track album. The piano ballad has emotional lyrics about finding strength after abuse and gives many listeners chills. The song features Kesha’s raw talent throughout and she hits an impressive high note after the bridge.

Kesha’s second single “Woman” featuring The Dap King Horns has fun and catchy lyrics that her animals have become accustomed to and acts as an anthem for women.

“I’m a motherfucking woman, baby, alright. I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight,” she sings in the chorus.

In an exclusive Rolling Stone essay about the song, Kesha writes, “It was such a beautiful experience to write such a strong female empowerment song with two men, Drew Pearson and Stephen Wrabel, because it reinforces how supportive men can be of women AND feminism.”

The album opens with “Bastards,”a tame, slow-sounding song with untame lyrics about not letting the assholes in life win. The song introduces the fact that this album is a result of all the hardship Kesha has dealt with for the past three years. Her life was all over the place and so is this album, so it’s not exactly the classic Kesha people were used to with past albums “Animal,” “Cannibal” and “Warrior.”

Mixed in with the pure pop songs are “Let ‘Em Talk” featuring Eagles of Death Metal, which gives a punk/rock n roll vibe while “Hunt You Down” and “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” featuring Dolly Parton and is full of country tunes. “Old Flames” was actually written by Parton and Kesha’s mom, Patricia Sebert, in 1978.

Despite not quite sounding like a cohesive album, it shows off Kesha’s range of what she can do and is held together with cohesive messages. Kesha is learning to move on from her past in “Learn to Let Go,” “Rainbow,” and many other songs throughout the album.

“The past can’t haunt me if I don’t let it. Live and learn and never forget it,” she sings in “Rainbow’s” third single, “Learn to Let Go.”

She’s also looking on the bright side in life in “Boogie Feat,” another song featuring Eagles of Death Metal, and “Boots.”

“I’m walking on air, kickin’ my blues,” sings Kesha in “Boots.”

Overall, Kesha has made quite a comeback on “Rainbow” with new sounds and bold, inspiring lyrics.

Her “Rainbow” tour kicks off Aug. 19 through Nov. 1 with many locations already sold out of tickets. Find all her tour dates at Kesha Official.

Why Freeform’s “The Bold Type” is a must-see show for women

Freeform’s “The Bold Type” revolves around three friends, Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) who work at Scarlet, a young women’s magazine. It’s been called the “bubbly ridiculous dramedy you need this summer” by Vanity Fair and “100% fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes.

Reasons to love the show:

(Small spoilers episodes 1-6 ahead)

It’s loosely based on real life

The drama/comedy series is loosely based on Cosmopolitan and is inspired by Joanna Coles, who serves as one of the executive producers for “The Bold Type” and was the editor-in-chief of Cosmo from 2012-2016. She is currently the chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, which owns Cosmo and also Good Housekeeping, Food Network, HGTV magazine, Esquire and many more.

You can read Scartlet’s articles

In the first episode, Jane is starting her first day as a writer for Scarlet after working as an assistant for four years. In each episode Jane writes a new article and faces different challenges in her writing from interviewing a stripper and almost being sued to revealing she’s never had an orgasm. Jane’s articles can be read on Freeform as well as articles by Jane’s love-interest, Ryan, also known as “Pinstripe,” who works for a competing magazine.
Read Jane’s article “Never had an orgasm? Me neither” here.
Read Ryan’s article “Why girls fake it and do we care?” here.

The show teaches you to follow your dreams. . . 

Sutton, like Jane, also starts out at Scarlet as an assistant. She knows she needs to move up in her career and applies for an advertising job, but realizes her dream is fashion. She works twice as hard to prove she is capable of being a fashion assistant without any fashion school experience.

. . . while remaining realistic

When Sutton is offered the fashion assistant job, the pay is cheaper than her old assistant job. Although her salary is not negotiable, Sutton negotiates other benefits in order to have her dream job while still being able to live in New York City.

Diverse characters

Kat, who is Scarlet’s social media director, becomes romantically interested in Adena, who calls herself a “proud Muslim lesbian.” Adena is a perfect balance between sweet and strong, which instantly makes audiences root for her. She is just the character America needs with the anti-Muslim sentiment present today.

Additionally, by having characters like Kat, Adena, Alex (writer at Scarlet) and Steve (Sutton’s boss in the fashion department), “The Bold Type” opens up other imperative issues like racism and deportation.

Tough yet vital issues

In addition to the topics already mentioned, “The Bold Type” discusses online bullying, breast cancer prevention, legality issues, and more. Despite these serious topics and drama-filled situations, the show is also full of funny and light moments, romance and friendship that make it a joy to watch.

Friends that last a lifetime

The bond between Jane, Kat and Sutton is what everyone wishes their friendships were like. Would you dislodge a yoni egg from your friend’s vagina? Exactly.

Another endearing friendship in the show is between the editor-in-chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) and Jane and Kat. Some may have expected a harsher editor like Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in “The Devil Wears Prada,” that audiences love to hate, but Jacqueline was a pleasant surprise. She is still a hardworking and intimidating boss; however, she genuinely cares about Jane and Kat by being supportive in what they do.

Lastly, but most importantly: feminism

Each episode revolves around feminism, or equality among men and women. Each of the six episodes aired thus far features Jane, Kat and Sutton standing up for themselves and topics they believe in. Whether they are negotiating salaries or launching a #FreetheNipple campaign, “The Bold Type” is truly inspiring, empowering and makes women want to take the “boldness” they see on screen and use it in their own lives.

Watch “The Bold Type” on Freeform, Tuesdays 9/8c.

Cyber criminals target college students with phishing, employment scams, ransomware

Originally published in Issue 14, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (May 4, 2017). 

Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting college students across the United States and DeSales students are no exception from phishing, employment offers and ransomware scams.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reports that 72 percent of Americans believe their accounts are secure with only usernames and passwords, but every two seconds there is another victim of identity fraud.

The end goal for these criminals is to gain personal information such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, bank accounts and more. This personal information can then be sold for money on the Dark Web, which allows users to remain anonymous and untraceable from getting into legal trouble.

Besides money and personal information, .edu emails can be valuable in order to gain access or discounts to software and other products reserved for members of a university community, which is why technical school email addresses are most often the targets of attacks. However when broken down by state, the largest number of emails being sold on the Dark Web come from California, New York, Michigan, Texas and Pennsylvania.


Phishing, the fraudulent practice of sending emails in order to gain personal information, is the most common type of scam at DeSales.

A lot of DeSales students have fallen for password reminder scams. One of these emails told students to renew their password by clicking a link that actually went to christmastourhouse.com.

According to Director of Information Technology Patricia Clay, it is very easy to fake the name that is seen on email addresses. A cyber criminal could easily make the email name read “Help Desk” or “DeSales” but if the address bar is hovered over, it will then read christmastourhouse.com or some other website not related to DeSales.

“We haven’t seen very sophisticated attacks, but in some of the more sophisticated attacks, it’ll pretend that it’s Bank of America and actually copy Bank of America’s logos and put it on their e-mails,” said Clay.

“It’s almost always a bad practice to click that link from an email if you’re not 100 percent sure that you should,” Clay added.

IT usually finds out about the scam through students reporting it or through monitoring.

Once IT is aware that students have responded to a phishing scam, the account is disabled and the password is changed. Then IT reaches out to the student whose account was comprised and has a conversation with them to find out what happened.

With company websites that have been compromised, criminals have lists of email addresses and can check which emails are still actively being used to login to websites. Criminals sell these emails and passwords on the Dark Web.

“They take that list of username and password combinations and they script that to go log in to different websites,” said Clay.

For example, if a criminal has a Yahoo username and password, they will then check that username and password on any other websites with logins such as Facebook or bank accounts.

Although awareness about phishing is increasing, victims keep falling for the scams.

“As long as phishing scams are still successful, they’ll keep doing it,” said Clay.

Employment scams

Job scams are an ongoing epidemic that received FBI attention in January 2017. Stop. Think. Connect., a global online safety campaign, sent the FBI’s warning on employment scams that target college students to DeSales IT.

The scammers pose as employers and send job postings to students about a remote job. Then they send the student a counterfeit check in the mail and tell the student to cash the check. With that cash, the student is asked to buy a money order and send it to a certain address.

Often times the check does not come up as fraudulent until the bank processes it and by then the student may have already lost money in sending the money order.

Earlier this year, a job scam occurred with someone named Susana Ozoria sending a job announcement email for a personal assistant through Bulldogs 4 Hire.

Assistant Director of the Career Development Center Melanie Vallone explains that the email came through Bulldogs 4 Hire (desales@csm. symplicity.com) because the employer created a fraudulent email address and posed as a legitimate company to create a Bulldogs 4 Hire account.

Vallone says three or four students received the check in the mail with one student coming very close to sending the money order. This incident was the first and only breach through Bulldogs 4 Hire.

“What makes it really tough is that we promote Bulldogs 4 Hire as a great way to post your resume—and safely—because it’s almost job search while you sleep. Employers can look if you’ve made your resume visible to employers,” said Vallone. “That’s when I work really hard to make sure employers are legitimate viable employers that are looking at our student resumes.”

Vallone calls up many local employers to make sure real people at their companies requested accounts on Bulldogs 4 Hire.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), companies are increasingly becoming targets of scams as well with cyber criminals posing as company executives or the government and asking for W-2s, which contain Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and other personal identifiable information.


“Ransomware is where somebody tricks you into opening, usually a document or a file that has software in it, and what it does, is it encrypts files on whatever computers or computer you have access to,” said Clay.

After this occurs, a message pops up on the computer ordering the person to pay a certain amount of money in Bitcoins, an online currency, within a certain amount of time. The threat is made that if the deadline is not met, all the files will be permanently inaccessible.

This is when Clay hopes that the person regularly backs up their files and can ignore the ransomware. Unfortunately, some hospitals have paid the ransom in order to obtain access to patients’ records.

“I haven’t heard of cases where people pay the ransom and don’t get their files decrypted, but again, you’re dealing with a criminal,” said Clay, so someone could send the money and not get the files back.

DeSales did have a ransomware incident where a student received an email that looked like it was from their own personal account with a word document inside.

Ultimately, the cyber security industry hopes that artificial intelligence will aid in picking up suspicious emails.

Protection against scams

IT protects the network by keeping a good encryption between the systems students interact with. There are multiple levels of firewalls and segmented networks.

“I want the next generation of our students going out into the world and not be the people falling for phishing scams at their jobs,” said Clay.

She reiterates that students need to have a lot of skepticism. When students are not sure if emails are legitimate or not, students can forward emails to spam@desales.edu; however, “when in doubt, delete it,” said Clay.

If a password is compromised, be sure to make sure that password is not used for any other login or that site can be comprised as well.

Students should use a different password for everything and although that sounds like a difficult feat, free password-manager websites and apps, such as LastPass and 1Password, allows all of a student’s passwords to be stored in one place.

Strong authentication, also known as multi-factor or two- factor authentication, is a great tool to utilize as well. Many websites and apps offer this to protect accounts and ensure it’s the account owner, not criminals, accessing the account.

The three most common types of strong authentication are by using a security key (a small device, such as one that plugs into a USB port, to use when logging in), biometrics (such as fingerprints or cameras) and one-time codes (sent to you by a text or through an app to be entered into the website when logging in).

In the case of job searches, always be skeptical of offers that sound too good to be true. If the email says the recipient already has the job, when he or she never applied or was interviewed, the recipient should not respond. Many of the scammers are not native English speakers so look for poor grammar and spelling. Any companies asking for personal information are red flags as well.

Vallone suggests that when posting resumes on public sites like Indeed or LinkedIn to only list cities and states. Do not post full physical addresses online.

Overall, the more people become connected to the Internet, the more ways there are for scammers to find them so it is increasingly important to be skeptical and know how to protect personal information.

Gender isn’t just about women, feminism is equal rights for all

Originally published in the Humanities Newsletter 2017 edition.

The Gender Studies Club, better known as The Birkenstocks, was created at DeSales University in the spring of 2016.

“The goal is to talk about current topics that come up in the media and share opinions in an open space where there is no judgment,” said Jennifer Thuss, Birkenstocks president.

Currently, the club is all women, but members encourage men to join.

“It seems like an intimidating thing for guys to want to join because there’s this perception that gender means female, but that’s not true. Gender includes everyone,” said Dr. Katherine Grasso, the club’s advisor and communication professor. “So the more voices that we could have in these conversations, the more we could learn. And the more that we reflect on gender and what that means for each individual, the more I think we understand different experiences, and hopefully work on compassion, equality and justice in terms of gender issues.”

The club was formed after Grasso taught a gender communication course in fall of 2015.

“At the end of the semester, a handful of students, about five or six of them, said that they didn’t want the conversations to end so they asked if we could meet outside of class.”

The students were the catalyst of the club and Grasso happily agreed to be their advisor. The Birkenstocks meet every other Tuesday to discuss articles or documentaries on issues related to gender such as rape, sex, prostitution, transgendered issues, abortion, and stereotypes of men and women.


Some of the members of the Gender Studies Club. From left to right: Nadia Murray, Erin Grube, Jennifer Thuss, Lauren Trumbull, Kellie Dietrich and Dr. Katherine Grasso.

Earlier this year, members watched the documentary “Fantastic Lies” about the Duke lacrosse team who were falsely accused of gang rape.

“It was interesting because I thought they did it, and I felt bed after because I had the stereotype in my mind that they partied too hard. And the fact that they hired a prostitute made them look guilty even though they weren’t,” said Erin Grube, treasurer of Birkenstocks.

Articles and documentaries, which often break down stereotypes or offers new viewpoints such as “Fantastic Lies,” are picked by suggestions from Grasso or members of the club. Although the topics are heavy and members often have conflicting views, the club is always welcoming.

The atmosphere is so much fun,” said Thuss. “It’s usually upbeat, but when we are talking about harder topics it’s serious, and by the end we always bring it back to something fun.”

One of the fun yet serious elements of the club is its name Birkenstocks, or Birks for short.

“Birkenstocks, I think most people know, are one of the stereotypical symbols of an angry, hairy, man-hating, Subaru-driving feminist,” said Grasso. “We wanted to reclaim something that had previously been rooted in a negative evaluation and make it something that we owned and that was positive and that was funny.”

There is a lot of rhetoric around the word “feminism” such as man-hating and angry women, which simply isn’t true.

“Feminism is the advocacy of equal rights between the genders in terms of social issues, political issues, and economic issues, so it’s really advocacy of the equality of the sexes,” said Grasso.

Grube has a similar definition of feminism.

“A feminist is someone who wants equal rights between men and women,” she said. “I’m for that and believe there should be no disparities between the genders.”

A lot of the stereotypical views of feminists come from media portrayals of radical women burning bras; however, knowledge is lacking as well.

“I think it’s rooted in not understanding it or not knowing it, which is all the more reason for people to talk about it and explore it,” said Grasso. “So it’s not a club saying you have to be a feminist to be part of the conversation, but you have to be willing to challenge your preconceived notions about feminism.”

Overall, the club fosters unique discussion about gender issues and the members of the club bring unique perspectives to the table.

Grasso encourages anyone who’s curious about gender, even if they don’t know what gender really means, to join.

“I really enjoy this club and the group of people in it. It’s a safe environment where we can share our ideas that we might not be able to share anywhere else,” said Thuss. “This is only the second year for the club so I see a lot of growth possible and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future.”

DeSales faculty votes “sexual orientation” should be added to non-discrimination policy

Originally published in Issue 14, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (May 4, 2017). 

At the April faculty meeting, 77 percent of the faculty voted in favor of adding “sexual orientation” to the Notice of Non-discrimination found in the faculty and student handbooks. However, the final decision is up to the Board of Trustees.

This vote closely mirrors the statistic from the Public Religion Research Institute that found 76 percent of Catholics favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

The lack of protection for LGBT students and faculty was first brought to the Faculty Steering Committee about a year ago and the conversation continued into this academic year.

A new version of the non- discrimination policy was drafted with the only difference being the addition of the two words “sexual orientation.” A total of 97 faculty members attended the meeting and voted anonymously with a secret ballot. The results revealed 72 faculty members voted in favor of the policy change, 24 members opposed the change and one person abstained from voting.

“I was elated,” said instructor Larry Belt after he heard the results. “I could breathe deeper, I could stand taller. I felt like something had been accomplished and a weight had been lightened.”

Although the decision to include “sexual orientation” is not finalized yet, it is really about the voice of the faculty being heard. The February faculty meeting revolved around opposition to the policy, which was mostly based in the teachings of the Catholic Church. The March meeting was cancelled, and supporters of the policy change were now ready to speak at the April meeting.

“The opportunity for it to be discussed really opened the door to people willing to speak in favor of it,” said Belt.

In their hearts, Belt said, people knew which way they were going to vote and whether or not that matches with the way they live.

“If it opened up that way for the faculty, I think about if there were an open forum for students that it would be the same thing,” he said.

If an open forum about LGBT concerns is held at DeSales, students will be able to discuss their positions and needs. This could then lead to the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which is a student-run club that offers support and a safe environment to the LGBT community.