2013-14 Year in Review
Comic Con invades Baltimore
This year’s Baltimore Comic Con brought superheroes, cosplay and British pop culture back to Baltimore for its 14th year at the Convention Center.
The convention took place across the weekend of September 7-8, and during this time, comic fans, both in costume and not, took over the Inner Harbor for the greater good – to save the world (at least, the comic world, that is).
The event brought attendees from across the nation, including Towson students who were able to meet other fans and bond with a community of passionate people.
Throughout the convention center, artists ranging from the biggest names in comics to local freelancers offered their drawings and hopeful writers pitched their ideas to publishing companies.
Tim Leonard takes over as AD
After a tumultuous tenure as athletic director, Mike Waddell stepped down at the end of the spring 2013 semester to take a different position at the University of Arkansas.
The University spent most of the summer looking for a replacement for Waddell, who was athletic director during the controversy of the possible cutting of the men’s soccer and baseball teams.
It eventually chose Tim Leonard, formerly of the University of Central Florida and Southern Methodist University.
Leonard was primarily chosen for his ability to fundraise because of the dire situation the department’s budget was in.
In his first year as athletic director, the football team advanced to the FCS National Championship game, the women’s swimming and diving team won the CAA championship and the men’s basketball team had the best year in team history.
To help with the budget, Leonard cut positions on staff and increased fundraising to the program. Attendance and ticket sales for athletic events on campus were also up.
Going forward, Leonard will have to deal with the potential issue of paying student athletes, as well as the new NCAA policies that student athletes should be given unlimited meal plans. In an interview with The Towerlight in April, Leonard said he was in favor of the new meal plan, but not paying student athletes a stipend.
“Right now it’s an issue that is addressing the private schools first, and also in the power five conferences first. Those will be the schools that will be hit first if it were to go that direction. It’s safe to say that college athletics is supposed to be about amateurism, and I think it needs to remain that way. There are things I’d like to see done in terms of the revenue generated by college athletics go directly to the students, but not necessarily in a contractual way, where a student athlete would be an employee and we could hire and fire as we please. I don’t think anyone wins in that situation,” Leonard said in that interview.
In his first year as AD, Leonard also signed football Head Coach Rob Ambrose to an extension in order to keep other FBS schools from pursuing him.
Cheerleading team suspended
The school year got off to an exciting start in August, when the cheerleading team was suspended from campus.
Towson officially announced the suspension to national media, given that the team had just won the National Championship.
The team was found to have violated the hazing policy in an undisclosed incident, and they were originally banned from campus for the entire school year.
However, the team appealed to the University, and the suspension was lessened.
Instead, it was put on social probation for the fall 2013 semester.
This allowed the cheerleaders to practice, but prohibited it from representing Towson at any on or off-campus events, including athletic events.
In their place, the pom squad stood on the sidelines for football games, and the team had to miss the football team’s run to the FCS National Championship game.
Although the suspension is over now, the University never disclosed the details of the incident that got the team suspended in the first place due to confidentiality issues.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Deb Moriarty, the cheer team’s punishment was not as severe because the team had not been educated on the hazing policy in the same manner as the other athletic teams.
The cheerleading team stayed quiet during the appeal process, declining to speak with The Towerlight.
The suspension made national headlines, with stories appearing on Newsweek’s website, in The Baltimore Sun and USA Today.
AWOLNATION, Twenty One Pilots perform
The homecoming concert, headlined by AWOLNATION, took place on October 6 and was the first held in SECU Arena.
Fans traveled from all over to hear their favorite bands perform, from as far away as Fairmount, West Virginia. For the fans of AWOLNATION and opener Twenty One Pilots, though, no distance was too far to travel.
Twenty One Pilots played a variety of songs but consistently pulled tricks on stage like back flips and a drum battle between vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun.
AWOLNATION brought its electronic and poppy sounds to Towson, something that CAB Director Chad Nazworth told the Towerlight in an earlier article was the reason the band was chosen as the headliner.
About 1,600 tickets were sold for the event.
Prior to the concert, The Towerlight was able to speak to Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun, who described the band’s live performance.
“There’s a very particular period of time where the whole concept of going to a show and watching a band or an artist on stage and knowing they’re this larger than life kind of band. Just being the two of us, we’ve always approached a show as trying to being as energized and engaging as possible. We try to do something different where we break down the wall between the stage and the fans watching. There’s a history of concerts now with more interaction with the crowd. They want to be a part of it rather than just spectating. I want to leave thinking that everyone in that room was part of an experience,” he said.
Debate team at center of investigation
Following the cheer team controversy, Towson was again struck with a public relations nightmare when it came out that University administrators were investigating accusations levied by the Baltimore-based group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle involving the Towson University Forensics team.
In October, it was discovered by LBS that Stephen Davis, the team’s coach, was removed from his position after members of the debate team met with the president’s office to address allegations of verbal abuse by Davis toward members of the team. The University eventually brought in a third party to investigate the incident, although no official conclusion has been reached as to whether other members of the faculty, staff or debate team should be punished. Under Davis, the team finished in the top 16 teams at the 2013 National Debate Tournament, and the team won the October 2012 Annual West Point Debate Tournament.
Since receiving a new coach, the team won the Cross Examination Debate Association National Debate Championship. Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, two of the team members, were the first black women’s team to capture the title.
Students bring Shakespeare to 1960s
The theatre department’s fall play was a modernized version of the Shakespearean classic “Twelfth Night” directed by associate professor Peter Wray.
The performance was set in the 1960’s mod period and featured student actors who had to learn to adapt a very old play to a decade that they themselves are not personally familiar with.
After beginning to rehearse the play, the department realized that 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of Towson’s Department of Theatre Arts, which began in 1963, the same era that the play was set in. Additionally, “Twelfth Night” was also the first play the department performed after its inception.
A reception was held after the show’s performance on Oct. 25, in celebration of the department’s anniversary. Many alumni and professors came out for the reunion, including former professor Richard Gillespie (University President Maravene Loeschke’s husband), who played a primary role in beginning the department.
Football upset in rivalry game
Towson came into its annual rivalry game against the Delaware Blue Hens with a 9-1 record and a No. 7 national ranking.
It looked primed for another Colonial Athletic Association championship, but instead took a step backward.
It was the typical formula for success; two Terrance West touchdowns highlighted a performance that led to a 31-10, fourth-quarter lead.
However, Trevor Sasek, starting for the first time in two years, and the Blue Hens mounted a comeback that will be remembered for years.
Delaware scored 22 consecutive points, including a touchdown and two-point conversion to clinch the victory with 19 seconds left.
Leading up to the game, Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose appeared on radio programs preparing for the game, and there was even a full history of the two team’s rivalry in The Towerlight.
It was truly an upset for the Blue Hens.
“Breaking Bad” actor talks bullying
Actor R.J. Mitte, best known for his role as Walter Jr. in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” visited campus as a part of Love is Louder’s Paws for Positivity event, in part sponsored by the Campus Activities Board. Mitte came to campus to spread his anti-bullying message and talk about acceptance for everyone.
Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, was bullied himself as a child. When sharing his experiences with audiences across the country, and while he was at Towson, Mitte spoke about turning disabilities into abilities.
According to the Campus Activities Board, Mitte spoke to an audience of 284 people. Mitte met with a small group of student contest winners to sign autographs and speak with them personally before taking the stage.
Ray Rice visits campus
Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back, made a visit to SECU Arena as part of his anti-bullying campaign, “Ray’s Links of Kindness.” Hundreds of fans and Towson students came to see the famous player and to give back to the cause.
Rice brought along actors Quinton Aaron and Eric Martinez, WBAL’s Keith Mills and Maryland’s First Lady Katie O’Malley to share the story of Grace McComas, a local high school student who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied.
Grace’s mother, Chris, spoke with the crowd and stressed the importance of being kind to one another. At the end of the event, the movie “Bully” was shown on the big screen.
Snowmageddon 2.0 paints B-More white
Towson students were treated to a number of days off at the end of the fall semester and at the beginning of the spring semester thanks to an unusual amount of snowfall for the area.
Heavy snowfall and cold temperatures briefly delayed some of the construction projects on campus, including the renovation of Burdick Hall and the construction of the new pedestrian bridge over Osler Drive.
However, the contractor built in days to account for inclement weather on the projects, and they’re both on schedule.
Total snowfall from the winter ranged from 31 inches in D.C., to almost 68 in Montgomery County, according to The Washington Post.
The latest snow storm of the year was at the beginning of March, when Baltimore County received 3.3 inches, according to CBS D.C.
In Baltimore County, a total of 78 inches fell this winter, according to The Baltimore Sun, which is greater than the winter of the “Snowmaggedon” that went between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010.
Students used the time off to stay warm indoors, while others took advantage of the snow and played outside. It took a long time for the area to thaw out, as cold temperatures even followed into April, but they have since bounced back in May.
Student fee increases announced
The newest round of student fee increases was announced prior to winter break, when members of the administration said there would be an increase in mandatory student fees. Later in the year, there would also be announced increases in non-mandatory fees.
The first round of increases announced included a $6 increase in the technology fee, $16 in the athletic fee, $10 for Auxiliary Services and $4 for the Student Government Association. In all, mandatory fees increased by $74 per year.
Administration came under fire by SGA senators for the quick turnaround time between the announcement and the time they were expected to vote to approve or disapprove the increases.
As part of the fee increases, Chief Financial Officer for the University Joe Oster said the University would be working on several new projects.
For example, there will be a new shuttle route going into downtown Towson once the new movie theater opens over the summer.
The athletic fee increase is also going toward helping the baseball team, which was almost cut from campus last year.
After a postponement of the resolution until March, the SGA eventually voted to support the fee increases.
In a Letter to the Editor, then-SGA Treasurer Laura Martin explained the increase in SGA fees.
“This increase will contribute to student organizations on campus, and allow for a greater number of opportunities for student organizations to receive funding and grow. We are fortunate enough to have over 200 registered student organizations that are eligible to receive funding through the SGA, and as Towson becomes bigger and better, the number of organizations and their needs will continue to grow. Every organization registered through us has a purpose and it is our responsibility to allocate funds appropriately,” Martin wrote.
Towson makes run in FCS Playoffs
Towson earned the No. 7 seed in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, which meant they got to host a second round game against Fordham. The Tigers cruised to the 48-28 victory to set up a matchup with No. 2 Eastern Illinois.
The crowd in Charleston, Illinois, witnessed one of the most historic performances in FCS history. Running back Terrance West ran for 354 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the FCS single-season record for touchdowns en route to the 49-39 win on a snow-covered field.
That win moved Towson into an FCS semifinal game at Eastern Washington, home to the bright red turf field. Towson took an early 21-0 lead as quarterback Peter Athens came out strong, but Eastern Washington responded with 31 unanswered points. After Athens injured his shoulder, backup quarterback Connor Frazier led Towson from 10-down in the fourth quarter to a win with 17 seconds left.
Tigers play in FCS Championship
Towson traveled to Frisco, Texas to meet the North Dakota State Bison on Jan. 4 in the Football Championship Subdivision championship game.
Despite being outnumbered by thousands, some Towson fans made the trip to see school history, including a few who rode 26 hours on a bus to watch the game, only to ride back right after.
The Tigers kept the game close early, with Terrance West finding the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the second quarter proved vital for the Bison.
A blocked field goal and interception turned the Tigers momentum into a 21-7 deficit.
The momentum was too much for Towson to recover from, and they fell 35-7 to the three-time defending champions.
Many spectators of the game complained about sub-par field conditions at Toyota Stadium as well, with players tripping over pieces of turf after a series of rainy days. However, after the game, players and coaches refused to blame the poor field conditions on the loss.
Three die in mall shooting
Over winter break, the entire state of Maryland was shaken after a gunman went into the Columbia Mall and killed two clerks at a Zumiez store before shooting himself.
The shooter, a 19-year-old from College Park, posted a note on Tumblr right before the shootings that read, “I had to do this. Today is the day. On previous days I tried this. I woke up with anxiety, regret and hope for a better future this day I didn’t, I woke up felt no emotions no empathy no sympathy. I will have freedom or maybe not. I could care less.”
After a two week investigation, police announced they do not believe that the shooter knew the two victims in the shooting, Briana Benlolo and Tyler Johnson, who worked at the store. The mall was closed for over a day while the initial investigation took place.
In March, Howard County Police announced other findings in the investigation, including that the shooter had looked up online how to assemble and fire a shotgun and how to build a bomb. It was also discovered that the 19 year old had some clues hinting at mental illness and that he had been contemplating suicide for some time.
Tiger Stripes program introduced
Upon returning to campus after the minimester, students involved in student groups faced a new challenge with their community service hours. The Student Government Association announced a new format for student groups to apply for funding in October and put it into effect in January. The new plan, called the “Tiger Stripes” program, places groups into tiers based upon how many community service hours they complete. Previously, a third of every student group was required to complete five hours of community service in order to be a budgeted group. Now, groups must choose among four tiers, each with a different set of rewards for completing the requirements.
No community service hours are required for groups to be approved in, but a group must complete 100 hours total to be a budgeted group to have access to activity, equipment and advertising accounts. However, 150 hours must be completed in the top tier to receive transportation funds.
In the second tier, students can complete 50 hours of community service, and will receive extra benefits, but will not be able to apply for a budget with the SGA.
Some of the hour requirements were changed prior to the implementation of the program, but student group leaders are still critical of the program because the requirements are too difficult to meet for small groups.
Tigerfest 2.0 announced
In early February it was announced that the University’s annual Tigerfest celebration would be expanded from a Friday concert to a two-day weekend event.
The Campus Activities Board stylized the new event as “Tigerfest 2.0.” The event was revealed to be split between two days, April 25 and 26, with the first day scheduled to host the vendors and games and the second to include the headlining concert.
In addition, the event’s festival and concert attractions were moved out of Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Instead of opening for headliners, Juicy J and Steve Aoki, it was also announced that the winner of the annual CAB Bring the Noise competition would perform the day prior, at the free festival, to allow for longer set times and greater exposure.
Admin. opposes sexual assault bill
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses came to a head in February, when Vice President Joe Biden made a push for colleges to pursue the issue more and make more resources available to students who are victims of sexual assault.
At the state level, Del. Jon Cardin introduced a bill that would have required all Maryland public colleges to give out mandatory sexual assault surveys so that schools would get a more accurate count of the number of sexual assaults that occur off campus between students.
However, the bill failed in the state House after it faced major opposition from college officials.
“I think we, frankly, are using a lot of University resources to do what we need to do to educate students, and I think we’ve been successful. And so, my question is, what would an anonymous survey provide, and to what end?” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jana Varwig said of the bill at the time.
The Student Government Association also failed to pass a resolution that would have supported Cardin’s bill.
Just last week, however, President Obama’s task force on the issue made several recommendations for colleges to do more to prevent sexual assaults, including handing out more anonymous surveys.
Assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies Amy Becker said at the same time that these kinds of anonymous surveys are a good way to collect information.
“By gathering more information via survey, it could help any policy the USM wanted to work on. It’s certainly a good first step,” Becker said. “I understand the concern, but I think it’s possible that as long as the USM has some control over the information that is being released and reported on it can be an accurate story from the data.”
Torrent Lounge opens
The next incarnation of The Recher Theatre opened up in Feburary, when the Torrent Lounge opened to the public. However, on the first night the club was open, a can of pepper spray was discharged inside and the building had to be evacuated.
The opening of Torrent marked the end of a long battle for the owners of The Recher. After originally announcing the change, community members lashed out against the decision to change the format of the venue, concerned over increased crime and community disruption in the area.
The local law offices of Charles E. Brooks additionally filed a petition in March 2013 to prevent the owners from renewing its liquor license so that Torrent couldn’t open, but the change was eventually approved and the renovations began.
The renovation took over a year, but eventually opened on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Although The Recher was known for bringing in pop-punk, rock and metal bands, Torrent is more of a nightclub atmosphere with DJs and dance music.
The Lounge is complete with a VIP area and access to The Rec Room next door.
“It’s good for Towson and it’s good for the students,” owner Brian Recher said in a September story on the opening. “We want to give students a reason to stay in Towson instead of going all the way downtown to Baltimore.”
Basketball plays in CAA Tournament
After the best regular season in team history, the men’s basketball team entered the CAA Tournament in March hopeful of getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a victory. However, they came up short against William & Mary in the semifinal round of the tournament, 75-71.
In the first round of the tournament, Towson defeated James Madison in a slow, drawn-out win after getting a bye in the first round. Following the CAA Tournament, the Tigers went on to compete in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
That made for the most exciting game of the team’s season, when Four McGlynn defeated the University of South Carolina Upstate by sinking a half-court buzzer-beater with no time left on the clock. Towson would eventually lose in the CIT to Murray State in the tournament, the team that eventually went on to win. However, the USCU victory was the first postseason win for the team in program history.
Amy Schumer brings laughs
Comedian and Towson alum Amy Schumer returned to her alma mater with a bang in March as part of her “Inside Amy Schumer’s Back Door Tour.”
Schumer joked about Towson almost as much as she joked about sex (almost) and the audience reacted with a standing ovation.
According to an earlier Towerlight article, Campus Activities Board Director Chad Nazworth said the show sold out all 680 seats in the Stephens Theatre.
Schumer gave attendees a sneak peek of her show “Inside Amy Schumer,” which is now airing its second season on Comedy Central. In addition to giving everyone a good laugh, Schumer told students to follow their dreams, no matter how difficult they may seem.
“Orange is the New Black” star speaks
On March 12 actress and LGBT advocate Laverne Cox visited campus to speak about her “Ain’t I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” awareness program.
Cox spoke not only about her own journey as a trans woman, but also about issues that face other members of the trans community, particularly those of color.
She encouraged Towson students to partake in the difficult conversations about differences that will help people to better understand each other.
She also spoke about her continued efforts on the “Free CeCe” project.
This documentary shares the story of a transgender woman CeCe McDonald, who served 19 months in a male prison for defending herself against an assault. Cox expressed that she herself has experienced racial discrimination and reminded the audience that everyone should have the ability to publicly express himself or herself in any way they want, proudly and without fear of discrimination.
Juicy J, Steve Aoki take the stage
After last year’s Tigerfest was rained out and headlining artist Wiz Khalifa never took the stage, this year’s Tigerfest seemed to go much smoother. The event occurred over two days: The first day took place inside the University Union, with free food, a free concert and arcade games.
Though the first day of events had originally been planned to take place on Burdick Field, due to rain they had to be moved inside.
The second day was the headlining concert in SECU Arena.
It featured opener Felix Cartal, along with headliners Steve Aoki and Juicy J. Popular songs such as Juicy J’s part of “Dark Horse” and Steve Aoki’s “Boneless” were performed during the concert.
There was only a minor interruption between Juicy J’s and Aoki’s sets, where students in the risers attempted to rush the floor.
No one was injured, and the concert continued without any additional problems.
Director of the Campus Activities Board, Chad Nazworth, said it went well and he would like the concert to take place again in SECU Arena.
However, it is uncertain what is in store for Tigerfest next year; students will have to wait and see.
Having the event over two days made it safer. There were only two medical transports at the events, and there were no alcohol citations or arrests made over the course of the two days.
This was also the second year that members of the administration went to different apartment complexes in the area to try to prevent large parties from disrupting the community.
SGA holds uncontested elections
For the first time in 20 years, the student government executive board election was uncontested. The ticket, called STREAK, consisting of President Kevin Kutner, Vice President Becky Wiacek Treasurer Joanna Enoch and Attorney General elect Bayan Rustom was elected with 1,543 student votes. This year, students voted to change the SGA Constitution so that the Chief of Staff, Gayon Sampson, was appointed instead of elected.
According to Wiacek, the ticket formally came together just before winter break.
In the senate race, 39 students ran for just 18 positions. Some members of the SGA, current and past, said that more students might have run for senate because that is where the power in student government is shifting, and because being a senator involves more direct work with students than being a member of the exec board.
Several students from SGA who chose not to run for the executive board cited the time commitment that being on the executive board entails.
The competitive nature of this year’s senate race has led Sampson to believe that the races next year will be especially heated.
“I promise you this,” he said in a previous Towerlight article. “Next year there will be a contested SGA election.”