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Posts from the ‘Paul Spradley’ Category

Enough is Enough

Det. Brian Johnson used to handle only “hot case” homicides. As a result, his hours were erratic and he didn’t get to spend much time with his 10 and 11-year-old sons. Eventually, he switched to “cold” cases so that he could work steady hours and be able to give his sons the kind of guidance they can only get from a male role model. “It’s easier to set kids on the right path when they’re young than trying to turn them back once they’ve become teenagers,” he said.

Johnson was part of a panel discussion held on Oct. 21 in RMU’s Rogal Chapel to discuss the alarming increase in violence among young males today. Called “Masculinity and Violence,” the discussion was organized by Paul Spradley, RMU’s assistant director of student life for multicultural affairs, as part of the national Week Without Violence. Sponsored by the YWCA, the Week Without Violence showcases a series of programs to help reduce violence in our communities.

The “Masculinity and Violence” panel included three members of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department: Cheryl Doubt, commander of investigations and firearms; and Brian Johnson and Sheldon Williams, both homicide and investigations detectives. Throughout the discussion, the panelists – all of whom are parents of young boys and/or men – talked about what they see as the reasons for the increase in violence. They also shared some of the steps that the Pittsburgh Police are taking to help resolve these issues.

Williams, Johnson, and Doubt all agreed that violence is becoming more prevalent and egregious because society is increasingly tolerant to it. Williams said he attributed the increasing violence to changes in societal dynamics, particularly a deviation in the standard of morality throughout the community. They also cited the importance of having a male role model to provide guidance, both in words and in action, which is something that so many young men just don’t have today.

I think Cmdr. Doubt said it best, however, when she said that our own apathy is a main part of the problem. “Criminals are counting on us to turn our heads and look the other way,” she said. “If we want the violence to stop, people have to get to the point where they say, enough is enough.”

I say enough is enough. What do you say?

— Valentine J. Brkich

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Celebrating Diversity at RMU

When I was growing up, I didn’t give much thought to diversity. Sitting behind my desk in Catholic school, my mind was occupied with doodling elaborate outer-space battle scenes in my loose-leaf notebooks. When I did occasionally pick up my head to scan the classroom, I’d see twenty or so white kids – some of them also drawing, some of them dozing off, and maybe one or two teacher’s pets actually paying attention to Sr. Margaret.


A diverse group, we were not. We were all from the same county, the same state, the same country. We were all Catholic, and we were all Caucasian. During my eight years there, we only had one African American student – a boy named Maurice – who was only there for half of my second-grade year. But again, this was normal to us. We didn’t know any better. We didn’t understand why diversity was important, and frankly, we didn’t care. We just wanted 3 o’clock to come.


When I entered public high school, diversity was suddenly thrust upon me. Now the classroom was filled with kids from various backgrounds. At first it was a little intimidating. In no time at all, however, the strangeness wore off, and I had an entirely new idea of what was normal. Soon, I had African American friends, Asian friends, Hispanic friends, Jewish friends, Protestant friends, Methodist friends…and it was wonderful.


The diversity I encountered in high school opened my eyes to the world and helped me see it in an entirely new way. By the time I reached college, instead of being surprised by diversity, I was surprised if my classes lacked it. Diversity had become the norm rather than the exception.


Here at RMU, we’re lucky to have an incredibly diverse student and faculty population. Just a couple days ago, I attended the first installment of the Diversity Speaker Series, organized by Paul Spradley, assistant director of student life for multicultural affairs. Around 60 people gathered in the Rogal Chapel to hear the first guest speaker, Saleem Ghubril. Ghubril, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, fled to the United States with his family when civil war broke out in his country in the mid-1970s.


Ghubril embodies everything that is good about diversity. In addition to being the executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, this Asian-African-Arab-American is also an ordained minister who is committed to serving the community and bringing people together. “I am the world!” he said.


During his talk, Ghubril spoke of how much the world has changed for the better over the years in terms of racial and ethnic tolerance. He also spoke of the many challenges we still face today. As I listened to him speak of diversity with passion and youthful exuberance, I noticed the diverse audience that had gathered to hear him speak, and it warmed my heart.


RMU’s diversity is something to be celebrated. The many cultures and backgrounds that make up this university help to teach us tolerance and understanding, and it gives us all a global perspective. And in an ever-shrinking world, few things are as valuable.


– Valentine J. Brkich