Thyagaraja Festival turns 40 CSU


What has been bringing more than 6,000 people, more 6,000 miles, for two weeks, for more than 40 years?

The Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival, an annual musical event organized by the volunteer-led Aradhana Committee. The group welcomed guests to Cleveland State University between April 11 and April 23 to celebrate Carnatic music, an ethnic-based classical/religious style of Indian music and performance.

The festival has performances by local and visiting musicians, who are students, amateurs and professionals alike. The Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival which combines religious history with music takes place every year around Easter break.

Guests can see the most renowned musicians and dancers in the art or attend a workshop. Education is one of the missions of the event.

Attendees from all over the world spend their spring breaks from school and work enjoying Carnatic music performed by the best artists in the world. Cleveland is the host to the largest festival of this kind outside of India.

Radhika Balsubramaniam of the Aradhana Committee, who has attended all 40 Thyagaraja festivals, said the expression, “If you haven’t made it to Cleveland, you haven’t made it,” describes the importance of the event to this community because it brings the most well-known performers, fans, and students together.

Nearly everyone who attends the festival helps in some way – planning, preparing, serving quests, and cleaning up, she explained.

But her father R. Balasubramaniam, known to many as Cleveland Balu, is one of the reasons the festival is held in Cleveland.

He and his friends, inspired by the Carnatic style of music created by saint and composer, Sri. Thyagaraja in southern India, began to practice this musical form by playing in church basements around Cleveland.

Professor T. Temple Tuttle of Cleveland State’s music department became acquainted with the group and collaborated with them on several projects.  Their events began to attract more participants, fans, and students. Then Tuttle suggested the events be moved to Cleveland State and the music department has hosted the festival in the Waetjen Auditorium ever since.



ODS provides services to aid success of students and staff with disabilities

Andrea Engle is an alternative media specialist. She spends her days on campus transforming text books into braille and audio books. She trains a staff of student assistants to help.

Her group is part of the Office of Disability Services (ODS) which serves approximately 1,600 students and staff.

It’s a huge process, Engle says.

She is one of many employees dedicated to ensuring students of all abilities have an equal playing field for success.

The ODS is located on the first floor of the Main Classroom building but staff and resources throughout campus work closely together to provide services that accommodate students with disabilities. The process begins upon admissions by helping students articulate their own needs.

According to Linda Casalina the director for the ODS, college offers different challenges than students have experienced in high school. For the first time, most students using these services are learning to become their own advocates.

They are included in their own success. Students learn to be responsible for defining their own abilities and needs with the help of ODS.

Her department takes time to meet with each of the students it serves to identify the best individual success plan. Students who use the many services and resources available on campus usually spend more hours toward graduation than traditional students.

Some of the options available to help students with disabilities succeed is distraction-reduced testing environments, magnifying machines, and classmates who can share notes.

Each service a student uses takes time to learn. Programs that read text books aloud can take only a few minutes of training to learn.

Software that listens to voices to maneuver through computer tasks or type assignments are constantly learning with the user.

Jeffrey Dell, assistive technology specialist, is tasked with ensuring students not only have the right equipment and software to be successful but know how to use those resources. He was a student himself when he began helping on campus. He would give other students tips while working on his own assignments.

When you work with a student and you go over something with a student and you see things change, Dell said, you can see how much easier it is for a student to do something, that’s when it hits, that’s when I know I’m fine doing this.

CSU free speech vow receives recognition

freespeechPhoto Courtesy of CSU Archives

The above image from CSU’s archives shows a snapshot of history of the university’s demonstrations linked to free speech expression. This photo shows students and faculty protesting Gulf War military intervention in Kuwait in the early 90s.

, February 28, 2017

The latest report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) rated Cleveland State University one of 24 out of 400 American schools to have earned a green light rating regarding its commitment to free speech. Cleveland State is the only Ohio school to receive the prestigious rating.

The foundation, founded by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Boston civil rights attorney, works to defend and sustain individual rights at American colleges and universities. It identifies itself as a watchdog group to support freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience.

To determine a school’s ranking FIRE looks at policies including protest and demonstration, tolerance, respect, civility, bias and hate speech, bullying, harassment, internet usage, posting.

In 2015 Cleveland State updated its Expressive Activity Policy to clarify the university’s stance on expression, stating, use of the general access areas may include speaking, non-verbal expression, distributing literature, displaying signage and circulating petitions.

The policy gives students, faculty, staff and the general public the right to demonstrate an unlimited amount of times in any outdoor area with exception of parking lots, driveways or garages without prior notification. Demonstration can include speaking, non-verbal expression, distributing literature, displaying signage and circulating petitions.

Students who have questions on what is allowed or prohibited on campus can refer to the Office of General Counsel for guidance.




CSU students in ROTC program learn leadership skills

November 3, 2016


Photo Courtesy of 2LT TED ZOODSMAN

Cleveland State University ROTC cadets in a formation with cadets from seven other Northeast Ohio colleges as they swear in a fellow soldier.

Before rush hour even begins, Cleveland State University students Riley Burton, Gabriel Carlton and Jacques Black march four miles through wooded trails and bushes. They are part of a regional Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program, made up of seven area colleges, that meets two days a week regardless of the weather.

They begin military-style training at 6 a.m. at John Carroll University before commuting, still in their uniforms, back to Cleveland State for afternoon classes.

Burton, a sophomore nursing student, said, “We wear our uniforms all day to show people we are in the program and encourage them to join.” Burton has completed basic training.

She said she feels basic training and life as a National Guardsman have taught her to follow commands, but the ROTC program taught her how to be an effective leader. For her, leadership is important to get ahead faster in her nursing career.

The skill sets learned in the ROTC program have helped students outside of the program. Carlton said he is able to use the leadership skills he learned in ROTC to help encourage other students to achieve on projects in many ways. Learning leadership skills has made Carlton take a different role as a student than he had before ROTC, he noted. “Whenever I find myself in a group project, I always find myself taking a leadership role,” he said. “Before I was much more shy. It helped me out.”

After joining many cadets learn things they never knew they would learn. Black, a junior marketing student, said, “You don’t know if you don’t try. You are going to learn individual skills, how to work as a team, you and you are going to get in shape if you are not already.”

Commuter biking undervalued on campus


As many days as possible John Dido, a Project 60 student, rides his bicycle to campus from his West Side neighborhood. He locks his bike near the Student Center and heads to class.

Cleveland State has 104 parking spots for bicycles, according to its website. Many more bike racks exist in the greater campus district for students and community members.

Since adoption of the Cleveland Bikeway Master Plan in 2007, Cleveland has made bike friendly infrastructure and initiatives a top priority when planning civic projects. The League of American Bicyclist ranks Cleveland among the nation’s top bike-friendly cities.

For students and residents like Dido, Cleveland’s bike friendly updates are a reflection of the dedication and passion of a close-knit biking community in the region.  John spends his time off-campus volunteering at Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op.

Cleveland State has robust resources to make biking convenient for those who commute to campus, yet when the weather is perfect for biking, most campus bike racks remain empty.

Jessica Wilkins, a junior business major, is one of those commuters. Wilkins has biked from Chagrin Falls to Wooster. She has participated in a handful of bike events. At her previous campus she rode her bike, but does not ride her bike to Cleveland State because it would take her three hours one way.

Wilkins sees few bikers around campus and she believes they are commuter students living close to campus. She said, “It looks like because of the bikes they are using, they must live within 10 minutes [of campus].”

Students living on or commuting to campus can cycle without owning their own bike. Bike co-ops around Cleveland allow individuals to learn about cycling, and several downtown rent bikes hourly from a few different companies.

Biking downtown can offer a chance to see things you wouldn’t be able to view on foot or by car, according to Sergeant Ken Lewis of the Cleveland State University Police Department. Lewis is passionate about bicycling. He is a certified bike patrol officer with the State of Ohio and trains campus officers to use bikes on duty.

His enthusiasm has led him to take part in many community biking events– from the campus neighborhood to a bike ride through New York’s five main neighborhoods. He said he would advise prospective riders to invest in two important pieces of equipment: spare inner tubes and a U-lock style lock.

After years of patrolling, Lewis said, he feels that the U-lock style lock is more secure than a cable lock. “When I see bikes locked up with real thin cables,” he said, “I think, they are just waiting to be stolen.”

He suggests students visit for proper ways to lock up a bike as well as bike laws and safety tips.

City is Our Campus now more accessible for CSU students


Photo by Ambrosia Luzius

City is Our Campus has rebranded itself and is making its presence known this year by reaching out to Cleveland State students through social media and marketing.
Catherine Tiesling, campus life and major event specialist at Cleveland State, said City is Our Campus has existed for many years but has undergone a rebranding process, which has led to its recent rise in popularity.
Its definitely not a new program, we just created marketing and were branding it more, Tiesling said.
This is also the first year that City is Our Campus has been present on social media, making its way on their new Instagram account as well as new efforts toward its Twitter page.
City is Our Campus is an engaged learning opportunity for Cleveland State students to discover culture, arts and entertainment in downtown Cleveland using your Viking ID card as your ticket for events at a discounted rate.
Tiesling oversees the entire program along with all campus events and chooses which tickets to buy based on the budget for each semester.
I pick the events based on the budget I have and prior years events, Tiesling said. We always do the Indians home opener and we always do a Cavs game.
However, Tiesling said she and her team of two Cleveland State graduate assistants are always open to new ideas.
For instance, Tiesling said this semester they sold tickets to opening night of the Cleveland Orchestra, which was the first time they have ever purchased tickets to sell at a discounted price for the orchestra. Tiesling explained how the program runs and the ticketing process.
We buy (the tickets) at a group sale price and we sell them to students for half price,” she said. One student was really excited the other day because we were selling Amy Schumer tickets for $20 as opposed to the original price starting at $60, so he got two tickets for $40 for him and his girlfriend.
Although tickets for half price cant be beat, whats even better is that City is Our Campus has started offering free Cleveland Browns tickets this semester.
Cleveland State just started a partnership with the Cleveland Browns so we distributed 600 tickets to opening day, Tiesling said. Coming up, we’re going to be doing 400 free tickets to the Oct. 30th game.
Tiesling encouraged students to pay close attention to their email or visit the City is Our Campus website for distribution dates to claim their free pair of Cleveland Browns tickets and when and where to purchase tickets for upcoming events.
We would also love to see an increase in students giving us suggestions, Tiesling added. We want their input on what events they want to go to.
Provide your idea for an event you want to engage in and see on the calendar by emailing City is Our Campus at

#BeSafeCLEstate app relaunch includes new strategies and users

September 21, 2016

The Viking Shield smartphone app is a popular part of the #BeSafeCLEstate campaign. The campaign promotes safe behaviors on campus and keeps safety at the front of the minds of the campus community.

This campaign includes informational videos, safety tips and alerts, training sessions and informal meetings.

The app launched in January by the Cleveland State University Police Department and the university marketing team. It relaunched at the beginning of this semester.

Since the launch of the app, 3,071 users have downloaded the latest version of Viking Shield, including creative writing grad student Jackie Cifranic.

I use it because most of my classes are in the evenings, Cifranic said. She has used it for two semesters. Usually she waits about five minutes after requesting an escort using the app for an officer to walk with her from her classes to her car in a campus garage.

Cifranic suggested that the best way to introduce students to the campaign is through paper signs around all campus buildings.

According to CSU’s Police Chief, Gary Lewis, the fall campaign includes new marketing strategies geared towards awareness of the app and the services provided by CSU Police Department.

In addition to the app each semester CSU’s police department conducts Coffee with a Cop,” which are informal sessions held in the Student Center with officers.

Lewis says these meetings, have a large number of students, faculty and staff [who] stop to ask questions focused on campus safety.

Information about #BeSafeCLEstate campaign and its components are on the university police department’s website

Officer 34.5 continues to be top of Ohio’s canine class

Cleveland State University’s canine Officer Rex, badge number 34.5, completed a Special Purpose and Explosive Detection Certification Sept. 8, just one of many Rex has received since he began his campus career.

The Department of Homeland Security hand-selected K-9 officer Rex from Holland to detect explosives. His natural hunt and play drives, as well as his high energy level put him at the top of his class when he began training at only seven months old.

After joining the police department at CSU in 2014 as part of a Homeland Security initiative, Rex and his handler Officer Edward Stoltz have worked daily to improve Rex’s explosive detection skills.

Rex and his canine colleagues are part of a growing number of explosive detection dogs nationwide. In the article The Education of Bomb Dogs, reported, in 2000 there were only 15 canine explosive teams; after the fall of the twin towers, explosive detective dogs are everywhere. According to the same article, they blend seamlessly in the post 9/11 scenery.

Rex has engaged in a bit of his own education in scenes on and off campus. He is trained to detect the 13 most basic core chemicals of explosives.

According to Stoltz, he is a fast learner.

Rex can be imprinted to detect a new scent in only a half hour, Stoltz said.

When their training began, Rex was not Officer Stoltz’s ideal dog.

Rex has always been a goof, Stoltz said. Over the first weeks of training Rex’s personality grew on Stoltz to become one of his most loved qualities.

Rex trains with the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Association (RTA) police canines and officers once a week for five straight hours. He attends regular training sessions in Columbus with his handler.

Rex holds three certifications from the State of Ohio and one from the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA). NAPWDA, according to its website, certifies the proficiency of a dog’s work when it exceeds the regular standards and the work handler and canine, can stand as acceptable court testimony.

Rex answers calls in grade schools, high schools and colleges from Youngstown to Toledo. He is part of the state’s Homeland Security team. Rex assists other agencies around campus. Often his fellow canine colleagues back him up at CSU events.

Although he has accomplished many things, canine Officer Rex is a modest dog.

He does not like to be focused on. If a bunch of people are staring at him or staring at me, he gets nervous, Stoltz said.

Rex is able to redirect his nerves when he is working to focus on his job. He works even after he leaves campus and returns to his home. If anything is moved or is out of place, he goes to work sniffing it to make sure the Stoltz family is safe.

Rex knows when his two collars come off, his work day is over. That’s when the goof behaviors Stoltz mentioned return. Thats when he takes time to chew on his favorite Nylabone and enjoys time with his family.

Rex will be a member of the Stoltz family — which includes two other dogs, two young children, Mrs. Stoltz and his best friend Officer Stoltz — long after he retires from the force.

When he does retire from his favorite game of sniffing out explosives, Rex will most likely spend more time partaking in his second favorite activity: swimming.

Dear Annie

Dear Annie,

I am sorry. This was going to be a letter that started with me asking for your forgiveness for using the grannie squares you gave me to yarn bomb the other tree in my front yard, but as I was out there doing it I realized that you would be upset with me for feeling bad and encourage me to do it once you heard the story. So instead of a “Dear Annie, I am sorry” letter, and asking for your blessing I am instead going to write a different letter.

Dear Annie,

Over half of my life you have been the best neighbor a girl could ask for. I have borrowed sugar from you, even when it was some wild and crazy type of sugar you know, fermented sugar. Okay, so, I borrowed rum…….thanks for all those emergency cups of rum, pep talks, kicks in the ass, and words of encouragement. I was wondering if you had a weeee bit of encouragement to share in the form of a ladder. I’m gonna need a ladder.

You see over the years mom and I have asked you for some pretty random things to pull off some really interesting missions. WELL…….

I was outside yesterday putting up the plastic Santa that means so much to my dad and this lady was walking her two little ankle bitter dogs. She was struggling to hold the dogs and pick up one poop while carrying another. I asked her if she wanted to throw those bags away in my trash so she didn’t have to struggle to carry them.

As she handed me the bags she asked me why I decorated one of my trees. I said to her, “It was on my bucket list and something I always wanted to do, my grandmother taught me and now I teach others.” She asked me if I was from Tremont, then said that, “its something she sees people in Tremont do”. The way she said it was something I brushed off at the time. I instead asked her what her name was and her dogs names were. She told me and continued to inquire about my tree but really not in a nice way it was really incriminating and questioning, like why would I do that to my tree.

I knew in the back of my mind that I have the support of all of the neighbors on my street, including our ward councilman, so I decided to let her know about the little library I plan on building and invited her to come back down to check it out when it is done or save books for.

Tonight my mom was planning on hanging out with me to finish the other tree, which given the interaction with that lady, which I am hoping that I misread and she is really an encouraging lady, I really was looking forward to. But my poor mommy couldn’t make it so in the true fashion of someone who suffers from insomnia brought on by ADHD I really tried to sleep but it was bothering me. The fact that I haven’t finished moving into my house , organizing everything, cleaning up after the animals, and sadly that conversation with that lady.

So, well, I got up. I got out of bed. I gathered up all the scrap squares and scrap pieces of yarn I had waiting for that day I find time to sew them from the tree. I gathered them up and took them outside and sewed them to the tree. I know its late but late is better than hella cold. And cold is what is on the way. So before its too cold………… how about that ladder.

And would you like to help sew squares higher up the tree with me or hand me a drink (you know like the ones I used to borrow). I was going to dedicate this tree to you Annie but on second notion I wanted to donate it to the lady who I may have misread and the rest of the neighborhood who whether inspire me one way or another.

……… and to that lady when you walk down our street next time. Welcome to the neighborhood, OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. WESTPARK, not Tremont. Hookers are everywhere, even Westpark and we are taking back our streets and taking back the word hooker because it started with crocheters. A little knowledge goes way farther than ignorance.

Welcome to Cleveland !!!!!