Towson campus reacts to adjunct firing

4227957221Illustration by Ben Exler. This investigative article originally appeared in The Towerlight on March 4, 2010. It should be noted that a report at The Towerlight’s Web site broke the story on the evening of March 1, after which coverage from numerous local news outlets, including the Baltimore Sun, WBFF, WJZ and WBAL-TV followed. The author was also invited on WBAL-AM, where the story dominated a day of discussion, to recount the facts of the investigation on March 3.



One word cost Allen Zaruba his teaching career at Towson University.

Zaruba, a professional artist and adjunct art professor who has taught at the University for 12 years, was fired last Thursday after being reported to the provost’s office for using a racial slur in class.

Zaruba was lecturing in his Visual Concepts class last Monday. The class was discussing a textbook he called “very politically incorrect,” “Themes of Contemporary Art” by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel. While reviewing a chapter about identity and the body, Zaruba referred to himself as “a nigger on the corporate plantation.”

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Zaruba said, he regretted them. He contends, however, that the phrase was not directed at anyone other than himself and was not meant to be racially offensive.

“I am not a racist. I never have been. I’ve been raised overseas and in other cultures. It just absolutely kills me,” he said in an interview Sunday, later adding that he serves in the prison ministry, teaches Sunday school and that his stepfather was a black man and he “loved him dearly.”

Maria Bernier, a sophomore studio art major who was in the class, spoke highly of Zaruba and said the remark was not out of character for the professor, and was not intended or interpreted by much of the class as discriminatory.

“He’s very honest in his descriptions, and sometimes when he describes things, he uses words that I guess a lot of people would find … offensive,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Tyler Tech: ‘Electric Town’ lights up Tokyo

Published in The Towerlight on January 26, 2009.


Welcome back from the long break. So as I mentioned in a previous column,I spent a week during my time off in Japan. Yes, it was beautiful. If I had my druthers I would spend this space going on and on about the food. Oh man, the food.

But you came for Tyler Tech, not Tyler Talks Sushi. Read the rest of this entry »

The dirt on Mike Rowe

Originally published in The Towerlight November 16, 2009.

Many students struggle to find employment after graduation, but in the last four years, one Towson alumnus has had more than 200 jobs and counting.

Mike Rowe, a Dundalk native who graduated in 1985, is best known as host of the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs.” But long before he took on tasks such as pig farming, garbage collecting and mining, he was a communication studies major.

Rowe said he felt very indecisive about what he wanted to do when he came to Towson in 1982, transferring from the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex.

He took classes in English, speech, philosophy and theater. Rowe joked that he “majored in everything,” and didn’t decide on communication “until the last possible second.”

“[Towson] was just a place to go learn and try to figure out what the hell to do,” he said.  “It wasn’t about getting a degree. The degree was a symptom, actually.”

One of Rowe’s favorite professors at Towson was Richard Vatz of the department of mass communication and communication studies. Vatz recalled Rowe as a hard worker and an active voice in class discussions.

“He was one of those people who was energetic, but never ever hostile – he just enjoyed his role of the inquiring and participating student,” Vatz said in an e-mail. “He was curious about everything… I would guess he has a very broad range of interests today.” Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Out

64646870Originally published in The Towerlight October 16, 2008. Photos by Kristofer Marsh, who won 3rd place for Region 2 in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2009 Mark of Excellence Awards.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is known for a lot of things. Crab cakes, boats, tourist traps… breakdancing?

Nestled between the National Aquarium’s ambient music and natural sounds on one side of the water and the occasional gospel choir performance on the other is a boom box blasting Daft Punk, Michael Jackson or whatever can be danced to.

Several Towson students, including senior electronic media and film major Sean Johnson, have gained recognition and earned hundreds of dollars in tips by breakdancing downtown.

Johnson, who performs under the nickname “Blak Majik,” has been breakdancing for four years. He said he started breaking when a friend, Danny “Atomic Goofball” Nguyen, introduced him to the culture.

“He told me where I could go to meet people to break and just pretty much he got me into the culture,” he said. “I learned the basics from him and took it from there.”

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Mass transit or high gas costs?

Originally published July 3, 2008 in Owings Mills Times.

In the face of record high gas prices, more area residents and employees of local businesses are choosing to take mass transit instead of driving to their destination to cut their fuel bills.

“It’s been very helpful,” said Irene Azu, a city resident who commutes several days a week to the Bank of America in Owings Mills. “The monthly pass (good for bus, Metro or light rail) is about $64, so it’s been very helpful.”

Owings Mills is home to the western terminus of Baltimore’s Metro Subway line, which travels southeast through downtown Baltimore to Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Maryland Transit Administration also operates several local bus lines in the area.

Ridership on Metro has seen a “solid increase,” according to spokeswoman Jo Greene. Between March and April, the last month for which statistics were available, the daily number of riders rose from 47,000 to 49,600.

Read the rest of this entry »

Senator’s future discussed

Originally published March 17, 2009 at Photos by Tyler Waldman.

Monday evening’s town hall meeting at Baltimore’s historic Senator Theatre started like many screenings had over the last 20 years, with a speech by the theater’s owner, Tom Kiefaber.

“I didn’t call this meeting,” Kiefaber said in front of a crowd of more than 500 people. “I wanted to welcome you all at least one more time to the historic Senator Theatre.”

He was met with a minute-long standing ovation, a stark contrast to the tone of the night’s events. Kiefaber, who has run the theater since 1988, said he was deeply touched.

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Rove faces hostilities at Goucher

Gouchers president, Sanford Ungar, (onstage, left) moderated the forum with Karl Rove in the Kraushaar Auditorium.

Goucher's president, Sanford Ungar, (onstage, left) moderated the forum with Karl Rove in the Kraushaar Auditorium.

Originally published as an online exclusive for The Towerlight on September 17, 2009. The Towerlight was the only media organization present at the event. Photos by Eric Gazzillo.

He is a man of many nicknames. The Architect. Boy Genius. Turd Blossom.

Karl Rove, arguably one of the most divisive figures of the George W. Bush administration, was the Fall 2009 speaker of the President’s Forum at Goucher College Wednesday night.

The forum at Kraushaar Auditorium, presented and moderated by Goucher’s president, Sanford Ungar, attracted 1,200 people, filling the room.

Read the rest of this entry »

A play of star-crossed lovers

Originally published in The Towerlight October 26, 2009.

Photo by Alan Dovell

Photo by Alan Dovell

Swords clash. Families feud. Teens find forbidden love. This isn’t a prime time drama or a new movie. It’s one of the most popular love stories in history.

“Romeo and Juliet,” which will premiere Friday night in the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, is one of William Shakespeare’s most frequently performed plays, telling the story of two teens from rival Italian families who fall in love and meet a tragic end.

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Quidditch league takes flight

Originally published October 7, 2009, in The Towerlight. Photos by Blake Savadow.

Erin Boots throws a Quaffle, a ball used in Quidditch. The Muggle version is a volleyball covered in colored duct tape

A new hot sport on the Towson campus has student athletes wielding sticks, chasing players and throwing balls. It’s not football. It’s not soccer. It’s not field hockey.

Eva Hiatt explains the rules of the game.

Erin Boots throws a “Quaffle,” a ball used in Quidditch. The Muggle version is a volleyball covered in colored duct tape
The sticks are brooms, the balls are Quaffles and the game is Quidditch.

Freshman theater majors Eva Hiatt and Erin Boots came up with the idea of bringing the Hogwarts pastime from the pages of the “Harry Potter” novels to Burdick Field during their freshman orientation.

“It started out as a joke,” Boots said.

The idea started brewing, then the pair saw students in the Center for the Arts playing a game called Marauder’s Mayhem, which Boots said has its players wandering the halls with wands.

“We’re turning this school into Hogwarts. This school is Hogwarts. We have people running around the CFA with wands, so we might as well play Quidditch,” Boots said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thompson mindful of impact

Originally published July 6, 2009, in The Towerlight:

Q.D. Thompson is an unlikely athlete. In team pictures, he sticks out as the shortest of the bunch. At a relatively scrawny 5’6” and 110 pounds, his size did not stop him from making All-State and All-Southern teams in soccer and basketball, or from being a contender in track and field and baseball.

That was in 1942. Today, his name is on the athletic wall of fame in Towson Center. Thompson, now 88, is many years removed from that athlete. He’s shrunk a few inches. He uses a walker to get around. One thing hasn’t changed, however: He never stopped playing for the Tigers.

Read the rest of this entry »