All posts by Kim Whiting, Editor-in-Chief

50 shades of black

In reviewing a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, I noticed that the pictures all look so very perfect. Not a single blemish or fat roll or misplaced hair. Every tooth is straight and white, every eye is shining brightly and all of the skin is glowing. Clearly, Photoshop is used heavily.

While that in itself may pose an ethical dilemma given what we know about the effects of body image on the world’s youth, I was struck by an even deeper concern when I came to an article titled “Shondaland,” which included a large picture of Shonda Rhimes surrounded by Ellen Pompeo, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington.

All four are beautiful women to begin with and this picture was no exception. The racial diversity displayed in the picture would, on the surface, appear to be a testament to how far our society has come with regard to racial integration, but I was struck by how the use of lighting in this picture seemed to lighten the black women, especially Shonda Rhimes, to the point that she almost appeared white. I wondered about that because I didn’t remember her being so light-skinned.

Did the photographer use lighting to make her appear less black? Did the editors Photoshop the picture to diminish the contrast between Pompeo and the rest of the group? Did they think their audience would be uncomfortable with an article about mostly black people?

Out of curiosity, I Googled Rhimes, Washington and Davis and the result of my search was actually quite interesting. The thumbnail images on the Google search page showed each woman depicted in drastically different lighting, making them look much darker or lighter, depending on the setting and the publication. The use of creative lighting and editing was obvious when the pictures are viewed side by side. I had to wonder if this is a deliberate whitewash. If so, by whom? The photographer? The editor? The managers?

This may be an example of a publication that would diminish the appearance of race if they feel that they are catering to an audience with less racial tolerance. In this way, the publication can claim to be embracing racial diversity while easily handling those members of its audience who are still uncomfortable with such things. It’s as if they’re saying, “Don’t worry, they’re only a little bit black.”

Happy Holidays

Every year at this time, social media starts to blow up with posts from people who are angry because they would rather say “Merry Christmas” than “Happy Holidays.” New this year, I’ve seen memes that called red Starbucks cups an attack on Christmas and “Holiday Trees” an attack on the American way. This strikes me as a strange thing to say here in the U.S., where capitalism is the rule of the land.

Starbucks may save a penny by omitting fancy text and graphics on their cups. They may save a minute of production time or a bit of ink. Maybe the person placing the order just didn’t want to bother. Saving time and cutting corners are the main priority in every other aspect of business, so why should this be any different?

Perhaps, you could argue, having the largest possible target audience to market your product to is the most important thing in a retail business. Which brings us around to “Holiday Trees.”  A few more people may buy a Spruce for the living room if the sellers can convince them that it’s not just for Christmas anymore. What does a tree have to do with the birth of Jesus anyway?

Instead, they can say, it’s more of an all-purpose tree that can be used to celebrate a variety of holidays. Nobody really knows what those other holidays are, yet, but over time, a decorative tree may be adopted by other cultures or religions in order to make this true. Maybe the Pastafarians will have trees hung with ornaments shaped like Flying Spaghetti Monsters and colanders.  Good news for tree growers everywhere.

For myself, I choose to say “Happy Holidays” because I was raised in Needham, which has a large Jewish population. My grandmother explained to me at a young age that saying “Merry Christmas” to a person who does not celebrate Christmas is just silly. Not because they may be offended, but because it’s simply a waste of breath to say something that, by definition, excludes the person you are saying it to.

I’m not worried about offending anyone. I just choose to include every person from every walk of life in my wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

NECC Observer Honored

The NECC Observer recently learned that it was awarded an honorable mention in the 2014 New England College Newspaper of the Year contest.

The award is bestowed by the New England Society of News Editors.

The awards were handed out at NESNE’s 2014 spring conference at the New England Newspaper and Press Association headquarters in Dedham, but the Observer just received its plaque last week.

The Heights from Boston College was honored with first place, with The Gatepost of Framingham State University capturing second place and The Quinnipiac Chronicle of Quinnipiac University winning third place.

Along with the NECC Observer, The Defender of St. Michael’s College and The Brandeis Hoot of Brandeis University were also named honorable mention award-winners.

NESNE presents several prestigious awards each year, honoring those who have mastered the craft of journalism and “New England journalism’s most promising up-and-comers,” according to its website.

College newspapers at both large universities and small colleges enter the college newspaper of the year contest, which honors the region’s best student journalists

Under the supervision of faculty adviser, Mary Jo Shafer, the NECC Observer staff in 2014 included Editor-in-Chief Matt Gingras, Features Editor Everson Taveras, Opinion Editor Ashlee Ferrante, News Editor Chad Gorham, Campus Life Editor Kathryn Gagon, Entertainment Editor Faith Gregory,  Sports Editor Esther Nieves, Staff Writer Chrstina Hillner and Copy Editor Thomas Shamma.

Returning staff in fall 2014 included Faith Gregory as editor-in-chief, Copy Editor and Web Editor Thomas Shamma, News Editor Chad Gorham, Opinion Editor Ashlee Ferrante and Staff Writer Christina Hillner.

New staff in fall 2014 included Web Editor Danielle Coppola, Staff Writer Joe Meli, Entertainment  Editor Kim Whiting, Features Editor Rebecca Westerman and Sports Editor Mike Alongi.

Previous staff who returned for fall 2015 include Chad Gorham, who is now campus life editor, Joe Meli, copy editor, and Rebecca Westerman, arts and entertainment editor.  Kim Whiting is now the editor-in-chief

The 2014 NECC Observer was also honored as a  silver medalalist by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

Trainees trigger debate on campus

Opinions on campus regarding the addition of the Methuen Police Academy and Essex County Sheriff’s Department vary widely. The debate began on the quad and in the hallways but quickly has moved into Student Senate meetings, the pages of the NECC Observer and even onto social media. Former student Faith Gregory encountered a training activity on campus in late October that she found to be particularly aggressive and inappropriate for a college campus. She voiced her thoughts on Facebook and a heated argument ensued. She also wrote a letter to the editor which ran in the last issue of the NECC Observer. Also during this training activity, members of Little Sprouts were using the field in front of the D building for their daily walk. Observer staff noticed a child who seemed to be upset by the activities.

After seeing photos of the training, Erin Davis, an Early Childhood Education major and former teacher at Little Sprouts, said, “As a 3-year-old … they don’t understand practice, that they’re not really hurting each other. Shouting messes with a kids head… they think people are mad when they scream, so now they think everyone out on the campus is mad.”

Maureen Bly is the director of the Little Sprouts program. She said that even though their gym time has been limited by the presence of the police academies, she and the parents have been overall happy to have them on campus.

“…They talk to the kids, they give the kids little badges, so we haven’t really had any problems with having them here.”

Bly did say, though, that the teachers should not have continued their walk during that activity and that she was unaware of the level of aggression being displayed on the field in front of the D building.

“No, I’d rather the kids not see all that. I was unaware that was taking place,” Bly said. “I wish they would notify us so we would know. We wouldn’t be out walking around while they’re doing it. I don’t know how appropriate it is to do it out [in front of] the college kids either.”

Students have expressed strong opinions on both sides of this issue. Sienna Smeland-Wagman was taking a quiz in Environmental Studies when the training exercise began that October day. “I heard a violent yell and the first thing I thought was ‘school shooting,’” Smeland-Wagman said. “It seems very dehumanizing. What I see is so violent and aggressive.”

Brian Ducey agrees that the level of violence being displayed can be upsetting. “They are just the most distracting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Ducey, who was particularly concerned with the idea that these trainees had only been training for a few weeks and felt that the emphasis of their training should be on de-escalating violent situations.

“Clearly it’s very aggressive, they’re constantly yelling. Right now, they’re just beating pads with nightsticks just to get … how to more efficiently beat someone down. It just really confuses me.”

Other students, such as Sheila Rivera and Vianca Santa, enjoy watching them practice. “I think it’s cool. I like to watch them,” said Rivera, who felt that it’s interesting to see training drills that many people would not usually have the opportunity to experience.

Devin Ditomaso is also not bothered by their presence on campus. “It doesn’t disrupt me at all,” he said. Although, as we continued to watch, he stated, “A big group of them just ran over there. (Someone close to me) has PTSD… if she was in that group and all those guys suddenly just ran over to her, she would have froze right the hell up in panic.”

The issue was exacerbated a few days after the October exercise, when Methuen Police Academy trainees were running a drill in the stairways of the C building.

In this drill, which was conducted during active school hours, trainees were climbing the staircase with fingers pointed to simulate aiming a gun while shouting “Clear!”

Students entering the stairwell were surprised by the encounter, to say the least.

Concerns were raised in a Student Senate meeting. According to the minutes, NECC Vice President David Gingerella said that “he was told by the academy that the event regarding cadets pointing finger guns at students had not occurred.”

NECC administration has addressed a few of the concerns by moving some of the training activities to the other side of the D building.

In order to better answer questions and address any lingering issues, an event has been scheduled for Dec. 2 in the Hartleb Technology Center in which students, instructors and administrators will be able to meet and express their concerns.

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. with an opportunity for informal introductions. This will be followed by brief informational speeches by representatives from both academies, NECC administration and Student Senate, concluding with a question and answer session.

In the meantime, any questions or issues can be addressed by contacting George Moriarty, executive director of Workforce Development at

The NECC Observer will follow up on this story as more information becomes available.

Observer Intro to Fall 2015 Semester

For more than 50 years, the Observer has been the forum for the very best of the journalism students here at NECC to showcase their talent and obtain real-world work experience.

Unlike that “real world,” the Observer begins each year with a large percentage of new staff members who need to learn the ropes.

This includes learning photo and design software that may be previously unfamiliar to them and cultivating new relationships with sources.  

Sometimes, this leads to a rocky start for the first few editions of the year and has made it difficult for our paper, and our website, to reach its full potential.  

In response to this, veteran members of the Observer staff have been on campus all summer following important news and changes.  

New staff has been hard at work training and a web editor has been added to ensure the most up to date content on our social media sites.  We are bringing back a Campus Life page and a page that is Just For Fun, and we look forward to running your cartoons, pictures, letters to the editor and story ideas.  This newspaper is for you.  Look for all of the changes and let us know what you think.   

I am honored to work with this talented team of journalists.


The Financial Adviser

With college comes new friends, new experiences and new responsibilities. It also comes with several new expenses that can affect a student’s quality of life and lead to long term debt and confusing credit issues. Whether you are a returning student, or if this is your first year, now is the right time to familiarize yourself with all of the financial resources that are available to you. Even if you don’t need them right now, it’s never too soon to prepare.

Scholarships and grant money are available for a variety of things and from a wide variety of sources. Far too many are available to try to list them here.  In fact, according to the NECC website, 216 NECC students received over $200,000 for the 2014/2015 academic year alone.

Financial aid can help students with much more than the cost of classes and is available from a variety of sources.  Financial aid can also be used to pay for books, transportation and even participation in special programs such as the study abroad program.  Since some programs are on a first-come, first-served basis, it is advisable that you apply as early as possible.

Your student ID itself can also be a huge source of benefits and savings.  Follow the link on your blackboard account to download microsoft office for free instead of paying for expensive software.  Print homework from the computer lab, eat free lunch on campus several times each semester, rent blockbuster movies from the Bentley Library and get discounts around town on everything from florists to restaurants to dental care.  Get to know the full list of benefits and discounts to save money on everyday items.  Every little bit really does add up.

More information about scholarships and grants can be obtained through any of the following resources:


Alumni Association

Lindsey Mayo, Director of Alumni Relations


Enrollment Services/Financial Aid

Alexis Fishbone, Director


Office of Institutional Advancement

Lindsay Graham, Assistant Director

Scholarship Management & Donor Stewardship


Pathways to Academic & Career Excellence (PACE)

Kristen Arnold, PACE Program Transfer Advisor (TRiO-SSS)




For more information about your financial aid options:


For general financial aid questions, please email or visit the One Stop Student Services Center in Haverhill or Lawrence. Our front desk team will be happy to answer your questions


Financial Aid Office Hours                 

Day Haverhill Lawrence
Monday 9:00 am to 6:30 pm 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Tuesday 9:00 am to 6:30 pm 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Wednesday 9:00 am to 6:30 pm 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Thursday 9:00 am to 6:30 pm 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Friday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Noon to 4:30 pm






See the full list of student discounts here:


Business Address Discount
A-1 Deli Inc. 92 Merrimack StHaverhill, MA978-372-7951 10%
Angelo the Florist 197 Winter StHaverhill, MA978-372-0270 10% Cash and Carry
Buchika’s 340 BroadwaySalem, NH603-893-5534 10% off accessories
Capitol Lighting Get 15% off lighting for your dorm or office fromCapitol Lighting – COUPON CODE at Checkout: CAP15-NECC
Cedardale Heath & Fitness 931 Boston RdBradford, MA978-373-1596 No Registration Fee (Plus)
The Comic Book Palace 620 Primrose StHaverhill, MA978-372-1477 10% off comic books
A+ Computer Solutions 334 Common StreetLawrence, MAPhone : (978)566-9747

10 – 15% on computer repair and tablets and smart phones. Discounts to NECC students with an ID
Cut Above 127 S Main StBradford, MA978-374-9742 10% off retail products
EnterpriseRent-A-Car 31 River StHaverhill, MA978-374-1020 10% off on Corporate Account
Family Affair Salon 292 Main StGroveland, MA978-372-9011 20% off wash/cut/style
Holland’s Flower Shop 577 S Main StBradford, MA978-373-1700 10% off Cash and Carry
Paper Potpourri 95 BroadwayHaverhill, MA978-372-3861 10%
Shear Magic 620 Primrose StHaverhill, MA978-521-8900 10% off retail products
Smile Braces 76 Merrimack StHaverhill, MA978-521-1999 10% off orthodontic treatmentMonthly payment available
Texas Road House 424 BroadwayMethuen, MA978-975-5588 10%
Yokohama Restaurant 313 S BroadwayLawrence, MA978-689-4047 10% discount with NECC student ID (only on food, does not include drinks).



ArtSpace Dedication


artspace copy

Over the summer, the ArtSpace located in a remote corner of the Bentley Library received a new name and some well deserved attention during a dedication ceremony on May 15.  So did Linda Hummel-Shea, for whom the space was renamed.  Hummel-Shea started at NECC as a part-time librarian 35 years ago and retired last June as the assistant dean of libraries.   Throughout the years, this space had been used for a variety of purposes, including a conference room and a place for hosting large events, but in 2009, after a unanimous vote, it was decided that the space would be recreated as “…a long desired and needed location for the students, faculty and community to display their work.” said Mike Hearn at the dedication ceremony.  Hearn is the college’s director of libraries and he emceed the dedication ceremony. “The artspace would not exist as it is today  had it not been for the vision and support and  tenacity of Linda Hummel-Shea.” said Hearn.
Continue reading ArtSpace Dedication

Please don’t feed the geese

geese crossing copy

Traffic comes to a stop on Kenoza Street more and more often these days to let the geese cross the road.

“There’s a good amount of geese. I think there’s two main groups,” says Steve Shepard, who works for the NECC Grounds Department on the Haverhill campus. Shepard thinks that the problem has gotten worse this year.

A group of geese is actually called a gaggle.  According to the Mass Wildlife website, gaggles of geese have been passing through for centuries along their natural migration route.  Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, a relocation project was begun to move the geese further inland, apparently for hunting purposes.

Since then, the availability of secondary food sources and changes in weather patterns have caused a change in the behavior of the geese.  While some groups still fly south for the winter, many geese have found that is no longer necessary and have become year-round residents of many of the nesting grounds that they populate.

Since each full grown goose can produce as much as a pound of droppings each day, sanitation problems can develop in areas where the population is particularly large or bold, and once geese become established in an area, they are reluctant to give it up.

“The geese have been causing trouble with [the athletic fields], too,” said Shepard. “They seem to be getting used to our tactics.  Like, even the decoys don’t work, they just walk right by them sometimes.”

Evidence of this can be seen in the form of droppings all along the athletic track, just mere feet from where a styrofoam coyote watches on. “We’re trying everything, everything short of air horns,” said Shepard.

When asked about how they prepare the athletic field before a game, Shepard said that they use leaf blowers for both the grass and the sidewalks, but sometimes they have to resort to shovels to clear the mess.

The geese make their home at the Haverhill reservoir just across Kenoza Street but they have found abundant grazing available on the NECC grounds. “It’s between here and around where the reservoir is.  I believe they have some sort of sound cannon that they can use to push them, and then they usually come back here… so it’s kind of us sending them back and forth to each other.” Shepard laughed.

Shepard said that he thinks the school will have to do some research to find out what other people are doing.  “We definitely have to change our tactics. They’re getting used to everything,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt them, but we don’t want them in places where they cause a problem, or traffic, too.”

Currently, there is only one chemical treatment on the market approved to deter geese.  One company in Everett provides a dog handler and a border collie to patrol the grounds and chase the geese away for a starting rate of $10,000.

The hope is that with the beginning of the school year bringing an increase in human activity around campus, the geese will be more reluctant to spend their days here.  Shepard asks that you please do not feed them.

Shepard said, “I’ve been here two years now and I didn’t think we were going to be at war with geese.  That wasn’t in the job description.”

For more information about geese, visit the MassWildlife website at

Introducing the Observer staff:

For more than 50 years, the Observer has been the forum for the very best of the journalism students here at NECC to showcase their talent and obtain real-world work experience.  Unlike that “real world,” the Observer begins each year with a large percentage of new staff members who need to learn the ropes.  This includes learning photo and design software that may be previously unfamiliar to them and cultivating new relationships with sources.  Sometimes, this leads to a rocky start for the first few editions of the year and has made it difficult for our paper, and our website, to reach its full potential.

In response to this, veteran members of the Observer staff have been on campus all summer following important news and changes.  New staff has been hard at work training and a web editor has been added to ensure the most up to date content on our social media sites.  We are bringing back a Campus Life page and a page that is Just For Fun, and we look forward to running your cartoons, pictures, letters to the editor and story ideas.  This newspaper is for you.  Look for all of the changes and let us know what you think.

I am honored to work with this talented team of journalists.

Tarah MacGregor: A Face of NECC

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23-year-old Tarah MacGregor has been a student at Northern Essex for five years. Her ready smile has made her popular among the students and faculty, and you can often hear her laughing in the hallways as she goes about her many projects.

McGregor has taken her college experience to a higher level by getting involved in activities that she is passionate about. Home-schooled until age 13, MacGregor loves science and travel. The latter passion drew her to Italy, Belize and Ecuador with the study abroad program, which is directed by professor Marcy Yeager.

“I’ve been on more trips with Marcy than any other student,” MacGregor laughed.

Besides annual international trips, MacGregor supplements her NECC education as the student ambassador for the honors experience. As such, she works closely with Honors Coordinator Ginger Hurajt, as well as all the other honors students, to help facilitate the most rewarding experience for everyone involved. McGregor has the outgoing personality needed to fill this role as the honors committee representative, and she infects those around her with positive energy.

The Honors Experience is designed to boost a student’s academic standing by allowing any class to be designated as an honors class with the completion of an additional project related to that subject. The project is self-directed, but must be approved by Hurajt and the class professor.

MacGregor stressed that while the project has to relate to the subject, there is a lot of freedom for a student to choose whatever might be interesting to them and relate it to the class material. The student works closely with the professor throughout the semester to develop a research paper and project that will be presented at the end of the semester to both the class and the honors board. The class then appears on the student’s transcript as an honors class. Along with two honors classes, the honor student will participate in a poster session, an honors colloquium and a service learning project.

MacGregor is very familiar with what it takes to successfully complete the program. She said that the requirements are not really overwhelming, but she recommends that people fulfill only one requirement per semester and spread it out over three semesters. She said, “I always tell people to work a couple of hours a week writing or researching, since they have the whole semester, and they will be fine.”

As an honors experience student herself, MacGregor has taken some of the honors colloquium classes. These are mixed-discipline classes, some of which repeat and others that are offered for only one semester, depending on student interest. MacGregor said that the classes that focus on composition and the sciences tend to be well attended, including Women and Mythical Literature, taught by Hurajt. Other classes which heavily examine issues of philosophy and psychology — such as The Pursuit of Happiness and Searching for Euphoria — may only draw a handful of students and run for one semester only.

“It’s important for new students to find out about (the Honors Experience) right away,” said MacGregor. “Some will only be here for four semesters, and they need three of them to complete this.” The completion rate for students taking two or more honors requirements in the same semester are significantly lower. “Maybe only about 40 percent,” MacGregor said.

Scholarships are among the benefits of completing the program, as is guaranteed acceptance into the honors program at any Massachusetts university when transferring. Honor scholars have their own lounge on campus with a computer and printer and they receive special recognition at graduation.

More information about the Honors Experience can be found at, or you can visit their Facebook page at Northern Essex Community College: Honors Experience. Messages left on that page will be directed to Hurajt or MacGregor. For more information about the study abroad program, go to or contact Marcy Yeager,