Author: Jessica Burnham

Defining borders

A necessary construction or an inhibitor to our moral conscious? Borders have been constructed and maintained by humans for numerous reasons. Yet, some may say they are often a source of conflict rather than a source of peace. Whether preserving them or not can be justified in their exclusivity rather than inclusivity is a matter for evaluation. “Why should utterly arbitrary facts such as where one was born, or where other generations long ago drew boundaries dictate our treatment of others? From a moral perspective, borders are difficult to justify,” said Director of UVU’s Peace and Justice Studies program Dr. Michael Minch. With the purpose of initiating a constructive dialogue around the topic, the J. Bonner Ritchie Dialogue on Peace and Justice will be held March 29-31 in LI 120. The name of this year’s dialogue is “Borders: Global and Local, Problems and Possibilities.” The UVU Peace and Justice Studies Department is bringing experts from various disciplines to represent a diversity of perspectives. Doing so will allow for a holistic discussion. “A great deal of misinformation sits comfortably in popular discourse about immigration; and so to hold a conference which clears up misconceptions and informs students and the public about these matters, is important,” Minch said. The dialogue will be initiated on March 29 by UVU History/Political Science Lecturer Lynn England with her presentation “From Bridges to Fences” at...

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Breathe, Bend, Be: Bringing yoga to the masses

She was looking for an edge in her professional mountain biking career, and he was hoping to heal people through practicing oriental medicine. These desires led Amy and Gabe Williams to the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which emphasizes breath and flow between postures. Amy Williams was most grateful for the mental advantages she gained through the practice, although physical benefits accompanied them. “It was an amazing feeling I couldn’t shake. It was a return to self,” Amy said. Gabe Williams left his practice and advocated yoga as a way to be proactive regarding health rather than expecting a miracle from the medical establishment. They set out to give other people the tools to change their lives, as theirs both had been, and they have done so for over 9 years. Their former studio “It’s Yoga” gave people within and surrounding Provo the opportunity to practice quality yoga. Recently, however, they have been able to fulfill a dream of theirs by opening a larger, more comprehensive studio called “3B Yoga”. “Sometimes it happens overnight, and sometimes it’s a process. Now it’s like we’re home,” Amy Williams said. Having secured the space they originally wanted, the Williams have created a health-inclusive, environmentally conscious studio for their practitioners. The walls are made of clay, which absorbs moisture and releases it when necessary, cleaning the air as you breathe. The floors are...

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Practice of the death penalty does not make perfect

Juan Melendez was on Florida’s death row, convicted of murder, for 17 years, eight months and one day before he was found innocent and exonerated on Jan. 3, 2002, released with only a T-shirt, jeans and $100 compensation. There had been no criminal evidence against him; only the unfounded testimonies of two questionable witnesses. Worse yet, Melendez could hardly speak or understand English and he was not provided with an interpreter. “My heart got full of hate,” Melendez said. “I was scared to die for a crime I did not commit.” On Nov. 2, 1984, he was put on death row and his existence became one of shackled monotony and depression. All he could do to stay sane at times was to think back to his childhood in Puerto Rico and live in the memories of his past. Rituals such as this kept him from following through with suicide, like so many other inmates. Letters from those who supported him, particularly from his mother and five aunts, also helped him survive his years of captivity. “My mother was saving money to bring my body back to Puerto Rico,” Melendez said. “No mother should have to go through that pain.” Melendez also developed close relationships with many men on death row. While this gave meaning to his experience, it weighed on him once he was released. “I was leaving behind...

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Alternatives to the death penalty

Gary Gilmore was the first person to be executed after the 1972 moratorium on the death penalty was put into practice. He died by firing squad on on January 17, 1977, at Utah State Prison in Draper. There are many who support the death penalty; however, there are many who do not. Ralph Dellapiana founded Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty with the belief that, just as we no longer execute minors or the mentally ill, “evolving standards of decency” will eventually motivate us to completely abolish the death penalty. His presentation “Should we put Utah’s Death Penalty on the Chopping Block?” expressed his views regarding the issue and its continual evolution. Worldwide, 139 countries are abolitionist in law or practice, while only 58 countries retain the death penalty, according to Dellapiana and the Death Penalty Information Center. These numbers demonstrate that retribution is not inherent to human nature. Dellapiana cited the top executioners in the world, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the U.S. The practice has been discontinued in 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, while 35 states still implement it, according to DPIC. Referencing the decision made by Illinois Gov. George Ryan on Jan. 31, 2000, to put a moratorium on the death penalty and exonerate 13 death row inmates because of flaws evident within death penalty practice, Dellpiana emphasized the possible...

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An eye for an eye

Steven Hayes was recently deemed unworthy of life on Nov. 8 as he was sentenced to death by a Connecticut jury. In July of 2007, he broke into the Petit home looking for valuables, proceeded to beat and torture the husband, wife and young daughters for 7 hours and thereafter raped and strangled the wife. All this while his accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted the 11-year-old daughter. They then doused the house with gasoline and lit it on fire with the victims still inside. The husband was the only survivor. It is impossible not to have an emotional response to this story, with its brutality and disregard for the sanctity of life. Although there is not a unanimous response to how these crimes and those who commit them should be handled, some feel retribution is the answer. In his presentation “Who Deserves to Die and Why,” Robert Blecker championed a retributivist perspective on the death penalty, believing that the worst of the worst offenders must be severely punished in order to satisfy justice. “Ultimately it’s about justice and who deserves to die,” said Robert Blecker, professor at New York Law School and advocate for the death penalty. “I feel certain Steven Hayes deserves to die.” One inherent complication in this argument is coming up with a set of standards for who exactly “deserves” to die. In Blecker’s opinion, it...

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