New executive director announced for Valley Performing Arts Center

A new executive director was named for the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC), Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced Wednesday.

Thor Steingraber, former vice president of programming at The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles, said he was pleased and looking forward to the opportunity.

“The plans that are in my mind currently include broadening the array of programs at the facility, incorporating the students, faculty and also the local community in Northridge and San Fernando Valley to the maximum extent possible,” Steingraber said.

Steingraber also said he wants to honor the previous successes of the VPAC.

Steve Thachuk, interim director of the VPAC, said Steingraber will be great at helping to connect with the community.

“This was an extensive search,” Thachuk said of the process of finding a new executive director. “Of all the candidates, what impressed me most was he has deep artistic background and rich administrative background, which makes him perfect for the job.”

Since 1997, Steingraber has held various positions as a stage director and assistant director at many international venues, opera houses and festivals.

Steingraber wants to make events at the VPAC more tailored to students.

“I look forward to working with students to bring to the venue performances and events that they’re interested in and more generally integrating the performing arts with campus life and vice versa, the campus community with the Performing Arts Center,” Steingraber said.


Campus Crime: drug possession, bicycle theft, vehicle robbery

A woman’s bicycle was stolen yesterday from a pole where it was secured at building 14 of the University Park Apartments. The theft was reported at 6:30 p.m., but could have happened anywhere between Wednesday at 8 p.m. and yesterday at 5 p.m.

The investigation is ongoing.

The CSUN weekend started with a suspect being arrested for reckless driving Saturday near the corner of Nordhoff Street and Darby Avenue. The female driver was cited and released at the scene.

At about 1 a.m. on Friday, a suspect was reported to be damaging ceiling tiles on campus. Police responded and arrested the suspect on grounds of vandalism and obstructing a police officer.

The suspect was arrested and transported to an LAPD jail in Van Nuys.

Thefts seemed to be popular this week as a vehicle robbery took place in the G3 parking lot between 12:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Thursday. The suspect broke the window of woman’s car and stole a purse, laptop computer and clothes, which were all contained in a cart.

The suspect has yet to be apprehended and the investigation is ongoing.

CSUN police arrested a suspect who had marijuana in their possession on Thursday at 7:46 p.m. The incident occurred in building 15 of the University Park Apartments.

The suspect was given a citation and later released by police.


Student protest, petition spark officials to add tickets, extra graduation day

CSUN graduates will now be allowed to request seven tickets instead of four to invite guests to their commencement ceremonies in May after a decision was reached by university officials in December of last year.

In addition, one day was added to the commencement schedule in order to separate some of the individual college ceremonies.

Members of CSUN’s Associated Students (AS) held a meeting over winter break with President Dianne F. Harrison and William Watkins, vice president of student affairs, to discuss concerns raised by students last semester.  Students were upset about a change in the commencement ceremonies that limited graduates to four guest tickets and combined ceremonies for the colleges.

“We thought the best way to go into the meeting was not to say, ‘Don’t change anything,’ because we didn’t feel a lot of results would come from that,” said Chris Woolett, president of AS. “We thought if we could find a good compromise that allowed students to have more tickets, it would be extremely helpful.”

The updated commencement schedule added a ceremony on Wednesday, May 21. Woolett said Harrison agreed to skip a scheduled CSU Board of Trustees meeting in order to attend the additional ceremony.

AS proposed the idea of adding an extra commencement day and separating the colleges. Woolett said the majority of their proposed changes were implemented.

“I think that this is one of our biggest wins that we’ve had in AS for a long time,” Woolett said. “To be able to collaborate and put in this much work and really to present a very good document that wasn’t full of demands, but full of compromise. That allowed the administration to work with us, which was great for us.”

Four of the largest colleges will receive their own commencement ceremony as a result of the change, including undergraduates of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. Watkins said those colleges have about 1,000 more graduating students than the others.

The College of Humanities and the Michael D. Eisner College of Education will be combined into one ceremony. The College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Science of Mathematics, and graduates of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will also have a combined ceremony.

Woolett said he watched YouTube videos to find out how long last year’s commencement ceremonies were. The longest ceremony lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes without speeches, according to his research. The AS plan said all the ceremonies would average 1 hour and 40 minutes, which would allow more time for speeches, Woolett said.

During the winter-break meeting, Woolett and Talar Alexanian, vice president of AS, brought to light an online petition started by Danielle Yehuda, 22, senior psychology major. Comments featured on the site were from current and former students, family members of students, and community members. The petition seemed to attempt to get the attention of Harrison specifically.

“This petition will be brought to the president of CSUN and we will show her that we have a voice and that something needs to be done about the commencement changes,” Yehuda said on the petition’s website.

The petition was able to reach close to 1,600 signatures and was closed when administration made a change to the commencement ceremonies.

“It was really interesting because I’ve never really involved myself in anything like this before,” Yehuda said. “When I started the petition, I thought this would be a great way to get the word out. I was very excited to hear that just by a few changes we made, just by starting a petition, it had made such an impact. I was very happy that I got the support from my fellow students and when I found out I was just ecstatic.”

Leftover tickets will be available to graduates who need more than seven.

“We think that there will be, in some instances, for some of these ceremonies, that not all students will need seven tickets and they won’t ask for them,” Watkins said. “So we’re going to make those tickets available for students who want more.”

Serena Sanders, 22, junior music industry studies major, likes the increase in tickets, but said she does not need seven.

“For me, [seven tickets] is more than enough,” Sanders said. “Just having my family and close friends coming is fine, but that might be different for other people who have larger families and a larger social group that might be cramping it. It’s definitely better than four.”

Watkins added that the procedure for handling ticket overflow is yet to be worked out.

One aspect of the commencement ceremonies that will not change is the number of parking passes given to graduating students. They will still receive two, even with the increased number of guest tickets.

Anne Glavin, CSUN chief of police, told the Daily Sundial in November that she fully supports a ticketing system for commencement ceremonies. She feels the increase in tickets does not change much in regards to safety.

“Adding the number of tickets from four to seven won’t impact that dynamic of the crowd size because we’ve added an additional day as well, which will spread out the crowd over the period,” Glavin said.

Watkins said there will be 10,500 seats available on the Oviatt Lawn for the graduation ceremony, up from 9,200 seats last year.

“When you have that many people in a space together, you really want to provide a seat for them,”  Watkins said. “We think that the public safety concerns will be significantly addressed by having seats, and students agreed with that.”

Woolett feels that the change to graduation ceremonies was a win for the students and was encouraged by their activism.

“I am just very happy with all the work the students put in and continuing to put their voice out,” Woolett said. “I can’t say enough of how important it is for students to say how they feel about things. That is the biggest thing for us. If we could hear that more, we would love to.”

This story was co-written with Negin Daneshfar


Men’s Basketball: Matadors give up lead, game to UCSB at home, 79-69

The Matadors (10-9, 2-2 Big West) were dropped in front of a packed Matadome by the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (11-5, 2-1 Big West) 79-69 Saturday night.

Senior guard Josh Greene led the Matadors with 27 points and made all 12 of his free throws. Junior forward Stephen Maxwell chipped in a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior center Alan Williams led the way for the Gauchos with 16 points while sophomore guard Michael Bryson scored 15 points and went 3-for-5 from the 3-point line.

CSUN started off slow and went down 9-2 after they gave up three early 3-pointers to the Gauchos. Santa Barbara stretched their first-half to lead 10 after senior guard Kyle Boswell completed a four-point play on a 3-pointer and a free throw.

The Gauchos blitzed the Matadors with a 13-3 run midway through the half, punctuated by a 3-point shot from junior guard Zalmico Harmon with the shot clock winding down. He was also fouled on the play, and the made free throw gave Santa Barbara a 22-12 lead.

After a shot from beyond the arc by sophomore forward Taran Brown and an and-1 play by sophomore forward Sam Beeler, UCSB had their biggest lead of the game, 28-14.

CSUN bounced back to end the half. Two free throws by Greene ignited an 8-2 push that ended with freshman guard Aaron Parks lobbing a pass to Maxwell, who threw down a dunk just before the halftime buzzer. The score was 34-28 at the break, in favor of Santa Barbara.

Coach Reggie Theus felt his team needed to pick up their game in the final 20 minutes.

“I just talked to them about turning it up,” Theus said. “I talked to them about [having] a pretty good first half. If you want to win the game, you have to turn it up.”

CSUN started the second half on fire when Maxwell cut to the basket and threw down a vicious dunk, cutting the Gaucho lead to four. Then Greene completed a four-point play of his own, tying the game at 36.

Maxwell rebounded a missed shot and laid the ball in while getting fouled, giving the Matadors their first lead of the game. The ensuing free throw put CSUN up 39-36, completing an 11-2 run in just over two minutes.

“We played our game,” Greene said about the stretch that gave CSUN the lead. “We were just getting stops on defense and then we were just running our stuff and getting the ball in the paint inside and out and just being the aggressors on both ends.”

But almost as fast as it came, Northridge’s lead went. Santa Barbara went on a 13-0 run, giving them a 49-39 lead. CSUN got as close as six when junior guard/forward Stephan Hicks converted a layup in transition. But the Gauchos rallied back with seven straight points and never looked back.

“When the game was on the line, we didn’t make the tough plays, the physical plays that needed to be made,” Theus said.

CSUN had a rough night from the field, shooting an anemic 36.8 percent for the game compared to Santa Barbara’s 51.9 percent.

Maxwell felt Northridge’s poor shooting contributed to the loss.

“We played pretty hard, but… we can’t win shooting 37 percent,” Maxwell said. “We missed a lot of shots, especially in the paint.”

Theus said his team struggled scoring around the basket because of UCSB’s size down low.

“We knew that length would be a problem and ultimately, I think that was the most significant part of the game,” Theus said.

Greene doesn’t feel his team’s lack of size should be used as an excuse for not winning games.

“If we just stick to our game and keep playing together and keep playing inside out and just being the aggressors on both ends, then nobody can really beat us,” Greene said.

The Matadors will head on the road next week to face the UC Irvine Anteaters on Thursday and the Long Beach State 49ers on Saturday.


CTVA professor and her students make a documentary about the Northridge earthquake

During the immediate aftermath of the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake, which reduced much of the Cal State Northridge campus to rubble, one film professor and a large group of her students saw an opportunity to record history.

 “I always think that it’s the responsibility of storytellers to capture moments in time,” said former CSUN student Glenn Gainor. “I thought it was a smart idea to try to be as much of a time capsule as we could because it generally impacted the Northridge community, obviously far more so than other communities since it was the epicenter.”

The result was a documentary titled “Epicenter U.,” which was directed and produced by cinema and television arts professor Alexis Krasilovsky. Several of her students, including Gainor, also worked on the movie as producers, directors and actors.

The film, which is available for checkout at the Oviatt Library, features footage of the wreckage at CSUN and interviews by students affected by the earthquake, including a student whose dorm was destroyed and another whose apartment was looted. Then-university president Blenda Wilson is also interviewed in the film, and former vice president Al Gore is shown giving a speech to the students.

William Malone, a former CSUN student, worked as a unit director on the documentary, a position in charge of filming supplementary footage, doing background work or working with the film’s extras.

Malone, whose Calabasas apartment was damaged as a result of the 6.7 shock, recalled the moment he felt the earthquake.

 “The quake itself literally threw me out of bed,” Malone said.

Krasilovsky and her students could not use their usual film equipment to record the damage to the university because they could not access the building where the cameras were kept. Krasilovsky then gathered some cameras she had in her home and went to work with her students.

“Nothing was simple back then,” Gainor said. “You didn’t have video cameras as we do today. If it happened today, you’d be Instagramming it and putting it on social media.”

Krasilovsky, who narrates portions of the film, wanted to encourage her students to tell their own side of the earthquake experience.

“In many different ways — financial, emotional, creative — this earthquake touched us,” Krasilovsky said. “I was trying to orchestrate that by allowing students to have their own voices and then putting them together in some way that would be cohesive, where we’d see what the commonalities were.”

Krasilovsky was proud of the teamwork her students were able to show in spite of a lack of resources.

“I was amazed at the resilience of my students and the cooperation that most of my students had toward one another in trying to make a project together,” she said.

Gainor felt his involvement as a unit director in the documentary was more his duty as a filmmaker and hopes others can take something away from the film.

“It’s more of a responsibility to take part in something that you feel should be shared,” he said. “I think if anything, I look forward to looking back at those times and see what we can learn from those times.”

The documentary also showed the true extent of the damage done by the earthquake, including shots of piles of rubble, a mangled staircase, crumbled buildings and others.

The sometimes humorous segments done by the student filmmakers include one where two students dressed as cowboys have a fistfight. Another clip features students who are on the phone discussing a government conspiracy involving the magnitude of an earthquake and how the government pays for damages to affected structures.

Jan. 17 marks the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, and Krasilovsky feels more awareness should be brought to the 1994 earthquake as well as other disasters.

“It doesn’t hurt to talk about this stuff periodically,” Krasilovsky said. “Every 10 years or so, there should be another discussion. Maybe every five years just to make sure that people are prepared in the eventuality of an emergency like that.”

Krasilovsky said some good things came out of the tragedy, such as the construction of Manzanita Hall and other buildings.

“The campus is a whole lot better as a result of the earthquake,” Krasilovsky said.

Krasilovsky also feels the added attention to the event on that day could remind people what the campus and its students and faculty had to endure for it to be updated.

“Soon thereafter, I think people very quickly went into denial,” she said. “They just wanted to see pretty new buildings on the campus and didn’t want to have to think where did this come from and how did this come about.”

While Krasilovsky has gone on to make critically-acclaimed documentaries like “Pastriology” and “Women Behind the Camera,” she feels “Epicenter U.” helped mold the career she enjoys today.

“It certainly formed the base of a way of thinking that made some of my other projects possible,” Krasilovsky said. “A lot came out of the experience of working on the earthquake documentary.”

Gainor, now a studio executive at Screen Gems, a part of Sony Pictures, looked back fondly at his time making the film.

“The one thing I took away from that documentary was that somebody was smart enough to inspire us to tell a story,” Gainor said.