Chillin\’ with the Hubbly Bubbly

[1] I grew up with a hookah in my living room. I know, who didn’t, right? I was young at the time of actually realizing it was there and learned to regard it as a piece of art, because it was never actually used. One day, I finally gathered the courage to ask my father what the odd-looking thing sitting next to the couch actually was. He called it a hubbly-bubbly. I was so amused with the name that the curiosity of this object continued to amaze me. As I grew older, my friends would always come over and ask about the hubbly-bubbly and I would tell them it was simply a smoking apparatus. They just nodded their heads and moved on with the conversation; that is, until I hit high school. For some reason all my high school friends were convinced it was drug paraphernalia. Even though my hookah has a wedding couple on it, and clearly looks like it has never been used, that didn’t stop my friends.
I didn’t truly learn to appreciate the culture of the hubbly-bubbly until I traveled to Lebanon in the seventh grade. The hubbly-bubbly is regarded as a symbol of social mingling and relaxation over there. Being Lebanese myself, I was intrigued by the variety of tobacco flavors used and the hookah’s widespread popularity.
I am not going to lie: my first experience with the hubbly-bubbly was anything but pleasant. My cousin had just gotten married and I was at the reception, when my relatives started lighting up a bunch of hookahs. Already inflicted with a bout of motion sickness (the reception was on top of a mountain) the flavorful smoke did nothing to help my situation, and needless to say, I was sick for the rest of the night. Although my first experience was poor, I grew to learn that the hookah was a favorite pastime among my Lebanese relatives.
“You never do hookah by yourself,” said chemical engineering junior Amit Dubey. “You do it with bunch of people, so you can talk with them while you are doing it.”
Originally a Turkish custom, the hookah is primarily used as a social outlet. With tobacco flavors ranging from fruity mango to mint chocolate chip, hookah smoking has been a growing trend over the years. “The tobacco used in hookahs is flavored with different types of fruits as well as other sweet beverages, for instance, cappuccino,” said Rana Sahlah, an interior design sophomore. “There is also the regular tobacco or ‘not flavored’ kind that the older crowd usually smokes.”
The flavorful, lighter tobacco is what many people enjoy about hookahs, as opposed to the harsher tobacco used in cigarettes. “Cigarettes kind of give me a burning sensation in my throat,” said Curtis Novak, a telecommunications senior. “The hookah, however, is pretty smooth going in and it tastes much better than a cigarette.”
[2.5]There are two types of tobacco used in the hookah: tanbak or shisha. Shisha is sweet and laced with honey, which allows for a lighter, more relaxing smoke. “I definitely prefer the tobacco of the hookahs over cigarettes and there are only a few cigars that I like as much as hookah tobacco,” said John Marcus, a finance senior. “I would have to say that my favorite hookah tobacco is double or triple apple.”
The hookah itself goes by various names such as, if you’re in my family, a hubbly-bubbly, water pipe or nargile. Although varying in names, the hookah itself has one primary function: to bring relaxation and comfort to the smoker. “I like the tobacco used in hookahs because it has an appealing flavor and smell to it,” said linguistics sophomore Carley Sirlin. “I like going to hookah bars because it\’s a nice way to relax and socialize with my friends.”
Baffled by the weird-looking contraption that is a “hookah”? Well, there is no need to be intimidated. The hookah is composed of four different parts: the hose, base, bowl and pipe. The tobacco sits in the bowl, while the base acts as a water holder for the tobacco to be filtered through. The pipe connects to both the base and bowl, while the hose itself is attached to the base where the smoke resides.
“It’s part of my Arabian culture,” said Humam Haddadin, a construction management junior. “The hookah, as you call it, is very smooth when smoking and relaxing.”
Hookah bars across the country are becoming a hot spot for young adults who are looking for a new and more interesting way to get together with their friends. Some students like smoking hookahs wherever they go, especially if they head over to the Middle East.
“I have never been to a hookah bar in East Lansing,” Sirlin said. “It\’s something I like to save for when I go to the Middle East for no particular reason.”
Besides hanging out at the hookah bars, some people own their own. “I do not go to hookah bars often, because I own one at my place,” said physiology sophomore Soud Sediqe. “I go once in a while just because my friends want to.”
Woody’s Oasis Bar and Grill in East Lansing has hookah night every Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. The atmosphere is very relaxed and a bowl of fruity tobacco costs about $8.00. The bowl will last four or five people around 45 minutes.
“It’s something that under-21-year-olds can do at a bar that’s kind of fun and different from anything else,” said Sam Romero, a manager at Woody’s Oasis Bar and Grill.
[3]Now, before you get ready for some huffing and puffing, there are some rules about the hookah that everyone should know. With the hookah comes proper hookah etiquette, or as I like to call it: hubbly-bubbliquette. When you are sharing a hookah with others, it is necessary that you always point the hose and mouthpiece down, away from the person you are passing it to. It is also a nice gesture to wipe off the mouthpiece before letting the other group members take a turn. The atmosphere of hookah bars is usually supposed to be soothing, so a subdued personality would fit nicely, as opposed to chanting the MSU fight song and chugging a couple of beers.
Smoking hookahs is by no means right for everyone. It is a strange and interesting custom that is slowly being converged into mainstream American society. “I think they are popular because people love to try something from other cultures, like Mexican or Chinese food, European fashion… that kind of stuff,” said accounting freshman Oussama Lahmar.
Even though hookah-smoking is continuing as an ongoing trend, users should still be cautious that tobacco could cause health problems in the long run.
“It’s hard to know what is in the tobacco smoke,” said Barbara Conley, a professor in the school of medicine. “Companies put additives into cigarettes and the different filters could alter what exactly is inhaled into the lungs.”
According to a report from the World Health Organization on water pipe smoking: “The smoke that emerges from a water pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.”The World Health Organization also compared cigarette smoking to water pipe smoking and stated that a water pipe smoker is exposed to more smoke as opposed to a cigarette smoker. The reason for this is because people smoke the water pipe tobacco much longer than a normal cigarette.
Both forms of tobacco contain a high source of nicotine. Although many believe that the hookah filters out a lot of the nicotine before inhalation, the World Health Organization report said to be aware that the lesser intensity of nicotine in the hookah smoke could cause people to inhale greater quantities, which could possibly put them at a high risk of health problems.
Despite the health warnings, true hookah fans will continue smoking regardless of the effects. The social aspect, as well as the traditional customs of the hookah, keeps many individuals coming back for more. So, if you’re just looking for a chill atmosphere with a little bit of mystery, then perhaps a hookah bar would be to your liking. Hubbly, anyone?

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Everything Zen

[1]Take a deep breath. Ommmmmmmmm. Salutation to the sun.
Are you confused yet? Welcome to a typical day in yoga class – the class where stress is supposed to be stretched out of your body as you breathe in and listen to the soft voice of your instructor putting you at ease. A good number of my friends have been going to yoga classes since middle school. I always heard them rave about the relaxing workout and incredible instructors. After buying a mat and getting conned into attending a Kundalini Yoga class, which emphasizes breathing with the postures, I was ready to experience this form of exercise. Upon entering the class, I discovered that my friend had enrolled us for an intermediate level. Soon I would find out that my balance is about as good as a drunk walking home from a late night out at the local bar.
After laying out my mat next to a friend, I attempted to sit cross-legged like everyone else but only managed to form some jumbled collection of limbs. Our instructor promptly entered the room. I still remember it like it was yesterday; he was wearing a light cream-colored shirt and pants and exuded a monk-like aura. He was very thin and looked like he had been malnourished for weeks. He began spiritual chanting that immediately made me uncomfortable. The chanting was supposed to be calming, but instead it just made me want to laugh. After two minutes of sounding like I was speaking in tongues, it was time for stretching.
By the 20-minute mark, I had a feeling the instructor had completely given up on me, seeing as how I kept falling over and trying to envision sad events so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.
Needless to say, it was my last yoga experience until recently. Although Kundalini Yoga and I didn’t get along very well, I learned that just because a certain type of yoga didn’t work for me doesn’t mean I should rule out everything associated with it. Soon, I stumbled upon Power Yoga, which seemed much more up my alley. The classes were quicker and sans all the chanting.
My experience got me thinking that maybe there is a certain type of yoga for everyone. Jennifer Hayes, a yoga instructor at the Michigan Athletic Club, says yoga is not always based on religion and everyone has his or her personal preference when it comes to the type of exercise. “Yoga really benefits people of all ages. As long as you are open-minded, you will find a yoga that is for you.”
Although yoga is not derived from any particular religion, some yoga instructors can choose to make the exercise as spiritual for the class as they want to. Yoga originated in India and was implemented to act as a form of enlightenment for all that joined in its practice.
Presumably, there’s yoga to fit every type of person, whether you’re a hard-core athlete or a laid back intellectual.
The Jock Stars
Who: Former varsity all-stars and cardio-insane gym-goers.
Drink of choice: A low-carb protein shake with at least three adjectives in the name such as Ultra, Super or Champion.
Dream vacation: Final Four weekend in Indianapolis.
Your yoga: Ashtanga
[2] Okay, you can toss the sporting equipment aside and try an athletic, energetic type of yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, or Power Yoga, which will work you out in ways no sport can. Ashtanga Yoga is very fast and more cardio-workout oriented. It is focused on constant movement and demands a lot from your body; you’ll work up a sweat. Ashtanga means eight limbs, which refers to the eight limbs of yoga. The eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Now, before your head starts spinning from all these names, I will break it down for you.
Each limb represents actions we can incorporate into our lives to better ourselves. Yama is about abstinence from actions such as theft or lying. Niyama is about being observant in your surroundings. Asana focuses on the body postures. Pranayama primarily focuses on the breath. Pratyahara encourages us to follow the nature of our mind. Dharana concentrates on concentration. Dhyana is about meditation, and Samadhi focuses on being in a trance.
This style of yoga incorporates many poses that will give you your cardio workout. One of the common practices is called the sun salutation. This practice incorporates 12 positions that flow one after the other. The series includes a pose called the downward facing dog, which is basically forming a downward “V” with your body.
Hayes said she sees many athletes come for a yoga class to help previous injuries or strengthen muscles. “A boxer will come in wanting to improve his flexibility in his upper body and a golfer will join a class in order to stretch out their back,” said Hayes.
This faster paced, less meditative form of yoga might be just the thing for urban regional planning sophomore Erin Whitney. “A good word to describe myself would be ambitious,” said Whitney. “I would want a yoga that would have me try new things and be strenuous.”
Chilled-Out Flower Children
Who: Granola-munching environmentalists or laid-back hippie types.
Drink of choice: Water of course, in a Nalgene bottle with the label covered in a cool sticker. Labels are so corporate.
Dream vacation: Backpacking through the Pampas, just like Che.
Your yoga: Hatha
For the more relaxed personality, its calm atmosphere would be more your forte and Hatha Yoga would most likely appeal to you. Hatha Yoga is less intense than most other yoga classes with easy-going types of movements. Hatha yoga originated from Buddhism practices and comes from the words Hinayana (narrow path), Sahajayana (spontaneous path), Vajrayana (sexuality) and Mahayana (great path).
Many poses are incorporated into this style of yoga including the corpse pose, which requires you to lie on your back with your arms and legs a comfortable distance from your body; the snake pose, which requires that you put your forehead on the floor while lying on your stomach with your hands on both sides of your chest facing downward and the self-massage, which allows you to be your own masseuse!
“I actually think it is very applicable to fit your personality with a yoga type,” said journalism junior Mairin Macdonald. “Yoga is a physical activity that is supposed to tell you more about yourself in a way. With Hatha Yoga, I felt like I was still getting a workout without feeling the strain that typically can come of running or weight lifting.”
Boys and Girls Next Door
Who: Good-natured, regular Joe/Jane types that like to have a good time and a good workout, nothing more.
Drink of choice: Diet Coke. Ahh, there’s nothing like a classic.
Dream vacation: London, U.K. for all the sights and culture. It’s a foreign country but it’s not too precarious; it’s like a smellier, older U.S where the people sound funny.
Your yoga: Vinyasa
[3]For the laid back person who still likes to have fun once in a while, Vinyasa Yoga would be a perfect fit. Vinyasa Yoga focuses the most on breathing, but still demands stretching from your body. In Vinyasa Yoga, the warm-up is conducted with movements coupled with breathing exercises. The workout starts out slow and progresses in its intensity towards the end.
The Vinyasa Yoga also incorporates the sun salutations into its practice. Vinyasa Yoga means the putting together of things and allows you to put together the different poses to allow circulation through the body. And don\’t forget the relaxation – probably the best part.
“I enjoy yoga because it clears my mind and puts me at ease while I do it,” said kinesiology sophomore Steve Beasley. “During yoga I have no worries in the world, and I’m the only person in the world in my mind. It connects my body to my mind in a way nothing else can or has before. I believe it activates a part of the brain that most people don’t use.”
Fast-Paced Hipsters
Who: Young, future urbanites with Blackberry’s and a pulse on what’s hip.
Drink of Choice: A non-fat, sugar-free Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, where else?
Dream vacation: Tokyo for sushi and clubbing in Harajaku. It’s the new New York.
Your yoga: Iyengar
More of an appeal to perfectionists, Iyengar Yoga is cool and precise. This yoga practice mainly focuses on body alignment and the exact way the poses should be held. Iyengar Yoga holds long and slow poses and usually incorporates objects for aids in alignment. Another type of yoga that may suit the perfectionist is Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini Yoga stresses breathing and postures. The poses are usually repetitive and move fairly quickly. There is also normally chanting involved.
Iyengar Yoga includes poses such as the extended side angle pose that tests your balance as you position yourself with one leg bent forward and one hand on the ground with the other reaching to the sky. Iyengar Yoga is also based off of the eight limbs of yoga.
“I like Iyengar because it gives the practitioner mindfulness. When you practice yoga you focus on body and its precise movements,” said Josh Hayes, a senior in interdisciplinary humanities. “Everything else fades away as you strive for perfection of the form. It is very meditative but also very physical. This fits very closely with my worldview. I think it helps people realize how to better live their lives. It helps people get a reference point. You learn more about yourself, and when you do that you better understand how you fit into the world around you.”
Playas and Playettes,.
Who: On the prowl, hook-up kings and queens.
Drink of choice: Redbull and vodka to keep you the bar star you are.
Dream vacation: French Polynesia with a special someone for a taping of Wild On.
Your yoga: Bikram
Unleash your sexy, wild personality with Bikram Yoga. Bikram, or Hot Yoga, is experienced in a toasty 90-100 degree room. Sweat out your toxins while stretching your muscles to the limit!
Of the 26 poses that are incorporated into this practice, the Utkatasana pose is like taking a seat on a patch of air with your arms extended completely forward.
The Happy Couple
Who: The annoying, inseparable two-some with a fused personality.
Drink of choice: Strawberry milkshake, two straws.
Dream vacation: A secluded bed and breakfast outside Paris.
Your yoga: Couples, of course! (I mean, if you want to I will. No, it’s totally up to you, I’ll do it if you want to. No really, baby, I want what you want.)
Enough already…if you’re in a relationship and want yoga you can do with your partner, try couples yoga. Couples yoga will allow you and your love to stretch together in a physical environment. With incorporated massages and supportive stretches, couples yoga can allow you and your partner to be intimate while exercising.
Most of the classes listed above contain various and similar yoga poses and can be found at the Michigan Athletic Club or even right here on campus at both the IM East and West. No matter what you think your yoga preference might be, it is always best to start at the beginner\’s level.
“I recommend people to start in a beginning instructional class instead of jumping right into a fitness yoga class because you get a smaller group setting, more personalized cues, and adjustments in the beginning instructional classes,” said Shiloh Wint, the fitness director at the Michigan Athletic Club. “You can also ask questions to the instructor which seems taboo in the regular studio classes (fitness yoga). The other cool part about the instructional classes is that you can learn both the Sanscrit and regular names for the postures.”
Wint says the beginner classes allow more time to focus on poses and posture to make sure that they are being done correctly. “Personally, yoga does wonders for managing stress,” said Wint. “Afterward, I am much more energized and my day seems so much more positive.”
Yoga can fit just about anyone’s personality, you just have to be open minded enough to give it a shot. Don’t be intimidated just because you aren’t flexible or think that people will make fun of you if you fall over in the middle of a pose. I mean, let’s face it…gravity is a jerk. But then again, you may find that zen you\’ve been looking for. Ommmmmmmmm.

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A College Girl Named Val

Editor’s Note: The name of the victim in this article has been changed at her request. The story, facts, and other sources presented in this article remain factually accurate.
Valerie Beaty, a 20-year-old sophomore at MSU, sits curled in the fetal position a block away from the intersection of Fairview Street and Saginaw Street in East Lansing. Her bike lay a mere 10 feet away from her trembling body. The vehicle that hit her at 15 mph sped off after the collision and was nowhere in sight.
Originally from Sterling Heights, Beaty thought she had just become a victim of a hit and run. Beaty remembers how the accident happened. “I just remember making eye contact with the driver and seeing him slow down. However, when I proceeded, he accelerated and I tried to veer away, but he clipped the front of my tire,” said Beaty, “If I hadn’t tried to get out of the way, he would have hit my body directly.”
Beaty is what many might consider an average college girl. She juggles classes, a job and an internship and her life is about as hectic as one can imagine, like so many MSU students that fill the seats of classrooms and the streets on the weekends. But when a car struck her on the week of her birthday, she finally realized that maybe she wasn’t as invincible as she thought. Even more striking is the fact that if this happened to her, it could happen to anyone.
“I never wore my helmet or anything,” said Beaty. “I didn’t really understand how important it was until now.”
The driver that hit Beaty eventually came back to the scene of the crime and according to the police report the accident was filed under “no special circumstances,” not as a hit and run. The police would not disclose information about why the accident was not classified as a hit and run.
Beaty has heard many sides of the story from people that were around the scene of the accident at the time, but the complete true version is hazy.
By definition, “hit and run,” means a failure to stop after an accident has occurred. The law varies from state to state, but a hit and run is considered a serious charge and fluctuates with the severity of the accident. In Michigan, the law mandates that drivers pull over immediately after an accident and stay at the site, provide assistance, call for medics and report to the police if the crash involves injury or death or damages resulting in over $1,000.
But, this is also where the law gets tricky. The legislature, which was amended in 2005, states that if remaining at the scene of the accident could result in further harm then it is acceptable to leave the area and immediately contact the nearest police station or officer.
Failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death, however, could result in felony charges. Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Montana, New Jersey, and Utah are the only eight states that do not consider fleeing the accident scene after killing someone to be a felony. “Usually, at the scene of an accident the officer has to determine from both of the people involved what really happened,” said Sergeant Matt Bolger of the Michigan State Police Department. “It all comes down to figuring out who was at fault.”
Beaty said that she believes her accident should be classified as a hit and run, but the police keep referring her to the crash report, which states her accident as having “no special circumstances.”
“At the time of the accident, I believed that Valerie was involved in a hit and run,” said John Beaty, Valerie’s father. “I was very concerned and wanted to bring her home to comfort her and surround her with tender love and care.”
Beaty is thankful for the loving family that she has. She even remembers her mother warning her about riding her bike on busy streets. For Beaty, it goes back to that old saying that parents know best.
Beaty suffered from minor injuries in the November 11, 2005 accident, but is still traumatized. “I haven’t ridden my bicycle since the accident,” said Beaty. “And I don’t plan on it anytime soon either.” While her accident was unfortunate, she was also luckier than many accident victims. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in 2003, 1,557 people were killed by hit and run accidents in the United States. Think about that for a second- almost 2,000 people were killed by drivers that hit them and fled the scene. Beaty is fortunate that she got out alive.
There are two types of hit and run accidents to be aware of: hit and run property damage accidents and hit and run personal injury accidents. Hit and run property damage is extremely common on and around campus. There is a good chance that before graduating from MSU, one will have seen or been involved in a hit and run regarding property.
“I was parking in a hurry and accidentally clipped a parked vehicle,” said Lindsey Berkey, journalism senior. “I knew I had to leave a note or else I’d feel so guilty, but just as I was writing my number down, a vehicle behind me smashed into another car and drove away like it was no big deal.”
Although property damage occurs most frequently, it is the hit and run personal injuries that affect people the most. “I was shocked when Valerie told me what happened,” said human resources sophomore, Tia Withers, a friend of Beaty who picked her up from the hospital. “It’s hard to believe that someone would hit a person on a bicycle and then drive away.”
[3]In 2004, 37,822 hit and runs occurred in Michigan, according to Wendy Easterbrook, a crime analyst for the Michigan State Police Department. Out of those accidents, 82 people were killed.
Also, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety report, about one in five pedestrians that are killed on America’s roads are victims of hit and runs.
Sergeant Lance Cook of the Michigan State Police Traffic Services said most drivers that leave the scene of the accident are found. “Usually there is enough evidence at the scene of the accident for us to identify the car involved,” said Cook. “If a pedestrian was hit, we can tell by their injury where the bumper was damaged and chips of paint on the victim’s clothes can be analyzed.”
That could make anyone debate whether or not to leave the scene of an accident they caused. Another surprising fact: auto-repair shops are always on the lookout for any dents or cracks that look unusual. There are specific patterns related to a deer hit as opposed to a human.
Even after an investigation is underway, the statue of limitations prosecuting hit and run drivers present in almost every state limits the amount of time for investigation. The statue of limitations for hit and run accidents vary from state to state, but a majority of them only allow a couple of years before the case is closed and the driver escapes without penalty.
Easterbrook and Cook agree that the most common reason that people flee the scene is that they are under the influence of alcohol. “Generally, the drivers leave the accident when they are drunk, because they don’t want to get caught driving under the influence, but a hit and run penalty is much more severe,” said Cook.
Cook also said the most hit and run accidents happen during the holiday season, with most of the incidents occurring at night.
Though a victim cannot prevent a hit and run accident, Sergeant Florene McGlothian-Taylor of the MSU Department of Police and Public Saftey said people can be cautious when they are going for a walk or bike ride.
“If you are going out at night it is wise to put reflective clothing on and it is always a good idea to have identification on your body,” said McGlothian-Taylor.
Many students carry identification with them on campus, but they don’t really think to do it for safety reasons. “I feel lost without my ID, because around here, it is your life on campus,” said history sophomore Caitlin Brennecke. “You use it for your food, money, and sometimes attendance, but not for safety reasons, because I’d like to think I’m always going to be safe.”
Identification is always important to carry, especially when walking, biking or running on campus. It not only allows others to know who you are, but who they can contact to find out your information in emergencies.
McGlothian-Taylor recommends plugging in an emergency contact number under I.C.E (in case of emergency) in a cell phone in order for medics to know who to call immediately.
Nearly four months after the accident, Beaty still can’t seem to fall asleep some nights and pain shoots up her side every time the weather changes. “You never think something like that is going to happen to you,” said Beaty. “Sometimes I have nightmares that I’m back in the ambulance with an oxygen mask helping me breathe.”
Her bill just arrived from the hospital and she has about $5,000 in charges. After receiving numerous X-rays she is just thankful that it didn’t end up much worse. Beaty and the insurance company of the man that hit her are currently trying to work something out in terms of the hospital bill. Beaty is still angry that he kept going and didn’t pull over immediately.
“I wish he would have just stopped,” said Beaty. “I am not going to press charges, but out of respect for me as a human being, he could have at least made sure I was OK. I am indifferent towards him. However, I would have appreciated a phone call from him instead of just his insurance company.”

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The Red Cedar Debunked

[river2]The Red Cedar River has been a symbol of Michigan State University since the university’s founding in 1855. Unfortunately, the river is known to many as a junkyard for bicycles, port-a-potties, phones and dead bodies – yes, even dead bodies. However, the negative image the Red Cedar presents to many students here on campus is simply an exaggeration. Once an ideal location for festering bacteria, the river is now on its way to being transformed into a clean, life-sustaining aquatic habitat.
Myths surrounding the Red Cedar lead many people to believe something as minuscule as getting a drop of water from the river on their skin would result in sprouting an extra limb – or four. While walking on a bridge over the river, I heard mumblings about the color and odor of the water. “It\’s so gross once you actually look at,” said human biology senior Allison Long. This is not an unusual comment.
But things really are looking up for the rippling, brown river – just ask John Hesse, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Bailey Scholars Program. He said the Clean Water Act of 1972, which provided a structure for regulating pollutants discharged into American waters, has greatly improved the water quality of the Red Cedar. “For most of the river, I suspect dissolved oxygen and most other measures of water quality are consistently more favorable for sustained aquatic life now as compared to pre-1972,” said Hesse. “Except for a few localized areas, macro invertebrate [animals without backbones but large enough to be seen] and fish population studies generally indicate a healthy environment.”
Contrary to popular belief, Hesse also revealed the Red Cedar River is safe the majority of the time for fishing and even swimming. Can you imagine taking a quick dip between classes on those warm spring days? Most students maintain that the river is just too foul looking to take chances. “The Red Cedar River just looks vile,” said microbiology sophomore Frankie Iannucci. “I always see trash and used condoms floating everywhere.”
The color of the water, which students view as “gross” or “dirty,” comes from soil erosion, natural tannins and healthy algae growth. Hesse said the water color might never change greatly because of the natural origins in the watershed, although soil erosion control would help a little.
However, before you grab your water wings and prepare for an expedition in the Red Cedar, make sure to check current E. coli levels. Every week between April 1 and November 30, the river\’s E. coli levels are sampled. The results, which come from the Farm Lane bridge area of the river, are posted in a case near the canoe livery at Bessey Hall. The river water has been monitored weekly since 1999. Elevated levels of E. coli generally occur for only two to three days following significant rainfall events.
[man] According to the MSU Water Quality Web site, E. coli serves as an indicator of possible pathogens entering the water by raw sewage or animal fecal matter. Hesse said the presence of E. coli at low levels is normal for surface waters and few strains of E.coli are lethal. Hesse also said one exception is known as E.coli O157:H7, which has sometimes caused human fatalities upon consumption of improperly prepared hamburger or other foods contaminated with animal or human feces. Fortunately, this strain of E. coli has never been found in the Red Cedar. Whew.
In order to meet Michigan’s Total Body Contact Standard, which would permit swimming, E.coli levels have to be 300 counts per 100 milliliters or lower. Levels between 300 and 1,000 meet Michigan’s Partial Body Contact, which permits fishing, wading and canoeing. When results are higher than 1,000 counts per 100 milliliters it is suggested to avoid contact with the water. However, Hesse said swimming in such water does not necessarily make people become ill; it just increases the chances of being exposed to disease-causing organisms.
Sample results provided by Betty Wernette-Babian, the university sanitarian during fall 2005, indicate a wide range of E. coli levels. There were 1,433 counts per 100 milliliters on Sept. 27; 987 counts per 100 milliliters on Oct. 4; only 77 counts per 100 milliliters on Oct. 11; 200 counts on Oct. 18; 960 counts on Oct. 25 and an astounding 4,176 counts on Nov. 1. The last reading, which exceeds the Total Body and Partial Body Count standards, occurred after a rainfall of .74 inches.
Hesse said a “point-in-time” sample does not reflect the health of the river over a 30-40-year period. “I think it would be safe to assume, although I can\’t prove it with actual data from back then, that the average E. coli levels are much lower than in 1972 and also that the temporary spikes of high levels likely occur much less frequently now,” he said.
Many student organizations have been established to help improve the quality of the Red Cedar River. These organizations include: the Fisheries and Wildlife Club, the RISE Program (Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment), the Sport Fishing Club, the Resource Development Undergraduate Organization, ECO and the Outdoor Club. The Fisheries and Wildlife Club, along with the help from other students, conducts a river clean-up on campus each fall and spring semester. The next Red Cedar River Clean-Up is scheduled for late March or early April.
“The Fisheries and Wildlife Club organizes the day and the logistics of the clean-up, but ECO is always a supporter in assisting with any issues that arise,” said Lauren Olson, an ECO member and environmental economics and policy senior.
The clean-up allows those mysterious lurking objects to be removed from the river. “The Red Cedar River is a lot cleaner than most students think,” said Michelle Rosen, the vice president of the Fisheries and Wildlife Club and fisheries and wildlife senior.
Kile Kucher, recent graduate and former president of the Fisheries and Wildlife Club, said in an e-mail that the club\’s goal is for a cleaner river. “By hosting the Red Cedar River Clean-Up twice a year, our goal is to remove trash from the river, as well as get more people to appreciate the river, so less trash finds its way there in the first place,\” he said.
[class]“I’m ashamed at how students treat the Red Cedar River,” said Long. So why does the river remain contaminated with debris? Hesse said the lack of education about the river might cause students simply not to care about its well-being. Some students feel the river is already so polluted an extra bike or two won’t make a difference. “After finals, I threw my chemistry notebook in the river,” said psychology junior Iva Basic. “I did feel bad afterwards, but everyone throws stuff in the river.”
But Terry Link, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability, thinks the river is doing better despite some students’ lack of respect for the body of water. “I think the water is improving,\” he said. \”We have found pipes that were delivering pollutants to the river and have stopped them. Unfortunately, the annual river clean-up still shows that too many people still consider the river a junkyard and throw bikes, tires and other discards into the river.”
Despite its bad image, the Red Cedar has actually provided people with an assortment of activities from canoeing to bird watching. “I love the part of the Red Cedar River by the Administration Building, where all the ducks hang out,” said French sophomore Katherine L. Jones. “Sometimes, I go down there and have a picnic and listen to music; it’s so pretty.”
The river has also created an interactive classroom for many students who test and study the water. Some classes on campus have employed the Red Cedar River as a learning tool, such as Geoff Habron’s Introduction to Fisheries and Wildlife Management Principles course (FW 100), Terry Link’s course on sustainability (Resource Development 491) and another on Environmental Conflict Management (Resource Development 300). “I am glad that I took the FW 100 class,” said no preference freshman Leah Armock. “We did many labs related to the Red Cedar River and the management of its habitats and biota.”
The negative image of the river is slowly disappearing as word spreads that the Red Cedar isn\’t quite as toxic as previous rumors would have you believe. “I heard it’s actually cleaner than people think,” said physics junior Bill Martinez.
The annual improvements of the river have many people excited and establishing further goals to make the Red Cedar a river of outstanding quality. MSU’s 2020 vision, the university’s plan for beautification and development of campus in the first 20 years of the century, includes the river, said Hesse. The plan includes trails, bridges, walkway improvements and essentially an overall beautification of South Campus that will hopefully make the Red Cedar a river to be proud of.
Practicing good ecological hygiene will ensure MSU has a clean place for learning and leisure, but caring for the river is also part of a larger philosophy about nature. “I think it is important for all of us to be more clearly aware and attuned to the places we\’re part of,” said Link. “Since we\’re here, at least for this time, we should look to our places and care for them so that we can pass them on in good shape to those who will come after.”

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