Going Clean

A new MSU television ad boasts about the university’s environmental policies by saying, “After all, we’ve been green from the beginning.” While MSU has indeed “bled green” since 1855, the word as applied to environmentalism has really taken meaning in the past few years with university recycling programs and sustainability initiatives. But where MSU perhaps has the most potential to become the strongest hue of green is in research, and nowhere is that research most important these days than finding new ways to lessen our global warming impacts.
Global warming is caused by a release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that trap heat. Carbon, one of the most potent of those gases, is emitted daily by the hordes of cars out on the road. Various groups at MSU, from the student racing team to top-notch scientists at a collaborative research center, are researching ways to reduce that amount of carbon released by cars. These projects, both big and small, put MSU on a growing list of institutions that are greening their research to figure out solutions for an environmentally friendly future worldwide.[cars]
The MSU Formula Racing team is a part of that movement. Formula Racing was founded in 1979 as a competition called the “Mini Indy.” Since then, it has become one of the largest racing competitions worldwide. Formula racing brings together students from various universities who have spent hours creating, designing and manufacturing competitive racing cars. MSU’s Formula Racing team is working to reverse the idea that racing is just a waste of gas.
[zemke] “A lot of people see racing as an unnecessary thing in the development of cars, when it’s quite the opposite,” said Adam Zemke, an MSU alumnus who majored in mechanical engineering and is project manager of the MSU Formula Racing team. The team’s goal this year is to convert their car�s fuel system to biofuel by the June 2009 competition. “The option of running biofuel cars has been in the rule book for a few years,” said Zemke. “Our development program has been working on it for a few months now.”
Biofuels are more environmentally friendly fuels because they give off less carbon emissions than standard petroleum. The most popular type of biofuel � and the one the race team plans on integrating into its system � is ethanol. Ethanol is a corn grain-based mixture that gives off far less emissions than petroleum and that is becoming more widespread because the government has mandated it to be developed for cars. It is a key component in the E85 mixture that some car companies are using for their fuel systems (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent petroleum). “E85 is more sustainable than petroleum; that being one of our bigger goals � to produce something that is sustainable,” Zemke said.
The team named its green initiative “Go Clean,” and its central focus is all about sustainability. “It’s an example of how many things can be bio-based,” Zemke said. He also said the team is considering the use of organic fabrics, the reuse of cockpit inserts and more, “all the way down to the paint we use on the car,” he said. “The object of our initiative is to show that you can do the same things � maybe better � without the detrimental effects to the environment.”
Similarly, an element to sustainability is spending money in a responsible and resourceful manner; something team members are forced to learn quickly. “Everything is funded by our sponsors; they are extremely important,” Zemke said. The team has between 130-150 sponsors, including members of The Big Three. The anticipated cost of this year’s race car, for instance, is a half million dollars.
On a different scale is the funding of a far larger biofuel research project, one that involves not just the pride of MSU in developing ways to “go green,” but also research collaborations between different institutions.
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) is one of three research centers created and funded by the Department of Energy. The goal of the GLBRC is to find means of energy through both edible products, like corn-based ethanol, and through non-edible products, like ethanol made from grasses, said Ken Keegstra, Scientific Director of the center and MSU professor in the biochemistry and molecular biology department.
It does so through five research “thrusts” that focus on the conversion of organic matter, or biomass, to energy, or bioenergy. These steps include researching everything from the very way a plant produces its matter through the way that matter can be used as energy and finally to the technology needed to get the most productivity out of these processes. “The GLBRC looks primarily at three kinds of fuels: ethanol (from plant cell matter), biodiesel (made from plant oil) and photosynthetic bacteria (that makes hydrogen),” Keegstra said.
[corn]The goal of the research center is to find not only knowledge but also a course of action for the growth, development and � most importantly � sustainability of the technologies, all while keeping pace with the federal government’s continual goals. “The Energy Independence and Securities Act will require 36 billion gallons [of biofuel] per year by 2022,” said Phil Robertson from the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, an off-campus research facility for sustainability. Robertson is the leader of the fourth thrust of the GLBRC, which researches the longevity of biofuels.
The act requires that 15 billion of those 36 billion gallons come from corn grain-based ethanol. In 2007, the U.S. produced 6.4 billion gallons of corn grain-based ethanol, which means over twice that amount will be necessary to meet the 2022 standard. The problem with that is that the amount of corn grain-based ethanol produced in 2007 was already about a quarter of the overall U.S. corn yield, Robertson said. “We can�t solely use the corn crop without interfering with what is necessary for food,” he said.
So researchers at the GLBRC are looking at different options. Cellulosic ethanol, made from switch grass, woodchips and corn stalks, is one of those. Ethanol is made from extracting sugars from cellulose molecules, and then combining the sugar in a yeast formula deprived of oxygen. Keegstra said the problem with getting the necessary sugar out of the corn molecules is that these resources have their own protective instincts, preventing easy access. But with cellulosic ethanol, that sugar is easier to obtain, and its net effect is the same as corn-based – it reduces carbon emissions.
Other researchers at MSU are turning away from ethanol to other alternative fuels. Eric Hegg, associate professor in the biochemistry department, focuses his research on using hydrogen as a fuel, given the challenges of making ethanol. However, this option is not without its own challenges. “To make hydrogen chemically is a very energy expensive process,” Keegstra said of the process to use hydrogen as a fuel. He said this would defeat the purpose of using it as a biofuel.
“It’s not that any one of these (options) can�t work, it’s which will be ‘the best,’ the best being the one that considers the economic cost, environmental cost, environmental impact (and) sustainability,” Hegg said. “Nobody knows what ‘the best’ solution is; that’s why we’re looking at many possibilities.
[phil]”There may not be one single approach; what works best in the Midwest may not work in the South, the West, and so on,” Hegg said. “But there doesn�t have to be just one best thing, and I think we�ll find lots of different solutions in different parts of the country.”
Hegg said that no one has ever tried to make biofuels on the scale that the GLBRC is doing. Both Robertson and Keegstra agree that currently, the infrastructure in the U.S. is not built for such a large-scale movement as the government demands.
Keegstra said he believes that a tremendous investment in all kinds of research from wind power to bioefuels will have to be made in order to obtain that ideal infrastructure. “Currently, there are two or three (factories) that make ethanol from cellulosic biomass, and two or three more being produced,” Keegstra said.
A factory in Lansing is expected to be a storehouse for cellulosic ethanol. Progress is being made in the steps towards a greener future, but most agree that it will take a combined effort of both the federal government and the people of this nation to make it a reality. President-Elect Obama has said that he wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. “I hope it’s possible,” said Keegstra. “It’s just a matter of how important we’re willing to make it and how much effort we’re willing to put into it.”

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Tensions Run High in Tibet

[monk1] “I will liberate those not liberated; I will release those not released; I will relieve those unrelieved; and set living beings in Nirvana,” the Dalai Lama once said. A new struggle to make the Dalai Lama’s words reality has emerged for his people in Tibet, even though the Chinese maintain that Tibet has been a part of the People’s Republic of China since the 1950s. The Tibetan people are not alone in that struggle to regain what they believe is a lost identity and religion. Groups around the world are working to help Tibetans shed light on humans rights violations taking place in their mountainous land.
Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is one of the groups. It was launched by a coalition of Tibetans, students and supporters of the cause in New York. The U.S.-Tibet Committee and the International Campaign for Tibet officially recognized SFT in Aug. 1994. What began as a small conglomeration of chapters at the universities across the nation has evolved into an international movement of both students and non-students in more than 35 countries.
[barnes2] The overwhelming amount of support for Tibetans comes from university students. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in since about eighth or ninth grade,” said Sarah Oliai, international relations sophomore and president of the SFT’s MSU chapter. As a native of western Michigan, Oliai knew of an SFT chapter at Grand Valley State University but was surprised to learn that MSU did not have a chapter. With the help of some friends, she formed an MSU SFT group at the end of the spring 2008 semester.
While MSU’s SFT group is in its infancy, they focus on conflicts in Tibet that have long, complex histories.
Since 1950, the People’s Republic of China has occupied Tibet, which is known to the Chinese as the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The Chinese have been using Tibet for expansion and economic growth, connecting Tibet to Beijing by railroad. SFT, however, argues that China is oppressing Tibetan people by doing so. Tibetans have fled their homes, abandoned their religion and lost what they considered to be a traditional way of life because of the Chinese influence in the country.
This influence from China is not a modern occurrence, however. China and Tibet have been tied to each other throughout their histories, and the Dalai Lama has been both exiled and allowed back into the country at various points. “In the 13th century, both China and Tibet – who was not yet a country – were taken over by the Mongols and ruled as one entity; so China and Tibet were one,” said MSU Chinese history professor Linda Cooke Johnson, referring to dynastic China before the rise of Mao Zedong.
But by the 18th century, the British declared Tibet independent. “(The) intervention (in Tibet) by the British and Russians urged Tibet to be a separate country,” Johnson said. As the debate waged over who controlled Tibet, the world entered the post-World War II era, and the People’s Republic of China rose to power in 1949. “When the People’s Republic came into power, they went back to Tibet to reestablish their ownership of Tibet,” Johnson said.
[sarah] Oliai and other members of SFT believe otherwise. She said that Tibet has always had relations with China, but was never uniquely a part of the Chinese emperor’s reign.
“(China) saw Tibet as a repressive and feudal society, and they wanted to ‘liberate them,'” said Drew Barnes, a sophomore in international relations and treasurer of the MSU SFT. “I think China may have seen the influence of Tibetan Buddhism as a sort of threat as well.”
A year after the People’s Republic rose in China in 1949, the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet, overwhelming Tibet’s small army in two days. In Sept. 1951, the PRC’s army marched into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and from that point forward rejected any Tibetan attempts at negotiation, viewing their invasion and occupation as a liberation. But the Tibetans weren’t entirely submissive. March 10, 1959 marked the beginning of an uprising that started in the capital of Lhasa with protests, barricades and petitions. By the end of the opposition that lasted over a week, the Dalai Lhama was forced into exile in neighboring India. “The role of the Dalai has been a crucial figure to Tibet and its Buddhism since the beginning of its history,” Johnson said.
One of the biggest goals of the SFT is to restore Tibetan sense of ownership of their country and religion back to the Tibetan people. China’s invasion represented the loss of Tibetan livelihood because the Chinese have since declared that anything relating to the “old Tibet,” including their national flag, is illegal. “The repression of the Tibetan people is widespread and diverse,” said Kristen Coppens, the Grand Valley SFT president. “It is a cultural genocide. The many facets of a culture of people are exactly what the Tibetans are being denied every day,” she said.
The facets Coppens refers to are the inability to have free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of press or freedom of religion. “[Tibetans] cannot display any symbols or speak of the Dalai Lama,” said Ngawang Dolker, the Midwest Coordinator for SFT and a member of the chapter at the University of Minnesota. “[Tibetans] can get an education, but they will the get the Chinese version of Tibetan history. However, the people not near the cities – like Lhasa – have less of a chance of getting educated,” she said.
Johnson, on the other hand, said that the Chinese occupation is a good thing for Tibet. “The Dalai Lama wants to put Tibet back into the 13th century. [Tibet] now has railroad transportation, airports, roads and schools – where previously the only schools were in monasteries,” she said. “The Chinese have improved Tibet’s economy and agriculture, and brought in doctors and nurses that were not previously available.” China’s presence protects Tibet from the invasion of some South Asian countries interested in country because of its resources like uranium, Johnson said.
The main goal of SFT chapters working outside of Tibet is to raise awareness about the situation. They use grassroots education, campaigns and nonviolent protests, among other tools to spread the word. “(SFT) has raised a lot of money, especially for schools that teach about traditional Tibet,” said Courtney Swisher, a junior in international relations and vice president of the MSU SFT. [spin]
At the national level, SFT holds conferences and sponsors an “action camp” designed to empower and train young adults to become leaders. “You learn how to prepare for protesting in a way that will not get you hurt or arrested when you go to apply it,” said Dolker of the action camp. According to their site (www.studentsforafreetibet.org) [HYPERLINK HERE], the camp also trains participants in the history and philosophy of applied nonviolence, grassroots organizing, campaign strategy, nonviolent direct action and fundraising. It also teaches participants how to organize successful campaigns, themed generally by human rights, politics or economics.
Meanwhile, individual chapters contribute to the cause in their own ways. Coppens said the Grand Valley chapter has done fundraising for a Tibetan nun project and a Tibetan healing project. They also marched against the 2008 summer Olympics in downtown Grand Rapids and held candlelight vigils to honor traditional Tibet.
Since the MSU group is still young, it is focusing its energy on making an impact at MSU first. “Once we can get more people involved, we will look into doing more,” Barnes said. The group would like show the Martin Scorsese documentary Kundun about the struggle in Tibet at Wells Hall over the course of a couple weekends and paint The Rock on Farm Lane later in the year.
But the groups still have long and difficult work ahead. “We’re dealing with the Chinese government here, and that in itself is an overwhelmingly daunting task,” Coppens said. “I personally don’t think the U.S. government is willing to jeopardize [our] relationship [with China] by sticking our noses in the situation, and China has made it clear that they believe it’s not the West’s business to do so.”
Still, SFT has been able to free political prisoners, nuns and even American students filming documentaries who were jailed by the Chinese government. SFT was also a part of the movement against a proposed loan sponsored by The World Bank that would have placed even more Chinese settlers into Tibetan territory and forced ethnic Tibetans out. This was an important victory for SFT, because there are more Chinese than ethnic Tibetans in Lhasa, Oliai said.
In 2004, SFT’s 10-year anniversary, the organization vowed to put itself out of business before another decade passed. March 10, 2009 marks the 50th year since Tibet’s failed uprising against Chinese rule, and SFT is planning protests and campaigns to bring attention to those who are unaware of the Tibetan’s struggle. “All it would (eventually) take is a change of Chinese policies,” Oliai said.
The issue isn’t cut and dry, as seen by the protesting around the world on the cusp of the Chinese Olympics. Many hoped the Olympics would force China, and the world, to finally reckon with the Tibet issue, but after the initial fierce protesting, you have to dig deep to find any mention of Tibet in the news. But for groups like SFT, the struggle is far from over.

MSU SFT meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month in North Case Hall’s second floor lounge at 7:30 pm.

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Running to Freedom

The boy’s lungs fill with the stale smoke of gunfire as he sprints away from the village, now ablaze. His tears fly behind him, splattering the ground of war-torn Sudan. Instead of turning around and being forced to fight, he decides to keep running, facing an uncertain future as a refugee.
“We ate mud to survive. Sometimes, we even had to drink our urine. Here in America, they say ‘that’s gross’ or ‘that’s disgusting,’ and it was, but it was all we had. We had to survive,” said Jacob Atem, a Lansing-area “Lost Boy” who entered a refugee camp in Ethiopia carried in the arms of his cousin, Michael, after walking for four to five months.
A civil war fought between Islamic and Christian Africans tore Sudanese boys from their villages in the mid 1980s until the late 1990s. It is estimated that some 33,000 children were displaced and left to fend for themselves. These Sudanese refugees were given the name “Lost Boys” of Sudan, after the story of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys of Neverland.
[octatem] “There were many deaths from hunger, thirst or the attack of wild animals,” David Deng, also a Lansing-area Lost Boy, stated. Although many of the boys arrived at a safe haven in Ethiopia, it was only about two years before a civil war broke out there and the boys were forced to relocate once more. This time, they traveled to Kakuma, a Kenyan refugee camp set up by The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees. Although education was available, problems with the distribution of food discouraged most of the boys from going to school. Atem and Deng both agreed that while there was a school, they found it difficult to pay attention on an empty stomach.”With food only coming once every two weeks, I would eat once a day and then spend two or three days without eating,” Atem said.
Atem, now in his early 20s, was roughly 6 or 7 years old when he was forced from his village in southern Sudan.”Since I could not read or write then, I do not know of my exact age,” he said. To this day, many Lost Boy refugees are unsure of their ages because they had been running for so long and barely knew how to read or write. They were assigned an age based on their education, appearance and other factors upon arriving at refugee camps.
Most of the Lost Boys arrived at Kakuma in 1992 and spent up to nine years minimum there until the United States came to their aid. It was not until 1998 that the U.S. government examined the state of African affairs post-Rwandan genocide and discovered the Lost Boys. In late 2000 and early 2001, the United States decided to take action. Thirty-eight hundred boys and 89 girls were taken in by the United States and resettled in a handful of cities, including in Michigan – Lansing, Grand Rapids and Sault St. Marie. Michigan was one of the states that took in the most refugees, and many of those boys got off the plane in Lansing. [octpic]
“It just so happened that we had two resettlement agencies within the area: Lutheran Social Services of Michigan took the minors (those under 18), and St. Vincent’s Home took the majors,” said Tom Luster, a professor of family and child ecology at Michigan State. Luster himself also took in a young man – around the age of 21 at the time he arrived in the States – named Sisimayo. Both Luster and the Lost Boys agree that majors, like Deng, had a harder time transitioning.”They were put into peer groups to live with others [their age] in an apartment. Within four months, they were expected to become financially independent,” Luster said. Minors, on the other hand, finished what was left of their schooling.
Although the transition was difficult for both majors and minors, Luster and some colleagues at MSU set up a support group that met every Tuesday evening at Christ Lutheran in the downtown area.”We avoided the topics of separation in the beginning,” Luster said. Rather, it became a place where Lost Boys and Girls could meet to discuss their transition and, if they chose, their past. MSU granted money and permission to Luster, as well as to some colleagues, to study the group upon its arrival to the United States. Of course, he said, he received permission from the victims themselves. He said he only selected a set number of people, and others found out through their peers about the study. He used his research to write a chapter of a recently published book named Strengths and Challenges of New Immigrant Families.
Deng was 19 when he arrived in the United States, making him a major and ineligible to do much else than work.”I wanted to go to high school, but because of my age, they wouldn’t allow me to,” he said. Deng was a junior in high school when he left Kakuma, but too old by U.S. standards to finish his education. Instead, he found his first job at an L & L Food Center in Lansing. He saved money to pay for rent and other bills but still wanted to eventually go to college.”We were very committed to education; education was our father and mother,” Deng said. Eventually, he saved enough money to take courses and receive his GED. He then left his job at L & L to find another that would allow him time for a college education. Deng took evening classes at Lansing Community College and transferred to MSU in the fall of 2007 as a sophomore.”I worked in the morning and had school at night,” he said. He is now junior status, majoring in economics.[octatem2]
Opposite of Deng, Atem was 15 when he arrived in the United States. He finished high school at Webberville High School in Webberville, Michigan. Although graduating high school was important to Atem, he still wanted more. He attended Spring Arbor University, where he played soccer for the school and graduated with a degree in biology just last spring. He said he would like to go back to Sudan to become a family practitioner in Maar, his hometown. Such an ambition is expected to bode well for the Southern Sudan Health Care Organization, the clinic that he and Deng co-founded.
“It’s something we had been talking about for a while. So many people are dying from such easily treatable diseases, like whooping cough, who could be cured if only they had good medical attention,” Deng said.
Deng’s family has been affected by waterborne and insect-type diseases; he said that many people in his community have been without adequate medical attention for 21 years or more. His mother, sister and uncle have gone to Kenya to receive medical attention but only because Deng was able to pay for them – which, he says, is why they want to build the clinic in their community. He and Atem are hoping to raise at least $250,000 to begin the project. But he said raising half may be enough to begin construction on the clinic. “Right now, we are just trying to spread awareness [and] mobilize this movement. The sooner we raise money, the sooner we will start building it,” Atem said.
Now seven years after their firsts – stepping foot on U.S. soil, going shopping and using electricity and water – the boys have come a long way.”I’m still amazed at how resilient they are. A lot of skills that helped them in Africa helped them [transition] here,” Luster said, citing strong religious beliefs and a commitment to education as some cultural expectations. Atem agreed.”If we, as Lost Boys, can [get through school], what is the excuse of any American kid to not go to college?”
Beyond education, Atem and Deng still believe there is work to be done in Sudan.”It is very difficult to see unity in Sudan; [one] would have to take religion out – where one race doesn’t consider itself superior to another,” Atem said. But he also believes the responsibility is not all on Sudan. “We, as the U.S., have to do more. We are a super power. But it is now up to us. Now you know. Now you cannot say you had no idea this was happening,” he said.

To learn more or donate to Atem and Deng’s organization, please visit www.sshco.org.

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Running to Freedom

The boy’s lungs fill with the stale smoke of gunfire as he sprints away from the village, now ablaze. His tears fly behind him, splattering the ground of war-torn Sudan. Instead of turning around and being forced to fight, he decides to keep running, facing an uncertain future as a refugee.
“We ate mud to survive. Sometimes, we even had to drink our urine. Here in America, they say ‘that’s gross’ or ‘that’s disgusting,’ and it was, but it was all we had. We had to survive,” said Jacob Atem, a Lansing-area “Lost Boy” who entered a refugee camp in Ethiopia carried in the arms of his cousin, Michael, after walking for four to five months.
A civil war fought between Islamic and Christian Africans tore Sudanese boys from their villages in the mid 1980s until the late 1990s. It is estimated that some 33,000 children were displaced and left to fend for themselves. These Sudanese refugees were given the name “Lost Boys” of Sudan, after the story of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys of Neverland.
[atem5] “There were many deaths from hunger, thirst or the attack of wild animals,” David Deng, also a Lansing-area Lost Boy, stated. Although many of the boys arrived at a safe haven in Ethiopia, it was only about two years before a civil war broke out there and the boys were forced to relocate once more. This time, they traveled to Kakuma, a Kenyan refugee camp set up by The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees. Although education was available, problems with the distribution of food discouraged most of the boys from going to school. Atem and Deng both agreed that while there was a school, they found it difficult to pay attention on an empty stomach.”With food only coming once every two weeks, I would eat once a day and then spend two or three days without eating,” Atem said.
Atem, now in his early 20s, was roughly 6 or 7 years old when he was forced from his village in southern Sudan.”Since I could not read or write then, I do not know of my exact age,” he said. To this day, many Lost Boy refugees are unsure of their ages because they had been running for so long and barely knew how to read or write. They were assigned an age based on their education, appearance and other factors upon arriving at refugee camps.
Most of the Lost Boys arrived at Kakuma in 1992 and spent up to nine years minimum there until the United States came to their aid. It was not until 1998 that the U.S. government examined the state of African affairs post-Rwandan genocide and discovered the Lost Boys. In late 2000 and early 2001, the United States decided to take action. Thirty-eight hundred boys and 89 girls were taken in by the United States and resettled in a handful of cities, including in Michigan – Lansing, Grand Rapids and Sault St. Marie. Michigan was one of the states that took in the most refugees, and many of those boys got off the plane in Lansing.
“It just so happened that we had two resettlement agencies within the area: Lutheran Social Services of Michigan took the minors (those under 18), and St. Vincent’s Home took the majors,” said Tom Luster, a professor of family and child ecology at Michigan State. Luster himself also took in a young man – around the age of 21 at the time he arrived in the States – named Sisimayo. Both Luster and the Lost Boys agree that majors, like Deng, had a harder time transitioning.”They were put into peer groups to live with others [their age] in an apartment. Within four months, they were expected to become financially independent,” Luster said. Minors, on the other hand, finished what was left of their schooling.[community3]
Although the transition was difficult for both majors and minors, Luster and some colleagues at MSU set up a support group that met every Tuesday evening at Christ Lutheran in the downtown area.”We avoided the topics of separation in the beginning,” Luster said. Rather, it became a place where Lost Boys and Girls could meet to discuss their transition and, if they chose, their past. MSU granted money and permission to Luster, as well as to some colleagues, to study the group upon its arrival to the United States. Of course, he said, he received permission from the victims themselves. He said he only selected a set number of people, and others found out through their peers about the study. He used his research to write a chapter of a recently published book named Strengths and Challenges of New Immigrant Families.
Deng was 19 when he arrived in the United States, making him a major and ineligible to do much else than work.”I wanted to go to high school, but because of my age, they wouldn’t allow me to,” he said. Deng was a junior in high school when he left Kakuma, but too old by U.S. standards to finish his education. Instead, he found his first job at an L & L Food Center in Lansing. He saved money to pay for rent and other bills but still wanted to eventually go to college.”We were very committed to education; education was our father and mother,” Deng said. Eventually, he saved enough money to take courses and receive his GED. He then left his job at L & L to find another that would allow him time for a college education. Deng took evening classes at Lansing Community College and transferred to MSU in the fall of 2007 as a sophomore.”I worked in the morning and had school at night,” he said. He is now junior status, majoring in economics.
Opposite of Deng, Atem was 15 when he arrived in the United States. He finished high school at Webberville High School in Webberville, Michigan. Although graduating high school was important to Atem, he still wanted more. He attended Spring Arbor University, where he played soccer for the school and graduated with a degree in biology just last spring. He said he would like to go back to Sudan to become a family practitioner in Maar, his hometown. Such an ambition is expected to bode well for the Southern Sudan Health Care Organization, the clinic that he and Deng co-founded.
“It’s something we had been talking about for a while. So many people are dying from such easily treatable diseases, like whooping cough, who could be cured if only they had good medical attention,” Deng said.
Deng’s family has been affected by waterborne and insect-type diseases; he said that many people in his community have been without adequate medical attention for 21 years or more. His mother, sister and uncle have gone to Kenya to receive medical attention but only because Deng was able to pay for them – which, he says, is why they want to build the clinic in their community. He and Atem are hoping to raise at least $250,000 to begin the project. But he said raising half may be enough to begin construction on the clinic. “Right now, we are just trying to spread awareness [and] mobilize this movement. The sooner we raise money, the sooner we will start building it,” Atem said.
[jatem] Now seven years after their firsts – stepping foot on U.S. soil, going shopping and using electricity and water – the boys have come a long way.”I’m still amazed at how resilient they are. A lot of skills that helped them in Africa helped them [transition] here,” Luster said, citing strong religious beliefs and a commitment to education as some cultural expectations. Atem agreed.”If we, as Lost Boys, can [get through school], what is the excuse of any American kid to not go to college?”
Beyond education, Atem and Deng still believe there is work to be done in Sudan.”It is very difficult to see unity in Sudan; [one] would have to take religion out – where one race doesn’t consider itself superior to another,” Atem said. But he also believes the responsibility is not all on Sudan. “We, as the U.S., have to do more. We are a super power. But it is now up to us. Now you know. Now you cannot say you had no idea this was happening,” he said.

To learn more or donate to Atem and Deng’s organization, please visit www.sshco.org.

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Learning to Veto

The hotel bustles with students of different ages from 15 to 22. Everyone is dressed up and discussing the latest news flash. In one room, high school students – delegates, as they’ve been named – discuss the most recent development concerning the assassination of the Zimbabwe representative to the Assembly of the African Union. In another room, delegates representing members of the U.S. National Security Council debate resolutions to riots in Iraq and other modern-day crises. Then, all of a sudden, the U.S. National Security Council gets a news brief – Iranians have accused the U.S. government of involvement in shootings along the Iraq-Iran border and the Iran government demands the U.S. be held accountable. Delegates must now respond in due time, pushing aside any other matters that were previously being discussed. It’s as if CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer echoes in the back of your head, “You’re in the situation room” – except he isn’t around. [veto]
MSU’s Model United Nations (MSUMUN) is an on-campus group that hosts a yearly conference in Lansing. The conference has been an annual event for at least eight years. “It’s definitely the largest [MUN] conference in the state,” said Allie Carter, a sophomore in comparative cultures and politics and assistant chair for the African Union Committee of MSUMUN. The conference is a three-day event that “replicates on a very small level the importance of international bodies,” said Alex Plum, a senior in James Madison College and this year’s Secretary-General of MSUMUN. Plum said the MSUMUN conference has become an effective way for its members and high school students attending the conference (known as delegates) to perfect their public speaking abilities, research interests and studies abroad in general. “[We try to] perfect ourselves as members of an international community and raise our international awareness,” Plum said.
[boss]While most students in MSUMUN are James Madison College students, the group is open to anyone with an interest in global affairs. Plum, for instance, plans on going into the Peace Corps upon graduating this May. Kim Bos, a junior in James Madison College and the new Secretary-General for the 2008-2009 MSUMUN, has also considered the Peace Corps or working for the program Teach for America. Carter would like to be a member of some kind of international body of government upon her graduation. Other members, like James Madison junior Alex Hill, are already taking action on their global interests beyond MSUMUN; Hill is the founder of MSU’s non-profit organization, S.C.O.U.T.B.A.N.A.N.A., which raises money to support a better health care system in Uganda.
“I guess [MSUMUN] is our way of banishing ignorance,” Bos said. “Seeing [delegates] debate global issues shows us that people do still care [about the rest of the world].” Bos said MSUMUN tries to pick topics that are “active” relative topics going on in the world. This includes things like HIV/AIDS, the recent assassination of Abu Risha (who opposed Al-Qaeda in the Middle East) and even the war in Iraq. “It’s important to bring high school students to the conference to learn about things like the U.N., especially since some schools around here don’t always have that opportunity,” social relations and policy sophomore Jacquie Conger said. [mun12]
Plum said anyone can apply to be any type of leader at MSUMUN. However, as with most things, the more important the position, the more qualifications one is expected to have. “It really varies by position,” Plum said. “Someone that’s done MUN before usually gets the chair of their committee or crisis committee. People with less experience are usually hired as staff or assistant chairs,” he said. In hiring people, academic interests are also considered. “I applied for an assistant chair or a chair position and [MSUMUN] picked [my position] based off my academic interests,” Boss said.
Once everyone is hired, MSUMUN begins preparing for the conference at full-force. “By mid-October we open registration for the conference up to the high schools,” Plum said. Meanwhile, the newly hired chairpersons set up the structure of their committee. “Once you’re hired, you pick your assistant chairs,” said Krystle Forbes, a sophomore in James Madison and the chair of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee. “Then you pick the topics you want to cover at the conference and create the background guide that the high schools use to prepare for the conference,” she said. The guide for each committee contains rules for the how the committee will run as well as the topics being discussed. Forbes said she had to have all of these requirements done by November.
Delegates can be a part of three different committees, including general assemblies, specialized agencies or crisis, or the International Press Corps. General Assemblies are groups that discuss and debate issues pertaining to topics such as, but not limited to, economics, finance, humanitarian aid and decolonization. Specialized agencies simulate the global role of groups like UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Delegates that choose to be a part of the crisis committee simulate the African Union (AU), United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United States National Security Council (USNSC). The International Press Corps is just that – the volunteer-based organization that helps underdeveloped countries establish education and health care systems, among other things. [veto3]
Plum said the conference usually attracts 500 or more delegates – students from various high schools across Michigan and other states like Ohio and Wisconsin. Students attending the MSUMUN conference are all members of a Model United Nations team at their respective high schools. “It’s an opportunity for high school students to put into practice what they’ve been learning and practicing at their own schools,” Plum said.
“Some of my friends do MSUMUN, and I just thought it would be good experience toward future goals,” said Matt Kuhn, a junior at Mattawan High School in Michigan. This was Kuhn’s first time at MSUMUN, but he agreed the conference applied to interests he’d like to pursue in college, particularly at MSU.
[hill]Some members of the MSUMUN group also participated in the conference when they were in high school. Many agreed that doing the conference had somewhat of an impact on their decision to come to MSU. “A lot of kids who run MSUMUN are in James Madison, which was a school I wanted to go to,” international relations freshman Courtney Swisher said. Mike Jones, a senior in political theory and constitutional democracy, agreed. “I liked that there was a competitive team,” Jones said.
In addition to debating and collaborating ideas pertaining to current affairs, MSUMUN attendees are invited to join in social activities – like a delegate dance on their last night – and listen to a guest speaker who is active in the fields they may one day pursue. This year, MSUMUN’s sponsored speaker was Dr. Kent Hill, an assistant administrator of the Global Health Bureau of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID helps in efforts like HIV/AIDS prevention, avian influenza and other infectious diseases like malaria or tuberculosis that are taking over third-world countries. Dr. Hill said he hoped to highlight the array of opportunities to do good and be a part of international development in his speech to MSUMUN delegates. “You can’t understand where the U.S. is right now if you don’t know where it stands internationally,” he said. “[The U.S.] has an obligation to consider what ways we could help alleviate suffering [in the third world],” Dr. Hill said. While Dr. Hill’s main priority is working with USAID for right now, he said he enjoys making time to speak to the next generation of leaders at conferences like MSUMUN. [mun13]
“[MSUMUN] really forces you to keep up with current events,” Carter said. So while Wolf Blitzer may not be putting these students in the situation room any time soon, they will have had some experience to prepare for it. And even if Wolf Blitzer does not show up, members of MSUMUN are using their experiences to help establish something that has never been done before. “The knowledge that we get [through MSUMUN] is enough of an experience that we all learn something,” Plum said.

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MSU Does Dubai

Imagine a place so different but somehow still faintly familiar; everywhere you turn your head, there exists different people from different backgrounds, but you’re still bound by one thing – pride of the green and white. The atmosphere is fun, young, exciting and new. You are surrounded by buildings with common themes, but within each, there is a different story to be learned. You leave class and sit on a nearby bench catching the breeze off a tall water fountain, glancing out at a palm trees and sandy paths. [dubai1]
Minus the sand and palm trees, it sounds a lot like MSU in East Lansing. Believe it or not, MSU is bringing the sand and palm trees to its campus – its new campus in Dubai. Dubai is located in the Eastern Arabian Peninsula, where it is one of the seven regions making up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Quite simply, Dubai is a part of the Middle East, but this Middle East is different from the one most see on TV. Here exists a place appropriately named the International Academic City – home to MSU’s latest development: MSU in Dubai.
In the early 1990s, Dubai was anything but the remarkable, fast-growing, economically stable place it has come to be. In fact, MSU would have been better off looking to build a new campus branch nearly anywhere else. However, as the ‘90s progressed, especially after the Persian Gulf War, many big businesses, first from the Middle East and then internationally, began looking for a place to rebuild an economic surge. Now almost two decades later, Dubai is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing areas in the Middle East, and MSU has decided to get in on the growth.
MSU has been working on a concept on and off for about 10 years to create a branch of its own in the Middle East. However, according to Dr. John Hudzik, vice president of Global Engagement and Strategic Projects, it has taken some time to find the right place with the same goals in mind as MSU. Hudzik said the investment had to meet four main criteria: a financial agreement that allowed MSU to avoid using its funds to create the project, insurance that MSU could maintain complete academic control over its school in Dubai, certainty that the quality of the programs offered in Dubai would match the quality of programs in East Lansing, and reassurance that admissions policies would remain as inclusive as they are in East Lansing.
[simon]”We wanted them to know this wasn’t simply a business deal; it is for the benefit of Dubai and MSU,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.
President Simon also wishes to empower more than just MSU with the initiative in Dubai. Her hope is that by creating strong ties in the Middle East, economic potential will be brought back to an otherwise discouraged state.
The placement of MSU within Dubai’s International Academic City is equally as crucial. The Academic City has already expressed its potential by letting other universities from parts of Europe and Australia break ground. MSU will be the first university from North America to join the City. In addition, a good share of Fortune 500 companies have established themselves in Dubai as well, making accessibility to jobs and working world experience that much closer for students attending MSU’s campus in Dubai.
But Dubai officials must be aware that while jobs are important, there is something else to a college education that must be present. “The advantage [for students] of placing it in the International Academic City is that [Dubai] is planning to create a library of significant size, include student support functions to provide a real campus feel and so on,” Simon said.
MSU in Dubai plans to offer its programs to MSU students, as well as to students from Dubai; through a series of phases, the university in Dubai will eventually incorporate an exchange program where the amount of MSU students going to Dubai will equal the number coming from Dubai to MSU. The university plans to offer the equivalent of an original MSU bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, with programs ranging from computer engineering to media management and research to hospitality business.
The one-two punch of living and learning in a rapidly growing city means there must be something in it for Dubai as well. “They wanted a top-ranked university [that] was well known around the world for many aspects, including a research facility,” Hudzik said. One of Dubai’s most notable motives for allowing a North American university to establish itself there is also the competitive edge its students and employees will be able to gain by obtaining an American degree, according to Hudzik.[dubai2]
Upon the completion of construction, responsibility for financial aspects will be turned over to a holding company of Dubai, TECOM, who has not only provided the start-up money to build MSU in Dubai, but has also built most of the International Academic City. Starting classes, the first phase of the Dubai initiative, is expected to begin this fall. Initially, MSU will be recruiting students in Dubai, and MSU study abroad programs to Dubai will follow shortly after.
While President Simon does not believe the Dubai branch’s eight programs will ever grow to the 200ish programs seen here in East Lansing, she does anticipate growth nonetheless, based on what people in Dubai are asking for. However, given that the Academic City is growing at a rate far quicker than even MSU can envision, the development of more programs may not be too far in the future. “There is a very significant difference between MSU’s time to do something and Dubai’s time to do something,” Hudzik said. Simon elaborated on this thought, saying “[Dubai] is prepared to let development be rapid.”
In order to ensure the programs taught in Dubai are of the same caliber as those in East Lansing, the Dubai branch will host strictly MSU faculty, both members already at MSU or those that would otherwise qualify as MSU professors. Interviews are currently in process for professors willing or asked to move for next fall.
As with any program here, students in Dubai will be expected to fulfill university core requirements in order to obtain their degrees. Offering a wide variety of core classes opens up many opportunities for MSU students interested in studying abroad in Dubai. Tuition for study abroad programs is still being discussed. “I would hope there would be a lot of cultural opportunities and culturally-inspired aspects to studying in Dubai,” said Katie Ozog, a social relations and policy and communication sophomore. “It’s a culture very different from our own, so it would give the full study abroad experience.”
Dubai is hoping to give just that to American students. The initiative has come a long way from the first serious discussion of the matter a year and a half ago, but it is quickly moving to become quite possibly one of the biggest ventures not just for MSU, but also the state of Michigan. Nevertheless, the ventures abroad, Simon encouraged, are “an important part of becoming a dynamic citizen. [This] is a way to more fully engage students, both undergraduate and graduate.” [dubai3]
As you look at your watch (there is no Beaumont Tower), it’s time to go. You see a friend on your way to IAH, chat for a bit and then part ways. Then it occurs to you: there’s something else that Dubai has in common with East Lansing. This is a history-in-the-making, never get the chance to do it again experience. So fight for the only colors, green and white…with pride in Dubai.

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Silent No More

One can find her at the market trying to pick up some groceries, or just going out for a walk. She wears a pair of jeans and a nice shirt; nothing provocative. She passes a stranger, and notices her eyes lock with his. Not long after, she notices his eyes wander. They scan her up and down and the stranger smirks a little, as if fantasizing about her in a less than flattering way. She moves on, somewhat appreciative of the attention but appalled by the degradation of it all. This stranger is still lurking; she hopes maybe he is only there for groceries.
She heads back home. She notices a pace behind her, but it’s one of many. She glances back and sees the familiar face of her admirer. Her pace quickens and she becomes anxious, wanting to evade danger but refusing to run; she doesn’t want to tip off her follower. The stranger whistles and yells, “Hey, baby!” In some ways it sounds like a compliment, yet she continues walking, unresponsive to his calls.
The stalking, name-calling, staring and visual strip of her identity have all been a blow to her self-esteem, no doubt. She has been sexually harassed, but like most people, will do nothing about it. After all, she expects some form of “the cat call” and tolerates it; but should she?
What defines sexual harassment, and how much is too much? The American Heritage Dictionary says sexual harassment is “the making of unwanted and offensive sexual advances or of sexually offensive remarks or acts.” Because people’s notions of “offensive sexual advances” or “sexually offensive remarks or acts” vary so widely, the issue of sexual harassment proves to be much more difficult to determine in reality than the dictionary definition suggests. International studies senior Ryan Weltzer thinks cultural norms could be a part of what defines sexual harassment. “We can’t control what other people think, but we can have a good idea of how people will interpret us,” Weltzer said. However, just because something is a cultural norm doesn’t mean it is an acceptable way of acting, Wetzler said.
An example of such a potential cultural norm is “eve teasing,” a trend taking over in parts of India and one that is apparent in many parts of the world. Eve teasing refers to street sexual harassment in the form of everything from name-calling to staring to groping to stalking. “I think it has just been engraved in society; you’re taught to ignore it or steer clear,” said Nitya Lohitsa, a social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics sophomore. Lohitsa also is a member of the Coalition of Indian Undergraduate Students (CIUS). However, one woman in India is saying she’s had enough, and refuses to tolerate eve teasing anymore.
Jasmeen Patheja started The Blank Noise Project in August 2003, not long after she moved to Bangalore, India, to study at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. “The threat of being sexually harassed every time I was out of home and then labeling this invasion of my privacy with such an innocuous term as ‘eve teasing’ made me realize that this is an offense that has often been ignored or trivialized,” Patheja said. Blank Noise combats street sexual harassment in India and provides a common ground for those affected by it to discuss their feelings and find dignity again.
[patheja2]Blank Noise has gone through three phases since its conception. The first, “victimhood,” analyzed the eve teasing situation in itself – the act of eve teasing and the people involved. The next phase, “public confrontation,” brought the project to life. “Blank Noise is a public and participatory arts project that has addressed street sexual harassment and violation through sustained public dialogue,” Patheja said. The most current stage for Blank Noise consists of spreading the word about the intentions of the project. According to Patheja, after starting with a small group of only nine participants, the project is now rapidly growing; nine chapters have been initiated in nine different metropolises in India. “We’ve received queries from smaller towns as well,” Patheja said. Originally formed as Patheja’s final year project for school, she decided she could not abandon it, given the amount of reactions and praise she received from participants.
Mary, a crisis intervention counselor at The Listening Ear, a sexual assault counseling service on Grand River Avenue in East Lansing, said her experiences at The Ear allow her to identify with the intent of the Blank Noise Project. “It can help [victims of assault and harassment] realize they’re not alone,” she said. Not feeling isolated after an instance of assault or harassment is extremely important.
The Listening Ear is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that specializes in helping those who have survived sexual assault or rape. The Ear works with the community to raise awareness about such cases through lectures and community events, while prioritizing spreading the message about what exactly sexual assault and rape are. Mary said although most cases at The Ear push the boundaries of sexual assault, sexual harassment instances, like eve teasing, are not a light-hearted matter.
One of The Ear’s bigger events is called Take Back the Night. It is an annual event held in April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Many aspects of Take Back the Night resonate with events sponsored by Blank Noise. For example, Take Back the Night has shirts, made by survivors of rape or sexual assault, pinned up on clotheslines. The shirts include words from the survivors recalling the feelings, emotions and trauma that came from the moment they were assaulted or raped. Blank Noise’s event “Did You Ask For It?” calls on those affected by sexual harassment to discard the clothes they were wearing when they were affected in hopes of helping to cope with their memories. Blank Noise also holds “Night Walks,” which encourage women to spend time together, have fun and retain the public space that was once violated as safe, glorious or even just casual.
Perhaps the largest difference between Blank Noise and The Ear, however, is the publicity. “Because our actions and interventions have been in crowded public spaces, they attract a certain amount of attention by their occurrence alone, but awareness on any larger level has also been achieved through press articles and TV reports,” Patheja said. Although it is still a developing organization, The Ear is working to promote the Capitol Area Sexual Assault Response Center, Mary said. Right now “nurse examiners are placed outside of Sparrow (Hospital) to raise awareness,” Mary said.
Blank Noise is certainly taking the initiative to change public acceptance of eve teasing and Patheja shows no signs of ending the project any time soon. “Right now, we are expanding rapidly with volunteers in different cities and I think a reasonable goal would be to work toward strengthening out city chapters so that they can function independently and spontaneously, yet retain the essence of our strategies and techniques and work in tandem with other city chapters,” Patheja said. She is constantly updating the Blank Noise blog, which is also home to many of the events that the group holds throughout the year. Patheja said the e-mail list is growing as rapidly as the movement is.
[loh]”I believe that the ways in which street harassment manifests itself may change culturally, but for example we have a powerful video made in NYC up on our site, and this goes to show that street harassment is not a phenomenon restricted to India or South Asia. It’s universal though the degrees of manifestation may vary in different circumstances,” Patheja said.
Eve teasing proves to be a phenomenon crossing all borders of the globe and while it sometimes seems like a worn out message, the continued promotion of gender equality is key to fighting it. People like Patheja are not giving up on that message by calling attention to a more underground form of harassment. “It just takes one person to start something,” Lohitsa said. “The more gender equality you have in a society, the more the society will prosper.”

Patheja’s Blank Noise Project welcomes response and inquiry. The blog, central to advocating this movement’s existence, can be explored at blanknoiseproject.blogspot.com.

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Playing Fair

It is a simple cup at first, with a simple logo. “Fair Trade Certified” is plastered on the coffee maker. The person on the logo is present with a globe, and intertwined in black and white, as if two different worlds are becoming one. No logo could better describe the intent of a particular group: the Fair Trade Organization.
However, the Fair Trade Organization goes deeper than just combining two worlds as one, and deeper than making a single person important to another person or part of the world. While many global markets continue to look for quick and cheap labor in order to make the largest profit, many human rights groups are joining together to eliminate such labor abuses in developing countries. One such organization, Fair Trade, is not unfamiliar to the MSU campus and its surrounding area. [coffee1]
“Fair Trade is a way of achieving greater social and economic justice through the marketplace. It brings farmers and consumers closer, and gives more money back to the farmer,” said Daniel Jaffee, sociology professor and author of Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival.
Fair Trade, a group that has been gaining publicity as it prolongs its stay in East Lansing, is a group looking out for those who could arguably be the victims of the global trading market. The organization is involved in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America – parts of the world that, to some Americans, are seen as torn by crises such as civil war, poverty and disease.
[jaffee]Now almost 10 years after its official birth in the states, how is Fair Trade living up to its initiatives as centralized governments take precedence in the global market? While farmers in developing countries have begun to realize the bargains and benefits of being a member of Fair Trade, what else is being done to assure that everyone receives equal opportunity to a better living standard? Rebecca Meuninck, a fourth year graduate student in anthropology, spoke on this most basic problem currently facing Fair Trade. “There’s more supply than there is demand (for the products),” she said.
This imbalance is a result of Fair Trade’s increased popularity among small farmers, Meuninck explained. As the popularity and benefits of Fair Trade become more appealing to farmers in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia, so does the idea of getting involved. Thus not only are there more and more farmers, there are more and more of their products to be sold. Professor Jaffee went on to explain why popularity of the organization is no surprise: “(Farmers are) less likely to be in debt, because they’re paid before their crop is even harvested. Their household income is higher, and they belong to an organization working together with other farmers.” Moreover, Jaffee explained consumers can have interest in the organization, because they’d have a better sense of where their coffee is coming from – perhaps why the movement is growing, especially in the wake of an organic food-only fad.
Still, fixing the problem of excessive supply and little demand doesn’t seem like it would require an economics background. The most obvious solution would be to expand Fair Trade’s markets. Or would it? “Some Fair Trade members want more participation from the corporations like Starbucks, while others fear Fair Trade would be watered down with more corporation participation,” Meuninck said.
Since its creation, Fair Trade in the U.S. has immensely increased its market of buyers. For example, while Sparty’s, MSU’s coffee-shop chain, is heavily involved with Fair Trade products (check out the logo), what some students do not always realize is places like Starbucks, Beaner’s, Paramount Coffee and Espresso Royale also do partake in using Fair Trade, but generally to a lesser degree. Sparty’s buys 100 percent Fair Trade certified products. On the other hand, according to Professor Jaffee, a company like Starbucks buys a small amount of Fair Trade coffee, but invests more in their own company’s coffee-producing community promotions.
Still, Fair Trade has been an organization centered on “the little people” of the business since it started, which is where the line is currently being drawn in the system. “Some feel that big corporations would just use the logo as a sort of PR move,” Meuninck said. Jaffee reiterated this point by explaining Fair Trade coffee products can only come from small farmer plots, and thus those farmers could reasonably be disinterested in wanting to become something bigger.[beans1]
The obstacles do not end for Fair Trade with adjusting a supply and demand model with large companies. English education senior Christin Vasilenko, also the president of MSU’s Students for Fair Trade, said Fair Trade found itself having to make adjustments back when the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) passed in 2005. Because CAFTA endorses free trade and not fair trade, fair trade was stuck paying high tariffs and taxes on imports and exports, while those that labeled themselves free trade members did not suffer such consequences. “Free trade is getting workers to work for less pay and benefits, while big businesses get the rewards,” Vasilenko said. “Fair Trade is combating that idea.”
CAFTA, an exclusive law that encourages the free flow of the global market, provided benefits to those who would work with the national government. These benefits help organizations like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, but forget about those little people involved in non-governmental organizations like Fair Trade, which, Jaffee said, undoes the local level benefits these farmers see.
With all of the debate stirring, one must wonder what exactly Fair Trade is doing to correct its economic issues or rise against its ever-present crowd of opposition. Meuninck said there are only discussions of what to do right now, but given the concern of some of the trade’s there-from-the-start farmers, it is difficult to decipher what exactly will happen.
So far, the Fair Trade committee is considering using a type of ranking system on their certified product stamp, Meuninck said. “For example, someone like Sparty’s who uses 100 percent Fair Trade would be a gold member, while someone like Starbucks might be a bronze or so,” she said. The system would then encourage buyers back home to look for only the highest certifications, which in turn would not only give the most back to the farmers using Fair Trade, but would prolong the existence and growth of the organization by distributing more supply to a higher demand.
“The extra capital gets circulated around the community,” Jaffee said. He pointed to a particular instance he recognized while working in Latin America where an existing member of Fair Trade hired his neighbors to help with labor. “It’s like a ripple effect,” he said.
[vasilenko]Vasilenko insists the organization is not only about people in developing countries needing help and first world nations providing it, either. “It’s about empowering the people in the developing world, so they can sustain their culture and gain respect from the rest of the world,” she said. Like the logo of Fair Trade, two worlds can combine for the betterment of a nation, or nations, run over by a world falling into the grasp of globalization. While quick and cheap is practically a mantra in this country, it is not so easy for those that have been left behind.
Meuninck, Vasilenko and Jaffee have visited sites of Fair Trade in Latin America as well. “People (at home) don’t understand what it’s like,” Vasilenko said, with a look of reflection in her eyes. “Where our money goes is really important to these people.”
October is Fair Trade Month, and Vasilenko suggested students, faculty and members of the community spread awareness about the true impact of Fair Trade. Meuninck agreed and said, “The students have a lot of power. They’re the ones that pushed Beaner’s and Sparty’s to be involved with (Fair Trade).”
She also expressed she could only imagine what would happen for the organization with a little more knowledge and spreading of awareness to other communities. So next time you need to warm up after a long hike on campus or a breezy Saturday football game, grab a cup of Fair Trade coffee. “If we can help even one person,” Vasilenko said, “(Fair Trade) is a success.”[coffee3]
Vasilenko’s on-campus group, Students for Fair Trade (a branch of United Students for Fair Trade) holds meetings every Thursday at 6 p.m. at Espresso Royale on Grand River Ave. to discuss how to integrate the community with Fair Trade. To learn more on Fair Trade, see their website at www.transfairusa.org.

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