Book Collectors Compete

Book Collectors Compete

As a kid, collections consisted of shiny pennies and nickels found in couch cushions and a piece of sparkling quartz lying beside the driveway. However for some students at MSU, collecting is not child’s play.

(Photo credit: Shuyi Meng)

The Student Book Collecting Competition held its thirteenth annual collectors event on Tuesday, April 6. Four finalists received the opportunity to display their collections and the chance to earn prize money from $100 to $500.

Lia Greenwell, a creative writing junior, entered a collection of poetry, saying it was well worth the extra time.

“I figured that if I spent ten hours on [the collection], it would be just like working ten extra hours,” Greenwell said. She placed second and was awarded $250, along with a gift certificate to the Curious Book Shoppe in downtown East Lansing. Greenwell said that if she placed second or higher, she would definitely be adding to her collection.

For first place winner and American studies graduate student Amanda Sikarskie, the $500 prize will allow her to add to her Gwen Frostic collection. Her now-husband had been the first to suggest the author/poet to her.

“He suggested that I might like the artist, and I said, ‘Hey look, things to buy,’” Sikarskie said, as she explained the excitement of discovering something new.

The prize money isn’t the only thing that drives these students to collect. Rikki Reynolds, a Residential College of Arts and Humanities junior, buys her books like pieces of artwork.

She first began buying books because she liked the cover art, and slowly, she began to notice a pattern. Now, her collection centers around covers that display avant-garde and abstract pictures and words.

Describing the style of her favorite cover artist Roy Kahlman, Reynolds said, “In the fifties and sixties, he made art out of words.”

For Greenwell, her poetry collection started with required books for classes and books she checked out from the library. As she checked out and rechecked out, she decided that she needed copies of her own.

Here favorite buys came from used book sales. “I like having things that other people have had before,” Greenwell said.

With the four tables looking polished and organized, the finalists mingled excitedly while waiting for the results. Peter Burg, the Head of Special Collections, stood proudly on the side. Burg has organized the all of the past thirteen Collectors’ Competitions.

“It’s a lot of work, but once you see everything that’s here, it’s worth while,” Burg said.

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Do Laptops Belong in Class?

Do Laptops Belong in Class?

Students use their laptops in class (photo credit: Brett Ekblad.)

Clacking keys, scrolling party pictures and alluring wireless Internet on the laptop of the person in front of you quickly draws attention away from the professor and his oh-so-interesting explanation of igneous rock. In a class of hundreds of students, Facebook stalking will go completely unnoticed. And when the people around you start flicking through pictures of their weekends and trips to Europe, the small voice of one’s subconscious asks, “When will you ever need to know the life cycle of a rock?”

Laptops are becoming a constant presence in college classrooms, but are they becoming a distraction that hinders learning in a college course? Educators from MSU and beyond have a variety of opinions about whether laptops are learning tools or simply their competition.

In the digital age, students must know how to use the technology around them. Assistant statistics professor Jennifer Kaplan feels that laptops have much to offer a college classroom.

“Honestly, I could do a whole lot more with class if students were required to bring laptops,” Kaplan said. With advancing technology, class time would be much better spent using the statistic software available.

By using these resources, Kaplan explained that students would be able to have a more hands-on experience.

Elementary education teacher Jane Cagwin explained that the upbringing of children affects how they learn. Children are receiving less verbal stimulation while developing, requiring a more sensory learning experience in later years.

“Smartboards and other touch screen devices bring in the sense of touch when learning,” Cagwin said. “The more sensory systems engaged when information is taught, the more likely the students will retain the information.”

Laptops in the classroom engage students’ sense of touch and sight, making it easier to retain and understand the information being taught for sensory students.

The presence of laptops can also better classroom communication, leading to better understanding.

One professor at the University of Michigan found a unique use for instant messaging. Kaplan explained that this professor opened a chat room between the students and the teaching assistant. This allowed students to type questions to the TA during the lecture, in order to clarify confusing concepts.

Despite the convenience that laptops provide, they can also create many problems. Some students cannot resist the temptation of the Internet. They attempt to take part in multiple activities such as checking Facebook and answering emails while listening to the lecture.

“We as adults think that we are doing more when we multitask,” Cagwin said. However, she explains that the human brain focuses best on one topic at a time.

“Less focused attention leads to less information stored in our long term memory,” Cagwin said.

Senior education major Melissa Byl said multitasking is harmful in a classroom.

“As a teacher, allowing multitasking is ‘asking for it,’” Byl said, explaining that the “it” means “not being able to focus on the task at hand.” Without one’s full attention on the lesson, a student cannot get the full potential out of the class.

On the other hand, public relations doctoral student Thomas Isaacs explained that regulating laptops only creates a student-vs-professor attitude.

Some classes are full of laptops, for note-taking or otherwise (photo credit: Abby Herber).

Isaacs encourages students who wish to surf the web during class to sit at the back of the class where no other students will be distracted. Isaacs explained that, although he has a large class, it is important to maintain a class discussion to keep students engaged.

However, Kaplan feels like laptops aren’t the root of the issue.

“The students who are paying attention to something else on a laptop wouldn’t be listening to me anyways,” Kaplan said.

Therefore, these professors must find other ways to encourage students to pay attention and use laptops for beneficial purposes only. As Kaplan walks up and down the center aisle of the class, she warns students that anyone caught on Facebook will be playfully ridiculed.

With the size and the variety of college courses, regulating laptop use is hard to do.

“For me, most of my classes are smaller, so it’s frowned upon,” studio art junior Stephanie Luscombe said.

Students must decide whether the money they are paying for the class is worth paying a little attention. So as your professor continues his monologue, which will win your attention: a rock or the photos of your friend’s boyfriend’s cousin cliff-diving off the coast of Mexico?

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Student Group Scouting for African Health Care

Student Group Scouting for African Health Care

Once a week, giant bananas roam around campus giving out free goodies. They’re not out to promote fruit or make people think they’d smoked too much pot before class; they’re saving Africa.

SCOUT BANANA is a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness for health care in some of Africa’s neediest areas. Started by a former MSU student, the MSU chapter focuses on bettering South Africa, with chapters nationwide targeting Uganda as well.

While Africa’s need for health care may be clear, the way to improve its underdeveloped system is not so straightforward. “Before we take any action we have to at least first work to understand the problems we want to fix,” SCOUT BANANA Founder Alex Hill said. “Uninformed aid has the potential to have such a negative effect.”

(Photo credit: Brett Ekblad)

In an article from the SCOUT BANANA website, Ruth Berger, the Vice President of the MSU chapter, described the difference between an organization that informs and demands economic change and one such as Product (RED) which can create complacency. Berger wrote, “Product (RED) has the potential to raise awareness and make people think about global issues, but it also has the potential to make them feel satisfied with the way things are and the small part they are doing.”

SCOUT BANANA’s dedication to education is progressing to a new level. Launching in spring of 2012, its new project, Banana Tree Papers, will be written by graduate students. The working papers will connect communities with the latest research concerning their health care and development issues.

Hill, a recent graduate of MSU, sees potential in extending the movement past the undergraduate level, hoping that it will bring its education of members to a new level of depth and understanding. “This could have the potential to widen the knowledge base for members and others involved in our chapters,” Hill said.

In addition to Banana Tree Papers, SCOUT BANANA held it first National Summit in January 2010. Leadership from each of the chapters, including MSU, met with other SCOUT BANANA staff members to discuss the agenda for 2010. The team hopes that what started right here at MSU will spread to other college campuses, “increasing support for [its] projects, and launching a fellowship program,” Hill said.

In addition to the growth opportunities that SCOUT BANANA has created for itself, the organization also received publicity from its nomination for the 2008 “Do Something Awards.” Although the organization did not receive any funds for its projects, its story was featured on the Doritos bag along with Hill’s picture. “We’ve gotten a great deal of feedback and press from the Doritos bags,” Hill said.

Although Hill, two-year leader of MSU’s SCOUT BANANA chapter, has graduated from MSU, the work of its chapter has not slowed. The chapter holds weekly meetings, gathering recently to talk about upcoming events for MSU’s campus. Emily Jones, junior zoology major and MSU chapter coordinator, said that they hold weekly “Hug Days.” Dressed in banana suits, members give hugs and hand out key chains, brochures and flyers. “Most people who actually stop to hug us and talk are really interested in why we would dress up and act ridiculous,” Jones said.

In addition to weekly events, MSU’s chapter holds an annual Dance-a-thon in the spring to raise support. The MSU chapter also partners with an after-school program in South Africa. The program focuses on children who are affected by HIV/AIDS. The support raised through the chapter’s many events provides the after-school center with enough funds to feed the children one meal a day. This meal may be the only one a child receives for the day. Jones said, “Everyone in the community has a say in the after-school center, and that’s important because they know better than we do what needs to happen.” SCOUT BANANA’s commitment to informed aid allows all of the funds to be used in the best ways possible.

Over its nine years of existence, SCOUT BANANA has grown a considerable amount. Its chapters now include Tufts University, Central Michigan University and University of Michigan (U of M). In the fall, U of M and MSU held a competition to see which program could raise the most money through a 5K event. MSU won the contest, but together the chapters raised awareness and support for their individual projects.

Through growth and change, SCOUT BANANA continues to fight for better health care in Africa. Growing nationwide, its members continue to revolutionize modern thought and more banana suits may be popping up soon. “We believe that global health is everyone’s responsibility and that everyone has the potential to make a difference,” said junior member and comparative cultures and politics major Garrett Miller.

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Screaming for Success

Screaming for Success

It is dark. The day has finally slipped away, and an eerie silence has fallen over campus. Outside, life has become deathly still apart from several solo travelers hurrying beneath the glow of the streetlamps. Two girls sit awake in a room. As the clock’s neon numbers flash midnight, the girl on the futon raises her head to say, “It’s starting.” Suddenly a shrill scream rips through the silence, followed by a chorus of shouts, yells and moans. Could this be the thrilling introduction to a terrifying cinematic masterpiece or simply the night of exam week for 46,000 students at Michigan State University?

As December rolls around, college students, young and old, experience the mad rush of fall semester finals. The library becomes the new hot spot and coffee is the drink of choice as students buckle down and forsake sleep for grade point averages. At MSU, exam week means a level of stress so high that it can only be released in the form of an ear-splitting scream.

The Midnight Scream is a study tradition that is quite unconventional. Although its origin is unknown, students have observed this nightly ritual for years. The tradition begins Sunday at midnight, the night of the first exam, continuing through to the end of the week.

In order to scream properly, a student must follow several steps. The first stage is to add an unhealthy amount of caffeine to the bloodstream, making screaming a plausible option for stress relief. Sugary soft drinks plus strong coffee equal one late night. The next step is to choose a prime location from which to scream. Freshman media arts major Michael Daniels saw people all over in the Brody Complex. “At twelve, I could see people in more than just the doors and their rooms but also in the stairwells and lobbies,” he said. Once a student has picked his or her location, there is only one thing left to do: scream.

Students approached the scream in various ways. The Yakeley dorm seemed to reach a high decibel, and the circular shape of Brody Complex only amplified the screams. Some preferred a short and sweet shout, while others favored lengthy conversations, cursing the very existence of exam week. “Two doors down, a kid was blasting ‘Poker Face,’ […] and we could see one room in the hall across from us flashing their lights like a strobe light,” said Alyssa Simpson, a freshman journalism major living in Case Hall.

For freshmen, fall finals are foreign territory. With the new stresses of college courses and an indecent amount of homework, this week can be one of the most difficult. “I would describe exams as stressful and frustrating,” freshman education major Julia McLean said. “Because as a freshman, it was hard to anticipate what to expect from my exams.” She said that she studied an average of eight to nine hours each day in preparation for her exams.

Luckily, finding this new level of stress was balanced out by an opportunity to release every pent up emotion. Simpson described the scream as “exhilarating, relieving and obnoxious.”

“[It was] louder than I thought it would be,” freshman media arts major Joshua Michels said. The Midnight Scream had its own Facebook event, inviting people from all over State’s campus to join in.

However, Facebook events were not always so widely used. Not every senior had the luxury of knowing about the Midnight Scream as a freshman. “I will never forget it,” music senior Melissa Butman said. “I was sitting at my desk on the very first night, and all of a sudden people started yelling and screaming at midnight. I really had no idea what was going on.” Many of the seniors only heard about the Midnight Scream after a startling first exam night as freshmen.

After three years of practice, the seniors have finally gotten the hang of college life. All day study sessions and all night cramming are no longer an abnormal part of college life. “The day before, I spent all day studying for the two exams that I had,” Butman said, making a ten hour study session seem like a walk in the park.

Despite the gap between freshmen and seniors of age and experience, exams require hours of study no matter what stage of college a student is at. The Midnight Scream serves as a unifying event for State’s student body. Daniels said, “When a lot of people participate in something like this […], it is good to have the feeling that you are not alone and that others are doing the same thing you are.” Through this simple experience, students from freshmen to fifth year share the feeling of stress, along with a gratifying release.

More than a silly diversion from studying, the Midnight Scream may be a healthy stress reliever for fall exams. According to the online medical information site WebMD, one of the best ways to relieve stress is to “let out your feelings.” The site said to, “Talk, laugh, cry and express anger when you need to.” Simpson seconded this opinion. “I [felt] a lot better!” she said. “Now that I got it out of my system, I could focus more, and I felt ready to concentrate.”

In the stress of exam week, it is important to remember a little balance. By doing something a little crazy and setting aside our academics for just a moment, students of every age have the opportunity to connect over a common experience. It fulfills our need for enjoyment on a basic level, and best of all, as Daniels puts it, “a minute of acting like a caveman never hurt anybody.”

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From Weeknights to Greeknights

From Weeknights to Greeknights

It’s been a long week packed with exams, papers and lots of late night pizza runs, and the newfound stress of college has many freshmen bursting at the seams. It’s finally Thursday night–time to let loose. Whether they put on the heels and call a cab or lace up the sneakers and make the walk, they find themselves not hitting up the pubs, but down on Greek Row. For the under-aged students at MSU, the bar is not an option for a weekend release, but the fraternity houses most certainly are.

As a freshman whose knowledge is limited to the media-produced “college experience,” where is the one place you can have a good time and stumble into new people? The answer: fraternities.

“There are those groups on campus that know other people and go to house parties, but for the freshmen that are new on campus, all they know are the big name frats,” freshman Jimmy Karr said. While most upperclassmen have connections off campus, the newbies have yet to gain the luxury of friends with apartments.

By the end of the first school week, freshmen can identify the top frats on campus, whether through the grapevine or first-hand experience. Like a twenty-one year old can rate a bar based on alcoholic enjoyment, minors at MSU quickly discover which frats provide the best booze, people, and entertainment.

Those involved in the Greek system, however, recognize no hierarchy among the houses. Kevin Blake, a member of Phi Kappa Psi, said that “each one is tailored to different personalities or goals,” denying the ability to compare and rank multiple houses. Similarly, each frat party offers something different, from drinking games to big dance floors to themed parties. The merit of the party depends on the personality of the party-goer.

The fraternities on campus take a variety of approaches to throwing a good party. For those interested in a bit of friendly competition, Alpha Gamma Rho’s alcohol-a-ton is the prime occasion to show off one’s drinking abilities. The task covers all its bases, requiring the competitor to down two shots of Popov Vodka, followed instantly by a cup of wine and topped off with a cup of beer. However, if an alcohol-induced coma is not your cup of tea, Alpha Epsilon Pi’s roomy dance floor offers plenty of space to bust a move.

Apart from the party scene, the Greek system at Michigan State University has a long-standing tradition of brotherhood and philanthropy. However, the extremely negative stereotype that stems from their involved social agenda is difficult to overlook. Rumors of packed parties, dirty drinks, and drunken brawls are enough to give greek life a bad rap. One definition on the popular slang terminology site describes frat parties as “A sausage fest with douche bag frat boys who let a lot of girls in and hardly any guys so they can slip date rape drugs into the girl’s drink and have sex with them because obviously they can’t rely on their charm.”

Although “some find this definition incredibly accurate,” said senior Lauren Jones, it is often grossly over-applied. When asked about his fraternity experiences, freshman Matthew Kuhn said, “ I’ve heard a lot of bad things, but I’ve never seen anything.” The hazards of the fraternity houses often arise from speculation and rumor. The expectation for the houses to be dirty and full hormonal college boys only encourages a stereotype that does not hold true in all cases.

Furthermore, a fraternity’s reputation can be easily soiled by an unfortunate occurrence, making the members more cautious about social events. Phi Kappa Psi member Kevin Blake points out that “[parties] are a lot of work and responsibility, “ and “if something bad happens, it can be pinned on the house.” Although seemingly light-hearted, parties are not taken lightly by their hosts. Fraternities go to great lengths to throw a responsible party by designating sober monitors, keeping the alcohol separated from the rest of the party and surveying those who enter the house, said Kuhn, Karr and Blake.

Despite the cautions taken by houses to ensure a fun-but-safe time, certain party dangers are unavoidable. Kuhn recounted a friend’s fraternity experience involving dirty jello shots that would “mess you up.” At any party, pre-mixed drinks, punch bowls and jello shots are the easiest beverages to tamper with, and one should always watch their own drink at all times. At the University of Michigan, several students reported memory loss after spending an evening partying at a fraternity; some feared that they had been slipped the common date-rape drug Rohypnol commonly called “ruffies.” This is one of the hazards facing regular party-goers.

In addition to risky drinks, fraternity parties are a constant stop for a patrol unit, and a MIP can put a damper on your semester. Captian Kim Johnson of the East Lansing Police Department said that police tend to be a bit more leery about who’s drinking at private parties since they’re harder to control. At the average party stop, Johnson said that police can pick out guests who look under twenty-one and “the people who start dropping cups and running often draw some attention.”

According to the website for Michigan Legislature, a first offense is a misdemeanor worthy of a $100 fine and possible community service; a second offense can lead to jail time and/or a $200 fine. With a pile of bills for tuition, housing, and books, a lofty fine is the last thing a college-aged student needs.

Considering the popularity of fraternities among freshmen on campus, it appears that houses do not discourage under-aged drinking. Still, most fraternities post white sheets of paper near the entrance to the house stating, “Must be 21 or older to drink.” However, this eight by eleven sheet of paper can serve more as a front for police than a rule of the house.

Also, a fraternity house should not be mistaken for a fountain of free-flowing alcohol. Most frat parties are “bring your own beer,” or some require a $5 charge per cup. In order for minors to obtain alcohol, they often need to know a member of the fraternity or have a buyer who is twenty-one or older. However on a college campus, this is only a small obstacle.

At the end of the night, most minors on a college campus with the desire to drink will find a way. Fraternities have simply become one of the more accessible options for college freshmen, despite the potential dangers facing those who participate. So for those of you looking to spice up the first year of college, a fraternity will give you the bang for you buck and a kick to your cup. However, in order to avoid the dangerous mix of alcohol, the bathroom and eventually the floor, be smart and play it safe.

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