From Blue to Green

We’ve heard the familiar lyric, The touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives. This lyric has been heard throughout media outlets for years, but can now be thought of as something that changed and enriched lives. In this sense, Cotton is enriching the lives of a community in Louisiana.
Cotton is the fabric of our lives, literally, and is used daily whether we think about it or not– most likely not. Many cotton balls, swabs, cosmetic puffs, sheets, khakis and even denim are made from cotton. Yes, even denim is made of cotton.

The local chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is partnering with Cotton Incorporated to help bring Cotton: From Blue to Green©. To help bring cotton from blue (denim) to green (to help save the environment), Cotton’s Dirty Laundry Tour Denim Drop will come to Michigan State University’s campus on September 19 from 9-5 p.m. on Auditorium Field to collect as much denim as they can.

For each pair of jeans you give, they’ll give a $5 coupon off your next purchase of denim jeans at the Buckle stores. As a university, our goal is to collect at least 500 pairs of jeans from now until September 19. We are collecting old jeans, jean skirts, jean shirts, jean jackets and anything else made of the product. They can be holey, discolored, pink, orange, purple or green, as long as it is denim.

The Cotton’s Dirty Laundry Tour Denim Drop began in September of last year and has toured college campuses ever since. This year we are lucky enough to have them here. This Dirty Laundry Tour Denim Drop will be the next big thing to come to MSU’s campus since Chingy, and it’ll make you feel a lot better giving back to a community in need, rather than a rapper’s needs.

Cotton Inc. and Advance Baton Rouge, a company based out of Baton Rouge, La., aims to promote changes in public education. They have partnered together to build a new school for the children affected by Hurricane Katrina. How so? Since cotton is a natural, renewable and recyclable fiber, the jeans you donate will be turned into UltraTouch natural cotton fiber insulation by Bonded Logic. This insulation will then be used in the construction of a new school in Baton Rouge. In the same way cotton products keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, this insulation will do for this school.

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just passing by, take time to think about donating a pair of jeans to those who need your support. Your holey, discolored, stained jeans can now help someone else who needs your “favorite” pair better than your dusty closet.

The day-long event will be filled with many games and prizes, ranging from iPods to backpacks to hats to free music downloads.

From now until the September 19, the PRSSA committee team will be circling campus with flyers, donation boxes and even a guest appearance in one of your large lecture classrooms. Please donate your jeans!

Feel free to e-mail questions to me at mccrosk2@msu.edu or check out Cotton’s website for more information on the September 19th event at www.accesscotton.com.

Make the fabric of our lives the fabric of someone else’s community.

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The Om-what-man?

Your heart begins to beat faster as you click on StuInfo. Grades have finally been entered. You\’re pretty sure you did OK in your classes, but you\’re getting nervous nonetheless. You scan down the row of your college report card. 3.5, 3.0, another 3.5…2.0? You\’re shocked. You totally rocked that IAH class, so this makes no sense. You start to wonder if maybe the professor had something against you. You didn\’t skip class, did all the reading, did well on the exams…what\’s going on? Where do you go from here?
Let me introduce you to the university ombudsman.
[stan] “The om-what-man?” (The reaction I got from most students when I asked them if they knew about this person.)
The ombudsman. So now that we’ve got the name straightened out, what does it mean? John Skoutelas, marketing junior, said he was positive he’d heard of him but couldn’t think of what he did.
Like Skoutelas, many students don’t know about the ombudsman, but should. Why? Because he is there to help lead students in the right direction, especially when they are faced with academic or non-academic issues or concerns. The ombudsman helps to resolve student and professor problems and conflicts in a neutral, informal, and confidential manner. Stan Soffin is the fourth ombudsman of MSU and has been the ombudsman since 1999.
A history lesson
In 1967, MSU was the second college or university to establish such an office. “[MSU’s Office of the Ombudsman] is the longest continually running office,” Soffin said. In 1967, the Academic Freedom Report was formed out of a campus-wide controversy. A graduate student, who had dropped out of school for the spring term, distributed a four-page publication called Logos underneath residence dorm doors. The publication was about the demands the group Committee for Student Rights wanted then-President John Hannah and MSU to adopt. “To stop the distribution of Logos, President Hannah invoked a new regulation that required all such literature to be approved before being distributed,” Soffin said. “Logos had not been approved.”
This student wanted to return to MSU, but President Hannah blocked his admittance. The case went to court but before the appeal was heard, President Hannah decided to allow the student to come back to the university. President Hannah started a committee that wrote the Academic Freedom Report which states in Article 7, “The President shall appoint a senior faculty member with the title of Ombudsman. The Ombudsman shall respect the sensitive and confidential nature of the position and the privacy of all persons soliciting assistance from the Office of the Ombudsman, thereby protecting them against retribution.” And there you have it, the rest is, you guessed it – history.
One resource to remember
As Soffin said, the ombudsman is like a spare tire. “We are out of the mind and concern [of students] until you need it.” Many students don’t know about the ombudsman until they have an academic or non-academic (the two complaint categories) issue they need help with. “Most are academic,” Soffin said.
Soffin’s responsibilities are to listen to the issue or problem at hand, explain the student or professor their rights and responsibilities, review the university’s policies and regulations to the student or professor, suggest fair options, refer the student or professor to appropriate university resources, and/or to investigate the allegations, if necessary. The ombudsman will not investigate their allegations without the student or professor’s permission.
Sasha Khan, a journalism graduate student, said, “He’s not there to ‘solve’ your problems, he’s just simply ‘guides’ you [to] where and who to talk to.” Khan attended Arizona State University for her undergraduate education, but never knew of or talked to ASU’s ombudsman. The only reason Khan found out about MSU’s ombudsman was through someone she knew. “[I heard] from a friend of mine who’s a prof at ASU,” Khan said. “[He] told me to call him and tell him my complaint.”
Like Khan, most people hear about the guidance of the ombudsman through word of mouth. With approximately 43,000 students, it’s hard to get the word out about the help the ombudsman can provide, because of the changeover. “Every four years we get new students,” Soffin said.[door]
With the average college student spending only four active years on campus, it is hard to learn their rights as a student, unless faced with a specific problem. Khan thinks students don’t know their rights because of the length of the student handbook (which explains student’s rights in detail). “It’s lengthy, it’s tedious, and nobody ever reads it,” Khan said. “I think they should have a more simplified way. I’d like to have a brief list of my rights handed to me on the first day of the class with the syllabus. If the prof in class took a minute to say ‘listed on this page are your rights regarding this issue, this issue, this issue’ then yeah, I’d pay attention. I mean they go over the syllabus, why not our rights?”
Your rights
So what exactly are the rights you should be aware of?
1. The right to have a grievance trial in a case with an unfair professor.
As stated in Article 2.4.2, “If problems arise in the relationship between instructor and student, both should attempt to resolve them in informal, direct discussions. If the problem remains unresolved, then the chief administrator of the unit and/or the Ombudsman should be consulted. If still aggrieved, a student may then submit a formal, written grievance for consideration by an appropriate hearing board…”
Just don’t try lying to the ombudsman to get a grievance trial or to get a professor in trouble. He’s been doing this for long enough that he can tell when one is lying.
2. Professors have the obligation to distribute a course syllabus at the beginning of each semester.
This syllabus should include, at least: course objectives, contact information and office hours, grading scale and criteria, date of final exam, tentative dates of required assignments, quizzes, and tests, an attendance policy if different than the university policy, and required course materials (textbooks and supplies). If a professor does not supply a syllabus at the beginning of the year, visit the Ombudsman to take action.
3. Students have the right to view their student records and conduct.
Article 3.2.3 states, “A student shall have the right to inspect the official transcript of his or her own academic record and shall also have the right to inspect reports and evaluations of his or her conduct.” This means as a student, over the age of 18, you have a right to expect your personal information, such as your educational records, schedules, enrollment records, grades, or evaluations from professors. This information is kept confidential and will only be disclosed with your permission or as allowed by law. Any student can look through their folder whenever they have the need.
Skoutelas said he’d visit or consult the ombudsman if he had a concern that his friends hadn’t experienced before. “I think that students probably ask their peers or friends about what they should do if they have a problem,” he said. “But if I didn’t know anyone that fixed a similar situation than I’d go to him [the ombudsman] if I needed help.”
In her freshman year, Joanna Kagey, now a community services junior, had a Math 103 teaching assistant who didn\’t speak English very well. She had a 4.0 going into the final and received a 3.0 on the exam. When Kagey opened her StuInfo to find she had received a 3.0 in the class, she was very frustrated and upset. She immediately e-mailed him but never heard anything back. “I gave up and accepted the grade and still to this day am upset about it,” Kagey said. “I just took the easy way out and accepted it. I definitely would have went [to the ombudsman] if I had known. I was a freshman and didn’t know.” Kagey didn’t remember being given information regarding the ombudsman, but said it would’ve helped to know beforehand where to go if a situation like the one she was in occurred.
Like Kagey, many students just accept the grade without knowing someone could have given them advice. “If he could’ve given me help, my GPA would have been different, but it’s too late now,” Kagey said.
It’s not too late for you. If you receive a grade this semester that you weren’t expecting and have proof (i.e. old tests, assignments, papers, etc.) visit the ombudsman for advice on how to take action.
For questions with any academic or non-academic issue or concern, visit or call the Office of the Ombudsman. The office is located in 129 N. Kedzie Hall and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call (517) 353-8830.
It’s now even easier to receive direction from the ombudsman by visiting the Office of the Ombudsman webpage, http://www.msu.edu/unit/ombud/. You can fill out the problem form and within a day receive fair and equal guidance for the next possible action to take. There are also frequently asked questions located on the Web site for a quick reference.

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Springing Into Action

“Raise your hand if you were here four days ago,” a team captain of the New Orleans Common Ground Collective would ask volunteers every morning.
Very few people raised their hands.
Jeremy Moss, a journalism junior, traveled with a group of students from MSU Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, to New Orleans for spring break to help Hurricane Katrina victims. [houses]
“The turnover rate is so much that if the flow of volunteers stops, so will the recovery effort,” Moss said. “People need to go down there. Just because the media is not covering it, does not mean the recovery effort is going strongly. It looks exactly as I think it would have looked right after the storm hit. There are some areas that haven’t been touched at all.”
During MSU’s spring break, March 6-10, many students traveled throughout the country and the world to participate in community service opportunities. Since Hurricane Katrina touched down close to home six months ago, many student organizations at MSU planned extra trips to New Orleans.
Campus Crusade for Christ International, a Christian organization, partnered with Habitat for Humanity and organized a spring break option for college students across the country. A group of 115 MSU students planned on going to Pass Christian, Miss., before deciding to go to New Orleans.
Campus Crusade for Christ staff member A.M. said, “We actually found out that the place we were planning on going wasn’t able to hold us. We had to choose an area that we knew would be able to hold all of us and that would have enough work for all of us to do each day.”
Many of the areas affected by the hurricanes this season, like Pass Christian, are already starting to rebuild, while New Orleans is just beginning to clean up. “They are still in the very, very beginning stages, and we just hit the tip of the iceberg,” M. said. “Campus Crusade for Christ is trying to clear 2,000 homes by June. And the week that we left, maybe 145 [had] been cleaned out.”
When large-scale natural disasters occur, many look to others for help. Religion becomes a tool in helping people rebuild their lives, which is why religious organizations such as MSU Hillel and Campus Crusade for Christ took time to help New Orleans residents. Bringing prayer and love to these communities were just two ways volunteers chose to help.
“In the nature of being a faith-based organization, another thing we saw interacting with the residents, was those that had faith in God and that were religious,” M. said. “We found that’s really what they clung to. We were able to pray with a lot of the residents and talk to them about our faith in God. That not only was encouragement to them but to our students; [they] got to see what was really important in life, and seeing that material possessions could all be washed away in an instant. It took 10 minutes for this neighborhood to completely flood and they lost everything in 10 minutes.”
Julie Cremer, a zoology freshman, traveled with Campus Crusade for Christ to help clean up and rebuild communities. The group stayed at Camp Premiere, a few miles east of New Orleans. They worked with the local St. Bernard Parish. “I just wanted to have the experience in going down there and helping those people because they lost everything,” Cremer said. “I wanted to just be of service to those people for a week.”
MSU Hillel joined with the Common Ground Collective during their stay in New Orleans. Common Ground is an organization in the New Orleans area that provides short-term relief and long-term support in rebuilding communities affected by hurricane disasters. The organization was started about a week after Hurricane Katrina hit. Common Ground offers assistance, mutual aid and support within these communities.
“I don’t know what they have been doing for six months,” said Moss. “It’s people who volunteer their time that are doing most of the work. It seemed that everyone down there was a college student on spring break volunteering.”
The Common Ground Collective was expecting about 300 volunteers during the week.
The Campus Crusade for Christ group arranged teams of 10 students to go into homes and clean out everything visible, such as furniture, personal possessions, appliances and trash. “We would call the homeowner to tell them we were going to come and they were just so excited that we were coming,” M. said. “They had been on a waiting list waiting to have their homes cleaned out.”
It was not a small task; each house took approximately two days to clean out. After clearing out the houses, students gutted the inside by ripping out dry wall, sheet rock and carpeting. “[The homeowners] were really thankful,” M. said. “It was very emotional because some of them haven’t been back to their homes. Here we came in and were pulling out all of their memories. Some of these people were grandparents so they had three and four generations worth of things we were bringing out and a lot of them were in tears.”
Moss and his group worked on cleaning and gutting a middle school, Our Lady Star of the Sea, for the first part of the week. The middle school was full of black mold and asbestos, so Moss and his group knocked down walls and tried to decontaminate the building.
“We did whatever the supervisor of the place told us to do,” Moss said. “He was the handyman before the storm and the pastor of the church [which the middle school is affiliated with] called him up and told him to get back to work.” [walls]
The church “handyman,” Emmanuel, took the group on a tour of the lower ninth ward, which was where the levees broke. “You cannot imagine it being a neighborhood at one point,” Moss said. “[It was] endless, endless destruction. I said to [Emmanuel], this is surreal and he said, ‘No, no, this is very real.’”
The lower ninth ward is the easternmost downriver part of the city and was one of the last of the city’s neighborhoods to be developed. The lower ninth ward is made up of two neighborhoods, Holy Cross and the Lower Ninth. New Orleans is divided into 17 wards. In political situations the wards are divided into voting areas for elections.
[car] In the lower ninth ward, three houses blocked a through street six months after the storm. The houses were carried down the street during the flooding and were still in the middle of the road. “There are some places that cannot be saved,” Moss said. “There are just piles of rubble and they are still sitting there six months after Katrina hit.”
Six months after, homeowners are still reluctant to come back. The devastation of their homes and all those memories can be hard to come back to. “From what we heard, there are people who don’t want to come back and move on with their lives, people who want to come back get the stuff that they can and then move on with their lives, and then there are people who come back and stay in their houses,” said Moss.
People like Emmanuel – he’s been living in his house since Christmas.
On the last day of Moss’ trip, his group started to clean out a New Orleans woman’s home. She had been living in Houston and decided to return home. “We cleared out all the mess,” Moss said. “The whole house was the color of brown from the water and mold. It was sitting in water for pretty much a month after the storm.”
While removing debris from this home, Moss and his peers found the home owner’s dead dog still inside. Moss’ group managed to save one of her record collections, a 1960s table from Hong Kong and some photos. “She was standing on her front lawn looking at all the possessions that we could save, which were very few,” Moss said. “She was looking at her life on the front lawn of her destroyed house.”
Even though the clean-up effort in New Orleans is moving slowly, residents are very thankful for the time volunteers are donating to help clean up and restore the city. “Every time we went into the middle school and we finished work for the day, Emmanuel kept saying ‘thank you, thank you,’” Moss [group]said. “We were in our full bodysuits, our blue shirts, respirators, goggles, gloves – we looked like official workers. When we were outside taking out the trash, neighbors would wave at us and you could see them mouth ‘thank you’ to us. I really felt like we were making a difference.”
While gutting out one home, Cremer and her group discovered something amazing. “[One home owner] lost almost everything in her house,” she said. “She had this china cabinet full of her precious crystal and chinaware, and although her refrigerator got knocked over and was leaning on the floor, that china cabinet stayed up during the entire flood and she saved most of her valuables.”
It’s miracles like this that give New Orleans residents hope and students the courage to continue cleaning up. It gives the residents faith to continue on their long journey home. For many, small miracles like this are what keep their faith in a higher power strong.
Even though the groups endured some horrendous working conditions, like dealing with black mold, rats, cockroaches, snakes, mice, spiders and wearing heavy protective gear, they still managed to smile throughout the trip.
The experience of traveling to New Orleans to help those whose lives were flooded and stripped away from them within minutes gave students a reality check.
“I am a lot more thankful for what I have and just satisfied, but [we all need] to remember that your material possessions can get destroyed,” Cremer said. “It’s what’s inside of you, like the friendships you make, sharing with other people and the love you give to others is a lot more important than material possessions, and that is what stays with you.”
When looking at a disaster of such high magnitude, one might seek out a higher power and ask “Why?” in the hopes that it is all a part of God’s bigger plan. Just like after 9/11, faith and racial barriers were brought down and everyone became united as a nation. Volunteers from around the world are helping to restore the faith, hope and love of the New Orleans neighborhoods.
Campus Crusade for Christ has made a commitment to continue to help with relief efforts for as long as it is necessary. “We are sending groups down there this summer and we are also having staff that is going to be down there full-time,” M. said. “Seeing the devastation firsthand showed myself and a lot of students just how there is still so much need for volunteers and resources and that these people, their lives aren’t going to be back to normal for probably several years.”
Moss is also planning on traveling down there this summer. There is still a lot more that needs to be done before residents can even start to think about rebuilding their communities. [float]
The government isn’t sure if they are going to allow people to rebuild. If they do, new homes may need to be elevated to protect against flooding. Even though rebuilding is up in the air, there is still a vast need for volunteers for many months, maybe years, to come.
“This is America and America is here to help out your neighbor when they need it,” Moss said. “And the people of New Orleans still need it, and now, because it’s not the focus of the media attention, they especially need it, because now they aren’t being heard at all.”

If you want to help the people of New Orleans or for more more information visit www.CommonGroundRelief.org or Relief.CampusCrusadeForChrist.com/index.php.

Editors’ Note: “A. M.”‘s name was abbreviated for security reasons.

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Are Professors Teaching or Preaching?

Just walking into writing, rhetoric and American culture professor Phil Bellfy’s classroom on the first day could raise some eyebrows. “I tell my students on the first day of any class that I teach, that it is my responsibility to piss them off because if they are not challenged, they will not think, and I will not allow my students to walk out of my classroom without the assurance that they will think about everything I say for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of their life,” Bellfly said. [prof]
Political issues resonate in most classrooms on MSU’s campus and the professor’s ideas of teaching a subject could challenge their students\’ political views or could let them decide for themselves.
The recent controversy on UCLA’s campus, involving a Republican association planning to pay $100 to students, who taped their “radical” professors, sparked the already controversial topic of higher education professors being “too liberal” in the classrooms.
History junior Jeff Wiggins sat patiently in a U.S. Constitutional History course where his professor dedicated the first 15 minutes of class to how Dick Cheney intentionally shot his hunting partner while looking for quail. “He didn’t come out and say that, but that’s basically what the first 15 minutes were about in an hour and 15 minute class,” Wiggins said. “I mean you’re entitled to your political beliefs but to sit there and insinuate that the Vice President actually tried to shoot this guy purposely is ridiculous, and if you believe that you shouldn’t be preaching to a room full of sophomores and juniors.”
Although the professor may not have intentionally tried to push his view upon his students, Wiggins felt he was. Some might view this as being too radical or one-sided for the classroom.
When a student feels threatened by the political views of a professor, one might argue that the professor is stepping over the line. But, since politics can be an emotional issue for many, is it right for professors to express their own political beliefs to college-age students trying to figure out what they believe?
From a college student prospective, Wiggins believes professors should only teach what is in the curriculum of the course. “All the classes [at MSU] are supposed to teach how to interact in certain courses, the facts and what you need to be doing,” he said. “[Students] should take knowledge from the classes and use them to promote [their] views, whether they are liberal or conservative, it doesn’t really matter. This university needs to give the tools, not the views.”
Students think they come to college to learn and that professors should teach their students new ways of looking at all subject matters. Should that apply to political issues? Bellfly thinks so. “Almost all classes should contain all of the strong political views of the teacher, the only exception that I can think of is mathematics- it’s pretty hard to politicize 2+2=4,” Bellfy said. “By bringing politics into the classroom, the experience of the student can only be enhanced, for the simple reason that politics is an inherent component of every subject.”
But, what if the professor’s views are constantly one-sided? Can a professor’s view challenge the student’s idea of what he or she thinks in a way that is good for the learning environment?
International relations junior, Erin Fish, believes the political views of professors are already integrated into their curriculum and those beliefs only enhance the subject matter. “[Their views] are what shape how [the subject] is taught,” she said. “Sometimes the way a curriculum is shaped, it’s impossible not to at least have your political views shape or at least guide discussion. I don’t think professors should get up on the soap box and give their political rant outright, but I think that sometimes it helps provoke discussion.”
[prof2] Being an economics professor and James Madison College Dean, Lisa Cook would disagree with using her own political beliefs to challenge student’s political views in the classroom. Cook doesn’t express her political views in the classroom in order to create a safe place for her students. “I try to make sure that [my political beliefs] don’t [come out], in the sense that I would like to protect the environment in the classroom,” she said. Cook believes there is little room for the discussion of political issues since there is more of a need for math and problem sets in her classes, but when it is appropriate she encourages her students to express their opinions.
Academia is arguably dominated by lefty\’s across the country, but classroom discussions would never be beneficial if they were completely one-sided. Should professors include their political bias into classroom discussions?
Fred Fico, a journalism professor, believes it unnecessary for any professor to express one’s political beliefs unless politics is an important part of the class. “[A professor\’s] job is to do the mission, which is to teach the subject matter, it’s not to take digressions to talk about current events or [their] world views. I teach journalism and what’s important for me to do is to teach students how to cover politics not how to have political opinions themselves or express their own political opinions,” he said.
In his classes, Fico said it is unreasonable to discuss daily political issues. “I can’t see the context for why it would be a valuable use of class time,” he said. “You get a limited amount of time in a class and you really do during that time what gives the students value, and simply people spouting off isn’t likely to use that time well.”
But Fish disagrees. “These [professors] are professionals, and some of them are experts or scholars and know what they’re talking about,” Fish said. “Sometimes one just needs to sort out the bias. It’s just like if you were reading The New York Times vs. The Washington Post, one is at one end of the spectrum and the other at the other.”
On MSU’s campus, professors and students have varying views as to whether professors should express their political views. Our country is simply split on this issue as well. Of course the conservatives, liberals and moderates tend to disagree on many issues; classroom discussion of political issues is just another barrier to climb over.
Mairin MacDonald, a journalism sophomore, said it doesn’t matter whether a professor is conservative, liberal or moderate because their opinions shouldn’t influence what the students learn from their classes. “As a college professor, as a figure of authority in general, you are allowed to have political beliefs, you are allowed to express them, but when you start forcing them is when you need to draw the line,” she said. “Professors are a figure of authority and kids do look up to you and whether or not [professors] recognize it or not. [Students] take into consideration what professors say and their actions do affect them. As a professor you shouldn’t push your political beliefs on anyone else.”
The debate over whether professors are too liberal in the classroom will continue, but hopefully a conservative association on MSU’s campus doesn’t start paying students to sniff out and tape the people who teach us how to survive in the world.
“One of the most troubling trends in so-called higher-ed is the recent, and growing, attempt to silence anyone that the American Taliban thinks is too radical and is trying to brainwash their students into thinking that maybe the world really isn’t flat,” Bellfy said.
Besides, if we\’re already in college we should be able to defend our beliefs while shaping them further – no matter which side we\’re on.

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Friends Have Benefits

It\’s dorm move-in day your freshman year and you really hit it off with the person in the room next door (who you have so much in common with). You think, \”Wow. I bet we\’ll be friends forever.\” It\’s a nice thought, but is it likely?
The first two years of college are generally spent in the dorms surrounded by what become familiar faces. As junior and senior year approach, people move to different areas, groups split, new friendships are formed and some leave for an internship or to study abroad – all resulting in new circumstances for friendships to either thrive, or sometimes, to drift apart.
Here\’s a peek at the experiences of a handful of students (chances are you can relate to at least one), and the different ways people on campus make – and break – friendships.
First meet The Risk Taker. Last year while students were finding people to live with, investigating off-campus houses and apartments and signing leases, Michelle Cox, an art junior, was going through the drawn-out dorm resident mentor selection process. When her application was rejected February of her sophomore year, she quickly began searching for someone to live with, which is not an easy task so late in the semester.
Luck was not on her side when the woman she was supposed to rent an apartment with declined to sign the lease. Frantically, Cox asked many friends for advice. Some people pointed her in the direction of allMSU.com. “I found three to four houses that I could live in,” said Cox.
The first house she visited was the one Cox narrowed her search to and now lives in with three other roommates. “They are all from the same high school and I don’t feel like an outcast or anything,” she said. “We have a really good time.”
Cox had problems with past roommates partying till the wee hours of the morning and not communicating with her in the dorm. Luckily moving in with three complete strangers has worked out very well for her.
“I wasn’t set on the first people I met in college being people I stayed [friends] with for a long time,” said Cox. “Ever since the first day [of college] I knew that wasn’t going to work.” She came to this realization when she moved to Ann Arbor from Southern Indiana and didn’t stay in contact with friends. So when she came to MSU, she knew she wasn’t going to keep in touch with many of the friends she met along the way. “I’m fine to do things by myself and I like to explore things.” [butterfly]
Not everyone could have thrived in such a situation. Perhaps The Social Butterfly could have, yet he took a completely different route. When packaging junior Dennis Lapointe first came to MSU, he thought joining a fraternity would be the right direction for him to go. “I wanted to get socially interacted with everybody, experience different things and people, meet some girls and party.”
Lapointe looked at three different fraternity houses until he came across one that really sparked his interest. “They had a lot of social activities,” he said. “Busses to Canada, rented out clubs, had formal dances and one-on-ones with sororities.”
Lapointe experienced his freshman year of college in a very social manner, which was what he was looking for at the time. After a year of fraternizing, Lapointe decided he needed a change. With his grade point average well below his usual effort, something needed rearranging. “People in [the fraternity] had their own separate cliques,” he said. “It just got to be too much; too much drama, too expensive, too separated from people, and then I met a girl, so I didn’t really need the frat to help me meet girls.”
After letting go of the fraternity life, Lapointe thought, since he worked in the dorms, it would be easier for him to continue living there his sophomore and junior year. “I didn’t have to worry about bills, traveling to work, and it was convenient.”
Lapointe does not have a concrete group of friends. “I think you make friends in your classes,” he said. “But as the semesters change you tend to not talk to them unless you have the same major and all the same classes. I stayed friends with a couple people, but most of them I didn’t. Every time the semester changes I meet new people.”
[hfriends] Unlike Lapointe, The Group, composed of eight women that met their freshman year, have stuck together. For this group of students, living on the same floor with a bunch of new and friendly faces turned out to be the group of true friends education junior Kerianne Jo Sherwood thought she’d never have.
“When we first met we were all really scared and we didn’t know anyone, and I think that beginning bond where we just depended on each other was really good, and from that we all became close,” said Sherwood. “From that, for me, I realized I never really had a lot of true friends, and I think living in college and depending on yourself and your friends more than your family, you see who your true friends are.”
Sherwood became close friends with the eight girls (me being one of them) on her floor freshman year so much so they have lived together for the past three years. “I think we are very lucky in the sense that I don’t know of many people who have lived with the same people for three years that you’ve just met,” said Sherwood. “It is rare that you find true friends on the same floor. I think it is cool it happened in college.”
Sherwood considers her junior year one of the toughest years of their friendship so far. Three of the eight are not living together in the same house, but things have worked out. “I thought it would be a lot worse,” said Sherwood. “I still feel close to [the girls not living in the house]. It’s like we have two more houses. It’s worked out really well.”
Georgia Stamatopoulos, psychology junior, is also in this close group of friends and is one of the girls not living in the house. “I am happy with the fact that I don’t live in a house with all of my friends, because I like to come and visit and have my own time,” she said. “We were really lucky and had a really good connection on our floor. We didn’t want to separate from living together, but why would you want to separate a good thing?”
Lastly, The Graduate, is in a place that all undergraduates will likely be once they complete their four (five, or six) glorious college years. [grad]
Patrick Fay recently graduated from MSU and is now working hard to pursue his career, away from his college friends.
Fay was lucky enough to meet his close group of friends on the same floor freshman year as well. Now that the college years are over, the realization that they are growing up is sinking in.
“The ones I’m closest to I definitely keep in a lot of contact with,” said Fay. “We don’t see each other as much as we used to, but we still see each other at least once a month, maybe more.”
With two of his “boys” moving away from Michigan soon, the reality of seeing them once a year instead of once a month is starting to set in.
“It takes effort to keep friendship[s] going if you aren’t really seeing the people,” said Fay. “We are gonna try and organize something where we get together once a year, whether it is for homecoming or something.”

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Dry Humor

One word comes to mind when thinking of the white, easily erasable boards stuck to the wooden doors throughout campus dorms: RANDOM. You can always count on seeing haphazard doodling, phone numbers from hook-ups and pictures when walking down any dorm hallway. Then there are the occasional messages to friends, inside jokes and even amazing artwork. Campus is loaded with white boards of different shapes and sizes, with funky magnets and stolen markers. And you might not notice the artistic talent found carefully drawn upon many of the doors in residence halls, unless you were actually looking for them. In our case, we were looking and this is what we found:
[ishbu]Alexandra Bahou and her roommate Iva Basic write inside jokes on their boards. To a passing bystander the messages mean absolutely nothing, most would be completely lost reading their messages. The words “Good morning my sexy Ishbu,” is a good place to start. To the ladies at 273 Mason, there is a story behind the white board’s door.
“I hop in the shower and don’t really have time to dry my hair so I flip it over my head and tie a towel around it,” Bahou said. “My roomie makes fun of me cause she thinks I look like Ishbu, but she thinks I’m a dead sexy Ishbu, hence the white board message.” If you wanted to understand this message, I guess you’d have to Google what an Ishbu is or just walk into room 273 after Bahou gets home from tennis practice to see for yourself.
[christmas]At the end of fall semester, it was common to see exam schedules, snowflakes, Christmas trees or presents on boards. Kristen Winkel went all out with her white board in honor of the holidays. Usually the board has, “random messages telling people where we are,” she said. Winkel and her neighbors had a door decorating competition with a few other women on her floor. “None of us can draw so my neighbors helped,” Winkel said. Although Winkel’s board did not win, she still had fun with the competition.

[cow] Along with the random holiday messages and final exam schedules comes the occasional…cow? The girls at 134 Phillips Hall began this school year by stating a simple sentence on their white board. This sentence then grew into a continuing message and picture combo. “It started with ‘holy cow Corey look at the weather\’,” Corey Borisch said. Then the cow was drawn. “Now we change [the words] to any general announcement about school, weather, etc.” This fun white board keeps Phillips Hall on their toes wondering what the next cow will look like or say.

[monday] On Mondays during the semester you might find this saying on many of the white boards.

[huge] Now this is not something you see everyday: a life-size, homemade white board. Meghan Querro found white contact paper at the local Meijer and thought it would be fun to plaster her whole door with whiteness. When she first found the white contact paper she wanted to incorporate it into her room somehow but thought “what better place than the door?” So that is where the contact paper landed. The whole board is dry-erasable and she finds a lot of people enjoying the large amount of space to write messages on. “It’s pretty sweet,” Querro commented. “But I don’t leave markers out because people steal them.” If you want to leave Querro a message, sorry to say, you’ll have to bring your own marker.
There are also the creative (or broke) people on campus that make their own “white board” out of cardboard. Hey, it gets the job done.
[cardboard]

Alas, the white board provides our campus with a chuckle, a quizzical look while passing or even a creative outlet – and we\’ll keep our eyes peeled for what new lifeform they\’ll take on next.

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Resident Life

[house 4] Imagine walking your three children down the street to church on an ordinary Sunday morning, having to sidestep vomit, smashed beer bottles, dismantled lawn furniture and demolished light posts.
For “permanent” resident (a term used loosely for those that live in East Lansing longer than students) Nancy Schertzing, this is the worst part about living so close to college students. “Those are the things I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it has to be a part of the culture,” Schertzing said. “That’s not healthy behavior for them and it’s surely not healthy behavior for the people who have to come behind them and clean up their mess. I find it very distressing.” But on most Saturday and Sunday mornings, this is the reality of an East Lansing neighborhood.
Unlike most neighborhoods, for the area north of campus, students and permanent residents live in close proximity to one another, with permanent residents making up the minority on most streets. According the the 2000 U.S. Census, 68 percent of houses in East Lansing are renter-occupied, while only 32 percent are owner-occupied. The total population of the city of East Lansing is 46,525 people, of those 60.2 percent are between the ages of 15-24, which accounts for many of the students at MSU. Permanent residents often choose to live in East Lansing because of jobs connected to the university. There are 9,973 people who work in educational, health and social service occupations in the community.
Longtime resident Helen Draper moved to East Lansing in 1930. Her father was a professor of romance language at MSU. Draper has lived since then, raising her children in the same environment. She also taught at MSU for 12 years and is now a professor at Lansing Community College. She said she loves living in East Lansing because it is “comfortable and the only town I knows really well.”
[house2] For the most part East Lansing permanent residents said they get along with their student neighbors. “On both sides there is a relatively small number of students and non-students who choose not to get along with the other side,” said East Lansing resident Fred Bauries. “You can almost tell the people who are going to have trouble because of their attitude at the start.”
Schertzing and her husband enjoy their student neighbors and keep an open mind about them. Both attended MSU and remember what it’s like being a student. Every fall Schertzing hosts an annual cookout in her front yard to get to know her neighbors. She invites the whole street to participate. She said it is a way to “reach out to our neighbors and let them know that we are OK, that we are friendly, that we are respectful, that we care about them and that we are cool,” Shertzing said with a giggle. She moved to Kedzie Street right after the riots of 1999.
Out of the riots came the Community Relations Coalition. No one understood why students acted outwardly, and the CRC believed it was because there was no relationship between students and permanent residents. It was the first step between university and city officials in recognizing there were problems between permanent residents coexisting with students. “This was the first time city and university officials sat down at the same table and asked, what can we do?” said Ellen Sulka, vice president of the CRC.
The CRC’s motto “We all live here” reinforces that everyone living within the neighborhood has a role in respecting everyone who lives there. “That’s what we are about – talking to people and finding out what is happening, how [residents] are feeling and what can be done that both sides agree on,” said Sulka.
The “keystone” to the CRC is the interns. They are called Neighborhood Resource Coordinators and are students living in highly mixed (students and permanent residents) neighborhoods. NRCs are assigned to different areas of a neighborhood to create a better understanding of one another. The NRC program is open to everyone, but only the most interested and highly qualified are selected. “It is their responsibility to try and get information back from the community,” said Sulka. “They try to create micro-level relationships between neighbors.”
[house 5] Despite the CRC’s efforts there are still ongoing complaints from residents about their student neighbors. The complaints Draper, who is the only householder on Hillcrest Drive, has are with people parking in her driveway. “One time I called the police because [the people] broke the rules.” Draper has also had her car vomited on, loud noises in the early morning and broken glass along sidewalks and driveway.
Schertzing has lived in East Lansing for six years and has only once felt violated. This summer she woke up around 2 a.m. to a booming crash, only to find someone had broken out the rear window of her husband’s car and the side window of their van. “We didn’t feel threatened, but we felt violated in a way,” she said. “We have no idea who the person was and we’re not assuming it was one of our neighbors.” Schertzing lives in the Bailey Neighboorhood, which is from Harrison to Hagadorn and Grand River to Burcham. Bauries is a co-chair as well as a landlord in the Avondale Neighborhood, a smaller neighborhood within Bailey, from Hagadorn to Gunson and Burcham to Beech. This area is about two-thirds student housing and one-third permanent resident housing.
In other neighborhoods there are fewer complaints. “We don’t hear too many complaints, people seem to be able to work out their differences over the fence or at the front door,” Bauries said.
The CRC distributes information packets across the neighborhoods during welcome week every year. Inside the folder is a lot of useful information about the neighborhood and many useful facts about recycling and trash pick-up day, noise ordinance laws, etc. This year the CRC distributed close to 3,000 welcome folders in the highly student-populated areas.
“When students move into the neighborhoods they really don’t understand a lot of what they are moving into,” said Sulka. “[Students] think it’s a lot like the dorms. They don’t know when recycling day is, or people hear about the partying noise ordinance, but don’t know what it is. We break up myths about what is actually happening and get people as much information as possible. We encourage [students] to be aware of where they are living and to act appropriately.”
Bauries thought the information in this year’s welcome folder was a lot more useful than previous years. “I complimented [the CRC] this year on the contents of their neighborhood folders, because instead of having a bunch of coupons they had a lot of useful information,” Bauries said. “The information this year was really solid.”
But the CRC may need to think of a more effective way to disseminate this information. Although residents feel this year’s folder contained more information than previous years, students are still not reading the material. Communication senior Dave Novara said he “skimmed [the folder] and threw it away.” He said he has no problem meeting his neighbors but wonders if permanent residents understand where students are coming from.
Some residents, like Draper and Schertzing, try to understand and remember what it was like being a college student. Draper said students should have some fun, but also wonders why kids have to go to the bars so many nights a week. “I’m not faulting young people’s values but it never would have happened in my days,” she said. Draper said she chooses to live in East Lansing because she enjoys watching the young people coming and going. “They are excited about life,” she said.
In spite of how it seems, most permanent residents enjoy living around campus. Bauries has lived in East Lansing since 1967 in the same home with his family. He enjoys living here and likes interacting with students. “Some of us have been here a long time and we remain here not because we have to, but because we like where we are.” When Sulka was an NRC she found her neighbors liked living around students. “They like the activity, the urban atmosphere and being close to things that are going on.”
Students tend to start their days later and end their nights quite a bit after permanent residents go to bed. Often students are unaware of the lifestyle differences of their neighbors, which causes tension between them. Unlike the dorms, where students are surrounded only by students, neighborhoods are mixed with students and permanent residents and it takes time to get used to. Problems most often occur when students and permanent residents do not introduce themselves and talk out their issues. “Once you start talking to people, [students] begin to understand,” Sulka said. “I think it’s an awareness and lifestyle issue.”
Sulka also believes the CRC is becoming more widely known throughout campus. “The process is slow, but learning about each other and forming that partnership between the city and university of recognizing that you need each other, this first step has played a critical role and has already been done,” Sulka said.
To help facilitate the partnership, the city has organized Meet Your Neighbor Day, which is Nov. 13. This day was approved by the city to help ease some of the ongoing tension between students and permanent residents. As for the CRC, while their work is headed in the right direction, they only have seven NRC’s and none of them cover the large area from Abbot Road to Collingwood Drive. The NRC’s are also lacking in diversity, which may have something to do with why they do not reach as large of a student populace as they would like to.
While students and residents have made strides living alongside each other, with and without the help of the CRC, some residents still believe riots could happen in the future. Every year, a new population of young adults moves on to campus. “If more people really try to be aware of how easy it is to tip the balance one way or the other that I think we don’t have to have large-scale celebrations turning into a riot situation,” Schertzing offered. She also believes East Lansing and MSU have taken measures to make sure riots like 1999’s do not get out of hand.
“I don’t think there is a reason for us to be physically scared, but I think that constant education and passing on of institution knowledge and awareness are key in making sure we don’t have another situation like the one we did in 1999,” she said.
It’s 2005, years from 1999, and the other side of the fence shouldn’t seem so far away. So, if you’re on the front porch and a permanent resident is walking their children by your house, introduce yourself. They were students once, too.

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One London Morning

It was a rainy, muggy summer morning, and my paper was due in a few hours. I walked alongside the River Liffey in downtown Dublin to the cheapest Internet café I could find. As I began to write, my thoughts drifted away into a bubble of despair and heartache. Just a few moments before, there was a bombing in London, and I could not disengage my eyes from the computer screen as I read the same words over and over.[heidi]
I was only 292 miles away from London and the friends I knew were in the midst of the tragedy.
“I had a heavy heart knowing it could’ve been any one of us, since we were so close to Russell Square,” said Sasha Khan, journalism graduate student, who studied abroad on the same program as I in the British Isles. “Then I was worried about the students staying at the University of London dorms, which are so close to where the bus blew up.”
Dietetics junior Elizabeth Ames was also in London studying history, arts and humanities and had arrived only a couple days before the attacks. Ames’ class was located near Tavistock Square, where the bus blew up and 13 people were killed. “That morning I walked to class by myself,” said Ames. “I saw people milling around and the streets were being blocked off. I kept hearing more and more sirens and helicopters.”
Her professor dismissed class early, but she couldn’t get back because of street closures. Ames met up with classmates and walked to another dorm, where they watched the events unfold on television. Ames tried calling home, but all phone lines were busy.
She had no idea what was happening and why people were aimlessly wandering the streets. “I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know if people were OK and I didn’t really know anyone [in her group]. We had just gotten there,” said Ames.
Other people in Ames’ group were close enough to hear an explosion and feel their building shake.
After watching the same scene on television for an hour, Ames and several other students tried to leave. The roads to get back were completely closed off and it began to rain. They quickly ran into a pub called The Swan to eat lunch, watch television and try to contact their parents. “The bartender let me use the pub phone to call home,” said Ames. “But I couldn’t get through.”
Ames said the media were taking pictures and talking to people outside Russell Square station all day. “We could see from our window,” she said. “A person covered in blackness walked by.” Watching someone who was in the underground when a bomb exploded, walking by covered in subway soot, made the situation more real.
Rachel Shapiro, communications junior, studied mass media in London. Her program was ending when the attacks hit close to where she was staying. The Mass Media in the U.K. program stayed at University of London’s Nutford House, which was down the street and around the corner from the Edgware Road station, where six people were killed.
“Many students were crying,” said Shapiro. “People took [the situation] differently. I thought it was unfortunate, but I wasn’t going to panic. I was empathetic.” Shapiro said she was interested in what was happening. “Being there [in person] and experiencing it is completely different than seeing [the situation] on the news.”[2]
A few hours had passed after I read the first statement about the bombings, when I heard through a friend of a friend that everyone in the MSU History, Arts and Humanities group were accounted for and safe. It was a joyous moment in the hours of silence.
Once the rain let up, Ames and her fellow students headed back to their dorm. They ran into another group of students who were sent out to look for them. The group Ames was with was the last group of MSU students to be found. All students carefully made their way back to International Hall to sign in, sit and wait.
Ames had trouble getting in touch with her family all day. Her calling card wouldn’t cooperate, phone lines were busy and even calling collect wouldn’t work. When she placed her credit card into the phone, her thoughts of getting in touch with her parents finally came true. “The second [my dad] picked up I started bawling,” said Ames.
Barbara Ames, Elizabeth’s mother, said she was more upset after talking to Elizabeth on the phone. “After talking to [Elizabeth], I actually was more upset because I learned how close she was to the explosions,” she said. “I prayed a lot and I wished she was not there with the violence, but did not necessarily think she should come home.”
No programs were cancelled, but there was talk of sending students home. Office of Study Abroad Health and Safety Team member Julie Friend said, “[Sending students home] was a big rumor.”
The MSU Crisis Management Team, which consisted of Friend and the director and assistant director of study abroad, met at MSU at 6:15 a.m. to go over the situation and answer phone calls coming in when the bombing occurred. They were instructed to update President Lou Anna K. Simon every 20 minutes. But the OSA did not contact parents of students studying abroad in London. “It is MSU’s policy,” said Friend. “Students are treated as an adult in the community, and there are particular rules we have to follow under FERPA (the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act).”
After the July 7 attacks, six MSU students decided to go home. “We refunded them as much [money] as we could that wasn’t spent,” said Friend. Four students decided to withdraw from programs that were about to leave and those students were refunded all their money except the $300 deposit fee.
In the days following, tributes of flowers, signs and fliers were everywhere at Russell Square, Aldgate and Edgware Road stations and also on light posts throughout the city. “There were missing person signs everywhere,” Ames said. “At Tavistock Place there was this church whose stairs were completely covered with flowers.”
Exactly two weeks after the July 7 blasts, there were four attempted bombings, but none of the devices exploded. “I wasn’t worried the first time, but after the second bombing I was scared [to ride the underground],” said Ames. The Russell Square station opened the last week Ames’ study abroad group was in London.
Barbara Ames said meeting Elizabeth at the airport on her arrival was especially poignant. “Our older daughter was studying abroad in South Africa and I had initially been more worried about her safety,” Barbara said. “I guess this just means we have to be careful and prepared wherever we are.”
“Now I can say I was there that day, down the street from that bus,” said Ames.
The Reporting in the British Isles group left London exactly a week prior to the day of the bombings. The thought of being at Russell Square station and riding the underground every day kept plaguing my mind.
According to the Office of Study Abroad, 467 MSU students participated in study abroad programs this summer in the United Kingdom, with most of the students residing in London. According to Friend, there were 324 students in London on July 7. Since the students’ return to MSU, OSA has held two “Welcome Back” student receptions for those who studied in London this summer. Only 18 students attended, but some suggestions were made to improve emergency procedures.
As Americans, we all remember where we were when the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. Those who visited New York City before see the day in a completely different way. The scenes on television are much more vivid and real.
For me, this summer was the most amazing experience of my life, and I would not trade the experience or lessons I learned outside the classroom for anything. I can’t help but think how fortunate MSU students were, not to have been traveling on the underground or buses that summer morning. I still get goosebumps as I stare at the faces and obituaries of 52 innocent bystanders who were going through their normal routines on a typical London morning.

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Homeward Bound

For graduating MSU seniors, this time of year is all about the upcoming commencement ceremony, job searches and spending precious moments with friends they may never see again.
But graduation can also bring some students the realization that they must move back in with their parents, even those who swore they’d never be “one of those” adults living with mom and pop following graduation.
Some students are fortunate enough to have jobs lined up for next year, such as education senior Joe Becker, who will begin his student teaching in the fall. “I’m happy to start teaching, but sad to be leaving college,” Becker said. “With student teaching, I don’t get paid, so I was forced into [moving back home].” The hardest part about moving back home for Becker will be adjusting from his school schedule to a full-time job schedule. “It will be hard getting up early,” he said.
It isn’t a surprise that the transition from college to home can be a difficult adjustment for students, especially those who have thrived off the independence that college life provides. “It’s easy to chafe at having to live with your parents’ rules and expectations after having more freedom at college,” Christine Larson, assistant psychology professor, said. “It’s good to move home and be realistic about what your parents’ expectations might be and understand their right to have such expectations.”
Students who have an open relationship with their parents and can talk about their expectations will have an easier time re-adjusting to the house rules. Becker has a good relationship with his parents, so he doesn’t think it will be hard to live at home. “I will probably be going to bed at the same time [they will] and be very busy, so there won’t be many problems,” he said.
Other graduates are making an effort to avoid living with their parents. “I will not be moving back home if I can help it,” social relations senior Amy Dripchak said. “I really want to stay in East Lansing, and I know it will be better for me if I do.”
Students who have lived on their own for four or five years without returning home for the summer months will likely experience the biggest change. “Going home after growing apart from my parents for so long would be pure outrage,” Dripchak said. “I can’t deal with [my parents’ questions] after living [at MSU] and talking to them no more than once a week.”
Once college-bound kids move out of the house for the first time, many things change. Students living at college are pretty much free to do what they want. No one is there to turn off the TV when you should be reading or studying. No one is there to wake you up for class. However, parents, too, can get used to having one less son or daughter around the house.
Moving back for many students could involve a feeling of letting their parents down and being treated like a child under parental control. “After [students] live on their own for several years, they feel like some of their hard won independence and adulthood has been sapped once they move back home, which is associated with childhood and being dependent on your parents,” Larson said.
Even if it may seem unbearable, there are benefits to living at home. While a few parents might charge rent, most do not require money towards room and board, food, laundry – all the things we pay for in college. Becker is looking forward to moving home as a chance to rebuild his savings.
Graduates who have jobs lined up right out of college should consider themselves lucky. The job market is still sparse and many seniors will be moving back home with mom and dad with no job at all. “Students sometimes feel like failures when they move home without a job because their expectations during college were that they’d get a job as soon as they were done,” Larson said. “And it’s not always that easy, particularly if you don’t have experience.”
Larson said it is easy to get down on yourself if you’re stuck with not only less independence, but also a few rejection letters from prospective employers. “It’s easy to start wondering if you’ll ever get a job.”
Students who do not yet have a job should not give up on the search. “It’s good to remember that this is a temporary situation and the best way to find other options is to keep hitting the pavement and creating opportunities for yourself,” Larson said. She also suggested seniors should continue to “plow through the frustration and, even if it’s zapping your motivation, keep on applying.”
Hopefully, graduating seniors can look for the good in their new surroundings, even if it’s living with their parents again. The time under one roof could allow for some serious family bonding; or all of the family-time will get you out even sooner.

The Big Green wishes all May 2005 graduates the best of luck.

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Eastern Easter

Not all Christians took part in egg hunts or salivated over savory ham dinners last Sunday, when our Western calendars proclaimed the day to be Easter. Sure, the dorms and area businesses may have shut down for the weekend, but for the Eastern Orthodox religion, Easter is still a month away.
For both Western and Eastern Christians, Easter is the celebration of life over death. It is dedicated to the life of Christ, who, according to the Bible, sacrificed his life for the sins of the world. President of Orthodox Christian Fellowship Charlie Pizanis said, “This is truly a time of joy and fun.”
Many different countries practice the Eastern Orthodox religion, mostly in Eastern Europe, including Romania, Russia, Siberia, Bulgaria, Finland and Greece. It is also practiced in parts of the Middle East, Egypt, Armenia, Africa and Ethiopia. “Eastern Orthodox is the second largest Christian denomination,” Greek international relations and Russian senior Greg Stamatopoulos said.
In the Eastern Orthodox religion, Easter is the most important religious festival. “It is the biggest holiday of the year because it is the foundation of Christianity – the day Christ resurrected,” Greek psychology sophomore Georgia Stamatopoulos said. She said she enjoys Easter because it brings families together.
Fr. Mark Sietsema of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lansing said, “We prefer to call Easter by its Greek name, Pascha (PAH-skah). This comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew word, Pesach, meaning Passover. Pascha is the Christian Passover.”
Easter begins with a 40-day fast, meant to clear the body and the mind for the upcoming year.
The Eastern Orthodox Lenten celebration began on March 14, which is referred to as “Clean Monday” and lasts until May 1, when Easter is celebrated. “The period leading up to Pascha is a serious time of prayer and reflection for Orthodox Christians,” Pizanis said.
During the fast, one week is usually chosen for complete fasting and during that time only natural foods are eaten. “We can’t have oil, meat or dairy,” Greg said.
“We only eat things that come out of the ground, but we can eat fish,” Macedonian human biology junior Kristifor Andjelkovski said. Some Eastern Orthodox families decide to fast for the first week of lent, the last week of lent or for the full 40 days.
In Macedonia, “on Wednesdays and Fridays during the 40 days, we only drink water,” Andjelkovski said.
The Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar to calculate Easter, while the Western Christian churches use the Gregorian calendar. The difference between the dates for Western and Eastern Easters are based on a different way of calculating the vernal equinox and the length of the year. “As far as Pascha goes, all Orthodox Churches throughout the world follow the older method of calculating this date,” Pizanis said.
Western and Eastern Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21). But, for Eastern Christians on the Orthodox calendar, March 21 doesn’t come until the Western calendar says April 3. “Easter can never fall before the Jewish Passover, as it does this year for the Catholics and Protestants,” Sietsema said.
The Greek Orthodox religion has a Lenten penance and fasting, and it participates in activities such as eating, decorating and hunting for eggs. Orthodox faiths dye Easter eggs red to “represent the world and humanity; the red is the blood that Christ shed,” Greg Stamatopoulos said.
Along with dyeing eggs, many families play a friendly competitive game with the eggs. “People are given hard-boiled eggs, dyed red, which are used in a sort of playful competition: one person hits the sharp end of the egg over the blunt end of someone else’s egg, while saying, ‘Christ is risen!’” Pizanis said.
Most of the Orthodox Christian Churches have similar traditions. Pizanis said differences among the churches involve the types of food offered, which reflect the different ethnicities within Orthodox Christianity. “Most of what we do, and what we believe is the same throughout Orthodox Christianity,” Pizanis said.
Greg explained some Eastern Orthodox Christians say “Christ is risen” in their native language as they pass someone on the street, and the person responds by saying, “Yes, he truly has risen.”
He also said that on Good Friday, some Orthodox religions walk around the church three times with candles saying prayers.
Food is a major part of the holiday season for many. For the Easter meal, Pizanis said his family eats only lamb. “The lamb symbolizes Christ, who we believe [is] the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world.”

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