Full Disclosure

As a nation built on principles of democracy, we constantly place people in various positions of power through wide election processes. The perceived “best” candidate is chosen from the field, and we place our demands and needs on his or her shoulders. Our elected leaders are responsible for contributing to the growth of their region of control and to the welfare of its citizens.
But sometimes our choices fall short of these ideals, and we’re left wondering what happened. Did we follow the wrong instincts? Fall for some cheesy one-liners that couldn’t be fulfilled? When the mistakes of politicians are exposed, the constituency is stunned, but also quite curious. We wonder how the mind behind dishonest actions managed to stay off our radars in time to earn a coveted leadership spot. How could we be so naïve? When transgressions are made public after the fact, we often feel betrayed. So if a politician decides to skip the surprise and reveal errors in judgment right up front, should we feel relieved, or question the character of this leader? The actions of the new governor of New York, David A. Paterson, are forcing us to think about this in relevance to our own government officials.
It seems appropriate that in this highly sexualized culture, many of the mistakes made by government leaders fall outside a PG realm. It also seems appropriate the mass media would eat these stories right up. Former President Bill Clinton’s Oval Office encounter caused a national uproar and put his presidential status in jeopardy. Larry Craig gave up his Senate position after an arrest in a Minnesota airport for attempting to initiate lewd contact with an undercover police officer. The former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, resigned once his involvement in a prostitution ring was publicized after a federal wiretap investigation. But Paterson came right out and said it, acknowledging past incidents of infidelity in his marriage, only one day after being sworn into office.
We expect the chosen men and women to be trustworthy, transparent and honest while in office. It is generally thought these characteristics existed before an official is put into power. But in a society obsessed with exposure and scandal, transgressions of those in government, while in office or beforehand, are brought to light more easily. Some politicians see their downfalls when these mistakes are publicized, and in the wake of this, others, like Paterson, are choosing a route of disclosure. Dishonesty while in office is one thing, but happenings prior to election are another matter. How much do we really want to know? Was Paterson’s approach the best idea?
In a New York Times article, Paterson reassured the citizens of New York that his fidelity in recent years should not be questioned, and that he and his wife had taken steps to restore their marital relationship. He came clean so he could be honest with the public, but also to avoid later exposure and consequences while in office. Paterson made this announcement in the aftermath of the Spitzer scandal, not in the wake of any personal accusations against him. In one of his very first actions as governor, Paterson chose to head off any dedicated media hawk and be the one to expose his personal mistakes.
The rumor mill won’t be energized with the news of Paterson’s previous liaisons because he’s already told the truth. Although his honesty can be appreciated, the motivations behind infidelity call a person’s overall character into question. Sexual transgressions can fall on the public’s ears in several ways. Criticism can be passed down quickly, as the public hardens to any pleas for forgiveness. On the other hand, sympathy can be evoked for a moment of weakness, because we all know how that feels. Everybody makes mistakes, right?
But should politicians be allowed to fall down to the same standards of “everybody?” Isn’t their exceptional character supposedly what got them into office in the first place? Will the added responsibilities of his new governmental post prevent Paterson from going down the same road? If Paterson cheated on his wife once, he can certainly do it again. The public can be appreciative of the transparency, or alarmed at the existence of character flaws in a new leader. Beating gossip mongers to the punch is certainly better than a public scandal, but are the internal questions about character worth it?

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Contact Us!

At The Big Green, we strive to put together comprehensive, well-written feature stories that spark interest, create debate or just make our readers stop and think about a topic in a slightly different manner and perspective. Our readers are the major vehicle of our magazine’s existence, and the editors want to hear your thoughts. If you need a clarification, have an objection or just find something that tickles your fancy, we want to hear about it. Here are the contact addresses for the 2007-2008 editorial staff…e-mail away!

Jessica Sipperley, Editor in Chief
sipperl1@msu.edu
Cara Binder, Managing Editor
State Side, Arts & Culture
binderca@msu.edu
Kim Bale, Managing Editor
Global View, Sex & Health
balekimb@msu.edu
Trisha Poling, State Side Section Editor
polingtr@msu.edu
Katie Sulau, Global View Section Editor
sulaukat@msu.edu
Nicole Nguyen, Arts & Culture Section Editor
nguyenni@msu.edu
Lexi Biasell, Sex & Health Section Editor
biasella@msu.edu
Megan Sistachs, Photo Editor
sistachs@msu.edu

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Television Turmoil

In an environment that often proves to be unpredictable, college students come to regard their favorite television shows with a feeling of familiarity and pleasantness. A television show can be an escape from the hectic nature of college life – a chance for us to get involved in the fictitious lives of others and embroil ourselves in their drama and scandal. We can take a 30-minute laughter break or catch an hour-long drama to find out who the real killers are, and then get back to studying. The lifeblood of these shows is often thought of as the actors, but without the writers, these actors wouldn’t have anything to say. And with the recent writers strike, this is exactly what has happened.
A large portion of writers for many popular television shows belong to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and the guild recently went on strike, for the first time in 74 years. On Nov. 5, more than 3,000 members from the West chapter alone refused to go to work, along with many members of the East chapter, stemming from the rejection of negotiations from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A major reason for the strike is the transition of shows from television to the Internet, and the relatively new downloading and video streaming capabilities. This allows people to watch their favorite shows at their leisure, at their own computers, but the writers receive no recognition or reward for the replaying of their work under the most recent contract. When the contract expired in October, without any action, the WGA members removed themselves from the cycle of television production, and the process ground to a halt for several well-known shows. [strike1]
As college students, we are no strangers to the advancement of the Internet and its seemingly essential nature. We use it to communicate, to check the news, to see the high temperature of the day. Statistics and blogs are available at the click of a button, some classes require Internet access and communication via the ANGEL network, and we’ve got to be able to log on to see the most popular YouTube clip of the day. It comes as no surprise the television industry has fully committed to the World Wide Web bandwagon. I relish the ability to download episodes at my will; this arrangement frees viewers from the constraints of having to sit down and see a show at a certain time. If you’re busy or unavailable, no matter; just download and watch at your leisure. This seems like an ideal system, but it is one that fails to recognize the writers, clearly one of the major contributors to the entire television process.
A major root of the strike is the desire of writers to get paid when their specific shows are downloaded and viewed via the Web. This may be seen as selfish by some, but it is a necessary piece of recognition, due to the crucial role played by the writers in the process of TV. According to an MSNBC.com article, the strike also could stem from residual negativity over the Alliance’s failure to give the WGA writers significant profits from DVD and iTunes sales. Being excluded from additional profit-making opportunities is undoubtedly frustrating, and the writers are taking action in the way they feel is best: displaying how necessary they are to television production. The most recent negotiations have pitted the WGA and the Alliance against each other even more. The writers want increased money from DVD sales, as well as a share of profit generated from the streaming episodes of their shows over the Internet (typically viewed for free by the public), and the Alliance has refused to meet the writers on these demands. Without quality writers, many television shows would not remain afloat, and the current strike conditions can attest to this.
While some may accuse the writers of being money-hungry, additional demands from acting talent often wouldn’t receive a second glance. The salaries of popular actors do not compare to the salaries of the writers, and yet without the writers, the show often does not go on. The actors still remain recognizable and desirable in the industry, but without fresh episodes, their reputations can become stale. The implications of the strike for many popular shows may not become evident until February, when the supply of episodes written ahead of time becomes depleted, and viewers and critics start buzzing about fall’s new pilot episodes and series. It is at this time when the value of the writers will become most apparent, and those involved with television production will truly appreciate how integral a lively, witty and smart script is to the success of a show. [strike2]
If new scripts are not being written, networks will eventually be scrambling to fill their prime-time voids with repeats, specials or an influx of reality programming. For those students with faithful followings of certain programs, these substitutes certainly will not suffice. Many of us depend on our fix of our favorite shows, and we sometimes satisfy these cravings by viewing episodes on the Internet. But if the writers are not compensated appropriately for the reproduction of their work, there won’t be new episodes for TV or the Internet. If the demands of WGA members are not met soon, even the Internet, the savior for so many other aspects of daily life, cannot revitalize the television industry.

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State of Unrest

Pulling a sweatshirt over her head, she attempts a few half-hearted brush strokes through her hair before yanking it back into a ponytail, throwing her books into her bag and walking out the door for class. A cram session the night before put her in bed around 2:30 a.m., but an 8 a.m. lecture brings her right back into the inescapable world of academics. She has a hot caffeinated beverage for breakfast, justifying her choice with the knowledge of the extra boost that will put her through the end of her lecture. As her professor speaks and she distractedly takes notes, she stifles her yawns and tells herself, I’ll make up for this tonight. I’ll get my work done and go to sleep at a decent hour. I can’t stand being this tired all the time. But classes, on top of group meetings and a shift at work, land her in the library at night, once again, tipping back a can of energy drink in between clicks on the keyboard.[grumpy]
Many students make similar promises to themselves each day, vowing to conquer those procrastination demons, get studying done during the day or resist the lure of online games or late-night television in favor of some more shut-eye. Others insist that as long as they make it through Friday on an all-too-short sleep schedule, Saturday and Sunday mornings can be used to catch up. But even the best-laid plans go astray, and promises to adapt a more healthy sleep schedule are frequently broken. Most college students are used to a hectic schedule that does not allow for consistency in the sleep spectrum, but being tired can be irritating, distracting and counterproductive. If a lack of sleep comes with so many negative consequences, why do the sleep banks of many students remain deprived?
According to the Health Education Department at Brown University, eight hours of sleep per night is ideal, but this depends on the individual’s needs and the sleep quality. According to a 2001 study by the university, 11 percent of student respondents reported good quality of sleep. Spending eight hours tossing and turning is less beneficial than fewer hours of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the highest quality sleep stage. This leaves a significant percentage of students who either don’t get enough sleep or never drift into REM sleep, a trend that likely applies to colleges across the country.
Shifts in sleep habits can be the result of a sporadic class and work schedule; students’ daily patterns probably differ from the block-like set of events typical in the working world. Instead of staying in one location for eight hours, classes are spread apart and gaps of time are filled in with work, studying or other activities. This hectic atmosphere can be a catalyst for an irregular sleep schedule. Depending on her homework load, history sophomore Amanda Dunlap prefers to nap to make up for her sleep deficit, and thinks it is considered more normal for college students to have strange sleep schedules, as opposed to full-time employees. “[Our] schedules are different from a 9-to-5 job,” said Dunlap. “Classes start at different times every day.” [sleep3]
Second-year graduate student Lia Field said her sleep schedule differs based on what she has to accomplish, but she prefers drinking coffee to taking naps as a way to stave off yawns during the day. The unstructured college lifestyle allows students to create their own sleep schedules, but these schedules can often change from day to day, she said. “I try to keep it normal, but as a graduate student, you have to make good use of all your available hours, even those that would be spent sleeping,” said Field, who is studying clinical psychology.
In between classes and studying, it is clear many of students’ waking hours revolve around academic performance; this has been a trend from the start of college. Professors encourage a high caliber of work, parents harp on their children to earn high marks and employers look at grade point averages (GPAs) to determine if a student will fit in at their companies. Research runs rampant with factors that supposedly correlate with the grades of a student – diet, amount of extra-curricular activities – and sleep has been added to this list of influences on academic performance in university students.[meadow]
A study by Brandon Peters and his colleagues (2005) measured the scores of 231 undergraduate students from the western United States (mean average age of 19 years) on the Consideration of Future Consequences scale. This measurement tool is used to assess how much the ideas of future implications can impact an individual’s decision-making process. The researchers found higher scale scores were linked to sleep regularity, fewer instances of oversleeping and higher GPAs. In other words, the students with greater “consideration of future consequences” were more likely to have consistent sleep patterns, which then related to higher grades. It may come as frustrating news to many students that irregular sleep schedules, often formed around academic demands, may actually have the opposite effect. This leaves the problem of balancing workloads from class with the need for enough sleep unresolved.
This kind of push-and-pull situation can affect the quality of sleep experienced by college students, as it can be a source of stress. Jon Kermiet, part of the Health Education Services staff at the Olin Health Center, communicates with students about sources of stress in their lives; sleep disruption tends to be a byproduct of such stress. “Stress will either cause a student to become so fixated about problems and events and things that are happening that they are just too wired to sleep…[or] some people with stress sleep too much,” said Kermiet. “For them, the stress is causing the opposite type of reaction. That can be just as disruptive.”[sleep1]
Academic stress and responsibilities can culminate into the ultimate restriction of sleep: the all-nighter. The work has piled up, the deadlines are looming and students have nowhere to go but to the library, armed with an arsenal of textbooks, notes and caffeinated products. Field has pulled some all-nighters in her college career, but she notices her functioning is affected for the next few days, in addition to her knowledge of the material. “I don’t see the point in staying up all night to learn something if you’re not going to retain it the next day,” said Field.
Addressing health issues such as sleep, the MSU Student Health Assessment is conducted twice a year by the Olin Health Center and the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) at MSU. According to the June 2006 assessment, 59.3 percent of students reported getting enough sleep to feel “rested” for four or more days per week. However, about 26 percent of students believed their sleep problems negatively influenced their academic performances. This percentage is up from 24 percent in 2004 and 23 percent in 2003, indicating a slight, but notable, trend. “Because [these students] don’t get enough sleep, their academics have suffered from…a worse grade in the class, dropping a class, [a] worse grade on a test – those types of things,” said Kermiet.[meadow2]
The survey also addressed the effects of poor sleep habits on school obligations. The students who reported getting quality sleep for six or seven nights per week were more likely to have higher GPAs, solidifying the link between academic performance and sleep quality. “I think there’s an expectation in college…that it’s natural to stay up quite late and sleep quite late if you can,” said Kermiet.
Despite this established link between grades and sleep regularity, many students would not change their sleep habits in favor of the opportunity to earn better grades, including criminal justice freshman Justin Sutton. Sutton has a consistent sleep schedule during the week; he hits the sack around midnight and rises at 7:30 a.m., due to early classes every day. To combat feelings of tiredness, Sutton takes a daily nap, instead of skipping class or other activities. Although he makes it to lecture, like many students, he can be lured back to a sub-conscious state in the classroom.
“I usually go to class, and sometimes I’ll just fall asleep,” said Sutton. “Sometimes I wake up [from naps] feeling more tired…it just depends on how long the nap is.”
[sleeper]Many students have found naps are the solution to the midday drag; many students have reverted to a childhood routine in order to get additional energy. Sleep for too long, however, and the benefits of a nap can be counteracted; the Brown department warns against naps longer than a half-hour. Kermiet said naps are an effective way to catch up on sleep, as long as an individual is not consistently in a sleep debt. But if this is happening, concentration problems and a lower immune system response, among other negative factors, can remain.
“…If you’re always behind, you might not ever catch up,” said Kermiet. “Taking naps, as long as it’s not excessive, can be quite good for a lot of people. It gives them just enough recovery so they can do what they need to do.”
In addition to effects on academic performance, including the ability to concentrate, poor sleep habits also can lead to irritability, tension and mood changes, according to the Brown health department. In order to improve sleep quality, Kermiet suggested doing something to avoid thinking about sleeping, such as taking a bath or zoning out in front of the television. While alcohol may facilitate an easy transition from a waking state to sleep, drinking can influence sleep quality and cause people to wake up frequently throughout the night…an experience with which many college students are familiar.[kermit]
The effects of poor sleep quality are clear, and many students can attest to them from personal experience. But in between stress, academic demands and packed schedules, will changing sleep habits in favor of higher quality ever be a priority for all students? It seems like quite an ever-frustrating catch-22: better sleep leads to better grades, but we have to sacrifice sleep in order to study to earn those better grades. Other obligations continue to trump the promises or desires to improve sleep, and if a student can run on four hours of sleep and fit in some extra shut-eye on the weekends, that might be the best option in order to balance a complicated schedule.
A power nap also is a popular choice.

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Contact Us!

At The Big Green, we strive to put together comprehensive, well-written feature stories that spark interest, create debate or just make our readers stop and think about a topic in a slightly different manner and perspective. Our readers are the major vehicle of our magazine’s existence, and the editors want to hear your thoughts. If you need a clarification, have an objection or just find something that tickles your fancy, we want to hear about it. Here are the contact addresses for the 2007-2008 editorial staff…e-mail away!

Jessica Sipperley, Editor in Chief
sipperl1@msu.edu
Cara Binder, Managing Editor
State Side, Arts & Culture
binderca@msu.edu
Kim Bale, Managing Editor
Global View, Sex & Health
balekimb@msu.edu
Trisha Poling, State Side Section Editor
polingtr@msu.edu
Katie Sulau, Global View Section Editor
sulaukat@msu.edu
Nicole Nguyen, Arts & Culture Section Editor
nguyenni@msu.edu
Lexi Biasell, Sex & Health Section Editor
biasella@msu.edu
Megan Sistachs, Photo Editor
sistachs@msu.edu

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All About Us

From the founding of this country, the news media has been heralded as a means to disseminate information to a multitude of readers. But one newspaper did not do the job for long. Competing publications sprang up as the American borders expanded, both to one-up those other publications and to fulfill the public’s desire for more than one source of news. In the same way, our campus, with its thousands of students and hundreds of faculty members, contains a great variety of opinions and perspectives. One publication, attempting to present news coverage relevant to all of the members of this campus community, would never suffice. This is the niche of alternative media, and this is where The Big Green establishes itself in a frenzied college atmosphere.
TBG started in 2003 as a magazine accessible through allmsu.com, that familiar Web site used by students to praise and bash professors, warn others against taking certain courses and sell spare athletic tickets. It is difficult to imagine how TBG could have existed without its own site, and it is likely our increased exposure is directly correlated to our Internet move. Our magazine earned a personal URL in the fall of 2004, and soon transitioned from a weekly publication to a monthly magazine.
Our goals as a publication are extensive, but our first priority lies with our audience. The readers are what make TBG go ’round, and the readers are why we exist. As a staff, we try to put together feature stories that matter, about topics and subjects that might not get the glory from mainstream media coverage. Everybody knows who Drew Neitzel is, but what’s the story behind the intramural facilities on campus? Without top-of-the-line weight rooms and committed trainers, the major athletic teams could not prepare as well for competition. Most students hear about major protests on campus, fueled by strict political views or brimming controversy, but who are the people behind these protests? How does a protest come to fruition? Why do these people burn so passionately about an issue? TBG aims to go behind surface topics and answer questions about deeper issues. An unlimited Internet platform and an editing structure allowing for time and story cultivation enable this to happen.
Now, it is understood every issue of TBG is not going to be ground-breaking. We’re not going to uncover some major campus scandal or unearth a media gem in every issue. But we’re striving to create a credible, multi-faceted magazine, containing feature articles that are compelling, well-written and interesting. The reporters gather the information and work closely with editors; the editors reorganize, stylize and grammar-ize each story. The upper editorial staff polishes the pieces, clarifying and organizing, and then they edit the pieces again. The design staff tops off the pieces with photos and graphics, making each piece visually appealing and attention-catching. Our readership is increasing, and we’re gaining credibility within the campus arena as a legitimate publication with talented writers and motivated editors. But this progress isn’t causing us to plateau…we’re just getting started.

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Dreams of Print

Hello TBG readers,
Welcome back! Another school year is well underway, and that means it\’s time for a brand new volume of The Big Green. We have a staff filled with talented writers, photographers and designers. My editorial staff is proving to be incredibly helpful already, and we are striving to bring the MSU community a quality publication every month.
Although we weren\’t writing over the summer, I have been working on TBG business since July. As a registered student organization, we have rather limited funds, and we need to apply for funding or do some kind of fundraiser if we would like to do a special project. Last year, that was our print issue: a huge accomplishment and another avenue for our magazine to find its way into the East Lansing community. The editorial staff was so proud of the strong content, classy designs and smart layout that I decided we should do it again, and I set out to get some financial aid to help our cause.
Last year\’s editor-in-chief, Ashley Symons, directed me to Campus Progress, an organization that funds progressive student publications at college campuses across the country. I sent in an application and crossed my fingers; I received the opportunity for a phone interview and talked about the strengths of our magazine; then, I waited. The wait was well worth it; when my inbox lit up with an e-mail from the campus publications associate manager, Thomas Coen, I was thrilled. Our magazine has received a $2,000 grant to use toward the advancement of our magazine; in this case, a print issue is in the works to be released next spring. This grant has given us a base to start our project: we can revamp the content, get more staff involvement and obtain additional funds.
You will notice that our site will always have a Campus Progress advertisement. I encourage you to visit the Campus Progress site, and check out the other student publications. Now, TBG is linked to a national network of publications, and the net of potential readers has been cast over a much larger area. In addition, some of our stories could be published on the Campus Progress site, giving more press time and well-deserved credit to writers, photographers and designers.
As always, if you have any feedback or opinions about any of our feature stories, feel free to send us a letter. We love to keep in touch with our readers, and I want you to help us improve our magazine. Look forward to the release of the print issue next spring; I know the whole staff is excited about the chance to take our stories out of the realm of the Internet, onto glossy pages and into your hands.

Yours,
Jessica Sipperley
Editor-in-Chief

Posted in LettersComments (0)

Dreams of Print

Hello TBG readers,
Welcome back! Another school year is well underway, and that means it\’s time for a brand new volume of The Big Green. We have a staff filled with talented writers, photographers and designers. My editorial staff is proving to be incredibly helpful already, and we are striving to bring the MSU community a quality publication every month.
Although we weren\’t writing over the summer, I have been working on TBG business since July. As a registered student organization, we have rather limited funds, and we need to apply for funding or do some kind of fundraiser if we would like to do a special project. Last year, that was our print issue: a huge accomplishment and another avenue for our magazine to find its way into the East Lansing community. The editorial staff was so proud of the strong content, classy designs and smart layout that I decided we should do it again, and I set out to get some financial aid to help our cause.
Last year\’s editor-in-chief, Ashley Symons, directed me to Campus Progress, an organization that funds progressive student publications at college campuses across the country. I sent in an application and crossed my fingers; I received the opportunity for a phone interview and talked about the strengths of our magazine; then, I waited. The wait was well worth it; when my inbox lit up with an e-mail from the campus publications associate manager, Thomas Coen, I was thrilled. Our magazine has received a $2,000 grant to use toward the advancement of our magazine; in this case, a print issue is in the works to be released next spring. This grant has given us a base to start our project: we can revamp the content, get more staff involvement and obtain additional funds.
You will notice that our site will always have a Campus Progress advertisement. I encourage you to visit the Campus Progress site, and check out the other student publications. Now, TBG is linked to a national network of publications, and the net of potential readers has been cast over a much larger area. In addition, some of our stories could be published on the Campus Progress site, giving more press time and well-deserved credit to writers, photographers and designers.
As always, if you have any feedback or opinions about any of our feature stories, feel free to send us a letter. We love to keep in touch with our readers, and I want you to help us improve our magazine. Look forward to the release of the print issue next spring; I know the whole staff is excited about the chance to take our stories out of the realm of the Internet, onto glossy pages and into your hands.

Yours,
Jessica Sipperley
Editor-in-Chief

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Where to Be

Spring 2007 Commencement Ceremonies
Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5
Commencements for Spring 2007 and Summer 2007 will be held at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Jaime Escalante, who inspired the movie �Stand and Deliver,� and Julie Gerberding, from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, will be the guest speakers. Both will speak on May 4. Commencements are free to attend.

3rd Annual Open House: Burgdorf�s Winery
Saturday, May 5, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A wine and cheese tasting will be held at this winery, located at 5635 Shoeman Road in Haslett. There is a $10 cost to attend, and live music by Northern Star will be featured. For more information, call (517) 655-2883.

UAB 43rd Spring Arts and Crafts Show
Saturday, May 19, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the MSU Union Grounds
This annual event features handmade items, displayed on campus. The event is free to attend.

WKAR Tour: Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the WKAR TV and radio studios
Sponsored by MSU Broadcasting Services, this tour is free to attend. WKAR personalities will be on hand, and the studios are located in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building.

MSU Museum�s Great Lakes Folk Festival
Friday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 12, all day
The MSU Museum presents three days of celebrating culture, tradition and community in downtown East Lansing, featuring more than 50 musical performances on five music and dance stages. There will also be Taste of Traditions regional and ethnic food, Folk Arts Marketplaces demonstrations and hand-made goods for sale. The festival is free to attend and is located from the Marriott at 300 M.A.C. west to Valley Court Park.

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Road Trippin\’

Four girls crammed into one vehicle. We were stuck together for a 16-hour road trip, and we could forget about any personal space. As members of the MSU Women\’s Ultimate Frisbee team, we – Kristi, Michelle, Alicia and I – traveled down to Tybee Island, Ga., for a weeklong tournament. The Michigan weather was cold and dreary, and sunny skies and sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean were less than a day away.
As a means of long-distance travel, automobile road trips are popular among college students; most of us have access to a car, and it\’s cheaper and easier than flying. But no matter where one travels, it seems each road tripper experiences the same sequence of emotions: a tingling anticipation for arrival and a high tolerance for the annoying little habits of the fellow travelers occur on the way there, but coming home, this happy feeling quickly dissipates into one of irritation and overwhelming desire to get back to home turf.
Alicia had willingly provided her maroon Pontiac Grand Prix for our adventure, and as we left East Lansing around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, the gas tank was full and our hopes were high for a problem-free vacation. Alicia pulled out onto I-127 South, accelerated to 74 mph, and we plowed on, eager for the 30-degree temperature increase waiting for us in the south.
Friday, March 2: Departure: 3:30 p.m. Arrival: 8 a.m. Saturday.
Seven: States driven through

Instead of taking the traditional I-75 south route, we drove east through Ohio and stuck close to the coast on our way down to Tybee Island. Ohio single-handedly won the award for Worst State to Drive Through: the boring flat highways were more than enough, but then at one point, US-23 became a road with traffic lights, slowing the speed limit to 55 mph as we passed through Columbus. Only in Ohio, we thought wearily, as we braked for yet another red light in the middle of the highway.
[cameras] Best state? West Virginia. I pulled the midnight to 3 a.m. driving shift, and I was a little worried about nodding off at the wheel. But I bought a big cappuccino and hit the mountains of West Va. Racing down paved hills next to barreling semis, coupled with the changing speed limits because of sharp curves and intense slopes, kept me more than awake. The car pushed through Virginia, N. Carolina and S. Carolina before hitting the Georgia border: a gorgeous state to drive through because of the old, elegant architecture and stately neighborhoods of Savannah, about 30 minutes away from Tybee.
6:30 p.m.: Dinner stop
As if we don\’t eat enough fast food as college students, we chose Taco Bell to satisfy our hunger pangs. We crammed into a vinyl booth, and crumpling wrappers and crunching shells were the only sounds emanating from the table. I eagerly ripped into a packet of taco sauce, only to squirt some of it onto my pants. Undeterred, I quickly dabbed it up with a napkin and continued to eat. I failed to notice the sauce dripping onto my lap from the other end of the taco until I felt it soak through on my leg. Being a light packer, these were my only pair of sweatpants for the week. I dashed to the bathroom and tried to wipe it off with water, and the stains turned a pukey yellow color. I tried to blow-dry the sauce out, standing under the wall dryer and stretching my pants up to the air spout. No luck. Not only was I sitting in the same clothes for 16 hours, now they were dirty, too.
10:30 p.m. Traffic Cone Attack!
[sun] Michelle cruised at a cool 70 mph; I constructed a pillow fort in the backseat in an effort to get some sleep before my impending night shift. Through my haze, I heard snippets of a conversation about Michelle\’s ex mixed with melodies from the iPod. I thought I had finally found a decent burrow in the backseat when I heard – and felt – a huge thump.
\”Oh my God!\” Michelle shouted. \”I think I ran over a traffic cone!\”
My first thought was of a construction barrel: wide and stout with a tiny light on top, and something that could seriously damage a little ol\’ Grand Prix. My second thought was how anybody could miss a traffic cone along a deserted highway at 10:30 at night. My third thought was if we damaged the car, there would be no spring break. I listened closely for any kind of alarming noise; I heard a whistling sound, and I smelled burning rubber.
Of course, the nearest exit wasn\’t for a few miles, so we averaged 35 mph on I-77, dragging the cone underneath the car. Michelle guided the car up the exit ramp, and I heard a popping sound, and the whistling ceased.
We pulled over and hopped out of the car, bending down to look at the underside. Nothing. \”I think we lost the cone on the exit ramp,\” I said. Satisfied that all was well, we piled back inside and re-entered the highway. No weird noises or smells, and we settled back in relief. Michelle claimed she didn\’t see it coming, as the cone was resting in the left lane of the highway; I hoped the next person to use that exit ramp would be able to avoid our traffic cone deposit in the middle of the road.
Three: Times we lost the directions
After a stop to refuel, I manned the wheel. I fiddled with the iPod for a few seconds and asked my co-pilot Alicia for the next exit. She rummaged through the bags, CD cases and snack boxes littering the front seat floor space, and reached back and ran her hands along the bottom of her seat.
\”Um, I can\’t find the directions.\”
\”I left them up there on the seat,\” Kristi mumbled from the back, her head stuck into her pillow.
\”Well, they\’re not here.\”
\”Do you think we left them at the gas station?\”
\”I don\’t know.\”
\”Well, what should I do?\”
\”I don\’t know.\”
I veered off the expressway so I could enter in the opposite direction, except I wasn\’t going in the opposite direction. I was on a different highway. I think. At this point, Michelle told me I wasn\’t going the right way, I struggled to read ANYTHING along the road with no streetlights, and Alicia kept reiterating she \”couldn\’t find the directions.\”
\”Ah!\” She shouted triumphantly and held a wrinkled piece of white paper in the air. \”I found them!\”
I got back on the correct highway and drove the 10 miles we backtracked in our effort to relocate the directions. After this scare, we also almost lost the directions in our house in Georgia (luckily, I found them underneath a sleeping pad about one minute before we headed home) and somewhere in the Carolinas on the way back to Michigan. For four girls with printer access, we should have made some copies.
5:30 a.m.: The invasion of inebriation
I didn\’t possess Alicia\’s remarkable ability to sleep through everything, so I woke up to alarmed gasps and whispers of \”Oh, my God. What should we do?\” Before I nodded off, Kristi and Michelle had been tailing a group of boys in a car with a Florida license plate. They were bored, pacing down miles of desolate highway at a lonely hour, and without the distraction of a friendly trucker, they opted to become fast friends with the guys. \”I think he\’s drunk!\” Kristi hissed, and she tapped the brakes of the Grand Prix. And when Kristi drives less than 85 mph, something is wrong.
I pulled my cramped body up and peered at the road ahead through my bleary eyes. I saw the Floridians speed up, but slow again when they couldn\’t pass a Jeep Cherokee. The Cherokee was braking erratically and weaving in an ironically controlled fashion, left to right, left to right. When brave motorists passed on the right side, they hugged the solid white line as much as possible. All of a sudden, the driver flicked on the right turn signal, and we braced for an absolute collision about a quarter-mile ahead of us. But the driver managed to pull over and put on the hazard lights. We, along with the Florida car, made it through the scare, and we kept driving in awed and bewildered silence.
Two: Hours we spent passed out in front of our condo
[sign] The sun rose slowly, spreading its orange and yellow hues over the calm water of the Atlantic. The ocean was visible from the parking lot of our condominium, and the waves lapped in quietly – a stark contrast from the whipping wind that lashed water along the coast on the day that we left to go back to Michigan. A three-story structure, the condo was painted a shocking blue, making it visible for at least a mile around. Because we couldn\’t get the keys until later that afternoon, and the city had yet to wake up completely, Alicia pulled in front of the house, cracked the windows and turned the music off. I nestled into my pillow fort and drifted off to the sounds of seagulls chattering and the occasional tourist\’s car speeding along Tybee Island\’s single highway.
When we woke up, we walked to a nearby restaurant and ordered a ton of pancakes, doused in butter and maple syrup. We scarfed in silence, pausing only to wash our food down with orange juice; apparently, road trips really take it out of you.
1/2: Percentage of time on the road spent listening to \’90s pop music
It\’s funny how lyrics from boy band and pop princess music stay with college students for years. We all loved the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears until about age 13, then swore them off because they weren\’t cool anymore. But the music made a comeback around sophomore year of college, and on our road trip, the iPods were chock full of jams from middle school years. We had *NSYNC and Destiny\’s Child, Christina Aguilera and Five. A good pop song would instantly transform the mood of the car. We would morph from weary, irritable women to carefree girls, all in the course of a few familiar chords at the beginning of the song. If only our class notes were arranged in such an upbeat fashion; then I\’d be able to memorize everything before my exams.
Three: Digital cameras passed around the vehicle
The beauty of digital cameras is their shifting permanence: moments are captured and able to be downloaded on a computer or scanned and printed in hard copy form – that is, until someone hits the delete key. We took out the unflattering angles and questionable smiles and blank stares, leaving only the most polished version of the days at the fields and the night parties. The clicking sound of moving through albums was punctuated only by laughter and gasps, as the whirlwind week slowly came back into focus. And it made the long drive home a little bit easier.
Friday, March 9: Departure: 9:30 a.m. Arrival: 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
I wearily opened the door of my apartment, threw my bags down on the floor and slumped over into my bed, relieved to be done with my awkward car nap. I don\’t even know if I brushed my teeth. As I drifted back to sleep, I reminisced about the spring break I would never forget, my eternal love for ultimate frisbee, how much fun I had with my friends – and how happy I was to be away from them and out of that damn car.

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