Say it With Us: A-S-M-S-U

Last week, ASMSU held its annual elections. Did you vote? Probably not. Do you even know what ASMSU is, besides just five letters frequently mentioned around campus? If you answered no, you’re not alone.
“I’ve vaguely heard of them,” criminal justice junior Edward Besonen. “I know that they’re a student organization that assists students with a lot of different things. That’s about all I know about it. I’ve never dealt with them.” Besonen is certainly not alone.
First things first: ASMSU stands for Associated Students of Michigan State University. (Whew, glad we figured that one out.) It’s the officially recognized undergraduate student government organization located on the third floor in the southeast wing of the Student Services Building.
ASMSU is a multi-faceted entity. It’s an undergraduate student government body that represents and advocates for students’ concerns to MSU officals, members of the East Lansing community and state and federal officials. It is also a resource center providing a surprising variety of services to undergraduate students and student organizations.
All undergraduate students pay $13.75 in ASMSU taxes for each semester they’re enrolled. The ASMSU tax is student-voted. Being an enrolled undergraduate student who has paid the ASMSU tax automatically makes you a member, eligible to use any of its services, attend its programs, events and activities, as well as participate in the boards, assemblies and councils that make up the organization. Did you know that?
ASMSU is comprised of two representative assemblies – Student Assembly and Academic Assembly. Students with concerns they’d like to see addressed should feel welcome to contact their student representatives and bring the issue to their attention or attend the assemblies’ regularly scheduled meetings, which are open to the public.
The Student Assembly is involved with many issues of student life. Most recently they hosted a reaction forum to address concerns surrounding the tear-gassing incident on April 2-3.
The Academic Assembly represents students on academic issues including tuition costs, curriculum, academic structure and faculty issues. Currently the Academic Assembly is working on bringing academic minors to MSU. “It could take another year to go through,” said Robert Murphy, Chairperson of the 14th Session of the Academic Assembly of ASMSU. The assembly is continuing its work with administrators of the University Committee on Academic Policy, presenting the case and helping with guidelines, Murphy said.
Murphy said in the fall the Academic Assembly will be involved in projects such as the New Residential College program, Quantitative Literacy issues and college reorganizations.
It often takes a lot of time for the Academic Assembly to do things, Murphy said. As a result, “[I]t can seem like we’re not doing anything,” he said. He explained this is because the assembly has to work with the university bureaucratic system.
Not only does ASMSU represent our student voice, it also provides free blue books and Red Cedar Log yearbooks, offers free professional legal counsel, provides interest-free loans, offers copy and fax services at low rates and provides financial support for registered student organizations and other groups for events and programs that benefit MSU students.
Many students are unfamiliar with the voting procedures for ASMSU, which was evident in the low voter turnout for the student elections held online March 23. MSU has approximately 33,000 undergraduate students eligible to vote, but voter participation was estimated at roughly five percent.
In addition to voting for the student representatives of various colleges that would serve on the academic and student assemblies of ASMSU, three referenda were also on the ballot in the March 23 election: a three-dollar tax increase for a scholarship fund which failed to pass; a renewal of the present $13.75 ASMSU tax which voters approved and an amendment to the ASMSU constitution which was also passed. Certified results from the University Student Elections Commission show that only 1,898 students voted either yes or no on the ASMSU tax renewal referendum.
ASMSU is the student government which exists to serve the needs and concerns of its members. Get in touch with your student reps when you have concerns or suggestions you’d like to see addressed. Governance is a two-way street. Together, we can make this campus a place that’s more responsive and flexible to our needs. This is your school, too – if you’re not involved, it’s good to know the names – or letters – of the people who are.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

Of Sound Mind

Behind the media frenzy that is the Terri Schiavo case there is a woman. A woman that, at 27, collapsed of a heart attack triggered in part by her struggle with an eating disorder. A woman that, today, leads a very different life than the vibrant young woman pictured in newscasts.
She has remained in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) since 1990, her life sustained by a gastric feeding tube. Her parents’ legal battles to fight her husband’s court-backed orders to remove her feeding tube have captured national attention.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter. Some have suggested part of the legal controversy surrounding her case could have been avoided if she had left behind an advance directive, or what is known as a living will.
“Part of the controversy in this case is that we don’t know precisely what her wishes would have been,” Scot Yoder, a bioethicist and professor of philosophy, said. “We have some testimony from her husband and friends that said that she wouldn’t have wanted to live like this. But she left no documentation, so we don’t have proof of that.”
[crain]The Schiavo case illustrates why it’s a good idea for all adults to have an advance directive. It’s not just for the elderly who might anticipate the onset of dementia or senility.
An advance directive, such as a living will or durable power of attorney for health care, is a document stating how you want medical decisions to be made for you if you become unable to make those decisions yourself. Yoder put it this way: “An advanced directive protects your decision-making power. It says, ‘OK, here’s how you’d make a decision if you were competent. How can we extend that decision-making power to a time when you’re no longer competent?’”
Michigan law does not recognize living wills, but durable powers of attorney for health care are. In a living will, you express your wishes concerning medical treatment if you become unable to do so. In a durable power of attorney for health care, you designate and authorize a patient advocate or health care proxy to make medical decisions for you. With a power of attorney, you also have the option of expressing your wishes regarding the medical treatment you would or would not want to receive.
Many people tend to think advance directives are for older people, but it’s actually more common for younger people to be in a persistent vegetative state, Yoder said. “Persistent vegetative state is often caused by severe brain trauma such as auto accidents, drownings and so forth, which are more frequent among younger people,” he said.
Any mentally competent adult over 18 may have an advance directive. Hospitals provide the necessary paperwork, and it is also widely available online. Legal or medical assistance is not required to write your advance directive, but professionals highly recommend it. Attorneys can help you avoid common mistakes such as using confusing and unclear language, or writing the advance directive so it is either too specific or too vague.
If you’re thinking of getting a durable power of attorney for health care, Yoder advises choosing someone who knows you well enough to make decisions on your behalf. You should also choose someone who would be a respected decision-maker for you. “If you decide that your best friend is the one who knows you best, that’s nice, but if your parents disagree with your best friend’s decision, that’s going to create a huge problem,” Yoder said. He said it is best to discuss your wishes with your family members in drawing up your durable power of attorney.
Making decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment for your loved one is the hardest thing a person would ever have to do, social work graduate student Anne Samuel Crain said. “It’s probably the most difficult thing in the world for parents to bury their children. It’s hard to be in a position where you have to choose to let your kids live, or lose them.”
As difficult as these decisions may be, Crain suggests the decision-making process is more peaceful for the family members involved when they realize they’re doing what their loved one would have wanted. “I don’t think [the Schiavo] case would have blown up the way it has if the family and the husband had had a better understanding of Terri’s wishes,” Crain said. And although Crain does not have an advance directive, she said, “I would hope that if my family were faced with a situation like [Schiavo’s], that they would be able to make the decisions together and have enough respect for each other.”
Zoology senior Charles Rutenbar said he does not have an advance directive but would consider getting one. Amid the Schiavo controversy, he’s already made his wishes known to his parents. “I don’t think that I’d want to be kept alive like that,” Rutenbar said. “If there was any chance of actually recovering I would want to be kept alive, but when it’s been such a long time or when there’s a small chance for recovery, I don’t think that I’d want to be kept that way. Especially if I wasn’t able to comprehend anything – why put that kind of burden on my parents?”
“I think it’s good to have your wishes written down, in case,” Rutenbar said. “My grandmother is in a situation like this now where she has extensive Alzheimer’s. We’re getting to the point where we’re going to have to decide what to do with her. Her life isn’t prolonged by artificial means right now, but it’s going to get to that point. She told us she wouldn’t want to be kept alive.”
We seldom know what events may occur to render us incapable to make our medical treatment decisions. Not only can these initiatives protect your decision-making power, they can also help guide your family members in those tough decisions about whether or not to withhold or withdraw treatment. At the very least, have a discussion with family members and make clear to them the options you would choose.
No one knows what Terry the woman would have wanted, but you have the time now to make your wishes known.
Information and advance directive forms are available at the State Bar of Michigan Elder Law and Advocacy Web site at www.michbar.org/elderlaw/adpamphlet.cfm.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

A Conscious Cup

There’s no shortage of coffeehouses around MSU’s campus. Everywhere you look, new coffee shops seem to be opening for business. Each shop carves a niche for itself in the coffee market, hoping to attract a certain portion of consumers. All java joints fulfill the basic function of selling legal addictive stimulants in beverage form to the public, as well as providing a community gathering place. But, with so many nearby choices, which one is the best?
[coffee1] Loyalty to small, independently-owned businesses, availability of Fair Trade-certified coffee (guaranteeing coffee farmers a minimum price per pound for coffee) and an inviting atmosphere are a few factors drawing people to a particular coffeehouse. Here is a look into what matters to students when purchasing their early morning drug of choice.
Some people love Starbucks for its excellent quality product and have come to rely on the consistency of its coffee and its many locations. Usually you can find numerous franchises in one city.
Brittany Albright, hospitality business senior, said the Starbucks on Grand River Avenue is her favorite coffee shop because it consistently makes the best lattes. Albright hasn’t tried other coffee shops around campus because she simply likes Starbucks better, she said. She’s tried other coffeehouses in her hometown and none of them had the same quality lattes. Staff friendliness is important to her, too. “People are always talking to you here,” she said of Starbucks.
Lindsay Messner, physiology junior and barista at the Grand River Starbucks, said it is a great place, both to buy drinks and to work. “Their roasting process and bean standards set them apart. It’s just consistently good drinks and beans and I don’t find that at other coffeehouses in the area.”
While Messner enjoys many things about working at Starbucks, what she likes most are her co-workers. She feels valued as an employee, particularly when district managers took her and others to dinner to thank them for their hard work. “This company just offers a lot and I feel like they do care about us and that is why I have been working here for three years,” Messner said.
Messner also said employees are offered stock options, decent tips, room to advance and Starbucks community involvement in the AIDS Walk and multiple sclerosis events. Starbucks offers a lot more to its employees than other coffee companies, Messner said.
Some students, however, shun the corporate giant, preferring to take their business to smaller, local businesses they say promote socially responsible beverages and offer a cozier atmosphere.
“I hate Starbucks,” said Tommy Simon, a social relations and English sophomore, who does not identify himself as a serious coffee drinker. “They put smaller coffee shops out of business and they don’t do their part with Fair Trade. Market prices are decreasing for coffee farmers and Starbucks is pocketing extra change from it and ripping off consumers.”
Simon prefers localized coffeehouses such as Espresso Royale (which is still a chain, yet much smaller than that of Starbucks), Magdalena’s Tea House and Café Cafetzin. These three places are his favorites because they offer socially conscious beverages, which attract certain kinds of people. “Quite frankly, it’s just nice people welcoming people,” he said. “They all have open-mic nights. It’s a great crowd.”
[coffee2] For Simon, going to his preferred coffee/tea shops means having a clear conscience. “I go to them mainly for studying, to meet up with people. It’s just someplace to hang out for a while,” he said. He thinks the crowd who frequents Starbucks “is buying into the corporate world. It’s a rip-off,” he said.
Sarah Kuchenreuther, hospitality business junior and East Lansing Meijer Starbucks employee thinks “coffee is a trend, and the name of Starbucks is a fad.”
Another person who eschews corporate coffee shops is Dec. 2004 graduate Shawn Wozniak, who prefers to brew his own coffee. When buying coffee, he looks for the Fair Trade-Certified label and requires the stores he buys coffee from be mission-based.
Wozniak either buys his coffee online or at the East Lansing Food Co-op on Northwind Drive, which carries locally-grown, organic food and which he said has the largest Fair Trade food selection in town. “Almost all the coffee sold there is Fair Trade-certified,” he said.
When he does go to a coffee shop, Wozniak prefers small, cozy cafés such as Café Cafetzin on Michigan Avenue in Lansing. “The overall feel of the place is nice,” he said. “Pete, the owner, has art on the walls and talks to you. It’s a community. You feel welcome to it.”
Whether you choose a corporate giant that is decent to its employees; a unique and socially-committed small business or like to brew your own joe, think about where all that latte money is going. Even our smallest everyday purchases are political, so be conscious with your cup.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

An Indulgent Affair

[choco1] Imagine a room infused with the sweet aroma of chocolate. Tables set up with attractive chocolate candy, cakes, cookies, cheesecake, tortes and a variety of chocolate confections. In one area, a large crowd of people are gathered to dip pieces of fruit into a tall chocolate fondue fountain. At a table there are glasses of wine arranged in military-like formation. Throughout the center of the room, you see exquisite displays of chocolate sculptures and gourmet desserts created by chefs and culinary school students. You blink forcefully a couple times, and the lavish displays of chocolate are all still there – you’re not dreaming! A huge smile breaks out on your face instantly when you realize you can have as much of it as you want, as much as your stomach can contain.
No, this isn’t just a chocolate lover’s supreme fantasy, it’s the annual Chocolate Party Benefit to raise money for the care and preservation of the MSU Museum’s cultural and historical collections. The 16th annual event will take place at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, in the Big Ten rooms, on Feb. 27, from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.[chosb]
The party isn’t just about porking out on the most sumptuous chocolates you’ve ever laid your eyes on; it’s also an art competition for chefs and culinary school students. You’ll see beautiful creations of chocolate art and exquisitely decorated chocolate desserts designed to fit the museum’s competition theme: “Out of Africa.” The creations are judged for presentation, taste and technique by professional chefs from around the state. Toward the end of the chocolate party, these delectable creations are cut into servings for the public to sample. African artifacts from the MSU Museum will also be on exhibit at the party.
Grace Chee, a 2004 MSU graduate who attended the party in 2003 as a museum volunteer, said the party gave her a unique look at chocolate in all its forms. “It was really interesting to see something you take for granted like that,” Chee said. “It was really cool. I’ve never thought of chocolate that way.”
The benefit raises about $14,000 for the care and preservation of the museum’s one million artifacts, objects and specimens, Lora Helou, communications manager at the MSU Museum, said. “The party is both a fundraiser and a ‘friendraiser’ that we hope generates lifelong interest in the museum beyond chocolate,” Helou said.
Tickets to the chocolate party can be purchased online or at museum gift shop on West Circle Drive. General admission tickets are $30, and Premier Chocolatier tickets are $75. Purchase of Premier Chocolatier tickets includes early arrival to the party at 11:45 a.m. for a demonstration by chef Luis Amado, a one-year MSU Museum membership and a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s private collections on Sunday, March 13.
For information and ticket purchasing, visit the MSU Museum’s Chocolate Party Web site at www.museum.msu.edu/Events/ChocolateParty/. While you’re there, be sure to check out the chocolate party photos from 2003 and 2004, which are guaranteed to wet your appetite.
One piece of advice for first-timers: Don’t eat breakfast or lunch on the day of the chocolate party. Leave plenty of room for the chocolate!

Posted in State SideComments (0)