OutCasting radio program gives voice to LGBTQ youth at MSU

OutCasting radio program gives voice to LGBTQ youth at MSU

OutCasters at the main studio in Westchester County, New York. Courtesy of Marc Sophos.

OutCasters at the main studio in Westchester County, New York. Courtesy of Marc Sophos.

The voices of LGBTQ Spartans and straight allies can be heard on public radio stations across the country via Michigan State University’s bureau of OutCasting, a LGBTQ youth radio program created by MSU Telecommunications alumnus Marc Sophos.

In 2006, while working at WDFH, his radio station in Westchester County, New York, Sophos came up with the idea of starting OutCasting after a foundation approached him about funding a program for underrepresented constituencies.

“In public radio, there are youth programs and there is a LGBTQ program, but there is no LGBTQ youth program,” Sophos said.

The inspiration to create this kind of program was encouraged in part by Sophos’ own experience as a gay man. He wanted to offer a platform for younger people to embrace their voices and express themselves.

“I know what it was like to be closeted and not be able to express anything, not be able to talk about it,” said Sophos. “It’s a different time now than it was when I was growing up because of the Internet but still there’s a need for people to be able to speak out and to do journalism on these issues and in some cases talk about their own experiences.”

The young contributors – high school and college age – produce six to eight programs a year for public broadcast. In addition to that they also record shorter, more frequent segments online called OutCasting OffAir, which has recently covered topics like gender norms and what it means to come out today.

After organizing and leading the program at two locations in New York, Sophos got the idea to bring the program to his alma mater after a visit to campus with his husband, Doug, a couple of years ago. They were in the Student Union where Sophos remembered the LBGT Resource Center had once been located on the fourth floor. They discovered that the location had changed, but he continued his search and eventually met with the director of the Center, DeAnna Hurlbert, a big fan of public radio, according to Sophos.

“We sort of just started batting around the idea for opening an MSU bureau,” said Sophos. “From November of 2014 through last September, a lot of the groundwork was laid and we had an informational meeting in September, a year ago, and that’s when Kayl and four other people got involved.”

Kayl Black, a sophomore member of OutCasting, said that the group is in the process of reaching out to different LGBTQ organizations around campus and students to expand their reach and spread the word about what it means to be an “OutCaster.” 

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It’s Tradition: MSU students share their favorites

It’s Tradition: MSU students share their favorites

Traditions at Michigan State University come in all shapes and sizes. The campus is decorated with statues of respected figures from the school’s history and monuments donated by alumni. But not all traditions can be seen with the eye. The invisible experiences, like the “Midnight Scream” and the “Go Green, Go White” chant can be just as important.

As the current academic year comes to a close, many students are reminded of the things that they’ve achieved, including memories made.

For freshman Madison O’Connor, the end of the year marks the completion of her first year at MSU. Meanwhile, we are brought even closer to the return of football season. As most Spartan football fans are well aware, these games are notorious for the chanting of one special song.

O’Connor said that the fight song, “Victory for MSU,” is the school tradition that she enjoys most.

“I like it because I feel like it brings all the students together … We’re all there cheering together for the same people,” O’Connor said.

In the fall of 2015, the changing of the well-known melody’s name was big news for the MSU community. To celebrate 100 years since it was written, the song was renamed “Victory for MSU.”

Still on O’Connor’s to-do list is a selfie with the school mascot “Sparty.”

“I feel like that’s something everyone should do at least once,” she said.

Freshman Fallon Reagan, who ranks her school spirit as a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, said she, too, holds football season close to her heart. She said that she enjoys “the student section, the comradery and you feel like you’re a part of something bigger and just all the cheers. It makes you feel like, there’s 50,000 of us, but it makes you feel more like you’re a part of something.”

As a member of the French club and other student organizations, Reagan said she hopes to have the opportunity to paint The Rock during her time at MSU.

Sophomore Serenity Tyll would also like to test her artistic skill on the famous structure.

“All the time, I hear students come back from it and they stay out all night and make a huge deal about it,” Tyll said. “They come back and they’re like so closer just because of the weird things that happened with sleep-deprived college students at night.”

Tyll, like many others at MSU, realizes that The Rock is more than just a rock, “I think it symbolizes that (students are) a part of something because a lot of times they do it as a group or a club. It feels like that call-to-action that they’re doing something, like either spreading the word about their club or a significant cause that they’re passionate about.”

These are only a few of the things shared between Spartans at Michigan State University, but an evident theme amongst them is the idea of being included in something that means so much to so many people. There’s a sense of pride in saying, “Yeah, I did that,” or “I was there when that happened.”

Whether it’s something that has been around for years or a moment that is once in a lifetime, Spartan traditions are remembered by many.

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It’s Tradition: The Rock

It’s Tradition: The Rock

The Rock after it was painted in honor of Lacey Holsworth. Photo via Flickr.

The Rock after it was painted in honor of Lacey Holsworth. Photo via Flickr.

On an average week its color often varies and its message changes regularly, but its presence at Michigan State University is one thing that seemingly remains the same. As a key location for activism, promotion and memorialization – the Rock has become a Spartan tradition almost as solid as the structure itself.

According to research gathered by the MSU Archives, the Rock was donated by the Class of 1873. The archives’ research states, “For the next sixty to seventy years, the Rock remained as it was, untouched, but during the 1940s and 1950s, the Rock would be known as the ‘Engagement Rock.’” If a Spartan wanted to propose, the Rock was a special place to do it.

It was also during that time that the Rock “became a political platform and billboard for various groups.” Students began painting it and the surrounding trees and sidewalks in the area. Therefore, to preserve the natural environment, the Rock was moved from its location near where the Beaumont Tower now stands to its current location in front of the Auditorium in 1985 and the painting has continued for over 30 years.

The Rock’s purpose has evolved during its history at the university, but it seems that painting it continues to be the biggest appeal today.

International relations senior Monica Watt painted the Rock in order to celebrate and promote her student organization, the United Nations Association, last fall. She estimated that the Rock has accumulated more than 10,000 layers of paint over the years.

The rock means a tradition for MSU students, it’s a way to express our voice like on a billboard without worrying about rules and regulations,” said Watt. “It gets attention and the tradition to guard the rock also allows students to gather and bond over various things.

“It’s become a symbol because it’s a something that can’t be removed easily. And people are willing to guard (it) and paint it so it still is a tradition.”

The university does not regulate a schedule for individuals to paint the Rock. There is no way to sign up for a time or date to paint it, a.k.a. “you snooze, you lose.”

“The unwritten rule about painting the Rock is that whoever is there first at night to paint it can do so, but it’s best to stay with the Rock until first light. If the painters decide not to stay and guard the Rock, any other group can come and repaint it,” according to the MSU Archives’ research.

A recent memorable moment for the Rock was following the Paris attacks on Nov.13 of last year. MSU students banded together to “stand with Paris” and show their support.

Perhaps one of the most well-known paint jobs that the Rock has received was in honor of Lacey Holsworth, otherwise known as “Princess Lacey,” the 8-year-old who was a source of inspiration for the Michigan State Men’s Basketball team in 2014.

After losing her battle with cancer, the community celebrated her life and the impact that she had on the school by painting the Rock for her.

While the Rock has been the basis of many different traditions in MSU history, one thing is certain to never change – the layers and layers of students’ names, logos and missions of diverse organizations and symbols of hope will forever be a part of the structure.  

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The Stonewall Society seeks change for LGBTQ students

The Stonewall Society seeks change for LGBTQ students

The Stonewall Society is a new LGBTQ advocacy group within the James Madison College at Michigan State University. The new student organization aims to encourage change to curriculum and promote discussion within the college and across campus about LGBTQ issues.

President of The Stonewall Society Ben Schroff is a junior studying social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics within the James Madison College. He is also pursuing minors in women’s and gender studies as well as LGBTQ and sexuality studies.

The Stonewall Society of MSU. Photo via Ben Schroff.

The Stonewall Society of MSU. Photo via Ben Schroff.

With two and a half years as a student in the James Madison College completed, Schroff is well-versed in the workings of the programs and courses offered to students. This year, he wants to challenge them and make a difference within the college for the LGBTQ community by founding The Stonewall Society.

Schroff explained that the inspiration to start the organization came from a fellow James Madison group: the W.E.B. DuBois Society, a black advocacy group. The W.E.B. DuBois Society has established their presence this semester as they continue to address issues surrounding racial climate within the James Madison College.

He said that he was “inspired by them to bring up these (LGBTQ) issues as well. Within student culture, nothing is really talked about within the academic setting … it’s sort of just like an erased experience, so I wanted to bring it up and present it to the Madison community.”

In three words, Schroff described The Stonewall Society’s mission: advocacy, action and awareness.

As an organization within the James Madison College, the group would like to “get LGBTQ issues more into the Madison classroom,” said Schroff. The intention is that by initially addressing issues within the college, they can later start a broader campuswide movement.   

The Stonewall Society Vice President Olivia Brenner, a sophomore studying social relations and policy and women’s studies with a specialization in LGBTQ and sexuality studies, said that their approach will enable them to succeed on a smaller scale before advancing to larger problems.

“Every good activist group knows that you have to start on a microlevel, because if you start with these big overarching world changing type of things, you’re never going to be able to actually get those done,” said Brenner. “But if you do a lot of little changes, that can actually have an effect on the people that you’re dealing with.”  

Maxwell Olivero, a field experience coordinator for the James Madison College, is The Stonewall Society’s faculty advisor. He believes that “it’s important to have all groups and all voices kind of represented in just about every discussion” and The Stonewall Society has the potential to achieve that for the LGBTQ community.

“I think they’ll serve a very useful role as just being a voice for inclusion, of course, with a focus on LGBTQ people, but also a focus on inclusion across the spectrum,” said Olivero.

Olivero added that according to the group’s mission statement, The Stonewall Society will likely address issues such as gender neutral housing, the preferred name policy and more. He said, “Those are issues that don’t get a whole lot of attention, particularly now in this type of climate with same-sex marriage recently being legalized … a lot of the other issues that affect LGBTQ people, in some ways are kind of being put on the back burner as marriage equality has been won already … so I think another objective of Ben and of The Stonewall Society is to kind of bring those issues back into focus and make sure they’re part of the discussion when we move forward when discussing community inclusiveness and diversity.”

The Stonewall Society will hold their first meeting in the upcoming spring semester.

“Anybody can join. We are not limiting it to anybody,” said Schroff. “We created it as a Madison-specific, but not a Madison-exclusive group. While we are focusing a lot on James Madison and taking care of stuff in Madison, we are also going to try to do stuff around campus as well, so anybody is really allowed to join. Whether you’re LGBTQ or an ally, you’re welcome.”

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It’s Tradition: The Midnight Scream

It’s Tradition: The Midnight Scream

Stressed-out students from Michigan State University are warming up their vocal chords in preparation for the finals week ritual Midnight Scream.

The Midnight Scream takes place every night at midnight during the week of final exams starting on Sunday night before the first exams on Monday. The purpose of this unconventional event is to give students a break from the frustration of finals week and an escape from the overwhelming nature of cramming for a high-stakes exam.

According to the MSU Academic Calendar for fall of 2015, classes will begin their final examinations on Dec. 14. Make note of that date, everyone. You don’t want to be caught by surprise on the first night when suddenly the screams of thousands of your peers erupt from across campus.

Students gather to participate in this tradition no matter where they are when the clock strikes midnight. Whether they are in their dorm rooms standing ready at the open window or abandoning their books to congregate outside of the library, the Midnight Scream is a rush that many students depend on in order to continue working.

The MSU Main Library is a famous place to be on campus during finals week. Photo via Creative Commons.

The MSU Main Library is a famous place to be on campus during finals week. Photo via Creative Commons.

Chemical engineering freshman Abby Nowak said that her calculus class has caused her the most stress during her first semester at MSU. She anticipates many late nights of studying in order to ensure success. She said that the Midnight Scream will be a great way to take a break from preparing for her finals.

“I feel like it just gets out your frustration when you’re trying to study and then you just need a break,” said Nowak. “I feel like (by) listening to everyone else’s screams, you know you’re not by yourself.”

Zoology senior Alexandria Sly supported Nowak’s statement, “I think screaming helps. It unloads that terrible vibe,” she said. “You can understand how everyone else is feeling, like you’re not the only one. You’re not alone with this final exam.”

When she was a freshman, Sly lived in Hubbard Hall in East Neighborhood. She remembered being surprised by the screaming on the first night, but said that she quickly embraced the school tradition.

“(Hubbard is) really super tall, so you just hear it reverberating all the way down and out the windows and everything,” said Sly. “You can hear Akers and McDonel (Halls). You could hear everyone in East Neighborhood, basically, screaming about their finals.”

While the event on its own is popular amongst students, often more famous are the crazy things that people yell out in the heat of the moment. Anything from classic song lyrics to curse words can be expected during those few minutes following midnight.

For participants, the fun can sometimes get out of hand. In the residence halls, it’s up to resident assistants to help maintain the tradition while promoting safety and courtesy for on-campus residents.

MSU senior and second-year Resident Assistant Alexis Snow said that different residence halls handle the Midnight Scream differently, but in Case Hall where she resides, the staff tries to calm everyone down after about five minutes.

“ … After that, we tend to try to go enforce, ‘Hey, it’s quiet hours. It’s still 24-hour courtesy hours’ … because that is during finals week,” said Snow.

Predetermined quiet hours are void during finals week when the residence halls abide by 24-hour courtesy hours in order to allow students the best chance to concentrate and study for their final exams.

Snow said that finals week tends to increase call volume to the resident assistants on duty.

“(We) have incidents during finals week all the time where it’s just like some craziness going on,” she said. “People get really hostile and anxious and nervous during that time so (we) get a lot of increase in calls asking people to come be quiet.”

Despite that she now has to enforce rules about the Midnight Scream, she said she understands what it means for students to have this outlet. However, she said that she doesn’t think the screaming is the only part of the tradition that acts as a de-stresser.

“For some people it might work, but for me it’s just like a funny way … of just getting a laugh,” she said. “Freshman year, a guy was out there in probably, like, just underpants with a bullhorn yelling crazy things … Those give you good laughs and I think that’s a good stress reliever.”

Whatever the reason, students at MSU find the tradition of the Midnight Scream to be an interesting and promising event to look forward to each semester. It’s a silly and unifying experience, which brings Spartans together during one of the toughest times of their college years.

“It’s just something to be a part of, kind of like yelling those chants at the football games or the ‘Go Green’,” said Snow. “It doesn’t really mean anything, but it represents unity, we’re all in this together type of thing.”

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It’s Tradition: Get the scoop on the MSU Dairy Store

It’s Tradition: Get the scoop on the MSU Dairy Store

Customers enjoy their Dairy Store treats at the Anthony Hall Dairy Store location on Oct. 20.

Customers enjoy their treats at the Anthony Hall Dairy Store location.

On the campus of Michigan State University, there’s one place that students and visitors can always count on for a tasty treat: the Dairy Store.

The central location, and reportedly the most popular, is in Anthony Hall located next to the Dairy Plant. A second, and smaller, store can also be found in the MSU Union.

The store sells everything from coffee to cheese, but is widely known for its famous ice cream flavors. Back when the store first opened, the only flavors were vanilla, chocolate and black cherry, according to employee Tyler Hanlon.

Hanlon, a MSU packaging senior, has worked at the store for almost two and a half years. He claims that, nowadays, the “Sesquicentennial Swirl” is one of the store’s best sellers.

“It’s a very good flavor,” said Hanlon. “It’s hard to get good cake batter ice cream, but the fact that it’s green and white is half of the reason it sells as good as it does.”

In honor of the upcoming festivities, the store currently has a variety of Halloween-themed ice cream flavors. They include “Creepy Crawly Coconut,” “Chocolate Chip Spooky Dough” and “Pralines and Bad Dreams.”

Store Manager Brooke Pugh said that the creativity of the flavors and their artistic display on the glass of the dip cabinet adds to customer enjoyment. However, she said that the homegrown quality of the ice cream is what makes the Dairy Store such an appreciated feature of MSU.

Hanlon said that the Dairy Store’s reputation as a tradition comes as a result of several factors: price, location and quality.

MSU Dairy Store employee Tyler Hanlon packs up a customer's order.

MSU Dairy Store employee Tyler Hanlon packs up a customer’s order.

“For one, the ice cream is really good and it’s also very cheap for how good it is,” said Hanlon. “With it being right in the center of campus, it’s perfect for students to stop by and then you throw in having a good, easy lunch of a grilled cheese, it’s just kind of a center for students.”

A single scoop of ice cream costs $2.25; a double costs $3; and a triple costs $3.75.

“When people leave, it’s hard for them to get really good ice cream again, so it’s the place to be when you come back,” said Hanlon.

Zoology junior Naomi Fleischman said she enjoys the convenience of the Dairy Store’s Anthony Hall location, “I think a lot of college kids like ice cream, so the fact that it’s right in a building where a lot of the classes are in makes it very popular and then it just grew from there.”

So what’s the store’s busiest day of the week? Both Hanlon and Pugh agreed that Mondays have consistent heavy traffic.

The reason: grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. On Mondays at the Dairy Store, customers who purchase a grilled cheese sandwich also receive a free cup of soup all for the price of $2.50. For an extra dollar, Pugh said, a drink can be added to the order.

“We go through bread like crazy on Mondays,” said Pugh.

She added, “We even have faculty come in and say ‘This is such a great deal,’ and they can sit and have lunch with their co-workers and they don’t have to spend a ton of money and they can have a decent meal.”

The store is also open during Spartan football games, which are equally as hectic, according to Pugh.

“If the game is earlier, like at 9 a.m. or 12 p.m., we open early so we can kind of catch some of the tailgaters,” she said. “If the game is a 12 p.m. game, we are slammed when the game gets out. As soon as the stadium starts emptying, they all come here.

“We’ve had a line wrapped all the way around the building and down the street. People wait for the ice cream.”

Hanlon said that it’s not just the customers who enjoy the Dairy Store, the employees appreciate the work that they do and being able to contribute to its legacy at Michigan State University.

“The general population that comes in is usually happy and then on top of that, they’re getting ice cream that’s making them more happy,” said Hanlon. “Overall, it’s just a happy environment. We have fun working together. We have a great staff. We enjoy what we’re doing and we enjoy the response that everyone else has from it.”

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It’s Tradition: The Spartan Statue

It’s Tradition: The Spartan Statue

Fans gather to take pictures with “Sparty” before the MSU vs. Oregon football matchup on Sept.12.

Fans take pictures with “Sparty” before the MSU vs. Oregon football matchup on Sept.12.

Have you ever stopped to take a selfie with the Spartan statue? Did you ever wonder why?

The Spartan statue, more commonly known as “Sparty,” was unveiled in 1945 and since then it has been a symbol of Michigan State University.

For 70 years, “Sparty” has greeted all who enter campus and posed graciously for those who stop by to see him. But did you know the statue that currently stands at the end of Demonstration Hall Field is actually a bronze replica of the original terra cotta statue?

The original is now on display inside the atrium of the Spartan Stadium tower, where it has been since 2005.

The Spartan statue was designed and created in the ‘40s by Leonard Jungwirth, an assistant art professor at Michigan State University (which was called Michigan State College in those days).

The Michigan native took two years to build the famous sculpture, completing it without extra pay from the university and often using his own tools and materials.

James Lawton, a professor of studio art at the university for over 40 years, said that Jungwirth created a sculpture “that utilized a lot of imagery associated with ‘Sparty’ and also the history of how ‘Sparty’ was presented at Michigan State University.

“If you look around, many universities have picked up on images that they want to portray as their spirit and I think Jungwirth was able to capture that in ‘Sparty.’”

In former university President John Hannah’s speech from the dedication ceremony for the original statue in 1945, he said, “In the years ahead, this Spartan Warrior in this beautiful and proper setting will become one of the distinguishing marks of this campus that all students and visitors will associate with this college…”

It has been decades since Hannah spoke these words, but the Spartan statue remains a tradition to this day for all who bleed green.

“I feel like it kind of conjures up some Spartan pride. It makes you proud,” said secondary education freshman Zak Hill. “To non-State students, it’s very iconic. Even for State students, it’s cool to show off, like, this is in my backyard.”

Current students, alumni and Spartan fans realize the impact that “Sparty” has on those who travel to the university.

Senior Jeffery Burnette brought his family to take a picture with the statue before the football game against the University of Oregon on Sept. 12.

“It’s just something you have to do when you come to campus,” said Burnette. “It’s tradition, if you come on campus you have to get a picture taken.”

While “Sparty” has become such a long-standing tradition at Michigan State, he has also become the target of long-standing rivalries.

According to Adam Lawver, assistant manager of Landscape Services with Infrastructure Planning and Facilities at Michigan State University, the statue is vandalized three to five times per year.

Lawver said in an email that “every occurrence of vandalism is a challenge” and that it usually takes two to three hours to clean up. Infrastructure Planning and Facilities does all that they can to combat the effects of potential future damage.

“We apply an anti-graffiti coating to the statue and base annually and touch up as needed,” Lawver said. “The cleaning method consists of power washing with soap.”

Due to the reputation that the Spartan statue has at Michigan State University, Lawver said that it is important to him and fellow co-workers to keep the statue preserved in order to keep the tradition alive.

“The Spartan statue is a symbol of pride and tradition for this great institution,” said Lawver. “The Spartan holds a historical significance and representation of many wonderful events in the University’s history.”

Information on the statue is available at the MSU Archives

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