PowerShift Conference a Success

PowerShift Conference a Success

Students from across Michigan convened at the state’s capital for PowerShift, a three-day environmental summit promoting green technology and clean, alternative energy sources.

Events included workshops, musical performances, and keynote speakers, such as Jerome Ringo and Jessy Tolkan. The conference culminated with a rally on the steps of the Capitol – with students holding signs that read, “Senators Stabenow and Levin: Bold Climate Action Now,” “Obama: Michiganders Want Climate Solutions!” and “Coal Kills.”

The Energy Action Coalition, a network of organizations which support youth environmental movements, organized regional conferences.

Michigan and Indiana were the first two states to host regional conferences. Nine more regional PowerShift events are set to occur in by early November.

The summits promote bold climate legislation, both nationally and internationally. “PowerShift is a campaign, and the conferences are just a unit of the campaign,” said Scott Meloeny, one of the five PowerShift Midwest organizers.

The conferences are staggered around climate legislation in the United States Senate – specifically, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Securities Act of 2009 (ACES). The legislation, written by Ed Markey (D – Mass.) and Henry Waxman (D – Calif.), would establish a type of cap and trade system. Under this system, the government would limit the total amount of greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – that could be emitted nationally. Companies could then buy or sell permits to emit these gases. The government would steadily reduce this limit, or cap, between 2012 and 2050.

Participants also want “to let President Obama know that, when he attends the United Nations Climate Conference of 2009 in Copenhagen this December, the youth of America want the U.S. to lead the world toward a fair, ambitious and binding global climate treaty,” said Meloeny.

“We wanted to … create this coalition, this movement, of young people who can come up with one voice calling for change in environmental policy,” said Steve Ross, another Midwest organizer.

Yet within Michigan, the conference held even greater significance. Michigan’s failing economy allows the state “to really restore its economy based on a sustainable method, based on green jobs, based on clean energy,” said Meloeny.

The first PowerShift conference was held in November 2007, in Washingon D.C..  Another national conference was held in March of 2009.

This year, eleven regional and state-wide conferences replaced the national conference. “These smaller regional movements are kind of a microcosm of the national one.   They have a lot of the same content, same voice, same ideals,” explained Meloeny. Yet these regional conferences build upon existing infrastructure within communities – such as local businesses and environmental organizations – to push the movement forward.

PowerShift regional organizers and campus coordinators had less than six weeks to plan the conference. “There are things that I’m already thinking about improving for next year,” said MSU campus coordinator and international relations senior Neeharika Tumati. “As the MSU coordinator, what I could do better with student outreach, student retention. I think maybe more time is needed.”

The smaller size seemed to have no impact on the conference’s quality.

Environmental policy junior Kris Martin attended both the two national and Michigan’s regional PowerShift conference. “[Michigan’s PowerShift] is on a smaller scale, of course,” Martin said. “But the workshops I attended today all had something different, so I don’t think just because it’s smaller scale means less information.”

Moreover, the locality allowed students like Martin to easily network with others in their own community. Martin had the opportunity to re-introduce himself to Ingham County drain commissioner Patrick Lindemann, who spoke to Martin’s class two years previous. “It was really cool to speak with him, and kind of refresh his memory,” Martin said. “I may be doing an internship with him now.”

Personal Experience

I attended PowerShift 2009, toeing the blurry line between objective journalist and active participant. Admittedly, after watching videos and hearing testimonials from previous participants, I had expected crowds of energetic students parading throughout the streets of Lansing. Yet instead, I was greeted with a partially barren warehouse, with poster boards sitting dejectedly upon fold-out tables and handfuls of students making small talk with one another.

Washington D.C. embodied a certain level of exoticism and sexiness that Lansing simply could not replicate. “It was something about a trip to D.C. to learn more about the environment that was exciting,” recalled Tumati. “Going with a bunch of college students, staying in a church basement, just hanging around D.C. during one of the biggest snow storms of the year…that was pretty cool.”

In short, I felt as if PowerShift had lost the grandeur and passion that I admired. Despite my initial shock and disappointment, I soon discovered that size was the only drawback to the event. The engaging speakers and informative workshops, along with subtle networking, helped participants cultivate a strong sense of community identity.

“I really like how students are sitting around and talking and playing basketball, just interacting, going into the community, grabbing food, things like that,” said Tumati.

Instilling a sense of political activism on the local level demonstrates that “you don’t have to travel twelve hours to go make a difference, you can do it in your own backyard,” Martin said.

Next Steps

While PowerShift may be over, “There are lots of things that are happening at the federal and state level,” Tumati said. “I think it’s easy for students not to pay attention or not to really know what’s going on and get lost in the various media outlets.”

Tumati encourages participants to continue spreading PowerShift’s message. “I think it goes back to the fact that we should not be a democracy every four years. Just keep going, continuing.”

Posted in Global ViewComments (0)

Fair Trade for This Town

Fair Trade for This Town

“Everything $15 or less!” displays a large white sign, a sign not ordinarily seen in front of a clothing store, much less a fair trade boutique.

But for La Bodega, the new fair trade retail store located in Downtown East Lansing, ordinary wasn’t enough. “We’ve always focused on being cute and funky and unique,” said Denice Miller, the store manager.

Fair trade can be loosely defined as a trading philosophy and a social justice movement that promotes fair wages, better working conditions, and environmental sustainability. La Bodega is the newest addition to a growing list of fair trade shops in and around campus. While some retailers disperse certain fair trade products throughout their stores, few sell fair only trade products.

The fair trade movement first began as a collective grassroots effort within Eastern Europe following World War II. Religious-based organizations, such as the Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation (SERRV) and Oxfam, began purchasing handmade wares from countries recovering from the war, primarily in Eastern Europe. These ‘Alternative Trade Organizations’ soon expanded to help others in developing countries.

“SERRV and several others that started buying goods and operating according what evolved into fair trade principles, which are respect for the producer, respect for cultural identity and if when possible cutting out the middle person so more of the price of the product would go to the producer,” explained Paulette Stenzel, a professor of International Business Law in the Department of Finance at the Eli Broad School of Business at MSU. She specializes in fair trade, sustainable development, and environmental law.

Today, fair trade has become a major movement within Europe. Yet within the United States, the movement has been slow to progress. “We are very much the late-comers with respect to that,” Stenzel said. “It’s growing tremendously, but we are definitely in the wake and not the forefront.”

Within Michigan, there is a growing network of fair trade businesses and organizations. Notable retailers include ’10,000 Villages’ in Ann Arbor, ‘Mission Marketplace’ in Chelsea, ‘The Bridge’ in Holland, and ‘Kirabo’ and ‘La Bodega’ in East Lansing.

Gail Catron, a managing partner for Kirabo, contributes the continued success of fair trade within Michigan to the growing awareness of fair trade.

“’The Bridge’ in Holland has been there seventeen, eighteen years, long before the rest of us. And for a while no one really understood the concept,” Catron said. “But as fair trade has become more and more talked about, and now that there’s at least eight stores in Michigan, [The Bridge’s] business is just going crazy.”

Despite its popularity, no single official organization determines which products can be labeled fair trade. Due to this lack of centrality, various organizations have begun developing their own fair trade standards.

“There are a number of organizations that have developed their own fair trade standards and have tailored them to make it easier on themselves,” said Stenzel. “There’s a need for a more standardized definition, a need for more consistent standards.”

Despite such concerns, many within the fair trade community accept the standards set by FINE, an information organization that includes four major Fair Trade networks – the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, the International Fair Trade Association, the Network of World Shops, and the European Fair Trade Association.

FINE created a set of five fair trade principles. Other organizations, such as Ten Thousand Villages, one of the largest fair trade organizations for hand-made products in the United States, have created similar standards. All fair trade stores differ from one another, including East Lansing’s La Bodega and Kirabo, even though they are close in proximity.

La Bodega

La Bodega adheres to the principles and philosophy of the fair trade movement, but is not certified by any major organization.
“We’ve always supported traditional hand-made goods, things that are native to the country, things that people are recycling and reusing,” Miller explained.

While La Bodega opened its doors this summer, it’s sister store, Orchid Lane, began in 1986. Nancy Elias established Orchid Lane, located in Ann Arbor, after a trip to Ecuador.

“She met a lot of indigenous people, a lot of single mothers, unwed mothers, who had certain skills of sewing or fabric dying or whatnot. And she worked with them to help them organize and group themselves,” Miller said. Elias organized a cooperative within Ecuador, and began to sell the products – primarily colorful wool sweaters – to her customers.

“She really wants them to be strong and do their own thing,” Miller said. “That’s always kind of been our motto. We don’t want to come in and find a cooperative and change them in any way, we want to work with them and grow with them.”

Since its conception, the store has expanded, and now buys from over fifty different producers primarily in India, Nepal and Bali. The owners and store managers discover new suppliers either through word of mouth, or during their own travels abroad.

“If we find a business owner that is nice and amiable, if they’re open to showing us their factory and how things work, if they let us speak with their workers, then we know that they’re trustworthy,” Miller said.

While no formulaic criteria exists, the retailers ensure that their suppliers provide fair working conditions and a fair wage, in addition to using recycled materials.

“We also really like working with women’s cooperatives,” Miller said. “They reinvest better in the community. So women’s cooperatives will provide free child care for their workers or they’ll feed them during the day or something like that.”

Kirabo

Unlike La Bodega, Kirabo actively engages with the larger fair trade network within Michigan. The stores communicate with one another “at least once a month, if not five times a month,” Catron said.

“One thing that is so cool in fair trade … is the transparency and the non-competiveness between stores,” Catron said. “Because fair trade is such a little small piece of the retail market at this point still, we’re all about getting the word out.”

The retailers exchange information such as new suppliers and best-selling items. They recently pooled their money for a joint advertisement in a magazine published at the Ann Arbor street art fair, held annually in July.

Such resources are extremely helpful for new businesses such as Kirabo, which opened in August of 2007.

Catron first encountered fair trade products at a crafts fair held by the Okemos Community Church, in the fall of 2006. “There was a booth of this Nicaraguan pottery. And I thought it was beautiful; it really caught my attention,” Catron said.

A fair trade store, Esperanza en Acción (Hope through Action), created and shipped the pottery. “So I went on Esperanza’s website, read all about it,” Catron said. “I was particularly drawn to one of the employees in the shop. Her name was Jamalette, and it told her story about how she used to live in the dump, a single mom with her children. And that one just went straight to the heart.”

Catron volunteered at the church for six months, helping sell fair trade products, before deciding to open her own fair trade store. Throughout the process of opening her business, she received support from both the Ten Thousand Villages regional manager, and her mentor, Brian Smucker, who also partners with Ten Thousand Villages and owns a chain of stores in California.

Catron must wait a minimum number of years before the store can be certified by a fair trade organization. Until then, “I buy from suppliers that are affiliated [with the Fair Trade Federation] because then I feel much more comfortable that all the principles are being followed,” Catron said.

She also promotes fair trade to her customers. Catron explains the principles of fair trade to her staff, so that they can relay the information to customers. The staff also hands out small cards with information about the product and who made it. “When [customers] can hear the story behind the product, it really helps them understand how they’re benefiting the artisans,” Catron explained. “Everyday we’re telling what it is, and telling the story, and the mission, and what we’re all about. “

Misconceptions

Despite efforts made by Catron and others to educate the public about fair trade, many misconceptions remain.

One such misconception characterizes fair trade as “this really left-wing social movement,” sociology and interdisciplinary sciences junior Lauren Hayes said. Hayes is president of the goupt MSU Students for Fair Trade. “It is a social movement, but it is also very business-oriented and there is a lot of economics behind it. It’s really a non-partisan movement that helps bring people out of poverty.”

Stenzel believes that “The public often thinks that it’s a charity … whereas, it’s business. Fair trade is a type of trade. It’s becoming more and more mainstream in the E.U. [European Union] and elsewhere.”

“Business today is now moving toward the realization that we have to look to what is known as the triple bottom line: economy, social equity and environment,” Stenzel said. “And that’s really what fair trade is all about, is looking to the triple bottom line.”

Many also assume that fair trade products are more costly than ‘regular’ products. In order to guarantee a fair wage for workers, buyers set a market price for fair trade goods. And while this price can be more expensive than the regular market price, “It changes a lot,” Hayes explained.” It depends on the market and what kinds of wages are being set.”

Due to fair trade certification fees, some products such as chocolate and coffee are more expensive. “It is a little more pricey in chocolate and coffee, perhaps,” Catron conceded. “But the craft side, that is not the case. […] What you’re getting on the craft side is amazing for the price.”

Critiques

Higher prices can be a deterrent for customers. Sparty’s convenience stores, located in and around Michigan State University’s campus, sell only fair trade coffees and have encountered problems selling fair trade chocolates. “It was a little higher than the competing chocolates. The product was good, definitely, but being that it was more expensive people kind of shied away from it a little bit,” said Mike Harding, the Operations Assistant Manager for Sparty’s. “It’d be safe to say it wasn’t popular enough to continue, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it again.”

The price of fair trade certification makes it difficult for smaller cooperatives to become certified. The certification process also requires a certain level of sophistication, “to be able to understand the requirements, being sufficiently literate to wade one’s way through all the paperwork,” Stenzel said.

And while over 2,000 fair trade products are available, including more unconventional commodities, such as fair trade tourism, fair trade certification standards have not been created for every product available. “It’s a laborious and painstaking task to develop standards for a particular product. So there are a number of products that have standards, but there’s a lot left to be done,” Stenzel said.

Businesses and organizations recognize the limitations of fair trade. “It’s not that we’re trying to take over the whole needs of people and say that it could eventually be all fair trade,” Catron said. “What we are trying to do is raise the awareness about what are you paying that worker, what kind of conditions are they working in.” Fair trade’s real aim is to give everyone involved a fair shake.

Posted in Global ViewComments (5)

Better Know a Country

Better Know a Country

On October 7, the Associated Press reported that government ministers from the Republic of Maldives had begun preparing for their first ever underwater cabinet meeting, to emphasize the impact of climate change on rising sea levels. Maldives is the lowest-lying nation on earth, with its highest point only eight feet above the sea level, and thus the most vulnerable to such oceanic changes.

Located to the southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Sea (maps), the Republic of Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, which form 26 major atolls – islands of coral that encircle lagoons.  These atolls are one part of the Laccadives-Chagos Ridge, which stretches over 2,000 kilometers.

According to a 1998 census, an estimated 270,000 people live on the island. While English is widely spoken, Dhivehi is the official language of the republic. The Maldives currency is the Rufiyaa, with an exchange rate of 1 U.S.D. to 12.97 Rufiyaa.

The earliest settlers on the island were known as the Giraavarus, and many believe they descend from the Tamils people, in Sri Lanka. The second kind of Maldives, Dhovemi Kalaminja, converted the island peoples to Islam in the 12th century. In 1887, Maldives became a British protectorate. The republic received full political dependence from Britain on July 25, 1965.

Posted in Global ViewComments (0)

Secular Students Unite

Secular Students Unite

MSU may be a public, and therefore secular, university, but that does not guarantee that atheists are accepted among the student population. “People have a negative perception of us and judge us based on what they think atheists are like,” comparative cultures and politics sophomore Cameron Lucke said. He considers himself an atheist.

MSU has a variety of religious groups on campus, from the His House Christian Fellowship to the Muslim Students’ Association. Unfortunately, atheists and other secular students do not have such well-established support networks.

This strong religious campus fosters certain societal norms. “Everyone just assumes you have a god and push[es] it on you,” Lucke said. It can be difficult for students to find alternative points of view.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), while not a self-proclaimed atheist group, aims to create a community for secular students like Lucke, who are looking for a student group with a more diverse set of world views.

Cameron Lucke quote on AthiestsDuring zoology junior Julia Smith’s freshman year, “it seemed like every single person I met was religious,” Smith said. “I thought that in college there would be a wider variety of viewpoints. And it seemed like the only people I met were Christians.” She is one of the club’s four board members.

MSU’s CFI chapter belongs to a much larger, nonprofit organization, which promotes what Smith calls ‘skeptical thinking.’ Their purpose, according to their website, is to “contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of science and reason, and their applications to human conduct.”

Within Michigan, there are five other colleges and universities which have student CFI chapters: Kendall College, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Ferris State University, and Aquinas College.

MSU’s partnership with CFI started last year. Before 2008, the group was known as MSU Freethinkers Alliance. The Freethinkers Alliance began in the fall semester of 2002, and aimed to create a community of rationalist and secular thinkers.

Despite the name change, the group continues to promote this goal. “I think it’s important to work on fostering a community because non-religious or secular people tend to do their own thing and not want to band together,” Smith said. “There’s no need to hang out alone when we can all make friends and realize ‘there’s a bigger community than myself.’”

Laura Kovacek quote on the CFI meetingsThe group changed its name to associate itself more closely with the larger organization. “[Now] we can pool our resources, do joint events, joint speakers,” Smith said. Thanks to this partnership, the student group was able to host speaker Richard Dawkins, the renowned and controversial atheist.

Despite their atheist tendencies, the group has not experienced backlash from the religious community on campus. “The response toward CFI from religious groups has been largely positive — we just held the collaborative event with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and we have been invited to be a part of the new Campus Interfaith Council,” Smith said. “So as far as I know, the religious groups who know about us like us and have been willing to collaborate.”

The discussions CFI students have at meetings do set them apart from other religious groups on campus. What qualifies as art? As a secular person, what should your response to religion be? What are the limits to skepticism? These are some of the unanswerable questions that the 20 or so regular members ask themselves every Thursday night.

“We don’t claim to have the answers and don’t think we can come to them, certainly in one evening,” Smith said. “We don’t try to answer things, but express our views and understand why we think what we think a little more,” Smith added.

For social relations and policy junior Laura Kovacek, college is the ideal time to ask such questions. “You don’t necessarily get this opportunity at other times in your life, to ask such theoretical and impractical questions,” Kovacek said. “It allows you to address issues that you’ve wondered about.”

Their Thursday night meetings consist of everything from discussions to going on field trips. While there is no designated format, “usually we’ll have a presentation of some sort, and then open the floor to ideas,” she said. “Anybody is allowed to come and speak. We bounce ideas off of one another, argue, talk and think about whatever the issue is.”

Students are attracted to the group for a variety of reasons. For Kovacek, politics first drew her in. “The first meeting that I went to was on politics, and I went back because of that,” Kovacek said.

CFI “really gives you an outlet to try and think about things in a non-academic setting. I really think that it’s integral to learning outside the classroom,” Kovacek said. “It’s fun, but not vapid.”

Unlike Kovacek, mechanical engineering sophomore Mike Parr was merely inquisitive about the group. He received an e-mail earlier this year about the group and decided to inquire within at a meeting because “I hadn’t found a lot of secular people to talk with, and thought it would be a good place to find people with similar interests.”

Unlike other religious student groups on campus, CFI students’ similar interests include a world without an overarching God. But the absence of religion doesn’t mean the absence of meaning, and CFI provides a place for students to flesh out all kinds of secular ambiguities.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

Secular Students Unite

MSU may be a public, and therefore secular, university, but that does not guarantee that atheists are accepted among the student population. “People have a negative perception of us and judge us based on what they think atheists are like,” comparative cultures and politics sophomore Cameron Lucke said. He considers himself an atheist.
MSU has a variety of religious groups on campus, from the His House Christian Fellowship to the Muslim Students’ Association. Unfortunately, atheists and other secular students do not have such well-established support networks.
This strong religious campus fosters certain societal norms. “Everyone just assumes you have a god and push[es] it on you,” Lucke said. It can be difficult for students to find alternative points of view.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI), while not a self-proclaimed atheist group, aims to create a community for secular students like Lucke, who are looking for a student group with a more diverse set of world views. [quote1]
During zoology junior Julia Smith’s freshman year, “it seemed like every single person I met was religious,” Smith said. “I thought that in college there would be a wider variety of viewpoints. And it seemed like the only people I met were Christians.” She is one of the club’s four board members.
MSU’s CFI chapter belongs to a much larger, nonprofit organization, which promotes what Smith calls ‘skeptical thinking.’ Their purpose, according to their website, is to “contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of science and reason, and their applications to human conduct.”
Within Michigan, there are five other colleges and universities which have student CFI chapters: Kendall College, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Ferris State University, and Aquinas College.
MSU’s partnership with CFI started last year. Before 2008, the group was known as MSU Freethinkers Alliance. The Freethinkers Alliance began in the fall semester of 2002, and aimed to create a community of rationalist and secular thinkers.
Despite the name change, the group continues to promote this goal. “I think it’s important to work on fostering a community because non-religious or secular people tend to do their own thing and not want to band together,” Smith said. “There’s no need to hang out alone when we can all make friends and realize ‘there’s a bigger community than myself.’” [quote2]
The group changed its name to associate itself more closely with the larger organization. “[Now] we can pool our resources, do joint events, joint speakers,” Smith said. Thanks to this partnership, the student group was able to host speaker Richard Dawkins, the renowned and controversial atheist.
Despite their atheist tendencies, the group has not experienced backlash from the religious community on campus. “The response toward CFI from religious groups has been largely positive — we just held the collaborative event with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and we have been invited to be a part of the new Campus Interfaith Council,” Smith said. “So as far as I know, the religious groups who know about us like us and have been willing to collaborate.”
The discussions CFI students have at meetings do set them apart from other religious groups on campus. What qualifies as art? As a secular person, what should your response to religion be? What are the limits to skepticism? These are some of the unanswerable questions that the 20 or so regular members ask themselves every Thursday night.
“We don’t claim to have the answers and don’t think we can come to them, certainly in one evening,” Smith said. “We don’t try to answer things, but express our views and understand why we think what we think a little more,” Smith added.
For social relations and policy junior Laura Kovacek, college is the ideal time to ask such questions. “You don’t necessarily get this opportunity at other times in your life, to ask such theoretical and impractical questions,” Kovacek said. “It allows you to address issues that you’ve wondered about.”
Their Thursday night meetings consist of everything from discussions to going on field trips. While there is no designated format, “usually we’ll have a presentation of some sort, and then open the floor to ideas,” she said. “Anybody is allowed to come and speak. We bounce ideas off of one another, argue, talk and think about whatever the issue is.”
Students are attracted to the group for a variety of reasons. For Kovacek, politics first drew her in. “The first meeting that I went to was on politics, and I went back because of that,” Kovacek said.
CFI “really gives you an outlet to try and think about things in a non-academic setting. I really think that it’s integral to learning outside the classroom,” Kovacek said. “It’s fun, but not vapid.”
Unlike Kovacek, mechanical engineering sophomore Mike Parr was merely inquisitive about the group. He received an e-mail earlier this year about the group and decided to inquire within at a meeting because “I hadn’t found a lot of secular people to talk with, and thought it would be a good place to find people with similar interests.”
Unlike other religious student groups on campus, CFI students’ similar interests include a world without an overarching God. But the absence of religion doesn’t mean the absence of meaning, and CFI provides a place for students to flesh out all kinds of secular ambiguities.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

Welcome to Riot School

 “Party school” is some people’s choice phrase to describe MSU, but in recent years, especially after last year’s Cedar Fest tear-gas chaos, others think “riot school” is more appropriate. But while MSU’s party school legend has been around for awhile, the history of riot outbreaks is a relatively recent one.

In the 1960s and 1970s, MSU students participated in protests surrounding the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, but there was no notable string of violent demonstrations like our generation has seen in recent years. Some suggest that riots started by MSU students are a younger generation’s form of the student protests in the Vietnam War era, but others like James Madison professor Ron Dorr disagree that they hold the same meaning. “I have always been bewildered by the ‘riots’ in East Lansing,” Dorr said. “What a contrast to antiwar demonstrations, protests against the Kent State killings in 1970, and marches after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., which my wife and I experienced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

The mood shifted at the end of the 1970s. “After Vietnam, the whole world calmed down a little bit,” MSU alumni Dave Lawler said. “I did not do anything as far as any kind of protest, and I really don’t remember anything like that being popular at the time.” He attended MSU from 1979 to 1983 and participated in Cedar Fest his junior and senior years but remembers it as nothing more than party. “I mean, it was a party that was huge, but I wouldn’t say it was out of hand. There wasn’t cars flipped over, cop cars burned; it was just a huge party, an excuse for everyone to be outside,” he said.

Today’s riots have a stronger link to partying rather than protesting, and students recognize that. “I knew MSU had a riot school reputation, which played into its party school reputation. The stereotypical MSU riot, burning down couches and everything, has always been a big joke with me and my friends,” international relations, telecommunications, and economics sophomore Kris Wesslen said.

Since 1997, there have been six significant riots on campus. The first took place Sept. 8, 1997 at a block party on Gunson Street in which 400 to 500 students attended. As the night wore on students took to activities that have become riot protocol in East Lansing — burning couches and smashing beer bottles in the street. Officers from five police departments arrived at 1:45 a.m. dressed in riot gear to break up the mob. Students resisted for over two hours, pelting the police with shards of glass, chanting “Fuck the police!”

Munn Field was the scene of the next commotion on May 1, 1998. The university had recently decided to ban alcohol from Munn Field during football tailgates, and when students arrived to protest the decision, they found that the police had blocked off the entire field. A mass email sent to students about the protest had inadvertently alerted the police as well, an eerily familiar tale in today’s world of social networking. The crowd of 3,000 marched toward then-president M. Peter McPherson’s house. He was not home at the time, so the students continued onward to Grand River Avenue. Police officers from 10 local departments responded to the protest, with riot gear in one hand and tear gas in the other. Eleven hours and 300 canisters later, the crowd dispersed. Police arrested 15 students. On Tuesday, May 5, district court judge Richard Ball ruled that as a bail condition the students had to leave East Lansing by 8:00 pm that night. Amid public outcry following the sentencing, Ball modified the bail terms, allowing the students to remain in East Lansing with a curfew of 8:00 p.m. and no alcohol consumption.

And then, on March 27, 1999, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Spartan fans took to the streets after the men’s basketball team’s 68-62 loss to Duke during the NCAA Final Four. The students lit 61 bonfires and burned eight vehicles, among other destructive actions which resulted in $325,000 in damages. Police seized photographs from an Associated Press freelance photographer and subpoenaed local news organizations for photographs and videos of the riot. They set up a Web site to post the photographs and videos and asked the community to identify possible suspects. This sparked a debate over privacy rights and unlawful search and seizure issues, particularly among the subpoenaed press outlets.

A similar riot occurred on March 29, 2003, after the men’s basketball team suffered another loss, 85-76, to Texas University during the NCAA Tournament. The smaller crowd of 2,000 packed the streets around campus, started eight fires and overturned four cars. When the first fire was lit on Grand River Avenue near Espresso Royale, officers tear-gassed the crowd.

The streak of basketball related riots continued on April 2, 2005 when more than 3,000 people crowded the streets after MSU lost to North Carolina in the NCAA basketball tournament. But this time the police were prepared. They began preparing for post-game riots one month before the game. That didn’t prevent 247 canisters of tear gas being used or $5,775 in losses for the City of East Lansing as a result of the crowd’s actions. It took police officers from eight different forces to finally get the crowd to disperse.

Then, there was Cedar Fest 2008, an event still fresh in the minds of most. It was coined as a revival of the Cedar Village block parties from the 1970s and 1980s and posted as a Facebook event. As a result, on April 5, 2008, more than 3,000 people gathered at Cedar Village. Police came prepared before any violence occurred — they monitored the party to make sure it didn’t get out of control. Wesslen was there and said the police did not seem too concerned early on. But, when police began to address drunken behavior, Cedar Fest became a spring block party gone awry. “People started ripping down a stop sign. Mob mentality really kicked in,” Wesslen said. “They were focused on ripping down this stop sign, just to piss off the police.”

Wesslen watched the mob’s increasingly hostile actions from the woods nearby. “The mob believed they were in a fictitious, imaginary battle with the police. That’s when it started to get out of hand and [students] started throwing bottles.” Police used tear gas and sting ball grenades to break up the crowd, which eventually dispersed. Fifty-two people were arrested. Half were MSU students.

As riots have become some sort of odd and destructive tradition rather than an isolated incident, City Hall has been working to put an end to East Lansing’s riot history. The arrests and trials that followed Cedar Fest compelled Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon to draft a series of amendments to Ordinance 1216, known as the anti-riot ordinance. Before the amendments were added, the ordinance’s ambiguous language made it difficult to classify particular behaviors as the type that incite riots, and therefore are punishable. Yeadon said the amendments are necessary because in the arrests and trials following Cedar Fest, many defendants claimed that their actions were not meant to further the riot. “We thought it would be helpful for everybody – for potential participants, for the police, for jurors – to all understand what kind of conduct we consider to be conduct that promotes the purpose of the riot,” Yeadon said. “It’s conduct that we’ve already prosecuted for.”

East Lansing Police Chief Tom Wibert agreed. “I’m comfortable with the way [the new ordinance] is written. It’s not like it’s different than before the council meeting. Just now it’s spelled out.”

The East Lansing City Council adopted the amendments at a March 17 meeting, despite concerns from the Lansing and East Lansing branches of ACLU. Marc Allen, a political science and constitutional democracy and English senior, and founder and president of the MSU ACLU chapter, said student ACLU
members were concerned about the civil rights violations present within the new ordinance – specifically, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. “We still weren’t happy with the way Cedar Fest was handled last year, so we were sort of wary about the police giving themselves more authority to arrest students for this kind of stuff,” Allen said.

As a result of the amendments, behavior like throwing beer cans at police officers, refusing to leave a street after police officers order it cleared, obstructing police and setting off fire extinguishers are all convictable offenses.

Allen said that the new ordinance makes it easier to prosecute citizens for riotous behavior, and that arresting people is not the right way to stop a riot. “If you think that prosecuting more people is going to stop the riot, than it’s probably a good idea spelling out things,” Allen said. “But, I don’t think that’s how you stop it.”

Those who disagree about the anti-rioting ordinance still agree on one issue – they want the riots to stop.

Be it a comfort or not, MSU’s riot culture is not an anomaly. In 1998 alone, there were outbreaks of violence between party-goers and police at Washington Sate University in Pullman, Plymouth, N.H., University of Connecticut in Storrs and Ohio University in Athens. Some still ponder about the May 1998 riot, which many consider a ‘starting point’ for the rest of them. “I have to wonder,” Wibert said about the May 1998 riot, “if [the May 1998 riot], if [the students] were allowed to take the field, would it have been contained there and would it have dissipated and then, maybe, the whole culture wouldn’t have been started.”

Regardless of its start, the Final Four games in the beginning of April may show whether or not MSU’s riotous reputation continues. E-mails with riot precautions are circling, and professors are already chiding students not to participate. Should people be fireproofing their couches and cop cars? Is basketball synonymous with riot season? In a few days, we may know whether celebrating in style can be done without damages.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

Welcome to Riot School

“Party school” is some people’s choice phrase to describe MSU, but in recent years, especially after last year’s Cedar Fest tear-gas chaos, others think “riot school” is more appropriate. But while MSU’s party school legend has been around for awhile, the history of riot outbreaks is a relatively recent one.
In the 1960s and 1970s, MSU students participated in protests surrounding the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, but there was no notable string of violent demonstrations like our generation has seen in recent years. Some suggest that riots started by MSU students are a younger generation’s form of the student protests in the Vietnam War era, but others like James Madison professor Ron Dorr disagree that they hold the same meaning. “I have always been bewildered by the ‘riots’ in East Lansing,” Dorr said. “What a contrast to antiwar demonstrations, protests against the Kent State killings in 1970, and marches after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., which my wife and I experienced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”
The mood shifted at the end of the 1970s. “After Vietnam, the whole world calmed down a little bit,” MSU alumni Dave Lawler said. “I did not do anything as far as any kind of protest, and I really don’t remember anything like that being popular at the time.” He attended MSU from 1979 to 1983 and participated in Cedar Fest his junior and senior years but remembers it as nothing more than party. “I mean, it was a party that was huge, but I wouldn’t say it was out of hand. There wasn’t cars flipped over, cop cars burned; it was just a huge party, an excuse for everyone to be outside,” he said.
Today’s riots have a stronger link to partying rather than protesting, and students recognize that. “I knew MSU had a riot school reputation, which played into its party school reputation. The stereotypical MSU riot, burning down couches and everything, has always been a big joke with me and my friends,” international relations, telecommunications, and economics sophomore Kris Wesslen said.
Since 1997, there have been six significant riots on campus. The first took place Sept. 8, 1997 at a block party on Gunson Street in which 400 to 500 students attended. As the night wore on students took to activities that have become riot protocol in East Lansing — burning couches and smashing beer bottles in the street. Officers from five police departments arrived at 1:45 a.m. dressed in riot gear to break up the mob. Students resisted for over two hours, pelting the police with shards of glass, chanting “Fuck the police!”
Munn Field was the scene of the next commotion on May 1, 1998. The university had recently decided to ban alcohol from Munn Field during football tailgates, and when students arrived to protest the decision, they found that the police had blocked off the entire field. A mass email sent to students about the protest had inadvertently alerted the police as well, an eerily familiar tale in today’s world of social networking. The crowd of 3,000 marched toward then-president M. Peter McPherson’s house. He was not home at the time, so the students continued onward to Grand River Avenue. Police officers from 10 local departments responded to the protest, with riot gear in one hand and tear gas in the other. Eleven hours and 300 canisters later, the crowd dispersed. Police arrested 15 students. On Tuesday, May 5, district court judge Richard Ball ruled that as a bail condition the students had to leave East Lansing by 8:00 pm that night. Amid public outcry following the sentencing, Ball modified the bail terms, allowing the students to remain in East Lansing with a curfew of 8:00 p.m. and no alcohol consumption.
And then, on March 27, 1999, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Spartan fans took to the streets after the men’s basketball team’s 68-62 loss to Duke during the NCAA Final Four. The students lit 61 bonfires and burned eight vehicles, among other destructive actions which resulted in $325,000 in damages. Police seized photographs from an Associated Press freelance photographer and subpoenaed local news organizations for photographs and videos of the riot. They set up a Web site to post the photographs and videos and asked the community to identify possible suspects. This sparked a debate over privacy rights and unlawful search and seizure issues, particularly among the subpoenaed press outlets.
A similar riot occurred on March 29, 2003, after the men’s basketball team suffered another loss, 85-76, to Texas University during the NCAA Tournament. The smaller crowd of 2,000 packed the streets around campus, started eight fires and overturned four cars. When the first fire was lit on Grand River Avenue near Espresso Royale, officers tear-gassed the crowd.
The streak of basketball related riots continued on April 2, 2005 when more than 3,000 people crowded the streets after MSU lost to North Carolina in the NCAA basketball tournament. But this time the police were prepared. They began preparing for post-game riots one month before the game. That didn’t prevent 247 canisters of tear gas being used or $5,775 in losses for the City of East Lansing as a result of the crowd’s actions. It took police officers from eight different forces to finally get the crowd to disperse.
Then, there was Cedar Fest 2008, an event still fresh in the minds of most. It was coined as a revival of the Cedar Village block parties from the 1970s and 1980s and posted as a Facebook event. As a result, on April 5, 2008, more than 3,000 people gathered at Cedar Village. Police came prepared before any violence occurred — they monitored the party to make sure it didn’t get out of control. Wesslen was there and said the police did not seem too concerned early on. But, when police began to address drunken behavior, Cedar Fest became a spring block party gone awry. “People started ripping down a stop sign. Mob mentality really kicked in,” Wesslen said. “They were focused on ripping down this stop sign, just to piss off the police.”
Wesslen watched the mob’s increasingly hostile actions from the woods nearby. “The mob believed they were in a fictitious, imaginary battle with the police. That’s when it started to get out of hand and [students] started throwing bottles.” Police used tear gas and sting ball grenades to break up the crowd, which eventually dispersed. Fifty-two people were arrested. Half were MSU students.
As riots have become some sort of odd and destructive tradition rather than an isolated incident, City Hall has been working to put an end to East Lansing’s riot history. The arrests and trials that followed Cedar Fest compelled Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon to draft a series of amendments to Ordinance 1216, known as the anti-riot ordinance. Before the amendments were added, the ordinance’s ambiguous language made it difficult to classify particular behaviors as the type that incite riots, and therefore are punishable. Yeadon said the amendments are necessary because in the arrests and trials following Cedar Fest, many defendants claimed that their actions were not meant to further the riot. “We thought it would be helpful for everybody – for potential participants, for the police, for jurors – to all understand what kind of conduct we consider to be conduct that promotes the purpose of the riot,” Yeadon said. “It’s conduct that we’ve already prosecuted for.”
East Lansing Police Chief Tom Wibert agreed. “I’m comfortable with the way [the new ordinance] is written. It’s not like it’s different than before the council meeting. Just now it’s spelled out.”
The East Lansing City Council adopted the amendments at a March 17 meeting, despite concerns from the Lansing and East Lansing branches of ACLU. Marc Allen, a political science and constitutional democracy and English senior, and founder and president of the MSU ACLU chapter, said student ACLU members were concerned about the civil rights violations present within the new ordinance – specifically, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. “We still weren’t happy with the way Cedar Fest was handled last year, so we were sort of wary about the police giving themselves more authority to arrest students for this kind of stuff,” Allen said.
As a result of the amendments, behavior like throwing beer cans at police officers, refusing to leave a street after police officers order it cleared, obstructing police and setting off fire extinguishers are all convictable offenses.
Allen said that the new ordinance makes it easier to prosecute citizens for riotous behavior, and that arresting people is not the right way to stop a riot. “If you think that prosecuting more people is going to stop the riot, than it’s probably a good idea spelling out things,” Allen said. “But, I don’t think that’s how you stop it.”
Those who disagree about the anti-rioting ordinance still agree on one issue – they want the riots to stop.
Be it a comfort or not, MSU’s riot culture is not an anomaly. In 1998 alone, there were outbreaks of violence between party-goers and police at Washington Sate University in Pullman, Plymouth, N.H., University of Connecticut in Storrs and Ohio University in Athens. Some still ponder about the May 1998 riot, which many consider a ‘starting point’ for the rest of them. “I have to wonder,” Wibert said about the May 1998 riot, “if [the May 1998 riot], if [the students] were allowed to take the field, would it have been contained there and would it have dissipated and then, maybe, the whole culture wouldn’t have been started.”
Regardless of its start, the Final Four games in the beginning of April may show whether or not MSU’s riotous reputation continues. E-mails with riot precautions are circling, and professors are already chiding students not to participate. Should people be fireproofing their couches and cop cars? Is basketball synonymous with riot season? In a few days, we may know whether celebrating in style can be done without damages.

Posted in State SideComments (0)

Growing Roots

The Student Organic Farm can be found at the end of a winding dirt road. This small, ten-acre farm sits in the midst of an open field, sprinkled with snow. Organic greenhouses, built out of wood and plastic, line the ad-hoc driveway where workers park their cars and, on occasion, tractors.
Farm manager Tomm Becker guides me from greenhouse to greenhouse, all the while explaining the inner-workings of the farm. His love of farming and his extensive knowledge of agriculture make it easy to understand farming concepts, even for a girl from the suburbs.
Inside the greenhouses, the air remains warm and humid, despite the frigid cold. A layer of opaque, heavy plastic covers the rows of plants. Becker lifts up cover after cover with ease, proudly exposing the leafy greens. The vibrant greens, purples, and browns contrast sharply with the off-white walls.
The workers have adorned their workhouse with brightly colored murals, dirty work clothes, and a corner full of well-worn, comfortable couches and chairs. It’s clear that Becker is not the only worker with a passion for small-scale organic farming. [markham]
MSU’s foundation is in agriculture. It was the first agricultural college in the nation. According to the MSU’s website, the Michigan Legislature passed Act 130 in 1855, which first established the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. The school officially opened on May 13, 1857. Inspired by Michigan’s innovative legislation, the Morrill Act of 1862 established 72 more land grant institutions. Currently, MSU uses over 15,000 acres throughout the state of Michigan for agriculture, animal, and forestry research.
At a university whose history is so deeply entwined with agriculture, it strikes me as strange to discover that the organic farm relies on the enthusiasm and hard work of only a few individuals. Yet for the Student Organic Farm, this is tradition. The farm began thanks to the dedication and vision of small, but strong, core of students, and has stayed that way ever since.
SOFI
In 1999, a group of students from the Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) took agriculture in a new direction. They wanted to create an organic farm on campus, to provide hands-on training and present an image of an environmentally and economically sustainable small-scale farm. These students created the Student Organic Farm Initiative (SOFI).
[vegpatch]Two of these students, Seth Murray and Lynn Rhodes, began working with Dr. Laurie Thorp, coordinator of the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE). She helped the students acquire funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the betterment of communities within the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Southern Africa.
“I believe in the transformational power of experiential learning,” Thorp said. “I was attracted to the farm as a site for place-based teaching and learning.”
Around the same time, horticulture professor John Biernbaum was researching four-season farming techniques and passive greenhouses, known as the Organic Salad Greens Project. He soon teamed up with Dr. Thorp, and together they wrote a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant proposal. Once they received USDA funds in 2001, Biernbaum and SOFI began building passive greenhouses, which are greenhouses that require less money, energy, and work to keep up than traditional greenhouses.
Biernbaum and a friend built the first two greenhouses in the summer of 2001. Students built three others in the fall of 2001. “How much fun the students had building was incredible,” Biernbaum recalled. “There was a real sense of accomplishment.”
Two more greenhouses were built in 2006 and 2008, bringing the total to seven greenhouses – six used for growing and one used as an office.
The farm had its first season in spring of 2002. Originally, students from MSAN and SOFI volunteered at the farm. They harvested the greens and donated them to the MSU Food Bank and other charity organizations.
CSA
Soon after, the students started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program on the farm.
“CSA promotes connected people to their food, farmers, and the land,” Biernbaum said. Members of CSA pay for their food in advance, before the harvest season. The farmers use this money to pay for land, labor and materials. Unlike normal farms, CSA members share the financial risk with farmers themselves. “If it’s a good year, the members receive more food than normal,” Biernbaum said. “If it’s a bad year, the members still receive food but in a smaller amount, and they don’t get their money back.” Currently there are over 60 CSA programs throughout Michigan.
[carrots]The CSA program at MSU garnered support quickly. “The first year we only needed 25 members, which was easily filled without advertisements,” Biernbaum said. ‘Word of mouth’ was advertisement enough. The program began with a limit of 25 members, but has since grown. Members include students, faculty, and residents from the East Lansing community. Each member pays for one share of vegetables. “Each share is designed for four healthy vegetable eaters,” Becker said. Currently, the farm distributes 60 shares in the winter and 100 in the summer.
“We could continue to grow, but that’s not the goal of the student farm,” Biernbaum said. “The goal is learning and integration.”
Education
The Organic Farming Certificate Program takes on these goals. The certificate program, which began in January 2007, allows students to learn about organic farming without having to take general education courses. It lasts one year, or three semesters. During these three semesters, students must enroll in at least 12 credits.
[john]There are two full-time academic specialists hired by the university to teach the certificate program. Between six and eight students also work part-time at the farm for pay during the school year. In the summer months, there are generally three or four full-time student workers. Volunteers are also welcome at the farm.
Each week, the farm receives between 10 and 15 volunteers. “Volunteers get the ‘better jobs’ on the farm,” junior Sam Wildfong said. “It’s a really good learning environment. The work is pretty non-stop, but volunteers are never pushed past their limits.”
Full-time students also have the opportunity to learn about the farm, either through their classes or by volunteering. RISE students have a particularly close relationship with the organic farm. They started the free-range chicken program. “[The program] allows people to see chickens express their natural behaviors and our students learn how to raise layer hens in a sustainable system,” Thorp said. The students also started the MSU Bee Team. The bees improve pollination of the farm’s crops, and the students extract honey to sell at the farm stand.
The farm stand is one example of the “direct marketing” strategy to the MSU and East Lansing community. It’s what first attracted Wildfong to the farm. “Being introduced to farm has completely changed my educational goals and views towards community,” Wildfong said. “It is a small school of feeling within this massive university.”
Other strategies include the Spartan Harvest and CSA programs, mentioned above, and community activities like “garlic planting” days, “onion planting” days, and the Harvest Festival. “Activity is the foundation of the farm, and allows for great teaching, outreach, and extension,” Biernbaum said.
EFFS
In 2005, MSAN and SOFI joined together to form the Ecological Food & Farm Stewardship (EFFS). They chose the name for its phonetic sound, “Fs,” as a tribute to Biernbaum’s “F Poem,” which describes the benefits of farming using only words beginning with “F”.
EFFS and the organic farm work cooperatively with one another. “There’s a big overlap between the farm and EFFS,” senior Holly Markham said. “Pretty much all crew members are involved in EFFS to some extent.” Altogether, EFFS has between five and ten regular and semi-regular members. Thus far, their small size hasn’t presented any problems. “I believe that sometimes a small, tight group can be more effective than one with larger members,” Markham said.
“EFFS really tries to be that connection between the students and the farm,” Wildfong said. “We want to make the farm more known and increase the conversation about local, sustainable farming.”
[cabbage]EFFS projects include helping with the organic farm’s Harvest Festival, developing organic gardens off-campus, bringing speakers to MSU to raise awareness about organic farming, and farm tours. “Farm tours are meant to educate others on how different farmers run their farms,” Markham said. “The beauty of organic farming is that there is a large range of ingenuity, creativity, and problem solving, which is often overlooked.” The farm tours allow EFFS members to “become aware of what’s possible.”
Members are also working on publishing a ‘zine’ to distribute across campus and to their CSA members. “The name ‘zine’ is more of a DYI thing. It’s a grassroots style of information, not mass produced,” Wildfong said. The magazine will include recipes and instructions on how to create passive greenhouses in your own backyard.
Future
Future projects for the farm include building an underground root cellar and raising smaller animals, such as sheep or goats, for grazing and land fertilization. There will also be growth in the education program, including building a classroom by the farm for horticulture classes, creating an online course, and working with partners to expand the use of the course.
Overall, support for the farm remains strong. Its loyal members started from humble beginnings and created an intimate community, aimed at promoting sustainable living. And Biernbaum is proud of them.
“It’s enjoyable to sit back and think about what that small group of students accomplished. MSU is a huge place, but here is an example of a very small number who had an idea, started a team of students and faculty cooperatively working together, and got results.”

Posted in State SideComments (1)

Jazz It Up

“Jazz is the great American tradition,” woodwinds professor Joseph Lulloff said. Though jazz has been around for decades, the influences of jazz today stretch far and wide – everything from rock and roll to hip hop. Whether you are a true connoisseur of jazz, a student looking for some live entertainment and good food or a jazz studies major looking for a performance venue, East Lansing provides a variety of options for any jazz lover.
“Ideally between Tuesday and Saturday, you should be able to go and hear music [in the Lansing area],” jazz studies professor Wes Anderson said. For students that know where to look, live jazz music can be found at a variety of venues throughout Lansing and East Lansing, including Rendezvous on Tuesday nights, Green River Café on Thursdays, Landon Cafeteria on Fridays and Coral Gables on Saturdays.

Tuesday
[saxy2]On Tuesday nights, students can head on over to Rendezvous night club. From 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., the club features live jazz performances. Andy Wilson, an MSU alum, coordinates “Jazz at the Rendezvous.” Most of the bands he hires are professional jazz groups from the greater Lansing area. The bar provides a dance floor, but if you are not in the mood to dance, there are plenty of other options – including pool tables, the lottery game “Keno,” and arcade games from Megatouch. Feel free to either hang at the bar or sit down for lunch or dinner. The club specializes in American cuisine – including your basic hamburgers and hot dogs. For those under 21, be sure to call first to find out whether the show is 21 and up only.

Wednesday
Magdalena’s Tea House hosts “Open Mic Nights” every Wednesday from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. The event is organized by Vee Peterson, who also works at the Tea House. There is a $5 cover charge to get in, but this includes your first drink. Artists are allowed to express themselves however they wish, which tends to be through poetry and music. The music tends to be a variety of folk, acoustic and alternative, “usually everything besides hard-core thrash metal and rarely rap” Peterson said. She added that “occasionally people, bands…the musically gifted, come out and host the Open Mic Nights.” The Tea House décor creates a very intimate setting, allowing audience members, who tend to be other artists, mingle with the performers. The alternative, independent atmosphere is complimented by an all-vegan menu. You can eat anything from your basic veggie wrap ($6) to herbed nut stuffing ($11) to a sushi nori roll ($6), while enjoying local and mostly unknown artists hone their skills. The Open Mic Nights are open to “everything, everyone,” Peterson said. Even founder Miko Fossum’s 5-year-old daughter, Magdalena (who the tea house was named after), occasionally plays piano on stage. [Slonim4]

Thursday
If you are interested in hearing what your fellow MSU students have been up to, check out Green River Café on Thursdays. The cafe hosts primarily students enrolled in Music 131. “It’s more of a quasi-class; one-credit thing,” math and physics sophomore Ryan Goh said. At the beginning of the year, Anderson and Randy Gelispie host auditions in order to place the students in combinations, made up of anywhere from four to six people. These combos play at Green River on a rotating schedule: two weeks with four combos, where each group gets to perform for 20 minutes, and one week with two combos and a grad student combo who typically perform for about an hour. Generally, the shows begin around 10 p.m. and last until midnight, at which time a improv jam session begins. Those can last until the very early morning. Currently, the class is not required for music majors but will be required for incoming freshmen in the class of 2012. The type of jazz depends on the combo itself – some groups choose to play more modern jazz, while others play “be-bop” jazz from the 1960s.
[jazzypiano]Social relations and policy junior Laura Kovacek describes the atmosphere as “a mixture between hipster and hippie.” The audience tends to be mainly students – primarily other music majors, and their friends. “It’s a big family; we all support each other,” Goh said.
The café itself has a light menu with sandwiches and salads, along with a wide array of teas, smoothies and coffees. While there is no cover, it is suggested to buy a small snack or drink if you’re an audience member. “I don’t know much about jazz,” Koveck said, “but I enjoy it. I always feel welcomed there. It’s a great place to just go and hang out.”
Friday
Jazz studies and education senior Nicole Matthews organized “Java Jams” at Landon Cafeteria, in West Circle. “I wanted to expose people to jazz music, and offer mentoring,” Matthews said. “I heard about how the cafeteria has different events throughout the year and I thought the cafeteria would be an easy location for all students, especially those without cars.”
Along with wanting to expose students to jazz, Matthews also wanted to provide a venue for her classmates to perform. Jazz studies and comparative cultures and politics junior Sarah Slonim, who performs at Java Jams, agreed that performing is the best way jazz students can improve. “The best experience is to go out and play together,” Slonim said. “Jazz is unique because people don’t have to work together to play together.”
Java Jams takes place every other Friday from 8:00 – 11:30 p.m. Matthews and her quintet, which consists of Slonim on piano, Kathleen Murray on bass, Ryan Ptasnik on drums, and Marcus Miller on tenor saxophone, perform a few songs each week, and then encourage others to “sit in” (join) once the jam session officially begins. These performances are open only to stduents with meal plans, so if eating in the dorms is part of your daily routine this may the performance for you.[bassy]
Saturday
Coral Gables restaurant on Grand River Avenue in East Lansing hosts live musicians every Saturday night beginning in mid-to-late fall and ending Memorial Day Weekend. Jazz student groups are usually featured about twice per month. Stuart Vanis, the owner, decided to pair his music season with the school season for various reasons. “We have so many student groups and do a lot of business with students and things related to the University,” Vanis said. “There are more people during the school year. There is also less competition in winter, because during summer there is a lot of outside music in the area.” [Vanis]
Coral Gables began hosting live musicians roughly ten years ago after a remodeling of the bar opened up new opportunities.
“We had remodeled the bar ten years ago, so [the restaurant] is more conducive to live entertainment,” Vanis said. Lulloff then approached Vanis with the idea of hiring musicians to play live. It began on Thursday nights, but soon switched to Saturdays. The music played consists of “mostly jazz, because that’s what my interest is,” Lulloff said. “I’ve been playing jazz all my life.”
Live performances benefit the venue itself, the jazz performers, and the audience all at once. For owners of the cafés and clubs, “having live jazz music introduces the restaurant to a different clientele,” Vanis said. “It’s also a nice place for a date; provides an alternative to going to movie; it’s a different venue with high-quality music, because all of those students are trained to be professionals,” he added.
For those hesitant to go out and try new music, or think they do not like jazz, assistant Professor of Vocal Jazz Sunny Wilkinson stressed giving jazz a second chance. “Do not let one bad record ruin jazz for you,” Wilkinson said. “Just because you don’t like one record doesn’t mean you don’t like the art form. There is a whole wide world of jazz out there to be explored.” And that world starts right here in East Lansing.

Rendezvous Night Club
226 E Grand River Ave
Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 853-0300

Magdalena’s Tea House
2006 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-1822

Green River Café
211 Mac Ave
East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 999-3700

Landon Cafeteria
Landon Hall, Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48823

Coral Gables
2838 E Grand River Ave
East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 337-1311

Posted in Arts & CultureComments (0)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Students are “going green” with more than just their cheers on the football field thanks to President Simon’s “Boldness by Design” initiative and the Office of Finance and Operation’s Environmental Stewardship campaign. The recent push for environmentalism here on campus has blossomed into a complex system that requires participation by the entire MSU community. [eco1]
“Recycling has had its ebb and flow on campus in different ways,” said Diane Barker, facilities manager for East Complex. In the mid-1990s, there were several student-driven initiatives for recycling programs on campus. But these grassroots movements were completely dependent on student action; there was never any coordination from the university itself. The realization of and concern about climate change tipped the scale, and recycling has now been embraced at many different levels on campus. “The recycling program has been building for a while, and now the movement finally happened. It’s very gratifying to see recycling finally getting the spotlight,” Barker added.
MSU Students for Sustainability Organization (MSUECO) was concerned with the lack of a comprehensive recycling plan on campus. “There was a definite lack of recycling,” said Lauren Olson, who attended MSU at the time and is now the project and events coordinator for the Office of Finance and Operations. In 2003, “it was very hard to find bins. You might find newspaper recycling, you might not. This was no fault on the part of MSU recycling, but they were just less focused on sustainability and environmentalism as a whole.”
In 2006, ECO campaigned and collected over 8,000 signatures from faculty, support staff and students who demanded a more comprehensive recycling program. It was clear that people wanted a better system, but they needed the administration’s support to build one, Olson said. ECO members attended the open-forum Board of Trustees meeting and gave a five-minute presentation that described the social, economic and environmental benefits of recycling, and compared MSU recycling to other Big 10 universities.
“At the time, I believe it was just us and Penn State who had no comprehensive recycling program. We really wanted MSU to become a pioneer in environmentalism,” Olson said. “It was just the right moment in MSU’s time because people started to realize that climate change was real. . .and environmentalism was becoming less of a special interest activity.” [barker]
Between 2006 and Jan. 2007, when the Board of Trustees approved a plan for a more comprehensive environmental program on campus, the Board surveyed initiatives and proposals and completed cost-benefit analyses in order to lay the groundwork for a better recycling program. These efforts included behavioral studies by Dr. Laurie Thorp, coordinator of the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE), and Olson, who was a graduate student at the time.
Preliminary studies began during the 2006 fall semester. Eight focus groups, each comprised of about 15 participants, were conducted. The participants included students, clerical and technical staff and faculty. They were screened before participating to ensure no one had strong ties to environmental causes that would interfere with the objective study. During the focus groups, Thorp investigated participants’ attitudes toward recycling and their knowledge of how recycling works. The focus groups’ responses helped dictate questions for a wide-reaching electronic survey about recycling that circulated in Feb. 2007, to which roughly 5,000-7,000 people responded.
The responses from the focus groups and the survey were not surprising, Thorp said. The study indicated that people did not have a clear idea of what materials can be recycled and how to go about recycling those. The responses also showed that for any recycling program to be successful, convenience was key. If recycling required more effort than normal trash collection, it would be more difficult to get the MSU community to recycle more. These findings provided helped to focus MSU’s recycling initiative and laid the groundwork for it to get underway.
Phase One
Phase One aimed to recycle five basic materials – cardboard, newspaper, plastics #1 and #2, and white and mixed paper – in every building on campus. By spring 2007, preliminary pilot programs within certain campus buildings were completed. In Dec. 2007, the project was extended to the entire campus. The end of Phase 1 will mean recycling containers are available in all campus buildings. Currently, the project is nearing the end of the first phase because about 30 of the over 600 campus buildings are without recycling containers. They are estimated to be in place in the next few weeks.
[eco6] The university is currently developing an online information system that will measure the recycling program’s success. This GIS (Geographic Information System) will allow individuals to click on a particular building and track how much material is recycled there.
MSU’s recycling program has a multi-layered collection process. The housing division collects all of the recycling inside buildings and brings it to the dock outside of the recycling building on the south side of campus by Harrison Avenue and Trowbridge Road. The custodial workers are the “unsung heroes” of the recycling project, Thorp said.
But regardless of how hard the custodial staff may work, certain constraints will still exist. “The biggest challenge for recycling is space,” Barker said. Between July 2007 and 2008, paper recycling was up 412 percent and plastic 80 percent. Increased participation results in increased physical materials and less space to store recyclables.
Despite constraints, MSU has received national recognition due to its increased sustainability efforts. On September 7, 2007 the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded MSU the Campus Sustainability Leadership Award in the category of schools with enrollment of over 7,500 students.
Phase Two
The Farm Lane Recycling Facility, which will be fully operational by fall 2009, marks the transition into Phase Two. “The facility’s design was very intentional and aimed to incorporate sustainable development,” Barker said. The roof will capture rainwater that will be used to flush toilets. Most of the building’s external structure was built with recycled materials, such as steel. Additionally, the building will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified, and will include an education center that will be used to inform the public about recycling and sustainability.
[eco4] With this facility in operation, MSU will be able to expand its list of recyclable materials that it can accommodate. The next five materials have yet to be determined. Researchers are evaluating a variety of materials to decide which will have the greatest environmental impact and yield the highest net profit. The administration plans to sell the materials recycled at the Farm Lane facility to pay off the cost of the building.
Beyond Recycling
The recycling program is a “growing, evolving, living program,” said Michael Mitchner, service manager II in the Office of Waste Management. It is part of President Simon’s “Boldness by Design” program, which initiates a variety of projects on campus that make MSU greener and more sustainable. One of these projects is the Environmental Stewardship initiative. It calls university employees and students to form environmental stewardship teams to promote sustainability on campus. MSU’s environmental stewarshdip website, wwwbespartangreen.msu.edu, provides information on new environmental programs on campus and tips on how the MSU community can “Be Spartan Green” not only by recycling, but also by reducing and reusing materials.
The next project for the environmental stewards is to promote energy conservation. Thorp recently conducted eight more focus groups for her newest behavioral study concerning energy and energy conservation. Like the recycling study, the data from the focus groups will be fed into an online survey that will circulate electronically this spring. [eco5]
While the data has yet to be fully examined, Thorp did notice that many people do not understand the effects of carbon dioxide on climate change. She was most surprised that students did not know about the coal plant on campus, which is still in use.
Unlike recycling, energy conservation is a deeper behavioral change. “Recycling is tangible [and] has been around since the 70s,” Thorp said. “People want to get rid of their waste; recycling is just a matter of which bin to put the waste in.” But energy conservation requires more sacrifice and approaching it as a campus-wide issue makes it more difficult to decipher where changes are being made because every student pays the university a standard amount for energy and faculty do not receive an energy bill at all.
Unlike recycling, energy conservation does not rely entirely on individual behavior. Conservation must occur on a much larger level, one that is more dependent upon infrastructure. One of the ways MSU has decided to create this infrastructural change is by joining the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). CCX is North America’s first and only financial ‘cap and trade’ program for greenhouse gases. Members make a voluntary but legally binding commitment to reduce their CO2 emissions. Members can purchase and sell CO2 emissions, depending on whether they exceed or fail to meet annual emission reduction targets. By joining CCX, MSU committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 6 percent by 2010. [boomer]
“We need to start acting now,” said Linda Boomer, an environmental engineer in Physical Plant Administration. “We can have an impact on the world as a whole, by being a leader [in environmentalism].” CCX is the method MSU has chosen in order to become one of those leaders.
Other smaller projects concerning energy conservation are underway. Many of these projects are directed at the science buildings on campus, which are notorious for having high energy costs. This is primarily because science buildings require a lot of “air changes” per hour to remove toxic chemicals from classrooms through fumigation hoods. The administration is testing new technology in the Food Sciences Building to measure the indoor air quality and determine if it would be safe to reduce the number of air changes per hour throughout the night. This would help cut back on energy consumption. Also, motion censored lights are being installed in classrooms, so that lights automatically turn off when people leave the room. Right now, classrooms in the Business College Complex and the Chemistry Building have motion censored lights.
The Physical Plant is also working with the MSU Computer Center to design a program that will allow the Computer Center to remotely turn off computers in computer labs around campus. But, Boomer warned, “It’s a fine line we walk with energy conservation because we want to save energy but still have to provide the services needed.”
[eco22]The Engineering and Architectural Services (EAS) component of the Physical Plant, which handles all new construction on campus, has upgraded its construction standards to those outlined by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. By using materials such as recycled cork flooring rather than vinyl and recycled carpet, construction workers can help reduce the amount of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. These emissions produce the ‘new’ smell in buildings but can be harmful to our health. Additionally, EAS has a retro-commission team that performs “tune-ups” on the older buildings around campus that make the buildings as energy efficient as possible.
Reduce and Reuse
Students, faculty members and staff alike must continue to motivate MSU to stay at the forefront of environmentalism. To do this, they must understand that environmentalism is much more than recycling. Essentially, environmentalism is about lifestyle changes.
“Ideally, recycling is the last thing you want to do,” said Terry Link, the Director of Campus Sustainability for the Office of Finance and Operations. The MSU community must realize that reducing and reusing materials is just as important, if not more so, than recycling itself. “The ultimate goal should be zero waste, which requires changing the norm of how people think and act.”

Posted in State SideComments (0)