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Cover Charge

Cover Charge

Photo credit: Jenna Chabot

I had a gross violation of my rights a few weeks ago on a Friday night. My friends and I had gone to the bar and after waiting in line for half an hour we got up to the front. There were three friends of mine who were female that walked straight in and I was following close behind. I suddenly realized that someone had grabbed a hold of me. “There is a five dollar cover tonight,” a girl by the door told me as she clung to my jacket. “My friends just got in without paying,” I replied. She explained that tonight was lady’s night. By this time I was growing sick of having the girl pull me down from behind and I tried to pull my coat free, not with any great force. That action made the bouncer decided I was being a menace and told me I had to leave.

I usually do not have a problem paying a cover. In most places the idea of cover has very specific things it is supposed to do. Cover is what pays for the bands, it reduces overcrowding, and the most important job of a cover is to bolster the female to male ratio. Allowing women to enter the bar free gives men the feeling that there is going to be lots of women inside, even if there are not. By saying there is a ladies night bars are trying to use women to attract men to the bar, who will not only pay cover but, traditionally, buy more drinks than a woman would.

As much as the bars in East Lansing are a great place for relaxation, dancing, and meeting new friends they seem to take advantage of students more than in other cities. In many other college towns, bars and clubs do not charge cover because there is fierce competition between them to
attract students. Typically if a bar has cover students know to steer clear. But in East Lansing the scale between students and bars is so drastically tipped towards the student’s end that bars can charge whatever they like and there will still be a long line out the door. This is caused by a number of factors: firstly, the East Lansing Council is hesitant to give out too many liquor licenses, secondly, MSU has one of the largest student bodies in the country. I am not great at economics but I think it can be drawn on a supply and demand chart quite nicely. Too much demand, too little supply.

Americans seem to go along with the idea of a “cover charge,” of course there is an occasional grumble about the extra five or ten dollars. There are some countries that are upset about cover for completely different reasons, even having cases where patrons sue bars for charging unequal cover under anti-discrimination laws. In both the United Kingdom and Canada, there have been successful lawsuits banning the unequal charging of “cover”. People in the United Kingdom sued the bars and night clubs using their Sex Discrimination Act of 1974. The wording of the Sex Discrimination Act, in Britain, is not that different from equal protection laws in the United States. This gives some hope that a similar lawsuit in the United States could succeed.

A U.S. citizen may have the right to take action and sue under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act established that it is unlawful to use “racial, ethnic, or gender criteria in an attempt to bring social justice and social benefits.” More precisely, Title II of that Act outlaws “discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations.” Imagine the public disgust if a hotel listed different prices depending on if a person was male or female, black or white. Why then, is the price to enter a bar held to a different standard?

The whole act of charging cover seems under the table. Most of the time the money is stuffed into a drawer with no visible recording of how many people enter the bar, there is never a receipt issued. By law if there is a charge for entertainment they are required to pay tax on the cost of admission. It is speculation, but most bars are probably not paying all the taxes on cover they should, if any at all. Perhaps, the Michigan government should start to enforce this tax policy and help ease the budget deficit.

It is not a question of it is right or wrong to charge unequal cover but if the issue is popular enough to cause public disgust, because it is obviously wrong. However, it is not the responsibility of the government to regulate every wrong in society. It often takes a popular movement by a country’s citizens to bring about social change.

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Letter: Parking Services Need Compassion

Letter: Parking Services Need Compassion

There is one group of people on MSU’s campus it’s ok to hate. Students stare them down and parents curse them. These enforcers of MSU’s perplexing parking spaces are easy to spot in their silver “parking services” trucks, yet what service they offer is not as easy to comprehend.

Silver parking trucks make students cringe (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

Almost every student can tell you their own horror story about how they have been wrongly fined by the overzealous citation police.  It seems as if all students have to deal with them, constantly looking over their shoulder, in fear that while unloading their car a ticket will be planted on their windshield.

It is an understatement to say that MSU’s campus is not car friendly. Every year MSU cuts back on the number open spaces.  It’s not only students, my parents have received multiple tickets and my friends fear to visit me because they know that on top of beer money they have to save for the fines they will inevitably incur.  My car has not been spared. I won’t say that none of the tickets I have received since August have all been wrongfully given, but I believe that at least one of them was unfair.

I was making some mac and cheese at my apartment off-campus when I got a call from my girlfriend asking me to come get her after she’d fallen off her bike.  Abandoning my lunch, I drove to where she said she was waiting for me.  As I pulled up I was shocked to see an ambulance and a police car.  She had gotten her foot stuck in her bike spokes and nose-dived into the pavement. I took her to Olin to get some x-rays.

As I pulled into Olin I saw the meters but decided I had to get her and her swollen foot in before I could worry about the meter.  I carried her in, got her to a room and went to feed the meter my hard-earned dollars. It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, but already there was a telltale white ticket stuck to my windshield.

I took my ticket out from under the wiper and put all of the change I had in the meter to avoid getting another.  I was happy to find out that my girlfriend would not need a cast but the ticket in my pocket and my empty stomach made me a little nauseous.

The ticket had upset me but I was sure that I could appeal it. I explained what had happened in the online form, and was shocked when I got an email back saying that my appeal had been denied. I called the Parking Services at the MSU Police Department to no avail. I wanted to speak to an appeal officer but she said that it was not allowed to and that the next step would be to ask to have the East Lansing 54b court hear my case.

I decided to suck it up and pay the fine, making me feel even more like I had been taken advantage of.

I tell that story to friends of mine and we are often able to share in our harrowing stories of parking tickets.  Some of those friends who run deliveries have told me that when dropping off an order they are supposed to get fifteen minutes to make their delivery, but they often receive tickets anyways.  They do not always get the paper ticket, only a letter in the mail informing them their payment is late.

As much as I get frustrated with the parking services I know that parking tickets are a necessary evil in every city.  On a campus where there are so many people and so few parking spaces it is important to keep people from abusing the system, but there needs to be more compassion.  I am proud to be a Spartan, and it seems to be in my blood that when ever I see the tiny silver trucks with a yellow light on top I get the urge to flip things over.

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SoS Media: Print is Failing

SoS Media: Print is Failing

The traditional model of advertisement-funded printed newspapers is failing in the journalism realm and here on campus.

Newspapers sit crumpled in a Berkey Hall distribution bin (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

The first level of failure is financial. According to The State News Report on Financial Statements available at their office, The State News’s revenue for 2009 was down $667,686 from the previous year. This is mainly due to a decrease in advertising revenue and rent The State News charges other businesses in their building.

Many professional newspapers are experiencing similarly distressing problems, which prompted the creation of the site

“Advertising is no longer a sustainable business model for newspapers.  The costs are falling too fast and they will only continue to fall,” said Paul Gillin, the site’s founder.

When the site started out, Gillin didn’t have many people on his side.

“I started the site because I foresaw a collapse of the news industry years ago and I thought it would be interesting to document the phenomenon.  I tried to get some people in mainstream media interested, but nobody seemed to believe me,” he said.

In 2010, almost everybody believes him. Here in Michigan, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press have been operating under a joint operating agreement just to be financially viable. Despite this, they are struggling, and recently cut down publication to three days per week, essentially giving up their status as daily papers as far as delivery customers are concerned.

The State News Budget for 2009 Total Assets: $6,853,514 (design credit: Dennis Vlahoulis of Spartanedge.)

So why is The State News still functioning? Your tax dollars. In 2009 they made $468,401 in “subscriptions.” Some are paid, yes, but the vast majority comes from the $5 automatically charged to each student every semester. This is essentially assured income, because not many people bother to walk into the office and ask for their money back.

But The State News is increasingly relying on student tax dollars, and students are increasingly  dissatisfied with their coverage.

Earlier this semester, MSU’s Greek community was dissatisfied with The State News’ editorial concerning the Greek system. As covered by Spartanedge, a few Greek members organized to donate the money from their $5 tax return to the Haiti relief efforts.

In addition, The State News is offending people politically. As Michigan Liberal covered, The State News refused tax-paying students entry to their partially tax-funded building. Students used the event as a means to protest their other beefs with The State News. One student explains how they refuse to cover his skateboarding sub-culture, saying, “Fuck that, fuck The State News, I don’t care.”

Another protester points out that The State News is supposed to be the students’ “Independent Voice,” according to their motto.

“We are all students, and we all have a voice, and they are not reporting on it,” said the protester, who was greeted by the crowd’s cheers.

All this dissatisfaction with The State News leaves a hole in media coverage that alternative publications on campus are ready to fill. Next to The State News racks are ING magazine stands — they’ve got good deals in their advertising section and good articles too. Spartan Weekly is a campus publication that can tickle your funny bone. The State News isn’t the only online source of campus media anymore.

Spartanedge covered the Town Hall meeting about tuition hikes hands down better and with more multimedia than any publication on campus. The Big Green covers issues like where feminism stands on campus and minority faiths working around a Christian-centric university. A daily paper cannot provide the same in-depth coverage because of time and space limits.

In terms of successful professional organizations, Gillin says that if Newspapers are the old model, there’s a new one on the way.

“The model is probably best exemplified by Huffington Post, which has a very lean staff and relies mainly on contributions for its content,” he said.

Alternative media is coming much closer to replicating this successful model than The State News.

The more people these publications reach, the more people our hundreds of writers interview, the more people come to our Web sites or pick up our publications. Our Web traffic is increasing, and to an extent we’re feeling the news void The State News has created.

This isn’t only happening at MSU. At Penn State, a blog has usurped most of the established newspaper’s traffic using online collaborative media.

We’re not close to that on this campus, but here is the bottom line: alternative media is here for you. We’re willing to listen to your ideas and tweak our publications to meet your demands. We’re online, we’re adaptive and we want to cover what you want covered — for free. That makes us a valuable news source, and one we hope you’ll take advantage of when you’re looking for news and information on campus.

Editor’s Note: The Big Green and Spartanedge have teamed up, and are writing a series of editorials on the topic “The State of State’s Media.” A similar version of this can be found here at Spartanedge, and other parts of this series are here and here. This editorial is supported by the editorial board of Spartanedge and The Big Green.

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SoS Media: The Impact (89 FM, that is)

SoS Media: The Impact (89 FM, that is)

As part of The Big Green and Spartanedge’s series on “The State of State’s Media,” TBG Editor in Chief Emily Lawler sat down with Impact 89 FM Station Manger Jeremy Whiting. Read on or take a listen for Whiting’s words on how Impact is evolving, student tax dollars at use and what he thought of the first editorial in this series.

Jeremy Whiting, Impact 89 FM station manager.

Q. So my first question is that Impact’s the Michigan Association of Broadcasters College Radio Station of the year for like, a million years running?

A. Ah, something like that, I think its ten years now we’ve won it.

Q. So you guys have a huge variety of programming, lots of different DJs, you get tax dollars but everybody likes you… what’s your secret?

A. I don’t know if there’s one secret to probably a large amount of people liking us, but definitely I think our organizational structure has something to do with it. We bring in a lot of student volunteers, we look for diverse programming, we take a lot of listener feedback into what we play, I think all that plays into it.

Q. And so as far as student tax dollars go, you guys get three dollars?

A. That’s right. Each semester every student on campus pays a three-dollar tax for the radio station. Now that’s part of the big larger grouping that you know is taken out for ASMSU and The State News and some of the other things like that. But ours is only three dollars, it’s never raised more than three dollars, and it’s refundable too so if students feel like they would rather not support us that’s fine too, they can always come and get a refund.

Q. So do a lot of students generally come to your office to get refunds?

A. Not too often, actually. Probably about each semester out of the thousands and thousands of students on campus probably only about, I’d say anywhere from 10 to 25 students actually come in to get the refund.

Q. So one of the things we’re examining in our series of editorials here is that The State News has a non-competition policy. Do you guys have anything that’s comparable?

A. Not really. For us there aren’t any other student radio stations on campus besides us. There’s WKAR, which is an NPR affiliate, which does something completely different than us. But a lot of times you’ll see people on the air that are doing stuff for maybe TV stations in the area or other radio stations in the area, but it’s not discouraged by any means for what we’re doing.

Q. So how is your institution not crumbling? The State News is terrified of letting anyone write for more than one publication and say it’s gonna drive competition through the roof, we’re going to turn into the next media battleground!

A. First off the station at least in my mind I know we’re not a news organization so that maybe makes the rules for us a little different, you know, so I can’t really speak to how State News does that. But for us, because we don’t cover news because we don’t have a lot of people going out and reporting, we do have some but that’s not our primary focus. You know our focus you know for that sort of thing. We do have some talk shows in the evening from 7 to 8 p.m., our Exposure series, so that could kind of be considered like that.

For the most part we’re playing music. We’re doing a little bit of talk programming, we see it as a launch pad for bigger and better things at the Impact, you know we think it’s great, it’s recognized statewide and even nationally as a great program but we find it kind of as a launching board. But I guess maybe it’s just a different philosophy and we haven’t run into any problems with it really. Our staffing issues haven’t really come up, we’ve been pretty consistent you know, at least the years that I’ve been there.

Q. And you don’t pay regular DJs but you pay directors?

A. That’s right. So our staff’s structured any MSU student who comes in who wants to be a DJ, awesome, great! You don’t have to have any training, prior experience, we take you through everything show you what to do. And all those DJs are volunteers. So everyone you hear on air 24/7, they’re volunteer DJs, they’re just doing it for the fun of it.

Now we do have a small staff of directors, about 10 directors, and they oversee each individual department. So we have a music director that sifts through the hundreds of CDs we get in each week and listens to them and figures which ones of these should be recommended for airplay. So that’s a huge job, that’s more more above and beyond the call of duty, so they get paid a little. Someone who’s doing the promotions for the station gets paid some, I get paid a little to oversee all the operations 24/7. So those positions are paid slightly, but you know it’s not even that much. But it’s a decent amount to help us as we’re going through school. But for the most part we have I think 45 air shifts throughout a week and they’re all volunteer.

Q. And what would you consider your relationship to other campus media? I will say that I did call in and they told me they were huge Big Green fans, to Exposure.

A. Ha ok, must have been Emily Fox, our exposure director and Exposure host. Um, you know, to be truthful it depends on the staff at the time not only of the radio station but also the other forms of media. We’ve had other articles we’ve participated in with The Big Green and stuff, which has been great. State News we’ve had great articles too, where we’ve talked with them.

We used to have a yearly softball game, kind of like a fun rivalry which is some years and is not other years depending on how riled up our staffs get and our schedules and stuff. So some staffs kind of get competitive with the others, some kinda don’t care. Right now we seem to be in the situation where we’re just kind of friendly with everyone and I like that. But I think there’s also something to be said for having some competition and trying to outdo each other, so it’s good to kind of see it swing both ways sometimes.

Q. So in the journalism school right now and I’m sure elsewhere, there’s a lot of talk about traditional media being kind of re-worked. And I’ll give the example of the local radio station The Edge which kind of went off the air, came back with no DJs or very few DJs, barebones, and what’s keeping Impact alive aside from tax dollars? What innovative programs are you coming up with?

A. I think a lot of it is, the heart of it is the students. Without the students so committed to the station we’d be in the same spot as the edge. Anyone can play music on the air, that’s not a big deal. In The Edge’s case they have a cool playlist, I enjoy listening to it, but they don’t have any DJs, you’re not getting that local connection besides the ads you hear on the air. So I think that’s something the DJs are able to offer.

You heard them this last weekend talking about the final four how we’re in it somehow, it’s great but you don’t get that local content just by listening to basically an iTunes playlist. Anyone can do that, so I think where we’re unique is that we offer some music selection, I think people have an idea that ‘I love listening to my iPod I’ll just play what I want,’ but your iPod runs out after a while, you know? So we do have a whole music review staff that sifts through all the new music and recommends things you might like, you know ‘if you like this, this might be cool.’ We have talk programming that’s relevant for the area. So I think that’s something that sets us apart.

Q. Well that was my last question, but is there anything else you want to go over?

A. No, well I liked your editorial, it’s good to see some bounce-back of that stuff, I’m not sure, it’s a weird dilemma that people are in. I can see The State News’s side and I can see The Big Green’s side and other forms of campus media because it is hard with one dominant publication and they have a non-compete clause, but so many others out there too that are good quality publications I can see both sides.

It’s interesting how it will all shake out I think with you know, online media and other, broadcast media dipping into the waters that print has traditionally been a part of. The line is very very grey and shady and it’s hard to figure out sometimes what makes one publication a competitor and one not at all what you’re doing. I think things are converging, they’re really starting to get that way, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out pretty soon.

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SoS Media: Competition

SoS Media: Competition

Michigan State University is a diverse campus with more than 47,000 people who have different backgrounds, interests and demands when it comes to their news.

Are those demands really being met?

Spartanedge and The Big Green are online publications that contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of campus, and we are greatly concerned by a historic loss of talent to The State News. Spartanedge and The Big Green cover a variety of issues The State News does not adequately represent. We provide a place for writers of magazine-length pieces and producers of innovative multimedia to showcase their abilities and tell the stories of MSU. We don’t see our publications as competition, but the State News is categorizing us as just that, and it’s negatively impacting everyone in the MSU community.

After acquiring our writers and photographers, The State News’ non-competition policy prohibits these students from being a part of multiple and varied publications on campus. We understand it’s impossible for one publication — no matter how many people or how much money it has — to cover everything. That’s where other publications step in to keep the balance of information and enhance the community. By allowing The State News to monopolize the journalism talent at MSU, that balance is lost.

We want to restore the balance, and that’s why we’re openly asking The State News to eliminate their non-competition policy.

Students need to have the freedom to express opinions and communicate ideas – as students, journalists and members of the community. This freedom of expression is a crucial part of the learning experience.

Our contributors learn how to cover varied aspects of university life with a variety of platforms. At The Big Green and Spartanedge, we teach future journalists how to produce and edit photos, graphics, audio and videos for the Web. They could not get all of this experience in one position at The State News. We offer choice and creativity that might be unavailable in a structure like theirs.

Spartanedge and The Big Green consistently contribute to the cycle of information on campus with these varied platforms for storytelling. Since we do not pay our staff and don’t publish daily, we can’t and don’t cover the daily hard news simply because that’s not in our cycle.  In this sense especially, we don’t see either of our publications as competing with The State News. That’s why Spartanedge and The Big Green have collaborated several times.

We recognize the value, as student journalists, of having the maximum amount of published work to show prospective employers. Many internships require proof of such “clips,” and the more publications a candidate has worked with proves their adaptability and diversity of skills. The Big Green and Spartanedge have put on workshops to arm their contributors with the skills necessary to produce quality journalism.

We encourage writers to work for multiple publications and broaden their experience. The Big Green editor-in-chief Emily Lawler has published audio pieces in Spartanedge, and our publications share sophomore Brandon Kirby, who edits the Sex & Health section of The Big Green and the Entertainment & Events section of Spartanedge. He recently earned an internship at City Pulse thanks to his demonstrated ability to produce quality journalism for multiple organizations.

We tried creating an open dialogue with The State News about the issue we have with their policy. When we contacted the editor-in-chief last semester and told her why we were inquiring, she told us their policy does not allow “students to work at or freelance for any competing campus publications or local publications” while employed with The State News. She added they allow “writers to freelance for non-competing publications as long as they have it approved by their desk editor” and the editor-in-chief, but it can be turned down if it is seen as a possible conflict. This semester we contacted the new editor-in-chief, who declined to meet with us.

The policy as both editors have described it seems to be unevenly enforced, as some former writers The Big Green contacted claim that when hired they were asked to drop all association with their previous publications, regardless of topic or section.

A restrictive non-competition policy like the one The State News has isn’t even in practice at publications beyond the campus level. On the surface it is typical, but the atypical part comes in when weekly and monthly publications that focus on multimedia and feature-length writing are considered to compete with a daily newspaper. In their non-competition policy (they call it their Employee Conlflict of Interest Policy) The State News names both the Lansing State Journal and The Big Green as publications their writers cannot publish with. While The Big Green is flattered, it doesn’t consider itself to compare with a professional, daily paper like LSJ.

While Spartanedge is not explicitly named as a competitor, it has clearly been included in the category through other comments that place all campus publications under the umbrella of competition.

Responding to a disclosure of what this editorial would be about, Susan Whitall of The Detroit News said, “In college I think it’s even more important not to limit student journalists from doing things that add to their skill sets.”

MSU Alum Lynn Henning is a sports writer and blogger for The Detroit News and also writes for Hour magazine. There are online examples of his work for The Detroit News and Hour published in April 2008. He clearly wasn’t held back by working for two publications even though they appeal to the same readership. It is the same type of work that can appeal to the same readership base, but it’s presented in a different format and circulated on a different schedule. They make it work at the professional level, so it can work at the campus level.

We would also like to point out that The State News is a corporation explicitly allowed tax rights through the University’s tuition, meaning the University hands The State News money; both Spartanedge and The Big Green are independently funded. Our publications are far more independent than “Michigan State University’s Independent Voice.”

The bottom line is that there has been a negative impact as a result of the transition of writers from independent, student-run groups to the incorporated structure of The State News. In light of all the details, can The State News really claim validity to their non-competition policy? And what role should the University have in this when its Academic Freedom Report claims its basic purposes include “providing the environment most conducive to the many faceted activities of instruction, research and service” … but students are automatically charged $5 on their tuition to support The State News? It doesn’t seem like that money is fostering an environment conducive to supporting students in their learning opportunities.

The State News’ non-competition policy needs to be completely eliminated to comply with University regulations. Simply amending it has not worked in the past and contributors continue to be told that writing for other publications could terminate their employment at The State News.

None of this is an attempt to discredit The State News on any level or create any animosity. We recognize the merits of the publication, and on that same note we feel it is necessary to address what we see as its biggest flaw.

Things need to change.

By allowing journalism students on this campus to learn from multiple organizations, we promote their continued success as MSU graduates. If that’s not the goal of any university community, what is?

Editor’s Note: The Big Green and Spartanedge have teamed up, and are writing a series of editorials on the topic “The State of State’s Media.” A similar version of this can be found here on Spartanedge, and we will be posting the rest of the series soon. This statement is supported by Spartanedge and The Big Green. To see the sections of the Academic Freedom Report (AFR) that support our stance, browse through it for yourself and pay attention to sections 1.2, 1.1, and 6.1.1.

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Letter: Kick Coal off Campus

Letter: Kick Coal off Campus

To The Big Green:

Moving beyond coal may seem costly at first glance, but there are many other factors that come into play when talking about monetary concerns. A recent State News article claimed that eliminating coal usage would cost the university $20 to $25 million. Our new art museum costs $40 million; about double the amount it would take to stop the use of coal. So why not invest in something that costs less and would affect the entire state of Michigan rather than something that’s double the amount and only affects a miniscule percent of MSU’s student body?

Right now the MSU power plant burns coal (photo credit: Brett Ekblad).

According to the National Academy of Sciences, coal-fired power plants cost the government about $156 million per plant a year and over $62 million in hidden costs that we are already paying for through our paychecks. These hidden costs are roughly twice the cost of the coal itself.  In addition, long term pollution not only disrupts plant growth, but leads to a $500 million loss due to reduced crop production in the U.S. every year.  Clearly, coal is not cheap.

Coal runs at a high cost in terms of money, but it also makes a huge impact on our health and the lives of future generations. Stopping the use of coal will prevent health risks, such as premature death, heart and lung disease.  Not only does it affect the obvious respiratory and cardiovascular systems, but it also has a large effect on the nervous system. Coal pollutants also cause loss of intellectual capacity through mercury. Researchers estimate that between 317,000 and 631,000 children are born in the U.S. each year with blood mercury levels high enough to reduce IQ scores and cause lifelong loss of intelligence.

Finally, coal accounts for about 40 percent of our nation’s carbon dioxide pollution. If we eliminate using coal and switch to a cleaner source of energy, in the long run, we will be saving an insurmountable amount of money, protecting our lives and those of future generations, and decrease the effects of global warming.

Jennifer Huang

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Running the Wrong Kind of Business

Running the Wrong Kind of Business

There is nothing more annoying than going into a store to find a rude, unhelpful salesman. You are reminded of this when you walk into Store A. He talks over you when he has no idea why you’re in his store.  It would be so much easier if he just listened. After telling you to wait, the guy tells you he doesn’t want to fix your TV for some reason you know cannot possibly be true. It’s one of those stores that would rather sell you something defective and profit when you need it replaced. Wonderful.

This isn’t going anywhere, so you leave. But you still need to get your TV fixed, as you’re having guests over tomorrow and it’s too late to cancel. Your friend is bringing that cute girl you’ve been meaning to talk to. Failure is not an option. With no other choice, you go to the other guys across the street, hoping your luck changes.

Thankfully these guys actually know what they’re talking about. Store B works much better than Store A. You explain what you need and they get it for you. They treat you with respect and actually listen to what you want. You’re even told its ok to call if you have any further problems. You give a sigh of relief, because this is how business is supposed to be done.

We come to college to, among other things, get a degree.  The University runs the business and we are the customers.  We need this degree to get a well paying job.  The university needs our tuition keep on going.  As students, we would hope the university would be like Store B and not Store A.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Recent decisions by the administration have been troubling and deserve attention. In particular, their current plans to expand the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) Program and cut Deaf Education Program are especially ridiculous. It makes no sense, and is concurrent with a troubling trend of short-term thinking the University has chosen to take in their fiscal affairs.

I understand there need to be cuts when there are limited funds.  A weak economy in Michigan means less revenue for the University. I don’t blame them for having to pick between bad and worse when it comes to cutting back. It’s times like these where they must see which programs are truly needed. But the University is willing to hedge its bets on a program that they are selling well to prospective parents and students. It’s true that they’re going to make a quick buck in the next few years. But they are also willing to ditch a sound program that graduates qualified and skilled students every year for one hasn’t had a graduating class yet.

I have nothing personal against the RCAH. However, when compared to Deaf Education, the marketplace does. There is a market demand for those in Deaf Education for a reason. American Sign Language is the third most used language in the United States. Our Deaf Education Programs offers a unique bilingual experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Michigan. Thus, there is a reason why students enroll in the program. Prospective employers know this specialized program prepares them well for the workforce.

On the other hand, RCAH has a much less marketable potential for their graduates. It’s a young program that already has a dismal retention rate compared to any other Residential College on campus. People are leaving the program not just because of the lack of academic rigor, but the uncertainty for job prospects when they would finally graduate. I would be hard pressed to compare RCAH’s retention, job placement, and graduate school acceptance rates to that of Deaf Education. You would think such a weak program would be cut if we were running low on funds, not the program that has already proven itself.

And when these numbers come in the next few years, the consequences of such a decision will become evident. They will have to cut RCAH, as parents will stop sending their kids to a program that does not prepare them for a global economy. What then will the board say to those students who couldn’t get into Deaf Education?

They’ll be speechless, like the big businesses that took bailouts last year. The Banks’ short-sighted, high profiting loans, and the crisis that followed, should rebut any notion that focusing only on the short-term is a viable business model. GM and Chrysler put as little quality in their cars as possible to squeeze out as much profit as they could, only to have the world watch them topple into bankruptcy. Michigan State’s administration is acting like these bad characters. They have Store A Syndrome. What they value is quick profit, not the quality of the education they are providing.

What comes from this kind of irresponsibility is an annoyance with institutions we feel should be able to do much better.

I can’t think of a Democrat or Republican that doesn’t have some kind of disdain towards the banks after what they just put the county through.  I can’t think of one Michigander who was proud to see GM and Chrysler pleading to Washington for emergency funds. And these days, it’s hard to find people who really believe the University’s board is looking out for the students’ best interests. We hear hopeful language but are slapped in the face with boneheaded, shortsighted proposals – like cutting the Deaf Education Program. We have all seen the narrative before, and the plot gets old quick.

The real tragedy here is there does not have to be a contradiction between the University profiting and looking out for what’s best for students. There are plenty of common sense decisions and would benefit everyone. As a sports fan, it would be nice if they wouldn’t try to change the Spartan Logo when it is broadly disliked by the student body. As someone who lives in the dorms, it would be nice if they wouldn’t charge obnoxious sums of money for meal plans. As a Resident Mentor, I would rather the absurd amount they spent on “Live On” events be used to fund scholarships for students. And as a friend of some in the Deaf Education Program, I would appreciate it if the University used some rationality and prudence when making budgetary decisions.

These are decisions that prompt people to live off campus and sometimes leave Michigan State all together in the long run. This is what ultimately makes them loose profit. The University must realize there are no short term profits that can trump a deficit of trust students have with administration board members.

Conversely, small changes to show their concern with students’ long-term interests would give incentive for people to stay. That would bring sustainable profit over the next few years. The University would be running the right kind of business. We’ll be glad to bring our TV in if we’re being treated right.

If the University can afford to keep the RCAH, by all means they should do so.  But in such a deep recession where an education means more than it ever has for employment opportunity, they need to have their priorities in check.  Expanding RCAH and abandoning Deaf Education is a terrible idea, and board members should know better.

In the end, they need to do some serious soul searching. Everyone knows how the global economy operates. The quality of education students we receive is critical for finding a job. Businesses thrive because they care about their customers, not because they can cheat them out for a quick profit. I sincerely hope they reverse this decision and show they want to run the right kind of business we can all be proud of.

Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece by a guest columnist, and may or may not represent the views of TBG and its staff. If you disagree you’re free to leave your comments at the bottom or submit your own letter to

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Falling for the Season

Falling for the Season

Ahh, fall! Emily in the Fall

MSU kids may have to drive twenty minutes to find a cider mill and buy cider at Meijer, but at least we get some great scenery. Of course there’s campus trees (see our slide show!), but I also love seeing the kids trick-or-treat in the dorms, and older Halloween participants walk the line between costumed and exposed. The organic farm stand gets squash in, and off-campus residents cringe when they have to start paying for heat.

This issue you’ll find a concert review and a story about some salvaged pets. And look for some videos!

TBG is publishing more frequently these days- follow us on Twitter and we’ll keep you updated. Our username is TheBigGreen.

Happy fall everyone!

Emily Lawler, Editor in Chief

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Greetings TBG Followers and Friends,

The leaves aren’t the only ones changing colors this fall- The Big Green is hopping into the new school year with a new Web site, new publishing schedule and new staff members!emily1

The creation of this Web site was generously supported by Campus Progress and established by CoPress. A lot of work went into working out all of the kinks, and this first issue is a testament to a lot of hard work by everybody involved. If you have comments, compliments or criticism on our new look, I urge you to leave them below on our new comment feature.

In an attempt to become more internet-savvy, TBG is also revamping its publishing schedule. Instead of having to wait a whole month for stories you’ll be able to find stories from two sections (State Side and Arts & Culture) here on the first of every month, and stories from Global View and Sex & Health on the 15th. Between those times we’ll be putting up the fun stuff– multimedia– and timely stuff, like music reviews. So don’t expect us to read like a print publication anymore, you’ll have to keep checking back for new content!

We also have a bumper crop of new Editors:

Megan Durisin (State Side)

Brandon Kirby (Sex & Health)

Theresa Gasinski (Global View)

Marla Kalmbach (Arts & Culture)

Kaleigh Robichaud (Associate)

Mallory Hines (Associate)

So get excited, because this year TBG means business. We’re getting stuff done and taking names (to cite sources, but still). Please poke around our new site, and I look forward to your feedback.


Emily Lawler

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Why Cap and Trade Won’t Work

Why Cap and Trade Won’t Work

When it comes to the environment, I am a tree hugger.  I believe man’s carbon imprint on God’s Earth is both immoral and unsustainable. I also happen to be, however, a fiscal conservative. I am skeptical whenever government tries to meddle with my pocketbook or interfere with the market equilibrium, as they have a reliable record of being inefficient, wasteful and just plain stupid. Having these beliefs has led me to a conclusion: Cap and Trade will not work – but that doesn’t mean we can’t save the environment.

The idea behind Cap and Trade is that the government sets a price for a carbon permit to be traded on a market.  The government would limit the amount of permits issued and the permits would be traded among companies. Tax revenues would be collected by the government, where the geniuses in Washington would supposedly figure out how to fund the next green innovation. So by definition, the key problem with Cap and Trade is that it relies on government’s judgment, not a scientist or engineer’s ingenuity.

It seems reasonable at first that government would be funding specific areas of the energy sector – wind, solar, or bio-fuels –  from this tax revenue collected from Cap and Trade.  But how would Washington figure out which alternative energy source makes the best sense to reward tax breaks?  The way they figure everything out — by listening to the most influential special interest.

The company that has the loudest lobbyist that writes the fattest check to senators working on this legislation will win tax benefits, not the company that deserves it. Hence, government will defer real, logical change when it comes to helping the environment, and that’s a problem.

Apart from the debacle of government choosing our energy sources, the idea of Cap and Trade itself is flaw( The MIT report that came out a few months ago said that Cap and Trade would cost the average family thousands in yearly expenses. The report stated that jobs would be cut, if not shipped overseas to some extent.

Not to mention, it’s Global Warming that’s the problem, not American Warming.  Even if we conserve 10% of carbon emissions by this taxation, the flood of people who will be driving new cars and opening coal mines in India and China will counteract these reductions.  That’s the problem with conservation – it doesn’t fundamentally change our energy needs from fossil fuels to energies that do not hurt the environment.  It’s just a redistribution of wealth.  Understanding all of this, I propose an alternate route.

Instead of taxing carbon or hoping Congress can figure out which alternative energy will replace fossil fuels, I propose tax benefits for research in this field – big ones.  Let the free market work by giving it an incentive to shift in the direction of clean energies.  I promise with enough research money, someone from Harvard or Princeton will figure out how to run a car on maple syrup.  Some scientist will figure out how to make the energy grid gather wind energy and solar energy together efficiently.  Engineers will be able to test and innovate these discoveries to solve our energy needs.

Then, when these research efforts yield results as to which alternative energy to invest in, give the free market a reason to produce it. Give the victor of this research effort massive tax breaks, and the market will take advantage of it. All that government will need to do is create broad conditions for these tax subsidies.  Congress would only have to mandate that the new green technologies vying for tax breaks would only produce a certain amount of carbon emissions.  This way, politicians would not be choosing our energy needs, the market would.

I think this approach would work a lot better than the Cap and Trade proposals coming out of Washington.  It cuts government out of the process as much as possible, while embracing basic Supply-Side principles that have proven to work.  I think our best bet at solving Global Warming is to give the free market a nudge in the green direction, in the form of tax relief.

And realistically, in order for there to be real green effort it needs to be profitable.  The economy will not turn green unless fuel efficient cars, solar panels and wind turbines are profitable. Just mindlessly funding an alternative energy source the government picks cannot fundamentally change how we use energy — scientists and business leaders need to be a part of the effort as well.  It has to be a long term and comprehensive plan, not one based in short term, political motives.

The transition may take a few years to implement, but I think the process of funding research and then acting on that research can work.  In doing so, we can create sustainable growth while saving the planet.  Not a bad deal.

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