The Daily Athenaeum’s List of Influential People is All-White and All-Male

So yesterday the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s official school newspaper, had an article on the front page of their paper  listing the “Top 5 Most Influential Persons of 2013.”

Gee, I wonder who is #1?

Gee, I wonder who is #1?

The list includes outgoing WVU President Jim Clements, Student Body President Ryan Campione, baseball coach Randy Mazey, Athletic Director Oliver Luck, and Mountaineer Mascot John Kimble. As you might be able to tell, the list is very white and very male and very sports-oriented. Rightfully so, people had a problem with this.

It all started when someone from WVU’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion called out the DA’s list on Twitter.

In case you hadn’t noticed already, @paigelav points out the issue.

But there’s so much more than that:

https://twitter.com/ddryan/status/410541126190256128

And the internet has a field day.

https://twitter.com/maryowlice/status/410448756354473984

The user on the Office’s Twitter then offers an alternative list.

Some of the choices are stellar:

Franklin D. Cleckley is a professor at the WVU College of Law who graduated with a Master of Laws from Harvard. He was the only African-American to sit on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1994-1996.

Frances Silva is a senior forward on the WVU’s Women’s Soccer Team. She was the 2013 Big XII Offensive Player of the Year and led the team to victory in the Big XII Championship (the only championship WVU has won this year, so far.)

Brian Jara is a faculty member in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. It looks like he’s published some papers this year and presented them at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Cincinnati.

– Deb Beazley is a Senior Program Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention at the Health Sciences Center. She’s been teaching sexual assault prevention classes since ’98 and coordinates High Expectations, an experiential learning program for students cited for drug or alcohol abuse.

– Elaine McMillion is an award-winning documentary storyteller who graduated from WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Her most recent project, an interactive documentary called Hollow, explores the issues of rural Appalachia through the eyes of people living there.

– Narvel Weese is WVU’s Vice President for Administration and Finance. Weese oversees the University’s finances, facilities, human resources – basically everything involving WVU funds. 2013 has been a busy year for him, considering WVU’s recent expansions and growing pains.

– Ruth Kershner oversees Student Affairs for the School of Public Health and teaches in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her bio says she’s presented at local, state and national conferences on issues of health concerns and violence in the lives of women.

What’s true is this – when it comes to most visible, everybody on the DA’s list is well-known. I’m only familiar with one person on the suggested list, but the beauty of a top-5 list is the chance to recognize less-visible people who have made an impact. Although he’s an influential guy who deserves it, Clements has gotten enough limelight already.

While people are quick to point out the “WASP-y” nature of the DA’s list, think about the circumstances influencing the editors. I assume the list was put together late at night, which is validated by the clear typo in Ryan Campione’s name. Do you make quality work when you’re on a deadline? It’s also not surprising the list is sports-centric, considering the influence of the DA’s sports editors. They must have influence – why else would the paper spend thousands to send reporters to away football games when our own band can’t attend?

These circumstances don’t justify the DA’s monochromatic, single-sex list (nothing will) but they do explain it. Hopefully the feedback will give the editors pause. They’re funded by WVU student fees, an oft-fleeting source of income for school papers, and could make the DA a national-award-winning paper like it used to be. Now they just make national headlines for gaffes.

Edited, 12:16 AM 12/11 – Full disclosure – I worked at the DA for two years. I left in April.

Edited, 12:26 AM 12/11 – Sourced some data about student newspaper budgets after being challenged. Also fixed some typos and style.

Homelessness, Hunger, and “The WVU Rack”

Though there isn’t enough adequate national data to support this claim, Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) says she believes the number of homeless students has increased over the last few years.

“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid tells the NAEHCY that there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide.” -USA Today

homeless-hungry

cheapeatsforcollegepeeps.wordpress.com

As a student myself, it is very hard for me to believe that there are homeless kids who attend WVU, or any other college for that matter. Discovering that an estimated 58,000 students are homeless across the nation is truly alarming. Since some schools aren’t required to keep track of the exact numbers of homeless students, that count would probably increase by quite a lot if they were diligently recorded.

What we don’t realize is that poverty can hide anywhere and can easily go unnoticed. Some students may be too embarrassed to speak up about being homeless or not having enough money for meals each day, while some may not know that their are resources out there to aid them in times of struggle. Depriving your body of enough food day after day can potentially lead to health issues and even hospital trips.

Inspired by other campuses like UCLA, WVU decided to bring “The WVU Rack” to students who may be homeless or hungry. Since “The Rack” (as most people call it) was first set up in the Fall of 2010, WVU has been contacted by staff members from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. out of pure curiosity about the pantry.

As seen above in the video, what once was a somewhat bare shelf in 2010 has grown to a whole new level. “The Rack”, which is tucked away in a small hallway in the Mountainlair, is available to all students to utilize. No one is ever turned away, all that is asked is to sign your first name on the clipboard attached to the rack to keep a record of how many people are using it. It is fully stocked all year long through charitable acts of the Greek community, as well as by staff and student donations.

Items typically donated include:

  • cans of soup
  • Ramen noodles
  • fruit cups
  • poptarts
  • water bottles
  • toiletries

…and so much more.

For more information visit sos.wvu.edu

If you would like to donate to The Rack, you may contact Jacqueline Dooley at the Student Organizations Services office at (304) 293-4397 or Jaqueline.Dooley@mail.wvu.edu.

A Diverse Look at WVU: Susmita Patel

Traveling miles from home to go to college can be taxing on anyone, especially when it’s internationally. As I discussed in my last post, West Virginia University has many clubs and organizations based solely around diversity and students of different cultural backgrounds. One of those clubs is called the Indian Students Association, or as members like to call it, ISA. The association is very active and includes about 400 students, often having dinners as well as get-togethers.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 52 PM

“The goal of the association is to provide a congenial atmosphere for the student community from India.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to a former member of the ISA here at WVU, Susmita Patel, as she clued me in on happenings of the association. Aside from helping to put on different dance performances for Tarang, Diwali, diversity week, Indian Independence Day and other student organizations, Patel says there is much more to the association than performing dances.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 47 PM

Luckily she has never felt out of place or discriminated against in Morgantown, and even expressed that no one she knows has felt that way either. A culture shock upon first stepping foot into Morgantown seemed rather normal and exciting to her, though some international students might not be as excited. Although it may seem extremely diverse to a typical student, international students may feel like there is nobody to call “friend” or even “family.”

Student organizations like the ISA take control as soon as these students get off of the plane from India. They do so by picking them up from the airport and arranging a place to live, and even easing them into other school activities. These student associations create somewhat of a niche for all students to form their home away from home, giving them a sense of security and people to hang out with that they can trust.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 49 PM

Patel went on to tell me that every semester the ISA helps the new students from India to integrate into the social norms of the United States, especially if it’s their first time being here. It can be very scary, and can cause feelings of disorientation. To help with the transition, ISA holds an event called Freshers that acts as a type of icebreaker among the existing and new students.

“Freshers is very helpful, especially because they can find their place amongst potential friends, this way no one feels out of place or like that have to change themselves to fit in.”

The Freshers party is a huge way to combat feelings of not fitting in. The current students show the ins and outs, regarding social norms or even school work. Both parties, new students and old, benefit from each other during this process making integration much simpler.

American-born students still hold to the cultures and traditions of their ethnic backgrounds, though they may not completely understand the real cultural meaning behind some of the traditions, like language. This is Photo Nov 22, 12 56 40 PMwhere the international students can really help the more Americanized students in understanding their culture. On the other hand, the American students help the international students to lighten up and have a little fun, teaching them to become more outgoing and to open up socially.

Diversity clearly affects everyone in a positive way. Let’s hope we can show our loving spirit over the next few years and welcome even more international students to the Mountaineer family!

If you or someone you know would like to connect with ISA members, visit their Facebook page!

-All photos from Susmita Patel.

A diverse look at WVU: Intro

For many students, feeling like they belong or “fit” in with others may be the key to surviving a crazy college town like West Virginia University. Not everyone shares the same thoughts and feelings when it comes to somehow fitting in. For some it comes natural, while others like to focus on school, and some just focusing on how to learn to party. But what do the students do who are simply set out to find people that share the same values or ethnic background as them?

diverse

This photo from the Diversity page on the WVU website captures one of the many performances held during the Diversity Week.

Schools like Connecticut College, Ohio State University, The University of Texas and many others offer and support diverse cultural or ethnic organizations for students and staff. These organizations provide an environment where students can participate in discussions on diversity issues and their ways of life, all while gaining a sense of inclusion and social belonging. Also, colleges like WVU have formed diverse clubs and organizations, along with offering programs and different courses that aim to educate students of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs.

According to the Center for American Progress, there are 10 reasons why we need diversity on college campuses:

  1. Our nation is changing, and our higher education institutions need to reflect this diversity.
  2. While communities of color have made great strides in closing the education gap, disparities in higher education remain prevalent.
  3. It’s in our national interest to invest in our future workforce.
  4. Diversity in the workforce fosters innovation and competitiveness in business.
  5. Fortune 500 companies agree that diversity is good for the bottom line.
  6. Diversity is a national security issue.
  7. Diversity on campus benefits all students.
  8. The implications of race-neutral policies in educational opportunities are detrimental to the next generation.
  9. Research shows that race-neutral policies simply don’t work.
  10. The majority of Americans support race-conscious policies in higher education.

The original article explains these 10 listed reasons in much greater detail.

WVU's student enrollment by race/ethnicity according to Forbes.com

WVU’s student enrollment by race/ethnicity according to Forbes.com

Here at WVU there seems to be little diversity, yet the school makes it a point to set aside a whole week focused on issues students from different backgrounds may face. Every day of the week has a specific schedule for each diverse event or theme. Diversity Week includes a wide range of performances, discussions, learning opportunities for students to participate in, and even poetry readings by students and faculty. Whether you are a member of the club presenting or even of the same ethnicity as them, everyone is always welcome including family and friends!

In a Chanel 5 News interview, WVU Chief Diversity Officer David Fryson said, “We’re hoping the type of things we do here will spur the rest of the state to see the value of diversity. So often when you think about diversity you think about our differences, but diversity is the collection of similarities and differences.”

Students and faculty who possess different backgrounds present each other with new perspectives and viewpoints. I feel that adding diversity to your life will only make you a stronger member of society and a more well-rounded global communicator. Diversity helps to enhance discussions during class and even outside of class, which can easily aid in preparation for students to ease into this extremely multicultural world we live in.

The Mountaineer family always sticks together no matter what ethnicity you may be– “There’s a place for you at WVU.”

Make sure to check back in next Friday when I will dig a little deeper into this WVU diversity discussion. I will be telling the story of a recent WVU graduate, Susmita Patel, who actively participated in an ethnic organization while attending school. I will discuss her thoughts on discrimination and how these WVU student groups help international students cope!

Should We Kick PNC Out of the Mountainlair?

4573726238_0fe54ca9a7_z

There’s been some pretty heavy debate on campus recently: PNC Bank’s five year contract with WVU has expired, and there’s been some serious disagreement about whether the bank should get another contract. Environmental groups on campus are upset with the Bank’s past behavior, while supporters argue for the Bank’s versatility and service. Currently, the contract to be WVU’s banking partner is up the air – should we give it to PNC again? 

Let’s weigh our options.

Reasons to Kick PNC Out

1. PNC has given loans to companies that fund Mountaintop Removal – in essence, PNC has helped fund the destruction of West Virginia. In 2011, PNC wrote loans to some of the largest coal companies in the U.S.: Patriot Coal, Consol Energy, and Arch Coal are a few examples. All of them use Mountaintop Removal, a high-impact form of mining that has a disastrous effect on the environment. MTR ruins streams, pollutes groundwater, destroys animal habitat and damages the health of local residents. By flattening mountaintops these companies are destroying West Virginia’s ecosystem. The irony is worse given West Virginia’s status as “The Mountain State” – do we want to allow a bank complicit in this destruction to make money off of WVU?

2. With the end of this contract, we have a rare opportunity to change WVU’s bank. I’m willing to bet the next contract will last another five years, and if we sign with PNC again, that’s another five years we’ll have to wait to get rid of them. Let’s capitalize on this opportunity. There are people at WVU who agree with me – last March the Sierra Student Coalition at WVU organized protests outside the Mountainlair against PNC. Let’s strike while the iron is hot.

3. West Virginia University is the flagship educational institution in this state – what kind of message are we sending if we take money from a bank like PNC? Besides the Mountaintop Removal issue, PNC is a Pittsburgh-based company. Why should we use them and funnel money to a bank outside West Virginia when there’s options like MVB and United that are WV-based? If we have PNC as our bank, we’re showing local banks that we don’t care about them. Should West Virginia University, the pride and joy of West Virginia, partner with an out-of-state bank that funds the destruction of our mountains? Even the Student Goverment Association at WVU gets somewhere between $40,000 and $52,000 for their budget from PNC’s rent payments for the Lair location. Bad juju.

Reasons to Keep PNC Bank

1. As the fifth-largest in the U.S., PNC is a powerful bank with national reach. There are PNC locations all over the eastern U.S. As a result, students coming from several states away can be sure they have a relevant bank. Students starting their first bank accounts with PNC here know that when they go home to New York, Ohio or New Jersey that they’ll have a bank there. Their parents will also be able to put funds in their accounts – we all know how important that is. If we keep PNC, WVU will be more appealing to students from far away. As we know, that’s WVU’s goal – look at our move to the Big 12 Conference.

2. PNC provides lots of excellent services to customers, especially students. The bank is no stranger to students – there are PNCs at more than 100 colleges and universities across eight states. With financial planning resources and flexible student accounts, PNC makes it easy for students to learn the ropes of banking. Plus, the organization offers super easy online and mobile banking, a must for modern times. But it’s not just about banking  – WVU outsources many financial services to PNC, including financial aid reimbursement checks. PNC is well-established and is a great choice for students – that’s probably how they won that first contract in the first place.

3. If we kick out PNC for idealistic reasons, can we be sure another bank can handle the workload? Currently, WVU outsources a lot of financial work to PNC, including the issuing of reimbursement checks. That’s millions of dollars a year transferred, cashed out, and deposited in, on and around WVU. Also, PNC operates a bank location in the Mountainlair and maintains ATMs at WVU campuses all across the state. Can we be sure another smaller bank can handle PNC’s workload? PNC is well established and their methods are sound. A smaller replacement bank might not have the resources to handle WVU’s complex demands, which could be bad for students. A lot of things hosted by the Mountainlair – Mountaineer Week, Homecoming, UpAllNight – benefit directly from PNC’s payments to WVU. Many students base their livelihood off refund checks – can we afford to risk a potential delay in issuing them?

What do you think? Should we keep PNC? Leave a comment or tweet at me. You can also come and speak your voice at the WVUSGA meetings every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Hatfield’s B of the Mountainlair. 

So we can argue whatever we like about PNC, but how is the University responding?

Normally, if a contract ends and the University is interested in finding another partner, they’ll begin the Request For Proposal process, and potential clients (in this case, banks) would bid on the job. Each potential partner would offer services at the lowest cost, and the University would pick the bank that wins. It’s basically like an anonymous silent auction where the University picks the winner. The RFP’s are usually open and up for the public to see – the RFP for the bank spot is not online yet. This may be because the committee overseeing the contract process hasn’t met yet, considering the anonymous student on the board was appointed by SGA late last week.

Or… WVU may be withholding the open RFP because they’re trying to make a behind-the-scenes deal. It’s no secret that United Bank definitely donates massive amounts of money to WVU, especially to the athletic department. I’m sure those kinds of donations could win brownie points when it comes to business deals. Maybe WVU is courting exclusive competitors in private – which one can come up with a sweeter deal for the University?

Whatever happens, I hope it’s in the best interests of the University, the students, and our state.

Rainforest Action Network on Flickr.

Rainforest Action Network on Flickr.

WVU Smoking ban: Is Tobacco-Free really the way to be?

I’m sure majority of us Mountaineers have been oh so blessed with the chance to walk through the infamous cloud of cigarette smoke that surrounds the entrance of Eisland Hall, and other lecture halls alike. It’s like walking through a giant roll of fog on a beautiful morning, except not the slightest bit as refreshing…and may cause cancer.

tobaccofree

Photo used on WVU-issued articles and website pages that refer to the ban.

As stated in a Wellness Newsletter, West Virginia University put a new tobacco-free policy into effect this past summer on Monday, July 1, 2013. The WVU Board of Governors approved this switch to a tobacco-free campus in June 2012, which had formed from a previous decision in 2010 for a tobacco-free policy made by the Health Sciences campus.

“The WVU tobacco-free policy will extend to all premises owned, operated,
leased or occupied by WVU. This includes Milan Puskar Stadium, the HSC PRT
station and WVU property adjacent to the HSC campus. Also, use of tobacco in
personal vehicles while on WVU property is prohibited.” -Newsletter

Below are three different tweets I stumbled upon. Students like Megan and Walter support the smoking ban and feel as if this policy needs to be monitored better by WVU authoritative figures. On the other hand, some people don’t mind and are making funny, yet inappropriate jokes about the tobacco-free policy using the WVU Speak’s hashtag. Yikes, kids these days. That hashtag was actually created for the speak-up event hosted by SGA in October which allowed students to voice their opinions and ideas about the policy, but of course leave it to that kid to add a little unnecessary grunge to the topic.

Photo Nov 08, 11 09 34 AM

Photo Nov 08, 11 09 50 AM

Photo Nov 08, 11 09 16 AM

Like many students have voiced, the ban on smoking hasn’t really made much of a difference whether people smoke on campus or not. As a student myself, I get sick and tired of walking to class only to be basically crop-dusted by the person in front of me with huge puffs of their cigarette smoke; however, some people really don’t  seem to mind it at all. Morgantown residents are seeing things a bit different and noting unfortunate changes due to the passing of this policy. WVU students and staff now bombard resident-owned yards and sidewalks to get their fix in the mornings and in between class, causing some local families daily lives to be altered due to crowds of people producing heavy smoke. This ban is creating more and more issues as the days go by, but can there really be a “fair” line drawn? Smoking bans will forever have pros and cons in the eyes of smokers and non-smokers.

“I’m not saying people can’t smoke, I’m just saying they can’t smoke on campus. I don’t want to take away their personal rights, but we want this to be a healthy campus, and from a grass-roots effort, a majority of people came out and said ‘Please pass this policy.'” –University President James P. Clements tells DA reporter

There clearly needs to be some way to better enforce this policy on these little rebels walking amongst us, or things will never change–well, change 100% at least. Perhaps designated smoking areas should be created so yards aren’t invaded, while the campus sidewalks and buildings are more heavily monitored? Just a thought, though time will only tell how this policy holds up with this wild college town.

If you’re a smoker and want to help implement a healthier environment for our campus, cessation programs are available to employees and students that help you quit at your own pace. Employees are eligible for those programs free of charge (or reimbursable by insurance), while students can enroll in these programs through WellWVU.

Five Reasons Why You Should Hate the New Panera on High Street

tweet

So in case you didn’t know, construction is almost completed on a Panera Bread location right at the top of High Street, in what was formerly a vacant parking lot. Many students are ecstatic, considering the restaurants central location, easy accessibility from campus and fresh dining options.

Unfortunately, all of these students are terribly misinformed. The Panera Bread on High Street is going to devastate (I do not exaggerate) the local restaurant scene, and all of you should hate Panera and never go there. I’m going to tell you five reasons why.

1. It’s going to be expensive. We’re all broke college students here, no lie. Still, I guarantee the new Panera is going to be the busiest place in town for years to come, full of college students paying for soup bread bowls they can’t afford. Unless the place starts to offer student discounts, I’m going to argue it’s not worth it. If you want a cheap panini or coffee, you should go to Cafe Mojo or Jay’s Daily Grind, places where students are loved and pampered.

2. It promotes a chain-restaurant lifestyle. Let’s face it: people love chain restaurants. They’re familiar. Every one is the same. No matter where you are in the country, you can go into a Panera and get that same hipster dining experience, which is why people love it. The result? People miss authentic (and better quality) restaurants. If you want to be a hipster, why don’t you eat at Maxwell’s, where WVU English professors are regulars, all the food is made from scratch and all the salt and pepper shakers are made from handmade pottery. If you don’t ever broaden your horizons, you’ll always suffer from a fear of the unknown.

3. They refuse to let their statistically-underpaid bakers organize a union. Bakers at Panera work late nights to create “artisanal” breads for each day, but thanks to corporate budgeting, they’re paid less than other bakers across the country. These workers are kept to strict regulation and training standards, yet the average pay is about $10.45 an hour for this employee, while the median pay for bakers in the U.S. is about $11.27 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And they won’t let their bakers organize in a union – more than once the arguments against the union have been religiously driven.  The legal battle has been going on for years.

So yeah, Panera’s donates their leftover bread to local charities, but they’re not really going the extra mile to take care of the community. After all, it seems like a cop-out: instead of throwing out our stale bread, lets give it to the homeless and get some good PR. The people who baked that bread? They have to watch out for themselves.

4. They’re trying really hard to disguise the fact that they’re a corporate profit machine. So everybody knows a health food craze is sweeping the nation, which is good. People should be healthier. The problem? With pretty lights and proto-Mediterranean meal names, they’re fooling us into a false sense of satisfaction. If you look closely, the food isn’t as healthy as it seems. Your desire to eat in a healthy, authentic, friendly restaurant is well placed, but Panera isn’t that restaurant. What kind of “authentic” restaurant promotes their “secret” menu in a freaking press release? And look at this: they’re pretending like this unique restaurant model, which is a huge PR stunt, is somehow sustainable.

Do yourself a favor and explore – authentic dining experiences are all over Morgantown. Get homemade Pad Thai at Chaang Thai, a muscle-car-themed burger at Tailpipes, or some old-fashioned fried chicken at Dirty Bird. Even though it’s a chain, you could stop by Pita Pit for fresh ingredients that put Subway to shame. Doesn’t get more authentic than that, folks.

5. We need to protect Morgantown’s business identity. Chains like Panera, CVS, Sheetz and others are threatening the small, locally (and often alumni) owned businesses that give Morgantown it’s identity. Morgantown is small but full of students from all over the country – chains have immense success because of their brand identity. Because of their power, a chain restaurant could topple the fragile balance that keeps Morgantown’s small businesses alive, yet these chains are given priority in real estate deals. As you read this, people are organizing to prevent a bunch of other chains from whitewashing our city into just another American strip mall.

Sign the petition, eat locally, and stay the hell out of Panera – not just for your own sake, but for all of us.

Photo from GuiltlessGourmet

Tyranny incarnate.

*Author’s note: I edited some parts this post to mention even more local restaurants. Follow the links and visit these locally-owned establishments!