Posts Tagged ‘Colorado State University’

Thanksgiving stinks for vegans.  The holiday has lost its national significance, serving mostly as a prelude to Black Friday fervor.  The festivities involve family interactions that often result in a six-word stage play of sorts: “Eat pray love drink fight slap.”  And the best part of the holiday, its accompanying break from school, needs to be longer.

These are just a few of the Thanksgiving-themed perspectives college students have shared in recent days within their campus newspapers and magazines.

Rachel Arlin at the University of Massachusetts Amherst asks the big-picture question, seemingly on behalf of many students: “Does Thanksgiving matter anymore?”

As she writes in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, “It is a known fact that America has turned into a materialistic country. . . . Black Friday is a significant factor in this materialistic movement. People are frantically worried about Christmas while Thanksgiving is pushed to the side, or in some cases, even ignored. . . . I was looking up ‘Thanksgiving’ under Yahoo’s search box and the first result that came up was ‘Walmart Thanksgiving Sale 2012.’  I don’t know about you, but this sickens me.”

State Press columnist Jonathan Fortner at Arizona State University agrees, noting, “Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas– the two most greedy and selfish of our nation’s pastimes– Thanksgiving is but a few days away.  In the upcoming days, shopping stores will open their doors as the sun peaks above the horizon. Hordes of consumers will stampede their way up and down shopping aisles, fulfilling the wants of their loved ones and even some of their own. . . . Over time, Thanksgiving has been reduced to a mere gluttonous affair where we stuff more than turkey. There’s more to this shortened work and school week than gorging on pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce– at least there should be.”

Meanwhile, DePauw University sophomore Ryan Konicek specifically takes issue with the shortness of the Thanksgiving school break.  As she writes in The DePauw, “[W]e are allotted a total of five days for our Thanksgiving holiday– three school days and a weekend. I do not believe that the amount of time given to us is enough. . . . I believe having a week off of classes to honor the Thanksgiving holiday is fair, especially for those that have to travel.”

Konicek’s strongest point in her push for a longer holiday respite: Many students, faculty, and staff are already checking out during the shortened pre-Thanksgiving week anyway.

The Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving break are usually days where not much is covered in class because the teachers are just as antsy as the students to leave,” she writes.  “Papers may be due and then discussed, attempts at having an engaging lesson may be tried, but both the students and teachers know that it is useless. People’s minds are not focused on what is being taught in the classroom, instead their thoughts are about the holiday ahead and all the other people who are already out of school and on vacation.”

Yet, as Daily Trojan columnist Nick Cimarusti at the University of Southern California contends, the vacation itself is not entirely stress-free– often becoming “a cause of worry for many college students reluctant to discuss their college experiences.”

As he writes, “The communal aspect of the Thanksgiving meal invites us to share with others ideas and thoughts along with stuffing and cranberry sauce. For this reason, going home for Thanksgiving break invites the dreaded question: ‘So what have you been up to all semester?’”

To this end, Rocky Mountain Collegian reporter Bailey Constas at Colorado State University presents the following advice as part of a larger “Thanksgiving Survival Guide”: “Come up with three topics that you’ve learned in class to convince your parents you’re not just spending all their money on beer. It could be a new word you picked up when you didn’t understand that prompt on your midterm, that concept in philosophy that will go over your parents’ heads or a topic in sociology that you know your dad will disagree with.”

Speaking of sheer survival, Rochester Institute of Technology student Nicole Howley provides the vegan perspective on Thanksgiving.  As she writes for RIT’s Reporter Magazine, “I like the whole ‘giving thanks’ thing, but Thanksgiving seems to have become more about stuffing your face with dead things, animal products, and pie than being thankful.  And if you don’t want any of those foods, then what’s even the point?  Eating a few plain, steamed green beans and some pasta with mushroom gravy isn’t really a good celebration either.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., movie massacre, the professional news media are presenting an endless stream of stories about the shooting, suspect, victims, weaponry, and the legal and law enforcement processes.

Many of the reports are directly or indirectly related to students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities nationwide.

While student media are currently in slowdown or shutdown mode due to summer break— boasting skeleton staffs and reduced publishing schedules— the fall semester should not be considered too late to run stories in some way connected to the horrific event in Colorado.

Here are five potentially relevant news angles and spin-off stories student journalists should consider tackling at or near the start of the new school year.

1) Campus gun rules and culture: As the shock from the shooting segues to grief, anger, and soul searching, the gun debate has begun ratcheting up nationwide with renewed fervor.  Impassioned arguments range from those focused on the need for stricter gun laws to those pushing for a relaxation of concealed carry rules– built atop the premise that a moviegoer legally armed that night in the Aurora theater may have taken out the shooter before so much blood was shed.

For a related report, first outline your state’s gun laws, purchase procedures, and concealed carry permit specifications.  Then, more generally, explore your campus gun, and anti-gun, cultures.  Speak to local gun owners, collectors, and sellers about the Aurora tragedy and their larger motivations for making firearms a part of their lives.  Also seek out students or staff who have in some way been affected by a gun crime.  Separately, look into the amount and types of firearms discovered and confiscated on your campus each year, including how many have been purchased illegally.

2) Campus security issues and oversights: The shooting has raised many questions about movie theater security nationwide.  For instance, over the weekend, a Colorado State University student who previously worked at a theater confirmed what most moviegoers have long suspected: cinema security is mostly lax or entirely absent.

As Emily Kribs wrote in The Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU’s campus newspaper, “I worked in a Thornton, Colo., movie theater for one summer, during which we weren’t faced with anything close to the shooting at Aurora’s Century 16 complex.  However, I think we were similarly prepared for one, which is to say not at all.  In terms of security, we had a box around the ticket sellers designed to prevent theft, rather than violence. We relied on peoples’ social graces when we told them they couldn’t enter without a ticket or told them to stop talking. And we never performed pat-downs or examined peoples’ costumes for potential threats.”

Extending Kribs’s observations to the larger theater of academia, pinpoint key safety issues on your campus.  Through objective reporting, confirm the most unsafe areas at your school and within the surrounding community. Highlight student behaviors deemed especially risky, such as solitary late-night food runs or attending house parties in a questionable part of town. Break down the ins-and-outs of the security team and tactics in place for student and staff protection.  Confirm the spots, times, and types of incidents that campus police are notoriously slow to deal with or tend to ignore.

Building upon the shooting’s occurrence at a midnight show, focus especially heavily on nighttime safety. Speak to student survivors of after-dark crimes. Go on an overnight ride-along with local police. Investigate late-night security at campus residence halls, science facilities, and parking lots. Survey students more generally about how safe they feel on campus at night, while alone or with friends, during the week and on the weekends.

3) Enrolled and in mourning: Family, friends, and colleagues of the shooting victims are increasingly speaking to news media about the individuals close to them who were injured or killed and their own shock and sadness– especially those who lost someone they love.

In a much larger sense, students experience loss on many levels during college— rarely as horrifically but sometimes just as suddenly and jarringly as those affected by the attack in Aurora. Sadly, the death of a parent is among the most common losses students face. In fact, one in 10 individuals deals with the death of mom or dad before turning 25.

In spring 2011, outgoing Daily Kansan editor-in-chief Kelly Stroda told the tales of three University of Kansas students who lost a parent during their time in school.  As she wrote in the introduction, “College students who lose a parent are affected emotionally, psychologically, physically, academically and financially.  At the very time they are about to launch independent lives, they lose the people they rely on most for direction.”

Tell the stories of students on your campus who have lost someone close to them, such as a parent, during their childhood, adolescence or as undergraduates. Separately, reach out to the loved ones of students who died while still enrolled at your school. Find out how the families are currently coping, what they are doing to ensure the students’ memories live on, and how the school handled the deaths at the time and in the long term.

4) Crime related: While eliciting nowhere near the same amount of sympathy as the deceased, survivors, and their loved ones, a few other individuals connected to the shooting are most likely in pain at the moment and in need of support: the family and friends of suspect James Holmes.

Of course, as most of the world now knows, when contacted by a reporter about her son’s possible involvement in the attack, Arlene Holmes immediately responded, “You have the right person.  I need to call the police. . . . I need to fly out to Colorado.”

The words are a chillingly powerful reminder: Our family members are often the ones who know us best, and are sometimes majorly affected by our decisions and mistakes. In this case, Holmes’s crime will undoubtedly have a tremendous, long-term impact on his close and extended family.

To better understand the ins-and-outs of this type of criminal connection, speak to students and staff currently dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s criminal activity or imprisonment. Document how their loved one’s crimes or punishments have impacted their own lives and their related struggles to maintain or move past a loving relationship.

Separately, profile students who have a criminal history of their own. Also, look into your school’s policies and procedures regarding student and staff criminal checks, including how the findings impact enrollment and employment decisions.

5) Student dropouts: Prior to planning and carrying out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, James Holmes was apparently a quiet, academically-minded young man. He had recently been struggling though in a neurosciences graduate program and was in the process of withdrawing from school. In no way is the university at which he was enrolled being blamed for his horrific behavior.

But his pending dropout status aligns him with many, many students who do not finish college or graduate school.  At the undergraduate level, the number of students leaving school prior to commencement has risen so dramatically in recent years that the U.S. now boasts the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.

In respect to its commonality, an Oakland University student who had previously dropped out of school even argued this past spring that dropouts deserve a ceremony similar to traditional graduations.

As Daniel Drake wrote in a Mooring Mast column headlined “A Shout-Out to Dropouts,” “[W]hile the graduates are treated as people, the rest of us are treated as statistics.  Every year, analysts write about why some of us failed to complete all four years of our degree.  Nobody writes about all the work we did to make it through one year, or two, or three.  If we celebrate the hard work of those who graduate, why not celebrate that of those who don’t?”

Regardless of whether or not we should celebrate them, let’s start by reporting upon them. Seek out individuals who have dropped out of your school, temporarily or permanently, due to financial, academic, behavioral or general life troubles.

Tell the stories of their student stints and current off-campus lives, including the amount, type, and quality of assistance offered by staff at your school. Also gather and share their advice to current students on the precipice of voluntarily leaving or being forced to withdraw from school.

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Student staffers at The Rocky Mountain Collegian deserve kudos this weekend for quickly and impressively mobilizing to cover and reflect upon various newsworthy components of the Colorado movie shooting.

Along with a basic recounting of the known facts related to the massacre itself, the Colorado State University campus newspaper has posted stories online focused on CSU student reactions, state gun laws, and the legal gauntlet shooter James Holmes will soon face– the latter based on an interview with a law professor.

The most powerful– truly chilling– part of the Collegian’s coverage, put together by its summer edition editor-in-chief Michael Elizabeth Sakas: a photo slideshow displaying the bullet wounds suffered in the attack by a CSU football recruit.

One especially eye-opening detail revealed within the slideshow is that the young man was not even in the theater where the shooting took place.  In his words, “The gunman was in the other room, so he shot and he missed and it went through the wall and then hit me. It went through my neck and ended up going through the back.”

A separate commentary by a CSU student who previously worked at a movie theater confirms a reality all of us moviegoers have long suspected: cinema security is mostly lax or entirely absent.

As Emily Kribs writes, “I worked in a Thornton, Colo., movie theater for one summer, during which we weren’t faced with anything close to the shooting at Aurora’s Century 16 complex.  However, I think we were similarly prepared for one, which is to say not at all.  In terms of security, we had a box around the ticket sellers designed to prevent theft, rather than violence. We relied on peoples’ social graces when we told them they couldn’t enter without a ticket or told them to stop talking. And we never performed pat-downs or examined peoples’ costumes for potential threats.”

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